3 Steps To Conduct An Effective Communication Channel Audit


Be it an internal or external organizational communication channel that you manage, running an audit periodically can help uncover gaps, improve value and enhance effectiveness.

Why do you need an audit in the first place?

The reasons are many. Your business may have changed and the market landscape expects the firm to adopt a different approach. Or, the channel has changed ownership and the current method of engagement needs a revisit. It can also be that your channel’s users have matured and now demand more attention.  Likewise, it is possible that the channel’s technology has evolved and you need to stay more close to how audiences interact with the vehicle. It can be that there is limited participation on the channel – a cause for concern.  Lastly, analytics may indicate that your channel needs an overhaul or the communication on the channel isn’t effective enough. Overall, it is good practice to take stock of how your channels fare and continually improve their impact.

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So, how do you go about it? You can approach the audit in multiple ways.

  1. Review the current ‘as-is’ state:Get a sense of what works and what needs addressing. Conduct studies to gauge the current perceptions and what can be better.

Think about –

  • what is the channel meant to do and how is it currently used?
  • is it consistent, timely and updated regularly?
  • do users have any views about the channel?
  • does it need improvement?
  • what measures are adopted to gauge impact and value?
  • are there opportunities to cross-link/promote with other channel
  1. Analyze the issues:Through a review of the process or format, a content analysis or a benchmarking exercise you can discover gaps that need addressing.

Think about –

  • how is a similar channel used in other organizations?
  • what best practices exist?
  • what does research tell you about such channels and effectiveness?
  • what can you consider at the workplace?
  1. Act to improve:Take insights and recommendations to stakeholders, pilot interventions and tweak your model

Think about –

  • what do you propose to change about experience with the channel?
  • what can you do to involve employees or other audiences?
  • over the next 6 months what are the possible actions/milestones you can aim to achieve?
  • how will it improve the user experience or brand recall?

Is that enough?

Report what you find, share progress and communicate your actions to help stakeholders appreciate and for users to acknowledge your commitment to change. No audit is good enough unless you can do something meaningful with it.

Go ahead and try these approaches. Keen to know what you discover.

Follow-Ups and Follow-Throughs – Making Change Happen


If you follow sport and watched your favourite cricketer in action – have you noticed how the bat follows through when the ball is hit to the boundary? Observed how the eyes trace the ball’s trajectory and that the head stays still? Likewise when a soccer player takes a free kick notice how the player follows the ball dipping past the keeper’s outstretched arms? Do you notice changes in the performance of sports persons and wonder how they managed to raise their game?

Irrespective of whether you run your own enterprise or work for an organization these analogies apply to follow-ups and follow-throughs you do as a ‘player’ while you strive to achieve your goals every day.

Anyone managing a project that engages multiple stakeholders and which runs over a period of time will be familiar with the pain of chasing people even when it is their ‘job’ to get things done! Or knowing that your credibility as a professional depends on what you do with the feedback you receive or the insights you gather along the way.

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Even with the most sophisticated software that streamlines processes or initiatives you may still end up getting frustrated when ‘stuff’ doesn’t happen when you want it or the way they were supposed to be. Although seemingly inefficient, unless you follow-upwith stakeholders there is little chance that your plans get the attention they deserve. From next steps picked up at a regular team meeting  to the larger and complex campaigns that span months having a follow-up plan can make life simpler for you.

However, if you spin it around and view follow-ups as a way to connect, steer and challenge the status quo then you probably are in a better place of not undoing a whole lot that has gone wrong too late in the day. In that sense, follow-ups relates to the steady pace and actions that moves the needle on your initiative. It is about your commitment to see work get over the line.

Follow-throughs on the other hand are about keeping your commitment and ensuring stakeholders see you as reliable and consistent. By matching your actions with your words you give others around you the confidence that you are a partner in a shared journey. Just like how a change to the racquet grip by a tennis player or a bowling action tweak improves a player’s efficiency each of us can evaluate and make improvements to our working styles and actions.

Without being overbearing follow-ups indicate the individual’s interest to get things done right. Follow-throughs indicate the individual’s maturity to grow personally and professionally.

Both follow-ups and follow-throughs need us to be aware and grounded. Aware of what impressions and perceptions our actions or inactions create. Grounded – is about realizing we are human and there are always opportunities to get better;  just that we need to welcome feedback and demonstrate our responsibility to change.

What are your thoughts?

