optimize your internal communication flow

10 steps to an effective internal communication flow

Is the communication flow in your organization referred to as a jungle or just inept for essential communication? Then now is time to tighten up. Here are ten steps to streamline your internal channels and communication flow.

By: Solrun Sigfusdottir Øfjord, Communication advisor (20 March 2017)

In many organizations, there are two types of communication: operational communication and strategy communication. Sometimes the tasks merge, and other times they are separate. And in some places, operational communication is low-prestige, while for others it is the core of internal communication.

Regardless of how the strategic and operational communication go hand in hand, a solid daily take on the internal channels is essential for successful strategic communication. In other words, operational communication should be strategic with a razor-sharp focus on constantly keeping the interfaces effective.

The solution is not to communicate more, but smarter. So, here’s a ten-step guide on how to streamline the internal communication flow in your organization:

  1. Set a long-term goal
    Start by defining a long-term goal for the internal communication flow. What are the objectives for the internal communication? What are the organization’s communication needs? What questions should an improved communication flow answer? For example: How should a communication flow help employees get the information they need? The answers will help you set objectives for the internal communication flow.
  1. Map needs
    List target groups on one side and their goals to the other side. Now, map the ‘journey’ towards the goals including touch points. Where do different employees seek information? And if they do not find it there, where do they look then? The intranet, a colleague, the line manager, staff magazine, or maybe even externally. By doing this exercise you will map where to strengthen the communication and where the target groups are receptive to communication.
  1. Map channels
    This is not an exercise in repairing existing channels, but an exercise in finding channels suited for the organization’s needs as well as the needs of the target groups. Use a SWOT analysis to map channels’ strengths and weaknesses and internal opportunities and threats – and to assess whether it is time to break with some channels, revitalize some, or create new ones.
  1. Select channels
    Select the channels matching the needs from step 2 and 3. The mix and the number of channels depend on the organization’s structure, culture and size. But less is more. For most organizations, the intranet will be the main road, supplemented by smaller, more exclusive roads for internal campaigns and roll-outs, such as town halls, info screens, newsletters, flyers and mobile enabled games.
  1. Design channels
    Design the new channels so they meet the organization’s need to communicate and the employees’ needs for knowledge. Moreover, the channels must be user-friendly, accessible, measurable, and reflect the target audience’s expectations for the specific channels. Today, employees of all ages expect digital media to include social functions and invite for dialog or feedback – also the digital media in the workplace.
  1. Create editorial guidelines
    Complete editorial guidelines for each channel – quite simple, max one page with objectives, success criteria, target groups, content, and frequency. It is important that each channel has a clear profile, so the internal communications professionals know exactly what to publish where and how to create synergy between channels. This is essential so it is clear to the target groups what to find where.
  1. Involve management
    Involve management in improving the efficiency of the communication flow. Get the editorial guidelines on the management’s agenda, present the analysis and recommendations, advice them in deciding which way to go, and make it clear that relevant content requires their engagement. In other words: Create ownership and create trust in the effectiveness of the new communication flow.
  1. Be bold
    Internal news is reputed to be rather rosy in its approach. There are multiple reasons why: The classic criteria for newsworthiness are hard to fulfill, the writers are biased as they are both the sender and the receiver, and the writers might be interested in positioning themselves (positively) to the management. This is why it is extremely important to encourage the management to communicate a bigger slice of the ‘why’ and also to ensure that management accepts and supports the premise.
  1. Measure – learn – improve
    Continuous measurements are a prerequisite for keeping the interface effective: Statistical data on relevant content or a pulse measurement on the navigation asking: ‘Did you find what you were looking for?’, or on the content, e.g. ‘Did this article give you a better understanding of our 2020 strategy?’. For printed material, it is alright to accept a loose approach to measurements to avoid questionnaires and focus groups. Just ask people around the corridors and listen to the grapevine. The mantra should be measure – learn – improve. This does not mean that you should constantly change the editorial policies, but you should be ready to adapt if needs or behaviors have changed significantly over a year’s time.
  1. Keep the interface efficient
    And as a final step in this guide: Keep the interface efficient. Every day, always. This simply means that the management must prioritize resources spent on keeping the interfaces efficient, and the editorial team needs to dedicate time to provide relevant content, target the content, then ensure that the content is in the right place and that it supports the strategies.

So, now you are ready to rock your internal communication flow. Please, share your take on keeping the channels lean in your organization.