Crystal Palomino, UFCU
Crystal Palomino, UFCU

Internal communications: Right audience, right message, right time

Toolkit allows staff to craft communication plans for every project.

April 25, 2023

Many employee email inboxes resemble the ubiquitous home junk drawer: Lots of miscellany, most of it useless, but with some important stuff that’s hard to dig out.

This can be a nightmare from an internal communications perspective. In the past few years, UFCU in Austin, Texas, has been intentional in organizing its internal communications and applying processes and schedules in messaging to team members.

“We wanted to figure out how people can find what they need when they need it,” Crystal Palomino, senior specialist in internal communications and events at the $4 billion asset credit union, told attendees at the 2023 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council Conference Monday in San Diego.

Previously, UFCU took the approach that “everybody gets an email about everything,” she says.

Under the new model, the credit union identifies voices and audiences. Senior executives communicate strategy; managers address issues that impact individuals; human resources communicates benefits, payroll, and employee policies; and organizational development shares training and professional development messaging.

UFCU holds a formal communications planning meeting every two weeks that includes managers from the internal communications team. Messaging is scheduled electronically.

The UFCU communications team has created an internal toolkit that includes a roadmap for staff to craft communication plans for every project.

Those plans also require maintenance, says Anamita Mukherjee, UFCU’s director of organizational development.

“We’re now working on how to adjust these communication plans because new information comes at us all the time,” she says.

This effort includes finding “champions” in each unit who regularly engage with the communications team.

Other key takeaways from the presentation:

  • Know your audience. Define who they are, what they need to know, when they need to know it, and why.
  • Tailor your message. Ensure each communication you distribute has a clear call to action and a deadline.
  • Design a communication plan template. Create a plan and template that can evolve over time. 
  • Update your plans.As your project evolves, revisit and update your plan as needed.
  • Be open to feedback. As you experiment with new communication tactics, invite employees to share, and be willing to pivot your communications.