Internal Communications Best Practices – Tips from the Experts
27 Apr 2020
Updated 01 August 2022
Internal communications best practices are constantly changing.
The ways in which people communicate and stay engaged with their company have changed forever, as has the role of the internal communication specialist.
There are more internal communications tools than ever, which is great news, provided you have a strategy in place.
Improving employee communication and keeping the team connected are likely top of the list for many communications professionals. But internal communications success can give your business a major strategic advantage, not just keeping employees engaged but also improving productivity and helping to grow the business.
We’ve put together a list of current internal communications best practices with insight from the world’s leading internal communications experts.
The brightest minds in internal communications have shared their best practices to maintain great internal communications in these dynamic times.
What Are the Most Important Internal Communications Best Practices?
Four themes stood out in the tips we received from our internal communications experts when asked about internal communications best practices.
- Engage leadership
- Be clear and consistent in your communication
- Develop an internal communications strategy
- Focus on employee engagement
- Adopt technology to improve your internal communications.
According to the experts, if you want your internal communications to really impact your organization and engage your employees, you need buy-in from leadership.
Your internal communications department might have some great ideas about how to encourage employees and improve employee morale, but unless the strategic direction is aligned with what the leadership team is saying, internal communications initiatives could fall flat.
Those at the head of the business likely have a holistic view of where they would like the company to be headed. Getting their buy-in on the internal communications plan is always a great idea.
Kane Lillywhite, Bunch
Leverage your leaders. Internal communication falls flat if leaders aren’t taking up their role as key communicators within an organization.
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 organization.
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 (utilizing your leaders).
Alicia Palmieri, Salary Finance
Ensure 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 will likely lose trust.
Trudy Lewis, Lewis Communicate
Most important for me is the need to develop a clear communication strategy, which is done in close collaboration with leadership and senior stakeholders.
A big part of this includes developing these strategic relationships through listening, questioning, and having a good level of business acumen.
Best practice here is 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 business goals and priorities.
Become that trusted adviser to shape and develop consistent, targeted, and impactful internal communications.
Tom Oliver, Castle Water
Getting senior leaders to buy into what you are trying to achieve is critical for success (especially with internal social networks & digital tools). Senior management can greatly influence others, which helps increase engagement with your communications.
I also always look for ways to regularly highlight my colleagues’ great work and achievements (both inside and outside of work).
Matt Stephens, Inpulse
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 and 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 essential, according to the experts.
Ensure your message is clear and consistent across all your channels to avoid communication overload. Whether in the internal company newsletter, in-person team meetings, or your communication tools, your internal messages matter!
Make sure you’re clear about what your goals and messages are, as they can only be communicated effectively if you’re confident about what you’re trying to say.
Here is what a few of our leaders have to say about keeping effective communication clear and consistent.
Sam Boniface, NHBC
Keep it clear, keep it consistent, and clarify the outcomes before communicating anything.
Helen Kemp, Biffa PLC
Clear, regular, and relevant content is 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 ensure they understand how the hard work they put in every day helps to create the bigger picture.
Advita Patel, Comms Rebel
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 don’t serve a purpose or align against the business objectives.
Chaya Mistry, Humanly Consulting
Clarity and Conversation. Create opportunities to add clarity, not noise — through simple, clear 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 you are getting the right balance.
Conversations are the way to unlock engagement and 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 be confident about their role.
It is more than the slide deck; it’s the “handrails” to help them be authentic and human.
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
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
Authentic, consistent messaging on the same topics from all levels with their own personalized spin on things.
Jenni Field, Redefining Comms
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.
Develop a Strategy
According to our internal comms experts, you can’t just wing it when it comes to internal communications.
As we’ve touched on, it’s important to understand your internal communication message and ensure it’s aligned with the leadership team. Even armed with this valuable information, every internal communications professional will tell you that planning is key.
Different organizations may have different key metrics. For example, it might be to encourage cross-departmental communication, promote employee resources, or adapt the organization to remote work.
Different channels will likely work best for different messages. For example, internal blogs will be better at letting employees know what resources are available to them than aiming to improve communication between two departments that need to communicate more. Company announcements might sit with the email marketing team but can be bolstered by placing them on a communication tool where employees interact with comments and emojis.
With all of this in mind, one of our internal communications best practices is to develop and implement a solid internal communications strategy.
Rachelle Bryant, Ciara O’Keeffe, and Khadijah Plummer provide all the details here:
Rachelle Bryant, Maddocks
Whether it’s planning for a big change, developing an internal communications strategy, or reacting to issues/crisis communication, I like to set out my approach with the four key pillars (in my opinion) of internal communications:
- To inform employees of what’s going on in a timely and consistent way
- To enable employees to do their jobs well
- To engage employees through relevant and meaningful messaging
- To represent what’s on our people’s minds to the business leaders.
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
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 will deliver on those goals.
Break the goals down into quarterly deliverables and report on your performance against them. Having quarterly deliverables keeps the team focused while allowing for flexibility should the company need to revise the overall business goals.
Establishing a cadence/schedule so that people get used to receiving internal communications at a certain time (except for urgent company updates).
Nikki Burslam, The Culture Club
Start everything with a meaningful objective. Great internal communication has a tangible impact on colleagues’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.
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 Communications
According to the experts, you must 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.
You might engage employees through employee recognition, celebrating successes, providing career-building workshops, encouraging professional development, or asking for employee feedback. Engaged employees feel more valued, enjoy their work more, and input more regularly with their ideas.
So, how can you perfect your employee communication and improve your employee engagement? Our leaders give us their top tips for reaching internal communications success through engaged employees.
Richard Thomson, Kaptcha
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
Curate your internal communications network.
Constant nurturing and engagement with a wide range of your internal stakeholders means you will be able to understand, represent, and share authentic perspectives through all your communications.
Has Razwi, Enable Transition
Know enough about your audience to make your communication personal and relevant. Can you quickly draw three to five empathy maps for them? If not, it’s time to do some research first.
Erwin van der Vlist, Speakap
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 behavior – 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
I believe the best way to maintain effective internal communications is to utilize video and create regular content.
Essentially, internal comms professionals should 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, improve your brand, and work as a marketing strategy. To do this effectively, you need to be working with a videographer/filmmaker who understands this mentality and 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 thousands, of pieces of video, photography, or written content to engage your target audience, which is your workforce.
Internal & Employee Communications Best Practices – Conclusion
Great internal communications are key to engaging employees and strengthening your company culture. Our internal communications best practices and tips from the experts we spoke to might give you some ideas for forming your internal communications strategy.
Wondering where to start with your strategy?