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A definitive guide on how to develop your internal communications strategy. Includes a blueprint, step by step process, top tips and tools to help your develop your internal communications strategy which aligns with business goals.
The Definitive Guide
Developing your Internal
1. Developing your internal communications strategy
– How to create a blueprint
– Top tips
2. Where are we now?
– Review the current situation
– Conducting an internal communications audit
3. Where do we want to be?
– Identifying strategic drivers
– Audience identification and segmentation
– Key messages
4. How are we going to get there?
– Developing the aims and objectives
– Communications planning
– Measurement and evaluation
– Format and structure
5. Conclusion and next steps
Developing your Internal Communications Strategy
Internal communications is a function that helps leaders
inform and engage employees in a way that motivates
them to maximise their performance and deliver
Internal communications helps:
• Business deliver its objectives
• Employees see the connection between their jobs
and organisational vision
• Understand employee engagement and what drives
• Managers communicate better with their teams
• Increased productivity, innovation, customer
satisfaction and employee retention
A recent Deloitte study showed
that 95% of CEO’s said that
internal communications was
important to their organisations’
future but only 22% thought it
was delivered well.
36% of internal communicators
admit to having no strategy in
Developing an Internal Communications Strategy
Employees are key to brand, reputation and productivity. It is not
enough to tell them what the strategy and vision are, we have to
equip them to deliver it through good internal communications and
Change is now a constant for organisations – there is no longer a
steady state. Organisations are in constant flux which means they
have to constantly strive for new ways to innovate, change and
evolve. This poses challenges for senior leaders and therefore
communicators need to shape authentic narratives and build trust.
Here we tackle the subject of developing an internal
communications strategy to help you elevate the profile of internal
communications within your organisation and place it firmly in the
sights of the leadership team.
Getting leadership and senior
management to support your
strategy is critical – you need
to show how your internal
supporting and delivering
Your IC strategy is like a blue print or roadmap – it sets out
your organisation’s journey. It should illustrate the big picture
of what you want to achieve and should always link back to
the organisation’s overall strategy.
Understand the business strategy and align your strategy to it.
Your objectives and measurement should be totally aligned
with your business goals.
Right from the outset define how you will measure success –
work backwards from there.
How to create a blueprint for your internal communications
Research – Where are we now
• SWOT analysis of the current state
• Communications audit
Plan – Where do we want to be
• Audience identification & segmentation
• Stakeholder mapping
• Key messages and message map
• Channels analysis & planning
Execute – How are we going to get there
• Communications aims & objectives
• Communications plan
Measure – How will we know we have achieved the goals
• Monitoring and measuring
• Next steps
Use the framework below to create your internal communications blueprint.
Ensure that your strategy is :
Research based – Gather knowledge and insight about the organisation for proof and to help you with
evaluation. Use qualitative and quantitative research methodology e.g. people surveys, focus groups and
Employee focussed – Establish what you want employees to do, think, feel or say. Put employees at the
heart of your strategy.
Results focussed – Measurement is key to understanding what ‘good’ looks like, what has worked and
what has not so that you can evaluate your strategy.
The key questions you should ask yourself are:
• Where we are now? - This is an audit of the current situation - vital for an assessment of where you want
• Where do we want to be? – These are your objectives or aspirations.
• How are we going to get there? – The what, how and why. This needs to include timelines, evaluation and
measurement so you will know you have got there.
Where are we now?
Review of the current situation.
It is vital to conduct research about what you are currently doing and where you are in order to make an
assessment of where you want to be.
Conduct a communications audit - this is all about listening and will give you the raw material to craft the
• Review key documents to make strategic links back to communications:
– Existing business strategy
– Vision, values & mission
– Divisional strategies
– People surveys
• Review your organisation
– Future trends
– Conduct a SWOT analysis
Where are we now?
• Review the prevailing organisational culture in terms of:
– Shared set of beliefs – the way things are done around here
• Review the prevailing management styles:
– Which are dominant in the organisation?
– What are the characteristics of this style and what are the implications on that style for change and
Carry out surveys, 1:1 interviews, focus groups with senior leaders, management and employees to
corroborate information found and reviewed in the ‘where are we now’ phase.
Conduct further research to ascertain any information gaps and fill these.
Top Tips – Conducting an Internal Communications Audit
The point of an audit is to ask and then listen. An audit will give you some of the raw material you need to
develop the strategy.
• Listening can take place in a number of different formats – the most effective tend to be:
– Focus groups – qualitative data. Deeper dive into the survey questions. Recruit between 10-15
participants and ensure good coverage of demographics.
– Employee surveys - quantitative data. Ask questions which give hard data. Keep the questions short
– Executive interviews – Assessment of leadership opinions – get their views, test your ideas and find
out what they are prepared to do.
