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ENGAGEMENT and ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE

The first set in a series of articles looks at why it is important for
The first set
in a series of
articles looks at why it is
important for leaders to
interact with their employees

Employee Engagement:

Why Leaders Should Blog to Drive Engagement

With the advances in social media, companies are increasingly using blogs on internal channels as a way to engage with their employees. Leaders are in a strong position to engage with the people they lead, inspiring, motivating and encouraging employees via internal social media channels.

The ‘New Leader’ listens, responds where appropriate, interacts with their people and understands that their choices and views can have a direct effect on a team or organisation. The old style leadership promoting the top down hierarchical approach is becoming a thing of the past and people want to engage with their leaders.

Your people are your most valuable asset and motivated, inspired employees are productive employees, so dedicating some time out of your busy schedule to generate conversations and drive engagement by writing a blog can yield a hefty ROI.

So, as a leader why write a blog and what are the benefits? Look at the statements on the right and see if you agree or disagree.

Question: As a leader, why should I write a blog for my employees?

1. Because it is trendy at the moment and I pride myself on staying ahead of the curve

Agree/Disagree

2 Because other leaders are doing it Agree/Disagree

3 My Communications/Marketing/PR specialist has told me to Agree/Disagree

4 I want to engage with the people I work with Agree/Disagree

5 I want to read, respond to and encourage comments and feedback on my posts Agree/Disagree

6 Because I know that I am in a position to inspire and motivate my employees and they listen to what I say Agree/Disagree

The answers are in the green box on the right

Question: As a Leader, why should I write a blog for my employees?

1. Because it is trendy at the moment and I pride myself on staying ahead of the curve.

Disagree This is not a good reason. You should blog because you want to express yourself, share your experiences and corporate values and listen and respond to opinions. You should also want to blog because you see this as an effective way to engage. Trends should not feature in your decision to blog.

2. Because other leaders are doing it Disagree Same reasons as above. (And did you get to where you are simply by following what other people do)?

3. My Communications/Marketing/PR specialist has told me to

Agree/Disagree You should always listen to your Comms/PR or Marketing specialist. (As one myself, I may be slightly biased ), however if this is the sole reason you are blogging and you don’t really understand the objective and the purpose – read this guidance. If you still don’t see the benefits, then don’t blog. (If you are a Comms/PR or Marketing specialist reading this guidance, wave this article in front of your leader).

this guidance, wave this article in front of your leader). 4. I want to engage with

4. I want to engage with the people I work with

Agree Absolutely! Blogs are a great way to engage with the people that work in your organisation and can generate interesting and

productive conversations.

5. I want to read, respond to and encourage comments and feedback on my posts.

Agree Whilst some organisations make the choice to disable comments for valid reasons, blogs work well as a 2 way feedback mechanism. Comments and feedback on a post you have written shows that people have taken the time to respond because they relate to what you have to say.

6.

Agree As a leader people follow you, YOU set the pace and the example. You are in a position of huge responsibility and help people form opinions and support the aims of your organisation, therefore it is important that people know you and understand your values.

Because I know that I am in a position to inspire and motivate my employees and they listen to what I say.

How many statements did you answer correctly?

What makes an interesting blog post?

This varies and what may be interesting to one person may not be interesting to another. However from a position of leadership, you should be aware that statistics have shown that people are usually interested in anything you have to say, whether you are blogging about something in line with your corporate strategy or writing about yourself.

Taking this into consideration, what usually makes a post interesting is if you write about a topic that you are genuinely interested in yourself. People can usually sense when someone is passionate about what they write about and this in turn can have a ripple effect. If you are blogging because it is ‘trending’ at the moment without understanding the purpose, then perhaps you should consider whether blogging is worth the effort.

Some people have a natural predisposition towards blogging and are able to captivate an audience through the written word. Some people struggle to write but are still willing to give it a try. Hopefully your readers will be sympathetic and understanding if you fall into the latter category.

