Table of contents
- What Is an Internal Communication Plan?
- Types of Communications Plans
- Why Do You Need an Internal Communication Plan?
- Creating Your Internal Communication Plan
- #1 Define Your Objectives and Goals
- #2 Identify Your Target Audience
- #3 Select Communication Channels
- #4 Craft Your Content Strategy
- #5 Set a Timeline and Frequency
- #6 Include Measurement and Feedback Mechanisms
- #7 Establish a Crisis Communication Plan
- #8 Allocate Responsibilities
- #9 Train and Educate Your Team
- #10 Test and Pilot Your Plan Before Executing It
- Implementation and Execution of an Internal Communication Plan
- Monitoring and Evaluation of Internal Communication Strategies
- Technology and Tools for Internal Communication
- What’s Next?
In an era of fast-paced innovation and evolving workplace dynamics, effective internal communication is a crucial element for the success of any organization. Whether it’s sharing important updates, inspiring company loyalty, fostering transparency, or driving collaborative culture, communication within an organization can make or break its overall performance.
We understand how important communication strategies are, so we are going to walk you through the concept of an Internal Communication Plan. We’ll talk about its relevance, and the key components that make it work, and provide tips on how to create and implement a plan effectively. We’ll also discuss the role of leadership in communication and the technology and tools you can utilize for smoother, more successful internal communications operations.
What Is an Internal Communication Plan?
An internal communications or internal comms plan is a strategy used by companies to ensure accurate and effective communication among team members. In this way, it helps to drive employees to engage and do what is needed to create desired business outcomes.
Ultimately, it’s one of the key business tools we can use to foster a strong company culture and improve the way employees engage within the organization.
It’s not rocket science, but in reality, creating a culture of engagement isn’t easy. It takes effort, investment, and a well-thought-out plan of action. But Gallup’s most recent meta-analysis of employee engagement shows just how worthwhile efforts can be. It found that companies with highly engaged teams experience 23% higher profitability and 18% higher productivity in terms of sales. In dramatic contrast, Gallup’s State of the workplace: 2023 Report shows that when employees aren’t engaged at work, the effects can be more damaging than one might imagine. They estimate in the report that low engagement costs the global economy an immense $8.8 trillion. That’s 9% of global gross domestic product (GDP).
A well-designed communications plan will provide a guide for the communications team. It will enable them to convey company news, updates, and other essential information. The methods used vary widely but can include a social intranet, video updates, social media, email communications, and a branded internal comms app.
A good, well-designed internal communications plan will outline communication goals, key stakeholders, communication channels, and smart objectives of the organization for a specific period of time. It is a critical component of wider communication and should be part of any initial communication planning.
Types of Communications Plans
Like all communication tools, these plans can be designed in a myriad of ways. It depends on what you want. For instance, you may want a high-level strategic plan, a plan that incorporates metrics, or one that is designed to encourage collaboration. It is also incredibly useful to use an internal communication plan template to achieve your goals. Ultimately, planning, as in all things in life, makes perfect.
High Level Plans
A high-level communications plan provides a broad, strategic view of the timeline and projects your team is tackling. It provides a big-picture perspective and typically requires certain basic elements to be included. These start with the communication objectives, which are clear, high-level goals that the organization aims to achieve through its communication efforts. The objectives need to be aligned with the organization’s overall strategic goals.
Then you need to identify your target audience and decide on the key messages that will be shared as part of the communications exercise. For instance, will you target employees throughout the organization or just certain sectors?
You’ll need to decide which communications channels and platforms to use. Budget, timelines, and a structured list of the roles and responsibilities of those involved will also be needed.
Finally, you need to describe how the effectiveness of the communication plan will be assessed.
Using visuals makes the information much easier to understand. Here’s an example:
Strategic Plans with Metrics
This approach involves creating a structured framework that will show how messages will be conveyed to your target audience. The process to follow is similar to that used for high level plans.
Define objectives and align them with organizational goals. Identify and analyze the target audience and craft core messages. Determine communication channels and strategies to deliver these messages effectively. Set a timeline and determine responsibilities. Decide which metrics and KPIs to use to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.
As always, it’s essential to continually track and analyze data, and to make adjustments and improvements to the plan as needed.
Plans Designed for Collaboration
The difference in focus for this kind of plan starts with identifying and engaging key stakeholders involved in the collaboration. It’s also important to define the communication goals that support the collaborative effort. Establish processes for sharing information and updates among collaborators and create mechanisms for feedback.
