slack on slack

How channels extend the reach of internal communications

Keeping everyone in the know at a growing company is a tall task. Our internal comms team shares tips for simplifying that work in Slack

By the team at SlackAugust 7th, 2019Illustration by Josh Holinaty

Internal communications pros have a very particular set of skills. They work closely with executives to hone their message and ensure that top-down communication keeps employees informed. They plan, write and edit content for a variety of internal demands, while also responding to questions and feedback from staff. And they do it all while working to improve the employee experience and culture every step of the way.

Over the years, our internal communications team has found ways to streamline all of the above in Slack. And because any team using Slack can do the same, we wanted to share how they do it.

Create dedicated announcements channels

Keeping employees informed requires a regular cadence of announcements across a variety of channels. At Slack, there’s a companywide #announcements-global channel, as well as one for each office (e.g., #announcements-nyc), each department (e.g., #sales-announcements), and many small teams.

Within each of these announcement channels the role of internal comms includes:

  • Writing guidelines for content shared in the channel
    Internal communications guidelines for an announcement channel in Slack
  • Setting a descriptive topic and pointing people to where they can have further discussions or ask questions. For example, in our #sales-announcements channel, the topic reads, “High priority Global Sales & Customer Success announcements. Other updates or questions? Head to #sales-team or #help-customersuccess
  • Creating rules of engagement, e.g., can channel members start threads? Are emoji reactions allowed?
  • Monitoring companywide feedback

An example announcement from an Internal Communications team in Slack

Compiling announcements is no small feat. Each week, our internal comms team shares a weekly digest in #announcements-global that includes news from each department’s head, company stats and metrics from our business intelligence tools, and important deadlines that affect everyone.

Workshop those announcements in private channels

Behind the scenes, we use a private channel like #internal-comms-twis (for: This Week in Slack) to compile reports from each department. We also use Slackbot reminders to ask department leads for any updates worth sharing a few days before publishing them.

Once updates and announcements are selected and added to a newsletter draft, we post them in #internal-comms-drafts to gather feedback from the entire internal comms team. It’s always good to have another set of eyes on your work, especially for writers.

After announcements have gone out, Slack’s admin controls allow you to limit posts in an announcements channel. We often grant those permissions only to department heads and the internal comms team. The staff can engage by posting questions and discussions in threads and use emoji reactions, which helps the comms team quickly gauge feedback.

Connect execs with everyone else

Internal communications teams are a conduit between executives at a company and the employees, and we’ve found a lot of success in allowing anyone to engage with executives using Ask Me Anything (AMA) channels in Slack.

In #slack-ama, anyone in the company can ask a question, and the most appropriate leader will answer it soon after.

A question posted in an executive AMA channel in Slack

Our internal comms team responds to let the poster know that they’ve seen their question and provides a time frame for when they can expect an answer. Based on the question, the comms team reaches out to the appropriate exec, senior leader or subject-matter expert in a group DM and helps workshop a response with them. Once ready, the expert writes the response in thread and also sends it to the AMA channel to make sure everyone in the channel sees it.

Another popular way to connect employees to executives is highlighting when executives visit other offices, meet with prominent customers or speak at conferences. At Slack, we do this in a public channel called #wheres-the-boss.

An update posted in the #wheres-the-boss Slack channel

The channel is filled with quick photos and notes about where in the world our CEO, Stewart Butterfield, is traveling each week. Department channels have similar posts from executives to keep their teams in the loop.

All-hands meetings

At least once a month, Slack brings its 1,600+ employees together for a company all-hands meeting. It’s on internal comms to ensure that the meeting is relevant, timely, entertaining and accessible to all.

We use our #announcements-global channel to preview agendas for upcoming all-hands meetings, and we use our #all-hands channel as the place to post about the meeting itself, both during a meeting and after. The channel is open to the entire company, so if any A/V problems crop up during an event, they’re reported there and responded to by the IT staff. When the meeting concludes, internal comms post recaps, a recording and any relevant slide decks.

An internal communications message in a private channel to prepare for a company all-hands

Behind the scenes, there are private channels where the comms team gathers content to preview, draft and edit before they go live in the main announcement message.

We also use the #all-hands channel to gather questions for any Q&A segments in town hall-style meetings. When posted in advance, employees can upvote their peers’ questions with emoji reactions. We also use the channel to gather questions in real time from remote employees, so a member of internal comms can ask them live on their behalf.

You can do all this at your company too

Much of the work our internal comms team oversees—keeping employees in the know and connecting them with executives and each other—is valuable at any size company or in any industry. Ready to try moving your organization’s comms into Slack? Start with a small win, and pick the subject above that best matches your internal comms needs.

The advantage of bringing these workflows into Slack is that it reaches your employees where they already are. That means more eyes on your internal messages and more employee engagement with them too.

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