Thinking of setting up a corporate newsroom, but don’t know where to start? You may be further along than you think, says Nick Andrews of Sequel Group.

27th December 2017

A good eye for a story, top-notch writing skills and a strong network of contacts – which profession are we describing? Although your first answer might be journalist, your second should be internal communicator.

There has always been a link between the two professions – as shown by the number of us who started out in more “traditional” editorial roles – but you could argue that it’s likely to become stronger with the rise of the corporate newsroom.

Setting up a corporate newsroom isn’t necessarily about going around with a notebook and Dictaphone and turning that empty meeting room into a physical news hub, complete with press clippings and a bank of screens.

Instead, it’s about adopting a more journalistic approach to help get your messages heard, build trust and ultimately boost engagement. And the great news is that the core skills and principles slot neatly into existing IC best practice.

Logic and bravery

When thinking about setting up a corporate newsroom, you should start by stealing methods from mainstream media. That means assembling a “news team”, bringing your people together into a special taskforce with defined roles.

How that looks is up to you, but we’d recommend starting off with an editor-in-chief who oversees content ideas and creation, as well as some kind of production manager who makes sure everything is running on schedule.

Like any good journo, you’ll also need to cultivate a network of contacts and sources – in other words, your key business stakeholders. But this goes beyond the usual management team backing we look for. Try to spot those in the know across the company, whether they’re big on the company ESN or part of the social committee, and develop a working relationship with them.

Human and meaningful

Most importantly, you need to find the human angle in every story – and no matter how dull the subject matter, there will be one. You just need to know where to look.

For example, a dry health and safety policy update takes on a more meaningful relevance when the health and safety manager explains how a past family incident inspired them to start a career where they could create a safer working environment for everyone. This simple personal touch will help readers connect to – and therefore remember – your message.

All sounds fairly logical so far, yes? In fact, the bravest move you’ll have to make is to stray from the well-trodden corporate middle ground and not be afraid to give an opinion on important issues.

One of our clients – a leading law firm – did exactly that when they decided to tackle the issues of mental health and suicide. While these are particularly sensitive issues in any case, they were especially difficult to discuss in a competitive city environment where people struggle to talk about what could be perceived as weakness.

We helped the client tell the story of an employee who had struggled with these issues in a film and accompanying article, describing how the company and colleagues had rallied around to support him. By bringing mental health out in the open, they removed the stigma and showed employees the different strands of support available to them.

When it comes to reaching employees, you have a lot of noise to compete against, whether that’s busy WhatsApp groups or the constant churning of Twitter feeds. Your communications need to give readers a unique point of view that they can’t get elsewhere. 

Creativity and compliance

Of course, it won’t be without its challenges. As internal communicators, we are thrown all sorts of curveballs – from corporate and legal compliance to stakeholder relations or even just a lack of decent material to work with. So how do we overcome factors outside of our control?

Kunal Dutta, chief editor for digital channels at Shell, champions journalistic principles within his team and assures communicators that you can be both creative and compliant.

Speaking at the latest breakfast seminar run by Aspic – in conjunction with Sequel Group – Kumal emphasised the importance of developing and maintaining strong cross-departmental relationships to help break down silos. “We need to start by defining the framework of what it is people [employer, employee, and key stakeholders] want from the outset,” he said.

Finally, turn the spotlight on yourself and consider the merit and quality of your piece. Think like a journalist and ask yourself, Would I be proud to put my name to this, wherever it appeared?

Nick Andrews is business development manager of Sequel Group

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