Archive for the ‘Internal Communications’ 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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Five Themes of Effective Internal Communication

Friday, September 9th, 2011

From 12, clockwise: @llibitz, @csledzik, @dak1966, @jgombita, @gypsynits, @ic_jen. Jeremy Schultz (@jschultz) is at center; no photo available for @GnosisArts.

The monthly Twitter discussion on internal comms, #icchat, made its return from summer vacation on 8 September, and after one question from the moderator (that’d be me), it was off to the races.

Special guest Jeremy Schultz (@jschultz) of Intel did a fine job juggling five or so concurrent discussions (a usual occurrence in Twitter chats) as the lively crowd picked his brain and shared their own tools and techniques.

Five themes emerged from the discussion:

  • Social tools inside organizations are coming on fast
  • Communicators play a critical role in enacting and facilitating them
  • Face to face and 2-way communication in general are still important
  • Leaders should use the social media tools that fit their personality and style
  • Storytelling is still the single most important activity in internal communication

It’s a commentary on the thin internal comms organizations that all five of these things are considered so vital — and it’s interesting what’s left out. I can’t do justice to the speed and depth of the conversation — we’re usually a small but voluble group (and often with different participants each time).

There were lots of very specific tactics –things people are using to great advantage: Wikis (@JGombita pointed out the persistence of the Wiki), @llibitz mentioned the internal social media tool called Handshake, a web 2.0 version of intranet, and sharepoint. @IC_Jen talked about Flowr, a kind of Facebook-meets-Sharepoint tool that permits documents to be uploaded to given topics. And internal blogging, where the blogger and communicator work together on the copy and organization.

@Jschultz talked about giving counsel to execs, helping to match personality and style with the right communication tools, rather than just saying, “you should blog.”  @CSledzik shared the difficulty in getting employees to move from simply expecting to be handed information to reaching out and asking for it (2-way communication does need two parties), even though leadership is committed to making the switch.

@Gypsynits was interested in how culture and values communications made their way into the business-focused, business-objectives world, and @jschultz didn’t disappoint. He points out that at Intel, these beliefs and the company values and vision are well-established and well-known — simply implicit in all communications.

Check out the “Storify” highlights — I still mourn the death of wthashtag for transcripts — Or if you’re a glutton for text, read all 180 or so posts in this ugly PDF of nine pages and more than 4,000 words. Read from the bottom up.

Many thanks to Jeremy, and to @gypsynits (up REALLY late), @jgombita, @llibitz @csledzik @ic_Jen @dak1966 & @gnosisarts. You make it great!

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Pret A Manger Customer Service Relies on Communication

Monday, August 8th, 2011

It’s hard not to blush green with envy. A company that really seems to “get” communication as a business process rates a Sunday business feature story in The New York Times once in a few blue moons, and British sandwich shop Pret A Manger sounds like a great place to work. Read Stephanie Clifford’s story here, but here are a few highlights.

Five things Pret A Manger does well

1. Foster Teamwork: The pay is not high, the working conditions frantic and stressful and the turnover huge in fast food. But Pret A Manger puts cash behind teamwork, rewarding teams rather than individuals with cash bonuses. Even when  individual workers do really well, they get cash that they have to share to those who helped them excel. This team attitude means that everyone pitches in, and the communication process in the stores supports that effort through daily kick-off meetings and peer-support culture. This isn’t a high-tech solution, just an effective one.

2. Establish Strong Processes: Making sandwiches isn’t hard. Making them consistently well is art. Pret features recipe cards with photos so that people can see how the food is supposed to look, step by step. When you train on how to make a sandwich, your peers support you along the way. Plus, there’s a process to move up — and your peers help you get there — that’s clearly communicated. Communication isn’t something being done to employees, it’s intrinsic.

3.  Leaders Lead: Store managers and kitchen supervisors know what food needs to be ready when, and peer communication supports the effort. The managers encourage their charges continually, even when issuing correction. They also train — and the trainees’ final exam? Training someone else. You have to know your stuff to train someone. It’s further evidence of how managers and staff “own” communication.

4.  Customer Focus: The store is staffed to reduce customer wait times, not maximize revenue per employee. That’s a liberating decision for the workers, who are hired at least as much for their cheerful attitudes as anything else.  No one is really overworked in  a Pret store — there might be as many as nine cashiers on duty in the morning there, as opposed to the one or two at your average Starbucks.  Starbucks has a great reputation, but standing on line there is legendary. One barista, one cashier isn’t going to cut it at Pret.

