Internal Communication Strategy, Tools and services

Insights and Updates

The latest from Changing The Terms:


My latest research project, The Present and Future of Internal Communication, finished earlier this month with the publication of its 12 key conclusions and my summary article on IC Kollectif. 

But naturally, when one is working on matters of the future, conclusions are not an end, but a beginning.

The conclusions point in exciting directions:

●     IC is moving away from a focus on engagement and towards a focus on alignment as leaders seek sharper prioritization and higher agility 

●     Employees are increasingly recognized as communicators and contributors, instead of being mere recipients of communications. 

●     One-way and two-way approaches are giving way to multidirectional communications, based on a growing appreciation of today’s whole systems landscape and the role of internal influence within it.

●     Measurement and value assessment are becoming more tangible and, therefore, much more powerful.

●     In a world where products and services are converging and commoditizing rapidly, Internal Communication is increasingly seen both as a source and driver of strategic differentiation.

I say more about the report and its conclusions in my piece for sponsor Happeo on IC Kollectif.


To put this research into practice, I’m looking for communicators and leaders interested in taking this thinking into their organizations – to drive sharper alignment, more actionable measurement, and ultimately, clearer differentiation.  

If you’d like a research-based approach to internal communication that can reduce noise while increasing impact, let’s talk.  

Send me an email at and we’ll put a conversation in the schedule. Or, if you prefer, book a consultation here.


I’ll be on the road quite a bit in the coming weeks, speaking in Oslo, London, and Toronto, and appearing on webinars hosted by sponsors Smarp and Bananatag. 

It will be great if you can join me at any of these live or online events.

Live Events

OSLO: Will be joint keynote for “What’s the next Big Thing in Internal Communication”, co-sponsored by the European Association of Communication Directors and the Norwegian Communication Association on 15 October.

LONDON: Will be delivering a set of two workshops for CIPRInside on Measurement and Noise Reduction/Internal Influence on 29 October. Please email me at so I can provide you with a 20%-off discount code.

TORONTO: My Measurement and Noise Reduction/Internal Influence workshops are also part of the offering for the Inner Strength Strategic Internal Communication Conference in Canada’s largest city on 27 November.


SMARP’s “Great Debate”: IC people are rarely disagreeable, but we often disagree. And sponsor Smarp is seeking to stimulate some spirited conversation between myself, Canada’s Priya Bates and America’s Jason Anthoine. I think a bit of my “heresy” around “employee engagement” is likely to come through during our conversation on 22 October.

BANANATAG: International communication will be on the menu as I join Jenni Field, Chuck Gose, and Sony’s Tracy Chambers in a webinar that will touch on subjects like the appropriate use of jargon and the impact of multidirectional communication on employee-line manager relationships on 30 October.


Changing The Terms now has guides available on differentiation, internal influence and employee activism. Order your copies here.

Thank you for your continued interest and support – and for your help in “changing the game.”

Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

Employee Activism: New Guide from Changing The Terms

There’s a lot of talk about employee activism these days. Are you vulnerable?

This summer, I prepared a “Guide to Employee Activism” which looks at potential causes of internal unrest – particularly inconsistencies between stated values and principles and the actual values, principles and practices that guide an organization’s operational and commercial behavior.

The guide also addresses potential crises and minefields that can arise when organizations choose to engage in corporate activism – especially when their own house isn’t in order.

To find out whether you are vulnerable – and learn more about what you can do about it, order your FREE copy at .

Insights, Internal Communication Strategy, The Profession

Six things IC professionals can do to raise our game

It’s hard to be ambitious when you are trying to survive. That’s not only true of individuals. It’s also true of fields and professions when they face the pressure of micromanagement and penny-pinching.  

That’s our historical baggage as internal communicators. 

But it doesn’t have to be our current reality, much less our future.

Indeed, the C-Suite decision-makers and Chief Communicators I spoke with for Happeo’s research into The Present and Future of Internal Communication want IC to be more confident and proactive

The question is how quickly we can raise our game, and what moving in that direction actually looks like.

From my perspective, there are two main issues: how do we as IC professionals engage with leaders, and how do we change the way we do things, so we can operate more effectively and credibly.

