Best Practice

Improve Employee Communications Painlessly with People Data

It’s an exciting time to be in employee communications, that’s for sure.

Communicators now have access to sophisticated data and cutting-edge technology that can help them improve their communications offerings through techniques like segmenting the audience, learning engagement patterns, and targeting content.

But there is a but!

The availability of these tools also puts additional responsibility and accountability on the communications team and can potentially overload it with more work than it can handle.

To help deal with this challenge, Poppulo organized a webinar, with Brilliant Ink’s Ann Melinger and Jackie Berg to outline how sophisticated technologies can be used to take advantage of people data – without overburdening your internal communications team.

Using People Data in a Nutshell

Analytics tools such as Poppulo provide at-a-glance demographic data and rich engagement data that can help you understand your employee audience. You can also find people data in company fact sheets and annual reports, LinkedIn, and by collaborating with Human Resources and IT departments. In addition, conducting surveys and focus groups are a great way to gather behavioral data.

Once you’ve gathered this people data, break your employee audience into “audience segments”—smaller, more manageable groups. Not every employee will be included in these groups.

You may settle on two segments—one for your broadest reach, and one for your narrowest—or you may come up with three to five segments that cover most of your audience. That’s sufficient, especially if you’re just starting out, and it’ll help you avoid getting bogged down in work or going down a rabbit hole.

Communication can’t be everything to everyone. Broad, generic messages that are aimed at the entire company simply don’t connect with individual employees. So, keeping those data-driven audience segments in mind, craft messages that speak to a specific “somebody,” rather than a generic “everybody.”

Case Study: Don’t Mess with Texas

To illustrate this process, Ann and Jackie drew on the example of an extraordinarily successful Texas anti-littering campaign. They explained how an ad agency gathered people data about Texas drivers and litterers from various sources, including from the U.S. Census and a leading litter researcher. This research revealed that the audience mainly comprised men aged 18–34 who drove trucks, did not have a college degree and were proud of their state.

The ad team’s audience was 16 million drivers. Rather than create a global, generic campaign, they pictured who they would direct their message to. The team created a persona called “Bubba”—a pickup truck–driving, Texas-loving litterer—that represented a segment of the audience.

With this persona in mind, the ad team considered what type of campaign would affect Bubba. They decided that Bubba wouldn’t be moved by a polite “Please do not litter” sign on the highway or a cute cartoon owl saying, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute.”

Appeals to the environment or global warming also weren’t likely to motivate him to change. So, tapping into Bubba’s Texas pride, the ad team created the “Don’t Mess with Texas” slogan, which was wildly successful in reducing litter. The campaign was designed with just one persona in mind, but it nonetheless had mass appeal.

Tips for Your Team

In the same way, your team can use the people data you’ve gathered to create personas that will guide your messaging. Creating personas is a one-time exercise, so it doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra work for your team.

Then, with your personas in mind, look at recent communications pieces your team has produced—say, the last five newsletters—and recent town hall presentations through the eyes of your personas. Is there content that would appeal to each of your personas? Did you highlight photos or quotes from their peers? Did you convey what you need them to do, in a way that will motivate them?

Determine where you’re communicating effectively with personas and where the message is falling short. Also, give feedback to executives running the town halls as necessary.

This feedback will point your team in the right direction for content development. You can begin to explore ways to target or tailor content to your personas and different audience segments as needed. But the key point here is that you’re creating specialized content only when the data shows that it’s necessary.

This is what will keep your communications team from getting bogged down in work, so you can be most effective with your time and resources.

So, to improve your communications painlessly, avoid generic messaging, but don’t try to target everyone in your audience. Use people data instead of assumptions, and get creative in gathering data. And remember that speaking to a specific someone is more effective than speaking to a general no one.

As Jackie said in the webinar, “One global message—as long as it’s designed with a real person in mind—is going to help achieve your goal.”

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