In my role of managing internal communications for more than 1,900 employees in three states, electronic communication tools have always been a critical tactic in our communication strategy. However, earlier this year, when COVID hit, electronic communication became more valuable than ever. Face-to-face and in-person communication became non-existent. Keeping employees engaged and appreciated in these challenging times is more important than ever – and more challenging than ever.
Below are some of my favorite electronic communication tools and some examples of how I’ve used them to support our internal communications efforts.
Visme – Pivoting From In-person to Virtual
I’ve used Visme for several years, as it is an excellent tool for creating infographics. However, it became an even greater resource when I had to convert an in-person event into a virtual experience. Our annual Heritage Festival allows employees to share elements of their heritage (family recipes, family heirlooms, etc.) with their co-workers. Since it could not be an in-person event, I decided to create it in a virtual environment. Using Visme, I developed a virtual heritage “house” containing rooms featuring our employees. For example, employees who submitted a family recipe were in the kitchen. Employees who shared musical memories were situated in the music room. Employees can make their way through the house, via several navigation options, to learn more about their co-workers. To encourage engagement with the tool, I also created a scavenger hunt using an application called 4Screens (see more information below about this fun program).
Click here to view an example of the Heritage house. (Note, this is an edited version of the actual Heritage house, which is much more robust with real employee names and information).
Cost: Free – custom pricing. I recommend the Business level, which runs $29/per user/per month
Canva – Engaging Visuals
Over the last nine months, our intranet engagement stats have significantly increased. More and more online content is being generated since in-person communication is limited. More content means that there is a lot more “noise” in the virtual atmosphere. Visual elements can help content stand out and catch your audience’s attention. Canva is an excellent tool for creating various visual elements, offering a library of templates, photos and graphic elements. You can even build a brand kit. Your designs can be downloaded in a multitude of file formats. In the past, I spent a fair amount of money on iStock imagery. Since Canva offers such a robust library to choose from, I’ve significantly decreased my iStock spend. It also features editing tools such as background remover, filters, and image animation.
Cost: Free – Enterprise level ($30/month per person). I recommend the Pro level at $12.95 per month.
Group Greetings – Celebrating in the Virtual World
In addition to adjusting to the COVID work environment, our employees have also dealt with multiple hurricanes this year. We wanted to thank them for their hard work – but having executive leaders and employees spread across several states, we needed to find a virtual solution. Group Greetings is an electronic greeting card that allows the creator to invite individuals to electronically sign the card with their own special message. Once completed, the card is emailed to the recipient and can also be shared across other platforms. You can create your card from a library of templates within Group Greetings or upload your own card cover (I typically create a custom card cover in Canva.) Not only is it reasonably priced, but it also supports our company’s conservation effort by eliminating the use of paper.
Fun Fact: We are now using a Group Greeting card to welcome new FPRA members!
Cost: $4.99 per card, packages are available, reducing the per card price.
WeVideo – Sharing Stories
We often use video to communicate information, tell stories and educate our employees. Video has also helped support our in-person to virtual transitions, providing on-screen elements beyond “talking heads” and text-heavy PowerPoints. WeVideo is an easy to use video creator/editing program that even the most novice video creators can use. It features a library of video elements, photos, graphics, music and transitions. You can upload your own videos and visual elements, editing clips within the program.
Price: $4.99 per month – $29.00 per month, based on the subscription level you choose.
4Screens – Make It Engaging and Fun!
If you are looking for a way to test your reader’s knowledge or content awareness, this quiz platform is a great resource. We use it for content scavenger hunts, strategically driving employees to specific pieces of content or information. Create a visually appealing quiz, form or survey that looks great no matter the viewing device.
Pricing: Free – $175/per month, based on the subscription level you choose.
If possible, I recommend trying a tool before you purchase a subscription. Most provide a free trial or free subscription level. Of course, free usually means fewer “bells and whistles” than the paid version. Still, it will allow you to see if you are comfortable with the interface and if it serves your communication needs. Once you find a tool that you like, consider investing in a subscription level that provides creative options and robust metrics. You need the ability to create engaging and effective content – and you won’t know if you are successful unless you can measure success.
Devon Chestnut is the communications manager for Cox Communications, the largest private telecom company in America, providing advanced digital video, internet, telephone and home security and automation services to six million homes and businesses across 18 states. Devon’s role includes managing Cox’s Southeast Region internal communications for 1,900 employees based in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. She also plays a pivotal role in several national company projects and initiatives. In addition, she supports the region’s community outreach efforts for Cox’s Ocala/Marion County market.
Devon serves on several Ocala/Marion County boards such as PACE Center for Girls, Leadership Ocala/Marion and Leadership Ocala/Marion Youth. In August 2019, she was installed as President-Elect of the Florida Public Relations Association, one of the oldest and most prestigious public relations association. She is a graduate of Leadership Ocala/Marion Class 22 and Leadership Gainesville Class 37.
A native of Ocala, Florida, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications and earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2012 and Certified Public Relations Counselor (CPRC) credential in 2016.