Strategic Communications 101: What It Is and How To Improve It

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

16 Nov 2023

Communication professionals have a lot to manage these days, and marketing departments spend a ton of time juggling all the various types of communication.

Public relations, press releases, social media, traditional media platforms, and countless other internal and external communications channels are all fighting for attention. And each one has its own unique needs and requirements.

Too often, marketing communications devolve into continual firefighting across various digital media platforms. But successful external communications have to be more than that. And effective internal organizational communication absolutely needs a strategy or roadmap.  

Strategic communications is often touted as the solution to these challenges. But what exactly is it? And how can strategic communications benefit your organization? Let’s find out.

What does ‘strategic communications’ mean?

Strategic communications is a form of corporate communication organizations use to convey a consistent message that’s in alignment with organizational goals.

Internal strategic communications tend to focus on big-picture strategy, including the vision and mission of an organization. These communications help employees understand what a company values and, by extension, what they need to do to contribute toward those values.

External strategic communications also focus on mission and vision, but the focus is on how they apply to media relations or PR goals.

There are three key components of strategic communication:

  • Message development (what we need to say)
  • Audience targeting (who needs to hear it)
  • Channel selection (how we will communicate it)

Benefits of strategic communications

Creating a strategic communications framework (one that’s distinct from your operational comms) can provide significant value, including these benefits.

Stronger reputation

First, strategic communications helps your organization build and maintain a strong reputation, both internally with employees and externally with customers and prospects.

It’s a little like branding – when you employ consistent on-brand messaging, people notice. When an organization’s branding is all over the place, people notice that, too.

Strategic comms give you a framework for producing communications that are more than just on brand. They’re also consistent with your vision and values. This kind of messaging consistency helps to shape how people think about your business, including both internal and public opinion.

Increased stakeholder trust

That stronger reputation extends to your stakeholders too. Strategic communications foster greater trust among stakeholders, including clients, partners, and employees. This is because transparent, reliable, consistent communication is inherently more trustworthy than any other alternative.

But this only works if your communication has substance. As PwC put it in a recent comms newsletter, “Great delivery without substance is a gimmick.” (One that your stakeholders will quickly see through.)

Improved employee engagement

Strategic communications can also positively impact employee engagement and morale. To show you how, we need to take a look at the effects of negative or absent comms.

People today want to work for organizations that share their values, and this is far more important than in previous generations. A CNBC report found that as many as 40% of workers might quit because their organization took a stand they didn’t agree with. And 56% wouldn’t consider a workplace at all if it didn’t represent their values.

In today’s hyper-saturated media environment, if you don’t tell people what your organization stands for, they’ll make their own assumptions. And that rarely works out well for brands.

Your employees do the same thing. If your values are unclear, people will either disengage or make their own assumptions. But when you make your values clear via  effective communication, you’ll help people feel confident in your vision and motivated to support those values.

Better, data-driven decisions 

Strategic communications can provide decision-makers with accurate and timely data as well. By communicating clearly and quickly, organizations can equip their employees with information that’s both correct and up to date, leading to more informed decisions and more successful outcomes.

Competitive advantage

Last, strategic comms can give you an edge over your competitors.

Let’s imagine you have a competitor that offers a functionally identical product to yours. That competitor gives off vague, unclear, or contradictory messaging, while your messaging gives audiences a clear picture of who you are, what you provide, and what you stand for.

It’s not hard to see which company is going to win that competition. Through effective communication, you can enhance your brand positioning in the market.

How to enhance employee strategic communications

Strategic communications is both an external discipline and a category of internal communications. Organizations that pay attention to the employee or internal side of strategic comms create a better, more cohesive company culture centered around clearly defined values and a specific mission.

If your organization is looking to create a better environment for internal strategic communications, use these strategies to get started.

Centralize communication in one platform

Remember the three key components of strategic communications we mentioned earlier? The third one, channel selection, is a place where many organizations falter.

Some communications arrive via email. Others get posted to an intranet or homepage. Others get distributed top-down via managers in department meetings. Collaboration and chat apps, wikis, quarterly updates, and even letters or printed memos – any and every format seems to be fair game.

