What does successful internal communication look like?

What does successful internal communication look like?

How do you define it?

Regular readers of my blog and my Masterclass attendees know I say the purpose of internal communication isn’t telling people what to do, it’s to create a shared understanding and meaning. Only then can employees align themselves to a company’s purpose.

What’s the purpose of internal communication in your company? How do you define it? How do your employees define it?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions, I encourage you to find out.

What is internal communication


Candid Comms Podcast

If you’re planning your 2021 internal communication, what does success look like?

We’re in danger of overusing phrases. I’m spotting eye-rolling happening when conference speakers talk about “authenticity” and “humanising comms” – anyone else?

If you’re in planning mode for 2021, I imagine your strategy includes phrases like:

  • authentic
  • ethical
  • genuine
  • focused
  • strategic priorities.

And there is nothing wrong with those words. Seriously.

But what if you included these…

  • thoughtful
  • transparent
  • sensitive
  • flexible
  • raw
  • intentional
  • empathetic
  • compassionate.

What impact would that have? The difference there is the focus on emotions – the feelings – of our employees at all levels.

In my experience and from advising brands around the world on their internal communication, successful internal communication only happens when you are intentional.

I’ve judged hundreds of industry award entries, ones that do well have clear objectives and intentions outlined upfront. Why do they do well? Because setting your intentions means you can measure – and prove – success.

Whenever I’m planning any internal communication, I use my intentions framework. I’ve shared it on stages and via training sessions internationally for years.

It looks like this…

Setting intentions in internal communication by Rachel Miller


The mindset you need is: what do you want people to do, say, think or feel as a result of your communication? how do you want them to behave. (P.s. I often add the word ‘differently’ after feel, particularly when I’m communicating change).

If you want to know what successful internal communication looks like, you need to articulate what it feels like.

I’ve written many times over the years about communicating ‘with’, not ‘at’ or ‘to’ employees.

We need to be intentional in our mindset, or to coin the phrase, “bring employees on the journey” – we love a journey in Comms don’t we?! You can feel the difference as an employee when you’re being communicated to.

You’ll know it yourself.

How does it feel when someone communicates at you?

Do you feel seen? Do you feel valued? Do you feel like your views matters? I know your answer to those questions is no.

When I’m reviewing client’s internal comms, I can view it clearly when I input their channels into my Channels Matrix. If their intention is to have two-way channels and to champion employee voice, but the matrix is packed with one-way, broadcast techniques, it tells me there is a disconnect.

Learn more: An Introduction to Internal Comms – Online Masterclass you can enrol in and start today.

Further reading: How to communicate with compassion.

How to communicate with compassion
Further reading: How to communicate with empathy.

How to communicate with empathy

I thought I’d share a quote with you from the Institute of Internal Communication today. I stumbled across it while conducting some research for a client a couple of days ago and it stopped me in my tracks.

What is internal communication

“Successful internal communication creates an environment of mutual understanding. It forges connections between people, allowing them to perform at their best, both individually and collectively.”


That feels like an incredible privilege doesn’t it?

Comms friends the work we do helps to create connections between people so they can perform individually and collectively.

Imagine if you do this coupled with everything I’ve highlighted above. If you enable your employees to thrive while they are performing brilliantly, what would that look like? What would it feel like?

What impact would it have for your employees?

I believe what happens inside is reflected outside.

Imagine if your employees felt inspired, motivated, listened to and empowered through your internal communication.

How would that show up for your customers, clients and people you serve? I believe when the conditions are right inside our organisations for employees to thrive, it starts to seep out.

Are you looking to improve employee advocacy in 2021? You need to get the conditions right inside first, both in terms of your culture, and the mental health and wellbeing of your employees.

If you fail to think inside-out, you won’t achieve it. Advocacy will be hollow and feel staged. That’s a topic for another day.

How to apply this in 2021

If you’re in planning mode right now, I encourage you to take that quote from IoIC seriously. Think about how you forge connections and how you can coach your leaders to do the same.

Maybe that’s mapping out a revised set of channels because, well, 2020 happened. Or perhaps it feels like the “mutual understanding” has changed or wasn’t there to begin with.

Ask yourself why that’s the case. What’s missing?

If 2020 has taught us anything as professional communicators, it’s that the work we do to bring clarity, consistency and certainty for our employees is vital. If you’ve studied Change Comms with me, you’ll know they’re at the heart of how I plan.

If you want to study Change Comms with me in 2021, do get in touch as I’m planning Masterclass dates now.

Learn about internal communication with All Things IC

My range of Online Masterclasses will boost your internal communications skills, knowledge and confidence.

See the dedicated website to access all the latest courses. They are all packed with bespoke text lessons, videos, workbooks and quizzes to help you learn about the wonderful world of IC at your own pace.

Want to buy courses for your team or need multiple licenses? Do get in touch and let me know what you need. You can also buy bundles of courses.

Choose from:

All Things IC Online Masterclasses

What does successful internal communication look like?

I encourage you to write the answer to the question I posed at the start. What does successful internal communication look like?

Turn to a fresh page in your notebook or open a new document. Write down the conditions that will help your employees to thrive in your organisation in 2021.

If you’re working in a hybrid way (look out for this word, it’s everywhere – basically means a mixture e.g. employees on frontline, some working from home, some working 2-3 days in the office), how does this change what successful internal communication means in 2021?

Best of luck, I hope this article has been helpful for you.

Still feeling stuck? You know where I am. Why not book a Power Hour with me and we’ll work through it together.

Want to learn more about strategic internal communication?

Sign up to PRWeek’s Strategic Internal Communications Conference. It’s taking place from 14-15 January 2021. Use my code ALLTHINGSIC10 to save 10% off tickets. I’m going to be speaking at this event.

Thank you for stopping by


Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 7 December 2020.


  1. […] Further reading via All Things IC: What does successful internal communication look like? […]

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and 1-2-1 support to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.