6 Tips to Transition Your Company Publication into an Employee Community

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It marks the end of an era. After decades of publication, C-suite executives have decided to cease the printing of your organization's company magazine as they launch an employee community.

You’re not quite sure how you feel about it. The company magazine has been viewed as an industry symbol and incarnation of the business for as long as you can remember. You’ve worked hard to plan, write, edit and paginate the publication each month, and there’s nothing like the smell of fresh print when the magazine is delivered from the plant. Part of you feels like donning a black veil and calling around to schedule a proper burial service.

Mourn not, internal communications pro. It’s time to admit it. There is another part of you that feels strangely liberated. This is an exciting opportunity to start something fresh, and unbound by the constraints of print.

Not sure where to start? Translating your existing internal communications into your employee community isn’t as daunting as you think.

Take inventory

Unless your publication recently was revamped, chances are that you’re not over the moon for every standing feature that’s included in each publication. Do you dread writing a certain piece each month because it’s just not exciting? Chances are, if you think it’s boring, your audience will, too. Before deciding whether or not to translate this content into your employee community, ask yourself, “WGAS,” or “Who Gives A S***.” (Shout out to my favorite journalism professor for evangelizing this acronym to her student editors.)

Ideally, you keep a log of responses and feedback to printed content in each issue in a spreadsheet or similar format. If you still have a few issues to go before the publication is put to bed for good, now is a good time to start one. Note the influx of emails you received about your last “From the Tech Desk” feature regarding a new innovation. Record the letters to the editor thanking you for featuring a late longtime employee who made a significant impact. These are signs that this content is resonating with employees, and should be translated - in some manner - into your employee community.

Once you identify key themes, consider whether they warrant group creation. If employee recognition is a popular topic, for example, consider partnering with human resources and the employee recognition team to transition existing programs onto the platform.

Examine existing communications strategy

To be frank, internal company magazines are hierarchical, by nature. Use this change in medium to examine your corporate communications strategy and whether it truly promotes a positive, open culture. (The answer is likely "no," if your main means of employee communication are magazines and newsletters.) You could be missing out on a chance to foster a more productive workforce.

Instead of ghostwriting a monthly “From the CEO” feature, consider hosting a live blog or live video, if available on the platform, for example. Invite employees to submit questions to the executive to foster a more transparent culture, and give them more ownership.

Consider your audience

Print is great for long-form content, but this type of post to your employee community likely isn’t the best way to capture the attention, unless employees already are snuggled up on the couch with a carton of ice cream before bed. People are inherently egotistical; according to a 2015 study from Microsoft Corp., the average attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

Before posting content within the community, ask yourself:

1.     What is the purpose of sharing this content?

2.     To who will be of the most value?

3.     How might I best capture their attention?

These questions should not only inspire where you're posting content, but the type of elements you decide to include (photo, poll, live video, etc.)

Balance the "broccoli" and "ice cream"

As an internal communications pro, you know that not all announcements are "fun." Try to strike a balance between giving your community "broccoli," or necessary information that might not be particularly exciting (shareholder information, for example), and "ice cream," more exciting content (like crowdsourcing polls). 

Create a daily marketing strategy to foster employee engagement and more frequent return visits. Balance planned, timely posts in your content calendar with organic, user-generated content.

Keep your print archive close

Just because executives have given future print publications the boot doesn’t mean you should kick your archived copies to the curb. Use your archives to your advantage. Sometimes the most engaging content stems from nostalgia. As cliche as it sounds, the past helps to give perspective to the present and future. 

Keep your digital analytics closer

One of the key benefits of transitioning your employee magazine into the digital space is having greater insight into what resonates with your audience. Use your platform's native analytics or go deeper with an integration, like SWOOP Analytics, to analyze top posts. Where do they originate? Who is posting them? What makes them so interesting? Consider using a top post as inspiration for your content marketing plan, boost a valuable post in an "All Company" group, or provide an "official" response to a trending thread to help bring context.

Is a former print feature not garnering the desired engagement within the community? Consider revamping it to target a different audience, or slashing it altogether to help focus efforts elsewhere.

Amanda Whitesell, a community manager for Talk Social To Me, has experience consulting newsroom leaders across Michigan in digital audience development and social media. As a former journalist, her content has appeared in USA Today, Detroit Free Press and Lansing State Journal.