With Internal Communications becoming more and more of a strategic value-add part of the business, I thought I would write a quick-start guide of the A-Z of Internal Communication for anyone who may be just starting out in the role, or thinking about making the move into the IC world.

A – Audience

Communicating without an audience is just shouting, so perhaps the most important aspect of Internal Communication is selecting and knowing your audience. In fact, the Cambridge Dictionary definition of communication is:

“The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”

Cambridge Dictionary

The key part of that definition being “exchanging”. Communication is not just one-way, you need to have a recipient (or multiple recipients). Before you start writing, drafting or communicating anything, make sure you know who you’re addressing and who your message is for first. This could be Managers and Team Leaders, frontline workers, different departments, contractors, or clients. Each group will have different interests and the message will mean different things to them. Sharing one-size-fits-all communications will miss the mark and interest no-one.

(Other options also for ‘A’ were awareness, alignment and advocacy – but perhaps I’ll add these into a follow-up piece)

B – Broadcast

To broadcast is to push information to many receivers. But as defined above, communication is a two-way engagement. Broadcasting your message is a one-way activity, where there is no opportunity to feedback or for dialogue. Whilst broadcast channels are a somewhat necessary evil of internal communication, these should be complimented with other means for people to have their say or ask questions. People don’t like to be spoken at, but be spoken to and to have an opportunity to engage in conversation.

(Other options, which I’ll look at in future posts for ‘B’ included behaviour, brand and bottom-up communications)

C – Change

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher once said: “the only constant in life, is change”. This may be an overused quote nowadays, but it stands the test of time for a reason. Not only is it true, change is unavoidable.

Business Change happens when an organisation improves, restructures or transforms a part of its operations, with a goal to achieve a more productive and efficient organisation. Technological advancements are happening faster than ever before, businesses are disrupting markets or are having to evolve quicker to keep up with the market. Business Change is now becoming a necessity in an Internal Communicators toolkit, as it’s critical employees understand what is happening, what the change means for them, and feel supported through the change.

(Other important ‘C’s include: champions, channels, content, crisis communications and culture)


A critical part of any good employer is to make everyone feel welcome, respected, safe and that they belong. Internal Communicators are critical allies in this space, where they can truly help to set the tone and direction of a company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts and be a platform for this.

How a company communicates with its people will shape the way it is viewed by current and future employees. Language and communication – whether verbal or written – are some of the most powerful tools available to instill emotions, help people feel seen and heard, and demonstrate action. Employers – with the help of Internal Comms – should talk to everyone, include everyone and be relevant for everyone, and DEI should be a central part of the Internal Comms strategy and a key pillar in any communication plans.

(Also in the running for ‘D’ was: digital)

E – External Communications

Alignment between internal and external communication teams is vital at any organisation because it ensures consistency in messaging, transparency and a unified message, preventing confusion and a mixed brand experience.

If you are sharing something externally with the press, where it is publicly accessible, why wouldn’t you share this with your employees? Employees shouldn’t have to find something out about their employer in the news, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. It also helps to build trust between employees and the organisation, where employees feel informed, and not like information is being kept or hidden from them.

(There were too many ‘E’s’ to choose from, others include: evaluation, engagement or EVP (employer value proposition).

F – Fun

A key element of internal communications is to have fun with it. Of course, this does need to be taken with a pinch of salt as it does depend on your organisation’s culture and the topic you’re communicating, but with that caveat aside, communication can, and should be, fun! It makes your communications more engaging, interesting and memorable, and can help instil a positive workplace culture.

(Another very important ‘F’ is feedback)

G – Gamification

Gamification is the process of adding game-like elements to every day things, in order to engage and motivate people to take action on something you want them to do. This could be allowing people to collect points or badges for completing certain tasks. If you’ve got targets you need people to achieve, then leaderboards can be a great way to drive some healthy competition. Maybe people could work their way through different levels (from ‘beginner’ to ‘expert’ for example), to demonstrate they are a specialist in a certain area?

No-one wants to sit through hours of compliance training for example (as important as it is), but a prize for getting the most questions right at the end, or gaining badges for completing X hours of training makes an otherwise mundane task far more enjoyable.

