Friday, May 19, 2006

An HR RSS Mash Up Goes Live

John Nail has soft-launched an interesting mash-up portal of HR RSS feeds, called "The Industy Radar". The site has pre-categorized HR subjects such as HealthCare Consumerism, HR technology, outsourcing, etc.

It's an great way to keep tabs on thousands of blogs and websites related to HR without having to set up your own RSS feeds.

Podcasts Are Taking Over The World

Maybe that'’s a bit of an exaggeration -– some might say satellite radio is really taking over, but it'’s less so than you might think for the podcast.

I was in a local ice cream shop last weekend after my daughter'’s softball game and, low-and-behold, the shop was promoting their podcast series on new ice cream flavors. I kid you not. Take a look, I mean, listen for yourself.

One of the benefits of podcasting is that it's audio -- —and an attribute that'’s shared by no other communication medium is the ability to listen while you'’re doing something else. Unlike video or text, you can listen to podcasts when driving, surfing the web, or working out (I don'’t do the latter as much as I should).

A few interesting stats on podcasting:

  1. the creation of podcast feeds has averaged 15% growth month over month
  2. podcast circulation is consistently growing nearly 20% per month
  3. iTunes is the clear favorite for podcast subscribers, a healthy 43% of the market (even thought an iPod is not required for listening to a Podcast --– any mp3 player will do).

A medium that'’s less than two years has already amassed a lot of media coverage and a listener ship of close to 1 million; Forrester Research expects that number to grow to 12.3 million households by 2010. A year ago Business Week covered Podcasting with equally optimistic estimates.

These estimates may be low, since more and more mainstream media outlets are podcasting their recorded content and will undoubtedly promote its availability.

FeedBurner recently surpassed a major milestone of 50,000 podcast feeds under management which, according to the CIA World Factbook, exceeds the total number of radio stations worldwide.

In briefings and clients meetings of late, most of the discussion about podcasting has focused on what to use it for, who would listen, how long the podcast should be, and how to download a podcast. What most people haven't asked much about is how to create a podcast in the first place.

So let'’s take a look at some if these issues
While company news or CEO broadcasts are commonly thought to be good candidates for turning into podcasts (they are), there are other uses that will be particularly handy as we move into benefits enrollment season this fall.

HR can use Podcasts to discuss upcoming changes to the benefits programs, and use voice -- which his a powerful communication medium -- to reinforce messaging around health care "‘consumerismÂ" issues, escalating costs, and how employees can get the most our of their benefits plans.

Another good use is in the retirement area. Stats show many twenty-somethings don'’t enroll in their company's 401(k) plan, and miss out not only on the company matching funds, but on starting to build their retirement accounts in their early working years --– ever more important for those without a tradition defined-benefit pension plan. A podcast series is a great way to explain why enrolling in a 401(k) is so important, no matter how young an employee may me.

Unlike broadcast voice mail,– which can do double duty for some of these uses, the podcast can easily be replayed, forward or reversed, and saved far more easily than in a voice mail system. And for those employees who donÂ’t work at a desk, or may not have voice mail, it'’s one of the only ways to receive verbal communications from the company.

So now you're geared up and ready to make a podcast about the latest changes to the annual performance review process (how much fun is that!), or that new policy on use of the corporate jet (still paying attention? Good).

Creating a Podcast
Let's take a look at just how easy it is to create a podcast -- with the understanding that the most difficult aspect of podcasting (like blogging) is the content --– the script or plan for what you want to say,– not the technology to record it. Two good podcasting tutorials are How To Podcast or on Feedburner.

If you want to create a podcast for an external website (maybe to go along with your blog, or as companion for all those vacation pictures you just uploaded for your relatives), there are many free services, including Yahoo! and Podcast Alley.

If you want to create a podcast within your company, for posting on your intranet or internal blog, you'’ll want an enterprise version (which isn'’t free, but is amazingly inexpensive). Some options include, and

Here'’s another novel way to create a podcast -- Skype. That'’s right, Skype. The free computer-to-computer (and until year end, free from computer-to-regular telephone) service (which eBay bought last year for $2.6 Billon) has the ability to record conversations (and so does services like WebEx) .

Once recorded, turning the recording into a podcast is as simple as using the aforementioned podcast creators to ‘"convert" the recording into a podcast format.

Now that you know what software to use to record your podcast, all you'’ll need is a microphone for your PC or laptop.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Executive Blogs - Deal or No Deal?

We've all heard the stories of executive's blogging, and the speculation that their speech writers are doing most of the authoring.

Last year a few brave soles started blogs - GM, Boeing, McDonald's have been widely highlighted as pioneers (for good or bad).

Business Week covers the issue head-on in the "Managing" column (not the technology column!) about what Boeing did, the push back they got, and how it's helping turn around a secretive, traditional old-line manufacturing company.

If traditional companies like Boeing and GM, both operating in highly competitive and often industries like aerospace and automotive can find value in using blogs for internal and external communication, just about any organization should see the potential for this channel.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Google Health - Check it Out!

Rumors have been flying for weeks now that Google would launch a health search site, akin to their Google Finance model. USA Today, TechCrunch, UK site "The Register" have all been speculating.

Now you can give it a try at:

While the banner doesn't hint at anything special, go ahead and search for anything health related, and see how the search results are categorized.

