In internal communications, communication begins at the top


When you’re developing an internal communications plan, it’s by no means easy to take the mandate of effective communication into the C-suite offices. But let’s face it: if you don’t take that mandate all the way to the top, there’s little hope for success in communicating effectively with employees.

The principle I always stress to organizations is this: you’ve got to get your CEO to walk the talk. High-performance internal communications can take root only when an organization truly embraces the importance of the work and functions in a way that demonstrates that commitment. Openness and information-sharing should be implicit and explicit both in day‐to‐day operations and in expectations for team behaviours. And crucially, they’ve got to be seen in the executive level as well.

Here are two practices that can help get C-suite messaging aligned with what you’re trying to achieve.

  • Make sure that executives understand that the content of employee communication can’t be driven exclusively by organizational imperatives. It’s not just about what the company wants to communicate and how the CEO or vice-presidents want to be positioned. These are important, but secondary considerations. To be relevant, employee communications has to map tightly to employees’ needs and interests.
  • Prioritize visible buy‐in and engagement at the top. Ensure that the head of your organization is fully briefed on internal communications, has an opportunity to shape the strategy and is front and centre in outreach activities. This is important not just because the CEO is a key channel for messaging content, but also because his or her behaviour will help set expectations for transparency and authenticity. Consider opportunities for the CEO and senior executives to demonstrate commitment to information sharing, in order to illustrate that information hoarding is not acceptable within your organization’s culture.
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