How can we get our house in order? Three tasks

  • We need to seize control of the measurement agenda – particularly in terms of measuring impact.  Click rates, views and the such like isn’t enough. We need to measure changes in the words people use, the actions people take and the attitudes they incubate. Most importantly, we need to be able to measure and demonstrate the lack of impact of activities that cost unnecessary time and money so we can free up resources.
  • We need to make a documented case for investment in the right tools. Employees are used to consumer-grade tools and have limited tolerance for improvised and cumbersome substitutes.
  • We need to bring the “3-90 rule” to life: to demonstrate that 3% of employees drive 90% of conversations, so we can get support for Organizational Network Analysis and shift significant communication burdens away from the hierarchy.

How can we get leaders on board in a meaningful way? Three opportunities:

  • Ask leaders what a communication intervention is worth to them in real financial terms. Use those money figures to drive prioritization.
  • Involve leaders in communication planning and in sharing ownership of processes and outcomes
  • Don’t seek an invitation. If you bring a chair and bring the data to justify your place, you can elbow your way to a spot at “the table.”

The IC of the future is not a simple continuation of today’s tactics, priorities and practices. New skills, mindsets and confidence will be required as we go forward.

Recognize that the right help is available – don’t be afraid to look beyond your organizational bubble for help.  Consultants and vendors have a lot of experience and insights, and can save you from spending a lot of time and money on heartache and reinvention.

Most importantly, recognize that the future of IC is in your hands.

Managers and leaders have changing demands, but only we can reshape their expectations by clearly defining the benefits of a strategic, tech-savvy and incisive approach.  

We can do this.


Changing The Terms is a communication consulting practice focused on helping organizations improve alignment, differentiation and performance.

Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

The “Comms Factor” – turning the tables to share the responsibility of defining internal communication value

Having been an internal communicator for the last twenty years, one of the eternal questions our tribe has faced has been to define a relationship between IC activity and business performance.  

For the most part, the effort to find this relationship has been largely forensic, namely attempting to define correlations between communication activities and business changes after the fact.

While some business numbers clearly show correlations with increases in related internal communication activities, such as, improved employee behaviors around cybersecurity in office settings or use of sanitary facilities in health care settings, no standard figure has emerged as a way of demonstrating IC impact on a larger scale.

To their credit, the internal communicators with whom I’ve been speaking have been working hard to identify the numbers – and the words – to bring the story of their impact to life in the various organizations where and with whom they work.  But indeed, it was the mention of â€œassigning the appropriate amount of credit” to internal communication activities that prompted me to look at measurement from another angle – to propose calculating a “communication factor” that would assign an amount of credit to communication before specific performance, or specific changes in behavior, actually get measured.

Using an example cited by a participant, a hospital starts making alcohol wipes available to its employees, and then communicates their availability.  A percentage of the change in the amount of alcohol wipe consumption could be attributed to the communication activity, and that percentage of change could then be applied to other business outcomes that require some degree of active employee participation.  

Whether based on an easy-to-measure case, or by agreement between communicators and other business stakeholders on a value to assign to communication based on less tangible or more intuitive elements, the comms factor would essentially be an estimate or an extrapolation – and as communicators often have confidence issues with business numbers, the idea makes some hesitant.

But commercial and finance people are not hesitant about assigning value to their extrapolations or estimates – indeed, these are the figures that make business forecasting an important part of business life.  

Having attended business school with classmates who went on to become CEOs and CFOs of multi-billion dollar companies, our numbers are not intrinsically worse or less grounded than many of the other extrapolations or estimates flying around the business. We simply either resist sharing them because we are afraid they aren’t perfect, or because we don’t feel we know how to apply the situational discipline and rigor to present them in terms the business understands.

Quantification and valuation of “soft” numbers and metrics is not unknown in the business world. Whether it is directly valuing them in financial terms so they can be considered in investment calculations, or allocating their contribution to “balanced scorecards” that address financial and non-financial measures of business health, these become hard measures that drive real decisions.

For years, internal communicators have complained that we don’t get proper credit for the impact we have on business outcomes.  We need to consider that by not coming up with a way for getting that credit built in to the analysis before the outcomes occur, we’ve made ourselves bystanders to our own devaluation. In looking at injecting a “comms factor” to be assessed as part of outcome performance, we may finally be able to change the terms of the measurement game.

