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Employee publications are still wanted

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Based on the fundamental assumption that employees want to find out what is happening in their organization, should an employee publication be electronic or printed?

Or should all employee communication be face-to-face? After all, various past studies seemed to show that employees most want to hear organizational news from their supervisor.

The answers, like most things in real life, vary considerably according to many factors such as the type of information the employees want and the type of organization in which they work.

In view of this, your best approach to determine the best way to communicate to employees is simply to ask them. Conduct focus groups and employee surveys to find out what they want – because the response will vary greatly according to your organization’s unique circumstances. 

Research conducted by Angela Sinickas examined the results of surveys of an impressive number of 382,000 employees in 15 companies. She compiled the results from surveys she conducted among client companies between 1997 and 2004.

- Overall, the most preferred source of communication is clearly face-to-face.

- As more electronic choices become available, preferences for electronic channels grow.

- The new electronic options don’t replace other existing electronic channels or even print – employees actually prefer less face-to-face communication if they have more electronic choices. The reason for this isn't clear, especially when table 2 below shows that employees generally prefer their communication to be face-to-face.

- Electronic channels that ‘push’ information to employees’ attention (emails and e-newsletters) are more highly preferred on most subjects than passive ‘pull’ sources such as intranets and websites.

- Around 75% of employees are unwilling to give up printed employee publications for exclusively electronic forms of communication.

- Some of the more successful communication programs combine both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ approaches by sending emails or periodic newsletters with headlines and brief summaries of news containing links to their intranet or website for more details.

 Based on focus group research, the preference for print is often due to the lack of time allowed on the job to visit the intranet and people’s tendency to read printed publications while commuting or waiting for customers.

The difficulty with intranets is that they are out of sight and therefore out of mind for employees unless they need to look up something. However, they find the intranet valuable for saving money, avoiding mistakes and answering customer questions.

Top two preferred sources on eight subjects, on average

Subject Electronic % Face-to-face % Print %
Recognition 69 49 44
Company News 60 50 38
Financials 52 72 30
Products 47 68 39
Industry News 46 50 34
Company Goals 45 86 25
Competitors 43 74 27
How I can help 20 128 13


Respondents were allowed up to two choices per topic and therefore their preferences could add up to as much as 200%.

Employee satisfaction with volume of information by type of channel

Channel Receive too little
Receive just right amount
Receive too much
Electronic (email, intranet) 28 45 26
Printed materials 27 50 23
Face-to-face communication 60 37 3


The surveys found that the largest number of employees reported that they received the right amount of electronic communication and print communication. They also revealed that employees think they receive far too little face-to-face communication from their supervisors and managers.

These results were obtained from specific surveys in widely varying types of companies. Although the findings are significant, it would be dangerous to generalize them to every type of organization. You should do your own surveys to find out what the employees in your organization want.


About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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