Why is no one listening? That sometimes invisible world of internal communications.
— March 19th, 2019
Creating inspiring and impactful internal communication that connects with your audience does not happen by accident or chance.
Careful thought and strategy need to go into the creation of compelling communication that yields business results and desired outcomes.
Surely that is stating the obvious. But is that what really happens in most organizations? Are we designing impactful campaigns and creating communication strategies that work for the business and for the audiences as well?
What is needed is to evaluate all communication that is being created against three very basic questions:
- Is it strategic?
- Is it relevant?
- Is it authentic?
The content that you create needs to resonate and connect with your key audience: the employees.
Business leaders are usually (and understandably) reluctant to face employees until they have the full story or ‘all the details’, resulting in a time-lag / gap in communication. This leads to speculation and uncertainty, and employees end up getting the story from external media.
This has a damaging impact on leadership credibility and employee morale. It also puts the communications function on the back-foot, making them look unprepared and reactive as they scramble to put together messaging for internal cascade and client communication.
Today’s business leaders need to demonstrate visible leadership and be present, in front of and in touch with the employees via channels that are intuitive, authentic and definitely not staged.
To be truly effective, the communications function needs to strategically partner with the business leaders, occupy that proverbial “seat at the table” and help craft and influence both the message and the medium, and make sure it is real.
Despite all good intentions, much of what needs to be conveyed is lost in transition. What is delivered instead is a cold and clinical message that is not authentic, is too scripted and therefore fails to make the essential human connection.
Even though most brochures and websites will say that ‘people’ are their biggest asset, said ‘people’ would rarely agree. You can hear it in the banter before and after meetings, at the water coolers and in the corridors.
It’s time to get to know your audience.
Organizations today are a lot more diverse than they’ve ever been. There is a new dynamic in the audience which often gets generalized with a broad-brush of clubbing them as the new generation or the millennials. But there’s a deeper nuance that needs to be studied and understood.
Almost all your employees have access to social media and smartphones and there is so much content out there that is clamoring for their attention. There’s Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat! Then there are streaming videos, news channels and e-commerce sites. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Outside the organization, your employees are consuming and interacting with content in a very different way. It’s intuitive, its instantaneous and it’s fun!
Yet internal communication channels are vastly outdated and not present where the audience is. We are still producing stories for the intranet which ramble endlessly. Videos at 10 and 15mins are still too long. We send out too many emails that no one reads. We create multiple newsletters that get lost in the clutter. And more often than not, town halls seem to lack punch and purpose.
The truth which no one wants to acknowledge is that no one is listening.
In a recent Forbes article that studied the connection between employee engagement and wellness, it was stated that almost two-thirds of our workforce is still not fully engaged.
There are enough statistics available that prove that engaged employees, when combined with a strong workplace culture will lead to business success and greater profitability.
Yet, we are so busy creating one-way content that is being perceived as “noise from the top”, and we have no way of gauging reaction or soliciting feedback. Page views or open rates can measure the communications activity, but will not measure the impact or change in behavior.
On the other hand, if you were to ask your employees if they would like to engage with the content, interact with their business leaders online and if they could “like, share or comment” on digital and social media channels, the answer would likely be a resounding YES. But not all organizations have the technology or platforms that allow this level of interactivity.
In the absence of budgets to bring in new technologies to connect with your digital-first audiences, there are ways and tips to help make your communications more effective and impactful.
Make it strategic - Build new ways of communicating, use newer channels or simply rejig your channel mix. Rethink emails and newsletters. Make engagement and connecting a top priority for your leadership. Measure what’s important - and use the metrics to drive future comms. strategy.
Make it relevant - Solicit feedback from your employees through polls or small group coffee-sessions to find out what they want to hear, who they want to hear from and how. Share this feedback with your business leaders. And feed that data and input in to your communications strategy.
Make it authentic - Put your leaders where they belong. In the front seat. Floor walks and open-door small group sessions are cost-effective channels to have an authentic interaction and get instant feedback from your colleagues. Non-scripted sessions without powerpoint slides can be very powerful and can help fuel high quality conversation.
It is also important to recognize that not every business leader is a powerful or inspiring communicator. Find a channel / forum that the business leader is most comfortable with, and work with that.
Remember, if you’re aiming to relaunch your values or brand or if you’re working on a massive transformation / change project, you’re not going to get different engagement results by using the same old methods.
- Try shorter videos.
- Try unscripted town halls. Engage people from the audience.
- Crowd-source content ideas and stories.
- Host user-generated content (stories, pictures and videos) on your intranet and website.
- Alter your content strategy to produce more succinct and bite-sized content, if you’re going mobile/digital.
Put into action the change you want to see. Chances are, if your leaders listen, so will your employees.