Building communication within a company is like building a house: you won’t do much without good foundation and a reliable crew. It’s worth thinking about a team that can pass that brick of support for the communications department.
Editorial Board is the eye and the ear of communications. Make a wise use of it.
Willy was a home builder. He built one for himself, another one for his family, neighbours, and then he was suddenly building entire cities. When building his first home he worked with a friend, after a while he hired a man, then another one, then another twenty, and one day he realised he didn’t know anymore how to tell his employees what is important to him and his company.
The problem of effective communication with the team is frequent, particularly in companies where the team is varied. One good solution is – the Editorial Board.
Before a new issue of “Newsweek” hits the market, before TVN broadcasts its “Fakty” news or before “Playboy” photographers shoot another playmate, a whole body of journalists, editors and publishers gather to decide what they want to communicate, how and to whom. That same model can be used in making a company internal or external publication. Creating an Editorial Board – a group of advisers comprising of employees of various ranks or representatives of the internal magazine’s target group – can be a solution to a communication problem. How do you recruit Board members? There are several ways: they can be appointed by a higher-rank employee, e.g. managers can point to particular employees (advantage: the Board includes only people who take care of company values; drawback: it may be hard to engage only because the boss tells you to), or you can announce the recruitment (advantage: you get response from people who are willing to do something and engaged; drawback: the road to hell is paved with good intentions and activists who want “too much” can ruin the balance of company communication). Bożena Makowska, Managing Editor with many years of experience in external magazines, explains: „Editorial Board for external magazines can be chosen by various writing and photographing competitions, which are an opportunity to find different personalities for particular communications needs. Naturally, the Board does not have enough space for everyone, although there are no particular limitations – the number of members depends on your needs, and especially on how varied your team is – I’ve worked with teams of 5 and of 20. The members must represent all divisions, plants, regions” she adds.
No matter which recruitment solution we choose, the Board is a network of “our people”, who understand the communication process, strategy, activities and values of the company, and in the case of internal magazines – who will become the ambassadors of communication within the company in their divisions. Providing information from various employee groups, divisions and locations is an undeniable benefit of the Board, because there can be no better source of information – they know best what the readers like, hate or have interest in. Their experience allows to build a well-suited communication for the needs of employees, to create a body of experts to help build communication.
When forming an Editorial Board, you need to recognise your expectations. It can be a group to evaluate company’s communication activities once in a while and to suggest subjects which are worth touching upon.
“The Editorial Board gathers first of all to help the communications division come up with new topics and evaluate the magazine and the entire communication, the Board’s meetings need to have a goal, e.g. these can be journalist or photography workshops – a substantive offer of classes that help develop communications competences, knowledge of the company and its philosophy,” explains Bożena Makowska.
The Board can also become a group of correspondents, who on a regular basis contribute content and photos for the custom media. The advantage of the first solution is that the communications division obtains knowledge, but does not have to use it when it does not fit the company’s strategy.
This option may be slightly more requiring, because the Board members are not professional journalists and their work may not fit the standards of company’s communication, but it builds a strong bond between the authors and the company and makes them strong proponents of internal communication.
No matter which solution you choose, if you want the Editorial Board to be effective, you need to provide coaching for the members, teach them about the media and company communication, and about the company itself. Bożena Makowska adds: “Call them, ask questions, suggest topics and talk to them. Organise a meeting at least twice a year for all the members to know one another, and to asses, discuss and develop together. They need to understand perfectly the mission, the strategy, market conditions. Without that knowledge the Board will not manage.