Templates & Tools

This communication channels guide will help internal communicators and managers, alike, make an informed choice when selecting the right channel to deliver their message and understand their audience.


What is it: Descriptions of different internal communication channel attributes from consultants Sue Dewhurst and Liam Fitzpatrick.

Purpose: Explains each channel’s strengths, weaknesses and considerations.

Benefit: Helps internal communicators and managers decide on the best way to deliver their message.

Tips on applying: Practitioners and managers should match their choice of communication channel to the intended outcome, for example, whether they wish to raise awareness or gain commitment.  

Communication Channel table

Use this tool to check the advantages and disadvantage of each communication channel.

Communication Channel At its best Potential downsides Think about
  • Can make communication personal and relevant to the team involved
  • Opportunity for discussion, feedback, questioning and ideas
  • Good line manager can facilitate a lively and interactive session
  • Can help build understanding and involvement
  • Success depends on skill of leader
  • Time commitment for both manager and audience
  • Beware of content overload; other channels are more effective for information delivery
  • Making the best possible use of this time – it's valuable
  • Training line managers
  • Making sure you uphold meeting discipline if you want them to happen
  • Can reach mass audiences fast
  • Cost effective and simple to use
  • Consistent and controlled message
  • Reaches the recipient directly
  • Good for information, awareness or instruction
  • Not everyone may have access
  • Impersonal and open to misinterpretation
  • Can result quickly in information overload
  • Can't tell if messages have been read
  • Doesn't prioritize messages
  • Can't generate dialogue or discussion
  • Controlling access to mass distribution lists 
  • Using the subject box to get across your key message
  • Keeping it short and simple
  • Using headings and bullet points for key messages and to break up the text
  • Fast and consistent
  • Possibilities are endless – can be entertaining and visually snappy
  • Good for information store, reference and raising awareness
  • Info shares and bulletin boards good for involvement and discussion
  • Web stats show who is reading
  • Not everyone may have access
  • Relies on people seeking out information
  • People may not have time to read it
  • Difficult to police
  • Can become unwieldy, hard to navigate and full of outdated information
  • Including "killer content" to draw people in (expenses forms, classified ads and processes people need to do their jobs)
  • Creative and entertaining
  • Shows real people talking about their experiences
  • The camera never lies – can show proof or progress
  • Makes people and places accessible for a mass audience
  • Consistent, controlled message
  • Potentially expensive
  • Not interactive on its own
  • Can be seen as glossy corporate propaganda
  • Talking heads alone are rarely engaging
  • Can be difficult for mobile workforce
  • Using as part of a briefing session to stimulate debate
  • Using "real people" to talk about their experiences, not just senior execs
Print magazine
  • Reach the entire company with a consistent message
  • Even time-pressured staff can read in coffee breaks, on trains, etc.
  • Can address/reflect staff feedback and respond
  • Can show how everything fits together and reinforce company brand
  • Can be seen as biased and not credible
  • Information dates quickly
  • Challenging to make it relevant to all audiences
  • No opportunity for discussion or checking understanding
  • How to encourage people to open it, e.g., a competition
  • Using a staff editorial board to test content and make sure articles address the real issues
  • Good for remote workforces
  • Effective for information and instruction
  • Relies on people choosing to play it
  • Including a hook that will make people listen (e.g. as above, a competition)
Notice boards
  • Visible and may catch people's eye when too time pressured to read anything else
  • Good for instructions and information
  • May not be read
  • Usually no owner – how often do you see out-of-date posters?
  • Lose their impact if over-used by every project in the company
  • Putting a "display until" date on posters
  • Posting in prominent places such as in the lift or by the coffee machine
Text messaging
  • Good for reachcing remote workers
  • Good for crisis communication
  • Can be used to direct people to further sources of information
  • Can update senior managers on important news whilst on leave
  • Will annoy people very quickly if overused
  • Making sure you have mobile contact details for all your senior team in case of crisis
  • Opportunity for key people to reach mass audiences face-to-face
  • Flexible and responsive
  • Can include Q&A sessions, break-out groups and involve people
  • Can build team spirit and motivate
  • Can be used to address controversial issues
  • Can be one way "tell" sessions
  • Agenda set by center may not be what the audience wants
  • May be expensive
  • Time consuming for organizers, presenters and audience
  • Involving staff in setting the agenda and format
  • Involving staff in event itself, as hosts or facilitators
  • Using interactive voting technology to maximize audience involvement
Open forum
  • Gives opportunity to raise and discuss the real issues
  • Genuine open dialogue
  • Helps leaders to understand how things really are
  • Enables people to feel heard
  • Dismissive or aggressive response to questions can close down dialogue
  • Line managers can feel disempowered if their decisions are over-ruled or contradicted
  • Issuing a summary of discussion for everyone to see
  • Proactively raising difficult issues or asking for questions in advance to prompt the real debate
Site visits
  • Shows leaders are listening and want to see what the real issues are
  • Keeps leaders in touch with the real issues
  • Promotes dialogue and understanding
  • Leaders won't experience the real issues if treated as "royal visits"
  • May do more harm than good if leaders show by what they say that they are out of touch
  • Time-consuming for senior leaders to visit multiple sites
  • Including a spell of work shadowing/call listening alongside organized forums
  • Giving leaders a good brief on site issues before they visit
  • Tracking issues raised and reporting back on actions
  • Helpful for remote workers
  • Opportunity to hear about issues from senior leaders
  • People will hang up if the message is too long
  • Using a text message to alert remote workers to an urgent voicemail announcement
and similar
  • Opportunity for senior leaders to reach mass audiences with a consistent message in real time
  • Can involve Q&A sessions
  • May be expensive
  • Need the right technology in place
  • Noise the right technology in place
  • May be difficult for all staff to be available at the same time (e.g., call centers)
  • Finding out about new technology continually emerging in this area

