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Paper Chase: How to Best Share Information in a Paperless World

Declining paper use might mean the end of the venerable employee newsletter, but duplicating them electronically might not be the answer either. Mike explains why:

We’ve come a long way since Business Week reported in 1975 about the pending arrival of the “paperless office” due to the growing popularity of word processing.  But while desktop computers failed to do the trick (partly because they made it so easy to print volumes of documents), the exploding popularity of tablets and e-readers have finally put a dent in office paper use and have accelerated our shift to digital formats.

The venerable employee magazine or newsletter may soon join the dodo, but attempting to duplicate these printed stalwarts with electronic versions might not be the answer either.  Here’s why:

  • Time is money—Eliminating printed communications materials certainly saves money, but you need to also consider the time spent on production—layout, design, and editing—which doesn’t go away simply because you now produce your newsletter for electronic distribution.  Creating brand-new electronic editions of a newsletter or a magazine every month or quarter is a costly exercise. 
  • Content is perishable—Employees want content that’s relevant and timely, which can be very challenging, given the long lead times required for the production of an in-house newsletter or magazine.  Certainly, it’s easier “to stop the presses” for an electronic format versus a printed edition when breaking news strikes, but most of the time you are forced to follow an editorial calendar that ensures your content is four to eight weeks old before it sees the light of day. 
  • The competition never sleeps—Once you place a desktop computer on an employee’s desk, he or she has a window to an ongoing stream of information, as well as to various informal internal channels commonly known as “the grapevine.”  Employees have become acclimated to a world of continuous content.  They don’t want to wait every month or quarter to find out what’s happening within the company.

Instead, collaborative Intranet-based tools, such as Microsoft® SharePoint®, allow communications professionals to focus more of their energies on content development than design execution and production.  You build one flexible design page, and with easy-to use content management tools, you simply “cut-and-paste” text and graphics without building everything from scratch, one edition at a time.

In essence, a dynamic content platform lets you transmit information any time you want to global audiences and multiple devices, including mobile phones, tablets and desktops.  And it can support all forms of multi-media, including video.

The dynamic content platform features several advantages to an electronic newsletter:

  • Publish once, transmit everywhere—An electronic newsletter has a degree of rigidity that may not display well on every device, especially mobile phones.  Web-based platforms can be more flexible; the content can be adjusted to reflect different screen sizes.  And it reaches “unchained” audiences who rely more upon tablets than desktops.
  • Reduce clutter—Electronic newsletters are usually transmitted by email at a time when most companies and their employees are wrestling with email overload.  Employees can even use their junk mail settings to block the information from reaching them.  Posting information on a web-based platform eliminates that clutter.
  • Archive for future use—Information on a web-based platform is searchable and easy to archive.  Electronic newsletters that are distributed by email can be difficult to find if employees don’t carefully organize their email folders.  In addition, they may need to manually sift through past issues to find exactly what they want.

This system encourages you to broaden your content choices.  Instead of concentrating on feature stories or business articles that must remain relevant a month or two before you publish, you can publish announcements of any type from any source.  That’s how I managed to publish 500 articles a year on a corporate Intranet I once managed.  More than 90 percent of our employees visited our site two to three times a week, because we were delivering relevant, real-time information that they could consume on their schedule, not ours.

The vision of a paperless office invites us to approach information delivery in a new way, rather than repurpose old techniques from the world of paper, although I will admit that I will always have a nostalgic yearning for those good old days when I could repurpose old newsletters into great paper airplanes.

Mike Sockol has been a writer and communications strategist for over 30 years, developing and implementing editorial, PR and marketing communications initiatives for companies and organizations of all sizes.  If you need help to solve your own communications challenges, visit www.msockol.comfor more information or contact Mike directly at 732.682.8361.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Project Bluebeam September 20, 2012 at 02:16 AM
I'm still a big fan of p2p. It's not just downloading music. It's a gret way to share documents.

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