With hybrid work environments becoming the rule, not the exception, it’s time for a reminder about what’s appropriate to put in writing. The informality of email and digital channels permits communications to be fast, funny, and even sarcastic. Most of us would never take this approach in a formal letter or document.
Content shared via email, texts, or through team collaboration channels like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Chat, can become problematic in litigation, particularly if it involves an employment situation. There are countless stories of people who thought their business emails were private. They’re not. They may be discoverable if relevant in a lawsuit.
Here are five tips to ensure a quick and “harmless” message doesn’t become a future problem.
1. Choose the correct channel. Would a call or an in-person meeting be better? Emails can be forwarded to individuals they were never intended for and anyone with a smartphone can take a screenshot.
2. Watch your tone. Email is eternal. Business communications should be appropriate, safe for work, and inoffensive. Don’t write anything that you’d be uncomfortable with others reading. Including your grandmother.
3. Is it clear? Read it over. Could anything be misconstrued or taken out of context? If you enter litigation, your intent will be analyzed closely by the other side.
4. Don’t begin or continue an argument. If someone shares incorrect information, it’s OK to clarify and provide the facts, but don’t debate or argue through email.
5. Avoid irony, sarcasm, and exaggeration. A message dashed off in a hurry often falls into this category. So does humor. But these are exactly the communications that can be problematic if a lawsuit occurs.
The office setting may have changed, but the risk has not. It’s even more important now to raise awareness about appropriate workplace communications so everyone understands what’s at stake.
At the start of the pandemic, businesses without flex work arrangements were pushed into the deep end. Those companies that already leveraged online collaboration tools were better prepared. Now, as we close in on one-quarter of the adult population vaccinated, businesses are preparing for the new normal. For many of us that means returning to an office environment for the first time in many months.
WFH isn’t for everyone
A new Fortune/SurveyMonkey study of office workers shows that remote work will no longer be viewed as perk. But not everyone wants to work from home. Among the findings is that twice as many respondents prefer to be in the office than to work from home once the pandemic is over.
36% of respondents say they prefer to be always in the office
18% of respondents prefer to always work remotely
42% of respondents prefer a hybrid model with some in office/some remote work
These findings suggest that the future of flexible work arrangements will be a priority communication. Employees need to feel safe and appreciated. Leaders will need to make the case that culture and connection is continually evolving. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s well worth the time to examine and update corporate policies and the employee handbook now.
Involve employees and communicate
As you push reset on flexible work arrangements, be sure to involve employees. Surveys and online focus groups are effective tools to gather input as you finalize the business strategy.
And remember—if you ask for feedback from employees you must always thank them for the feedback and let them how their input helped to shape decisions.
Over the past decade, technology has facilitated a major shift in how we do business. Many workers have moved from office settings to remote working. In 2020 this shift accelerated even more rapidly due to COVID-19 and the need to adopt social distancing for the health and safety of employees and their families. Companies are adapting on the fly in the ways they communicate and conduct day-to-day operations. While this shift has helped businesses stay productive, the sudden change has left some employees feeling less engaged.
Managers are suddenly faced with the question, “How do we support our employees who are now forced to work remotely?” Sudden changes like this can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan in place. In order to make sure you are doing all you can to support your remote employees here are a few internal communications best practices to keep them engaged:
Keep in Contact
This seems simple but it’s easy to miss the mark. Make sure your employees feel supported and connected to their peers and managers. Host virtual team meeting and check-ins multiple times a month. Keeping employees in the loop about the company’s big picture and their role in it helps them feel valued and included, promotes a healthy attitude toward otherwise stressful changes, and ensures everyone is aligned and headed in the right direction.
Celebrate your Employees
People want to feel that they are valued. Introduce an employee recognition program to celebrate when your team members go above and beyond. Everyone appreciates a pat on the back for a job well done. Also small things like calling out work anniversaries and birthdays will make your employees feel appreciated and let them know that you’re thinking about them.
Ramp up Training
Give your employees the tools to be successful. Employee training in any business is an investment, not an expense. When employees are well trained, they perform with skill and confidence. Make sure your employees feel prepared to work remotely and promote continued growth and development. Implementing training programs for video conferencing, webinars, and any new programs will help employees feel assured.
Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to get some face to face time with potential customers. Recently our company attended a national conference and trade show in Las Vegas. It was our fourth consecutive year exhibiting at this trade show and many of the same companies we see every year were in attendance. Some of the exhibitors always do a fantastic job, while others are missing the potential to maximize their ROI.
Here are six best practices that that you can use when preparing for and attending your company’s next trade show:
Start preparing well in advance. Getting a jump on your trade show prep is vital. Send out a preconference email to the list of attendees, map out your show strategy with your exhibit team, create product/service sales sheets, take care of any printing needs for handouts and schedule equipment and promotional item shipping.
