Cut Through the Noise - How to Win at Internal Communications

Michelle Lawrence Picture

by Michelle Lawrence | Last Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Learn how to increase engagement and help eliminate one-way communication patterns when communicating with your employees.

Leigh Hamer: Good afternoon, everybody, my name is Leigh Hamer and I am VP of Customer Experience at Lumavate. We will get started in just about one minute, as we get set up here for those of you that just joined, please feel free to use the chat function of the Zoom throughout this webinar to ask any questions. My co-host Michelle will be sure to aggregate those and we will have an open Q&A  at the end of the session. But throughout I do want to make this as interactive as possible, so I'll pause to address any questions that might come up and I see we have several more folks rolling in so we'll give you guys about another minute or so, to get everybody in. Alright, I believe in starting on time so let's get started welcome everybody, my name is Leigh Hamer I am VP of Customer Experience here at Lumavate.

And today I have the pleasure of chatting with you about internal comms and how you can cut through the noise. So I have spent my entire career in communications and have had the pleasure of working with a number of organizations both small, large midsize nonprofit even. Today I have the pleasure of consulting with our clients and I really help them to implement and manage their communication strategies in a way that drives meaningful results. So today what I have created for you are some actionable steps and like I said at the beginning of this I’d like to make this as conversational and interactive as possible. I don't know about you, but Zoom meetings all day can feel a little stilted so please feel free to ask questions jump into chat my co-host Michelle will help aggregate some of those and I can pause throughout to address any questions alright so without further ado let's dive in.

I wanted to start by just talking about the title of this. It struck me, it's a very powerful title right? Let's cut through the noise, that is the role of any communicator - get to the point, get to your audience and be seen and heard by them, but really, the question is how do you define winning what is cutting through the noise, for you. So I think asking you to think about some of your biggest challenges was really telling to me and I appreciated, those of you who shared yours with us, I wanted to kind of start there, and hopefully the rest of you can identify with some of these challenges that your colleagues on this call today are experiencing.

In general, when I was reading the types of challenges, and we summarize them here. What I'm seeing are issues that rise up from approaching internal comms as a one way street right, whereas we're really going to start to talk about creating a dialogue with your end users, so what I'd like to encourage you, for the next 20 or so minutes while we have time together today, to think differently about your role, what you're tasked with inside of your organization, so that way you can start to act differently. I have the assumption that all of you, joined this webinar today not to kill 30 minutes, but rather to create some actionable steps to hone your skills and learn something new to improve your own companies communications. So when we think about what is our real goal as internal communicators, no matter what your title is that's probably the core of your job, is it, this is an internal communications are we thinking about one person or a group of people or your team shouting out into the ether right telling everybody all the news all the happenings open enrollment has started, we hired a new person, you know menu items operations any of that news that's coming out and just telling them, making sure they can digest all of that information. Rather than thinking about it more as internal engagement right, and I think that your title sometimes can really dictate the goals that you have. So step back and think about your role your boss or your leadership, come to you, and they tell you some department news or something that has to be shared. Through whatever channels and means, you have to tell your employees you likely have the opportunity with your leaders to ask some questions and get some clarity, so that way you can write the correct kind of release out to the employees write an article create a video whatever means you're putting out to those employees right, you have that opportunity to get clarity.

Do your employees have that same opportunity and really ask yourself do they have a way to get information that is pertinent to them and their specific role. We're going to talk a lot about the user groups and the different kinds of employees, that you have, and I know we have a wide variety of industries represented here today, so thinking about seasonal workers, frontline staff, those in the manufacturing line those in offices, those that are working remote right. More than ever, today you have a disparate group that you are trying to communicate with but also trying to engage so we're going to talk a lot about different ways to engage those audiences.

Before we do, we're going to have a little interactive portion of this some percentage of employees feel they are missing out on company information and news. I want you to think about what that might be I'm going to launch a poll, but also consider that we have more ways to communicate and get information today than ever before. I personally right now have a laptop my phone and a tablet in front of me right, I have email I have slack I have instant messaging I have all the things and all the ways to get the information. But why do your employees feel like they're missing out and they see, we have a number of responses. I'll give you guys another few seconds to get yours in and then we'll end the poll, and you guys can see the results kind of fun all right we're going to end it now. So, the results are more than 70% so 55% of you said that that's the answer, and you are correct so it's actually 74%. So three out of four employees feel like they're missing out on company information. Which is just soul crushing when I think about how much work you guys are probably doing and putting into it, how are they missing it right. I sent an email, we posted a flyer we had signage we had a luncheon, we hosted a webinar we had a town hall right, you can create all these ways and it's frustrating that they can't receive it so where is that breakdown right. I think the breakdown if my slides will advance is in a lack of really unifying those communication channels, we have more ways than ever to communicate with people and more devices than we know what to do with. But we wind up playing this really horrible game of seek and find right where your employees have all these different channels. 

