What’s emerging in internal communications in 2017

Email is not going anywhere, the author writes, but there are other supplementary options for making sure your messages land with all your employees.

Every winter, experts forecast what trends will emerge in the coming year.

No one can predict the future, but we can see what methods and technologies have emerged through the first month.

Here’s what’s brewing so far in 2017:

1. Employee-fronted internal communications

More organizations are involving their staff to get messages to the masses. Employee-presented videos, sequential screensaver stories and internal newsletter articles that spread the word from an employee’s perspective can have a natural, down-to-earth feel that radiates credibility.

One reason behind the growing trend for peer-to-peer content is trust. Many workers feel a loss of confidence in senior leaders. (One in three Americans feel their organization isn’t always honest and truthful.)

Content from “real people” has the power to inspire and influence employees without the risk of appearing condescending or insincere. It’s popular for communicating topics such as training, impending change and building the right culture. Staffers find it easier to grasp how they can apply organizational values and adopt new processes into their day if they see how others do it first.

2. The staying power of email

Despite what co-working platforms may want you to believe, email remains a useful channel for internal communications and will continue to be the primary form of business communication for the foreseeable future.

The key is understanding email’s limitations and supplementing the channel with new tools.

Besides the overloaded inbox, one big drawback for internal communicators using email is not knowing when or if staffers have read their messages. In today’s fast moving, regulated business environment, communications must be timely and guaranteed to be seen.

3. The rise of enterprise social networks

Adoption of enterprise social networks (ESN) continues to grow as organizations look for ways to improve communication, collaboration and agility.

The latest player, Workplace by Facebook, arrived with much fanfare in late 2016, joining other in-vogue brands such as Slack, Yammer and Jive.

It’s likely that this shiny new tool will chase a big chunk of ESN’s market share, predicted to be worth $4.8 billion by 2020.

Internal communicators must do their own research and decide whether a particular social network is the right fit for their organizational culture. If yes, the next question is whether they take a hands-on, governance role (with content curated from internal subject matter experts) or whether they let it run independently and simply monitor the user-generated content for emerging issues.

4. Internal communicators getting ‘more pushy’

As organizations invest more in collaborative communication channels, their concerns for getting employee attention will increase. It’s now even harder to overcome information overload given the flood of digital distractions.

Often, an important company message must be repeated several times before it sinks in. To do this effectively requires multiple channels and message styles put directly in front of employees, sustained over time. (Sorry, there’s no quick, magical solution.)

Organizations are broadening their array of tools. The uptake for top-down, push messaging tools is on the rise. Short, snappy, attention-grabbing formats, such as desktop alerts or scrolling tickers (also known as newsfeeds), are used for urgent notifications as well as important messages. They appeal to all demographics-particularly overburdened workers.

5. Validating internal communications

Companies traditionally measure internal communications success by the “output” of a campaign (e.g., number of clicks, open rates, distribution). Now, internal communicators are keen to understand the “outcome” (i.e., how much impact the campaign had on employees). They must provide evidence of its making a tangible difference.

Staff communication should reveal which employees require nurturing (or further training), which content delivers the best results by audience type and which provides validation that a staff member has opted in and agreed to a new policy.

Internal communications will continue to evolve in 2017. The key will be to identify new best practices and tools that suit your business-and your people.

Sarah Perry is CEO of SnapComms.

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