Thursday, November 20, 2008


As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m not currently working in internal communication. Being outside has given me a bit of a different perspective on
the function. And guess what?

Internal communication teams should just stop what they’re doing and reinvent themselves.

Today, internal communication teams are a kind of combination of marketers and journalists operating within the company. They produce, to varying degrees, newspapers, television shows, movies, events and commercials designed to spread messages about the company. Of course, there is no wall between the advertising team and the newsroom, like at a traditional newspaper. It’s all one big advertorial.

Now, if you think of your company’s employees as a collection of consumers or households or eyeballs – like traditional media/advertisers do – then this model makes a lot of sense. Market the message internally using the stuff you would externally.

But employees don't think of internal communications the way they think of “House” or Nike commercials or the State of the Union Address. (They may think of internal comm. with equal cynicism, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) Employees don’t think of the things that surround them at work like they think of the things outside of work.

Stuff at work is either a tool to help on the job – or it’s a distraction. HR? No one thinks about it until they need to do something, like hire someone or deal with benefits. HR is a tool. IT? No one cares until the network goes down. Then, IT has value.

I'm not saying internal communication has no value. If your internal comm. team takes care of the blocking and tackling, then employees know when the holidays are and when open enrollment closes and the names of the CEO and his team. A world-class internal comm. team may run great awareness campaigns that really excite a good percentage of employees. It can help the workforce remain aware of your company’s goals, principles and history.

But often, internal comm is a distraction, not a tool. And it could be so much more. If I were running an internal communications team, I would remake it into an indispensable tool for employees.

  • I would partner with IT and make it my job to improve employees’ ability to find what they need. (And don’t tell me you already do that, through your internal home page. I mean really throw myself into it, figure out the tagging and organizational structure. Set goals, like 90 percent of searches deliver the right answer within the top five returns – like that.)
  • I would make my team the “reference librarians” for the company – the place an employee could go to learn anything or connect to anyone. Be the help desk for general knowledge.
  • I would introduce and emphasize real-time, dialog-based communications vehicles, like blogs and internal forums. I would encourage leaders to use those tools.

And then, when my team is providing services that the average employee reaches for every day, the rest of my job is a breeze.

  • I can place links, quotes and news exactly where employees will see them. Think of it like paid search your messages show up when employees use your tools.
  • I can leverage my reputation as a valuable tool to gain employees’ attention to corporate messages.
  • I don’t have to dig for news, because I’m engaged in the business. (In fact, I may be the first to know where the news is – search is a great indicator of activity.)
  • And I set a great example of business focus, responsiveness and partnering. Most employees don’t give a crap about the newsletter and town hall anyway. But they would love any effort that made it easier for them to do their jobs.

Google is doing something like this on your computer. First it made itself indispensable, then it gave advertisers access to you at the very places where you go. Internal communications teams just fail to take advantage of their incredible position inside the company. You’re inside the walls – now infiltrate the systems. Don't set your team up as a separate function, like sales or design or manufacturing. Be the thing that sales, design and manufacturing need.

It would be different. And boy, would it be measurable!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Don't dumb down

My friend Bill Pugh wrote me after my last post.

From: Bill
To: Matt

One persons perspective, writing down to lower grade levels does not improve communication. Following the advice of Strunk and White does.

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • To the point
  • Correct

It is not the grade level of the material it is the quality of the material that maters!

 -- Bill

From: Matt
To: Bill

I love Strunk and White and try to reread it every year. I always have used copies sitting around because I give them away like candy. And I think E.B. and the Professor would have no problem with readability statistics. 

I think of it like this: Clear, Concise and To the point are big Xs; readability statistics are the little Ys. Even S&W take that approach. "Principle 17: Omit needless words." "Style Approach 6: Do not overwrite." "Style Approach 14: Avoid fancy words." Readability is a metric to help measure how well you're doing in the quest for Clear, Concise and To the point. You have to do many, many other things as well. 

I'd like to do a post about this. Since you didn't post this on the blog, do you mind if I use your e-mail in a post?

 Thanks for the feedback!

