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Author: Insight Strategic Communications

Social Listening Saves Blue Bridesmaid’s Bank Account

The term bridezilla is not flattering but it can be appropriate.

Recently Courtney Duffy, a grad student at Dartmouth, booked a JetBlue flight to her friend Alex’s wedding.  (She was one of the bridesmaids).  When the bride found out Courtney was returning home on Sunday and would miss a Monday event, she emailed her and asked her to step aside. And please mail back the bridesmaid jumpsuit so a replacement bridesmaid can wear it.

Courtney posted the exchange on Twitter with a plea to JetBlue to refund her airfare.  They did that and more. In four hours, they reached out to her:

Hey Courtney, we’ve been thinking.  The jumpsuit may have been borrowed, but we’ll bring the (Jet)Blue.  When you’re ready to patch things up, we’d like to help make your old friendship feel like a new.  A future girls’ weekend is on us.”

The story just begs for a follow-up.  Will Courtney and Alex reconnect as BFFs? Will they find a replacement bridesmaid in time (and will that friend wear the infamous bridesmaid jumpsuit)? 

The clear winner is JetBlue.  Here’s why:

  • They monitored social media channels and responded quickly
  • They delivered on the customer’s request for a refund
  • They showed the brands’ personality.  Encouraging the former pals to reunite with free airfare for a girls’ weekend is an unexpected and positive twist to the story.

The go-fast, digital era we’re living in requires businesses to pay attention to social media channels and act quickly.  It’s a reputation game changer.  JetBlue responded within a few hours to Courtney’s challenge and sweetened the deal.  That nimble response reveals their social media team is empowered to act.  In many businesses, in the time it took for internal approvals, the opportunity would have vanished, and so would the PR benefit. When brands engage with customers–and act with empathy–they create superfans. 

Four Tips for Better Communications This Year

Everyone talks about the importance of employee communications, but it’s just lip service without an actionable plan.   Here are four ways to start the year off right and get better results from your internal communications.

1) Map out your communications calendar right now—Begin with a welcome message. Schedule dates for the entire year now to ensure it remains a priority. Keep the content fresh with a mix of performance results, customer and employee stories, and encouragement.  We all need more of that.

2) Articulate the vision— People are more engaged when they can connect their work to big goals.  Leaders who communicate the vision and values, and then put those values into action, see performance climb. 

3) Use stories to make an impact—Think back to the most recent story that struck a chord with you.  Simple stories make an emotional connection with the audience and hold their attention.  Use your own experiences to make a point.  I recently heard an executive tell his team he makes time for fitness daily because “We only get one set of parts and I want mine to last.”  That’s memorable and tells me something interesting about him. Leaders who share a little of themselves in communications are viewed as credible and human.

4) Get visual—Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.  If you rely on email as your primary communication, know there is a better way. Use photos and videos as frequently as you use memos. Video is an excellent way to improve message retention, connect with remote workers, and engage senior leadership with teams.  The best part is you don’t have to have a large budget or be an on-camera pro to create memorable content. 

Communicating Gratitude

This month as we focus on Thanksgiving, consider the power of gratitude in your workplace. Before your thoughts turn to friends, family, and football, spend a few minutes thinking about how appreciation can make a difference to your business. 

Tom Peters correctly noted, “People don’t forget kindness.” It’s the same with gratitude.  The power of a sincere thank you cannot be overestimated. In a recent study on employee engagement, the top factor of job satisfaction was the respectful treatment of employees at all levels.  Second on the list was trust between employees and management.  If you practice the first item, you achieve the second one.

It takes conscious effort to build a culture where every employee feels appreciated.  We all like to be noticed for the good things we do.  People who feel appreciated believe their work makes a difference.  They are more willing to go the extra mile because they know someone notices.

Making gratitude visible is a step you can build into your internal communications.  Here are three ideas:

Appreciation by senior leadership—Create a year-end video of the senior management team thanking team members for their service this year.  Get out of the office and video it with front-line workers.  Switching the wardrobe from suits and ties to ugly Christmas sweaters and elf ears will create smiles for years to come.

Appreciation by managers—Write a thank you note.  It’s low tech, but more effective than a gift card.  Be specific about how the individual contributes to the team.  Not only will your employees appreciate the gesture, but they will also know that you are paying attention. 

Appreciation by team membersIt feels great to say thank you.  That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are motivating to employees.  They strengthen a culture of support, collaboration, and achievement.  Peer recognition programs should tie to your company values.  Tailor the program to your business, but make the recognition defined, public, and fun.

The power of gratitude is a multiplier.  When you recognize people for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does your workplace culture.

Managers are the key to a successful culture

A strong corporate culture is built on two sturdy pillars: trust and engagement.  Both grow when employees have an emotional commitment to their role and the business goals.  When ownership culture exists, the results are measurable and amazing.  Engaged employees:

·         Have a positive view of the company’s future

·         Serve customers well

·         Care about their team members

·         Regularly use their talents

·         Are proud of where they work

What’s the best way to build ownership culture in your business? Here’s the secret: attract, retain, and train great managers. Senior leadership may create the ownership vision, but line managers have the greatest influence in bringing it to life in your business.

