Citi banking on creative internal communications

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At the end of 2011, Will Packard – Global Head of Marketing at Citigroup’s foreign exchange division – was looking for an internal communication channel that would enable visual messaging on employees’ computer screens while cutting through the everyday clutter and distractions at the office. A pop-up function would offer can’t-miss messages to the 1,500 employees in a way much more immediate than traditional email. With the help of IT, Packard turned to a SnapComms solution launching Desktop Alerts in January, 2012.

According to SnapComms’ Content Marketing Manager, Jo Hammer, Desktop Alerts (like the one pictured at right) are designed to “pop up as a message box on the employee’s screen.” The size and location of that alert on the desktop can be easily changed to suit particular messages and the templates designed to comply with brand guidelines. The tool can packaged together with additional software such as Corporate Screensaver Messaging, Wallpaper, Desktop Tickers, Surveys and Internal Newsletters, should companies opt to use those channels.

At Citigroup, Packard and his team are relying on the Desktop Alerts to shake up their internal communications.

Canary Wharf famous skyscrapers of London’s financial district

“Visual communication is really important for the traders that I work with in foreign exchange. Most of their day is spent processing numerical data and they have highly demanding jobs and need a high level of attention to detail. In that environment visual communication provides something a bit different that stands out and can provide a bit of light relief. While we try to make these messages humorous or interesting, there is of course always a serious business objective underlying them,” Packard explains.

As currency traders, many of Citigroup’s employees are seated in rows; the visual impact of seeing messages pop up across a line of desktops simultaneously is quite effective, Packard says. Launching the Desktop Alerts was also “pain free” and “affordable,” he points out. More importantly, the tool fulfilled a need that he thought was lacking in other IC channels at the company – a menu which has traditionally included a company intranet, instant messaging and print media.

“From my perspective, Desktop Alerts are an easy way to get messages out to a large number of people simultaneously. Of course, with a tool like this, you have to use it with care. It’s not for everything,” Packard advises.

The ‘write’ time to use it

So what are the best instances to use Desktop Alerts? Packard says they’re ideal for “short, graphical messages” that literally spell out what’s happening with a particular situation.

Packard says, “The intention was always for the SnapComms software to work alongside other communications channels. So we can use the SnapComms tools to push employees to other channels, or they can be used in isolation for dedicated campaigns or where we want to encourage a specific call to action.”

In addition, he says, it’s effective to customize content where appropriate. This helps to craft messaging people want to read – and do:

“It’s very easy to change content for different campaigns and messages, so it is always customized to meet the communications objectives of a particular situation or project. I wanted to be able to incorporate different imagery into our communications to keep things fresh and interesting, and we are easily able to incorporate graphics files. We can also change the look and feel of the templates we use and for each different execution of a message we can define how many times an employee will see it, where it appears on their screen and so on.”

Singing a new ‘toon’

Packard even commissioned the design of cartoon character Bernieman, as a desktop alert graphic to motivate the Sales teams; “the end objective being to achieve a high rating in an industry survey,” Packard explains.

The offbeat, humorous approach helps to make messaging more appealing and distinctive from the usual internal communication channels employees are used to. “The tools have proved to be extremely effective for getting a message out quickly or creating impact and something that employees remember,” Packard says.

Measurement

According to Hammer, Desktop Alerts contain a measurement function automatically built-in to the software.

“There is a separate folder in the menu that enables administrators to obtain reporting metrics so they can self-serve measurement figures if they so desire.”

With Citigroup now using Desktop Alerts for more than a year, do Packard and his colleagues have any plans to measure the tool’s effectiveness? If employees fear filling out yet another IC survey question, they don’t have to worry.

Packard says there are no plans to measure the Desktop Alerts’ ability to successfully engage and inform employees. He says evaluating the tool would defeat the purpose of implementing such a quick and succinct form of communication. “Measuring something like this would use up too much time,” he says.

In keeping with that principle, Packard is wary of sending too many pop-ups a week to employees for fear that the tool would lose impact. He opts to use them sparingly to communicate particularly pertinent information.

“Overuse is a way of reducing effectiveness so I try to avoid an overload of messages. Employees receive no more than two pop-up messages a week,” Packard points out.

Hammer sums up, “When used well, Desktop Alerts and other visual communication tools can truly stand out and be different than what people are used to, while driving traffic to other internal communication channels.”