Where does communication intersect with engagement?
While DFWSEM speakers usually focus on deep data dives and hard numbers, January’s presentation shook off the eggnog torpor of the holidays to start 2016 with something new. Brad Parler brought the soft science of communication to Dallas, schlepping up from his Blinds.com HQ in Houston to discuss what it means to create employee communications that really work.
There was a little business to take care of before Brad got cracking. DFWSEM President Scott Vann let the crowd know that planning was already ramping up for State of Search in 2016 and urged members to volunteer for that committee — or any of the others gearing up to dominate this year. Sponsor Advice Interactive was on hand to offer their support. And as always, DFWSEM members were talking jobs. Several companies and representatives thereof were looking for SEO pros, designers, and other digital folks. Frankly, if you’re looking for online marketing work in DFW, you need to be hitting these meetings.
Then it was on to the main event.
Part of Brad’s job is internal communications. He’s charged with keeping Blinds.com employees really committed. It must be working. They’ve been ranked one of the best places to work in Houston six years running. How? Brad had three concrete explanations.
The Voice made visible
Nope, not the NBC show. The Voice is an internal communication initiative that blows up social media mentions of Blinds.com on a bank of monitors roughly the size of Guam. Why? Aside from the fact that it’s awesome, it gives employees a glimpse of how the world sees where they work. But more importantly, it lets them see the reflection of their own conversations and contributions to social media and how they’re shaping the ongoing narrative of the company that they create. How’s that for engaging?
Word cloud contributions
One of the core values of Blinds.com is “Speak up and be yourself.” To put that into practice, Brad created an internal word cloud generator. Now, a word cloud itself is hardly revolutionary. But this twist is clever. Each employee gets a prompt, a simple form with a single field: “What is your word today?” And it can be anything. Tired. Stoked. Crunchy. The only stuff Brad filters out is profanity. This invites employees to set the tone for their day, to vent frustrations, even to advise management on what the real boots-on-the-ground feeling is in the company. And since it’s voluntary, people are participating because they care. Again, engagement leading to investment.
Lots of companies have sales leaderboards. They’re pretty standard critters. Some names, some numbers, maybe a few badges or KPI trackers.
You know what the leaderboards at Blinds.com look like? ESPN graphics.
It cost some money, sure. It took more than a few hours to accomplish. But when the sales team sees one of their own up on the screen looking like a Heisman Trophy winner, it’s a pretty safe bet they feel engaged.
Engagement has changed
This all connects to Brad’s closing concept: Media is no longer a megaphone. No longer does a boss stand atop a mountain shouting down at passive receivers below. Communication is far more two-way than that. It can’t be mandated. As Brad put it, “Engagement is not forced participation.” That lesson doesn’t just apply to internal communications — that’s marketing in the modern world as well.
Stephanie Studer is a writer, editor, cook, and massive nerd who calls Dallas home. A social and content marketer, she’s deeply in love with all that language can do. She blogs at storytellingforsuccess.wordpress.com, tweets at @Editrix_Steph, and posts entirely too many pictures of dishes she’s made on Instagram. Don’t ask her about ukuleles or comic books unless you have nothing to do for the next several hours.