Story first, strategy second

How do you balance communicating management views while trying to keep employees interested in your staff newsletter? That was a recent question on a LinkedIn forum for internal comms specialists.

It’s a good question, which more internal comms specialists should ask themselves. I’ve seen lots of examples of internal communicators writing for the wrong readers – ie, their clients (the managers), rather than the employees those managers are trying to reach.

The way to approach it is not to write articles discussing the complex big-picture strategic stuff that managers are always keen to communicate. Instead, try and seek out the stories that illustrate the strategy in question.

For example, let’s say HR wants to promote greater internal mobility in the organisation. An article in which the head of HR talks about the benefits of greater mobility, why the strategy has been launched, and what her team’s goals are does little beyond patting the client on the back.

An article profiling employees who have moved around the firm is much more likely to sell the benefits of the strategy. Interview them about what they and their teams gained from their mobility and you’re much more likely to inspire employees to sign up to the new strategy.

Story first, strategic context second.

On the micro level of the sentence, you often find internal communicators leading with the strategic context rather than the news that’s relevant to the target audience – again in a bid to please the client. See Who do you think you’re talking to?

Finally, I’d also recommend all internal comms writers to read this wonderful manifesto for the simple scribe by a professional journalist, which gives lots of great advice for keeping readers interested.

What are your tips for keeping readers interested?

3 Responses to “Story first, strategy second”

  1. Dave says:

    I remember the staff newsletter – my heart sank when it dropped onto my desk. It just reinforced how dreary the company I worked for was.

    Great advice Clare – but I think we should go further and completely reinvent the office newsletter. For instance, instead of it being a mouthpiece for the management, why not give the staff complete control of the content? After all, it is called the ‘staff’ newsletter.

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Interesting point, Dave. In this age of social media people are increasingly recognising that internal comms can be a two-way street.

  3. Nothing to add except amen to that!

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