strategy

How Two of Your Company's Web Pages Could Be Hurting Your Business [and What You Can Do About It]

How Two of Your Company's Web Pages Could Be Hurting Your Business [and What You Can Do About It]

Why are the JOB page and the ABOUT US page so frequently lackluster on business websites?

For most, it's probably a practical reason. Once that content is developed, there's generally little reason to revisit it. It falls into that perilous category of important but not urgent, and there it languishes—missing untold opportunities to persuade, compel, and sell.

More Than a Mission Statement: How a Mantra Can Build Your Brand and Culture

More Than a Mission Statement: How a Mantra Can Build Your Brand and Culture

Words and images are powerful tools for building a company’s culture. And yet they are too often underused in business.

While mission and values are at the center of an organization’s culture-building language, a mantra can flesh those out. If, for example, excellence is one of your values, a mantra can focus attention on how excellence occurs.

Why Video is a Must-have Tool For Executives [And how you can get over your fear of being on camera]

Why Video is a Must-have Tool For Executives [And how you can get over your fear of being on camera]

Most leaders are hesitant to appear on camera—it’s normal. But a good video team can change that, making it possible for you to use this vital tool in ways you never thought possible.

Here's what a good video communication team can do for you:

8 Unexpected Ways Businesses are Experiencing the Power of Video Storytelling

8 Unexpected Ways Businesses are Experiencing the Power of Video Storytelling

We know that stories are what move the human heart. This has been true since the dawn of time, and is true for individuals as well as businesses. As humans, we are especially drawn to stories that feel true, authentic, and well-told. And when delivered with the power of music, motion, and imagery via video, a story’s impact is multiplied.

10 Ways to Create a Winning Annual Report [and How to Know What Your Reader Craves]

10 Ways to Create a Winning Annual Report [and How to Know What Your Reader Craves]

Your annual report may be your most important communication tool—and for good reason.

It offers an snapshot of company performance, shows how you are creating value for all of your stakeholders, and offers a glimpse into the passion and purpose that drives your organization.

Is Your Company's Online Presence Working?

Is Your Company's Online Presence Working?

For most businesses, it’s very likely that customers will interact with your company more online than in-person. It's also the case that nearly everyone searching online for your type of business won't get past the first page of Google results; and once they visit your website, they won't stick around if they can't immediately find what they are looking for.

14 Tips on Communicating with Employees During Layoffs, Mergers, or Other Times of Change

14 Tips on Communicating with Employees During Layoffs, Mergers, or Other Times of Change

Are you in the midst of layoffs? Budget-cuts? A merger or acquisition?

If you are downsizing, then you know the anxiety it produces among employees and the way it impacts morale, productivity, and customers. Communication during these times is a powerful tool that can help keep your employees engaged during difficult times. Here are 14 internal communication tips we’ve seen work during difficult times:

How Communication Can Build a Values-Driven Culture

How Communication Can Build a Values-Driven Culture

There’s no better way to bring your mission and values off your walls and into your halls than by showing your leaders and employees walking the talk.

And there’s no better communication tool than video to build a values-driven culture. Video can capture symbolic moments in which people bring values to life in authentic ways—and spread the role-modeling throughout the organization.

Custom Video Packages to Grow Your Business

Custom Video Packages to Grow Your Business

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Video is more likely to be viewed and remembered than all other media. It’s powerful, easy to share, mobile-friendly, and suitable for many different types of uses, from in-person events to social media.

We offer several video packages designed to grow your business and build your brand.

Brand-building

Build your brand internally and externally with the most effective tool available: video. This package can take many shapes—from showcasing your produce or service to a CEO message that unpacks the most powerful ideas behind your brand.

Mission, vision and values

Video is exploding as a tool for inspiring employees and customers with your company’s mission, vision or values. And for good reason: As Simon Sinek says, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Starting with the "why" is the best way to inspire both sales and employee engagement. This video package can feature your own employees, customers or donors talking about what your mission, vision and values mean to them—and brings your aspirations off the shelves and into the lives of real people.

Customer testimonials

Studies show that today’s consumer trusts his or her peers more than they do experts. So parlay this into making your business more successful by showcasing how you’re helping your customers. In this package, we capture a series of customers on-camera sharing their own experiences about why they love your company.

