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How Strategic Communications Can Generate Maximum Business Impact

Strategic messaging is a communication method many marketers, advertisers and other external communicators will sing the praises of the second you give them the chance. And there are good reasons why.

Here’s an excerpt from The Routledge Handbook of Strategic Communication, a textbook communications graduate students often use, that gets to the heart of it:

An effective communication manager must engage with multiple interactants (i.e. consumers, publics, audiences) and should, therefore, understand how different interactants require different strategic messaging approaches. This is the unique domain of strategic communications.

To put it in less academic terms, not every audience is going to engage with every type of message, so messages must be tailored to target audiences. They can’t be one-size-fits-all. Strategic messaging is all about getting the right message in front of the right people at just the time they need to receive it.

That doesn’t just go for external communicators. Numerous different audiences reside within an organization, and a human resources manager may find a particular type of message compelling, while an IT architect may respond to a totally different method of communication.

Just like the goal of external communications is to generate awareness and positive feelings about a company or product, the goal of internal communications is often to create shared goals and a community culture within an organization. But you can’t tell everyone the same story the same way.

In a post on his consulting firm’s blog, communications expert David Grossman lays out seven keys to a strategic messaging methodology:

  1. Define and prioritize audiences
  2. Identify where those audiences are coming from
  3. Develop compelling messages
  4. Outline what you want from your audiences
  5. Make connections with your audiences
  6. Deliver messages with confidence
  7. Identify gaps in your plan

Grossman goes on to lay out a long list communications tools that could be used to implement such a plan including email, voicemail, speeches, brochures, social media posts, website copy, and so on. Communications managers should keep all these tools at the ready so they’ll have them on-hand when they recognize an audience for whom one tool might be preferable to another.

Many organizations take a scattershot approach to communication, and as such, much of the effort is wasted. Taking a little more time to strategically target messages to the people who are most receptive to them will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.

To find out more about how internal communicators are messaging to employees, download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

When Practical Communications Trump the Bleeding Edge

By Michael DesRochers, Managing Director at PoliteMail

I spend a lot of time talking with communicators in large organizations. They are usually time and resource strapped and have large, nebulous objectives to meet, such as “increase employee engagement,” while at the same time running numerous communicators programs. They are writing executive messaging, producing stories and content for company news, and delivering HR and benefits information to vast numbers of employees.

Recently, I was interviewed by HR Examiner’s lead analyst, John Sumser, and walked him through the capabilities of PoliteMail. John led off by saying, “Email is dead to me.” That wasn’t surprising. As a reporter who writes about the bleeding edge of technology, he doesn’t work in a large corporate office and spends most of his time communicating with and writing about the dreamers pushing the next shiny new thing.

Fortunately, John is a smart, polite gentleman who is willing to check his rear-view mirror while driving forward. Chances are, John still checks his inbox and sends email like the rest of us. 

What corporate communicators want is to write something once, publish it everywhere and reach everyone in their target audience. Yes, they need to communicate where the audience is.  We all know multi-tasking millennials dis email and flit from Facebook to Instagram and, as independents or small work groups, are Slackers.  These new communications tools may or may not last, but they certainly do not have the breadth of employee reach most corporate executives demand.

If you want to reach all your employees with an important strategic message from the CEO, what is the fastest, easiest and most effective way to do so? What communication tools do all employees already use, and which require no training or much in the way of technical skills?

The answer is email, and for the majority of corporations, Microsoft Outlook in particular. There is a reason that Facebook and LinkedIn use email to communicate with their own users, and loop them back onto the platform. There is a reason for the growing push-back against Slack as creating a multitude of inboxes instead of just one. 

Corporations today struggle even with reaching non-desk employees on their mobile devices. Hundreds of start-ups are publishing new mobile apps, which communicators and employees will have to learn and adopt, and which often cost more than simply giving non-desk workers their own company email address. There is a reason the most popular iPhone app is email: we all get and check email on our mobile devices. We might text subsets of people, and regularly check our LinkedIn messaging, but we all have email and use it every day.

Anyone working inside the enterprise will realize email is far from dead, and with Office365, is actually evolving at a rapid pace. Certainly more and more people access email via mobile, and Outlook and Office are already there. Office is the corporate communications platform, Outlook is the hub, and SharePoint is the newsroom and archive. New, email integrated social, video and workflow tools are arriving daily inside Office365.

John, and others who have their eyes on the next shiny thing, can rest assured knowing Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics will be coming to email sooner than they might realize.  Anyone else notice how very effective the Outlook Clutter folder is at reducing unwanted email?

