Communication is getting easier all the time. We text. We email. We chat. We call. And sometimes we speak face-to-face.
Yet, communicating is still one of the greatest challenges we deal with in the business world. We struggle to get our employees on the same page. We stew over the right way to explain new processes and initiatives. We even have difficulty sharing vital brand information like assets, guidelines, values, and goals.
This has major implications for our brands, as it takes all of our employees collaborating, co-creating, and living our brand to produce an authentic, cohesive experience for customers.
What Causes Poor Communication in the Workplace?
Often, people assume it’s because we’re vague when we send out memos and requests, and our employees are simply unsure about what to do.
But in many cases, the issue isn’t tone, punctuation, or specificity. It’s the process we use to share information across the organization. It’s the way we think about communicating, and the way we engage in it. And often, it’s based on the value system we hold to – how important transparency is to us and how we believe information should flow across our organizations.
As a result, when our processes aren't optimized, and we don't operate under the right mindset, our communication breaks down. Information is bottlenecked or stopped in its tracks. We run into confusion about who was supposed to tell whom and people are accidentally left out of the loop.
One place you might see this is in a team setting where a team lead or manager is given information about a change made to your logomark. They see the email or Slack message you send out, and they have it in their mind to share it with their team before the day ends. But in the busyness of their day, they prioritize other things and forget, and the new campaign is rolled out with the old branding.
At the same time, an employee from a different department receives your memo, but doesn’t realize they’re responsible to pass the information along to the rest of their team. As a result, time-consuming updates are made to your website and app that don’t incorporate your new branding. And you’re left with out-of-date assets that have to be reworked.
How Do You Create an Internal Communication Plan?
While the process of communicating brand information is unique to each organization, the idea behind it is always the same. You want to have a logical progression for moving and sharing information with all of your stakeholders.
How do you design that, though? We have a few ideas. In fact, we've put together an 8-step guide to help you create a strategy for sharing brand information with your employees quickly and effectively. So, without further ado, let's dive in.
1. Audit Your Current Communication Strategy
Usually when we talk about audits, we’re referring to full-fledged brand audits, complete with competitor analyses and a review of our sales and marketing numbers. But in the case of an internal communications audit, the focus is very different.
Here, we want to see exactly what’s working with our current communications strategy – where channels are strong and where people are happy with the methods and frequency of messages.
This is a great time to get input from employees, partners, and external talent. You can ask your in-office managers and their teams to fill out feedback surveys. You can touch base with your frontline employees. You can even loop your partner companies and freelance talent into the conversation.
The great thing about involving other people is it opens the door to different perspectives and new ideas. You may come across suggestions that you hadn’t thought of before -- like ways of communicating that would be faster, easier, or more transparent. And if they point out things that aren’t working, you can make note of that too. In either case, it will give you a baseline for drawing up your new communication strategy.
2. Set Goals
Once you’ve done your research, so to speak, you can start the planning process. And what better place to start than setting goals?
Here, you can take some time to think through exactly what you want to accomplish with your communication strategy. Is it about getting your teams aligned on branding, or are you more interested in building a brand advocacy program? At the same time, you should be thinking about what the ultimate purpose of your goals are. Are you wanting to improve your brand perception, increase your brand awareness, or do something else entirely?
The point is to know exactly where you’re headed, so you can map out the right pathway to reach the goals you’ve set.
3. Get Familiar With Your Audience
The same way you need to know your customers and leads, before you create marketing campaigns, you need to know who you’re communicating with internally, before you send out messages. Not only does it make a big difference in the overall information flow, but it also determines the type of communication and frequency of communication as well.
For instance, you may be working with employees who prefer quick, informal communication, and who are active on instant messaging channels like Slack. But if you don’t know that, your messages may end up getting buried at the bottom of inboxes and missed on your company’s intranet – which is not something you can afford.
On the flip side, knowing exactly where your employees congregate online and how they communicate with each other can help you figure out where to send messages (in this case, via a Slack thread) and the style to write them in, to ensure they’ll be read.
4. Map Out Your Information Flow
From here, you want to figure out the best way to disseminate information across your organization. Part of this will be determined by your brand culture and established processes for communication. However, there are some specific areas where you can set up your own system and best practices.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself along the way:
- Will you be sharing everything with managers, who will then be responsible for disseminating it to their teams? Or will you take the responsibility of contacting everyone in your organization, every time there’s a need to reach out?
