Internal Comms Trends for 2024

EPISODE  137 | Guest: Debbie DeWitt, marketing communications manager for Visix

What are internal communications professionals focused on this year? In this episode, we take a look at multiple surveys and sources to see what the top themes and priorities are, and discuss how they might affect digital signage managers. Some trends have continued from last year, while others present brand new challenges and opportunities in our rapidly changing IC environment.

  • Hear how 2023 trends have continued to evolve
  • Discover how hybrid work, new tech and channel mix are changing workflows
  • Explore how people experience (PX) is becoming more crucial
  • Learn how IC pros are making content more engaging
  • Understand the continued, and increasing, importance of AI

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Derek DeWitt: Well, it’s that time of year again, where we look at current internal communication trends. Some of them carry over or expand on trends from last year; some are responding to new technologies, new workplace cultures and new external pressures. To talk about that, I’m here with Debbie DeWitt, marketing communications manager for Visix.

Hi, Debbie.

Debbie DeWitt: Hi, Derek.

Derek DeWitt: I’d like to thank Debbie for talking to me today. And of course, everybody out there for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. You can follow along with a transcript of the conversation on the Visix website under resources and podcasts, and you can, of course, subscribe and review us on IMDb.

Okay, so as I said, we’re gonna talk about internal communication trends for the year, and to know where we’re going, it kind of helps to know where we’ve been. So, let’s look back at 2023 trends briefly. Some of those are still in play this year, I think.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, a lot of them are. And I’m not gonna go through all of those ’cause you can go and listen to that episode, but the big ones that have carried through are the influence of hybrid workplaces, more leadership communications and more authentic communications from those leaders, focus on employee wellness, making communications more visual and then using analytics for better decision making.

Derek DeWitt: Sure, that makes sense. I know that when we were at ISE, we saw a lot of stuff about analytics.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Data-driven decisions. It’s the topic.

Derek DeWitt: Yes, it is. And of course, another big topic on everybody’s minds these days is AI. Since we talked about this last year, I don’t even think we mentioned AI, but now it’s everywhere in the press.

Debbie DeWitt: It was out there a little bit, but it just started entering the conversation, and I think it was after most of the polls had been taken. But this year I could not find a single list that did not include AI. And it’s not only dominating the conversation about how we create communications, it’s definitely influencing audience trust in those communications.

Derek DeWitt: Hmm, interesting. We’ll take a closer look at that in a little bit. But let’s start with where these trends are coming from. Meaning, where’d you get this information? Sources, sources.

Debbie DeWitt: Well, I hate listing all my sources. So, what I did is I looked at a bunch of different lists, and I took all of those lists (and you can Google it, you’ll get hundreds of different trends), but I boiled it down to items that I think are interesting to our listeners.

Derek DeWitt: Most of whom, of course, manage digital signage; or maybe not most, but many. And, of course, people listening, you might not be internal communications professionals per se, but you still need to be aware of this stuff.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, it’s important to stay on top of trends. And so, I wanted to start with the Gallagher State of the Sector Report. It’s a really good report on internal communications and employee experience. The one I found is a 2023/2024 survey, and it included internal communication professionals worldwide. But 50% of the respondents are in North America, so I think it’s applicable to our audience. It’s also a great place to see what they’re saying about current trends.

Derek DeWitt: So, what were the big themes this year?

Debbie DeWitt: Well, internal comms is still grappling with the rhythms of hybrid work and having their audience spread out, you know, some at home, some in the office. So, that’s a big one.

Derek DeWitt: Sure.

Debbie DeWitt: They also say more heightened emotional intelligence is required to address internal changes and external forces.

Derek DeWitt: Now, do you think that’s a response to what you see a lot in the press about Gen Z, about Zoomers? Some articles will complain that they’re too sensitive, but other articles make the point that this has just become top of mind for them, that they like to have an emotionally secure and/or satisfying experience even at work. Work and life are not necessarily completely separate, you know, modes for them.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And I mean, I think whatever your opinion on that, whether you think it’s too much or not enough, too bad. This is your workforce. This is your audience, especially if you’re a college, this is your audience.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true.