To build on this selection of channels, take a look at Choosing the right communication channel: Version 2.0.

What is Employee Engagement?

Why does it matter?

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Suggested Reading

How to build a communication resource center and reduce noise in your organization

Have you tamed the noise in your organization yet? It’s still a problem for so many of us communicators. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s a great resource that will help streamline information for employees, and even help scale your Internal Communication function. 

Communicators have been talking about cutting through the noise for years now. The truth is, noise will always be around, no matter what we do. And it evolves too.

As we originally discussed in our post, “Before you turn down the noise, tune in and listen…”, noise is not just an overload of information. Instead, it’s largely the increase of communications from peer-to-peer dialogue. This is in addition to all other communication channels, making noise even more of a prominent problem. Employees now must sift through the messages they receive from their peers, Internal Communication (IC), various functions and departments, and many others, to find the information important to them.

In this scenario, information is shared in all directions – and this would normally be good news for employees. They are receiving valuable information with different perspectives. This is what we want in collaborative networks.

But when groups and individuals are communicating to employees beyond the peer-to-peer networks, with email campaigns, etc., and without involving IC, they are typically not using the best methods and practices, and their efforts work around IC’s plans. This increases noise and employee frustration, and this is when these groups and individuals become noisemakers. 

Noisemakers need our help

Noisemakers distract from core organizational messages and the corporate narrative. They don’t follow guidelines and are part of the noise problem.

However, noisemakers are not looking to cause noise. Their intention is to share information they believe employees want to know. In reality, there are probably target audiences that do want to hear the information these folks are sharing.

Instead of trying to stop the noisemakers, because it usually doesn’t work, we can help them be part of the noise solution, and help IC with its goals and to better scale across the organization. The trick here is to create a solution that your noisemakers want, and something that helps IC. Such a solution is the communication resource center (CRC). It can be both of these things, and more.

An achievable communication resource center

A CRC is a one-stop-shop of all things communications. It’s a place where communication resources, plans, etc., are shared with various audiences to enable them to be better communicators. It can even be part of a stakeholder self-service strategy allowing IC to reduce their bandwidth. When done right, a CRC is seen as a must-have resource by all who use it.

This resource destination can provide communication how-to resources, templates, editorial calendars, contact information, workflow processes, brand guidelines, measurement data, and a lot more. It can include as many resources as you think necessary for your audiences.

A CRC is not a new idea, and it’s been successfully deployed by some. In our study, Leader Communication: How the Top 300 Make or Break Strategic Alignment, Deloitte US was highlighted for their successful use of a CRC. In fact, their case study inspired this article, looking deeper at the CRC and how they could be adopted.

But a CRC can seem like a big undertaking and difficult to start. Also, some may not be sure how a CRC will solve their challenges.

It doesn’t have to be daunting and overwhelming. It can be very tangible. We just need a plan and a better way to understand how it can be accomplished – including the role it plays to solve our challenges.

In this article, we’re addressing noisemakers as our communication challenge example. However, a CRC can do a lot more. As we set out to connect  with IC, we’ll also reduce noise for employees and help to scale IC’s efforts – two very big challenges many of us face.


