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When determining what methods of internal communication to use for your business, it is important to understand all of the various methods of communication available and the benefits and drawbacks that come with them.
There are two main categories of communication methods: structured and unstructured.
The essential differences between some methods will be how you use them. For example, an app on which only executive members could post messages for all users to see, and they did so regularly, would qualify as a structured method. However, an internal app that allowed all workers to communicate with each other any time or even within certain groups at certain hours would be unstructured. Social media can even be structured if post and comment abilities are restricted. Websites and intranets can be unstructured if any worker is allowed to make changes and contributions.
Unstructured methods can certainly be useful when appropriately managed. Email is indispensable for personal communications in many businesses, and it is helpful for distributing emergency messages that cannot wait for a more structured timeline. But employees often do not read entire emails, especially if they receive a lot of internal communications this way. As backward as that seems, the more emails they receive from their employer, the less likely they are to get the full message. Email overload causes workers to scan the “from” and subject lines to determine whether each email is important enough to open. If it is, they probably still read only until they have determined whether an action is necessary on their part of if the message can be safely ignored. For these reasons, email doesn’t work well as a main method of internal communication.
Microblogs, social media, discussion boards, and comments sections on websites or blogs all work in similar ways. They allow users to post what they like, whenever they like for the viewing of anyone else within the network. This is great in that it can get many people in the company involved in discussions, promoting involvement and friendship. Executives and management can, of course, make posts, too, so announcements and news can be distributed where employees are likely to see them. Then, people can react and make comments directly to those main posts. If those comments are inappropriate, management must choose whether to allocate resources to moderate the comments or to let them remain uninhibited. Either way, they may foster criticism from other workers. Another negative is that sometimes there will be hardly any interaction or posts from employees, so unless management maintains a steady stream of posts, those internal communication lines can fall embarrassingly silent.
Structured methods help control the chaos that comes from having only unstructured communication channels. Rather than using only one type or the other, use a structured method or two in conjunction with an unstructured one for the most effective internal communication. In a planned newsletter, blog, or even a regularly scheduled video message, your leadership team can curate the perspective that you want to convey. You can work together to create and edit it, ensure that you are producing only trustworthy, accurate information, and use it to propel the company toward your stated goals and mission.
Some of the difficulties of methods such as newsletters and blogs are that they must be updated according to a schedule and that only a few people shoulder the responsibility for those updates. However, there are plenty of ways to fill a company newsletter when you are pressed for compelling topics. In addition, you can still take advantage of the best part of unstructured communication methods within structured communication by inviting employees to make their own submissions to the publication. You gain even more advantages because you control the timeline and have the opportunity to edit or choose not to publish their content. You can even give them specific topics on which to write if you so desire?
Although specific members of your leadership team may want to produce a blog or podcast, an internal employee newsletter created by multiple members of the team and directed at the whole of the business is a good idea for most companies. Such a publication — especially an e-newsletter — can include links to executive blogs and podcasts in addition to company news and employee contributions. If done properly, it becomes a sort of gathering place around which everyone in the company can come together with trust. They know when to expect it, and they know what to expect from it.