We’re sharing proven, expert-approved strategies to help you make your CEO excited about internal comms.
Most CEOs have plenty on their plate already, so it can be hard to reach them and keep them engaged in (let alone excited about) internal communications.
But it’s not impossible. In fact, with just the right strategies, you can make your CEO care about internal communications in a way that works for your goals.
In this practical guide, we’ll help you pitch the importance of a robust internal comms strategy to your CEO and other members of the senior leadership team.
So if you’re looking for ways to connect with your CEO over the long run, we’re sharing proven, expert-approved strategies for how to make leadership care about internal communication. Plus, we got some insights from actual CEOs!
Let’s clarify everything starting from the top.
Employees are more likely to pay attention to important updates and initiatives when they know their leaders are paying attention (and staying involved) too. When leaders show support for internal communications, employees feel heard and connected. This can encourage employees and build trust to support stronger engagement from everyone in the organization.
Professor Jonathan H. Westover, PhD, Managing Partner and Principal at Human Capital Innovations, observes that getting your CEO invested in an internal comms strategy is crucial for the success of the strategy and the organization as a whole:
“The CEO is the ultimate leader of the organization and sets the tone for the company culture, values, and priorities. By investing in internal comms, the CEO can ensure that employees are informed, engaged, and aligned with the organization’s mission and goals.”
He also emphasizes the vital role internal communication plays in creating a positive work culture, improving employee morale, and driving business results:
“When employees feel informed and engaged, they are more likely to be productive, satisfied, and committed to the organization. Moreover, effective internal communication can help build trust, transparency, and accountability within the organization. These are essential for fostering a healthy and supportive work environment.”
By investing in internal comms, your CEO can also show that they value employee feedback and are committed to creating a positive workplace culture. After all, all of this makes your business stronger in the long run.
On this idea, Jonathan continues:
“By getting the CEO invested in an internal comms strategy, internal communicators can ensure that the strategy is properly resourced, supported, and integrated with the organization’s overall strategy. The CEO’s buy-in can also help to overcome any resistance or skepticism from other leaders or stakeholders and provide the necessary authority and credibility to the internal communication team.”
In fact, it shouldn’t really be surprising that CEOs too tend to see the criticality of internal comms to business success. Abhishek Shah, Founder at Testlify, notes that a CEO has a crucial role to play in shaping the organization’s internal communication strategy:
“When CEOs invest in internal comms, they show their commitment to fostering a positive workplace culture, improving employee engagement, and ultimately driving business success. Effective communication can also help the CEO to establish trust and credibility with their employees, which is essential for building a strong and loyal team.”
To get a realistic look at the challenges internal communicators are dealing with today, we’ve reached out to a couple of experts running internal comms for their own companies.
Here’s our findings (with an exclusive look at what CEOs think on the topic!).
Outdated technology or resources alongside chaotic communication tend to be one of the most common challenges internal comms leaders observe.
Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Specialist at Ling observes that working to create an internal communications strategy with a startup is challenging because often, CEOs and founders are obsessed with trying the newest and latest tools:
“This can result in chaotic communications. This is why it’s important to get your CEO invested in a singular internal comms strategy. A one-stop-shop is critical to a company’s success otherwise miscommunications rise, KPIs are missed, and misunderstandings run amuck.”
For instance, if your current communications systems and tools are out-of-date, it might prevent you from delivering messages effectively. This impacts employee engagement or motivation levels, plus you won’t be able to gather the right data to prove the effectiveness of your internal comms strategy.”
Professor Jonathan H. Westover says that one of the main challenges is a lack of understanding or awareness of the importance of internal communication:
“CEOs may prioritize external communication and marketing over internal communication, viewing the latter as a lower priority or unnecessary expense. This can lead to a lack of investment in internal communication resources, tools, and training, which can hinder the effectiveness of the internal communication program.”
Jarir Mallah also admits that sometimes CEOs can be stubborn:
“They may believe that everything is working fine as is or that they should be using a particular strategy because their competitors are. You’ve got to come prepared with evidence that an internal comms strategy is necessary. To do this, show specific instances where not having such a structure has resulted in lost revenues or missed opportunities.”
Joshua Warren, CEO at Creatuity, confirms this hesitancy as he was skeptical about spending time and energy on internal communications until they faced challenges uniting their team:
“Our team convinced me to green-light a project where they have completely revamped our all-hands Zoom meetings into a once-a-month ‘Let’s Connect’ Zoom meeting where someone from our leadership team communicates news about the company. More importantly, we also have a different employee present their work and what their team does each month.”
Joshua also says the HR department played a huge part in demonstrating the value of internal comms:
“Our HR team really convinced me by framing it as an experiment and asking me to hold off evaluating the idea until after we held at least one ‘Let’s Connect’. With the new format, I saw more employees join the meeting, more engagement, and more cameras turned on. The results were pretty obvious once I just gave them that chance, so framing it as an experiment really helped.”
Ryan Mckenzie, Co-Founder & CMO at Tru Earth® says that one of the biggest challenges internal communicators can face when trying to secure buy-in from a CEO is convincing them of the value of investing in internal comms:
“CEOs may not feel that the ROI is immediately visible and so they are less likely to back the efforts of internal communicators. Additionally, it can be difficult to get a CEO’s attention when there are more pressing business priorities on their minds.”
Ryan notes that one way around this is to present internal comms as a way to improve customer engagement and loyalty, as well as increase employee motivation and retention:
“By creating a clear link between internal comms and business success, it may be easier to get the CEO’s attention. In addition, it can be helpful to emphasize the importance of creative approaches to engage staff members (such as using interactive digital tools) rather than traditional methods.”
