April 16, 2008

NGAGE/01

“Everyone hears only what he understands.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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pro:found pro:found is a hybrid consultancy agency. We’re linking human development & communications. Instead of consent to traditional functional differences, we cross pollinate tools, models, processes, insights and experiences to achieve the best possible results in engaging people.

Acoustics: the forgotten parameter
employee communication
When building the opera house, massive efforts were put into acoustics. With people paying a premium price to get in, they should be able to hear all nuances, no matter where seated. If you compare your organization to the opera house, can you truly claim that your valued workforce is able to hear the music - regardless of where they’re positioned in the organization? Can everyone hear all the necessary nuances to full heartedly enjoy the play? If not, have you assessed the consequences?
Most likely you will experience people with no sense of direction, no sense of urgency and a profound lack of both motivation and engagement to fulfill even the simplest of tasks. Typically you find people with these symptoms far away from the music - probably browsing the market for a new job. You can’t really blame them for not dancing since they can’t hear a tone. If you want to give them a fair chance, the least you can do is making sure they are able to hear the music. An important parameter is acoustics and this is not about increasing the volume. Instead this is about tweaking your communication channels and optimizing the mix. Two important channels in this equation are email and the corporate web (intranet). Since anything technology is synonymous with efficiency, a lot of scarce communication attention has been used mastering both. Traditional channels like magazines and line communication, necessarily are down prioritized. While technological advancement brings opportunities for new applications on the intraweb, broadcasting (podcasting and youtube-alike features), it is essential to re-evaluate the mix. Email increasingly is misused and perceived a time stealer. e intraweb is ‘heard’ by the two front rows only. People here to enjoy the play without premium tickets, are not tuned in. Imagine you’re at a party where half of the conversation at your table is being whispered, exclusively to a happy few. You are unable to hear the nuances and that makes it an irritating and frustrating experience. Complementary channels How rude. It is however, what we submit staff to every day. erefore it is paramount to consider effectivity rather than efficiency. is will require a deeper knowledge of your audience than how many people have access to a computer and/or click rates and visitor curves from the intranet. In too many situations the intranet has become a substitute whereas it should have been a complementary channel. Any effectivity study conducted in the past ten years concludes the obvious: people want to hear news at first hand and their preferred channel is their supervisor, team leader and direct manager. Printed employee publications e.g. magazines score high too, especially at the level of middle management and the ranks below. Magazines are a perfect example. We were too fast when we dismissed magazines in favor of intranet. We had solid arguments to do so: magazines have a long leap time and are costly. But there are parameters we did not assess closely enough. A magazine for example, shows that you are serious about engaging staff. A magazine is read and used in a different fashion than the intranet: both channels have different functions. A magazine reaches the folks at home, which creates a better understanding for example when overwork is necessary. Even people seated in the front two rows, will enjoy a better ‘acoustic balance’’: in a magazine you can present topics in depth an thus develop a deeper understanding. NGAGE encourages you to do the opera house test: next time you are in a far away corner of your organization, try to listen to the music as the people seated there do. If you can’t hear the nuances, you are in deep trouble.

Pat May

Thomas Heintzelmann

NGAGE NGAGE, is a free newsletter targeted at comm. professionals & practitioners. It is our ambition to inspire and provoke radical thinking. Unsubscribe You can unsubscribe by sending an email to pat@pro-found.dk.

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NGAGE April 16, 2008

@f!nd
Think like a publisher Delivering valuable information to buyers is key to long term profitable relationships. But this requires thinking like a publisher. Here’s how: 1st, define a critical group of buyers; 2nd, determine what information they really need an how they want to receive it; 3rd, deliver that critical info to that core group of buyers in the way they want it; 4th, continually measure how well you are doing and adjust as you go.

Stop interrupting your customers with obtrusive marketing. Increasingly people want to make up their own mind about what they need to solve their problems. By the time they are ready to talk to you, they have gathered a massive amount of information about you and your competitors.
is is true whether they plan to buy a car or a computer. You can benefit by becoming the content source that solves their problems. By delivering vital and relevant content, you will become relevant to your audience thus increasing loyalty. Intuitively most companies understand the dynamics. Hence, they are investing heavily in content. e size of the industry is estimated to be between 130 and 255 billion kr and growing with a staggering 20% a year. Germany has an astonishing amount of 3000 customer magazine titles. Also in Denmark the market is booming and we witness an explosive growth of professional publications like Vinkel (Silvan) and Kiwi (Netto). It is hard to assess to what extend these initiatives are successful since metrics are not necessarily a part of the concept development. What we can see though is that a lot of effort is being put into a nice and slick design, great photography, colors and interactivity (when on line). Meanwhile the quality of the content is lagging. is should not come as a surprise since most companies are set up to sell products and services, not to provide relevant and valuable information to customers and prospects. Only few organizations and agencies have the expertise to create content-rich editorial products on a regular basis. e biggest mistakes we typically see are 1) the lack of predefined metrics, 2) failing to research the audience and their needs, 3) confusing information important to the business with information that is important to the customer and 4) trying to dress up sales information as quality content.