Debbie DeWitt: And I will say, unless you’re like, I don’t know, unless you have an office full of psychopaths, emotional intelligence is important for everyone, of every age.

Derek DeWitt: Right. When I was first entering the workforce, it would’ve been nice to work in a place that, you know, was nice.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s all about human-focused communications, and we’ll talk more about that in a little bit.

Derek DeWitt: And in addition to AI, there’s just a lot of new tech, especially software.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And it’s not just a flood of technology, it’s new tech they’ve never seen before, AI being probably the biggest one that we’d think of. But also, there are more digital apps and communications platforms out there than ever before.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true. You know, it’s interesting, according to that report, there’s more fear of creating an employee experience that lacks authenticity and empathy than there is for communicators losing their jobs to AI, which is what the press would have you think – AI is gonna come and flip burgers, and you’ll be out of a job.

Debbie DeWitt: People always think that the number one reaction is fear for their jobs. But really, these people are like, hey, AI is out there. I’m not worried about it’s gonna take my job. I’m worried about that employee experience is gonna be hurt if we just let the AI run it. But I think internal communications is an area that we’re always gonna need a human eye. You know, at least until AI gets a lot smarter.

So, I mean, you’re a writer, you’re a podcast host. Are you worried about losing your job to AI? Wait. Are you an AI?

Derek DeWitt: Not today, not today. Perhaps when the singularity hits, and Mr. Kurtzweil’s predictions come true, then we’ll see. But until then…. It’s not gonna make me obsolete because I write the way I write, and that’s my style. And AI is gonna have to get really smart to be able to directly copy my style.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I think it’s kind of much ado about nothing

Derek DeWitt: Shakespeare reference. Nice, nice.

You know, in the past we’ve talked a lot about getting a seat at the table, meaning that people who aren’t in the C-suite or in the managerial section of work still should be able to have some input, and actually have data and information on what’s happening and where things are going. I think that’s improved in the past few years.

Debbie DeWitt: Yes. Finally. IC pros are more involved in strategy and business outcomes than ever before. The respondents for this survey, they saw multiple purposes for internal communications, the largest being culture and belonging.

Derek DeWitt: Right, which is an intangible.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Again, we’re not talking about tasks and projects, we’re talking about culture, we’re talking about a vibe and experience. But there was a 9% increase in those saying strategic alignment was the purpose, which means, you know, making those communications align to whatever the C-suite is throwin’ down.

Derek DeWitt: And hopefully there’s some, there’s some back and forth going on there, too. Hopefully it’s the C-suite’s not just coming up with stuff in a bubble and then dictating it from on high, and everybody goes, oh, that’s interesting to know. Hopefully there’s some, you know, back and forth informing those directions.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Well, according to this survey, that is true. They have more of a seat.

Derek DeWitt: That’s excellent.

Now I see here 48-50%, so roughly half of the people in this particular poll or survey, said that internal communications is part of their strategy when choosing how they communicate about the vision and the purpose and the strategy of the company, employee recognition and, sort of, the behavior, values and culture of the organization.

But only 16-20%, so let’s say a fifth, say that IC, internal communications, is part of strategy when choosing how to communicate about things like career development, health and safety, and regulations and compliance. So, like you said, the more ephemeral things seem to be more a focus.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s not necessarily ephemeral, but I would say things like regulations and compliance and safety and health, you don’t have a lot of leeway there because those are regulated. So, you don’t have a lot of latitude. So, there may not be a need for sitting down and discussing a strategy behind those things because it’s kind of regulated by OSHA or whatever.

And a lot of those, for those topics, they said they do get to advise on those communications. So, they may not be in the room when things are being decided. But like you said, there’s some back and forth.

Derek DeWitt: Now, before we get to the top workplace communications trends, let’s look at the top 12 priorities for communicators in 2024, moving forward. I see here the top two are engaging teams on purpose, strategy and values, 63% of respondents said that is one of their top priorities; and the second place one, at 39%, was developing and refreshing the entire internal communication strategy.

Debbie DeWitt: I think this shows that communicating your top-level mission is still paramount. You know, it seems funny that we’re always like strategy, mission, vision, purpose. That has to be communicated and it has to really drill down, or drip down, to everybody in your organization, or you’re not all working on the same page. So, I think that makes sense.

