Internal Communications - Why It Matters







Lisa Fratzke

Partner & Executive Strategist,

Head of Client Strategy



What is Internal Communication?

Internal communication refers to information that is shared between a company and its employees to ensure they have the information necessary to perform their jobs, champion your brand, and engage in the employment experience.

More often than not, internal communications is often underfunded and under-appreciated within companies. It is an essential function that is noticed more prominently when it is not working vs. when it is working.

The absence of a cohesive internal communication strategy can be felt across the organization in terms of productivity, trust, connectedness and retention. In fact, productivity is likely to increase by five times if employees feel included and engaged in detailed communication from their employer. 

In this article, we will review:

Internal Communications Landscape in 2023

Todays internal communications landscape is evolving faster than ever before. Part of this is due to a post-pandemic world, the economy, and a generational shift in employee mindsets. Here are some of the biggest considerations for your internal strategy.

Remote and Hybrid Workers Increase

Now, more than ever, getting internal communication right is essential within organizations as they navigate a new work environment that includes an increase in hybrid and remote workers. 

Nearly half of the U.S. full-time workforce, about 60 million workers - have jobs that can be done remotely working from home. And, after experiencing what that was like during the pandemic, nine in 10 remote-capable employees prefer to continue some form of remote-work flexibility. This includes working fully remotely or in a hybrid  environment. 

With such a dispersed workforce it will be important to implement internal communication strategies that connects virtual and in-person workers with your company in meaningful ways.

Evolving Employee Expectations 

The dynamics fueling the Great Resignation are another factor underlying the importance of internal communications in today’s workplace. In 2021, nearly 48 million people quit their jobs. Recent survey data suggests nearly half of employees are looking for a new job or plan to find one soon. 

Drivers fueling these workforce dynamics include high labor demand and evolving employee expectations. Many people are leaving their jobs for better pay, an increase in growth opportunities and more flexibility. Notably, toxic work cultures were a major driving force, as employees are looking for companies where they feel seen, respected and heard. 

Employees expectations have evolved. They are seeking jobs within healthy company cultures that provide better work-life balance, flexibility and benefits. As a result, companies need to be ready with robust communication strategies to help reinforce positive cultures and communicate the opportunities and benefits available within your organization.

Everyone is a Content Creator

The rise of social media channels, apps and the ability to create digital content directly from our phones has transformed how we connect with one another in our personal lives and professionally. 

Many employees have become their own personal content creators and have learned the principles of effective visual and written communication via their own social media platforms. As a result, the expectations for internal communications have never been higher. If your internal communication efforts are impersonal or stale it is simply not going to fly

Workers Want Transparency

Graphic illustration of stat: 87% of employees want their future company to be transparent
This graphic illustrates that 87% of employees want their future company to be transparent.

Employees, and consumers for that matter, desire real, authentic, human-centered communication and can sense when a brand is not being transparent and real. 87% of employees want their future company to be transparent. 

In addition, employee access to external communication channels means that anything that is shared internally will absolutely be shared externally. Companies need to ensure that all internal and external communication efforts are strategically aligned and in sync. 

RELATED RESEARCH: State of Internal Communications in 2022 Report

Role of Internal Communications

The role of internal communications will vary based on your company's size and industry. Mid-size businesses may task their HR department with internal communications, have a single individual that supports internal communications or have a small and mighty team that handles this function for the entire company. 

Larger, more complex organizations may have robust internal communications teams that are distributed across business segments and/or regions. 

Regardless of how this department is structured, 60 percent of companies lack a long-term internal communication strategy and nearly one in four workers are dissatisfied with how communication is shared.

Graphic illustration of stat: 60% of companies lack a long-term internal communications strategy
This graphic illustrates that 60% of companies lack a long-term internal communications strategy.

Although internal communications may often be undervalued or overlooked, it is vital to an organization's health. Communications leaders often function as the connective tissue between diverse teams internally and are key to communicating the culture, employee benefits and inspiring employees to be brand ambassadors of the company’s mission and purpose internally and externally. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the reasons why internal communications matters.

Fratzke's Internal Communications Audit - communications team working around a table

Why Internal Communications Matters

Internal communications is the unsung hero of high performing brands. And yet, internal communication is often underutilized. When it’s used to its maximum potential, internal communication can be your company's superpower. 

