If your email notices, wellness campaigns, and employee announcements aren’t gaining traction and getting employees to take action on important items like signing up for benefits, it might be time to change your approach. Consider how incorporating some of the best practices from the field of public relations into your communication strategy can improve engagement and encourage employees to take action.
The first step in a successful communications campaign is to create a concise, easy to understand core message. Including too much information, using a lot of industry jargon, or including too many requests at a time can all undermine the impact of your message and the outcome you are hoping to achieve. Think through the key message or messages for each announcement and make that the focus. This will help you avoid overwhelming your audience with confusing and unnecessary information.
Traditional 5Ws Structure
In this tried and true approach, public relations pros and newspaper editors put all the important facts right at the beginning. It’s the standard Who, What, When, Where, Why approach to communicating important deadlines and requirements. It’s a solid approach that enables you to communicate the most important facts of your announcement. You don’t have to format your communication with sections labeled, Who, What, etc. like an invitation, though sometimes that may be appropriate. But you can include this key information within a concise introductory paragraph.
What’s in it for Me?
This communication tactic addresses the question of why your employees should care about this communication. If you can’t answer this question and can’t communicate the benefit, your communication will be less effective.
To make this work for your employees, you can start announcements with the key benefit. For example, lead with a first-person quote from an early adopter who uses the company’s recently launched HCM software to save time and solve a problem. This will encourage others to use the platform and be more open to trying it out. It also recognizes an employee for their success. Then include the 5Ws, announcing, for example, when the next software training will take place and how to sign up. This approach works well for topics ranging from new policy introductions to enrolling in the company’s 401(k) plan.
We’ve all been scrolling through Facebook and gotten sucked into reading a story about a lost cat that experienced a cross-country adventure before being found in the most incredible way. You just can’t stop yourself from reading and sharing! While storytelling can seem daunting, it’s one of the most effective communication methods. The well-crafted story of the founding of your company can be a strong recruiting tool. Sharing stories of customers’ experiences with your team can invoke pride and serve to motivate workers. Even explaining the ups and downs of the project undertaken to minimize health insurance costs for the coming plan year can help assuage negativity around an increase.
A form of storytelling, testimonials can help create a connection with your audience. Employee testimonials can empower others to share their own success stories. Consider how adding a couple of sentences from someone engaged in the employee walking program, for example, can get others thinking about joining.
Rewrite Your Subject Line
Did you know that many authors don’t write their own headlines? Once you’ve spent hours working on a story or announcement, it can be very difficult to take a fresh look at the copy and summarize it effectively. You don’t necessarily need to have someone read all your emails and suggest subject lines. But try to step back from the email and identify the very heart of what you are communicating. While “Action Needed by Friday” might increase open rates at first, overusing these alarming headlines can backfire. The best headlines do not seek to trick the reader. Keep it simple and to the point, so people know what they’re getting when they open the email.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Stats show that shorter Tweets receive the most interaction. That’s right’ even Tweets are too long now! Buffer analyzed 1 million Tweets, and those with an image and between 20 and 40 characters did best. In early PR classes, many teachers have students cut all communications in half. If you start with 400 words, the final release must be 200, and so on. For many of us in the field, it’s much harder to write very short announcements, but think how many more people would actually read your emails if they were shorter. Employees would know they only need a few seconds to get the info they need from your department. It’s not right for all announcements, but look for places where you might be including too much explanation when all employees really need are a few bullet points.
Watch Your Tone
Yes, you’ve communicated this ten times before and yes, your employees just don’t get it. Frustrations can run high when you work hard to provide services to your employees and they don’t comply with simple requests. The PR pro knows you never get the desired results if you go negative. So even when frustrations run high, you win with humor, charm and maybe a door prize! A timeless quote on this subject is from bestselling author, Seth Godin: “We know that you feel like using words like ONLY, NEVER, PERMANENT and NOTICE, but we'd rather hear from someone we like instead.”
According to Forrester Research, employees are 75 percent more likely to watch a video than to read emails or your intranet. Video doesn’t have to be incredibly difficult or high-budget to be effective. Basic equipment, interviews, and slides can empower your team to take employee communication to the next level. When people see a picture of someone they recognize, they naturally are curious and want to know more. Using employee stories through video can improve your communications and help drive an engaged workforce.
If video is outside your comfort zone, consider adding images to your employee communications. While clip art is readily accessible within Microsoft Word, it’s not the best way to make use of images as it often comes across as less than professional. Often adding a visual can be helpful by adding a personal element to otherwise mundane announcements like getting your flu shot or updating emergency contact information.
Segment Your Audience
Something you’ll find in every public relations handbook is how to segment your audience and target messages that help them connect and take action. This can be tough in HR, but it’s an important question to ask: Will this announcement really impact only a few people? If so, consider whether communicating in a meeting or conference call with those most impacted is smarter than sending long emails and explanations to all employees. Over time, employees will trust that information you send them is important and impactful to them personally. At times, simply tailoring the subject line or bullet points by department can drive engagement.
So where do you go from here? Pick one or two of the strategies above, and add them to your next campaign. Track your progress, and see what works for your employees. If you feel yourself getting stuck in a rut, revisit this list and see where you can put the personal element into your communications.
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