What is an internal communication strategy?
An internal communication strategy outlines the goals, methods and driving theories behind your overall internal communications plan. Internal communications are important for fostering collaboration across teams, and improving productivity and engagement across your organisation. 85% of employees report feeling more motivated when management offers regular updates and communications.
The strategy your organisation comes up with will be unique to your company culture. You can use our Internal Communication Strategy template to plan and strategise on your internal communication efforts.
How do you develop an internal communications strategy?
Otherwise, there are a few fundamentals you need to be clear on in order to develop your internal communications strategy:
- Measurable Goals (e.g. increase participation on internal team comms, measured by 20% increase in replies to our messaging)
- Target audience (e.g. everyone in the Marketing team)
- Message and tone (e.g. celebrate wins and invite feedback. Use a friendly, and casual tone.)
- Medium and Channel (e.g. weekly email via our marketing automation tool: Swift Digital)
10 methods you can use for effective internal communications strategy
- Assess and analyse any current internal communications strategy
- Set goals, and identify key metrics
- Share the role of internal communications manager
- Ask your staff about what’s working, and what’s not
- Research the best communication channels for your purpose
- Don’t miss out on social shares and referrals – your employees can be brand advocates!
- Use already proven brand marketing and engagement tactics
- Be agile with your strategy (provide avenues for feedback, and adjust accordingly)
- Be transparent, honest and vulnerable
- Don’t let the urgent updates get lost in a sea of content
1. Assess and analyse any current internal communications strategy
Chances are, your organisation already has some form of internal communications in place. Whether or not you also have a strategy plan at hand may be another story – but if your organisation does have some documentation outlining its internal communications strategy, make sure to assess and analyse its effectiveness.
Don’t spend time reinventing the wheel. See what works and what doesn’t about your organisation’s existing internal comms efforts.
2. Set goals, and identify key metrics
Internal communications can become unmanageable – or worse, forgotten about – easily. It’s not often a prioritised project, and as such, the average organisation could be forgiven for not giving their internal communications as much preparation and planning as they would with an outbound communications strategy.
We won’t preach to you about why internal communications (or, ‘marketing internally’) is incredibly important for creating brand advocates, and increasing morale and productivity. We’ve already done that here, and here.
Needless to say, your internal communications will achieve the best results if you plan ahead, and set measurable goals to guide your efforts.
Your internal communications strategy should outline goals in detail, and should clarify what key metrics you can come back to time and time again to make sure you’re still on track.
Why not go the extra mile and deliberate on an Internal Communications Policy as well?
3. Share the role of internal communications manager
Some things are better off shared.
When it comes to internal communication design, management and execution – having more than one cook in the kitchen can be more effective.
Much of what makes internal communications valuable to staff will be unique to different teams and stakeholder relationships. This means that a one-size fits all approach will simply not return the engagement results that your organisation likely seeks.
Open up your internal communications planning and strategy to different stakeholders and team leaders in order to find out what gaps in communication and collaboration could be solved by planned out internal campaigns.
Another reason you’ll be better off sharing this role is that at larger organisations, where the internal communications needs are larger and more varied, it will be unrealistic to expect one person to stay on top of multiple internal campaigns running concurrently. Share the load!
4. Ask your staff about what’s working, and what’s not
SoapBox found that up to 80% of an organisation’s opportunity for improvement were identified by employees.
Your staff already hold a wealth of information when it comes to what an internal communications strategy should deliver. After all, internal communications are about improving outcomes for them – so why not ask them directly?
You could hold a series of round tables with different teams to encourage them to divulge what’s currently painful (or great!) about communicating and collaborating across teams or with those higher up.
Easier still, you could run a digital survey asking important questions about internal communications, and reward staff members for filling it out (e.g. give out a coffee voucher for your local cafe).
Here are some questions you could ask to better inform your internal communications strategy:
- What do you currently do to communicate within your team, and with other teams?
- What is working with your current internal communications?
- What isn’t working?
- What objectives would you like internal communications to achieve, personally?
- What internal content do you like best?
- What internal content do you find uninteresting and unhelpful?
- What channels do you prefer to receive internal communications on? E.g. social media, intranet, email
5. Research the best communication channels for your purpose
Once you understand your internal communications strategy and the campaigns you plan to run, it’s time to decide the medium and channel you’ll use.