These are just a few of the reasons why internal communications matters:

  • Helps Fuel Culture
  • Ensures Brand Alignment Across the Company
  • Increases Employee Buy-in and Advocacy
  • Drives Employee Engagement and Retention

Internal Communications Helps Fuel Culture

The culture of a workplace is a complex tapestry of language, action and emotion. It is the environment employees live, breathe and work within on a daily basis and includes the shared values, beliefs, behaviors and assumptions of people within your organization. 

Creating your culture begins with defining your company’s purpose, vision and core values, operationalizing them and reinforcing through shared language, leadership and communications initiatives across an organization. 

Although internal communications doesn’t create culture without systems and leaders to support it - it does play a key role in reinforcing it. Every touchpoint an employee has with your company, whether that is your office space, employee intranet, or an interaction with a leader, is an opportunity for you to communicate what it means to be part of your company, and establish expectations that fuel a healthy culture. 

Ensure Brand Alignment Across the Company

When it comes to thinking about brand strategy, new products and announcements, the focus is often placed externally on marketing and public relation efforts designed to engage with consumers and the public. 

However, any product launch or company initiative needs to begin and end with a cohesive internal communication plan that is designed to educate and engage employees so they can understand why the company is making this decision and proactively communicate it to each other and customers they come into contact with. 

We’ve all experienced when this brand alignment breaks down. 

For example, you see an ad online for an exciting new promotion or event from your favorite clothing brand. You go into the store and ask a sales representative and they know nothing about it. Or, perhaps, you go to return a product from a store that has a reputation for customer service. Instead of being greeted by a friendly team member, they barely greet you and you end up feeling like an inconvenience. These are interactions that happen every day and they showcase a lack of brand alignment. 

Whether it is understanding new brand initiatives or embodying what it means to represent your brand with customers, it is important to have a cohesive internal communications strategy to ensure your employees not only know what is going on, but are inspired to be champions of it. 

Gain Employee Buy-In and Advocacy

So, how exactly do you inspire your employees to be brand champions? As Simon Sinek would say, a key aspect of gaining buy-in is to “start with why.” It’s not enough for employees to understand what is happening and what they are expected to do. They need to understand why it is important to the organization, and more personally, to them

Employees are increasingly seeking out companies that align with their core values and have a very clear “why” behind their brand. These purpose-driven brands often see 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of employee retention than their competitors.

Purpose-Driven Brands Stat Visualization
Purpose-driven brands experience 40% higher levels of retention and 30% higher levels of innovation.

Communicating the purpose behind your company allows employees to understand if they are personally invested in what you do. If they are, they will be excited to speak out about their experience with your brand and share the latest news with their network. 

Secondarily, it’s important to communicate the “why” behind brand initiatives, new product rollouts, company policies, process updates and more to ensure that your employees are buying in and can act as advocates for your messaging every step of the way.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Have an Annual Internal Communications Strategy

Drive Employee Engagement + Retention 

Connection and belonging is a fundamental human need that doesn’t stop when we enter the workplace. Gallup found that employees who say they have a best friend at work increase in engagement and performance. 

In today’s world of hybrid and remote work, finding new and creative ways to fuel connection in the workplace is crucial. 91% of workers are hoping to feel closer to their work colleagues and 85% want to feel more connected to their remote team members. That’s where an intentional internal communications strategy can help. 

Introducing platforms that are more collaborative, such as Slack or Workplace from Meta, can help create a sense of connection at work, provide opportunities for dialogue between diverse teams and introduce the opportunity for employees to collaborate digitally. 

But, it shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to have a comprehensive plan to communicate company events, employee recognition, unique benefits and more so that employees understand the opportunity available to form valuable connections at work. 

Internal Communications Survey Report - Invitation to Download

Internal Communication Audience Types

Internal communication refers to communication that is distributed from a company to its employees, and there are many different communication subtypes and strategies within internal communication that vary based on your message and audience. 

It is important to have a defined internal communications strategy for each audience which often includes all employees, leaders and executives. 

Let’s take a deeper look at each audience.

Graphic illustration of Internal Communications Audiences including Executives, Leaders and Employees
Key internal communications audiences include executives, leaders and all employees.

