It’s safe to say, the role of an internal comms professional can be a wee bit chaotic.
Rubbing shoulders with senior leaders to articulate organisational vision, mission and values.
Transforming organisational messages into stories that spark action and engagement.
Working with managers to cascade communications down through the business and back up again.
Checking in with the bottom line to gauge levels of engagement across the business.
All while weaving constant wordsmith wizardry and having to prove that the IC game truly is worth the candle.
Phew – we’re worn out just thinking about it!
And the list doesn’t stop there. Last year, we asked 12 internal comms professionals exactly what their day-to-day entails – and one of our respondents revealed that they often juggle more than 50 different IC projects simultaneously.
We know it can be like moving mountains – many of our clients have come to us for help with implementing high-complexity communications initiatives, and intricate long-term engagement programmes. And often, it’s a race against the clock.
But when you’re up against the frantic daily firefighting, in order to turn all the grand visions and extensive, elaborate initiatives into exceptional results – it’s vital to always keep sight of the fundamental principles that make for exceptional internal comms. This is absolutely key to achieving success.
So in the spirit of getting back to basics, we’ve hand-picked 7 essential internal comms best practices that internal communicators must always remember, to create comms that make a lasting and powerful impact.
7 internal comms best practices for communications greatness
As strategic internal comms experts, we can’t overstate how important it is to spend time planning IC programmes before running away giddy with them. The strategy is the meat and potatoes of your internal communications plan – a guiding light to help keep you on the right track.
Having a clear, robust, well-considered strategy for your internal comms can make it significantly easier to focus your efforts and have the greatest impact where it’s most needed. What it’s about is – communicating the right messages, to the right people, in the right way.
When devising a winning strategy, it’s best to think in reverse, and figure out your end goal before you start thinking about how to get there.
What does success look like for you? What are your goals? This goal can be as broad or as specific as you like (for individual campaigns, it’s likely to be much more focused).
When you have sight of where you want to be and what you want to achieve, it’s time to consider the best route to get there.
Key things to take into account are – what messages will help you accomplish your goal? Who will you be communicating them to? Which channels will be the most appropriate and impactful?
Your strategy can be as lengthy and detailed as you like – but be careful not to go overboard. Once you have it in full, you may find it helpful to create a summary ‘plan on a page’, highlighting your key tactics so you can easily refer back. This may also prove handy in getting buy-in from above.
Be hyper-specific with your audience
Have you ever received a piece of communication – like a marketing email, let’s say – that was totally irrelevant to you, and thought ‘oh wow, I’m super excited to dip into that!’. No, we haven’t either.
A big part of creating a sticky message that resonates with its recipient is making sure it’s fundamentally relevant to them in the first place.
Gone are the days when organisations could solely distribute generic workplace-wide communications and have done with it.
It pays to be personal – and if you want your employees to actually take notice of what you’re telling them, you should make your internal comms hyper-relevant, and be meticulous about the messages you include.
But there’s also scope to tailor the channels you use as well. For instance, an employee who sits at a desktop computer all day may prefer to receive messages via email. Whereas, if you’re trying to reach a remote worker whose only technological companion is their mobile phone, it might be better to use an instant messenger tool like Slack.
Just as marketers devise ‘customer personas’ to help them define specific audiences, you could create ‘employee personas’ to flesh out the audiences on your radar. This will make it clearer as to how you should segment your communications, and hit the content, style and structure sweet spot for everyone.
Align internal comms goals with overarching business goals
As a vital bridge between the C-Suite and the bottom line, internal communicators are uniquely placed to create real value by strategically connecting their own goals with those of the business – rallying the troops to deliver organisational objectives, encouraging critical behaviour change, or driving greater workplace performance through enhanced engagement levels.
For instance, if a broader business objective is to improve organisational efficiency by improving digital processes, the internal comms goal could be to encourage a change in employees’ ways of working so that they seamlessly and positively adapt.
Or, if a wider goal is to strengthen brand awareness and reputation, you could turn your employees into brand ambassadors by collecting inspiring stories from the bottom line and promoting from the inside out.
A good example would be when we worked with not-for-profit organisation Anchor to develop a compelling narrative to help communicate their ambitious growth plan.
It required employees to have a shared understanding of how they could contribute, to enhance performance and encourage the smooth adoption of new ways of working. And so, our specific internal comms goal became to facilitate this shared understanding.
We created a strategic narrative ‘big picture’ map, and kick-started conversations between managers and their teams to educate employees on how they could help in delivering on the plan. By aligning the internal comms strategy to the overarching business goal, we empowered Anchor to realise its vision – with a 100% increase in the understanding of the business strategy across the organisation.
This is where internal communicators need to rub shoulders with senior leaders to get the inside track on the business objectives. This way, you can ensure that your internal comms goals are perfectly aligned, and delivering upon the wider strategy.
Measure, measure, measure
Every internal communicator will be familiar with this old chestnut. But it was revealed this year that 12% of IC practitioners aren’t conducting any measurement at all – twice as many as in 2017!
Measurement should be at the front of every internal communicator’s mind when planning and cascading internal communications. It’s vital to ensuring they’re achieving the intended results and resonating throughout the workplace.
Are employees engaging with them, and if so, in what way? Do they understand what you’re trying to communicate? Or are your messages falling on deaf ears?
