By Mike Klein on August 25, 2022


“Internal communication is the communication discipline of the future…and always will be.” 

This adaptation of the old line about Brazil’s eternal promise and interminable wait to fulfill it continues to ring true.  

With the early-pandemic euphoria about IC reaching its coveted “seat at the table” giving way to pre-recession concern about slashed budgets and curtailed ambitions, a change in IC’s perpetual script could not come at a better time.  

What will achieve this?  

A good starting point would be a simple but significant shift in our strategic thinking from the dated “think-feel-do” model towards “DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY.”  

The DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY approach is one that enables better segmentation based on the intended impact of any individual communication, and also creates a platform to allow for measurement that can make a better case to senior management for internal communication attention and spend. 

Why Does DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY Offer Sharper Segmentation? 

The big difference between think-feel-do and DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY is that think-feel-do tends to lead towards treating all employees as a single audience, and one that should think the same thoughts, feel the same way, and ultimately do the same things.   

DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY, however, acknowledges that in any situation, employees and other internal stakeholders can have different roles. Fulfilling these different roles requires different levels of knowledge, and doesn’t require every employee to feel an equal degree of passion. The model also acknowledges the crucial role of word-of-mouth and the communicator’s role in influencing the informal conversations that drive messaging along with more formal broadcast comms and managerial direction. 

What Does DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY Have To Do With Improving Measurement? 

Compared with the more one-dimensional “think-feel-do” approach, DO-KNOW-FEEL-SAY facilitates detailed measurement in each of its four elements: 

DO: You can measure what is getting done by tracking specific actions. 

KNOW: You can measure what people know through quizzes as well as surveys, and measure what people want to know via internet search terms 

FEEL: You can measure changes in attitudes and sentiments - not only through rating questions but looking at language used in the business 

SAY: You can look at the words people use to describe what’s happening - and count them in a way that they become actual data. 

Now, there’s a challenge in that the measures driven by DO-KNOW-SAY-FEEL don’t normally map out onto the existing metrics used to judge internal communication - clicks, open rates and engagement scores.  

So, there needs to be time, effort, and potentially, investment, in collecting the measures which align with this approach. But the payoff is a data-based narrative that can be used to speak with leaders directly about the performance of the initiatives they care about. 

Why Does “Think-Feel-Do” Persist? 

Think-feel-do had its origins in turn-of-the-century internal comms that was aligned with the focus on psychology and behavior of its day.  

This was better than the previous approach to IC which paid little attention to employee sentiment and much more to the desire of leaders to see their thoughts and intentions amplified in the work environment.  

It’s persisted because it’s seemingly simple, until recently, it was common to believe the technology and skills required to drive internal segmentation were difficult to use and costly to obtain.   

It’s also persisted because it heavily emphasizes the “feel” - employee sentiment, satisfaction, and engagement. This reflects both many organizations' reliance on employee engagement scores to gauge organizational health, and the orientation of many IC pros “to make the workplace a better place” rather than to drive organizational outcomes.  

“Clarity Is Kindness.”  

But as Brene Brown once said “clear is kind,” and sharpening segmentation around what people need to do reduces ambiguity. It also allows for clearer and more insightful questioning about what people know AND how people feel.   

“Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way.” 

While segmentation can be highly sophisticated - governed by things like job role, location, seniority and proximity to a given initiative - in any situation there are a minimum of three segments.  

Paraphrasing General George Patton, people will need to either “lead, follow, or get out of the way,” and differentiated messaging needs to support people in each of these specific roles.   

One group is not necessarily more important than any other, but their communication needs can vary significantly.  

Those leading may need an end-to-end view.  

Those following may need to know what they need to change to follow effectively.  

And those getting out of the way may need to be reassured about what will continue as normal throughout the process.  

Getting the message wrong with any of these groups could lead to failure due to misalignment or resistance. 

In turn, all of these messages can be adjusted and calibrated to the extent that their penetration is measured effectively. 

In Closing 

There have been a lot of conversations about this approach in recent years, started by AllThingsIC’s Rachel Miller, myself and others. But the convergence of clear strategic thinking, technology that supports effective segmentation and the need to reframe our conversation with management sparks a need for us to fully embrace this approach now.  

See how Sparrow Connected can help. Book a demo today 


If you would like to make the shift towards “DO-KNOW-SAY-FEEL”, I’d like to talk with you. 

I’m offering 20 free 45-minute consultations in September - to sign up, fill out the form below. 



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