Internal Communications

7 Steps To Creating A Strategic Internal Communications Plan In 2024

By Alex Cleary

Updated:

Achieve your engagement goals, drive productivity, and increase the value of your internal emails by developing a robust internal communications plan.

Your internal communication plan is an all-encompassing approach to ensure information is transmitted and received effectively at your business. It outlines what is being sent when, how, and to whom.

We’ll show you how to improve your internal communications and how to use your internal communication plan to improve employee engagement.

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What Is an Internal Communications Plan?

An internal communications plan is a document that outlines your approach to transmitting and receiving information internally at your business.

Traditionally, an internal communications plan includes seven components

  • Analysis of the current state of the business (where things are at, what the future commitment will be to internal communication efforts)
  • Goals your internal communications plan is going to accomplish (overall business goals and communication department goals)
  • Who your audience is (entire organization vs. select teams)
  • What your message is (what topics you want to address, why, and how)
  • How you will share your messages (internal communication strategies, tactics, and preferred channels—like email)
  • When you will send your internal communication messages (what time are employees most receptive to internal collateral)
  • Track and measure internal communication performance (what are your key metrics and what do you need in your communications tech stack)

Think of your employees just like you think of your customers—they’re just internal. Your internal communications seeks to optimize your employees’ sending and receiving of information.

Why have an internal communications plan?

With an internal communications plan, you can better hone in on areas of strength or weakness. Here are some stats that support having an internal communications plan: 

  • According to Gallup, businesses with highly engaged teams experience a 20% increase in productivity.
  • Culture IQ reports that companies with engaged employees perform 200% better than those without.
  • A case study by Standard Chartered Bank reported that bank branches with highly engaged employees attained a 16% increase in profit margin growth when compared with those branches experiencing low levels of employee engagement.

Internal communications are your primary way of connecting your employees with their employer and with each other. The engagement you receive on your internal communications is often reflective of your overall employee engagement levels, and can help contextualize your employee engagement situation with quantitative and qualitative data.

Internal communications plan vs internal communications strategy

At ContactMonkey, we distinguish between these two concepts—internal communications plans and internal communications strategy—like so:

An internal communications strategy is a task, method, or initiative that helps you achieve your internal communications goals. Common strategies include email newsletters, scheduled email sends, or recurring surveys.

An internal communications plan is a collection of internal communications strategies and a set of guidelines for how to carry out those strategies. While you may have multiple internal communications strategies are your business, you will only have one internal communications plan.

7 Components of Your Internal Communications Plan

We created this quick breakdown of everything your internal communication plan should include. Feel free to save this image for future reference:

Internal communications plan: challenges to consider

Your internal communications plan should address the many communication-related issues your employees can experience. Every business approaches communication differently, and thus has their own set of unique problems to solve. These are some common communication issues that you may face:

  • Inconsistent communications: email sent at strange hours, mismatched design, too many emails, etc.
  • Inefficient email design process takes too much time and effort.
  • Unable to translate internal communications into international employees’ native languages.
  • No way of tracking internal communications or email engagement.
  • Employees don’t have a chance to provide feedback or input via internal communications.

We recommend compiling the specific communication issues your employees face and using that to inform your internal communications plan. This way you’ll be able to select the right internal communications tool to help you improve your overall approach.

A modern internal communications plan…

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How to Create An Internal Communications Plan: 7 Components

Whether you’re starting an internal communications plan from scratch, or already have a rudimentary one, here are 7 components you can use to build a new, better internal communications plan: 

1. Analysis of your current internal communications approach

In order to determine what your internal communications plan needs to accomplish, you need to understand how your business currently approaches internal communications.

An internal communications audit is essential to getting an accurate representation of the present state of your communication practices. The audit will assess and determine how effectively your company engages and communicates with employees.

Employee engagement data, such as internal email click-through rates and read times are just some of the data points to take into account in your IC audit. Other important metrics should include employee engagement feedback, pulse surveys, and employee net promoter scores (eNPS).

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your own in-house, hire a consultant to get fresh eyes on your data. 

2. Goals for your internal communications

Once you understand how your current internal communications are performing—and what your employees suggest can be improved—you can set benchmarks for improvement. Internal communications KPIs are goals designed to measure the success of your IC plan.

In other words, they serve as reference points for determining whether you’ve achieved the desired outcomes for your internal communications.

