Sunday, 29 June 2014

Transforming email for the social age

The Newsweaver Internal Connect user conference took place in London this week. Can their platform socialise the channel we all love to hate - email? 

Internal Connect is Newsweaver's platform specifically designed for enhancing the power of internal communications. It aims at transforming emails into an effective social channel that large businesses can use to have conversations, share knowledge and gather feed-back from across the organisation.

The Internal Connect User Conference, was a chance to learn how some major global companies have been able to champion two-way communications through the tool.


A wonderful phase of co-creation

The day saw an opening keynote from simply-communicate's Publisher Marc Wright. Back in 2012, he founded SMiLE (Social Media in the Large Enterprise) the largest European community and source of information for internal communicators and social business professionals ever since.

Drawing from a series of case studies such as Philips, Grundfos, Barclays and PwC, Marc's presentation centred on the idea that "we are now in this wonderful phase of co-creation." Times are gone when internal communicators could use a telling or selling approach to unify staff with the organisational goals. In the networked organisation, storytelling and corporate narratives are crowd-sourced. Through social media, employees have the opportunity to raise their voices, which cannot be ignored anymore. With that "authenticity has become extremely important. We are in a new era of communications where real conversation is key."

Marc also pointed out how the mobile movement is rapidly taking over employee communications. Enterprise apps are changing internal communications, supporting remote workers to do their job more productively, creatively and faster.

With his final thoughts on social analytics he drove home that "we are all generating digital footprints inside our organisations." And, while big data seems to be today's new word, more often than not, it is from the smallest insights that change can start surfacing.

On the go

The Financial Ombudsman Service's Head of publications, online and design Sally Young presented how the company has replaced their traditional, static and rather neglected Ombudsman news for staff with 'on the go'. 

The company's new and fresher internal newsletter, which uses a Twitter style with short and digestible content, leverages the power of employee-generated content. And, to match the need of a young employee population that is often on the move, on the go is accessible via mobile.

Since its use, the corporate word has been spread exponentially and generated greater interest from the staff. Plus, it has helped a small team of internal communicators to save on costs.

Plane speaking with easyJet

British airline easyJet has 10,000 employees across Europe and North Africa. With the majority of them having five minutes a day to access a computer, the need for internal communications to go via mobile devices was hugely felt. Plus, to learn to make the content more engaging since "we rely on our people wanting to access it," said Internal Communications Channel Manager Den Carter.

To meet the latter requirement, Plane speaking, with "fool-proofi(ish) templates", is the guide and e-learning module created for educating staff about writing in their house style.

However, what was most interesting to hear, is how the organisation has made weekly podcasts one of the main leadership communication channels. "The CEO Carolyn McCall, visits every location regularly by hosting stand-ups. And, to capture everybody more often, she records a five minute audio podcast every week. In it, she covers high level news updates and performance stats from her personal perspective."

The company converts the audio file to a video format and sends a NewsWeaver flyer with the embedded video. This has been a low cost way to engage with staff who can listen in their own time.

Putting employee needs at the centre of design strategy

Ruth Egan, Newsweaver Lead Designer, talked about the impact of design on internal communications, reminding the audience that "employee experience matters" and that, when used well, "design can help to inspire and delight."

The premise was to "put employee needs at the centre of the design strategy." Egan gave some tips such us making the content uncluttered, easy to find, on brand and with clear call to action, serving multiples uses. A good example, was Connected.

We also heard of the importance of responsive design, adaptability of content to different size screen and optimased mobile experience. These are elements that require thoughtful consideration to help our remote staff be always connected with the company.


A centre to simplify, standardize and centralise communications

Leading global brewer AB InBev, one of the top five consumer products companies of the world, operates across six geographical zones. In Zone Europe there are 16,000 employees who speak seven different languages in 13 countries, the challenge for communicating and informing staff effectively is high.

To overcome cultural barriers and make sure the organisation goes in the same direction, they decided to create an Internal Communications Centre about 1,5 years ago. The team supported by Newsweaver's platform since January 2014, aims at simplifying communications through the use of four main channels: We Know, AB InBev Weekly, AB InBev Monthly and AB InBev Newsflash.

To give communications a standardised identity, the format is kept identical for every region. However, the content is tailored and translated for each location, making centralisation another key element of the Centre. 

According Melinda Illes from AB InBev's, since using the tool, "we are able to do analysis of our channels, we are able to create engaging communications materials with social features and interactive articles. And, we can focus on process improvement."

A new community for internal communicators

During the day there were other relevant stories from which to learn from. These included "How Vodafone turns raw metrics into actionable insights" and "Turning a regional communication strategy into an aligned global strategy at CHEP."

We are in a stage where the old corporate email system doesn't seem to work anymore. Yet, many organisations are still far from becoming a mature social business. Perhaps, Newsweaver has found a solution for those organisations a temporary solution: rather than eradicating the email system, turning it into a more social and cooperative work companion. We will see how the tool will evolve.

For the ones who couldn't join the event or follow it on Twitter, they will be able to catch up with all the content very soon. Next month Newsweaver will launch their Customer Success Community sharing over 100 How-To Guides, technical documents and knowledge articles. Internal communicators will be given access to a vast library of best practice, plus training videos and webinars.

And that is great news. As Marc Wright pointed out, "today, communicators need to have peripheral vision." We all need to learn more on this volatile working environment. It is by trying to understand, by sharing and asking - even with competitors - that we may be able to turn the technology to the humans' advantage, bringing value to our professional and organisational lives. #icmatters!


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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate