How to Rock an Internal Communications Preferences Survey

July 15, 2020

Me again! Here to talk (again) about the importance of measurement during COVID-19. In my last post, I focused on the importance of surveying employees right now to gauge their experiences and sentiments in managing a new normal — with tips on what questions to ask, and what to do with the data.

How else can you be harnessing measurement to understand where to prioritize your time and efforts? Enter: A communications preferences survey. The goal? To identify changes you can be making now — and post COVID-19 — to guide, inform and strengthen your internal communications. 


All eyes are on internal communications right now, and for many of us communicators, it’s the first time that people deeply understand the value of our work — whether it’s executives, other stakeholders or your general employee population. They also likely now understand the impact of good, clear communications. 

Take advantage of this unique moment and use it as a hook for surveying your people on their general internal communications preferences throughout the year — how/when they want to receive communications and the types of topics they want to know more or less about. A few of our clients are doing this right now and the response rates are extremely high — and their people are appreciative and grateful for the opportunity to share feedback. 


This likely goes without saying, but first ask your people how they are doing and feeling amidst COVID-19 before administering a communications preferences survey. You can certainly weave specific COVID-19 questions into your communications preferences survey, but make sure you’re aligned with other teams in your organization who may also be sending COVID-19 surveys to avoid confusion. 

One of our clients did a great job of striking that balance following HR’s COVID-19 survey by incorporating a couple of questions into their communications preferences survey to ask if there is anything specifically as a business unit they could be doing to support employees.


There’s obviously a lot of ground you could cover in said communications preferences survey but try to limit it to be around 10 minutes in length. Here’s some thought starters for what you could explore:

  • How people prefer to receive communications.
    Translation: What channels do they prefer? As part of this, you could also ask why they visit certain channels more than others. If there’s a new channel that you’ve been eyeing (say, an employee mobile app or an intranet — channels that could be particularly useful during these times), consider weaving in a question to gauge whether or not employees WANT this (and would use it).

  • The types of topics/subjects they want to hear more or less about. 
    Hint: use a ‘select your top 5’ question type to have people select their preferred topics and channels.
  • Leadership communications.
    Through what mediums do they want to hear from leaders? And which leaders do they want to hear more from?
  • Managers as a communications channel.
    Is their manager cascading information in a timely way? What is their manager not sharing with them that they wish he/she would? (Once you look at the data, determine if your team could be doing anything to better support managers in sharing information — whether it’s a manager training, toolkit, etc.)
  • Bring on the candor!
    Ask at least one open-ended question where your people can share candid thoughts on what’s working well and what could be better. 


If you read my other blog post on surveying, you know my feelings about it. (Recap: I don’t really buy it. I believe it happens when you ask people for feedback over and over, and don’t acknowledge what you heard, or don’t do anything to address what was learned.)


Use the data to outline what’s working well that you should keep doing, and where there are gaps and opportunities for improvement. 

You may discover that your leadership team needs to be more visible, or that your team needs to shift your channel strategy based on how employees say they prefer to receive information. Or, maybe, you now have data to back up your sneaking suspicions that an employee app or intranet could very much move the needle on your communications efforts. 

Lean on the data to refine your strategy where you can right now, and to shape your roadmap going forward. And of course, be sure to share key findings with your people — let them know you listened and are working to address what you heard! 

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Becky Sennett

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