Microdocumentaries

Ads aren’t the only way to engage your customers. Stories that show—rather than tell—what you’re about, why your work matters, and how you’re helping others create a powerful connection with your viewers. This package is ideal for showcasing stories that reveal compelling truths about your business.

Promote a service or product

Opening a new business? Launching a new service? In this video package, we showcase your product or service in ways that compel viewers to buy from you.

Explainers

Need to explain a new service? Help customers get answers to common questions? Create content that establishes you as an online expert? Our explainer video package features whiteboards and similarly styled videos to make complex subjects simple and easy to follow. 

CMBell offers individual custom videos in a wide variety of price points and styles—as well as the packages listed here.

 

You can grow your business

 

8 Ways to Create Authentic Patient Video Stories

In today’s market, video marketing is an essential—and nothing works like a riveting patient story.
 
But not all patient video stories are created equally. Some feel flat, boring, too promotional or too predictable, while others depict a relatable experience and compel the viewer to feel connected to the organization.
 
Here are 8 ways to make sure your patient testimonial videos are getting watched and remembered.
 
1. Find a story that fits your strategy.
A story that doesn’t advance your brand is money wasted, so start by linking your story to a brand message. For example, if you want to position your organization as clinically superior, find a story of a difficult patient case that was solved successfully. Then, let the story reveal and let the viewer form his/her own conclusions.

2. Be authentic.
Viewers crave real stories—and are quick to spot things that have become too polished or corporate. Stay away from re-enactments and stock footage, tell the story as it actually happened, avoid overly promotional talk and most importantly, be sure to include the struggle.

3. Take time to truly understand the whole story before the interview.
Talk with the interviewee before the recording session so you can understand his or her story and think about how to draw it out during the on-camera interview. Ask for and review any articles, other videos, web content or press coverage that give you insights into the story. Then create your list of questions based on what you’ve learned.

4. Prep the interviewee.
Before the interview, let the subject know what to expect, like:

  • What the video is for.

  • Where it will be used.

  • Why you are interviewing them.

  • It’s normal to have multiple takes.

  • The interview will happen like a conversation, where we ask questions and you answer.

  • They shouldn’t plan to read or memorize anything beforehand.

  • What kinds of questions we’ll be asking.

  • Answer the question with a full sentence, and link to the question. So if we ask “What’s your favorite color?” You’ll reply “My favorite color is blue.”

On the day of the interview, give the subject time to get comfortable in front of the camera before diving in. Engage in some conversation that isn’t part of the interview to help release the tension. Set a tone of warmth and curiosity before you even begin the interview.

5. Build trust.
Telling someone’s story begins with trust—and that begins with attentive listening by an interviewer that is truly interested in the subject. Be awake to small insights or elements of the story that could be fleshed out with more questions, and don’t be afraid to dig deeper. The best elements of a story are rarely the first answers.

6. Hook your audience at the very beginning.
Begin your story with something that draws the viewer in within the first 30 seconds, so the viewer is compelled to stay with you—like this video.

7. Build a character.
Great stories aren’t driven by a chronological listing of events, but by developing a character. Humans have an insatiable appetite to look into the lives of other humans, so look for visual and verbal details that may not even be part of the story but reveal something about the person. Go beyond the story details themselves and ask what’s important to your interviewee, what his/her dreams and motivations are, and how this experience impacted him/her.

8. Capture b-roll and location shots that flesh out the story.
Shoot b-roll that supports the story line, and select the interview location with care. Whether it’s a professor in her classroom or a senior in the home they’ve always lived in, locations can help tell the story. Even if the viewers don’t realize the full impact of the location, your subject will and this could produce a better interview.
 
Wherever you shoot, make sure it’s quiet, has good lighting options, and is available before and after the shoot for set up and take down, as well as for the actual interview.

 

Trust of CEOs Has Never Been Lower: Here Are 9 Tips on Communicating to Build Trust

Trust is the currency of leadership. It’s what inspires others to follow, support, and engage in a leader’s vision.

