Is the employee newsletter dead?

Print and online newsletters alike have retained their prestige in the age of social media, argues this communicator.

When it comes to choosing communication channels, employee newsletters are viewed as an anachronism by most organizations, harkening back to the days when publishing required manual layout, typesetting and the assistance of a graphics or print shop.

Like other traditional communication vehicles, newsletters nosed out into traffic on the digital highway, settling into occasional pockets created for them by emerging online media. But unlike blogs or tweets, newsletters are about as sexy as the petrol-leathery smell of ink drying on an offset press.

So what? Traditional newsletters have lost some luster, but we shouldn’t be too quick to say print is dead. It may be the communicator’s best option when it comes to non-tethered employees-construction crews, manufacturing or mailroom personnel, for example, who may have little or no computer access at work (at least until we can afford to provide an iPad for every employee!)

Online and traditional print newsletters have also lost none of their potency as storytelling vehicles to drive employee motivation and engagement, especially when information is properly chunked and arranged with sub-heads. What’s more, the opportunity for robust interaction through online newsletters provides senior leaders with feedback needed to make informed decisions.

  • Recognition by peers: Good writing and storytelling require a journalist’s intuitive ability to search out the story behind the story, reading between the lines to discover what’s really going on. This skill will never go out of style. Newsletters are a platform for highlighting the exploits of a workforce, providing an essential means of recognition among peers-and this is more valuable than anything a company could put in a paycheck. I’ve seen individuals transformed by a well-worded and thoughtful newsletter story published before an audience of his or her peers.
  • Decision-making tool: We’re aware that online newsletters are interactive, and the ability to comment on posted stories is old news at this point. But the ability to measure the level of interaction is a point that’s often overlooked. Newsletters can be a treasure of valuable feedback, measuring the volume and tone of written comments, the number of “Likes” (Thumbs Up) or “Dislikes” (Thumbs Down), and the number of individual stories forwarded to colleagues.
  • Archived search capability: Still not convinced? Try using your newsletter to ladder up to something more strategic. I created a best-practice story archive (in SharePoint) for one of my clients, and we’re making it searchable by application. Interactive database functionality will take this useful information to another level, putting program-management information at the fingertips of subcontract program managers looking to benefit from the wisdom of lessons learned. How might a searchable best-practice archive be leveraged at your organization?

What say you? Thumbs up or down on the employee newsletter?

Dom Crincoli heads Crincoli Communications Consulting.

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