  • Employee Communication - Employee communication is messaging that goes out to all employees at the company, and often includes general corporate communication, company announcements, employee events and opportunities, corporate citizenship efforts, and more. It’s important to understand how you will reach each employee. Whether you have a remote workforce, a number of locations or a single office, you should have a communication strategy in place with communication channels that are targeted to reach each audience. 
  • Leader Communication - Internal communication is only as effective as leadership buy-in to your messaging. It’s important for leaders to understand they play a key role in helping to distribute applicable employee communication and championing key communication initiatives. With that being said, it’s important to have a leader communication strategy that seeks to educate leaders on their role as communication champions and empowers them with the tools and talking points needed to communicate to their teams. 
  • Executive Communication - Executives are the highest level of leadership within your company and have an important role in setting the strategic vision and inspiring your workforce. Because executives can often feel out of reach or out of touch with employees, it’s important to have an executive communication strategy in place to raise awareness of company leadership and communicate their vision. In addition, executives play an important role in championing company communication initiatives with their leadership team and holding their teams accountable. You should have specific communication channels and messaging in place to empower executives and amplify their message. 
RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Questions to Improve your Communications Strategy
Fratzke Internal Communications Audit - Invitation to Learn More

Internal Communication Channels

There are a number of internal communications channels that can be used to connect with your audiences. As internal communications technology evolves, the importance of digital communications continues to rise to the forefront. 

In a survey Fratzke Consulting conducted of 240 internal communications leaders nationwide, the majority of leaders found digital communications channels including email, employee intranet, mobile apps and texting to be some of the most effective forms of communication today.

Communications Channels Rated as Moderately or Extremely Effective - Data Visualization
Digital communications channels are seen as most effective by internal communications leaders.

Beyond digital, there are a number of ways to reach in-office workers and frontline employees, including printed materials, leader huddles and in-person meetings. 

Below is a list of internal communications channels that you should consider for your brand:

  • Employee Intranet
  • Employee Apps
  • Third-Party Platforms
  • Multimedia (digital signage, videos, etc.)
  • Employee Email
  • Employee Social Media
  • Employee Printed Materials (Fliers, Banners, etc.
  • Home Mailers
  • Printed Newsletters
  • In-person Meetings
  • Town Halls

How to Create an Effective Internal Communications Strategy

Having a clear communications strategy to guide your internal communications messaging and efforts is essential for an organization to ensure that they are sharing the right information in the right ways with their workforce. 

How well you communicate internally can even impact the success and growth of your business. Brands with a highly engaged workforce outperform their peers by 147% earnings per share. 

An effective internal communications strategy is your key to fueling productivity and employee engagement. But, where should you begin? 

Below are some steps to follow when creating the internal communications strategy for your brand. 

  1. Define Your Purpose and Core Values
    You should always begin with defining your culture as a brand, which consists of your company purpose and core values. Both your brand purpose and core values are key components of your company culture and should be a guiding light for how you approach communications, the messages you amplify, and how you share them.
  2. Gather Feedback and Data
    Ask your employees how they prefer to receive communication and what type of information they are interested in through an employee survey, focus groups and/or one-on-one interviews. In addition, gather any available metrics that you have to assess employee engagement with your current platforms, including your employee intranet, email and more. 
  3. Assess Your Current Internal Communications Approach
    After gathering feedback from your audience and data about your communications performance, it’s important to take a step back and assess  your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as an organization. What are you doing well? What can you do better? Where are their gaps? These should all be covered as part of your strategy. 
  4. Define and Segment Your Audience
    Once you have a clear understanding of your communications landscape and audience feedback, segment your audience into appropriate groups based on role type and communication preferences, so you know how to best reach them. It can be helpful to create employee personas as part of this effort that clearly identify core segments of your audience.
  5. Identify Your Goals and Objectives
    What are you hoping to accomplish through your internal communications efforts? It’s important to identify some high level goals that tie into the overall success of your brand, along with key performance indicators to measure success.
  6. Create Your Internal Communications Strategy
    Now that you understand your culture, key audiences and goals, define the cadence, channels and messaging that will be part of your internal communications approach for your organization. As part of this, it can be helpful to identify key communications touchpoints and events throughout the year. 
  7. Engage Leadership
    Once your have solidified your internal communications strategy, it’s important to get buy-in from your brand’s leadership. From top level executives to front line managers, leaders are an important part of the communications process. Make sure they understand your communications strategy and champion your efforts.

These are just a few of the steps that you can take action on today to begin building an effective internal communications strategy for your brand. To learn more about how to create your internal communications strategy, download our free resource

RELATED RESOURCE: How to Create an Internal Communications Strategy
How to Create Your Internal Communications Strategy - Invitation to Download

Internal Communications Strategy Best Practices

Having a holistic internal communications strategy that clearly prioritizes your messaging and defines the purpose and audience for each communication channel is essential for your organization. In addition to understanding the bigger picture, it's important to have an annual internal communications strategy in place to establish your yearly priorities. You should also be creating communications strategies for distinct initiatives, employee benefits, announcements and more. 

