Redeeming the Lowly Employee Newsletter

When it comes to choosing communication channels employee newsletters are viewed as an anachronism by most organizations, harkening back to days when publishing required something more from us like manual layout, typesetting and the assistance of a graphics or print shop.Old News

Like other traditional communication vehicles, newsletters nosed out into traffic on the digital highway, settling into occasional pockets created for them by emerging online media. But they’re not sexy like blogs or tweets, and their moldy residue remains like the petrol-leathery smell of ink drying on an offset press.

So what of it? Traditional newsletters have lost some luster, but we shouldn’t be too quick to say print is dead. It may be the communicator’s best option when it comes to non-tethered employees—construction crews, manufacturing or mailroom personnel, for example, who may have little or no computer access at work (at least until we can afford to provide an iPad for every employee!)

Online and traditional print newsletters have also lost none of their potence as storytelling vehicles to drive employee motivation and engagement, especially when information is properly chunked and arranged with sub-heads. What’s more, the opportunity for robust interaction through online newsletters provides senior leaders with feedback needed to make informed decisions.

  • Recognition by Peers: Good writing and storytelling require a journalist’s intuitive ability to search out the story behind the story, reading between the lines to discover what’s really going on. This skill will never lose its luster. Newsletters are a platform for highlighting the exploits of a workforce, providing an essential means of recognition among peers—and this is more valuable than anything any company could put in a paycheck. I’ve seen individuals transformed by a well-worded and thoughtful newsletter story published before an audience of his or her peers.
  • Decision-making Tool: We’re aware that online newsletters are interactive, and the ability to comment on posted news stories is pretty much old hat at this point. But the ability to measure the level of interaction is a point that’s often overlooked. Newsletters can be a treasure of valuable feedback, measuring the volume and tone of written comments, the number of “Likes” (Thumbs Up) or “Dislikes” (Thumbs Down), and the number of individual stories forwarded on to colleagues. Online newsletters offer three ways and varying degrees of interaction, helping employees to get off the fence of detachment, and feedback metrics captured can help senior leaders and managers make informed decisions.
  • Archived Search Capability: Still stuck? Try using your newsletter to ladder up to something more strategic. I created a best practice story archive (in SharePoint) for one of my clients and we’re in the midst of making it searchable by application. Interactive database functionality will take this useful information to another level, putting program management information at the fingertips of subcontract program managers looking to benefit from the wisdom of lessons learned. How might a searchable best practice archive be leveraged at your organization?

For some related reading, Steve Crescenzo had some interesting thoughts on newsletter content at: Corporate Editors: It’s time to kill the fun page.

What say you? Thumbs up or down on the employee newsletter? How are you using them at your organization?

Photo credit: Doug Wheller

In Category: Corporate Culture, Executive Communication, Social Media, Workforce Engagement

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