Effective communication is vital to ensuring there is a connection between management and staff. Without it key company messages and goals can get lost in the day-to-day business of ‘getting the job’ done.Internal communications professionals will know that the materials they produce can be invaluable tools to inform, educate or engage staff… if done well.
Getting staff to click through to an email newsletter, read articles online or in print, or engage with company comms is a whole lot easier if the content is quality stuff. Not only that, if it’s produced using a few tried and tested journalistic techniques, it’s even easier and more effective.
1. Good writing
It may go without saying, but if content is not written well, in a clear and coherent fashion, people are not going to read it. Professional writers are used to taking a lot of information and distilling it into a structured piece that ticks off all the key points. Journalists also know their audience. If you are part of a large organisation, it’s important to remember than people working in different parts of the business may not be aware of certain acronyms or initiatives being undertaken by different departments. If writing for a general audience, a good journo will never assume knowledge on the part of the reader.
Interviewing someone about a topic gets to the heart of the matter in a way that an email or memo never can. A good interview can make sense of technical or complex subject matter, or put a human slant on a subject that otherwise may be dry or bureaucratic. Interviewing can also be beneficial for the company blog – senior management do not always feel that they have time to sit down and write something themselves, whereas a 10-minute call with a writer who will then ghost write often feels a lot more do-able.
An internal website or publication can often rely on contributions from employees. These submissions are frequently, with the best will in the world, pretty awful. If it’s not an endless tome about a topic they find fascinating but about which you need a paragraph, it’s a disjointed list of ideas that falls way short of what you need. Editing someone else’s copy can be a time consuming task if you’re not accustomed to it – a seasoned sub editor will take a fraction of the time. Then, there are stakeholder amends to take into account. If there is an extensive sign off process within an organisation, an article can end up feeling like a hotch potch of different styles and ‘voices’ once everyone has made their changes. A good editor knows how to keep the ‘meat’ of what someone wanted to add while keeping the story coherent.
4. Fact checking
Going back to key stakeholders for their feedback or approval is a familiar process within internal communications and can tick off whether key messaging is correct or not. But if your story is about a broader topic, something external say, and you are using research from other sources to support a point, have you double checked that all the facts are right? Any journo worth their salt corroborates what they are saying, usually from more than one source.
5. Headline writing
A good headline is a key in getting people to read your comms. For newsletters, email subject headers should be treated like a headline in order to get people to click through. There are various techniques journalists use to create eye catching headlines, such as questions, ‘how-tos’, power words or phrases (such as ‘discover’ and ‘the truth about…’) and lists.
6. Knowing where the good stories are
Keeping up with contacts and maintaining relationships is key to a journalist who wants to sniff out the best stories, as is keeping on top of industry news or announcements. This is good practice, not only in terms of internal politics (everyone likes to think they’re making a contribution) but also for idea generation.
The tools and skill that journalists have are excellent to have in any content marketing agency’s arsenal. That’s why so many have former journalists on their staff – we do at Southerly. Outsourcing work to an agency with a ‘newsroom mentality’ can be a real benefit when time is tight and there are key messages to roll out.