One day last week I parked in front of a white, mid-sized car. Not brand new, not a luxury brand, just a car you might not notice. Except I did. Because it had long, black eyelashes on the headlights.
As it turns out, you can buy car eyelashes for less than $30. It’s an inexpensive way to share a little flair. If you’re looking, you’ll notice the countless ways drivers personalize their rides, from snazzy rims to monogramed window stickers.
The takeaway here is not the growth in auto accessory sales, but the ever-increasing desire for self-expression. Your business can harness that powerful trend by creating communications channels that encourage collaboration and involvement.
To be relevant, internal communications has to invite and ignite employees to share their opinions and personality. Once internal communications was top-down: we’ll tell you what you need to know. As internal communications evolved, communication improved with employee surveys, town halls and feedback sessions. Think about this: How often does anyone actually ask a question at a town hall session?
Involvement communications is a fancy term for connecting with individuals, not groups. It’s about creating ways for your colleagues to participate. Here are three excellent ways to start:
· Social media—Invite employees to share what they love about your company as brand ambassadors. Create a hashtag and use it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Share the guidelines on how to use it and promote it internally. Then watch how they share what they love about your business. You’ll be amazed how quickly it’s adopted. Want some good examples? Go to #AdobeLife, #LifeatIHG or #ToBeAPartner.
· Online forums–Create an online forum on your company’s intranet and solicit ideas for building engagement and productivity or saving money. Enterprise networks like Yammer, tibbr, or Chatter create a channel to collaborate, share insights and new ideas.
· Involvement events—Create events that let them share their passions. Chili cook-offs, photo contests, or service days are simple, inexpensive ways to bring teams together to build community. Ask for selfies and share the day through communication channels.
Want more ideas on how to bring your internal communications to life? Let’s connect: firstname.lastname@example.org
An incident this week strengthened my opinion that social media has a purpose beyond Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie or Taylor Swift’s love life. Used effectively, social media should become a plank in every internal communications strategy.
On October 5, the management of Here to Serve Restaurants in Atlanta announced that their ten restaurants would close immediately, putting 1,000 people out of work while the company explores reorganization. No notice, no severance, no return date.
By the next morning, the word spread through the Atlanta restaurant community. Social media became a life raft for impacted employees to connect with restaurants that were hiring. Open positions for back of house and front of house roles appeared on Twitter, trending under #H2H2WORK. Here’s just a sample:
“Lots of ATL resto folks are out of jobs today due to the H2S closings. Resto group—post your opps and I’ll retweet. #H2S2WORK” @ATL_Events
“H2H2WORK come get some fried chicken @WhiteOakAtlanta. We got enough for at least 15 of y’all.” @ChefTRichards
“As much as it hurts to see @H2SRestaurants going away, it’s awesome to see the #ATL food community coming together #H2H2WORK” @Christopherbw
The Giving Kitchen, a restaurant community non-profit, established a fund for Here to Serve employees and there were online job fairs on Facebook.
Think about this: These efforts mobilized within 24 hours of the announcement. Atlanta restaurants belong to a geographically dispersed community with none of the traditional internal communications vehicles (emails, town halls, presentation decks). Yet the response was fast and effective.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is your social media plan established and robust? Would your employees go to your social platforms for information or in a crisis? Have you marketed your social media channels to internal audiences?
2. If you have an existing Crisis Communications plan, when was the last time you tested or updated it?
3. Does everyone with accountability in the plan understand their role? If there are new hires in key roles, do they know their responsibilities in a crisis?
You can bet that nearly 100% of your employees have access to their phones. Build internal traffic to your social media sites and then use social in your internal communication strategy.
Almost a year ago, Major League Soccer announced its landmark decision that saw Atlanta, Ga., a city that hardly screams “soccer passion,” as the host of its next expansion franchise. With the new club starting from scratch, I wrote last year that this would be a case study for any business owner interested in brand building.
The club, led by Owner Arthur Blank and General Manager Darren Eagles (who has experience in the English Premier League), has enlisted the help of the city’s main soccer support group, Terminus Legion, to involve the fans in the club’s formative stage. It’s a wise move, which I’ll explain later, but first here’s some background on what’s happened.
Terminus Legion conducted a multi-stage poll that was open to the public for voting on the team name. The group posted regular updates, were quick to respond to voters with questions (I was one), and finally posted a comprehensive results summary. From the onset, Terminus Legion made it clear that their poll was not the end all be all, but would give the owners and club leaders a thorough insight into what the fans wanted or didn’t want. In short, the club created an open channel for dialogue with the public.
The fact that the club is not just open for fan input, but actively soliciting it is a great omen. They are engaging a market to which they will be selling a product. Getting the market involved with the vision and direction of the club will give the fans ownership and a vested interest. Fans that feel this way will do more than just buy tickets — they will actively market the club 24/7 talking with their friends and colleagues.