- Matt

From: Bill Pugh
To: Matt

Happy to have you use my email. 

I do not agree that readability stats reflect quality of material. I also realize that I have a larger goal, that is to raise the education standards in the US. By constantly writing down we are not helping society, we are in-effect saying that no mater how little you educate yourself we can write to or below your level.  That is bad for society. We need to increase education levels, good writing should challenge the mind not stoop to the lowest common denominator.

Here is my favorite line in S&W:

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

I wonder what its readability level is (my copy of word does not have the tool) - I did notice the MS highlighted a phrase as grammatically incorrect... interesting. 

-- Bill

From: Matt
To: Bill Pugh

I don't think we're far apart. It's just a tool that helps you break up run-on sentences, replace three words with one and rethink polysyllables. I can only speak from experience -- it makes me more concise. 

The quote from Strunk & White is grade level is 11.4; readability is just under 50. Your own writing is at 9.7 and 54.9. Do as you say, or do as you do? 

It is also absolutely true that some sections of a piece of writing may be at a high level, and some at a lower one. Please remember that I'm talking about internal communications here, not fiction or essays. How does a communicator make sure that the message can be -- at least -- understood by the many different people in a company that will read it? At RRD, I owed it to the folks on the shop floor to write in a way that was easy to understand. It is not dumbing down. It's disciplined writing. 

- Matt

From: Bill Pugh
To: Matt

Likely not. 

I did miss the key point to all communication "to be understood".  Interesting that with no editing etc I write at 9.7... I wonder if after editing my stuff goes up or down.

Have a great weekend.

-- Bill

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My favorite metric (and if you snooze, you loose...)

For more than two months I've been saying to myself, "Matt, you have never really written about readability statistics! You should do that!" Readability has become my one indispensable communication metric. I was dying to share it with others.

But I procrastinated. And wouldn't you know it, someone else wrote my post.

Steve Crescenzo ( published a long interview two days ago on with Michael Runzler. Runzler is Intuit’s senior manager of editorial services and executive communications. The post, titled “Can you measure your company’s writing,” explains a system that uses the same tools I use. Damn. (Here’s a link to the article. However, you have to be a member to read these after a few days.)

Anyway, here’s what I would have written:

Like many communicators, I do a little of everything. I do some design work. I shoot and edit video. I produce presentations and town halls.

But mostly, I write. And since writing is my primary output, measuring its quality is important. And I need to be monitored for quality! Writing can be boring and repetitive, which leads to all kinds of excesses. Ten-dollar words, elaborate sentences, jargon – you name it.

Luckily, I discovered readability statistics. It's a tool for measuring readability that resides right inside Microsoft Word. You can run it when you spell check. What could be easier?

The tool scores writing in two ways – from 0 to 100, and by grade level. I’ve learned that any score under 50 means the writing is too complex. I also shoot for a low grade level. I rewrite to keep mine under grade 10 if possible. (Certain proper names or technical terms drive up your grade levels if the phrases are very long.) If I can write to a sixth-grade level I’m delighted.

The tool uses the Flesch Reading Ease Test and Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Levels, named for the inventors. The primary metrics are sentence and word length. Short sentences and short words equal high readability scores. The tool also measures passive sentences by percentage. There is a place for passive, but in my book, that place is under 10 percent.

You can also take advantage of a slew of settings that will flag your writing for jargon, capitalization, misused words, clichés -- a whole host of options. Use at your own risk as it can get rather naggy at times.

Here’s how to use MS Word Readability Statistics:
  • First, turn on the function. In MS Word, go to Tools>Options>Spelling & Grammar> and check the box marked “Show readability statistics.”
  • Check Spelling and Grammar. Readability will now display when you check spelling and grammar. Go to Tools>Spelling and Grammar or simply hit F7.

  • Tip 1 You can select any part of a document and check it separately. That way, you can identify a problem area. For example, you can check paragraph by paragraph (or even sentence by sentence) to find passive sentences or sentences that are overly complex.
  • Tip 2 To improve your scores, shorten sentences or break them in two. Use short words in place of long words.
I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon. I know how to write. But for the past five or six years, I’ve use this tool on just about everything I write for business. It’s humbling to say, but it’s made me a much better writer.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is your message getting through, Benny Lava?