But there is troubling news on this front: this precious asset is in steady decline, with only 37% of the general population saying that CEOs are credible, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, a global study with 33,000 respondents

This general mindset of distrust filters into the workforce of every organization—even into those with high trust factors. That’s why understanding how to use communication to build trust is such a timely skill to cultivate—and one that almost every leader can improve upon.

 
Only 37% of the general population says CEOs are credible

Only 37% of the general population says CEOs are credible

64% say they find leaked information more believable than press statements.

64% say they find leaked information more believable than press statements.

55% say a company’s social media page is more believable than advertising.

55% say a company’s social media page is more believable than advertising.

 

9 communication Strategies That Can Help a CEO Build Trust

1. Address your audience's biggest concerns.

Does your communication strategy include listening? Create ways to ask your employees what kinds of things they want to know more about—what questions they’d like answers to, what changes are causing them concern, what ideas they have for improvement, and what their biggest obstacles to success are. Then craft messages around these topics. When audiences see you’re engaged with them, they’ll be more engaged with you, which builds a trust relationship.


2. Deliver messages via peers—rather than leaders.

While employees need to hear from leaders, the trust study states that peers are now seen as credible as experts. This is a good time to initiate ways to have appropriate messages delivered by employees.

Consider the subject matter experts in your organization who can speak intimately about the day-to-day operations and topics your audience is most familiar with. Bringing the voices of in-house experts into the conversation can signal a unified workforce, so trusting the message doesn’t hinge on perceptions of any one messenger.


3. Communicate empathy, reassurance, and calm in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Emotions are contagious, and this is why leaders especially need to project calm, warmth, and hope in their communications. Employees pick up on fear in their leaders, and it can spread quickly through an organization.

Today's employee is dizzied by the speed of change, complexity of life and pervasiveness of communication—and as a result is often anxious. But rather than reacting to anxiousness, address the root causes in your communication. For example, a person’s worries about technology, immigration, centralization and globalization could all be tied back to a fundamental fear of job loss. Knowing the sources of these fears can help you craft messages that address the underlying issues.

Not all messages are innately reassuring, of course. But striking a calm, hopeful tone can help defuse unpleasant messages.

FEARS FURTHER ERODE BELIEF IN THE SYSTEM

Percent of respondents with each fear who also believe that the system is failing them —2017 Edelman Trust Barometer


4. Use truth to build trust.

It’s easy to avoid discussing harsh realities because of their unpleasantness, yet the short-term benefit of avoidance is outweighed by the long-term effect. Misinformation, incomplete information or withholding information eventually erodes trust—the most powerful human and organizational currency. As a leader, you influence truth-telling by modeling this behavior and rewarding it in your organization.

When delivering tough messages, couple them with a plan of action and the why behind the decision. Paint a picture of what’s possible if the plan is implemented, to give people a focal point.

Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.
— Isaac Newton

5. Monitor the optics: Do behaviors match words?

Is there a gap between what your organization says and what it does? Consider designating a coach outside of the C-suite or the company who can see things with a fresh perspective, and have them review significant actions against your mission, vision, and values to ensure parity.

Zappos understands the significance of building a culture that is cohesive with a company’s words and values. As their CEO, Tony Hsieh, says: “Our belief is that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are just two sides of the same coin. The brand is just a lagging indicator of the culture.”

 

The "Stairway to Culture" in the  Zappos  Headquarters

The "Stairway to Culture" in the Zappos Headquarters


6. Deploy and train your middle managers as communicators.

Middle managers are the culture torchbearers, the influencers, and the tone-setters because they have more contact with both employees and leaders. It’s no wonder that communication from direct managers is the most effective channel for reaching employees, according to a CEB survey of more than 1,000 employees.

Provide your managers with communication training and tools and unleash them to do the important work of leadership armed with better skills and information. One CMBell client did this well when they focused a year-long communication initiative on leaders and conducted a survey at the end to determine its effectiveness. They found that their most important ideas had taken hold with their leadership team—with 9 out of 10 of them saying they better understood the why behind their work, knew more about their key strategies, and had a better understanding of the value of working together. From there, the managers could confidently reach the front-line staff with key messages they were already well-versed in.


7. Speak from your heart.

The Edelman study says that spontaneity and outspokenness make speakers more believable. Using your own voice and speaking about things that you care about conveys authenticity and builds trust.