5.  No Say-Do Disconnect: This is an essential business maxim — your behavior as an organization tells a lot about your real priorities. If there’s too great a disconnect between behavior and rhetoric, trust evaporates. Pret doesn’t just communicate about its priorities, it appears to live them.  Its employees seem to like that — their turnover is orders of magnitude lower than its fast food competitors. That means satisfied customers, lower costs, and better performance.

What’s not to like?

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Write for Clarity

Friday, July 15th, 2011
The Vocal Crowd

Top Left to Bottom Right: @MikeBrice, @PointsofRue, @ABGooen, @MHuras, @JGombita, @RobertJHolland, @Melissa_Novak and @CommAMMO.

Twitter chats are an important reason I use the microblogging service, and as moderator of #ICchat I get to participate in really interesting discussions with people I otherwise wouldn’t know.  So when I asked Robert J. Holland to be our guest for the 14 July discussion on writing, I was remedying an issue. I’d read Robert’s stuff for some time, whether through IABC or Ragan, or the comments pages on David Murray’s excellent blog, but we’d never met. I’m glad that #ICchat took care of that issue!

The chat featured 207 tweets that generated 226,696 impressions, reaching an audience of 9,326 followers.  (Stats via HashTracking.com. Whether that means much I’m not sure, but it’s interesting.)

We started with a somewhat obvious question, though I asked it sincerely:

@CommAMMO: Q1: With social media, texting and instant messaging, is writing still important for internal comms? #icchat

@melissa_novak thought it was a “silly” question — and maybe she’s right.

@RobertJHolland Social media presents new challenges. Content must be even more clear, precise, understandable. #icchat

@MikeBrice @CommAMMO writing is the foundation for all. #icchat

@JGombita @robertjholland social media (especially Twitter) has helped make my writing less flabby. Brevity is the soul of platform width. 🙂 #icchat

@CommAMMO I happen to think that writing is a foundation skill for business in general, and many CEOs agree (see @nytimes “corner office”) #icchat

As I told Melissa, you’d be astonished at some of the things I’ve heard and read about writing and its role in modern public relations in general — I personally don’t see how any communicator, especially in internal communication, can be less than excellent as a writer. That’s not to say that everyone has to be brilliant — just that words are a big part of our executional requirements.

@MikeBrice: SM may help with shorter writing but I think it hurts writers who forget how important it is to provide detailed descriptions #icchat

@RobertJHolland: Writing with brevity but also providing all the important details takes work, no doubt. #icchat

@RobertJHolland:  Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” #icchat

@RobertJHolland: That’s how social media are changing writing. Forces us to compartmentalize info, structure info differently, compete for attention #icchat

@ABGooen: Hi, Guys. Joining in. Two keys to good writing: audience analysis and message validation. Lots of “writers” don’t do it. #icchat

A quick sidebar question about information mapping (the structured process of creating information)  from  @MHuras brought this from Robert:

@RobertJHolland: Anything that gets us to clarity[…]

And that turned into the main theme for the discussion.  Clarity requires organization, solid process, research, economical language…whatever process helps you get there, as long as it doesn’t get in the way.

@RobertJHolland: A2: Don’t get wrapped up in process at expense of clarity, logical flow of ideas, and of course the reader’s enjoyment #icchat

@CommAMMO: I’ve read some on sense-makingappreciative inquiryBarbara Minto’s structures… Agree if it helps w/clarity, use it. #icchat

@JGombita: @robertjholland life lesson from high school English teacher: I don’t know what you meant to write, I only judge & enjoy what I see. #icchat

By now, the time was flying by.

@CommAMMO Q3: Describe your typical approach/process to writing. I usually free-write to start, seldom outline 1st…

@RobertJHolland: A3: Outlines never helped me much. I use them rarely. Process is such a personal thing. Whatever works for you, use it! #icchat

@RobertJHolland: A3: Main thing is to keep focused on the main message. It’s easy to lose the message as u get caught up in story details. #icchat@RobertJHolland: A3: I usually just start writing. But that’s just the first step. The real work is in rewriting, refining, editing. #icchat

@JGombita: @robertjholland alt., leave it alone for a bit (hours, a day). Start fresh with your writing, approaching it from entirely new angle #icchat

@MikeBrice: I start with a lede and nut graph to determine if it is interesting to me to see if it will be interesting to employees #icchat

How bout a specific method, step-by-step?

@ABGooen: @CommAMMO 1. Know who I’m writing for. 2. List five key points. 3. Circle top point/prioritize other points. 4. Write. 5. Revise. #icchat

We also touched on “conversational” writing, judged to be essential for internal comms. But what makes writing conversational?

