Trust me, I’m a communicator
Picture the scene: you’re a big company; you’ve got thousands of employees; you’ve got important messages you need to share with them. You introduce a number of different channels, but your colleagues don’t seem to want to engage with any of them and your key messages aren’t resonating.
The employee-led channels, however, (Yammer, team WhatsApp groups and the like) are a constant hive of chatter. Maybe you should be posting on there? Nope, that’s unlikely to cut it I’m afraid. If you want to engage with your colleagues, you can’t just interrupt their sacred spaces with your corporate messages; you need to start talking their language. You need to start using a tone of voice they can relate to.
Let’s take a step back
Who do you trust? When buying products, are you more likely to believe a cleverly worded advert or a personal review written by a real end user? Who would you really believe? Even the most beautifully crafted communication can be a turn-off for most. We want it to be real, we want it to be honest, but above all else, we want it to be the truth. And who do we trust to tell us the truth? Our peers.
It’s the same with employee communications. Why would I – as one of your colleagues – believe a ‘communications expert’ over what I’ve heard from someone in my team? I wouldn’t. That’s why the rumours spread so much more quickly than the messages in the weekly bulletin you put out trying to quash them. So then, our job as communicators is to use voices our employees trust.
‘But how?’ I hear you ask. HOW?
Rather than focusing on creating a beautiful magazine or a clever intranet with all the bells and whistles, companies should be investing in the voice behind their communications. A clear, consistent tone of voice that mirrors the voice of the colleague, that’s the goal.
As editor of the employee magazine for M&S, I focus my energies on creating a peer-to-peer tone for the content. Whatever the story is, my first priority is to find the right person to tell it. And that’s rarely ever me.
Let’s take a recent story I was asked to feature. The company was keen to tell colleagues about innovations in Clothing & Home. ‘We want colleagues to have top-line knowledge of our key products that they can easily share with their customers”, they said: ‘you know, like a list of products and their main selling points’. This could be quite dry I thought, a list format may mean that colleagues just flick past. So I made a suggestion: ‘How about sending store colleagues a selection of products to test for themselves so they can tell us what they think the key selling points are, in their own words?’. A slight hesitation, but nods all round.
So, we asked the Clothing & Home team to tell us which products they really wanted to push this season, we supplied three store colleagues with said items and then asked them to give us their honest opinions. The result was a warm, engaging feature that colleagues said was ‘easy to read’ and ‘full of great points to share with customers’.
The lesson? Let your colleagues do the talking.