October 7 Event Summary: “What’s the State of Your Employee Communications?”

Guest speaker Steve Crescenzo of Crescenzo Communications (www.crescenzocomm.com) presented the latest trends in employee and corporate communications within a small, conversational-style gathering of IABC-LA members at downtown L.A.’s Checkers Hotel.
 
Steve earned his employee communications stripes for years as the assistant editor of “The Ragan Report,” reviewing countless company newsletters and not-so-effective communications efforts.  I enjoyed his story about Larry Ragan, founder (and Mark Ragan’s father), who was way ahead of his time in the 1960’s:  Regan wanted to treat employees like adults and incorporate their opinions and valuable feedback regarding employee and company communications, and ditch the cartoons and recipes.  Fast forward to today’s employee communications climate, Larry Ragan would have embraced wholeheartedly social media, blogs, FaceBook and YouTube as instrumental tools in employee communications.

Steve covered five biggest trends:
 1) Battlefield has shifted…social media must be incorporated into employee communications. Communication pros can suggest social media as a facilitation mechanism for providing specific company tools and information.
2) The role of the communicator as publisher is over.  We are now creating conversations.
3) Multi-media use such as YouTube is now a viable employee communications tool. 
4) With so much social media overload, communicators are starting to tell better stories with a two-way communications approach… such as employees showing employees what’s happening using a Flip camera. 
5) Print is the “new” technology.  Using print to cut through the white noise of social media is on the rise. Drama, passion and cool photos are making its way back into print…and getting employees’ attention.

We engaged discussion in the importance of mastering content and how good communications spans generations and has evolved to be more conversational.  Board Member Paula Cassin brought up the issue of management pushing company agendas disguised as interactive employee social media, while Steve emphasized “Communicate to the culture that you want to be!” (…not to the company culture that exists.)
 
Check out Steve’s 2-minute video series on his website…hilarious takes on employee communications’ cliches…do’s and don’ts.

May 13 Event Summary: Latest Trends in Employee Communication

On May 13, 2009, Jonathan Hanwit, Director of Client Services, and Guusje Bendeler, Creative Director, of Parallax http://www.thinkparallax.com presented insight on new captivating trends for online employee communications to 20+ L.A. Chapter members.

While Parallax clients present objectives and strategies, Jon and Guusje (pronounced “Who-sha”) focus on compelling, interactive, explorative visual communications that take online employee communications past the usual intranet and newsletter formats. Jon and Guusje emphasize, “Employees seek an inside, personal perspective from each other on company information, rather than an executive one.”

We saw an online virtual employee tradeshow example for Qualcomm to educate employees about what each division is currently working on, including plans for the future.  The employee tradeshow featured:

  • Virtual department booths and a 2-3 minute video of a department head,
  • Links to internal teams’ website, and graphics “collaged” from photos of Qualcomm’s employees and facilities. 
  • A simple review quiz led to a giftcard incentive.

The site garnered thousands of employee clicks and results were increased employee awareness, product and service knowledge and increased retention/engagement.

The next example was a customizable intranet entitled “The Skinny” where employees may choose what content they prefer through a choice of widgets. Think of a typical intranet page combined with iGoogle.  The objective is to streamline workflow, increase engagement, and make communication in real time. For example, not only can a favorite dictionary widget be linked to the homepage, but a company’s unique terminology dictionary can be available.
 
And finally, Jon and Guusje presented an Online and Printed Employee Annual Report for Qualcomm, a “Thank You” that has increased morale, awareness, and promoted “connection.”

Outstanding annual report highlights that helped connect 15,000 global employees were:

  •  A photo contest featuring 700 photos taken around the world by Qualcomm employees,
  • Text content featuring fun, culture questions such as “How does wireless affect your life?”  

We asked questions, “How labor intensive was it putting the project content together?” Jon and Guusje pointed out that content was generated by employees, for employees, which makes putting the project together easier for us!

Parallax Speakers

As communications professionals who want to spark employee engagement, knowledge or perhaps education on an upcoming merger, we now have new, energetic online employee communications tools to support our company or clients’ efforts (see Parallax Handout.)

“The Skinny” has won a past IABC Silver Quill Award, while the Online and Print Employee Annual Reports have been submitted for 2008 Gold and Silver Quill Awards. Good luck to Jon, Guusje, and their clients!
 

