internal communications

Backstories Forge Bonds with Internal and External Audiences

Backstories can inform fellow workers and impress external audiences. They are a form of storytelling based on authenticity that can convey human feelings and intriguing details as a way to build bonds to a brand.

Backstories can inform fellow workers and impress external audiences. They are a form of storytelling based on authenticity that can convey human feelings and intriguing details as a way to build bonds to a brand.

Think about how an inside job can become a revealing piece of content for the outside world. It could be doubly worth your time.

Going behind the scenes to tell the story of how one part of your operation works can be great content for your internal audience. The story also can be compelling content for your external audience.

Authenticity has always been important, but it has taken on deeper significance in the digital age with the specter of bots, fake feeds and deceptive or reimbursed reviews. Backstories convey authenticity to consumers by personalizing the employees and processes that produce the goods and services they buy. They can be about talented employees, unusual process or colorful personalities. They can appeal to emotions and feelings.

Internal audiences have a built-in interest in learning what their fellow employees do and how they do it. These backstories can be animated with human interest details, which, coincidentally, also hold appeal for consumers who like having a more tangible connection to the people that make a brand.

Antora Energy shares its backstory from the childhood of its founders to its emerging position as helping to create a cleaner electric grid for America.  https://medium.com/cyclotron-road/backstories-antora-energy-d06de388a388 .

Antora Energy shares its backstory from the childhood of its founders to its emerging position as helping to create a cleaner electric grid for America. https://medium.com/cyclotron-road/backstories-antora-energy-d06de388a388.

A smart approach to capturing interesting backstories is to create the equivalent of an editorial board. Its job would be to identify workers or parts of a business that lend themselves to backstory treatment – unique processes, intriguing personalities, unexpected successes. The editorial board then would assign someone or a team to go get the real backstory.

Most organizations have moved beyond a printed newsletter to an intranet or enterprise forums such as Yammer, Slack or Chatter. These platforms expand the range of formats that can used to tell the backstory. A mix of formats, such as video, infographic, photo gallery or podcast, can keep the storytelling fresh and inviting. Smartphone videos and photographs provide ample production values.

The same formats can conform themselves for external sharing through a website, social media or paid advertising. Backstories about your own employees can be a source of interactivity if you invite consumers to share their backstories involving your product or service.

Care needs to be taken to avoid contrived backstories. The stories should be real, even if they aren’t glitzy or heart-melting. If consumers or employees get the scent of hype, the magic of back stories goes poof. 

There is a lot of competing content to break through, regardless whether it’s aimed at an internal or external audience. Backstories can work if they are truly authentic and thoughtfully expressed.

The objective of sharing backstories is to generate bonding – among your own staff, with your consumers and for your brand. Like all forms of storytelling, back stories can attract and hold attention. They also can teach and touch people’s heartstrings.

Turning Employees into Real Insiders

One of the biggest, most unexploited markets are the employees who work for organizations that communicate badly with them.

Poor communications can contribute to low morale, role confusion and disregard for management goals. Worse, poor communications can negate a company's home field advantage. The people with as much to gain as brand zealots are left applauding with one hand.

Communicating with employees through third-party sources, intentionally or unintentionally, is the worst no-no. If employees read about news that affects them directly in the newspaper or on a blog, they understandably will be upset and wonder, "Why didn't my management think it was important to tell me first?" It's a great question.

Confusing or contradictory messages also peeve employees. If management assures workers their jobs are secure, then tells market analysts or business partners that jobs will be cut, employees will come to doubt what they are told — and not just about job security.

In most cases, employees want to feel like insiders, to be in the know, to be advocates. Internal communications play a huge role in treating employees as partners in the enterprise.

Intranets
For larger companies or ones with multiple lines of business and locations, a well-packaged, informative intranet makes sense. The intranet site can unify the organization by showing how all the parts fit together. The site can be a repository for company materials, such as logos and templates for proposals. Frequently asked questions can be answered, management goals explained and outstanding employee achievements celebrated.

Around the Company Campfire

REI has created an online campfire where top managers can share ideas and experiences and employees in far-flung store locations can comment and engage.Lots of attention is given to customer engagement, but employee engagement is often overlooked. REI has created a user-friendly online company campfire that allows the retailer's top managers to share their ideas and its 11,000 employees in 30 states to comment.

Writing for Ragan.com, Matt Wilson says REI launched its intranet earlier this year centered on an executive blog, but also includes news about employee awards, featured products and research, as well as "the question of the month." All are designed, Wilson writes, to spark employee engagement.

The campfire is the brainchild of Diana Kowalsy, REI's internal communications manager based in Seattle. In her LinkedIn profile, Kowalsky says she loves to "help employees connect with their company to see how they can learn and grow while helping the company succeed."