An internal communications plan can take your messaging from haphazard to strategic. Here’s a 7-step process for developing a communications plan to engage your employees and contribute to organizational priorities like employee engagement and wellbeing.
- Articulate your goals. Before you create content, identify your purpose. Beyond communicating with employees, what do you want to achieve with your internal communications? Are you supporting an organizational priority like workplace culture, employee engagement, benefits enrollment, or participation in wellness challenges? By starting with your purpose(s), you can create a more intentional communications plan.
- Identify your audience segments. Broadcasting one message for all is easy to do, but as a communications professional, you understand the value of tailoring messages to specific audience segments and learning modalities. Start by defining these. Beyond location and role, it can be helpful to account for diverse demographics like career and life stages, along with past participation and recipient behavior. Start your communications and campaign planning by standing in your audience’s shoes: What do those employee segments care about?
- Balance resources and tools. Given the financial and human resources you have at hand, what can you realistically accomplish? Consider your channels (e.g. email, intranet, chat, etc.), technology tools, and your team’s capabilities. Planning resource allocations — and knowing what can be accomplished — will help when you are asked to do more with less, and it will help you present options when something has to give.
- Add voice to your brand guidelines. Having a defined and standardized set of brand-approved fonts, colors, logos and layouts will save you time and help keep your communications team on the same page. But what about your internal language and tone of voice? Is your brand conversational and casual or matter-of-fact and respectful? Do you casually joke a bit, or are you more serious and matter of fact? With a clearly defined brand voice — regardless of who is writing — you establish a consistent and unified presence. Use it to inform the type of language you use and the style of messaging you distribute.
- Brainstorm your key messaging. Next, it’s time to create your key messaging (i.e. umbrella statements). These concise statements should convey your overarching message(s). They should be strategic, compelling, simple, and memorable, and can be used across your communications. You will want these for each of your primary communications programs, and they can also provide the framework for more specific campaign content creation later. For example, you might start with “The benefits programs you want, without stress or confusion.” and later add “Mental wellbeing starts with stress reduction. Come learn how to let it go.” These statements create your intentions and direction and outline what your audience needs to know.
- Create an action plan and schedule. With all the groundwork laid, you can create a plan and schedule. Based on the work you’ve done so far, what needs to happen and when? If you need to partner with HR or IT to create your audience segment distribution groups, be sure to add that to your plan. If you need to purchase new tools or technologies, schedule your rollout and training. Then map your programs and key messaging to create a draft content calendar.
- Identify how you will measure results. Plan to evaluate the effectiveness of your communications plan on a regular cadence (e.g. monthly, quarterly, annually). Identify your success metrics, and include time for data collection and analysis. Most communications programs can be measured in terms of reach, frequency, readership, and engagement. You might be able to add qualitative employee feedback data from surveys, as well as participation data like benefits enrollment.
While we can never avoid having to deal with crises and sudden, last-minute immediate deadline projects, having an intentional and strategic communications plan will help you better manage that chaos. You can even plan room for those events by leaving some slack in your calendar. Communications planning helps you organize your team and present a unified voice and strategic messaging for your organization to follow. You’ve got this.