Creating a Plan to Improve Corporate Communications

Effective corporate communication has always been important. Now, though, in a hybrid and continuing uncertain corporate environment, it’s more important than ever for organizations to determine how effective their corporate communications efforts are, and what adjustments or improvements need to be made to keep employees engaged, productive, and employed!
What worked pre-pandemic almost certainly doesn’t work anymore. It’s critical that corporate communications and HR staff work together to create a strategy and plan for moving forward.

Strategizing for Internal Communication Success

Some years ago, I accepted a job as director of corporate communications for a healthcare organization. My first task was to create an internal communication plan for the organization. The steps I took represent the steps that any organization can, and should, take to improve corporate communications—with one exception. In most cases, it is an important best practice to work with an outside facilitator who does not have biases or preconceived notions—e.g., “skin in the game.” In this case, because I was just stepping into a new role with a company I had no past experience with, I didn’t have those biases. I was starting with a clean slate and a mandate to assess and improve corporate communications.

Get a Little Help From Your Friends

My first step in the process of creating a plan was doing some research into approaches taken by other companies and other communication professionals and gathering information from peers and colleagues in other organizations. They were very willing to share and I soon began to see a number of common approaches taken to creating and implementing an internal communication strategy.
The steps I took then, and the steps I continue to take when working with clients on this type of project are the same. They’re steps I’d recommend for any organization that wants to create a solid strategy for effective employee communication.

The Steps in Creating a Strategic Communication Plan

1) Understand the organization’s and organizational leaders’ corporate communication goals in a measurable way.

What is it that the organizational leaders wish to achieve through their employees’ efforts? What do employees need to think, do, or believe to drive that success?

2) Assess the current state of the organization based on these goals.

This generally involves conducting both qualitative (focus groups, depth interviews) and quantitative (surveys) research to understand employees’ knowledge and understanding of certain issues, as well as their awareness, preference, and perceptions of existing communication channels and messages.
For instance, suppose one of the organization’s strategic goals for employees is to have them be strong employee ambassadors. To determine how strong they currently are you might do a simple net promoter score assessment—employee response to the question of: “how likely are you to recommend our company’s products/services to others?” Or, if a goal related to employee perceptions of the senior leadership team being transparent with communication, you could assess that. The point is to establish a baseline of where you’re currently at in alignment with the overarching goals.

3) Identify gaps based both on issues/content and employee demographics.

Based on your assessments, you’ll develop an idea of gaps between where you would like to be and where you currently are in terms of employee communications. These gaps are then prioritized and become the basis of communication strategies for moving forward to achieve goals/objectives.
Employee demographics will be an important part of this process. You will not communicate the same messages in the same ways to all employees. You will segment your employee audience (just as you would your consumer audience when creating a marketing plan) based on different needs, preferences, interests, and goals. These segments might be based on such things as: tenure with the company, division or department, role, location, etc.

4) Audit current/past communication efforts and results.

What communication tools does the organization currently have in place? How effective have they been? How relevant are they in light of the changing organizational structure, e.g., will they work in a hybrid/remote world? Hopefully, you will have access to past research on communication effectiveness; if not, you may need to conduct additional research.

5) Identify existing communication channels—determine the need for additional channels.

This will literally be a list of the communication channels in place, how often they’re produced or delivered, by audience—with the identification of new channels that should be added to the mix.

6) Create a communication plan outlining strategies, tactics, channels, messaging by segment, timeline, desired outcomes.

This is your plan. It will outline what you will do, when you will do it, and which audiences will receive or have access

7) Measure, reassess, repeat.

Communication is a very iterative process. What works today may not tomorrow. It’s important to develop ways to continually assess communication effectiveness and to set aside time for formal planning, generally on an annual basis.
One of the most gratifying things for me with the first internal communication plan I created was the ability to show measurable improvements from the baselines we established and then year over year improvements as we continued to modify and work the plan.
Importantly, plans need to be based on objective outcomes. This starts with articulating what is important to the organization from a communication standpoint, and why. In this case, we identified some specific broad areas of focus (e.g., trust in senior management), as well as specific areas of focus/understanding that we wanted to improve (e.g., awareness of specific service line attributes so employees could serve as brand ambassadors out in the community).
While every plan will be different—because every organization is different and will have different communication goals—the process of strategic communication planning can be very much the same. It’s a process that works!

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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Recommended Reading:

21st Century Secrets to Effective PR

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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