Internal Communications Channels: What They Are and How to Use Them

Internal Comms Feature

Table of Contents

It’s no secret: internal communications make the working world go round—and that includes employee feedback!

Get it right and everyone should know what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how they can get involved. But to achieve that you first need to know which channels to use for which content.

This guide will give you some ideas on the different channels you can use, and best-practice techniques to make the most out of them. You can pick and mix the best channels for your organisation, take some inspiration as to how to use them differently and inject engaging and informative content for your people.

Let's get started!

For effective communications strategies, use a variety of channels to keep your people engaged, and ensure the messages reach everyone who needs your updates.

Within your organisation, you’ll know which channels work well and, let’s be honest, which ones don’t. So take a moment to review the channels you’re already working with and how effective you think they are.

Understanding what currently works well and what doesn’t will help you craft an effective communication strategy and schedule. So, we’ve created a handy interactive table—just hit download below to grab your copy and do an easy review of where your internal comms are at right now.

WORKSHEET

Internal Comms Worksheet

Take some time to review your current internal comms channels with our handy, interactive worksheet.

Internal communications channels

Email

Many organisations consider emails to be their bread and butter when it comes to communications. But emails can be so much more exciting than just bread and butter!

Email pros

Pros

  • Simple to create and send
  • Easy to access on multiple devices
  • Send from specific inboxes to help readers manage their inbox
  • Messages can be targeted to your audience through distribution lists
  • Scheduled send allows for better organisation
Email cons

Cons

  • Overuse reduces its impact
  • Easy to miss in a cluttered inbox
  • You may need additional software to track analytics

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What’s the purpose of your email?

Make sure your key information is clear and easily understood (even at a glance)—and if there’s a call to action make it stand out.

2. Who are you sending the email to?

Does it need to go to everyone, or can it be targeted to a smaller population by using distribution lists? This is a really effective way to personalise your message to specific groups of people, for example, teams, hierarchy levels, projects, first aiders, etc.

3. Where is the email being sent from?

Using inboxes helps your people filter their inbox and quickly identify important emails at a glance. You can have multiple inboxes for different updates—for example, Internal Comms for business updates, People Experience for HR updates, Our Home for office updates—or even use influential people in your organisation, like your CEO.

Email top tips

Importance

1. Mark the importance

Make it clear which emails are ‘need to know’ and which are ‘nice to know’ to ensure people don’t ignore the essential messages. This can be as simple as copy and pasting emojis into the start of your subject line; ❗️ for important updates, 💼 for business updates, or 🎉 for social updates.

Analytics

2. Hack the lack of analytics

If you don’t have access to analytics through your email provider but you want to track who has read an email, add in a clear call to action that drives readers to click on a link to content hosted somewhere that you are able to track analytics (e.g. Intranet, Google Sites, etc).

Follow the chain

3. Follow the chain

If it’s part of a series of updates, follow on from or attach the previous email(s) to the new one. That way, people can still follow the updates if they’ve missed one, and it’ll reduce the number of questions and queries you may receive!

Set the scene

4. Set the scene

If emails are an effective channel for important updates in your organisation, use them to introduce your plans and set the scene for a survey, then follow up after it’s closed with the results and action plan.

Visual

5. Make it visual

Try embedding an image or infographic with the key information, or even just a fun gif to grab readers’ attention.

Messaging tools

From Slack and Microsoft Teams to Yammer and Workplace by Facebook, internal messaging tools are becoming more popular within organisations. A lot of people are signed in throughout the day and receive notifications, so it’s a great way to give instant updates and get instant feedback.

Messaging pros

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use
  • An informal way to share updates
  • Allows for two-way communication with your people
  • Everyone can automatically be added to core threads and be notified of all updates
Messaging cons

Cons

  • Those who aren’t bought in might avoid using the tool
  • Unclear purposes can lead to people misusing threads

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What’s the purpose of each thread?

Establishing a clear purpose for each thread makes it an easier user experience for your people and should help make sure the conversations stay on topic. Create a dedicated thread for general updates, where your people know to check-in and find business updates.

2. Who can access the threads?

Consider which threads need to be seen by everyone (they may need tighter settings to ensure people can’t leave or mute), and which should allow people to opt into and out of.

3. Who’s sending the updates?

Just like social media, your organisation has its own influencers; for example, if your CEO posts an update, it’s likely to get everyone’s attention. So use this to your advantage and carefully select who might be best to share each update!

Messaging tools top tips

Bring to life

1. Bring it to life

Messaging tools are great for quick updates, that can be delivered in a less formal way that people will flick through quickly. So try to make them punchy and impactful by using photos, infographic, gifs, videos or emojis.

Thumbs up

2. Give it a thumbs up

You can usually react to these posts with likes or emojis, and the number of reactions can give you an idea of who’s seen your content. So encourage your people to react and respond by getting your leadership team to set the example.

Empower

3. Empower your people

Having people sharing updates about the projects they’re working on and are passionate about will inspire and motivate others. It
also means that everyone will have a better understanding about what other projects are going on and who’s responsible for them across the organisation.

