How to create effective internal communicationsMatthew Maguire
For the second article in this digital transformation blog series, we will be outlining how to create effective internal communications content to energise your colleagues to embrace and adopt technology change.
To reliably engage with colleagues, you need to consistently create and deliver high quality content that can cut through the day-to-day business noise, command attention, and inspire action. According to a recent survey by ContactMonkey, 95% of businesses rely on email as their primary channel for internal communications. This is despite the fact that, on average, 38% of colleagues don’t open a typical comms email and only 8% click through to follow-up content.
In this article, we will be focusing on delivering better email, but the same principles can be applied to the range of communications and engagement channels available to you.
What good looks like
‘Good’ communications are any that are actually consumed and which are successful in achieving the intended purpose. Their primary purpose is usually the delivery of key information to colleagues ahead of change, to stimulate them to take actions, and motivate them to embrace new ways of working.
Across email, social media posts, webpages, videos, or town hall events, you can apply the following principles to ensure quality:
- Be clear, brief and accessible: Use a logical structure and avoid jargon so that all can understand it. Use shorter sentences and paragraphs where possible and consider a ‘TL;DR’ summary up front for longer content.
- Make it visually engaging: Use images, icons, charts, or other media to make your message stand out. Use a consistent visual brand to make your comms appear professional and trustworthy.
- Tailor content to the audience: Take time to segment your audience and send tweaked versions so that you are telling people only what they need to know. Make them feel individually valued.
- Be personable and honest: Use informal, collegiate language to reinforce that digital transformation is something you are doing together. Be honest about delays or mistakes; your colleagues will understand.
- Coordinate with other teams: Before you share anything, be sure to coordinate with other teams so they know what you are proposing to say and when. Identify the optimal time to send your comms.
Below, we break down the process of creating and delivering content into three parts; what you say, how you say it, and when to say it.
Part one: What you say
At the outset of a new digital transformation initiative, you should focus on agreeing a detailed narrative for the technology changes so that it can be used to deliver a consistent message through the life of the programme and across simultaneous communications channels. Once you are into the delivery phase, you should only need to flesh out the specific implementation details of each step. To develop the right content, consider the following steps:
- Get clear direction and guidance from your digital transformation leader. You need an agreed definition of the purpose of the digital transformation, what the tangible benefits will be for your people (not the wider business), and how it fits into the company’s strategy. Every piece of comms should repeat these key messages.
- Understand and focus on your colleagues’ perspective. Your comms needs to resonate with your colleagues’ needs, concerns, and perspectives. Take time to understand their narrative of the transformation and how they will perceive changes, particularly where changes will be disruptive or unpopular. You need to communicate what is important to them, not you.
- Map out the end-to-end technical details of each change. Work out, in detail, how changes will work and the impact it will have on your colleagues. Apply ‘user journey’ mapping or other techniques to identify what actions are required in advance and any new ways of working to adopt.
- Collaborate with others to confirm and review your narrative. Work with partner transformation project teams, digital champion networks, and other comms teams to review your transformation narrative. This will prevent any stakeholders from being surprised, reduce groupthink, and help to identify any problems which may have been overlooked.
Part two: How you say it
Having refined the detailed narrative for the transformation, you need to turn this into individual items of communications which are clear, concise, and consistent. You want to express complex and potentially emotive issues in an empathetic way, making it easy for your colleagues to see how your thorough preparations and support planning will make changes successful, despite the disruption. To create quality content, consider the following steps:
- Use a logical structure that is easy to navigate. Use striking headlines, a clear opening paragraph, and a logical structure to ensure your colleagues know to keep reading your content. Consider the following structure:
|Headline||Write a short, clear, and striking headline to attract readers|
|Summary paragraph||An opening paragraph, in bold, which reinforces why colleagues must keep reading. Include:
A number of short, logically separated paragraphs to explain the detail of the change, including:
|Call to action||Highlight what you need your colleagues to do in advance, during, and after the change. Embed a call to action in the summary paragraph for those more likely to skim the content|
|More information||Signpost where more information or alternative channel content can be found|
|Queries||Provide the name and contact details of a real person colleagues can reach out to|
- Use clear, informal, and empathetic language to make your communications personable. Just as you would communicate with your customers, use simple language which reinforces the benefits and value of the transformation.
- Use first- and second-person pronouns to be personable – we, you, us
- Use the active rather the passive voice to convey more energy
- Avoid technical jargon where possible
- Spell out all acronyms
- Include branding and graphics to make your content more appealing, consistent, and trustworthy. Mirroring your marketing campaigns, use imagery in your comms to give impact and professionalism:
- Include your company logo and stock images as ‘hero’ graphics around your headline
- Use icons or other graphics to break up content sections
- Put your content in a table to make it display centrally
- Use your company’s preferred fonts and larger font sizes
- Have an independent stakeholder review content before release. Check spelling, that graphics display correctly, and that hyperlinks work. Ask reviewers to evaluate the clarity, brevity, and accuracy of the content. Where sending comms via email, be sure to conduct a technical check on a live email to ensure it displays as expected.
Part three: When and where you say it
As part of your work to segment colleague groups, research which communications channels your colleagues prefer – either traditional ‘push’ communications (e.g. email or live presentations) or ‘pull’ (e.g. intranet pages, recorded sessions, enterprise social media threads, or chat channels). You should plan to deliver the same content using each of these methods to ensure you reach your entire audience. To land your content well across all these channels, consider the following steps:
- Build and follow a message calendar to coordinate content releases. Working back from key transformation deadlines, plot when you need to release each item across all channels. Get input from colleague groups about work periods to avoid (e.g. half term).
- Release content across multiple channels simultaneously. Ensure content you send via email is also posted on the intranet and shared via enterprise social media. Include links to other content types so your colleagues can choose how they want to consume it. Consistently refer to your intranet ‘hub’ to reinforce it as the go-to place for information about the transformation.
- Use automation to be more efficient and give your colleagues control. Where possible, enable your colleagues to opt in or out of receive email communications so they have control. Make the most of your intranet site and social media integrations for a ‘create one, share many’ communications approach. Later articles in this series will explore how to use SharePoint and Power Automate to optimise your internal communications.
- Coordinate the timing of your communications with key stakeholders. Before you release anything, make sure you aren’t about to overshadow a communication from the CEO or otherwise disrupt someone else’s plans.
Always be learning
As your digital transformation develops and your colleagues’ expectations evolve, you will need to learn and adapt the principles described above to get the most from your internal communications.
A recent Forbes survey suggested 78% of businesses don’t conduct reviews of their communications strategy or approaches. To be more effective than your competition, you should get feedback from colleagues and data from your communications systems so you can make data-driven decisions to improve your key messages, the presentation of your content and how it is served.
There are a range of technologies available to provide quantitative data to help evaluate the effectiveness of your communications, including:
- Colleague satisfaction surveys, either conducted each quarter (e.g. Pulse Survey) or by including CSAT voting buttons in emails or on intranet pages.
- Analysing intranet site hit data to see how many colleagues are accessing your content
- Embedding trackers in your comms emails to track open rates, click-through rates and read times
- Quantifying engagement on enterprise social media posts
As you evolve your communication approach, keep the three most important aims in mind:
- Consistently emphasise the importance and benefits of your transformation initiative
- Write logically and clearly, empathising with those most impacted by the changes
- Coordinate closely with partner teams and digital champion groups to avoid comms mistakes
Credera has over 30 years’ experience delivering challenging digital transformations, including helping our clients setup and run internal technology communication functions. Reach out to us if you need advice on how to develop your strategy, craft your key messages, and make the most of your internal communications technology.
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