Best Practice

That new communication channel might look sexy, but is it right for you?

There are so many exciting, shiny and dare I say it… sexy channels out there for internal communicators to use, and we all want to have the best tools that are going to have a positive impact on our colleagues’ lives.

The challenge, though, is understanding what it is that you actually need and how you will utilize the channels you have – and how any new channel will fit into the existing mix.

It can sometimes be easy to get the channels that you think you should have or need, often simply because senior executives see other companies using them and argue we should be doing the same.

This attitude of ‘if others are doing it then we should too’ isn’t confined to our executive teams and other internal sources, of course.  Internal communicators are also susceptible to being sucked into the “I want that one” mentality in relation to the latest new shiny channel to come along, rather than interrogating whether we actually need it to make a difference for our colleagues.

It’s human nature to want something new, but it’s far wiser to ask if you need it. What will it help us achieve that can’t already be done with our existing assets and resources?

Think about the issues that you have with your existing channel mix, where are the gaps, where are the restrictions, which audiences are not being reached (either at all or effectively). Specifically think about the key problem area that you are trying to fix, whether it’s reaching certain audiences, improving engagement or getting a better handle on your measurement. Once you have a clear picture around these facts you should be able to identify what it is that you need and then you can start to identify and review the channel options that are out there.

But having the right channels is just the start of the solution, how they integrate and are implemented is crucial to ensure their success within the business. When bringing in a new channel it’s important to have both a strategy and a rollout (or adoption) plan.  

Your channel strategy will outline what the channel is to be used for, who owns it, who can access it, how it will complement existing channels and how it will be used (the content that it will host).

The rollout plan will set out who will be given access, how users will be trained, when people can start getting access and how it will be introduced to the organization – when content will start to be issued on the tool.

Setting out your strategy

When working on your strategy for the new channel there are a number of things to consider, but the first thing to look at is what it will be used for. It’s important to state upfront and clearly why this particular channel has been implemented and what it will be used for.

Here is the place to state what type of messaging will be hosted via the channel and which audiences (even if it’s for all colleagues) will be targeted through the content. Perhaps the channel has been brought in to address a particular issue that you have reaching a certain audience (remote workers for example) you have a remote workforce, say how the channel will help get messages out to this audience. It’s important that the stall is set out clearly before the first use so that stakeholders and colleagues know what the channel is here to do.

Now you want to clearly identify who owns the channel and who will have access to it. If you are going to allow wider access,  then the process that people are required to follow to request access should be clearly laid out at this point too.

Finally, state how the channel will complement the existing channels within the business, or even if it will replace any. Using existing channels to promote the new channel is also a good way to improve colleague awareness, so plan carefully how your channel mix will work.

Your rollout plan

Once you have defined your strategy you can pull together your rollout plan looking carefully at how the channel will be rolled out, who will be given access and when content can be hosted on it.

Think carefully about how you go about rolling out the usage and access of the channel, specifically if you are going to allow colleagues outside of the communications function to have access.

Implementing a phased rollout plan is a good way to test the channel with users and audiences. This gives you easier control over who is using the tool and also allows you to test the channel with different content and audience sizes, building up confidence in how to use it and, consequently, overall usage rates.

It could be disastrous for the communications function as well as the channel if it is rolled out without a plan –  and if access is granted too widely and too soon there is an increased risk of things going wrong, either from a technical standpoint or the wrong content being shared on it.

Either of these things would greatly reduce the trust and confidence in the channel. And it’s not just the channel that would take a credibility hit, but the IC function would likely also suffer, with trust in the team’s ability to perform likely to be negatively impacted.

With that in mind, it is important to define a set of metrics that will enable you to measure the success of the channel and how it is having an impact. As with any type of investment – both financial and the time and effort put into bringing in a new channel –  being able to see how it is performing and making a difference is key.

The last word

Careful consideration to the channels that you have, want and will rollout is required when managing your channel suite. The only marker for success, however, is the level of engagement and understanding that the channels enable your audience: the people within your organization.

Be sure of the reasons why you are bringing any channel onboard.

Have well-founded confidence in what it will bring to the table, what you will use it for,  how it will fit in with your existing channels mix and, above all, the positive impact it will have on the overall effectiveness of your organization’s communication and engagement with its people.

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