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What can internal comms learn from consumer journalism?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Brooke Nolan is marketing and communications manager at Synergy Creative.

The rise of broadband, smartphones and social media has changed the way that we consume news outside of work. Yet often, internal communications seems stuck in the dark ages of bland newsletters and email marketing that doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Our attention span is the shortest it has ever been – at just eight seconds – we dual screen more than ever before, and we’re likely to stop reading an article after 15 seconds. Err, you're still with me, yes?

Consumer journalism has changed rapidly to keep up with this new world we live in: embracing mobile apps, video, and social media. But some, such as Buzzfeed, have shaken up the market completely.

Buzzfeed has built its legacy on listicles (think ‘Top 10s’, and ‘5 reasons why’ type posts), interactive quizzes and visual articles that integrate photos, Gifs and videos. The site has 76.8m unique visitors every month, so it must be doing something right.

So, what are the challenges with this new approach?

Although Buzzfeed is a fairly extreme example of this new format of content – and may not be to everyone’s taste – there are many lessons that internal communicators can take on board.

We held a roundtable in London recently, which addressed this subject. We discovered that many brands are proactively trying to move towards this consumer approach to their internal communications, and there are familiar themes along the way.

Thinking cleverly about content

Businesses are starting to mix up the way that they present their content, with video playing a bigger part. In terms of written content, one case study came from a company that has completely changed the way they communicate with colleagues – condensing everything into 50-word stories.

The idea is that everyone can have meaningful conversations about what was going on in the company, no matter how little they read. Another shared how their ‘Pimp my Pumpkin’ campaign smashed expectations in terms of engagement, showing that the light touch is often appreciated.

Technology is a minefield

Many of our participants are adopting new technologies such as mobile apps, Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) and responsive websites, but it is a slow process to get buy-in and budget from the C-suite. But the results are well worth the effort, with the ability to get content into employees' hands – in a format they’re familiar with – outweighing the hard work needed to get there.

Managing Enterprise Social Networks

ESNs are key to creating the conversation which consumer outlets do so well, and many organisations at our roundtable were on this journey. The consensus was that you need to treat employees like adults – employees need to self-police ESNs and it’s okay if social and ‘fun’ conversations take place on the same platform as business discussions.

Top tips for taking a consumer approach to internal comms:

  • Condense complex information into listicles (Top 10s etc) and easy to digest content
  • Use quizzes and interactive elements to test knowledge and increase engagement
  • Use a combination of mediums to support (or tell) a story, such as video, infographics and Gifs
  • Integrate your ESN to enable social media sharing and encourage conversations
  • Don’t just measure click through – measure longevity, actions and reaction
  • Think creatively about one piece of content and how you can use it multiple times in different variations – this is a life saver for time-poor internal comms teams
  • Work to a content plan but be reactive to the news agenda
  • Always have a good hook – ask, what’s the point of this story?
  • Hone your style and tone of voice
  • Answer the 5 W’s and a H – Who, What, Where, Why, When and How – in the first paragraph or two if you can
  • Always include a call to action to get more info
  • Ask who can tell your story the best for your audience? It’s not always your MD

Brooke Nolan is marketing and communications manager at Synergy Creative.

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