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  • Writer's pictureApril Dawn Shinske

5 Key Questions for People-First Internal Communications

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

The best internal communications prompt teams to:

  • Know: Many staff communications are simply informational. Convey facts in ways that are both simple and compelling. Motivate staff to the next step: adoption.

  • Adopt: Inspire your team to buy in and adopt, be it as energetic brand ambassadors or team players who will enthusiastically enact key initiatives.

  • Act: First-class internal communications professionals know how to convey information in ways that prompt sustainable, repeat action by employees.

Really and truly get to know your team members and the key drivers that motivate them across your organization.

Explore these 5 starter questions as you craft your internal communications plans, and enact people-first strategies to make your organization's message your team's message.

  1. Who is your staff team? What are your team's detailed demographics? What expertise, affinities, geographies, and lived experiences shape your culture? Your Human Resources colleagues can share this essential information. Then, segment your audience and tailor messaging across groups. Maybe you provide quick-hit messages with dominant visuals for millennials, and drill-down guides for generations that relish detail. Team demographics should inform the words you choose, the mechanisms that engage staff, and messaging frequency. Success measures should also take into account how well each segment of the team engages. Finally, adjust your approaches accordingly to best reach everyone how and where they seek key information.

  2. What is your organization's culture truly about (both on and off the record)? Buttoned up? Unbuttoned? No buttons? Space suits? Seriously. Try a fun exercise. Ask yourself: If our culture were a person, what would she be like? What might he wear? Where would they like to shop? Eat out? Enjoy as hobbies? Personify your culture, market to that person, and you'll speak to your team with a more authentic voice.

  3. What choices will advance diversity, inclusion and belonging? Every decision in internal communications either advances belonging or threatens to detract from it. Really. You have an awesome responsibility, but also one that can afford you the chance to foster employee well-being, retention, and team success. This question merits numerous blog posts all its own, and we will get to those together! But for now, lead through collaboration. Work with HR leaders, affinity groups, peers at other organizations, and subject-area experts. Request honest evaluation of your content, take critiques seriously, and quickly evolve your practices toward optimal diversity, inclusion and belonging.

  4. What makes your team feel excited, inspired, valued, and really seen? Cookie cutters are only good for baking. A one-size-fits-all approach almost never works for internal communications. You can't possibly individualize every single message. But you can do two important things: Invest time and learn what is valued. Through surveys, focus groups, and again in partnership with your HR buddies, get real feedback from staff members. If you say "This is exciting news!" minus authentic voice, you probably won't excite or inspire a soul.

  5. What throws the answers to your questions out the window? Just when you think you have it all figured out, I hate to break it to you, but things will evolve, shift and fluctuate. We are living a prime example: If you had great pre-pandemic strategies for in-person internal communications, odds are good you had to shift those to accommodate a much more remote-based mid-pandemic world. But, much more subtle shifts will mean that your internal communications must always change as circumstances dictate. Maybe you know that your organization overall is a buttoned down, blue jeans culture. BUT, the folks in the Lancaster, PA, office are an anomaly, and really prefer a more traditional approach. Give it to 'em! Your answers will continue to vary based on geography, executive vision, generational differences, and fluctuating business needs. The payoff? Nimble internal communications leaders are built to last.

Keep asking questions, and you'll consistently create stellar internal communications that exceed the pace of business. I'd love to partner with your organization and fuel dynamics that inspire great work and outstanding results.

-April Dawn

April Dawn Shinske is an integrated marketing communications professional with nearly two decades of experience crafting messages that transform team members into brand ambassadors. Connect at

Copyright August 2020, April Dawn Shinske. All rights reserved. Please cite authorship and link back to when sharing content. Thank you.

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