What you need to do is outline a process you can use to address communication-related conflicts within the collaboration.
Internal Communication Plan Template Ideas
You can use a template to lay out your service delivery and support plan so that everyone has a clear understanding of the level of support your team will provide.
Here’s a simple example:
Why Do You Need an Internal Communication Plan?
A well-structured internal comms plan is a key element that internal communicators can use to achieve desired organizational outcomes. As David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group says, having a plan in place is a critical step for effective internal comms. There are so many messages management and leaders need to get out to employees, proper planning is incredibly important. It’s essential to know what you want to achieve.
“A strategic internal communication plan is a tool for leaders to help drive employee behaviors and actions that create desired business outcomes.”David Grossman
A clear and comprehensive internal communication strategy directly impacts job families in their current situation and assists in meeting targeted outcomes. It may sound confusing, but job families are simply different audience groups. Their mindsets are typically different and communication approaches will vary, depending on which group you are targeting. Examples include employees who work in different business units, those who are in different teams, as well as those who are on different levels (management, sales, customer service, and so on.)
Effective internal communication ensures that every team member is on the same page. It provides clarity about the company’s vision, its values, and the role each employee plays in achieving key objectives. Therefore, a strong internal communications plan boosts overall employee engagement.
Role in Shaping Company Culture
An internal comms plan also plays a pivotal role in shaping a positive company or corporate culture. The key components of this workplace culture include fundamental principles and convictions that are important to the company. It incorporates the company’s mission and vision, establishes acceptable norms and behaviors in the workplace, and supports traditions and rituals like team building or recognition programs.
The behavior and leadership approach of top management can strongly influence the culture. Leaders set the tone for the organization by their actions, decisions, and communication style. Furthermore, a positive culture will engage employees more successfully. When employees feel a strong connection to the organization and its values, they are more likely to be motivated and satisfied in their roles. This, in turn, will impact positively on the organization’s bottom line.
Company or workplace culture can also encompass the organization’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). A culture that values diversity and promotes inclusion is more likely to be seen as positive and forward-thinking.
A workplace culture should be developed to encourage openness, collaboration, and mutual respect. By promoting transparency and regularly sharing video updates, one can foster a sense of belonging and loyalty among team members.
Importance for Crisis Management
An internal communication plan will also help in crisis management. During a critical event, effective communication can alleviate anxiety, clear misconceptions, and guide employees with a systematic approach. There is no doubt that internal communications can be a lifesaver in challenging situations.
Creating Your Internal Communication Plan
We’ve said that a strong internal comms plan can be the backbone of a strong company culture and enhanced employee engagement. Start with a thorough understanding of your current business situation, factor in your desired outcomes, and then determine your goals and objectives. Remember, your internal communications strategy needs to be flexible and responsive. Regular monitoring and adjustment are necessary to maintain its effectiveness and alignment with business objectives.
Here are 10 steps on how to create your most effective internal communications plan:
#1 Define Your Objectives and Goals
Start by clearly defining what you want to achieve with your internal communications plan. Why do you need a plan to increase and improve communication? What are your business needs and goals? Are there issues like low engagement with employees or new services or products that have prompted an increase in communication?
Once you have identified these objectives, they will guide your entire plan forward. But be sure to define your desired outcome. You really do need to be aiming at very specific goals.
Best Practice: Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) for better clarity and effectiveness. There’s more about this later on.
#2 Identify Your Target Audience
Determine who your internal communication plan will be addressing. The reality is that different segments of your workforce may have different communication needs. Another important factor is that job families vary in different industries. For instance, those in the health industry will be very different from those in the banking sector.
David Grossman offers some invaluable advice. Don’t confuse your target audience with stakeholders. Your audience is made up of those who will receive your messages. Stakeholders, on the other hand, are people and organizations that have the ability to influence outcomes.
Best Practice: Segment your audience based on job roles, departments, or any other relevant criteria to tailor your messages.
#3 Select Communication Channels
An internal communications audit is a must-have to gauge content consumption across your communications channels. It’s a best-practice review that you shouldn’t cut corners on. Begin by looking at your company’s content types and communications channels to gain valuable insights from employees and business partners.
Decide which communication channels are most suitable for reaching your audience. Consider a mix of channels such as internal email, company intranet, team meetings, and social platforms.