 

 

9 Best Practices for Executive and Leadership Communication

For some executives, communication is an afterthought, or even a “necessary evil.” A Harvard Business Review/Harris poll found that a staggering 91 percent of U.S. workers see communication issues as a major hindrance for business leaders.

Thriving organizations have open lines of communication at all levels, including at the top. According to research conducted by the Project Management Institute, leaders who are effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than those who are minimally effective. Likewise, better communication means fewer company dollars are put at risk.

What can leaders and top corporate communicators do to ensure that executives are communicating effectively? Here are nine best practices, as laid out by communication experts, researchers and successful executives themselves:

1. Foster a culture of communication.

In a post on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School’s website, communications expert Walter G. Montgomery writes, “It’s important for everyone to know that the CEO takes communications very seriously.” When everyone within an organization understands that communication is a key value—not just an afterthought—everyone will be more willing to listen and engage.

2. Don’t be afraid of training.

Montgomery adds that top executives should “insist on training initiatives to ensure people have the ability to carry out their communications duties effectively.” Those training mandates should apply to executives themselves.

3. Be crystal clear.

Employees are busy, which means they don’t have time to do detective work to figure out what an executive speech or email means. Dispense with meaningless platitudes and jargon. Say what you mean and let employees know in clear language what you want them to do.

4. Don’t just be a cheerleader.

The Institute for Public Relations suggests that employees today are looking for ways to demonstrate their “ethic of contribution” to go above and beyond normal job performance, so challenge them to achieve; don’t just point to what they’ve done.

5. Have a common goal in mind.

Everyone within and organization should be working toward the same thing, and it’s up to executives to make that goal apparent. The American Management Association’s David Hassell puts it this way: “When employees operate at cross purposes, communication is critical in setting things straight.”

6. Speak in your own voice.

Employees want to hear from a person. They don’t want canned, committee-written edicts. “The lower your pedestal, the more they’ll rally behind you,” Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work told Inc.

7. Engage in a dialogue.

Communication doesn’t end when you send your email or give your speech. Hassell writes, “Meet the enthusiastic sharing of ideas, insights, and concerns with positive reinforcement, never reproach, no matter how critical.”

8. Take a multi-pronged approach.

Different employees want different things when it comes to communication. Some may prefer face-to-face interaction with a manager, others may prefer to read messages in newsletters or other company-wide emails. Still others may look to the company intranet. Craft versions of your key messages to cater to all the audiences within your organization to ensure everyone is on the same page.

9. Measure your results.

The Institute for PR insists that “best in class companies relentlessly track strategies, tactics and channels.”

Want to know more about what works and what doesn’t in the world of internal communications? Download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

Data and Analytics Help Build Better Collaboration and Culture

Engagement isn’t just a buzzword. Research has found that companies with a culture of engaged employees who work together for a common purpose simply do better.

According to Gallup, companies with high employee engagement are more 21 percent more productive and 22 percent more profitable than those that aren’t.

Knowing that is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how best to improve your company’s culture and spur collaboration so employees are as engaged as they can possibly be.

 

Communication and Engagement

Companies have tried lots of ways to keep employees engrossed in their overall goals, some of them at great expense: free food, company cars, in-office gyms, reward programs, flextime, bonuses, and so on.

But one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to keep employees engaged is through effective internal communication. Harris Poll found that employees who feel that their companies communicate effectively are far more likely to also rate their employers’ reputations as good and say their best days are ahead. Those sorts of optimistic sentiments are clear signs of a strong company culture.

 

How Data and Analytics Drive Collaboration

Even the best company leaders and communicators have a hard time effectively connecting with employees if they’re in the dark, trying whatever they can to get employees’ attention. That’s why gathering data and analytics about internal communications is so vital.

In PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 survey of 526 communications professionals in companies large and small, 76 percent said measuring communications efforts helps them engage employees better.

More engaged employees are more likely to collaborate and listen to executives and communicators’ messages in emails, videos, newsletters and other types of outreach. As writer Francois Pienaar describes in on CMS Wire, it’s a “virtuous cycle.” More engagement means more collaboration and better communication, which leads to even more engagement.

 

Fixing What’s Broken

Even with all that evidence, companies aren’t all necessarily committed to measurement. Most respondents in the PoliteMail survey said that their internal communications measurement budgets won’t increase in 2017 or that they don’t have a budget at all. As such, more than half of communicators are unsatisfied with their methods of measurement.

To start that “virtuous cycle,” organizations will have to take the leap of investing resources into measuring their communications with employees. The benefits are crystal clear: a thriving, collaborative culture.