And then I’m guessing those reworking their IC strategy are basically trying to work all these new priorities. New tech, AI, they’re trying to hit all of these new things, and so they’re taking a look at their strategy.

Derek DeWitt: When the times are disruptive, it’s time to disrupt things.

Debbie DeWitt: Ooh, nice one. Let’s get a t-shirt.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, right! Now, so those are the top two. The next two were enhancing leadership visibility (which is an interesting word) and enhancing people-manager communication. So that’s, that’s people.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And this is one of those continued trends from last year, wanting to see your leaders more often. And they also wanna hear from them more often, and they want them to be much more authentic and genuine (we’ve talked about that before.)

But we’re also seeing continued emphasis on improving communications between line managers and their employees. We’ve seen over and over in some of the studies that have come out in the news that say hybrid isn’t working, in almost all of those cases it’s not a C-suite, it’s not communications. It’s that their immediate manager has not adapted well.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Like, they don’t get it, or they don’t approve of it personally or whatever.

Debbie DeWitt: I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s they just haven’t developed a way to keep their team, you know, together on track. Doing a lot more check-ins; there are lists and lists out there, what you need to do as a line manager. But I think that could have affected this.

Derek DeWitt: Sure, sure. Okay, moving on down the list of priorities, we come to improving impact measurement and evaluation, which I don’t actually know what that means.

Debbie DeWitt: Well, impact measurement is, how effective was it, really?

Derek DeWitt: Oh, okay. Yeah. Makes sense. Building or restructuring internal communications functions, which is similar to developing and refreshing the strategy; and developing, refreshing the employee value proposition, which is a good buzzword bingo term, which means what?

Debbie DeWitt: The value proposition is what do you offer in someone if they come work for you? It’s not synonymous with employee experience, but they’re very close. These are three very big things. We’re basically saying ROI, the purpose of internal communications, and that department and employee experience, top of mind.

And it’s interesting that they specify impact measurement. Like you said, what is that? Because it’s easy to measure reach, but it’s very hard to measure effectiveness, or it’s harder.

Like email’s the perfect example. Hey, I sent 30,000 emails and 20,000 got opened. That’s reach. How many took the call to action? How many clicked through? How many signed up for the thing you wanted to advertise? You know, so that’s actually effectiveness. And it’s an evolving discipline. And I think that’s where AI can help a lot.

Derek DeWitt: Analytics is really, right now at least I think, where AI shines, you know?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s where we’re gonna see a lot more of it being used.

Derek DeWitt: Right. It’s gonna be more on that end of things and not on writing, you know, Facebook posts.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And also, the survey says, like 47% of communicators are using measurement to influence leadership. Measurement’s really important, ’cause they’re pulling out stats to get what they need or what they want from leadership.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Because leadership wants to know that the decisions they’re making, they have a foundation. Like there’s a basis for it. There’s a reason for it.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Data-driven decision making. There it is again.

Derek DeWitt: There it is. A second t-shirt.

Debbie DeWitt: And in terms of the employee value proposition, I think a lot of that is that societal issues, environmentalism, ethics, all of that’s now being folded into that.

Derek DeWitt: I see. So, like kind of what’s unique about your company and what your company stands for besides just, hey profits.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And it’s not, when you give a value proposition, it’s not just saying this is our benefits package. The culture’s hugely important.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Especially because I think a lot of benefits packages have sort of aligned with one another. There are just certain things that people expect now. So, if I’m applying to six different companies and they all basically have the same benefits package, then which one am I gonna go for? I’m gonna go for the one that I’m gonna like working for more.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And actually, I will say a lot of benefits packages have been evolving as well, along with the communications. I know there are a lot of things, like, it used to just be, you know, health insurance, but now there’s access to online counseling, you’ve got weight loss programs, you’ve got, you know, smoking cessation programs. There’s a lot of…

Derek DeWitt: Volunteering opportunities or matching.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Health and wellness is a big one, as well as DEI, but we’re not gonna get into that here.