Research reveals that in companies with a vibrant ownership culture, absenteeism, safety issues, and turnover plunge, while customer satisfaction, profitability, and productivity rise.  All of these things build bottom-line value.

Don’t overlook the importance of investing in training for line managers. It builds consistency in ways of working across the organization. 

Here are just a few ways managers can support company culture:

·         Set clear expectations and help team members understand their roles and responsibilities—how and why each individual’s contributions are key to the team’s success.

·         Offer opportunities to grow and learn.  They share knowledge, coach performance, and talk to team members about their strengths and opportunities.

·         Communicate regularly, not only about what’s happening but how the team aligns with business strategy.

·         Spend time getting to know team members.  It builds trust and breaks down barriers when managers act like humans.

·         Celebrate success. Even the small wins are meaningful and there are many small wins every day in your business. 

How to Craft a Winning Business Award Strategy

As I boarded a Delta flight last month, I noticed a list of their business awards right there on the plane door. Just a little reminder that I was flying with the Fortune World’s Most Admired Airline.

Some industry and business awards are worth the time it takes to fill out the nomination. A few are revenue generators: send a check, get a prize. The business awards that are truly coveted, those that can help a business enhance its reputation internally and externally, require strategy, planning, and effort.

Why enter an awards competition?

  • Be acknowledged as a leader by industry peers
  • Benchmark your business against competitors
  • Burnish your reputation as a great place to work, enhancing talent recruitment and retention

What are the general industry award formats?

  • High-performance awards–A focus on recognizing outstanding people, initiatives, or employers.
  • Questionnaire-based–Usually a survey, followed by an audit by an external body to validate the data. These can be industry-wide or internal surveys of employees.
  • Rankings–These are usually a listing of companies based on a survey, questionnaire, or audit by independent bodies.

Mapping out your awards strategy

First, understand that awards submissions require the investment of time, effort, and budget if you want to win. There’s an entry fee for submissions in every category, so if you select multiple categories, be ready to bring the bankroll. If you pursue an accreditation or questionnaire award, you’ll need to engage internal stakeholders to help with data gathering or responding to the employee survey. Most employee survey-based awards require a minimum response rate. If you don’t think employees will take the survey, don’t waste your money on the submission.

 Keep these things in mind when selecting award competition submissions:

  • How does this support your business objectives?
  • What return will you get for investing time, money, and effort?
  • Find out who won last year. Are they reputable or aspirational companies? 
  • Can you meet the data requirements before the entry deadline?
  • Will internal stakeholders be willing to collaborate and support this?

Here are two final suggestions to ensure the exercise is worth your time. First, read the category and nomination applications carefully. As a long-time competition judge it amazes me how many nominations 1) are submitted in the wrong category, or 2) the submission narrative does not match the nomination question. It happens more than you can imagine. This is where the assistance of an external consultant is invaluable.

Finally, once your business wins the award, activate a communications plan to share the news.   Ensure that you reach the right audiences on the right channels. Create an opportunity for Senior Leadership to celebrate with employees, thank them for their contributions, and build pride and retention. Then celebrate the win!

Seven Compelling Commencement Speech Quotes

It’s graduation season, the time of year when profound advice cascades from intellectuals and B-list celebrities.

If the speechwriter has done his/her job, you’ll find in these speeches messages worth sharing. When it’s time for your next employee meeting or leadership development talk, use these quotes from commencement speakers to inspire your writing.

“It’s easier to tear something down than to build something up. It’s easier to poke holes in an idea than it is to think of ways to fill them. And it’s easier to focus on the 100 reasons you shouldn’t do something rather than the one reason you should.” 

Wendy Kopp

“Raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and release their energies so they will try to get there.” 

David Gergen

 “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” 

George Sanders

“You can be like a thermometer, just reflecting the world around you. Or you can be a thermostat, one of the people that set the temperature.” 

Cory Booker

“A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it. Will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right? Because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.”

Atul Gawande

“The most enduring skill you can bring to the workplace is the ability to learn how to learn.”  

Thomas Friedman

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” 

Melinda Gates

Please Avoid Tone-Deaf Employee Messaging

It’s too delicious to pass up. A corporate executive sends a company-wide email that is so insensitive or shocking that you must chuckle.  Who approved this?

Social media regularly serves up examples of executive messaging gone wrong:

  • The Klarna CEO published the names and emails of individuals offered severance following staff reductions.
  • The Howard University Hospital CEO responded to nurses’ requests for raises with a list of budget-saving tips for the home including “Do laundry at night,” “Shop store brands, not name brands,” and “Do home meal prep.”
  • The PagerDuty CEO announced workforce cuts, executive promotions, and spending cuts in the same email.  Then she added a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The most egregious of this club may be the CEO of Better.com.  You may remember him firing 900 employees via Zoom just before the holidays a few years ago.  He previously sent an email to employees “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS.” 

Certainly, none of these individuals set out to offend employees (well, maybe except the dumb dolphin guy). Despite good intentions, this happens fairly often. The efficiency and speed of online tools sometimes deceive us into thinking that quick communication is the best path.  That often leads to unintended consequences.

