Mastering Your Internal Communications Strategy: Lessons from “Ted Lasso”


July 11, 2023

By Sarah Kelliher

Drawing inspiration from the Apple TV+ hit series “Ted Lasso,” I discovered valuable lessons that can be applied to developing an exceptional internal communications strategy. While the show’s comedic moments and unique characters captivate audiences, it is Ted Lasso’s unmatched optimism, words of wisdom and team-first attitude that truly resonate, prompting us to reconsider how we communicate with those we work with every day.

The Importance of a Strategic Internal Communications Approach

In today’s evolving work culture, effective communication plays a pivotal role in shaping an organization’s culture. As highlighted by PR Daily Executive Editor Allison Carter in her article on top industry trends for 2023, the boundaries between external and internal communication are blurring. The rapid transition to remote work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the implementation of new products and processes.

To stay ahead, your company must proactively track these trends and adopt new practices for internal communication with employees. As our firm’s president, Dan Ward, APR, CPRC, emphasized in our first blog post of the year, we cannot dwell on the past or remain stagnant. It is crucial to move forward.

Prioritizing People for Mission Success

A business’s success hinges on its people. While having a strong strategic plan, positive financial projections and great clients are essential, long-term success is challenging to achieve without the support of your workforce. It begins with keeping employees informed about key decisions and being open to addressing their questions promptly. Your employees should never be the last to hear about company news through newsletters, social media or newspapers. They should always hear it directly from you. This necessitates a purposeful communications strategy that ensures internal stakeholders are included in any public announcements.

If your organization is preparing for a significant announcement, such as the intent to construct a new office building, your internal team should undoubtedly be among the primary audiences you aim to reach, alongside external stakeholders such as donors, partners and prospective employees.

According to Harvard Business Review, only 40% of employees feel well-informed about their company’s goals, strategies and tactics. By connecting with employees before relevant information becomes public, even with just a 30-minute head start, you can prevent them from feeling left in the dark. Research from Trade Press Services reveals that 85% of employees are most motivated when management consistently updates them on company news. Keeping your workforce in the loop empowers them to believe in your mission. Although your company may not display a handwritten “BELIEVE” sign above the door, as seen at AFC Richmond in “Ted Lasso,” your communications can serve as a constant reminder of your organization’s mission and purpose.

Guiding Principles for a Successful Internal Communications Strategy

Incorporating your leadership’s personality and brand voice is crucial when communicating with internal audiences. Here are more guiding principles:

  1. Get to the point: Lead with the punchline, not the joke. Share what employees need to know upfront and follow up with concise supporting details. Surprisingly, according to PR NEWS, 74% of communicators believe they write concise and effective messages, while 60% of employees disagree.
  2. Honesty is the best policy: Build trust by consistently telling the truth, particularly when things don’t go as planned. When sharing bad news, explain how you plan to address and resolve the situation.
  3. Repetition is key: Reinforce important information consistently. However, striking a balance is crucial to avoid overcommunicating. Establish routine touchpoints, such as a weekly update email, to set expectations and keep employees informed.
  4. Foster open communication: Coach Lasso respectfully tells his players, “I want you to know I value each of your opinions, even when you’re wrong.” Encourage your employees to share questions or concerns. Create a culture of trust where employees feel comfortable seeking assistance in times of need. This contributes to positive outcomes such as growth and profitability.

Leveraging Key Tools and Adapting for Success

Implementing successful internal communications doesn’t have to be challenging. Today, organizations have a range of programs at their disposal, including Gmail, Outlook, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Asana and more. However, many organizations fail to fully capitalize on these tools for effective employee communication. Even before the pandemic, research indicated that 44% of workers desired wider adoption of internal business communication tools.

While adopting these tools is crucial, it is equally vital to identify what works best for your workforce. Our team didn’t settle on our internal communication tools overnight; it took trial and error to determine the resources that align with our culture. Continually adjust your methods based on what proves most effective for your personnel.

When Coach Lasso playfully asks the team’s arrogant yet loveable superstar Jamie Tartt if he would rather be a lion or a panda, Jamie playfully replies, “Coach, I’m me. Why would I want to be anything else?” The same philosophy should apply to your team. Rather than asking employees to change how they prefer to communicate, you should meet them where they are and connect with them in ways that are most effective for them.

Embrace Empathy and Authenticity

Before sending your next company-wide email or hosting a town hall meeting, remember the individuals on the receiving end of your message. Treat your employees with kindness and understanding from the very beginning. Some of the best management advice I ever received was to start every interaction with a coworker with a greeting, even if it is simple as “hello,” or “good morning,” before transitioning to whatever question or update I was about to share. As AFC Richmond player-turned-coach Roy Kent reminds the press in “Ted Lasso,” “[footballers] are also people. And none of us know what is going on in each other’s lives.”

Research conducted by Gartner revealed that just 29% of employees consider their leaders as “human leaders” who display authenticity, adaptability and empathy. As the workplace undergoes transformation, it is essential for organizations to understand how to effectively reach and engage their employees.

If you require assistance in developing your internal communications strategy, we’re here to help. Reach out to us to initiate a conversation.

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