Internal communicators generally aren’t meticulous planners.
Who could blame us? We are endlessly buffeted by requests—most of which tend to be of the “urgent” and “last-minute” variety.
Despite the never-ending deluge of requests, tasks and responsibilities, it’s crucial to develop a cohesive, clear communication strategy. It’s difficult to formulate an effective plan under the weight of endless impromptu requests, but it is possible.
Here are six steps to establish a firm foundation for your internal communication:
1. Link your initiatives to business goals.
Your role and goal as a communicator is not about covering every topic imaginable. It’s not about piling your plate as high as possible.
Instead of trying to cram too much in, study your organization’s chief goals. Decide on three to five areas that internal communications could contribute to in the next year, and outline your strategy in a one-page summary. Be clear on how your internal comms goals will directly dovetail with and affect the organization’s overarching goals.
2. Use data to inform and drive your plan.
Your goals should also be shaped by employee feedback and the results of your last engagement survey.
Are employees disconnected from leaders? Are workers clear on the organization’s goals and values? Which areas deserve more urgent attention, according to the employee sentiment you’ve gathered?
Don’t neglect any departments. Fastidiously gather feedback to glean the needs and preferences of employees in different locations and groups.
Your internal communications plan should be geared toward solving people’s problems—not aimlessly adding noise to your colleagues’ workdays.
3. Have friends in the right places.
An effective internal comms strategy cannot be formed in isolation.
To make a substantive difference with our work, it’s crucial to work closely with our peers in marketing, HR and IT. Share goals, plans, ideas, campaigns and timelines, and strive to earn executive buy-in for your efforts.
We must work with colleagues to develop complementary plans, lest we be the caboose that’s forced to react to others’ strategies.
4. Involve your team, but don’t “create by committee.”
Of course, your team must have their fingerprints all over your plan as well.
If a plan is foisted upon your team, they won’t feel any allegiance to it, ownership of it or desire to help make it happen.
Equally, strategies should not be formed “by committee.” Craft your plan as a cohesive, equal unit.
Explain to your team the thinking process behind the plan’s creation. Emphasize the clear link to business goals, insight from employee feedback and alignment with other teams’ plans. Give the team a rough draft to generate discussion, and get their suggestions before finalizing the document.
5. Measure communication success.
You can gauge and monitor results via pulse surveys, feedback forms, quick polls and online analytics. Measurement will look different depending on which metrics you’re tracking; just make sure to quantify the ROI of your initiatives.
Also, consider how you can include quantitative and qualitative data. Include measurements for each goal, so you can continually review and tweak your tactics accordingly.
6. Get your strategy approved.
Your communication plan should be approved at the highest level. Ultimately, you are helping the CEO and leadership team communicate with the workforce, and your leaders should be in total agreement with your internal communications priorities.
Securing executive buy-in will boost your team’s authority—and possibly alter the way your work is perceived. Winning the confidence of your company’s bigwigs might not turn off the faucet of requests, but the more you earn trust, the more leaders will turn to you for strategic advice.
Once you have your plan in place, review it constantly. This is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Consistently monitoring and measuring the success of your plan keeps everyone on track, and it’s a great way to whittle your workload. It’s much easier to eliminate ancillary jobs or projects if you have data to back your claims.
Creating a comprehensive, adaptable internal communications strategy isn’t easy, but it’s essential for success. It’ll help you streamline your communications, become a trusted advisor to leaders and contribute to the organization’s goals.