This video -- which I first viewed on the Fake Steve blog -- is a great object lesson for communicators. Is the message you're sending getting through? Or are viewers making their own interpretations?

Plus, it's hilarious.

Monday, June 02, 2008

External vs. internal measurement

It’s a good external measurement. Does that make it a good internal measurement? A recent post, white paper and comment has me wondering.

I recently wrote about the possibility of using a kind of net promoter metric internally. Reader Mariana – bless her commenting heart! – wrote to say she was going to give it a try. I also think it has promise, and I want to try it too.

However, last week I read a great paper from the Corporate Executive Board that takes some air out of net promoter as a measure of consumer service and support. (The Corporate Executive Board is a terrific source of ideas. Be sure to ask if your company has a membership and get access to its resources.)

So, regarding consumer service and net promoter (NPS). The study first addresses loyalty. It maintains that promoters don’t necessarily stay, and detractors don’t necessarily leave. What does count in consumer service and support loyalty is how easy you make it for the consumer. Measure consumer effort instead of satisfaction or likelihood to recommend. It’s a better predictor of customer financial behavior.

The paper also says, concerning support, that "NPS® is an inadequate metric in the service channel for two reasons:

  • "The survey question is inherently positive, as it only considers likelihood to recommend (not criticize).
  • "It also captures company-level sentiment regarding product, pricing, and brand reputation, which limits its actionability within the contact center."

Now, do these issues mean NPS is not suited for internal use? I’d say no. It’s still a useful metric – a way to look at your net impact. It may have the added value of being familiar to your business-focused bosses. That makes it easier to communicate upward.

At the same time, it’s always good to be aware of any weaknesses in your metrics, and address them. Let’s make sure we measure the likelihood to criticize. And let’s make our net promoter questions specific enough to be actionable, vs. “would you recommend internal communications?”

Thanks to dogra on for the photo.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

54 / 365 Originally uploaded by ardella
Your best self

"In my experience there's nothing inherently distant about good writing, and nothing essentially intimate about face-to-face meetings."

I posted that on a Ragan blog late last year on the topic of written vs. in-person communications. Communication blogger David Murray posted it on his blog, which sparked quite a discussion.

You can read it here.

I know this post is old news, but I was Googling myself and it popped up...

Also, I see that David is moving on from his current role.

Friday, May 23, 2008

“Net promoter” internally?

The fine Church of the Customer blog has an interesting post. It’s called “Remodeling customer surveys” but it has good advice for internal surveys as well. Here's blogger Ben McConnell’s description of a good customer survey:

  1. Its first question is: “Based on your recent experience with us, would you recommend us to your friends, family, colleagues, etc.?” Yes, no, or I don't know are the possible answers. (You could use the Net Promoter methodology here, too.)
  2. Based on the answer to question 1, the survey then asks, “Tell us more about the reasons for your previous answer.” Then I could select from a pre-determined list of reasons for my answer, or blank boxes for me to write my own.
  3. It would ask me how I would describe the company and/or my experience to friends and colleagues. Again, a list of possible answers could be presented along with a blank field for my own description.
  4. Finally, it would ask me how the company could improve. I could rank the importance of specific items or provide my own idea which, who knows, could be the dumbest idea ever or somewhat innovative. Process improvement is a never-ending marathon.

I love how this list stresses providing a list of possible answers, along with a blank “other” field. In my book, this is the perfect combination of sortable data and consumer freedom. You will get tons of great material that you can analyze in PowerPoint. And you will get write-in comments that should be manageable. This approach eliminates much of the tedious and subjective work of reading and classifying open comments. A quick brainstorming session will surface most of the possible answers, and there's your list.

The net promoter approach of asking “would you recommend?” is also interesting. Net promoter is based on a single question – would you recommend us to a friend or colleague? Net promoter is the percentage those who will recommend, minus those who will not.

