No matter how long you have been in corporate communications, getting the basics consistently right is the first step in delivering value. From there, growth and impact can be exponential. What are the basics? Let’s start at the very beginning: your internal communication strategy and action plan to see you reaping rewards in 2023. See the full story by watching the webinar hosted by our former in-house comms specialist, Erin Raimondo:
Internal communications best practices
We believe that there are seven different areas that make up an ideal internal communications landscape in an organization. Through in-depth research and consultations with seasoned internal communications professionals, we have built this methodology of seven principles, each supported by several best practices for effective internal communication.
At the two ends of the spectrum sit strategy and data analytics; this is where we look at corporate communications from a high level, stepping away from the operational side of things.
Content, audience, channel, timeline, and metrics are the execution principles that sit in the middle. We’ve noticed that these are the ones that communicators (specialized professionals and off-the-side) are generally most comfortable with.
Strategy, on the other hand, can often be challenging to define and get right. It sets the tone for your execution and informs your data reporting. Let’s explore how an internal communications strategy can set you up for success from the ground-up …
First things first: create a mandate and organizational alignment
Before you dive in-depth into your strategy, you need to create a mandate. Also, just because you have an internal communicator role does not mean you have a mandate.
“A mandate equips you with the political capital you’ll need to act strategically within your organization. You need that high-level support to be able to push back a bit on the ad hoc to focus on the big picture objectives.”
What you want to look at is an explicit and formal confirmation from your leadership team. It clearly outlines your role, expectations, and resources available to you to communicate within the organization.
Why do we talk about mandate in line with strategy?
The great thing about having your mandate in place before your strategy is that it confirms the political will in your organization, including political capital within the organization for you to set expectations with the other people you are working with.
In larger organizations, other departments often see internal communications as operational and delivery based. A mandate gives you the power to push back and shift the relationship to be more strategic. In the long run, clear boundaries, expectations, and processes also lead to more successful working relationships.
That’s why we talk about mandate first, as it sets you up for success even before you start delivering.
Ask the right questions, get your free mandate worksheet here!
Internal communication strategy vs. plan
In communications, “strategy” and “plan” are often used interchangeably. But as you move to a strategic role, you need to pull them apart.
In corporate terms, when we talk about a strategy, we’re talking to executives who have a particular idea of what a strategy is. If you’re not speaking the same language as the leadership team, you won’t be able to communicate what you are doing and garner support for your efforts.
So, how do you tell them apart? 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.
What to 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 to include in your communications plan
- Goals / key results
- Key messaging
- Target audience
When it comes to an internal communications plan, each communicator will have their plan preferences. That’s great! It’s supposed to be a resource for you and help your efforts. If it gives visibility to your what and how you’re on a good path.
Get your free internal communications plan template here!
Tip: Share your internal communications plan with your stakeholders and colleagues in other departments. When your key contacts see how your campaign planning works in real-time, they’re better able to help you by giving you content and tasks ahead of time.
Considerations for communications in 2023
After all that 2022 threw at us this year, wouldn’t you like to go into 2023 ready for its challenges? Of course, no one knows what the next year (never mind next couple of months) may hold in, but some trends will continue to become more prominent and is a good indication of what people are going to be talking about.
“Starting your 2023 planning now means you can set yourself up to be strategic, rather than reactive.”
What do these trends mean for communications, specifically?
- Hybrid work and engagement: Hybrid workforces, where some duties are done remotely, are becoming the norm, and they have very different communications needs than a fully in-office team. Whether you are fully remote or half and half, take a digital-first approach to ensure touchpoints with every person
- Diversity and inclusion: Remove as many barriers as you can to ensure accessibility to your content. Ensure accessibility for all, and don’t make assumptions about different people’s needs
- Mental health and wellness: Be aware and understand how things (events, policies, processes) affect people, and make sure you aren’t adding harm to the noise. The best tactic to truly engage your audience is empathy
Weave these trends into your internal communication strategy by connecting them to critical objectives. The sooner you have your 2023 strategy laid out and approved by the leadership team, the sooner you can move on to planning tactics and campaigns.
This blog was originally published November 2021, and updated January 2023.