The Insiders’ Guide to Employee Communications

By Poppulo

Table of Contents

Chapter 3 – Engaging your people

Understand your people to improve their engagement

To provide your people with relevant content you’ve got to know your audience and what they want. Here are tips to use technology and people data to make your communications perform better – and feel more personal to your internal audience – without adding lots of extra work for your team.

1. Think ‘specific’, not ‘generic’

When you’re tasked with driving a certain audience to action, it’s always better to picture who they are and who you’re going to be talking to. Picture that audience in your mind.

Communication simply can’t be everything to everyone. By not speaking to someone we risk not connecting to anyone. You need to find a way to communicate messages to global audiences with a specific ‘someone’ in mind, rather than a generic everyone.

2. Find that ‘specific someone’

Here’s how: first dive into the data you already have about your people after identifying your data sources. They can be IT, HR, People Data Teams, Data sync via Active Directory, Workday etc.

The data sources will give you the types of attributes you’re seeking to uncover and document about your audience as a whole – from the highest level like office location and job families, down to really specific information like people who participated in past company events.

For example, IT can help you understand who in your organization has access to what type of technology: as basic but as important as who has a computer and who doesn’t, who can I contact by email, or intranet or by paper etc.

3. Remember, it’s always good to talk

Always use a mix of behavioral, psychographic or engagement data, such as surveys and focus groups. It’s advisable to start every project by doing focus groups and talking to your people. After all, the best way you can understand what motivates people or what their communication preference is, or how or why they are engaging with certain activities, is to talk to them.

4. Then use the data to segment your audiences

Once you have mapped out your data and understand the core attributes of your audiences it’s time to start thinking about breaking down that audience into smaller, more manageable groups – audience segments. From the segments you will then create the all-important personas.

The first step to thinking about your audience segments is the elevator pitch. If someone asks you what type of people work at your company, what are the core groups that come to mind: it might be mainly engineers, or a sales-heavy company, or factory workers versus corporate.

The important thing here is that segments are pretty much unique to your company, so there’s really no right or wrong way of doing this. It’s really thinking about the makeup of your organization and combining that with the data you have that’s showing how your employees are sliced and diced.

Take that elevator pitch of your company, plus the mapped-out data attributes, sprinkle in your communication goals and begin to think about audience (employee population) segments.

When you’re starting out don’t have more than 7 audience segments, and if it’s your first time going with this you might want to stick with only three or four.

Otherwise you will end up with lots of segments and personas, which will ultimately defeat the purpose.

5. And then create your personas

Work with your team to create personas representative of your 3-7 employee population segments. Use a persona template that’s relevant to your company and especially relevant to your communication goals.

Fill in these personas, use focus groups and any other data you have at your disposal, and don’t go off in closed groups on what might be misguided assumptions.

Otherwise, you run the risk of skewing your communications towards the preferences of your own communications team or even the stakeholders you’re working with, which defeats the whole purpose of connecting and resonating.

Persona case study: Don’t Mess With Texas

In the 1980s Texas had a litter problem that was costing $46m a year to remove from the State’s highways. Instead of the usual generic type of ad campaigns asking people to stop littering the Department of Transport created a specific and focused marketing campaign based on data-driven persona identification. Instead of targeting a massive audience of 15.8m Texans with drivers licenses, they conducted research to narrow it down and from the data they created a persona (a young Texan male pick-up driver with huge pride in his State) to target with a message that would resonate. The data had shown 18-34 year-old males who drove pick-up trucks were the biggest litter culprits, and that 68% of Texans believed it was the best state to live in – they were proud of their state. The result was a campaign that zeroed in on that pride with the message Don’t Mess With Texas and it was hugely successful with a 30% decrease in litter in the first year of the campaign.

6. Make the personas feel real

Give them have names and faces. Use real photographs of your employees where you can, to make the persona relatable.

You should really be able to think, ‘I can walk down the hallway and recognize this person and be able to talk to this person, they feel very real to me, they’re one of my colleagues.’

Some people create cardboard cutouts of their personas and keep them on their desks or even take them to meetings. It might seem strange at first but it’s a really great way to keep the persona – which after all is your target audience – top of mind and act as a reminder to put yourself in their shoes when you’re creating your communications.

7.Measure your progress using audience feedback

Talk with members of your core audiences to measure your progress. Build reporting audience segments in Poppulo or a reporting tool, to measure the performance of your communications against your core audience segments. Look at recent communications – the past five newsletters, for example – through the lens of your individual personas and ask yourself:

  • Is there content that appeals to me in particular?
  • Are there pictures or quotes from people I can relate to?
  • Is there something I’m supposed to do?

Do this exercise with recent newsletters, Town Halls etc, to judge if your communication activity has been relevant for your audiences.

Use it as a way to deliver objective feedback to leaders. It can also point your team in the right direction for content development, and in particular tailored and personalized content.

This section is based on a Poppulo webinar with Ann Melinger and Jackie Berg of Brilliant Ink: From data to insights: Using employee data to create more personal and measurable communications.

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