When I was in college, our journalism department produced a simple one-page “newsletter” each week called the Monday Memo. It wasn’t complex or even sophisticated, but it was well-written and generated consistently. As a result, it was a respected, valuable tool for the department to communicate important matters to students and faculty. As a student in that department, I always felt “in the know” after reading that weekly missive.
It’s been more than two decades since I read my last Monday Memo, but the spirit of consistent communication has guided my career. I’ve worked with clients large and small to ensure they are actively and regularly sharing good news and (when appropriate) not-so-good news with their key audiences – both internal and external.
Unfortunately, all too often organizations choose to focus their public relations efforts exclusively on external audiences. These companies are missing an opportunity; well-informed employees are happier, more productive, and can be an organization’s best brand ambassadors. Whether your company has five employees or 5,000, in one location or many, your internal audience should be considered a top priority.
Here are ten tips for a successful employee communications program:
- Make sure employees know first. Do you have a big, exciting announcement to make? Or is downsizing imminent? Do you know that a negative media story is about to post? Whatever it is – good news or bad – employees need to hear it from you first. Trust is earned through transparency.
- Less is more. When you over communicate you risk losing your audience. Unless there is urgent news that needs to be shared, consider a weekly or monthly newsletter to keep employees apprised of company business. Everyone is inundated with email, so use single-subject blasts sparingly and only when there is an urgency to get the message out immediately.
- Consider the medium. Do all employees have access to email at your workplace? If so, an online-only approach can be successful. But in some settings, such as hospitals, not all employees have email access. A printed publication can be a valuable tool in these situations. People consume information in different ways. Know your audience before you decide, and consider both print and electronic.
- Hold employee meetings. Whether all-employee meetings are held monthly, quarterly or annually, there is no substitute for in-person communication. Give employees an opportunity to hear directly from top-level leadership and ask any questions they may have.
- Write and repeat. Important messages should be shared more than once and through various mediums – email, newsletter, all-employee meetings, etc. Repetition and consistency is the key to any effective communications program.
- Be sensitive to language barriers. With a global workforce you may need to communicate in multiple languages.Remember that effective communication requires more than a direct translation; it must also be sensitive to cultural norms.
- Have a process for feedback. Communication is a two-way street. A good employee communications program recognizes that pushing out messages is just as important as being open to comments and questions. Respond in a timely fashion.
- Keep your ears open. What’s the buzz around the office? Are there rumors floating around? Talk to front-line employees (not just senior staff or department heads), and find out what’s on their minds and what their concerns are. There is nothing more toxic to employee morale than rumors left unaddressed.
- Be mindful of the message. Anything shared with employees instantly becomes public knowledge. Therefore, nothing should be communicated that you would not feel comfortable seeing covered by the media, posted on Facebook or shared via a tweet. Be prepared for media calls regarding any information that is communicated to employees.
- Turn to your PR team for guidance. Public relations professionals are experts in communicating with various audiences and tailoring messages specific to each. They are your best resource for ensuring your employee communications efforts are met with resounding success.
Michelle Hokr is a vice president at Kevin/Ross Public Relations.