Click here to download Report 3 – How to Measure What Matters – of the Happeo series on The Present and Future of Internal Communication

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a Netherlands-based internal communication consultancy focused on research, messaging and measurement. He is an MBA graduate of London Business School and the regional chair of IABC for Europe – Middle East – North Africa.

Featured, Internal Communication Strategy

From “Centralization” to “Centrality” – a transformation making internal communication more relevant and scalable

Increase impact. Reduce noise. Become more relevant. Integrate platforms. Create more connectedness.

These are some of the demands that internal communicators are hearing most loudly these days.

In my 30+ interviews with global internal comms practitioners for Happeo’s research into The Present and Future of Internal Communication, there is an overriding trend emerging as they tackle these combined challenges.

I’m calling it the move from “centralization” to “centrality” – a move from communicators being tasked with delivering and managing an overly broad range of controlled communication channels, to overseeing a leaner, more authoritative, and increasingly interactive portfolio built around a common platform.

To learn more about the trend from “centralization” to “centrality,” download the second Happeo Report on the Present and Future of Internal Communication.

Recognizing external channels and unleashing internal platforms

The core idea behind this transformation is that employees have the choice of using external channels to communicate with each other, and to monitor the organization’s communication with the outside world.  

While some organizations bristle at this “loss of control,” internal communicators are increasingly taking it as a cue to relent from having to take end-to-end responsibility for communicating with employees. Rather than trying to suppress access to external channels or diminish their credibility, they are taking the initiative to make their own channels more authoritative, easier to use, and better integrated with the day-to-day work and interactions that make up the flow of organizational life.

One practitioner described the philosophy behind this approach:

“Every time we give employees a communication, we give them a problem, a decision they need to make.  We need to reduce the number of non-essential decisions they have to make.”

Centrality, as it is emerging in internal communication, combines a simplified approach to content and interactions with the use of one or very few authoritative channels and a messaging style that drives prioritization. As unofficial messages and platforms proliferate around the business, the leaner and sharper internal channels aim to cut through the noise, and help clarify expectations for employees.

Centrality drives scalability – in both directions

Internal communication has historically been a function seen mainly in companies with more than 1000 employees. The proliferation of channels and activities has been particularly pronounced in large organizations, and the movement towards centrality will likely make IC more scalable and efficient in large companies.  

But the move towards centrality also enables a more compelling case for formal internal communication for smaller organizations engaging employees in multiple locations.

They too can consider internal communication as a means of driving focus on prioritization and clarifying expectations. They can even consider IC as an alternative to moving to common physical headquarters or investing as heavily in new layers of management as they grow.  The use of a common communication platform, with news, enterprise social networks, common calendars and document sharing, can be used to create a “sense of place” and help clarify ambiguities in small dispersed workforces as they do in larger organizations.

The main barrier is the current lack of a business model to get sufficient IC expertise into smaller organizations. Few small organizations have communication staff in general, much less any with deep IC expertise.  But the ability of certain technology platforms to automate many IC implementation tasks could make it possible for organizations to acquire IC expertise through other means to make the best use of those platforms – either by upskilling their own staff in line with the spread of global standards, obtaining it on a consulting basis through platform vendors, or even by hiring dedicated full or part-time resource.

If smaller firms begin to see IC as a viable alternative to over-reliance on line management, or to physically gathering employees in common locations, it is also likely that the IC practitioners who are hired by smaller firms will play a much more central leadership role in those firms. This could prove the clearest – and least expected – route to the “seat at the table” that IC pros have historically sought.  

A huge shift

Whether it drives the streamlining of channels in large companies, or enables greater coherence and velocity in smaller ones, the trend from “centralization” to “centrality” has huge implications for practitioners, vendors and enterprises alike.  Reducing noise, increasing impact and creating clarity are clear ways for IC practitioners to add value. Embracing centrality will give them much wider opportunities to do so.

Internal Communication Strategy

Four dimensions of internal influence: ambassadors, influencers, advocates and followers

One of the enduring memories of my undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin is a comment made by an otherwise forgotten Statistics professor: “There are two kinds of people in this world – those who think there are two kinds of people, and those who don’t.”