If you are honest in your blog and write about something which you have a genuine interest or passion in (corporate or otherwise), people will forgive a leader who is not the best of writers. Passion counts, technical writing ability may not. If you don’t look forward to writing your blog post and it is simply a chore on a long list of things to do – then don’t do it.

ENGAGEMENT and ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE

Blogging in the Corporate World

What are the differences between blogs written for employees and other blogs? Well that really depends on the organisation and what the organisation wants to achieve. Some organisations are more risk averse than others and set clear and defined boundaries when deciding what topics to write about. This usually means that content is driven by the corporate messages and/or strategic business plans that need to be communicated to an internal audience at a certain time and this is sometimes overseen by a communications department. This can work well if blogging is used as another channel to disseminate corporate messages to employees.

However if you are in an organisation that is comfortable doing so, and you are a leader that is confident enough to write about topics that interest you beyond your position, why not write about subjects outside of the corporate arena in your blog spot, as well as topics that relate specifically to your corporate strategy? You could integrate the two in one post, or choose to alternate between corporate focussed posts and more personal ones. Sometimes writing a blog goes beyond supporting the corporate messages, but still maintains an important corporate function in the form of engagement.

People engage with people they can relate to and who listen and respond. Yes there are still boundaries within this, but as a leader you are the visionary, the inspiration and people want to know about YOU.

The importance of ‘the authentic voice’

As tempting as it is to get your support function, whether that is your PA or comms specialist to write your post for you, Refrain! Your objective if you are blogging to engage should be to let people get to know you, therefore it is important that the content comes from you. I strongly believe that blogs are the one channel that should not have too much comms input (depending on whether your organisation uses your blog as an opportunity to engage and generate conversation with your people) and your communications specialist should relinquish control and give you free rein, whilst also supporting, encouraging and offering training if you need it.

Your communications/PR or marketing specialist can also offer general advice, proof reading and implement and promote your blog spot if you don’t have one. (I also suggest that you always run posts you have written by these people who will be adept at managing and pre-empting risks which may not be obvious).

at managing and pre-empting risks which may not be obvious). OK, so there may be times
at managing and pre-empting risks which may not be obvious). OK, so there may be times

OK, so there may be times where you are unsure about what to write. It is acceptable to ask for ideas and feedback about what topics you would like to cover in your blog, but the content should be written by you. Not a confident writer? As a leader you know that practice makes perfect and your comms team will ensure that you don’t put anything out there which could have repercussions for you or your organisation.

could have repercussions for you or your organisation. People are a lot more discerning these days

People are a lot more discerning these days and (dare I say) cynical in regards to messages that come from their leaders and are now more aware than ever about how the

corporate cogs turn regarding communications. Most organisations have enough channels to get the corporate messages out there without adding a leader’s blog to the channel mix purely for messages centred around the business and written by other people on your behalf. It will be very obvious that you do not write your own blog for the more discerning among your employees and this is hardly an effective engagement strategy if people in your organisation know or suspect that you do not write your own blogs. The people you lead want to respond to you and not your ghost writer!

*Note that agreeing content that someone has written for you does not constitute writing it yourself!

Engagement – 2 way feedback mechanisms, the importance of generating conversations

Going back to the original question we posed at the beginning of this article - Why start a blog in the first place? Well you probably have something that you would like to share and want people to respond and comment on your blog post.

Some organisations choose to disable comments on their leader’s blog spot which makes this type of blog a one-way communications’ channel. This may be appropriate depending on the structure, resources and other channels being used for engagement purposes, e.g. some organisations may work in an environment which requires a resource to moderate comments and may not have the time to dedicate to blog moderation, however a blog is a useful engagement tool for generating conversations and should be used in this way if it fits the style and structure of your organisation.

Inspiring, motivating and informing people Your blog could serve a number of different functions. Remember that this is about you and how you want to present yourself, so the sky is the limit. People look up to leaders by default, so it is important to consider that people can be inspired and motivated by what you write.