Appropriate self-revelation creates connections, too. When delivering bad news, expressing your own sadness about it conveys empathy, which builds trust.

In this video example, the CEO broke from her standard business updates and delivered a message of inspiration that was based on her own personal experience and passion, generating enthusiastic responses from her internal audience. These kinds of messages can be important tools for building culture.


8. Use video when you can’t be there in person.

Video is perceived as more authentic than other media, according to a Viostream study. Viewers perceive fewer filters in video than in text, where words can be interpreted and misconstrued. Video also delivers additional and important communication through body language and tone of voice that can’t be conveyed as accurately in text alone.

Video can also be a very useful tool for delivering messages where precise language is essential. We recently worked with a client involved in a merger in a heavily regulated field where words had to be chosen carefully. A video message from the CEO allowed the message to be delivered directly to the audience using the precise language required by law.

And finally, video has the added advantage of being more personal and is the next best thing to being there—which is often impossible in large companies with a geographically distributed workforce. In video, leaders can convey both information and emotion, which can build trust.


9. Avoid corporate-speak.

Are you globally extending goal-oriented potentialities? Scaling intuitive partnerships? Building collaborative and idea-sharing modalities?

Even for employees who may understand it, jargon can make your message boring, less believable and can make you less accessible as a leader. Instead use short, simple words that can be widely understood.

 

How and where your message is displayed is just as important as the message.

Click below to see our infographic showing the best digital channels for employee communication.

2017 Design Inspiration (8 Trending Examples)

What's up with design trends anyway?

Let’s start with novelty. It turns out, we're wired to seek out new experiences. A chemical reaction takes place in the brain when it encounters something new. The brain releases dopamine, which prompts us to seek more new experiences. Thus, novelty is not only pleasurable, but actually pushes us to learn and grow.

On the flip side, we also tend to follow trends for less sincere reasons. For some, the need to keep up with the "Joneses" (or at least appear to be keeping with the times) is paramount. And like it or not, we’re also motivated by the need to fit in and conform to the group.

So what does this mean for design trends? Are they making our brains grow, or just appeasing our pride? Probably both. Advances in technology, the predominance of mobile and a voracious appetite for content have pushed design to change and grow. And there are a couple of possible reactions. Ride the waves of trend, keep it traditional and solid, or innovate. At the end of the day, a designer who understands the needs of her client will get it right.


1. Material Design

Although not a trend itself, Material Design cannot be ignored in a discussion of design trends. Pioneered by Google as a visual language, Material Design uses graphics and motion to cue viewer responses.

The basic idea is that visuals and motion should have predictable behavior that is based on reality. Material Design employs deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography and intentional white space. It also plays heavily with grid, and employs "cards" to serve as entry points to larger groups of information. And where Google leads, everyone follows.


2. Semi Flat

Skeuomorphism: a digital object that demonstrates the attributes of it's real world counterpart. Drop shadows! Gradients! Textures! Everyone loved it.

Then everyone hated it. And designers reacted by introducing flat design. Flat design took the world by storm. No more shading or gradients or textures. It felt more...authentic.

Skip ahead. Flat Design became Flat 2.0, then Semi Flat. Don't get me wrong, it is still flat design, the goal is not to create illustrations that appear to be photographs. But for the sake of dimension and movement, a bit of light has been added back in, as well as subtle shadows. Even gradients are sneaking back in, along with subtle complexity (think pattern and print).

And yes, Google Material Design has the full set of "rules".


3. Bold Colors

Color trends are being affected primarily by two factors. The first is the move to mobile. We're interacting with technology in every environment now, and designs on those screens need to pop. This is leading to a rise in brighter, bolder colors. You probably wore it in the '80s and '90s. So look out for vibrant duotones and color transitions everywhere.

Secondly, we're all facing technology burnout. The more we surround and immerse ourselves in technology, the more we want to pull away. Pantone nailed it when they named the 2017 color of the year: Greenery.


4. Geometric Shapes, Patterns, and Lines

Oh the '80s. Squiggly lines, geometric patterns, and shape confetti. A resurgence of this trend started in 2016 and looks to continue.


