Your boss handed you the portfolio of internal communications after it was listed as an upcoming business focus in several studies. Your expertise is in marketing but now you find yourself sending out mass emails to the staff directory, rushing from desk to desk to get responses and signatures which leads to hours sifting through excel sheets to organize those responses. You don’t find joy in your new role, nor do you see yourself making an impact in the organization.
You are not alone. Internal communication is a fairly new field for which the rules have not quite been written yet. Although companies now understand the vital role employee engagement plays, communicators are rarely empowered to take on the challenge and affect real change.
So where do you start to effectively communicate in the workplace? With the theory, of course.
“In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are.” — Arnold H. Glasgow
Communicators often find themselves in one of two scenarios. The first is being inundated with requests to send messages on an ad hoc basis, resulting in three to four emails being sent to employees on a Monday morning. The second is a far more complicated predicament, unlimited freedom to decide how and when to send messages.
How do you make a positive change when you are either micromanaged or not managed at all? Well, you set out the rules of the game with an internal communication strategy.
What is the mandate of internal communications? What are you trying to achieve? What are your objectives and tactics? How will you reach these goals? What are the communication needs of your audience?
Tip: By setting out a strategic roadmap, you as an internal communicator have a clear plan to achieve your goals, and managers have a guide to understanding the internal communications mandate.
Read more on building a formal internal communications mandate.
“Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener.” ― Michel de Montaigne
Not all audiences are alike, especially when you are speaking to diverse groups. Knowing and understanding who you’re talking to is key to ensure your message hits home.
The old way of communicating with employees would be to send an email to all staff and the job would be considered done. Today, however, you need to assess the message, its importance, and relevancy before hitting the send button.
Does the message pertain to the whole company? Would all staff want to know about this even if it is not specific to their department?
Tip: Segmenting audiences is a terrific way to see higher engagement rates. Not only will you build trust with your audience by sending messages pertinent to them, but you’ll have the freedom to customize and craft content to specific groups.
Read more on understanding team needs.
“Content isn’t king, it’s the kingdom.” ― Lee Odden
When the CEO sends a 500-word essay to his or her employees detailing company’s vision, mission, and goals for the next year, people are bound to read and engage with the entire piece. When the CEO talks about major concerns employees face such as job security during a recession or bonuses, you can be sure that everyone will read the message, even open it multiple times over.
Now consider the same format, a 500-word message, but one that lists ways of staying healthy during flu season with a call to action to use hand sanitizing stations set up around the office. Yes, it’s an important message, but unfortunately people just aren’t going to read it.
The first example is a message directly from company leadership. People want to know the whole picture and want to understand how decisions were made that affect them directly.
The second shows a message that doesn’t have high priority status and is packaged as a long-form piece that requires time and effort to read. Using graphics or even video would have made the tips about flu season much quicker and easier to understand.
Tip: Packaging content in the right format is a great tool to enrich a message, as well as optimize its chances for success.
“We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing.” ― Billy Graham
What are the different channels where communication flows through your website? Do you use email, direct messaging, or the announcement-board in the kitchen? These are but three communication channels that are found in most organizations.
Do you know where and how people communicate? Going one step further, have you asked staff how they prefer to receive communications? One person may request updates via SMS, where another prefers email.
Tip: By understanding current communication tactics, internal communicators can contact employees on their terms and thereby increase the efficiency of their messaging.
Read more about how to build an internal communications channel strategy.
“Timing is everything in life and in golf.” ― Arnold Palmer
The simple act of being aware of what the timing of communications means is a strategic one.
Sending out an urgent tax form at 5pm on a Friday afternoon is a bad idea. Just as sending out three different communications within one hour is also a bad idea.
Sending a message at the right time is integral to the success of a campaign. This means the time of the day, the company environment (is it a stressful time at work?) and the consistency of communication.
Tip: When people know they can expect a company update every Wednesday at 8am, they will be alert in receiving this message and eventually fall into a habit of reading and engaging with it.
“War is ninety percent information.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte
What constitutes a successful campaign? The number of opens? Interactions? A happier office?
Only by defining and setting metrics to measure the success of a campaign will you know the difference between a job well done and having sent a series of messages into oblivion.
Tip: Metrics should directly correlate to goals laid out in the internal communication strategy. Can you measure a happier office? Not in numbers. But you can measure the number of messages read and engaged with, as well as average opening times to mention a few.
Read more on how to measure internal communication.
“Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay!” ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Monitoring a set of metrics will allow you to gauge the success of one campaign. Looking at all the data together will allow you to see the bigger picture of your efforts.
What were the most successful campaigns? What about these specific messages made them perform better than the rest? How can this be implemented in future campaigns for better results?
Tip: Data analysis should be done at regular intervals (weekly or monthly) and learnings from each period should be tracked. If the same conclusion is found a few months running, it’s time to adjust your strategy and head back to the first best practice principle.
IC 101 is a blog series dedicated to sharing internal communication best practices. The principles discussed in this series are drawn from research from Simon Fraser University and learnings from internal communication experts in the field. Join us in this series to empower your communication efforts today.
Join our mailing list to receive latest updates and news.