In an article at Ragan’s Grapevine, Steve Crescenzo writes on trends in corporate communications.
According to Crescenzo, the old way of doing employee communication does not work anymore because the audience has changed. They no longer tolerate tedious information and demand to be engaged and entertained by interesting material similar to what they see in real world media.
The author identifies two trends in corporate communications:
1. corporate editors are coming out of their shell; and
2. communicators are explaining things in plain English.
Corporate editors, Crescenzo says, used to rely on a formula for communicating to employees, writing sterile, bland copy without personality and reading like press releases, marketing materials or HR brochures. The editors were anonymous.
In contrast, he points out that editors today are being more creative, doing things differently in more interesting, dynamic, fun ways that are more effective. They are calling attention to themselves while taking more ownership of the messages that are infused with their personalities.
He cites Philips Electronics Communications Manager Cameron Batten who launched a “Roving Reporter” feature on the company intranet where he goes to a trade show and reports on it. Instead of writing a boring story with clichéd photos, quotes and product reviews, though, Batten produces what he calls “infotainment.” He brings a co-anchor - an employee chosen based on solicited audition tapes - and makes irreverent videos. He also posts a “daily blog-like diary written with tons of personality and interactive features” and holds a daily contest where readers can win “cool Philips products and other fun stuff.”
Crescenzo quotes Batten saying: “The Roving Reporter is the antithesis of old-school communication. Gone are the days when stuffy execs in suits deliver information via newsletters, intranets or town halls. Communication today needs to be more organic, engaging and relevant.”
The author says Batten’s research shows that the approach works with thousands of employees checking out the Roving Reporter, watching the video, taking quizzes, reading the blog and learning about Philips products, new technologies, sales strategies and other important information. Employees also send back raving email.
The second trend cited by Crescenzo involves communicators translating the corporate jargon of engineers, marketers, HR people, product managers and other content experts for the rest of the company employees. Editors, he says, are asking more questions to decipher lexicons and boil things down for the audience.
He cites Southwest Airlines Luvlines editor Tonda Montague who translated the meaning of terms such as cost per available seat mile, net income, net income margin and return on invested capital for her readers. Crescenzo quotes her: “I told our financial people, ‘I want to be your idiot filter.’ I told them that if they could make me understand it, then I could help everyone else understand it.”
In the new model of communications, Crescenzo says editors and writers “have to check their egos at the door and admit that they are ‘idiots’ when it comes to finances, marketing, new products, HR and other topics” in order to learn about them and be able to explain them to employees in a way that is easy to understand.
The new communicators look like cool dudes.