Engaging someone else, whether it’s a colleague, a business partner, or even your sales target empowers those people. It gives them a sense of purpose. It inspires them. It makes them proud. And in the end, from a business owner’s perspective, it increases profits. Colleagues that are engaged with their work are going to be more productive. Period.
The Atlanta MLS team continues to be a great case study for business owners. How this team — in essence, its own company — operates is more public than what we’d normally get to see. Not only that, but you’re seeing it run by one of the most successful businessman in recent years. Be ready to take notes along with me, because class is in session.
It’s 30 seconds of sheer torment for a good cause that went viral. I personally know at least 20 people who took the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. And I watched every one of their videos on FaceBook. Every one of them.
Neighbors, friends, family. Each video had its own personality, its own setting, its own rules. No professionally developed script, no fancy camera work, no sizzle reel. Just a bucket of ice, a cell phone camera, and a willing participant.
As of September 22nd, the ALS Foundation reported receiving $115 million for the cause as a result of the challenge, with literally millions of people participating.
The shocking part of this phenomenon is that so many people wanted to dump an ice bucket over their heads. Imagine harnessing the same kind of energy to rally employees around a good cause! Picking a cause that’s worthwhile and challenging employees to a fun, easy activity is a great (and inexpensive!) opportunity to bring the personality and culture of your business to life and support teamwork.
So why was the Ice Bucket Challenge a game so many wanted to be part of?
In a recent Forbes article about the science behind the success of the challenge, contributor Rick Smith identified three traits that make ideas go viral:
“…Big ideas get noticed; Selfless ideas inspire action; Simple ideas write us into the story. Understand how to make your ideas big, selfless and simple and you will be able to control growth.”
Big. In a culture of media and information overload, only the really big (ubiquitous) ideas gain any traction. Because there was a feel that everyone everywhere was watching someone dump an ice bucket over his head, a sense of shared experience grew up. Ask yourself how you can use your communications channels in creative ways to pump up enthusiasm and get everyone in on the game.
Selfless. Empathy stirs us to action when we see someone else doing something selfless. And there may be more selfish motives as well. Ever heard of “the audience effect?” That’s what neuro-scientists call that urge to donate or help out when someone else is looking. That’s why video and images of team members taking your challenge on social media, in your newsletter, on your message boards, are so important to getting everyone involved.
Simple. Asking people to do something that’s not too complicated increases participation. Simplicity also gives everyone the opportunity to make the activity their own and be creative if they want to be.
You may already have some great ideas for a cause-worthy employee challenge running around in your head. Here are some (maybe a little of corny) ideas to bounce off of:
A Throw Back Thursday contest where employees donate when they post their pics to the company intranet.
How about prizes for the biggest ‘80s hair or the widest bell-bottoms?
Everyone loves a most beautiful baby contest particularly when team members supply their own baby pictures.
You can probably think of a lot of ideas more relevant to your culture. Give us a buzz at Insight! We’d love to hear what you think and help you execute your big idea to boost employee engagement!
Social media is changing the way we communicate. We’re learning a new language with new phrases and symbols. Businesses are speaking directly, to larger audiences than ever before. With these new opportunities, you need to ask yourself a few questions. What should I share with my audience? What platforms should I use and how can I utilize those platforms? What should my social media strategy be?
When deciding what you want to share through social media, you must first establish a voice that is consistent with your company. What is the overall objective of your social media plan? Don’t blog, post or comment about legal matters at your company. Ensure that employee social media use complies with your company culture and ethics. Don’t use photos unless you have the rights to use them. It is very important that you trust the people who are in charge of controlling your social media because once something is posted into the public domain there is no turning back. If you’re not careful you could end up with a very public dilemma on your hands (e.g. US Airways this past week).
Facebook is the most used social media website in the world. Because of this, Facebook is a great place to start. Use Facebook to interact with your audience and share information. Encourage them to sign up for e-mail updates or contests. Ask your followers questions and track their feedback. Facebook can also be used as “home base” to promote your other social media platforms. One tip to consider when using Facebook is to keep posts short (80 characters or less), if your post is too long your audience will glance over it. A second tip is to consider the timing of your post. To get the most engagement from you post, post it between the hours of 8 pm-7 am and post on the weekends. At the time of this blog post, statistics show that posts made during these times will get the most engagement.
Twitter is another social media platform that you can use to your advantage. Again timing is a key factor when deciding when to post. Twitter “followers” are almost 20% more likely to engage with your tweets on weekends, yet only about 20% of brands tweet on weekends. Hashtags can be used like “campfires.” Users can search your hashtag to view what others users who have used your hashtag are saying.
A few companies that are excelling at social media include Zappos and Groupon. Both have found the value of using social media not only to sell, but to engage customers in conversation. They interact, collect feedback, and discover what their customers really want. Take some time to explore social media and find the right mix of platforms and tactic for your business.