digital internal communications

New digital internal communications tools are springing up every day. From digital magazine platforms to email communication suites and Office 365 plugins, it can be a daunting challenge to know where to begin. 44 Digital’s Alan Coates explores what the new digital internal communications playbook looks like in 2022. 

People keep asking me what’s new in digital. It’s a difficult question to answer off the cuff because it depends on what angle you’re coming from: strategic, technical, economical, purely electrical. It may be a cop-out, but my response is always around understanding where they are going as a business, what the pain points are for their colleagues and what technology they already use.

But it got me thinking. Is there a universal playbook for digital internal communications, that can apply to most (if not all) organisations, regardless of their overall strategic goals, appetites and budgets?

Going back to basics

Anybody working in digital internal communications should know the names David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. As the minds behind the seminal Engaging for Success report1 – they highlight the four key enablers of success:

  1. Leadership
  2. Engaging managers
  3. Voice, and
  4. Integrity.

As a result, any digital internal comms strategy should bear these in mind and use them to support the wider business strategy.

However, it’s worth noting that in the 153-page report (penned back in 2008), the word ‘intranet’ appears twice, the word ‘email’ twice, and the word ‘digital’ never.

A product of its time, of course. A seminal piece of work, most definitely. But it doesn’t help you plan the tactical and operational next steps around digital internal communications.

A new internal communications playbook

1. Use email – but smarter

According to the platform Campaign Monitor2, email usage is predicted to grow 3% year-on-year up until 2023 and likely beyond. When you consider that there are 3.9 billion active email users around the world – and that they receive an average of 126 emails a day – the sheer volume of traffic flying around is staggering. Is it any wonder that your latest email memo felt like you were speaking into the void?

Through platforms like Campaign Monitor, MailChimp and more overtly Klaviyo, we’ve been able to set new standards for email communication (see our Klaviyo case study here3). Whether as part of a marketing campaign, an internal newsletter, a strategic update or any other purpose, the tools are available to make your emails stand out.

This can be done by making the content visual, making the calls-to-action obvious, using videos and GIFs where you can, and auto-setting the platform to share the campaigns again with users, based on how they interact with it. Email, but smarter.

2. Turn your intranet into a digital workplace

There are lots of intranet platforms out there. But really, we’re talking about using Microsoft 365 and its full suite of apps to create an interconnected information and communication environment.

According to the well-regarded Intranet Maturity Model4 there are three levels of intranet excellence:

  1. I am able to find the information I need to do my job
  2. I receive quality digital internal communications from my business and colleagues
  3. I feel (through the intranet) that I’m part of a thriving, learning organisation.

Through Microsoft 365, we can connect the information (OneDrive, SharePoint) to the communications (Teams, Yammer, Stream) to create curated and personal experiences (through Active Directory, Delve and the upcoming Viva Suite) that recreate the watercooler moments and turn virtual working hybrid. Read how we started Islamic Relief Worldwide on this journey here5.

3. Make more of mobile for digital internal communications

Rule number one of content marketing is to tap into the channels that your audience is already using. And who doesn’t have a mobile phone?

Did you know that 75% of US employees when asked said that they use smartphones the most to check emails6? Or how about that 70% of employees keep their phone ‘within eye contact’ while at work7?

The key objective for mobile communications is to make them timely and easy to digest at a glance, so you can gain the right cut-through.

There are lots of other great things you can achieve from a productivity point of view from mobile. Read how we created an HR app for Seafresh8 in this way.

But if you can get your mobile audience in your sights – through Office 365, SMS-based services, third-party apps, or by engaging email subject lines – you’re going to reach your employees.

Of course – the communications you write will depend on where you are going as a business, what are the pain points of their colleagues, and what technology do they already use…

Click here to read more about our approach to digital internal communications.