Employee magazines: two secrets to success

The fact that three out of the four employee magazines shortlisted in the 2015 Scottish Magazine Awards are published by Connect (and the fourth by an ex-employee of ours!) cements our pedigree in the field of internal communications. Magazines from our stable have won the category in three of the last four years.

Within corporate publishing, employee magazines have often been regarded as sitting in the ‘starter’ end of the market. A sleepy backwater of low resolution images of people handing over huge cheques to charity partners and men in grey suits telling staff how important they are and how they need to change the way they work.

The failure of most internal publications is they focus too heavily on one side or the other of these content extremes: bludgeoning people into feeling proud of being part of the ’employee community’; or pandering to the egos of executive and boring audiences with pious mission statements and strategic objectives.

A successful internal publication is a much more subtle product, and something which has an enduring reach and appeal in the digital age.

I believe our persistent success in publishing employee magazines regarded by our peers as best in class is down to two things – a consistent content philosophy and a newsstand quality production standard.

Our philosophy is simple. Content needs to support the corporate objectives of the organisation, but also be presented from a perspective that encourages empathy and engagement among employees. Breaking this down to its component elements, we plan content to follow a specific narrative thread:

Corporate Strategy > Business Policy > Local Action > Final impact.

By framing content in this way, it is most likely to address the needs and preferences of all stakeholders. Do not simply tell audiences what you’re trying to do, or even why you are trying to do it. Show them how their local actions to enact your objectives impact their working lives, and the experiences of partners, users and customers.

In terms of production, it seems a bit of a no-brainer that the standards and values adopted for external communications should be emulated for your internal audience. Copy, photography, design and paper stock should make your internal audience feel like coveted assets, not expensive liabilities. Give employees a publication they can enjoy, look forward to, be proud to appear in. The kudos of appearing in a top quality printed product is as strong as it has ever been.

The predicted death of printed employee publications has been premature. The clutter and clamour of digital correspondence has, if anything, galvanized the space that a printed publication can and should take in the internal communication arena.

The trick, as with all corporate communications, is to remember if you are going to do it, do it well. Failure to do your best poses the biggest threat to internal magazines, not the medium itself.