For example, when I searched for "Sore Throat", the listing at the top of the search results page said
Refine results for sore throat:
For patients
From medical authorities
Causes/risk factors
For health professionals
Alternative medicine

Sore Throats
Sore throat
is a symptom of many medical disorders. Infections cause the majority of sore throats and are contagious. - 41k - Cached - Similar pages

And, of course, the sponsored links were just what you'd expect:

Wild Cherry Coffaway
Natural Cough Syrup Formula
by 7th Generation Cherokee
Get rid of Sore Throat
Complete treatment for common cold,
flu & fever. Homeopathic Medicine.
"This Magic Tea Cures"
Research shows this rare Okinawan
tea has magical curing properties.

Personalized Newsites - The WSJ Weighs In

It's finally made the mainstream... A Wall Street Journal article says that news websites are looking at enabling readers to personalize their own content.

Wow, what a radical move! OK, seriously, this has been going on in mass all over the net for quite some time- except on sites from major content publishers (except such experiments like Newsweek private label version of NewsGator).

Clearly the pressure from MySpace (and alike sites) is pushing hard on these publishers to move a step closer to the 'self-publishing' aspects of the social media sites.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Do You Know The Latest Tech Terms?

According to according to a Harris Interactive study commissioned for Microsoft Windows Live, many US adults don't.

Some interesting stats:

While 79% are aware of blogs, only 17% read them.

1/3 say they aren't sure how best to describe voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).

More than 70% have never heard of Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

And about 1/2 said they don't know the definition of Internet tagging. (Tagging is similar to the bookmarks people make on their personal Web browsers, except that tagged Web pages are stored on the Internet and can be accessed from any computer at any time).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What does teen magazine Elle Girl have to do with Employee Communications in 2006?

More than you might think (assuming most readers of this Blog are beyond their teen years and not pilfering their daughter’s copy).

While all daily news organizations have moved fully onto the web while continuing to print, many monthly feature magazine had not enbraced the web until quite recently (The New Yorker didn’t have a website until 2001, and Vanity Fair until 2004, according to
Business Week). Even today, Business Week noted, most Time, Inc. magazine websites (Time, People, etc.) have little more than text and pictures (no video, no sound, no interactive games).

And the connection to employee communications? Well, remember the old days of four color employee publications full of well photographed, meticulously edited 3000 word feature stories? OK, it’s been a while. But you know what I’m referring to.

Well, you also know these print publications were replace by content on early Intranets and now on today’s employee portals (Watson Wyatt’s Employee Communications ROI study shows that the use of print media is down 30% and the use of electronic media up 75% in the past two years). And anyone that's ever written for the electrnoic medium knows the content (mainly on intranets) is most often of the time-sensitive news type.

Here’s where the world of teen magazines and employee communications have something in common: The desire of both publishers (that latter being employee communicators) to keep readers’ attention without fighting it out on the sole issue of raw speed (at some point in the not-to-distant future the speed of employee news will be maxed out at real-time – it's already happened for external news).

Condé Nast’s has a fancy name for their experiment with Elle Teen - “user-generated content.” Maybe that's another way of saying, “subscriber blogging.” The plan is for Condé Nast to “let its teen readers create content to a degree previously unseen.”

Could employee communicators take a lead from this by turning over content creation to the employee population? You bet. If you look at what IBM, Intel, Cisco and other high tech companies have done with their massive internal blog network, it sounds quite similar.

And it's already happening in certain circles (hint: my previous post on social media such as and

One explanation for the “user-generated content” approach is the simple fact that users are more engaged when they participate in the creation of the content to which they’re reading.

Of course, the stakes are quite different for Condé Nast. Commercial publishers need eyeballs to drive ad revenues (and they are keenly aware that Google’s revenue, which is almost all ad generated, was up 79% last quarter). Employee communicators measure success far differently. But they, too, know that their readers have shifted dramatically from paper to online and may be less engaged as employees than before.

BTW - retired GE CEO Jack Welch recently wrote that the #1 measure of a companies success is employee engagement! He said, "If you're running a business, though, whether it's a corner store or a multi-product multinational, we would say there are three key indicators that really work: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow."

In the end, the common thread for all publishers is attracting and keeping their reader/users base – and their interest in logging on and getting users engaged. The difference going forward may very well be the definition of a publisher - from a content creator to a provider of a framework into which users (aka readers) do more or most of the content creation themselves.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Social Media Now In The Workplace - Facebook Goes Corporate

With all the buzz about, is the first of the major 'social media' sites to move aggressively into the corporate realm.

Facebook is now allowing new users from a select group of corporations to join their social network, including: Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EA, Gap, Intel, Intuit, Microsoft, Pepsi, PWC and Teach for America. And Techcrunch says Facebook may add another 1,000 companies on this week.

Since over 85% of college students have signed up for Facebook, one can only wonder how many corporate user will try out the service.

What does this mean for corporations?

For starters, the ability for employees to share information and best practices quicker and easier than ever. It will also likely spur easier recruiting.

Of course, without policies and guidelines created by 'member' companies for their employees, what their employees post on Facebook and how these employees use Facebook are entirely up to each user.

If you're not familiar with either of these sites, they connect users together in a community who share attributes. Facebook says it's an "online directory that connects people through social networks." Myspace says it's a "private community where [users] can share photos, journals, and interests with a growing network of mutual friends."

Facebook and Myspace started with the college market - users need an legitimate .edu email to sign up (this supposedly kept the registrations limited to actual college students). They moved to add the high school market and now Facebook is going corporate.

It's worth noting that Facebook has chosen to seed the corporate market: instead of focusing on one sector or industry they’ve chosen leading companies in several industries that typically hire top-caliber grads (consulting, software development, hardware development, consumer products).