Finding online solutions to communication problems

I think that 2012 is turning out to be the year of focusing internally. I frequently read about leaders who are now realising the importance of communicating effectively with their employees, and the demand for innovative ways to do this appears to be on the rise. It’s music to professional communicator’s ears!

Today Malcolm Lotzof of INXPO, writes for Diary of an internal communicator about what he has been doing to keep in touch with his employees. I thought it would be interesting to highlight what he has implemented by using the company’s own product. I’d not come across it before and think it’s an interesting read. Over to you Malcolm…

I’m co-founder and CEO of a 100-person company. We’re headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, but have employees throughout the United States. In the early days of the company, I always knew about everyone’s concerns and was easily able to keep everyone on the same page regarding key issues. As the company has grown, I wondered how to best retain that connection. I never want to be out of touch with employees who are on the front line with our customers and partners and I never want employees and management out of touch with what I am thinking.

Solution: Communicate via an online platform
I didn’t have to look too far. My company (INXPO) provides a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for Social Business TV that is used by businesses to host privately secured, regular video communication programs. So I thought, let’s use our own product to keep employees informed. At the same time, we’d show everyone that we’re “drinking our own champagne”.

I decided to “talk” to the entire company at a set time every month. I called the program Coffee Talk and hosted it in an online environment called INXPO HQ. My focus was not merely to “talk.” I wanted to listen as well. So I made sure to use the interactive features of the platform, which include polling questions, Q&A and chat.

Tips for online internal communications
If you want to create your own online communications program, here are some things you may want to consider.

1-Create a regular heartbeat to your programming
A consistent schedule forces you to communicate on a regular basis. My program goes live on the first Wednesday of every month. This means that as the month heads towards the close, I need to ensure that my speaking topics are finalised for the upcoming Coffee Talk. The consistency of the schedule also builds excitement and expectation from your audience (your employees).

2- Keep the presentation short
I have done presentations from 20 to 90 minutes. Without any doubt, the shorter the presentation, the better it is received. I found 30 minutes to be my sweet spot, and host more detailed presentations at a different time. Whatever the length of the presentation, I always leave at least 10 minutes for Q&A.

3-Use video
TV is not the most powerful communication and entertainment medium by accident, Video is personal and it’s engaging. Employees in remote offices can see my facial expressions and body language. I couldn’t imagine having the same impact speaking to them via a conference call. I prefer live video to pre-recorded video as it’s real, and memorable and participants can feel that.  It also allows for far more interaction.

4-Make it interactive
My objective with Coffee Talk was a more informed audience. But I soon discovered a by-product that is just as important: a more informed executive team, who knows more about what employees are thinking and feeling. Via chat messages, polling, Q&A and surveys, we’re able to glean insights on our employees that we otherwise would have missed.

At my last presentation, I recognised a couple of employees for outstanding work. It was great to watch everyone then congratulate their colleagues, and for me to know they were engaged.

5-Viewable on mobile devices
My sales team may be travelling to close the next big deal, but they can still tune in to Coffee Talk from their iPad, iPhone or Android device.  Also, if there are groups participating in one room, watching the video on a large screen, everyone can still be logged in via their mobile device thereby allowing them to participate in the chat, moderated Q&A and polling individually.

6-Use online metrics to inform your future programming
Review the wealth of metrics provided by an online platform to inform your future programming. It’s always interesting as the CEO to see who is participating and who is not.  It helps me determine which parts of the presentation were good and which were not.

I’ve seen tremendous business impact from Coffee Talk. My employees are more informed about what’s happening. And that means that they’re more effective at communicating externally. This applies not just to Sales, but also to Finance, Legal and Services. Everyone, after all, has touch points with our customers.

Finally, more informed employees leads to happier employees, which means that our retention rate is as high as it’s ever been.

You can find out more about Social Business TV online and follow Malcolm on Twitter @mlotzof

Thank you for sharing your insights Malcolm, I’d not come across INXPO before and found it interesting to hear how the company is focusing on improving internal communication in order to help them communicate effectively externally. Have you got an idea for a guest article on my blog? Check out my guidelines and do get in touch, Rachel.


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