When it comes to making an all-company announcement, arguably the richest channel is always face to face. But for large and distributed organisations, that becomes impractical. With an Enterprise Social Network (ESN), the CEO and executive can speak directly to staff at all levels, making the ESN a rich channel that can scale for large and distributed businesses.
This post continues SWOOP’s series on Groups within ESN platforms. The ‘Announcements’ group is often one of the first formed on a newly installed ESN; a venue for the CEO and other leaders to speak with all employees. The ESN can provide a differentiated channel for engaging staff in dialog around corporate-wide announcements. ESNs provide a more informal channel through which staff and the executive can engage in extended, authentic conversation; something the more common channels of email distribution lists or intranet sites struggle with. Unfortunately, many organisations do not appreciate this unique ESN capability and largely treat the channel as just another avenue for ‘blasting messages’ at staff, with little thought to real engagement.
Broadcasting or Announce groups are typically open, but with restricted access for posting messages; usually limited to the CEO or their nominated proxy. These groups attract attention purely because it is where important announcements, that might impact everyone in the organisation, are placed. The success of the communication is typically measured by ‘reads and likes’ more so than active conversation and true engagement.
Which Channels should be used for Company-wide Announcements?
We shouldn’t believe that all company announcements are equal and that a single channel should suffice.
“A good rule of thumb is the more emotional the context of the message, the richer the medium should be to deliver the message.”
￼For example, a company news channel on the intranet or an email distribution list are pretty low on the richness scale, so perhaps best suited to the run-of-the-mill announcements like public holiday arrangements and quarterly results. The richest channel is face to face, but as we mentioned, often impractical. ESNs are arguably the richest channel that can scale for large and distributed organisations.
While we mostly associate ‘company news’ with senior management announcements, there is also a need of more limited scope news distribution from roles not involving the executive. If you are in the Microsoft O365 ecosystem, Louis-Philippe Vallee provides the following suggestions:
- News in SharePoint home: Use this if you have a lot of contributors from different teams. Using team site news is a good way to “democratise” news contribution.
- Communication site: Use this if you don’t have an intranet to promote important announcement, or if it’s meant to provide information on a specific topic.
- Publishing site: Use this like you would a classic intranet for communications.
- Teams: Use this if you have a small organisation that needs regular and fast interactions.
- Yammer: Use this if you are planning on using the platform for communication and engagement. It’s better suited for larger organisations.
What Types of Announcements are best suited to the ESN channel?
The ESN channel is the richest scalable channel for company-wide announcements. Beyond the simple discussion thread, modern ESNs are able to live stream video and facilitate close to real-time feedback. Many users of Yammer have adopted the practice of YamJams for CEOs and executives to not just make important, potentially sensitive announcements, but also field questions live. Workplace by Facebook has been able to leverage Facebook’s live streaming capabilities to further enrichen the conversations senior executives can engage in at scale.
We have found the ESN channel is particularly useful for announcing new company policies that have broad ranging staff impacts before they are formally released. Former CEO of Australia’s largest telco Telstra, David Thodey, in a frank interview with us, admitted to making some serious policy decisions errors which had taken years to unwind. He freely admitted that management often could not see all the potential negative impacts of a proposed policy. Thodey adopted the practice of ‘pre-announcing’ proposed policies and inviting broad-based feedback on Yammer. The result? Policies were implemented smoothly without the angst experienced with their prior practice.
The other type of announcement that is well suited to ESN use is enterprise-wide improvement initiatives. Whether it’s a new customer focus, process efficiency or employee engagement initiative, its success is contingent on the level of engagement achieved across the organisation. It is never enough to put a statement out there and check how many people have read it. Promulgating the program intent down through the layers of line management can work better but relies on every line manager engaging with staff in a consistent way. And how is any feedback collated and shared? Some of our leading clients have cleverly made use of the SWOOP Topic feature to hashtag key corporate initiatives, so they can track engagement over time. For example, through the use of this feature Bankwest has been able to track the level of engagement of key initiatives to quite granular levels, by tracking discussion intensity over time. What started as a Bank birthday celebration, their #BrilliantOrange campaign has morphed into an enduring celebration of the Bankwest culture, being continuously monitored online with SWOOP.
Think of your Announcement as the Beginning of a Conversation
This can be hard for internal communication leaders to grasp. All their experience has been gained through crafting and telling the corporate story to attract readership. This is no longer sufficient to achieve engagement. It’s when employees actively participate in the conversation, we know they are engaged.