Derek DeWitt: So, the next two are very tech-centric: introducing new digital channels (I’m curious to hear what, for example, that will be) and adapting the channel strategy for hybrid work and future work trends, sort of future-proofing your comms.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean, digital channels is what everyone’s using unless you’re printing stuff. So, I mean, that just means any communications that’s digital.

These two are definitely linked. A lot of the new digital channels are because of hybrid. So even though it’s been a couple of years, we’re still kind of figuring out the best ways to communicate and engage with people who aren’t in the building. Or some of them are in the building and others aren’t. You know, it could be those people could switch places throughout the week.

So, it’s interesting that they say hybrid and future work trends. I thought that was interesting, because it means they’re thinking hybrid may not be the last big evolution we’re gonna see in the next few years.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. That’s for sure. So, maybe people are trying to actually get in front of the next big change before it happens so that they can, they’re already, sort of set up for it, instead of just reacting to varying degrees of success.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: So, what do you think some of those future work trends coming down the road might be?

Debbie DeWitt: Well, we already talked about Gen Z’s gonna be taking over a lot more positions. You’ve got younger people moving into management positions over, as you know, time goes by. We’ve got more of a gig economy; people are doing side hustles, people might have three jobs. A lot more contractors versus employees.

Derek DeWitt: Or turning your hobby into an income or revenue stream.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely. Smart buildings, huge. We saw that at ISE.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah.

Debbie DeWitt: Smart buildings, environmental impacts, I think that’s huge. Sustainability in the workplace is a very big topic. So, all of that could affect work styles, work trends, policies, communications, who knows?

Derek DeWitt: Even physical layout of the space.

Debbie DeWitt: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

Derek DeWitt: You know? Like, I mean, where are we putting the recycling bins, for example?

Debbie DeWitt: Oh, yeah. Definitely. And then you have to look at how that affects communications.

Derek DeWitt: And then the last three on the list of priorities for 2024 are mitigating impact of external events or crises (I think that’s quite clear), personal development for both the individual and for teams, and developing a business case for more resources, which 5% said was important for them. What does that last one mean?

Debbie DeWitt: It means going to your boss and saying, I need more people, I need another app, I need more resources to do communications effectively.

Derek DeWitt: I need a printer that works.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Oh yeah, I understand. Yeah. Upgrade, upgrade everything and refresh everything, that makes sense. The external events and crises one is quite interesting because of course, you know, nobody has a crystal ball, nobody really knows. But it makes me think crisis communications is the obvious first one.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, it is. Crisis communications planning is on a lot of the lists that I saw, because there’s a lot of turmoil in the world, and there are more natural disasters and unnatural disasters, so IC has to be prepared. And we actually did a previous episode about VUCA, which is volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. So, I’d suggest go listen to that, and you can hear a little bit more about, you know, how the external and internal upheavals might affect internal communications.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And they may also present opportunities in some ways.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Always.

Derek DeWitt: So, all the stuff we’ve been talking about came from the Gallagher report, but as Deb said, there are lots and lots of lists out there. So, what else did you find out there in the webosphere? Is that even a term?

Debbie DeWitt: I think so. I like it. “Webosphere”.

Derek DeWitt: Webosphere!

Debbie DeWitt: So, there are six big trends that I pulled together for this, and I’ve bundled topics together where it made sense.

Number one is the employee experience takes priority.

Derek DeWitt: Really? So, even though that’s been talked about before, but it’s really, it’s the number one thing. It’s continuing to evolve.

Debbie DeWitt: Absolutely. I mean, and also, we’re seeing the rise of PX, which is, you know, we’ve talked about EX, CX, VX; PX is People Experience. So, it’s a holistic approach to influencing how people feel about working for you. And we’ll probably do a, do an episode on that.

Derek DeWitt: …Do an episode on that. That sounds…. I’m making a note.

Debbie DeWitt: Nice!

I mean, what’s important about this is that employee experience is now considered strategic at top levels, because everyone’s aware of the cost of an unengaged workforce. And this used to be sort of fluffy, sort of HR, but your C-suite is absolutely focusing on this, putting it at their top of list.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And it’s not just, you know, “kumbaya”, as some people might say. You’re gonna lose people who are good, or you won’t be able to attract and hire good talent. You’ll have lower productivity; you’ll have more tardiness and absenteeism. I mean, again, I think back to when I worked at places that I couldn’t have given two figs about. Yeah, I wasn’t a good employee, but I could have been.

