3 Strategies for Making Internal Communications Interactive
— August 18th, 2019
A top concern internal communications professionals face is how much employees are engaging (or not) with their communication activities.
Most of the employees you’re trying to reach already have enough work to fill the day without also reading irrelevant emails and articles from the company.
You have to find some way to overcome the fact that they’re busy and don’t necessarily see your messages as a top priority.
One good way to address the challenge of employee engagement is by making your Employee Communications strategy more interactive. An effective communications strategy won’t just be about pushing messages out to employees, it will give as much priority to enabling their participation in the communication.
Employees will inevitably be more engaged if you make it clear you want to hear back from them, rather than counting on them to passively listen.
In a Poppulo recent webinar about creating a successful employee communications strategy, experienced internal communications professional Olga Klimanovich shared three different techniques you can use to create a more interactive internal communications strategy.
1. Set up interactive video conference sessions
Bridging the divide between your company leaders and the employees working for them is an important part of a good internal communications strategy. The best way to do that is to coordinate opportunities for your leaders to communicate with their teams face to face.
But for enterprise companies, your workforce is spread out between a large number of locations—usually across a number of cities and countries. That makes enabling in-person communication between the company’s top leaders and the employees working for them a challenge.
When you can’t set up face-to-face sessions, Klimanovich says Webex sessions are the next best thing.
In these sessions, she asks the company leaders “to talk to the audience about how their particular department or work team is contributing to the overall strategy.” And she urges them to keep the invite list for the sessions broad, making them open to employees from a variety of departments. “That’s when you have a good debate.”
For the leaders at the highest level of the company, keeping the sessions interactive may be a little more of a challenge since the number of people working for them is so high — not everyone will have time to contribute.
So she recommends having a number of these video conference sessions led by department leaders moving down the company hierarchy. “The more steps down you go, the more interactive it should become,” she urges.
With this technique, each department hears directly from their leaders in a format that humanizes them and gives them the chance to explain where their work fits into the company’s overall strategy.
And just as importantly, the participants get the chance to ask questions or add comments where the leaders can see and respond in real-time, so they know they’re being heard.
2. Create a communications support network.
The bigger the company, the harder it is for the internal communications department to reach everyone in a personal and interactive way. While you may not be able to interact with every individual in every department, something you can do is empower people in each department to become representatives of a sort for the internal communications department.
“Set up your comms support network. You can call it comms ambassadors [or] comms champions,” suggests Klimanovich. One trick she recommends here: find those people in the company that think they already know everything about communications.
The people that might otherwise prove difficult or critical of your communications techniques can become valuable allies once you “give them the prominence of actually contributing to the overall comms of the company or department.”
Try to make sure every business division is represented in your comms support network, so you get buy-in across the company. Ideally, you’ll find enough volunteers to fill these spots, so you’ll know they’re committed.
If not though, go and actively invite people from departments not represented so you make clear you care about their participation.
This strategy ensures you have someone in each department across the business with a stake in communications success because they’re actively involved in it. They already have relationships with the employees you don’t have the capacity to get to know personally because of the size of the workforce, so they can help you bridge that gap.
3. Offer interactive IC training to departments
In addition to your comms support network, talk to leaders of each department about providing training to some members of their team. Work with these teams directly to teach them communications 101, so they can become resources in the department to help you better reach their team members.
“We, as communicators, take it for granted...that, even though it’s simple for us, communications is a new universe for our colleagues,” she explains “You would be surprised how grateful colleagues are when you show them a very simple stakeholder mapping tool or...a very simple audience channel approach.”
To make the training more interactive, and thus more useful, use specific examples they’re familiar with and let them weigh in on the takeaways.
With one of the companies she helped, “I asked each of them to pick three to five communication pieces they have produced recently and give me a very quick reflection on what they think worked in each piece, what they think didn’t work and what could be done better.”
That way you aren’t simply describing best practices at an abstract level, you’re helping them to see specific applications of them. This more interactive approach to training makes the concepts less academic and more tangible.
People will always care more about the information you share if they feel they have a stake in it. When you strive to create a two-way internal communications strategy that actively involves your employees, you show them they matter, and that their involvement and say in the process is important to the company.
That’s both a good way to improve employee engagement and a great way to get to know the employees you’re trying to reach better.
For more tips on creating a strong employee communications strategy, watch the full webinar.