Offer A Compelling Employee Promise To Drive Engagement


In a recent post – Shall We Give Freebies to Improve Our Sign-up Rates? I invited readers to help Dinesh think about his approach while encouraging participation on a learning platform.

Ever looked closely at a product that offers a ‘freebie’? What did you perceive about its quality? Did you think there was something amiss?

Check a product offering a ‘freebie’ or is now selling at a discounted rate. Look up the ‘use by date’ and there is a fair chance that the company or the shop wants to get rid of it sooner than later for many reasons.  The product is probably expiring shortly, has lost its novelty, the company wants to kill the product to launch an extension, competitors have eaten up market share, or it isn’t appealing to its customers anymore.

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In Dinesh’s case it does seem like he has a relevant product (a learning platform) which employees need. But enticing employees to sign-up is akin to taking the horse to the water. Making it drink the water is what matters and you can’t do that by offering carrots. You do that by selling the drink as a refreshing experience!

With the platform or for that matter any offering, the goal is to make a compelling promise that makes audiences want to engage. Is this platform better than the ones that are freely accessible elsewhere? Why do employees need to bother about this platform?

To identify this promise one needs to understand the need or the gap which exists. That means, spending time to understand the pain points and what really matters for your audiences.

Consider what motivates employees – do they want to grow at work? Are they keen to improve their credibility as a professional? Do they seek recognition through their work?

Build your offer on these aspects to gain commitment.

Sign-up is just an activity. It doesn’t guarantee usage or perceived usefulness. Engaging employees on the tool is the true measure. The questions to consider are:

  • Do employees now feel like they are getting better at work and in life?
  • Does it improve their experience with learning?

Incentives are short lived and soon your audiences will discount the value of what you offer.

It isn’t enough to have a great offering for your employees – connect the dots to make it all come together.

Can We Invite a Motivational Speaker For Our Leadership Meet?


Divya heads HR at Isle Management and is in discussion with her management team on their annual employee survey results. They are dismayed by what they read.  They invite their business leaders to decode the findings. Here is an excerpt from their conversation. I invite you to share your views on this case.

Divya: “It is difficult to comprehend that our managers are not motivated enough. We do so much to engage them all around the year and they are the face of the organization for their teams.”

Tony (IT head): “I agree.  We provide industry leading benefits and offer opportunities to progress in their careers. What more can anyone ask for?”

Isabel (Finance leader): (nodding her head) “Completely agree. There is so much of investment we make – sending them for seminars, conferences and trainings. Despite that they feel they are not engaged enough. I don’t get it”.

Violet (business partner): “I have spent months explaining how we can look at last year’s findings and make the workplace come alive. We do so many engaging activities, support the business with insights to improve connection – yet….(her voice fades).

Anil (strategy head): “It is an unhealthy sign. Indicates that leaders are not sufficiently motivated to lead their teams. We have shown them where we are heading as a company and what we expect of them. What more can be expected?”

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Divya: “Thinking aloud – why don’t we call for a leadership meet?”

Anil: “What will we achieve?”

Divya: “It will be good to get them away from the workplace, get fresh perspectives and open their minds to newer ways of engaging”

Tony: “But how?”

Divya: “By inviting an inspirational speaker from outside to address our leaders!”

Violet: “What a wonderful idea. How clever!”

Anil: “I like it. Let us do this. I am sure people will love to be motivated. We tried and it didn’t work. So hopefully, someone else can.”

Isabel (sounding apprehensive): “Sorry folks, I am not sure about this. What will happen after this person speaks?”

Divya (looking offended): “What do you mean Isabel? The speaker will inspire our leaders and they will go forth and inspire others”

Tony: “Yes, if we get Milind Kumar, the expert sociologist who studied how people interact in different cultures or Michel Rotwik, the futurist who can read your future by looking at your nails or Kanishka Godbole, the renowned doctor who has performed multiple heart surgeries and is listed as a Tinkle Book of Records holder.  Or even, Karthik Pillai who ran the 20km marathon backwards”.

Isabel (looking in disbelief): “You sure?”

Tony: “It will work– I can see how our leaders will emerge mesmerized, committed and energized by this interaction. They will then be able to apply insights to engage their teams”

Isabel: “Hmm, I am not sure though.”

She excuses herself from the meeting and walks back to her desk thinking if what she heard was really true. This group is thinking of calling an external speaker who will inspire their leaders? She wants to discuss this topic again with Divya and revisit this thinking altogether. Is her feeling unfounded? Will this really not work? What do you think?

