By Anthony Cotter.

Internal Communications Best Practices In 2020: According To The Experts

There’s no doubt that employee communications is changing at a pace. And not just during Covid-19. The ways in which people communicate and stay engaged with their company will now change, possibly forever. So too will the role of the internal communication specialist.

In that vein, we put together a list of current internal communications best practices, by reaching out to some of the worlds leading internal communications experts, asking them their tips for excellent internal communications in today’s world.

The response was overwhelming. Some of the brightest minds in internal communications have shared their own best practices to maintain great internal communications in these dynamic times.

Four themes stood out in the tips we received from our internal communications experts. For truly engaging internal communications you need to:

  1. Engage Leadership
  2. Be Clear & Consistent In Your Communication
  3. Develop An Internal Communications Strategy
  4. Focus on Employee Engagement
  5. Adopt Technology To Improve Your Internal Communications

Read on to gain insights on IC best practices from some of the leading figures in internal communications today.

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Engaging Leadership - A Key Best Practice For Internal Communications

According to some of our IC experts, if you want your internal communications to really make an impact to your organization and engage your employees, you need buy in from leadership. Here are the reasons why.

Kane Lillywhite, Bunch

Kane Lillywhite IC best practices image

Leverage your leaders. Internal communication falls flat if leaders aren’t taking up their role as key communicators within an organisation. Help your leaders to understand their role in translating general business messages into something relevant to their teams. Align leaders with the process of how content is curated and communicated throughout your organisation. Give leaders the training and tools to curate, disseminate and cascade information to their teams in a relevant and impactful way.

As a communication professional, don’t get stuck in the tactical rut of churning out content. Raise your presence to become a true strategic advisor to the business, with your finger on the pulse of what employees are feeling and thinking at any given time – and knowing the best way to respond (utilising your leaders, of course!).

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Alicia Palmieri, Salary Finance

Alicia Palmieri internal communciations best practice image

Make sure members of your leadership team are active participants in internal communications. Their voices should be infused in all of your internal messaging. If your employees don’t hear from your leadership team, they’re more likely to lose trust.

Trudy Lewis, Lewis Communicate

Trudy Lewis internal comms expert

Most important for me is the need to develop a clear strategy for communications, and that this is done in close collaboration with leadership and senior stakeholders. A big part of this includes developing these strategic relationships through listening and questioning, and having a good level of business acumen.

Best practice here is all about developing these skills to become the practitioner that leadership will reach out to first for advice and guidance on communications and engagement to achieve the business goals and priorities. Basically become that trusted adviser to shape and develop consistent, targeted and impactful internal communications.

Tom Oliver, Castle Water

Getting senior leaders to buy-in to what you are trying to achieve is critical for success (especially with internal social networks & digital tools). Senior management can have a huge influence on others and this helps increase engagement with your communications.

I also always look for ways to regularly highlight the great work and achievements of my colleagues (both inside and outside of work).

Matt Stephens, Inpulse

matt stephens internal comms best practice expert

LEADERSHIP LEADERSHIP LEADERSHIP – you need to invest heavily in developing great leaders, who are authentic, passionate and good communicators and then you can change the world. They don’t need to be Churchill they just need to be able to share a vision, take people with them and show compassion.

Rachel Harrison, Octavia

Regular calls to team managers combined with an online tool that colleagues trust and use in two-way communications.

Clear, Consistent, Internal Communications

Being clear and consistent is also an internal communications best practice that is very important according to the experts.

Sam Boniface, NHBC

Sam Boniface internal communications expert

Keep it clear, keep it consistent, and clarify the outcomes before communicating anything.

Helen Kemp, Biffa PLC

Helen Kemp internal comms best practices experts image

Clear, regular and relevant content given at the right time, in the right way and to the right audience. We’ve used our employee app, Biffa Beat to facilitate much of our internal communication. The app enables two-way communication which is especially essential in times of crisis. Listen to your people’s feedback and use it to shape your messaging. Appreciate your people and make sure they understand how the hard work they put in every day helps to create the bigger picture

Advita Patel, Comms Rebel

advita patel

To ask questions and keep in mind the ‘why?’ and ‘so what?’ when I’m having conversations with leaders and colleagues about any comms or campaigns they want me to create.

The best internal communicators are the ones who are inquisitive and can challenge (respectfully) especially when it seems that comms doesn’t serve a purpose or align against the business objectives.

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Chaya Mistry, Humanly Consulting

Clarity and Conversation. Create opportunities to add clarity not noise; through simple, clear and human language and formats that help people to translate corporate messages into something meaningful for their jobs. This means testing your messages and channels to know that you are getting the right balance.

Conversations are the way to unlock engagement, trust and make change happen, so think carefully about how people can engage with internal communication; leaders and managers must be at the heart of conversations so help them to be confident about the role they play. It is more than the slide deck, its the ‘handrails’ to help them be authentic and human.

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Damian Keane, Ambassify

Clarity and consistency: Keep your messages simple and relevant to your audience. Be consistent in how you communicate and how you allow for feedback.

Nicky Redmond, ReFocus Communication

Nicky Redmond internal communications best practice expert

Regular and well crafted messages (that will resonate), delivered through the right channel to every employee in the moments that matter. This means that your communication will be read. Keep it short and let the style reflect the company culture.

