Ah, the internal communicators worst enemy: the approval process. In many organizations, the approval process can often prevent communicators from taking a bold step in the right direction with content employees are interested in.
Often, the approval process turns out to be group editing sessions where everyone under the sun takes a red pen to your content until it's not your content anymore.
Editing is the main goal of this process but as communicators have often experienced, that's not always the case. It's where fun, creative, read-worthy messaging goes to die. The approval process itself, is broken.
But it's not too late to change that and get approval for fun messaging.
Steve Crescenzo wrote an excellent and thorough blog post a whileback about the difficulties of being creative in internal comms with a strict approval process. His post has inspired most of what we wrote here, as his ideas are easily the most insightful on the issue of a messy approval process.
1. Reclaiming your work
Make email great again and make your writing yours again. Be mindful of how many hands are getting involved in the approval process and try to be more skeptical of the changes people are making.
After all, this is your work and you know the audience better than anyone. Communicators are professional writers and sculptors of messages for quick consumption. If there's a way to do this nicely, remind your editing committee that you know your audience and how to communicate with them like no one else can (you also have the metrics to back it up).
It's okay to make a little noise if you're trying to improve engagement and you are concerned about changes being made to your work, especially if it will impact the way employees understand important information.
2. Make a case for creativity
There's a reason why people would rather click on a catchy headline rather than 'company update'. Marketers are really onto something here, from clever writing to shareable ads to thorough market research and an added importance on data. Take the creative lessons from marketers but ignore the fluff -- employees know more than any other audience can. Let's make sure internal comms doesn't lag behind when it doesn't have to.
Think like a storyteller and apply that mindset to everything you do: from a Tweet, to a blog post, to an internal email. As a communicator, this is what you're better at than about anyone else in the company (unless on the off chance you happen to be internal communicator for a publishing house).
If you've taken a different direction on an internal newsletter and have played around with catchy headlines or a funny article, Steve makes a great point to let your editing team know in advance that you're doing something different so they know what to expect. It makes complete sense -- it's a straightforward heads-up for your editing team.
3. Establish roles and rules for the approval process
Taking control of your comms works best with a streamlined approval system. Communicators should be able to quickly disseminate important information without having to go through too many editing filters (ie. various levels of management).
Perhaps this is another article in and of itself, but it's a good reminder to revisit your own approval process to ensure everyone involved is being efficient and effective in their roles. It makes sense to have your fact checker -- you have to be certain the messages you are sending are factually correct, after all. But the tone of the writing is not to be messed with. That's the communicator's responsibility; that's your baby, your forté, your job. This is what your editors shouldn't touch.
Another way to turn the approval process to your advantage is to find a champion. One of our customers who has the data to prove how playful messaging actually works has an EVP in their corner that helps their messaging get approved. They are also there to offer guidance and provide the communications team with a level of protection if something should go wrong.
Ideas for fun internal messaging:
- Play it safe enough so that you're able to send these messages, while also having some fun. Take a note from marketers and follow trendy and 'now' topics such as Pokemon GO, the 2016 Election or Game of Thrones themed messages.
- Snackable and shareable content, again, similar to what you're seeing on popular sites like Mashable or other pages that hold our attention. Package your content in a more digestable way -- this can include GIFs (if your email client allows for it), infographics, or short videos.
- Short subject lines that tease content from an internal comms video featured in the email
- Look at the most commonly used words in internal email subject lines for inspiration for your own messaging.
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” -George Bernard Shaw