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GuidesEmployee experienceYour guide to crafting an internal communication plan

Your guide to crafting an internal communication plan

Last updated

1 May 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Warren Jonas ACC

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How do you share the news or information with your employees when something happens within your organization?

The method and strategy you use to share updates, company news, or operational guidance fall into the category of internal communications. If you don’t have a dedicated internal communication plan, it’s time to develop one.

Today’s business environment, regardless of your industry, is fast-paced and ever-changing. A robust internal comms plan is your company’s ticket to success, as it facilitates the seamless and efficient flow of information.

So, if you’re struggling to organize a communications strategy with your teams, keep reading. This guide offers actionable insights and step-by-step tutorials for crafting an effective internal communication plan that keeps everyone within your organization in the loop.

What is an internal communication plan?

Let’s start with the basics. An internal communication plan typically lives as a flexible document for everyone to see, reference, and use that outlines how people within your company share information. Think of it as a structured approach to getting the word out—whether it’s an announcement about casual Fridays or a more official state-of-the-company quarterly address. 

An internal communication plan often documents key messaging initiatives and definitions, including the following:

  • Your company’s audiences or target departments

  • The channels you’ll predominantly use to communicate

  • The frequency with which you’ll expect teams to communicate

  • Metrics to gauge communication and messaging effectiveness

This approach is also highly effective for organizing who should handle communications. This person or people should be prepared and ready. In larger organizations, multiple preparation sessions are conducted to ensure leadership is primed and equipped to carry out the planned communications.

Internal communication plan vs. internal communication strategy

Think of your communications strategy as the long-term roadmap defining how your sharing of information aligns with core business goals.

The internal communication plan is different. It’s a detailed outline defining the range of tactical activities that ultimately support your overall comms strategy. The comms plan is your action roster of how-to steps for facilitating effective information and data sharing.

Internal communication plan vs. external communications

Internal communications refers to information shared with target employees or anyone within a company’s organizational structure.

External communications, on the other hand, refers to messaging that targets external audiences, including customers, vendors, and the public.

Why do you need an internal communication plan?

Companies, small and large, should have an internal communication plan for several reasons.

Firstly, it serves as a commitment to transparency and consistency, providing stability to your teams. It’s also a great historical resource you can reference later and adapt according to your business model, team dynamics, and growth.

Here are the primary advantages you can expect your internal comms plan to bring:

Improved employee engagement

By adopting an internal communication plan, you’ll see significant improvements in employee engagement. People tend to engage more favorably at work and with their job when they feel informed and connected to the company. 

Productivity goes up, too. In highly engaged teams, productivity will increase by as much as 20%, according to Gallup.

Strengthened company culture

A robust internal comms plan will foster a healthy company culture rooted in transparency, where information sharing is a priority. Employees who feel informed are more likely to align and engage with the company’s overarching objectives and work toward them.

It also works the other way around. Companies that routinely share information encourage teams to share insights and observations themselves. This collaborative and healthy exchange leads to a positive company culture overall.

Seamless company-wide communications

Make sure your teams are getting essential information through dedicated channels.

A well-designed comms plan helps avoid unintended negative consequences. For example, when people don’t feel they are getting the information they need to perform their jobs—or if they are only informed occasionally—they may invent their own assumptions to fill in information gaps, potentially spelling disaster for projects, performance, budgets, and morale.

Company-wide communication is a great opportunity for senior leaders to share clear explanations and engage in Q&A sessions. These approaches facilitate interactive discussions where diverse perspectives can be shared, ensuring the whole organization has clarity.

Your internal comms plan should be official and available to all employees, which represents your company’s commitment to company-wide communication.

Types of information to share

Use your internal communication plan to funnel necessary and important information to your teams. Here are some of the different types of internal communications you might include in your plan:

  • Employee recognition

  • Team milestones

  • Health and wellness initiatives

  • Employee benefits updates

  • Internal job openings

  • Training opportunities

  • Customer success stories and feedback

  • Emergency or crisis communications, protocols, or procedures

  • Financial, compliance, or regulatory updates

  • Company culture, values, or hybrid work opportunities

  • Corporate events, team-building activities, or holiday parties

Guiding principles for an internal communication plan

When developing your internal communication plan, follow these guiding principles for effective results.

Transparency

Be prompt and diligent about sharing information and do so in a straightforward way.

While this might often be easier for positive communications, more complicated or negative information also needs to be shared readily and with transparency. Waiting too long to disclose information can negatively impact your company. For example, communicating bad news (about pay cuts or layoffs, for example) has to be swift or employees will become resentful for being left in the dark.

Empathy

Communication among team members is more productive when infused with empathy.