(Another ‘G’ to consider could be: ghost writing or guidance)

H – Honest

Honesty is the foundation of trust, and when employees perceive that the information they receive is truthful and accurate, it builds trust in leadership and the organisation as a whole. If you’re deploying some sort of marketing ‘spin’ to your message, 9 times out of 10 employees will see straight through it. Your employees will know if something feels authentic or not, and relationships spread far and wide internally (people talk), and if something seem feel right it’ll soon get uncovered.

Additionally, no-one wants to feel as though they work for a dishonest organisation, and this principle should be applied to internal communications. Employees will also more likely feel a strong sense of loyalty and commitment if they feel their business has trusted them with information.

(I also considered, health & wellness or human)

I – Intranet

Every organisation is different, and your chosen communication channels will be reflective of your company culture, but most organisation’s will have an intranet (or something that takes on the role of an intranet at least).

It serves as a centralised communication hub, where employees can access the latest news, and any important documents and policies all from one place. A centralised information hub ensures everyone has access to the same information, at the same time, regardless of where they’re located, helping everyone feel connected to the organisation.

(An alternative ‘I’ is innovation)

J- Jargon

Keep your messaging clean with everyday language. Going back to points ‘A’ and ‘H’ – think about your audience, who are they and where in the organisation are they based? Write the message as if you’re speaking directly to them. Employees are busy people, and they don’t want to spend time sifting through unfamiliar terms to try and understand what you’re saying. It also creates the sense that something is underhand or trying to be covered up if you use language that employees have to “decode”. Keep it simple.

(A second ‘J’ I considered is journey mapping)

K- Key message

Communication should ideally focus on one key message at a time. If you give employees too many messages or too many actions at once, they’ll get lost in the noise and nothing will happen.

If you have multiple messages that people need to understand, then consider running it as a campaign, with bite-sized information that people can consume over a more comfortable time period. Or if it’s time sensitive, consider different formats – perhaps written isn’t the best option, and a town-hall or manager cascade would be better, where key messages can be reiterated and explained.

(Another ‘K’ I’ll feature is knowledge sharing)

L – Line Managers

Line Managers can single handedly undermine your communication efforts, this is why they are a crucial part of your internal comms plan. Not through spite, but if they haven’t been communicated with before an announcement goes out, they’re immediately on the backfoot when it comes to answering questions from their team. Equally, informed Managers instil trust amongst employees. People want Managers who know what’s going on and are the link between those at the top and those on the front-line.

Including Line Managers on your communication journey, before it’s shared with employees, means they have time to ask their own questions and become advocates for the message. In this respect, Line Managers can be your biggest support in ensuring a message is understood, where they can tailor the company-wide message into a context that means something for their team.

(Other areas also include: leadership, language and listening)

M – Multi-channel

I regularly liken Internal Communications to Advertising. If you see a new car being advertised for example, you see it on TV, followed by billboards, bus stop ads and magazines. There will be digital ads on websites you browse, or you might hear it being advertised on the radio. Maybe you’re on a mailing list for the manufacturer or dealership who will email you about the new car. Then of course there are car expos, social media advertising, plus TV shows and YouTubers reviewing the car.

The same should be applied to internal communication. Rarely are we all in the office together now (or we may not ever be in an office now) and we all have different preferences for how we like to receive information. It’s vital you reach employees where they are. Whether that’s email, intranet, digital apps, desk drops, posters, employee magazines, newsletters or good old fashioned post.

It’s said we need to hear something 7 times before it sticks. Repetition is key and a multi-channel approach will help you to layer your messaging across different platforms, and choose the most appropriate channels for the message.

(Other M’s I considered were measurement and mentoring)

N – Narrative

Most messages are not ‘one-and-done’ at organisations. They are a thread that’s continued throughout a time-period, such-as delivering the business’ strategy, driving financial performance, or business change programmes. To ensure consistency in messaging, avoid confusion and any risk of contradictions, weave your messages into a narrative throughout the year.

(An alternative is networking)

O – Organisational culture

Understanding organisational culture is critical to the success of your internal communications. Organisational culture is ‘the way things get done’ at your company and your communications approach needs to be reflective of that.

For your communications to be successful you cannot go against the grain. Aligning with culture enhances credibility and builds trust with employees, who are more likely to believe and act upon messages that are consistent with the culture they’ve come to know.