For instance, say a goal of your plan is to increase email engagement. Your KPIs would include specific metrics like open rates and click-through rates that let you see whether employees are engaging with your emails more than before.

Are you setting your KPIs for the first time and not sure how you should be performing? Consult ContactMonkey’s Internal Email Benchmark Report for insights on how other companies within your industry are performing on their internal communications:

Screenshot of ContactMonkey's Internal Email Benchmark Report for 2023

Remember, the more email metrics you have access to, the more precise you can make your KPIs. With ContactMonkey’s email tracking software you can monitor email open rates, click-through rates, opens by device and location, and even individual recipient behaviour. And you’ll be able to do it all through a single email analytics dashboard.

Set and track internal comms goals.

Ensure you reach them using ContactMonkey analytics.

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3. Audience for your internal communications

To create tailored and engaging internal communications messaging, it’s important to consider who exactly your communications are meant for.

Ask yourself: which key groups do I need to inform and/or influence?

List the various audience groups across your company. These may include specific business units, customer success teams, investors, and so on. Once you identify these groups, you’ll be able to have a clearer idea of what channels they use and what types of content they’ll be interested in.

4. Messages you plan to send to employees

After you’ve determined who you plan to reach with your internal communications, you need to map out the kinds of information you’ll be sending them.

Some internal communications are mandatory—like change management updates, staffing changes, and emergency protocols—and will be included in almost every internal communication plan. Other communications are supplementary—like welcome emails, employee departure announcements, and employee recognition messages—and won’t be required in every internal communications plan.

We recommend categorizing your internal communications using these two categories. If you’ve listed too many to manage, prioritize the mandatory ones.

Getting new ideas for your internal communications

Once you’ve mapped out what you plan to send to your employees, you may find yourself trying to fill in gaps in your internal communications plan after you’ve determined the mandatory messages you need to send.

If you’re struggling to come up with effective internal communication ideas, try collecting feedback about what kind of content your employees would like to receive.

Using ContactMonkey, you can get new ideas by collecting employee feedback via surveys. Include a short question on your next internal communication asking your employees what they’d like to see in your emails, and include a fun way for them to respond:

Screenshot of survey options within ContactMonkey's email template builder.

You can also use our OpenAI ChatGPT integration to suggest new internal communication ideas. Simply write a prompt describing your internal communication plan goals, and use the output text as a basis for your future content:

Screenshot of ContactMonkey's OpenAI integration generating text for an email.

In addition to suggesting content for your internal communications, our OpenAI integration can help you get over your writer’s block or save time when writing employee emails.

Create email content fast with OpenAI ChatGPT

Try ContactMonkey’s OpenAI Integration today!

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5. Channels you will use to transmit your internal communications

After you’ve identified the groups you need to reach and what you plan to send them, you can begin creating the framework through which you can communicate with them.

The internal communications channels you select will depend on the internal communications goals you’re striving to accomplish with your messaging and the audience you want to reach. They will also depend on what channels your employees use the most.

If you have many remote or hybrid workers in your audience, you might also want to consider employee SMS and other instant messaging services as key channels for your communications. If the majority of your employees work at computers, then you’ll likely be able to rely on email.

If you need to email different groups of employees, consider creating custom email lists for each group of employees:

ContactMonkey's list management feature.

Using ContactMonkey’s list management feature, you can create custom email lists in order to target your internal communications to relevant audiences. Lists created with ContactMonkey integrate with your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) like Workday and ADP, as well as Azure Active Directory, so they’ll update automatically as employees join and leave your organization.

6. Schedule for planning future internal communications

Once you have all the information you need to build your internal communications plan—who you’re sending to, what you’ll send to them, what channels you’ll use—it’s time to determine a schedule for your internal communications.

Scheduling your internal communications is crucial. You need to make them frequent enough so your employees can internalize when different communications will be sent, but not so frequent that they tune them out.

We recommend scheduling your internal communications using an internal communications planning calendar:

https://www.contactmonkey.com/send-internal-emails-outlook-guide

A planning calendar allows you to map out your future communications and set when you’ll send them and to whom. A simple calendar like this can ensure you’re coordinating your internal communications so as not to overwhelm your employees with too much information.

Plan your internal communications in advance

Download our free IC Planning Calendar!

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7. Metrics for measuring your plan’s success

Email tracking metrics give you hard data with which you can assess the success of your internal communications plan. Open rate, click-through rate, opens by location and device, read time, and other metrics help you get an accurate idea of your internal communications landscape.