April 23 Event Summary: Inside the Mind of a Reporter

On April 23, 2009, Mark Bernheimer, Principal of MediaWorks Mark Bernheimer photoResource Group  (http://www.mediaworksgroup.com/), and former CNN correspondent, presented insight on news reporting and interviewing to 20+ IABC members.  The late, great Tim Russert would have celebrated this lively, interactive event and Mark’s key point: “Always have a message of distinction prepared.”

We watched a hilarious clip of imposter reporter Stephen Colbert interviewing Georgia Congressman Westmoreland, whose questionable PR team did not prepare the deer-in-the-headlights congressman for Colbert’s questions…or even Colbert’s fake reporter status!  

While IABC members are much smarter in preparing our executives, employees, or clients for real interviews on or off-camera, Mark’s example illustrates the crucial need for his 2-step formula when preparing interviewees:

1. Satisfy interviewee’s own objectives first (get his/her messages across)
2. Help the reporter satisfy his/her objectives

We watched more video clips illustrating tricks by reporters, who are not looking for answers. Capturing sound bytes is the goal.  Unsuspecting, unprepared interviewees provide emotion. Better story, but an even better train wreck from a PR perspective if unprepared.

In addition, interviewees:
• should never answer a question they don’t know the answer to (instead say, “We’ll try to get information for you later.”)
• should not answer a question they don’t understand (reporters often prepare minutes prior to interview asking confusing questions…interviewee should ask for clarification.)
• should direct a question better suited to someone else when necessary
• should not answer questions based on reporter’s speculation about the future (news stories are more dramatic regarding what could have happened, not what did happen.)

Finally, volunteer Jessica Schlotter put Congressman Westmoreland to shame during Mark’s surprise on-camera interview. Jessica did a terrific job answering Mark’s questions.  She delivered messages of distinction regarding IABC’s purpose with the audience in mind. Mark suggested Jessica’s only improvement was to always insert the organization’s name instead of using pronouns like “we” during the interview.  Here’s Mark’s interview of Jessica…

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/13-mT7kw7qU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

April 22 Event: Secrets of Highly Effective Employee Communications Departments

April 22, 2008 at Villa Sorriso Restaurant in Pasadena

6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Speakers: Valli Thornton & Jennifer Lee from Watson Wyatt Worldwide

We’re very excited that Valli Thornton and Jennifer Lee from Watson Wyatt Worldwide are joining us on April 22 to share the findings from their latest Communication ROI Study.

They’re going to share both encouraging and discouraging trends that have come to light since their initial study in 2003/2004.

If you attend this event you’ll learn:

  • Best practices of highly effective communication departments
  • The six secrets for effective communication
  • How to assess your communication effectiveness
  • How to build a business case for additional communication staff and budget
  • And more!

But before the event, we’re curious to hear about your best practices. Add a comment to this post and tell us about your successful communication tools or techniques. Even if you don’t think they’re particularly “cutting-edge,” we’d like to know what’s working for you.

You can learn more about the April 22 event and register here.

April 9 Event Summary: Cut Through the Email Clutter

April 9, 2008 at Raytheon in El Segundo.
Speaker: Paula Cassin from Cut Through Communications

Download the presentation materials (coming soon)

About 20 people joined us for the lunch event to hear how Vodafone in New Zealand was able to reduce its dependence on email and improve their employee communications.

First, Paula walked us through Vodafone’s internal communications objectives (and I’m sure these will sound familiar to anyone in internal communications):

• Reduce all-staff emails
• Grow and reinforce knowledge
• Reinforce brand and values
• Increase intranet usage
• Involve staff, build engagement
• Build community spirit
• Centrally manage communications
• Targeted communications that fit with work flows

Then, she introduced us to some interesting new channels offered by Snap Communications that helped Vodafone achieve those objectives.

Screensavers:
Okay, maybe you’re already doing this, but if not, it can be an effective way to market to your employees. Vodafone ran a series of screen savers detailing where they stood against their annual business goals. They also used them to ask employees for creative ideas to grow the business. Then, they created screen savers to share what employees were saying. They also used screen savers to promote an initiative to recycle mobile phones and drive awareness for an upcoming ‘Loud Shirt’ day to raise money for charity. And the list goes on. Using the snap tool the screensavers were quick and easy to produce and launch. They didn’t even have to go through IT! And the screensavers can link to anything you want them to link to so people can get more information.

Alerts:
You know how in outlook you can get that little pop-up window that tells you when you have a new email? Well, the snap alert system is similar. It pops up on the employee’s screen to give them a quick bit of information (and they can click to read more). You can target it to very select groups. For example, if you have a training class starting in 15 minutes, you can send an alert to the people registered for the training class that pops right up on their screen. This is also useful for crisis communications or if the email systems go down and you need to alert everyone.