Can it work internally? I don’t see why not. “Would you recommend X Team Town Halls to your co-workers?” “Would you recommend the X Team e-newsletter?”

I’m going to try it in a future survey. If any of you do, please share your results.

Read the entire Remodeling customer surveys post at the Church of the Customer blog.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Measuring fear

During town halls, we always provide an option for posting anonymous questions. Generally, that means e-mailing them to me -- I pass them on without providing the name of the employee. That's imperfect, obviously. Many employees don't know me, and I daresay even some who do don't trust me. (I would never, ever compromise a request for anonymity. They can't know that.)

Now we’ve launched a blog for my team leader. I’d love to see employees comment on her posts, and get a little back-and-forth going. My boss feels the same. But I was surprised when I heard additional requests for anonymity.

First, it was from the team I’ve been working with to raise engagement scores. We need an anonymous way to comment, they said. I pushed back, at least a little. I hated the idea that anonymity was going to be a first option. First options should be that you sign your name. Second, that you send a private e-mail to the boss. And finally, grudgingly on my part, an anonymous option.

Then, after a recent blog post, a co-worker of sterling reputation and performance asked me the same thing – could he post a comment anonymously?

Well, it was clear. I am soooo out of touch. When did I get so trusting of leadership? When did I stop being afraid? Anyway, I am not representative of employees. People are afraid that they will get in trouble. Period. I don't have to feel the same way, but I have to remember it.

So, I provided the anonymous channel. Posted it on the blog and on our team’s intranet site. The boss even sent out a nice blog post letting employees know it was there. “Listening to her customers” she called it, and she’s right.

Some of you may want to know how to create an anonymous feedback channel. Here’s what I did:

  1. Set up a survey and called it “Private Feedback.”The opening copy explains what it’s for – private, safe feedback. SurveyMonkey even has an option (under Collect Responses>Change Settings) so the survey won’t even collect IP addresses from respondents. (Not sure if this option is available for free surveys.)

  2. The first question is just an essay box for feedback.

  3. The second question asks if the respondent would like their feedback posted on the boss’ blog as an anonymous comment. Choices are no, yes, I don’t care - it's up to you, and an “In your own words…” text box option for more explanation.

  4. The final question asks if the boss can quote all or part of the feedback on the blog or in other communications. Same options.

Now I monitor the site for responses. I’ll let you know what kind of traffic we see. Maybe we can come up with some kind of "fear ratio" by comparing the volume of public and private feedback.

(photo: Whisper, 2005 / Dr. John)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Innies and outies

I know that the internal and external communication roles are often combined. So, I have a tip for you or your external communication partner.

Peter Shankman runs an operation called “Help a reporter out!” He helps reporters and writers find sources for their stories. Sign up, and three times a day, five days a week, you’ll get an e-mail with the latest list of reporter needs.

Almost always, reporters won’t need you as a source. Shankman clearly knows this and does his best to make the e-mails amusing in their own right. But once in awhile you may have a chance to get a great placement for your company, or for a friend or acquaintance. (I probably forward the list on to someone I know at least once a week. You never know…)

Read all about it and sign up at

Monday, May 05, 2008

Measurement with Angela has posted a new short video featuring Angela Sinickas, the reigning guru of communications measurement. (Check out her business site at Angela discusses different approaches to measuring the impact of social media.

I think it's interesting that she recommends noting the number and type of comments posted as a metric. Not that this is unusual, but it ties neatly back to the last post on this blog. Comments on a blog, vlog or forum are a kind of virtual gasp, spurt of laughter or cynical aside at a town hall.

Her recommendation of "conversation ratio" as a metric -- comments per post -- is a good one because it brings some rigor to the effort. For communicators, it's not enough to say "We had a lot of great feedback" or "Several people commented on how much they liked the last post." Get yourself a spreadsheet and track responses to each post -- number of comments, number of new people posting comments (vs. your regulars), number of replies posted by the blogger, conversation ratio, etc. A commitment to tracking the numbers helps you see the effectiveness of your vehicles over time. If new channels fade or fail to grow after launch, it won't be because you weren't paying attention to the key metrics. It also builds your cred with other areas of the business.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Unmistakable metric...

