Audience segmentation in internal comms | S1 E13

First published: 1 September, 2020

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Series 1
Audience segmentation in internal comms | S1 E13

Audience Segmentation in Internal Communications

In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Prarthna Thakore about audience segmentation in internal communications.

Prarthna Thakore is an internal comms expert at an organisation called ISG, a dynamic construction company that employs 3,000 people working across 24 different countries, specialising in construction projects that include new build schools through to office fit-outs – a range of everything that encompasses the construction sector.

Future of the workplace

ISG are active in workplace creation. Their vision is to deliver places in which their people can thrive. In February 2020, ISG hosted a smart series event to explore this and issued a report based on it called ‘The power of place – how can your workplace become a lever of competitive advantage?’

Of the report, Prarthna says, “In essence, it is not about killing off the physical workspace, but leading to a transformation of our expectations of what the space will be used for in the future.

People want to be collaborative and productive in a sustainable environment – so buildings must be future-proofed to allow this. Consequently, making the workplace much more than a space in which to house your people is a big part of ISG’s business.

Challenges of communicating to a segmented audience

One of ISG’s biggest communication challenges is communicating with its remote, deskless workers, office-based employees, and on-site employees and contractors across several different languages. To better understand the need to take the siloed approach of a diverse and remote workforce and understand people’s communication preferences,  ISG’s internal comms team needed to get offline to speak to people in person, coming up with a “multichannel approach that shows content in various channels.” These include:

  • A mobile app
  • Digital manager briefing packs
  • Intranet (one for work and one to help understand the business better)
  • Traditional methods such as notice boards, posters, newsletters, etc.

Internal audience segmentation

Why so many channels? Prarthna explains it as follows:

Hitting people in various ways, so that we know that people (and this is an old stat so I imagine that the number is higher), that you have to hit people seven times before they start to engage in the message.

A person may walk by a poster on-site, get a notification on their mobile app, see it on the intranet, and have the message cascaded from their managers. This helps people to become engaged with the content and, by extension, the organisation.

Publishing content for a segmented audience

ISG now takes an ‘Oscar Approach’ to its internal and external content, producing messages in three formats for its segmented audience:

  • Skimmer – like reading the headlines the day after the Oscars to learn who has won an award
  • Swimmer – delving a little deeper, perhaps finding out who was best dressed at the ceremony
  • Deep diver – finding out everything about the films, actors, after-party, and so on

ISG now publishes content so there is always a ‘headline’ that is succinct, clear, and easily understood for people who need to get in and out of content as fast as possible. For its swimmers, they produce content that is a little more in-depth and in relevant language. Finally, for the deep divers, ISG produces very detailed content.

However, Prarthna highlights that people are fluid within these audience segmentations. One day a person may be a skimmer, another they may be a deep diver:

It’s really about making sure that your content speaks to all audiences,” Prarthna says, and finding ways to hook people in… (for example) we send out a push notification every Friday, with what we love this week. That has resonated really well… This gives people the opportunity to get a roundup of what’s been going on over the week, and helps them feel more connected to the business.

Educating communicators

Prarthna considers herself lucky that ISG has an amazing team that has fully adopted the Oscar Approach. What she found, though, was that breaking communications down in this way really works for stakeholders in the business.

Some people want to hear all the details, while others want to hear fantastic stories and see the results expressed graphically, perhaps with images of the finished site and quotes from satisfied customers. In other words, delivering content that is most important to the receiver – and then elevating it externally if needed.

Measuring engagement with content

ISG has seen a marked increase in engagement with its content. Metrics used to measure this include basic measurements like time-on-page and other results. For example, ISG was placed in the top 25 companies to work for in the UK by the Sunday Times – demonstration that ISG’s employees feel proud to work for the organisation, and want to be informed and share knowledge.

ISG are now considering reintroducing traditional, hard copy communications – in a throwback to its once quarterly ‘newspaper’ which highlighted all the great things the organisation and its people had been doing during the previous three months.

Prarthna understands that such a communication tends to have a minor reach, and so her challenge is to produce this type of content so that it has a wider audience reach – a hard copy publication that you can “take to a client meeting. You can send to a supply chain partner. That we can have at the front of the office when people are coming in for an interview. Or that you can send out if you are doing virtual interviews.

Such a piece of content would have multiple uses, and bridge the gap that is created by “everything is only online.

Communication lessons from the coronavirus pandemic

Prarthna says that her team has learned many lessons from the coronavirus lockdown. The need to be good rather than best is one of them.

The organisation loves producing videos, and prior to the lockdown these were filmed almost like major productions. Suddenly, not able to have a production team and mini film crew creating the video, the organisation needed to produce video content that wasn’t gold-plated.

The organisation’s tech team was able to roll out Microsoft Teams quickly, and CEO videos were self-filmed and edited and published within hours. Engagement has been fantastic, with viewing numbers ballooning.

This method of video production is something they plan to maintain – hit record, be human, trim the start and the end, and get the message out quickly. Prarthna describes how seeing the CEO in such an authentic way helps to break down barriers.

Summing up, Prarthna’s tips to internal communications experts are:

  • Write up and record an interview, to deliver not only what people want to hear about, but also how they want to hear about it – video, mobile app, article, etc. The reach this creates is definitely worth it.
  • Produce content that you can repurpose, and deliver according to audience preferences.

Finally, Prarthna says, “Have a pulse on the audience. Have a pulse on what people are doing and what they are interested in. But also recognise that you are the professional, you are the expert here.

Useful Links:

Prarthna’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/prarthnathakore/

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