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A better company newsletter can strengthen cohesiveness

Michelle Hicks

Michelle Hicks

I recently had a great conversation with a Treasure Valley company that is expanding rapidly across the United States, and even overseas. Most of that growth is through acquiring other companies. After a couple of years of non-stop activity, their HR manager and other leaders are asking if, as an organization, they have really done everything they can to integrate all of these new employees into their company culture.

My first response was a hearty “Congratulations!” for recognizing this risk. It is easy for leadership to focus exclusively on the newly acquired process technologies or other business systems they were after in acquiring a new company. They can forget it is the people who play a critical role in transferring that new knowledge across the organization. And if the people who are acquired do not understand the culture of the new company they are now working for, they can be at risk of disliking it, which leads to leaving it, which leads to all of that newly acquired (and expensive) information walking out the door.

This organization had already done several organizational assessments – some formal and some informal. They decided they did not have the technology necessary to leverage the intranet at this time and they question if that is really the best medium for a workforce that doesn’t spend a lot of time on PCs or laptops. This company wants to create a printed newsletter. They wanted to talk about best practices.

The first practice critical for an existing or new newsletter to be successful is to define what you hope to achieve from it in the context of understanding your audience. Audience needs are critical. For example, this company wants to communicate business objectives to all employees, in all geographies, at every level. Leadership believes senior managers understand the business vision, mission and goals, but suspect that message doesn’t make it to all levels of the organization. Aligning people to the organizational mission is a key objective.

When you know what you want to communicate, it can also help you weed out what is not necessary. For example, in a global, strategically-focused newsletter, it is not relevant to include birthdays now that the workforce is so large not everyone has a personal relationship. However, communicating other milestones, like 15-, 20- and 25-year anniversaries actually play an important role in communicating company culture. That length of service demonstrates a loyalty and commitment among the workforce that is important for new employees to understand. It is something leaders would like all new employees to develop. It also communicates a sense of security for acquired employees about this company that can help create a calmer environment after the disruption of an acquisition.

Once the objective and audience for the newsletter are decided, the real work begins. At this point, smart communicators will identify key stakeholders from across the business who will make up their editorial board – much like the editorial board of a local newspaper. The editorial board members will help identify real-life success stories that can personalize business objectives.

For example, if one of the organizational goals is to reduce scrap on the production line, tell the story of how an individual on a specific product line is making a difference. The board also plays an important role in keeping issues the employee audience cares about on your radar. Remember, employees want to know about company objectives, changes, why decisions are made and what it means to them.

The development of an editorial calendar is another important practice to ensure important business milestones are captured and planned for in the publication throughout the year. These items could include the announcement of financial earnings and even important industry events.

Other important steps include developing a production schedule, budget and measuring the effectiveness of your publication against your original objectives. More on those newsletter best practices next week.

Michelle Hicks is a communications consultant with Buck Consultants. Contact her at michelle.hicks@buckconsultants.com.

About Michelle Hicks