21 September 2010

Watch out for the Rumorbuster

Allow me to take you back to September 2008, the days of the global credit crunch. The crisis affected our company too and as a result of cost-cutting measures and lay-offs our Headquarter organization was full or rumors. There were even rumors op a pending bankruptcy, which was not the case at all, but in the midst of the news around the credit crisis nobody seemed to know how bad things could become.
Our Workers Council specifically asked our management to communicate more, as many employees were looking for reliable information about the company’s situation. We, at the Corporate Communications Department felt the same way. We sat down with management and created a communication story line that cascaded through the organization, basically just telling the truth. Yes, it is hard, no we are not going bankrupt, and yes we have communicated all we know.
Regular internal communications practices so far, but we did something out of the ordinary as well. Right after the communication cascade, we launched a site on our intranet, called the Rumorbuster. Here, people could check if a rumor was true or false. They could send their questions to an email address. We checked with our management and posted the answers on the Rumorbuster page. We processed more than a hundred questions, and that was hard work! But it paid out, as the initiative was a great success. In the first few weeks we ran a survey on the site and the response was very positive: 

I think the Rumorbuster is a good initiative
Yes: 94%
No 6%
The Rumorbuster gives clear and hones answers
Yes: 89%
No: 11%
The Rumorbuster should be used more often for internal communications
Yes: 91%
No: 9%

The Rumorbuster was active for a few months. After a while all rumors were successfully busted, no more questions came in., and in all honesty, we were left with a few questions that just could not be answered.

Why was the Rumorbuster such a success? Well, I think because it gave real, honest information with a twist of fun. The fun factor was not only the logo, but we played around with it as well. For example, during the Christmas holidays we published a picture with the Rumorbuster on skis, announcing a short holiday.

But I think the most important factor was that it just did what internal communications should do in my view: BE REAL, our employees read newspapers and blogs too, so just tell the truth, take your internal audience serious, they deserve it.

13 September 2010

A website in 5 minutes

As you are reading this blog post, you have evidently found my blog. I am a Manager Internal Communications, and this is an external blog. Let me explain. I started blogging in our own organization around two years ago. Our department launched the Corporate Communications Blog, mainly to learn about blogging ourselves and to ‘lead by example’. There are now around 30 dedicated internal blogs at Océ, some of them very successful, many of them with a small, but dedicated group of followers, and some of them in a state of near-death.

So, our example worked, but our own blog ‘dried up’ a few months ago. Maybe we felt that we had done our job. Maybe running a department blog is hard. Who knows. Anyway, since I am not involved in that blog anymore, it freed up some time to finally launch an external blog. I am a member all kinds of social networks, and being a communicator, I apparently feel the urge to now and then go beyond the 140 characters and share my views with the world. Ah, vanity…, I am only human, you know.

So, I finally started a blog the other day, and once again I was struck by how easy it is. I set up a blog in 5 minutes, made choices about the design, added and deleted widgets, made custom settings, made rss-feeds available, and so on. Wow, I am a 48 old digital immigrant, who used a typewriter at University. Five years ago I would have needed the help of a designer, a programmer, a hosting service, and who knows who else, and I would have probably paid a large amount of money for this help.
Nowadays it just takes five minutes to make a blog. I used Blogger, the Google tool, but the same goes for Wordpress. They made it so easy for us. And, why call it a blog? With a few alterations I can make it look like a website. No wonder the world of communications is changing. This is what they mean with ‘the consumerization of IT’: everyone can do it. This trend is, of course, well documented and discussed everywhere, but for me it is still too early to take this all for granted. What a development in just a few years! I love it.

And our internal blogs? We made a template available, 30 site owners just took off, never to be seen by our department again. They are all doing a great job communicating internally to a well-targeted and dedicated group of readers.

Help, I will be out of a job soon. Anyone needs a web designer?

09 September 2010

The end of the intranet

The intranet, every internal communicators dream. With the rise of the intranet in the past 10 to 15 years we were in communicators heaven. Finally our news messages could reach every employee. And with a single point of entry, we could finally make all important information available to every single employee in the world!

Well, those of you involved in the intranet know what happened. Intranets are often rated 5 or 6 out of 10 in employee surveys, news messages are not read by the majority of the employees, and let's face it. How difficult can it be to find anything in the ever expanding intranets of major organizations?

With the rise of Google, social media and the unprecedented eruption of information available to us all, the intranet has lost its appeal even more. Why search through complex navigation, when a simple question in my social network is more effective? In our organization our intranet is competing with Facebook pages made by our local offices. Security risk? Maybe, but let's face it, how much information on our intranet is really confidential? And what an advantage it is for mobile employees to have access anywhere, anytime, anyplace, without having to go through our corporate firewalls.

O.K, let me be provocative: my prediction is that the intranet as we know it will have disappeared in the coming five years. All that will be left is a digital repository, an archive. And our dream? Well, it had all the makings of a fairy tale, but it is starting to look like a nightmare now.

Time for new dreams, what a great challenge ahead of us: life after the intranet. Question is: who dares to pull the plug on our old dream baby?