Learn more about how communicators are measuring internal communications by downloading PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.

An Agile Approach to Office Layout

In the modern world, business happens fast. Office life has become a constant balance of managing customer needs while simultaneously managing your resources. Keeping your business’s integrity all the while dealing with a constantly changing market. Accomplishing your company goals while keeping your employees motivated and happy. Now, more than ever before, businesses must able to meet constantly changing customer needs in an incredibly dynamic and fast paced world. Today’s businesses need speed, responsiveness, and adaptability. A successful business must be agile, and the first step to an agile business is an agile office.

But how does a company create the ideal agile work environment? In a recent article from the Velocity Counts web site, they discuss how to build the ideal agile team workspace. Before one can begin creating an agile workspace, an agile team must be constructed. This is a team that is dynamic, collaborative, and there is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst its members. It has been found that smaller teams, 5 to 10 members, have a stronger sense of membership and as a result are often more collaborative than larger teams. Because collaboration is key to agile, the office must be designed to encourage this.

People love to ask questions, and are more productive for it. An agile office needs to have the space and openness to allow team members to quickly share ideas with the swivel of a chair. Yet, there must also be the availability to allow team members to zone in on their own work. A collaboration center located centrally within the office space is ideal for this. Here multiple team members can quickly organize a meeting to discuss ideas and then quickly return to their own stations. Finally, members must be happy. Happy team members are more open to sharing their ideas and communicating with other team members. Keep the room bright, with plants and art, and spending a little extra to keep employees happy (like a stocked refrigerator), has also shown to increase productivity.

In the modern business world, companies must be agile and their office should facilitate this. Communication and collaboration are key. Sharing ideas not only sparks creativity but also increases employee productivity. An open office allows team members to comfortably ask questions and solve problems together as a team. Communication accelerates your business, and with an agile office your business can easily master the fast paced and dynamic business world that exists today.

Written by Paul Lovy, .Net Software Engineer 1
For more on this topic please visit Velocity Counts

 

 

Christmas in July

Big ships are slow to turn.  Large enterprise customers make very deliberate and careful decisions.  The benefits of measuring and improving employee email communications using Outlook email analytics are often understood within an hour.  The process of making business cases, technical and security reviews, and procurement cycles in companies of 25,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 300,000 employees occurs, due to the very nature of their size, in slow motion.

Which is why the end of the fiscal year and the beginning of the new one is so exciting.  Communicators may have been waiting literally years to get modern email communication tools.  The approval process crawls forward, as the email analytics project slips through the hoops to arrive as an item within the enterprise budget cycle.  Then, seeming suddenly, this month and next, the flood gates open.  Email measurement finally has a budget, the technical and data security light is green, we’re moving ahead.  Now, after months or years of evaluation, the question becomes how fast can we get it implemented?  Yes, it’s a joy to tear open the wrapping isn’t it?!

Study Reveals Recognition Drives Employee Engagement

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Study reveals money is not the driver of employee engagement.

A recent study by BambooHR reveals what drives employee engagement and job satisfaction, and its not what you think.

The study, which polled more than 1,000 employees nationwide, revealed that money is not the driver of employee engagement.

Instead, employee recognition, a promotion without a raise, and employee perks can be just as, if not more, effective at boosting employee  engagement than a small raise or bonus.

Vice President of HCM strategy and intellectual property at BambooHR, Rusty Lindquist, said:

“Recognition needs to feel personal. If you strip away the personal nature of the recognition, you can also lose impact. So some of the most effective recognition approaches are also the easiest… simply pull someone aside and say thank you”.

The survey has also found that a fifth of employees would rather receive a promotion to a higher position without a 3% raise in salary instead of a pay raise without a promotion to a higher position.

Even something as simple as employee recognition can boost engagement within your company.

According to the survey, a third of employees would rather receive a company-wide email from an executive recognizing their accomplishments than receive a $500 bonus that isn’t openly publicized by a superior to their colleagues.

One interesting find from the survey shows some discrepancies between male and female workers when it comes to what signifies a career advancement. Female employees ranked “more money” and “a higher title” higher than men.

In comparison, male employees ranked “more direct reports,” “expanded responsibility,” and “more face time with company executives” higher than women.

The survey definitely shines a light on other ways we can recognize and reward employees other than monetary incentives. We encourage you to get creative and let us know how you recognize and reward employees at your organization. Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Recognizing and Rewarding Staff: 3 Tips

A recent article on the iMedia Connection website explains how and why modern businesses should acknowledge the achievements made by their teams.