When it comes to organizations and their social dynamics, I tend to think there are four main kinds of people, each of which has distinct roles and needs to be addressed in distinct, yet integrated ways:

  • Ambassadors: formal representatives of the organization or specific initiatives.
  • Influencers: employees/members of the community informally sought for advice, knowledge or support
  • Advocates: individuals who voluntarily share opinions or facilitate initiatives or courses of action
  • Followers: those who have to be asked to take part in initiatives, activities or courses of action


In recent years, organizations have become more and more aware of the role of social dynamics in driving the success of initiatives and overall performance. For the most part, they have focused, with few exceptions, on intensifying the ambassadorial dimension in the form of line manager training and incentives, and in organizing and orchestrating “ambassador” and “champions” programs where employees below manager level are formally designated as initiative representatives or behavioral role models.

Rarely, however, has the ambassadorial role been integrated with an explicit appreciation of the role of informal influence in driving the success of initiatives and behavioral change, likewise the role of influencers in shaping and circulating knowledge and opinion.

In some cases, the selection of ambassadors is even intended to usurp the influencer role – to the point where an organization would call its representatives “influencers” without any evidence that their opinion carried any organizational weight.

Implicit in the focus on ambassadorship is a focus on control. Executing a formal organizational role, as a manager or a champion, requires the individual to stick to official channels, messages and interpretations in promoting the agenda.


Recognizing the limitations of hierarchy and control in driving change and performance, some organizations have invested in research to identify “influencers,” the group which research has identified as “the three percent of employees who drive 90% of the conversations” in a given organization. Through methods like organizational network analysis (ONA) and snowball sampling, it becomes possible to identify the credible individuals who are sought out by their colleagues for knowledge, advice and support.

According to Innovisor, the Copenhagen-based market leader in ONA for large organizations, there is a massive disconnect between those whom managers see as influential and those who employees actually seek out. “When as part of our research, we ask managers to identify whom they see as influencers, there is never much overlap between the manager view and the employee reality.”

It is rare that organizations actively find ways to integrate a real understanding of organizational influence when they adopt an ambassadorial approach to driving messages and initiatives. Much depends on finding appropriate ways for ambassadors and influencers to interact with each other – depending on influencer attitudes towards an initiative or the extent to which they are willing to be exposed publicly.


So far, a third group, advocates, has been given little attention as drivers of organizational change and performance.  Ambassadors are selected by the organization and influencers by their peers and colleagues, whereas advocates are self-selected. Some choose to engage out of a commitment to organizational well-being, and others out of sense of opportunity, while those who advocate contrarian positions may do so out of a sense of grievance.

Even though their credibility and levels of authority may be lower than those of key influencers and ambassadors, advocates are nonetheless a critical and often underrated piece of the organizational puzzle, particularly if they are passionate, committed or acting independently. If they can be recruited to participate in the most appropriate ways, the effort involved in identifying them and channeling their activities can be highly beneficial – integrating their energy and enthusiasm and enabling them to be focused in positive, constructive, and efficient ways.


In most organizations, the percentage of ambassadors, influencers and advocates is dwarfed by a mass of employees who are none of the above – followers.

Followers are a huge percentage of most workforces. But mass mobilization of followers, especially relying solely on ambassadors or on direct internal communication, is often ineffective and generally inefficient.

In part, this has been because the prevailing approach to employee engagement treats all employees as equal, failing to distinguish and legitimize the normal role of a follower – which, simply put, is to amicably accept ABC and to execute XYZ.  Good followership is valuable in ways that are entirely compatible with good ambassadorship, influence sharing and advocacy. But the ways in which internal communication and employee engagement are generally managed and incentivized often leave followers inundated with irrelevant information and bewildered by calls for greater commitment and attention to matters outside of their immediate work scope.

The first step towards success

To bring success back into focus, the first step is to recognize that every organization is comprised of ambassadors, influencers, advocates and followers in varying degrees. Accepting that reality, the next step involves questioning the authoritarianism of ambassador-only interventions and the laziness of one-size-fits-all approaches to communication and engagement. Then, replacing these with an approach which respects the natural roles of employees and harnesses their interest, energy and leadership.  Doing so will maximize the value of organizational influence by integrating its different forms, and create a pathway toward real, systemic and sustainable organizational engagement.

