Tuesday, 28 January 2014

10 new rules of crisis communications

Crisis communications is a tough nut to crack. I have had situations when I was running here and there gathering the facts, calling the journalists, contacting bloggers, writing letters to the editors, and holding a press conference to clarify the issue.

As the Nepali adage goes, "Oralo lageko mrigalai bachchhole pani khedchha" (translation: a deer running downhill is challenged even by a calf.), you will be bombarded by questions, some really nasty enough to tackle, once an image ruining rumour spreads.

Now-a-days you have got plenty of options to address the situation. Melissa Agnes, the editor of Agnes + Day's Crisis Intelligence Blog, explains the very important 10 new rules of crisis communications through an infographic designed by the Agnes + Day crisis intelligence team.   

 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications - InfographicThe 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications – Infographic by Agnes + Day

Monday, 27 January 2014

22 killer features to attract your employees to intranet

A popular intranet leads to an open sharing culture.
(c) www.morguefile.com
So you are having tough time to attract your employees to the intranet? Worry not. Once you make the intranet a happening place, you will see the engagement growing day by day.

First and foremost, name and brand the intranet. It creates the feeling of ownership among the employees. Seeing the corporate colours, strategic design and the bits and pieces related to the brand personality, they feel like the site belongs to them. And it is where you start adding further information. Remember, “Hit the iron when it’s hot.”

Letting the page stand alone will not make it interactive. So, breathe life into it. Ask your CEO to write monthly, if he is not able to jot down a weekly motivating column. Though we always advocate for a horizontal structure where there are no hierarchies, we still look up to the senior management to guide and motivate us towards the organisational goals.  

Let the employees comment freely to the CEO’s column. This will invite an open platform of sharing ideas. Don’t edit the comments unless they are nasty and derogative. At the end, every employee has the rights to put forward their views.

We are always eager to know what our colleagues in the adjacent department are doing. Make a point to gather updates from each department and if your orgnisation is spread over many countries make sure to upload the recent news from each department and each country. It keeps all informed of the recent happenings in the organisation.

Another biggest crowdpuller is a column comprising the recent appearances in the media. Though we don’t admit, each of us has a little bit of Narcissus inside us which feels happy when it gets the limelight. Post the recent appearances of your work in the media and never forget to provide a link to the original story. It adds credibility.

A calendar of events and upcoming opportunities is another way to attract visitors to the intranet. They visit the page to check whether there are any opportunities available for them.      

It’s the age of knowledge sharing. Your credibility increases with the knowledge sharing. Make sure that you add a column “Interesting reads” where you share the recent happenings and any new document published in the areas you work. Employees will find this useful. Instead of searching in Google and other search engines, they will flock to the column for new reads.

Another way of engagement is putting a snapshot of your e-newsletter in the main page. Make the e-newsletter more collaborative, give chance to each office and each department and staff to write down their views. It is quite common that all are busy in their respective works. But it’s the responsibility of the communications department to encourage them to jot down their feelings and experience. Put snippets of the articles with “read more” buttons that lead the readers to the related pages.

Navigation is always an issue with the websites. The visitors leave the main page if they don’t find the relevant information. To keep them visiting the next pages provide the important links on the main page itself.

We keep on making simple mistakes while writing. It’s generally using wrong fonts, colours and tone of voice and even using the logo in a wrong manner. To avoid these petty mistakes, put a “Communications Toolbox” with the organisational house style, corporate identity guidelines and downloadable logos at a prominent place in the main page which takes the employees to the brand page.

The next important thing the employees look up to is the decisions made at the senior management level. Never forget to put a folder containing the senior management team meeting minutes. It enhances the transparency within the organisation and makes the staff feel that they are part of the decisions made.

People like to discuss and healthy discussion makes the management easier to decide on a certain topic. Make sure to provide links to the discussion topics within each department and offices. The trending topics will invite more participation and employees will visit the pages to put forward their views.

A section leading to the “New staff orientation” page attracts new employees and if you are able to keep on supplying interesting content to the new recruit s/he becomes a loyal visitor in the process.

Links leading to the pages “Staff directory”, “Benefits and services”, “Policies and procedures”, “Forms” further help to attract employees to the page.

A column on “People updates” leading to the details of newly hired staff, anniversary, birthdays, special achievements, birth of babies and other personal news is a way to create ownership aong the staff. It subsequently leads to greater traffic generation.  

Snapshots of the major activities that lead to the image gallery or the Flickr/Picasa based is another way to attract visitors. Instead of reading the full news, people like flipping images with right captions.

Looking at the popularity of microblogging, it might be a good idea to include the Twitter feeds of your organisation at a corner of the main page.

Even simple applications like “Booking a meeting room” and columns like “FAQs” and “Important/Urgent phone numbers” can be a way to generate more traffic to the intranet.

Word Clouds show which topics are trending and people are currently discussing about. It encourages and motivates the page coordinators to add more relevant and useful information in their respective pages so that they attract more visitors.

At the end of the page, a section “Browse the intranet” displaying the major pages with live links makes the navigation much easier. 

User of the month is another source of motivating the employees to visit the intranet. If you put a small picture and bio of the user who visited the intranet the most, it will encourage others to follow on the footsteps. It will generate more traffic to your intranet.

Sending page analytics to each offices and departments at the end of the month makes them informed about their performances. In a way it creates a competitive environment, encouraging the teams to perform better.