...but what did it measure?

We had a Town Hall the other day, and the presenters were a mixture of old and new faces. And they were slick. About a half-dozen spoke* during the course of the presentation, and they rarely stumbled over a bullet point or lost the thread of their story. The packed room listened respectfully and quietly.

And then, one of the familiar faces had his turn. He happens to be extremely passionate about his role. Or, maybe he’s just a nervous speaker. He panted. He sweated. He kept asking the communication team to go back to the previous slide – he had another thought to share. He talked fast but still couldn’t get it all out, and seemed to rush to the finish line of his portion of the program. When he handed it off to the next speaker and collapsed into his chair, the audience of employees burst into spontaneous applause, the only time it happened during the meeting.

There’s a metric for you.

But did it measure agreement with his point of view? I’d say that was incidental. I think people were mostly applauding the humanness of his presentation. Some might say they appreciate his passion. I’m not sure that’s not just a more acceptable way of saying that they prefer their leaders to sweat a little, to get excited a little. Versus saying “We have an extremely exciting message for you today.”

In political coverage, in the U.S. and the U.K. anyway, reporters sometimes cite the number of times a speaker is interrupted by applause, or how long a particular ovation lasts. I think that may be a valuable metric to keep in corporate town halls. Keep a copy of the presentation with you and make a note whenever the audience responds – claps, gasps, laughs – or hisses. It may say more than the post-event survey.

* There were more than a dozen people on the stage. They were all men. Except for one, they all appeared to be white men. There’s another message, and another metric.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Measurement is not a panacea...

...but do it anyway.

Check out this interesting post from Cassandra (over on the increasingly-interesting titled "Truisms about metrics and measurement." You may not agree with all of her statements, but there's some good thinking about the value and hassle of measurement.

My only warning is this: whining about the problems of measurement is not a great way to build credibility within your organization. Better to take the lead and champion measurement. Take control of the process and turn a potential weakness into a perceived strength. Not that Cassandra is whining, and her commentary is just between us communicators, where dishing is encouraged. But let's keep it that way.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apple is slick.

I'm a little bit of an Apple fanboy, despite not owning any Apple products. (Some of it comes from my love of the Fake Steve Jobs blog.) They have a clear idea of how to make a better consumer experience, and how to make money doing it.

So, I went to the Apple store the other day to purchase a gift. They have no sales counter -- instead, the clerks walk around with little terminals and scanners and close the purchase wherever you happen to be.

After swiping my credit card, the clerk asked me if he could e-mail me the receipt. Why not? Sounded convenient to me, and since everything else was so high-tech it seemed to fit.

But Apple is slick. Not only did I get the receipt -- I got a survey a day later. How did I like my visit? Do I own a Mac? How many iPods do I own? The survey wasn't as beautiful as you might expect from Apple -- it's actually done by CustomerSat -- but it was pretty good.

The experience was a reminder of something. Internal communications carries one distinct advantage -- the assumption of permission. By virtue of being on the same team, you can contact all of your customers. Businesses work hard to get permission to do the same with theirs. Apple's approach worked on me.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Measuring engagement – a survey on career development

Like many big corporations, mine conducts "engagement surveys" to measure the love/hate quotient of employees. Overall engagement across the company is hard to impact. So, I looked more particularly at what our team could and could not control.

Questions about how people feel about senior leadership or corporate policies – out of scope. (I’m not in corporate, but rather a front-line business function.) However, some questions cover how direct managers operate, job satisfaction factors and career development. We can influence these things through policy changes, projects and communication.

I was asked to join the “engagement team” assembled to address the issues we could control. Based on the initial engagement survey results, our team identified two areas where the results were below average and within our control. One was career development and advancement. The engagement team brainstormed many ideas that might help in this area – mentoring programs, better integration of career development planning with our review process, and more. All great ideas, but naturally, I wanted more data. Before we start creating a bunch of programs, what’s the real need? Let’s do a survey.

