Originally published on November 7, 2016
Communications: vehicles for informing current and potential users about progress in the KM initiative through web sites, team spaces, portals, wikis, forums, conference calls, blogs, newsletters, distribution lists, and links
Timely communications are critical to successfully introducing a new KM initiative and to keeping the organization informed on implementation progress. Some information needs to be communicated repeatedly, since you won’t reach everyone at any one time, and some people won’t pay attention even if you do reach them. So create a communications plan with both new and recycled elements to introduce new developments and remind about existing ones.
In the plan, specify the vehicles you will use to inform your organization about the program, including plans, roll-out, and ongoing implementation. Focus on the deliverables of the KM strategy, not the strategy itself.
Provide details on your planned use of the following vehicles.
- Web sites: Intranet pages dedicated to the KM program. Use as the starting point for accessing all knowledge resources.
- Team spaces: Collaboration sites dedicated to the core team, knowledge assistant team, group teams, and the KM community. Use to share files, hold meetings, conduct polls, and maintain lists.
- Portals: Repositories of KM documents. Use to store big picture documents, user’s guides, administrator’s guides, and policies and procedures.
- Wikis: Intranet pages which can be edited by any user. Use for interactive editing of content by multiple people.
- Threaded discussions: Bulletin board for the KM community. Use to disseminate information, ask and answer questions, and share insights.
- Conference calls: Regular telephone calls for the KM community. Use for two-way communications, status updates, and learning.
- Blogs: Web logs used by members of the KM core team. Use to post regular updates, solicit comments, and take advantage of syndication capability.
- Newsletters: Periodicals sent to subscribers interested in knowledge management and knowledge resources. Use to provide regular updates, success stories, and useful content to interested parties.
- Podcasts: Recorded broadcasts available on demand or by subscription. Use for those who prefer audio, like to listen while performing other tasks, or who are not usually connected to the network and subscribe for automatic downloads of the broadcasts through syndication. Also see Creating a Podcast by Fred Bals.
- Videos: Recorded videos available on demand. Use for those who prefer video, when there is important visual content, or for special occasions.
- Distribution lists: Lists of email addresses used to distribute messages about the KM program. Use for occasional communication of high importance, and do so infrequently to reduce information overload.
- Reports: Details on how the KM initiative is performing against its goals. Use for communicating program progress to leaders and stakeholders.
- Submissions: Articles about the KM program submitted to other newsletters. Use to inform those who may currently be unaware of the existence of your program and point them to other available communications vehicles.
- Links: Links to KM web sites which appear on other web sites. Use to attract visitors to the program web site from other high-traffic web sites.
- Meetings: Face-to-face gatherings of members of the KM community. Use to build trust, establish direction, and solicit inputs.
- Internal presentations: Attending meetings of other groups to deliver a KM message. Use to increase awareness, influence behavior, and request cooperation.
- External presentations: Talking about the KM program to external audiences. Use to build credibility, demonstrate thought leadership, and receive feedback.
- External publications: Publishing articles in magazines, journals, blogs, and web sites. Use to increase visibility and build a positive reputation.
- External conferences: Attending and presenting at industry events. Use to increase recognition, network with peers, and test ideas.
- Audience surveys: Soliciting inputs from the target audience, since communication isn’t just about talking — it also includes asking questions and listening. Use to determine what users like, dislike, and want changed.
The communications plan should include the following elements for each vehicle.
- Type: one of the vehicles
- Content: what subjects will be covered
- Purpose: what is the objective
- Audience: to whom is the vehicle directed
- Schedule: when will the vehicle be delivered
- Author: who will create or edit the content
- Sources: where will content be obtained
- Channels: how will the message be delivered (e.g., names of distribution lists)
- Contacts: who will help produce and deliver it (names, phone numbers, and email addresses)
- Sites: where will the content be stored (URLs) — Tip: use a URL which is easy to remember, such as km.name.com, for the KM home page
Here are examples of plans for three vehicles.
