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How to review your internal communication channels

Here’s a question I received from a reader:

I’m dealing with some challenges in identifying the best communication channels to engage our employees. Email is usually the best option, but we have periods where we send too many communications through that channel and it creates the rejection effect on part of the team. How can we improve our channels?

This topic also came up in my membership community, The Curious Tribe. One of the community members is trying to audit their channels right now to improve communication between departments in the business.

So let’s get curious about communication channels.

Internal communication channels as infrastructure

I like to think of channels as infrastructure.

Just as physical infrastructure like roads or railroads will help people move easily around a city, a set of communication channels will help messages move easily around an organisation. This is critical for effective internal communication.

I also think of channels as foundational. What I mean is that you need to have these in place first before you create campaigns or try to drive behaviour change through tactics. Because you might have the most incredible messages in the world – but if you can’t deliver them to the right people through the right channel, then it’s all a bit redundant.

There’s no best practice for comms channels

I regularly get asked about the ‘best’ channels to use or for specific examples of what channels companies are using to communicate their staff. There’s no such thing as best practice for your channel mix I’m afraid, because it’s all so contextual.

What might be a great channel for your audience in your organisation to meet your goals might be completely irrelevant in another workplace. So my advice is to focus on your people and your business needs and be less concerned with ‘best practices’ from other organisations. They may not be best for you.

So where do you start?

You need to create a baseline for yourself. You need to understand where you’re starting from. What channels do you have now and what are they used for? In order words - how are we doing right now?

You can map your channels very easily using a very simple table like this:

You’ll hear this referred to as a “communications channel matrix” and here’s how you complete it:

  1. In the first column, “channels”, you simply write down all the communication channels you can think of that exist in your organisation. This could include townhall meetings, email newsletters, intranet blogs, instant messaging, an employee app, offsite retreats… any channel or vehicle for disseminating content to employees.

  2. Then move to the second column. What’s the purpose of each channel you have listed? Why do they exist, what’s the point of them?

  3. In the third column you’ll write down who’s the audience for each channel. Have you got channels that are targeted specifically at managers, for example, or at sales people on the road who don’t sit at desks?

  4. In the fourth column you’ll capture whether the channel is one way or two way. One way means a communication is being broadcast out to employees but they can’t interact with it or engage with it, for example an email from a “do not reply” email address or a piece of video content with the comments turned off. Two way channels are ones that enable employees to reply, engage or interact, for example blogs that you can comment under or forums where you can join a discussion or an email newsletter where you can hit reply.

  5. And then finally you can write down the frequency. How often is each channel used? Do you have a newsletter that goes out every week or a townhall that happens every month?

Now do your review

Look at your completed table with a critical eye.

What gaps or challenges can you spot? What opportunities exist?

For example, you might find that all of your channels are updated every 3 days and maybe that’s way more content than employees need. Or maybe you notice that you don’t have any two-way channels in place yet so it’s hard to get feedback from employees. You might find that you have a huge long list of 20 channels but do you really need that many?

Here’s some useful questions you can think about to assess what kind of changes you might need to make to your channels.

  • Do these channels meet the needs of the business? What’s the organisation focused on for the next 3-5 years and what might your channels need for this? For example, maybe there’s going to be a big push on digital transformation next year or maybe your organisation is going to embrace a remote-first way of working. How will this impact your channels?

  • Do these channels meet employees where they are? You might have 50% of your workforce as non-desk based workers on the shop floor or working in a factory. Are your channels set up to meet them where they are or you wholly reliant on email?

  • Do the channels deliver a great experience for employees? For example are you delivering content that requires as few clicks as possible to consume it? Are you striving to create consumer-grade communication channels that deliver timely, relevant communication in a style that employees enjoy?

Reviewing your channels like this is the first step to improving them.

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Thanks for reading and stay curious,



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