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The printed employee magazine: Is there still a need for one? And if yes, why and how…

8th May 2015

 
For many years we’ve been responsible for the design and production of a regular printed employee publication for one of the world’s largest organisations (you can view a case study
here).
 
Like all long standing effective communication channels over time it has developed, and we’ve played a big part in the magazines successful evolution.
 
In this post we take a look at the challenges the printed employee magazine has faced, how it adapted in the face of adversity, and our recommendations for the continued success of your printed employee magazine.
 
 
 

Over recent times many organisations have challenged the need for a printed employee magazine.

In the past, employee magazines were used to share company news and information. But now with the immediacy offered by newer digital and social technologies (ie social intranets), it simply doesn’t make sense for printed employee magazines to be used as a channel to disseminate company news.
 
The employee magazine we work on is a quarterly publication – Think how out of date the majority of the company news would be by the time the magazine was in the hands of the employees. Collecting the news, crafting the story, getting sign off, designing the spread within which the news will sit, print the magazine, distribute the magazine…
 
In light of the alternative digital channels, organisations soon acknowledged that the internal magazine was an ineffective channel for the supply of company news. This led to many organisations doing away with them altogether, or at best replacing them with a digital version. However;
 

The very best companies quickly realised that the printed employee magazine should not be competing with their digital counterparts, but instead working with them in a supplementary role.

 
 

 

What role should the internal magazine now be playing?

Obviously, like all internal communications, the role of the employee magazine is to build employee engagement. It’s a great channel to use to showcase and highlight company culture, values, vision and leadership. And this can be achieved in such ways as:
 
 
 
– Employees want to know more than just the name and title of senior leaders – they want to appreciate them on a human level, and feel a bit closer to them. Employee magazines should run features that allow employees to feel a stronger connection with those in leadership.
 
 
– Employees need to see the company values and culture in action in order to truly believe in them. This is best done through shining a spotlight on employees – showing real world examples of employees using the values that the organisation encourages.
 
 
– The magazine should also demonstrate the role individual employees are playing in helping the company achieve it’s vision. This will help give employees a real sense of purpose and a belonging to and, understanding of the bigger picture.
 
 
– By focussing on individual roles, it will also help employees understand the many different jobs and functions within the business and how each work together to achieve overall business success. Employees may work and liaise regularly with people from other departments but often can have no idea on what really goes on in them; in terms of the departmental structure, ways of working and the people involved. Providing a window into other areas of an organisation again enhances the feeling of belonging to something bigger, creating the feeling of being part of a team.
 
 
– Finally, there is a danger in believing that all employees are connected digitally to an organisation and that they consume content through a range of devices. Although companies are on this path of connectedness, there will always be a number of non-desk workers who are not as well connected to the organisation, as they should be. Whether that’s because they don’t sit in front of a computer, don’t have the appropriate corporate network access, or are just simply not active digital and social media users – these workers still need to feel part of the organisation so that they are engaged and perform well. And so a printed employee magazine remains an effective channel to use in order to communicate with them.
 
 
It’s an obvious point to make, but remember it is an ‘EMPLOYEE MAGAZINE’, so at all times the magazine should be offering value to the reader, and that reader is the EMPLOYEE.
 
 
 

Recommendations to ensure future success of your internal magazine

 
We’re not just saying this because we are one (promise), but organisations should really look to engage an external agency for help with their employee magazine. And there are three main reasons for this.
 

1. Design experience

We’re huge believers in that the printed employee magazine is all about the experience. It is a break from the digital world. Content can be consumed almost immediately – It just requires the opening of a page rather than the opening of a number of digital technologies. Print is now more so than ever about the physical experience, so if print communications are to be done, then they must be done brilliantly.
 
An employee magazine we were brought in to work on was dated, packed full of content and in general not a very pleasurable reading experience (It wasn’t done brilliantly).
 
We increased the format to an oversized A4, which provided more breathing space for the content. A unique, modern and fresh graphic language was introduced along with more dynamic layouts. Finally, we switched to 100% recycled uncoated paper stock to both raise quality and for environmental reasons (It was now done brilliantly).
 
It led to amazing feedback and an increase in subscriber numbers – Proving that strong design is vital for success.
 
 

2. No corporate jargon

Agencies are also well placed to be able to translate the content from ‘business talk’ to ‘employee talk’. The employee magazine needs to have a distinct voice from other forms of corporate communications. Jargon free. Propaganda free. Natural. It should inspire readers and have a consumer-like feel to it.
 
 

3. Management of the magazine

In simple terms, the production of an employee magazine requires substantial commitment, and it is a commitment that is best handled independently by an external agency. A dedicated agency will not be influenced by internal teams or departments, and they will not prioritise other business activities to the detriment of the magazine. It can be far more efficiently managed by an external supplier.
 
 
We mentioned earlier on how the employee magazine needs to integrate with other internal communications channels. It should spark conversations that can be continued on social intranets, or in face-to-face meetings. And so to do this opinion pieces, thought leadership articles, interviews and employee stories are great for stimulating further conversation.
 
Finally, as we’ve already alluded to, make employees feel like they actually own the magazine. Involve them in the magazine, ask for contributions/stories – user generated content is very engaging!
 
After having read the employee magazine, employees should feel proud and inspired to be working at the organisation. And a large part in achieving this is to ensure the corporate magazine does not feel like any of the other corporate publications within the organisation. It must feel like a publication you could find in the consumer world, and for this to happen design is key.
 
 

Conclusion

In summary we still think printed employee magazines have a key role to play for many a year to come, but clearly only if you recognise the on-going challenges and continually adapt to them. And of course do not view them as a standalone broadcast communication tool. The employee magazine needs to be a channel that motivates and inspires employees, acting as a conversation starter by providing content that employees possibly wouldn’t come across within their own digital networks.
 
 
Please do get in touch if you’d like further information on our work in the field of employee magazines or if you’d like help with your organisations employee magazine.
 
Until next time…
 
Rima
 
 

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