What we learned at the ALI Strategic Internal Communications Conference

SF IABC recently partnered with the Advanced Learning Institute (ALI) for the 6th Annual Strategic Internal Communications – West Conference in San Francisco. We were also able to attend and here are some of the new and upcoming things we learned:

1. Customization is key

Between seeing demos from a variety of vendors to what we heard from presenters from Salesforce and McDonalds to local tech companies, health care systems and oil & gas, one’s thing’s clear: employee communication is more likely to cut through the noise if it’s customized and curated for specific audiences. Thanks to vendors like Banana Tag, Circle and Poppulo – to name a few – this is easier than ever to do.

2. Use what works for you

Amazon literally posts a newsletter called “Installments” in bathroom stalls at its operations facilities. A communications strategist at Marathon Petroleum Company captures his editorial calendar in a Word document, which is enough to ensure the most current and relevant content is dropped into weekly newsletters. The communications manager at Johnson Controls produces webcasts in-house and refines the process every time. You don’t have to have a big budget or sophisticated technology to reach your audience. We heard so many examples of how innovation, creativity and clarity of outcomes is the secret formula for effective communications.

3. Review and consolidate content

Employees are receiving information from many different points – internal and external – and all of this information can feel overwhelming. Conducting an audit of communications pieces to determine where communicators can “cut, consolidate and coordinate” can help to prioritize what’s important for employees, and where professionals can focus.

4. Know your audience

During an interactive workshop we learned that creating personas, as is often done in marketing, can help determine how to position employee communications. This approach was familiar to conference participants, but many had not tried it. The exercise gives communicators a different way to consider how to compose messages, identify channels and remain focused on what the employee needs to know. Personas capture the individual’s age, job, likes/dislikes, information to help do his or her job, and other features. It was an interesting session that could have real value if fully developed in the workplace.

5. Make it short and attractive

Internal communicators are now experimenting with subject lines, making use of clickbait, and have seen employees open emails more often. It is also good to have snack-sized consumable content on intranets or through company apps where employees can spend two minutes to read, versus not reading anything at all.

6. Have a strategy in place

We heard a lot of presenters talk about the importance of strategy, without which our communications could very well turn into noise. Salesforce’s strategy includes a formula, Culture + Technology + Data = Engagement. Culture creates a sense of purpose and belonging, technology closes the gap between experience at work and in life and data allows more personalized and productive infomation.

Having a well-thought-out approach and understanding of what makes employees tick is key. It is about being able to communicate what your audience needs to know, with purpose and intention.

7. Look at the power of digital

We all love our mobile phones and are increasingly using digital channels in our day-to-day social lives. At this conference, companies are now talking about bringing that into the workplace – whether it be through a digital assistant to orchestrate all the complexity of internal technology as created by Liberty Insurance, or an employee-only mobile app created by the American Cancer Society. Some companies like Amazon use Instagram to meet employees where they are, implementing social media to change how they deliver content and constantly evolving the channels to communicate. Digital is where it’s at.

What are some of your thoughts on creating a more engaged workforce? Let us know.

SF IABC looks forward to supporting future ALI Conferences in the Bay Area and offering our members special discounts. For more info, visit https://www.aliconferences.com/.