Make sure your messages are clear and consistent. The most common question I get at trade shows is “So what do you guys do?” Each member of your sales team should be able to give a 30 second response to this question. Determine how you want to promote your company, create an elevator speech, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Keep the messaging on your display and signage short and readable. Trade show participants move through the exhibit floor pretty quickly. All of your signage should be easily readable from the front of your booth. One mistake that I often notice is when exhibitors cram too much information onto their signage or use fonts that are too small. Provide just enough information to make attendees stop and ask questions.
Always provide giveaways. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Providing a giveaway will draw more traffic to your booth and is a great conversation starter. Always include your company logo or name on the product. It will remind potential customers of your interaction when they visited your booth after the conference.
Stay active on social media. Most conferences will promote a hashtag to use throughout the event. Post photos, give updates, announce speaking sessions and promote your booth number using the conference hashtag. This is a great way to drive engagement. Don’t forget to post a thank you to everyone who stopped by your booth after the conference.
Schedule a post conference wrap up meeting. It’s important to get feedback from your team while the conference is fresh on their minds. What worked, what didn’t work? What questions did the attendees have? What were your strongest leads and what are the next steps for contacting these potential customers? All of this information will give you a head start when planning your next trade show.
If you’re like us, you’re always looking for ways to get your message across in a new, unique, and interesting way. One communication channel that you might not have considered is video. Video is fast becoming the preferred channel for internal audiences because it’s the way we all consume information. Some news outlets have moved exclusively to video content and most include a video with any written content they publish. Today’s workforce has become accustomed to learning and acquiring information through video content.
Many of your colleagues are visual learners and video content helps simplify complex information and drives engagement when you communicate your message. Think about it. Which is more appealing– an email memo from the CEO or a quick 3-5 minute video where he or she speaks directly to your employees?
Research shows that people remember more of what they see and hear than what they read. Video grabs your attention and is more engaging than plain text. Seizing and retaining your audience’s attention is crucial. When you have their attention, they’ll retain the message.
Here are some options to consider when implementing videos into your Internal Communications strategy:
Online training videos or tutorials
Monthly or quarterly updates from your leaders
Announcement videos for new programs or initiatives
Recognition videos for company milestones or exemplary achievements
Employee interviews and testimonials
Videos of companywide events, such a community service day or group activity
Now you might be thinking, “I’m not a technical person” or “That would be too difficult to implement,” but it really isn’t. New technology has simplified video creation, editing and sharing to the point where anyone can do it.
Keep your videos short with a clear message. There are really no limits or restrictions to how you incorporate video content into your company’s communication plan. Think outside the box and see what ideas you can come up with.
The term bridezilla is not flattering but can be accurate.
Recently Courtney Duffy, a grad student at Dartmouth, booked a JetBlue weekend flight to her friend Alex’s wedding. (She was one of the bridesmaids). When the bride found out Courtney couldn’t stay through Monday, she emailed her and asked her to step aside and to mail her the garment so a replacement bridesmaid could 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 posted this on Twitter:
“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? Can they find a replacement bridesmaid in time (and can she fit in Alex’s 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 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 PR game changer. JetBlue was able to respond within a few hours to Courtney’s challenge and sweeten 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.
We recently prepared a presentation for a client that had more than 100 slides…for a one hour meeting. Do the math: If you calculate time for introductions and leave even five minutes at the end for questions, that’s a pace of two slides per minute during the presentation. A blistering pace.
Then consider the content on the slides: lots of words, tables, and occasional graphics. Typeface size was 18 to 28 point. You get the picture. The intent was to hammer home thousands of ideas and facts. The client could not be swayed. They needed every one of these slides to deliver a successful presentation. They just wanted us to “make it pretty.”
I wish I could say we used our magical powers of persuasion to enlighten them to use a strategically messaged, visually compelling presentation. Didn’t happen. I did wonder what it was like in the room for the audience… and the presenter. I imagine they were both exhausted when it was over.
Presenters often start with a bunch of slides and try to cram them into a narrative—and it shows. The most effective presentations look simple because they were planned that way.
When your objective is to communicate, educate or influence, the most important work starts with the result in mind:
What is the point you’re trying to make or what must the audience learn?
Why is it important to the audience?
What story can you use to bring the material to life?
What do you want them to do with the information?
Every presentation should tell a story or take the audience on a journey. This applies even if you’re sharing quarterly returns (some of the most important stories). Once you identify your objective, develop the slides that are clear and compelling. Be concise. Use as little text as possible. Because you don’t want them to be reading your slides, you want them to be listening to you.
Then practice, practice, practice. The more comfortable you are with the information, the less you’ll need to rely on slides. Your audience will be grateful.
With a dizzying number of tools, apps and online resources available to business communicators, it can be difficult to keep up. Here are five of our favorites; our go-to sources for inspiration, innovative design and fresh ideas. Happy Holidays!
