How to master internal communications: start with a great strategy

By Aimee Happ
December 12, 2020
5 min read

Let’s face it, internal communications can be complicated sometimes, especially since most companies don’t have their own internal comms department or expert. 

The best way to learn any new skill is to first understand the fundamentals, preferably in the clearest, easiest way possible!

We want to help you grow and thrive as an internal communicator, no matter your level of experience. That’s where our 7 principles methodology and assessment come in.

In this new blog series, we’ll go over each of these 7 principles in detail, with simple steps on how to implement these in your own teams. These are especially important as we navigate uncertain times, and organizations all over the world adjust to working remotely. 

Before we go over today’s principle, here’s a quick blurb on the 7 principles overall:

In a nutshell, internal communications is about sending the right message to the right audience at the right time, through a channel that they prefer, with some metrics to measure success. All this starts with developing a great strategy, supported by ongoing analysis against company objectives. It ends with an in-depth analysis of your efforts, so you can recalibrate if needed.

Let’s chat about the first principle: strategy.


Click here for our newest eBook on the 7 Principles of Internal Communications

The breakdown

From your basic communications plan to your fully-integrated corporate objectives, the strategy principle is the main foundation for the rest of your internal communications landscape. It’s where it all begins!

According to a 2020 State of the Sector study on internal comms, communicating strategy was the number one IC-related priority for employees.

Internal communicators often find themselves facing one of two common problems: either they have too much freedom in how they communicate, or not enough. This can often lead to a bunch of ad hoc or unrelated communication—large chunks of emails sent out at once, followed by crickets.

Creating an effective internal communications strategy involves answering these questions:

  • What is the mandate of internal communications?
  • How do your communication efforts connect to larger business objectives?
  • How do you plan to deliver on your communication strategy and what tactics will you use?
  • What are the communication needs of your audience?

Within your strategy, it’s also critical to have a communications plan that clearly lays out tactics, timelines, and metrics to feed back into your ongoing planning and decision making.

Knowing your strategy will help set the stage for the rest of your internal communications activity.

The difference between plan & strategy

An internal communications plan is a tactical tool and very specific to day-to-day operations. Your strategy, on the other hand, sits on top and informs the planning.

Think of Google Maps. When you input a destination, you have an overview of how you are going to get there. That’s your strategy. The step-by-step instructions for actually making it there is your plan. Both make up this highly-important first step in becoming an internal comms expert.

What should you include in your communications strategy?

  • Priorities: organizational priorities that feed into your role
  • Objectives: goals that support your outlined priorities
  • Stakeholders: who you are reporting to and the people who have direct input
  • Outtakes and outcomes: your reporting framework

What should you include in your communications plan?

  • Goals / desired results
  • Key messaging
  • Target audience
  • Tactics
  • Timeline

3 easy steps to building an internal communications strategy

Now that you know the “what” of internal comms strategy-building, let’s see what it looks like in practice:

1. First, conduct a channel audit to see where things stand. What channels are the most effective and which are less practical? Figure out exactly how information and messaging flows within your organization, whether it’s mostly through email, video messages, or newsletters. Which ones have the most traffic?

Pro tip: employee surveys are a fantastic way to understand current channels. 

2. Establish your single source of truth. Employees must know where to go for the most up-to-date, accurate information that they can trust to be the “authority”, like a company intranet or a consistent email train.

3. After you’ve conducted your channel audit and established your single source of truth, determine from your findings which channels you want to use most going forward, and figure out a way to use them consistently.

For example, if you are using multiple channels (even if it’s just email and weekly newsletters), make a plan for what types of information are shared on each, and start establishing consistency.

To wrap up, it’s vital for companies to have a strong internal communications strategy in place, so messaging can travel smoothly and effectively throughout your team. Doing so can bolster employee engagement, increase retention rates, align external and internal communication, foster innovation, and clarify a company’s mission.

The good news? It’s never too late to implement a new strategy, or strengthen the one you already have in place. At IC, it’s our goal to empower corporate leadership to develop and maintain a strong internal communications strategy. If you want to learn more, please feel free to reach out to us.

The Drive Internal Communications Assessment

Feeling overwhelmed and out of depth in your internal communications role? Take our 5-minute internal communications assessment!

Gain valuable insights and resources to help you improve your internal comms strategy, so you can build a collaborative, efficient, and morale-boosting work environment.

You’ll also walk away with a detailed scorecard, complete with handy resources to improve your internal communications overall.

Click here to take the assessment.

By Aimee Happ

Aimee Happ is proud to lead the marketing team at IC and enjoys working with the dynamic and diverse team that surrounds her. She is inspired on a daily basis by the company's mission of empowering internal communicators. Aimee holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary and loves to travel.