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What is Internal Communication? Here’s everything you need to know

Ally Biring avatar

by Ally Biring

What is internal communication

According to an IBM study, 72% of employees don’t understand their business’ strategy.

Why? Many businesses focus their efforts on communicating their brand to the world. But fail to share their vision with the people who matter most: their people.

This can lead to a host of problems. From low productivity levels to a negative employee experience and increased staff turnover.

But what is internal communication? And how can you create an effective internal communications strategy?

In this post, we'll define internal communication and help you get your very own internal comms plan started with our 8 step starter guide!

Let’s dive in.

Internal Communication in a nutshell

We all know the function of the marketing, sales or finance departments. But when it comes to internal communication, people are less clear.

So let’s start with a definition. What is internal communication?

Internal communication (singular) is how a business communicates with its employees.

The purpose is to inform and engage teams. To motivate employees to improve their performance and deliver on the business strategy.

Internal communications (plural) defines the tools, tactics and channels that enable that communication.

When defining internal communication, it can help to define what it’s not: external communication.

Let’s take a look at the key differences.

What are the differences between internal and external communication?

  • Purpose: internal communication aims to inform and guide employees. The aim of external communication is to influence people’s impressions of the brand.
  • Channels: company intranet, newsletters, and private messaging software help teams communicate internally. Whereas external communication usually takes the form of advertising, website updates, and reports.
  • Audience: internal communication is for all employees—from junior to senior roles, but it pays to be targeted. External communication is for new and existing customers.

Now we know what internal communication(s) is, let’s explore the different IC channels.

Why is internal communication important?

Internal communication is the foundation of a healthy business. And it’s crucial to incorporate it into your overarching business strategy. Here's why:

Keep teams up-to-date

According to a Bambu report, 80% of employees want to receive company updates. 77% said it would help them do their job and 66% said it helps build better relationships with colleagues. 

Improve employee productivity

Internal communication can increase employee's productivity by 20-25%, according to research by McKinsey.

This is because when employees feel involved and valued, they feel motivated to work harder. Helping the company achieve its business goals.

Build company culture

Company announcements, articles and messages influence how employees interpret the company culture. Which impacts how they talk about the company to other people.

Boosts morale

An effective internal communication strategy inspires employees. By communicating how their roles are helping to achieve the company vision. It can also help to build a sense of community and togetherness around achievements. 

Engages teams

Employees are more engaged when they know their role has a direct impact on the company’s success.

According to a Culture IQ report, companies with engaged employees perform 200% better.

Encourages feedback

Internal communication can facilitate feedback and discussion. So it’s important for businesses to use two-way channels, to give employees a voice.

Now we know what and why internal communications are important, we need to have a look at where these conversations are taking place so that you can decide which is the best one for your organisation.

Types of internal communication channels 

Communication channels are the ways people connect with each other. Most businesses use digital communication channels, especially now more and more employees are working remotely.

Intranet

Intranets are used to store company information, so employees can easily access company documents and policies. 

It’s an effective channel for onboarding employees, sharing information, and facilitating two-way communications between management and staff.

However, company Intranets are static and someone has to regularly update it, which can lead to outdated content being referenced. 

Emails

Emails are fast, instant, and can reach a wide audience.

Emails are an excellent channel for sharing company updates or for sending personalised messages to specific people, roles or departments as you can segment email lists. 

Newsletters

Company newsletters, if done right, are also great for company-wide updates. You can celebrate wins, introduce new hires, or give business announcements via this channel.

The downside: it can be time-consuming.

If you're responsible for creating the weekly newsletter, don't fret, we've got you covered with our ready to use internal comms newsletter templates.

Private messaging software

Private messaging apps—like Slack and Microsoft Teams—are great for team discussions and instant communication. 

This channel is crucial for remote teams. Although private messaging platforms can be noisy and updates can go unseen. Arguably this channel is better for informal communication. 

In-person Team meetings

In-person team meetings are great for sharing big announcements or more sensitive information. This type of face-to-face communication is also great for giving employees recognition and rewards. 

But this channel relies on teams being in the same place at the same time and that the message is communicated clearly.

Video conferencing software

Video software—like Zoom and Google Meets—has increased in popularity as more workers become remote. 

Video software helps connect employees on a more personal level. Making this a good channel for social communication.

Video conferencing is perfect for hosting Town Hall meetings where employees are spread across multiple locations. 

Employee surveys

Surveys are a great way to facilitate employee to management communication. This type of communication is often the most difficult as people fear giving feedback to line managers. This makes employee surveys a valuable tool for companies when they are looking at how they can make improvements. 

Now we can see why it's important to have a clear internal comms strategy. Let’s explore how you can create an effective plan for your business.

What is an internal communications plan?

An internal communications plan defines your goals and sets out activities to achieve them.

It’s crucial, but according to research, 60% of employers don’t have a long-term internal communication plan.

Why? Many organisations don’t have the resources. Or an experienced team member to craft the strategy.

But, don't fret. Below we’ve listed some key steps to help you get started with creating an internal comms plan. 

How to get started on your internal comms plan

1. Assess your existing strategy 

If you have an internal communication plan in place, you should already be evaluating its performance regularly. 

