How to make your (internal) messages stick

According to a recent study, the first thing most of us think of when we wake up in the morning, is our smartphone. I thought it would be coffee, but that´s not the case anymore.

The price for having a smartphone and an endless amount of apps at hand is distraction. If something bores us, we grab our phone and entertain ourselves. As a consequence, our attention span has dropped from twelve to eight seconds, Microsoft argues in a recent study.

Luckily, the evolution of digital has also given us who work with internal communication many new options to create engaging communication.

But in general, we are by far not good enough to exploit them.

According to a great infographic from Mbooth and the analytics company Simply Measured, pictures and videos are by far the most efficient way to communicate on social media.

  1.  On Facebook, Photos are liked 2X more than text updates and videos are shared 12X more than links and text posts combined.
  2. 42% of all Tumblr posts are photos.
  3. Photo and video posts on Pinterest are referring more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and Google+.
    (you can read more and see the infographic here)

Today, up to 60% use online media as their primary news source and up to 20% use social media as their primary news source. And in five year’s time 25% of the workforce consist of digital natives who haven’t even experienced a world without the Internet.

The consequence of this development is that employees expect information to be short, relevant and easy accessible.

Infotain your employees

Today, internal communication competes with channels like Facebook, Instagram and Buzzfeed for attention. They deliver on important parameters like relevance, entertainment and access.

If the internal comms department would like to get their messages through, corporate news and information must be shorter, more visual and entertaining – and accessible.

My own experience is, that we are still too focused on writing long articles, even if we are using digital channels. Many of the long articles we write can easily be converted into great visual communication such as infographics, videos or just photos with a little piece of text.

In Arla we created a few short video and visual formats that could both inform and entertain our colleagues. Last year, internal communication did a great infographic about the milk intake in Arla. Instead of just communicating the amount in billion kilos which can be difficult to imagine, they created the infographic below. It was a huge success. People loved it, they shared it on social media, printed it out and took it home to show family and friends. And when I visited a transport hub in the UK a couple of weeks later, this was the news they remembered. The Infographic was also published in a press release (read more here).

Studies show, that we process pictures 60,000 times faster than text. In other words the extra effort pays out – the message is more likely to stick.

Videos also work well. Recently, when I was on a plane it occured to me how boring the flight safety videos are and I wondered if anyone pays attention to them. Look around in the plane next time you are travelling somewhere…guess what – no one watches them anymore. Some airlines did something about it. Take a look at the two videos below – which video will most likely catch your attention on a plane? I guess I know which one…



I am not saying you should hire Peter Jackson to instruct your next corporate movie. But use some of the same techniques – something that makes people wonder, and makes them want to stick to the end of your movie (which of course should not exceed two minutes – if you expect employees to watch longer movies, I think it might be a good idea to hire Peter Jackson…).


A simple rule of thumb for your communication is that people don´t read anymore – they look at pictures. But the great thing about visual communication is that you can start today. Here a four examples on where you can easily use more visuals:

1. Business processes or something that is difficult to explain in plain text  – Consider a short movie or an infographic.When I worked in danish rail we often experience situations where we had to explain something that is complex to explain. In these situations, an infographic was a great help to employees and journalists to understand the issue. For instance, it was difficult to explain why snow can cause delays. Banedanmark, our infrastructure operator did a great job together with in creating this simple infographic.

2. Numbers – Use visuals that can be understood in seconds. Get inspiration from infographics on how you can communicate them in a more untraditional manner than showing diagrams. You may assume that employees have seen diagrams before – and that they don´t find them as interesting as the finance department. Some companies have great products that they can use to visualize numbers and percentages. In Arla, we have milk cartons, Carlsberg can use bottles, a train company can use trains and so forth.

3. KPIs –  Use smileys or colours to give the receiver a quick overview. This one sounds like a no brainer – but I have seen KPIs communicated to employees by using extensive spredsheets and where you really had to focus to find out if the result is good or bad.

4. Strategy – Very often a new strategy is communicated with some statements and numbers. Often, they confuse as the employees do not understand what the core message is – what do we have to do different? When I worked in DSB S-train we had the same challenge. But  the core message was that we needed to get a closer understanding of our customers needs. Therefore, we created this little visual piece that uses the S-train time table to make our point.

It may take an extra effort to do visual communication – but you can be certain that the extra effort pays out. Studies show that only 10 out of 100 people remember the message delivered in plain text or audio efter three days. If the text comes in combination with a relevant picture, 65 out of 100 remember the message after three days (read more here and a great blog post about infograhics here). Last but not least – it´s fun and challenging! Enjoy.