It is worth the extra time to get the message right.

When crafting employee messaging, especially if the topic is challenging, follow these steps.

1. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes.  Is this the right message? Is it clear and in jargon-free language? Most importantly, is it thoughtful and empathetic? If you were reading this, would you feel it was relevant and respectful?

2. Have someone else review it.  Even the best communicators benefit from input.  Having someone else evaluate the messaging, and provide feedback to improve it, reduces the chance of misunderstanding. This is where a professional communicator can help.

3. Offer support. When the message has the potential to cause uncertainty, provide some direction on when more information will be available. Don’t forget to say thank you.  When employees feel recognized and valued, they’re more likely to trust management.  Perhaps even forgive a tone-deaf email.

Revitalizing the Employee Recognition Strategy

The term quiet quitting has emerged recently as a post-pandemic trend for employees who are burned out and actively choosing to the bare minimum.  It’s just a fancy way of saying that employee engagement is taking a nose dive. 

Companies that routinely rank high in employee engagement are committed to fostering a great workplace where culture is seen as a business imperative in both good and challenging times.  It’s more important than ever that employees feel connected, appreciated, and recognized for their efforts.  That’s where a sound employee recognition strategy can make a difference in overall performance and workplace culture.

Employee recognition programs should be a vital component of every company’s employee engagement strategy. It’s a smart retention approach that’s also good for the bottom line.

Studies show that businesses with formal recognition programs have approximately 30% less voluntary turnover than those without them. And they’re 12 times more likely to have strong business results.

But often recognition programs encounter two problems. 

A new recognition program may start with hoopla, but as time goes by, suffers from diminishing visibility. Without consistent internal marketing to employees and continuous leadership sponsorship, the recognition program loses participation and effectiveness.

Recognition should be clearly aligned with a company’s purpose and values so that there’s a common language for what success looks like.  When behaviors and achievement are linked, it sends a clear message of consistent, visible recognition across the business

It’s a virtuous cycle.  When people are recognized for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does workplace culture.

How to Get Employees to Read your Company Newsletter

It’s always a dagger to the heart of a communicator when you realize that employees are not getting the message. While large and small businesses still use an employee newsletter, many other digital channels are available to share information. So the old standard practice of saving reminders and announcements for the company newsletter has dwindled in effectiveness.

A newsletter content reset may be in order. The secret to improved readership is compelling content. Employees will not spend time, or even open any communication if they don’t see the value to them.   Take a sharp look at the content provided and re-energize it with these tips.

Share success stories. We all need a little inspiration on the job. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing you did a great job. Share wins and celebrate stories about team members who live the company values.

Watch your tone. When the message is simple and conversational, it’s more likely to succeed. Think of your own experiences. What would make you want to read something? Aim for tone and language that is authentic and leave the jargon behind.

Start a conversation. Employees know the best ways to improve efficiencies and productivity. Ask them to share those ideas with the team. Create a method for employees to share ideas. When employees know their suggestions count, they are more connected to their workplace.

Include infographics. Break up the content with one fast fact conveyed through an infographic. This can make a complex point simple and memorable. Infographics will resonate with viewers who just want to scan the highlights. It will also increase the shareability of the content.

As always, the best way to drive employee engagement is to show people how their contributions make an impact on the business.

Four Resolutions for Better Internal Communications

It is said that each new year brings a fresh start. That’s noticeably true in the workplace, where the holiday break provides a mental refresh and reset. January is the perfect time to jump-start internal communication and help employees prepare for what’s ahead this year.  Use these four resolutions to get off to a great start.

1. Welcome to 2023 message. The CEO, or the executive team, should always begin the year with a message to employees.  It’s an opportunity to say thank you for everything that was accomplished the previous year, to recap successes, and to look ahead to the current year.  Most importantly, the message helps to align around shared goals that make the biggest difference in the business. Before they can perform, innovate, and deliver, team members need to hear from senior leadership. Don’t delay in creating this communication: get it done in January, even if you don’t have all the strategic initiatives completely mapped out.  Managers must ensure employees understand how team priorities align with business strategies.

2. Communicate the company mission and values.  How often do employees need to be reminded of the company’s mission and values? Frequently. While your business priorities may change in the coming year, the mission and values should be the cornerstone.  Every announcement should be framed by the values. Performance management, recognition, and rewards programs should directly align. Accelerate the connection to mission and values in all internal communications.

3. Commit to storytelling. It’s time to acknowledge that the essay format you learned in high school is obsolete. The shortest distance between two people is a story. It’s effective whether recognizing individuals that live your company values or using data to highlight the gaps in business performance. Storytelling makes complex ideas simple, human, and relatable.  The best stories are specific and spark emotion.  When you incorporate storytelling into internal communications, you’re more likely to engage, persuade, and move people to action.

4. Prioritize employee connection and development.  The shift to remote work means that there are fewer opportunities for informal development and coaching. Ensure that employees, on-site and remote, know that their talents and abilities are valued.  Hold leaders accountable for providing meaningful developmental feedback that identifies and prepares employees to take on your company’s biggest challenges.