Internal Comms helps engage the employees –

Disengaged Employee

According to research conducted by The Gallup Organization, there are three types of employees: engaged, not-engaged, and actively disengaged:

  1. Engaged employees “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”
  2. Employees who are not-engaged “are essentially ‘checked out’…sleepwalking through their workday, putting time—but not energy or passion—into their work.”
  3. Actively disengaged workers “act out their unhappiness,” and “undermine what their engaged workers accomplish.”

In fact, once the honeymoon period is over, as many as 70-75% of an organization’s employees may be checked-out or actively disengaged.

So what is it that really impacts and employee’s engagement with the organization he is working for? Is it the pay and the benefits, general office culture and work environment, or other factors such as level of politics between people and departments? Or is there something else?

One key way organizations can connect with their employees is to rollout and institute a broad internal communications program that encourages employees to become stakeholders in a company.

Most organizations today consider internal communications strategy and rollout as important as their external communication be it public relations, advertising, or other stakeholder relations. Indeed, external marketing can reach its full potential only when employees fully “buy in” to a company’s vision, messages, goals, and values and then go forward and evangelize them.

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External Resource to Manage Internal Communication

While most organizations have up-to-date external communications strategies in place; internal communication often depends on legacy communication systems and the most common scenario is information overload, especially via email.

Internal work pressure, project deadlines, office politics and other communication barriers come in the way of internal (people-centric) communication.

Internal communication is often developed in an ad hoc manner, often in response to a developing work situation, without adequate attention being paid to consistent messaging and appropriate content development. Unprofessional and ill-prepared communication sends the wrong message to the employees.

Outsourced internal communication is one way of flexi-managing your internal communication needs. You benefit from the expertise of an experienced resource as well as the support of an agency at a cost significantly lower than that of setting up another department.

CoreComm would dedicate an on-site internal communication resource, based at your office, capable of providing strategic direction as well as execution support – backed by the skills and knowledge of our team.

Thought Leadership Articles

Thought leadership articles are experience-driven commentaries generally attributed to a recognized leader in his or her field. They address the reader from a position of authority that comes from experience and attempt to share innovative insights, ideas, and thoughts on the subject at hand.

Thought leadership articles have today become an integral part of any organization’s corporate communication strategy. The very nomenclature of the article suggests the organization’s expertise in certain area. They also help position the top management of the organization as industry leaders while at the same time building a strong presence and recall for the company in the media.

However, developing appropriate original content that hits the mark can be a bit tough. Compelling content is not easy to develop – in fact it requires intensive dedication of time, labor and resources.

This is where outside expertise comes in. Experienced communicators who know how to structure the content ensure your message finds its mark and convinces your audience that you know your business well.

They also help free up your internal resources, which can then be focused on their core tasks, ensuring minimal loss of productivity.

A well written business case

Case Studies are a good way for you to communicate your strengths and capabilities to your business audience.

When you write a case study, you are expressing on paper a challenge that you faced and successfully over came. It should, therefore, be a step by step guide for your readers to follow you all the way through from what the problem was to how the solution was achieved.

However, you must beware! Don’t make things easy, your reader must be required to apply analytical thinking and reasoning abilities to the case. So it is not just a written presentation of a challenge – the information has to be delivered as if the reader was reliving the experience.

The language that you choose in developing the case study should be compelling and go-to-action oriented. It must communicate the sense that the whole initiative was result-driven. But lose the jargon!

Your presentation of the challenge, as well as the solution and its consequent results must be expressed in logical sequence with supporting proof points i.e. numbers (where possible). Clearly defined sections and labeling will make it easier for your readers to follow you.

And last but not the least; it is a good idea to have an overview and a concluding summary to get the point across – one more time!

 

Optimizing Your Website Content

These days when I introduce myself as a writer…people still for a minute go back to the traditional definition of a writer (journalist or author). It falls upon me how much I want to correct that myth. It is surprising that in the day and age of websites and SEOs it is still the conventional print medium that first comes to mind. Not that I want to negate it … some of the butter on the bread comes from there as well!

But writing a website is really very different from other forms of writing – especially when it comes to optimising the site for search engines. Well – what exactly does that mean? Search engines such as Google, scan your site  among thousands of sites and then gives suggestions to the searcher. Now depending on what key words have been selected… your site could be one of the many that pops up in search results. So the job of a website content writer really is to make sure you have the relevant keywords and that they serve the purpose of getting your site the right visibility.

As a result doing up a website for anyone, a corporate or an individual is actually somewhat like walking a tight rope. There should be optimal balance between the design aspect and the content. Of course the aspect where you can exert maximum control is the written word. It is the written word that can justify your messages and take them to the people in the language that they understand.

Key messages that form the crux of optimising a site for search engines should be used in a manner that they make sense, whether in the headline or the body copy. Also they should serve the purpose of being a call to action for your audience…encouraging them to take the desired next step.

Keeping in mind that the your website is your 24×7 sales manager…it is a good idea to make sure it has been SEO-ed. Use a variety of key words and use them well. Your content should balance your design and should not end up becoming gibberish. And you’re set to go….