Adopt emotionally intelligent approaches when having conversations and disseminating information. This is especially important during uncertain or challenging times.

Carefully consider how employees are likely to receive information so that you don’t overwhelm them or provide insufficient critical details. You’ll also need empathy to recognize and respect time zone differences, cultural variances, and individual preferences and needs.

Discoverability

Don’t just share critical information once. Consider creating hubs where that information can live publicly, making it easy for employees to reference it at a later date.

Keep in mind that people process information differently. Offering multiple options ensures more people can understand key points.

Company updates, new guidelines, and announcements should be delivered and then made available for teams to find and reference later. This also keeps the flow of information going for employees who join your company after the announcements were first made.

Adaptability

Your internal comms plan should remain as dynamic as your teams. Situations arise, and industries and guidelines shift constantly.

As your team grows and changes, so will its need for communication. You can ask your employees for regular feedback about how they prefer to be informed so you can deliver accordingly. It’s also a good idea to review your comms plan every few weeks to adjust channels or frequency if needed.

Key components of an internal communication plan

Your internal communications plan should include seven key components. Of course, every business has a slightly different model and structure, so your official plan will also differ. However, the following core pillars are typical in most plans:

  1. Analysis of the current state of your business: this is an overview of how your company communicates now and what you hope to improve with your internal comms plan. Use metrics and employee feedback to guide your analysis.

  2. Goals: outline your core objectives and goals for the communication plan. Include goals you hope to achieve immediately, as well as long-term growth objectives.

  3. Target audience: determine whether your internal comms plan will speak to all your employees or select teams. An all-staff messaging plan might differ from a managers-only plan.

  4. Communication channels: understand how you’ll disseminate information, including tactics, channels, and strategies. Choose channels that make sense for your audience, and be prepared to upgrade tools and software to facilitate these.

  5. Message strategy: decide what types of messages, including topics, you intend to share and why. Decide if you plan to share news, reviews, company growth statistics, regulatory updates, or anything else.

  6. Messaging frequency: schedule a consistent frequency for sending messages and sharing information with employees. Stick to the plan you create, or your teams will lose faith in your efforts.

  7. Metrics and evaluation tools: prepare a strategy for monitoring your internal comms performance and identifying whether you need any technology upgrades. For example, you might ask employees to share their thoughts on which comms channels work best.

How to create an internal communication plan

Keeping these seven key elements in mind, create tables to help you visualize the flow of information throughout your company.

Step 1: Organizing your tables

Create your tables with appropriate columns labeled for audience, content, channels, and purpose.

Coordinate your rows with labels for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, and ad-hoc. You can keep your grid adaptable so that you can make changes later on. However, the rows and columns should be more concrete.

Step 2: Segmenting your audiences

Consider segmenting your audience. For example, you might dedicate a specific internal comms plan for executive leadership, off-site teams, and employees.

Companies sometimes segment communications based on emergency versus non-emergency information.

Step 3: Selecting your communications channels

Choose a communication channel that aligns best with each of your audience segments. Think about your content, too, ensuring you choose the appropriate channels.

For example, you might want to use Slack as your channel for company updates but hold a virtual town hall webinar for big company announcements and Q&A sessions. It might also make sense to dedicate one specific channel to company alerts or emergencies.

Step 4: Plugging in the details

Once your tables are organized and labeled, you can start plugging in the details and messages.

Be mindful of the corresponding goals for each message and always prioritize those that build trust, connect staff to leaders, and resonate authentically.

Challenges to consider

When you build out your business’s internal communication plan, be aware of and prepare for certain challenges that may arise. The following challenges are some of the most common:

  • Changing communication channels as the company innovates, as this requires flexibility

  • Remote and hybrid working environments, which call for unique communications

  • Company changes, like mergers or downsizing

  • Security and confidentiality of company messaging

FAQs

What are the four types of internal communication?

Internal communications usually flow in four directions, which are also considered the four types of communication.

  • Downward communication from upper management to subordinates (e.g., goals and instruction)

  • Upward communication from lower levels of the organization to management (e.g., feedback and suggestions)

  • Lateral communication between colleagues at the same organizational level (e.g., collaboration and problem-solving)

  • Diagonal communication across departments or teams (e.g., addressing agility or responsiveness)

Which is the best example of internal communications?

Some of the most commonly leveraged examples of internal communications include all-staff emails, team meetings, and in-person/oral meetings. However, other digital software platforms like Slack, Monday, and ClickUp are also great ways to disseminate internal communications and information. It’s not uncommon for today’s companies to invest in intranet solutions to facilitate internal communications.

What are SMART goals for internal communications?

SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) can help keep your internal communication plan rooted in its core components and aligned with your company objectives.

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