Uzma Lodhi, APCO Worldwide

IC best practice expert

Authentic consistent messaging, on the same topics, from all levels with their own personalised spin on things.

Jenni Field, Redefining Comms

Jenni Field

Listening and diagnosing what is really going on. Don’t take things at face value, be inquisitive and find out why things are happening or why you’re being asked to do something.

Internal Communications Best Practices - Develop A Strategy

According to our internal comms experts, you can’t just wing it when it comes to internal communications. Best practice is to develop and implement a solid internal communications strategy. Rachelle Bryant, Ciara O Keefe and Khadijah Plummer provide all the details here:

Rachelle Bryant, Maddocks

Rachelle Bryant Internal Communications Expert

Whether it’s planning for a big change, developing an internal communications strategy, or reacting with issues/crisis communication, I like to set out my approach with the four key pillars (in my opinion) of internal communications:

1. To inform employees of what’s going on in a timely and consistent way
2. To enable employees to do their jobs well
3. To engage employees through messaging that’s relevant and meaningful
4. To represent what’s on our people’s mind to the leaders of the business

Using these four pillars as a guide when developing and delivering internal communications plans and strategies will make you more effective.

Ciara O'Keeffe, Staffconnect

Ciara O Keefe Internal Communications Expert

Always, always, always base your internal communication strategy on business goals. Be clear on what the business is trying to achieve and how the internal communication team is going to help deliver on those goals.

Break the goals down into quarterly deliverables and report on your performance against them. By having quarterly deliverables, it keeps the team focused while also allowing for flexibility should the company need to revise the overall business goals.

Khadijah Plummer

Khadijah Plummer Internal comms best practice image

Establishing a cadence/schedule so that people get used to receiving internal communications at a certain time (with the exception of urgent company updates).

Nikki Burslam, The Culture Club

Nikki Burslam internal communications best practice expert

Start everything with a meaningful objective. Great internal communication has a tangible impact on colleagues’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. Start any communication planning – be it a message, campaign or strategy – by articulating the impact you want to make. From there everything will fall into place.

Use your objective as a filter to decide if the internal communication activities will meet your objective. If they won’t – don’t do it. Keep it simple and cut the unnecessary noise.

Best Practices For Engaging Employees With Great Internal Communciations

According to the experts, you need to consistently focus on engaging your employees. Employee engagement is key to building a great company, so focusing on engaging employees as part of your internal communications strategy is a practice you should adhere to.

Richard Thomson, Kaptcha

Richard Thomson Internal Comms Best Practice

During COVID-19, employees want to feel connected to the business as well as updated about company news. We’ve been producing some weekly CEO video update blogs for a couple of clients. The feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a typical example – “It means so much more to see a face instead of just the written word. Made me feel prouder to work for (the company) than I was before”

Paul Osgood, Clifford Chance

Paul Osgood Internal Communications Best Practices

Curate your internal communications network. Constant nurturing and engagement with a wide range of your internal stakeholders means that you will be able to understand, represent and share authentic perspectives through all your communications.

Has Razwi, Enable Transition

Haz Razwi Internal Comms Expert

Know enough about your audience to make your communication personal and relevant. Can you quickly draw 3 to 5 Empathy Maps for them? If not, it’s time to do some research first.

Erwin van der Vlist, Speakap

Erwin profielfoto 3

Evolving with your employees by adapting mobile technologies and utilizing these for faster, more relevant and inclusive employee communications.

Dominic Walters, Inpulse

Maintain a regular pulse of communication – even if there is little to say
Try out new channels – and be prepared to get things wrong and adapt
Change your behaviour – new circumstances mean new rules
Remember to communicate the big picture – to give progress and context
Conversation is key – to build connection and trust
Share stories – to make things human and build community
Make feedback a priority – what’s working and how people are getting on

Adopt Technology That Will Improve Your Internal Communications

Mark Knight, MK Films

Mark Knight

I believe the best way to maintain effective internal communications is to utilise video and create regular content. Essentially, internal comms professionals should be adopt the best practices of YouTube channels – regular, valuable content that engages, entertains and educates your audience/niche.

The YouTube approach works because the long form video content you create for YouTube is your core content, from which you can generate untold pieces of content. Additionally, if done correctly, this approach can generate revenue streams and improve your brand and work as a marketing strategy. To do this effectively you need to be working with a videographer/filmmaker that understands this mentality and who can give you value for money.

Gone are the days of paying £40k for an internal film on safety, customer service or some other tick box exercise, when £40k invested with the right focus could regenerate hundreds, if not ‘000s, of pieces of video, photography or written content to engage your target audience, which is your work force.

Internal & Employee Communications Best Practices - Conclusion

Great internal communications is key to engaging employees and strengthening your company culture. With the tips on internal communications from the experts we spoke to, you’ve got a blueprint for forming your internal communications strategy. 

So what will you do with it? How will you use internal communications to help your company grow?

P.S. We’re hosting a virtual event Thursday, May 21st if you’re around? You can learn more about what we’re going to cover below.

The Digital Communication Landscape: Getting It Right