Why Internal Newsletters Can Help Organizational Project Awareness
Digital government offers numerous tools to inform and engage the public, serving them critical information in ways that best meet audiences where they are most likely to see, read, and respond to information given to them. But while the world of multi-channel communications provides a wide array of options to communicators, too many avenues for connection can lead to message overload.
Effective communications develop from strategies that include mindful cadences for message delivery, timely interactions, and clear steps to make sure that audiences are most likely to retain information and take appropriate and intended actions.
These same ideal communication tactics also apply to internal communications. Organizations often operate under the false assumption that everyone working within a group is equally aware of happenings within the organization. Much like external audiences, however, internal audiences can easily fall into information overload, lack of attention, or even ignorance of a matter until it will impact them directly.
This can present significant challenges to internal communicators when it comes to large projects within the organization. Executives launching new initiatives, important events that require planning and dissemination of information, or even things such as changes to benefit plans can result in an overload of information that must go out to the entire organization.
Borrowing from external communications, internal newsletters and bulletins provide a way to digest important information, update progress on long-term projects, and convey critical data in a concise and referenceable format. The impact can result in greatly increased open rates and improved engagement.
Understanding the Problem
In large organizations, it can be generally assumed that departments and teams may not know everything that is going on in each other’s programs. Shared communication, highlighting successes, and showcasing ways that work across an organization feeds the overall mission commonly brings those connections together and increases shared understanding. But executive initiatives may not always take the same approach, operating under the assumption that these programs will be immediately of interest to everyone.
Depending on the project focus, scope, and timeline of initiatives, interest and retention of information may vary. As a result, many internal communications teams take a variety of approaches that may intend to help awareness but can often have a negative impact on audience response.
While completing steps of a project, or highlighting the importance of a coming program, is relevant to the organization, sending an email dedicated to just that one topic can create overload. Worse, relying on emails can create a white noise for the internal audience, and they will start to ignore the constant stream of messages with information that may seem irrelevant to them when taken individually.
In the same way, sending emails only when there is new information to share creates both an inconsistent schedule and top-down, one-way communications that can leave organization staff feeling that information is impersonal and disconnected to an overall mission.
The Benefits of an Internal Newsletter
Creating context is one of the immediate impacts that delivering project information through an internal newsletter provides. As with newsletters that an organization might send to external audiences, the internal newsletter provides a unique, dedicated focus to a subject. For large executive initiatives, upcoming life event deadlines, or other projects that require long-term planning and preparation, an internal newsletter offers internal communicators a way to inform about updates and changes while maintaining a close connection to mission or intent of the project.
Where individual email updates can be sporadic and driven by a top-down mandate, an internal newsletter can be scheduled with a regular cadence, so that staff will start to recognize the information as different than just another email update. In some cases, staff might even start to expect the newsletter at the regularly scheduled cadence, just like any other subscription they may enjoy.
For the most effectiveness with internal audiences, internal newsletters should:
- Offer scannable & timely content: Compared to single-subject emails, newsletters can provide a collection of latest information relevant to a project. In doing so, however, that information should be concisely written to focus on what is the most relevant to the reader, including clearly stating what steps, if any, should be taken after reading. Deadlines, and other timely content, will more likely encourage retention of information and taking any required actions.
- Deliver on a consistent frequency: Depending on the scope of the project, the cadence of an internal newsletter should maintain consistent delivery throughout the timeline. Make sure to avoid adjusting frequency late in the timeline as audiences may have become comfortable with cadence and might not expect a more frequent message delivery.
- Celebrate success: The progress of important projects comes from the work of staff. Recognizing both the work achieved and the people behind the success will not only help personalize the mission and messaging, but also build staff morale.
- Balance information and fun: The information delivered in an internal newsletter is different than a standard email. The tone of the newsletter should read differently as well. Creating a distinct voice and personality in internal newsletters helps audiences more easily engage with, and even enjoy receiving, the newsletter.
- Connect to the organizational mission: One of the most frequent questions that come up when there are large changes in an organization is “why?” Effective internal newsletters not only provide the answer to that question, but they do so without having to explicitly state the answer, ramping up information in a clear line to the organization’s mission.
Best Practices for Building an Internal Newsletter
Using newsletters to increase internal awareness and action around projects provides distinct advantages over individual email updates. Implementing an internal newsletter can have dramatic engagement effects. The Bureau of Health Workforce, for example, saw an increase in their open rates, regularly achieving nearly 80% open rates, well above the average for federal agencies of 30%. Delivering on that potential, however, requires a mindset that might seem more fitting for a newspaper editor than an internal communicator. But approaching content through a relevance-based lens will help make for more effective, and easily manageable, newsletter production.
Consider these questions when planning newsletters:
- Is the content timely? A good rule of thumb is to include information that is either occurring in the next two weeks, to increase the likeliness of action, or has happened recently, so that it is still relevant.
- Is there a link to access additional information? Providing direct connections to related information not only helps better inform the reader, it also offers a way to keep content and messaging concise. Linking to other resources can also increase the likelihood of engagement and action by the reader.
- Does the subject matter pertain to all staff members? In order to provide the most concise and relevant newsletter with the greatest likelihood of audience engagement, content should reflect an impact on the broadest number of staff members.
- Is this submission succinct? Some newsletters will be created by a small staff. Others may take submissions from other staff working closely on a particular part of the project. In both cases, information about a topic should be succinct, ideally no more than four sentences long.
- Can a graphic also provide information? While not all newsletters need to rely on graphics (and too many graphics can impact load times for users), optional graphics can help convey further information without requiring longer pieces of copy.
As with any other communications strategy, feedback and analytics can provide information to shape and improve internal newsletters. Internal delivery tools, such as Granicus’ govDelivery, can provide built-in metrics to see audience impact. External strategies also provide options that can be applied to internal communications for feedback, including internal focus groups, informal polling, and open-ended feedback.
Applying Internal Newsletters Across an Organization
Internal newsletters provide means to communicate on a specific topic with a more organized approach than can be achieved with individual emails. Further, newsletters deliver that information in a context that allows for consistency and easy reference. As a result, newsletters can serve organizations not just for planned projects or organizational changes, but also connect staff with important messaging, information, and resources in times of prolonged crisis or challenges.
As a result, creating internal newsletters within an organization gives communicators a tool to gather and disseminate collected and curated information on a variety of topics and interests, giving them an effective communications tool for implementation at any time.
Learn more about how your organization can build and deliver internal newsletters to increase staff engagement!