So like I said I've worked in manufacturing, where we had plant workers, and it really the only way to communicate was physical signage right you had to print something and put it up for them. To be able to see so that was a limited opportunity other employees, you have email, you have text messaging now. You might have Slack channels or instant messenger with Zoom or teams or other channels that are happening. And what can happen is little silos right and employees go I don't know where to find it where was that news because what we haven't done is unified that communication across all of those channels.

So you're doing all the things, but do you have a cohesive and unified strategy to get it out, not only in the right device setting, but also to the right users so understanding our user profile is critical. So this is where I want to launch into some steps I love action I love webinars that actually give me something to move on, so here are seven recommendations that I have that I think you can reasonably start to make today, asterisks maybe this week right please ask any questions use our chat we're actively monitoring it love to get your feedback and thoughts here.

Okay, so thinking about the challenges that this group shared ahead of the webinar I really tailored these down. I think the first and biggest challenge of any task and creating a unified calm strategy is really thinking about your employee profile. So grouping your employees into buckets right so thinking about those frontline staff those seasonal workers, like I said remote teams versus those that are in physical offices. You know your staff best how would you bucket them. And then think about what is their access to technology during the workday are they even likely to read anything off of work hours or the only opportunity I have when they're on when they're on shift right.

And the needs and requirements that they have what I mean by this it's a wide reaching statement, but is there anything on a compliance level that you have to give them as their OSHA statements. Other things like that that you must put in front of different groups right office staff might not be as concerned with safety and other  items that you might have to talk to your manufacturing plant employees about so just noticing and understanding the information that's going to be most important to them and that they need to receive to do their job is going to help distill and cut through that noise for them right don't make me sift through things that I really don't care about. Once is a big one, I want to read fun things I want to read things that are relevant to me and enlightening and very inspiring to me in my role and feel tailor made. And last but definitely not least not overlooking language so making sure to whatever extent you're capable, are you communicating with employees in their native tongue. While you might have multilingual speakers, is it much more conducive for them to receive something if it's in Mandarin or Spanish or whatever other languages, you might have throughout your employee base that's inviting that that makes me feel seem right and that's going to cut through any and all of that noise, because now, I feel like you understand me and I'm able to read and digest that information in something that's very familiar.

To get feedback, and I mean this no excuses, there are so many ways and channels that are absolutely free and frictionless that you can get feedback from your employees. So, asking them what's important to them and then demonstrating that you've received that feedback is going to be critical as a next step, so it can't just be. This facade of we want feedback, but it, you know just goes into the shredder there's Google form there's tiny pulse, which allows you to send regular emails and get surveys from your employees, you could also just simply set up a dedicated email address right. Physical suggestion boxes to I understand we're in a remote world depending on your setup, but if you have frontline staff store workers hospitality staff, people that are in physical spaces, can you get feedback from them, but through this means and then demonstrating back to them we've heard you. We've heard that you guys don't see any information about benefits or retirement savings and so we've changed this and here's all the information and we sent the synthesized it for you right or hey what did we do wrong last year when we did open enrollment, how could we improve the communication about that this year, getting feedback and then trying to implement those things. That will certainly cut through the noise and it starts this dialogue and true engagement, because now, I know that when I give you my feedback, it is going to be seen and valued.