5. Dramatic Typography

At this point, it should be no surprise that bold typography is also on the rise. In a realm that is increasingly saturated with graphic input, any small advantage is sought. Daring type treatments can be achieved through size, color, texture and arrangement. With small screens and even smaller attention spans, viewers have come to depend on bold fonts in high-contrast bold colors.

And while the strictly hand-lettered trend has probably peaked, we'll still be seeing traces of organic influence on type.


6. Custom illustration

Brands are no longer just looking to have their own fonts and colors, but their own illustrative style. And the less corporate, the better. We're seeing organic and hand-drawn custom illustration everywhere as companies try to make themselves appear fun and make their products more accessible.


7. Original Narrative Photos

As consumers encounter the constant barrage of new content, our desire for truth increases. And photos that appear candid, unfiltered, spontaneous and gritty feel more original and genuine. Anything viewed as stock has come to represent what is wrong with the corporate world.

The perception is that anyone with an iPhone can take a great shot. Viewers are looking for cues like simplicity, movement, flash to convey reality, raw emotion and the ordinary. So while professional photography will not be going away, we will seeing a more subtle use of post-production tools.


8. Integrated Motion

We'll be seeing motion everywhere: paralax scrolling, animation, looped video headers, cinemagraphs and a predominance of GIFs.

Whether subtle or complex, they not only capture interest, but quickly convey emotion. And they help tell stories.

17 Top Internal Communication Channels [Infographic]


Video outperforms all other media in getting viewed and remembered. 

People remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, but 70% of what they see and hear. So it's no surprise that video is the most powerful communication tool there is. Video can combine arresting visuals with sound and motion, making it more engaging to the human brain than any other form of communication.

Video is versatile for internal communication too, because it comes in all price points and many formats—from whiteboard explainers and motion graphics to interview-driven or cinematic stories. It ranks fourth among most-used digital channels, with 81% of companies surveyed reportedly using it for internal communication, according to Gatehouse. 

This is why video is becoming a central part of internal communication plans.

 



Curious what video marketing can do for you?

Read our Definitive Guide to Video Marketing and find all of our tips and tricks to help your business grow. 


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A microsite is a simple website that is highly focused and makes it easy for the viewer to find exactly what they came for. This is in contrast to a general company website that is designed to deliver many different messages and risks losing the viewer before they find what you want them to read.

We highly recommend microsites for targeted large-scale internal communication initiatives for several reasons: They are quick to produce, effective, highly focused, and provide great analytics. 

For example, a microsite would work well to explain a merger or acquisition by featuring the primary content on the landing page—and having links that unpack the message in more detail.


Blogs are a versatile internal communication channel and come from leaders as well as employees and departments. The challenges are to keep it real, to keep it in the voice of the leader (if ghostwritten), and to keep the content coming. Most blogs fizzle when writers begin to see the work involved.

Still, they offer an inexpensive and personal way to communicate with employees—and can target special interests ranging from IT changes to personnel issues. They're also a good way to create more personal connections with a leader.

Bill Marriott's blog Marriott on the Move is a good example of a blog that carries a definite personal imprint of its author. DocInTheD is a physician and the CEO of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. You likely have blogs you follow that can inspire you with possibilities as well.


Facebook, YouTube,  Instagram, and Twitter are among the highest-traffic social media channels and can be targeted by interest groups, departments, or topics. These interactive channels can be suited to sharing ideas and issues and for monitoring feedback from employees.

The downside, of course, is that social media cannot be controlled, which means it remains one of the most challenging channels for communicators to monitor and influence.


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Enterprise communication apps that are dedicated to employee communication are on the rise, and for good reason. They provide a customizable channel for delivering text, audio, and video content to employees throughout the company—allowing employees to communicate beyond email and phone calls. 

Apps vary by vendor but can allow preference settings and be used to deliver:

  • News

  • Executive updates

  • Videos

  • Recognition

  • Blogs

  • Access to mission-critical sites for employees

  • Notifications

  • Surveys

While willingness to download an app for internal communication is growing, the issue of using one's personal device for work remains a challenge.


According to Gatehouse's annual State of the Sector report, email is still the most frequently used channel for internal communication (96% use it).

