Despite the growing sophistication of internal communication tools, year after year internal email is still ranked as the preferred communication channel of both employees and internal communicators.

In part, it’s because we’re all still figuring out how to use all of the channels at our disposal effectively. 

Most internal communication professionals understand the struggle of trying to get employees to engage with a new intranet portal, while at the same time trying to keep it up-to-date and organized.

At first glance mobile apps seem like a simple solution to all of your communication woes, but adoption is always a hurdle. 

Information is easy to lose on internal chat platforms. 

Unfortunately, every channel has its challenges. 

And email is no exception.

The Challenges of Internal Email

Though it’s consistently ranked as a top communication channel, internal email is not immune to deserved criticism. It may be ubiquitous, but it’s still a pain and presents real challenges.

#1. Cutting through the noise

Email is challenging to get right because it is widely overused. You’re competing with a lot of other senders for employees’ attention.

Knowing this, it’s reasonable to wonder if employees are even reading your emails.

How do you know if you’re getting through?

And do employees even care?

Without measurement, it’s impossible to ensure that your emails aren’t getting lost in the noise.

#2. Information overload

Since there is no limit on the length of internal newsletters, communication pros are often bombarded with content submissions from departments across the organization.

The resulting newsletter often includes too much content and requires hours of re-formatting to ensure tonal, visual, and structural consistency.

In spite of the time investment required to prepare a quality newsletter, it’s challenging to know what content is resonating with the audience. 

In order to deliver the right messaging to the right audience at the right time, communicators have to be selective and curate content.

But being selective about what makes the cut can be political–when all stakeholders consider their information essential.

Without measurement, it’s almost impossible to validate assumptions about which content is actually important to employees.

#3. One-way communication

Neuroscience tells us that our brain activity synchronizes with each other during two-way conversation–an indicator of successful communication.

The lesson that communication professionals can take from this is that when communication is two-way, the listener is more likely to engage with the information they are receiving.

The challenge that large organizations face when communicating messaging to thousands of employees, is how to meaningfully integrate opportunities for personal, two-way interaction.

To many newsletter creators, the idea that employee email could be a two-way conversation rather than strictly a broadcast channel might be completely new.

Without the opportunity to provide feedback or interact with internal emails, employees are less likely to care, feel heard, or engage with the information source.

#4. No evidence of impact

Compared with your far more visible and more established counterparts in Marketing or PR, internal communication professionals have a harder time demonstrating the value of investing in internal comms.

Where metrics like media impressions, conversions, social reach are widely understood success measures, business leaders are usually less knowledgeable about the importance of measuring internal communication and which metrics would be markers of success.

Without measurement, it becomes more difficult for internal communicators to advise executive leadership on how effective internal communication can impact employee loyalty, retention, and external reputation.

The Opportunities with Internal Email

Luckily, every challenge that internal email presents can be remedied with data-backed strategies fueled by measurement.

Whether you’re looking at open and click rates, segmentation breakdowns, read times, location and device data, eNPS and pulse surveys, or commenting and social reactions, there is so much you can measure and learn.

1. Making smart content decisions

When all content is treated like the most important content, then it is difficult to prioritize any content as "must-read."

This lack of prioritization can damage the credibility of the content source.

That’s where email metrics like click rates become vital to communicators. Over time, click rates can be tracked and the patterns in audience engagement behavior can tell a story about what topics are most valuable to employees.

Auditing internal content is the first step to understanding how to move forward. By codifying the different types of content that an organization regularly sends and integrating clickable calls to action within each of these newsletter components, communicators can measure the relative popularity of a specific type of content.

Note: Within this process, it is vital to test different variables within each content type—like whether the content is in first, second, or third position in the newsletter—to ensure that other variables aren’t affecting click rates.

Once a content type is deemed under-performing, it can be retired or optimized. For example, if Upcoming Events are not generating significant interest, the communicator can evaluate whether that particular content could be presented in a more compelling fashion or, if the content is not directly related to business objectives, it might be time to stop featuring it.

