Archive for the ‘Intranet’ Category

Getting attention with internal communication

Monday, January 16th, 2012

It’s become a cliche, you know. Overworked employees who can’t keep up with all the information they need to consume to be effective, despite (or because of) e-mail, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, Sharepoint…  But why blame the tools? It’s the strategy that needs work.

I recall 17 years ago when “we want employees to manage their own information” became a watchcry.

The idea was to create a repository of news and information and get people to seek it out.  This change from “push” to “pull” was supposed to take the heat off of communicators and bring about a knowledge revolution. Instead, employees voted with their feet, ignoring most all the news we pushed out, especially the stuff that supposedly was “important” — the company strategy, leadership messages and  human resources materials.  We were repurposing news releases in those days, not really originating stories from the employee perspective. We were passive, and we waited for our internal clients to come up with stuff.

Well, that’s not altogether true. We called them and asked, “Got any news?” What we should have done is treated employees as our clients and looked for reasons to do a piece, not expect our leaders and managers to come up with stuff on their own.

All through the years, our best-read materials at Key, Goodyear, National City and other places were stories, not news. They had people and drama and conflict and tension, or at least a compelling new angle on our business, told through example and demonstration, not mere recitation of fact.

At Goodyear, we had our interns do a ton of writing for our intranet, GO.  During their yearlong assignment, they’d cover plenty of news, such as events, quarterly earnings, significant announcements and industry doings, of course. But they also had to originate stories, particularly in the last couple of months of the assignment.

They wrote country profiles, talking with leaders and others about the business situation. They did stories on different parts of the business and people. And they did a multipart series focusing on one regional business, or on the fastest-growing geographies in the company.

These stories got read because they helped employees make sense of the information instead of merely leaving everything up to them.

We began to attract news from all the major business units, increasing our annual story count into the range of 1,200 – 1,500 stories per year.  Over a two-year period, we tripled our monthly GO traffic (visits and pages viewed) and saw a 10% increase in understanding of our company strategy.

How do you get attention, cut through the clutter? Write (produce) stories that matter to your employees, balancing the need for leadership to transmit information with the need for employees to have relevant content available to them.  Do research among employees and leaders to discover what those stories should be, and do it often.

All you’ve got to lose is your irrelevancy.

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Video for Internal Communications Is Still Relevant

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Kodak Zi8

Image courtesy of Kodak

We’ve heard all the declarations. Internal Communications is corporate propaganda, and employees get the real story through the media. The media is dead, buried by social media. Employees care only about their pay and benefits, not about the organization and its business. Employees don’t want to read; we’re viewers. Employees won’t watch company video, and if we let them access YouTube, they’ll waste time all day.

Steve Lubetkin -- Photo by FrankVeronsky.com

There’s just enough truth in each of those statements to make people believe them. And it’s the video question that animated #icchat 19 May, with @PodcastSteve, audio/video expert Steve Lubetkin, as special guest.

The overriding theme of the chat, which extended more than 20 minutes after the scheduled one-hour time frame, was that lower-cost and higher-quality equipment is making video in the workplace more effective. That’s whether it’s professionally produced or user-generated. Even Steve’s equipment of choice has improved in quality while lowering in cost.

@PodcastSteve: A1 Biggest change is drop in cost & increase in quality of lowend equip. I srtd out using Sony VX-1000 SD cams. #icchat

@PodcastSteve: A1 …now I use Kodak Zi series and PlayTouch for much of the work. #icchat

@MikeBrice

Participant @MikeBrice noted that IT departments are now making bandwidth available for video, what he called the biggest change he’s seen.

@podcaststeve: Bandwidth and server space issues are IT bugaboos. But with YouTube, Blip, Vimeo for hosting, I dont see why. #icchat

@CommAMMO: Agreed — if GM can distribute a full-on news program to a factory in Ecuador, why can’t we get 90 sec to Nebraska? #icchat

However, accessing the video has presented some issues, @Mike said:

@MikeBrice External sources like YouTube and Vimeo raise firewall issues. My corps block access to external options. Security a concern #icchat

@PodcastSteve:  Best way 2 get video 2 NE, IMNSHO, would be to host externally, create pages on internal (intranet?) & embed player. #icchat

External hosting but internal access is a compelling argument — especially because most material shared widely with employees must be considered “public” anyway.