It can be challenging, however, to reach those whose inboxes are full or who don't have desk jobs. Here are some tips on getting your internal communication emails read.

1. Start with the main point in a single sentence.
We’re sometimes tempted to start at the beginning to tell the whole story, thinking that a reader needs to understand what led to the point. In some cases, this requires too much work for the reader to get to the point, so they abandon ship. Start with a summary statement that gives them enough information if they go no further—or a reason to proceed.

2. Invest in writing a good subject line.
This not only helps someone decide if he or she should read it, but helps them find it later. Retrieval of emails later can be time-consuming and downright frustrating if the subject line isn’t clear. Examples:

  • New vacation policy starts Friday

  • Here's the annual president's address to employees

  • Announcing the addition of new partner

3. Make it easy to browse.

  • Use subheads to help the reader find the section pertinent to him or her.

  • Use bullets instead of paragraphs.

  • Underline, highlight, or change font colors on the key point (deadline, cost increase, action needed).

  • Make action items and next steps stand out visually (in the subject line, when appropriate).

  • If more detailed backstory is imperative, indicate where the reader can find it. Title it clearly and put it at the end, so only those who want it can find it.

4. Give your reader just-in-time information.
Many readers prefer to focus on just the next step, rather than the next 10 steps. Most don’t have time to save it and review it over a period of months as it becomes relevant.

See four more tips here.


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Podcasts are being used for internal communication because they fit nicely between text and video—giving employees content to listen to while engaged in other activities that don't require visual focus. Whether doing chores, or exercising, people increasingly crave content to enrich life's more mundane activities. 

A podcast:

  • Can be authentic and believable

  • Can feature voices of employees

  • Can personalize leaders

Podcasts are a versatile tool, but companies that use them will need to have an effective delivery channel (think apps and e-letters).


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E-letters are more sophisticated versions of emails that aren't used for daily interactions, but for important messages. And according to Gatehouse's internal communication State of the Sector report, 84% of companies surveyed report using it, making it third among most-used digital channels by employees. 

Because e-letters are developed using third-party services, they offer vastly better design options, great analytics, and mailing list management. Their ability to preserve the look of an email is higher than regular emails, making them much more engaging once they are opened. But like all email, they must compete with an increasingly full inbox. 

Here are the first three of 14 tips we offer for creating e-letter emails that employees will engage with:

  1. Use a third-party tool. It would be nearly impossible to create the essential features that these tools now offer, from sophisticated designs to insightful analytics, automated features that help you manage and grow your lists, and mobile optimization. We use Campaign Monitor, but there are others to choose from, as well.

  2. Use great design. A reader makes a split-second decision about whether to engage with your email based on how it looks. Good design will absolutely increase your readership.

  3. Curate content with care. Make sure that your distribution lists and topics are right for each other.

Want to learn more? You can find the rest of the tips here


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An intranet is a website that is only accessible to authorized viewers—usually your employees. Ninety-three percent of companies report using their intranet as a channel of communication, making it second only to emails, according to Gatehouse.

An intranet can be a solid framework for employee communication—allowing your teams to share content like news, blogs, forms, messages, team workspaces, directories, and training material.  

Although an intranet has the ability to reach your entire workforce, because the quality varies widely its effectiveness is highly impacted by the user interface, design, and content.


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Yes, your walls can talk! They are free communication channels that can reach employees and customers many times a day. Think of them as ideal places to communicate some of your most timeless messages—your mission, your history, your values. 

Walls are versatile and suitable for digital as well as traditional messages. If your main traffic areas aren't delivering your signature messages to your team, it's time to make use of these targeted channels.


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Portable displays are good for targeting specific messages that need to be shared in different locations. Celebrating a prestigious award? Reinforcing your new mission statement? Announcing a new service for employees? A display can make the rounds to departments and employee events to spread the word.


Screens dominate our workplace—and provide an affordable way to deliver messages, so it only makes sense to use them as an internal communication channel.

Whether it's repurposing videos or infographics on a wall monitor or showcasing your mission or values as screensavers, never underestimate the simple, hard-working nature of using your company's screens to deliver signature messages. 


