People have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, according to a study on Canadian media consumption by Microsoft Corporation. That means in the time you took to read this sentence, you’re probably thinking of something else.
But if you can stay focused for a few minutes, let’s talk about the world of communications. More importantly, the channels we use and levers we pull to tell our organizations’ stories.
With the constant evolution of technology, social media and other communication channels, along with the varied preferences of all the generations currently in the workforce, communications professionals have their work cut out for them when engaging employees effectively.
As you flesh out your communications strategy for the year, keep a few things in mind:
1. Email isn’t going away.
Like it or not, email is here to stay. It’s an established medium people use daily, and it’s one of the top methods of communication in the workplace. Americans spend 30 hours a week on email, with millennials checking their email more than any other group, according to a survey by Adobe.
Our organization, SAP, did its own survey on our communications practices and discovered that nearly 60 percent of our employees in North America report that executive email is their primary source of news and information about the business.
The problem: The volume of email is overwhelming, which means businesses must focus on the quality of the message. Questions every communications professional should ask their internal “client”:
- Which employee audience are you trying to reach? Is the content relevant to that audience? Concise?
- What’s the call to action? And most importantly, why does this need to go out and what are you trying to achieve?
These questions are a surefire way to distinguish between the emails that are part of a “Check the box” effort and the ones that actually matter. Remember, if employees see a deluge of messages that seem unimportant or a waste of time, they’ll ignore them.
That’s the risk. Communications teams are the gatekeepers. Sometimes we need to say no.
2. Video is a great alternative.
Cat clips aside, video is a powerful medium for communication. Research shows employees are able to process video content 60,000 times faster than text, while retaining 95 percent of the message.
Your organization doesn’t have to break the bank with a perfectly-produced professional video as long as your message is on point. Consumers—who are also our employees—are used to seeing homemade videos online, so why not use your iPhone for an organizational video? It adds a layer of authenticity to the message, and employees will find your executive that much more relatable.
3. Social is golden.
Engage, engage, engage. Did I say engage? Yes, engage your employees! Most Americans get their news from social media channels, and they’re checking social media 17 times per day on average. As a business, you should be talking to your employees—and prospective employees—there too. And we’re not talking just about your organization’s intranet.
There seems to be a perception among communicators that certain social channels rule out certain demographics. The truth is, there is significant overlap in the social channels preferred by each generation.
Consider Facebook, the granddaddy of modern social networking. Nearly 80 percent of online U.S. adults are on Facebook. It is checked more regularly than other social accounts. And it’s not just the 40+ crowd we’re talking about; 88 percent of adults age 18-29 use Facebook, too, regardless of whether they admit it or not.
And don’t dismiss the new kids on the block like Snapchat. Snapchat is the second most popular social network, with more users than Twitter or LinkedIn in the United States. Sure, it’s geared toward the younger generation, but Snapchat is quickly gaining ground with older users, especially as it prepares for its public launch. It’s a great tool for sending (snappy) messages related to your business in a fun and unexpected way. (Our North America president is using it to reach our employees.)
Many of our traditional channels for storytelling and communicating remain constant. It’s the responsibility of communications teams to strive for new, creative ways to tell those stories.
Atle Erlingsson is head of North America Communications at SAP.