If that's not always been the case, now is the perfect time to make this happen.  Below are some examples of questions you should look at answering:

  • What questions will the evaluation need to answer?
  • What are you currently measuring to understand the performance?
  • What communication activities are you going to evaluate?
  • What comms are you currently sending?
  • Which areas are working well, and why? 
  • What comms will you be reviewing?
  • Were there any roadblocks you encountered?
  • What needs improvement?

This will help you understand your current situation, what's working and what's not, so you can understand what needs to be improved.

If this is your first rodeo, head to the next step.

2. Set goals and objectives 

Now you need to think about what communication goals you want to achieve in the next 1-3 years.

The following questions can help you define your objectives:

  • What are the broader business goals you are trying to influence with internal comms?
  • What internal comms objectives do you need to set to measure performance in influencing these broader business goals
  • What do you want your plan to achieve? 
  • How regularly will you measure your goals? 
  • What key metrics do you need to measure to determine if you’re being successful or not - see below

Remember, your goals need to be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. For more information on how to set SMART internal comms goals, check out this blog from the team at Lumapps. 

3. Identify key metrics 

Once you’ve set your objectives and defined what a successful strategy looks like, you’ll need to figure out how to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Here are some key metrics you might want to measure:

  • Click through rate: Measure the CTR on your internal emails and newsletters to find out how often your employees open and read your internal content.
  • Page visits: you can track unique page views to measure how often staff are using the company Intranet. This will help you decide whether it’s an effective internal comms channel for you. 
  • Content Engagement:  Using click maps and engagement heatmaps you can see what content your employees are interested in.  Most email service providers like Mailchimp, will provide you with how many clicks your content gets. We are able to provide this data to tour users alongside the standard click and open rate data. Here is an example of what this data looks like on Publicate; 
Analytics for newsletter
  • Employee Feedback & participation: If you are asking your employees for feedback or have provided them with tools such as forums to participate in then you want to measure how this has been received. If numbers are low it may not be that they don’t like it, it might be the comms they received around why this is valuable for them was not effective.

The metrics you use will depend on your internal communication goals, and the comms channels you are using. Discover more metrics here

4. Map out your audience

Multiple audiences can exist in a single organisation, each with their own goals, mindsets and ways of communicating. You need to figure out what messaging will work for each group, which channels to use, etc.

So you can deliver relevant information to the right people. 

Once you’ve mapped out your audience, you can send targeted messages by segmenting your internal comms email list. 

There are many ways to segment your list, for example, by department, location, skillset, etc. 

But start simple, be clear on the core differences between each profile. For more on this, check out this thorough guide from the UK  Government Communications Department.

5. Choose your internal communication channels 

    How effectively you communicate a message is just as important as the message itself. 

    You need to be clear on the purpose of the communication and then determine which channel will help you achieve that.

    Some questions to ask yourself:

    • Can you reach every employee? Even remote workers?
    • What communication style do you want to use?
    • Do you have two-way communication channels?
    • Will this channel help you to achieve your desired outcomes?
    • Can and how will you measure performance on this channel?

    6. Define your plan

    It’s time to put your ideas down and start planning.

    You’re plan should include everything we mentioned above, but here’s a quick roundup of what your internal comms plan should consist of:

    • Goals and objectives
    • The types of communication you should/need to be sending
    • Segmented audience 
    • Key comms channels 
    • Clear metrics
    • Who’s responsible for executing the plan 
    • Who your key stakeholders and what their roles and responsibilities are
    • Including sign offs etc.
    • A clear timeline

    We would also recommend to make sure that you are allowing space/room for things to have change at a moment's notice due to time sensitive comms needing to be sent. 

    7. Execute

    The moment you’ve been waiting for, it’s time to put this plan into action. As we pointed out in step 6 - ensure you have the sign off of all relevant key stakeholders. A quick way to be ready to go is using existing branded images, colours and logos with copy in a handy to use pre built email newsletter template.

    Here at Publicate we have already created a range of internal comms newsletter templates that are perfect for this very job. Best bit is no need for design or development resource! 

    8. Evaluate your plan 

    This is a key step—you need to check the progress of your plan in relation to the SMART goals you set. To determine if your plan was effective, ask yourself these questions.

    • Did we reach our goal (or did we achieve something else)?
    • Did we get the results we wanted?
    • Were employees able to recognise and recall key messaging that was shared
    • Are these results relevant to wider business objectives?
    • Did we achieve our goal in the timeframe we set out?
    • What went well about the execution
    • What didn’t go well with the execution
    • What can we do better next time

    Getting feedback is also a necessary part of evaluating the progress of your plan. You could distribute a survey in your employee newsletter to get feedback.

    Remember to not only share the feedback you received, but also what actions management have taken from the feedback they received. By doing this you will be showing employees that their views matter and that spending time to feedback is really valuable.

    Summary

    It’s safe to say that internal communication is an essential part of running a successful business. 

    An effective internal comms plan can help people feel engaged at work, and this high engagement leads to more productivity and profitability for businesses.

    But to build a successful internal comms plan, you need to understand the following:

    • Which internal comms channels are right for your business
    • The metrics to use to measure your performance 
    • Your communication goals and objectives 
    • How to map out your audience
    • Who’s responsible for what 
    • What do you want to discover by engaging with your employees
    • What it is you will deliver

    Make sure you evaluate your internal comms regularly, so you can see what's working, and where things are falling down or could be improved. 

    These are just the starting points to help you begin to reap the benefits of effective internal communication. 

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