I’m at the annual European Communication Summit in Brussels – my second visit and a conference worth attending if you can. Speakers and delegates are from across the continent, giving a fresh perspective if you have a pan-European role like me, and the event covers the full range of corporate communications – meaning there’s always something new to learn from other disciplines.
A big attraction this year is the focus on digital – and day one didn’t disappoint. A cracking keynote from Jimmy Maymann, CEO of The Huffington Post; smart social media insights from Lego; and, closer to home, how The Coca-Cola Company has brought Coca-Cola Journey, its ground-breaking media platform, to Germany.
What’s clear is that content is king and conversations are fast becoming the heir to the throne – driven by technology, informed by data and powered by mobile. But in this digital realm, does internal communications content treat employees like princes or paupers?
I tweeted (with some reaction) that my biggest learning from the first day was that we must deliver employee content to the same standards that they’d expect to receive as consumers. We’ve been talking digital here but that goes for employee magazines as much as e-zines or intranets. Our job is to bring alive the vision, strategies and goals of our organisations for employees through great stories, slick writing and creative thinking coupled with meaningful dialogue – first so they actually notice; then so they engage with it; and then so they care.
Before long, organisations that don’t appreciate the reality of the digital world their people live in are likely to get left behind. Rely on the cascade and ignore the conversations at your peril. And if you think this is solely the preserve of the tech companies or the big-budget super-brands, think again. I heard at least two examples here of manufacturing and financial organisations who are embracing this approach.
Why? Because increasingly, employees are the barometer of how trustworthy your organisation is. They’re now a more credible source of information than the CEO. Nurture and cultivate them and they’ll be your best ambassadors, telling your company’s story as well as driving engagement, reputation and trust.
Consumerising your employee content – whether that’s a simpler tone of voice, a shorter, sharper word count or tackling some challenging subjects in a different way – means taking a few risks. You’ll have some great ideas. Some will be too expensive, some will take off and some will be duds – but it’s OK to fail fast. One speaker here said rightly that speed now trumps perfection.
You’ll also have a few sceptical leaders to convince that it’s the right thing to do, but most are alive to the fact that corporate reputations grow through transparency and authenticity. Who better to build that than your employees, supported by great content that’s created and curated by you?