Redeeming the Lowly Employee Newsletter

When it comes to our choice of communication channels employee newsletters are viewed as old school, redolent of days when publishing required things like manual layout, typesetting, and the assistance of a graphics or print shop.Old News

Like other traditional channels such as email, newsletters nosed out into traffic on the digital highway, settling into occasional pockets created for them by emerging online and digital mediums. But they’re not sexy like blogs or tweets and their moldy residue lingers with us today like the petrol-leathery smell of ink drying on an offset press.

So what of it? Traditional newsletters have lost their luster, but we shouldn’t write them off too quickly. They may still be the best option for non-tethered employees—construction crews, manufacturing, or mailroom personnel, for example, who have little or no computer access at work (at least until we can afford to provide an iPad for every employee!).

And digital and print newsletters have lost none of their potency as storytelling vehicles to drive employee motivation and engagement, especially when content is properly chunked and arranged with sub-heads. What’s more, the opportunity for two-way interaction through digital newsletters offers feedback for senior leaders to make informed decisions.

  • Recognition by Peers: Good writing and storytelling require a journalist’s intuitive ability to sniff out the real story behind the story, reading between the lines to discover what’s really going on—a skill that will never lose its luster. Newsletters still work as channels to highlight the exploits of your workforce, providing an essential recognition opportunity among peers. This can be more valuable to workers than anything employers can put in a paycheck. I’ve seen employees transformed by a well-worded and thoughtful newsletter story published for an audience of peers.
  • Decision-making Tool: We’re aware that most digital newsletters are interactive, and the ability to comment on posted news stories is pretty much old hat. But measuring the levels of interaction is a point that’s often overlooked. In this sense, 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. By measuring varying degrees of interaction newsletters move beyond the pale of vanity or feel-good metrics, helping employees off the fence of detachment and providing insights to 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 an intranet story archive for best practices for one of my clients and we’re in the midst of making it searchable by application. Interactive database functionality could 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 and lived out. How might a searchable best practice archive be used 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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