Without wishing to give my age away, I’ve worked in publications and media for 11 years.
Yet it wasn’t until I started working for an internal comms agency that I began an ongoing crusade to educate others – namely our clients – on how to create an outstanding publication.
In IC, producing a well-loved publication that people really want to read is paramount, because the messages within it are there to be shared and understood.
That’s why I thought it was about time I shared a few tips on how to create an excellent employee publication.
The format of your publication needs to appeal to, reflect and suit the audience it’s there for.
For example – and I could be accused of over-stereotyping here – an audience of builders may favour a tabloid-style newspaper and may be less likely to engage with a glossy, corporate magazine.
Similarly, a luxurious publication is not the ideal choice for a business going through a challenging period and making cuts elsewhere, as this could actively disengage the audience.
It’s important to carefully consider what sort of publication will work best.
An intellectual newspaper?
A digital publication?
Then you need to think about size, frequency, paper stock – the list is almost endless.
But remember that every decision you make about your publication can affect employee engagement with it – and with your business.
Consult employees on what they want. Their early buy-in will benefit communication in the long run and encourage ownership.
2. Tone and language
Your publication’s tone of voice will be instrumental in relationship-building with employees.
It will help build a personality for your publication and business and should be tailored around your company’s brand and values.
If one of your values is that you’re friendly, don’t adopt a formal, cold tone, for example. Friendliness does not have to come in place of authority.
If there’s one thing every employee publication should be, it’s straight-talking, honest and inspirational. Nobody likes waffle.
What everybody does love, though, is old-fashioned plain English. That means waving goodbye to all jargon.
3. The people’s publication
Employee publications should be for employees and about employees.
Long gone are the days of CEOs giving lengthy sermons in a patronising, top-down manner.
Today, an employee publication should create a sense of community, bringing everyone together.
Every story should have a people angle or, at the very least, an employee view.
Otherwise, you run the risk of your publication being seen as propaganda that people won’t engage with.
It’s important to involve colleagues; it is their publication and they should be part of it. Give them ample opportunity to submit stories, comment and share views.
It goes without saying that content should be tailored to your company, with operational news and corporate messages aligned with the strategy.
But this should not come at the expense of giving your people a boost.
This means it’s important to include stories that celebrate employees, recognise good work, share best practice and include tales of human interest. It’s the mix that will keep your people turning the pages.
Unearthing the glint of gold in every story and using it as your angle is the key hooking the reader in.
But turning a fairly mundane story into a gem doesn’t end there.
Consider how else you might pull a reader in; smaller, informative devices alongside your main body copy create extra entry points.
Think numbers panels, infographics, timelines or pull quotes. Big chunks of information are daunting, not to mention boring, so eradicate them without further ado.
Having an attractive publication with a clear identity is probably even more important than what’s written within it – and that’s hard for a journalist to admit!
But an ugly, clunky and unappealing publication is never going to be picked up or opened in the first place.
News travels fast.
Filling your publication with news six months old will not make it an engaging one. If you need to revisit an old topic in more depth, find a new angle rather than just regurgitating the same old story.
The best way to ensure your content is fresh and timely – which will make employees want to open your publication – is to create a schedule at the start of the year and stick to it.
That way, stories will be planned, written and published as quickly and sensibly as possible. You might also like to consider keeping a page or two blank until later in the production process, so you can fill it with breaking news.