Communicators, it's time to get wired.

We can all agree that technology is transforming the way we work. Many of us have embraced the idea that such disruptive communication technologies as immersive video, the latest social channels or post-intranet era mobile enterprise collaboration platforms, are here to stay. We’ve even made the pitch to our leaders that it’s time to reach employees and the media using these tools.

Yet, like the proverbial shoemaker’s children wanting for decent footwear, we often don’t apply these tools to make our own work faster, better and more effective. Few of us consider that these same technologies just might make organizations re-assess what role communication professionals like us should have—if any—in the modern enterprise.

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Six Key Business Results you can Achieve through Internal Communications

Many companies still struggle with making the business case for internal communications, or IC. Why? The perception still exists in many leaders’ minds that ultimately IC is about “keeping employees informed,” “making sure everyone knows our strategy,” or “helping people feel good about where they work.” A luxury, or "nice to have" addition to the communications mix rather than a vital business function.

Today, that perception of IC is more than a little dated. Internal communications is rapidly evolving, becoming more technology-infused, strategic, and impactful. Modern IC professionals are focused on engaging leaders with employees, facilitating knowledge sharing, and building conversations across organizations in ways that deliver tangible value.

So what kind of value can you get from internal communications? Here are six measurable business results with a significant return on investment that can be traced directly to good internal communications practices.

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The employee communications bots are coming. Chat with me if you want to live.

I mentioned in a recent post on my blog that I had my first conversation with an artificial intelligence (AI) named Eliza during the 80s, when the greatest exposure most of us had to AI was at the movies. (Bonus points if you can name the movie I referenced in the subtitle to this post). Today, you can find AI in the form of chatbots popping up everywhere, from the operating system of your mobile phone and Facebook Messenger to web sites and, very soon, in the business communicator’s toolbox.

Chatbots are limited AI applications that are typically text based and designed to handle very basic inquiries about a well-defined body of knowledge, using plain-language (or nearly so) to have something that resembles a human conversation. Companies are already using chatbots for a wide variety of tasks, from customer service to technical support and even teen fashion advice.

Any new technology is, unfortunately, often met with skepticism by business communications professionals (especially those of us of, ahem, a certain age), and chatbots are no exception. While some communications thought leaders are diving in with both feet, (thank you, Shel Holtz) the vast majority of us working in internal communications are still typing away, creating employee newsletters and curating intranet content to be hosted on SharePoint version 44 B.C.

As they did with social media, the marketing department is off and running with chatbot technology, and it’s time for internal communicators to catch up. The question is, how can communications professionals leverage this technology in the workplace? To help you get your creative juices flowing, here are a seven ideas of how to use chatbots to improve employee communications.

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Disintermediation: Applying science to art

To some extent, this is a blog post about a blog post. But it’s also about a larger concept that has relevance to both communicators and other professionals who are experts in fields that rely upon being highly skilled in human interaction.

The blog post is a very short one, written by Ari Meisel on his ‘Less Doing, More Living’ blog. It outlines a very simple process by which he, a small business owner, has created a mostly-automated, high-quality way to screen and hire applicants for roles at his company. Take a few minutes to read the blog post now.

The greater concept Ari is leveraging here beyond simple automation of some tasks, which he is insanely good at doing, is called disintermediation (link goes to the Wikipedia definition). Whether you realize it or not, your job has been in danger of disappearing due to disintermediation since the dawn of the information age. For a long time, marketers, HR professionals, and communicators have told themselves that the ‘art’ portion of their profession would insulate them from automation, optimization, outsourcing, and other corporate cost-cutting solutions that rely on technology.

If you still think that way, it’s time to get acquainted with disintermediation. In non-economic terms, think of it as cutting out the middle-person.

Oh, and by the way, that middle person is probably you.

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