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Communications, Intranet, Popular

Don’t mark the importance of comms

If broadcasting company messages via the intranet or main newsletter, it may be tempting to mark articles with ‘take action‘, ‘important‘ and ‘nice to know‘ coloured icons. But messages can’t be equally relevant to all people; there’s got to be a better way.

How to survive a robot uprising (book)The need to draw people’s attention to ‘must reads’ is a constant challenge to internal comms people, and we often resort to repeating messages across multiple channels over time to demonstrate that a ‘target’ has had every opportunity to be ‘hit’. Being hit with a message isn’t a modern analogy for two-way communications in the self-directed workplace, but multi-channel communications (blended comms) has to be part of our strategy.

So we craft a message, consider the audiences and ‘send it out‘ (ugh). If we’re monitoring ‘engagement / activity’ with the message, we can remind certain people or groups, or resend the message to those who appear to have missed it. This sort of monitoring requires deeply integrated technological systems; those without will rely on ad-hoc feedback and a keen ear on the backchannels.

We colour code our comms based on importance as if the messages are equally important to everyone. We forget that Customer Services don’t care about that new client the Sales team has secured. We forget that IT already know everything about the new cloud infrastructure and how to log-on from home, because they built it and have their own comms around it.

We forget that engineers don’t care about the new initiative to reduce office energy costs, because they are never the ‘last person’ in – they may barely see the office.

We judge our comms are interesting to ‘everyone’ but it’s just not true. We publish vitally important announcements on the home page of the intranet, for a three day period, believing that everyone will see it. We ignore our mobile workers. We ignore our customer service teams with their daily briefings and lack of intranet time.

Split your comms for different audiences

We think that one channel provides ‘one source’ of the truth, but the fact is that different departments use different channels differently. Each major department needs its own intranet home page (not section landing page) that provides corp, global, and local news that is more relevant to them.

When an HR policy is updated, why is that front page news? Guess what; when a person needs a policy they refer to it and expect it to be up to date. People don’t rush to read your childcare policy just because you’ve refreshed a para to be in line with new laws. If you’re improving or damaging people’s benefits, communicate that – don’t make the policy update the newsflash.

Multi-channels need multi-message writing, not one single story that is pushed out. Consider writing a single intranet article that can be referred to, updated over time, and used as the basis for shorter articles or more in-depth discussions for different audiences. Repeat themes and snippets in print material.

Your mobile workers may rarely open your intranet on their laptops, so consider actual mobile workers first when publishing news to your mobile intranet. Give people the choice of format; if they see something on the mobile intranet they may want to study it on their laptop, or print it for later. Can you craft mobile intranet stories that are easy to share? People often ‘share’ an article with themselves for later reading on a different device.

Do not publish a rambling list of FAQs; write fantastic prose that addresses the issues. Pre-empt concerns by reflecting on people’s needs as you shape your message. Address actual questions in secondary communications. Use social communications to answer direct questions, directly, in public. Allow every employee to chime in with an answer – you don’t hold the keys to all knowledge.

By crafting brilliant comms that launch into the heart of the matter in the opening paragraphs, you can forgo the ‘top-down’ mentality of marking messages as important for others. By communicating across channels, you can provide a reading or learning experience that suits the audience.

[ Wedge ]

Photo credit: bunchofpants

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About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.