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Written by Team Wizikey

June 14, 2022

The world of internal and external communications is shifting: Julia Soffa from Guru

In this episode, Julia Soffa from Guru talks about her journey and her passion for data-driven communications.

The world of internal and external communications is shifting: Julia Soffa from Guru

Julia Soffa has had quite an interesting path. She is passionate about data-driven communications and is looking to deepen her strategies around comprehension and relevance. Today Julia is driving the internal communications of Guru (getguru.com)

Video Transcription (auto-generated)

0:27 My journey and communications really started with working in marketing and sort of like nonprofit for marketing and so in my career I’ve always sort of been a hub for the details and the happenings of whatever company I was part of. I moved from marketing and nonprofit marketing to working in tech. I worked for a digital advertising company for a long time, worked for a Fortune 500 company, and was lucky enough to become the voice of my specific business unit. So you know, once a week I would collate all of the details that were applicable to the audience in my business unit, and I was able to write a —for lack of a better word, a newsletter. But, it really became like the single source of truth for thousands of people and it was completely my voice and was really, really fun to write. From there on, I moved into more of like revenue and an enablement role. I really believe that good communication can help people do the job that they are uniquely qualified to do. What I mean by that is— if you as a recipient of communication understand the thing that you need to be able to do, whether it’s filling out a form— this is the action you need to take, if it’s very clear on how to do that then you can better do your job. So, I went from sort of like revenue and helping that number back to communications because I noticed especially with the rise of so many communication tools and the fact that we are attached to our phones and we have notifications coming in from all directions that my team and people that I knew really were unfocused and like exhausted. And so, I saw this problem as a sort of like a cognitive problem and one that was preventing people from doing their best work. And so at my current company guru, I shifted into an internal communications role to help put some guardrails standards boundaries around how and why where we communicate to take some of that decision making and sort of like low-grade tasks completion off the table for employees so they can do what they are uniquely qualified to do. 

Understanding data

3.18: I think that my experience being sort of like on the revenue side and hey, how is our business doing? How are we tracking week over week definitely informs how I think about internal communication. I feel like sometimes internal communication is thought of as just like the soft nights to have and you need to have it right, especially if your employees are distributed in a pandemic, you need to have something that’s going to cut and be the signal through the noise And, how I came to being so data-driven, I think it’s because I’m connected to like the business side of things and then you know just asking a lot of questions on tactics and techniques for example is the number of emails I send an indicator of the comprehension of my employees. Probably not, right? Like just tracking volume as a data point is not and doesn’t give us a lot of information. It’s one dimension of information and that’s where the guru tool this and it’s not an ad for guru but that’s where the guru tool gives you a little more optionality so you can understand if someone has taken the action you’ve intended and if they’ve read it–when they’ve read it. That sort of comprehension pieces, something that I really wanted to explore throughout my career because it doesn’t matter if they receive it, but are they taking the action, are they doing the thing.

Solving Challenges with data

5.04: Guru is a knowledge management product so that means it’s a single source of truth where folks are documenting our customers like Zoom and Shopify and Spotify and are you know having reference documentation, everything from the company wifi to the latest pitch deck in the knowledge management system of guru. So with that Guru uses Guru for our own internal communications. So we send and I’m gonna stick with this newsletter example which I think a lot of comms internal communications folks and external communication folks— usually everybody has one of those, so that’s why I stick with this one. We have a newsletter that we used to send on a Tuesday and it would involve a lot of different content creators, so we pull in this person for this and this person for that. And, we weren’t getting as much sort of engagement and readership as we wanted. We track engagement and readership in these newsletters via the Guru product. We began sending via one person on a no-meeting Wednesday. We have a ritual here. We have no internal meetings on Wednesdays. And, the idea there was that–we have ritualized this newsletter with its cadence, its format, its senders. It comes on this day when people theoretically are going to have a bit more time to digest because I’m sure you hear this in the market too, there’s so much information, there’s so much content. People want to consume it, but we don’t have enough time right to prioritize it. That we saw about a 30% increase in readership in just getting that ritual stood up. So, that’s just one example .

My go-to metric

7:21  This is specific to the tool. We, from the tooling perspective, are looking at the number of employees who clicked the metric ‘I read it’ because I can see okay 85% of the organization has read this important update. So like it’s that metric. Another metric that you know I’m measured on which isn’t related to a tool is employee net promoter score. So, in a lot of organizations, there are different ways that folks are figuring out how to measure employee happiness and satisfaction and that pretty quantitative survey we sent to employees and a lot of communication commentary and a lot about like–our way in which we communicate is also captured in that survey. So there are a couple of different things that play. One is like the metrics were able to understand via the tools that we have, which are like the read rate, the unique views on a piece of documentation, the number of questions actually that are asked about it which isn’t a perfect metric because are the questions that are asked about a specific thing because they’re deepening the conversation or because something wasn’t clear. So, kind of playing with that one.  We use a tool that we will send our employees a synopsis of a document with video and that tool allows you, it’s called Loom. That tool allows you to watch the completion rate of the update of your employees or whoever you’re sending to. Now again, that is one dimension. I could play the video and go and make a sandwich and not comprehend it. So, what we are playing around with now from a product perspective is how to track context, awareness, and relevance when sending an update.

Favorite tools for data insights

09.52:Guru, my own tool I that because we communicate and are trying to be the best stewards of our own product, like that one’s super important. I think the loom is definitely helpful. It’s just another dimension and that’s the video tool. 

The way forward

10.15: I also think that from a crisis communications standpoint there’s an opportunity for analytics to be better joined and connected to internal and external communication. So, you know, we’re seeing companies and employees be activists in a way that was not true five years ago, 10 years ago, and so how do we get out how to employers put out messaging to employees that is going to help them do their jobs and keep them in a space of belonging and connection so they can show up at work in a real way versus ignore like the events of the world. So there’s some sort of relevance to how crisis communication is handled. 

My 2Cents

11:19 So my first reaction is that there is a new space for different types of communicators in a way that there wasn’t five years ago because of this shift in the market and so your communication journey, your journey as a communicator in your career doesn’t have to look like this linear path of— I’m going to be a junior community internal communications person, I’m gonna be a director, right? Like the world of internal and external Communications also is shifting. So you could create whatever your definition of communications is, you could create that path different from folks in the past. That’s probably like one thing. The advice I’ll give to anyone and then I have to give to myself as well is to set up a coffee once a week, once a month, virtual or not with someone whose job you’re interested in, not that you wanted to take the job or you want to work at the company but to find out about other people’s paths so you can develop your own. The third thing sort of a catchphrase of mine is clarity is kindness. So as clear as you can be about the ask you are making of someone. It’s like, hey, I want to learn from you,  you’re a professional– that like eases the tension. Like being explicit about stuff is super helpful.

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