Whether you're responsible for a project, a department, a division, or a company, publishing an internal newsletter — by email, Web page, SharePoint, Facebook, whatever — can be an effective means of keeping stakeholders informed about what has happened, what is happening, what you believe will happen, and what you believe won't happen.
A newsletter can become the authoritative source of information about the effort. Although it can establish you as someone who truly understands the importance of stakeholder relations, there is a risk. You don't want to flood readers with information they consider irrelevant to their special interests.
Here are some tips for creating a newsletter that informs but does not overwhelm your stakeholders.
- Keeping people in the dark is expensive
- If you don't keep stakeholders informed, you're leaving space for them to make stuff up. Publishing what you do know is far more effective than letting others make up what they don't know.
- Make it a quick list of short items
- Limit the length of each item to the length of a tweet — about 140 characters. Most people don't want to read long dissertations.
- Make each item a headline, nothing more
- Full explanations are unnecessary. Each item can be little more than a teaser to let the reader know what the impact is. Use the "So What?" test to develop a headline. See "Deliver the Headline First," Point Lookout for May 3, 2006, for more.
- Include a link to a more detailed explanation
- Since some people do need more detail, you must provide it, but don't subject everyone to the full story. Write a more detailed explanation for your intranet site and link to it in the newsletter.
- Squelching rumors is perfectly acceptable
- Some people feel that denying rumors gives them wider circulation, but if you've heard the rumor, almost everyone else has, too, and thus wider circulation isn't really an issue. Squelch rumors, but be right about what you say. See "There Is No Rumor Mill," Point Lookout for March 26, 2003, for more.
- Get out in front of rumors
- If you'll Some people feel that denying
rumors gives them wider circulation,
but if you've heard the rumor,
almost everyone else has, toobe doing something that you expect will be controversial, why wait for rumors to form? If you get there first with real information, you're less likely to have to deal with rumors.
- Feature people and teams who contribute to success
- Short features describing the talents and contributions of key people are interesting to your stakeholders for the same reasons that features are interesting to news consumers in the media generally. Give the enterprise the information they need to gain a true appreciation of the efforts of the people you feature.
- Feature new people
- Use your newsletter to introduce people who are new to the effort. Tell your stakeholders about their background and about the contributions you anticipate.
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And when some information is withheld within an elite group, the team faces unique risks.
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Here's Part IV of our little collection of lie detection techniques.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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