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Getting the word out to your employees

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My friend Tara is moving from the D.C. area to North Carolina at the end of the month.

During a recent visit to her new hometown to check out housing options, she and her husband stopped by a local Verizon Wireless store to determine whether the neighborhood they were considering would have sufficient cellular coverage. They were also curious about the Internet and cable options available to them.

“Do you offer FIOS service in this neighborhood?” asked Tara.

“What’s that?” responded the Verizon employee.

To Tara’s surprise, the employee had no idea that the company offered an alternative to DSL in other cities.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not faulting the employee; as Tara tells it, he was very knowledgeable about the wireless offerings and was able to recommend alternatives for cable and Internet carriers. But the idea that an employee would be so unaware of the company’s next big thing – even if it is not offered locally – just tells me that there is a break in the employee communication pipeline.

As 20-year veteran of employee communications, stories like this make my head explode. I don’t doubt that if anyone from Verizon’s employee communications team reads this blog, he or she will have the same reaction.

Getting the word out about key company events and upcoming product offerings is one of the most important elements of employee communications.

When I worked for Marriott, I wanted to make sure that if a hotel employee were riding up an elevator with a guest, that employee would be able to answer questions about new hotel openings – whether down the road or on the other side of the world.

If all hotel employees were “in the know” I was confident that I was doing my job.

The Walmart “Match It!” commercial is a great illustration of this concept. In the spot, a customer tells the check-out clerk that she has seen a product advertised by a competitor for a lower price. The ad shows a series of employees – truck drivers, stockers, etc. – reminding the clerk of the store’s policy to match the lowest price.

Employees are bombarded with information on a daily basis, so it’s up to communicators to make sure that all employees, particularly those who serve customers every day, are equipped to answer questions about policies and company news.

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