What is internal communications? Here’s what you need to know

By Aimee Happ
May 1, 2021
6 min read
Credit union intranet solving problems for a group of employees.

Our entire website is dedicated to internal comms—from best practices, to technology, to our proven methodology—but have you ever asked yourself, what is internal communications?

If you’re new to the world of internal comms, you might be wondering about the differences between the function of internal communications and internal communication. Perhaps you’re unsure of what internal communications software even does (you wouldn’t be the first to ask, does it replace Slack or Microsoft Teams?).

Fear not. In this blog post, we’ll explain all of that, from what is internal communications, to whose role it really is, to why it’s important, to our methodology, and finally, to our technology. Let’s get started!

Defining internal communication vs. internal communications

“Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a ‘nervous system’, to coordinate its actions.” – Bill Gates

Let’s start out by explaining the difference between internal communication and internal communications.

While internal communication encompasses the communication that happens within the context of an organization, internal communications is the specific function that’s responsible for effective communication among people within an organization.

So while everyone within an organization participates in internal communication, the function of internal communications is usually the responsibility of a particular team or person (depending on the size of the company). Internal communications professionals coordinate the distribution of information throughout corporate networks within the organization and ensure that the right messaging reaches the right people, at the right times.

Whose role is internal communication?

No matter the size of your organization, the internal communications function is key to building a thriving workplace. But not every company has the luxury of having its own internal communications department.

In smaller organizations without a dedicated team, the role is most often delegated to someone in HR, marketing, IT, or administration. Occasionally, we’ve also seen internal comms delegated to PR, business improvement, or to an executive. There’s also the “lone-wolf” internal comms professionals, who work solo.

Why is the internal communications function important?

If information is not delivered to employees in a way that is relevant, efficient, and effective, employees will fill in the blanks. When those blanks are not filled well, organizations can run into serious problems.

According to a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, organizations lose, on average, $62.4 million per year each because of inadequate communication to and between employees. While the cost of poor communication may be lower for smaller companies, the effect is just the same: decreased employee engagement, loyalty, performance, and satisfaction.

However, on the flip side, effective internal communications can positively impact employee engagement, which according to a Gallup survey can result in a:

  • 66% increase in employee wellbeing
  • 10% increase in customer loyalty/engagement
  • 23% increase in profitability
  • 18% increase in productivity (sales)
  • 18% decrease in turnover for high-turnover companies
  • 43% decrease in turnover in low-turnover companies
  • 64% in safety incidents/accidents
  • 81% decrease in absenteeism
  • 58% decrease in patient safety incidents (mortality and falls)

So if good internal comms, and therefore employee engagement, have such positive potential impacts for organizations, why aren’t they prioritized more? Let’s take a look.

Barriers to effective internal communication

According to the Gallagher State of the Sector 2021 report, the top 7 main barriers to internal communications being a success include:

  • Volume of communication is too high (37%)
  • Poor line manager communication skills (30%)
  • Disengaged employees (27%)
  • Lack of analytics/measurement channels (27%)
  • Internal technology not fit for purpose (24%)
  • Lack of human resources within the internal communications team (19%)
  • Lack of advance notice given for organization announcements (19%)

The good news is that this is where our internal communications methodology and technology can really help you out.

Our internal comms methodology

Now that you know what is internal communications, it’s time to talk methodology. In an ideal internal communications environment, an internal comms professional should be able to make a plan to deliver the right message, to the right people, in the right way, at the right time, and be able get the data to show that they did so successfully.

There are seven steps in that process, and these seven steps are the foundation of our methodology:

  1. To make a plan, you need a strategy and mandate
  2. To deliver the right message, you need content
  3. To deliver your message to the right people, you need to build an audience
  4. To deliver your message in the right way, you need to find the right channels
  5. To deliver your message at the most opportune moment, you need to send it at the right time
  6. To measure your results, you need metrics
  7. And to tell the story of how successful you were, you need data analytics and reporting.

These seven principles are not a checklist, nor are they a one-way funnel. They are a continuous cycle that works from strategy through reporting and then feeds back up into your strategy once more. The results of your efforts will always inform your future strategies and plans, and they’re also how you know whether your current tactics are working for you or not.

Our internal communications methodology is supported by our purpose-built technology, Reach.

Our internal communications technology

We created our internal communications software platform with the “7 principle” methodology described above in mind. Using technology like IC’s intranet software, you can build, send, and track the results of all your communications to employees, without just relying on the classic all-staff email. Our multi-channel messaging feature also allows you to measure employee sentiment on your messages, so you’ll always have a pulse on how your staff are feeling.

Easy-to-use features such as an audience builder/sync, employee feedback, automated reminders, and timezone schedulers allow internal comms professionals to send the right message to the right people at the right time, on the channel of their choice. Even crisis communications are easy to send out to specific groups or everyone in your organization. No app downloads or training is required for your end users—the message simply appears in their email inbox, Microsoft Teams app, intranet portal, or Slack app.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Learn more today by booking a demo to see Reach internal communications software in action. Not quite ready for a demo? Take our free, 5-minute internal communications assessment and receive a detailed scorecard and access to complimentary resources to help improve your current processes.

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.