Without a clear understanding of the CEO’s objectives, internal communicators are unable to craft a communication program that will effectively reach and engage the whole organization.
Not only does this disconnect impede the success of the internal communications program, but it can also lead to a lack of trust between executives and employees. Employees may become disillusioned if they sense that the CEO and other executives are not totally committed to the program, and this can quickly lead to a breakdown in communication.
On this issue, Professor Jonathan H. Westover warns of the potential disconnect that can appear:
“If the CEO does not see the value in a particular initiative or program, they may be less likely to support or prioritize it. This can create a disconnect between the internal communication team and the CEO, leading to a lack of engagement and buy-in from other leaders and employees.”
Ready to turn things around and make internal comms a priority within your organization?
We’ve got just the right steps to consider from People Ops experts and CEOs that have already tested them:
1. Clarify the impact of internal comms on business success
2. Understand your CEO’s needs and priorities
3. Provide facts and figures
4. Gather sentiment analysis
5. Show the impact of internal comms on financial success
Tomas Ondrejka, Founder at Kickresume, talked to us about the importance of highlighting the influence of internal comms:
“After initiating quarterly CEO presentations on company updates at our company, we saw a significant increase in cross-departmental collaboration. Employees became more aware of ongoing projects and aligned their efforts with the company’s goals.
Moreover, these presentations created an open forum where employees feel comfortable asking questions and voicing their concerns. This has not only improved our decision-making process but has also empowered employees to take ownership of their work, resulting in higher job satisfaction and retention rates.”
By demonstrating such tangible benefits, HR teams can effectively involve CEOs in the internal communication process. The least you can do is encourage them to give it a try and witness the results for themselves.
Note: Gauri Manglik, CEO at Instrumentl, also mentions it’s important for internal comms professionals to have a clear understanding of what their own role is:
“It’s not enough to just say ‘I’m the CEO’s spokesperson’ or ’I’m responsible for shaping employee engagement.’ You need to understand both sides of the coin and know how they work together. You also need to understand what makes your CEO tick and why they care about these things.”
Above all, you need to look at your CEO’s business goals and figure out how they align with your own.
This takes us to the next step…
What’s more important than making sure you’re reaching the goals your CEO expects?
To do this, start by getting an understanding of the CEO’s goals. Think about how your internal comms strategy can help the organization achieve them:
The biggest question you’ll want to answer though is: How does internal comms stand out and provide real value?
For instance, you might want to think of new technologies that can ensure your internal comms efforts align with the CEO’s vision and targets.
Abhishek Shah, Founder of Testlify, also observes a lack of understanding or awareness of the importance of internal communication from leaders’ sides:
“CEOs may also be too focused on external communication and may not prioritize the internal communication needs of their organization. To overcome these challenges, internal communicators must be able to demonstrate the tangible benefits of investing in internal comms to the CEO.”
On highlighting the importance of internal comms, Abhishek suggests starting by sharing the right quantifiable workplace insights and clarifying the CEO’s role:
“Provide data and metrics that show the impact of effective internal communication on employee engagement, productivity, and retention. It’s also essential to ensure that the CEO understands the role they play in shaping the internal communication strategy and the positive impact it can have on the organization.”
Getting feedback from employees on their experience helps you gain insights into where your organization is succeeding and where there’s room for improvement. Use this data to identify communication gaps and adjust your strategy accordingly.
You can use polls in your social intranet to collect feedback and get an idea of overall sentiment quickly [and anonymously]. Shaunak Amin, Co-Founder and CEO of SwagMagic, advises:
“Gathering employee feedback will help determine the impact your internal communications are making. Conducting small group interviews and surveys is an excellent way to find what works with your messages and what needs improving. Once those changes are implemented, an ongoing feedback loop ensures internal comms continue to resonate within the organization.”
By tracking ROI, you can see which initiatives directly address low retention rates, increase productivity, and have tangible financial impacts. Make sure leadership knows about all the savings that came from their investment in internal comms.
At the end of the day, internal comms is good for business because it serves an organization’s employees. When management sees how valuable effective communication with their team can be, they’ll be more likely to prioritize it in terms of budget and resources.
Professor Jonathan H. Westover also recommends keeping track of the general effectiveness of internal comms:
“Continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the internal communication program and communicate the results to the CEO and other stakeholders. This can help to demonstrate the value and impact of the program and identify areas for improvement and growth.”
Andrew Meyer, CEO of Arbor, also supports the idea of relying on statistics to demonstrate the value of internal communication:
“Companies who are highly skilled at internal comms are more likely to perform better than their competitors. There’s a strong correlation between financial performance and effective communication, regardless of industry. It’s hard to argue with stats. If you create a compelling presentation backed by figures and data about how internal comms will make their company more money, they’ll likely be willing to invest more in the department.”
Start by thinking of your immediate priorities. Is it more important to get the attention of your CEO or would you rather focus on gathering the right data to present to them?
You can also do it all with one tool.
Workvivo lets you invite CEOs to join and communicate more naturally with employees. You’ll also get a complete analysis of engagement with different types of content and communication.
Executives can benefit from a better understanding of the inner workings of their company and how the employees use and rely on internal comms platforms. By taking the time to connect with your CEO and discuss the goals for your communication strategy, you can create a strong and lasting partnership that will help propel your team and organization forward to success.