You can easily track all your email metrics directly from your ContactMonkey analytics dashboard:

You can even use email metrics to refine your individual internal communications. If you notice certain recurring email campaigns not generating the engagement—open rate and clicks—that you expect it to, try using click maps data to understand how your audience is engaging with your content:

ContactMonkey clickmap heatmap for email analytics and employee safety survey analytics

Using this information, you can see which parts of your emails garner the most attention from your employees—and which don’t. Refine your email design to put important information where your employees are most likely to see it in order to maintain high email engagement.

Find the email metrics that correspond with the KPIs you selected as the goals for your internal communications plan. Compare these metrics against other companies within your industry in order to create realistic benchmarks for your plan. This way you can accurately measure if your plan is succeeding or whether you need to refine your approach.

How to Get Your Internal Communications Plan Approved

Now that you’ve drafted your internal communications plan, you need to sell its benefit to leadership at your organization. The main point you need leadership to understand: your plan will produce a tangible benefit for your company that exceeds the amount of time and money needed to realize it.

Your executive team will need proof (metrics) that your campaigns are achieving your goals like boosting employee engagement, fostering employee retention, and contributing to the company’s bottom line.

According to Harvard Business Review, studies show that senior executives dismiss good ideas from below far too often. If an idea’s relevance to organizational performance isn’t clear, it’s not deemed important enough to have their attention. 

Get executive buy-in early in the process

It’s easier to get approval from senior leadership when they feel they have a role in shaping the internal communication strategy, no matter whether that feeling is real or perceived. Early executive buy-in is crucial, according to Jane Lawrence, Internal Communications Manager at Northumbrian Water Group:

“It was important for the senior leaders to be walking the walk, and not just talking the talk, when it came to our strategy. It was underpinned by their support and ensuring they were visible through all the stages,” affirms Lawrence.

Include leadership in the development of your internal communications plan and keep them informed of each step of the process.

Use a data-based approach

The value of your internal communications campaigns becomes undeniable when you have the numbers to support your pitch. 

By tracking email opens, link clicks, opens by device and location, read time, and more you’ll be able to make your communications an objective science. Analyzing your internal communications metrics benefits your team by:

  • Allowing you to see what content resonates best with your employees. 
  • Enabling you to have solid proof of the impact you’re having on the organization at large. 

Present your plan in an easy-to-scan format so leadership doesn’t struggle to understand the benefits of your plan. Try using our internal communications plan template as a guide for crafting your own:

An internal communications plan template will allow you to clearly outline the various components of your IC plan, such as the channels you need to use, your audience, and key stakeholders. The template will also help you save time when you make changes to your internal communications plan in the future.

Focus on the solution, not the problem

Highlight your solution rather than the internal communications problem you’re trying to solve. Suggest thoughtful solutions when speaking about a problem; this is more successful at influencing executives than those who just highlighted problems.

Statistics show that only 24% of global employees are highly engaged. Spend some time assessing your current strengths and weaknesses: 

  • Do managers and team leads have the right tools to communicate information to employees effectively? 
  • Is the right department handling your internal communications? 
  • Are the right people within that department dedicated to this task? 
  • Are you communicating too much or too little as an organization?
  • Who are the stakeholders in each department?

Use the questions above to explain in detail how your internal communications plan solves the issues you’ve identified. If you’re struggling to explain things in a succinct manner, stick to the tried-and-true Problem –> Solution –> Result structure for sharing your progress.

Make an Internal Communications Plan that Works for Your Business

An internal communications plan is an often-overlooked aspect of your business communications, but it’s so important for keeping your employees informed and on-point.

Using the strategies we’ve outlined, try developing an internal communications plan suited for your business’ and employees’ specific needs:

  • Assess your current situation. What worked? What didn’t?
  • Base your goals on your company’s larger goals, and help guide that conversation with upper management. 
  • Adopt KPIs that ensure every strategy you undertake ties to a measurable goal.
  • Define what needs to be measured in your internal communications and how.
  • Invest in tools to help you gauge employee engagement while enabling you to make beautiful responsive emails 
  • Continuously update your plan throughout the year as goals and circumstances change, like a larger focus on diversity and inclusion. 

Communication planning is one of the most powerful ways to ensure successful internal communications. Having a more effective plan means more engaged employees and better performance. Want to see how ContactMonkey can help you excel in this area? Book a free demo today!

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