@RobertJHolland: Use real English, but don’t get sloppy. And for heaven’s sake don’t slip into jargon. #icchat

That can be a challenge when dealing with leaders — some of whom want language to be “elevated” to some kind of lofty, complicated prose. Anyone had that experience?

@PointsofRue: Yes, but I’ve also had a leader keenly push us in that direction because she saw the value of connecting with “average” employees #icchat

@RobertJHolland: Absolutely! It’s a never-ending fight, but it’s our job to fight it. Push for clarity. Jargon rarely leads to clarity. #icchat

@PointsofRue: My response to “you’re dumbing it down” is “no, I’m opening it up” #icchat

@CommAMMO:  @pointsofrue Me: “I’m trying 2demystify leadership, make language more accessible to more ppl.” Boss: “but they don’t want that.” #icchat

@JGombita: Conversational is inclusive. It’s the kind you get at the best dinner parties, lots of give and take. #icchat

That leaves out a lot of good stuff — read the transcript from www.TweetDoc.org, here.

Many thanks to all our participants, and especially to Robert. We’ll resume 8 September. Stay tuned for the time of day. Cheers for now!

 

 

 

 

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Writing is topic for next #icchat

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Robert J. Holland

Whither writing for the modern internal communicator? That’s the question special guest Robert J. Holland, president of Holland Communication Solutions, will answer in our next #ICChat, Thursday, 14 July at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Robert’s history reads quite a bit like my own: jobs with big companies, including ATT & Capital One, followed by entrepreneurship — he’s been at the latter a little long than I, however, eleven years versus my two. Over the years he’s amassed dozens of clients from Fortune 500 firms to nonprofits to small businesses. He’s also a university prof — Virginia Commonwealth University, where he teaches in the PR sequence of the School of Mass Communications.

Author, teacher, top-flight communicator – I’m delighted to welcome Robert to our #icchat family. Follow him on Twitter@RobertJHolland and find his blog at http://robertjholland.wordpress.com/.

 

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Group Texts for Internal Comms?

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

An interesting tidbit surfaced in the PRSA newspaper, PRTactics, in June. It’s an Amy Jacques piece on GroupMe, a new smartphone app that got noticed at South By Southwest this year.

GroupMe lets people set up their own private communities, using text messaging. Think of the possibilities within companies — you form a task force to work on a project, and instead of relying on email, you form the group (which gets its own telephone number) and voila! Send a text to the group to initiate a conversation on the fly. No clumsy email thread, no open-to-all Twitter discussion, no sending additional traffic through the organization email servers.

On one hand, it’s a continuation of the trend of making employees responsible for their own communication. On the other, it’s removing another control (that could scare the bejabbers out of your compliance department.)

Composing people into self-directed groups within which they manage their own communication democratizes information. Reaching them on their increasingly sophisticated phones instead of waiting for them to return to their computers seems a likely progression.

The story notes that the social media world is “competitive, hyperactive and continually blossoming into  a place with too much going on — too overwhelming, too public and too sterile.” Mobile isn’t playing third-fiddle to TV and computers — it’s sitting in the first chair in the media symphony.

 

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Social Media Making Inroads Internally

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

A festive #ICChat on 16 June raced through the portfolio of social media tools that @GEHealthcare is putting to use for internal communications, thanks to special guest Ilene Rosen, who manages communication technology for the company.

Rosen (@irosen) notes that as a heavily regulated industry, it might seem that user-generated content and tools that promote unfiltered dialogue would be shunned, but not so. GE healthcare remains extremely cautious about external use of such tools, though Rosen helps the comms team employ them both internally and as appropriate, externally. On the internal side, the company uses Blogs, Wikis and discussion forums effectively.

@irosen               I have a great job @gehealthcare. I help our comms ppl match the right techtools to their comms strategy and offer support/training #icchat

@irosen               My background is primarily in intranets, web production and content management #icchat

Rather than using third-party software, Rosen says GE Healthcare uses custom products>

@irosen               Q1: The majority of our tools are “homegrown” vs off the shelf/enterprise. #icchat

Video is increasing in importance for @GEHealthcare:

@irosen               Q1: An internal video platform will be launching within a few weeks as well #icchat

@csledzik @irosen Was video platform a response to having a lot of video content already? Or in anticipation of having a lot more video? #icchat

@irosen               @CommAMMO We generate many videos in Comms but were just hosting them on a server with no ways to measure them @csledzik #icchat

@irosen               We have been cooking the idea for a few years for the videohub and Corporate GE found a great solution that we are all excited about #icchat

Judy Jones, a first-time participant (Thanks!) asked a really good question:

@redjudy Do you find that IT pushes back on your ideas? And if so do you have a method to address their concerns? #icchat

@irosen               @redjudy we have a good relationship w/ IT and value their input as a partner so if they raise an issue, there is a good reason #icchat

@CommAMMO .@irosen @redjudy Big win for us at Goodyear was building rela w/IT, esp CIO-finding comm ground. Many IT issues are similar 2comms #icchat

Relationship-building has always been a critical skill for internal communicators, but it’s never been more important to partner with IT (and HR) than now.  The tools are more sophisticated and dynamic (how hard was it to read a magazine?) – and being a bridge between the technical and editorial could be a career growth strategy all its own.