The same approach applies to how your communications are rolled out, ensuring you’re choosing channels most appropriate to your organisation’s culture. For example, delivering desk drops and regularly printing posters may not be the best idea for a business with a strategic objective of reducing it’s carbon footprint.

(Other options I considered for ‘O’ included: openness, outcomes & outputs, and onboarding)

P – Plan

Fail to plan, plan to fail. Perhaps a bit of an overused cliché now, but it still couldn’t be truer. From an annual communications plan, mapping your activity for the year ahead, to a campaign plan of what you’re going to deliver, when and how. Sometimes we even need a plan for the plan! Regardless of how big or small your activity is, for it to be a success you need a plan, outlining your objectives, what you’re going to do and how you’re going to measure it.

(Another important ‘P’ is purpose)

Q – Quantitative & qualitative feedback

Quantitative (stats / measurable feedback) and qualitative (context and insights based) feedback are essential for effective internal communications, providing different types of insights that, when collected and used together, offer a comprehensive understanding of employees views.

Quantitative feedback is important because it’s easily measurable and objectively analysed. It can be used to offer a clear picture of reach, engagement and effectiveness, allowing you to spot trends, benchmark your efforts and track ROI (return on investment). This typically will be in the form of asking employees questions in surveys or polls.

Qualitative feedback is a critical part of overlaying context and detail to the measurable results you’ve gained from your quantitative feedback. Perhaps employees have rated something as “poor” or said they don’t like to receive information in a certain way – why is that? Using qualitative feedback can provide rich, in-depth insights into employees’ perceptions, emotions and experience, and give your greater understanding of the impact of your efforts. Using this in your feedback efforts also gives employees a voice and allows them to feel heard, and is an important factor in employee engagement. Qualitative feedback will often come in the form of a free-text-box in a survey, a Q&A, a suggestions box, or a focus group / workshop.

Combing both of these feedback types offers a holistic view of your internal communication efforts, identifying the “what”, “how” and “why”. Together, this insight helps guide strategic decisions and ensures your communication efforts are in-line with employees’ needs, preferences and expectations.

(Other important Q’s to focus on include: Q&A and quarterly reviews)

R – Remote

We work in a world now where remote and distributed workforces are more common than ever, and it can be very challenging for Internal Communications Managers to keep remote employees feeling engaged and connected to the business they work for.

Remote workers need access to the same information as their in-office counterparts, and they need to feel just as engaged and connected to help ensure they have high morale and job satisfaction as much as anyone else. Change management is also hard, and it can feel harder when engaging with remote employees, who can feel isolated or out of the loop when change happens.

When developing your communication plans and identifying stakeholder groups, ensure remote workers are a key group you know how to engage with.

(Other options for ‘R’ include: ROI, roles and responsibilities, recognition and relevance)

S – Strategy

An internal communications strategy is a roadmap for how the organisation will communicate internally to help achieve its business objectives. It is a planned and coordinated approach to how you will communicate and engage with your organisation’s employees. It will outline goals, objectives, key messages, target audiences, channels, the tactics that will be used to convey messages and foster engagement, and how you will measure success.

Having an internal communications strategy will help ensure your communication efforts are focused, proactive and deliver value. Without an internal communications strategy, how will you know you’re doing the right things, at the right time?

(I also considered story telling and stakeholders as other options for ‘S’)

T- Two-way communication

Two-way communication is a vital part of your communications mix, encouraging active engagement and participation from employees. When employees feel their voices are heard and their input is valued, they are more likely to feel engaged and committed to their work and even the topic you’re communicating about / asking them for input on.

No-one wants to feel talked at or have messages pushed onto them day-in, day-out. Employees have valuable insights and ideas that can contribute to decision-making, problem solving and innovation. Factoring in two-way communication gives employees a platform to share their perspectives, experiences and suggestions.

Including two-way communication into your communication plan can take shape a number of different ways such as, team meetings and asking managers to collate feedback, employee forums, comments sections at the end of articles, a Q&A session with leaders, townhalls, focus groups and workshops, or surveys.

(Some other important ‘T’ words in internal comms are: tailoring, townhall, transparent and traditional)

U – Understanding

Understanding is a crucial outcome of internal communications, both from you as a communicator, and from an employee’s point of view.