Debbie DeWitt: You were unengaged.

Derek DeWitt: I was unengaged.

Debbie DeWitt: So, I mean, IC’s working to support what they call people-first cultures. So, as we talked about, they wanna foster wellbeing, satisfaction and, of course, productivity, you can’t throw that out the window.

Derek DeWitt: Sure. Yeah.

Debbie DeWitt: Another part of this idea is internal marketing, which is boosting your brand inside the company as well as out.

Derek DeWitt: This is kind of matching the employee experience of the brand with the same experience that customers or visitors get.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. If you’ve mismatched, it’s a bad deal. And I’m just gonna plug again…

Derek DeWitt: And they’ll, they’ll mention it. Like, employees will mention it. They’ll go, you know, it’s funny, our mission statement says X, Y and Z, but internally we don’t do any of those things.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And I was just gonna do another plug for, we have an episode on aligning internal and external communications where we talk all about that.

Derek DeWitt: There you go.

Debbie DeWitt: So, the last thing on employee experience that I’ll say is that there are a lot of employee experience platforms coming out. We talked about new technology, new apps, new platforms. They’re a big part of this. And so, a lot of this is internal comms trying to figure out the best way to use that channel to communicate.

Derek DeWitt: So, circling back to AI, artificial intelligence, but this time in the context of a tool for addressing internal communication trends. I think this is going to affect many of these other trends.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s a trend that affects other trends.

Derek DeWitt: It’s a metatrend.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, yeah. Or a trend loop. We’ll come up with some other, you know, unique term.

Derek DeWitt: Hypertrend.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. So, the big thing about this is, okay, so we’ve come up with all of these trends, how can AI help us to address those trends? Which is itself a trend.

The thing about AI is, communications professionals are trying to figure out how to use it correctly, but also carefully. So, it can help with analytics, but it also helps with image and video generation and writing.

Last year, only 40% of respondents thought AI would make a big impact, whereas this year it’s 60%. So, I think communicators are looking at AI, but they haven’t really figured out where it fits in and how best to use it and what the policies in place are.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. So, I have some numbers here on that issue. So, 29% said their organization has guidance on when or where or how to use AI. That’s only 29%. One in five, so 20%, say that their organizations provide AI resources or AI training. Again, pretty low.

Debbie DeWitt: Only 20%.

Derek DeWitt: Only 20%. 13% don’t even know if AI is being used in their organization right now, which is interesting. 16% said they didn’t know if there was a dedicated person or group responsible for AI. And 50% said, no, we don’t have anybody in charge of AI at all.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s very, very new. And it’ll be interesting to look at those stats in a year. Since everybody said, hey, we think AI is a big topic, we think we wanna start using it, we need to work on our strategy around it, so it’ll be interesting to see if those numbers go up. It’s still a new tool.

And it was interesting to see that 1 in 3 are experimenting with AI. And these are internal communications professionals, not everybody in the organization. 1 in 5 are using AI to create communications, so people are already using it. 4 in 10 don’t use generative AI, and 1 in 10 are unsure of plans for AI. But 41% are enthused about AI, which I think is great.

Derek DeWitt: Yes. And yet, looking at the rest of that, 35% say they’re just sort of resigned to AI’s coming or here, and there’s nothing we can do about it. 13% are in denial of AI. Not that they don’t think it’s real, but that they just don’t think about it, or they deny that it’s being used or might be useful. 2% say they are outright terrified of AI. I think too many late night viewings of the Terminator franchise.

And then on the other side of things, we have 9%, but I’ll be curious to see next year if this goes up, only 9% are active champions of AI in internal communications.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I’m super stoked about that, considering how new it is, to have champions out there. I mean, you had a lot of people that are like, I don’t know if we’re using it, but maybe they’re running around saying they should.

Derek DeWitt: Right!

Debbie DeWitt: And I think it makes sense that those who are using AI, or at least are experimenting with it, are the most positive about it. So, those people who are enthused, those people who are champions of it, they’re already using it. And that makes sense.

