Have you been tasked with drawing up an internal communications strategy for your company? It’s a daunting prospect, right? Successful businesses increasingly place greater importance – and investment – in getting their internal communications strategy in order. Get it right and you have an engaged, invested workforce aligned to meet company goals. Get it wrong, and your staff could be left feeling disconnected and disinterested in their role.
In this post, we share 15 tips that will help you develop an internal communications strategy that delivers results.
1. Review Where You Are At
The first step is to assess where you are at. Setting a baseline gives you a strong sense of where you are and where you want to be. It’s also the starting point for measuring the impact of any communications initiatives.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine the baseline in your company:
- What communications channels are currently working for you?
- How do staff members like to receive information?
- Which channels prompt the most action from employees?
- What internal communications initiatives performed the best, and why were they more successful?
2. Consult With Staff
Researching the answers to these questions will involve inviting feedback from senior managers and colleagues. Use the company intranet to set up a questionnaire on internal communications. Ask for suggestions and communication preferences, and whether staff can share positive experiences from their previous employers. Dig deeper by holding a series of focus groups with staff for more detailed insights and feedback.
3. Set Up A Cross-Departmental Internal Communications Team
We all know that two heads are better than one. A cross-departmental team means you have the help and support you need. And it also means you have a wide range of organizational perspectives feeding into the process.
Plus, when it comes to advocating for internal communications, you will have a ready-made set of champions. The team can fly the internal communications flag for you on the frontline.
Furthermore, it’s a great way to get buy-in from the wider business. Rather than a top-down approach, a collaborative one that involves a cross-section of employees is more likely to gain acceptance.
4. Determine Who Your Target Audiences Are
Your employees are probably a diverse group that will have individual preferences and needs. Don’t make the mistake of stereotyping your staff, and thinking ‘we are a small company, we know our employees’.
The key audiences will vary from company to company but may include the following:
- Full-time vs. part-time employees
- Remote workers
- Corporate office staff
- On-the-road technicians
- Sales, Manufacturing and operational staff
- Multi-Generations – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials etc.
Once you have identified your target audiences, then consider what their likes, dislikes, and preferences are. In addition, consider what platforms they use to access information. For example, it’s likely that field technicians will mainly be using mobile devices, whereas corporate staff will probably use the intranet. Younger employees may prefer social-enabled communications while older employees might like face-to-face contact.
5. Set Your Desired Outcome
It’s now time to consider what the overall objective is for the internal communications strategy. For some businesses, it will be to improve customer service. For others, it may be to support employee engagement. Or perhaps it’s to enhance the company culture. Whatever the case, an overall objective provides a clear sense of direction. And don’t forget that the objective will change over time. The priority this year may be company culture; however, next year it could well be increasing staff retention rates.
6. Agree The Structure
A clear framework provides a focus for activities and a smart way to structure your strategy. You may want to include some or all of the following elements:
- An assessment of the current situation
- Overall business communication goals
- Target audiences
- Core messages
- Internal communications channels
- Internal communications initiatives
- Responsibility for delivery
- Success measures
- Communications calendar
Similarly, there is no ideal length. However, tempting though it is, try not to be too ambitious. Focusing on a few key initiatives is more productive.
7. Set A Budget
It’s always a good idea to set a budget before you get into the detail. Thankfully, internal communications is now regarded as a business-critical strategy. It therefore deserves to have cross-departmental support. Knowing what funds and resources are available to deliver the strategy will help you prioritize the deliverables.
And like every other business investment, make sure you establish measurable outcomes to prove ROI.
8. Develop Your Targets
Armed with a budget and overall objective, now it’s time to develop your messages and communications initiatives. There are several tools you can use to help you set targets. A SWOT analysis and SMART criteria are two well-known tools. We like to use the 5Ws and an H. This approach involves asking a set of questions to gather information and problem-solve.
- What: What needs to happen? What’s in it for me? What do I need to know?
- Why: Why now? Why is it important? Why is this the right thing to do?
- Where: Where can I get more information? Where will the impact of this decision be felt?
- When: When does this need to happen? When are the key milestones and deliverables due?
- Who: Who is responsible for making the decision? Who is in charge of delivery? Who will be impacted?
- How: How has the decision been made? How will it be implemented? How will internal communications be affected?
Remember to keep it simple and be selective. Trying to achieve too much too quickly can be counterproductive.