• Collect and evaluate past communications – What are the goals and objectives for the communications?
Are the communications conveying the information staff need in the way they want to receive it? Are the
communications clear and consistent? Are the communications harnessing action? What communications
opportunities are missing?
• Evaluate channels – Are the channels effective? Have a range been used? Are you achieving two-way
dialogue as well as information dissemination? Are the channels optimal for the message? Assess what you
should stop, start and continue.
Where do we want to be?
Begin with the end in mind.
This is where you will set out your aspirations. It requires looking at the strategic drivers:
• Hard strategic drivers = corporate plan, business plan, strategies – HR, People, OD, Marketing, Customer
• Soft strategic drivers = vision, mission, brand, strategic narrative
You will need to make connections with these strategic drivers and ascertain how the IC strategy can deliver on
these. You will need to establish how you can help create an environment through communications and
engagement where these strategies can flourish and deliver the desired outcomes.
Tools to help you determine where you want
Evaluate activities and place
them on the communications
grid to determine their impact
on the organisation and
identify if you are allocating
the right resources to the right
Performance / Impact
Audience identification & segmentation
There are a variety of ways to segment your audience.
Segmentation allows to tailor your messages to your audiences.
There are a number of criteria by which you can segment:
• Engagement levels & attitudes
• Employee life cycle
• Job role
• Management responsibility
• Channel preference
Keep Satisfied – have sufficient
engagement to satisfy them that their
voices are heard. Avoid low value
contact so that they do not lose
Keep regularly informed – use two
way communication. Maintain interest
and monitor issues and concerns.
These stakeholders are potential
advocates & ambassadors.
Manage closely – need strong buy in
from these individuals. Fully engage
and make greatest effort to satisfy
concerns and requirements for
Monitor – keep informed but do not
overload with excessive information
or superfluous Information.
Use this model to map
your stakeholders against
influence and interest.
Use this to determine
how to prioritise your
How many people are like
this? Trends, indices and
Who they are
Key facts – age, gender,
ethnic group, job role
requirements, location, grade,
length of service
General attitudes to work
Levels of engagement, key
Our insight task / issue
Behaviour: what they do
Behaviour triggers, barriers,
place of doing, how
frequently, signals of things
emotional, hidden needs
Loves, hates, pleases,
displeases, must haves, key
Beliefs and attitudes
Thoughts, beliefs, attitudes,
what makes them feel good or
Use this tool to identify key traits for your audiences and how to best communicate with them.
• Choosing the correct channel includes thinking about who your audience or audiences are. Different
audiences may need to be reached in different ways.
• Think about your audience’s level of knowledge and base this on insight, rather than assumption.
The nature of the message
• Consider the type of message you are communicating and what channels are most appropriate.
• If your message is urgent – such as in a time of crisis – and you need to reach people quickly and you may
be restricted to those channels which are quick to use and which you know people are most likely to see.
• On the other hand, if you have time to plan and consider what you want to communicate – where a big
change programme is on the horizon for example – you should take time to better plan your use of
channels, considering how your audience should be segmented, the channels most appropriate for each
and tailor your message accordingly.
• Consider timing in relation to the other internal communications activity taking place. Staff will only have
time to see and absorb a certain amount of information at one time.
Developing the aims and objectives
• Aims – The organisation’s overall intention.
• Objectives – How the organisation will achieve its aims. These should be SMART, comms based and
centred around things that are within your control to deliver. They must be shared with other departments
(i.e. HR, OD, Customer Services) and outcome focussed. They need to show how internal communications
is supporting the organisational strategy.
The principles should be guided by the culture of the organisation. They will include things like delivering
timely and targeted communications, delivering face to face communications for all the organisation’s key
messages, presenting all communications in plain English, ensuring line manager participation and creating
opportunities for dialogue and engagement.
Key Message development
• Our objective – why are we communicating and what outcome do we want as a result
• What is the single compelling idea that we want to be remembered
• Communications outcomes – What do we want people to do (behaviours), feel (beliefs and attitudes) and
know (take out from what we have communicated).
Key messages should:
• Encapsulate a simple idea
• Be much more than a load of information
• Be clearly focussed on why the audience should be interested – make it totally relevant
• Include factual and emotional elements
• Include proof
Produce a high level action plan which includes the following elements:
• Why – overall business objective or goal. How are your communications adding value?
• Who – who it is relevant to, will they understand, what do they know or think now, what do you want each
group to do differently?
• What – what are we asking people to engage with? What is in it for them?
• When – is there timing conflict and is speed important?
• How – which channels are most appropriate for the audience and the message? What style is best?
• Feedback – how will you track success against the objectives?
