Using media techniques to engage people with employee communications

Using media techniques to engage people with employee communications

In any organisation we send out messages to employees all the time – whether about the big picture, procedural things like holidays and training – or just day-to-day matters.

There may be really important information to give people, but what is it that’s going to encourage them to stop for a moment in their busy day, and actually read or listen and take things on board?

With my background in journalism, I try to think about what catches people’s attention because – whilst it’s not the same environment –  I believe that the things that make us all listen to a news bulletin, pick up a newspaper or magazine or actually read a social media post or blog can teach us a thing or two about ‘hooking in’ our employees to a story in the workplace. 

I’m not suggesting it’s exactly the same – one hopes that an engaged workforce will be keen to hear from their organisation – after all, in virtually any employee survey, people will say they want more communication – never less.

So, what are those key things that make us stop and want to find out more….

Successes and failures 

It’s really simple human things… think about those cliché football headlines: ‘Over the moon’ or ‘Sick as a parrot’ depending on which side of the result your team is on. 

Successes in the business context of course might be beating targets – winning a big order or some kind of technology breakthrough.  When things don’t go so well, you won’t want to be putting a newspaper style headline on your message – but things do still have to be addressed: if there’s been a machinery breakdown that caused major problems, perhaps you would be announcing a new maintenance schedule to ensure such events can’t happen again, or share the business disaster plan – making sure people are aware that when things go wrong, there are systems to address them.

Overcoming hardship or danger

Thanks to the pandemic, the news has been full of such stories in the past year, but one of the shining beacons in our dark days was the achievement of the amazing Captain Tom Moore who refused to be beaten by a broken hip, doggedly improving his fitness to enable him to complete the 100 laps of his garden in time for his one hundredth birthday – and raising an unbelievable £32.8 million for the NHS.

And heroism can be found in day-to-day activities too – people who go that extra mile for a client or patient or to ensure the customer gets their delivery on time. 

Celebrating the individual 

We often try to show the person behind the job role or the big project… the accountant who never emerges from their office or the person who you only know on the phone, but maybe they have a fascinating hobby or have achieved something significant in their personal life. How much more cohesive are teams if we can relate to people on a personal level? It all needs to be in the right proportion in a business environment, but introducing team members in this way is always popular. 

A picture paints a thousand words

Photographs, diagrams, infographics are always helpful to hook people in to a story and to help explain a project or timeline etc.  It’s also the case that for colleagues whose first language is not English, visual imagery can be very helpful in conveying a message.

A photograph of the team that won the Customer Service award for the year is a must…and how about an infographic showing progress along the stages of development for the new product that everyone is talking about? 

In the news

Another great way to focus interest is to make something topical – relate it to something happening in the news.  Perhaps reminding staff to complete holiday requests alongside a headline and story building on the latest information about which countries are moving up or down the UK’s destination traffic light system. 

That’s going to affect me!

And then it’s about things that affect people’s working day directly: an email telling everyone that the fixing of the printer on the third floor is in hand may be helpful …. but not if it’s circulated to everyone on the company’s three other sites.

Heather Pritchett