@PodcastSteve: @mikebrice They usually block ppl from visiting sites, true, but maybe U can get them 2 open ports to allow embedded vids to stream? #icchat

@PodcastSteve: there r other alternatives like BrightCove, but frightfully expensive for most companies. #icchat

I’ve looked at a number of distribution solutions — Kontiki, Cisco’s digital signage, for example — and indeed, the costs can be significant. However, I’ve also had success engaging the usual constituencies with a goal of finding a solution.

@CommAMMO: @podcaststeve @mikebrice so much of  “security” concerns are abt control – I’ve gotten traction talking abt EE expectations #icchat

@CommAMMO: @podcaststeve @mikebrice Employees expect the internal resources to match what they have at home – search, audio, video… #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @commammo […]Key issue IT needs to understand. Emps can’t be engaged w/customers if socmed blocked. #icchat

Steve says costs can vary — the do-it-yourself route, with Flip cams or his fave, the Kodak Zi series, is less expensive and offers acceptable quality. A production company and professionals may offer good value at higher cost depending on the situation.

@ArchanaVerma

IABC’s @ArchanaVerma asks:

@ArchanaVerma: @CommAMMO @podcaststeve Q What’s the balance betw having professionally produced versus amateur videos for internal/external use? #icchat

@PodcastSteve: Int Comms ppl can do themselves w/o spending a lot. I do a lot of interview clips w/just Kodaks. See http://ow.ly/4YhB2 #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @commammo @archanaverma Doesn’t have to be “amateur,” but certainly doesn’t have to be high-end pro produced unless needed 4 b’cast #icchat

@PodcastSteve: My point, u can learn pro techniques and use them with lower end equipment. Doesn’t have to look bad because you’re not @NewMediaJim #icchat

I use 4 Kodaks, edit in Sony Vegas Pro. We sync extrnl audio, looks like I had a 6-person crew. #icchat Example – http://ow.ly/4YhPd

Steve also notes that internal communications people enhance their credibility when they can DIY, especially because as internal resources, we can cover our organizations better than anyone else.

@gypsyNits

@GypsyNits: me thinks every #intcomms person becomes at pro at self serve, qlty improves with time #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @commammo Few cos have luxury of hiring b’cast pros for internal video any more, but almost not needed for daily video. #icchat

@GypsyNits: in the midst of doing a production myself.everyday is a learning and i know next time i will rock at it #icchat

@GypsyNits: not to mention the goodwill and the employee connect from having attempted it myself.everyone is more accomodating #icchat

Returning to employee expectations, @GypsyNits makes a good point: With more and more user generated content available alongside the professional stuff (and in some cases considered more creative and interesting), useful video isn’t limited only to top-notch, broadcast quality.

Judy Gombita

When it comes to length of video, what’s the right time?  @JGombita offered her view:

@JGombita: (As end-user, not producer) make sure yr videos are SHORT (UNDER 2 minutes). And make it a supplementary comms channel, not only one #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @jgombita I agree with short up to a point. For daily news blips or features, yes. Sometimes longer is called for. #icchat

@PodcastSteve: Examples of longer form video: keynote speeches, conference panels, storytelling documentaries used for fundraising #icchat

@CommAMMO: @jgombita @podcaststeve re length: But we still watch TV, films, news-topic, presentn drives viewership. Talking heads, not so good. #icchat

@JGombita: @podcaststeve in terms of amount of material it may be called for, but I can tell you, you’ve lost most (or all) of my attn. at 2+ m #icchat

Where is video going, more, less, or the same?

