Create a Powerful Internal Communications Strategy

The essential guide for successful internal communications plans

Your Free Internal Communication Strategy Template

An internal communications strategy defines business goals in communicating with staff and plans the activities to achieve these goals. It's the blueprint guiding you to internal communications success. Creating this strategy involves some work but there are clearly defined steps to follow along the way.

We’ve developed a four-step process for creating your own custom internal communications strategy – whatever your organization’s size or sector.

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Why do you Need an Internal Communications Strategy?

An internal communications strategy is important because it strengthens the connection between employees, employers and the company mission.

It increases commitment by keeping staff informed. It boosts productivity by raising employee engagement. And it drives business success by maximizing the effectiveness of every activity.

An effective internal communication strategy will inform, engage, and improve your organization.

benefits of communications


How to Create an Internal Communications Strategy


Step 1. Where Are You Now?

Start by analyzing the current situation – your audiences, influences and existing communications performance.

  • Audiences - Collect information on the composition of your organization. This should include number of staff, locations, departments, demographics, devices used and any other factors related to your organizational structure.

    This information can then be used later for audience segmentation to deliver targeted, highly relevant messages – key to achieving greater readership and response.

  • Environmental Influences - Consider which issues, needs and challenges are influencing your communications. Is it difficult to communicate with staff working in certain environments, such as call centers, warehouse or frontline retail? What specific messaging needs do different departments have?

    Consider the table below. How many of the issues outlined currently afflict your organization? How significant is the impact of each? What value to your organization would resolving each offer?

    internal communications plan issues table

  • Current Communications - Understand how your current internal communications have been performing and what level of employee engagement has been achieved.

    Review your existing comms toolset. Which current channels are the most effective? Are certain channels more effective for specific types of messages? What types of messages are your existing channels not well suited to?

Step 2. Where Do You Want To Be?

Now that you know your current situation, you can begin to plan what you want it to be. This step is about defining your objectives and ensuring alignment with overall company direction.

  • Future Focus - Start with your vision for the future of internal communications in your organization. How does it look – is it a centralized IC function or decentralized by location or functional area?

  • Business Goals - Internal communication is most effective – and most valuable – when it aligns with overall business goals.

    Consult your organization’s business plan for detail on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and core projects at both company and departmental level. This will provide you useful information on where to expend your internal communications efforts.

  • Communication Priorities - Now you know what the primary business objectives are, you can start to form your communication priorities.

    Consider what response you want staff to have to your communications. This could either be a physical action or an emotional change – that is, a response of act vs feel.

  • Setting Objectives - When you come to set objectives, be specific about what you want to achieve. Is it a hard metric, such as ‘Achieve 100% readership of all important announcements within 60 seconds’? Or is it a softer metric, such as ‘Increase employee engagement by 25%’?

    There are many different techniques for effectively setting objectives. One of the most common is to set SMART goals (that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Many businesses are now taking that a step further and setting SMARTER goals, which add Evaluate and Readjust at the end to reflect the importance of continual improvement.

Here are some quick tips for setting successful communication objectives - and mistakes to avoid.

  1. Ensure communication goals ladder up to company goals - internal comms is most effective when it's focused on driving the business forward
  2. Make sure you can measure results - if you can't track and report on the outcome of your efforts you'll never know whether they worked or not (and you can't showcase your successes to management!)
  3. Review last year's goals first - knowledge of prior performance can suggest areas to focus on and activities to repeat
  4. Set achievable goals - it's fine to create BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) to motivate staff, but if they're too unrealistic they can risk being discouraging
  5. Summarize goals clearly - short, simple and succinct statements make them memorable

Step 3. How Will You Get There?

This step is where the best tactics and most effective communication channels are combined to achieve your objectives.

  • Communication Tasks - Make a list of all the main communication tasks scheduled for the year. Each task will require a tailored Communications Plan. A simple spreadsheet like the example below can be sufficient.

  • Audience Targeting - Segment your employees into distinct groups based on their working environment or communication preferences. Set these groups up in your communication platforms to enable easy targeting of relevant messages – in the format and channel best suited to them.

    Consider the following table for the audiences relevant to your organization. Putting yourself in the shoes of your audiences will help you to better understand their needs and then deliver to them through targeted, relevant message solutions.

    communication planning considerations table

  • Contingency Plans - Create a contingency plan which outlines alternative courses of action to be taken in the event of roadblocks to the main plan – whether timing delays, lack of resource or inclement weather. Preparing back-up messages in advance can help reduce the stress when obstacles arise, as well as allow you to move more swiftly in response.

  • Channel Selection - The type of content you need to communicate, and the urgency with which staff must consume it, will help define the most appropriate channels. For example, communicating IT outage notifications, promoting campaign events and soliciting feedback to company announcements all have very different purposes – and require very different communication channels.

    It’s advisable to use multiple channels to maximize the best attributes of each and reduce the risk in relying on a single, overloaded channel. The key is balance, variety, accessibility and repetition.

Here are a few communication best practices for channel selection:

  1. Multiple touches – Reaching audiences at different times, in different environments
  2. Multiple formats – Combining text, imagery or video engages audiences more
  3. Short burst, bite size – Quick to read, understand and act upon
  4. Repetition – Recall improves as message exposure increases
  5. Disruptive and passive formats – High-visibility notification and discreet reinforcement
  6. Online and offline formats – Broad distribution for maximum readership

Step 4: How Will You Know If It Worked?

The final step is about tracking results and implementing a cycle of continuous improvement.

  • Measurement - Put systems in place to track how achievement is progressing against your objectives. What’s working well – and, more importantly, what isn’t? Delve into the data to identify improvements that can be made immediately.

    There are a range of different KPIs you can use to measure performance. These include open rates, click-through rates, survey response rates, number of comments and shares, engagement levels and device types used.

    communication measurement

  • Testing - Try different approaches to see if one is more successful. For example, send the same message with two different subject lines to see which has the higher open rate. Or deliver content in text vs visual formats to see which has better engagement. In Marketing this is referred to as A/B testing. Insights gleaned through testing will help your quest to construct the perfect message.

  • Two-way Feedback - Be open to requesting, collecting and reporting on employee feedback. Mechanisms such as staff sentiment surveys and intranet forums can be fertile ground for honest and helpful views.

  • Evaluate and Evolve - Use channel tracking and analytics tools to identify which channels have been more successful. Revisit your strategy on a quarterly basis to evaluate how it's working. Share the results and how these are supporting wider company performance with the rest of the organization.

Internal Communications Strategy Example

Download our internal communications strategy template for examples, tips and best practices to create a successful program of internal communications – from concept to completion.

Download The Template

Internal Communications FAQ

The scope of work and timeframes involved are the main differences between an internal communication plan vs strategy. A strategy will define the longer-term vision and how this aligns with overall business objectives. A plan details the range of tactical activities that support the strategy.

Download: Internal Communications Templates

An internal communications campaign is a time-bound series of activities designed to support an organization's strategy. It typically involves communicating messages through multiple channels to increase employee awareness and lift engagement.

Article: What Makes The Best Internal Communication Campaigns?
Article: Why Internal Communications Campaigns Fail (And What They Need To Succeed)

Communication best practices are targeting messages to specific audiences, optimizing content for different device types and correctly aligning messages with channels. The channel selected should be appropriate for the audience and the criticality of the message.

Article: 44 Tips For Internal Communications Best Practice
Download: Transforming Internal Communications Into An Essential Business Driver

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