Best Practice: Ensure your choice of channels aligns with your audience’s preferences and accessibility.
#4 Craft Your Content Strategy
Plan what kind of content you’ll create and share. This can include news updates, project announcements, training materials, and just about anything you are able to create. But the value is in the message, so develop it carefully. Know what you want to share and make sure that it contains the facts and data to support your message.
Then you need to bring your message to life. That’s why the secret is to add anecdotal information and real-life stories to make them real.
Best Practice: Develop a content calendar to schedule and organize your messages throughout the year. Vary the content to make it appealing.
#5 Set a Timeline and Frequency
Timing is everything. So, create a timeline for when and how often you’ll communicate with your employees. This ensures consistency in your messaging. Having a project tracker will pay dividends.
It stands to reason that you should use the same plan for every new project. But timelines and message frequency may change.
Best Practice: Consider peak engagement times and events within your organization when scheduling communications.
#6 Include Measurement and Feedback Mechanisms
Determine how you are going to measure the success of your internal communications plan. This can include tracking open rates and employee surveys, as well as feedback analysis. Using a combination of these is good practice.
Best Practice: Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the effectiveness of your plan, and be open to adjusting your strategy based on feedback.
#7 Establish a Crisis Communication Plan
Prepare for unexpected situations by having a crisis communication strategy in place. This should include guidelines on how to communicate during emergencies or challenging times.
As a business leader, you need to focus on strength and stay positive in times of crisis. But you also need to show your concern and be transparent to reassure employees. Additionally, you need to plan for an operational response, a management response, and ultimately a solid communications response.
Best Practice: Update your crisis communication plan regularly to stay responsive to evolving situations. And they will evolve all the time!
#8 Allocate Responsibilities
As always, there needs to be a chain of command. Clearly define who is responsible for each element within your communication plan. Assign roles and tasks to team members or departments.
Best Practice: Ensure everyone understands their responsibilities and knows how to collaborate effectively.
#9 Train and Educate Your Team
It is essential to provide training and resources for your communication team. Ensure they understand the plan, tools, and best practices.
Best Practice: Encourage ongoing learning and skill development to stay up-to-date with evolving communication trends.
#10 Test and Pilot Your Plan Before Executing It
Before you schedule a full-scale launch, run a pilot phase to test your communication plan with a smaller group. Gather feedback and make necessary adjustments. Of course, to be able to do this, you need adequate advance planning. Include this in your projected timeline.
Once you’re satisfied with the plan, launch it throughout your organization and begin executing it according to the schedule you have established.
Best Practice: Make sure all features and functionalities of chosen communication tools are working flawlessly. Then, when you launch, be sure to maintain consistency in your messaging and adhere to the established timeline.
Implementation and Execution of an Internal Communication Plan
The creation of an internal communication plan can be an extremely effective approach to ensuring effective internal communication. It acts as a roadmap, providing a direct pathway between the desired outcome and the current situation in the company. When executed properly, an internal comms plan will establish a strong corporate culture, enhancing employee engagement, and boosting important organizational outcomes.
An excellent approach to setting up an effective internal comms plan is to focus on SMART goals and objectives. It’s a surprisingly simple approach based on the SMART acronym:
- Specific: Being specific will ensure your goals are clear and unambiguous
- Measurable: Measurability is essential because you need to be able to gauge and quantify progress
- Achievable: Goals need to be achievable or morale and commitment will be threatened
- Realistic: Closely related to achievability and attainability, goals need to be realistic and relevant
- Timely: There must always be a timeline with a starting date and a target date that creates purpose
The SMART method helps to keep you and everyone else involved motivated. It also provides a sense of direction and helps you organize and reach your goals.
These objectives should align with key business goals and be routed through the desired communication channels. Communication tactics, such as video updates or utilizing a social intranet, have the potential to disseminate these objectives broadly and comprehensively to all categories of employees.
A key element needed to execute an internal communications plan is an integrated and branded internal comms app. The internal communication SMART tool enables a broad-spectrum, wide, communication experience. It will ensure that comms reach all team members irrespective of location. It also brings about a sense of belonging, resulting in a strong company culture.
Challenges and Solutions in Internal Communications Planning
Every communication plan will inevitably have its own inherent challenges. White papers and scholarly articles often highlight common issues like lack of employee engagement, ineffective communication strategy, or inadequate use of communication tools. Recognizing these challenges makes it a lot easier to overcome them. It’s also good practice to explore solutions ahead of time.
