Is it time to publish baby announcements in employee publications again?

When I wandered into the weird, wonderful world of employee communications, back in 1994, I learned at the feet of the great Larry Ragan. Larry was, along with Roger D’Aprix and a few others, one of the founders of what we consider “employee communications” today. Just a brilliant man. And a wonderful mentor.

Larry was one of the first people to make fun of what was then known as “house organs.” Employee publications. Printed ones. And most were terrible. Larry would rail against printing “bowling scores and baby announcements.” He hated that shit. He thought employees deserved a serious publication about the business of the business.

And he was right. I’ve carried that mentality with me throughout my career. And most of the industry eventually caught on.

But . . . now I am seeing a bit of a reversal. With Covid keeping most workers in their homes, I am seeing a shift back to more “personal” content. Employees still want information about the business—presented in a clear, concise, transparent, jargon-free manner—but they are also craving human stories. They want to connect to their coworkers again! So I am seeing things like:

  • Home work-space photo contests! Larry hated photo contests in employee publications. But he might like these. People are proud of the places they have set up, and other employees love seeing what their coworkers have done. It’s fun.
  • Pet photos and stories! We all have that cat who walks across our computer during the Zoom call, or the damn dog that won’t stop barking. I was interviewing the CFO of a big company a month ago, and he had to pause the interview because his daughter’s pet rabbit got out!
  • Zoom happy hours! Larry would actually approve of this one. When he would go on the road to teach workshops, he would always buy some wine and bags of snacks and have the attendees come back to his room for happy hour.

But here’s the main differences between then and now. The Communicators don’t have to be in charge of gathering the photos, or the stories. They can set up a Teams site and people can contribute to it if they want to. Communicators can be involved, but they don’t have to play Julie from the Love Boat and be the company social director.

It seems to me the best of both worlds. What do you think?

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