Communication and Technology Insights Blog Series – Part 8 of 10: Community versus Comms Team
As your employees continue to embrace (and expect) increasingly sophisticated ways of communicating and collaborating on the personal side of their lives, it is more important than ever to find ways to effectively integrate technology-based communication capabilities as part of your core employee engagement and corporate communication strategy.
This blog is part of the “Communication and Technology Insights Blog Series” developed from our experience working with both communication and IT teams in organizations of all sizes. The blog series also reflects the very interesting discussions we had with conference attendees while moderating a technology forum at the IABC Employee Engagement Conference in Denver, Colorado.
In this post we’ll explore the topic of content generation, and some of the pros and cons to a traditional Corporate Communication team approach and a more open Community-based approach.
Content Generation – Community vs. Communication Team
Overwhelmingly, our forum group of communicators felt that community driven content has the potential to create a more engaging and exciting communication ecosystem that draws employees into the corporate conversation and allows for a richer variety of content based on the experiences of a larger group of people. However, while crowd-sourcing content can be a good idea for some organizations, there are considerations such as how to control the quality of content and best use the Communication team’s time and skills to support the model and ensure effective and aligned communications.
Generating Content via Communication Team
Many companies will task either a Corporate Communication team (or a small number of trusted content contributors if the company does not have such a team) to generate its internal communications. Often, the ratio of these communicators to total employees is such that a small number of contributors are writing content that is targeted to a much larger audience. This can often pose significant challenges for the content contributors, as many in these roles struggle with time constraints and competing priorities.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key pros and cons of a centralized communication model:
While it is often easier to manage the communication lifecycle with a small team of focused, dedicated communicators, some organizations may be missing out on the opportunity to empower employees to play a role in creating interesting, engaging, relevant content for the organization, beyond the level that can be created with a small team.
Generating Content via Community
Your employees represent a potentially untapped asset for great content creation. They are experienced in their respective roles. Many may have significant amounts of domain, business and/or technical knowledge that will be of interest to others internally. Many know about current happenings within the company (at various levels) that can be shared with others to promote more awareness, collaboration, engagement and strategic organizational alignment.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key pros and cons of a community-driven communication model:
One of the obvious trade-offs is some potential loss of control and governance over the editorial and publishing process in exchange for a larger and more dynamic content team.
Moving from Centralized toward Community
If beginning to involve your employees more in the communication process is a goal, here are a few suggestions on how to incorporate the model gradually to minimize risk and disruption to the content generation and publishing process.
Review and Evolve your Processes
If you have long-standing processes that are built and optimized around how the Comms team operates, review these carefully and make any changes required to incorporate net new content contributors. For example, does your organization already have a process and/or system to accept new article submissions for consideration? Is there a group responsible for accepting the best submissions into the editorial schedule? Are additional reviews required in order to ensure that community content meets the quality bar? By placing a critical eye on existing processes, you can begin to evolve them to fit more seamlessly with the community content creation model.
Start with a Small Community
Start with a small number of trusted community content contributors. Focus on people who are good writers and who have interesting and relevant things to write on behalf of the company. Typically, those who have been around the company longer will have more to share and more awareness of happenings at different levels of the organization – this provides a potential wealth of new information. Likewise, employees with a lot of domain and/or industry knowledge will have interesting and relevant things to say.
Build a Mentoring Program
As you start to expand to larger content audiences, utilize your smaller trusted community to help mentor their peers along. Make sure new authors clearly understand the process and expectations for creating high quality, relevant, accurate organizational communications. Help less-accomplished writers refine their writing style and clarity. Help new authors identify the right topics that will be of most value to the company.
Measure and Refine
As with any initiative of this magnitude, the ability to measure effectiveness and refine the system and processes over time is key. Identify any challenges your organization is facing with the community model and build an iterative plan to address the challenges incrementally through various improvements until you are satisfied with your ability to take in new content from many people without compromising quality or message.
In summary, we really love the model where all employees are included in the process, and we do it here at our own company. It doesn’t come without its challenges, but the potential upside in engaging and including your employees may be worth the effort within your organization. We’re very interested to hear what others think about these two models. Are you doing one or the other, or a mix of these models? Have you found particular techniques that work well? Please share your thoughts with us!