In today’s face paced business world, taking the time to recognize and reward employees for their hard work can significantly impact their engagement levels- and, as a result, how much effort they are likely to put into their next big task or project.

Numerous studies have found that having a clear recognition program not only boosts the morale and job satisfaction of those already working for you, but it can help attract new talent too.

Although this has been proven in many studies some leaders are still unaware of the benefits of recognizing and rewarding staff for their accomplishments. Also common is that leaders are having difficulty monitoring which member of staff has done what. This is becoming increasingly challenging as workforces are becoming more dispersed and remote.

By finding solutions that help leaders and managers track and reward these accomplishments, an organization can enjoy improved morale, increased productivity and higher retainment figures.

Here are some solutions:

Software that Offers Macro- and Micro- Visibility
Intelligent work and project management systems can provide a more detailed perspective on workloads, by capturing data such as completion timeframes and collaborative input. Managers and leaders can assess whether projects were completed on time and on budget, and who the top performers of each project were.

Social Elements
Adding a social intranet or using other work management tools with social style collaborative features can help employees share ideas and praise each other on completed projects. With these tools all this information is available for company-wide viewing, allowing others to recognize the group’s effort.

Streamline Process
One of the easiest ways to improve employee engagement and productivity is by making systems and process more streamlines, reducing any frictions or frustrations that may emerge. By making it easier to teams to do their work effectively, you will be encouraging them to stay with your company.

 

Read the full article here.

October Engagement Rates Remain Stable

We’ve talked a lot this year about Gallup’s Daily Survey to measure employee engagement rates in the US. Back in the beginning of the year we experienced some higher than normal rates, then followed by relatively similar rates since then. The survey shows for the month of October, out of the random sample of 7,273 employed US adults aged 18 and above, an average of 32.1% considered themselves to be engaged in their jobs.

Engagement is classified based on its key workplace elements including staff feeling that their opinions are listened to at work, having the opportunity to use their talents each day, and having support from leaders or managers who encourage their individual development.

Engaged employees are more enthusiastic about their own work and the success of the company as a whole, meaning that they can significantly impact a company’s productivity and success. According to Gallup’s previous in depth research, employee engagement is linked with business outcomes that directly affect an organization’s bottom line.

Interestingly, employee engagement in the US is experiencing its longest period of stability since the Gallup Daily Surveys began in 2011. As of March 2015, monthly averages have remains at a similar level- whereas in the past they have tended to fluctuate greatly over the course of the year.

In 2015 alone the engagement metric has been higher than it was between 2011 and 2013. So far this year it hasn’t fallen below 31%, and if the average above 31% continues for the final months of the year, the 2015 average will be slightly above last year’s average of 31.5%. The most engaged year yet!

Of course, while the stability and the figures are all positive, it still shows that the majority of the US workforce is not engaged- and on average, the nation has only two employees per “actively disengaged” employee. So it’s safe to say there is a ton of room for growth.

Read more about October’s engagement rates here.

Why Positive Customer Experiences Hinge on Employee Engagement

Most business leaders will tell you that customers and their experiences are the most important part of business. They also acknowledge that employee engagement is pivotal to the success of their business. After all, employees are the ones who will help form a first impression of your brand- and if they are feeling demotivated it is likely that they will not delivery during the first interaction.

An article on the Entrepreneur website lists four ways leaders can ensure employees are primed to deliver first-rate customer experience:

  1. Shorten Feedback Loops
    It’s become the norm to only give employees feedback twice a year. However, the half-a year gap in between gives employees the impression that feedback is being provided only because leaders are being obliged to. As evidence for shortening the feedback loops, Forbes notes that 43% of highly engaged employees get feedback at least once a week, compared to 18% of employees with low engagement.
  2. Tap into Your Employees’ Customer Insights
    It is widely known that high employee engagement mutually benefits the company and its staff. This is particularly apparent by simply sitting down with employees and asking for their thoughts and ideas, based on their front-line customer experience. in doing so, they will be more appreciative of you taking the time to heat, discuss and consider what they say, while you will come away with some crucial customer insights.
  3. Adopt a Personal Approach
    There are a few ways to let your employees know that you appreciate all that they do for the business- however, it should go further than the standard note. In the digital age, everything seems to be done via email including “well dones” and “thank yous”. While any appreciative comment should be recognized, delivering it in handwritten form makes it a little more personal.
  4. Communicate Your Goals
    More than one in ten employees are disengaged at work, according to statistics. The reasons behind their disengagement at work might be more straightforward than you would think. Perhaps they feel they are not able to work to their full potential because they are not being included in essential project plans and goals.

Read the full article here.