9 steps for developing your internal communications plan

There’s plenty of work involved, but the payoffs are important: efficiency, collaboration, budget dollars and, potentially, a seat at the decision-making table.

Here is a nine-step approach to creating your internal communications plan:

1. Measure your activity.

Measurement transforms internal communications from a shot in the dark to an effective management tool. To plan ahead, you must measure your performance to date:

  • What were the high-value and the low-value activities?
  • How did you perform against your goals and expectations?
  • Gather feedback from your senior leaders, peers and audiences on the communications and campaigns they found most useful.
  • Don’t look only at successful campaigns and strategies; a lot can be learned from knowing where it went wrong—where are you losing your audience?

If you’re not sure where to start, here are tips on what to measure.

2. Assess your channels, campaigns and tools.

It’s easy to focus on the latest, shiniest channel in your internal communication arsenal, but which is best for driving engagement?

Ask these questions to find out what’s working and what has to change:

  • Which channel prompts the most action?
  • Which tools are best for optimizing that channel?
  • How do your audiences prefer to receive information?
  • Which tool or channel was best at driving traffic to important company messages?
  • Which campaigns performed best? What made them stand out?

Conduct a channel assessment to see what’s effective.

3. Identify your audiences and how to reach them.

Understanding your audience will help you communicate more effectively. How can you segment employee groups so your communications are more targeted and relevant?

  • What are their likes/dislikes/preferences/interests?
  • How do they consume information (mobile, online platforms, etc.)?
  • Where are they located?
  • Who are the innovators in your organization and leading contributors on your intranet?
  • What groups are most active on your social media channels?
  • What types of messages get the most “likes,” comments, views and shares?

This information can help you tailor your communications plan to the best channel for different audiences.

4. Brainstorm.

Find specific ways to reach your audience throughout the year. Work with your team to brainstorm tactics.

Determine how best to convey your message to your specific audience(s)—including targeted weekly newsletters, blog posts, videos, social media, podcasts, video conferencing or posters. Identify ways you could use the available tools differently to reach a particular audience.

5. SWOT it out.

A SWOT (analysis strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) can augment your brainstorming phase. It works best when you focus on key areas and have specific goals and objectives in mind. Avoid over-analysis, though.

Free templates are available online. Mind Tools includes a helpful video.

6. Set your S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Why are specific goals and objectives being set? Why is it necessary to achieve them, specifically within a given timeframe? Each goal should be S.M.A.R.T.— simple, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely. Get into the nitty-gritty of how to achieve these goals.

Next, identify how the strategic internal communication plan will close the gap between current beliefs or actions and the desired outcome.

7. Create your internal communication plan and your calendar.

Your plan should include:

  • Your executive summary
  • An overview of the previous year’s achievements
  • Details of your target audience
  • Your goals and objectives
  • Tactics and tools that will be used
  • Metrics and key performance indicators to assess progress

In addition to these fundamental areas, your communications calendar can include quarterly, monthly and weekly plans for the year. Outline who will be responsible for specific tasks, as well as what new tools, skills or education will be needed to achieve your collective goals.

8. Set your budget.

For many internal communication functions, the budget is allocated as a percentage of your previous year’s spending; others must apply on a project-by-project basis.

If you need more money to achieve your goals for the coming year, demonstrate to senior leaders the return on investment (ROI) and achievements of internal communications in the current financial year.

Outline how and where the requested increase would be used to improve on these figures. Should the additional money not be granted, highlight how that would hinder achieving your objectives.

9. Communicate your internal communication plan.

Inform senior leaders, team members and other stakeholders about your strategy. A detailed brief should be given to all department members, affording them ample time for questions and discussions.

Create a high-level strategic brief for leaders, peers and other stakeholders. Make KPIs and demonstrable results central to this plan. Ask for input and feedback. You can also get information on plans, strategies and projects that other departments are planning.

Outlining key performance indicators and connecting team goals to the organization’s objectives helps the department demonstrate ROI—and gain a seat at the decision-making table.

A version of this post first appeared on Poppulo’s blog.

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