New Canadian Research Shows Social Media is a 'Game-Changer' for Internal Communications in Challenging Economy



    
    Research by NATIONAL Public Relations indicates social media ranked top
    trend for internal communications in Canada
    

    TORONTO, June 2 /CNW/ - Social media is the most significant trend
impacting internal communications in Canada, according to a new study
conducted by NATIONAL Public Relations. Nine-in-ten respondents say that when
it comes to facilitating dialogue with employees, social media has the
potential to dramatically redefine and re-energize internal communications,
making it a 'game-changer' for employee engagement. Social media refers to
online tools and technologies that facilitate collaboration, enhance
communication and support knowledge management.
    NATIONAL's study, titled Start the Dialogue: Employee Engagement in Tough
Times, is based on qualitative in-depth interviews with communications
professionals at public and private sector Canadian organizations including
the energy, manufacturing, financial services, and pharmaceutical industries.
The study was designed to identify key trends, challenges and opportunities
for internal communications, with an emphasis on how leaders and managers can
facilitate dialogue to inspire and engage employees, particularly in the midst
of a challenging economy.
    Dialogue is two-way conversation that usually happens in a face-to-face
setting but can also occur online through participatory social media tools. As
part of a strategic internal communications strategy, dialogue can help
stimulate participation, exchange ideas, solve problems, and promote action.
Study respondents identified many positive attributes of dialogue, including
the ability to build relationships and trust with leaders, better understand
employee concerns, improve message retention, and overcome internal silos.
    "In this economy, it is more important than ever before for leaders to
stay visible and embrace transparency and openness in all communications,"
said John Crean, National Managing Partner, NATIONAL Public Relations. "Our
study shows that social media has the potential to be a 'game-changer' for
internal communications in Canada because it creates a new dynamic for
dialogue. With the right social media strategy, organizations can facilitate
more meaningful and personalized dialogue and act in a more immediate,
real-time and proactive way, which can ultimately influence engagement."
    The current economic situation is accelerating the trend to social media
because it offers organizations the ability to implement real-time, immediate
communications strategies while leveraging existing investments in technology
(e.g. intranets, internal networks). When properly planned and measured,
social media has the potential to help organizations better engage the next
generation, break down silos, improve collaboration and advance
knowledge-sharing between employees.
    "Social media is indicative of a shift from a more traditional internal
communications model of simply 'communicating to' employees to a more holistic
model of engaging employees as active partners to drive business performance,"
said Carolyn Ray, Vice President, Employee Engagement, NATIONAL Public
Relations. "Rather than trying to control social media, organizations should
embrace it as part of their internal communications strategy to facilitate
purposeful dialogue with employees, along with face-to-face communications.
Increased dialogue can help improve employee engagement, productivity and
morale, particularly in these challenging times."
    While social media was ranked as the top trend, respondents also cited
the economy as the top organizational challenge, which has resulted in smaller
internal communications budgets and the expectation to do more with less.
Personalization of communications was mentioned most often as a major
challenge to internal communications, particularly in relation to
multi-generational workforces (cited by 32 per cent of respondents).
Respondents indicated that one of their biggest challenges is ensuring they
have the right tools to reach multiple audiences, from younger, 'born digital'
employees in Gen Y, to geographically dispersed employees. The study also
points to the requirement to better align internal and external communications
as key challenges for internal communicators.
    The majority of respondents (76 per cent) described their internal
communications tools as 'fairly modern'. Many are experimenting with podcasts,
instant messaging, internal blogs, portals, webcasts, online video and message
boards. Respondents also indicated that they are also exploring new social
media channels to better engage the younger generation and those working
remotely, such as microblogging and shared online workspaces. Some respondents
were concerned, however, about security and control of information,
particularly in regulated industries.
    NATIONAL's study was conducted with communicators from 30 private and
public sector organizations via phone and in-person interviews between March
15 and April 24, 2009. Participating companies include a selection of both
non-clients and clients of NATIONAL, located in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Participating companies are
Canadian organizations with dedicated internal communications staff, and
between 90 and 60,000 employees. Results were compiled and analyzed by
NATIONAL's internal research team.

    About NATIONAL Public Relations

    NATIONAL is the largest public relations consultancy in Canada with
offices in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver,
Victoria, New York and London, as well as an interest in MT&L/NATIONAL in
Halifax and in Saint John. The firm offers corporate communications, investor
relations, employee engagement, public affairs, marketing, technology and
healthcare communications services to a broad range of leading corporate,
government and institutional clients. Internationally, the firm is affiliated
with Burson-Marsteller. NATIONAL is a subsidiary of RES PUBLICA Consulting
Group in Montreal, which also owns another Canadian public relations leader,
Cohn & Wolfe / Canada, with offices in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary and an
affiliation with the worldwide Cohn & Wolfe network.
    For more information about the study, please visit
www.national.ca/startthedialogue.





For further information:

For further information: Media contact: Toronto, Carolyn Ray, Vice
President, Employee Engagement, NATIONAL Public Relations, (416) 848-1423,
cray@national.ca, twitter.com/carolynray; Calgary, Maureen MacDonald, ABC,
Partner, NATIONAL Public Relations, (403) 531-0331, mmacdonald@national.ca;
Montreal, Carol Sharpe, Senior Consultant, NATIONAL Public Relations, (514)
843-2368, csharpe@national.ca; Halifax, Janet MacMillan APR, Fellow CPRS,
Principal, MT&L Public Relations, (902) 425-1860 ext. 224,
jmacmillan@mtlpr.ca; Vancouver, Nicola Lambrechts, Vice President, NATIONAL
Public Relations, (604) 691-7392, nlambrechts@national.ca

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