Internal communications affect your bottom line. When used properly, they can make your job as manager easier and can directly affect employee morale.

There has been a huge pendulum shift in expected employee behavior over the last 30 years or so. I remember when my father, who worked for AT&T, asked me to type up a disciplinary report on one of his employees. (He had me do it to help ensure confidentiality; even his secretary would not see it.) The gist of the problem? The employee was 5 minutes late to work every morning. The young man took the local bus, and his choices were to arrive more than an hour early or 5 minutes late. Today, that disciplinary action would seem ludicrous.

We hear a lot about how employees are being used and abused in today’s economy. Fewer staff members are expected to do more with fewer resources, and there is no expectation of so much as a pat on the back, let alone a bonus. Some employers are going so far as to promote non-exempt workers into “administrative exempt” positions just so they don’t have to pay them overtime. There are those who would argue that this is exactly the reason we have labor unions. Personally, I keep waiting to hear that the courts have gotten involved; someone is bound to sue.

On the other hand, I’ve seen employees who get away with murder. Because I do consulting work, helping companies set up marketing plans/strategies/campaigns, I often find myself in their offices, where I work with their designated staff to get things under way. I have been amazed at how many smaller businesses employ people who really don’t do much work.

They come in late; they leave early. They take half hour breaks. They nap in their cars during their lunch hour and return half awake to wolf down their lunch while reading e-mails or doing something similar that leaves their hands relatively free to stuff their faces. They’re chronically ill. They take the mantra, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” to the extreme. They spend a couple of hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, or Match.com. If they don’t have their cell phones to their ears, they’re checking messages or are busy texting. And when all other distractions fail, they stand around and whine about their jobs. Just how much are their companies losing?

Managing staff is a difficult task on any number of levels. In my experience, the most common reason it is not done well has more to do with time than ability. Management oversight is not in itself deadline driven, so it gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do in any given day. Depending on the circumstances, eventually it gets addressed only when the situation becomes one of crisis management.

Marketing communication is more than just product promotion and branding. It includes internal communication as well. Taking the time to formally define proper employee behavior by having it in writing, along with the steps that lead to disciplinary action, are a company’s best defense against laziness, incompetence, lawsuits, and fraudulent claims of unemployment. In smaller businesses, employee handbooks often do not exist, or, if they do, they’re so out of date that they would be of very little use in court.

And internal communication can be about more than employee behavior. Internal memos or more formal newsletters can keep employees informed of the company’s well-being. I worked for a company that posted its sales figures daily. Knowing why our perks were being eliminated and why resources were being reduced and why tasks that had been sent out-of-house were now being assigned internally made the situation a lot more bearable. (As far as I know, no employee ever contacted the competition with our sales numbers.) Good internal communication can help maintain trust, a key ingredient in employee loyalty and morale.

It can be argued that, in this economy, internal communication is more important than ever, because employee attitude and behavior directly affect the bottom line. Failing to take advantage of something over which you might actually have some control is just throwing money down the drain.

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Does poor writing cause you to lose sales? You bet it does!

There are those people who see a misspelled word and think nothing of it, and there are those who groan in despair. Although I’m a terrible speller (the only English major REQUIRED to carry a dictionary to every class, a confession which, I know, ages me), I have to admit that I’m of the latter school. And it isn’t just misspellings; words that are used incorrectly, words that are accidentally left out, and poor syntax (word order) evoke the same emotion. Call me a snob, but anyone who can’t master the basics of the English language and/or copy editing loses a lot of credibility with me. They say to me that the writer is, at best, very busy (and might not be able to give my business the attention it deserves) or, at worst, is poorly educated (which is just not a good bang for my buck).

Yesterday I ran across all three of these errors. One of my favorite blogs had a post where the intended word was “enunciate” (to speak clearly), but the word used was “annunciate” (to announce). That evening I went to a meeting where the presenter spoke about using podcasting for business. He ended with a summary in bullet form. The last bulleted item used the word “leads,” but it was spelled “leeds.” Yesterday afternoon I began to read through some materials that had been passed out at a seminar that I had recently attended. The first sentence of the introduction read, “This book is primarily written for people who don’t work in the field Internet or on-line marketing and sales efforts.” Huh? (In this last case, maybe I was just irritated because the promotion for the seminar had seemed to indicate it would be something other than a basic introduction to Internet sales and marketing, but it wasn’t. I didn’t learn anything new. Sigh…)

I realize that we all make mistakes and, in the case of the blog, its writer seldom makes them. But in the other two cases, I thought to myself, “I will never work with these folks as they will surely make my company look stupid, and I will never purchase products or services from them because I don’t trust them not to be stupid.”

I know there are those who would disagree with me. With the advent of text messaging, the emphasis on using alternatives to proper spelling for the sake of brevity (e.g., “4” in place of “for,” or “u” in place of “you”) is understandable. And I know there are lots of brilliant people out there who just can’t spell. Just look at me. (Ahem!) But outside of texting and Twitter, there are no excuses. Having basic writing skills is the same as having basic math skills. You are expected to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers. Heck, you’re even expected to be able to figure percentages and to know that an amount of money written as $.05 is the same as 5 cents. The assumption is that every kid who graduates from high school has these skills at a minimum. And no one wants to work with a businessperson who shouldn’t have graduated from high school.

My point? If you’re writing your own material, make sure it is grammatically correct, it has all the words spelled right, and it reads well. Write the piece and let it sit for awhile; then read it again. Don’t just rely on a quick computer spell check to highlight everything that needs to be fixed. If possible, have someone else proof it for you. If, on the other hand, you are farming out the work, make sure your freelancer writes well before you hire him or her.

Otherwise, you’re going to lose customers like me.

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Geotagging: Gowalla Has Its Game On!

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Drink Up! Being Mayor Depends on It!

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News Articles: Don’t Forget Your Audience(s)

When putting out information, be sure to think about all your audiences. The other day I was complaining about how surprisingly difficult it can be for journalists to get basic information on companies from their web sites and, sometimes, find the facts associated with a story, as often those facts are scattered over several blogs. […]

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Web 3.0: Will It Help or Hurt the Little Guy?

Will Web 3.0 technology help or hurt the smaller business? The jury is still out. The latest phrase to be bandied about is “Web 3.0.” And that’s just as we were becoming familiar with its predecessors. Web 1.0, of course, meant having a web presence. You built a “brochure” web site, something that let people […]

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10 Ways to Get Buzz For Your Product Launch

If you want to create buzz for your new product, create an event around it. I once worked for a company that launched each product whenever it was ready for production release. There was no official time table; we did it when the product met every requirement of the MRD and Quality Control passed it. […]

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Mozilla Labs Lets Tab Candy Out of the Bag

Mozilla Labs is experimenting with the next generation of browser support – custom tab grouping. And, boy, is it cool! I’ve recently run across a new term: “infoguilt.” I think “infoglut” would be more descriptive, but in any case, it refers largely to sites you leave open in your browser because you think you want […]

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Writing Good Ad Copy Means Exercising the Language

Advertising: Tricks to writing good ad copy. Remember all those times your teacher told you to write in full sentences? All the times you needed a subject and a verb at the very least? All the times you were told not to use slang or idiomatic expressions? All the times you were told how important […]

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Bite Your Tongue!

Reporters are not your enemy, but they’re not your friend, either. Their job is to make news, not tell your story. Years ago I worked for InterNorth, a large energy concern headquartered in the Midwest. (It later merged with Houston Natural Gas to become Enron.) Actually, I worked in a number of subsidiaries in my […]

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