9. Be Inclusive
To really make a difference, your plan should be relevant to every individual in the company. As we have seen, staff members have differing needs, challenges, and preferences. Carefully consider your target audiences, key messages and the best channels for dissemination. And then use a variety of media to tick as many boxes as possible:
- Targeted newsletters
- Social media
- Printed media such as flyers and posters
A healthcare provider, for example, with staff spending most of their time out visiting patients may want to make use of SMS or mobile apps.
Furthermore, make sure your communications are appropriate for those with visual, auditory or cognitive special needs. And if you operate in multiple countries, translation may also need to be factored in.
10. Include Two-Way Communication Channels
Good internal communication isn’t just about top-down messages. The best strategies are those that also include bottom-up and cross-departmental two-way channels. Increasingly, employees expect to be able to respond to information, contribute insights, and provide feedback.
A recent survey from Salesforce found that employees who feel they have an organizational voice are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Whether it’s intranet forums, company blogs or staff suggestion schemes, be sure to include those all-important two-way channels.
11. Make Room For Water Cooler Conversations
Equally important are channels for casual communication. Many a great initiative was sparked by a conversation at the water cooler. Rather than trying to stifle casual conversation, find ways to encourage it. This is even more important for companies with lots of telecommuters, home-workers or non-desk personnel – which has since soared following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Informal communication helps to build a sense of camaraderie and connection between staff. As well as improving morale, it can also positively contribute to idea-sharing and problem-solving capabilities within the business.
12. Communicate Your Plan
Once your strategy has been finalized it’s time to tell everyone about it. From senior managers to key stakeholders and frontline staff, everyone needs to know about the strategy and what it means for them. Your staff will be interested in the ‘why’ behind the new strategy. And they need to have the ‘what’s in it for me question’ answered.
Publish the plan on the intranet. Get the CEO to introduce the strategy in person (or via a video message). Showcase the strategy in your weekly staff newsletter. Whatever channels you choose, communicating the internal communications strategy should be given as high a priority as the initiatives within. In this way, the organization as a whole is held accountable for making sure the strategy delivers.
13. Create A Communications Calendar
Another way to ensure accountability is by developing a communications calendar. This makes it easy for staff to see at a glance what’s in the pipeline and when.
You can showcase internal communications initiatives in a quarterly, monthly or weekly format alongside details of who is responsible for delivery. Incorporate into the intranet’s company calendar for a comprehensive overview of all events, launches, meetings, and deadlines.
14. Develop Review Mechanisms
All the best internal communications strategies are living documents. They are not created and then just filed away as a job done. Make sure you include robust review mechanisms. As a minimum the inter-departmental internal communications team must be on top of progress. Scrutiny and challenge are necessary to ensure targets are met and expectations exceeded. And so, senior managers and the board will want to review the strategy at least quarterly.
This also provides an opportunity to ensure external and internal communication strategies are complementary. Consistency in terms of tone, focus, and message between the two plans is important. There’s nothing worse than employees finding a conflicting message on your external social media platforms. It undermines the trust and goodwill essential for effective employee-employer relationships.
And don’t forget to regularly report back to staff too. They have a vested interest in how things are going, so keep an ongoing dialogue in place.
15. Measure Success
Our final tip is to list how you are going to measure the success of the strategy. Ideally, the metrics you use should relate back to the overall objectives you set in step five. Use tracking and analytics tools to help you assess what’s working and, perhaps more importantly, what’s not working. Possible measures of success include the following:
- Improved engagement score on the annual staff survey
- Increased employee retention rates
- Better staff reviews and scores on Glassdoor and LinkedIn
- Positive snap polls or surveys
- Feedback forms from specific events.
Act on what the data is telling you. Look for other ways to incorporate review mechanisms – such as individual staff reviews – and adjust your communications initiatives accordingly.
Internal Communications Strategy: Plan To Succeed
When it comes to business success, internal communications is often what makes the difference. It’s no accident that those companies with strong internal communications tend to be the highest performing ones overall. According to one survey, an empowered office environment can increase worker productivity by 25 percent.
So, if you want to improve internal communications in your business, then a strategy is the essential starting point. A clear strategy means you can plan to succeed not only with increased productivity but also with improved morale and positive company culture.
Interested in finding out more? Check out the MyHub Intranet blog for more information on how a company intranet can improve internal communications. Sign up for a free demo or 14-day no-obligation trial and discover just what a difference an intranet can make.