Internal Communication ~ 17 min

Internal Communication Strategy: How to Launch an Effective Plan in 10 Easy Steps

An internal communication strategy is both the glue that holds comms together, and the plan for laying out how the sharing of information will unfold. So what’s the best way to actually get one off the ground? In this article, we’ll show you how to do it in 10 easy steps.

Why devote time to an effective internal communication strategy? Because your internal communications structure is essentially the nervous system of your company, and without one that’s in good health and functioning smoothly, things will fall apart.

Productivity, engagement, profitability—these all rely on an organized and well-planned flow of information within the company, to keep its various parts and departments calibrated and running in harmony. In this post, we’ll set out a 10-step plan for creating a solid internal communication strategy, one that any company can implement and maintain.

What is an internal employee communication strategy?

Where’s the best place to start when it comes to thinking about your internal communication strategy? Probably with the definition itself. So what is it? Well, it deserves mentioning before anything else that times have changed. Internal comms was long seen as a one-way, descending information stream from leaders to employees. However, that one-way flow of top-down communication no longer fits the bill. The digital workplace, social media, human/digital interactions, as well as new habits and needs have all factored into a new kind of communication that goes in multiple directions and contains multiple channels through which it can flow. In short: organizations need to change the way they inform their employees.

So with that in mind, at its essence, an internal communications strategy establishes the business goals that center on employee communication, and lays out the steps needed to achieve them. This strategy is the structural and procedural map that determines how this exchange of information will take place, who will be involved, and in which ways it will be controlled and adapted to fit your company’s evolving needs.


Why an internal communication strategy is important?

A smart internal communication strategy is important for many reasons, as it can touch almost every team, every department, and every individual employee. Without effective communication, a business can’t operate. However, there are three main functions that a well-designed internal communication plan will accomplish:


Inform.

Basically, you want employees to be up to date with important information. This can be organizational communication, when informing employees on company news, large-scale projects, breaking news, big events, new regulations, or business results. Or it can be operational communication, with more targeted updates on specific matters, local news, best practices, product regulations, etc. The key in both cases is to inform everyone at the company, including frontline workers; as many of them do not have company email addresses or workstations, taking advantage of their mobile devices is critical. You have to connect with them through the channel they use most.


Engage.

Employees do not want to simply be informed, they also want to express their opinion, give feedback, share their point of view. This is when effective communication takes place: when it goes both ways. It produces greater involvement of all staff, and it boosts morale, team spirit, and motivation. An effective communication strategy also gives space for companies to celebrate success and give employee recognition, which will in turn only boost engagement further.


Improve.

It has been widely demonstrated that a well-informed and engaged workforce will directly benefit the efficiency and productivity of a company. In fact, research from Gallup shows that companies with engaged workforces are outperforming those that don’t have them by 147%. And a study by Kenexa found that engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years, not to mention a 65% lower turnover rate. So improvements in performance will occur alongside the enhancements in the communication structure.



How to create an internal communication plan?

There are many ways to build a successful internal communication plan, and we’ll cover the detailed steps in the next section. But before moving onto that, it’s important to explain that internal communication’s primary role is to connect with the bigger picture. Communication is first about listening to and observing what is going on within the company. It’s also about connecting with the business objectives of the company, both short term and long term. And it includes serving employer branding, recruitment, and any other goals the HR department may need to achieve as well. CSR objectives and ambitions, the mission of the company within its ecosystem—all of this can play a part.

Obviously, accomplishing everything described above is no easy task, and the approach can change greatly depending on the company culture of each organization. But at the end of the day, a communication plan is not a stand-alone project; there are many key stakeholders and important factors that need to be taken into account, so that messages are relevant and connected to the bigger company picture.


What are the 10 best steps to improve an internal corporate communication plan?

We’ve discussed the more abstract objectives of an internal communication strategy—now let’s get more specific. Here are 10 simple, concrete steps for building an effective communication plan and strategy. When employed together, they can build a powerful internal communication structure.


1. Assess your current situation

You need a starting point, so figure out where you are as a company. Gather measurable data and assess your current internal communication strategy, identifying strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities. Consider doing this with an internal company survey in order to gather feedback on the current situation, identify the needs, and collect ideas. Then identify the discrepancies between the current situation and the feedback you receive, and then start identifying the pain points to address.

The right employee communication platform can help. With Sociabble, for example, admins can easily create tailored surveys and send them to all employees with just a few clicks, with the option to make them anonymous or not.



2. Define your internal communication goals

Before jumping all the way in, you need to define what you want to achieve. Examples of this can be obtaining more employee engagement, establishing a new company culture, breaking down silos among departments, or involving your frontline/remote workers. Or maybe even all of the above.

Your goals need to be realistic and concrete, and they should address a specific problem. Remember, the best goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound).


