If you give your people the opportunity to contribute and create their own material you will see how the engagement level goes right up.

Posted on October 19th, 2009 at 12:29 am by


Interview with Marc Wright

I met Marc Wright, cofounder of Simplygroup, Vice Chair of IABC Europe & Middle East and publisher of simply-communicate.com, on his Apeiron Academy Master Class: Web 2.0 – friend or enemy to the corporate communicator? (October, 2009)

How the new media has influenced the work of communicators during the last few years?

Everything started with the internet, so everything that now we use inside organization started externally with the web. We saw the explosion of media on the web and that started about ten years ago. It is a fact that there was a time gap before it has started to be used internally but it is very effective and it is effective because it is low cost.

Yes, it is low cost but does it really work when we speak about people’s motivation. I think Web 2.0 works in terms of informing people but does it work when we speak about engaging people?

Well, it absolutely does. And the reason for that is Web 2.0 gives them the opportunity to open it up and let them speak. If the internal communications in one company consist only of top down messages, from the senior management down to the people, they don’t and can’t engage people at all. But if you give them the opportunity to contribute, to create their own video, audio podcast, to post onto forums and respond to blogs, then we can see the engagement level to go right up. And you can track that in your employee surveys, you will see that forums are one of the most popular forms of communication in large organizations today.

What should you do before you go online? Do you have to prepare for starting a blog or site if you don’t have any? What should your first steps be?

First of all, be natural. Imagine that you are at a party and you’re meeting someone that you’re explaining what you do for a living or what happen that day. Don’t research it, don’t give lots of facts, because they’re very much like powerpoint presentation. And there are lots of those in an organization anyway. Blogs are very, very informal.

But the other important thing is: Don’t blog if you don’t have anything to say. Sometimes you may have a week with three meetings that are very important, so you might blog 3 times that week. It’s more important to blog about things people or you are interested in, not take blogging like some activity in your week schedule like “Oh, its Friday, I have to write something”.

Internet and online media is all about honesty. How can we convince our CEOs to become more open or transparent?

It is natural for CEOs to be careful about what they say. They tend not to say things, on important subjects they hold back and keep quiet. The reason for that is they say “Well, there is bad news and it is better not to talk about it”. But If you do the research, you’ll find out that people know the bad things already and in fact they think the situation is much worse than the reality. So when you go back to your CEO and say “Well do you know that actually people think that you’re going to close down two of our factories. And if this happens then you will reduce the workforce by 10% in each factory”. And when you give CEOs this sort of information and they realise that people naturally fear the worst, because the rumours are always worse than the reality. In that situation CEOs will normally go out and say “OK, I need to talk about this. I need to go out and say what exactly is happening”.

It’s very popular nowadays to give advices in the form of “five steps” or “ten lessons”. Can you give us some tips how to involve people in discussions. I mean, if you have a blog and nobody visits it or the visitors are not active what solution can you give in order people to start commenting or asking questions showing they’re really interested in what you are writing about.

Rule number one is before you start writing, start listening. Go out and look on the forums and see what is happening outside of your organization and find out what the subjects are in your particular industry, what are the main problems or topics. Listen to people and find out what are they interested in.

Rule number two is: Be very patient. It takes time for these things to take off. It may be one year for one blog or forum to be established.

Rule number three is: Connect the content of your web space with your offline activities – with your conferences, with your road shows. For example, if you have Q&A (questions and answers) with the CEO or about some conference, publish the questions and the answers on the internet on your particular part of it.

Rule number four is fun – be amusing, use humour. Funny things are happening, people are naturally funny inside your organization so find the jokes and find the things that people enjoy doing. Competitions are a very good example. It might be around your advertising campaign, it might be around recruitment, anything. Use the same techniques that magazines use, just look what’s going on in the news agencies and magazines and ask yourself how do they get readers? They do the same things – fun, competitions, strong headlines, good pictures.

Prepared for CIPR Blog

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