You can evaluate subject lines the same way or even evaluate new messaging using A/B split tests.

Over time, communicators can use data to make the case for shortening the length of employee emails, by including only content that performs well.

Data helps you make the case to stakeholders for what content might be better presented in another channel.

Alternatively, organizations can identify what content would be better sent to targeted distribution lists based on the characteristics of particular audience segments. For example, while upcoming events might not be pertinent to the entire organization, perhaps location-specific event listings are a better option.

2. Creating a two-way communication channel

Communicators can encourage two-way feedback by incorporating powerful interactive elements such as pulse surveys into their emails.

Unlike long-form surveys, pulse surveys reduce friction in the feedback process by limiting creators to a single question. The audience can then respond to this question with a single click and, if requested, leave anonymous feedback.

Since pulse surveys can take less than a minute to complete, they are invaluable tools to regularly include in employee communications.

3. Creating content that employees want

Organizations can also go one step further and empower their audience to influence the content that they receive from the organization.

Communicators can foster a culture of two-way dialogue in their organization by regularly encouraging employees to share anonymous comments that will then be featured in communications.

For example, responses to a question such as "What could we have done better at the town hall?” present an opportunity to immediately relate back to employees how their peers are feeling, and then own the narrative by addressing any issues directly, with the right key messaging.

It’s a conversation. A two-way street. Don’t expect whoever you are conversing with to just stay silent and listen to you rant. Be open to responses wanted or not."

Celeste Headlee, award-winning journalist

4. Data-backed strategic advice for leadership

If integrated meaningfully as a mechanism for ongoing feedback, pulse surveys can become a key tool for communicators to advise executive leadership on their strategic approach.

For example, following up on an all-hands town hall with a question such as “On a scale of 1 to 5, (5 being most confident) how confident are you in applying the information you learned at the town hall?”

A high score would indicate that the town hall was effective in introducing new information to the audience, whereas a low score is a useful indicator that further effort is needed. Asking the same question on a regular basis can be used to develop insightful trends for important employee issues.

Communicators who strategically employ pulse surveys become trusted advisors to executive leadership, providing in-time insight into their workforce’s sentiment and alignment on strategic issues.

5. Driving measurable business results

Like all strategic communication, internal communication is best when it connects business objectives to shifts in audience behaviour or perception.

Employee newsletters are an excellent channel for relating updates on strategic initiatives and measuring internal sentiment on those campaigns. Moreover, by launching major external initiatives to internal audiences first, organizations can build employee loyalty and drive external communications through strategically encouraging employee advocacy.

Pulse surveys make ongoing two-way feedback easy, meaninging communicators no longer have to work with a long-form survey tool to gauge employee sentiment on a topic.

This means an organization attempting to accomplish a strategic initiative can turn to internal communication professionals to drive and evaluate success through email.

6. Measuring employee engagement and tracking sentiment

Using pulse surveys to calculate an organization’s Employee Net Promoter Score is a prime example of how internal communications can measure employee engagement.

eNPS or Employee Net Promoter Score is an adaptation of the popular Net Promoter Score (NPS) type survey, which is used as a standardized way to measure advocacy towards brands or products.

A high eNPS is a strong indication of an employee-centric company. It is a sign that employees generally speak about the organization positively, and are more likely to refer their contacts to apply for open positions.

Beyond eNPS, communicators can use other engagement metrics like opens, clicks, and read times to demonstrate what employees are interested in, what they need, and what they don’t.

Communicators can then leverage these metrics to make evidence-based decisions that will inspire even more engagement.

Make meaningful internal communication easy with Staffbase

Professional communicators need to ensure that internal email remains the effective, interactive, strategic channel that it can be — and Staffbase can help.

Staffbase’s robust analytics can help create more effective, meaningful internal communication.

As communicators continue to drive progress on corporate objectives through email by interpreting metrics, optimizing content, crafting templates for departmental use that favor data-driven practices, and proving to stakeholders what content really matters to the employee audience, they reinforce their position as trusted, strategic advisors within their organization.

And Staffbase is here to make it easy.

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