And apparently even the number of, or I should say the measure of their positivity went up. They’re 10% more positive about AI than they were last year. So, I expect we’ll see this at the top of the priorities in next year’s study, too.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And again, if you look at that, 9% are champions and 41% are enthused, that’s 50%. Half! Half of them are like, yeah, AI, right on.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I think it’s great.

Derek DeWitt: Now, a good kind of follow on from this AI stuff is this trend of hyper-personalization, which everybody says this is, this was already coming even before the public introduction of artificial intelligence. AI is just gonna accelerate this.

Debbie DeWitt: AI makes it a little bit new because this, we’ve been doing personalization with mail merge and email merges and things like that. But this isn’t just putting someone’s first name. Yeah, this is about using data and behavior analysis to tailor content to the recipient.

So, if you think about your Google News feed, and I know some people shudder when I say that, but it does show you what it thinks you want to see based on your behavior, based on things you’ve been talking about around your phone, things you’ve clicked on in the past. So, it’s kind of the same thing for internal communications, and AI is how you get that data and analysis.

Derek DeWitt: And we have talked about, in a previous episode, how AI can help develop audience personas, which is quite interesting.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean, really the idea is to make sure that content’s specific to that employee’s interactions and interests, which, you know, makes it more engaging. We’re back to employee experience. We’re back to engagement.

Derek DeWitt: Which is a perfect segue because the next IC trend is creating more engaging content!

Debbie DeWitt: It’s like we did an outline or something. So yeah, this is about how do you get through to people being inundated with digital messages and feeds, you know, all those platforms we’ve talked about.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And as we always say with digital signage, how do you get ’em off their phones?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. So, in terms of engaging content, a lot of the lists singled out video communications as a big trend this year. I found that a little bit odd. Videos have been around forever, but apparently people haven’t been using them very much. And they’re saying we need to use them more.

Derek DeWitt: And as, honestly we’ve been saying for quite some time, they’re saying better visuals. And that doesn’t necessarily mean good cameras or things like this, because honestly, even your most basic smartphone has a good camera now. But it’s about how you frame things and how you light things. And it just needs to look nice and make some kind of sense.

And humor. Humor is a great way, especially for short-form video. If it’s funny, but also informative, I’m gonna watch it, I’m gonna share it. I mean, that’s how you stand out from the pack.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And there are so many online tools now, even free stuff, even PowerPoint, you can turn it into a video. Like, there are a lot more accessible tools to make a quality video a lot easier than it used to be.

Derek DeWitt: Yes, that’s true.

Debbie DeWitt: So, there’s also a push for more interactive communications.

Derek DeWitt: Which doesn’t necessarily mean touchscreens, right?

Debbie DeWitt: Correct. Although it could. But you know, nobody’s saying go out and spend tons of money on touchscreens. Especially when it comes to internal communications, they’re not just talking about digital signage or websites. So, a lot of what I saw was focused on QR codes and surveys and providing a feedback channel.

Derek DeWitt: Which, honestly, Visix has been talking about QR codes since 2012.

Debbie DeWitt: Wow!

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. For 12 years we’ve been talking about QR codes, and they’re finally starting to make some real impact on, on the world around us, which is quite nice.

Debbie DeWitt: Excellent. Another sub-theme, kind of, of that I saw was about mobile communications. You know, everybody’s still talking about make sure it works on mobile. I think that goes hand in hand with the whole hybrid and remote workforce thing.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah. That’s true. Now next up was building trust in leaders and in the organization as a whole, which is interesting. I mean, trust has to be earned. It isn’t automatic just ’cause you’re giving me a paycheck.

Debbie DeWitt: That’s true. And we’ve talked before about leaders being honest and authentic and transparent in their communications. And because people, you know, we said they want to hear from them more often, you have to build all of this into the culture. It needs to be natural at every level. You know, again, from C-suite to those line managers. And it’s really about creating trust in all communications that flow not only from your company but also within the company.

So again, we’re talking about employees, we’re talking about customers, we’re talking about students, your public and your internal audience.

