Web 2.0 technology is great for spreading information fast throughout a company. But podcasts, video blogs, intranet, instant messaging, and wikis are only as good as the message they carry.
How well and how consistently does the company communicate its core values? In a crisis, such as a public scandal, could the company rely on any executive--or any street-level employee, for that matter--to tell the company's story accurately and well?
Here are 9 ways to get people at spreading the messages the company wants them to talk about:
Create the story. Great American companies have compelling stories that become folklore and fill workers with pride. Employees pass these well-crafted stories down through the ranks and incorporate their messages. Examples of great legacy builders include Sam Walton, Lee Iaccoca, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Ray Kroc.
Start from day one. Communicate the company's goals, objectives, mission, and values to every trainee--from mail room manager to vice president.
Reinforce the core principles. Repetition is the key to leveraging the grapevine. In newsletter contests, at company meetings, and whenever possible, get employees to restate and re-experience the company's values and principles.
Plant a positive message. Employees gossip; it's a fact of office life. But rather than letting rumors and complaints dominate the grapevine, plant a positive message--such as the newest green policy or a great product review--and watch it spread.
Rap sessions. Create staff blogs where people can air their ideas freely and informally. Leaders should contribute too to let everyone know they are listening.
Eat words. Regular breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with new mixes of people create an environment for camaraderie and sharing. The company pays the tab.
Plan some "windshield time." At McDonald's, windshield time was when executives toured the field with staff. Commit to hearing as many points of view as often as possible--and let them see leaders doing it.
Make it fun. Retreats and conferences are great places to communicate the company messages creatively, and to generate positive chatter among employees.
Say it without words. If managers want to show employees that hard work, innovative problem solving, and risk taking, for example, are attributes the company values, throw an awards ceremony. Often, showing is a more powerful way to shape company communications than telling.
Article by Paul Facella, CEO of Inside Management (www.insidemanagement.com), and author of Everything I Know about Business I Learned at McDonald's (November 2008, McGraw-Hill).