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The crucial role of internal communications for your brand

1.25.24 / By Nadine General

When the staff at Happy Tails Animal Shelter showed up to work on July 31, 2019, it was just another day at the office. But by noon, their professional lives were drastically altered: Officials had seized 96 neglected and abused cairn terriers in the largest animal cruelty case in New York State, and the intimate shelter and small staff were taking in the dogs—every single one.

Within days of the news spreading, the phones started ringing and people showed up in droves to help, dropping off hundreds of thousands of pounds of dog food, bedding and toys. National media even started calling, making this unforeseen situation even more chaotic.

With the pressure on, they opted for a comprehensive approach, leveraging DS+CO to navigate the crisis and unify their message internally.

Before Happy Tails reacted to anything, the organization needed to be aligned internally to properly manage the 180-degree change they were going to be navigating over the next several months. An internal communications plan and process provided transparency and support for staff, which enhanced their productivity and boosted morale throughout the journey.

Just hours after the board of directors and leadership called DS+CO to the table, we gathered what we knew in the moment, determined goals, prioritized areas of focus and assigned each team member their specific responsibilities.

It was a stressful time, but internal communication kept the small-yet-mighty team intact and brought them across the finish line, with nearly all of the 96 dogs being adopted. Happy Tails put the people first (for the love of the dogs), which positioned the team to stay engaged, productive and aligned—and sustain the business.

So what can leaders learn from this story? They must prioritize internal communications—because they affect everyone, regardless of what they do for your business or the size of your organization. Whether you have five employees or 50,000, strong internal communications are the key to success. We know that from experience—both from our brand and several brands we’ve partnered with. And from these experiences, we know why it matters. Especially today.

Between the regular economic and environmental factors that impact business as usual and the hybrid-workforce that’s here to stay, failing to put your internal communications at the center of your strategy is setting up your team and your company to fail.

1. It creates alignment

When your people are clear on what’s expected of them and are aligned with the company’s goals and how they contribute, it fosters efficiency and reduces re-work.

According to the 2023 State of Essential Workplace Communications, a study conducted by Axios HQ, the cost of ineffective communications adds up to over $15,000 per employee every year, or $2 trillion annually across the US.

No company can afford to hemorrhage revenue, and those that may be able to certainly don’t want to. If you knew that implementing regular, clear, transparent communications across your company would impact your bottom line, wouldn’t you want to do whatever you could to ensure you’re shored up?

2. It fosters trust, which leads to deeper engagement

When done right, internal communications will inform, influence and engage people. And when people are engaged, they feel a deeper sense of connection, community and purpose in their role. On a macro level, they understand the big picture, and on a micro level, they understand, know and embrace where they fit in to support holistically.

Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation that leads to engagement. Taking the time to communicate, share and educate team members in all areas of the organization—from company culture and values, personnel updates and organizational goals to operational changes and individual roles and responsibilities—internal communication is a fundamental way to support your employees and prove yourself to be a trusted source and leader who cares about their wellbeing and peace of mind, both personally and professionally.

People look to managers for direction and guidance, especially during turbulent times. Consistent communication during the good times creates balance, so if things do get rough, your communications are able to keep people steady and morale high—which will help your people weather the storm and get to the other side quicker.

Plus, it helps you avoid unintentionally starting the rumor mill. When you leave your employees wondering, misinformation starts floating about and creates a groundswell across the organization, which could impact your company culture and productivity.

But don’t just take our word for it, as referenced in the Harvard Business Review, when communication fails, so do campaigns, projects, objectives—sometimes even companies. Recently surveyed employees said miscommunication and communication barriers lead to delays or failures in project completion (44%), missed goals (33%) and lost sales (25%).

3. It pushes productivity to an all-time high

According to TechReport when employees are fully engaged, productivity can increase by 20%-25%. With Happy Tails Animal Shelter, that high level of transparency and internal alignment gave the team an even greater purpose: It helped the shelter develop a robust volunteer base for round-the-clock care for the dogs, build an adoption list and criteria to screen qualified adopters, respond to national media inquiries and make a plea for the right kind of help to support their efforts.

You don’t need to be in a crisis to implement internal communications for your company or organization. In fact, you shouldn’t wait until something monumental takes place. By putting a plan in place today, your company and team members will be ready for when “another day in the office” suddenly turns on its head. Your people will thank you for it, and so will your bottom line.

Have you prioritized an internal communications strategy for 2024? Whether you have and would like outside perspective to ensure you’re applying best practices, or you haven’t and need to start building one out for your company, let’s talk. You’ll be amazed by how much relief and perspective it provides you and your team. Send me an email at

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Nadine General

Nadine’s expertise in executive and crisis communications, strategy, and reputation management helps her lead our PR team. She joined DS+CO from the American Red Cross, where she deployed to national disasters to support disaster and crisis communications. She’s certified in HubSpot inbound marketing and holds degrees from St. John Fisher University and Monroe Community College. She lends her talent as past president of the Public Relations Society of America Rochester Chapter, and is on the diversity committee, she’s a Forty Under 40 recipient and a Rochester Business Journal Woman of Excellence.