You’re swamped. We understand.
Communicators are too busy with the day-to-day essentials to cover everything of interest that’s going on at their
The good news is that
employees engage better with content produced by their colleagues, anyway.
These dual realities have merged to create one of the liveliest trends in contemporary
communication: employee-generated content. What once might have seemed a
gimmick has transformed into a must-do for communicators who manage
the internal messaging for organizations, both large and small.
Studies have shown that
engaged employees perform better. One way to get them more involved is
encouraging them to
produce content, says Cathy Lucas, chief communications
Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“If we don’t effectively engage our employees and ensure that they’re in the know and that
storytellers and that they feel engaged,” Lucas says, “they’re not going to
be good brand champions
are some tips for gathering purposeful content from your staff.
[Free download: 10 ways to engage employees through smarter communication]
Repurpose departmental news for internal platforms.
For a time, MSU Denver
had no formal email
policy. Employees from various departments used to fire off emails about an event on
campus or announcing something like they were getting rid of some office furniture,
As a part of launching
a new brand journalism platform, the university also created an internal site called Early Bird—playing off its mascot,
Rowdy the Roadrunner. The university has focused on stories that heavily
engage its 2,200
employees, whether they’re classified as staff, faculty or administrators.
Communicators now ask individual departments to send snippets from their
newsletters to the central office, which
redistributes them in
Early Bird. This could range from an event at the geography department to
a pre-game happy hour hosted by the athletic department.
Lucas says, “We said, ‘Send them to us, and we’ll ensure that you have a
platform.’ … We’ve been able to tap into those and develop
Use employee profiles
SAS uses 10-question Q&A article
templates for features
on its staff. In the “On
the Job” feature, participants fill out a digital form to write their
title, relate what they do and describe interesting aspects of their work.
Other templates tout people who take part in athletic events, such
as an iron man
competition. There’s also one for performers who sing opera, appear in a stage production or
play in a band.
They allow communicators to reveal interesting news about employees without
consuming the time of staff writers. The features are “very
popular, because people know that this is
the fun stuff,” says Becky Graebe, director of communications.
Celebrate holidays and events with photo galleries.
SAS often creates photo galleries around holidays and events that its
employees host or attend, Graebe says. For example, if one of your experts
speak an industry conference, encourage them to upload behind-the-scenes
Cheryl Sansonetti, marketing director of Merkle Inc., adds, “Maybe there’s a
Merkle person onstage,
and so one of the colleagues who’s in the audience can
capture a clip of them and upload it.”
Let people know you want Halloween photos or
pictures from the community cleanup day or summer softball game.
SAS creates photo galleries so that people can upload images
from events such as Veterans Day. The company also asks staff to post a
picture of a parent, child or relative they’re proud of.
It’s an easy win for the communication team.
“This is one way to get a few more stories out,” Graebe says.
Feature remote offices.
Photos don’t have to be event-oriented. For companies with a far-flung employee base, photo
galleries can create a feeling of unity.
“It might be a beautiful sunset against the building, or it might be, ‘ Here’s our new break
room in the Hong Kong office,’” Graebe says.
“It allows us to see all the different corners of the
world where SAS is working.”
addition to event- and geography-based submission themes, SAS hosts photo
and video contests that let staffers show off their skills,
Graebe says. They upload photos to the intranet, and employees
vote on their favorites, awarding each entry one to five stars. Winners
receive framed copies of their submissions, and their contributions appear
on the intranet and
“It’s fun for them to show off what they do
for a hobby,” Graebe says.
The content also provides SAS with tons of free, high-quality images to use in its marketing
efforts, which is a money-saver.
Several current or recent categories include people; animals,
critters and pets; nature landscapes; nature close-ups; hobbies and sports;
and architecture and statuary. They draw hundreds of submissions.
Experts in your company know their
respective fields well
but are also probably watching for new developments. Why not harness that
content? Merkle encourages employees to post articles, blog posts and other
content internally, and then share them externally as well, Sansonetti says.
The company awards
points to top contributors, who then can exchange them for gift cards
quarterly. At the end of the year, they celebrate the biggest
contributors—those who drive the most clicks
and those considered “rising stars” for stepping up their contributions to
a noteworthy degree.
“It’s building employees’ personal brand,” Sansonetti says. “Whenever you
publish something to your social handle, you are hopefully publishing
something you believe is true. And so you’re putting a voice and an opinion
out there. We find that clients are checking our account manager handles;
they’re looking at who’s working on their team and what those people have to say.”
Create a ‘board
Well, The SAS Board Game
isn’t really a tabletop pastime like Parcheesi or Monopoly, but rather a
play on words. It’s a way of highlighting employee involvement in community
organizations. Realizing that many of its staffers were volunteers on the
boards of service groups, SAS created a blog-post feature that allows people to tout their
Employees are tapped to write a paragraph about the organization they
serve, what their role is, and why the activity is important to them. Their
work isn’t published, however, until they nominate another employee to be featured
This keeps new nominees coming in, and it’s a way of
content that employees love to read.
“We feel that everyone who serves on a board or is involved in a community
organization brings something they’ve learned through that experience back
to SAS,” Graebe says, “and our culture is better because of their
This article is in partnership with