Business Newsletters

Business Newsletters are an important tool to foster relationships as they help the varied audiences get to know the company and the management better. G

A well-constructed newsletter can grab attention; deliver key messages and nurture loyalty amongst your target audience.

However, the thing to keep in mind about the newsletter it that it requires investment from within the company even if it is outsourced.

To elaborate some of the things you need to keep in mind are:

  • Why start one now
  • Theme, frequency and timelines need to be kept in mind
  • Who will lead it
  • Does the person have relevant past experience
  • Content will be driven by top management
  • What will be the percentage of management vs. employee contribution
  • How will employee engagement with the newsletter be driven

What can you do to ensure your newsletter catches the eye and stays top of mind?

  • Use lots of pictures and colour
  • Use an imaginative name that captures the attention
  • Ensure the basic fonts and formatting is uniform
  • Put in catchy slogans and headlines that draw the eye to the content
  • Proof read to ensure there are no basic errors

Get, Set, Go!

Internal Communication: Information & Delivery

INTERNAL COMMUNICATION is at the core of any organisation. Most successful organisations have a very strong communication system supporting them.

Wikipedia describes Internal Communication of an organisation as any formal or informal communication to close stakeholders. ‘Stakeholders’ is a nice word further described as those people with whom it has a relationship that requires support, principally direct/indirect employees and/or members.

Experts and veteran communication professionals assert that you can never have too much communication; but also warn against confusing between communication of information and data.

But what is internal communication really??

  • To put it very simply it is a thread that binds an organisation and its employees together.
  • It makes systems, policies, procedures, roles and levels transparent, reducing the grey areas.
  • It addresses the basic human need of being aware of and in tune with their environment.
  • And at the end of the day it adds an element of light heartedness in the dreary drudgery of the daily routine.

However, what is even more critical than having in place the system of internal communication is having an effective and efficient system of delivery. Many a communication campaign has failed due to delivery delay or failure.

So what is this delivery mechanism that can make or break a communication?

The various channels of communication readily available in an organisation are of course phone, email, intranet, common areas…The challenge is to convert them from fluid to structured channels. That it not to say that people will no longer be allowed to talk on the phone…just that instead of burning the wires with hot baseless gossip they would be discussing confirmed information resulting in a more productive interaction.

Any good internal communication program should have a range of well thought out channels that would enable the delivery of communication and cover the organisation in a number of ways across levels. Some of the innovative and increasingly popular internal communication tools are interactive screensavers, scrolling newsfeeds, desktop alerts, e-mags, pop-up quizzes and surveys, blogs, discussion forums and helpdesks.

Interactive Screensavers are highly effective internal communication tools that don’t burden you already burdened inbox. The desktop alert message pops up on the targeted employee’s computer screen, bypassing email altogether. Scrolling news feeds keep staff informed of the latest updates and news without interrupting their work. Simple staff quizzes increase skills and knowledge of the employees and can also work as a mechanism of taking feedback for the management.

Effective internal communication should actually be considered a tool of competitive advantage that increases productivity and can reduce workplace conflicts.

How to write a blog?

BLOGThis question has repeatedly come up @ one of the clients I have been recently working with.

Blogs are very popular today, to connect with your audience and give them a sense of 1on1 contact. Everyone, from Amitabh Bacchan to the kid next door, becomes a prolific writer overnight. However, the greatest challenge in writing a blog is faced by the person who is actually ghost writing. Not that I mean to say that people are not writing their own blogs, what I am trying to say is that most require some help with it and some require more.

When you are writing for yourself you write in a language of a dialogue with the understanding that your reader would respond to your thoughts in writing – thereby closing a communication circle. However, when you have to ‘assist’ someone else with their blog – there lies a challenge. You need to re-wire your thinking to fit their pattern. This is especially difficult if you have had minimal contact with the other party. The of course there is the hurdle of messaging the communication right.

So coming back to the crux – the million dollar question is – how to write a blog? (Especially if you are writing it for someone else.)

I would advise you to connect a little more deeply with the person you may be ‘assisting’. This doesn’t mean that you need be their shadow – all you need to do is to talk to them a few times on general topics – may be record the conversation, so you can get a handle on their style. It would also be a good idea to get their thoughts on various possible messages that you may be taking up on their behalf. Of course there are some topical situations that you may not be able to foretell – however, most of the time the blog content is likely to follow pre-defined communication targets.

Generally it is a good idea to use less formal language on the blog to bridge the gap as well as to get people to follow what you are saying.

Focus on the important stuff. As you are looking to connect with the minds of your audience through your blog – put in your efforts in getting the identified messages across efficiently.

Plan the structure beforehand – even go as far as getting an outline in place before you get down to actually polishing the content.

Avoid slang and abbreviations as far as possible – unless you are sure your audience is as familiar with these as you are.

It is a good idea to research some relevant blog sites to get an idea of what language is generally used.

