Tap employees’ expertise to reinvigorate internal communication channels

Tap employees’ expertise to reinvigorate internal communication channels

calendar 2017-09-05 time 6 min READ Alison Davis

An editorial board can bring new life to your internal communication program.

Picture this: You’re an internal communicator who manages an intranet and a regular newsletter. You produce a lot of articles and other content, but employee interest seems to be low. People just aren’t clicking on links or spending time on the intranet.

So you organize a quick focus group to determine what the problem is. And this is what you learn:

  • Employees think most internal communication content is boring. They say that it all comes from the same few sources: senior leaders, corporate departments and initiative owners.
  • Most content seems static and impersonal. There’s not enough information about different locations, teams, and individuals.
  • Employees would like more content that helps them solve a problem, meet an objective, answer a question or get work done.

What you need is a reboot. Start by addressing this problem: Content is too corporate, with not enough local interest. So you need to better represent what’s happening in divisions, locations, and functions.

The solution? Assemble a team of employees to be the eyes and ears of the organization. Some internal communicators call that team an “editorial board,” while others prefer “advisory team.”

In any case, an editorial board exists to broaden your scope and ensure there is an opportunity for diverse representation in your internal communication tools.

If you’d like to create an editorial board, but you’re not sure how here, are eight tips to get you started.

1. Set objectives

Before developing an editorial board, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. Ask yourself:

  • What is the group for?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • How will the editorial board benefit the organization and its members?

direct internal communication

The answers to these questions will serve as the basis for your objectives. Two sample objectives for the editorial board might be to:

  • “Promote a sense of community within the organization.”
  • “Provide a pipeline of content for internal communication channels.”

2. Establish criteria

Rather than go out and randomly select members based on who you know, take a step back and think about the people you want on your team.

  • Are you trying to gain representation from multiple geographical locations?
  • Is diversity of age, gender, and ethnicity an important component?
  • Do you need a good cross-section of various functions or roles within the organization?

3. Articulate roles

Set the stage for what editorial board members can expect in terms of commitment and time requirement. Outline roles and expectations — not just for members, but for the internal communication team as well. This will ensure everyone is on the same page. For example:

Expectations for team members:

  • Attend an in-person meeting once every quarter
  • Join the monthly 30-minute call
  • Submit at least one article idea per month

how to build well-working internal communication program

Expectations for the internal communication team:

  • Facilitate meetings and calls
  • Draft the agenda
  • Distribute correspondence
  • Follow up on story leads provided by the board members
  • Create and maintain an editorial calendar
  • Conduct interviews with subject matter experts or contacts provided by the board members
  • Submit at least one article idea per month

4. Get support from senior leaders

Having key leaders in your corner lends credibility to your initiative. To gain leader buy-in and support, you have to demonstrate value.
Leaders want to know:

  • What problem is the editorial board going to solve?
  • What are the objectives?
  • How will the editorial board achieve these objectives?
  • What is the impact to the organization?
  • What is needed from me?

Create a core deck that answers these questions and present it to your leaders. Include a break-down of article topics to show the limited range of perspective that is currently captured in your channels.

Once you’ve demonstrated where you need representation, ask for help identifying and inviting members.

5. Hold a kick-off meeting

Now that you’ve made all the necessary preparations, you’re ready to host your big introductory meeting. This is where you get editorial board
members excited to make a contribution. Your kick-off meeting should be in person and can be as long as half a day.

Start by asking people to introduce themselves and identify what area of the business they work in.

Next, share your objectives, roles and expectations for the group.

internal communication meetings

Once everyone is acquainted and expectations are set, conduct mock focus groups to take a close look at employees’ needs. Ask:

  • “What’s going on with your team members?”
  • “What are employees most interested in?”

To keep the creative juices flowing, engage the team in a brainstorming exercise. Sample questions include:

  • “What makes a good article?”
  • “What are the best ways to work together?”

Capture responses on a flip chart.

6. Create a virtual collaboration space for internal communication

If possible, establish a microsite, social media group or other online place where members can share files, but also communicate with one another.

7. Meet regularly (and make your meetings meaningful)

In-person meetings are valuable, but not always viable on a frequent basis. Try mixing it up: Have calls with the team on a monthly basis and aim for quarterly in-person touchpoints. Whether it’s a check-in call or a quarterly meeting, one common objective should be: make the time together meaningful. Nothing kills momentum like wasted time.

team work internal communication

To avoid that problem, stay organized and focused.

  • Draft an agenda that will guide your sessions. Share the agenda with the broader team before your web meeting and use the web conferencing platform to pull it up in real time, so that everyone has the same focal point.
  • Ask members to share best practices and what’s working. Invite them to present successful approaches so that other members can apply these learnings.
  • Discuss challenges and ask the team to develop solutions.
      • “How do we make our channels more compelling?”
      • “How do we increase user interaction, for example: likes/commenting on articles, sharing articles, etc.?”
      • “Is there anything missing on the intranet that would be useful?”
      • “What does good digital signage look like?”
  • Send minutes following each meeting or call. Recap what was discussed, outline action items and next steps for the internal communication team and members of the editorial board.

8. Assess effectiveness

After a year, revisit your objectives and evaluate whether the editorial board has helped shape the success of your employee communication program and channels.

  • Is participation still high among members?
  • Is there a good mix of content?
  • Are your meetings productive and meaningful?

Conduct a feedback exercise with the team to gain insights about the experience. Use the opportunity to celebrate wins, identify areas for improvement and recognize members.


About the author:

Alison Davis is founder and CEO of Davis & Company, the award-winning employee communication firm that for 30 years has helped leading companies – such as Johnson & Johnson, Motorola Solutions, Nestle, Roche and Rogers Communications – increase employee engagement. Alison sets the strategic direction for the firm, consults with the client on their toughest communication challenges and leads the development of new products and services.<

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