Employee publications get online boost

Employee-targeted internal magazines and newsletters are undergoing some of the biggest under-the-radar changes of anything in the media.

Employee-targeted internal magazines and newsletters are undergoing some of the biggest under-the-radar changes of anything in the media.

Thanks to the arrival of new technologies, the monthly company newsletter or quarterly magazine is now more often found online than in print. And the content, in many cases, has expanded beyond pictures of the company picnic and general messages from the CEO.

"We produce a twice-weekly HTML e-newsletter and our focus is on the bottom line," says Mark Dolgonos, senior communications coordinator for the New York law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who is pushing the use of his company's employee outlet more as a strategic business tool. "The format lets us use all media, including video of new partners, photos and audio clips - and when one of our partners is interviewed on, say, Bloomberg News, we can provide that as an MP3 file."

Other producers of company magazines say there's still a role for these outlets to build morale within an organization.

"We try for a 50-50 mix between company and staff news, and news that was the result of employee feedback," says Elisher Ferrell, senior manager of internal communications at AutoTrader.com.

While the content is also available online, Ferrell says AutoTrader's employee magazine is mailed to every worker's home. That step, he says, helps with staff retention.

Jeff Rubin, a Bay Area-based provider of outsourced employee publications, says it's important to keep in mind what the audience wants. "Employees want as much employee news as they can get," he says. "It helps people connect."

Barry Wegener, senior director of communications for Carlson Marketing, suggests that part of that bonding process means turning over the content of these outlets to workers, treating far-flung employees as stringers and using an editor to polish up the writing.

But while employee magazines remain great internal communications tools, Wegener stresses they should never be used to delve into company struggles. "For difficult news such as layoffs," he notes, "we'll e-mail a video message from our CEO to all the workers."

Diana Pohly, president of Boston-based custom publisher The Pohly Company, which produces employee magazines for companies such as Continental Airlines and General Motors, says while there is lot of cost-cutting going on at many companies, PR pros should ensure that their clients and their own company devote ample resources for both editorial and design of employee titles.

"To do anything less is a poor reflection on how the company values the employees," she says.

Pitching... employee publications

You can do a lot online, but employee magazines are often as much for the families as they are for the workers, so do try to send a print copy home

Spend on your own product. A poorly written or designed employee publication simply sends the wrong internal message; so if you're doing it, do it right

Keep your audience in mind. Just like any other media product, employee outlets have to be interesting and informative or they won't get read, so make sure the writing quality is there and include content for all your workers

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