The Insiders’ Guide to Employee Communications

By Poppulo

Table of Contents

Chapter 6 – The corporate newsroom & turning challenges to opportunities

How to create your own corporate newsroom

More and more companies are seeing the benefits of creating their own corporate newsrooms, where employee communication teams employ best practices from the world of journalism. Where they think like a journalist about stories, not content. It’s easier than you might think.

1. But what is a corporate newsroom (CN)?

First we need to understand what it’s not. It’s not a press office. It’s not a media relations department. It’s not a news section on a company website. It’s more about adopting a newsroom approach with a journalistic mindset.

2. Can you explain that?

It’s a central team that communicates the organization’s strategic content using editorial standards, practices and a journalistic mindset. It’s not necessarily about having a large newsroom structure, it’s more about mindset and approach to story gathering and storytelling.

3. Why is a corporate newsroom needed?

Several good reasons, but a big one is employees drowning in information overload, from both outside and inside their organization. A big challenge is how to get the most important information in front of employees in such an environment. Journalists deal with this challenge every day to find interesting stories and deliver them in a way that can achieve cut-through in a saturated market. They deliver engagement, and employee engagement is one of the most important corporate priorities.

4. Become the trusted and consistent company voice

A corporate newsroom can help achieve this by building understanding across the organization and communicating strategy. Many companies struggle to communicate their strategies effectively – a recent poll showed 82% of CEOs thought their employees understood their company’s strategy but only a third of employees agreed. This real disconnect can be bridged by having an effective corporate newsroom getting real stories about the company out there, informing and engaging employees.

5. But how do I change my mindset and think like a journalist?

First and foremost, think about your audience, that’s what journalists do. They know a good story is one that their audience will want to read. They keep looking out and digging for stories that will interest people and presenting them in the most compelling way. That’s got to be the mentality of the corporate newsroom.

6. Start thinking of ‘stories’ not ‘content’

To journalists, the story is everything. Digging for it, pushing for it, listening and keeping an eye out for it, the story really is everything. Most journalists detest the phrase “content” – they regard it as fluff, space-filling. You’re never going to hear anybody saying “ooh, that’s a great piece of content” in the way people say, “ooh, that’s a great story”. So start thinking about the stories you’re looking for and you’re going to tell, in words, or on video, not the content you’re going to create.

7. What makes a good story?

It should either inform, educate or entertain, is the old BBC maxim and it still makes sense. If a story doesn’t meet any of these criteria, it’s not likely to be read, so should not be written. Keep asking yourself the key question: would I read this? Keep yourself in your readers’ shoes. Ask: is it interesting, does it contain new information, does it meet the needs of my audience, does it serve any real purpose at all?

8. How to tell a story

Telling compelling stories in the corporate world can be a real challenge, but there’s nearly always interesting stories to be found. Always try to look for a human angle. People respond best to people stories. Strategic initiatives can be illustrated by focusing on individuals or teams, showing how they are being put into practice. It’s a great way to increase understanding and engagement.

9. But we just don’t have enough interesting content

Wrong. You’ve just got to look differently at how to get them: think like a journalist! You’ve got to be curious and tenacious, keep asking questions, trying to find out as much as possible. But, like a reporter, it’s important to develop ‘contacts’ at all levels of the organization, to help you uncover stories. Like real-life journalistic sources, they will be delighted when they see “their” stories published and getting reaction, encouraging them further. Also, assign “beats” to colleagues for information exchange, for example in story-rich areas like R&D and innovation, but also throughout the organization.

10. “Hire” a reporter who is not necessarily part of the Internal Comms team

In every company, or many departments, there are always people who seem to know everything that’s going on in the organization, official and unofficial! These people can be gold-dust for internal communicators. They could be your perfect information gatherer, even if they’re not an internal comms specialist. Let them do what they do best, get the stories and feed the raw material back to the ‘newsroom’ where the story can be put into shape there before being revealed to the appropriate audience.

11. How does an editorial team work?

First, it doesn’t have to be a complicated process.

At the outset, set out a defined structure with clear processes and roles. Find a “gatekeeper”, an editor-in-chief, who is capable of controlling the information flow and will publish only what is interesting to the reader, not to various vested interests. It’s really important to have a clear sense of quality control, but to ensure this you must first establish and communicate clear criteria and guidelines regarding editorial standards.

12. Consider establishing an editorial board

This helps share the load and makes it easier to get the quality of content you are seeking. Reach across the organization, at all levels, and include designers, social media, and people representing different business functions. This will help more diverse perspectives and get greater buy-in.

This section is based on a Poppulo webinar with Abigail Levene and James Curtis of Stampa Communications: News gathering techniques – The rise of the corporate newsroom.

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