Reaching Out – How to Create Engaging Communications
At the end of a relationship, one of the reasons for the breakdown that is often cited is, “We just couldn’t communicate with each other!” and unfortunately this is often the reason why employees and customers become disillusioned with an organization.
If you listen to conversations among customers about how they communicate with an organization, one of the biggest issues is that often they can’t communicate at all! Customers left in a loop of frustration, routed through a number of mechanical options, departments with their telephones permanently diverted to voice-mail are not helpful.
Switchboards that have not been notified that people have left, emails left unanswered, invitations not responded to, applicants for jobs not acknowledged, all create an impression of how effective your communications are.
It can, however, be so very different, an apology to a customer left waiting, a warm and welcoming voice, a genuine desire to help, being open about the different stages in the recruitment process, encouraging the natural behaviours can make such a difference.
Small businesses usually respond promptly, they know the importance of customer satisfaction; they know how quickly a reputation can be damaged.
It’s the little things, a quick emailed response to an invitation, a note of thanks after an event, words of praise for work carried out, acknowledgement of exceptional behaviour; basic courtesies are as important at work as they are in your social life. People often use the excuse that they are too busy, but with today’s range of communication methods, there is always a way.
Giving clear and unique messages
As an employer you need to be thinking about how you can give clear and unique messages, if you are competing for employees, or seeking to keep the ones you have already recruited, clear communications are vital.
Employee engagement is about helping people to make a choice, being inclusive, encouraging people to join and stay, keep reinforcing key messages, think about the PR and Press coverage you are receiving, we all know how easily reputations can be destroyed with a careless word or action.
However sophisticated your communication strategy, both internally and externally, ultimately it will be your people who transmit your key messages through their attitudes and behaviours with your customers and through their informal conversations with friends, family and colleagues outside of work.
You can learn a tremendous amount about an organization through overheard conversations in restaurants, taxis, trains and bars. While you are carefully constructing your communications strategy, it is quite possible someone else is quietly destroying it through a careless action, an unthinking comment, or thoughtless behaviour.
For organizations this is an area impossible to monitor, and so all you can hope is that you explain to your employees when they join an organization about the importance of confidentiality, the values that you are trying to uphold; and by encouraging active liaison with friends, families and the larger community you can provide tangible examples of the integrity and authenticity of your organization.
It is worth remembering that we are not just talking about customer-facing employees, it can be people behind the scenes, suppliers, or even senior members of the company. A throwaway comment, or anecdote in a speech can suddenly become viral through social media.
Every single employee has a role to play in building the brand, crucially however much you try to engineer the perceptions; nothing has more power than an employee naturally acting as a brand ambassador in the way they describe what they like about your organization, or by encouraging friends and family to join the company.
This has to be reinforced through the way you treat employees on a day-to-day basis, or in the way that you treat your customers. This is why it is so important that your vision, values and required behaviours are demonstrated every day as well as being introduced at induction/onboarding.
Equally, when things don’t go right it is essential that they are put right swiftly with apologies and exceptional customer service back-up.
Synergy in internal and external communications
Both internal and external communications should create the feeling in the end-user, that the organization is talking to the individual, i.e. ‘What does it mean to me?’ Are the messages, clear, concise, user friendly and inclusive? Are the messages the same in different mediums; are they reflected in recruitment advertising, the corporate website, the career website, annual report etc? Do they inspire confidence, would you recommend your organization to someone else? Would you recognize the corporate messages as being real? Does your organization speak for itself in terms of behaviour, attitudes and approach to business? Is this a message that you are proud of?
One very important medium that is often neglected is the importance of social media. In today’s social networking landscape, employees, potential employees, customers and other stakeholders all have access to data about your organization, both good and bad in a very short space of time. While you may not be able to control what is said about you in the overall global online environment, you should have monitoring and managing your reputation strategies in place, to ensure that you do manage your reputation with integrity.
One area that you can control, however, is your corporate website.
What messages does your corporate website give about you?
Your website can give a unique insight into your organization; it can inform, inspire and engage with users. Advances in technology mean that any website whether owned by an individual, SME, or large corporation can use a variety of media to create a dynamic and interesting environment. In the online world, less is often more, writing for the web is different, and you need to consider how people might view and read your site and think about how the messages can be transmitted through different mediums. For example, more and more people are using video shorts, or reels, blogs, podcasts, and social media to communicate their messages.
Examine your own website dispassionately, if you were looking at it for the first time and knew nothing about the company what messages does it give to users? Does it inform, inspire and engage? Importantly how dynamic is the career element of your site, so often there is a ‘Join Us’ category, which has a completely different tone from the rest of the site.
Thinking about these three elements:
When you are trying to give people information, you need to consider your audience, which will consist of several different groups and a variety of demographics, The tone, the ‘look and feel’ and the depth of content will all be important considerations. In this age of transparency and social networking, corporate websites take on an increasingly important role. Are your values clearly transmitted?
Think about the following:
Usability-how easy is it to navigate our site?
What key messages are we sharing? Are our messages inclusive?
Is the information that we are sharing honest, relevant and useful?
Is the tone welcoming and friendly?
Inspiration can take a variety of forms, think about all the activities that happen within your organization that are inspiring e.g. individual achievements, charity events.
Think about the following:
What have we done as an organization that is inspiring?
What actions by individuals have we highlighted that could inspire others?
Is our site uplifting for existing and future employees?
Does your website profile your employees, does it paint a picture of what it is like to work in your organization? Is it inclusive, is your online recruitment process user friendly?
Think about the following:
- Does your website reflect your employer brand?
- Does it clearly explain what your organization stands for, is it inclusive?
- Does it explain the advantages of joining your organization?
- Does it encourage action; does it indicate what to do next?
- Does it explain how the recruitment process works?
- Is the process 2-way, and is this prompt?
- Do you regularly monitor your website, ensuring that all aspects are up-to-date and functioning efficiently?
- Is the career area an integral part of the website rather than an isolated bolt-on?
- How do your applicants feel after experiencing your online presence?
- How could you improve your recruitment process on and offline?
If you would like to find out more about our approach to corporate communications, please visit our contact us page.
This is an extract from:
Employee & Customer Engagement…..Naturally
What employees and customers know, but some organizations may never find out. – Kaye Thorne
Kindle version available here: