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What is an internal communications plan?



An internal communications plan is for your team. Those crazy cats who make your organisation or business what it is. And I mean everyone: board members, directors, managers, staff, volunteers. Even if you just have a couple of people working with you, an internal communications plan could still be handy.

People are communicating all over the place. Or not. Despite what you hear about our social-media-pimpled insanely noisy Communications Age, some folks actually manage to stay quiet when perhaps they could be saying something valuable. A gobsmacking thought.

So what does an internal communications plan do?

An internal communications plan is about keeping everyone informed of important changes within the organisation. It also gives them a chance to offer their feedback on these changes and/or share their ideas. It’s about having a healthy open flow of communication between everyone – not just top to bottom, but around and about as well.

What kind of communication?

Internal communication doesn’t just address formal communication channels like meetings, internal newsletters and the like. It also takes on board more casual forms of communication such as good-natured chatter, office gossip and body language.

Why is an internal communications plan important?

How communications happens in your workplace is the foundation of your workplace culture. Clear internal communications means your people are more likely to…

  • be uber-perky
    Feeling motivated is easier when you are clear on what is expected of you
  • take James Bond-like initiative
    Confidence oomphs when you are clear on the best way to do things
  • have Rolex (tick tick) efficiency
    Inefficient doubling up is less likely to happen because everyone knows who’s doing what
  • be less whiny
    Less conflicting ideas on what’s important means less complaining

With an internal communications plan, everyone is working from the same page – literally. The whole team is clear on:

  • what we think is important (core values)
  • why we are all here doing this  (goals)
  • how we do it (process)

And this means back-slapping, healthy bonuses and a pretty impressive Christmas party are more likely to occur.

How do you start?

It is important to understand how your people (board, staff, volunteers – the usual suspects) are feeling about the current level of internal communication. Everyone from top to toe of the organisation needs to get on board with this investigation.

8 key questions you can ask:

  1. Are you feeling properly informed about changes that happen here?
    Note: This may depend on what kinds of changes – make suggestions

  2. Do you feel you have the information you need to take initiative appropriate to your role?
  3. Do you receive much information about what’s going on from others here…more in a casual way, like in the tearoom or through social media?
  4. Do you feel comfortable sharing your opinions here?
Note: This may depend on the topic – make suggestions

  5. What ways do you prefer to receive information? (e.g. email, in meetings, etc.)
    Note: the method may depend on what info is shared (e.g. general updates, important staff changes, etc.) 

  6. What ways do you prefer to give information?
    Note: information in the form of proposals, instructions, constructive criticism, grievances – again, this may depend on what info is shared
  7. Are you clear on what the organisation’s missions and goals are?
  8. Do you have any thoughts on how communication can improve in the organisation?

How you ask these questions may also prove important to each person – e.g.: face-to-face, phone or Skype conversation, written form, online survey, group meeting, etc.

If you receive some negative responses from these questions, don’t raise the boxing gloves. Encourage the person to open about about it. Ask them to share specific examples so you’re clear on exactly what’s going on with them.


The plan format

While the types of plans may vary, your internal communications plan usually involves these eight steps:

  1. Goal: What do you want your business/organisation to look like, communications-wise?
    e.g. That all members of the Acme P/L team have access to the information they need to:
-  feel motivated
-  take initiative
-  fulfill their responsibilities 
-  work together well
  2. Objectives: More specific and measurable than your goal: What is needed to meet your goal?
    e.g. Making sure everyone on our team are clear on our values, goals and the agreed paths to meet those goals – and are fully informed of all developments relevant to them.
  3. Key messages: Messages are not necessarily to be stated in all communications, but to inform the attitude and tone of communications.
    e.g. ‘Your ideas for the direction and growth of Acme P/L are valued and important.
  4. Audience: Who is your team? (your board, staff, volunteers) How does the communications structure currently work for them? How might it work better in the future?
  5. Your forms of communication:
    [1] Make a list of tools available
e.g. SMS, phone, email, face-to-face meetings, mailing newsletter, etc.
    [2] List strategies to use tools e.g. email agenda before each meeting
  6. Implementation plan: Which team member distributes what information when.
  7. Confirmation of plan: Once the six steps are addressed, you may need to show it to all team members for feedback (or at least key staff, depending on the size of your team).
  8. Monitoring: Is the plan being implemented as intended? If not, adjust where necessary. Consider asking your team those eight key questions to see what is working and what isn’t.

Want more info?

I’ve read all kinds of articles and booklets on internal communications. But the best to date is the Internal Communication Toolkit by Jessica Hume for CIVICUS. Who’s CIVICUS? The World Alliance for Citizen Participation ( Somewhat ambitious people who take communication VERY seriously.

This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing coach/swashbuckler who has an internal communications plan for her team of one, so she knows how to talk to herself effectively. Find out more about Megan.

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Posted on Oct 8th, 2013 Communications  ,

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