Booking a last-minute plane ticket, ordering an exotic food you’ve never tried, and impulsively buying a pair of shoes all do nothing but pleasantly make your life, and closet, more interesting.
Yes, there is a time and place for spontaneity. Building a system for internal communication is not one of them. A lack of planning for your business’ internal communication function can lead to uninformed employees, lack of productivity, and miscommunication.
Leave the spontaneity to vacation, friend. Make an internal communication plan.
What is an internal communication plan?
An internal communication plan outlines the function of communication within an organization, along with the strategies, objectives, and metrics that will guide employee action towards achieving personal and company-wide goals.
How to create an internal communication plan
Evaluate your current situation
Consider your audience
Determine strategies and tactics
Modify plan if necessary
Taking the time to thoroughly complete each task when creating an internal communication plan will ensure its effectiveness.
Why are internal communication plans important?
To best answer this question, we must first look at the benefits of internal communication.
Internal communication is responsible for the sending and receiving of information within an organization. A lot of information is shared in business, and keeping employees informed can’t happen without internal communication. However, it also serves other functions that some might not immediately realize.
So, why is an internal communication plan important? It makes all of the benefits of internal communication possible by providing a clear framework of the goals, strategies, and tactics for everyone within the organization to follow.
7 steps in creating an internal communication plan
Now that you know why you should care, let’s get down to business. Grab a cup of java, round up a few colleagues, and follow these steps to create a foolproof internal communication plan.
1. Evaluate your current situation
Take a good look at your current situation. More often than not, when businesses begin to construct an internal communication plan, they either aren’t getting their desired results with their current plan or don’t have a plan at all. Assessing the current situation of the company and your existing internal communication system is necessary for improvement.
When conducting a situation analysis, a couple of things need to be considered.
What is the present situation of the organization?
What are the goals of the organization?
Why is this internal communication plan being created?
How are people currently communicating within the organization?
How will communication amongst employees help achieve the goals of the organization?
Answer all of these questions as thoroughly as possible. It is necessary to first understand your current situation if you wish to improve it.
Tip: Evaluating your current situation is especially important when creating acrisis management plan. Make sure your internal communication between leadership and employees is strong when dealing with a crisis.
2. Consider your audience
Communication theory tells us there are two groups that affect a message: the senders and the receivers. In order for a message to be effective, the sender must understand the receiver’s knowledge, communication skills, attitude, and background.
When defining how to communicate with a specific audience, you must first understand that specific group of people. Multiple audiences can exist within an organization, each with their own goals, mindsets, and preferences for communicating. Some groups might need to be targeted more heavily than others, some might prefer a certain communication channel, and some might require a little more background of the message’s topic. Either way, you should ask yourself these questions when considering the groups that will be affected by this internal communication plan.
What is my audience’s current mindset?
What do I want them to do as a result of this plan?
What is the best way to get my desired results from this audience?
Answering those questions will help you understand the best way to target your audiences. You can then adjust parts of your plan to tailor to their preferences.
Now that you understand your current situation and audience, it is time to set some goals.
When setting your internal communication plan goals, don’t forget to make them SMART.
S -Specific (What are weactuallydoing?)
M -Measurable (How will you track success?)
A -Attainable (Is this goal reasonable?)
R -Relevant (Will this goal help us in the long run?)
T -Time-bound (When will the goal be met?)
Before setting goals for your internal communication plan, you must consider the goals of the organization. Once you understand those, think about how effective internal communication can help guide employees in achieving those goals. Here are some examples.
Establish your goals, and keep them in mind throughout the rest of the internal communication plan creation process.
4. Determine strategies and tactics
Determining the strategies and tactics of your communication plan is arguably the most important part of the process. The goals have been set, but now we have to focus on how to achieve them.
Before we move on, we must differentiate strategies and tactics. A strategy is a long term plan to achieve a goal. A tactic is a concrete action taken to achieve that goal. The strategies and tactics for an internal communication plan will depend on the audience, content, and desired outcome.
Internal communication strategies break down how you are going to go about communicating with your audience(s). The tactics within the strategy include the specific messages you will send and the channels you will use. It is necessary to select a strategy before choosing the tactics for the internal communication plan. Understanding the strategy will help you choose the most appropriate tactics to complement it.
For example, if one of your strategies is to keep everyone up to speed on new office policies, a tactic for that strategy would be to keep the information updated in your company's intranet.
This is where the action happens.
Once you have decided on a strategy to follow and tactics to implement, put them to good use. Use the internal communication strategies and their coordinating tactics to share information amongst the people in your business. If your strategies and tactics are chosen carefully, this should go off without a hitch.
Each piece of internal communication acts as a form of internal marketing. Make sure your messages reflect not only the plan, but company culture as well.
6. Evaluate plan
Evaluating the progress of the internal communication plan directly correlates to your SMART goals. To determine if your plan was effective, ask yourself these questions.
Was our specific goal reached, or did we achieve something else?
Did we get the measurable results we wanted?
Did we attain what we wanted, or was it too far out of reach?
Are these results relevant to the objectives of the business?
Did we reach our goal by the time we suggested?
Hearing from the team is necessary when evaluating the progress of your plan. Distribute a survey in your employee newsletter to get some feedback. Everybody in a business communicates, and getting comments and criticisms from all levels and across all teams is necessary for effective leadership communication.
7. Modify plan if necessary
If you are disappointed in the results of your internal communication plan, change it. If a specific tactic didn’t send a message as well as you expected, choose a different one. If you chose the wrong strategy for a particular audience, go about communicating with them another way. If your team easily surpassed your goals, aim higher.
Simply accepting that your plan performed well, or didn’t, isn’t the right attitude. No matter your results, find the right ways to improve it.
Communication tips for any business
There are a lot of different ways to communicate in the workplace, but no matter which one you use, use these etiquette tips to be heard -- without being offensive.
Let's get planning
A business cannot survive without effective internal communication, and roughing it is not the way to go. Creating an internal communication plan will ensure an informed workforce that can better work towards the goals of the company.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 in Chicago, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)