Picture is illustrative. Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

What is organisational communication?

In order to foster good relationships between people we need good, open, two-way communication. It’s something we sometimes take for granted. This is the same for organisations; communication is what helps an organisation run smoothly and achieve its goals.

There are two main forms of communication for organisations: internal and external.


Internal communications is related to the communications within an organisation, the  communicating to and between employees. Effective internal communication encourages smooth information flows from management of an organisation to its staff (or volunteers) and between departments or different parts of the organisation. And it can help instil a sense of community and of shared purpose and mission in an organisation, as well as make things run more smoothly and create a good working environment 


This is particularly important in times of increased remote working when staff can feel disconnected from colleagues and their employer. Ensuring good internal communications is even more vital in order to properly engage teams when home working. 


External communications is the communication between an organisation and an external party, for a company that could be its customer, for a not-for-profit it could be a funder or the general public.  External communications can incorporate many different disciplines and tools, including: public relations, media relations, crisis communications, advertising, promotion, social media marketing, events,  etc. However, communication is generally neutral – it is simply the conveying of information. So it is distinct from marketing or public relations, which – generally – are to do with promoting, selling (for a company) or fostering a strong reputation. 


And whilst external and internal communication should go hand-in-hand, they are quite distinct practices. 


Communication of movements and groups

For youth organisations and movements, since they are often less structured and volunteer-based, strong internal communications are vital . Good internal communications will allow volunteers to have easy access to all the info they need, for example, when taking part in an action such as a protest, they would have all the relevant info and know where to go for support, in order that such an action reaches its planned goals. 


Strong external communications is also really important, since such movements have specific aims, i.e., galvanising other young people into action, or changing behaviours/policy. Without using strong communications: e.g. social media campaigns or generating significant media coverage, these groups would struggle to gain the momentum needed. Good communications is two-way, it enables organisations to both inform and get feedback. Done effectively, this can be particularly empowering for youth organisations and youth work, as it is giving participants a voice.


Some tips for strong communication

Whilst the content, style and tone of communication will vary significantly between organisations, some key principles of good quality communication that can help organisations, particularly NGOs, have impact remain the same: 

  • Clear messaging – before embarking on any communications activity, develop your messaging. Ask yourself, what is the core of what you want to say? Is it watertight and is it persuasive? 
  • KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid: the best communicators get straight to the point, they use clear, straightforward language, rather than metaphor and overly-complicated words, which can hide the real meaning of what you are trying to say. 
  • Be real – be genuine. Your audiences can see straight through hyperbole and exaggeration. You should not need to exaggerate or obfuscate to make your communications effective.  
  • People – good communications is about people; it tells stories, and it features people that your audience can relate to. This can be done visually, through picture or video, through interviews or case studies. A strong story is more persuasive than any organisational vision or mission. 

Back it up. Once you’ve homed in on your messaging, clarified your language and got some great stories, then the final piece of the puzzle is to back it up. This can be through statistics, evidence or research. By illustrating the issue, you are communicating through hard, persuasive facts, you make your case more difficult to ignore.


Photo of Sarah Farndale
Sarah Farndale

Sarah is a communications specialist with 15 years' experience working in-house for a wide range of organisations and institutions, from international NGOs to EU associations and institutions. More recently, she has been advising clients as a freelance communications consultant - based in Brussels - working with organisations on enhancing their communications.