Engaging Employees via Internal Corporate Blogs

The break-room watercooler is a gathering point for conversation, a place where company news is shared and opinions are debated. At the watercooler, employees converse openly and casually with their peers, without the apprehension of being mandated or persuaded to listen or respond. People enter and leave the conversation when they are interested in what’s being talked about and hear ideas and suggestions from people they know and colleagues they feel share their values and perspectives. An internal corporate blog is an excellent way to create a virtual watercooler, and the primary reason it can be effective is its ability to connect with employees in a more human tone. The same company news discussed at the break-room watercooler or delivered via a mass e-mail can have dramatically different levels of understanding, interest and impact. The dialogue is going on at the watercooler—bring it to an internal corporate blog so you can hear and participate in it. An internal-facing corporate blog allows for real-time response to pressing issues and provides a forum to bring communication with employees beyond just disseminating information. Instead, you can share values and ideas in a way that expresses the personality and culture of your organization and keeps the interests and concerns of employees at the center. INTERNAL BLOGS OVERCOME LIMITATIONS Budgetary and staffing resources can limit corporate communications teams, but by tapping into the conversation at the watercooler, they can expand their capabilities rather than constrict them. Your employees are as unique as the communities and customers you serve; an internal corporate blog provides a forum for those voices to be heard and answered in a more inclusive manner. Influencers within your organization often have strong opinions and are only lacking the opportunity and guidance to share them. By recruiting and training a corps of bloggers that reflects the diverse perspectives of your leadership and employees, your employees will connect with the experiences and ideas of people like them—and of people they might never meet and whose worlds are quite distinct from their own. You can further increase engagement by allowing employees to comment on blog posts. Anything mentioned by one employee is bound to be echoed by countless others in and out of the break room. Answering a question or concern by e-mail serves one; answer in a medium viewed by the entire organization and you impact thousands. Once you are convinced of the opportunities associated with creating an internal corporate blog, you may still have some concerns. Many of these may be related to managing content and monitoring the open forum associated with allowing commenting on posts. But by setting the ground rules clearly and giving employees a sense of accountability and inclusion, communities most often police themselves. A little nudge will likely be all that is necessary to keep discussions on track. For further insurance, you can implement a few key features to ensure that many concerns often raised by corporate management can easily be mitigated, including: • Login: By requiring a login that ensures a valid—or even a corporate—e-mail address, a certain amount of accountability can be enforced. There is no reason to allow anonymous communication. This simple fact can go a long way toward eliminating gross negativity and inappropriate behavior, and if that takes place, the perpetrators can simply be blocked. • Blogging policy: You should state up front that inappropriate content will be removed. No editing—just removal if it is offensive, inappropriate or unacceptably off-topic. You can create lists of terms that can be automatically removed, and these lists can be easily updated to reflect new or newly created terms or spellings with simple administrative tools. • System for approving posts: Attempting to approve every post is impractical, but administrators can and should always have quick and easy access to remove posts that fall outside the use policies. In addition, you should give all users the ability to flag a post as inappropriate. This places it in a queue that can be reviewed by administrators, where a determination can be made about allowing or removing the post in question. Think you’re ready to launch your own virtual watercooler? Here are five requirements for a successful internal corporate blog: 1. Open corporate culture: Extremely conservative and risk-averse corporate cultures may not be the best fit for blogs, even internal ones. Nimble organizations that respond quickly and encourage employee participation are the best candidates for this type of channel. 2. Strong organizational commitment: Determine your commitment to an internal blog prior to launching it. Piloting a blog for a defined period or a specific group within the company can be a good way to experiment before making a long-term leap. 3. Well-defined blog mission: You need to know and communicate the purpose and theme of your blog. When you have more than one blogger, each author may have his or her own style or set of topics and interests, but they should always point back to the goal of the medium. 4. Clear editorial guidelines: Clearly establish the types of content that will be included as well as the tone, length, structure and frequency of posts. The parameters you set will guide you and your team of content creators, so make sure to balance the volume of communication your audience expects with what your team can reasonably deliver. 5. Great content: The final and most important element of a successful internal blog is great content. To be a true virtual watercooler, your blog can’t just be another place to push out official company news and updates. Find employees with something to say and empower them to create useful, engaging and authentic content that employees would want to enjoy regardless of its source. PRN CONTACT: Angie Henderson Moncada is managing director of the Miami office of (add)ventures. She can be reached at at amoncada@addventures.com.

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