Communications, that department has to be the voice of leadership, but it also has to represent your stakeholders. So, you know, a couple of the things that I thought were kind of related to this was there’s much more of an emphasis on corporate social responsibility (which we’ve written about) and there was also a big push for DEI, diversity and inclusion and communications (which we’ve also written about).

Derek DeWitt: I was just gonna say.

Debbie DeWitt: So, it’s great because it’s very gratifying to see people talking about what we’ve been, you know, suggesting.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Right. Like QR codes for 12 years.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, right. Now, one thing that was new on a couple of these lists was addressing security in communications, which I’m kind of surprised it’s taken this long, honestly.

Debbie DeWitt: It makes sense, though. More digital platforms means more ways into your business. I mean it’s just, it’s about securing things. We used to have to worry about emails and spam and that kind of thing. But now you’ve got an awful lot of different, possibly platforms, that have access to some Single Sign-On, you know, that has all of the passwords.

So, it goes back to trust and securing what goes in or out of your business. And it’s really where IC and your IT team are gonna team up to protect your internal exchanges. And you need to have policies and training, so people know what they can and can’t share. And, you know, you need to train people on how to identify security threats.

I mean, let’s just go back to those emails again. If you’re using an email platform for a monthly newsletter or something, that needs to be secure, you know? And it needs to be, have a good reputation. It needs to have virus protection, things like that.

So, those are kind of external examples, or that’s an external example, but I think this is more about, okay, we’ve just taken on this whole new business communications platform. Is it secure? Can we use Single Sign-On?

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, obviously, if you know as an employee that your communications, especially your internal communications, which are not for public consumption, sometimes it’s just for, it’s me and that one person, if I know that they’re secure, then I trust the communications more and I, sort of, by association, trust the organization more.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: Now, the Gallagher study also said that there’s been a 20% increase since last year in IC using measurement data to tailor content and build the business case for additional investment, which I think is kind of great news. Tailor your content to your audience (which means you need to know who they are) and use ROI to make that case.

Debbie DeWitt: So, I’m gonna bust out some more stats here.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, good!

Debbie DeWitt: So yes, it’s numbers I’m telling you. But these are all related to digital signage in some way. So, I thought we should have some of that in here since you know, it’s what we do. So, these are what the internal communications professionals say they use this data for.

Derek DeWitt: Okay.

Debbie DeWitt: 70% say they use it as evidence ROI. And that’s up 18%. So, I guess that just means they can show it’s working. Again, telling your C-suite, look, we’re using our data to show you it’s working.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Our ROI efforts actually are good ones.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. 62% are using it to tailor content. So, that’s great. And it’s up 21% since, as we mentioned, personalization’s on the rise.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And you know the, sort of, digital signage version of personalization is localization.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Yeah. At a minimum for sure.

59% are using data to adjust their messaging, which may not just be personalization, this could be looking at your ROI and A/B testing and deciding on what your messaging or design is. That’s up 12%. And again, you know, that’s using data to make decisions.

Derek DeWitt: Right. You have to know if something’s working or not before you go making changes. Don’t just make changes willy nilly just ’cause you’re bored.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, start out with do I need to adjust my messaging?

Derek DeWitt: Right! We might have nailed the sweet spot.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, that would be great. 53% are using it to request investment. We kind of hit that before, self-explanatory. Going to people saying, hey, we need more money in this department.

Derek DeWitt: Says every department.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And then 64% are using it to refine channels. Those are those digital channels we talked about.

This is deciding what to put where. You know, not every medium needs your advertisement, and not every type of media works on every platform. So, I think it is really, you know, deciding which are the best channels.

Derek DeWitt: So, which channels are most effective for both the audience and the organization (and the audience in this case is the employees)?

Debbie DeWitt: Well, usually. I mean, your organization could be a college, and so your audience could be students, the student body. So I mean, it is sometimes employees, but sometimes you’ve got various audiences.

Derek DeWitt: Sure.

Debbie DeWitt: And the study had some interesting stats about channel mix, what people are using. So, video went up, where, shocker, posted letters and materials went down. I mean, I was like…

Derek DeWitt: Who is still mailing things?!

Debbie DeWitt: Right! I was like, “posted”?

