3 ways Yahoo shines in internal comms

The internet portal puts employees first in its communications. From intranet to infographics, here’s how that works.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

If your organization often finds itself in the crosshairs of journalists, it’s natural to focus on PR and make internal comms an afterthought.

Yahoo takes a different approach. The company has made its mantra “internal first,” and the strategy pays dividends in greater enthusiasm and engagement, says Carolyn Clark, director of internal and corporate comms.

“We know that employees are the heart and the voice of the company,” Clark says in a new Ragan Training video, “The Backyard: Behind the scenes at an award-winning intranet.” “When you keep them in the know, they feel empowered. They’re more loyal.”

How to do that? Here are a few of the many tips that Clark covers in her session:

1. Share internally early and often.

Leaks to the press can be brutal, particularly in any large organization that is often a punching bag for reporters. These leaks lead to stories that are a news source for Yahoo employees. When the news accounts are inaccurate, this feeds the rumor mill within.

Yahoo redirected its internal site, The Backyard, to get news immediately to employees, posting 15 –20 stories per week that ran the gamut of updates, announcements and information about product launches. The strategy must have worked: Now nearly 90 percent of Yahoo employees say The Backyard is source of truth, and 82 percent visit Backyard daily.

“We have to be first,” Clark says. “We have got to create a culture [in which] people know that when you come to Backyard, you know that you are going to get information.”

2. Partner with PR.

If you feel your internal comms department is being blindsided by PR’s initiatives and campaign launches, maybe it’s time to rethink your communications structure.

At Yahoo, internal comms is a part of the PR department, which reports directly to the chief executive. That means internal messaging is part of planning from the beginning, not an afterthought. Inward-facing communicators join with the publicity team to map out every announcement or product launch, Clark says.

“We do everything internal first, and then we move on to external right in lockstep with our PR team,” she says.

3. Grab them with graphics.

Seeing is believing, Clark says, and visual learners make up 65 percent of our population. On top of that, 20 percent of text is remembered. Yet visuals such as infographics often get short shrift as communicators pump out text such as emails, newsletters and blog posts.

Graphic designers can be your secret weapon. This holds true even if you have an internal marketing team with talented graphic designers, as Yahoo does, Clark says. The trouble with your own graphics people is that they are not wholly yours in communications, so their priorities will probably be external. Hire freelancers to design things such as templates that you can work with.

Yahoo has several standing infographic features:

  • “Get to know.” This series highlights interesting leaders, asking them questions such as, “Tell us about the path that led you to Yahoo.”

“People want to know what readers are all about, but people often don’t have time to sit down and just read a bunch of content,” Clark says.

  • “Yahoo in the news.” If yours is like many organizations, employees email links about negative news stories to one another. They might miss the good news, however. Create an infographic to highlight the positive stories and quotes about the awesome things you’re doing.

Bonus: The sales team will love the newsy infographics and will share them like crazy.

  • “Why Yahoo?” This series features people who are just starting at the digital company, explaining why they joined Yahoo.
  • “Office spotlight.” Hong Kong, Toronto, D.C., New York—Yahoo has fantastic offices all over the world. So the company shares facts about these through infographics. These are getting three times as many views as a previous text-only version of the series.

The infographic on the Toronto office noted that there were 85 employees in the office and mentioned they were excited about sending the largest team ever to Rio for the Olympics.

Hong Kong, by contrast, offered this: “We have conference rooms named after famous local foods like dim sum and fried rice. This has inspired lots of visitors including journalists and CEOs.”

  • “Five things.” This series highlights new products, such as “Five things you need to know about the new Yahoo home page.”

Longer term, make sure to bring graphic skills onto your team.

“Give your team classes, bring in experts, partner with your design team to learn,” Clark says. When putting together a hiring wish list, “move communications with graphic design experience to the top.”



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