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Employees want to hear from the C-suite. In Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, 72 percent want to hear directly from top management. Over 84 percent say they hear from corporate management “not enough.”

Unfortunately, when employees do hear from their leadership teams, the communications are not always as authentic as one could hope. Of course, it’s far easier for everyone – not just the busy executives also the internal communications team – to have leadership simply sign off on communications that have been prepared by others.

But that’s missing a huge opportunity to engage employees with their leadership. Help your company management understand the impact they can have by speaking directly and authentically to employees.

At the very least, try to steer them away from these three common mistakes:

  1. Ghostwritten blogs: Employees aren’t fooled by the perfectly polished prose pretending to be something the CEO actually wrote. If your leadership team shows any inclination at all to pen their own blogs, reassure them that a few paragraphs they write themselves would be far preferable to three pages that have been manufactured for them. Remind them that blogs by their very nature are supposed to be human and imperfect.
  1. Scripted videos: Not only is a video of a talking head reading from a teleprompter incredibly boring, it also casts doubt on whether the speaker really means what he or she is saying. Video can be a powerful tool for leadership communications, when the executives are comfortable speaking to camera as if they were having a conversation. Give them talking points, not a script. Remind them that they can mess up as many times as they want and you can edit those parts out. Let them know that coming across as a real human being is more important than seeming rehearsed and flawless.
  1. Cascading only: Especially in companies with lots of non-desk employees, cascading information through direct managers can be an effective channel. But it’s a mistake to rely on cascading communications alone. Particularly in times of major company changes, employees want to hear directly from top management. Even if those executive communications are prepared by other people. Start there if you have to, but keep pushing for them to do at least some of the communicating themselves.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a town hall or a tweet, a letter or a podcast. Find a channel or two that are comfortable for your CEO, president and other company leadership. Which channel is not important. What is important is that employees experience leadership communicating with them directly and authentically.

Want to find more authentic ways for your leadership to communicate? Tribe can help.

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More often than not, internal communications travel down a one-way street. While communicating from the top down is certainly better than not communicating at all, employees crave the opportunity to have a voice.

Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back. We find a lot of companies are hesitant of allowing two-way communication because they’re worried about negative feedback. If employees don’t have a forum to speak their mind, important issues might go unnoticed. These negatives can also give you the opportunity to address things other employees might be experiencing as well. Here are a few simple tips for two-way communications beginners.

  1. Start with what you have. Before adding a new communications channel to the mix, evaluate how you’re currently connecting with employees and make adjustments from there to open the lanes of communication. Enable the engagement tool on your intranet to allow comments, or add a way for employees to submit article ideas and contributions to your newsletter and magazine. This can be as easy as a dedicated email address.
  2. Once you have the vehicles in place, ask for employee input. Whether it’s a formal engagement survey, a “submit a question” feature on the intranet or employee focus groups, humans like being asked their opinion. Asking for input gives the company a chance to respond to questions and concerns that could be weighing on their engagement.
  3. Close the loop. This might be the most important step in successful two-way communications. Once employees have offered their thoughts and opinions, they’d also like to know they’ve been heard. Closing the loop of two-way communication is essential to employees feeling that their input is respected by their top executives.

Interested in incorporating two-way communications into your strategy? Tribe can help.

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The core of a brand is expressed through its visual identity system. This includes a color palette, typography, imagery, and icons that assemble in a coherent rhythm to establish the foundation of a brand. Like a great band, different instruments ebb and fl­ow together in harmony, while still leaving room for variety. For instance, a guitarist might start a solo, while the rest of the band continues not breaking the song’s overall cadence. It’s the variation within the system that makes music special.

This is the main function of a great visual identity system– balancing consistency with variety. Good design, especially in internal communications, should walk the line between being visually consistent but also throwing in a bit of variety, creating something that is recognizable, yet more memorable or eye-catching than previous communications.

It’s very important to stay true to the original brand. In some cases you could be dealing with a decades old brand that relies on its original roots when dealing with visual identity.  But in some cases there may be a way to take a step back and look  at the branding elements, dissect them and bring a design to the table that is fresh and new, without having to leave anything old behind.

Just like Johnny Cash says, “I find it very, very easy to be true.” It’s always easy to stay conservative, but sometimes you may be surprised that when you walk the line and challenge the branding, you may see something different than you did before and see visual harmony where you maybe haven’t before.

