Most employees dread the “Company Update.” Newsletters and messages often gather dust in staff members’ inbox — unopened and unloved.
When this happens, chances are the business has a case of boring comms.
Gone are the days when internal communications were an afterthought, comprising a quick email sent to all staff — job done. Nowadays, internal communications are regarded as a critical function. There’s a wider appreciation about its impact, and a deeper understanding of what does and doesn’t work.
If content is consistently long, dull or irrelevant, engagement levels suffer and messages cease to be effective.
So how can internal comms professionals create messages that employees will look forward to seeing and interacting with? Here are six suggestions sure to spice up internal comms.
1. Liven up your content. Good communicators know that keeping interest and engagement levels up are crucial — nobody wants to be faced with giant walls of text. Disrupt wordy comms messages with some visually appealing images, infographics or video to keep attention levels peaking.
Most of us love gifs and memes (even though we’re often reluctant to admit it). The old saying “a picture speaks a thousand words” still rings true. Boring or difficult topics can have the edge taken off them when humor is involved. Using a fun image or caption can make a world of difference. The perfect picture can enhance a lifeless comms piece — and if it gets a few giggles as well, that’s an added bonus.
Adding relevant gifs into comms helps illustrate the message. A fun way to engage with staff is to get their feedback to questions using a meme, which can be made quickly with any of the free meme generators found online. These memes provide shareable, humorous results while providing useful insights to the questions.
2. Use language that grabs attention. The headline used in comms can make or break whether anyone reads it. A third of people choose to open emails based on subject line alone.
Liven up headlines with some humor to ensure messages get opened. Keep an ear to the ground for trending topics in the workplace and try incorporating these into the comms.
Interesting, topical comms have a better chance of being remembered and shared across the workplace. For example, weave in references from popular culture, such as the latest Star Wars movie, “Game of Thrones,” celebrity gossip or hot news topics, that people can relate to. These can help deliver messages that get noticed and talked about.
It’s also useful to use the language of the workplace. Drop the industry jargon and formal tones in favor of more natural and relaxed wording.
3. Tantalize and excite readers. Even the most boring internal comms can be made fun by not only what is said, but also by how it’s said. Build anticipation and generate interest by teasing staff with hints of the full announcement to follow.
Think of the best movie trailers released. They reveal small pieces of information, show glimpses of exciting incidents — but leave audiences wanting to see more. Internal comms can work exactly the same way.
Drip-feed details of any announcement in a couple of teasers first — don’t just send out a single staff email which falls flat. Whet the appetite, get staff talking, then announce with a bang.
This might begin by sending around a single image alongside a message saying, “Watch this space.” Next comes a follow-up revealing a bit more, but not giving the game away — this is the comms movie trailer. Finally, the full details are unveiled when the audience’s interest is at its peak — the movie now has its red-carpet premiere.
4. Incorporate employee quizzes and surveys. Quizzes and surveys typically get high engagement rates across the workplace due to their less formal and mostly “checkbox” style. A timely quiz can help reinforce staff knowledge, generate feedback and improve the onboarding experience of new employees, but they don’t need to be boring.
Internal quizzes can be used to create a fun, competitive environment across different teams. These can include images and free-form answers to give employees the chance to be more creative.
Surveys can motivate and inspire employees, while at the same time allow the gathering of valuable insights into the workplace. For example, businesses might want to focus on productivity or new services, and get some feedback from their staff.
Try using staff surveys that pop up as a desktop alert with auto-reminders for completion. These get a much higher response rate than email links to online surveys. The ability for survey answers to be sent anonymously can encourage even the most introverted members of a team to speak up and have their say.
5. Employ competitions, gamification and leaderboards. Adding a competitive element into internal comms might be the answer to raising interest levels among staff.
Quizzes can be taken to the next level by gamifying them to encourage employees to focus on a specific topic. Players can be given the option to challenge each other. For businesses feeling generous, prize incentives can be offered to encourage participation and some friendly rivalry between individuals, teams or locations.
Staff training and engagement can be increased by using this style of information delivery. A little bit of competition goes a long way to improving learning and results in a team environment.
6. Involve your staff. Get employees involved in the content creation process. Anyone could film selfie-style videos to deliver messages about those more yawn-inducing topics in the workplace. Video of any kind is an effective means of breaking up walls of text, and it’s even more engaging when staff members are featured.
Peer-to-peer communication is highly effective in delivering messages, and many employees love the chance to get more involved in their workplace and show off their wit and talents.
Is there an employee who can sing a short, catchy song about new compliance measures? Someone who can juggle while talking about health and safety? A closet stand-up comedian who can turn boring into brilliant?
The creativity and abilities of the people in a workplace can often be surprising. This can be a goldmine for creating more interesting comms while, at the same time, learning more about the employees.
“Boring content is a complete turn-off. It bores you. It bores your readers. It discourages your brand. To punch boring in the face, you’ll have to do more than use active verbs and italicize words. You’re going to need to do something absolutely new.” —Neil Patel, Quick Sprout
Internal communication should not equal boring. While there is a place for formal messages, there is also a place for messaging that appeals to our sense of humor and fun. Taking a more relaxed approach with communication styles will help internal comms managers better enjoy the content creation process, and ensure staff will actually read the communication and engage with the message.
Susan Bowden is marketing manager at SnapComms, a leading provider of digital internal communication solutions. She has 20 years’ experience in journalism, marketing and PR, including senior roles at Virgin Media and Vocus Communications. She has also led the Telecommunications Forum Council in New Zealand, and continues to be an active participant in internal communication communities worldwide.
SnapComms tools are used by more than 1.6 million users in 75 countries, delivering urgent notifications, raising employee awareness and driving behavioral change. Founders Sarah Perry and Chris Leonard took the company “from zero to hero” in their business sector within three years of its launch in 2007.