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.

The Benefits of Measuring Internal Communications

Over 500 internal comms professionals participated in PoliteMail’s 2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey, offering an inside look at how they define and measure the effectiveness of their efforts.

Among the survey’s most striking findings is that many internal comms professionals remain unsure of what and how to measure. Perhaps because of that, 20% of respondents measure very little of their efforts, and 15% don’t measure at all. More than half (60%), however, measure at least some of their work.

According to survey respondents, there are three main benefits to measuring internal comms:

Stronger Employee Engagement

76% of internal comms professionals surveyed said measurement strengthens employee engagement. One practical way to use measurement to encourage engagement is through the process of audience segmentation. Creating targeted, segmented messaging builds trust, delivers more appropriate messaging and shows that engagement is a priority.

Also, companies with high employee engagement enjoy 6% higher profit margins than those with lower engagement.

Proof of ROI—and Support of Senior Executives

Everyone in the business world has been told they “better have the numbers to back it up” at some point—and that’s exactly what internal comms measurement provides.

Having firm data in hand helps communicators prove their departments’ worth (44%) and supports increasing department budgets (22%).

Data-Informed Decision Making

Communicators need to know the outcomes for all of their efforts to help them create the best game plan for their next project. And they can find those results through measuring their communications.

83% of survey respondents say measuring internal comms efforts helps them make data-informed decisions. 79% of those cited the ability to create stronger campaigns based on that data as a major benefit.

Start Benefiting from Communications Measurements

Want to see how (and why) other teams are measuring their internal communications efforts? Download our 2016 Internal Communications Survey Results.

PoliteMail Clients Named to Top 50 Companies by LinkedIn

LinkedIn on Thursday released the findings of its second annual Top Companies study with Alphabet once again taking top honors in the United States. Of the 50 stateside front-runners, 22% are currently using PoliteMail to create, send, manage, and measure internal email campaigns.  Similarly, 28% of the companies that made the Australian list are also using PoliteMail, with 16% of the German list and 8% of the UK list following suit. Congratulations to our clients across the globe for being recognized as a top place to work!


The LinkedIn Insights Team analyzed billions of member interactions on the platform and focused on four key interest areas to create the list: jobs, brand, employees and employee retention. The analysis, conducted only on organizations with more than 500 employees, examined member engagement over a 12-month period that ended in February of this year. Both LinkedIn and its parent company, Microsoft, were excluded from the study.

The US companies highlighted in the report represent over 21 industries and employ over three million nationally. Unsurprisingly, high tech dominated the results, but financial and professional services firms also made strong showings.

To learn more about last year’s list, click here.

2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey Results

PoliteMail Software commissioned Gill Research to conduct the 2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey to examine how internal communications professionals define and measure the success of their efforts.

Nearly 600 internal comms professionals participated, giving us a deep look into the world of measurement: Who measures and to what extent, what challenges and obstacles they face, which channels and tools they use, and more.

Who Is Measuring?

90% of respondents are located in the Americas, and organizational size split almost evenly across three tiers: 37% have 1,000 or fewer employees, 34% have 1,001 to 10,000 employees, and 29% have more than 10,001 employees.

Although communicators are making an effort to measure internal communications efforts, most are still unsure of what to measure, how to measure success, and, in particular, how to measure behavioral changes. 20% of respondents admit they measure very little and 15% don’t measure at all. More than half (60%), however, measure at least some of their work.

Benefits of Measuring Internal Comms

Those who do measure internal communications cite a variety of benefits:

  • Stronger employee engagement (76%)
  • Support of senior executives (54%)
  • Proof of ROI (44%)
  • Larger internal communications budgets (22%)

Top Measurement Challenges

Since PoliteMail’s 2014 survey, more communicators report that lack of time, tools, and staff are the biggest obstacles to measurement. More than half of current respondents struggle with understaffing, which in turn makes it difficult for them to spend time on measurement.

  • Lack of time and/or personnel 63%)
  • Lack of tools (63%)
  • Lack of budget (42%)

Get the Complete Survey Results

The 2016 Internal Communications Measurement Survey found that despite the many challenges, communicators are refining their strategies to deliver maximum impact.

To learn more, download a copy of our complete 2016 Internal Measurement Survey Results. 

5 Ways to Measure Intranet Success

According to intranet and cloud solutions provider Aerie Consulting, the initial cost for setting up an intranet can reach more than $100,000 for larger companies.

Given such an investment, you should measure your intranet for the same reasons you would internal communications: to make informed strategic decisions, better engage employees (which can improve productivity by 20 to 25%), unearth workforce insights, identify key trends, and improve the overall ROI of your communications.

Here are five metrics to use when measuring your intranet’s effectiveness.


Start by measuring how many employees visit your intranet. What percentage of your total workforce accesses it on a monthly basis? Are you increasing the number of visitors each month? Are there other trends?

By monitoring the participation rate, you can determine your intranet’s adoption rate and whether it’s improving or needs analyzing.

Bounce Rate, Click-Through & Time on Site

Analyze how employees interact with the site. Do they visit pages beyond the homepage (bounce rate)? How many pages do they view (click-through)? How long do they spend on each page?

Popular Content

Identify the most popular content by analyzing page views, time on site and site comments. Do users view financial updates, company news or softer cultural content? Do they take advantage of educational opportunities or productivity resources?

Leverage the information to ensure you’re creating a meaningful interaction that engages and makes them more efficient.

Common Searches

Do your employees use your intranet’s search function? Is the tool working properly?

Use search analytics to learn which terms are popular with employees. Is your content relevant to what your employees are looking for? If users are searching and visiting several of the results in a short amount of time, that may signal your content is lacking. Make sure your employees can find what they’re looking for.

Desired Actions Completed

Do you want employees to spend 90 seconds on an announcement page, or do you want them to fill out a crucial form? Set goals and compare specific metrics with corresponding data from other internal comms efforts to evaluate your intranet’s performance.

How to Measure Intranet Success

Google Analytics is one of the most popular choices for measuring intranet performance, but Piwik, Angelfish, and Woopra are worth considering, especially if you have open-source or on-premise needs. Sometimes, tracking capabilities are built directly into your intranet’s back end, but you can also leverage surveys and focus groups to gather data.

Put Intranet Data to Use

Look for trends in the intranet data to determine whether your adoption rate is growing, what types of content are performing well — and which areas need improvement. Then, use your findings to take action and increase your ROI.

Learn how to get the most from your internal emails, social media and other platforms. Download PoliteMail’s Guide to Internal Communications Measurement.

Key Trends in Engagement Research

Bloomberg’s Bureau of National Affairs estimates that $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover, which can often be attributed to employee disengagement. Additionally, Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees — those who continually express their unhappiness with work, which creates a toxic environment around them — cost the United States anywhere from $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. Continue reading Key Trends in Engagement Research