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How to Get Your Internal Comms Channel Mix Right

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 — November 28th, 2023

How to Get Your Internal Comms Channel Mix Right

With so many communication channels available and less than 15 minutes a day to capture your employees' attention*, it has never been more imperative to get your communication channel mix right and meet your employees where they’re at.

An internal communication channel mix refers to the combination of various traditional and digital methods and platforms an organization uses to reach, convey information, and engage with its employees—from email to team meetings, town halls to intranets, and everything in between.

By utilizing the right variety of communication channels that cater to the needs and preferences of employees, organizations can ultimately improve the employee experience and engagement levels as well as overall communication effectiveness.

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However, given that employee groups are diverse, organizations are unique, and each channel has its own strengths, weaknesses, and best practices, getting your channel mix right is a fine art in itself.

Here are the five most critical ingredients to consider when creating your channel mix:

Understand Your Audience

Start by understanding the specific communication needs and preferences of your employees, as well as their habits and behaviors. Understanding your audience is a crucial step in formulating the right mix of channels to ensure communications reach and are accessible to employees.

— Consider their demographics, roles, locations, language, and technology access.

— What channels do they currently access and trust? And why? When do they access them?

— What channel gaps exist, and is there a strong business case for identifying how to fill that gap, e.g. mobile app for colleagues with no or limited access to desktops/laptops?

Consider your organizational and communication strategies and the outcomes you strive to achieve. Familiarizing yourself with what you want or need your employees to know, feel, think, or do, now and in the future, will help you determine the best and most appropriate channels to utilize.

Offer Channel Variety

Your audience needs and preferences, you’ll have discovered, are diverse, so offering a variety of channels ensures their diverse communication styles and needs are accommodated.

No one-size-fits-all approach works when it comes to channel selection, unfortunately. Although the latest research from the IOIC shows (UK) employees choose emails (57%) and one-to-one meetings with their line managers (36%) as the most popular communication channels.

Clearly, email will be less relied upon in workplaces like retail or manufacturing, where employees have limited—if any—online access, but it shows that communicators don’t necessarily have to go with the most expensive platform or latest technology to have an impact.

Utilizing a varied number of channels increases an audience's exposure to messages. It’s said that someone needs to receive a message up to seven times to understand, remember, and act upon it.

So consistency and repetition are crucial if your messages will have the impact you need. Don’t be afraid of overwhelming your employees by sharing the same messaging through various channels. It’s more likely that the overwhelm comes from being confused with the messaging itself or not knowing where to go for information (which channel).

Use a blend of synchronous and asynchronous communication to optimize your channel approach. There’s no perfect channel, each comes with its pros and cons, and communicators must be mindful of the purpose of the communications as well as audience needs.

● Synchronous communication (when you interact with your employees in real-time, such as through instant messages, video conferences, or live chats) can enhance collaboration, rapport, and trust, but it can also cause interruptions, fatigue, or stress.

● Asynchronous communication (when you share information without expecting an immediate response, such as through email, newsletters, blogs, or podcasts) can increase flexibility, efficiency, and autonomy, but it can also create confusion, isolation, or delays in the messages being received effectively.

Establish Channel Governance

Internal communication can sometimes be regarded as overwhelming or disjointed, so it’s important to ensure that clear governance is established for every channel.

Be clear on the purpose of each channel, why and when it is used, and for which audience group.

If you don’t have a clear and compelling purpose for any given channel then you need to question why you have it in your mix. Consider different scenarios as you undertake this process to cover all business communication needs, not just business as usual, e.g. complex, sensitive, urgent, confidential communications, to ensure you have the right channel(s) defined and in place to cover every eventuality.

Additionally, define who owns, manages, contributes, and monitors the channel and its content. This isn’t to add unnecessary red tape; this will help you better ensure your channels and their content are thoughtfully managed in line with their purpose and that the content stays relevant and of value.

All this drives a more aligned, coordinated, and engaging approach, enabling employees to build up trust in your channels, know where to go to find key information and help reduce overwhelm and confusion in communications overall.

Ensure Accessibility and Inclusivity

Having the right channel mix goes beyond meeting employees where they’re at. It should also go a step further and ensure your channels enable inclusivity and ease of access so everyone, regardless of who or where they are, feels informed, valued, and part of the organization.

As professional communicators, we are adept at considering how our content and messaging might land with our intended audiences, but we also need to think about the accessibility and inclusivity of the channels we choose as well.

Many reasonable accommodations can be implemented to allow and encourage people with disabilities, those working remotely, or those whose native language isn’t English (or that of the workforce majority) to participate fully and actively.

Mobile-friendly channels and communications, captions on videos, translations, and interpreters are just ideas for starters. But don’t take my word for it or make assumptions about what your employees need and prefer.

Do your due diligence (see point 1)—ask your employees directly and also after any key events or communications occur to ensure your channels and communications are as inclusive as possible.

Integrate Measurement & Feedback Loops

Measurement is key to continually improving the effectiveness of your internal communications. As management theorist Peter Drucker reportedly said, “What gets measured gets improved.”

Knowing whether a channel is performing and having the right impact (see point 3 about clear governance) is vital to ensuring your channel mix is working for, not against, your overall internal communication strategy and objectives.

Measurement provides insights into which channels are most effective and where improvements are needed, allowing you to make data-driven decisions to continually improve the use and or mix of channels.

Delve into the engagement metrics and analytics and gather feedback through surveys, polls, or Q&A sessions to ensure your channel selection evolves to stay relevant, effective, and inclusive.

To help you further, Poppulo created this guide, Channels Audit Template: Are Your Employee Comms Working? to help you analyze the effectiveness of each communication channel at your organization and ensure employees don’t miss important information. It will help you answer questions like:

● What are the pros and cons of different channels?

● Are you reaching the right audience?

● What content is resonating best?

● Are you measuring impact?

*IC Index Report 2023: 15 minutes or less per day is what nearly 7 in 10 UK employees say they spend reading or viewing updates from their employer.

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