This approach has numerous disadvantages. Memos get missed. People remember getting some communication but can’t find it when they need to verify a policy or update. (“Was that an email? A Teams message? Did my boss just say it in passing?”) Plus, some people inevitably get left out of communications they should have received.

But when an organization centralizes communication efforts in a single platform, all of these questions are eliminated. Everyone knows where to find that nugget of information, and it’s a lot less likely (and perhaps even impossible) for someone to get left off a thread or skipped.

Workvivo is an ideal solution for centralizing communication – it’s a place for all kinds of employee comms. It serves as a social intranet, a knowledge management platform, a place for corporate updates, and more.

See how Workvivo can solve your strategic communications challenges by centralizing communication: Request your demo now.

Boost employee engagement with technology

Another persistent problem with internal strategic communications is getting employees to engage with them.

It’s a problem when an employee gets overlooked or left off a distribution list. But it’s an entirely different problem when the employee gets the memo – but doesn’t bother to read it.

At the same time, who could blame them? We are inundated with emails, pop-up notifications, chat messages, and more. It’s a literal information overload.

Better technology is the real solution here. With Workvivo, your organization gains a comms platform that reduces notification overload and makes strategic communication more interesting and engaging.

For example, a comms message in Workvivo can be interactive, with features like surveys or feedback requests embedded in those comms to improve employee engagement. And with Workvivo’s social intranet, strategic comms can come straight from senior leaders, increasing transparency and encouraging two-way communication.

Together, these engagement-boosting features help get your strategic communications read, improving organization-wide alignment with your goals and vision.

Read more: See how Workvivo amplifies employee engagement

Streamline cross-department collaboration

A unified platform like Workvivo also fosters collaboration across departments. This helps your organization break down communication silos and enhance both the quality and the effectiveness of your strategic communications.

When people can access the same centralized information – instead of relying on their own department’s version of it – your strategic communications become more unified. And the teams responsible for crafting and distributing those comms can move faster.

Convey critical information quickly

Critical information must be shared promptly. From crisis messaging to strategic communications, businesses need to eliminate or reduce any delays in transmission.

This need is even more urgent considering that a full 23% of businesses don’t even have an informal crisis communications plan, let alone written procedures.

Workvivo includes a real-time updates feature that lets organizations push critical or crisis information to key audiences faster. Using push notifications, you’ll be able to send crucial strategic and operational communications directly to employee devices.

Foster simple two-way communication

Effective strategic communications are built on a foundation of simple communications within an organization. That’s because simple communications lay the groundwork for clear understanding, information sharing, and alignment among employees.

In other words, when employees can communicate easily and simply with each other, they’re already working from a place of greater understanding. As a result, your strategic communications are better and more readily understood.

Workvivo offers numerous features that help improve employee communication, including:

  • Targeted messaging for specific employee groups
  • Peer-to-peer and top-down recognition encouragement
  • Interactive features (comments, likes, feedback, etc.)
  • Visual multimedia content (images, videos, infographics, etc.)

Measure impact and refine strategies over time

Finally, be sure to measure the impact of your current communication by using data analytics for strategic communications.

This starts with measuring what matters in internal comms, of course. An effective strategic communications plan must be built around specific goals. And executing that strategic communications program effectively requires tools that make measuring the right data points and metrics possible.

Workvivo’s analytics tools help you measure the impact of your strategic comms so you can refine your organization’s communication strategies and initiatives over time. With Workvivo, you can analyze what content is getting the most reach, gauge employee opinion, and dive deep into user behaviors.

Let Workvivo help your strategic communications shine

Communication management is never easy. Getting the right message to the target audience via the right channel at the right time is equal parts art and science.

But getting strategic communications right is far easier when you’re using the right tools.

Workvivo is the ideal platform for your organizational comms. For internal comms, it solves two of the three pillars of strategic communication: audience targeting and channel selection.

With Workvivo, you reduce the complexity of strategic comms, so you can focus on message development. Selecting a channel is now automatic, and segmenting your audience requires little to no effort after initial setup.

See how Workvivo helps your strategic communications shine. Request your demo now.