Communicating with frontline workers is no easy task . . . but with the latest technology and the right approach to content, it can be done!
Reaching and communicating effectively to front-line workers has never been easy, for several reasons:
- They often don’t have access to the same technologies that other employees have;
- They are crazy busy . . . and so are their managers;
- They often work off-hour shifts;
- They can be disconnected from the rest of the organization, and tend to get most of their company information from coworkers and their immediate supervisors;
- They are worried more about that day’s work than they are about corporate goals, initiatives, strategies and other “big picture” topics that communicators and leaders want them to know about.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that with recent mobile technology advances, communicators now at least have a fighting chance of getting through to these employees.
Companies like Blink allow employee communicators and executives to engage front-line workers with a modern, mobile channel that is intuitive and easy to use.
But . . . You have to get the content right! All the technology in the world can’t help you overcome lousy, boring, overly long “corporate” communications.
Here are five things you absolutely must remember when crafting mobile content for front-line workers. These are pulled from more than 25 years of conducting focus-groups and surveys with front-line workers for communication audits.
- Keep it short! Face it: Nobody is curling up on their couch with their phone and say: “Whew! I finally have 30 minutes to myself. I can finally check work e-mails and read the latest company news!”They are reading the news on a 15-minute break, on the train ride home, while waiting for a shift to start . . . or, if you are really good, maybe in the bathroom. So it better be short.How short? Here’s a simple rule: Make everything as short as you possibly can . . . without leaving anything important out.
- Follow the “What? So What? Now What? Formula. What do you want employees to know? Why should they care? And what do you want them to do after they read watch, or listen to your content?And get to the point! Ditch the long corporate lead-ins. Lose the droning executive quotes. Forget about jamming peoples’ titles and names of departments into the first paragraph. Write a fast first sentence, so people can get a running start into the rest of the content.And when you are done, go back and look at it. Do the What? So What? Now What elements jump off the screen at people? If so, then you have a chance someone will actually read it. And if you do this consistently, you have a better chance of getting read on a regular basis, because employees will know you respect their time.
- White space is your friend! When writing for the screen, and especially a mobile device, you want to use very short paragraphs. One or two sentences. Three at the most. Then hit that wonderful return key to get some air in there. Your readers will thank you for it.
- Don’t abuse video. Executives everywhere are waking up to the fact that video is a terrific way to reach and engage employees, and they are turning to their communicators for help doing it.
Don’t steer them wrong! Videos are a great way for executives to engage employees. But those videos have to be two things: Short, and Conversational. Long “corporate” videos with the executives droning on about “shifting paradigms,” “challenges and opportunities” and “leveraging core competencies,” have zero chance of success.Coach your executives that their videos have to be less than 90 seconds. That’s it. Any longer and you might as well ask them to watch Gone with the Wind.I know one CEO of a large construction company who was very popular with employees. They wanted to hear from her! So she started doing a regular video blog for employees. She had an entire camera crew, a green screen, the works. It was slick and professional. It was also six minutes long. And nobody watched it.Then, when Covid hit, she shifted gears. She started doing the video blogs from her house. And there was no video crew. She put her iPhone on a stand, and filmed herself in her backyard for a little over a minute. You could see her grill in the background smoking away!And people loved it.
- Be conversational, not corporate. The reason people liked that CEO video blog so much (other than because it was so short!) is because the CEO came across as real. No script. No PowerPoint. She even starts the video by saying “I don’t really have an agenda for today. I just wanted to check in and see how everybody was doing.”
I teach a lot of writing seminars, and I always tell participants: Great writing is talking, edited. Ditch your Corporate Words and use your “Weekend Words.” If you wouldn’t say it to your spouse or children or friends, don’t write it in an article, or say it on a video.Here is a tip I often use when helping executives communicate to employees. I ask them to read the communication out loud. Does it sound like something they would say? Or is it robotic, stiff and formal? Employees today—especially in the Covid era—want their “corporate” communications to be real, transparent, and conversational.If we can make that happen, we have a fighting chance of success.
—Steve Crescenzo is the CEO of Crescenzo Communications. Along with his wife, research and measurement expert Cindy Crescenzo, they are running their popular Master Class on Employee Class virtually next year, on Feb. 2-3, 2022. IABC Chicago members, use the discount code mytown22 for 25 percent off!