Being a corporate communicator no longer means writing stuffy memos and emails that no one will read.
Today’s corporate communicators must think like marketers to ensure that employees feel engaged with their organizations, are motivated to work hard and ultimately become brand advocates.
Corporate communicators from around the country recently gathered in Las Vegas at Ragan’s Best Practices in Digital Employee Communications conference to discuss how they can adapt to the constantly changing media landscape and use the latest technologies to give employees the messages they need.
Here are a few insights from the event:
1. Treat your employees like customers.
When Jennifer Arani, media services designer at Farmers Insurance, started working on internal digital signage campaigns, she wanted to go beyond broadcasting staff birthdays and anniversaries. She wanted to use the technology to market the company to its employees.
Arani used this example: When you see a Coca-Cola ad that simply says “Thirsty?” with all of the brand’s colors and branding, your subconscious starts to work. You say to yourself: “Am I thirsty? If I am thirsty, what should I drink? Oh, I’ll drink a Coke.”
This is what your digital signage should do, Arani says. It should convey a message to employees as simply as possible and encourage them to find more information elsewhere.
When Arani wanted employees to attend a bake sale supporting the March of Dimes, she created a simple image of a cupcake with the words: “Save babies. Buy a cupcake.” This got people talking and was much more effective than sending an email that most people wouldn’t open.
“Digital signage is advertising your company to your employee,” Arani says. “Think about it more as marketing than communications.”
2. Encourage employees to grow beyond their roles.
Mamie Peers, senior director of Identity Membership and internal communications at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, explains that the hotel has many highly skilled employees from foreign countries who are in roles that don’t challenge them (such as housekeeping). To better engage them (and simultaneously make her job a little easier), she created The Bureau.
The Bureau is an exclusive group of employees working in various parts of the hotel who also assist Peers with communications projects. “I teach them communications,” Peers says. “I tell them to take everything they do and make it more Cosmopolitan.”
Peers teaches Bureau members how to perform communications functions, such as photography or email writing, and encourages them to apply these skills to their jobs.
Peers once brought in a designer who explained the components of a good visual. Armed with that training, Bureau members in housekeeping took pictures of the rooms they cleaned and styled so they could show new staff how guest rooms should look.
Another time, Peers dispatched a Bureau member from the hotel’s membership desk to take photos of a hotel event. Peers got the photos she needed, the hotel was spared the expense of hiring a photographer, and the employee got to do something creative beyond her job description. It was a win/win/win.
Without The Bureau, “I wouldn’t be able to do things the way we need to do them to own the market and own our space,” Peers says.
3. Create employee experiences.
Think about the best experience you ever had at work.
Maybe you built a house with your co-workers through Habitat for Humanity. Maybe you met a co-worker who had accomplished an amazing feat.
Whatever your experience, chances are it had nothing to do with getting a bigger paycheck. Money can motivate employees, but experiences are what will make them stay, says Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communication + Technology.
“If you look at organizations that have memberships, experience leads people to be members longer. At organizations, we want employees to stay in the organization longer,” he says.
What does an employee experience look like?
Holtz recalls the time WestJet Airlines encouraged fliers to share what they wanted for Christmas while they waited for their flights to take off. Once the passengers were in the air, WestJet employees at the various destinations dashed out to buy the items on the passengers’ wish lists. When the flights landed, the employees surprised the passengers with the gifts.
This experience brought more meaning to the employees’ work, and it made them proud to work for WestJet, Holtz says.
Not every experience has to be a big production. Simply recognizing someone’s hard work can be powerful.
“We thrive on recognition. Just the simple recognition from the colleague who says publicly, ‘Thank you for staying late last night and helping me finish that report,’ that’s an experience,” Holtz says.
4. Live your values.
“Do you remember Enron? Do you know why you remember Enron? Because they didn’t live their values,” says Jon Wolske, culture evangelist at Zappos.
Zappos has 10 core values that are the foundation of the company’s culture. Every employee, including the CEO, works to live these values so customers and employees alike always have a positive experience with the shoe company.
Wolske explains that when Amazon bought Zappos in 2009, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh made sure all of his employees had clear, accurate and up-to-date information about the sale. This was in line with Zappos’ commitment to “build open and honest relationships with communication.”
“A lot of people say you should leave feelings out of business today, but you can’t leave feelings about of business today,” Wolske says. “We still make really good business decisions, but our culture drives those decisions.”
This story is published in partnership with Stratacache.