William Amurgis, director of internal communications at American Electric Power, spent his International Association of Business Communicators session sharing key elements of AEP’s successful and social intranet, AEP NOW.
AEP keeps it simple and built its intranet in-house. Amurgis has a team of two writers and two Web developers who report directly to him. Yes, internal communicators — you read that right. They don’t report to IT. They’re in-house to communications. And, Amurgis said, the IT department likes it because it allows the team to stay focused on organizationwide IT projects. Of course, employees like it, too, because it means feedback and changes often can be implemented the same day they are submitted.
Amurgis discussed three major roles he and his team have when it comes to the company’s intranet and internal social media. They must:
- Inspire: Inspire people to post comments, which they often do through photos and sometimes contests.
- Inform: Keep people abreast of company and industry news.
- Involve: Engage people in a two-way dialogue.
Amurgis reads every comment. He said people often ask how he has time to read all comments. His response: “How can I afford not to? I read every single comment. It’s my daily focus group.” Comments allow him and his team to gauge audience understanding of topics and find opportunities for future stories to expand employee knowledge.
One challenge noted is that leaders sometimes fear the comments they’ll receive on a given topic or photograph. Overall, they support the ability to comment, and employees are pretty comfortable speaking up.
When AEP surveyed employees recently, they said the corporate intranet is the communications channel they trust most for corporate information. This finding was met with a huge round of applause.
Social features of AEP NOW include the ability to:
- Comment on photos such as “Employee of the Day” (changes daily on the intranet home page).
- Comment on any internally generated article or industry-related article (the team gets permission to republish through Copyright Clearance Center).
- Create a profile with personal information, such as hobbies.
- Follow, recommend, thank or congratulate a colleague by clicking on links on the person’s profile that take you to tools such as e-cards and kudos.
- Create, join or comment on a community.
- Comment on the CEO and employee blogs published by corporate communications.
- Contribute ideas and solutions to problems that are sponsored by executives (innovation initiative).
- Read a public stream of comments on all sources.
Amurgis ended the session by talking about three trends he sees for the future. Internal social media will be more participatory, more immediate — possibly including safety alerts and other up-to-the-minute information — and more mobile. In the future, he’d like for every employee to have a hand-held device with access to the corporate intranet.
This guest post is by Miri Zena McDonald, a strategic-communications consultant. McDonald tweets @mirimcdonald. She attended the International Association of Business Communicators 2012 World Conference in Chicago.