With more companies making the transition to purpose-driven organizations, eyes have turned to internal communications professionals to communicate that purpose. As professional communicators we now have countless channels at our disposal, each one espousing its unique value and ability to achieve the overall objectives of the people they serve.
But even with more places to communicate, we’re still figuring out which are the best. Trillions are spent every year by companies in pursuit of conveying more powerful, impactful messages: the type of messages that create identities, amplify engagement and convert employees into brand advocates.
With that said, it’s worth taking the time to sift through the different channels for internal communications. They’re not created equal; a message communicated on one is different, in substance and impact, to a message communicated on another. Here we will consider each option – email, intranets, team collaboration platforms, and digital signage.
Email is the mainstay of our modern communication through which all information is eventually filtered. However, therein lies the challenge: so ubiquitous is email communication that messages are easily lost or ignored. Email struggles to separate content. At a glance, engaging and inspirational content is indistinguishable from everyday work messages or spam.
Email is cheap and reliable. But a message sent isn’t necessarily a message received. It still requires the recipient to read it (time-to-information), which isn’t only dictated by their attention but also by whether that message is the one selected amongst the many others. Email may always be a core component of internal communications, but it still lacks the ability to reliably captivate and inspire.
Many have already realized email’s shortcomings and, in some of the most extreme cases, have banned email as a channel for internal communications topics all-together.
An Intranet can help prevent siloing, unifying individuals and teams within a centralized space. But at the end of the day an intranet is used primarily as a repository for updates and content. An intranet’s focus is about ensuring the availability of information. They aren’t necessarily a means of inspiring or engaging in real-time. Moreover, there is an inherent reliance of intranets on their audiences pro-actively accessing information, which is a big ask in our attention-deficient world.
There is yet another drawback to these systems, and it’s equally significant. Communication managers must still create or curate the content. This is expensive, and it takes time. Employees that are drip-fed content through these channels – no matter how inspirational – will fail to engage with it, and come to see it as more of a distraction than a salvation. Despite their drawbacks, intranets still stand as a central point of truth providing at the very least consistency and centralization.
Team Collaboration Platforms
The shortcomings of the previously described channels have actually led to the success of Team Collaboration Platforms such as Microsoft’s Teams, Slack, or Facebook’s Workplace. These platforms provide an open forum where the communicator can put forth a message. More importantly, they allow audience interaction and engagement with that message. The age-old challenge to corporate communicators of being able to see how a message resonates with the audience is solved by the open and bi-directional communication flow of these platforms.
These platforms are relatively new additions to the communicator’s arsenal. There is thus an adoption challenge. It is not uncommon for employees within a workspace to be completely unaware of their access to such platforms for which their employers pay so very much. This makes these platforms utopian solutions in theory, but without creating awareness adoption remains an enormous challenge.
The too-often-ignored outlier, Digital signage has one key advantage absent in other channels; It is always visible, yet entirely non-intrusive. If your communications are competing for your audience’s attention in crowded places (a smartphone screen or email inbox) and you rely on the pro-activity of your audience to consume your content; your message may not even find itself in the furthest depths of your reader’s mind. Even the most fundamental message to an organization, i.e. vision, mission, and values can go entirely unnoticed. But when posted in plain-view around offices it is impossible to ignore.
Value cannot be determined through a narrow window. Overtime, office TV screens supported by diverse and engaging playlists of content, will result in awareness for these screens as communication sources and attention to the message that matters most, yours.
Perhaps the optimal multi-channel communications strategy is one that leverages email, collaboration platforms and intranets all the while utilizing digital signage as an unintrusive, visual loudspeaker.
This dynamic would allow anyone – not only communication managers – to relay urgent need-to-know messages, such as alerts about workplace events or warnings of hazards. Company culture expressed on collaboration platforms and social media could be put on display throughout your workspaces.