How much does internal communication cost?

browningyork General communication, Planning, Strategy communication, University

To be honest, there are no hard and fast rules about what it will cost. You might as well ask how long is a piece of string. But it is useful to think about what to include for internal communication when you are putting your comms budget together. A recent CharityComms report found that communication budgets are increasing, but at the same time the expectations of what organisations get for that money are also getting bigger.

The actual numbers associated with your internal communications balance sheet will vary depending on factors such as the numbers of people you have, the technology at your disposal and the level of hands-on support required in your organisation. There are, however, two particular areas to consider, whatever you are trying to achieve and whoever you are.

1. People
This can be the biggest cost associated with internal communication, since you don’t need much fancy equipment, but you do need people. There are many models of internal communication delivery, including dedicated centrally-located teams, locally-based specialists, co-located business partners, virtual teams of people with a portion of their time allocated to communication alongside other duties. You need to be clear on the best model for your institution and your culture before you can cost it out. The level of experience and professional communication skills of staff in the team has an impact too.

You also need to think about whether you are going to include people costs associated with others across your institution who have a communication role, but might not be comms people. For example, line managers have a significant role to play in enabling local conversations and two-way communication and this will take them time to facilitate and action. You are unlikely to include their salary costs in your internal comms budget, but it is worth factoring in to your resource modelling and thinking.

2. Channels
This can also take a chunk of the budget, although ongoing costs can be reduced once you’ve established your systems and processes. As with many comms-related questions, there are no right or wrong options when it comes to channels, just communication methods that are better suited to your organisation, your culture and your objectives than others.

If you are still using printed, hard copy channels it will probably be easier to put a price on what it is going to cost you during the year. Be wary, however, of thinking there are no costs to digital channels: you may, for example, have licensing or hardware costs and you will almost certainly have costs associated with promoting your channels and building communities to use them. Again, time taken by colleagues across the board will come into play here.

At the recent CharityComms seminar, the Internal Communicator’s Digital Toolkit, one of the speakers reminded us that face to face doesn’t have to mean you’re in the same room anymore. You can hold seminars, meetings and event days involving people in different geographical locations via online tools such as Skype, Yammer and Slack. Whilst that does reduce the costs of venue hire, travel costs and food and drink, you need to remember to budget for costs such as video equipment and system fees.

As with all budgeting activity, having a clear plan of what you hope to achieve during the year and the impact that will have on the institution will make it much easier for you to put your figures together. That plan will also help you if you need to argue your case to get your budget agreed and signed off.

If you would like help identifying your internal communication budget needs, please get in touch.

Until next month
Sarah