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The Different Types of Internal Communication

One of the most common questions we get asked at Guru HQ by those interested in Internal Comms, especially by those in smaller companies where their comms is understandably on a smaller scale and sometimes without its own designated staff or channels, is this:

What are the different types of internal comms?

The truth is, there are many different types and you can splice, dice and define them in many different ways. There is no single, off-the-shelf internal comms strategy that will work for all businesses, as nice as that would be. It needs to be bespoke, and it needs to be maintained and evolved as the business changes.

Here are seven of the most commonly found types of internal comms:

Top-down comms

Messaging from the leadership is clearly of paramount importance. Senior leaders play a fundamental role in defining and maintaining business culture and employee behaviours. They should be visible, and their messages heard, regardless of the size of the organisation and the (dis)placement of the staff.

Top-down comms are usually, but not always, used to keep employees informed about overall business strategy, direction, and performance. By their nature, they tend to be fairly formal but, again, this is not necessarily always the case.

Channels for leadership comms may include face-to-face or remote meetings or town halls, newsletters or blogs, video messaging or the not-so-good-but-definitely-old-fashioned email.

Effective top-down comms should offer transparency and accountability and should ideally be tailored to its audience.

Change comms

Linked closely with the above (one would hope!), good change comms is of paramount importance to the success of the change management. Change is inevitable for all businesses and it’s not always welcome by all employees. This is why the comms employed around the change is directly linked to the success or failure of a programme of change.

Depending on the size of the company and the change, a designated change comms plan may be required. This is because tailoring change comms to the different, individual groups of employees is usually more successful than a company-wide approach.

Information & Cultural comms

Knowledge is power. And for your employees to be fully effective in their roles, they need to know… well… all that they need to know to do their job! Easy access to up-to-date information is essential.

Where this becomes more complicated is that sending out an internal comms with a policy update, compliance review or some new organisational information is only the start of the process. The chances are, this kind of information is stored centrally somewhere, be that on a OneDrive system, intranet or, dare I say it, in a filing cabinet in Head Office. To have one version of the truth, that is always up-to-date and easily accessible to all who need it, regardless of location, is essential, and this requires ownership.

Crisis comms

By its very definition, comms of this nature do not come with the luxury of time for careful planning. The question to ask yourself right now is: do we have a method of contacting everyone immediately should an emergency arise? Consider your frontline, field-based or transient staff who may not have immediate or easy access to a computer.

A broadcast tool that uses multiple comms channels is usually the best bet, especially if it offers a text message and push notification function. Facilitating a way for your people to acknowledge receipt of the message is also highly recommended.

Crises may include what insurance companies like to call “acts of God” but more likely events might be a technological crisis (such as a cyber-attack or major outage), a hazardous leak or spill on a site, an urgent product recall or failure, or other urgent and significant disruptions to business.

Bottom-up comms

Comms in a business should never be only top-down. Giving your people a voice and a way to be heard is fundamental to employee engagement, satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity. Your employees also have a wealth of knowledge and coal-face experience that can be invaluable, and that is often missing at the top of the company structure. Tap into it.

And this is not about relying on the annual staff survey. That is nowhere near enough. An interactive platform such as Slack and Workplace is a good start. Facilitating interactive Q&A sessions between employees and leaders can also be an invaluable way to show that you’re listening and to learn from what, and the way, your people are feeling.

Never forget: the most important thing with bottom-up comms is to acknowledge feedback and to be seen to act upon it.

Peer-to-peer comms

Don’t let the increasingly dispersed nature of our teams stand in the way of connection, communication, and collaboration. Keeping your people connected (via more than just their company email) is essential. Again, Slack, Yammer, Workplace, MS Teams et al are all great platforms for keeping people in touch, setting up different groups and sharing thoughts, ideas and documents.

Employing a platform for employee recognition is also highly recommended as a way of keeping people connected, sharing the love and shouting about the good stuff, and seeing what currently matters to your people. As well as a strong motivational tool, it can also provide useful insight and information for leaders.

Campaign comms

A quick shout-out for campaign comms, which can incorporate any of the above, but may also surround something completely different. A campaign is simply a pre-determined set of comms activities with an end goal in mind. These often benefit from a theme and some creative planning (I shared some ideas in this piece) so that they really make a mark and achieve their objective. A campaign can be a great way to raise awareness of something or to promote an activity, initiative, or event.

By utilising and practising the channels, methods and values outlined above, you should be able to maintain an engaged workforce, who feel informed, empowered and valued, and who better follow your company’s culture, objectives and behaviours.


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