Non communicators may be surprised to hear what internal communicators can find on their desks; from organizing a last-minute morning tea for International Administrative Professionals’ Day, to resolving arguments between religious community groups about whose event had longer coverage on the intranet homepage (both real things we’ve been involved in). And that’s on top of supporting strategy and talent communications, responding to crises, building engagement, coaching leaders and managing change and project communications.
With all this going on, finding the time to prepare an internal communication strategy can feel impossible; and that’s probably why only half of organizations have a comms strategy at all.
It’s also precisely why you need a strategy. A planned approach to communication allows you to prioritize initiatives, better advise leaders on how and why to communicate and, perhaps most importantly, to say no when something doesn’t fit.
Let us help you out. Here, we outline our steps for developing a clear, effective and usable internal comms strategy.
Your internal communication strategy should not exist in a vacuum. It is an essential component of your organization’s overall strategy. So it’s really important to not only read your company strategy, but to spend some time with the people responsible for developing and implementing it, to understand how and why those priorities were decided on and how they’ll be brought to life.
Identify your communication priorities
Based on the organizational objectives, you should be able to identify your most important communication priorities. For example, if your company is looking to improve employee retention rates, a communication priority might be to partner with HR to increase employee engagement levels. If your business is looking to expand its impact in a particular service line, your communication priority might be to highlight success stories in that area. And so on. Three to five communication priorities is more than enough - any more and your messaging will end up all over the map.
Understand your audience
Performing an audience analysis will ensure that you achieve the communication holy grail of communicating the right message, to the right people, at the right time. Different audiences in your organization will have different professional focuses, drivers, pain points and preferences. They may be motivated by achieving billable hours or fundraising targets. Perhaps they work off-site and rarely access a computer. Perhaps there are different cultural and linguistic factors you need to consider.
Segmenting your audience and understanding each one’s optimal communication preference will put you leaps and bounds ahead when it comes to developing campaigns throughout the year.
TIP: The unbeatable way to understand your audience is to get to know them in person. The best communicators get out from behind their desks, and regularly speak with people at all levels of an organization. Ask what their job looks like, if they saw your latest campaign, whether they use email or Slack, and so on.
Know Your Channels
Understanding how you’ll reach your audience is as important as knowing what to say when you do. An inventory of your channels, together with a quick audit of how they perform will ensure you’re spending your time where it matters. If people don’t use the internal social network, but rely on their managers for corporate updates, you can work with that information to reach people more effectively.
How will you know when your communication strategy is working? What new behaviours will you see, how will employee engagement increase, what percentage of employees will be able to describe their role in delivering the organizational strategy? Whatever your priorities, it’s essential to have a clear picture of what the business will look like when you’ve achieved them, and how you’ll measure progress towards that goal.
The objective of internal communications should be to help employees think, feel or do something differently. This should be your measure. Try to stay away from vanity measures like page views, likes or shares, except as indicative markers. Behaviours are your real measure of success.
Where do my tactics go?
Everyone writes their comms strategies differently. As a strategist and a communicator, I believe tactics belong in the campaign planning stage. Your strategy is the big picture, pointing you in the direction of where to go and a general route to getting there. When your objectives are set, you can then use detailed planning to identify the ‘how’ steps.
For example, using the objective of increasing employee engagement, you might then identify that managers aren’t sharing important updates with their teams, leaving people feeling directionless. Your tactics, which you can develop a detailed plan for, might be to increase manager communication skills through a coaching program and create a dedicated manager portal on the intranet to house important news to share.
Your strategy should be genuinely useful. You don’t want a 10 page document that goes straight into a drawer, never to see the light of day again. A short, easy to follow road map (backed up by detailed appendices if you like) will keep your comms team on track.
At AlphaJuliet, we’ve developed dozens of internal communication strategies. We’ve worked with clients from growing nonprofits to major global professional services firms, and we know how to craft a strategy that works for you. If you’d like to talk more about how a communication strategy could help you manage your comms function more effectively, please get in touch. Our first conversation is always free.