@GypsyNits: Q3: more video.it opens up the channels of using mobile to send msgs & podcasts too where folks dont have to read lengthy emails #icchat

@JGombita: A3. Supplementary video! Example: a video featuring HR or legal rep, indicating the rationale behind a company social media policy. #icchat

@GypsyNits: Q3:But thin line between too much video and too little.essential to gauge audience receptiveness from time to time #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @jgombita Intl comms ppl shud be like thos journalists, understand how to tell a story with images, video, etc. Not just heds. #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @jgombita Making videos the aud wants means ASKING them. Research! #icchat

Hallelujah! We should start with research to ensure we address the need of the audience as well as that of our organization. Otherwise we’re going to fail.

There’s more in the transcript — which is a bit less attractive than in past chats owing to the demise of WTHashtag. However, thanks to @JoBrodie, www.searchhash.com was able to give us a transcript. It doesn’t archive, and the output contains a lengthy numerical identifier for each tweet, but it’s usable and I’m grateful!

The next #ICChat is June 16 – I’m considering whether to change the time of day from 10 a.m. Eastern — I did a Twitter poll on this question last month, but only four people voted!  What time would be best for you? Follow me at @CommAMMO for updates.

 

 

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How do you sharpen your saw? #ICChat discusses

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

The first #ICChat on internal communications for 2011 was a cozy affair, with great conversation about internal comm skills for the second decade of the new millennium. We didn’t need many questions to prime the pump — just one on how you keep your skills sharp, on whether social media skills were different, and one on how much time each month you dedicate to skills development and polishing.

Getting out among one’s fellow communicators, whether in person or virtually is a solid practice.

CommAMMO: @ShannonRenee I’ve attended a couple of Mashable/social media club type soirees – also try to reach beyond comms orgs. #icchat

susancellura: I continue to identify and attend key webinars, stay involved in my local IABC chapter and interact w/communicators across the world #icchat

ShannonRenee: A1 meetups are good way to stay active & their times tend to be more flexible than formal association mtgs #icchat

ShannonRenee: A1 keeping the saw sharp: collaboration – if I can’t make webinar/event, I have asked our managing editor to go & bring back info #icchat

Thank heavens, our basic skills are still important!

ShannonRenee: A1 still have to know how to write…every so often I attend writing workshops as our language & grammar evolve #icchat

susancellura: @CommAMMO Agree w/@ShannonRenee – writing is still the most important skill needed #icchat

Social media seems mainly to be an application of our existing skills, rather than requiring a whole new set of skills.

susancellura: A2 I think interaction is key for all comms. SM is another tool to build a relationship with clients. It’s about applying the tools. #icchat

susancellura: A2 And, employees have already embraced social media. Not using the tools internally is a missed opportunity to connect. #icchat

ShannonRenee: A2 not sure if the SM skills are “materially” diff from overall comm skills…SM does require us to use our comm skills in new ways #icchat

nishland: @shannonrenee @CommAMMO I think you need good overall comms skills in social media. no diff really. #icchat

I confess to a fair amount of relief at these sentiments. That “old dog – new tricks” thing gets me sometimes:

commammo: @csledzik Huge challenge for me is to keep abreast of all the new stuff – often feel like me brain is full… #icchat

Only one person gave an actual count of hours spent on honing skills — but there was advice on how to do it, and even possible subjects for further learning.

susancellura: A3 Try to push myself every day when interacting with clients. Specifically, I’d say 3 hrs w/webinars, etc. #icchat

csledzik: A3 #icchat I spend a lot of time “learning,” but that’s diff. than “honing.” Scared of doing webinar/workshop on something I already know.

CommAMMO: I am in process of setting a skill goal – interested in learning video tools, 4 examp – but struggling to carve out the time. #icchat

susancellura: @CommAMMO I want to get better at video, as well. Especially if doing it myself, which happens quite a bit. #icchat

It was a nice start to the #ICChat year — we always hope for more participation. Invite someone to our next chat: Thursday, February 17, 2011, at 10 a.m. Eastern.  Read the 20 January transcript here. (Be warned, a couple of spammers laid it on the hashtag pretty thick…as @RJFarr said, “grrr…”)

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Web Tools Expanding (Slowly) into Internal Communication

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

A small but eager group of professional communicators met 7 September to explore the current state of Web tools in internal communication and found a slow, but steady increase in their use.  Twitter-based #ICChat totaled more than 200 tweets in a fast-paced, hour-long online discussion from 2-3 p.m. North American Eastern Time.

