Talking to employees’ families

Early in my career I got a job to launch the house magazine of a big company. Green as I was, the company paired me with a seasoned consultant until they and I were sure I would not drown. The house magazine does not exist now but some of the principles and practices associated with that magazine are relevant even today.

The company was very convinced that the magazine was for every employee and not just a company mouthpiece. Not for them, the photo of the smiling CEO on every page. In fact, the first time the CEO gave me a dressing down was when the magazine carried three of his photos in various settings in the same issue. On that very occasion, the rule was laid down: No photo of the CEO. If you must, not more than one per issue.

Every issue had to feature one home talent. That meant I had to first discover an employee or the family of an employee with some unusual talent or an interesting story. So I ended up visiting several unassuming homes to talk to the “talent” and to take some “candid” photos. I did not realise it then but there was (and is) no better investment than this engagement with an employee’s family to reap the return of enduring loyalty.

It would have been easier and cheaper to simply hand over the copy of the magazine to each employee. But the company insisted on spending a tidy sum in first class postage to ensure that every copy reached home.

The mailing list was scrutinised every quarter. Not a single address was added or dropped without a minor debate. The company demonstrated that they took the house magazine seriously; so did each and every employee, and every employee’s family.

Today, the printed internal magazine appears to be on the verge of extinction. Emails, blogs and twitter are in vogue. But do they take the company home?

I believe there is still room for the printed quarterly to co-exist with the electronic communication channels. It binds, it endures. And it is certainly not some bits of vapour.

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