Earlier this week, you read the beginning of my story about how an HR and Communications team collaborated to establish an internal blog, and developed an approach so that managers truly owned it.
There are nine points. While point one was already covered, I’ve repeated it in this post, and expanded with points two through nine. Here’s what we did:
- Established a purpose and timeline. The blog was designed to augment the manager training, and it was intended to support the training period through the end of the year. We clearly communicated the aim and life span. Right from the outset, this mitigated resistance, because program participants understood the rationale and they saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Set clear expectations of roles and responsibilities. On day one of training, the trainer explained that the final assessment of a participant’s performance would be partially based on blog activity. That made clear what was expected of participants, and they understood at the outset that posting and commenting were to their benefit.
- Made it accessible. We had an intranet page to support the program, and put up an easy-to-recognize graphic badge that was linked to the blog. We featured the badge/link in any program-related email to the participants. Only program participants were permissioned to access it, however, which made them feel special.
- Created a schedule. We learned quickly that blog post volunteers were hard to come by. And those who volunteered, well, life happened and posts didn’t materialize. To address this, we set up an editorial calendar and we assigned posts to topic experts from the train-the-trainer program. We were flexible about the schedule to accommodate the managers and their interests, and the program rollout plan, but it was important to get them and their topics on a calendar, which we shared with them. Behavior changed immediately. These individuals felt confident about the topics and knew when they were supposed to post—so they did.
- Provided help. We had lots of employees who were digitally savvy, but we recognized that even if people had maintained or participated in blogs outside the company, being part of a blog inside the company was something new. So we prepared a couple of easy-to-follow one pagers that highlighted the steps, whether you prepared a blog post or commented. And a core group of us made ourselves available to answer questions, and provide hand-holding if needed. Once the blog got going, the cheat sheets and the hand-holding weren’t necessary, but they were helpful at the start of the process, and calmed nervous participants.
- Monitored and targeted. Every day, the team monitored the posts, comments and views. Depending on the topic of a post, we identified other program participants who might be interested in the topic or have a related story to tell. We reached out to these individuals directly, and let them know what had been posted, and prompted them to comment, substantively and constructively. This is key. Sometimes you get people who are cheerleaders and post comments, like, “Way to go!” Or “Great!” That’s nice, but what we wanted was content that added to the conversation. So we offered some suggestions to start the thinking process. Importantly, after they had commented, we sent a follow up thank you note.
- Promoted the blog. When we first launched, we sent out promotional emails with every post and comment. People complained. So we changed our tactic and started sending a weekly round up, with highlights and lots of links. (By the way, we didn’t rely on the automated message from SharePoint. Instead we wrote a more engaging email.) We deliberately chose Fridays, because we had anecdotal feedback that Friday was a day when people had fewer meetings. It seemed to work, and we saw a bump in activity on Fridays as a result.
- Invited executives. We started with the executive sponsors of the program, and invited them to weigh in and comment. Once we had built up a little activity, we invited other senior executives to participate. For all executives, we advised them to be positive and constructive, and provided tactical assistance. Then, weekly round up notwithstanding, we promoted the comment of the executive to the participants. We saw a bump in activity as a result.
- Engaged trainers as co-communicators. As I mentioned, trainers started the training by making clear that participation in the blog was important. But they didn’t stop there. The trainers coached their program participants on an ongoing basis. They were our heroes on the front line. What’s more, they fed back questions or concerns to us.
Participation was healthy. As you might imagine, it started slowly, then reached a nice plateau with about 50 percent of the total target population at any given time. As the year continued, however, and the training sessions were completed, participation waned. In December, when the training program was concluded, it was time to retire the blog, which is what we had estimated at the outset.
Interestingly, after the manager blog was retired, several program participants launched local internal blogs. Those managers told us that they thought the manager blog was successful, and encouraged collaboration across locations.
So that manager blog was the work of one HR and Communications team. I was proud to be a part of it. You might have other suggestions about getting a group to own its internal blog. Please comment, so we all can benefit.