Having shared all the good things, it’s not a good idea to jumble up everything on the main page of the intranet. It will create confusion having so much information at one go. So, have faith on your conscience, choose the right and most important things to display on the main page, and go ahead with engaging your employees.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Brand the intranet, engage employees

Brand your intranet, it also needs a name! (C) www.morguefile.com
“I never feel like visiting the intranet.”

“It’s boring.”

“I don’t see any value getting there. It doesn’t look like our website.”

You must have heard these murmurings in your office. And especially if you are responsible for communications, it seems that the grapevine is abuzz with denials and negativity all the time.

In spite of being one of the tools to facilitate communication between employees, the intranet turns out to be a tedious task to handle, if not used properly.   

While the intranet needs killer features to attract employees (I will talk about it in my next post), the step preceding the content creation is branding. Branding the intranet. In terms of organisational culture, mission and values. 

Naming the intranet
The first and foremost step in branding is to come up with a name which connects well with the purpose and organisational mission. I like the name of WWF’s intranet. It’s called “CONNECT” and it lives up to its name connecting employees across the globe. Naming can be rhymed like “Pipeline”, the newsletter of an oil company and “Inner Sole”, the newsletter of a shoe manufacturing company.

You can find a list of creative names at SnapComms. Though they are meant for employee newsletters, you can get a cue for naming your intranet from them.

Look and feel
The intranet should don the corporate colours and their variants. Although the corporate typefaces cannot be used all the time, the alternative fonts like Verdana can be used to give it a decent look. Too many pictures in a page or a bland page without any image, both are a complete No-No. Try to maintain the visual balance on the page.

The masthead
The masthead or banner should boldly spell out the name of the intranet along with the corporate tagline. While designing the masthead make sure to use the motifs related to the organisation’s strategy, mission and values, if you are using one. Otherwise, bold type typefaces or specially designed fonts can be used. Sometimes, calligraphy can do wonders.     

The master page
The main page of the intranet should carry the zing thing. By zing thing, I mean to include an inspirational message every week from the CEO, news from offices across the globe, appearances in the media, useful links, navigational links to important pages and other important stuffs that you think should be there in the main page.

The design, look and feel of the following pages should be consistent with the master page. So that you don’t juxtapose oranges with apples!

Now, if you are done with the initial branding, you can start creating killer content to attract your colleagues to the intranet. You have crossed the first step. The branding will help build the initial trust and ownership, instigate the engagement, subsequently leading to employee loyalty towards the intranet. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Share information, win the game

Share information, be popular. (c) www.morguefile.com
Information is power. Isn’t it? So why not hoard information and remain powerful? Well, it was the thinking few years ago. Nowadays if you hide information, you will no longer remain powerful. The information seeker will google it, bing it and get the required data. And you will feel ostracised at the end.

I recall a widely circulated anecdote. Once a man approached a mason laying bricks. On being asked what he was doing, the man nonchalantly said, “Well, don’t you see, I’m laying bricks.”

The man then went to another man who too was laying bricks. Nearby was standing the foreman. He was supervising the masons. When he posed the same question to the second mason, the foreman took over and said, “We are building a wall.”   

Getting a different answer, he thought of contacting the contractor who was in-charge of the construction. The contractor welcomed him to his office, offered a cup of coffee and explained, “See, we are coming up with one of the largest churches in the neighbourhood.”

Now, you can see the difference.  Had the mason known of the bigger picture, he would have taken his job more seriously.  The foreman would have gone an extra mile to be a proud partner in constructing the landmark.  

This makes the difference. It’s not only about sharing the information, but showing the bigger picture to your teammates. So that you come together as winning team. And accomplish your goals. Efficiently. Effectively.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Three easy steps to developing knowledge and learning

First identify the knowledge theme, then start developing
knowledge products. (c) www.morguefile.com
Working as a knowledge worker, the most difficult task that I have come across is knowledge extraction and creation. While adapting, structuring, and sharing aspects of knowledge management are a bit easier, the knowledge developing seems a daunting task, especially when you start from the scratch. If you are to extract knowledge and learning from a project during a stated period, you need to first set the knowledge agenda. To set the agenda, identify the themes around which you want to develop the knowledge and learning. As the project progresses, you will come across some obvious knowledge and learning. However, at the beginning of the project you will need to identify the themes based on the project design document.

Knowledge themes and key questions
The knowledge themes could be gender and social inclusion, commercialisation, sustainability and so on, depending on the project document. After identifying the knowledge themes, discuss with the stakeholders and find out the key questions that will lead to developing knowledge and learning under each theme. For instance, under the theme gender and social inclusion, one of the probable questions can be, “What are the effective ways of targeting women and disadvantaged groups?” Similarly, you can collect a set of questions by interviewing the stakeholders, asking them what they expect to learn from the project.

Knowledge sharing mechanisms and tools
Following the identification of knowledge themes and collection of key questions, list out the knowledge sharing mechanisms and tools best suited to capture the key learning. The knowledge sharing mechanism can be a success story, a case study, a practice paper, a practice brief, a manual, a guideline, a website and so on.

Knowledge matrix with deliverables
After listing out the knowledge sharing mechanisms and tools, develop a knowledge matrix comprising columns for knowledge theme, knowledge sharing mechanism and deliverables. Talking with your team and management, decide which mechanism is best suited to capture the learning of a particular knowledge theme. Looking after your team’s capabilities and duration, fix the number of deliverables you want to come up with. For instance, to develop knowledge and learning under the theme gender and social inclusion, you might choose to go for two case studies and three success stories in a year. Likewise, to develop a knowledge product under the theme sustainability, you might go for a collaborative research.