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10 steps to creating a communication strategy

It can be difficult for organizations to strike the right tone of voice between external and internal communications. Creating the right communication strategy with your workforce and externally with your customers can be challenging.
5 min read

Claire Whelan

communication strategy

We are increasingly seeing a blurring of lines between the different types of communications. Many organizations are seeing the value of aligning them. But how does an organization create a single tone of voice? Solutions like VT Writer help businesses align their communication strategy as they look to ensure positive employee and customer experiences.

What is the definition of business communication?

Business communication is the sharing of information between people within and outside an organization. Good business communication affects every layer of a business. From how a company assigns tasks to employees, to how an organization handles customer feedback.

Generally, business communications comprise both internal and external communications. Up until a few years ago, there was a clear distinction between the two different types of business communication. Internal communications tended to have an informal tone, while external communications maintained a formal tone. Likewise, the language use differed between the two types of communication. Internal communication is aimed at an internal workforce, so the language is more familiar. While external communications are speaking to a wider group and so the language is generally more official.

What is internal communication?

Internal communication is the communication within an organization. Its main purpose is the exchange of information between departments, business units, and divisions. This information can take many forms – company updates, messages from the C-suite, relevant news, and day-to-day facts. Companies typically push out internal communication via email, memos, video calls, Intranets, internal social networks, or collaboration platforms. Most large organizations will have a dedicated internal communications team. Other organizations may communicate this information by the HR department.

What is external communication?

External communication is how an organization communicates with its customers, partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders. The objective of external communication is to inform customers and build relationships, with a view to inspiring loyalty. External communications vary and can include advertisements, press releases, websites, social media, customer newsletters, and sales or service calls. Most large organizations will have PR and marketing departments and will often have digital media units responsible for online and social media communications.

What are the benefits of aligning communications?

Today, there’s a growing school of thought that companies should unify internal and external communications under a single message. The lines have blurred between these two forms of business communications. External messages, so often seen as completely separate from the inside purpose, need to reflect your internal company culture. If your external messaging is completely different to the experience within your organization this can cause employee disengagement. A style guide can be a great asset for aligning organizational communications and creating positive customer experiences.

So what are the benefits of aligning your internal and external communication strategy?

  • Increase Revenues: a consistent brand message translates to better sales outcomes
  • Enhances the authenticity of your brand: You are what you say you are
  • Boost productivity: your employees are better connected to your organization’s purpose
  • Increase efficiencies: you can reduce confusion and wasted time with a single unified message
  • Retain staff: workers are more engaged with your organization
  • Attract new staff: recruit workers that align with your organization’s values
  • Improve the customer experience: customers are clear about your values and purpose
  • Create employee brand ambassadors: an aligned communications strategy can help turn your workers into champions for your brand across social media

Ten steps to align your communication strategy

Aligning your business communications will take time. You should not rush this project. You will need to create partnerships, seek buy-in, and conduct research. Not to mention an ongoing education program, which will be crucial to the success of the project.

Here are the 10 steps towards aligning your internal and external communications.

1. Establish a partnership between your marketing and HR teams

Your marketing and HR departments can help develop a cohesive communication strategy. Together, these teams can blend their expertise and understanding and assess how to align internal and external communications. They understand the types of communication and know the target audience. They can take those initial steps toward creating an overarching tone of voice for all communications.

2. Get executive buy-in

For any large project to work it’s important to gain senior-level sponsorship from the beginning. Your newly created business communication partnership of marketing and HR should outline the plan. It should include objectives, benefits, and the delivery roadmap to senior executives. Without executive buy-in, a project like this will ultimately fail, so it will be important to have a solid strategy in place.

3. Check the pulse of your organization

Find out what the staff at your organization think of your brand and how it’s portrayed externally. And whether that portrayal lines up with the internal perspective. Your workforce will be a valuable resource as you unify your message and align your communications. Their understanding of your brand values and purpose will help to guide you as you develop a communications strategy. It’s also important to get them on board with the changes you’re making. After all, they will be your key content creators.

4. Understand the difference between the internal and external audiences

With any communication, it’s vital that you understand who you’re speaking to. That is especially true with business communication. We know that internal communication speaks to the internal workforce while external communication speaks to customers. In order to communicate authentically and effectively with two different audiences, you will need to understand what makes them tick and what are they looking for from your brand. Research will help you to gain a better understanding. But it’s important to listen to feedback as this will help you to fine-tune your messaging and hit the important notes with both audiences.

5. Develop a consistent tone

Once you understand how your audience feels and what they’re looking for, it’s time to create a consistent tone. Identify appropriate tones – formal, educational, friendly, approachable – and narrow them down. Try them out with different messages and see which ones connect or perform better. This type of A/B testing will help you to find the tone that best suits your business communications and appeals to your new, wider audience.

6. Integrate your brand communication into your company culture

Use every opportunity to integrate the new messaging, branding and tone into your organization. From job listings right through to exit interviews, you should be taking the time to underpin your brand. It’s important to remember that all communications, no matter how trivial, are an opportunity to promote your brand. This is especially important if you are creating a new communications strategy.

7. Use champions to communicate a consistent tone

Identify a group of champions that will reinforce your communications plan across your organization. This group should be passionate about the new strategy and the brand. They will communicate the new tone and language and be on hand to help fine-tune messages.

8. Provide ongoing encouragement to employees

Your employees will need practical support as they re-wire the way they communicate internally and externally. Regular reminders of the new tone and messaging are a good start. Consider a regular spot the difference contest where your teams have to identify the new tone and language.

9. Organize brand training sessions

Training will be a key part of your new communications strategy. Companies should include brand training in all onboarding, and existing staff should attend brand messaging information sessions. Occasional refresher training could be useful, particularly if the tone and messaging changes are significant.

10. Use VT Writer to enact your aligned business communication strategy

VT Writer can help align your organization to a single tone of voice both internally and externally. It provides instant measurable and scalable feedback to ensure consistency in your communications at an individual and organizational level. VT Writer offers a step-by-step approach to building your brand guidelines. Features like Watch Words help to fine-tune your efforts by highlighting inconsistencies. Using technology like VT Writer removes a lot of the guesswork involved in creating a communication strategy. It ensures consistency of message with minimum effort.

Aligning internal and external communications is emerging as a real movement among global organizations. There’s a growing understanding that how a business communicates internally is just as important as how it presents itself externally. By unifying under a single message and tone of voice organizations can enhance their authenticity, both internally and externally. At a time when trust and transparency have never been more important.