Do you need help creating visual harmony? Tribe can help.

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Digital newsletters are a great resource for timely communications, highlighting a variety of subjects, people and news from across your organization. A well-executed newsletter provides the opportunity to bridge silos, create shared pride and boost recognition.

Often produced as a monthly publication, newsletters can be efficient to create while remaining reasonably priced. Here are three simple tips for producing an engaging and efficient publication.

  1. Develop an editorial plan. Establishing reoccurring topics and themes for each issue will take a load off the planning process at the beginning of each issue. Think through your messaging and communication goals for the newsletter and be sure to work each of them into the plan. Allow for flexibility by including a feature story, but we would recommend at least three basics, like employee spotlights, leadership Q&A or wellness and volunteerism updates.
  2. Appoint an editorial board. At the start of each new issue, gather your established team composed of people from across different segments of the organization. All it takes is one organized conference call to discuss potential stories and features for the upcoming issue. By the time the call ends, you should have your identified editorial plan for the next issue, and the correct contacts for interviews and other content needs.
  3. Keep revisions to a minimum. For the best, and most efficient results, collaborate on the front end of the newsletter, not the back end. Once the articles are written and the issue is laid out into the established design, keep the circle of reviewers as tight as possible. Multiple rounds of revisions can do damage to your timeline, and as a result, impact the budget.

Need help with an employee newsletter? Tribe can help.

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On Friday before I left the office, I posted a couple of sentences that have now had over a couple thousand views:

At Tribe, we like to think we can move fast when necessary, but I think we just broke our own record: Planned, wrote and designed an internal site in 72 hours. Our client gave us the assignment Tuesday afternoon and we handed off PSDs to the developers EOD today. Bam!

To be fair, that particular client deserves a tremendous share of the credit. I don’t want to give the impression that Tribe could do that large a project so quickly on just any account. When I stop to think about it, there are five ways this client enabled us to develop all the creative for a great-looking, content-rich site with some extra-cool functions so quickly.

1.    The client has let us learn their business. We know their organization inside and out, because they’ve let us in. They’ve given Tribe a great deal of time with their senior leadership team, particularly the CEO, but also the other key people driving the strategy and growth of the company. That gives us the ability to write intelligently about many aspects of the company, with a working knowledge of important nuances.

2.    They’ve built an internal brand. They’ve developed a very strong external brand and the internal brand is treated with the same importance. That makes it easy for us to design quickly, because we know where we’re going.

3.    They’ve invested in employee photography. There’s no substitute for photos of the actual people doing the work of the company. Because this client has a fantastic library of employee shots by talented photographers, the site we designed overnight expresses the reality of what it’s like to work there.

4.    They are super responsive at giving feedback. When we email them creative work, they don’t let it gather dust in their inboxes. That keeps us from sitting on our hands waiting to move ahead. We can only move quickly when our clients do too.

5.    They trust us to do good work. They know we’ve done this before and they assume we know what we’re doing, so they don’t feel the need to micromanage or to make multiple revisions. Besides, they don’t have time for that.

If any of those five factors were not in place when we were given the assignment, turning around the creative in 72 hours might not have been possible. Now, we’re counting on our developers to do their part on an equally demanding timeline.

Interested in building a strong agency partnership? Tribe can help.

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Here’s the thing: trust is not about guaranteeing employees that nothing bad will ever happen. If building trust requires a guarantee of anything, it’s that the company will tell employees what’s really going on, even if it’s bad.

Impending job reductions are a great example of the sort of bad news that companies occasionally have to share. But employees are smart enough to realize that no company can promise lifetime employment anymore. Most employees don’t even want lifetime employment. They want interesting, challenging work, and in an ideal scenario, work that they find personally meaningful.

Employees start a new job with the expectation that eventually they’ll move on to another company, ideally when they themselves decide it’s time for a change. But unless they’ve been living under a rock, they recognize that sometimes companies have to lay people off, eliminate positions or somehow reduce head count.

Honesty, then, becomes the real building block of trust. Employees feel trust in their company — and thus do their best work and are most engaged — when they believe management is being honest with them. So how does a company go about doing that?

