How to guide: writing an internal communications strategic plan

Before developing any form of strategy for improvement it is important to identify your starting point. Start with a departmental audit, identifying any potential blockages. The audit should help answer a number of important questions including:

  • Are staff receiving accurate information?
  • How are staff receiving regular information?
  • Are messages consistent across the department?
  • Do staff understand both the goals and the results of communications?

An effective approach to developing an internal communication plan starts not with what you need to do, but why you need to do it.

By asking the following questions you should be able to identify...:

  • What are the goals, ambitions and strategic aspirations for the future?
  • What do the people in your department need to think, feel and do in order to make those goals a reality?
  • Where are staff now, and what needs to change in their current perceptions, attitudes, or access to basic information?
  • What’s the role of the internal communication function in helping close the gap of what we want for the future, and what we’ve got today?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of leaders, managers, employees and communication professionals?
  • What are the communication activities we’re going to need – and who will be responsible for what?
  • What’s the resource levels we need?
Internal communications overview

Communication within any organisation serves as a channel or network that links parts of the organisation together.

Much of the communication that occurs in an organisation is informal and uncontrollable, other communications are structured and intentional and carefully planned. Even not actively communicating on a topic says a lot! If you are not actively communicating on a regular basis, your staff will – even if they have to make it up.

Who needs what?

Staff need to know the direction of the organisation, how they can engage and participate and need feedback – on the progress being made. Examples of employee communications include:

Intranet, website, newsletters, emails, memos, notice boards, staff magazine, blogs, employee forums.

It is said that there are 12 steps required for an effective internal communications strategy and plan:

  1. Employee focused communications must be led from the top.
  2. Consistency in message is vital.
  3. Charismatic yet natural and planned communications are more effective.
  4. Communication via the line manager is preferred and more effective.
  5. Employee communications are not optional extras, they are part of business as usual and should be planned and budgeted for as such.
  6. There must be integration between internal and external communications.
  7. Timing is critical.
  8. The tone of any communication is important if we want people to engage effectively.
  9. Keep all communication focused on the WIIFM  the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor.
  10. Communication is a two-way process.
  11. A single key theme or a couple of key themes is a means of giving coherence to a range of diverse employee communications initiatives.
  12. Set your standards and stick to them.

Crisis communications

Creating your communications plan to include crisis and contingency plans can help reduce and avoid unnecessary crisis. Part of your plan may include the creation of an emergency notification cascade system. During your crisis communication planning stage, collect contact information from all employees and other key resources.

Example plan matrix

The following table shows how an organisation may plan and manage its internal communications.


Strategy Intended result Purpose/ measuring  Comms team role Frequency      


Home page Keep staff up to date Metrics/dashboard Update data  Daily      
Project page Provide project updates Project dashboard, KPI's None Daily      
Newsletter VC and PVC messages/ all other organisational information Staff understand the organisations values, its' progress and know how to engage Consult, develop, publish Weekly/ monthly      
Lunchtime talks Inform, network, clarify, exchange knowledge Best practice sharing and networking Organise/ take notes/ deliver sessions Monthly/ b-weekly      
Organisational support              
Audience insight Gather information on how to improve communications with other divisions Single organisational message; communications activities are coordinated Consult/ develop/ publish As required