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How to choose the 4 best internal communications tools for your company

Jamie Bell

There are plenty of “20+ internal communications tools you need” lists that you could add to your tech stack… but if you’re looking to know what need, start here. The four essential internal communications tools you need are (1) an internal communications email platform, an employee texting platform, a tool for instant messaging, and an intranet or hub. With those in place, there’s no harm in exploring the wide variety of tools out there – just beware of adding too many accessories – there’s no way even a large internal communications team could manage that many tools!

Having too many internal communications tools actually has the complete opposite effect on what you’re trying to accomplish: you’re risking both overloading your employees with information and/or creating huge inconsistencies. In that kind of environment, either (1) your employees are totally going to miss the message because they didn’t know where to look, or (2) you have to manually copy/paste and post the same information in every channel (uhm, no thanks). 

This is such a hugely frustrating and highly common issue in large, medium, and, honestly, even pretty small organizations. It can wind up being total chaos, with important company updates and team highlights thrown across a ton of different channels: newsletters, Google docs, private messages, emails, meetings, video recordings (you’ll never find that again), texts, email threads, you name it.

We can help you choose the four internal communications tools you actually need.

Every company can put together an intentional, effective internal communications strategy with just four tools… and all of them should feel really familiar to your employees and super easy for you to use.

Those four tools are:

1.) An internal mail platform
2.) An employee texting platform
3.) A tool for instant messaging
4.) An intranet/hub

Keep reading for more specifics & what to look for in each internal communications tool! 

#1: An internal communications email platform


We’re all in a seemingly endless pursuit of inbox zero, and many of us have strong feelings about email etiquette… but the fact remains, your employees are checking their email. The latest trends report showed 94% of internal comms teams are leading with email –  and the best way to communicate with an audience is to meet them where they’re at!

Of course, there isn’t a business on the planet that isn’t using some kind of tool for email. Either you’re going straight through the email service itself (Gmail/Outlook), you’ve upgraded to email marketing software (Mailchimp/Constant Contact), or you’ve opted for an internal communications platform that offers email as a channel (hello!). 

If you’re going to do internal emails right, it’s important to choose a real internal mail platform. Running your team and/or company communications directly through Gmail and Outlook provides zero visibility into the effectiveness of your messages, and managing different distribution lists within that can be really, really painful (and almost impossible if you have more than 100 employees). Your messages are probably largely text-based (which isn’t very engaging) and don’t have a lot of formatting, or you’re attaching a PDF with the newsletter or the mission-critical information you’re trying to communicate. 

The second best thing is to use email marketing software. Many of these offer basic analytics (open/click-through rates), and come with some templates to help you create more engaging, dynamic content. You’ll be able to see what messages are resonating with your audience, and tweak your strategy accordingly. 

You’re probably familiar with them, but here are a few of the most common & well-reviewed email marketing tools (we’ll explain why they aren’t recommended in a moment): 

That being said, email marketing software has a specific set of downsides when it comes to internal communications. After all, they were built to communicate with prospects and customers, not your own employees, and the end goals are entirely different (which messes with your metrics). With email marketing software, employees can also unsubscribe from your messages (!), and segmentation is still incredibly difficult. Plus, if your email software doesn’t sync with your HRIS system (and none of them do), you’re still stuck managing a custom distribution list or continually working with IT to do so: removing employees who have left, adding employees who have been hired. (Here’s a longer, in-depth look at the many reasons why Mailchimp and other marketing email tools don’t work for internal comms.)

The absolute best email software for internal communications is just that: email software for internal communications. 😉

There are now only three dedicated options in this space: 

new hire email in workshop, a dedicated internal communications software

All three of these are better-built for internal comms, have more engaging designs, offer analytics, and provide better management of your employee emails. Workshop syncs with your HR data so you can create targeted messages and always have up-to-date distribution lists, and provides multi-channel communication options via integrations with Slack, Sharepoint, etc.; Contact Monkey only integrates with Gmail and Outlook, and Politemail only integrates with Outlook. Contact Monkey offers a version of their platform for salespeople; Workshop is the only one that is built solely for internal communications. Other solutions that you may run into in a search to solve your internal email needs may require overcomplicated packages and bloated toolsets; companies like Staffbase, Poppulo, Firstup, Simpplr, etc. often require you to opt for their employee app or company intranet as well as email, and those platforms are traditionally very expensive and result in very little adoption and engagement. 

Choose a dedicated option, and you’ll be set up for success as far as internal emails go!

templates for employee email in Workshop

#2: An employee texting platform

Texting your employees about company updates might seem difficult or overwhelming… but paired with email, it can be one of the most efficient and best-performing pieces of your internal communications strategy. (Here’s a guide on how to use it well!)

SMS is one of the most engaging forms of communication; in consumer marketing, recipients are 4x more likely to open and engage with an email. Overall, internal emails have higher engagement than marketing emails, but employees are still 50% more likely to open a text message than an email. We recommend using both channels to reach 100% of your employees.

When trying to cut through the noise, SMS is the best way. You don’t have to train employees on a new solution because it’s a channel they’re completely familiar with, and they almost always have their phone nearby. That means that for companies with a more distributed workforce, your message can still be delivered at the right time…whether they’re at a desk or not. 

There are quite a few specific use cases where texting is likely the best channel to reach your employees, regardless of what industry you’re in. For example: 

  • Office closings & weather notifications
  • IT network outages & status updates
  • Construction updates
  • Emergency/safety notifications
  • HR/Benefits deadlines
  • (grab our list of 49+ employee texting ideas and examples!)