The most basic tools — e-mail and intranets and RSS — are expectedly common, but social tools — blogging, varieties of microblogging (such as Twitter) and shared document management are seen as near-term priorities.

@irosen: Q1: There is an increased demand on “basics” found on the internet such as RSS feeds, microblogging and embedded media #icchat

@Wedge: Slowly reducing our reliance on emailing Word documents around; moving to intranet web pages and shared space on intranet for docs #icchat

Microblogging, including Yammer, offers the potential for collaboration and instant access, according to the company website. The tool could lower data processing costs by redirecting communication away from e-mail, particularly for the short, direct sort of questions-and-answers an employee might need on the spur of the moment. I made the same argument for RSS and other tools

@CommAMMO: One angle @csledzik is to quantify amt of email traffic – if you banned Word doc attch’s in fav of Google docs/Sharep methods #icchat

@CommAMMO: @wheati @irosen Less email through the wall means lower data proc costs – RSS is seemless, no? #icchat

But reducing direct cost wasn’t a prime driver in one person’s opinion:

@wheati: @CommAMMO @irosen @Wedge Weren’t concerned with data cost. Interested in ease, security of doc access. And “one stop” shop for info. #icchat

Trying to reduce e-mail — for the sake of employees’ productivity — is a critical factor, in my opinion. Aggregating nonessential (but still important) material is a decidedly old-school response, though social tools offer an advantage beyond financial impact.

@jpchurch: We’re about to launch a complete intranet re-do, and introduce more targeted info & collaborative tools. Still far too many emails. #icchat

@jgombita: Q1 If staff, clients R spread out (geog’phy), working with wiki (or Google docs) is effective and inexpensive #icchat

@csledzik: So theres 2 objtvs: 1) reducing data proc. $ & incr’g knowledge sharing. Soft goal is key, but not the driver. #icchat

There currently is no organization I know of which has gotten knowledge management particularly right — though many have made progress: Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Knowledge predates the Web, using Lotus Notes databases to gather info from employees and make it available. Kind of early crowdsourcing

Microsoft’s Sharepoint suite — with its Wiki-Blogging-Discussions, etc. — came up a fair amount as a means of supporting knowledge sharing, with one participant looking for guidance on initial deployment.

@tnerko: Most excited about #SharePoint for wiki features as most in my company on a 3 year rotation and knowledge leaves often #icchat

The embrace of web tools within the workplace (particularly social media) is a referendum in organizational trust, transparency, according to one participant:

@csledzik: .@CommAMMO I see mgmt thatNot comf. w/ trust or transparency. Don’t understand benefits of sharing inter/externally. #icchat

The latter part of that tweet is pretty close to the truth: Internal communication, generally, isn’t as highly regarded in the workplace as is media relations. We shouldn’t be surprised that internal audiences are subject to fantasies of tight control — one senior leader told me that internal communication was, “a warm-fuzzy for employees” who don’t really care about the business.  It was some years ago, so I’m hopeful that opinions have moderated. But the advent of social media has shaken business leaders to their very boots in fear of loss of control. Control, by the way, that they haven’t had in 50 years, at least.

@wheati: A concern is also about company reputation. Exes want to control and package it, but SM is about neither. #icchat

@jgombita @pointsoftrue that’s why the key is guidelines #icchat

Indeed, guidelines are critical. The trick is to convince leaders that their employees can be trusted to follow them. This is a huge issue in regulated industries, such as securities firms, banks, medical.

The too-fast conversation wrapped up talking about how these web tools — in particular intranets — are measured.

@Wedge: To Q4: behaviour change. Impact, rather than ‘hits’ (although ‘hits’ are a baseline to indicate use / usefulness. #icchat #intranet

@wheati: Loosely…% of front line adopting RSS was one measure. #icchat

@CommAMMO: @wheati Tying the stats back to outcomes, even just simple correls is helpful – language of C-suite. #icchat

@tnerko: Word of mouth and feedback links for now, looking forward to commenting in sharepoint and will run focus groups as well #icchat

Next #ICChat is 21 September, 2-3 pm Eastern (North America), and we’re open to suggestions as to topic and potential guests. Hope to see you then.

