Axios Communicators

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September 15, 2022

Welcome back, my friends!

Situational awareness: Join the Axios Latino Visionarios event on Thursday, September 29 at 6:00pm ET to hear how increased Latino representation impacts the economy and popular culture.

📚 Of note: The master communicators behind Axios have written a book, "Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less."

  • There was an extra copy in the office, so I read it (in under a day). It's an easy read that's chock full of tips. More on that below...

Today's newsletter is 1,160 words, 4.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Communications role in the war for talent

Illustration of a toy army figurine holding an envelope like a bazooka.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Fifty percent of employees are actively looking for new jobs, according to research from Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI).

Why it matters: Most leave because they don’t feel connected to the company’s mission, values or strategy — but smart communicators can turn disconnected employees into super fans.

State of play: Only 30% of people are excited to tell others where they work. If business leaders can revive employer pride, they can solve attrition, explains Bully Pulpit president Andrew Bleeker.

  • How you tap into that pride varies depending on the company's goals, says Bleeker. “The driver of employee pride at Goldman Sachs isn’t going to be the same at Patagonia — one is trying to save the climate, while the other is trying to be the absolute best in their field.”
  • BPI found that nearly half of workers would forgo a higher salary to work for a brand they are proud of — and they are more likely to stay in their role or recommend the company to others.
  • Plus, an organization's performance improves when employees understand the brand, per a recent Gallup study.

By the numbers: 71% of employees say the amount of communication they receive is about right, but roughly half say it lacks substance — which is a sure-fire way to lose them.

  • As the founders of Axios examine in their book, we spend an average of 26 seconds reading a piece of content, and our brain decides in 17 milliseconds if we like what we are seeing.
  • "You can’t rally people around a strategy or an idea if they don’t understand what you’re saying — or zone out."

Zoom in: Employees are the best, most authentic spokespeople for the brand, and they must be viewed as a prized audience.

  • To effectively reach them, you have to put in the same amount of effort you would give an external campaign — one that is tightly messaged and micro-targeted.
  • You are more likely to gin up employee pride by showing appreciation for workers in public facing ways — like Lyft's driver-focused messaging and hospitals' "Thank you heroes" campaigns, says Bleeker.

The bottom line: Companies that target employees across all channels will draw more eyeballs, increase employer brand and combat attrition by connecting the work to the mission.

2. Chart: Get more employee referrals

Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Prioritizing soft skills and an inclusive workplace will lead to more employee super fans.

3. Reach deskless employees

Illustration of a hand with a megaphone coming out from a mobile phone screen.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eighty percent of the global workforce does not sit behind a computer.

Why it matters: Leaders in industries like agriculture, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, transportation and construction cascade important information to employees through managers — and this game of telephone can be risky, inefficient and lead to turnover.

  • To curtail this, companies are meeting employees where they are by embracing digital forms of communication, like internal apps.

State of play: McDonald’s, Walmart, Delta and AstraZeneca use Meta’s Workplace platform to align corporate and frontline workers.

  • The platform — which operates like an internal Facebook — allows employees to connect with each other, post and see company updates on their feed.
  • Communications can also be auto-translated into 91 languages, so corporate communicators can amplify workplace values, enhance transparency and offer real-time updates across the globe.

Meanwhile, the cascade method is still the main way Molson Coors communicates with employees — 60% of whom work in breweries.

  • According to chief communications and corporate affairs officer Adam Collins, it works for them because it leads to more interpersonal connection and feedback.
  • “We’re really thoughtful about top-down communications — who is communicating what to which groups, and where, when and how. Similarly, we’ve placed a great deal of effort on creating an environment with healthy bottom-up communication.”
  • But Molson Coors is exploring new channels, too. “Apps are among the most interesting because you can package critical information with purpose-driven messaging,” Collins says.

Yes, but: Companies that use apps like Workplace are responsible for monitoring employee activity across the platform. This can be a headache for communicators, legal and HR teams.

  • McDonald’s has faced criticism for keeping tabs on employee activism, which could become easier to monitor through these apps.
  • On the flip side, internal apps create more opportunity for workers to rally around shared concerns, as seen at Amazon.

What we’re watching: The surge of unionizing efforts could impact how deskless channels work and whether companies decide to use them.

4. Communicator Spotlight: Adam Collins

Photo illustration of the Molson Coors Brewing Co. campus in Milwaukee next to a photo of chief communications and corporate affairs officer at Molson Coors Adam Collins

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: courtesy Molson Coors Brewing Co., Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

As chief communications and corporate affairs officer at Molson Coors, Adam Collins' job is "to help each audience believe in where our business is headed, and then act on that belief."

  • Before Molson Coors, he managed communications for former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Police Department, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton.

🪜 How it’s structured: Collins reports to the CEO and oversees corporate affairs, brand PR, and internal and sales communications.

🌡 Hardest day: In February of 2020, one of the deadliest shootings in Wisconsin's history took place at Molson Coors' brewery, and six employees were killed.

  • Following the tragedy, Collins and his team worked with local police and union leaders to share the facts and beat down speculation.
  • Employee support was the main priority moving forward. "Our employees had to return to the place where they were sheltering under desks just days before. Some of them saw things that people shouldn't have to see ... we had to recreate an environment where people felt safe and good about coming into work."

📈 Trend spot: "The application of data to better understand our audiences — what they need to hear from us and how they want to receive communications."

📱Most used App: Twitter.

🌅 Morning ritual: Collins gets up at 4:30 a.m. — a habit he picked up working in the Mayor's office — and enjoys two hours of peace and quiet to consume news and coffee before his kids start their day.

🗞 News diet: Beer trades, followed by Investor's Business Daily, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Axios and The New York Times.

🧠 Advice: "Be willing to bet on yourself and take smart risks."

5. Feedback on the future of work

Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

I received several emails following last week’s return to office edition.

Why it matters: The way your company handles the future of work says everything about its culture.

State of play: Many wrote in saying return to office plans lack clarity and conflict with previous protocols, and some showed frustration because they didn’t understand the reason for a return.

  • Executives are trying to make the office more appealing with free food, raffles or "cute" lunch boxes.
  • One CEO I heard from is welcoming pets into the office, which has successfully lured some people back.

At Axios, we have adopted a "work from anywhere" blueprint.

  • So has the fintech company Mission Lane. CEO Shane Holdaway thinks employees should “work where they thrive” because "good culture should transcend location."

Have more thoughts on the future of work? Lmk!

6. 1 fun thing: Quote du jour

"PR has become the most important thing that we do other than word of mouth."
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky from the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology conference.

🤗 Thanks to my editor Nicholas Johnston and copy editor Elizabeth Black.

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