Fun

4. Have a bit of fun

Whilst you might be worried that social channels will be a distraction, they can actually be invaluable engagement tools—particularly with the rise of remote working. Channels where people can engage in non-work-related chats, can bring people together and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.

Intranet

Creating a space where your people can find information and updates will help create a self-service culture within your organisation—which is beneficial to both your people and your HR/comms team. By having everything in one place, you have control over your updates and can create a better user experience for your people.

Intranet pros

Pros

  • A multimedia channel where you can host engaging and informative content
  • Allows for two-way communication with your people
  • Everyone can be given access to the platform and explore in their own time
Intranet cons

Cons

  • Easy to slip into bad habits—like stale content that nobody reads
  • Those who aren’t bought in might avoid using the tool

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What’s the purpose of your intranet?

Having a clear understanding of the purpose of the tool and how your people use it will help determine which content should be shared here and whether it’s used as a supporting channel to other channels, like emails.

2. How do you access it?

Many organisations have their intranet as the homepage for their people’s internet browser, meaning they see it every time they log on or open a new tab.

3. How will you grab people’s attention?

Keep it simple, you can always push people to another page with more information, but grab their interest with a short and snappy line as clickbait and send them to another page with more information.

Intranet top tips

Conversations

1. Start a conversation

Another great opportunity to get a sense of initial reactions and thoughts by encouraging your people to react or comment on your content. Use your leadership team to lead the way and set the example if need be.

Buy in

2. Get buy-in

Using your intranet as part of your pre-survey teasers, updates when it’s live or countdowns to closing can be an engaging and informal way to make your people feel part of the process. It’s also a great place to share and house any post- survey feedback, results and next steps as well!

Visual

3. Make it visual

Why not take a step back from the words? This is a great channel to give your updates via video, or include images and infographics to bring your update to life.

 

Fun

4. Use your features

Make use of announcement bars, notifications, groups, polls… the list goes on! They will help keep your intranet feeling fresh with something new to see every day.

Virtual newsletters

Sending newsletters keeps your team up to date with whatever’s going on across the business on a regular basis. This is a great way to promote an open culture of recognition where teams share their successes and challenges.

Virtual newsletters pros

Pros

  • Showcase the most important updates and pressing updates
  • Can be shared easily with everyone by using distribution lists
  • Include eye-catching headlines that link through to more details on other channels
Virtual newsletters cons

Cons

  • Can be challenging to keep people engaged and committed to reading your content
  • Tracking analytics may require software
  • Not a tool designed for instant updates, so it doesn’t allow for timely updates

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What’s the purpose of your newsletter?

Make sure it’s clear to your people what the newsletter is about, so they know what they’ll get out of reading it. You can even send out different newsletters about different topics, if you like.

2. How often will you send your newsletter?

This is a fine balancing act that you need to consider alongside your other channels, but it can be a great catch- all for updates and reminders to your people. Just make sure it’s manageable for you/your team to create and your people to read.

3. Who’s contributing content?

Giving different people across the organisation the opportunity to be content contributors will help them upskill and give the newsletter different tones of voice and points of view—which will be refreshing for your readers.

Virtual newsletter top tips

Importance

1. Keep it sharp

Use eye-catching headlines and summaries of the update, rather than in-depth pieces. That way, you can push people to another page with more information, if needs be, and keep your newsletter brief and digestible—this might also help you track analytics on the other pages if you don’t have that available with the tool you use.

Buy in

2. Throw in some curveballs

Of course, business updates are really helpful and keep your people up to date, but why not include some funny or unusual content like quickfire interviews with people across the business? Get creative with it!

Set the scene

3. Keep reviewing

Make sure to assess how well it’s working for you and, most importantly, ask your people! Would they prefer to get them weekly or monthly? Might they be more effective as videos rather than just written updates?

Fun

4. Remind people to read

Whether you send a follow-up email the week after or ask managers to cover it in their team meeting. Reminding your readers gives them more opportunities to consume the content.

Events and huddles

From daily stand-ups to monthly all-hands meetings, bringing people together builds a sense of community and togetherness that can empower a team.

Events pros

Pros

  • Powerful channel for storytelling during events
  • Opportunity to share information and get first-hand feedback
  • Get a feel for people’s instant reactions and understanding of an update
  • The personal touch makes people feel more included in the update
Events cons

Cons

  • Some won’t feel comfortable giving feedback in an open forum
  • Cascading information can risk poor communication and timing errors

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What’s the purpose of the event?

Be clear about the purpose and intended outcomes of all your events. It’ll make it much easier to manage communications and expectations, and help you to stay on track.

2. What kind of event or huddle is best?

Time-sensitive and critical updates will require consideration, planning and controlled distribution. So an all-hands meeting would be most appropriate, as you can control who is giving the update and that it’s not lost in translation. Discussing

the results of the survey, on the other hand, might be better suited for team meetings where managers can make the feedback more bespoke to their team.