Here’s what I wanted to know, for starters:

  • How big is the audience for career development? What’s the “ambition level” of our employees? Do they want to become CEO, move up a notch, or simply be recognized for the work they do now?
  • Has the company properly set expectations? How much responsibility do employees take for their own careers? (Note – this is a big communication opportunity.)
  • What’s our baseline for success? How do they feel about their progress so far?
  • What programs would get high participation? What’s the demand for a mentor program? Is that demand, high or low, based on experience? Do we need to improve career development planning as part of our established review process?

Working with the team, I developed the following questions. As usual, I tried to anticipate possible replies, to reduce or eliminate those pesky, hard-to-measure write-in comments.

Which of these statements match your career goals for the NEXT TWO YEARS? Click all that apply.

  • I want to move up at least one level of management.
  • I want to switch career paths and work in a new area.
  • I want to complete the long-term goals I've taken on in my current role.
  • I want to add some new skills to my current mix through study and/or a specific project assignment.
  • I want to continue in my current role -- I'm picking up enough on the way to make it interesting.
  • I want to begin managing others.
  • I want to manage a larger team.
  • I want to stop managing others.
  • I want to manage a smaller team.
  • I'm more interested in recognition for my contributions than career advancement.
  • I want to begin, continue or complete a course of study for an advanced degree at an accredited school.
  • Other (please specify)

Please rate your level of agreement with these statements. (Strongly agree; Agree; Not sure; Disagree; Strongly disagree)

  • In 2007, my direct manager encouraged and supported my career advancement needs.
  • The company has adequate next-level job opportunities that I could fill and which advance my career path.
  • In 2007, I let the day-to-day needs of my job distract me and/or consume all of my time and attention, which kept me from focusing on career advancement.
  • I have a pretty good idea of what I'll be doing in my career in three years.
  • I don't feel discriminated against when it comes to advancement or development opportunities, based on some factor that does not measure my ability or qualifications. (Race, gender, country of origin, location, etc.)
  • In 2007 I followed a formal career planning process that was been defined and tracked in performance management review sessions.
  • The company offers training and experience opportunities that fit my career goals.
  • I'm satisfied with the career progress I made in 2007.
  • The company is too quick to go outside for talent instead of filling roles from within.

When it comes to career planning, development and advancement, how much responsibility belongs to the individual, and how much to the organization?

  • 0 percent individual; 100 percent organization
  • 10 percent individual; 90 percent organization
  • 20 percent individual; 80 percent organization
  • 30 percent individual; 70 percent organization
  • 40 percent individual; 60 percent organization
  • 50 percent individual; 50 percent organization
  • 60 percent individual; 40 percent organization
  • 70 percent individual; 30 percent organization
  • 80 percent individual; 20 percent organization
  • 90 percent individual; 10 percent organization
  • 100 percent individual; 0 percent organization

Please share your previous experience with mentoring. Check all that apply.

  • I've had experience being mentored at a different company or organization.
  • I've had experience as a mentor at a different company or organization.
  • I had a mentor earlier in my career here at (the company).
  • I was a mentor earlier in my career here at (the company).
  • I'm currently a mentor at (the company).
  • I'm currently being mentored at (the company).

What's your opinion of mentor programs? (No experience/no opinion; Strongly agree; Agree; Disagree; Strongly disagree)

  • Mentor programs are valuable career development tools for the person being mentored.
  • Mentor programs are valuable career development tools for the mentor.
  • Please provide additional comments if you wish

Are you interested in a mentoring program at (the company)?

  • I'd like to be mentored.
  • I would like to be a mentor.
  • I'd like to do both.
  • I'm not interested in the mentoring program.


  • To preserve anonymity – which we promised repeatedly – we limited demographic questions. We asked two. Are you based in North America, yes or no? And, how many levels are you from the team leader? Work for leader, work for someone who works for leaders, etc.

I'm not going to share the specific results here, but a few general observations.

