15 August 2019

Internal communications can be described as the transmission of information between participants within an organisation. But what about external suppliers who act on behalf of the organisation, namely freelancers and consultants?

By Andrea Melidonis

More specifically, what about the trend towards “permalancers”, people who are independent contractors but work exclusively for one company? How do we communicate with them? How do we cater for their needs? And how do we get the best out of them as ambassadors for our brands? The answer is to promote cooperation. By including external suppliers in your internal comms strategy, you create a culture of people who cooperate as if they’re part of the corporation without being contractually bound to do so. Here’s how.

From the small tropical forest town of Ubud on the Indonesian island of Bali, I remain completely entwined in Cape Town-based creative agency New Media’s vision and mission. I have no contract with New Media, where I worked full time for six years prior to this and the agency has no obligation to include me on various projects. But they do include me, because we have a relationship. Editors and content directors within the company act as individuals, choosing the best person for the job. I keep in contact to remind them that I might be just that person. Together we operate on the small business model of cooperation rather than the direct employee-employer model of a corporation. The internal comms implications of this new-age way of working are interesting and, because New Media seems to be getting it right, I thought I’d share some often-overlooked considerations.

Software and hardware ownership and sharing

What does a regular freelancer need to do the job? A computer, a company email address, access to files on the company server, IT support in rigging this all up and possibly Adobe or Microsoft applications. Make sure the business of who covers the costs of all these things is negotiated before you start working together.

Company news and internal networking platforms

Staff mailers that keep employees up to date on various business developments, objectives and goals must go out to freelancers who work on behalf of the brand. They’re expected to remain informed in all interactions on behalf of the company. As for networking platforms such as Workplace, they just make it a whole lot easier to communicate. As freelancers often work offsite, it makes all the more sense to stay connected online.

Office visits and desk space

There’s nothing that makes a freelancer feel less part of the organisation than restricting their access to the workplace. Having your ops team on board with this will help. Communicate to your freelancers how they should enter the building and where they can knuckle down and get to work. Advise on how to go about booking boardrooms, if required. Generally, make sure you share all the same knowledge as when you onboard a new employee.

Staff gatherings

The more the merrier, right? Year-end celebrations and other company gatherings are a great opportunity to build on the relationships you have with regular freelancers and consultants. The invitation alone will make them back your brand and feel a part of your business.

All these internal comms considerations for external suppliers will ensure you get the same level of commitment and hard work from freelancers and consultants as you do from employees. Just another way corporations can garner the mutually beneficial power of cooperation.

With more than six years of internal comms experience, Andrea Melidonis has become a specialist in the field of creating strategic content that adds value to and unites some of Africa’s largest corporate audiences. A former New Media editor, she currently works closely with our colleagues on internal comms products in her capacity as content producer and consultant. Andrea has made some of the most spectacular break-throughs and blunders in her 13-year media career and lives to tell the tale – as well as quite a few engaging stories for employees.