I’ve been thinking a lot about employee communications lately, mostly due to some work I’m doing with a client but also from things I’ve read and from attending my pal Steve Crescenzo’s excellent “Creative Communications” seminar.
The theme that keeps running through my head is that we communication professionals — and the clients we serve — need to hit the “Refresh” button on employee communications from time to time. Organizations, technology and the business environment are changing so rapidly that it’s a good use of time to just stop from time to time and do a gut-check.
Rather than try to weave the various thoughts together, let me just throw them out and get this community’s reactions:
- It’s increasingly difficult to grab and hold the attention of employees, so it’s more essential than ever to be creative in communication. One of the most powerful moments in Steve’s seminar is when he demonstrates the huge contrast between popular media — using the cover of Cosmopolitan as a rather extreme example — and typical corporate communication. His point is valid: Cosmo is what we’re competing against. I once edited an employee publication in which our mantra was to make it “buck-worthy.” Make it so compelling that employees might be willing to pay a buck for it.
- Headlines, teasers and leads are more important than ever. Following on the previous point, written communications must grab readers, pull them into the story and deliver the goods — quickly. One of my colleagues recently wrote an intranet story teaser so compelling that in one day it attracted 20% more unique views than the average story attracts in its online lifetime.
- The right communication vehicles for one company might not be right for another. Back in the ’90s, everybody wanted an intranet. Why? Because “everybody” was getting one. Never mind whether or not the intranet served a useful purpose. Never mind if the organization would embrace and use it. Today the same is true of social media. It’s the employee-communication darling of the moment. I’m a big believer in social media, but I don’t believe every social medium has a place in every organization. I have a client where the use of social media as an external communications tool would be a disaster. Due to specific challenges facing this company, it cannot afford to engage external audiences in this way. However, some — but not all — social media might have a place in employee communications. Smart communicators understand social media and traditional media are all just tools and we need to be deliberate about which ones we use.
- Jargon and corporate-speak are dying. Social media are killing them. Today’s audiences are less tolerant of corporate BS.
- Find out what’s working and make the most of it. Especially in the social media age, we might overlook communication methods that are really working well. Every organization should do a communication audit to get valid information about what’s working and what isn’t. Yes, it’s an investment — but one that leads to greater efficiency and better decision making. I have a client whose use of face-to-face events gets off-the-charts ratings from employees. Who knew the world’s oldest communication medium still had such power?
- The two-way genie is out of the bottle. As if there ever was any doubt that organizations must practice two-way symmetrical communication, social media have brought us to the point of no return. And remember the symmetrical part — that means employees must have ways to initiate communication upward.
Those of you who work primarily in employee communications: Do you have anything to add to the list?
Those of you who are on the receiving end of employee communications: What do you think?