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We don't need a study to tell us that in-person communication is the most effective channel.

But did you know that communication from direct managers is the most effective channel for reaching employees, according to a CEB survey of more than 1,000 employees?

Since so much of communication is conveyed in nonverbal cues, in-person message delivery provides more information to take in like eyes, body language and voice tone. And, we know that emotions are contagious—and much easier to deliver in person than in print.

Companies that are serious about internal communication should focus on training and resourcing their managers and leaders in communication.


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Forums and meetings are effective ways to deliver your ideas because of their ability to combine in-person communication with other effective channels. They offer the increased efficiency of one to many, maximizing the time of busy leaders. 

But like other channels, this one is only as good as the content. So here are some tips on making live meetings work better:

  • Coordinate messages: If you have multiple speakers, have someone review all of them with an eye toward the entire event—and edit out redundancy.

  • Focus: Leaders have a tendency to want to share a great deal of content, so create time limits and help them focus on unpacking their one big idea. Too much content can prevent hearers from remembering the most important ideas.

  • Variety: To work, events like this need to be created with a nod to theater and experience, engaging the senses with variety, taking breaks, involving the audience, and creating time for reflection and personal application.

  • Include video: This provides a welcome break to talking heads.


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Newsletters, magazines, and other print channels aren't dead, but complement your digital channels.

They:

  • Help reach non-desk employees

  • Are easily shared

  • Are good for the pick-up-since-it's-handy impulse

  • Can be repurposed digitally

Since they can be more costly than other channels and are harder to measure than many digital options, use them in situations where other channels aren't effective.


There are times when a simple letter from a manager is actually effective—like when the message itself is compelling and doesn't require a lot of visual support. Think things like a positive change in benefits or other things that have a high personal impact on employees. It can be easy to forget this lowly channel, but its affordability and suitability for certain kinds of communications should keep it on your list as an option for occasional use.

To make this effective, however, personalize the letter as much as you can. If it's truly from the president, it won't need much added visual treatment.


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Upon occasion, it will make sense to send something to your employees' homes. Whether it's a reminder postcard, a newsletter, an invitation, or a simple letter, employees have more time to read at home than they do at work. And, if it's a high-impact message, it won't hurt to have it available for other members of the family who might be interested.

5 Reasons Your Company Stories Aren’t Growing Your Business (and What You Can Do About It)

You already believe in the power of story. You’ve seen how it can sell, persuade, compel, inspire—even better than a well-crafted argument. But are your stories helping you build your business?
 
If not, here are some possible reasons—and tips on what you can do about it:

You aren't being strategic about what stories you tell

Maybe you have a great patient story, for example, but it’s for a service line that isn’t a current area of strategic focus. Or maybe you have a story for your employees that doesn’t reinforce your key strategies, vision, or values. Prudent use of marketing dollars requires a direct link between the stories you’re telling and your business goals.
 
Practical tips:

  1. To create stories that grow your business, create a table and list all your core messages and strategies—then beside each list a high-level story idea that directly links back to each. For example, if you want to convey your commitment to quality, look for an area in your organization where your quality is impressive.

  2. Use this list to scout stories and to identify specific customers, employees, or events that fit your story idea. Maybe it’s the journey of an internal team to improve a process, or a client story about how the quality initiative impacted them.

  3. Track progress on your table and do a year-end review to see what worked—and where you want to improve.

You don’t have a story scout

Before a story is told, it has to be found. Most companies don’t have a person devoted to this important excavational work—and, very often, people in the midst of a good story don’t even realize it is one. In health care, we see this all the time. This sacred interchange between patient and physician is just what the physician does. She does not see it as noteworthy. Someone with fresh eyes has to awaken this mindset in an organization, teach its teams how to recognize a good story, and provide a way to get it from the front lines to your storytellers.
 
Practical tips:

  1. Assign the task of “story scout” to one of your in-house marketing or communication professionals, and give them the goal of creating the plan (above) and reporting on its progress each month.

  2. Make a list of possible story ideas and share them with your front-line people, to help them think like a story scout.