Derek DeWitt: Posted?

Debbie DeWitt: I mean they might…

Derek DeWitt: What’s a stamp?

Debbie DeWitt: I realized later, I was like, maybe they mean posted like on a bulletin board, you know, like they’ve put something up like a poster.

Derek DeWitt: Still.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And those canceled each other out, so, that’s good. There was also a 9% increase in intranet usage.

Derek DeWitt: Which, I would guess, because of the hybrid work thing.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely. There was also a huge swing from portals, down 46%, to apps, up 48%. But I’m just gonna say I think this might be misleading, because a lot of the portals they were using have now developed an app version of that portal. So, there’s no way to know the difference there.

Derek DeWitt: Right, right.

Debbie DeWitt: And also, the survey showed we’re not necessarily using more effective channels as much as we should. So, where you’ve measured the effectiveness of something, you’d think immediately you would, you know, sort of put your eggs in that basket. That is not necessarily happening.

So, digital signage is listed as 74% effective, but with only 48% usage. We know it’s effective, but we’re not using it enough. I think it’s very odd.

Derek DeWitt: What does that mean though? Like they don’t have it on all day, or I have digital signage, but I only use it 48% of the time. What does that mean?

Debbie DeWitt: It means for internal communications professionals, they are posting their communications or using it for their campaigns 48% of the time. They have found, when they do use it, it’s 74% effective.

Derek DeWitt: I’m surprised by those numbers, frankly. Use it more!

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. All of these are kind of surprising. Video, crazy to me. 85% effective, but only 59% usage.

Here’s the one that I don’t think is gonna surprise anybody, but email is apparently overused.

Derek DeWitt: More than two is too many, in my opinion.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. It’s 92% used. I was actually surprised by how high the effectiveness rate, 89% effective. But there’s still, if you compare the two, if this is what we wanna measure, you’re using it more often than its effectiveness would warrant.

Derek DeWitt: Oh yeah, that’s true. Because that’s, of those three stat pairings, that’s the only one.

Debbie DeWitt: That’s the only one I pulled out. There’s actually a huge list and a graph and it’s very interesting. But I didn’t want to go into all of them, ’cause some of them, you know.

Derek DeWitt: We’ve gone on long enough.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Some of them are also quite close, you know, but these were the ones that surprised me.

Derek DeWitt: Right.

Debbie DeWitt: And lastly, unsurprisingly, those who asked employees about their preferences, again, we’re talking about channels, they asked them which channel they prefer, they reported higher channel effectiveness.

Derek DeWitt: Well, that seems kind of obvious, but, yeah, I don’t know. It just continually amazes me how many places still don’t ask their employees or their students or whoever how they prefer to receive their communications. You know, they just go, this is what we use, like it or lump it. And you can’t lump it, so you’d better like it.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, a lot of what we’ve talked about seems obvious to me. But then again, I work for a small company and we’re in the business of visual communications.

Derek DeWitt: And, you know, it’s not a hundred percent smooth sailing for us either. I mean, you know, even we run into challenges.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely. But I think, you know, knowing about these trends is helpful. And I think when I read these trends, they’re quite hopeful, you know?

It’s good to see people championing communications tailored to employee tastes, delivered the way they want and crafted around issues they care about, you know?

And I’m super excited by AI.

Derek DeWitt: So, those are some of the 2024 internal communications trends, and lots of stats, that should get you thinking about your own communication strategy for 2024. Whether or not you use digital signage, obviously we think you should…

Debbie DeWitt: Absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: That’s based on the numbers folks, not just ’cause that’s what we do. But regardless, you’re likely to encounter at least a few of the things we’ve talked about as you plan out your content strategy for the year. And we hope that this discussion has helped you do that.

Now, I know there’s a lot of information, a lot of stats in there. Again, I tell you we have a transcript on the Visix website. Make use of it. You can listen or just read. And that’s under resources and podcasts on

I’d like to thank my guest today, Debbie DeWitt, marketing communications manager for Visix, for talking to me about what’s a-comin’ up in IC for 2024.

Debbie DeWitt: You’re very welcome.

Derek DeWitt: And of course, as always, thank you everyone out there for listening.