5 Ways To Communicate Your Community Effort Responsibly


Communicating your organization’s social responsibilities is more than just an expectation. It is critical to the success of your organization’s credibility as a business. In this post I am sharing a few tips that can help you frame your CSR communication responsibly.

  • Timely updates: Keeping your internal and external stakeholders posted about the rationale, progress and impact in a timely manner sends a strong signal about your organization’s commitment to CSR. Sharing your calendar of activities, volunteering opportunities and milestones helps stakeholders know what to expect and how to engage. Bringing out your CSR reports on time and ensuring it is accessible on all your relevant channels can improve your standing as a responsible citizen.
  • Focus on societal impact: Rather than highlight the activities and events on the causes your organization supports it is helpful to focus on the value they deliver to society. As in, did the initiative have a long term impact on the community? Did it improve the lives of people it hoped to touch? Was it inclusive in its approach? Has it changed how the issue is perceived now in the community? By linking your CSR work with the end outcomes you can help your stakeholders appreciate what it takes to add value to the world.

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  • Recognize your champions: No CSR program is done in isolation. It needs the collective might of stakeholders, inside and outside the organization to deliver tangible and sustainable results. Make it a point to recognize those individuals and groups who have contributed to the success of your initiatives. Highlight key supporters and share their stories. There is nothing more powerful than having champions get their share of the spotlight.
  • Share learning: Every initiative will have its highs and lows and by sharing such learning you not just indicate your transparency but also the heart of your organization. Your stakeholders can see through ‘promotions’ but only when you share your vulnerabilities do they recognize your character. If you have made a mistake in a program, be it a decision or an approach, do also call out how you plan to remedy the issue for future initiatives.
  • Invite feedback: Not every CSR initiative may go as per your plan. Often, limited resources, the internal business environment or lack of collaboration can hurt progress. By openly discussing issues and seeking direct feedback you have a good chance of improving your value and relationship with stakeholders. Talk about how decisions were made and the rationale taken so that everyone is on the same page with your CSR mission.

The perception of your company’s CSR is directly related to how you responsibly communicate your effort. Through proactive, authentic and inclusive communication behavior you can positively engage your stakeholders for the better.

6 Ways to Improve Your Employee Newsletter’s Success Quotient


Corporate in-house newsletters have progressed over the years from ‘entertaining’ employees to helping ‘identify’ with the firm.  Very often these newsletters are a ‘good to have’ and serve expectations of internal stakeholders as it captures key business stories, policies and processes. As one of the many channels for engaging employees the newsletter’s value and impact can often go unnoticed unless managed, measured and communicated effectively.

20160402_112300In this post I offer a few recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of your newsletter and make it a credible and recognized vehicle of employee involvement, commitment and identification.

  • Access: At a preliminary level it will help to know if your newsletter is received by the audience you target. Unless you have a way to track open rates or know the read count (for an electronic version) it can be tough to demonstrate the value and impact of the channel. If you have employees who work at remote sites or are on the move giving access via mobile devices is a must. Knowing how employees access the newsletter on their devices can come handy while making tweaks to the medium of engagement. With a printed newsletter the appropriate placement and promotion can help improve reach and visibility.
  • Consistency: Bringing out the edition in a timely manner is as important as just releasing it. Be it a weekly or a quarterly edition, employees expect to receive important company news continually. If you have promised a schedule sticking to it consistently can improve your channel’s credibility over time. With an electronic version the time of publishing is important – ideally sending it when most of your staff is available or likely to open the communication is beneficial. You can gather insights from employee feedback or from your own internal analytics.
  • Balance: Employees will expect to see a good mix of coverage from most, if not all parts of the business. Sharing stories that show different dimensions of the organization’s character can help improve acceptability. Also, seeking and increasing crowdsourced content from employees is an excellent way to gain readership.
  • Content: Apart from measuring readability use text analysis to gauge language usage that helps improves employees’ identification with your organization. For example, words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ are more likely to build a feeling of community as compared to ‘corporate speak’. Try an audio section for those who prefer to download podcasts and listen during their commute. Provide ways for employees to share stories – an easy to use template with an example to boot. Also consider an Archives section or a Search option.
  • Feedback: Nothing can beat asking for feedback and including snippets in your editions – showing what is working for staff and what can be improved. Have a clear and effective method for employees to share feedback, an online survey or an e-mail ID, for example. Involve them in the process of enhancing the newsletter – in focus groups, as part of an editorial council or in a forum to gather key updates from the business. They can also be the sounding board for new ideas and approaches you want to take with the newsletter. Providing a feedback form or a quiz on the content are other ways to measure the success of your newsletter.
  • Test: One step that can solve many issues of usability is to get employees to take a tour of the newsletter’s sections and check if it is intuitive and simple to navigate. Designing the newsletter with the audience at the heart of your communication can improve its appeal and reduce your effort in marketing the channel.