  3. Make it easy to submit story ideas—and offer some small reward for ones that are published.

You aren’t using the right medium

Video is the most visually rich way to deliver a story. It takes the words from the page and brings them to life with motion, sound, and images—giving the viewer’s brain a rich experience. We know that the addition of motion alerts the human brain, and this is activated in video in ways that text and still images cannot compete with.
 
Takeaway:

  1. If budget is a concern, set aside some of your communication and marketing budget for video production—even if it means shifting resources from other good projects. Today’s consumer demands it.

  2. Shop for a video package rather than a single video. You can save thousands of dollars by shooting several videos over a day or two—rather than doing them one at a time. Videographers often require a half-day or even one-day minimum for a shoot, and by batching projects you can save money.

You don’t have an expert storyteller

A story can be inherently good, but tell it poorly, and it will not do the work of conveying the message you want. Storytelling is an art that requires experts who have devoted their careers to it, so finding the right talent to do this is imperative. Not all writers are storytellers. Not all video editors are storytellers. A storyteller can use different tools, but good ones understand the arc of an effective story and know how to deliver it in their medium.
 
Takeaway:

  1. Identify talent within or outside of your organization. The best way to judge this is to see their work—if the story keeps your interest and produces the desired emotional response, it’s been done by a storyteller you can trust.

  2. Engage them for one trial assignment, to see if their process and product works for you.

  3. Have them do a pre-shoot phone interview with the person they’ll be interviewing on-camera, to be sure the story is solid.

  4. Be clear on your goals, budget, and timeframe—before you start the job.

You aren’t getting the story to the right people

All too often, a video is produced and put up on your website—and it is left to chance whether the right people will see it. To get the most for your investment, look for ways to repurpose it. How many social media outlets can you use it on? Are there other areas of your website—like recruiting—that could use it? Are there events, staff meetings, or retreats for employees, board members, or customers where it could be shown? There are multiple tools and methods to help you with the digital promotion of a video, as well, so if you don’t have the expertise in-house to help with this, hire someone who does. It will pay off in increased traffic.
 
Takeaway:

  1. When your video story is done, don’t call the project done until you make and execute a plan to get it in front of the right people.

  2. Make a list of every social media channel you have that you could post your video on.

  3. Make a list of events where the video could be shown. Consider employee forums, departmental meetings, employee events, orientation, board meetings, and fund-raising events.

  4. Review your website to see if the video can be used on multiple pages. For example, a video about quality could be on a recruiting page, an "about us" page, a quality page, and a home page.

  5. Work with an expert—in-house or outside—who can help you create digital strategies to improve traffic to your videos.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Creating CMBell’s New Visual Brand

As we’ve been preparing for our 20th year, we’ve spent a great deal of time visioning and provisioning our company for the future. This has been exciting work, and you can see some of the results of this work here.

Communications has never been more important to businesses and organizations, and as we look at trends and needs among our clients, we’re convinced that our new mission statement precisely describes the space we’ll occupy: Creating signature communications that drive purpose and grow business.

As an outgrowth of that, we’ve updated our visual brand, and in this entry, we’ll take you behind the scenes on some of the work that led up to this.

Colors

Our final color palette is a nuanced mix of traditional and modern:

  • Navy and gold perfectly represent the classic and timeless attributes of our firm.

  • Orange adds a modern vibe—migrating from the deep burgundy of our previous logo into a more fiery, passionate version of red.

Font

Our art director selected several fonts that represented the right mix of modern and traditional. In the end, we selected Optima because it has the dignity, sophistication, and clarity we were looking for. The addition of the dots between the C. the M. and the B harken to our first logo and were added back to help those unfamiliar with our name to say it.

We chose Raleway as our body font because of its clean versatility. It also expresses our belief that simplicity must be a central part of any communication.

Tagline

Our signage and business package pair our tagline “Signature Communications” with the short version of our name, "CMBell"—dropping "Company” for the sake of keeping it as simple as possible.
 
Behind each of these was a great deal of research, exploration and internal discussion. Our entire team was involved in the process of reviewing, moving us closer to the final product with each of their insights.

Our Story

This is just one of the things happening as we celebrate year 20 of our journey. If you haven’t read our 20-year story or sauntered through 20 Things We've Learned from 20 Years of Business, we invite you to visit our blog and get some inspiration for your own journey.