Employee-Driven Content
She also talked about a wonderful tool that allows employees to submit news stories or announcements they want everyone to see. They submit them online using a template form that you create. When a new story is submitted the person you designate as the editor is alerted and they can accept the story, decline the story or edit the story before posting it. All the stories are then summarized on one nice html page that you can broadcast to employees as frequently as you wish. She said you can even have this html page come up when people are logging-in, so they can check out the latest stories for a few minutes each morning.

She also talked about quizzes, surveys and a ticker bar that can run across the bottom of the screens for “hot news”.

Other attendees also shared what they were up to including ensuring their external and internal webpages are accessible via blackberries and other mobile devices and hosting webcasts.

This is just a fraction of what we covered at the meeting. You can see Paula’s presentation here. (coming soon)

Let us know what you’re company is doing to limit its dependence on email as a communication tool. Are you having success with webcasts or video? Do you have a new tool or a strategy that’s worked well for you? Tell us about it!

April 9 Event: Cut Through the Communiation Clutter

April 9, 2008, at Raytheon in El Segundo
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: Paula Cassin from Cut Through Communications

We all know employees are overloaded with email but that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to low readership rates, only touching a small percentage of your staff.

On April 9, Paula Cassin from Cut Through Communications will share a case study with us about how Vodafone has successfully implemented new communication channels to reduce their dependence on email and reach more employees.

Before the event, we’re interested in hearing about your experiences. Add a comment to this post and let us know:

  • How dependent is your company on email?
  • Do you feel email is an effective communication tool for you?
  • What other, new communication channels has your company adopted to reach employees?

Then, join us on April 9 for the presentation and follow-up discussion. We look forward to seeing you!

You can learn more about the April 9 event and register here.

March 25 Event: Embracing Social Media – Why, When & How?

March 25, 2008, Woodland Hills, Maggiano’s Restaurant.
Speaker: Terry McKenzie, Senior Director of GECCO (Global Employee Communications and Communities Organization) at Sun Microsystems,Ltd.

Download the presentation materials

After a bit of networking and breakfast, Terry began to tell us the story of the transformation she’s been spearheading at Sun over the last 15 months. I know I’ll never be able to capture everything she said and all the great insights, but I’ll get down a few, and you all can add more in the comments!

At the beginning of 2007, CEO Jonathan Schwartz told Terry that while communications were interesting, communities were absolutely vital to Sun. His challenge to Employee Communications was to go out and create communities internally. Less than a year later, there has been a huge shift as a result of this work.

This has been one of the primary rockets behind their shift from a communications environment revolving around information whether in email, intranet, town halls, or podcasts (info overload was primary complaint of employees) to an environment revolving around collaborative communities – whether it be in wikis, blogs, virtual townhalls and conferences, or Facebook.

At the moment Sun has about 4,000 employee blogs (all external – http://blogs.sun.com) and 5,500 employees on Facebook. Most have begun in the last 15 months.

The culture shift which has accompanied all of this is striking. According to Terry in 205 the culture was:

  1. Kick butt and have fun
  2. “You aren’t the boss of me”
  3. We’re right – rest of the world is wrong (couldn’t take criticism)
  4. Personality cult around CEO

Now, there has been a lot of maturing:

  1. “Let’s just imagine, for one minute that the analysts are right and we do suck…”
  2. Accountability
  3. Teamwork
  4. Adult to Adult
  5. Transparency, courage, authenticity highly valued

Some of the other great thoughts from this presentation were:

1. Everything Always in Beta: experiment with what’s out there, keep what works, and discard what doesn’t.

2. Corollary: Focus on the outcomes and results your after, not the tools themselves. Tools will always be changing. It’s what they enable that needs to be the focus.

3. Sun is developing a new intranet (2010) which will be 90% customizable, 10% fixed, to enable employees to create their own work experience and optimize the information and tools that they need. Accessible by any device (PC, cellphone, pda, etc) and top levels outside the firewall.
4. It’s silly to block Facebook or other sites to stop staff from ‘wasting’ time. They do this in other ways now (personal email, phone calls, etc.) It’s a Management issue if someone is unproductive.

5. Blogs must be interesting, well-written, authentic and cannot be ghostwritten.

6. Blogs can be a great way to find out what people are thinking. They talk about it anyway around the watercooler, at lunch, with friends. Why not capture their conversations in a blog rather than try and guess what’s going on.

If you were one of the 31 people who attended, what main points did you take away? Please comment below!