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Three Internal Communications Tools You Need To Be Using

Woman with business vectors“Oh,” the employee said, surprisingly nonchalantly, “I guess I missed that email.”

“I guess I missed that email…” Six words that strike fear into the heart of internal change managers.

That email wasn’t just an email: it was so much more. It was the culmination of a six-month project by three teams. It had a link to the results of case studies and focus groups. It had important next steps to be taken by the whole  company. This project was exciting…one might say revolutionary.

But no one had read the email.

“What can I do to get this message across?” you moan into your coffee. “If only I had a tool to help me communicate with employees…”

An internal communication nightmare

There are just too many emails to pay attention too. That nonchalant employee had already received 121 emails that day and his inbox was a landmine of unread action items littered with mundane messages. He was desperately wading through his ever growing inbox trying to figure out what he needed to be paying attention to.

180.7 BILLION business emails are sent each day, according to a recent study by Radicati.  No wonder our messages are getting lost in translation.

121 emails a day is a lot of noise.

Tools to the rescue! Maybe…

We have the solution to your email problem! reads an email you just received (the irony of this spam email cluttering your inbox conveniently ignored.  There are tons of tools to help cut through the noise, engage employees, and strengthen internal communications .Email icon

Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t want their job to be easier?

Well, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that. Suddenly you’re spending more time researching tools than you are doing your job. The tools are supposed to make your job easier, not load you down with additional work! And even with all these great tools, your emails are still being ignored.

Here’s the surprising thing: the best tools are, perhaps, a bit obvious. Videos, intranet, and desktop notifications aren’t reinventing the wheel. In fact, you may already be incorporating one or all of these tools in your current internal comms plan.  So close your email (those 121 messages can wait!) and let’s take a look at some of the simplest ways to get your message across.

Internal Explainer Videos

More and more companies are using video to promote their brand, but it’s also gaining a solid foothold in the internal communications world. And it’s no wonder, since video has a significant impact on viewers. Think about it: would you want to read a 5,000 word email about your company’s latest benefits policy, complete with bullet points ALL CAPS SECTIONS, and important sections in red? That feels like homework.

Or, you could just watch a two minute video. I don’t know about you, but to me the choice is obvious. Viva la video! And here are the stats to back up just how powerful videos can be.

Why are internal comms videos so powerful? They’re versatile, emotive, and engaging. In short, people are more likely to react positively to a video explanation than say, an email. A well-done video allows companies to create emotive, engaging content that leads to clarity and increased engagement. And the uses for video are quite diverse as well:


  • Brand Promotion. Videos can be used internally (and externally) to promote a company’s brand and reinforce core values.
  • Major Organizational Initiatives. Change is hard, and ensuring employee buy-in is crucial to the success of any major organizational initiative. Clear messaging and effective communication is key.
  • Training and Orientation. Internal explainer videos have a powerful place in the HR world. Hiring, training, and onboarding greatly benefit with the addition of a library of training videos that offer new employees the chance to learn at their own pace.

When Unilever rolled out Inside Unilever, their new Sharepoint-based collaboration platform they knew they needed employees to be excited by- not skeptical of – the changes.  They turned to a series of videos aimed at employees. The videos – which included 3D animation and motion graphic techniques  – walked employees through the purpose of Inside Unilever and highlighted the advantages of having a global communication tool they could all benefit from.

Employee Intranet

According to a 2012 study, 71% of companies have at least one social media tool available to some or all employees. These include instant messaging, internal blogs, or discussion forums. It seems a better question than “do you have an intranet” is “are you using your employee intranet effectively?”

The answer is probably “yeah, but no one uses it, except Bob, and he doesn’t really understand how it works.” But Bob shouldn’t be alone…. your intranet should be more than just a way to remind colleagues that there are donuts in the kitchen.

When used as part of your internal comms plan, your intranet becomes a powerful, donut delivering tool and so much more: it’s a repository of information, and the number one place for employees to get information.

An intranet that is used by employees can:

  • Document the core values and guiding principles of your company;
  • Highlight organization-wide successes, histories, and awards; and
  • Catalog information on employee benefits like their retirement benefits, profit sharing, and paid time off and HR documentation related to training, policies, and procedures.

Helpful, but also a bit dry. It’s good for employees to have a place to look up company policies, but the intranet adds another (valuable) layer of functionality:

  • Fosters organic conversation between employees;
  • Allows employees to quickly and informally connect via chat; and
  • Creates a sense of community and credibility because people are part  of the conversation instead of just watching from the sidelines.

The Digital Opportunity Trust is a leading international social enterprise that operates youth-led economic and education programs all over the world. They’re in seven countries including Lebanon, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. The very nature of their work makes online collaboration a must  – after all they span multiple continents and time zones!  

To pull all their internal communication together, The Digital Opportunity Trust turned to an intranet which essentially took the form of a virtual office. It’s used for communications, sharing documents, and project management.  The most impressive part is that it spans 6,000 users, four languages, and nine separate communities of employees and yet Digital Opportunity Trust still manages to maintain strong internal communications!

Desktop Internal Communication Systems

Computer desktop with icons on screen
You know the old saying “out of sight, out of mind?”  We have a new saying “Email is a black hole where important information goes to die a slow death.” Not as catchy, but you get the picture.

Unread emails lead to project confusion. Policies and procedures are reviewed during onboarding and forgotten. Presentations are ignored and the key messaging is quickly consigned to oblivion. All those important key messages are simply not resonating with employees.

A desktop internal communications system ties all the pieces of an internal comms plan together and displays it right on the computer screen of every employee. It makes it very hard to forget a message that you see daily!  

Imagine that your key messages are designed to be pushed out through your desktop internal comms system. The corporate screensaver is updated with a few bullet points. The desktop alert pings to let employees know to read the latest newsletter which details important key messages. The internal chat function lets everyone discuss the changes with their team and with other employees. Creating a centralized, multi-channel platform for internal comms reinforces key messaging and builds a culture of transparent and consistent communication.

Citigroup, a multinational  banking and financial services corporation has hundreds of thousands employees and an operation that spans more than 100 countries. For a company of this size, reinforcing key messages is a crucial but often unwieldy process.

Citigroup turned to a desktop internal communications software as a way to make sure all employees had the communication channels and information they needed to stay connected across a geographically diverse corporation. The internal comms software they used incorporated corporate screensaver messaging, desktop alerts, and desktop tickers.   “These are extremely effective as a ‘push’ tool in cascading information through the organization” said Will Packard, Global Head of Marketing for Citigroup’s Foreign Exchange Division.

To make sure the software engaged employees, Packard went a step further and incorporated humour to make the messages appealing, and incorporated countdown functionality to implement internal teasers. The result? Citigroup used the desktop software to convey information information, and with great reception from employees.

The right tools for you?

We’re not ones to say you should be using a tool like internal explainer videos. Wait, yes we are! The key is finding the right tool for you. The one thing that all these tools have in common is flexibility. The best internal comms tools are ones that can be customized and adapted  to meet the ever-changing needs of your company. There’s no one-size fits all approach but there is a fair amount of creativity in ensuring that your key messages are being heard.

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