Employee Communication

I was reviewing research papers recently and came across one on employee communication. I must admit some frustration on this subject since we have to revisit it all too often. Yet too few organizations seem to understand the keys to effective employee communication.

In this era of increasing technological and social media, all of which is at least one level removed from the actual employee, there is one certain pathway that research and experience have demonstrated year over year, decade over decade, is effective in reaching employees. We know how to create an organizational relationship with employees: through their direct supervisor.

Professor Bruce Berger of the University of Alabama presented an excellent paper on this topic in 2014 (although there are numerous research studies on this subject ranging back many years!).

I’m not going to regurgitate the paper here, he does a great job without my help! But I do want to summarize his key points. He observes there are three key elements to employee communication and relationship development:

First, the employee’s supervisor I(whatever the title) is the first place any employee goes for information about their organization or their position in that organization. We’ve known this for years, but seem to keep forgetting it. Implication: we need to arm our supervisors, managers, and leaders with the right communication toolkit to be effective.

Second, organizational leadership is critical to employee communication and relationship development. If we want employees working consistently toward achieving organizational visions and goals, tie them with effective communication with the top (notice I said with, not from). This communication must be two-way symmetrical, not one-way asymmetrical.

Finally, the organizational culture must be one of openness and dialogue. Employees must be encouraged, even empowered, to communicate vertically and laterally within the organization and cannot perceive communication as potentially resulting in punitive actions.

We also need to keep in mind that “behavior IS communication.” That means that how you act, what you do, how you behave is communication visible to all employees. They make judgments on you and the organization based on those behaviors. For example: If supervisor/leaders hide in their office all the time, employees will make certain judgments about them (and the organization) – mostly negative. If they are out and engaged with employees in honest, authentic interactions – again employees will make judgments about the supervisor/leader and the organization – often positive. Moreover, if what you do is different than what you say, what you say becomes irrelevant!

I’ve simplified this for the purpose of this blog post. But Prof. Berger’s paper does a great job of laying all this out in greater detail and providing the supporting background research. He also provides 48 key action points covering all three elements of effective employee communication in organizations.

I highly recommend his paper to all public relations professionals, and all organizational leaders. Find it at http://www.instituteforpr.org/read-lips-leaders-supervisors-culture-foundations-strategic-employee-communications/


New Theme — New Tasks

Today I relaunched this blog in the (relatively) new Twenty Eleven theme for WordPress blogs. It’s clean, very readable, and a little more graphic and attractive than my old theme. It also looks to be a little more flexible than my old theme. Chose my favorite photo of the Golden Gate Bridge because in our business, building bridges to people is what it’s all about.

I’ll continue to “tweek” it as time progresses. I also added a page on my books for anyone interested.

www.bizceos.comWorking on the Bizceos blog. I serve as editor for a group of very experienced bloggers all posting to the site. Our objective is providing small and mid-sized business owners and managers with public relations, management, marketing advertising information they can use to help advance their businesses. We also post articles on social media to keep readers as up to date as possible and to look forward to developing trends.

We publish 10-12 articles each week. One of today’s articles is on Google+ and its significant initial growth and potential for future growth and use as a marketing and public relations platform. The jury’s out, of course, but…

Visit the Bizceos site and let us know how we’re doing. Suggestions always welcome.

New Horizons

Open letter to Students of the School of Journalism at IUPUI:

It is with regret that I report to you that I will be leaving IUPUI at the end of July to pursue other opportunities.

After learning from School administrators that I would no longer be Coordinator of the Public Relations sequence nor direct the public relations graduate degree program, I was offered a solution to leave the university early and I have accepted that solution.

I am very proud of what has been accomplished over the past seven years, including the solid development of a professional undergraduate public relations sequence of courses, the establishment of a university-wide minor in advertising, and the development and very successful launch of a Master of Arts in Public Relations degree program.

But most significantly, I am so very proud of all of our School of Journalism students and graduates. You all make up the heart of the School of Journalism at IUPUI. Your successes over the past years are significant, and I expect you to continue to have a major impact on the professions of public relations and journalism as you progress in your careers.

I will always be available to all of you to help in any way I can in forwarding your student and/or professional careers. Connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook so we can keep in contact. Don’t ever hesitate to contact me if you need anything.

