“We never rely on a single channel if we're communicating something really important."
– Sheri Morgan, ABC, PepsiCo Foods Canada  

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Issue 79   September, 2019

The inside view of employee communication, part 4

Dear <<First Name>>,
Focus on communications
Having been on the outside of corporate employee/ internal communication for many years, I’m on a quest to find the current "inside" view. Here’s a look at how another of my contacts reaches employees.

Sheri Morgan, ABC, is Director of Communications for PepsiCo Foods Canada, whose brands include Frito Lay Canada and Quaker. It’s one of two business units within PepsiCo Canada; the other, PepsiCo Beverages Canada, includes brands such as Pepsi, Gatorade and Tropicana. Here’s what we talked about:

How big is your department and what are you responsible for?
Five – I have a team of three direct reports and one indirect. We’re responsible for external and internal communications (from HR to change to executive), both corporate and brand. We have about 5,000 employees. Some 1,800 of them are frontline sales reps, truck drivers and others who are on the road, and another 2,000 who work in seven manufacturing plants across the country. None of these employees have email. About 1,000 are salaried professionals with email.

How do you reach employees?    
The main channels are:
  • In-person meetings and town halls. We rely a lot on these.
  • Leader-led messaging. While it can be slow to cascade and tricky to ensure consistent delivery, this is often the best channel to share content in a way that’s meaningful and gives teams a chance to ask questions.
  • A global online newsletter called PEPfeed. Content is published by country and by topic and employees can sign up for a custom feed. All of our salaried employees receive this. Our frontline can opt in, but they don’t have company-issued devices. PEPfeed is delivered by:
    • A PEPfeed digest email on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The content is published by Communications but we get submissions from across the business. The digest contains an image, headline and the first sentence of the article, which you click to read online.
    • A PEPfeed mobile app. This is great in theory, but didn’t get the traction we hoped for. There are too many apps out there, and people still have to click on notifications and open articles. And roundtables have told us that our people don’t want to read company news when they aren’t at work.
  • A global intranet portal called MyPepsiCo, to which all employees have access. Our salaried employees use this portal daily to access information for their jobs and for training and benefits. Our frontline associates have access but typically only use the site for their pay stubs. There’s a news hub on the home page that features significant global company news.
  • Digital signage installed at our HQ, field facilities and plants to reach all employees. We have central control, and can dispatch content consistently across sites or schedule site-specific content. This includes PEPfeed content that we reformat for these screens.
  • A Yammer group used for team-building, recognition and collaboration among teams in the field. We plan to expand this to our frontline population once they have company-issued devices.
  • Print materials. Bulletin boards and postcards can be very effective when the message and design are simple and compelling. With a graphic designer on my team, we can build and roll out eye-catching communications quickly and for minimal cost. 
  • We’re also doing a smartphone pilot with frontline sales reps to modernize how they do their job (over a somewhat outdated handheld device). We’re also tapping into the pilot to understand how a tool like Yammer can be used to engage this population and help them focus on their day-to-day tasks.
We never rely on a single channel if we’re communicating something really important. We’ll make sure it hits PEPfeed, include it in a town hall and give leaders content to use in team meetings.

You had a weekly email newsletter. What happened?
PEPLine had been around since the beginning of time. We pushed out a local edition with full stories, and a weekly news digest on Wednesdays. There were daily global and North American and Canadian editions. We just ended up with too many emails.
About four years ago, our global communications team built the PEPfeed digest. By default you get the Canadian newsletter, but you can add specific locations or topics. 
We’ve tried to make this a single destination for communications. Everything comes to us and we make sure nothing goes out that’s inappropriate, confusing or poorly written. Our most visited content is org. announcements, which we consolidate into one weekly item.
It’s definitely cut down the number of emails, but the feedback we get is that people still scroll through quickly and move on. That means we have to be smart about the headlines, images and intro sentences to get the facts across quickly. We look at every piece of communication through a storytelling lens to ensure that we’ve framed the information in a way that’s interesting, simple and compelling.
What do you find is the best way to reach younger generations?
They’re probably most responsive to technology and email. But we also find they appreciate leader-led discussions in team meetings, where they have an opportunity to ask questions and really personalize the information for themselves.
How are you measuring what you do?
We do a global organizational health survey twice a year and look at engagement, linking questions to what we’re trying to do. We also have regular employee roundtables and ad hoc surveys to gather feedback and insights.
PEPfeed is tricky. While it has robust back-end analytics, it’s tough to get useful information by measuring clicks alone. People are busy and often just scan the headlines without clicking through; but that may be enough. We try to see if our messages drive engagement, or change perceptions, or affect credibility. And we can see that if there’s something we need employees to do, they do it, and attendance at events is good.
How do you see the role of comms?
Every major change or transformation in our company has either been led by my team or we’ve played a critical role with our senior leadership team. We help drive the consistency of tone and approach. We’ve spent a lot of time consulting with leaders, and they see our value. That’s my validation, that they appreciate what we offer and they bring us in early on key decisions.
As a communications professional, you can stay in a very narrow swimlane but you won’t see the same respect; you want that reputation as problem solvers. The more you learn about different areas of your business, the more you can insert yourself into decisions and bring forward relevant ideas and solutions, the more valuable you are to your company.
Few people touch as many parts of the business as communications and that puts you in a unique position to have a broad view of what’s going on that might affect other areas – and be the person to bring that to light and help anticipate and develop solutions.

My thanks to Sheri for chatting with me about PepsiCo. What’s your inside view, as an internal communicator, current or former employee or consultant? Please share by hitting “reply.” I’d love to hear what works for you.
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Freelance writer Sue HornerMay I help you?
Many of my clients are overworked corporate communicators who appreciate a writer who provides clear, friendly and readable copy. I simplify the complex, uncover “what’s in it for me?” and find the human angle in just about any story. Contact me and let’s chat about how I can take some pressure off your day.
Images: Focus by Cameron Kirby on Unsplash. Sue's photo: Amara Studios.

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The inside view of comms, part 1 (Bananatag's advice on e-newsletters)

The inside view of comms, part 2 (best practices for using email, including tips from Bayer)

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