Improve channels

Clients often ask me, "What's the most important improvement I can make?" My answer is always the same: Any positive change will make a difference. With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions for improving your employee communication channels:

  1. Don’t assume that employees understand your communication system. You know you have different channels for different purposes, but employees don’t necessarily see the value of each vehicle, how pieces they fit together and how to find the information they’re looking for. That’s why you need to explain how your system works.
  2. There’s no news in employee newsletters. By the time you distribute your publication, everything “newsy” has been shared—and is now old news. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you shift your focus to creating a newsletter with unique content that provides perspective and context.
  3. The best way to improve your content: Ask great questions. Don’t just receive a PowerPoint deck or other background; get to the bottom of what the topic is, how it works and (most importantly) what it means to employees.
  4. It’s time (again) to update your editorial standards. Just a few years ago, a 500-word article was acceptable. Today? That seems like a novel. You need to make sure your writing keeps pace with employees’ expectations and external best practices.
  5. One counterintuitive way to improve email: send more separate messages. Many emails are too densely packed with information. So they seem like too much work, and employees close them to read them later (but later never comes). A better idea is to separate one email into several separate messages, each focusing on what an employee needs to know or do right now.
  6. Employees care more about people than facts. The most fascinating content, of course, is directly relevant to the individual. Second best? Content that uses real people (“my colleagues”) to tell the story.
  7. Press releases deserve to die. Since I’m not a media relations expert, I can’t comment on the value of press releases in generating publicity. But I can share my views on using using company-issued releases as part of an employee communication program (for instance, posting them on an intranet site or publishing them in a newsletter): Please, I beg you, just say no. Employees despise press releases because they hate packaged content and anything that wastes their time without adding value.
  8. Timing matters more than you think. Because you have a small window of opportunity for employees to open email, when you send the message matters. You need to experiment to find out what works best in your organization, but accepted wisdom from marketers is that the middle of the week generates more activity than Mondays or Fridays, and that early morning is more effective than late in the day.
  9. Don’t use quotes to promulgate propaganda, only to share what real people say (and reflect the way they say it). Nobody actually talks like this: “Thanks to the outstanding vision of John Smith, the company remains well-positioned in the industry with a balanced portfolio of advanced products and services for a wide range of applications.” Quotes should be as real as the people speaking the words.
  10. More and more, visuals rule. That means you need to get better at taking photographs or acquiring them from stakeholders and employees. And the more design help you can get, the better.

Hope you find this useful. 

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