3. How will you make it engaging?

Whether it’s refreshing the agenda, having someone else lead the session, or using activities to break it up; try to challenge yourself on how you can make it engaging. That way people won’t get bored by the routine and it’ll help promote innovation and new ways of thinking.

Events and huddles top tips

Fun

1. Try technology

All-hands meetings can quickly lose momentum and energy and be difficult to get audience participation. So why not try using tools which allow participants to answer polls, give feedback and ask questions during the session without the embarrassment of speaking in front of everyone?

Regular breaks

2. Break up the session

Whether it’s a prerecorded video you can share during the session or a quick activity you can arrange for people to break off into (both virtually or in-person), changing the pace of the session keeps people engaged and interested in the update.

Empower

3. Involve everyone in change

Consider using an all-hands meeting as your starting point, by bringing everyone together to empower and inspire them to be part of the growth and evolution of your organisation. This can also be a great way to feed back results after a survey and discuss how the changes are going to be implemented.

Videos and podcasts

In the era of Spotify, YouTube and Netflix, it’s not surprising that videos and podcasts are an emerging channel that people love. But you don’t need a massive budget or a huge following to create vibrant and engaging content that people will remember.

Video pros

Pros

  • Once it’s made you can reuse
  • Easy to track analytics
  • The most engaging form of content
  • Consumable in the background as you work
  • Can be as simple as a screen recording using your webcam or filming on your phone
  • Quicker to produce than written content
Video cons

Cons

  • Might take time and skills to create high-quality videos
  • More difficult to refresh and update

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What’s the purpose of your video or podcast?

Knowing what you want to achieve with your video/podcast will help you to understand the best tone to use. For example, a health and safety video probably shouldn’t contain any jokes, a business announcement should be quite direct, and a success story should be lighthearted and human.

2. Who’s going to be in the video or podcast?

Think about who is an engaging speaker and will be able to create energy to grab your audience. Bear in mind this might not be the most relevant person to the topic.

3. Where will you host the video or podcast?

Host your video/podcast somewhere that’s easy to access. The beauty of this kind of content is that it can be enjoyed over time, so make it easy to do so and refer to it via future updates where relevant. Also keep in mind the analytics capabilities of different platforms; YouTube, for example, has a variety of privacy settings for internal and external videos.

Video and podcast top tips

Empower

1. Get your people involved

Ask what people would like to see. You could create a whole series based on one set of responses. If they feel heard and part of it, they’ll want to tune in and see what it’s all about.

Promote

2. Promote

It’s internal marketing, simple as that. So give people a reason to tune in, like a teaser. Check out TV shows, podcasts, videos you enjoy and take inspiration for how they got you to tune in.

Analytics 1

3. Use analytics and try different things

Finding your style is all part of the process when creating video and podcasts. Don’t worry about making the wrong thing; just stick to a purpose and be open to changes and feedback! Using analytics, you can play around with different lengths, styles and tones to find your sweet spot that people engage with most.

Physical comms

In this digital age, it can be easy to forget about the physical comms
you see in the non-virtual world. For years it was the best way to share updates with your team through posters, noticeboards or memos. Digital may now be the medium of choice, but that doesn’t mean physical comms don’t have their place…

Physical comms pros

Pros

  • Easy and simple to create and distribute
  • Can be lighthearted and creative
  • Can be in places where you have people’s attention and are relevant to that space, e.g. bathrooms, lifts, meeting rooms, etc.
Physical comms cons

Cons

  • Easy to miss, especially if people aren’t office-based
  • No analytics available

Before you get started, ask yourself…

1. What type of format would be best and where?

There are lots of different types of physical comms, so it will depend on what the purpose is. For example, a guide to the office printer would fit on a noticeboard above the printer, social updates might work around the water cooler, and a plea for tidier desks might suit (ironically) a desk-drop.

2. Who’s keeping them up to date?

Noticeboards and posters quickly become out of date if nobody is managing them. So make sure somebody has ownership of them and is responsible for removing and updating anything old.

3. Is there a digital version?

Knowing who’s seen updates can be a challenge, so use digital channels to support any physical comms. You should be able to get a better idea of who’s seen the updates that way as well.

Physical comms top tips

Visual

1. Make it eye catching

These comms are designed to be seen quickly, so make it visual and have some fun with it. It should stick in people’s minds and even be a talking point!

Bring to life

2. Get your people involved

Encourage people to get involved and create their own, whether that’s for social events they’ve organised, clubs they run or charities they support.

Thumbs up

3. Welcome new starters

Using screens in an office can be a great way to welcome any newbies to the team, while their name, picture and a few hobbies and interests will help everyone else get to know them.

What internal comms channels should I use?

To help you decide on which channel to use for your next update, we’ve created a handy little decision tree that should help you make your decision. Click to enlarge! 👇

That’s a wrap!

Remember your comms channels are there to help you and your people. So test and try new ways of using them to create engaging content for your team.

We’ve rounded up all of the above in a handy, interactive PDF that you can save and share with your team. Grab your copy below! 👇

Free EBook

A Guide to Internal Comms Channels

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