Marketing & communications, Strategy and planning

How to build an internal communications plan

Internal communication is only worth time and effort if it’s effective and adding value.

I always advise my clients that the best way to get the results they need is to start with a communications plan.

Resist the urge to begin by thinking about the methods you will use, such as sending an email or having a website. Following this step-by-step approach means you are clear what you really want to get out of your communication activity and makes it much easier to choose effective methods at the end.

I’ll be talking about maximising internal communications at the Charity Writing and Communications Training Days on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 October. But in the meantime, here are the steps:

Step 1 – Why?

What are you trying to achieve with your internal communications? What do you want people to do, say or feel as a result? It may be that you want to engage them with your project, gather their feedback or motivate them. Or perhaps you are looking for a more practical outcome such as adopting a new policy or promoting a new product.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve, you stand a much better chance of achieving it if you’re clear from the start what you want to do.

Step 2 – Who?

Next, think about your audience. This may be a small or big group, more than one group or an individual. They may be from one department or across your whole organisation. Think about the roles they perform, the communication channels they have access to and the topics they are interested in.

The aim here is to put yourself in their shoes, to understand them and their perspective.

Step 3 – What?

Be clear about your messages. What do you want to say? What does your audience want to hear? This isn’t necessarily the same thing! It’s important to know what they’re expecting, as you may need to adapt how you present your messages – for example, present smaller chunks or facilitate an open discussion to dispel rumours.

Step 4 – When?

Note your key dates and any time-specific factors for your audience. For example, do you have a launch or deadlines? If you work somewhere with fixed busy periods, such as month end or start of term, these are best avoided when you need everyone’s attention.

It’s also a good idea to find out about other big communication activities in your organisation. Try to avoid clashing with or contradicting other initiatives – if this happens, everyone loses out.

Step 5 – How?

Knowing what you want to achieve, who and where your audience are and what you’re going to say make it easier to identify which methods will be successful. Use different things to reach different audiences – more effective than shoe-horning your message into a one-size-fits-all approach.

Step 6 – How’s it going?

Keeping your communication two-way is vital in ensuring its effectiveness and success. Find out what people are saying; keep your ear to the ground. Build chances to gather feedback into your plan.

Once you’ve got an internal communications plan, your activities will be far more effective.

Sarah Browning is an internal communications specialist at Browning York

She will be talking about maximising internal communications at the Charity Writing and Communications Training Days on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 October.