Without these invaluable insights you’ll be stabbing at the dark, blissfully ignorant to what’s been working, where you need to improve, or whether you need to reconsider your approach.
However, avoid zoning in on output measures at the expense of outcome measures. Metrics like link clicks, email opens or download numbers are valuable, but they don’t indicate how your employees are responding or feeling.
What you want to know is – did you spark them into action? Did you facilitate behaviour change? Has understanding been increased? Strike a balance between the two to get the juiciest insights out of your measurement activity.
Thankfully there are a whole host of ways you can measure the effectiveness and impact of your internal comms outcomes. The traditional employee engagement survey stands the test of time, although its usefulness can be limited if it’s only used sparingly.
Use a feedback tool to make these surveys more engaging and accessible. Why not try using Push, an instant polling tool developed to enable you to gain instant feedback easily and intuitively. Create custom polls in minutes and watch the insights and data start flying in!
We’re sure you’re aware of how a simple story can transform an ordinary message into something extraordinarily impactful and memorable. Research shows that we remember stories up to a staggering 22x more than straight-up facts – making them an invaluable tool in the internal communicator’s utility belt.
The great news is, every message has the potential to be turned into a powerful, engaging story. You just have to pin down the essential elements, and arrange them in the most inspiring order.
Imagine you’re tasked with communicating a major business change, and you need to ensure 100% buy in. To start piecing together the narrative, break the change journey down into its individual components within the framework of the typical story structure.
First, set the scene – What’s the change about?
Then move onto the conflict – why is the change necessary? What’s the reason behind it?
Next, explain the resolution – how the change will be unfolding, and how the organisation (and employees) will be better off for it.
This narrative of achieving success through adversity is inherently positive and incredibly inspiring, which is what makes it so relatable. The clincher is that you vividly capture the WHY behind the change – providing a sense of purpose is a sure-fire way to rally people behind a cause.
Check out this awesome TED Talk from Simon Sinek, on why the WHY is so important when you want to inspire people to believe in your message (it's one of our favourites!):
Here at H&H we love a good story. When global technology giant Fujitsu asked us for help in increasing awareness around their Global Delivery Group amongst their employees, we jumped at the chance! We extracted the essence of the GDG’s purpose and advantages and crafted a compelling and informative narrative that encapsulated key messages around how it could benefit the bottom line. And it was a huge hit – with some great feedback from the delighted client:
Make the complex, simple
This principle underpins every piece of internal comms we craft for our clients.
When you’ve got a particularly juicy story to tell, or the information you’re communicating is complicated, intricate or expansive, it can be tempting to cram every last detail in to ensure you don’t leave anything important out.
But when you’re reaching out to mass audience, with potentially varying literacy levels – and in the case of employees, not a whole lot of time to devote to interacting with communications – the key to making your messages widely accessible and engaging is to communicate as concisely and simply as possible.
When it comes to internal comms, less is most certainly more.
This means extracting the core golden nuggets from your message and prioritising what your audience really needs to know.
Think of it as though you’re putting every detail on trial for its life – a bit morbid, but you’d be surprised how judicious and methodical it makes you when it comes to whittling a message down.
It’s also important that if your message is particularly complex or convoluted, you figure out the best way to articulate and reframe it to make it as easy to understand and digest as possible.
For instance, major organisational changes (they’re cropping up a lot, aren’t they?) can be incredibly intricate and complicated. To ensure mass understanding and investment, re-contextualise them into a narrative that’s easy to follow, ingest, and understand – otherwise, you’ll be fighting an uphill struggle to get people to buy in.
This is another situation where storytelling can come in handy in the workplace. Using metaphor is a great way to make a complex idea accessible and relatable. If you’re trying to communicate a complex, complicated business issue, connect it to something universal and paint a vivid picture so the audience can see it through a different, simpler lens.
Talk with, not at, employees
This is perhaps the most important internal comms best practice advice we can give.
At heart, internal comms is all about conversation and dialogue. It should be open, honest, and inclusive – built on the foundations of bottom-up communication as well as top-down.
Intimate access to the employee voice is what makes an internal communications professional so uniquely placed to add value within the business.
Research tells us that 75% of employees would stay longer at an organisation where they were listened to and had their concerns addressed, and 83% of engaged employees feel their ideas and suggestions matter (as opposed to a mere 34% of disengaged employees).
By acting as the spokespeople of employees and feeding their views, opinions and suggestions up the ladder to the C-Suite, internal comms professionals can help to cultivate a culture where everyone feels they have a say, regardless of seniority.
Leading to a more committed, engaged, and genuinely invested bottom line.
The crucial thing is that you make it as easy and accessible as possible for employees to get involved in the organisational conversation.
Create a workplace portal where they can deposit their thoughts, whether that’s in an online company forum or even in an ‘ideas and suggestions’ box. Champion individual employees’ stories to inspire colleagues or demonstrate how people are genuinely making an impact on the business. And make yourself visible as a key point of contact for employees – so they know who to come to if they need any information.
With all the wonderfully elaborate and exciting internal comms projects being delivered every day around the world, getting back to basics might seem like a needless simplification of the issues.
But that’s absolutely not the case.
Staying true to the principles of great IC is what drives the results that lead to more effective, engaged and productive organisations.
Keeping these internal comms best practices front-of-mind and sticking to them no matter the path a communications project takes – will ensure that IC greatness always remains firmly in sight.
If so, let us know and we'll add your suggestion into the mix!