During a recent talk on content curation, I showed a page from American Electric Power's intranet that included news about the company from external sources. Several in the audience wondered how the communicators at AEP curated that content, so I asked Internal Communications Director William Amurgis for a quick rundown. Instead, he replied with an email that was good enough to be a blog post-and William gave me his permission to turn it into one.
by William Amurgis
Director, Internal Communications, American Electric Power
We've explored automated feeds over the years, and found them to be either too inclusive (too many redundant or irrelevant stories) or too exclusive (missing key stories or sources). So, we assign someone the task-which takes about an hour a day, or less-of searching for relevant news from the external media, and re-publishing the news on our intranet. We have an agreement with an organization that permits us to republish from many sources, including major newspapers, magazines, and trade journals. We also use various alert systems and e-mail subscriptions to help with the story discovery.
On any given workday, we typically publish 3-5 external stories, and we exercise our own judgment and experience to decide what is relevant (based on our understanding of the key issues our company faces, and our strategic direction). We have our own, home-grown news publishing system that we use for both these re-published external stories and any internally-authored stories. Rarely do we publish more than 5 external stories a day, since that tends to exceed the capacity of our employees to read them all. Of course, we enable employees to comment on all the external stories, too.
We even have a back channel-a blog maintained by us that we call Public Image-that will link to additional news stories, particularly those that are recommended by other employees, or from sources not covered by our republishing agreement. We post to it three days a week, on average.
News, by its nature, is time-sensitive, and I wish that we could post all the relevant external news before most employees begin to arrive at work each day. Although we've attempted to juggle our schedules to have news coverage earlier in the day, it's an ongoing challenge to get it out sooner. We are not a 24-hour-a-day news operation, but our employees often expect us to be.
When I came to AEP in 2000, I helped push for more external news coverage. To me, the external news helps employees to better understand the external forces that affect internal decisions. It's clear to me that our employees are much more informed as a result.
In fact, an employee submitted the following comment on AEP Now just this morning:
"I believe that the timely articles, however politically charged, are useful in helping us understand where the company is headed and what winds are blowing us there."
(What a great quote.)
One final thought: we post the external news without any official company context in a sidebar. Some have asked us to provide the context, but we prefer to let employees-or any company leaders, since they are employees, too!-use the comments section attached to any story to provide context from their unique perspectives.
You can follow William on Twitter at @wamurgis.