BY mikekleinIn a post on her company blog, Alison Davis, who is generally known as one of the top internal communication consultants in the United States, mounted a defense of the idea of â€œwhatâ€™s in it for me (WIIFM)â€ - that a communication must convey a personal benefit or intensely direct relevance for readers, because they are otherwise disinterested in what their organizations have to say.
Iâ€™ve always had a lot of discomfort with the view that communications should be built exclusivelyÂ around WIIFM messages. I actually once worked once in a US government agency which had a WIIFM fetish, and the insistence that we only publish content that had direct personal relevance for every employee made us leave a lot of content out that was important to specific, often critical people.
It also led to dumbing down--to stripping down all but the most commonly relevant bits at the expense of an even basic level of color and depth. Â
I can understand the attractiveness of a â€œWIIFM is kingâ€ approach when an IC function is being measured on the increase in the number of intranet subscribers and click rates. Â
But in organizations which lack the ability to target specific subgroups with focused messages integrating relevant context and meaning, doing so requires a willingness to not have every employee read every word of every article, whatever the measurement consequences may be. Â
For me, the main goal of internal articles is that they give people who are relevant to a specific outcome sufficient understanding, content and context to impact that outcome. Â
Sure, it would be great to be able to narrowcast such messages to those who have genuine interest and/or influence, such as byÂ identifying them through social mapping, or by allowing them to self-select content through team or group membership. Â But organizations which donâ€™t yet have those abilities need to think about â€œwhatâ€™s in it for themâ€ before bowing to the altar of â€œwhatâ€™s in it for me.â€