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.