Think about something you read that motivated and inspired you. Why were you inspired and what was it about the content that made you think? You don’t have to be a Hemingway or Flemming to get your ideas across and people should not judge your technical writing skills too harshly. (Unless of course you are a leader within the communications field)!

Be honest with your employees from the outset and let them know that you may not be the best writer in the world, but you would still like to engage with them. Whilst the presentation and the structure of your blog is important, it is what you write about that people will remember.

Grammar and spelling should still be ‘on point’ and your support functions will be able to sense check anything you write and clear up the odd error which, by the way is inevitable and just because you are a leader, no one should expect you to be perfect.

(A note to fellow Comms/PR and Marketing specialists. As tempting as it is to clean and polish your leader’s blog to perfection - try to limit this to grammar and spelling only).

Examples and Case Studies

It is difficult (if not impossible) to find case studies showcasing internal blogs by leaders in organisations.

Intranets are…

which makes sense considering that confidential and commercially sensitive information sometimes sits in this channel. There are however many good examples of external blogs written by leaders and you can either take the time to look on the www. yourself or ask your

(for internal viewing only)

intranets

support to point you in the right direction.

Ideas for Leadership Blog Posts People want to know and understand people, so blogs do
Ideas for Leadership Blog Posts
People want to know and understand people, so blogs do not necessarily have to be corporate
focussed. Some ideas for blog content are listed below.
A day in the life of………. (Corporate focus)
People may not be aware of what you do on a day to day basis, invariably this is dependent on your job, but you could write about an
interesting day in your role. Who did you meet? What conversations did you have and what was the objective/outcome of the meeting? (You
could include a photo of you outside the building or with the person you met if appropriate. Remember, blogs are not just about the written
word). Professional photography is not necessary. A selfie taken from your mobile phone to add to your post would be great. Are you unsure
about how to do this?) Ask your comms specialist.
Inspiration – a moment in time, something that inspired you
Was there a defining moment in your life that changed the way you think? Has this, in some way contributed to your
character development? As a leader people want to know what makes you tick.
Interests (beyond your leadership position)
Are there any hobbies and interests that you would like to share? Have you done any CSR for the organisation? Run any
marathons, or participated in any bake off’s recently for charity outside of your organisation? Are you an avid cyclist,
horse-rider, photographer or anything else in your spare time? Perhaps there is something that you enjoy doing that
other people may not know about and that you are wiling to share.
General thoughts about life
A contemplative moment can often make a good post.
Views on Leadership – What makes a good leader.
People are generally interested in leadership mentality and how leaders reach the top of their profession. Words of advice for future leaders
make for interesting posts.
Struggle - Do you have an inspirational story about any difficulties in your life that you have overcome?
Most people have inevitably overcome some obstacles and challenges in life. Feel free to share if you are comfortable doing so. People
connect with these stories and will admire a leader who opens up and shares something about themselves which people may not know.
Memories/ bygone days – corporate or otherwise
Looking back at how things were and comparing them to how things are now is always an interesting read. What were your views back then
and how have things changed? Are you a leader from an older generation? Did your career start in an office before computers were invented?
Your younger employees will find stories like this fascinating and even humorous.
Encouraging feedback and comments
You can always write your blog post around a question. E.g. ‘What do you think?‘ or ‘What were your experiences?’ You want to generate
conversation and sometimes a little prompting goes a long way.
Corporate Themes - Policies, campaigns and strategies in line with the business
If you want to stick to the tried and tested, you can always write something in line with current business needs, but be brave and push the
boundaries. Perhaps you could integrate something you want to share about yourself outside of your role in your blog post and combine this
with a corporate message if you can find any connections. If you have a regular blog spot, you may want to think about writing something in
line with whatever is relevant for your corporate planning schedule for one post and share something personal for.for another.
Most importantly have fun. Blogging is a great way to express yourself and
shouldn’t be a chore. Remember people are interested in what you have to
say, so think about what you want to write about and what will inspire and
motivate people in your organisation and be creative in the way you present
yourself.

Contact Jo@umarketing.world for further information