Hopeful these tips help in making your newsletter inclusive, relevant and memorable. Keen to know what you think.

Of Storytelling, Insecurities and Living In The Now


You don’t often meet a person with an eclectic mix of skills and passion – ranging from community management to screenwriting who can bring storytelling to life with personal experiences and anecdotes.

At a NASSCOM led Marketing & Communication Forum interaction today at Bengaluru I had the opportunity to listen to Daniel Martin Eckhart, the Vice President at Swiss Re, the author of novels such as The Champ, Barnaby Smith and Home and a‘Grimme-Prize’ nominee.

What struck me most was his humility – he has served in the Army, United Nations and with the Vatican apart from a variety of roles in his current organization.  To now inspiring employees at the workplace to be themselves and creating a community of brand ambassadors from within. He had mastered his craft and yet his simplicity and willingness to become better shone through.

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While his address did depart to cover philosophy, life lessons and books the messages on storytelling and the need to be authentic and courageous were relevant for communicators. He believes that organizations that enlist and encourage employees to share more about themselves and be ‘real’ will become stronger.

Here are my key take-aways from his talk. Hopefully, these insights will come in handy when you think about your communication.

  • If it is worth sharing, do so: Many of us avoid putting our thoughts down and sharing it widely because we fear exposure, rejection or disapproval. He feels sharing your insecurities is cathartic – you foster dialogue and conversations and help others understand themselves through your own writing. Most people will either read and comment or share your writing but in their process of reflection they will grow personally.
  • Recognize those who share: To have an open culture where ideas and views are valued it is important to recognize and groom employees who are willing to share. In a knowledge intensive environment, there is nothing more powerful than having employees who can be themselves.
  • The world will be about ‘right brained’ activity: With automation catching up at the workplace all process oriented activities will be machine-led making creativity a key skill that will needed among employees. Getting employees to break the routine and think out of the box are essential today.
  • Find the heart in your content: Daniel explained that information can only get you so far while communicating. If you need your audience to believe and relate it needs to be about the core. Look for emotional hooks. Go deeper with your content and address what your audience wants, rather than communicate from your perspective.
  • Bring your whole self to work: This tip related to identification at the workplace and how one can balance having multiple identities – personal and professional and yet be who you want to be. It is definitely an area for organizations to consider while engaging employees.
  • Listen to your audience: He felt that we hear what we want to say in our own heads. It doesn’t mean others get the message. As communicators our role is to help the audience not just receive the message but understand the narrative.
  • Writing is about ‘showing up’: Many are good at managing writers but probably aren’t hands-on when it comes to writing themselves. He advised communicators to sharpen their writing muscle to gain commitment from your readers and be viewed as a credible communicator. As a communication professional writing is an essential skill and is about ‘brand ambassadorship’. Write so that it matters to employees and write in your own voice, he encouraged.
  • Make stories personal and emotional: According to Daniel it is about you and therefore bringing your own views to the table matters most. Seek the personal and emotional aspects to make a story come alive. Look for the ones people care about and make stories that enrich others’ lives.
  • Don’t ask for permission: Often, we default to others for approvals even when we are empowered to make a difference. He believes that leading with passion and conviction can create a human moment. Do what is right and take the lead. If we are doing more of the same, can we get better?
  • Be in the now: This one is my favorite! Daniel called out that we waste time looking at information together in meetings. Rather than discuss and make decisions basis insights very often meetings are held to ‘talk to’ people about information which is available to read. He encourages communicators to avoid this trap and send pre-reads so that everyone comes to the discussion with views and not information.

Interestingly, right after the session I spoke with a fellow communicator. She lamented how she had 10 blog posts written up and waiting – yet hadn’t published them because she wasn’t sure they were ‘ready’! After listening to Daniel, I think the time is now!