5 steps to mastering internal communication

Many organisations spend thousands of pounds creating powerful visions and values, motivating mission statements and stunning branding.

PR and advertising budgets are lavished on communicating these assets to customers, investors and stakeholders but too often less attention is given to communicating with the organisation’s greatest asset: its staff.

Internal communications is the Cinderella of communications and is often poorly planned, under-funded and low priority.

Well-managed internal communications campaigns inform, involve and inspire colleagues.

It can help transform business performance by improving people’s understanding of their work environment, driving and supporting change, enhancing knowledge, and getting people behind new initiatives. As well as management talking to colleagues, internal PR is also about ensuring an upward flow of information from the ‘factory floor’.

This is why internal communication is so vital. So how do you create an outstanding internal communications campaign?

As an award-winning PR agency we’ve created our five steps to success will help you get it right.

  1. Identify the strategy’s objectives

As with any communication, work out what is it you’re trying to achieve. Is your organisation in need of a major culture change or are you trying to make improvements to an already good performance? Are there company developments you simply need to inform colleagues about or are you seeking feedback on ways to improve the organisation?

A major culture change will require some serious vision and values work involving people from all levels of the organisation and a complex communications plan. Telling colleagues about new opening hours for the canteen will take a lot less effort.

  1. Audit current communications practices

Audit what’s available to you already. It’s often tempting to create new communications platforms without establishing what’s already in place. Noticeboards and staff newsletters have been the mainstay of internal communications for many years. They still have a role and may be all you need to get the job done.

  1. Identify the communications audiences

Who are you talking to? Everyone in the business will need the same top level messages but individual audiences may need a different emphasis.

For example customer-facing staff will need to understand how to express the organisation’s vision and values in a way that’s different to those who don’t spend time with customers.

Health and safety messages may have more relevance to people operating machinery and driving vehicles than those who are desk-based. Managers may need more financial detail than their colleagues with less financial responsibility.

  1. Determine the communications methods to be used

Traditional print and face-to-face meetings may be all you need to get your message across, but modern digital communications, especially intranets and email offer a range of possibilities that are quick and easy to use.

Facebook and Twitter offer also offer a world of opportunities. But beware these media can easily be accessed from outside your organisation and there are plenty of examples of disgruntled staff or unhappy customers who have made themselves heard online.

The key thing to establish is what platforms do your colleagues have access to? If the majority of staff are on the road email may be the best solution. If workmates don’t have computer access then you might want to use text.

Your audit of communications tools will inform your choices. But beware, once you start using a platform you have to keep using it or colleagues will stop paying attention. As always, the less is more approach is usually the best. It’s also vital to communicate regularly, so have a clear plan when you will send information, and stick to it as this creates credibility and authority. It doesn’t prevent you being flexible when you have something urgent that needs sharing.

  1. Evaluate success

Find out what works. Pre and post campaign research is vital to tracking the success of a campaign. You can also track the opening rates of emails and texts, metrics on intranet sites and good old fashioned feedback from colleagues at all levels of the organisation.

The secret is to find a set of metrics that are easy to measure and track over time in order to help you ensure your campaign is on track.

Another useful and often under used source of information is new starters. Ask them if they feel the organisation’s mission is clear and your culture matches their expectations. If your campaign is effective they should be able to feedback many of the messages and themes of your campaigns after a short time with the organisation.

Conclusions

So far from being the poor PR relation, internal communications should be a top priority for organisations. Done well it can help drive major improvements in the way staff and organisations perform.

So whilst powerful visions and values, motivating mission statements and stunning branding are vital parts of the marketing mix they are nothing but window dressing if they are not communicated effectively to the people who will have to make them come alive.

Pelican Communications are specialists in the environmentfood and drinkoutdoor and leisure and packaging sectors and offer a range of services such as media relations, brand management, event management and people developmentContact us for marketing and communications expertise.