Okay embrace video so expand your storytelling, I think, especially now over the last what two years that we've had with code and remote working being at its highest point. People can feel very disconnected right, and I think reading a lot of emails slack messages instant messenger that kind of thing can feel a little impersonal. So if you have company news and it's something that should come from a leader let's just say it's a CEO it's whatever. The right spokesperson might be a 45 second video from them is going to feel much more authentic than something that reads like a scripted quote. Right and that can also break through the noise of all the information that I'm receiving because now I'm seeing a face, I get to hear it from them, so does the trust level go up in whatever needs to be communicated in that means.And lastly, I think it just connects people a little bit better. Especially I know on our own team as we've hired people seeing people and hearing from them allows us to have more empathy and understanding about what's in their daily lives what's happening in their role. And it brings them to life and just off the page of the written word, as it were. Okay and I'm seeing a couple of questions. Do you have recommendations of video editing software that is easy to use and create a high quality product emphasize easy to use, so yes. I would say don't overlook Imovie I know that sounds really basic, but they have done a phenomenal job of making it incredibly easy to edit movies, even on your phone. So that would be one there are certainly much more robust suite of Canada has done a nice job of enabling you if you have a paid plan to do. MP4 downloads of videos as well as turn if you do like screen recordings or other things into gifs so depending what kind of visuals you might be looking for they might be one to look at. And I can pull some more and in a follow up get you some more options up and adobe premiere rush yeah I would be curious to hear how easy you feel adobe as he is to us, I know that they can be rather weighty but certainly they offer a lot of options yep.

Number four put yourself in the readers seat so walk off some time pull together all the content that you have put out to employees and start a timer on your watch on your phone and in clock how long it actually takes you to consume that content, whether you're putting out video or you're reading articles or blogs or things like that How long does it take you to read the content that you've put out inside of one day and how long would it take you to read everything inside of one week. Now, maybe you're doing a great job and you're really distilling to a channel of employees and so you can look at it in that way if you're doing that kudos to you. If you're just creating one repository for all employees to go through, I think, understanding the quantity that you're putting in front of them will give you some empathy for how hard it is for them to sort through. Right and then is it realistic for them to consume all of that, and do their job. Was it easy to find all of that, did you even know where everything was if you have a variety of channels via email and Internet the slack messages. Teams things like that I think this will help you identify gaps and opportunities that are really specific to your organization your communications. To put out a more holistic conversation, can you create a unified strategy can you create a single source of truth for that content. So myself as a user if i've been on vacation and I come back where do I go, how do I catch up and find all of this information, are you sending a daily or weekly summary of recapping the biggest news for me right, so I think thinking about it that way and understanding those readers. In parallel with some of those segments that you've created you'll start to identify actionable next steps.

Five create a nurturer campaign so um I don't know how many of you have truly been in marketing organization and you know outbound campaigns and efforts like that. But I enjoy working inside organizations and with customers that do think about internal comms as a nurturer campaign or drip campaigns, if you will. So here's an example you have new employees right depending how big and complex your organization is that onboarding plan might look, you know, a varying sizes. But it seems to be pile a lot on the new employee right here's all the documents you need to sign sign up for health care right all of this stuff. And then it's you know if you have a physical space still do you need to get a badge navigating the physical space right and onboarding to all the software and the list kind of goes on, and it can be like eating the elephant. So how do you distill that down into what I would describe more as a drip campaign, breaking it down into maybe the first two weeks potentially even months depending How long have an onboarding process, you really feel like your company needs. And thinking, what does an employee really need day one right how to login where to go and where do I get lunch, like those might be the biggest things.

Aside from whatever their direct manager is going to then assigned to them, but how can you eat them throughout that process and just nurture them along with added information, as it makes sense, as they progress in their onboarding. right if they don't need to have salesforce access on day one, but really that's like a day, five or maybe it's a week to thing and they then need to understand how you use salesforce, for example. That's something that can wait that doesn't need to be the top priority and what I'm trying to consume immediately. That can also help right that cut through the noise, give me what I need and help me move along and feel like I'm making progress.  The other thing you can gameifying some of this where it's like badging our percentage indicator of how far you have to go to complete this step and it allows them to move perhaps at their pace, but also in commiseration with everything else, they have going on okay.

Number six these strategic comms leader so let's get real there's probably one other department leader who is less than let's say enthusiastic about internal comms maybe they're not your biggest advocates are not the biggest champion they're not the ones that are signed up to write blog posts and are eager to do videos right. And perhaps there one that you could nurture, how do you create an ally in them because experience would tell me that that department leader likely also leads a team that is less engaged. So if you have that happening, if you engage that department leader and you invite them to contribute you provide them with the resources that they need to be successful, so whether that's you ghostwriting right. I've done it personally hopped on conversations with leaders had conversations with them about what's happening, and then I write it for them and publish it under their name, so that way news is coming out from them that it is from them it's just I did the legwork right. From there you'll start to see their employees reengage it's also going to ensure that you have representation across your employee base. Right, if you have a department leader who will not participate in is not readily available for all of that information that needs then you're missing out on talking to those employees and truly understanding what information is important and necessary for them to do their job.

