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Internal communications: what is the campaign approach, core metrics, segmentation and more

6th Dec 2016
Editor HRZone
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Tim Vaughan is Head of Content and Corporate Communications at internal communications platform Newsweaver, whose clients include Vodafone, Barclays, Marks & Spencer and Shell. In this interview Tim discusses the 'campaign' approach to internal communication, what metrics organisations should be using to measure the success of IC programmes, and the importance of segmentation in effective internal communication campaigns.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: People are talking more about taking a 'campaign approach' to internal communications. What does this mean?

Tim Vaughan, Head of Content and Corporate Communications, Newsweaver: It’s all about the elevation of internal communications, and linking your communications activities to how they impact on your organisation’s strategic goals to demonstrate impact and value.

It means owning the end-to-end comms process - from understanding your audience, to setting campaign goals linked to company objectives, managing a multi-channel campaign, having data to report results and outcomes and, ultimately, reporting on the impact for the organisation.

For example if your company  has a business goal to increase customer retention by 10%, this may be achieved through better understanding of product features and company procedures.

You need insights across your primary channels on how your employee audiences are consuming your content.

An example of an internal communications goal that supports this business goal would be to increase collaboration and knowledge-sharing among employees. So how do you go about implementing and measuring this goal?

First the IC team would look at the most recent communications audit to see where people are communicating and getting information.

Then set benchmarks for these channels e.g. on an ESN, for example, what are the number of posts per month, what is the response rate, who are the internal champions? Do people get the post  through the intranet, email or both?

Once you have set these benchmarks you can set measurable goals for improvement. Then you typically set out a programme of communications including themes, initiatives and formats such as newsletters, fact sheets, posters and social posts to update these employees on new features and products.

Once approved by internal stakeholders, these communications and initiatives form a campaign.

By tracking the impact of the campaign against your goal metrics (e.g. unique visits to customer process on intranet increased by 15%, email on new procedure 27%, new ESN posts improved by 5%) you can easily track your campaign and prove the impact internal communications has on strategic business goals.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: If organisations put out internal communications campaigns, how do they design them and make them work effectively?

Tim Vaughan, Head of Content and Corporate Communications, Newsweaver: Firstly, you need to clearly understand the goal of the campaign.

Then you need to determine the best means of achieving this in terms of the intended audience, channel mix and the desired outcome.

By tracking the impact of the campaign against goal metrics, you can prove the impact internal communications has on strategic business goals.

If you are trying to reach HR workers in London email is probably the most effective channel  for the campaign but if your audience is, for example, in engineering and without regular email access it should probably be built around social and offline channels.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Organisations don't want to send 'blanket' communications because they can be ineffective or frustrate people. How do they go about segmenting employees into the right buckets?

Tim Vaughan, Head of Content and Corporate Communications, Newsweaver: The key to this is to understand which channel and content works best with which audience, and to do this, you need insights across your primary channels on how your employee audiences are consuming your content.

Having good quality segmentation data like an up-to-date email list is a good start, but you need to access data beyond that to really personalise and segment your communications to increase content consumption and engagement.

Employee data fields (e.g. titles, functions, location, communication preferences etc) can be used to create personalised content that will really engage staff members.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Once they've segmented people effectively, how do they personalise communications for each segment? Do they simply rewrite it or do they need to think about, for example, the 'what's in it for me' for each segment individually?

Tim Vaughan, Head of Content and Corporate Communications, Newsweaver: Having segmented your employee audiences, you have the ideal opportunity to step back and consider why you are sending the communication and what you want the person receiving to do with this information.

The important thing to remember when bringing data and metrics to stakeholders is to understand what matters to the audience.

You may then decide to further personalise their experience by combining global and relevant regional content or add a personalised message from their manager.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Once a campaign has gone out to different segments, how do organisations measure the success of the communications campaign and what metrics should they be looking at?

Tim Vaughan, Head of Content and Corporate Communications, Newsweaver: Firstly,  you need to ask yourself upfront, what does success look like?

Ideally, you would baseline where employees are on a subject before launching a campaign, using something like a short pulse survey to a random sample of the target audience.

This way, you can assess afterwards if the campaign has moved the dial..

Secondly, you need to be able to measure the campaign’s performance across all channels used to get the data into one place, and in a format that is understandable from a communications perspective, not useless output metrics like pageviews and visits, but instead reach and outcomes achieved.

But trying to piece together disparate metrics from multiple sources is difficult without the right tools.

That’s why we created Newsweaver Cross-Channel Analytics which enables measurement of communication campaigns across multiple channels to give you the reach and impact of your efforts, and show you the engagement hotspots and black spots in your employee groups.

Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Internal comms and HR often have to report on campaigns to stakeholders. As well as the key metrics in the question above, what else do they need to know to effectively gain buy-in for further communication campaigns, for example linking it back to performance?

Tim Vaughan, Head of Content and Corporate Communications, Newsweaver: The important thing to remember when bringing data and metrics to stakeholders is to understand what matters to the audience.

At the end of the day, senior management are driven by achieving the organisation's overall objectives.

So for IC to get greater recognition it needs to be able to prove how its content and campaigns have actually contributed towards the achievement of these objectives.

If there's a corporate goal of ensuring a smooth transition through a merger or acquisition then IC needs to be able to report on how the change communication programme helped with this, i.e. in terms of increasing awareness and understanding of the transition and, critically, identifying problem areas so that they can be addressed.

It is important to bring metrics that prove impact and bring insight into behaviour.

Simply showing clicks and open rates for emails and pageviews on your intranet won’t be enough to gain support from senior leaders.

It is important to bring metrics that prove impact and bring insight into behaviour.

For example if you can show that your communications campaign on new sign-in protocols was seen by 82% of employees and this resulted in an increase in compliance from 55%  to 70% within a defined timeframe, you have proved a measurable impact.

By measuring a representative sample prior to the change initiative and assessing their sentiment and understanding of key aspects of the initiative, then measuring a representative sample of employees during and following the programme, IC can prove the impact of its communications on employee understanding and behaviour.

Want to improve your own internal comms? Take a look at Newsweaver's guide to email best practice through personalisation, segmentation and more targeted content.

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