What is external communication in business? (With examples)
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External communication is an essential part of any business. It involves communicating with any organisation or audience outside the company, including customers, investors, sales leads, shareholders and clients. External communication forms a crucial part of any company's business plan or marketing strategy and it's important to understand what makes communication effective. In this article, we explain what external communication is, provide examples of different external communication and identify how they fit into the marketing mix.
What is external communication?
In essence, external communication is communication between a company and any people, organisations or businesses outside that company. Businesses use external communication to develop brand awareness and improve the public image of the company or with other businesses.
Good business relationships and a positive brand image are essential to the success of a business. Good external communications can have a positive effect on the way a company's competitors, potential investors and customers see the business and the brand. As a result, external communications are a crucial part of any marketing strategy and play an important role in growing any business.
The difference between internal and external communication
Both internal and external communications are useful tools for a business. They fulfil different functions for the business but both types of communication services to improve the image of the company and help the business grow.
Internal communications are exchanges of information that occur inside an organisation between staff or other internal audiences, such as contractors working in the business. Internal communication can include emails, the use of an intranet or project management tools, phone contact and written documents or literature staff receive. Companies can use internal communication to increase a sense of belonging and identity among staff or to clarify the vision, mission and values of the company. Managers or human resources can also use it to communicate practical information to employees.
External communications, by contrast, are any communications between the company and external entities. There are clear strategic differences between internal and external communications. While businesses use internal communications to improve staff relations and create a positive work environment, external communications are typically related to increasing sales and growing the business.
What is the aim of external communication?
External communication is an important part of any business because it helps the business to engage with its customers and reach new audiences. Here are several objectives for external communication that businesses may include in their marketing or communications strategy:
Maintaining good relationships with existing customers: External communication helps retain existing customers. It can help to update customers on new products and build brand loyalty and affinity.
Sharing news and developments about the business: It's important to inform partners, shareholders and important clients of any changes to the business or news that may affect their relationship with the business.
Building brand identity: The way a company communicates, the words it chooses to use and even the images it chooses to share all help to build and reinforce a chosen brand identity. This can help create an affinity between the business and its customers and attract new audiences.
Improving brand awareness: External communications, including advertising campaigns and website and social media content, can all improve brand awareness and ensure the public knows about a business.
Communicating with suppliers: Maintaining a strong working relationship with suppliers is crucial to the success of any business. Strong external communications with suppliers can help to build lasting business relationships that benefit both parties.
Examples of external communication tools
There are plenty of tools a business can use for external communication with customers, clients, shareholders, investors or anyone else that the business may want to communicate with. Each communication tool has a valuable role to play in the marketing mix of a business and contributes to the overall marketing strategy, with the objective of helping the business to grow. Take a look at this list to learn more about the different types of external communication:
Many employees communicate externally via email. Email is the most basic and regular type of external communication. While businesses tend to use it as an informal means of communication, it's usually good practice for a company to have an email policy and some guidelines that they encourage staff to follow in their email communications.
Email guidelines might include a list of recommended salutations and professional email sign-offs. They could also include lists of words to use or avoid and a template for email signatures that includes all the relevant company information. Email is a vital communications tool for almost any business and it's crucial that it's not overlooked or undervalued.
A company's website is where it can communicate essential information about the business to the public. The business may even sell its products via its website, making it an even more critical element of the sales and marketing process.
Even for companies that don't use their website for sales, a clear, concise and engaging website is a valuable communications tool. A company uses its website to project its desired brand image, identity and values, while at the same time communicating critical information that can help people and organisations decide if they want to do business with it. There are many tools and techniques for ensuring a website is as visible as possible and communicates with its customers in the best possible way. These include the use of engaging and relevant imagery and content marketing techniques, such as blogging.
While businesses may not often use printed newsletters anymore, email newsletters, or 'e-news', are popular and effective external communications tools. Email newsletters can help build a customer database by encouraging people to sign up for updates from the company. Through the analysis of engagement metrics, they can help identify the most engaged customers.
Email newsletters provide businesses with an opportunity to communicate with customers in a more lengthy and in-depth way than traditional advertising. Because they have signed up for it, recipients are more likely to read and respond to any communications put out via a newsletter. It's valuable to have a template and a schedule for email newsletters to ensure consistency and that the business sends them out regularly, but not too frequently.
Social media offers businesses an unprecedented level of access to and communication with their customers. Social media has become one of the most valuable external communication tools. It helps businesses to advertise their products, but also to build their brand identity and engage in discussions with customers and potential new audiences.
Social media marketing has become a central part of the marketing mix for both large and small companies, and businesses use it according to their size, scope and strategy. Content on the company's social media channels can help drive traffic to the company website or reinforce its brand identity. The use of brand ambassadors and influencers has also become a valuable tool in promoting products and services and reaching new audiences.
Press releases are a traditional form of external communication and one that can be very effective. They're used for communicating news to a wider audience, including information about new products or a change to the business. A press officer prepares and sends press releases from the company to a list of local or national press and media contacts. Part of the press officer's job is to grow and improve this list of media contacts to help place press releases in the best media channels to reach the desired audience.
Advertising campaigns tend to be the most visible type of external communication with customers. Advertising campaigns can take many forms, but each has a clear strategy to engage the customer, reach new audiences and increase sales of a product or service.
Companies use advertising campaigns to communicate directly with their audience. Advertisers design campaigns so that every word, sound or image has the greatest impact on its audience and establishes or reinforces a company's brand identity. Advertising is the most effective external communication tool for reaching a mass audience.
Conferences and trade shows
Some businesses use conferences to build relationships with their partners and customers. Companies can use conferences to communicate important information about the company, establish new networks, maintain relationships or increase sales. Some companies run their own conferences, while others may exhibit at conferences or attend them for the purpose of networking. Trade shows can also be a useful tool for businesses to reach new audiences and conduct networking, either with potential customers, suppliers or partners.
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