Communicating a ‘touch and feel’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative


There is a corporate social responsibility initiative germinating and I am impressed by the way it is shaping up. This project aims to educate support staff’s children and give employees a way to give back to society in their own little way.

Three aspects that excited me –

a) it is a bottom-up effort led by a handful of employees who feel strongly about the cause of education

 b) it brings credibility and trust to the workplace just by making it accessible and real

c) it began small and is scalable

As we go about crafting a plan to launch this effort I wanted to blog about how we began, what we discussed and therefore share inputs so that you can be better prepared f you intend to begin a similar effort in the future.

Union

As the internal communicator I got involved early enough to be able to get context and therefore contribute to the overall effort.

In the kick-off call, we discussed the idea, what it meant to manage the program and how it tied in with the organization’s overall CSR goals.

Here are questions I raised to get a better understanding –

1. Is this only a sponsorship opportunity? Does it open up possibilities for employees to give tuitions to these children? Can we do a pilot?

2. If we intend to gauge employees’ interest through a survey should we ask if they are keen to volunteer time and effort as well apart from funds?

3. Considering the effort it will take to own and drive such a large exercise, does it make sense to invite employees to join in as the core team?

4. As a core team member, what are the expectations and their responsibilities?

5. How did we arrive at this initiative? Why education?

6. What is our goal? How many are we hoping to educate or support in a year? Unless we have that goal, we may not be able to convince employees to sign up. Also at the end of the year when we communicate what we achieved, we can refer back to this goal.

7. How does this link to the company’s efforts on CSR?

8. How do we communicate with employees and how often? Who will be that spokesperson?

9. Can we have a way to capture employees’ strengths and talent so that we can leverage those when the time is ripe? For example, we may need someone who can write, another with leadership skills for organizing, someone who can hold an audience among others.

This meeting got us thinking about what employees may ask us if they heard of this initiative. Therefore we worked out a set of potential questions and created responses handy.

By putting down our thoughts on paper, we were able to reflect a lot more on what the objectives, benefits for employees, for those availing the funds, how much of time employees need to invest, how we recognize employees, how can employees avail tax advantages and lots more.

From my experience most initiatives fail at communicating consistently. While there is good intent, without periodic messages addressing progress and contributions employees lose interest and the program falls apart. We defined a formal plan which will launch the program, draw from key messages, share FAQs, run frequent polls and involve employees with the children through events and engage leaders.

This is where I sign off now. Will be back with more thoughts as we move along.

Were these insights relevant and useful to you? Drop a line on my post.

The Power of Feedback in Evaluating Internal Communication Work


Nothing compares to the power of feedback and networking. I recently witnessed its influence while shaping a set of internal communication posters we created for a milestone event.

The posters were an element of a larger campaign to get employees excited about the organization’s history, progress, people, culture and talent. When we began the campaign a year ago, we developed a set of key messages that panned out across all channels we communicated.

Fresh

Created in-house, we were keen to leverage ‘collective wisdom’ so as to get our communication right before it reached everyone. The advantages included faster time to market, more ‘eyeballs’, better oversight and finally speed of getting reviews at zero cost. As part of our communication creation process we built in a buffer to take inputs and feedback from employees who receive the messages.

It is however important to define the scope and expectations from your stakeholders when you ask for feedback on a topic like communication – where things can get subjective. Also, like you must have already discovered if you are in this field – everyone has an opinion!

I infused a fun element into the process of evaluating the communication by adding a ‘try your hand at improving this poster’ kind of message when inviting a select group of people to give feedback.

The following guidelines were however shared –

a)       The thinking behind the communication and why it was designed. In this particular case, we were building awareness on the event and celebrations – were they able to get that story?

b)       Focus on how the creative can be improved by making it more readable and effective. Were the posters conveying the message of ‘history, culture, people, progress and talent’?

c)       Including all that matters to employees and for the message. What elements needed tinkering to make it more relevant?

d)       Mapping the message and the medium. How can we help employees get the messages better? In what form can we make the communication easier for people to get more updates?

While we helped the reviewers to stay focused on the above pointers don’t be surprised when you get inputs on design since it is the more visible element of any communication.

It is your ability to sift through what makes sense from the communication perspective that impacts how your collateral shapes up.

However never discount other ideas which may be indirectly related to the topic. For example, we received some excellent recommendations on leveraging other channels of communication and elements of imagery they believed can appear.

How do you select your reviewers? I would leave it to your judgment when it comes to selecting your team but my guidance is to have an equal representation of career levels, geographies, locations so that you can get a lot more varied feedback. I am also fortunate to have employees write in asking for opportunities to contribute to internal communication either in creating, reviewing, partnering or broadcasting messages. Makes life easier when you have an enthusiastic bunch that is keen to support.

How can you keep them abreast of how communication gets created? Well, the onus is on you to help them understand how communication is done and therefore what you expect from their review. I also regularly updated them on trends and updates from what our team handles and their influence on internal communication. Also share samples of previous work to give them a better perspective.

Always keep them posted on what you have done with their feedback. Nothing is worse than not getting back on inputs received.

In this particular instance, I went back to the group with the refreshed creatives explaining what we considered and what we couldn’t and why. This completes the loop, gets you any additional inputs and earns you the trust of your reviewers.

There are downsides however to this approach of seeking feedback from employees who have no experience evaluating such communication. To start, you may invite the wrath of your own team members who think you might be doing disservice to the domain! Or get pulled in all directions without getting concrete suggestions to improve your communication.

However, I believe that if you have included the right mix of reviewers the chances of getting relevant inputs are higher.

After a couple of iterations we got more than what we expected which reflected in the comments shared by the reviewers – ‘these are now looking great’, can’t choose between which are better of the two’ and ‘I feel proud to belong to this company’.

Experienced the power of feedback in your work?  Do share them here.