A dedicated internal communications strategy is a helpful way of ensuring that your activities remain focused on the issues that matter most to your staff and your organisation as a whole.
It is also a valuable tool for prioritising work, balancing competing demands and ensuring that your teams’ do not get too distracted by day-to-day demands.
In order to be effective it is essential that your internal communications strategy is clearly linked to your organisation’s objectives and corporate plan and outlines how internal communications and employee engagement will help achieve those objectives. Although your specific objectives may differ from some of your audiences, it should be compatible with desired, measurable outcomes from across the whole organisation.
There are lots of excellent templates available to help you set out your internal communications strategy including this one from the Government Communication Service.
Creating an internal communications strategy doesn’t need to be time consuming or complicated. In fact, keeping it simple and deliverable is one of the most important aspects.
Here are our suggestions of the key topics an effective internal communications strategy should cover:
Where you are now
Begin by looking at where your internal communications activities are right now. Do you have a fully functioning department that you are looking to strengthen further? Are you introducing the function for the first time? Do you communicate frequently but without structure or coordination? Try to be as honest and objective as you can. Starting with an accurate picture will make it much easier to evaluate and measure your future success. It doesn’t matter what your starting point is, what matters is what you plan to do from this point onwards.
What are your objectives – where do you want to be and why
It is important to understand what you want the outcome of more effective internal communications to be. This could include anything from improved employee satisfaction scores or greater staff retention, to an improved understanding among staff of the challenges facing your organisation so they can operate more efficiently. Once you have agreed your broad outcomes you need to develop some objectives that you can measure success against – make sure they are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
How you’re going to achieve them
Think about what you need to do to achieve those objectives. Outline who you will need to involve and what you need to say. Think about the different audiences that you will need to influence and draft a set of key messages that will help you to articulate your vision to all of your stakeholders.
What and when – your action plan
Once you have your strategic aims agreed you should consider the specific actions you need to take in order to achieve these goals. This might include investing in new technology, conducting a staff survey, auditing your channels, meeting with your chief executive or hosting a programme of focus groups. Make a list and where possible map it out so you can easily see when different things need to happen. This will help you avoid clashes and build realistic timeframes for different activities. Share your action plan with key stakeholders from across the organisation so that you can make sure you are aware of other issues and events happening across the council that could impact or affect your plans.
Think about the resources you have available to deliver your strategy, including the budget you have available and who will be responsible for delivering different aspects of it. Be realistic about your financial capacity and if it is not possible to deliver everything you would like to, revisit your objectives to help decide which activities will contribute most significantly to achieving those goals.
Identify the issues that might threaten the success of your strategy, whether that’s budget, time, competing priorities, or levels of support. Clearly identify as many as possible and think about the steps you can take to minimise them. There will always be some things that you can’t plan for, but identifying the possible threats as early as possible will help to reduce the risk of problems arising in the future.
It is vital to assess whether your strategy has worked and whether you have achieved your objectives. Think about how you will measure if your messages have had an impact on staff. Perhaps consider running follow up surveys, looking at the traffic to your communication channels to see if there was an increase in usage, or talking to your HR teams to see if behaviour changes have been observed as a result of your efforts. You should look to regularly evaluate your work to see if it’s having the impact you want it to. This will help you to make any necessary changes as you go along rather than leaving everything to the end of the year. Do however consider committing to an annual internal communications audit as part of your more formal process of measuring your success and learnings for the year ahead.
You may also want to carry out a quick audit of your current communications activities before you start creating your strategy. Running surveys, talking to colleagues and looking at the data surrounding how employees are using your channels can all help you to create an internal communications strategy that suits the needs of your organisation.