So, what exactly is an internal communications strategy? An internal communications strategy includes the goals for a specific internal communications initiative and the audience, messaging, communication channel, timeline and creative collateral necessary to achieve your goals.

When communicating to your employees, there are a few best practices that you should keep in mind that apply to most every internal communication strategy that you create. 

  • Speak like a human - not a corporation
  • Tell your employees before you tell the world
  • Don’t just inform, you need to inspire
  • Leverage new and innovative storytelling channels
  • Empower leaders to be communication champions
  • Create a sense of community and belonging
  • Create a space for feedback and dialogue
  • Strategically target your messaging
  • Use data to measure success

Let’s take a look at each of these below. 

Speak like a human - not a corporation

The need for an authentic and real voice behind any corporate communication has never been more important - or more difficult to achieve. When it comes to distributing company information, most companies opt into “playing it safe” which means that any information that is distributed can feel boring, stale and impersonal.

Just as it’s important to create your brand voice externally, you should also have an internal brand voice that feels authentic to the culture you desire to create. This brand voice should have a clear tone, style and look and feel across your website and collateral. 

Based on the size and scope of your organization, your tone of voice may vary based on your audience, communication vehicle or the type of messaging you are distributing. But, there you should have a core internal brand voice that acts as your guiding light. That voice should feel human, real and avoid impersonal corporate jargon at all costs.

Tell your employees before you tell the world

Your first and most important audience for any company announcement should be your workforce. Your employees have the power to be your greatest champions and also your greatest liability if they are not fully informed of what is going on. One of the key mistakes company leaders often make when announcing sensitive, confidential or exciting news externally is not prioritizing how and when that message is shared internally. 

It’s important to have a clear plan for how announcements are going to be shared internally to ensure that employees are fully aware of company news before the public. If it is a confidential initiative and you are concerned of information leaking, you may choose to release the information simultaneously internally and externally. 

If you are releasing information simultaneously internally and externally, there should be a robust plan in place to ensure that information is distributed quickly to those who need it internally to ensure employee buy-in and prepare the appropriate teams to address customer questions.

Don’t just inform, you need to inspire

Not all of your internal communication will be designed to inspire. If you have an operational update or an exclusive event that employees should attend, you don’t need to inspire. When it comes to encouraging your employees to go above and beyond in their roles to fulfill the mission and purpose of your company, you will need to inspire them.

Quote: The Best Way to Inspire Employees Is Not By Sharing Information - It Is By Telling Compelling Stories

The best way to inspire employees is not by sharing information - it is by telling compelling stories. Stories that move them - that make them feel connected to each other and the people you serve. Some tangible ways to inspire include telling stories about individual employees and why they do what they do, recognizing employees who went above and beyond and sharing customer stories about how your product or service made a tangible difference in their lives. 

Communication that inspires is often least prioritized and most important when it comes to using your internal employee communication efforts as a tool that reinforces your company culture.

Leverage new and innovative storytelling channels

There have never been more new and interesting ways to communicate and motivate a workforce than there are today, between the employee intranet, internal apps, and collaborative applications like Workplace from Meta and Slack. 

In addition, a growing number of companies are also leveraging social media to connect with employees. An example of this is Disney Parks. They created a unique hashtag for Cast Members to post about their employment experience across social platforms: #disneycastlife. On TikTok, this company-championed hashtag has over 200 million views. 

#DisneyCastLife on TikTok has 200 million+ views
This is a snapshot of just a few of the trending #disneycastlife videos on TikTok.

Finding company-approved ways for employees to proactively share about their employment experience on social media, whether that is approved templates, messaging, photo opportunities or hashtags, can empower employees to be advocates of your brand

In addition, over 54% of global website traffic is on mobile phones. If you are not finding a way to reach employees in a meaningful way on their mobile devices, you are missing out on opportunities to reach them where they are at.  

Empower leaders to be communication champions

One of the biggest communication challenges companies often face is leaders who don’t recognize the importance of their role in sharing and amplifying your message. 

Whether you like it or not, there is only so much an internal communication department can do to distribute communication internally within your company. It is up to your internal communicators to strategically craft your message and distribute it within the appropriate channels. Beyond that, you need to empower leaders and even every day employees to act as communication champions who amplify your message

As part of any leader training within your company, you should emphasize their role as communicators and educate them on the best way to retrieve company updates and amplify that information to their teams. In addition, not every leader is a born communicator. It’s important to share best practices for how to communicate well in one-on-one settings and to larger groups, especially if they are sharing sensitive or confidential messaging.