4 Dimensions ICK

Courtesy of IC Kollectif

FREE BOOK OFFER: For deeper insight into the social dynamics of organizations and communities, download, From Lincoln to LinkedIn.  Invoking ancient principles of political communication articulated by Abraham Lincoln in 1840, I look at how identifying, connecting and mobilizing informal leaders can drive social and business communication and results. For a free download, click here.

Internal Communication Strategy

Putting the “I” back into Internal Communication

There’s an old saying: “there ain’t no ‘I’ in ‘team,’” but there is very much an “I” in Internal Communication. In fact, many of the important attributes of internal communication (not so) coincidentally start with the letter I. Here are some which come to mind:

IMPORTANT: lets start with the big one. Internal Comms is important. Whether organisations invest in it, whether they have the right people in the right roles, and whether central messaging is taken seriously or care of the narrative is left to the rumo(u)r mill, does not diminish the importance of having common objectives, terminology, touch stones and context.

INTEGRATIVE: At its best, internal communication connects the dots, and it makes sure that those people who connect the organization acknowledge the same reality and help move things in a shared direction.

INFORMATIVE: The original, and unfairly despised, purpose of IC. Organisations may continue to issue “no newsletter” dictates and bemoan email clutter and “wasted” time on the sharing of information, but having thousands of people working at cross purposes is hardly less wasteful. Ignorance is expensive.

INJECTIONAL: I may have just made up this word. But it describes the ability of a really good IC platform or tool to be a place where new ideas, test balloons, and even subversive concepts, can be introduced to the organization – injected – without the drama of change programmes, roll-outs, or orchestrated pilots.

INSPIRATIONAL: People like to be inspired, especially by other people, and particularly by people who remind them of themselves.  While it’s easy to contrive weak attempts at inspiration, the ability of IC to amplify the stories of real people pursuing common objectives to their peers and friends is hard to surpass.

INDIVIDUAL: Employees are not slaves, and not robots.  They make decisions on their own, and they base their decisions on their own assessments, considering, but not aping, those of the organization and their manager.  While Old School top-down, one-size-fits-all comms may be seen as “simple,” “convenient” or “what employees expect,” it doesn’t reflect or respect individual decision-making, and is often met with skepticism or worse.

Ultimately, if the “I” in internal communication were to mean one single thing, it’s that it is the most efficient, and often the most effective, way to collectively engage with individuals inside the organizational firewall. And as long as organisations are ultimately comprised of individuals, focusing on the “I’s” in IC is a way of making sure we keep our eye on what is important.

FREE BOOK OFFER: To learn more about the connections within organisations and communities – influencers, leaders, managers and tribes — and about how internal communication really works, click here to download a free copy of my book, ”From Lincoln to LinkedIn.”

Insights, Internal Communication Strategy

Ambassadors and influencers

As businesses slowly come to recognize the importance of informal communication, we are starting to hear the words “ambassadors” and “influencers” more and more.

This is a bit of a good news and bad news story, which goes like this:

Good news: “We need to recognize that there’s informal communication actually going on in our companies.”

Bad news: “We’d really, really like to control it as much as possible.”

What does that have to do with “ambassadors” and “influencers?”

Because, at the moment, most of the energy companies are putting into “informal” communication is being focused on “ambassadors” programs, where employees are formally nominated by managers, HR, or other functions to push endorsed agendas and behaviors.

Ambassadors programs are not necessarily bad. But they get problematic when companies and managers call them “influencer” programs and calling program members “the influencers.”


Influencers are the people in organizations that their peers turn to for support, knowledge or sense-making. They aren’t nominated by anyone. They become influential by generating respect, sharing knowledge and putting things into context for peers who ask them to do so.

Managers and HR usually have little idea about who is actually influential.

Innovisor, which surveys thousands of employees on these questions annually, said there is nearly no overlap between the people managers nominate as “ambassadors” or “influencers” and those who employees find to be genuinely influential.