3. Identify and segment your audience

It is essential that you segment the audiences you want to address. The specific job or role of each employee is relevant, but there are other variables that are important as well. For example, their work environments, if they work remotely, in an office or in the field; their day in terms of information consumption habits; if they are more mobile or desktop friendly, or if they prefer to exchange via face-to-face meetings or digitally. You can even draw up some personas in order to categorize the different audience segments you will be speaking to.


4. Outline your messages

Once you have defined the audience, you can start crafting the messages you want to communicate to them. The issue here is to address the right messages to the right people, to catch their attention and make sure the content is completely understood. This means that you transmit essentially the same message to different people, but in a different way: for instance, if the objective is making the workforce understand corporate goals, you don’t want to talk to new staff members, who have just onboarded with the company, in the same way you talk to senior leaders or key stakeholders.

But before diving into the details, start with the core message, the one that is your priority according to the goals you set. Then you can develop the details according to the audience.

Remember, the more messages you send, the less your audience will remember them. So avoid information overload, prioritize your messaging and stick to it.


5. Build an internal communication strategy

Building an internal communication strategy means to associate messages on one side and audiences on the other, together in an effective manner. You will need to find the best way to catch people’s attention and deliver the messages in the fashion that’s the most suitable and relevant for them. You may need to imagine different formats, diversify your pieces of content, and adapt your tone and style. All this without losing the priorities you settled upon for the first step.

Also, when building your internal communication strategy, it’s useful to encourage upward communication. This will not only engage your audience more, but also help you to gather feedback and allow you to adjust your messages, as well as verify understanding and retention. And you can collect fresh ideas in the process.

It’s important that you explain your internal communication strategy to people at your company. Be as collaborative as possible, share your ideas, and collect new ones. You will need the help of key stakeholders in order to deploy your new internal communications, so you have to engage employees from the very start.

Eventually, you will need to organize governance, according to skills and responsibilities, and determine who is responsible for delivering communication and how. For example, what must be done globally and what needs to be taken care of on a local level.


6. Select relevant communication channels

There are so many communication channels you can use to spread information: emails, internal social media, intranet, collaborative tools, videos, digital signage, desktops, mobile—and that’s just the digital communication channels. There are also the more traditional ones such as team and staff meetings, townhalls, face-to-face interviews, department team building meetings, etc.

Your internal communication strategy will need to choose the right channel according to the characteristics of your selected audience. For instance, frontline workers that have different shifts during day and night, or sales staff working at different locations, will be more likely to immediately receive information on their mobile device, than during a monthly staff meeting.


 

7. Choose the appropriate internal communication tool

At this stage, orchestrating an effective communication plan in the workplace can be complicated. Audiences, messages, communication channels… how best to manage it all effectively? Choosing the right internal communication tool is key. A tool that can manage different communication channels, different audiences, different content formats, and that’s responsive to both desktop and mobile.

Sociabble is extremely effective at all of the above, as it allows you to create groups and audiences, and to send customized messages and content pieces to them. Many tasks can be automated and planned, sending newsletters and notifications, for example, or delegated to other people, for instance the head of a department or a key stakeholder. Content can be received also via personal mobile devices, which is often the best option for frontline workers.



Sociabble is the internal communication tool that will ensure that everybody is on board with your larger internal communication strategy. It allows you to create meaningful two-way information flows, thanks to its numerous upward communication features: customizable and built-in surveys, enjoyable and targeted quizzes, employee recognition tools, reactions and comments to content, and secure peer-to-peer live chats. It is an all-in-one solution that will allow you to not only manage your internal communication plan effectively, both in terms of time and resources, but also in terms of impact, thanks to its powerful analytics.

 

8. Set timeline and budget

Your communication objectives must be timebound: when deciding your goals, you will need to determine a realistic deadline, and build adequate planning. This will ensure that you achieve your goals on time. You will also need to establish an editorial calendar to determine in advance that key events and moments are already planned ahead and have a place in the company timeline.

Nevertheless, your internal communication plan can be highly impacted by the budget you allocate for it. The best way is to engage key decision-makers from the very start, and obtain buy-in from the leadership, so that you can obtain the financial means that correspond to your objectives. In the past, traditional leadership often failed to understand the true importance of internal communication. Things have changed significantly since then, however, because of the pandemic and the new digital and remote workplace scenarios that have arisen. Internal communication has become critical to improving employee engagement, reducing turnover, and increasing productivity.


9. Analyze and adapt best practices for internal communication

Once you have outlined your internal communication plan, you will need to review it regularly. You will need to assess your internal communication process and obtain the necessary approvals, in order to engage both key stakeholders and your team.

You will also need to be sure to keep up with your audience. In the life of a company, changes and new projects and events are commonplace. So you should be aware of what is going on in different teams and collect useful information, thus adapting your communication plan in order to be up-to-date and to satisfy these new needs.

