1. Michael H

    I agree with the majority of the points raised in this article, but it fails to look into the advantages of print as a delivery mechanisim.

    One of the key things I have always taught and been taught, is that Communications professionals should use a well planned spread of communications mediums (print, direct mail, electronic, customised email, etc) to give the best chance to ensuring messages are received.

    In the case of our organisation, a large cohort of employees are field-based and do not spend/have significant time in the office using computers to absorb information published through some mechanisims.

    Our internal evaluation has found that employees from this cohort are more likely to respond to print communications, mainly because one of the first things they do is check piegon holes on arrival at the office.

    Rather than having to search through emails, intranet postings or other electronic means, this places important corporate communications materials directly into their hands.

    Further, and sticking with field employees, this allows them to take such materials into the field and read at their leisure. This is in contrast to electronic publications where they have to print them off (which can be difficult depending on how it’s presented) and remember to take them with them – again assuming that they seek them out in the first place.

    The other advantage of print is that it breaks up the monotony of electronic communication. Most office-based employees are so used to receiving emails or eNewsletters each and every day that everything blends together.

    With this cohort, we have found that print communications, particually those which are attractivly designed (colourful, use decent photographic images, etc) are highly valued, and importantly more likely to be read by those employees.

    So while one can suggest that with the advent of technology the need to use print may be dead, my expeirence over the last ten years suggests that print is more important than ever – as it provides an immediate, in your hands piece, which can be taken away, read at leisure, looks great, and also taken home to brag to kids/family/significant others that you were featured in a magazine.

    • James Robertson

      @Michael, I agree that there’s no one-size-fits-all mode of communication, and that print can be beneficial in some cases.

      What’s interesting in our work with organisations is the huge variation in readership behaviour. In some cases, the one-serious-print-magazine is read by all. In other cases, it’s the least read mechanism. Since very few organisations now have pigeon holes, there are even practical issues with delivering a print brochure.

      As flagged in the article, it all comes down to a good comms strategy of course. But we do need to more strongly recognise the issues and weaknesses with newsletters (in all formats), and to not just keep producing them in the modern age, just because “it’s the way it’s always been done”.

  2. It’s one thing to produce a print newsletter. But if it is delivered via email then you know it’s time to move that channel to the Intranet.

    When we argued for remote access to our intranet for field staff there was a lot of resistance with arguments based around the lack of skills and hence a lack of demand. What we found was the complete opposite.

    Sometimes I don’t think we give those staff enough credit. A lot of those outdoor staff are under 30 – staff with less experience and time in the workforce on their way up. I would argue that those sort of people are more comfortable in an electronic environment than many senior managers.

    • James Robertson

      Great example @Martin. I am strongly of the belief that staff will quickly adopt tools that are useful for them, regarding of age or experience.

      I remember clearly one Council (local government) where “Bill”, the oldest member of the field staff was a great advocate for handheld computing. He could clearly see the benefits of it, and how much it could help him do his job. Needless to say, this was a great driver for everyone else to adopt it, since if a 60-year-old could find value in it …

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Published February 24, 2011

James Robertson
James Robertson is the Managing Director of Step Two, the global thought leaders on intranets, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. James is the author of the best-selling books Essential intranets, Designing intranets and What every intranet team should know. He has keynoted conferences around the globe. (Follow him on Twitter)