I have a negative reaction every time I hear a communicator refer to employees as the “audience.”
What’s my problem? Let’s start with the meaning of the word “audience.” Merriam-Webster defines it this way: “a group of people who gather together to listen to something (such as a concert) or watch something (such as a movie or play).”
What mental picture do you get when you read that definition? That’s right: people sitting in the dark, not moving, talking or acting.
That passivity is the opposite of what we try to achieve when we communicate with employees. In fact, here are the 3 reasons why you should stop thinking of employees as your audience—and come up with a completely different word (more on that later):
- Employees are not a homogenous mass. They’ve got diverse viewpoints and needs. So the more we think about employees as a sea of upturned faces, the less successful we’ll be at designed communication to meet their multiple needs.
- Internal communication should be designed to encourage employees to participate, not sit there passively. Ideally, employees will engage with the content, make comments, share stuff with their colleagues, ask questions and even contribute.
- The most important reason organizations communicate: to encourage employees to take action. “FYI” is a lame reason for communicating. We want to move the needle and create a change.
If employees are not an audience, how should you refer to them? How about stakeholders? Constituents? Or, simply and directly, employees?