Create a sense of community and belonging

Creating a sense of connection and belonging at work is a growing factor in retention. People are no longer looking to work for just a paycheck. Employees want to be part of a larger purpose and a community where they can belong

According to McKinsey, more than half of employees left their jobs at the end of 2021 because they lacked a sense of belonging. Creating that sense of belonging needs to be a key priority - and it needs to be intentionally defined and operationalized within your organization.

Internal communications can help by sharing your employee stories, helping to communicate employee events that help fuel connection and championing employee voices. Part of this includes making diversity and inclusion a key priority and ensuring your internal creative collateral and messaging honors, reflects and celebrates diversity within  your company. 

State of Internal Communications in 2023 Survey Report - Invitation to Download

Create a space for feedback and dialogue

If you distribute internal communications to your employees and never hear what they think or feel about it - is it a success? There is no true way of knowing. 

Obviously, you can track metrics, but they will often only tell you part of the story. That’s why it is so important to ask for employee feedback on your internal communication efforts. This can be done through a formal survey, feedback form on your website, focus groups and more. 

In addition, it’s important to provide forums for dialogue internally. Whether that is town halls where employees can ask leaders questions directly, implementing a collaborative tool like Slack, Workplace from Meta or enabling comments on your digital content. Employees desire to have their voices heard and it’s important to create natural pathways for that dialogue to take place.

Strategically target your messaging

Not every message you create is well-suited for every internal audience and platform. As a result, you should strategically target your internal communication messaging to ensure the right message is making it to the right audience through the right channels. 

When building an internal employee intranet, it is important to build in the ability to target specific audiences based on job type, function and level. In addition, employees are used to custom content being served to them externally - and that expectation also applies to internal employee communication. Providing your employees with opportunities to share the type of information they are interested in seeing on a regular basis will help increase their engagement.

In addition, when it comes to email marketing, make sure to segment your list appropriately so that you can strategically send messages to the appropriate audiences.

Use data to measure success

In a survey Fratzke Consulting conducted with leaders nationwide, 85% of communications leaders said they use data to inform their internal communications strategies and decisions. When crafting a communication strategy, it is important to define how you will be measuring success and have hard and fast metrics you can use to assess your efforts.

Graphic: 85% of Communications Leaders Use Data to Measure Success
This graphic illustrates that 85% of communications leaders use data to inform their internal communications strategies.

Any key performance indicators you identify should be timely, measurable and directly connected to goals of your communication initiative.

For example, if your goal is to raise awareness about a new product offering, you could measure success based on how many views your company post received on your employee intranet, along with open and click throughs of your company email. If you are communicating a company event opportunity, you may measure success based on the number of attendees. 

Lastly, identify ongoing employment engagement metrics that you will follow on a monthly and annual basis to measure the effectiveness of your overall internal communication efforts in generating awareness, engagement and actions. This will allow you to identify channels and messaging that worked well, those that didn’t, and calibrate and optimize your strategies quickly to reach your audience.

Fratzke's Internal Communications Audit - Invitation to Learn More

Internal Communications Trends in 2023

During 2023, the post-pandemic landscape has been coming into greater focus. As work evolves, internal communications teams are adapting to meet business needs, decentralized work models, personalized communication, and the expectations of employees.

Flexibility, purpose and an approach to work that puts humans at the center has become increasingly important. 

Based on our research and data, we’ve identified six trends that can help internal communications leaders plan for this year and next. These include:

  • Human-centered thinking rises to the forefront
  • The purpose revolution will continue to grow
  • The line between internal and external communications will cease to exist
  • Personalized digital experiences for employees become status quo
  • Employee experience and employee personas will be mapped and defined
  • Work flexibility will focus on outcomes - not hours. 

If you’d like to learn more about these trends, sign up for our on-demand webinar!

View On-Demand Webinar: 2023 Internal Communications Trends
2023 Internal Communications Trends Webinar - Watch Now



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The Takeaway

When it comes to why internal communications matters in today's digital-first world, the data is clear. Employees who feel included in detailed communication are nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity. Unfortunately, 74% of employees feel they’re missing out on important information from their company. 

Brands that recognize the value of internal communications and engaging their employees in transparent, purpose-driven communication will be able to activate and inspire one of their most powerful resources: their people.

If you are looking for a partner you can trust to help you transform your communications and culture, we can help. Let’s talk.

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