- Are you planning to only communicate occasionally (to share updates and changes to the branding)? Or are you wanting to reach out weekly with brand related news and wins?
- Do you have external partners, remote employees, or freelancers that need to be looped in? If so, who will be responsible for sharing the information with them?
Keep in mind that you should also have a plan in place for how employees, teams, managers, and externals can communicate with you. Doing so will create an open flow of communication, where information can move in both directions (making you a sender and recipient), topics can be more easily discussed, and questions can be answered faster.
5. Select Communication Channels
With a framework in place, you can start thinking about the details. One you should decide on right off the bat is your communication channel, as having a clearly established way to reach everyone will increase the likelihood that your messages are seen and read.
This is a good time to return to your internal communications audit and target audience information. In some cases, you may find the right platform just by reading their feedback and reviews. In other cases, it may be easier to simply tap into the channels your teams already use (like Google Teams or Slack) than to set up something new.
Regardless of what you choose, you want to make sure your solution is agreeable to everyone. Not only will it make your employees more receptive to your messages, but it will also make it easier to reach them.
6. Determine Frequency of Communication
For the same reasons you don’t want to under-communicate with your employees, you also don’t want to over-communicate. The reason being: it can lead to employees ignoring your messages or missing things, simply because they’re overwhelmed by all the communication they get from you and other departments.
Think about it this way. When you subscribe to a specific email newsletter, you typically do it to get access to certain content or information. But unless you’re a die-hard fan of the brand sending it out, you don’t open every single email that comes thereafter. You open the ones that are most appealing and interesting to you. Those that don’t seem important or that feel salesy, you ignore or even delete, because your inbox is already full of other important communication.
The same goes for your employees. But since you can’t control the amount of communication other teams, managers, and departments send out, you need to make sure the frequency of your communication is such that employees pay attention to your messages, when you send them.
This is another instance where you can return to your internal communications audit to see what your employees and partners had to say. You can ask yourself questions like:
- Are they invested and interested enough in your brand to want weekly updates? Or would they prefer to just hear from you when there are important changes that need to be made (essentials only)?
Figuring out exactly what your employees want and can reasonably handle will help you set a good rhythm for sending out messages.
7. Decide How You Want to Communicate
With both your communication channels and schedule squared away, it’s time to figure out how you want to communicate with your employees. This is less about the information you include – since that will vary – and more about the style you share it in.
For example, tone. Would your employees respond better to something more casual and conversational? Or would they prefer to read content that’s more cut-and-dry? Knowing the answers to those questions will help you make sure your messages are actually read, digested, and enjoyed.
You should think about length, as well. How long can you keep the attention of your employees? Do they have the bandwidth and desire to read something long-form? Or would you be better off sending a direct message (DM)? Remember: this is about you as well, so think about what you actually have time to write and send too.
Lastly, consider engagement. Communication isn’t a one-and-done activity, so you need to make sure your messages and content can keep the attention of your employees long-term. If you think there’s a good chance you’ll need to switch tactics early on, you may want to explore other options.
Keep in mind that this isn’t an exercise you have to do on your own, though. In fact, one of the best things you can do during this step is talk to your teams. Not only can they give you specific insight into how they want you to communicate with them, increasing your likelihood of success, but asking for their opinions can also streamline this step.
8. Share & Launch Your Plan
Once you have your plan put together, it’s time to share it with everyone who will be involved. Reach out to your managers, teams, and employees to discuss your new communication plan and start getting your remote workers and peers in satellite offices on-board.
If you choose to use your new communication plan here, this is also a good time to see how well it works. You may discover there are some issues with a certain channel that you didn’t consider, or some holes you need to patch up in your information flow.
That doesn’t mean you need to scrap everything and start over – since it always takes a little bit of time for the process to work smoothly. But noticing these problems early on will help you pinpoint areas that may need improvement.
While talking is easy, being heard and understood is incredibly difficult. But, by putting a strategic plan in place for communicating with the individuals in and around our organizations, we’ll be able to create the brand experiences that our customers want.