What would you add to this? How can we make #ICChat better? Use the comments, or send me an email.

Sean Williams can help you: Consulting, Strategic Planning, Measurement, Training, Writing/Editing.

CommAMMO: One angle @csledzik is to quantify amt of email traffic – if you banned Word doc attch’s in fav of Google docs/Sharep methods #icchat
6:16 pm CommAMMO: @wheati @irosen Less email through the wall means lower data proc costs – RSS is seemless, no? #icchat
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Another IABC International Conference…

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I recognize that if I’m not a speaker at the big IABC soiree, I’m probably not the target audience for it. I’m not surprised, therefore, that my first blush reaction to the Toronto gathering wasn’t particularly positive.  My goal for attending this year was to meet some new people and make contact with some who I haven’t seen in a while. I hope to eventually get some business from it, but really just need to expand the network.

The programming and format are nearly identical to my first International, in 1995, also in Toronto. That one was a revelation — I was just 4 years or so into the profession, and everything was new.  Every session offered fascinating insights or enhanced skills.  I met scores of people and hung out with many, enjoying my first trip to Toronto and my first extended business trip in several years.

In 1997, L.A. was a different experience. Many of the speakers were the same as two years earlier, and in 2002 at Chicago, there were just a few sessions that really caught my eye. So I took a vacation from the big show until this year.

Things that impressed me:

Erin Dick from Pratt & Whitney — a social media case study that wasn’t from a Silicon Valley firm… Her use of blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to help support P&W’s client (the U.S.Government) on the selection of an engine for the Joint Strike Force fighter was off the charts — brilliant. And it had a fairly strong measurement component. I decided to Tweet the session instead of trying to take notes. The benefit was that I had a great summary, though my thumbs threatened to lock up from BlackBerry-itis…

William Amurgis from American Electric Power — Looking for use of social media in internal communications? Amurgis delivered. AEP’s blogs, discussion boards, employee-uploaded photos, etc., set a high standard of participation. The company’s intranet philosophy? Enhance employee productivity, reinforce corporate messages and provide a place to meet for all employees. Everything has to pass through that frame, or it doesn’t happen. And, rather than buy software solutions, AEP makes their own. Amurgis has a designer and a developer on his staff.

The UnConference — OK, it was a bit different than other UnConferences (usually low-or-no-cost, open to anyone; you had to buy the day (at least) for the IABC Conference to get in, and it wasn’t cheap) — but the method of operation was different and fun. There was no pre-set program, just a list of ideas posted on the TorontoTalks website (that a few people did discuss first), and three 5-minute “keynotes” — very informally delivered.  The three-hour session on Sunday afternoon was comprised of four 25-minute blocks of time with six possible topics (being held at six tables). We wrote on sticky notes our question or suggested topic, then stuck it on a flip chart in an empty time slot. The writer could lead the discussion, or someone else could.  I talked measurement (what a shock!) with seven other folks and it was fascinating. We didn’t solve the ROI question in full, nor did we get into other facets of communication, but it still was valuable and fun.

The thing is, the (nice) venue, formal structure and overwhelming size of the show made it hard to connect with people. Even the formal networking session (the big one held on the floor of the exhibit show) was just an hour long — not near enough time to connect. (I also didn’t attend Monday’s sessions — none particularly grabbed me. That might have inhibited my networking activities, so shame on me!)

The cost was pretty high for a new entrepreneur, not only in travel but in the conference fee. I’ll be considering very carefully before jumping on again soon. But, if I wind up as a speaker…

{FYI, I’m speaking in November at IABC’s Research and Measurement Conference in Seattle, as well as at the PRSA National conference in DC in October.  I’m also willing to come to chapter lunches, etc., and can make a deal for my PRSA/IABC fellow members!}

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