Monthly Archives: November 2016

Getting Attention with Internal Communications

It’s become a cliche, you know. Overworked employees who can’t keep up with all the information they need to consume to be effective, despite (or because of) e-mail, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, Sharepoint…  But why blame the tools? It’s the strategy that needs work.

I recall 17 years ago when “we want employees to manage their own information” became a watch cry.

The idea was to create a repository of news and information and get people to seek it out.  This change from “push” to “pull” was supposed to take the heat off of communicators and bring about a knowledge revolution. Instead, employees voted with their feet, ignoring most all the news we pushed out, especially the stuff that supposedly was “important” — the company strategy, leadership messages and  human resources materials.  We were repurposing news releases in those days, not really originating stories from the employee perspective. We were passive, and we waited for our internal clients to come up with stuff.

Well, that’s not altogether true. We called them and asked, “Got any news?” What we should have done is treated employees as our clients and looked for reasons to do a piece, not expect our leaders and managers to come up with stuff on their own.

All through the years, our best-read materials at Key, Goodyear, National City and other places were stories, not news. They had people and drama and conflict and tension, or at least a compelling new angle on our business, told through example and demonstration, not mere recitation of fact.

At Goodyear, we had our interns do a ton of writing for our intranet, GO.  During their yearlong assignment, they’d cover plenty of news, such as events, quarterly earnings, significant announcements and industry doings, of course. But they also had to originate stories, particularly in the last couple of months of the assignment.

They wrote country profiles, talking with leaders and others about the business situation. They did stories on different parts of the business and people. And they did a multipart series focusing on one regional business, or on the fastest-growing geographies in the company.

These stories got read because they helped employees make sense of the information instead of merely leaving everything up to them.

We began to attract news from all the major business units, increasing our annual story count into the range of 1,200 – 1,500 stories per year.  Over a two-year period, we tripled our monthly GO traffic (visits and pages viewed) and saw a 10% increase in understanding of our company strategy.

How do you get attention, cut through the clutter? Write (produce) stories that matter to your employees, balancing the need for leadership to transmit information with the need for employees to have relevant content available to them.  Do research among employees and leaders to discover what those stories should be, and do it often.

All you’ve got to lose is your irrelevancy.

4 Steps to Build Relationships with HR & Others

It’s an axiom that the Human Resources and Public Relations teams often don’t get along, though as with the IT crew, we should be fast friends and excellent partners.

Let’s face it, it can’t be easy to be an HR pro these days. “HR jobs are often the last to go in a recession. Layoffs, wage freezes, benefits cuts, discrimination lawsuits, new government regulations and other recession-fueled workplace developments all generate additional HR work…” (Workforce Management, May 2010, p. 16).  All that extra work, especially the human factors, have to bring a boat-load of stress.

We PR folks haven’t had it easy the last couple of years, either, as our staffs and budgets got squeezed. Long hours, multiple shifting priorities…  That’s even more a reason to partner-up, even as compadres in misery.

Whether in good times or bad, HR or IT, what do we do to foster professional relationships? Follow these four steps:

1. Communicate: Start by opening lines of communication. Reach out, go for coffee or lunch, ask lots of questions about HR’s business goals and how they’re striving toward them. Put yourself in their shoes. HR folks have a lot to offer, and a lot of times, just need your expression of interest to open up. Besides, that’s how we’re supposed to gather business intelligence, anyway — by talking to people.

2. Coordinate: Where do your worlds intersect?  HR content is important, whether for employees or for external constituencies. What events, projects, initiatives are on the horizon? Again, look at it from their perspective.  It may seem basic, but the big issue is the old right-had/left-hand disconnect. Help to reconnect by sharing information from your broad perspective and by being ready to make a few changes to your plans to accommodate HR’s situation and goals. You want employees to be informed, and so does HR. You want the organization to attract qualified prospective employees, and so does HR. We’re not so different from one another — we’re professionals with jobs to do.

3. Collaborate: Every department has been doing more with less. Pitch in and offer to help out.  At Goodyear, I volunteered to be part of an organizational effectiveness audit. My participation allowed the audit to move a bit more quickly and spare some folks a couple of really long days. It also allowed me to hear from our front-line employees face to face. They weren’t shy about their experiences with leadership, and communication. I was able to look through HR’s lens — thinking and talking about how to improve the organization. Plus, I built trust, won some allies and made some friends in the organization, always helpful outcomes for a communicator. Yes, we’re all busy, but it’s worth the investment of time.

4. Counsel: The heart of being a trusted counselor is the relationship. Working hard at forging professional bonds with your HR team gets noticed. For that matter, you could apply these steps to any constituency, whether you’re in conflict or not.  When you’re known for your curiosity, willingness to help and ability to add value to a discussion, you’re setting a strong foundation for relationships and your role as a trusted adviser — a seat at the strategic table.

You still need to bring the goods, by the way — your planning, advice and writing have to be first-rate. The assumption of expert status must be backed up by your outstanding performance, again whether you’re working with HR, Finance, IT or whomever.

When you do it right, you’ll discover what great partners they can be.