1. Tell employees about any significant changes in the company — and tell them fast, before the rumor mill and the media get a jump on you. Some CEOs and other leaders delude themselves into thinking that if they don’t say anything, the employees won’t notice that anything is going on. Wrong. Employees know when something is up, and in the absence of management communication, they’ll take their information wherever they can get it, often from each other. And what they tell each other is often worse than the reality.

2. Tell the truth, even when it’s bad news. Particularly when it’s bad news. If employees know that the company will be straight with them in communicating negative developments, then they tend not to worry so much. Ironically, sharing bad news makes employees feel more comfortable instead of less so.

3. Give employees credit for being smart enough to know business includes both ups and downs. Most people have experienced plenty of highs and lows in their own lives, and they have an understanding that things move in cycles. Just because the business is down today, doesn’t mean it won’t be up tomorrow.

4. Make room for employees to ask questions. You have to make this honest communication a two-way street. Provide a place on the intranet for employees to ask questions and post leadership’s answers. Hold a town hall and have your CEO respond to those difficult questions on the spot. Or provide your people managers with a source for responses to the questions they’re bound to get. The advantage of fielding those employee questions is that it gives the company a chance to respond to the issues that you have to accept are swirling around the workplace. The other side of that coin is that employees need the information they need to make their own decisions –even if that means their decision will be to leave the company. But by answering their questions honestly, you make it less likely that they’ll feel in a panic to jump ship.

5. Share leadership’s vision for the future. Most corporate management teams believe they’re doing this all the time, and it’s true that the people closest to them are familiar with the vision. But when we speak to the rank and file, there is most often a disconnect and the further away an employee is from the top, the less confident they are that the company leadership has a plan. This vision isn’t something you announce once and then check it off the list. It should be woven into all your communications, from the CEO blog to internal videos to the employee magazine to digital signage — and maybe even to your recognition programs.

Interested in building trust in your organization? Tribe can help.

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Properly arming managers for cascading consistent communications can make or break your message delivery. In many cases, managers are responsible for delivering news to their teams. Without the proper guidelines and tools in place, managers will filter any information they receive through their own lenses. The problem comes in when their interpretation of the message changes, slightly or vastly, from the message the company intended.

The answer to this common issue can be easier than you think. Providing managers with simple communications tools, like talking points and FAQ sheets, can help them stay on message in face-to-face sessions. All while making things easier on managers. And making communication easier for managers will increase the likelihood that the message will be shared.

For major initiatives or change management issues, a communications toolkit can be an efficient solution. You can accommodate a range of manager communication styles by providing an electronic tool box of email templates they can copy and paste into their own emails, bulletin board flyers they can print out at work, PowerPoint presentations, videos, tip sheets, training guidelines and more. Many managers have different preferences when it comes to communicating, so providing multiple delivery methods will aide in a dissemination that is timely and authentic to their management style.

If you can, allow managers to receive the news of a big change before the rest of the company. For major change initiatives, giving managers a heads up will allow them to process the announcement before cascading information to their teams. Before they can lead their teams, they should have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company. Providing this information in advance will also give these leaders a chance to get onboard with the change.  Once a manager is embracing the change, they act as informers, as well as reinforcers.

Interested in helping your managers cascade more efficiently? Tribe can help.

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What could be better than a steady drip of messaging that catches employees’ attention as they’re walking by? Digital signage can be an incredibly effective channel for keeping a wide range of topics top of mind, without the hurdles of clicking on an email, a video or the intranet. Here are eight suggestions for getting better results from digital signage:

1:Create a larger library: If you only have a handful of slides, they’ll get stale quickly. Shoot for 30 to 50 slides in rotation at any given time. And refresh the deck either weekly or monthly.

2. Build an editorial calendar: You can cover a lot of ground with digital signage, so map out your content with an editorial calendar. Include topics ranging from vision and values to HR programs, company news to financial recaps, employee recognition to leadership messages, wellness to IT security, volunteer programs to sustainability.

3. Limit the words: Think of this as a billboard, not a brochure. It’s not a good medium for paragraphs of copy or lists of bullets. Ideally, you’d have no more than a headline and possibly a subhead, with maybe a word or two in a top corner to indicate the department or program communicating the message.

4. Use the whole screen for one message: Sure, it’s cool that your digital signage can be divided into a bunch of different zones, but the disadvantage there is that you’re limiting the geography you give to any one message. Use the whole screen for one slide, if you can.