One solution may be to shift to advanced, digital platforms like a social intranet or an internal communications app. Tools like these foster better communication strategies like video updates or podcasts for engaging a disconnected workforce and reinforcing a positive company culture.
The Role of Leadership in Internal Communications
Leadership plays a crucial role in building and executing an effective internal communications plan. Not only are leaders responsible for framing strategies, but they also ensure the communication goals are met with equal vigor at every level. The communications team generally relies heavily on their team leaders for guidance and support.
In a way, executive communications form the backbone of internal communications. They ensure that the smart objectives are communicated and understood by every employee. They also drive the desired outcome by leveraging appropriate channels. A great leader motivates, promotes internal comms, and helps to build a strong company culture.
Managing integrated internal communications is a role best left to seasoned leaders. They are, after all, the torchbearers of management. They are the ones tasked with conveying complex information in an easy-to-understand format using video updates, newsletters, or social media.
Monitoring and Evaluation of Internal Communication Strategies
Monitoring and evaluation form the core of an internal communication strategy. It is an ongoing and cyclical process to examine whether communications have achieved the desired results and to explore areas that can be further developed.
The communications leader, together with the operating team, needs to encourage continuous feedback from employees about the current communication plan. Questions revolving around the frequency of communication, the effectiveness of the communication channels, and the impact of communications on job families must be taken into consideration.
The evaluation phase of communications strategies deals with assessing the inputs and suggestions gathered from employees. This is where metrics-driven decision-making comes into play. The leadership team, along with the communications team, evaluates the current communication strategies. It is not a static process, and it is essential to amend the process from time to time to get the desired outcome. Learn from your mistakes and build on your successes.
Technology and Tools for Internal Communication
Effective internal communication is crucial when it comes to achieving organizational outcomes. When employees understand what their company’s goals are, they associate their personal objectives with those of the organization. A robust internal communication plan can foster this understanding.
This communication plan is a key element in establishing a strong company culture, and increasing employee engagement and overall productivity. An internal comms plan lays down the methods and channels through which the communication will be disseminated to the employees, like social media, company intranet, and video updates.
You may have developed the best content ever, but if you aren’t able to deliver the message appropriately, it’s not going to work.
How Cerkl Broadcast Can Help You
Cerkl Broadcast offers a suite of internal communication software suitable for any size organization, regardless of structure. Designed for internal communicators, it serves as a centralized hub for all communication assets. In this way, it ensures that communicators can easily access and manage information, which makes planning considerably more effective.
Broadcast’s omnichannel capability is particularly effective. Essentially, it removes the need to select the right channels for most comms, because your audience can select the channels they prefer to use. This means all employees can access comms wherever they are, on site, in a remote location, or even in another country.
The platform offers great content scheduling features. For example, communicators can strategically plan the timing and frequency of messages to reach their audience at the most opportune moments.
Another advantage of the Cerkl Broadcast platform is that it offers customizable templates. These simplify the creation of consistent, professional-looking content for the communication plan. You can build your own from a drag and drop starter pack, or the Cerkl team can build templates for you.
Our versatile platform also enables communicators to segment their audience based on criteria including department, role, or location. This facilitates precise targeting in communication planning.
Once your plan is up and running, Broadcast’s feedback and analytics tools allow communicators to measure message impact. This enhances the planning process with data-driven insights that enable you to effectively adapt and improve strategies. The end of the calendar or fiscal year is a great time to review the service delivery plan and amend it as needed.
With Broadcast, you can also create custom dashboards. Simply pick a timeframe and see how your communications performed.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? If yours hasn’t yet, the Cerkl team can guide you through the process and help you create a communications plan that will benefit your business.
This is a strategy or plan that organizations often use to make sure they maintain effective communication with employees. To be successful it needs to support the key business outcomes established by the organization.
The basic plan should be definitive, but it doesn’t need to be long. It should include identification of the target audience, clearly defined goals and objectives, key messages, and a list of the preferred communication channels. There should also be a content strategy, a timeline, identification of roles and responsibilities, and effective feedback mechanisms. You will need to allocate a budget, and there must be agreement on evaluation metrics to assess the success of the plan.
The smart goals follow the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
IC planning starts with researching your audience and the needs of your organization. Then you need to set objectives, craft messages, choose channels, and create content. After this, you need to implement the plan. Finally, you can collect feedback, measure results, and make any necessary adjustments for future applications.