Before we dive into the components of our CRC, there’s a little pre-work we need to do.

As with any good communication project, start with a plan, and document it. Almost more importantly, you’ll need to perform a needs assessment of the noisemakers. This is the process of interviewing and documenting the noisemakers’ challenges. You’re goal is to understand why they communicate. The more you understand, the better you can plan your CRC. Once complete, be sure to prioritize the assessment results and focus on the top challenges to gain the best value for your efforts.

Finally, determine how IC will achieve their goals by meeting the needs of the noisemakers, because it’s important to link how IC will reach its goals by doing this work.

As you continue reading, think beyond our noisemaker scenario and imagine how you can apply the CRC components to your organization.

Three must-have components

There are three components in the CRC we consider a must-have. Think of these as three areas of focus that contain guiding principles to follow, and smart tactics to implement.

  1. Function and design: Make it easy to use and relevant to the user

We recommend creating a CRC where your users already perform work or regularly visit. An intranet page may be ideal as IC can usually manage the page without assistance. But use what you have and apply the concept to it.

No matter the technology, if the layout, etc., isn’t easy to understand and navigate, you’ll lose people almost instantly. And make it relevant from the users’ perspective.

  • UX – The best UX is something you barely notice, you just use it. That’s because it’s amazingly simple. For example, think of the apps on your mobile device you love. Most of us just start to use apps without a teacher or lesson. They’re intuitive. Aim for this kind of ease.
  • Organization – Just like taxonomy of your intranet, the organization of your content is important. This is especially true if you have different groups of users vising the site with different communication needs. By organizing content based on user groups (e.g., IC professionals, leaders) there will be no question about which resources apply to each group.
  • Context – With each section of the CRC or piece of content, add context that explains the purpose of it and the possible challenges it will help to solve. Tell your users why they need it and how it’ll help. Also, make it clear when they should come to IC instead of using the CRC.
  1. Content: Make it valuable, quick to adapt, and just-in-time

The best advice for this section is: less is more. Meaning, only add the resources that will make the user’s job easier, better and solve their challenges. If the user knows they can get exactly what they need, they’ll keep coming back. Do you remember that needs assessment from earlier? This is where it will inform your content needs – applying content that your users want.

A good recommendation is to split content into two categories: resources that can be used right now, without any (or very little) learning or guidance, or content that could be grouped as educational resources. This content teaches the user how to do something or which resource to use.

  • Grab-and-go – This category is perfect for easy-to-use templates and forms, like an employee email communication template or creative brief.
  • Educational resources – A good practice is to make these resource brief and just-in-time. Most users will not be interested in spending a lot of time learning how to do something new, and you risk them not following the rules.

60 seconds or less learning – Try applying a teaching time limit to all of the learning resources. For example, you could apply a sixty second rule where all lessons can be taught in sixty seconds or less. The idea here is to make learning so quick and easy that your users won’t mind consuming the content, and it forces the content creators to be specific and direct.​

Here are a few examples of educational resources and formats we might expect to see in a CRC.

  • Communication quick reference guides (2 page max!), explaining practices and processes
  • 30-second learning shorts - teach one thing -- how to do something and why it matters
  • Communication labeling system – Add this resource to help to drive consistency – perfect for organizing messages with noise makers
  • Visual examples of completed communications, explaining each section and how to complete one
  • Style guides
  1. Buy-in and participation: Make sure people need it and are excited about it

If you have included the last two components, and informed your decisions with the results of your needs assessment, then you’ll have a resource users will want.

It’s important to not stop there. Involve your users to gain the best support and buy-in. If they are part of the process, they will take ownership in it.

  • Ask for feedback – Before you launch the CRC, ask a few trusted users for feedback. Ask them questions like: Does it make sense? Does it make life easier and better?  If the answers are not yes, pause and adjust as necessary. You need buy-in.
  • Involve your users – Don’t launch and expect users to care. Yes, launch it. But get them help you do it.

Create a user involvement plan to not only have users regularly share feedback and new ideas, but also show how IC can empower users to contribute to it. Let the noisemakers have an opportunity to take ownership and be part of the ongoing usage. Key noisemakers are perfect hosts/spokespeople in launch sessions, teaching other noisemakers about the new resource.

This changes the dynamic from IC telling the noisemakers what to do to making them part of the unofficially expanded, and much stronger IC network.

About the author

Christopher Swan is Director, Digital Experiences & Engagement for Melcrum. He has extensive Internal Communication experience as a communication leader with organizations including LinkedIn, Avery Dennison and The Walt Disney Company.

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