  • Participation. We really worked to get 100 percent participation. The team consists of around 80 members, and we got very close. More than 90 percent of the team responded, giving us a margin of error of 3.2 % with a 95 percent confidence level – quite good. In addition to two e-mails from the leader encouraging everyone to take the survey, we reached out directly to all managers with direct reports and asked them to talk to their teams.
  • How big is the audience for career development? Almost everyone has some kind of ambition. Only a handful were not thinking of moving on, advancing or getting an advanced degree – and some in that handful may have already done those things.
  • Has the company properly set expectations? The distribution of answers in the "who's responsible" question was interesting. For the most part, it peaked around 70/30 - 80/20, with the individual taking the bulk of the responsibility. However, we had a big spike at 50/50. That tells me that we need to do more communication about the role of the company in development.
  • What’s our baseline for success? The question, "I'm satisfied with the career progress I made in 2007," returned a bi-model distribution curve. It looks like a two-humped camel, with big peaks at "agree" and "disagree." I'll have to dive into the survey to see what we can learn about the differences between these two groups.
  • What programs would get high participation? Lots of support for and interest in mentor programs. Good reviews and many volunteers – we should do it. Development as part of the review process was another one of those bi-model curves. More study needed, but looks like an opportunity, too.

A few final notes on this project. As usual, a little data goes a long way. This survey had only eight questions. Take away the two demographic questions and three about mentors, and you have just three, but it's all pretty overwhelming. I see two real advantages from the survey. First, it helps us spend precious resources on the right efforts. Second, it lets us communicate our efforts far more effectively. Every time we can say, "You told us this, so we're doing that," we gain an edge.

(Readability statistics for this post: Eighth grade reading level; reading ease 58.2; 7 percent passive sentences.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Happy New Year!

For the time being, I'm out of the internal communication racket. But there's a funny thing about that. I'm applying most of the same skills to my new role (consumer experience champion) that I used as an internal communicator.

Clear writing, illustration and video still matter. Strategic thinking matters. Effective measurement matters. Most importantly, putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and learning to advocate for both your audience and your client – that matters.

And as communicators, we tend to keep our eyes open for new communications opportunities. So we’re often more technical, more aware of the opportunities opening up on the Web and in mobile communications, than many in business. It’s natural, really, if we get pulled into other areas.

I don’t mind confessing that I spend a huge amount of time on the Internet while on the job. Some of it is directly connected to what I do – anyone would recognize it. But you and I know that it’s often the off-beat and unusual that sparks the new idea, or at least provides the zest to keep us going.

I’ve added a list of favorite Web links to this blog. Some spark thinking, some are terrific tools. I’m sure the list will grow and change over time, but here’s what I have today:

  1. Seth Godin's blog – Godin speaks for a new era of marketing, delivering fresh insights nearly every day. What are we but marketers, after all? Subscribe.
  2. The Consumerist – If you work for a business, the Consumerist will give you that exposure to what your customers are ticked off about. No waiting.
  3. Putting People First – An exhaustive and constantly-updated compendium of the latest developments in human/product interaction in just about every field you can think of.
  4. The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs – Consistently the funniest blog on the Web. And you may even learn something. (It just may not be true.) Hey, laughter matters.
  5. Ragan Communications site – I had a grudge against these guys, since they never invited me back after what seemed to be an extremely successful presentation at a convention a couple of years ago. But I have to admit that the revamped site and the Daily Update is interesting, dynamic and valuable. Hmmph.
  6. – A commercial site that gives away great information – sign up for the quarterly report.
  7. We-make-money-not-art – We need some sites to find pure inspiration, right? Start here.
  8. boingboing - a directory of wonderful things – Among the most successful sites on the ‘Net, and it’s easy to see why. Wonderful indeed.
  9. The Cool Hunter – More neat stuff.
  10. – Never mind the technology – keep up with how people are actually using it to communicate.
  11. – Need pictures of consumers using your products – or pictures of anything at all? Incredible resource.
  12. YouTube – Ditto above, for video.
  13. Simple Sample Size Calculator – How many surveys do I need to be able to defend my results? Here’s what I use.
  14. SurveyMonkey – The communicator's little friend. The paid version is a steal at $20/month but the free version is useful, too.

What sites did I miss, and what are they good for?