Relate all the above back to the business strategy and show how each support the strategy. Test with senior
leaders before launching the strategy in order to get buy-in. Include a section on timelines and milestones to
show how you intend to deliver and also identify risks and how you will mitigate them.
Measurement and evaluation
• Measurement is key to understanding what ‘good’ looks like. Whether you have achieved your objectives
and what has and hasn’t worked. This will inform senior leaders of the efficacy of your strategy and the
impact it has had on the organisation.
• Hard and soft measures – It is important to try and include both hard and soft measures in your evaluation in
order for the senior management to take them seriously. Your Board and in particular your FD will definitely
be looking for hard measures because that is what they are used to seeing and how the organisational
strategy will be measured and evaluated.
• Focus on outcomes not just outputs – it’s tempting to report on outputs because they are easy to measure
(such as open rates, and website hits), however it is much more important to focus on outcomes, such as
increased engagement and improved ROI, as these are the real measure of success.
What to measure
• Usage statistics – these will show outputs only, such as delivered messages, open rates and number of hits.
• Intranet “quick polls” and “pulse” surveys – consisting of one or two questions, these can be a good way of
gaining instant feedback or revealing new issues requiring attention.
• Phone surveys – these can be more informal/relaxed and, again, are a useful way of getting instant
feedback from employees and an opportunity to gain additional insights into what is and isn’t working.
• Online surveys – larger surveys made up of a mixture of ‘yes/no’, matrix and multiple choice questions, plus
perhaps one or two open-ended questions for some additional qualitative feedback.
• Focus groups – small group meetings or workshops for gathering qualitative rather than quantitative
responses and for digging deeper into employees’ perceptions and opinions.
• The final phase of the communications measurement strategy is where you analyse your findings to
determine both the level of success and the areas that need to be adapted, improved or even completely
• The precision and quality of your original audit and campaign objectives is crucial to being able to properly
evaluate the effectiveness of your communications – particularly if you wish to demonstrate ROI by linking
communications to specific business or financial goals.
• However, once the measurement of communications has been undertaken and the results analysed, act
swiftly on your findings – make the appropriate changes to your comms strategy, propose business
improvements to the Management and address any employee concerns that have been raised.
• Ensure you share your conclusions throughout the organisation, highlighting success stories and showing
employees what has been learned and how this is shaping the future of the business.
Format and structure
• Length, format and structure will vary organisation by organisation and depend upon the size, complexity
and norms within your organisation. The level of detail will also determine length.
• As a general rule you should include the following headings:
1. Aims and Objectives – The key business objectives this
strategy is trying to solve e.g. increased productivity/
increased employee engagement/change programme etc.
2. Executive Summary – Precis of key elements of the strategy
3. Main report
• Where we are now?
• Where do we want to be?
• How are we going to get there?
4. Conclusions and next steps
Final top tips
• Finishing the document isn’t the end of the process – you will need to secure buy-in from the senior
leadership and support colleagues to deliver it.
• You should think of your strategy as a living document and revisit it keeping in focus the landscape of the
organisation. This way you will be able map their issues/needs/circumstances and ensure there is a good
• Don’t work in isolation – you need to understand what colleagues in different departments across the
organisation think, feel and do as a result of your communications and adjust accordingly.
Conclusions and next steps
• Getting leadership and senior management to support your internal communications strategy is critical –
you need to show how your internal communications is supporting and delivering business objectives, so
make explicit the links between the IC strategy and wider organisational strategy. This will improve buy-in.
• Horizon scan! Know the landscape internally across all departments and geographies in terms of activity
and projects for the future & map them.
• It’s important to make sure you engage with all key decision makers up front and make sure you take them
with you as you develop the strategy.
• Think of your strategy as a living, breathing document. Revisit it regularly and be prepared to adjust
according to the climate of your organisation.
• Good luck !
Marrow is a specialist internal communications and employee
We are internal communications and engagement specialists helping organisations deliver better
Marrow offers a range of services:
• Strategy & Planning - We can work with you to develop your strategy, whether it is conducting an audit, channel review,
strategic narrative development or a full strategic review.
• Research & Insight - We can help you conduct, interpret and plan outcome based, actionable programmes as a result of your
• Content Development – We develop great content to help you create context, clarity and conversations internally.
• Creative Communications - We work with you to bring creativity to your internal communications campaigns which will help
bring them to life and help you engage.
• Masterclasses – a range of classes to help you develop your strategy with case study material, practical workshop exercises
and blueprints. Register your interest in our Internal Communications Strategy Masterclass in February 2017
For further information about Marrow and our services, please contact us:
www.marrowcommunications.co.uk | T: 01435 408625 / 07969 030041 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org