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  • Writer's pictureScriptorium Team

Maximizing Business Communications: Internal vs. External

Updated: Mar 20

A person sending a message on their phone.

Communication is more important than ever, both in how organizations communicate within their team and outside of the organization. External communication is vital to how your company is perceived, and internal communication is essential to employee engagement, which has suffered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But what are the differences between internal and external communications? And how can you use them effectively to better your company?


What are internal and external business communications?


Internal communication happens when people within an organization send and receive information to each other. Internal documentation helps transfer knowledge among team members, track projects, and ensure process continuity. Examples include memos, reports, newsletters, meeting notes, employee manuals, and policies and procedures.


Internal communication doesn’t include sub-consultants, subcontractors, clients, customers, end-users, or the public (anyone who reports to or is paid by another company or themselves).


Internal communication ultimately focuses on employee engagement and retention, efficiency, sharing knowledge, and company reputation.


External communication is intended for audiences outside the organization, such as current and potential clients, end-users, stakeholders, and the public. Examples of external documentation include newsletters, user manuals, financial and corporate reports, websites, marketing materials, social media posts, and press releases.


External communications are often distributed to internal audiences in some form.


External communication ultimately focuses on client engagement and the company’s public image and reputation.


What are the similarities?


Style Guide and Brand Guidelines: While internal and external documentation should always follow the company style guide and brand guidelines, the degree can vary depending on your medium or channel. For example, when sending an email, your email signature represents your company’s brand. If that email includes an attachment, that document will likely have more rigorous branding requirements.


  • Aligned Messaging: Whether sent internally or externally, documentation should support and align with the company's values and mission statement. Each time you send a message from your company (email or otherwise), you are representing the brand. Aligning your messaging with the company’s will boost their reputation (and yours).


  • Regular Updates: Software is updated, technology is upgraded, and teams can change. If you’re constantly improving your processes and seeking out new efficiencies, your documents need updating, too. Ensure your documentation is updated regularly. A good rule of thumb is to review your documentation annually. More active changes may need to be updated quarterly or even monthly.


  • Contact Information: No matter the message, if there is a possibility for questions or requests for further clarification, you should include the contact information of the best person to contact, whether it’s you, another team member, or a consultant, subcontractor, or outside source (such as building maintenance).


  • Plain Language: Many people think that the bigger the words you use, the smarter you sound. In reality, this can confuse your audience and dilute your message. While some communication requires more technical jargon, when trying to reach a broader audience, use clear and simple language. If you can explain something in fewer words or use more commonly understood words, do it. Additionally, anticipate any questions your audience may have and include the information. It’ll save you and your audience time by reducing the back-and-forth of questions and answers.


  • Space: This space, also referred to as white space, is the area between paragraphs and margins on the page. By using headings and spacing to break apart content, you create a document that is easier for the readers to follow. Clear headings allow the reader to navigate the document easily and find the information they need. Additionally, keeping paragraphs brief makes the content more digestible.


How are they different?


A table comparing internal to external communications.
  • Frequency: Internal communications happen daily. External communications are usually sent situationally or at set dates or times. The high frequency of internal communications can result in communication fatigue, which can cause lapses in upholding company values and completing tasks like proofreading. Proofreading apps, such as Grammarly, can help with this fatigue. Ideally, external communications will have longer development periods, allowing for more checks and balances regarding messaging and proofreading.


  • Objectives: Internal communications are often used to communicate process changes, promote upcoming projects or events, foster employee engagement and organizational culture, ensure transparency, and share knowledge. External communications are more focused on advertising the company, increasing public relations, providing customer service, conducting negotiations, and providing information to stakeholders.


  • Channels: Internal documentation is delivered over internal channels, such as emails, memos, and the company intranet. External communications use external channels like emails, the company website, social media, reports, and press releases. It’s much more difficult to address an incorrect message once released onto an external channel.


  • Level of Privacy and Risk Management: If you send misinformation or proprietary information internally, you can usually recall it quickly and follow up with any team members who have already viewed it. External communications are much less forgiving (and have much longer memories). Pay close attention to the information you are sending to external parties. When in doubt, get a second set of eyes on it, especially if there are numbers or proprietary information involved.


  • Amount of Information: While there is some overlap between privacy and risk management, there is a distinct difference in the amount of information included in internal and external communications. For example, internal communications can sometimes include non-business-relevant information (such as GIFs, personal anecdotes, pet photos, etc.). External communications should only include relevant information, and unless GIFs are what your company is known for, stick to words and charts.



Need a hand with your internal or external documentation? Contact us to learn how we can create and update documents that work for your organization.


The information below is focused on overall communication rather than documentation.


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