Stop irritating your customers, be relevant
client publishing
Covey shared a valuable lesson with us in ‘e seven disciplines’: start with the end in mind. is is also true for content. What is it that you want to accomplish? Be specific about it. Determine deliverables and make sure that you can measure them. Build your goals into your concept from the start.

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You can’t achieve relevance without an extensive map of your audience. Your Gallup data won’t be very helpful here since it won’t tell you what your audience wants to relate to. at is the single most important parameter because if you start with having this wrong, your audience will ignore you.

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Content interesting for you to write about, is not necessarily valuable for your customer. If you want to sell a plane ticket, it probably won’t help a lot explaining the mechanics of the reservation process. You will increase your success rate if you can tell more about the leg space, the catering and the entertainment on board. Better even if you can tell an exciting story about the destination of the flight. Your success increases in line with the relevance of your content.

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NEW: Learn to think like a publisher A two days workshop for you, your editorial team and your editorial committee where you learn to think, act and assess content like a professional publisher. Do you need inspiration, a rebuff or ideas on how to start your publication, than this workshop is the perfect start.

Dressing up sales messages in order to make them look like rich content equals disrespecting your audience. Your customers are smart enough to smell a rat, no matter how well disguised. Finally you expose your lack of creativity - which never is a good idea.

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Publishing is an exercise in creating relevance - and if you want a meaningful dialogue with your customers and prospects, relevance is your alpha and omega. Consistently in every publication.

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NGAGE April 16, 2008

Improvement starts with measuring the right thing
communication metrics
Instinctively we know that communication has an impact on the bottom line. Studies show that companies with effective communication programs report high levels of employee engagement . is has a positive effect on the financial performance: in average these companies report up to 50% higher returns. e problem starts when we try to link our communication practice to the companies’ bottom line.
Building the models to do the math - is a challenging exercise for communication practitioners. Too challenging for many and therefore metrics have no or low priority. Or worse, we build a practice measuring the wrong things or things wrong. Imagine you drive in your car and the instruments on the dashboard will tell you how many cars you have passed, how many people have noticed you and how they liked your driving style? is data won’t help you plan your trip at all. You risk ending up with two speed tickets and an empty fuel tank. Exaggerated? Hardly! Many practices we see are focusing on measuring input. We collect data telling us ‘how many visitors certain pages on the intranet generate’, ‘at what time activity is at its largest’ and ‘how much time a specific intranet page in average has been opened’. Interesting data for your IT department. It enables them to plan development and maintenance. From a communication ROI point of view, that data is useless. Another popular measurement practice are focus groups. Members of the audience are ‘asked’ how they use and like a specific channel, for example the staff magazine. Often these qualitative initiatives are being supplemented with a quantitative equivalent. Not that it helps. e focus is on input and the exercise might provide the editorial team with some ideas for improvement. e method is useless if you want to assess the effect of your practice. Why bother? Why should you care about measuring? ere’s three main drivers: 1) technological advancement provides us with new media i.e. new opportunities to reach our audiences, 2) people care less i.e. with the explosive development of the amount of information people get, they increasingly become immune to your messages and 3) communication increasingly is acknowledged to be a competitive parameter in all aspects of business. e latter results in larger budgets but this comes with a responsibility: the ability to plan and prioritize based upon effectivity and impact measurements. So, what should you be measuring? e easy answer to this is ‘everything relevant’. Corporate and marketing communication are not happening in a vacuum: they are carefully planned with the objective to ultimately change behavior. Marketing communication: get people to buy more. Employee communication: get people to sell more. e challenge is to get down to a micro level where you can isolate the effect your communication campaign has. Proving the connection between communication and the effect on a companies’ key objectives might be complicated but it is not impossible. Relate - isolate One of the main keys to measuring the right thing relates to planning. Be specific about what it is that you want to achieve with your communication efforts. If you are Skanska or Vestas, an identified business problem might be work related injuries. e main problem might be certain groups of staff not wearing the proper shoes and helmets (or wearing none at all). Your job as a communicator is to create awareness of the relation between safety clothing and injuries, get people to wear the necessary clothing and eventually bring down the amount of work related injuries. ere’s at least three different metrics you can set up here: 1) awareness (do people know?), 2) action (do people change their behavior?) and 3) business (how many injuries did we prevent?). You can even take it a step further 4) how much money did we help saving avoiding work related injuries? ere might be other initiatives that had an influence on the end result yet by setting up a number of related metrics, you’re able to isolate the effect of your campaign. e example above is about a campaign more or less with a clear beginning and a clear end and some well defined targets. Your reality, you will argue, is different. How for example, can you apply this to your entire practice? e brutal reality is that we lack to build in metrics in the planning phase. Or the metrics we choose, seem to be irrelevant in relation to the business result we want to achieve. Once we’re well on our way with a specific campaign or channel, we can’t be bothered. Another obstacle is that we have a tendency to overcomplicate things when addressing metrics on a strategic level and simply things when we start planning metrics on a tactic level. e one leading to no measurement practice at all and the other to a practice where we limit ourselves to measure input.

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