All right. I'm curious if anyone has any tips on this or has experienced here, please feel free to add in the chat about that. Alright, last but certainly not least, set and celebrate small wins, so I mean this most sincerely, because you guys have the yeoman's job in your organization. There's a there's a never ending crush of information to put out to everyone. And it's your goal to make sure it gets out in a professional manner and it's accurate right and it can be that source of truth for the entire organization that's not to be overlooked.

So you can certainly create your dream board right of how big and bold you want to go with your internal comms strategy and really moving it into. That unified comms vision with you know, a strategic plan and a single source of truth that is divided, so that way employees, based on their role can find the information that's relevant to them. But we also need to get real about the achievable weekly goals, what is the progress that you can make. Are you set up to start doing video today and testing that and seeing if that starts to help it re engage employees get your readership numbers up you know, I think. Thinking about how can we simply just start to segment our employees that's a rather easy win. Just to put pen to paper and say, these are the types of employees here's the time zones that they work in and just start to be conscious of their world and when information should go out to them, I think you'd start to see a big difference in their how receptive they are to your communications. And then, one of the challenges that I saw posted was you know something around getting leadership to buy in and understand. What news needs to be put out versus you know what employees, want to hear and that's always a constant battle and a friction points so sharing with them these incremental wins. Especially if you're able to input any implement any kind of feedback process so be that a survey or physical suggestion box whatever. Showing them that it's not just you right with your great instinct and knowing, this is what they want, but rather putting names and actual requests in front of them might start to shift that conversation, hopefully, it would with the the sheer weight of other employees contributing.

Okay. So those were some suggestions about some wins that you could have today and changes that you can make. What I want to go into next is just metrics of success so great you do all of this, how do I know it successfully well here's some. What I would say our key metrics right, these are some of the kpis you might adjust them based on some differences in your industries and how your organizations are structured. But, in general, your users that's a known quantity you're kept right if you have 5,000 employees you're only going to have 5,000 potential readers. Now you're going to have repeat visitors right, but just understanding that is going to start to help you benchmark what success looks like like how many if we have an Internet how many site visitors, should we have per month.

That kind of thing and then really looking at time on site and then also articles and pages per session, however you look at it. Together I find important because back to that example of you sitting down in the reader seat and reading through things. How long does it take you to read your articles are you writing long form articles are you writing really bullet point action oriented articles that take me 30 seconds, maybe two minutes to read. You know there's a big difference there, so if you're seeing we have articles that are minutes long to read, but the time on the site is like only a couple of minutes. And people are viewing three pages, I mean those numbers don't work out they're not reading through it right so right there you can start to surmise some next steps right maybe we need to make our content, a little bit shorter.

People don't have that much time they're not spending a lot of time on long form content it's not super popular, how do we shorten it. Traffic patterns so back to the point of segmenting your users and understanding, I think time zones is really key as well as their work hours. When can they consume that information and When are they consuming that information might be different might be enlightening to you might be right in line with what you expect. But I would note the popular days and times right, because then, when you have key information to put out we hired a new CEO we might want to you know, let the company know about that. What day and time are they most receptive to new information, what are they most engaged that's likely when you want to put that information out. Trending topics this isn't so much a metric you can certainly put tags on your articles and start to track it that way, but it is about. I like to talk about you know your meat and vegetables, so you need to have a good mix of your internal comms so everybody needs to eat their vegetables, but I don't really want to read about benefits and OSHA requirements and that's not fun I want some of my dessert and you know other fun things so you have to have that blend of topics and see what is resonating and are you giving people the right next to keep them engaged and interested in coming back for more user engagement so just tracking if you're able to put that feedback or survey practice in place, how many people are actually completing it do you have repeat users do you allow for anonymous comments do you have vehicles, where people can't be anonymous and is that beneficial and I think just tracking that different user engagement will help propel ,ore feedback cycles and iterate to a point where you create a really great survey and feedback loop that your employee bases are comfortable with.