Creative Market— Creative Market is an online marketplace for community-generated design assets. The website sells graphics, WordPress themes, stock photography, and other digital goods. If you are building infographics, there are thousands of icons to choose from. www.creativemarket.com.
Grammarly—Unlike cursive handwriting, correct grammar never goes out of style. Grammarly’s writing app helps ensure your writing is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free by automatically detecting grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice and style error. It’s available as a free Chrome extension or online at www.grammarly.com.
HBR IdeaCast—This weekly podcast by the Harvard Business Review features leading thinkers in business and management. What’s the connection to communications? Great leaders understand the value of communications and alignment with corporate values. There are lots of clever ideas to nab here. Available on Apple Podcast and www.HBR.org.
Ted Talks—Everyone needs a 15 minute mental vacation from the daily grind. Watch a Ted Talk. Our recommendation for business communicators is Talk Nerdy to Me by Melissa Marshall. In less than five minutes she outlines a formula for bringing scientific content to a general audience. Use this approach whenever you’re sharing complex (or boring) information. www.TedTalks.com
Unsplash—There is no better site for beautiful, free images and photos than Unsplash. You can download high resolution files to use for any project. No attribution required (although always appreciated). Just spend 10 minutes scrolling through the photo files and you’ll be inspired to improve the look of your presentations or handouts. www.unsplash.com
Looking for a new way to reach your employees without blowing your entire budget? Try podcasts. If you think it’s a niche channel, take a look at these numbers:
4 in 10 Americans listen to podcasts on a regular basis
Podcast listening was up 23% between 2015 and 2016
85% of listeners complete the entire episode*
Americans are falling in love with podcasts in numbers that increase every year. Recent podcast phenoms like Serial and S-Town attracted legions of new listeners. Guess what? Many of your employees are among them.
Internal communication pros are paying attention. Disney, IBM and Microsoft have added podcasts to their internal mix. Perhaps it’s time for your business to do the same.
Consider these three things when developing a podcast strategy (or selling the idea to your boss).
Accessible everywhere. What’s the one item most people can’t do without? Their phones. A podcast will allow you to connect with team members as they multitask: at the gym, on a walk, in the car. With the average daily commutes now at around 26 minutes each way, podcasts provide alternative listening content. Smart speakers (think Alexa, Google Home, or Siri) are now in 20 million Americans in live in homes, providing another channel for podcasts.
Builds community. Engaging employees who work at remote locations or in non-desk roles is always a challenge. So is communicating across global time zones. Podcasts are a viable alternative. It’s like being in a conversation, as if the speaker is talking directly to you. There’s an intimacy that can’t be delivered in a company newsletter.
Shows your company leaders are human. Your CEO may be smart, but would you like to have a beer with him or her? Effective leaders know the value of storytelling and conversation. A series of podcasts with the senior leadership team will give employees insight into the personalities that lead the business and where the company is going. It can help align people around your business priorities.
* Source: 2017 Infinite Dial Study, Edison Research
If you’re a regular reader of our blog here at Insight Strategic Communications, you will know that we love two things: Telling our clients’ stories and doing so in a cost efficient way.
That’s why I loved what Spotify did when they unveiled their “Year in Music” infographic series this month. But before I dive into this, I need to explain a little more about Spotify first.
That insight is exactly what Spotify used when it compiled its year in music. Who were the most played artists? More interestingly, who were the most played artists during the summer? And even more interesting, who were the most played artists in Scotland on Sept. 18, the day the country voted to remain part of the United Kingdom? These are fascinating small details that open our eyes to the coolness of data mining.For those unaware, Spotify is a commercial music-streaming service, like Pandora, except that it allows users to search for any song, artist or genre in their vast catalogue to play on demand (Pandora does not allow users to select specific songs, only “stations.”) So while Pandora users are more likely to discover new music through the stations they listen to, Spotify users are more likely to know what they want to listen to and play their favorite songs. This is important, because it gives Spotify more specific insight into each and every one of their users.
But where Spotify really nails it is the personal infographic that I can see about myself, or that you can see about yourself. Every Spotify user is able to see their own data, whether you pay for Spotify’s premium service or not. In reviewing my personal Year in Music, I learned things I never knew about myself (I use Spotify the most on Friday, for example). Bottom line — Spotify used data to tell a story about me. That is cool.
I was once told by a business leader, “If we can tell our client more about them than they know about themselves, I can pretty much guarantee they are going to trust us and want to do business.” Spotify has done exactly this, and all using information they already tracked. Their biggest costs were probably to web designers who made the info attractive and available — a small price to pay when it comes to making a personal connection with millions of customers.
We can all learn from this. Is there anything we can learn from our customers by looking back on our work for them? It’s the end of the year, so it’s a good time if you have a break in work to evaluate your data and make your plans for 2015. If you think it’s time for a fresh approach for the upcoming year and need some help, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.