Perception vs. Reality: 3 Ways Internal Communications Nurtures the Success of Partnership Ecosystems

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While many businesses are focused on building a partner strategy to drive revenue growth, many often overlook the internal enablement of a partner program. A well-thought out strategy requires tapping into the workflow of your business as well as the employees. Too often, businesses quickly turn to external communication channels like PR and social media to create exposure for partnerships. But this leaves behind a critical audience: the employees who can influence the strategic partnership.

As a discipline, internal communications is the art of disseminating information within an organization. With the leadership of business development or partner managers, together with the guidance of internal communication experts, the evolving story of partnerships can be shared with employees consistently. In fact, 85% of employees said they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news, including partnerships.

In this piece, I’ve outlined the top three common misconceptions about the role of internal communications in strategic partnership enablement programs.

Takeaway #1: Turning Employees to Advocates Requires Buy-In

Misconception: Employees influence and amplify partnerships through their personal social channels
Reality: Social advocacy around partnerships requires buy-in from employees first

Companies often say that their employees are their best and biggest asset, but this perceived value comes in many different forms. Armed with insights about the company’s partners – who they are, what do they do and how they work with the company – employees can help serve as both an internal and external advocate that influences the exposure and outcomes of partnerships. But getting employees to want to share this information starts with building an internal awareness that educates employees on the elements of the partnership and its program goals. Once informed, employees can feel knowledgeable and help others learn about the partnerships. This investment goes a long way; in fact, a recent survey revealed that 76% of individuals say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by individuals over content shared by brands.

Takeaway #2: Partner Enablement Requires Making Learning a Part of Everyday Work

Misconception: PR is the best way to convey a new business partnership
Reality: Internal communications is best vehicle to scale a partnership organically

We’ve all seen the PR announcements around partnerships. You know, the launch of a new partner program. While the excitement of a new partner program is deserving, it’s certainly just the beginning. When rolling out a new program, using internal communications to build awareness and enablement within an organization is just as important as the PR.

What often happens is the urgency of work generally trumps learning of these new partner programs. But making learning about the business, including its partner ecosystem, can drive more opportunities for even greater development within the employee community. So, what can we do to add partnership knowledge as part of the daily workflow?

A press release is often the first and only communication a business does with a new partner, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Introducing new partner leaders or executives at an all-employee event is a great way to raise corporate awareness internally (top-down). And hosting future joint meetings with employees also gives the business a chance to learn more about the partnership and how it works (bottom-up). Tapping into your company learning channels – such as newsletters or internal meetings – to give the business an update on the partnership is another opportunity to help employees understand why you’re sharing, unpack what the partnership is about, and why it matters. These communication best practices give employees a chance to learn and develop alongside the partnership, keeping in their flow of work. It may also benefit employees by giving them a chance to see how their work can contribute to the partnership.

Takeaway #3: Partner Uses Cases and Customers Stories Encourages Internal Shared Vision

Misconception: Sharing customer stories with select employees or with the press is good enough to get partner programs moving forward
Reality: Broad evangelizing of use cases & customer stories ensures partner program support at all levels

Successful partnerships manage the relationship, not just the deal. In the journey of growing the ecosystem, developing the company’s collaborative advantage – its employees – is a key resource to nurture. Sharing new partner uses cases or joint customer outcomes encourages ongoing dialogue and helps put focus and alignment of partners shared vision internally.

Too often, partnerships lose their executive support internally, and subsequently, its overall momentum. In fact about 60-65% of strategic business partnerships fail. But through ongoing and open communication with employees, it minimizes partnership risks by evangelizing outcomes that keep the partnership goals at the forefront. Showcasing use cases or joint customer stories to sales and product teams helps businesses acquire new customers. A study revealed that just a little more than half (57%) of companies say that they do this today.

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