And then, lastly, representation so getting that you know that business leader who maybe isn't fully engaged or department. Making sure that you have representation across making that a goal for the year and really working at any of those trouble spots because that's where you're likely to yield the greatest results. That's what the employees that maybe have felt overlooked or unseen right their needs aren't being met and they're not getting information that they desperately need from you and your team.

Okay, so to put that all into perspective, here is a sample GA dashboard that is actually from a customer and I think. It's telling when you look at it all together right within a snapshot imagine putting this into you know, an exact summary for your leadership and showing them. How long people are spending the mix of new and returning visitors So here we have a lot more of the new Visitors versus returning visitors for this period, most people are engaged on Mondays. At the noon hour so in global usage and then certainly if your user base is very diverse and age, you can start to break That apart, you can dig real deep obviously in Google analytics here for data that would help you make actionable next steps and really change and improve your employee comes to be much more so focused on employee engagement.

And so I know we are right at nearly 330 there is no hard stop here, so I want to ask you, you know if you have any other questions, please feel free to pop them in the chat i'm also going to bring up some of those big challenges again that we saw just you guys can get a sense so let's see. OK, Michelle do you have some questions? 

Michelle Lawrence: Yeah I do so, it looks like we're getting some in the chat right now so we, what is the best system, in your opinion, for internet and tracking.

Leigh Hamer: Yeah so as far as tracking goes, I mean Google analytics dominates the space if you have. it can be a public website, it can be hosted obviously behind so so and and secure for all of the secure information that you guys would be sharing Google analytics which I showed that dashboard. That can certainly be a very robust tool for tracking as far as Internet systems, I would say that there are certainly a lot of options based on your needs limit eight does offer an internal comms APP that works across all device platforms, but yeah there's there's several out there.

Michelle Lawrence: Okay, and then looks like we're getting a couple on the theme of re-engaging employees, so you know let's say you're looking at your your GA dashboard and you're seeing kind of the time spent on an article decrease, how would you suggest re-engaging some of those employees.

Leigh Hamer: Yeah great question and not uncommon I think we start to see reengagement come up when you see the mix of new versus returning employees start to shift. Right, we have people coming back with expectations, and so one thing I would say there when we start to see returning users, we do tend to see the time on site even out it starts to flatten a little bit because they're much more efficient sodon't necessarily jump to the conclusion that a reduction in time on site is a negative thing it might indicate that they are just more efficient and navigating and finding what they want so keep that in mind. But if you are seeing overall user, so we talked about you know users within employee comes it's a known quantity, you know you're not going to like be reaching everybody you're reaching just your employees. If you're seeing your month over month numbers decline of unique visitors, I would really start to try to drill into what has changed. Okay, so a lot of things could factor into it, that I would just start to question. Hiring -  have you hired a ton of new employees right has something shifted fundamentally about the organization and the departments, that you have is number one that I would ask.

But as far as re-engaging them, you know what has failed, again, is it long form articles, are we not putting anything of true interest out there is it just fact based statements that don't invite feedback from users is it very one dimensional is it news that they can get elsewhere are they getting it elsewhere right. Sometimes you're seeing it managers become much more effective at communicating with their team members, and so a single source of information might not be as. You know relevant So how do you just peel back the layers of what changed, and when did it change that you started to notice that drop off and that's where I would really probe.

Michelle Lawrence: Awesome and I think we have time for one more question, and this one is, you know how should you think about what content gets sent as an email versus you know what type of content gets it more as a as an SMS text message.

Leigh Hamer: Absolutely so email is great, for I can get to it later right it's not urgent, whereas an SMS data will show that an SMS message, the text message is read within three seconds of being sent. So just consider that you're you're buzzing my phone right now, when I see that text message i'm expecting something urgent or something timely and relevant to me. So my dentist texts me, you have an appointment tomorrow thanks that's a great reminder yep I needed I needed you to interrupt my day to tell me that. Right, so I think it's just a question of do you need to interrupt their day to tell them the thing, and is it something they need a reminder on or to take an action on and you link them somewhere else. Email is a great way to summarize here's the top news from the week here, something that you can you know read at your leisure later it's not pressing that's the impression that users have from those two communication channels.

Michelle Lawrence: Okay awesome well Thank you so much, Leigh for today.

Leigh Hamer: If anyone else has any other questions, please feel free to pop them in the chat I will stay on for another couple of minutes and, at the end, we do have a brief survey just asking you what are some of the challenges you're facing but Thank you everyone for joining today, and I hope you have a great day.

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