As far as how to start mass texting employees, there’s a variety of methods, platforms, and software solutions. The right one for you will likely depend on your industry and what you’re hoping to accomplish. 

Simple push notifications

If you just want to text your employees alerts about messages in other channels, a Workshop internal email plan is the way to go. We offer SMS as a distribution channel for your internal communications, so whenever you have a new message to share, you can simply check a box and send it straight to their phones. This “light” version is just a notification, though, and they won’t be able to respond. Adding SMS as an additional channel to your Workshop plan is the way to do that. 

 

Employee text messaging platforms

To text employees, you have two big options: manage a workaround or get a dedicated tool. Workaround options include a group chat, carrier-based SMS gateways, or tools designed for texting externally. Each can work for your organization, but they might not be the easiest. These are some of the employee text messaging systems out there:

The best, fastest, and easiest option is to use Workshop SMS and email together. Workshop is the only internal communications platform with real-time replies and interactive text message conversations. It’s designed to enhance employee engagement and complement and lives in the same platform as your internal emails. Here’s what Workshop SMS brings to the table: 

  • An easy-to-use platform built specifically for internal communications teams 
  • Instant feedback & send replies with the only native two-way text employee messaging system 
  • Education, onboarding, & support from helpful dedicated Workshop experts
  • Comprehensive analytics including opt-outs, clicks, deliverability
  • Unlimited messages to and from your account

workshop employee texting software screenshot

#3: An instant messaging tool

Use Slack

Slack, an internal company instant messaging platform

For day-to-day, back-and-forth communication, we’ve never found anything better. At scale, Slack can certainly be overwhelming, but it works incredibly well for instant messaging and one-on-one conversations.

That being said…we know Microsoft Teams is an incredibly popular alternative, and it’s the go-to for those companies that are completely set up on the Microsoft ecosystem.

We always recommend that you set up some solid communication norms for these instant messaging channels (and utilize a few of our favorite Slack hacks). The easiest way to think about it: if the message doesn’t have to live for more than 24 hours and you don’t need a 100% read rate on it, Slack (or Teams) is a great place to put it. 

If you are browsing for even more alternatives to Slack and Teams, Hubspot compiled this list for all of us! 

Another note: A few internal communications platforms also integrate with Slack and/or Microsoft Teams, so you’re able to schedule and share your messages via that channel, as well. Workshop offers these integrations!

#4: An intranet or hub

Every department lead knows that there’s a bunch of quick links that they continually get asked for, or questions they are asked time and time again…no matter where they share them or how organized they might be. The company intranet, when set up well, can provide a place to keep all those resources and FAQs front-and-center, and cut down on one-off requests to find files or quick answers. It’s also a nice central “watercooler,” and provides a go-to place for things like events calendars, company milestones, and the employee directory.

If you’re looking for a larger intranet solution, Sharepoint is by far the most widely-used, followed by Facebook’s Workplace. There are quite a few other options to look into, as well, and some companies opt to build their own in WordPress or through a custom development firm.

There are many reasons why intranets aren’t necessarily the all-in-one solution. Although they provide a great central hub for your other comms channels to link to, they are a separate channel, which means that employees have to go there in order to see the latest news…and the search capabilities have to be fantastic in order for employees to be able to find the more evergreen information they need.

Note: The best internal communications software integrates directly with your intranet, too. Channels that “push” to employees like internal email make great partners with channels that “pull” users to them. Workshop integrates with the most common intranet platforms, so you can send your important emails and updates straight to your company hub of choice as an asynchronous reference point. 

 

What about project-based communication?

For most internal comms pros, project management and project-based communication is a completely separate thing. There’s a measured difference between communication that’s meant to get the work done, vs. communication about the project as a whole to a wider audience.

For day-to-day collaborative communication between those who are actively working on a project, keep the communication element as close to the project management software as you possibly can (shout-out to Asana).

Feedback examples in a project management platform

There are instances where the people doing the work are spread across multiple departments, and putting everything and everyone in one project management tool isn’t possible. In that case, use Slack. When a project requires a lot of collaboration across departments and a firm deadline, create a specific channel for it in Slack to keep the team informed of the progress and kept in the loop about any decisions. (You can opt for another tool, but just don’t spread it across a bunch of different channels; your best bet is to choose a single place to communicate project progress.)

If you’re talking about informing stakeholders and/or other employees about the project, we create a specific campaign for it in Workshop, or loop it into that department’s updates. This gives us the ability to share the email/message across multiple communications channels, or have the option to even text employees when a huge new product is launched. (I’m also easily able to attach marketing materials and PDFs to the email, so I don’t get bombarded with requests for screenshots or sales sheets).  

Can I get away with just 3 internal communications tools?

If you’re keeping score, you’ll notice that you can technically use just three tools to complete your internal communications stack: 

  • Workshop, for internal emails, texts, and pushing updates to your intranet…as well as bonus features like in-platform image editing, ghostwriting, embedded surveys, GIFs, & more
  • Slack, for chat/instant messaging (and Workshop can push messages to here, too!) 
  • Sharepoint, or your intranet of choice

Sounds like a simple, streamlined, straightforward set of solutions to me. 🙂

The next step:

Learn more about Workshop and schedule a demo here! Let our product experts show you how a dedicated internal mail platform can be the center of your internal comms software strategy ✨

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