OrwellGeorge Orwell in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, defined 5 rules for effective writing; to distinguish yourself from competitors and clearly communicate your ideas. I quote http://www.pickthebrain.com/:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such as toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles’ heel, swan song, and hotbed come to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic.

For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

Long words don’t make you sound intelligent unless used skillfully. In the wrong situation they’ll have the opposite effect, making you sound pretentious and arrogant. They’re also less likely to be understood and more awkward to read.

When Hemingway was criticized by Faulkner for his limited word choice he replied:

Poor  Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree (Ezra Pound). Accordingly, any words that don’t contribute meaning to a passage dilute its power. Less is always better. Always.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

This one is frequently broken, probably because many people don’t know the difference between active and passive verbs. I didn’t myself until a few months ago. Here is an example that makes it easy to understand:

The man was bitten by the dog. (passive)The dog bit the man. (active).The active is better because it’s shorter and more forceful.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

This is tricky because much of the writing published on the internet is highly technical. If possible, remain accessible to the average reader. If your audience is highly specialized this is a judgment call. You don’t want to drag on with unnecessary explanation, but try to help people understand what you’re writing about. You want your ideas to spread right?

6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.

This bonus rule is a catch all.

Above all, be sure to use common sense.

These rules are easy to memorize but difficult to apply. Be sure to read Orwell’s original essay. It

contains many helpful examples and is, of course, a pleasure to read.

Communication Bloopers

Cracking an international market is a goal of many corporations. Even the big multi-nationals run into trouble because of language and cultural differences. www.wordinfo.info had this to share:

  • When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, “Fly in leather,” it came out in Spanish as “Fly naked”.
  • Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea”.
  • The Microsoft ad slogan, as translated into Japanese: “If you don’t know where you want to go, we’ll make sure you get taken”.
  • Chicken-man Frank Perdue’s slogan, sounds much more interesting in Spanish. “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that translated states, “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused” or “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate”.
  • The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as something that when pronounced sounded very much like Coca-Cola: Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the characters used meant “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, “ko-kou-ko-le,” which can be loosely translated as “happiness in the mouth”.
  • In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” came out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” When Pepsi started marketing its products in China a few years back, they translated their slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life”. The slogan in Chinese really meant, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”.
  • Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off”.
  • The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem-Feeling Free,” got translated in the Japanese market into “When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty”.
  • When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that “no va” means “it won’t go.” After the company figured out why it wasn’t selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
  • Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals”. Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means “horse”.
  • When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
  • An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of the desired “I Saw the Pope” in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed “I Saw the Potato”.
  • Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means “big breasts.” In this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno mag.
  • In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
  • Japan’s second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.
  • When Vicks first introduced its cough drops on the German market, they were chagrined to learn that the German pronunciation of “v” is “f”; which in German is the gutteral equivalent of “sexual penetration”. Not to be outdone, Puffs tissues tried later to introduce its product, only to learn that “Puff” in German is a colloquial term for a whorehouse. The English weren’t too fond of the name either, as it’s a highly derogatory term for a non-heterosexual.
  • The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish speaking countries. “No va” means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish.
  • A hair products company, Clairol, introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the manure stick.
  • When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the USA; with the cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside the container because so many people there can’t read.
  • A Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American ad campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
  • Matsushita Electric is promoting a new Japanese PC targeted at the Internet. Panasonic developed a complete Japanese Web browser, and to make the system “user-friendly”, licensed the cartoon character “Woody Woodpecker” as the “internet guide.” Panasonic eventually planned on a world version of the product. A huge marketing campaign was to have introduced the product in Japan. The day before the ads were to be released, Panasonic suddenly pulled back and delayed the product launch indefinitely. The reason: the ads featured the slogan “Touch Woody-The Internet Pecker.” An American staff member at the internal product launch explained to the stunned and embarrassed Japanese what “touch woody” and “pecker” meant in American slang.

—From EE Times, October 8, 1996

Business / Marketing Communication Trends 2010

I have been researching on the web what various professionals are saying about business and marketing communication trends in the coming year. The sense I am getting is that some of the trends which have been visible throughout 2009 will be making their presence felt much more in 2010. Digital communication would continue to grow and business entities are going to experiment more and more with finding the right mix for effectively executing their communication campaigns. Mind you – this does not spell death for the traditional Ad / PR/ Marketing agencies. However, these trends will certainly force them to sit up and find better ways of offering more value to their clients.

Some of these key trends are –

Communication would head towards convergence of channels and become more interactive

Social Media would evolve further with trend being towards maximizing the value out of social networking

Bigger business houses are likely to follow a more structures approach towards harnessing the power of social media

Mobile Communication will reach new heights with smart phones paving way for more and varied mobile transactions

Internet marketing will become more sophisticated, targeted and real-time

Marketing strategies will be lead more by Google Analytics and other statistical metrics to measure ROI

Social media is also likely to lead to personalization of news that is consumed by the reader – blurring further the lines between editorial and advertorial content

News media will therefore become more engagement based where the lines between the journalist and the reader would be less clearly defined