Internal communications used to entail simply “sending out stuff to staff.”
Today, executives and communicators realize that compelling staff messaging can increase retention and boost employee performance.
Here are five areas to focus on to achieve sustainable internal communications (IC) results:
Clarifying where you are now and where you want to be is the best place to start. Determine what should be said, when and how.
Start with all your “known communications,” such as financial results, big-picture messages and general operational updates; then slot in training awareness pieces. When crafting timelines, factor in that these efforts usually require a multi-channel, multi-touch drip strategy.
Culture-related content has become a communications priority. Getting everyone to buy in to your vision doesn’t happen overnight, however, so your IC plan should feature a variety of content formats and approaches to methodically build the organizational culture you want.
Your strategy should also incorporate feedback from colleagues. Ask people in other departments whether they have any requirements or requests—such as IT for software upgrades or marketing for product launches.
Once you have an IC blueprint, you can establish who needs what information—and when.
Mass emails tend to get ignored (or deleted). Focus on sending the right information to the right people at the right time.
As with any strategic marketing effort, internal content should be relevant to the recipient, presented in an engaging format and delivered where that individual spends their time (email, social media, Google Chat, text, etc.). Don’t bombard people with irrelevant messages.
Segmentation improves readership and response, which you can facilitate by creating custom groups—segmenting people by department, location or channel preferences. Remote workers might prefer texting. Call center agents may be more responsive to scrolling desktop tickers. Digital signage could make the most sense for shop floor workers.
It’s all about reaching people where they are, in a format that’s easy for them to consume.
Your communication channel, platform or format is just as important as your message. The nature of the message should influence your channel choice.
Some messages will be urgent (such as a weather warning or outage notification), some may be sensitive (a restructuring or benefits review), and others might be purely informational.
Anticipate these possibilities; determine which format to use for each kind of message. Slack, Workplace by Facebook and Microsoft Teams are great for chat and collaboration and are solid supplements to email, desktop alerts, tickers and screensavers.
Each tool has different attributes and strengths. For example, full-screen desktop alerts are hard to beat for urgent notifications. Video, meanwhile, might be a more effective vehicle for pushing big-picture content.
Creating a list of likely communication scenarios and compiling your staff’s channel preferences will keep you ahead of the game and prevent last-minute scrambling.
Performance metrics can help you gauge success and should be linked to company objectives so you can report on meaningful progress.
Most employee software enables you to track open, click-through and download rates. You can monitor the number of unique visits to your intranet stories and participation rates on collaboration sites. You can also track physical attendance at briefings, training sessions and other company events.
For qualitative data, introduce surveys, quizzes and forums to capture staff feedback. These tools help you measure engagement scores and gauge how well employees understand your communications.
Don’t cherry-pick the best data results you glean; be prepared for rises and falls. Internal communication is a fluid, often reactive function, with influences outside your control—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure progress.
Creating an effective internal communications strategy requires experience, measurement and no small amount of tweaking. Not every content piece you send will resonate. Be flexible and open-minded in how your messaging can improve.
Humor, eye-catching visuals, great storytelling, employee-generated content and rich media such as animations and video are IC staples, so seek help from your creative colleagues as needed.
To inspire your staff, focus on “why” this is being explained—not just “what.” If people understand the reason behind what you’re asking them to do or what you’re telling them about, they are more inclined to buy in.
For most organizations, IC is no longer an afterthought, but doing it well requires intent and strategizing. Success hinges on targeted messaging, audience understanding, multi-channel content and a commitment to improve continually.
Sarah Perry is CEO of SnapComms. A version of this article first appeared on the SnapComms blog.