In an argument with a traditionally-minded London-based engagement pro, the two of us discussed our preferred approaches to accelerating internal messaging. “Why would you want to bypass the line manager?” he said. “Why would you want to bypass the real conversations that actually make a difference to employees?” I replied.

The problem with ambassadors programs and fake “influencers” programs comes when companies try to replace or step over the real informal communication in their ranks, especially with no knowledge of how that real informal communication actually works.

Rather than “taking back control,” companies can intensify cynicism and degrade their own credibility by inserting nominees into the informal communication process who lack the reputation, skills and track record to be genuinely influential, and, in doing so, suppress the real influence that is critical to sustaining the organizational conversation. It’s like taking the old-school cascade and painting a friendly face on it.


At the same time, organizations that make the effort to identify their real influencers can be confronted by the question of what to do afterward. Do they simply try to “influence the influencers,” and upgrade the quality of their interactions with the business, or do they out them and attempt to make them act as visible ambassadors – putting them all in the “yellow shirt”?

Outing your influencers has significant risks—once known publicly, they may become seen as “company agents,” and lose a chunk of the credibility and influence that make them worth identifying in the first place.


Can ambassadors programs coexist effectively with an identified influencer group? Yes. When ambassadors programs don’t pretend to be representative of “the real organization” but are positioned to champion limited agendas, they can be highly effective at moving the needle on those agendas. One program that took place in my previous company, a high-visibility values ambassador program in Italy which purposely nominated young, ambitious and tech-savvy employees, was very effective at sharing an understanding of values definitions.

Indeed, even though there has been little research done to date, I sense that the effectiveness of ambassadors programs can be improved by connecting them real influencers and seeking their informal guidance, and if absolutely necessary, their overt support.

Precisely because the nominated ambassadors lack the networks, content, and context that make influencers influential, being able to tap into the organization’s reservoir of influence without damaging it offers ambassadors a chance to better achieve their own objectives, and perhaps become more influential themselves.

This article was previously published by IC Kollectif.

Internal Communication Strategy

Building a “value portfolio” for internal communication?

One of the biggest challenges facing internal communicators involves demonstrating the value that we create through our activities and expenditures. This isn’t merely a problem when it comes to justifying budgets, it makes the process of prioritizing activities and resourcing them operationally – and politically – challenging.

Compounding the problem is the diversity of tasks that stakeholders ask of an internal communication team, ranging from the management of technical platforms and communication channels to event planning to the preparation and delivery of written and video content and often also including the analysis of surveys and other metrics.

An additional complication is the lack of consistent methodologies or measures that allow for an apples-to-apples demonstration of how a dollar, euro or Bitcoin spent on one activity delivers more punch than the same dollar or Bitcoin spent on something else.

Even though like-for-like comparisons of value add are difficult, I am proposing an initial step, a classification of communication activity against the most popular desired outcomes I’ve seen in my 15+ years as an internal communication pro:

Financial impact: does this communication activity directly target financial performance, and to what extent does it succeed in adding more cash to the bottom line, minus costs involved?

Organizational alignment: does this communication activity help the organization focus on common objectives and desired outcomes, and increase its speed in doing so

Visibility: does this communication activity measurably raise the profile of intended beneficiaries (and ideally, does that higher profile help deliver tangible benefits beyond the visibility itself)

Positivity: does this communication activity increase employee confidence in the organization and enthusiasm for participating in its direction of travel

Infrastructure development: does this communication activity increase the resilience, utility, or the return on investment of communication infrastructure?

Network effectiveness: does the activity make the informal communication network stronger, faster, better informed or more consistent?

In proposing these classifications, I’m not as much focused on quantifying the value add each delivers at the moment, but instead on being able to identify specific activities and demonstrate whether the organization’s “value portfolio” is appropriately balanced.

Once activities are organized and classified, the process of developing viable metrics within a company, and perhaps comparing activities in one category across companies could also become possible.

I also think using this approach to build a self-evaluation or team evaluation tool could be useful – I tend to focus on organizational alignment and network effectiveness, and sometimes my own approach can skew away from things like visibility and positivity.

This type of tool could also help integrate missing elements consciously while avoiding sudden shifts in tone or messaging.

This is a work in progress – do you think this approach makes sense, and how would you improve and quantify it?