By Ciara O’Keeffe, VP of Customer Experience

This year’s State of the Sector Report by Gatehouse contained a wealth of beneficial insights. One that stood out to me was that “fewer than one in two IC teams (46%) use a formal channel framework document.” I was surprised by this. A channel framework, also known as a channel matrix, is an essential part of an internal communicator’s toolbox.  

So, what exactly is a channel matrix? Gone are the days of a one-channel-for-all strategy; modern workplaces require a blend of channels to reach all employees. Knowing what channel to use for crisis communications vs. operational updates is vital to effective engagement. If a crisis hits your organization, that is not the time to begin thinking through which channels should be used and who they will reach. That information should already be clear and readily available to all team members. Timely communications could be the difference between employees getting to safety before a storm hits or ending up stranded and needing to be rescued.

If you have never worked with a channel matrix before or you’re unsure if your current matrix is fit for purpose, it can seem daunting to know where to start. I’ve put together a Toolkit to help you on your way. The three resources, I recommend using are:

  1. Channel audit template
  2. Channel matrix/framework template
  3. Audiences and channels mapping template

Conducting a channel audit

channel audit example

We’re already in March, so it’s a good time for a spring clean! Reviewing and refreshing your channels each year is a good housekeeping habit to get into. 

According to this year’s SotS report, “Across all regions, one of the biggest barriers to success is a volume of communications that is deemed excessive, and a resulting difficulty to cut through the noise.” Another benefit of conducting the audit, is the opportunity to reduce the number of duplicate channels and focus the purpose and reach of those which remain.

Furthermore, it’s a good excuse to meet or have a call with your colleagues managing communications across the organization. Have a general chat with them about their communication opportunities and challenges. Then have a list of questions to ask them, such as:

  • What channels are they using?
  • What channels exist that they don’t use often or at all? 
  • Which channels are most popular and why?
  • Which groups of employees are they unable to reach?
  • What analytics do they have to support their responses?

There will be some organization-specific information you will need to gather, but I’ve included some example information in the template to help bring it to life. 

Completing a channel matrix / framework

channel matrix

Using the template I have provided, think about your audience groups and how you want to communicate with them. Plot your important content types down the left side. Across the top section, list out your channels. Now go from left to right, crossing off the channels you would use for each content type. Once you have completed that for each row take a look at where the gaps are. For example, an obvious gap can be with middle management and team leader communications. 

To complete the picture, you now need to map your audiences against your channels. The good news is that you use the information gathered during steps one and two to do this.

Mapping your audiences against your channels

audience and channel mapping

How effective are the channels at not only reaching the different groups but in engaging them? There is no silver bullet when it comes to internal communication channels but sometimes that concept is still hoped for. 

Using the Audiences and Channels Mapping template add your target groups or audiences in the center quadrants. Then add your channels to the section on the side. I listed mine in order of reach and engagement. Rather than overloading one template with every audience, I recommend using the template multiple times. Again, once completed you will see if there are any gaps or opportunities. It’s a very worthwhile exercise even just to clarify how many channels you need to use in order to reach and engage your audiences. Imagine how helpful it would be, for line managers to be provided with a version of this that covers their employee groups? When they need to communicate important messages, they can instantly cross-check the most effective channels.

If you would like to go one step further and learn how to choose the right channels to map the outcome with the output. Kate Jones previously did a guest blog for Rachel Miller on this topic, and it includes a very useful infographic. Kate plots channels against outcomes such as awareness, acceptance, and ownership. 

Once you have completed the three steps for the first time, I recommend reviewing them every six months to keep them up-to-date.

If you use the templates, I’d love to hear how you get on. Either comment below or tweet me to let me know your thoughts @CommsOKeeffe.

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