Why you need an internal communications audit

By Karen Johnston
January 14, 2020
3 min read
hands gathered around a plan on table

The flow of information in any organization happens through professional communication channels. When you are communicating top-down, bottom-up or collaborating with your team, the mechanism, whether formal or informal, in person or via technology, is about transferring information to achieve a certain outcome.  

Why does auditing your internal communications channels feel so complicated? 

In many cases, professional communication channels have been adopted without a strategy in mind: they were either always there (quarterly magazine), adopted for ease of use (Slack), or just the way things are done (email). But what we know for sure in today’s multi-generational, technologically advanced, audience-driven world is that if you want your message to get across, you must have a multi-channel approach. Which is why you need an internal communications audit. 

Without an audit, how do you know which channels are performing effectively? As communicators, it’s up to us to take control of our internal communications landscape and make it work to our benefit, which means knowing how to reach our audiences, on which channels and when.  

Information overload 

“Too many emails!”  

“I can’t find what I am looking for!” 

We know that professional communication channels quickly fill up with noise and important messages are often lost. Take email, for example, most of us use our inboxes as our filing system and don’t have an organizational single source of truth (SSOT). This means that precious time is wasted finding that email attachment or reminding people to complete tasks.  

Channels like Slack and Teams are great for collaborating but can also get out of control pretty quickly. And the intranet needs constant attention if it is going to be a source of current information for staff.   

t’s a jostle to get the attention of our employee’s and knowing which channels they are on for what purpose will most definitely help. Added to this, we also know that for communications to be effective, we should consider repeated messaging on different channels.  It may sound like a lot of work – and who has the time right? But a channel audit is the first step in making sure your channel mix suits your communication objective every time.  So, create calm for yourself and your organization, and establish clarity when it comes to channels. Follow these simple steps and download a copy of our internal communications audit template, and you will be well on your way to bringing some order to the chaos.  

1. Identify your channels  

Take stock of what channels you have. They may not all be technology-dependent! Here’s are some examples: 

  • Face-to-face (meetings, townhalls, huddles) 
  • Online (Email, intranets
  • Social (Teams, slack) 
  • Print (posters, magazine)  
  • Physical spaces (whiteboards, digital screens)  

Include all the unofficial channels or “ghost IT” that your staff makes use of. As a communicator, part of your influence lies in knowing which channels you can use to connect to your different audiences.  

2. Audit your internal communications channels 

For each channel, try to outline the following: 

  • Audiences  
  • Ownership 
  • Purpose 
  • Etiquette  
  • Access 

The goal here is to get a view of how to use each channel to get your message across. 

3. Selecting communication channels with purpose

Internal communications best practice states that using a channel should be a deliberate choice with an intended outcome. A channel audit outlines how and when your channels should be used in support of your communications strategy. It takes into consideration the audiences you wish to reach and the purpose of your content. 

Last tip  

Make part of your channel audit findings available to all staff. It will help them know where to go for certain types of information as well as what is expected from a channel etiquette perspective. Great for onboarding new employees!  

By Karen Johnston

Karen Johnston is the director of communications at IC Thrive. She has over 15 years of internal communication experience working in corporate, non-profit, project and agency environments in Canada and abroad. Passionate about empowering internal communicators, Karen volunteers at the IABC (BC) chapter to host the Internal Communications Special Interest Group (SIG).