multiple internal communication channels

No two people are the same, which is why communication needs and preferences vary widely among employees. Experienced communicators overcome this challenge by using multiple internal communication channels to share messages across their organizations.

Sounds easy, right? Just copy and paste your key points until you’ve used every communication outlet you can find.

Not so fast!

Don’t make the mistake of treating every internal communication channel the same way. You need a channel strategy. Some channels are best used for quick “bites” of information such as headlines or tweets. Some channels are more like “snacks”—they have room for a bit more information that might take two to three minutes to consume. And some channels are meant to provide the full “meal”—all the details in one place.

Here’s how to effectively deploy content across multiple channels, whether
you’re providing a quick bite, a satisfying snack or a hearty meal.

Start by considering your objectives, then break down your content to fit the bite-snack-meal model:

  • Use bite-size channels when you only need to establish awareness.
  • Employ snack-oriented channels when it’s time to create basic understanding.
  • Add full meal channels when you need to build deep knowledge that drives new behaviors.

Now let’s get into the details: examples of channels for each category (bite, snack and meal) and how to take advantage of each channel’s format. And I’ll demonstrate how to select and shape content for each channel by using benefits enrollment messages as an example.

Bite-friendly channels that establish awareness
These channels are best for quick hits so employees can read the headlines in less than a minute: e-newsletter, internal social media and workplace communication.

  • E-newsletter
    • What it is: A digest of timely information distributed via email that typically contains multiple articles, announcements, upcoming events and more.
    • How to nail it: For each news item, provide a short, attention-grabbing headline and a one- to two-sentence summary that links to more detail, such as an intranet article. Some of the best articles offer readers something they can use, such as advice, resources or how-to information.
    • Example of an e-newsletter entry:
      How to choose the best benefits plan for your family
      ​Open enrollment starts October 3. Learn how to find a plan that fits your budget and covers all your family’s needs.
  • Internal social media
    • What it is: A platform employees visit to interact with colleagues.
    • How to nail it: Create conversation starters that will get people to respond and share your post. Try a probing question, poll, contest or participation challenge.
    • Example:
      ​Who benefits from your benefits plan? At Acme Co., our employees are our priority. And so are your families! Show us whose health is covered by your Acme benefits. #lovewhereyouwork #worklifebalance #openenrollment
  • Workplace communication
    • What it is: Signage displayed around the workplace, such as posters, digital screens and table tents.
    • How to nail it: Keep the text short; employees should be able to read your poster without breaking their stride. Emphasize the action employees need to take, such as completing a task or attending an event.
    • Example of poster content:
      What’s your plan?
      Open enrollment ends October 25. Select your plan now!
      Visit to enroll.

Snack-oriented channels that create basic understanding
Use these channels when you need to build understanding by providing the most important facts (who, what, where, when, why and how): email, video and one-page guide.

  • Email
    • What it is: An announcement or letter distributed to a large group of employees, typically providing timely, critical information.
    • How to nail it: Keep it short—no more than 350 words. And focus on relevance; in other words, tell employees how they benefit from the information—what they will get if they spend time reading this email.
    • Example:
      Subject: Enroll in Acme health benefits by October 25 to continue or start coverageFrom: Chief HR Officer
      • Paragraph 1: One to two sentences announcing that open enrollment has begun and employees must choose their preferred plan by October 25.
      • Paragraph 2: One to two sentences on where to find plan details and how to enroll, including links to resources and forms. One sentence inviting employees to upcoming information sessions with a bulleted list of dates and times.
      • Paragraph 3: One closing sentence on how Acme is committed to providing employees the best benefits available.
  • Video
    • What it is: Videos can take many formats, such as a leader or expert speaking to the camera, a live-action scenario or story, a software/tool demo, animation and more. They are best used to build energy, explain a complex topic or gain buy-in.
    • How to nail it: Tell a story. Videos are most engaging when they take viewers’ emotions on a ride. Think of the most common story arc: boy meets girl (happy), boy loses girl (sad), boy gets girl back (thrilled) and they live happily ever after (satisfaction). Determine how you can build that kind of roller-coaster excitement into your video.
    • Example:
      One-minute animated video with text on screen and voice-over. The video follows three employees—each with different health coverage needs—as they choose the benefits plans that best align with their situations.
  • One-page guide
    • What it is: A shareable, printable one-page document that provides employees with important information they need to make a decision or complete a task. Examples include project overviews, milestone calendars, process maps, comparison tables and information graphics.
    • How to nail it: Leverage visuals to illustrate information rather than using paragraphs of copy. For example, use images to depict each step in a process and arrows to show movement between them.
    • Example:
      ​Title: Acme health benefits: Choose the right plan for your family
      • Contents: A table comparing benefits plan options across key categories such as monthly premium payments, deductibles, copays and coinsurance costs, medical visit costs, hospital costs and prescription costs.

Meal channels that build deep knowledge
These channels come to the rescue when you need to build deep knowledge and buy-in, because they provide the time and space to share every detail: intranet page, brochure and meeting/workshop.

  • Intranet page (sometimes called a microsite)
    • What it is: A web page accessible via the company intranet that contains relevant information about a specific topic.
    • How to nail it: Organize your intranet page so the most important information is at the top and easy to find. This should be key dates, actions, and information or tools employees need to get the job done. Keep content short (think headlines and summaries) with links to subpages for lengthier information.
    • Example:
  • Top row (above the fold):
    • Welcome employees to this year’s open enrollment process. Announce key dates and list key contacts for help.
    • Links to resources and tools including a detailed benefits brochure, the enrollment form and where to submit.
  • Middle row:
    • Announce upcoming benefits information sessions and list dates, times and locations. Include sign-up links.
    • Link to the open enrollment team email account so employees can get help any time. Or provide a form to submit questions, and include a searchable summary of submitted questions and corresponding answers.
  • Bottom row:
    • Links to health benefits policy documents.
    • Links to other company benefits such as flexible spending accounts, dental, vision, life insurance, disability coverage, etc.
  • Brochure
    • What it is: A multi-page guide providing detailed information on a key topic, which can be delivered digitally or in print.
    • How to nail it: Include a table of contents for easy navigation and make information scannable by using subheads, bulleted lists, callouts, charts, images and infographics. Be sure to include all the information an employee might need to build deep knowledge and take action.
    • Example:
      • Cover: Clear title, engaging employee photo and table of contents.
      • Contents: Intro letter from Chief HR Officer, plan details for each benefits plan, specifics on prescription drug pricing, FAQs, sidebar tip about how to save money by using a flexible saving account, who to contact for more information, and how to enroll in a plan.
  • Meeting or workshop (web-based or in-person)
    • What it is: Meetings can take many forms, from town halls to workshops to small team meetings. Most meetings have a specific goal, such as building team camaraderie, training employees on a new tool or reviewing the day’s responsibilities.  
    • How to nail it: Create an agenda that prioritizes participation. Adults learn best when they have a chance to ask questions and interact.
    • Example of a webinar agenda:
      • 5 minutes: Introduction and review agenda.
      • 10 minutes: Review benefits plan options, then walk employees through three common scenarios to help them understand the best choices for each. situation; try an exercise were employees vote for the best plan for each scenario.
      • 15 minutes: Q&A; ask employees what concerns they have about the new benefits plans.
      • 5 minutes: Closing and remind employees where to access resources, where to go with questions and how to enroll.
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