Not all of your internal communications will be best executed using the same medium or channel. For example, brand engagement might be achievable over social media and email for your staff, but inter-team bonding or morale boosting might be better conducted over more intimate, customisable channels such as closed social platforms or video-conferencing events.
Do some research on the different channels available for internal communications purposes, ranging from the old-school (e.g. intranet) to the latest (e.g. Virtual Reality co-working platforms).
Still not sure what will work best for you? Find out what other organisations in the same sector use for internal communications channels, and lastly – you can always test what works best for your organisation on the fly. Trial a few different channels across your internal campaigns and check results to see which gained the most engagement, or helped you reach your goals more effectively.
6. Don’t miss out on social shares and referrals - your employees can be brand advocates!
Some of your internal communications campaigns could reach further brand engagement than your initial audience. When it comes to internal communications that would benefit from sharing beyond internal circles (such as job vacancies and brand awareness), consider making it easy and valuable for staff to share the communication onwards.
This might look like including ‘share to social media’ buttons in your campaign emails, or encouraging staff to forward on job posts from your intranet or other closed, private social platforms.
7. Use already proven brand marketing and engagement tactics
When it comes to brand awareness and engagement, your organisation already has a treasure trove of insight into how to position your brand and deliver value to foster engagement.
Your ‘internal marketing’ efforts can be guided by your external marketing efforts. Make use of your marketing team and their knowledge of the best content marketing strategies to achieve your goals.
They’ve already paved much of the way forward.
8. Be agile with your strategy (provide avenues for feedback, and adjust accordingly)
In a data rich, fast paced digital landscape, more and more organisations are having to adopt more agile approaches to strategy. Your internal communications strategy is no different.
To perfect your internal communications strategy over time, it’s best you first make educated guesses about what will be effective in getting the results you seek, then make sure that each of your internal campaigns are measurable and provide avenues for feedback so that you can regularly assess whether your hypotheses are true and helping you to reach your goals.
Regularly reviewing reporting data to analyse whether your internal communications strategy is kicking goals is a must-do.
Next, for the internal communications that are most applicable, make sure to regularly ask for feedback from your target audience, and always leave a channel open for said feedback.
This might be asking your staff to fill out feedback surveys every now and then, or consistently checking in with teams and stakeholders (on your internal social platform, or over coffee in the office).
9. Be transparent, honest and vulnerable
When it comes to diminishing employee morale, 33% of people surveyed put it down to a lack of honest and open communication.
Internal communications can afford to be far more transparent and vulnerable than outbound or inbound marketing efforts. There is a major upside to being open about not only the wins and gains of your organisation, but the losses and obstacles as well.
Being honest in your internal communications will improve morale (as employees feel included and more on top of the big picture) as well as present staff with opportunities to step up and offer solutions to any obstacles you may be upfront about in your internal communications.
Don’t shy away from vulnerability and transparency about your organisation in your internal communications; you may find it’s exactly the salve needed to improve your staff’s ability to tackle the issues your organisation faces.
10. Don’t let the urgent updates get lost in a sea of content
45.1% of millennials thought their company’s critical messages were lost amongst other less useful information when it came to internal communications, according to a report from Bambu.
Without following some of the other recommended methods in this list, such as: sharing the role of internal communications management, and choosing the right medium/channels for certain messaging – you may end up lumping most of your information into giant one-off communications – which is ineffective.
Your communications need to offer consistent, relevant and valuable content to your staff in order to hold engagement.
The risk of sending long, overloaded communications is that you will see disengagement increase over time; negatively impacting other metrics.
There is the extra risk of staff missing out on important company updates if you send out longform communications where those updates aren’t immediately apparent.
Make sure that a single internal communication is always comprehensive and easy to read. Remember that everyone at your organisation is already very busy; internal communications should make work easier, not harder.
Consider sending campaigns that are dedicated to urgent updates rather than cramming such updates into existing internal campaigns.
Swift Digital Tools for Internal Communications
When it comes to executing your internal communications campaign, an Internal Communications Strategy brief is a must-have.
Do you need help with the creation and automation of your internal communications? Here at Swift Digital, we can help get you started with our useful internal communications template. We also have tips on internal communications best practices and a bunch of internal communication examples to help make your internal communication campaign success.
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