As September draws to a close and we head into the final quarter of 2015, planning for the year ahead is on the mind of every savvy Internal Communication manager.
Yes, 2016 is just around the corner and now is the time to start assessing the performance of the year-to-date and planning for the future.
Here is a 9 step approach to creating your Internal Communications Plan:
1. Measure your activity
Measurement is the key to success and it’s what transforms internal communications from shooting in the dark to an effective management tool. In order to plan ahead it is necessary to measure your performance to date:
- What were the high value activities, what activities were of low value?
- How did you perform against your goals, KPIs and expectations?
- Be sure to get feedback from your senior leaders, peers and your audiences on the communications and campaigns they found most useful
- Don’t just look at your most successful campaigns and strategies, a lot can be learned from knowing where it went wrong – where are you losing your audience?
For more information on measuring your internal communication, watch this short webinar on measuring your internal communications.
2. Assess your channels, campaigns and tools
It can be easy to focus on the latest, shiniest or newest channel in your internal communication arsenal. But what is the most effective and driving engagement?
Here are some of the questions you need to ask in order to find out what’s working and what needs to change:
- What channel delivers the most impact and prompts the most action?
- What tools are best for optimizing that channel?
- How do your audiences prefer to receive information?
- What tool or channel was best at driving traffic to important company messages?
- What campaigns performed best, what made them stand out?
In order to find out the answer to these questions it is necessary to complete a channel assessment.
Get more top tips on what to measure across your internal digital channels.
3. Identify your audiences – and how to reach them
Understanding your audience will help you to understand how to communicate more effectively. How can you segment your employees so your communications are more targeted and relevant?
- What are their likes/dislikes/preferences?
- What are their interests?
- How do they consume information (including which platform e.g. mobile)?
- Where are they located globally?
- Who are the thought leaders in your organization and leading contributors on your intranet?
- What groups are most active on your ESN?
- What types of messages get the most likes and comments, views and shares?
Using this information you can create a tailored communications plan that allows you to select the most appropriate channel and tailor your message for different audiences.
Your plan will include specific ways that you can reach your audience throughout the year. Take time to step back with your team and brainstorm the tactics that will be used. Here is where you set out the types of communication that will best convey your message to your target audience. This may include targeted weekly newsletters, blog posts, videos, social media, podcasts, video conferencing, posters – look at the tools available to you and see if there are new ways you and your team could use these tools differently to reach your audience.
5. SWOT it out
A SWOT analysis can be included in the brainstorming phase of your internal communication planning, it works best when you focus on key areas and have specific goals and objectives in mind. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. A SWOT analysis is quite simple in principle, and it should remain a simple process – avoid over-analysis. What is really important is focusing on how the items listed impact on achieving the goals.
A number of templates are available online free of charge. One that is recommended by industry experts is the template created by Mind Tools it includes a helpful video guide.
6. Set your smart goals
In order to set these goals it is important to ask why. Why are these specific goals and objectives being set? Why is it necessary to achieve them and why is it necessary to address them in this time period? Each goal should be S.M.A.R.T – that is Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Get into the nitty gritty of how you are going to achieve these goals.
The next step in setting goals and objectives is to identify how the strategic internal communication plan will close the gap between the current beliefs or actions and the desired outcome.
7. Create your plan and your calendar
Now that you have completed the groundwork, it is time to write your internal communication plan.
Your plan should include:
- Your executive summary
- An overview of the previous year’s achievements
- Details of your target audience
- Your goals and objectives
- Tactics and tools that will be used
- Metrics and KPIs that will be used to assess progress
In addition to these fundamental areas, a communications calendar for your year ahead can be included, containing a quarterly, monthly and weekly plan for the year. Outline who in the team will be responsible for the tasks and what new tools, skills or education will be needed to achieve these goals.
8. Set out your budget
Once your plan is in place and you have set out the activities, tactics, tools, skills and headcount needed, the next step is to set out your budget.
For many Internal Communication functions, budget is awarded at a percentage of your previous years spend while others must apply on a project by project basis.
If you need to increase your budget in order to achieve your goals for 2016, a good place to start is to demonstrate to budget holders and senior leaders the ROI and achievements of Internal Communications function in the current financial year.
Using your plan you can outline how and where the requested increase in budget will be used to improve on these figures. Also highlight any constraint in achieving these objectives should the additional budget not be granted.
9. Communicate your internal communication plan
Now that your plan has almost been finalized there is just one final step. That is to inform senior leaders, members of your team and other stakeholders of your strategy. A detailed brief on the plan should be presented to all members of the department, allow plenty of time for questions and discussions.
Create a high level strategic brief for leaders, peers and other stakeholders. Ensure that KPIs and demonstrable results are central to this plan. Ask for input and feedback. Providing an opportunity for internal partners to input into the plan gives the Internal Communications function the opportunity to develop trust among senior leaders. It is also an opportunity for you to receive information on plans, strategies and projects that other departments in the organization are planning for the year ahead.
Outlining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and connecting these goals back to the organization’s objectives enables the department to clearly demonstrate ROI and potentially pave the way for a seat at the decision-making table.