Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

If You Want Employees on the Intranet, Skip the Spin

For intranet content that truly engages employees, think more like a newspaper editor than a PR exec. In public relations, you try to push the messages and information that you want the readers to know. As a journalist, you look for the stories your readers want to know.

A PR perspective* can result in the rose-colored glasses version of company news.Employees are sophisticated consumers of media, and they’ll see right through that rosy lens. A perpetual and obvious spin can erode trust rather quickly.

Taking a journalistic approach to content will mean thinking through the questions employees will want answered. Telling the whole story, without sidestepping the bits that might not be such good news, results in the sort of authentic content that employees crave.

That doesn’t mean you can’t promote company messaging on the intranet. Among other topics, it can and should contain content that helps employees align with the company vision; educates them on company accomplishments and the achievements of those in other functional silos; and connects employees across geography to remind them they’re part of something larger than their immediate work team.

The intranet is also an excellent place to tell the company’s side of any unsettling event or major change. It offers an opportunity to counteract the rumor mill by sharing the reasons behind a change or the company’s response to an unfortunate event. It can reduce employee stress by giving them the information they need to feel confident in the way management is moving forward. If you want employees to consider the intranet their go-to source for company information, give them an honest appraisal of what’s happening now, what will happen next, and how, and when and to whom.

Remember that an intranet is a pull medium. Employees have to want to see what’s posted, or you’ll never get them to go there. To make your intranet a must-read for employees, offer the news they want, delivered in a way that gives them credit for being intelligent human beings.

Interested in making your intranet the go-to source for employees? Tribe can help.

*This post is not intended to disparage the fine work of public relations professionals, many of whom we respect and admire to the nth degree.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

To Shift Culture, Be Honest About the Gap Between Reality and the Vision

Or “Defining reality and creating hope go hand in hand,” as the retired CEO of Yum! brands David Novak put it in a recent LinkedIn post. (FYI, Novak has recently published a book on recognition titled “O Great One!”) His comment was directed at the need for leaders to move past defining reality to “show people where that reality can take them.”

That need also extends to internal communicators. There’s sometimes a temptation for internal communicators to paint the culture a rosier hue than it actually is. People fear being negative. But employees know their culture, because they live the culture, and if you ignore the existing issues, you undermine their trust.

The first step to shifting culture is to acknowledge where you are now. It takes courage to be honest, because if we’re honest, most cultures aren’t where we’d like them to be. Yet human beings, and their resulting cultures, have a tremendous capacity for change.

When you use the reality as a starting point for a vision of what could be, you harness a tremendous amount of power for change. Or as Novak might say, hope.

As internal communicators, our job is to be clear about the first and inspirational about the second. In other words, this is where we are, and this is where we’re going to go. We own our reality, and we also claim our vision.

Interested in shifting your culture? Tribe can help.





Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Ghost blogging is dead: Three channels for more authentic leadership communications

Most employees assume CEOs don’t write their own blogs. And in most companies, they’re right. The blogs posted under the names of the top executives have usually been ghost written by someone several rungs below and edited by one or two others before the so-called author ever sees the piece. The messages are carefully crafted, but often very lengthy and not authentic in the least.

That’s because most CEOs don’t have time to blog. Or because none of their trusted advisors has suggested the importance of them taking a few minutes to dash off a few paragraphs once in a while. Even the occasional tweet from the big cheese might be preferable to a highly produced essay-length post that is clearly ghost written.

Employees want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Tribe’s national research indicates that employees of large companies prefer to learn about two topics in particular – vision and change – directly from their company leadership.

So what’s an internal communications department to do? Here are three suggestions for leadership communications that are more authentic –and require a limited time commitment from the execs.

1. Make it a Q&A piece or feature article: You don’t have to speak in the CEO’s voice to share his or her views. Rather than pretend the executive is doing the writing, let the internal author come out from behind the curtain. Ask three or four questions about a topic and let the executive ramble. Then edit a concise response from the words that actually came out of his or her mouth. You can also use the same 15-minute interview to write a feature article for the intranet or company magazine.

2. Make it a video: Some people are very comfortable talking to camera. As in the Q&A interview described above, let the executive ramble and then edit some of the nicest pieces together for a one to three-minute video. Let them know it doesn’t matter if they mess up and need to say something over again, because you’ll only include the best parts in the final edit. You might get several short videos out of one 3o- or 45-minute on-camera interview.

One strength of this format is that video can humanize executive leadership. Employees not only get to see their faces; they hear their voices and watch their body language, all of which helps them feel like they know them personally. And that builds trust in leadership.

3. Try a podcast: Podcasts are back. Or if you never noticed them before, they’re here. Podcasts on iTunes have topped a billion subscribers. Almost 40 million Americans say they’ve listened to a podcast in the past 30 days.

Plus, executives don’t need to worry how their hair looks. It can be a lot less stressful for many people to be recorded than videotaped. If they stumble over their words, they can try it again as many times as they want. Remind them that the edit will use only the most polished bits. And like the video suggestion above, one interview can be edited into several podcasts.

Interested in helping your leadership communications be more authentic? Tribe can help.