From a communicators perspective it is vital to understand your organisation’s goals, values and strategies, so you know what efforts you’re supporting and aligning yourself with. You also must ensure you understand employee’s thoughts, views and feelings, so you can target and plan your communications appropriately.

From an employee’s perspective, you want to ensure your communications are as clear as possible and to provide clarity so that messages are interpreted correctly, reducing confusion and any misunderstandings.

(Another ‘U’ would be unified).

V- Voice

I have touched on this in some other areas in this post. To quote what I wrote under ‘T’:

When employees feel their voices are heard and their input is valued, they are more likely to feel engaged and committed to their work and even the topic you’re communicating about / asking them for input on.

Employee voice is a critical part of internal communications for a multi-faceted number of reasons. Employees have valuable insights and creative ideas that can drive innovation or improve processes – encouraging their input can lead to new solutions, ideas or approaches and helps them feel more connected and committed to the business.

During business change, a typically difficult area for companies to manage, factoring in employee voice approaches can lead to greater change acceptance by increasing employees understanding of why the change is happening, and their collaboration in implementing the change.

(For internal communications, other V’s to include are: vision & values, or video)

W – Water-cooler

Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth (or the watercooler moment). This refers to informal “random” conversations employees will have, typically when in the kitchen making a cup of tea, over lunch, or traditionally when stood by the watercooler.

This is where employees will typically talk about things they’ve heard or seen, or this can easily support or derail your communication efforts. Heard that a part of the business is making redundancies but the business is keeping it hush hush? You can bet word will soon spread amongst chatting employees. Heard that a brand-new benefit has been introduced but poorly launched? Employees will feel disengaged by not being “in-the-know”. Or perhaps you launched an internal event which landed really well, boosted morale and helped everyone feel more connected to the business? You know employees will be talking about what a great time they had and how good it was.

(You should also consider: writing, webinar and what’s in it for me?)

X – (e)Xperience

Perhaps a bit of a stretch in the A-Z here, but employee experience is a critical factor all the same.

The employee experience directly impacts how employees perceive and engage with their organisation. It covers every employee touchpoint during their time with the business, from their application, interview and onboarding experience, through to the development and progression of their career, even to how they exit the business should they choose to move on. This all includes of course how employees are communicated with, in what format and how frequently.

A positive employee experience can not only lead to higher levels of employee engagement, but can increase retention levels and loyalty to the organisation. A focus on mapping, tracking and improving the employee experience should be a core part of any internal communications plan.

(Some tricky options, but other important topics for X include: (e)Xpectations and X-factor)


YSIC, or “why should I care?” Addressing this question ensures that your messages resonate with employees, captures their attention and drives engagement or action.

Typically, communications would focus on “what’s in it for me?” as the main plug for the communication. But important communications do not always have a direct benefit on employees, but it does impact them (thus, why should they care? Not what do they get).

Using this question will help to frame your comms and messaging. When employees receive comms or updates, they naturally will want to understand how the update impacts them, their role, and the organisation as a whole. It also ensures that your message is focused, tailored and relevant to the audience.

(Another ‘Y’ I consider was: year in review)

Z – Gen-Z

Generation Z (roughly those born mid-1990s to mid-2010s) are the biggest emerging workforce to date. They are the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age, and therefore bring with them unique perspectives, values and communication preferences.

Typically speaking, Gen-Z employees have a natural inclination toward digital communication tools and platforms, and will have a preference for short, visual communication formats. They are accustomed to having their voices heard, and working for organisations with authentic values, focused on DEI and environmental activities, or making a positive difference in the world, are important (sometimes deal-breaking) attributes.

As internal communicators, it is important your communications mix and your key messages factor these preferences. However, it is also important to be aware that because we work in multi-generational organisations now, what will be the preference of a Gen-Z, will unlikely be the preference for a Boomer or Gen-X’er for example, so tailoring your channels and messages to your audience is crucial. Thus, bringing us back full circle to ‘A’ where we started this series.

I hope my A-Z of Internal Communications gave some useful insight and context to the day-to-day role of internal comms. Were there any you particularly agreed with? Or were there some you think I missed, or which are more important that I didn’t include? I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions, feel free to add a comment below. Thanks!

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