Who should I contact if I want to change information on our organization’s website? Who is allowed to speak to the media? Can I create a brochure myself to promote our department’s awareness campaign? If so, what visual layout rules need to be followed? Do certain keywords and logos need to be included? 

These are some of the questions your team members may have as they carry out their tasks. The purpose of a communications policy is precisely to answer these kinds of questions.  

This article will demystify this organizational tool, as well as its components and benefits.  

What is a communications policy? 

The communications policy is a reference document that sets out an organization’s communicational direction, values, standards, mechanisms and roles. 

Communications policy, strategy or plan? 

There are several concepts and tools that help organize communications, which can be confusing. The chart below explains the difference between three frequently used communication tools. 

Communications policyCommunications strategyCommunications plan
An institutional / organizational tool that provides guidelines and procedures and governs how messages and communication tools for internal or external audiences are created and shared.

A strategic tool that sets out an organization’s future communications activities such as regular tasks and special projects, defining the context, communications objectives, target audience, key messages and main channels, among other things.

An operational tool used to plan, organize and share key messages and communications over a given period, based on the previously established strategy.

Who needs a communications policy? 

Communications policies benefit any company, institution or organization that is looking to clarify and define its communications procedures and practices, especially those with a multi-level organizational structure. Educational institutions and government bodies are good examples, but a communications policy is just as relevant for small businesses or organizations that have minimal staff or work with consultants.

Benefits of a communications policy 

The main purpose of this tool is to clarify everyone’s roles and responsibilities to ensure consistency in communications and messaging while facilitating the work of all involved. Consistent branding and messaging will reinforce your organization’s professional credibility.

The purpose of a communications policy is not to control, but to provide a framework for communications activities. Clearly defining each entity’s roles and responsibilities and developing standards and procedures equips staff members with the tools they need to carry out their daily communications-related tasks. 

Establishing these types of guidelines also minimizes the risk of misunderstandings when it comes to carrying out certain tasks. Who hasn’t played workplace Hot Potato, with a task being passed from colleague to colleague because it falls into a grey area?


As a reference document for the various levels of stakeholders, the communications policy covers a wide range of general and specific topics. 

Communication roles

Let’s use a municipality as an example. A city employs people who must interact with their colleagues, as well as with the institution’s target audiences such as the citizens, businesses and organizations within its jurisdiction, community partners, government bodies and the media. A communications policy will clarify the roles and responsibilities of each position, sector and department. Who is responsible for talking to the media? Who handles complaints? Who develops ad campaigns for new initiatives?

Corporate visual identity

A municipality generally has several logo derivatives for its departments and services. The policy can therefore include brand guidelines with various logos, slogans, colours and fonts, as well as rules for their use.

Internal and external communication tools

A policy also sets out all the communication tools used by the organization and their respective rules of use. Here are some examples.

Internal ToolsExternal Tools

In-house newsletter:
Distribution procedure, frequency, software used, etc.

Staff memos:
Review and approval procedures, authorized senders, etc.

Board and committee minutes:
Authorized formats, sharing methods, sensitive or confidential information, etc.

Admin permissions, formats and standards, accessibility, etc. 

Social media:
Authorized personnel, admin permissions, bilingualism, etc.  

Media relations:
Contact information for spokespersons, information requests vs. interview requests, etc.

Corporate standards and procedures

A netiquette, a language policy and a public announcement are all examples of communication standards-defining documents that can be included in a communications policy. Business card, email signature and voicemail rules may also be included. The organization’s preferred business tools (e.g., videoconferencing provider, document storage platform, etc.) can also be mentioned. 

Where to start? 

Properly planning the communications policy is just as important as drafting and implementing it. This initial step helps ensure that the policy components are properly implemented within the organization. 


It is easier to develop a communications plan when the organization has a clear understanding of its DNA. It can be a good idea to do a team review of your mission, key messages and values to make sure these are all reflected in your day-to-day actions.


A communications policy must realistically reflect how your teams work. Consultation sessions can be planned with your staff to start off on a solid foundation. This helps ensure that the process is credible and inclusive, and that the policy is implemented smoothly and effectively.

Contact us to discuss your communications policy. External communications experts can offer a neutral perspective as well as support – not only in preparing your policy, but also in the strategic process that should likely precede it.

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