5. Include additional colors and fonts. Yes, you want the digital signage to be on brand, but give the designer any flexibility you can. The secondary color palette can be helpful at creating visual variety, as can having more than one font.

6. Vary the layout: It helps to develop a range of design templates so that your slides don’t all look the same. Some might have only a large visual and a headline. Others might have a headline and subhead type knocked out of a color field. Make some that work with vertical visuals, and some for horizontals.

7. Break one message into two slides: Two consecutive slides can be used to deliver the old one-two punch. For instance, you might use one slide for a question and then answer it on the next slide. Look for ways to make the slides more of a conversation to boost engagement.

8. Direct viewers to other channels: If there’s more information you want employees to have on any specific topic, send them to an article on the intranet or let them know to look for an email with more information.

Interested in creating better content for your digital signage? Tribe can help.

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‘Tis the season for the year-end letter from the CEO or another executive team member. This can be a great way to build engagement and make a human connection, but only if it’s done well. A two-page composition that’s one long, dry sentence after another is not going to be read word-for-word by employees, if at all. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with leadership on an employee letter or email:

  1. Don’t ghostwrite it: Or at least don’t make it sound like someone ghostwrote it. If the exec doesn’t have the time or inclination to write the piece for himself or herself, do whatever you can to channel his or her voice. What are the words and phrases this person uses frequently? If they like something, are they more likely to describe it as really cool, awesome, outstanding, fabulous or terrific? Is there a word or phrase they use frequently to reinforce an idea, like absolutely or no doubt? If you don’t have frequent contact with this particular leader, search online for videos of interviews or speaking engagements to pick up details of how they speak. Even better, get five minutes of their time to talk about what they want employees to get out of this communication.
  2. Show some personality: Tribe’s national research with employees indicates that they want a personal connection with their leadership teams. They want to feel like they know something beyond business facts about the person behind the title. Some more introverted leaders resist talking about themselves because they think it comes off as self-centered or bragging. Explain that it’s humanizing rather than hubris. If the big boss is training for a marathon or writing a detective novel on the side, that’s the kind of personal detail employees are craving.
  3. Show some gratitude: Employees appreciate a little acknowledgement of their contributions. Whatever success the company has had this year, they’ve had a hand in it, so let them know the CEO recognizes that.
  4. Cut roughly 20% of what you wrote: Or even 30%. Take a look at what you think is the final draft and figure out how to make it shorter. If it’s a letter, absolutely do not let it be more than one page, and try not to fill that page with ink. If it’s an email, three or four brief paragraphs is probably about as much as employees will read. Employees are much more likely to read it if it’s short and sweet.

Interested in improving your leadership communications? Tribe can help.

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The year-end letter from the CEO or another executive team member can be a great way to build engagement and make a human connection. But only if it’s done well. A two-page composition that’s one long, dry sentence after another is not going to be read word-for-word by employees, if at all. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with leadership on an employee letter or email:

  1. Don’t ghostwrite it: Or at least don’t make it sound like someone ghostwrote it. If the exec doesn’t have the time or inclination to write the piece for himself or herself, do whatever you can to channel his or her voice. What are the words and phrases this person uses frequently? If they like something, are they more likely to describe it as really cool, awesome, outstanding, fabulous or terrific? Is there a word or phrase they use frequently to reinforce an idea, like “absolutely” or “no doubt?” If you don’t have frequent contact with this particular leader, search online for videos of interviews or speaking engagements to pick up details of how they speak. Even better, get five minutes of their time to talk about what they want employees to get out of this communication.
  2. Show some personality: Tribe’s national research with employees indicates that they want a personal connection with their leadership teams. They want to feel like they know something beyond business facts about the person behind the title. Some more introverted leaders resist talking about themselves because they think it comes off as self-centered or bragging. Explain that it’s humanizing rather than hubris. If the big boss is training for a marathon or writing a detective novel on the side, that’s the kind of personal detail employees are craving.
  3. Cut roughly 20% of what you wrote: Or even 30%. Take a look at what you think is the final draft and figure out how to make it shorter. If it’s a letter, absolutely do not let it be more than one page, and try not to fill that page with ink. If it’s an email, three or four brief paragraphs is probably about as much as employees will read. Employees are much more likely to read it if it’s short and sweet.

Interested in improving your leadership communications? Tribe can help.

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