@irosen               Part of my job is 2 educate people on the tools and empower them- but need 2b realistic, not everyone is comfortable with technology #icchat

@irosen               Blogging is a good example – It is easy for me to blog, but there are ppl who c all the “bells and whistles” etc and freeze up… #icchat

@irosen               @CommAMMO Every tool that is rolled out, we make sure training is available – sometimes by myself and sometimes outside the team #icchat

@irosen               I also maintain a wiki for basic educational/training/how to tips that I encourage my team members to contribute to #icchat

Why use these tools internally?

@irosen               The ultimate goal we want 2 reach is 2 have the same web experience internally as empl have when they go home &boot up their laptops #icchat

@CommAMMO               .@redjudy @irosen can’t say enough how import it is to match work comm tools w/home expectns. New gen of wrkrs won’t have it othwys #icchat

Darn straight. We’re in competition for share of mind.

If blogs, wikis and discussion groups are working, what isn’t?

@JPChurch:        A2: We’ve tried podcasting, but hasn’t really taken off … not sure why. Time? Too many other options? Need more research. #icchat

@irosen               Q2: hmmm….hard to say but if I had to pick one it would be podcasts. Email is still the killer app (no surprise there) #icchat

@jgombita @CommAMMO I’m making an educated guess here, but my guess is “tagging” photos and videos, etc. #icchat

@Wedge #icchat @jgombita I find more people are getting to grips with tagging on the #intranet and those people evagelise!

@csledzik            @jgombita People don’t understand benefits of metadata — they just get frustrated when they can’t find something. #icchat

What about technology to help employees collaborate?

@irosen               We have an internal collaboration tool that has not really taken off – #icchat

@irosen               Techy companies are going be all over collab platforms while we may not be – and that’s ok #icchat

There’s more in the transcript (thanks to www.searchhash.com) that’s well worth reading.  Find it HERE.

Join us 14 July for another edition of #icchat – and follow @commammo on Twitter for info about our special guest, and the time of day of the chat.

Thanks to all participants — @christyseason @johndeeretara @twistina @domcrincoli @chris_pb @allthingsic @ericakei  — and those quoted above.

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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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Blog-cation coming to a close…

Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Portage Lakes, Ohio

By Sean Williams, All Rights Reserved

I’ve committed a grievous sin in social media land. I’ve taken a bit of a Sabbatical from blogging and mostly, from Tweeting, with a few exceptions. Now I have a bit more time on my hands, as I wait to see what my schedule is like for a big research project and the response to a couple of proposals. So, I’m intending to babble on a bit more in the coming days.  One such venue will be Thursday’s #icchat, the Twitter-based discussion on internal communications that I conduct monthly.  Join us at 10 a.m. eastern on 19 October.

I’ve not done a great job marketing the chat — it’s not as sexy as #measurepr, #PR20Chat or #Kaizenblog, I guess because it’s more concerned with internal matters than social media and press relations.  However, we do have good discussions on our topic, so I hope you’l join us…

 

 

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Internal Communications Needs the Right Outcomes

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Gotta hit the bullseye (creative commons)

Ask a batch of internal communicators what their objectives are and you might get a batch of interesting answers.  My educated guess is that most of the time, they’ll be outputs – do “this” many intranet articles on that business unit, do “that” many issues of the newsletter – or they’ll be hopelessly general – support the benefits rollout, add value to the sales process.

To forestall such time-wasters, in the last #icchat, the Twitter-based discussion on internal communications, we focused on internal comms outcomes.  We surely can describe what happened in the chat as a chat – there were five participants (see my previous post for the musings that this fact prompted) – and we learned a fair amount. Here’s a rundown.

@CommAMMO: The topic today is outcomes — Q1: what do you consider your primary #internalcommunications end-results? #icchat

@csledzik A1: Don’t want to derail the convo by using the word but: engagement. Defined as awareness & alignment w/ org. goals & strategis. #icchat

@BaehrNecessity A1: Have to agree with Chris. Moving the needle on awareness and behavior toward organizational goals. #icchat

That was easy.  Full agreement that both awareness and alignment were critical outcomes. We’re differentiating those sort of outcomes from business results – it’s the outputs-outtakes-outcomes or outputs-outcomes-business results meme.