Example 1: KM Home Page
- Type: web site
- Content: links, news, RSS feeds, site of the day, and search box
- Purpose: primary user interface to all knowledge resources
- Audience: all users of knowledge resources
- Schedule: initial version one month prior to program launch, then continuously updated
- Author: organization KM leader
- Sources: program staff
- Channels: organization intranet
- Contacts: webmaster
- Sites: km.organization.com
Example 2: Monthly Newsletter
- Type: newsletter
- Content: program progress, user success stories, technology updates
- Purpose: keep users informed about progress, improvements, and successes
- Audience: all users of knowledge resources
- Schedule: the month of program launch, and every month thereafter
- Author: people project leader
- Sources: core team
- Channels: subscription automation system
- Contacts: subscription automation system program manager
- Sites: posted to KM home page as a news item, and archived on a separate page
Example 3: Weekly Blog
- Type: blog
- Content: top 50 KM components
- Purpose: keep those interested in KM topics informed on internal and external developments and news
- Audience: everyone who is interested in knowledge management and its underlying components
- Schedule: weekly
- Author: technology project leader
- Sources: newsletters, blogs, RSS feeds, web site searches
- Channels: blog page and RSS feed
- Contacts: internal blog support
- Sites: internal blog site
Here are external examples of each of the top 10 vehicles. You will create internal versions of these.
- web site: Gurteen Knowledge Website
- team space: SIKM Boston Chapter
- portal: Inside Knowledge
- wiki: KmWiki
- threaded discussion: actKM Forum
- conference call: SIKM Leaders Community
- blog: KM Chicago
- newsletter: Ancedote
- podcasts: The Yaminade
- videos: Knoco KM Videos
Take extra care in using push communications such as newsletters. You don’t want to annoy users by sending them periodicals which they don’t want. Here are guidelines to follow.
- Allow opting in and out. Use services which allow people to subscribe and unsubscribe easily.
- Send a one-time invitation to subscribe to a wide audience, and then respect the decisions of the recipients. Provide multiple alternatives, including email, RSS feed, and reading online only.
- Don’t subscribe anyone who didn’t request it. This is a serious violation of the opt-in principle.
- Don’t send messages to people unless they want to receive them from you. Otherwise, you will be viewed as a spammer and your messages will annoy the recipients rather than please them.
- Make it obvious in each message you send out how to subscribe or unsubscribe. Make sure the links really work.
- Store an archived copy of each newsletter. In each issue, include a link to the archives. This will allow others to link to your newsletter.
- Don’t blanket all threaded discussions you belong to with the same message. If a message is relevant to more than one threaded discussion, craft a brief, customized version which is specific to each forum, explain why it is relevant, and include a link to the full message which is posted elsewhere.
- Keep your newsletters as short as possible. For example, keep them to one page to encourage people to read them. If your newsletter contains multiple topic categories, try to include only one story per category.
- Avoid sending messages with attachments. Instead, post any necessary files to an easily-accessible site and include links.
- Include your name in each communication so people will know who sent it and whom to contact with feedback and suggestions. This will also help build a positive reputation for you, especially if you follow the other nine guidelines.
One type of content that should be a priority for many of your communication vehicles is the success story. These should be requested regularly from users in one of three ways. Ask all KM leaders to submit them each month and include them in the monthly newsletter. If you have a KM incentive system, request success story content as part of giving out points for desired behaviors. Monitor the community threaded discussions for testimonials of how the community helped a member in a time of need.
When capturing success stories, ask the following questions:
- What challenges did you face?
- What knowledge resources did you use?
- How did you use these resources to address these challenges?
- What was the outcome?
- What benefits did you realize from using the resources? (time saved, costs avoided, incremental revenue, problems avoided, increased customer satisfaction, accelerated delivery, innovation, process improvement, etc.)
- What benefits did you and your organization derive?
- Did anyone else benefit as well (e.g., a community)?
- What alternatives (instead of using the knowledge resources) did you consider?
- Which alternatives did you try?
- If you did not use the knowledge resources, how do you think the outcome would have been different?
A critical communications requirement is to get the senior executive to communicate regularly about the importance of the KM program. Here are steps you can take to ensure that this occurs.
Write memos for the senior executive to send out establishing KM goals for all employees. Write program update memos for the senior executive to send out periodically. Ensure that the three KM goals are mentioned in all senior management messages, including mass memos, all-employee conference calls, and newsletters. Add a KM corner to the organization’s intranet home page. Ensure the KM program is on the agenda of multiple senior leadership team meetings.
Ask to be included in senior management meetings to present progress and participate in the discussion. Ask to be included in senior management conference calls to present progress and participate in the discussion. Invite the senior executive to address a KM community call to discuss their KM priorities and to learn from the members. Ask the senior executive to serve as the host of the annual face-to-face meeting of the KM community and to attend some of the meeting. Ask senior managers to act as co-hosts of mandatory webinars to train all managers in using tools, setting goals, and delivering messages.
For more information on communications, see: