The Internal Channel Landscape
When it comes to understanding how information travels and resonates with employees, having dedicated, internal communications resources is simply a smart business decision. Internal communicators are uniquely placed to observe how that information is accessed (or not), what impact it has and how to strategically use that knowledge.
While many factors influence communication strategies, an understanding of the internal channel landscape is crucial when determining where certain information should live, when or how it should be sent or presented and, generally, which tactics will yield the best results.
Historically, internal communicators have used observation (e.g., did people show up to an event?) and professional intuition to map their channel network’s busiest or most successful routes. But times have changed. In today’s digital workplace, the channel network is far more complex, catering to many end-user preferences and accessibility. Plus, the availability of communication tools means the widespread adoption of “shadow IT” ( unofficial or unsanctioned tools adopted by employees without the IT departments knowledge, often Slack or WhatsApp) is very easy and can potentially cause a severe headache for communicators if we cannot get a clear view of who is using what channel and why.
Understanding the Channel Landscape
To develop a deeper understanding of an organization’s channel landscape, an audit is essential. Accurately mapping the channels that employees can access (officially sanctioned or not), who uses them, how they use them and what information is shared through them are all questions that an audit should answer.
Capturing this information helps get the lay of the land, which informs the development of a channel strategy. A lot of information will be easy to obtain, while some will require investigative work speaking to people across the organization and at different seniority levels. When a communicator knows how information flows, they can use and direct that flow to achieve the required results — a valuable asset to any organization and an indispensable contribution to solidifying our role.
While a channel map gives us the lay of the land, robust, real-time data about how people use those channels brings that map to life. This leads to step two: putting those metrics in context. Despite the growing focus on internal communications as a business necessity, we as practitioners have historically had little access to, or experience with, parsing those numbers.
Take email. It has been the most widely used communication channel for years. Although newer tools are challenging it for supremacy, it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Yet many organizations have little to no insight into how effective their email communications are. This leaves even a dedicated internal communications team without much to work with to shift to a more strategic approach. However, as our profession grows, so does the availability of more tailored and cost-effective tools.
Modern Technology: An Opportunity
Today’s multichannel, new-tech environment promotes a new mandate for communicators: We must gather actual data to inform a channel strategy, deliver impactful communications and inform ongoing work. We can designate a single source of truth (such as an intranet site) and direct back to it from whatever channel is most appropriate rather than tweaking the same content for every available medium. It also means that we can speak to other business areas in a language they understand, using our institutional knowledge, research and channel strategy to ensure our messages further resonate with their intended audiences.
As internal communications matures as a discipline, we can use information we never had before to advocate for mandate and authority. While tools and technology certainly play a major role, it’s the combination of those new advantages plus our basic best practices — like knowing and owning our channels and their audiences — that allows us to make the most of a new era of strategic internal communications.
Erin Raimondo and Alfie Penfold
Erin Raimondo is, at the core, a writer and content-obsessed communicator with more than a decade of experience fostering engagement through effective internal communication. She is an expert at developing integrated communication strategies that fit and flourish in diverse environments. At IC Thrive, she works with customers to find their own unique paths to better internal communication and heads up IC Thrive’s complimentary educational offering on internal communications best practices.
Working in the tech, sports, media, finance and education spaces over the last 10 years, Alfie Penfold employs an energetic and fun approach to internal communications. With a focus on building meaningful relationships, putting employees first and helping to connect team members, he seeks to deliver business value through effective and strategic communications. At IC Thrive, he works closely with our multichannel Reach product, making sure our customers are supported while developing and implementing their channel strategy.