Textual Analysis Introduction & Rationale
Many companies have instituted the company newsletter as a way to communicate in a lasting way to their employees. But what’s in a newsletter? How does that really engage and empower employees? Throughout my full-time career, I have contributed to, started up, or edited company newsletters. The target audiences have varied from local offices and plants to company department members in various offices throughout North America. What I have noticed most is how little value is placed on the company newsletter, and how much potential is lost when a company newsletter is ineffective. However, with a little research and analysis, the company newsletter can be the opposite: engaging and empowering.
My rationale for choosing an employee newsletter to analyze is based on my own experience writing and editing newsletters in the workplace, how employees see and use newsletters, and the parallel of the effectiveness of the company newsletter with the downfall of print journalism.
Initially, managers love the idea of a company newsletter, but many do not know what to put in it. The first several editions of the newsletter then become akin to Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood: a good diversion, a source for information to boost small talk in the break room, but providing little that can be used long-term to keep the employee engaged. Soon after, managers give additional job duties, and the company newsletter becomes an afterthought.
However, this does not mean that employees do not want to be informed or engaged. This parallels to what we see socially in the world of print journalism. Though the method with which we get our news has changed, the need for effective truth-telling journalists has not. Jay Yarow analyzed a chart correlating the decline of print journalism to the need for journalists, saying “the good news in this chart is that despite the decline in the print business, the future of journalism looks like it should be okay. Companies still want to hire reporters.”(Yarow, 2013) The public trend is moving away from getting their news in a newspaper; employees do not want to search for information they need to know or call someone to get a question answered.
This is why the company newsletter can be an effective tool. With the company newsletter, the goal should be to provide information that is needed in a manner that the employee will absorb. It can also be an opportunity to get the employee engaged in his/her company. When we take time to read or watch the news, it’s because we care about what’s going on around us. We care about the subjects the news discusses. And advertisers know this and target those consumers. The same should apply to the company newsletter. Employers should promote initiatives that keep the employee engaged, promote a feeling of ownership and importance, and appeal to the willingness to work with employees to increase productivity (rather than telling employees what to do, like an employee handbook does).
Katherine Miller (2009) explanation of Maslow’s theory and its possible misuses should be of note to those creating company newsletters. The principle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are useful to note when thinking of organizational communication and management, but also of equal importance is how not to exploit these needs an further widen the gap between manager and employee. Miller also talks about the content of communication and communication flow, which can be used to explain how the “Gazette” uses the human relations approach to reach employees.
Argenti’s (1998) article gives us a good how-to guide when creating effective employee communications. He describes the new environment and the more educated employee who now requires the more in-depth company newsletter. Argenti’s findings support Maslow’s theory, and his instructions provide a good measure to analyze my own company newsletter.
Byrne and LeMay’s (2006) research outlines how effective different employee communications are based on employee satisfaction and quality of information.
In an environment of classical management, our plant newsletter provides some of what Human Relations theorists prize in their romantic visions of manager and employee. Several sections of our newsletter appeal to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and engage employees in the workplace to build connections and to take ownership. Through a content analysis of an edition of the “Great Gazette” my company’s monthly newsletter using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, I will bring employees and managers closer together: at least in theory.
Yarow, Jay. “Chart of the Day: As the Print Industry Collapsed, Demand for Journalists Rose” Business Insider. August 12, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-as-the-print-industry-collapsed-demand-for-journalists-rose-2013-8#ixzz2mGyJM3Qx