In order to engage employees, you will also need to start conversations and collect feedback. Staying open and having a listening mindset is not easy, especially in a digital and remote workplace. But it is essential that these conversations take place, encouraging people to participate and engaging them in the communication objectives, thus providing them appropriate upward communication channels.

Eventually, you can also empower your employees to become brand advocates and deploy an employee advocacy program. Such steps can be a powerful way to amplify the company’s messages on social media, both internal and external, in an authentic way that connects to new audiences.


10. Measure, analyze, and improve

Evaluating the effectiveness of your internal communication plan means having access to both quantitative and qualitative data in real-time.

Sociabble provides a sophisticated analytics tool, allowing real-time monitoring and assessment for any communication action. For example, when sending a newsletter, it is possible to analyse not only the open rates, but also go into detail regarding the type of audience that read the newsletter, their location, the day and the hour when the newsletter was opened, etc.

Such information helps you to adjust the internal communication plan to fit the audience’s needs. Thanks to content performance data, such as wall impressions, deep reads, likes, comments, shares, as well as device breakdowns, it is possible to adjust all the parameters of an internal communication plan. For example: if during the last 30 days, the team at a manufacturing facility has read most of the content pushed to them during their lunch break, then it makes sense to plan all informational content to be delivered around that time. On the other hand, if a team did not engage with a certain type of content, it might make sense to adjust the format or the message.



What are some of the internal communication techniques and best practices?

So we’ve covered the 10 basic steps—now it’s time for the do’s and don’ts when executing them. Here are some common best practices and mistakes to avoid when implementing an internal communication plan. Let’s take a look:


Do’s:


Deliver quality content through quality tools

Employees are your customers; you must draw them in and catch their interest. They are information consumers, exposed to thousands of content pieces from outside companies that want to draw their attention to sell them goods and services. So you will need to step up your efforts and stand out, so that employees will direct their attention to your messages. You will need a tool that delivers your content exactly when, to whom, and how you want to, in an easy and effective way.


Reach everybody

Nobody can be left out. Or even have the feeling of being left out. An effective communication plan must remove barriers and allow each employee to obtain information through their favourite means of communication. It can be a desktop or a personal mobile device. It can be a video or a newsletter. Your internal communication tool must be inclusive, in every way.


Ask for feedback and input

The best way to engage teams is to ask them their opinions. Putting in place quick and effective tactical surveys is a powerful way not only to collect feedback and new ideas, but also to verify that your messages have been understood and remembered.


Be adaptable

Crises happen. Changes, too. And they are often unexpected. What you planned in the beginning may not be so easy to implement. You will need to be ready to adapt your communication plan to internal and external events. When those events occur, you will need to connect with employees, engage them and sustain the change with an adapted communication strategy.


Don’ts:


Saying it once is not enough

Don’t assume that saying a message with a single content piece or campaign is enough. Communication is a complex thing. Messages can be interpreted and understood differently, according to the conditions and working environment they are received in. Repetition is key. And consistency, too. Repeating several times a single message will maximize the chances that it is absorbed and retained.


A single channel is not enough

We’re all used to multiple communication channels in our daily lives, whether personal or professional. Spreading a message through just one channel means reducing drastically the possibility of reaching the intended audience. It’s important to deploy a multi-channel communication plan, in order to be sure to reach employees.


Don’t forget to add some fun

Internal communication is not meant to always be dry and serious. We all like receiving exciting and fun content. Also, we all like to play, so include some challenges or gaming activities, when possible, in line with company culture. Additionally, include in your internal communication plan some social events, personal insights, success celebrations, and fun moments. It will be more effective and engaging.


Don’t be aloof

The most important task for an effective communication plan is to listen before talking. Do not stay far-removed in your communication “ivory tower” but rather get in touch with employees, teams, departments, colleagues, managers, and top leaders. Collect feedback and ideas. Verify if your assumptions were correct or if you need to adjust them. Detect problems and questions—your communication will be enriched.


Sociabble as the best tool to manage an effective internal communication plan

The right strategy is critical to keeping internal communications running effectively and smoothly, but without the right tools, all the strategy in the world won’t make a difference. An employee communication platform like Sociabble empowers companies to put their strategy into action and see tangible results. With Sociabble acting as your central employee communication hub, you can:

  • Segment and target audiences
  • Customize messages and content
  • Connect all workers, even frontline and remote
  • Have content automatically translated
  • Send customized newsletters
  • Deploy quick and easy surveys and quizzes
  • Engage employees with rewards, badges, and peer-to-peer recognition
  • Analyze data in real to optimize performance

If you’d like to join industry leaders like L’Occitane, Coca-Cola, and Renault Group in using Sociabble to get the most out of your internal communication strategy, just get in touch! You can sign up for a free demo here.