How do we enact those communication outcomes?

@BaehrNecessity A1: Publishing stories of employees who exemplify ideal behaviors. #icchat

@csledzik @CommAMMO Explaining strategies is a good 1st step! Needs to be current: Qrtly [interviews] of Execs reinforcing msg, noting changes. #icchat

@BaehrNecessity A1: Writing articles that break down co goals one by one, and identifying what employees can do to help co achieve each one. #icchat

@CommAMMO @BaehrNecessity Connecting employee behavior to org goals is often hardest part – esp if in non-revenue area #icchat

@csledzik On that note, pairing bonus programs/merit pay to communication is key. *IF* these programs are structured around goals/objectives. #icchat

Chris makes an important point. We need to be “all-in” with our HR colleagues to make these things stick – for some reason, many companies are reluctant to include communication skills in the portfolio of requirements for managers.  Yet, research shows that many performance issues are a consequence of poor communication.  Communication is a vital part of management.

The second question dealt with one of my major themes – connecting communication outcomes to business results.

@CommAMMO Q2: When planning #internalcommunications, how do you ensure links to business outcomes? (activities/tactics?) #icchat

@BaehrNecessity A2: Create calendar that hilites all goals/strategies & when best to communicate each. Revisit weekly/monthly to stay on track. #icchat

@Adhib A2: First, listen. Your people can tell you what implications there are #icchat

@BaehrNecessity A2: We had story database where submitter had to select related strategy at time of entry. #icchat

@BaehrNecessity A2: We also had regular employee surveys to check on engagement with key issues. #icchat

@CommAMMO @BaehrNecessity Editorial calendars are great – we struggled to keep up with the daily demands, but did lgr series time2time #icchat

@CommAMMO @BaehrNecessity Yah, the key (imo) is laying out a map that includes comms side roads – still heading to objs, but flexible. #icchat

The planning process should include end-clients of your internal comms work. Stakeholders include the leaders running the businesses you support, and their goals/objectives need representation in your process. So, too, do the ordinary employees expected to implement.

@jgombita @CommAMMO A2. Yesterday was informed during #brandchat: Perspective is communication as the overarching idea, tools are marketing/PR.#icchat

This is a very tactical view of our work, and Judy’s depression at having everything lumped together tactically is a drag! Hence, Q3:

@CommAMMO Q3 – how well integrated is your internal comms function with rest of comms? With overall org? #icchat

@csledzik Extremely well. It’s me. 😉 RT @CommAMMO: Q3 – how well integrated is your internal comms function with rest of comms? #icchat

@jgombita @CommAMMO convo started w/ person saying his marketing dept. responsible for all “messaging.” I said not all messaging was marketing #icchat

@CommAMMO @jgombita Seeing more and more orgs where head comm’n officer is “Marketing & Comms>” #icchat

@jgombita @CommAMMO that’s what I thought. But the @iabc research centre team headed up by pal Fraser Likely apparently found otherwise. Yea! #icchat

The ongoing battle between marketing and the rest of us over “control” is so much navel-gazing – many folks are disgusted with the whole process (see our friends at @CommScrum, e.g.) But @BethHarte and the integrated marketing communications people keep pushing the notion forward that marketing is supreme. Even my esteemed colleague at Kent State University, Dr. Bob Batchelor, is a devotee of the concept.

@jgombita @CommAMMO A3. my observation is it depends whether IC ultimately reports to HR or corporate communications. #icchat

@CommAMMO @jgombita @BaehrNecessity big issue w/integration is resource alloc – Media Relations sucks up $$, IntComs left scrabbling #icchat

@jgombita @CommAMMO @BaehrNecessity but “media relations” only a sub-set of #PR. (And media relations usually cheaper than advertising…). #icchat

@evamaierhofer @jgombita cheaper than advertising but the first postition to be cut when it comes to redundancies…isn’t it? #icchat

@jgombita @evamaierhofer not in my experience. More likely senior/strategic PR person cut and a more junior media relations specialist hired. #icchat

@Adhib Comms functions rank in order of potential pain for C-suite: usually customers, IR, PR, emps … got to raise emps up the list #icchat

We didn’t solve the issues, but we surfaced a ton – join us when we meet again, May 19, 10 a.m. North American Eastern Time.  And, weigh in on your “best time” for #icchat – take the poll: http://twtpoll.com/9xlkbq .

 

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