It has indeed been my pleasure to serve the students of IUPUI for the past seven years. They are among the most important years of my professional life. I thank all of you for those experiences.


Bob Dittmer

To Tweet nor Not to Tweet

A recent BusinessWired (Business Wire) poll of more than 270 PR professionals asked them their favorite social media tool. In a close finish, Twitter was the leader with 33 % of respondents reporting Twitter as their top social media channel. Facebook was a close second.

It’s a clear favorite over blogging. Why? The speculation is that Twitter takes significantly less time for an equivalent timely impact. Blogging takes a significant investment in time and intellectual effort.

If this speculation is true, then the implications are troubling. Twitter is, indeed, a useful tool in many ways. And it is easier and quicker for most of use to use. Yet its very brevity of 140 characters leads to simplicity of thought and ideas.

A better mix, I would think, is extensive use of Twitter to drive traffic to more thoughtful — but perhaps fewer — posts on a blog. Yes, that requires more work and more time. But the result is increased awareness and understanding.

Both Twitter and blogging have their places. They should be used as partner tools in an overall communication strategy of engagement with key publics.

Read their report at http://bit.ly/fcGl8I.

Let the Search Begin!

As we look forward to better weather this Spring — and after all this snow, do we ever! — it is also a time to look forward to the initial job search for many college graduates. As my previous post might suggest, the job market in PR seems to be opening up a bit. But, that doesn’t mean there’s a job for every graduate out there this Spring.

So, what will make the difference between those who do find that coveted job and those who continue to wait tables at O’Charleys? What makes the difference between success and more waiting?

After watching and advising and hiring for more than 30 years, I have some of the answers. I shared some of those with PR graduate students Saturday in a workshop on the Job Search. Here are some highlights:

  1. Treat the search like is was your actual job. It’s that serious and important.
  2. It’s essentially a PR campaign with you as the client and a job as the goal.
  3. Everything counts and must be done right. From business cards to an effective and compelling cover letter, from a powerful targeted resume and solid job interview skills, from solid research into people and companies to use of the new tools of the internet and social media, they all must be in the mix.
  4. Get into the 21st Century and actively use the social media tools that are available. Jobs are being posted on LinkedIn and Twitter. Are you there? Do you have a professional presence online?
  5. Network, network, network. This is the secret. Most will get their new job through who they know or get to know.

None of this is a big secret, yet year after year I see graduates who simply don’t do it all — and consequently fail. And, I see those who do a comprehensive and complete search succeed — even in a bad market.

If you are graduating this May (or August), start now. Build your campaign and execute it vigorously and with passion. And pay attention to the details. They all count. They all make a difference.

PR Firms Report Rebound

For those looking for jobs in 2011, there is some good news. The Council of Public Relations Firms just reported (Jan 19) that most firms reported significantly increased income for the final quarter of 2010 as compared to the same time in 2009.

Indeed, two-thirds reported double-digit revenue growth in 2010!

As a consequence, two-thirds of firms reported hiring more public relations professionals immediately and in the near term.

One of the specific growth areas, no surprise, is social media. Implications: absolutely necessary skill set. Not just how to, but why and when to.

Read the complete article at: http://bit.ly/hYOkyK

Pew Reports News Consumption Up

Well some good news finally on the media front. A new report from Pew Research finds that news consumption by Americans is back up to mid-1990’s levels. While the pattern is changing, the idea that Americans are getting more news is heartening. Of course, the devil is in the details. And the findings continue to suggest we will increasingly continue to consume news online and via mobile platforms.

Some details:

  • 34% say they “went online for news yesterday.”
  • 44% say the got news from more that one source either internet or mobile.
  • Print consumption continues to slowly erode, but television appears flat (good news?).


  • 75% of Americans report that they got news “yesterday” from one of the three traditional platforms — television, radio, print!

And while that is certainly good news, the key message in the data is that Americans are increasingly mixing their platforms to gain news and information. There is no dominant platform.

Implications for public relations? Easy. We have to be everywhere! Treat every outlet and every platform as if it was the most important. Because they all are important. Means we need to continue to focus on ALL media, not just the “new media.” Traditional platforms still have impact.

Take a look at the data: http://bit.ly/bAyjGH