5 ways MasterCard makes internal comms fun and easy

Have you ever held a kegger on company time? Explained your business plan over doughnuts? Pulled a fire alarm before making an announcement? Come on. Lighten up, already.

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

Not long ago, MasterCard was trying to boost employee understanding of the company, so it hosted a series of sessions called “In the Know.”

Communicators scheduled one titled “Doughnuts to Dollars” to discuss how the company makes money. The exec they asked to speak was at first reluctant, insisting that everybody knew all about that, says Susan Warner, vice president of worldwide communications.

Not so. Employees packed the session, which offered free doughnuts, and the video was so successful that the company now airs it for all new hires.

In the Ragan Training session “Measure internal communications with three words: Inform, Engage and Demonstrate,” Warner lays out tips for fun and creative communications that provide measurable results.

Here are a few you can try:

Download the FREE report, “Internal Communications Measurement Survey Results” to learn if your messages resonate among employees.

1. Make it real time.

MasterCard has begun celebrating its business successes in real time, Warner says. When the company announced a joint venture with Apple, it couldn’t tell employees in advance because of a non-disclosure agreement.

It did let them know an announcement was coming. When a key word was spoken in the press conference with Apple (“payment,” if you must know), MasterCard launched its announcement.

The company held several webcasts at 4 p.m. in its Purchase, N.Y., headquarters, followed by webcasts at 9 p.m., and at 7 a.m. to reach different time zones around the world.

“We could have easily waited a week and gotten our act really together,” she says, “but it was more important just to get the word out…”

That Friday, the company used its emergency alert system for smartphones to send the message, “Urgent need to celebrate. Come down in 15 minutes for some apple-icious desserts and some apple martinis.”

This video clip is taken from the Ragan Training session, Measure internal communications with three words: Inform, Engage and Demonstrate.”

2. Bring food.

MasterCard had held sessions before the “Doughnuts to Dollars,” but they were sparsely attended. Throw in some the sugary, carb-heavy pastries, and your calorie-craving staffers will come stampeding in.

“We always tie it to food,” says Warner.

Other MasterCard sessions have been titled “Strategy and Smoothies,” “Eggs, Bacon and Innovation,” and “Processing and Pizza,” featuring celery sticks and radishes (just kidding).

“In the Know” has reached thousands of employees around the world, Warner says. Metrics show the sessions are making a difference in understanding business initiatives and strategies.

3. Get creative.

After “a huge week” that saw new deals inked with Target and Walmart, MasterCard decided to celebrate, but not everyone was in a cheerful mood. The weather remained dreary, and three false fire alarms that week had forced everyone at HQ to abandon their desks and shuffle out into the rain, grumbling.

When the sun burst out that Friday, MasterCard masterminds pulled the fire alarm again—this time intentionally. A collective groan arose in the building.

The president of North American operations came on the loudspeaker and said: “Attention, please. This is not a fire alarm. This is a chance for you to come outside to the front circle for cake and kegs. Yes, I said kegs,” Warner recalls.

Employees quaffed beer, snacked on cake, mingled, celebrated, and absorbed the week’s good news.

4. Use ‘electronic bulletin boards’ for quick hits.

You don’t have to post a full article on the intranet or crank out a full video; often an announcement on an “electronic bulletin board”—or digital sign—will do the trick.

“You can run that Apple invite in 30 seconds,” Warner says. “You can say that you’re on the Working Mother’s top 100 list.”

5. Take a lesson from the Scouts.

MasterCard encourages engagement on the intranet by awarding badges:

  • Connector, for those who list 100 or more colleagues
  • Collaborator, if you’re following a lot of communities
  • Well-followed, if (you popular kid) 100 or more people follow you.

People like badges, Warner says, “and that’s not just because I’ve been a Girl Scout leader.”

She insists that communicators follow a healthy number of their co-workers. “If they are not following 100 colleagues, shame on them,” she says. “We are all in the people business.”

Download the FREE report, “Internal Communications Measurement Survey Results” to learn if your messages resonate among employees.



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