How Your Employee App Can Grab Eyeballs

What You’ll Read

  • How your Employee App can compete with everything else on workers’ mobile devices
  • The importance of not delivering dull and boring in your communications strategy
  • Tips to add creativity that will motivate your people to use their Employee App


You have a few free minutes.

Maybe it’s after lunch. Or you’re taking a quick break from a project. Perhaps you’re on the train during your commute. You pull out your phone.

What apps do you open? Instagram to find out what’s happening with friends? CNN or ESPN to keep up with the latest news and sports? The guilty pleasure of TMZ?

Are you even thinking about also tapping on your Employee App to find out about the latest company happenings?

If your people aren’t, that’s a problem.

Depending on the survey, we spend an average of four to five hours on our mobile devices every day. The challenge we face as internal communicators is earning just a small slice of that enormous pie from our employees.

We’ve always battled the challenge of getting the attention of our employees. But it’s so much harder today when you consider the stiff competition for their eyeballs – compelling media outlets, social media, games, texting, and so on. If we’re being honest, our latest product announcement just isn’t as juicy as the latest Kardashian escapade.

But you’re also not helping your cause if your mobile employee app experience pales in comparison to the BuzzFeeds of the digital world when it comes to captivating visuals, appealing headlines, and pleasing user experience.

Dull gets ignored.

An employee communication channel absolutely is different from mass audience apps. We’re helping people excel on the job, have access to the resources they need, and provide critical updates. The consequences of ignorance can be devastating for employees and the business. But we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if our presentation is so unappealing that no one visits to see that information.

It’s possible to stay true to our company culture, inform, and entertain – all at the same time. Here’s how.

How Your Employee App Can Grab Eyeballs

Don’t Be Boring

You might hear: ‘We tend to be a lot more traditional and buttoned-up here.’ OK, but how is that working for you?

Check out other popular apps and study what they’re doing. What are their headlines? What kind of graphics or memes are they using? What are their tactics to keep people on their app? (Like offering another story at the bottom of the one you just finished.) You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Try to mimic what’s popular and going viral.

If you get resistance internally, offer to do some A-B testing. Post a story on your newsfeed the “way we’ve always done it,” and then a similar message with more pizzazz. Which one gets greater engagement? It’s always hard for leaders to question results.

Figure Out What Works for Your Audience – And Repeat

A platform like Dynamic Signal provides unprecedented metrics on who’s receiving information, who’s accessing it, and even how much time they’re spending with the content. Use that data to determine what your people like, and then give them more.

Run focus groups and conduct surveys where you ask employees: “Can you name a few of our articles that have stayed with you?” Find out what elements made them memorable to people. Just the facts? The funny cat photo with the post? The catchy headline? The twist at the end of the message?

When you find something that clicks, keep doing it!

Inject Some Humor

Your Employee App is not open mike at the Improv. But there are subtle ways to add some levity to even the dullest of topics. Take an “obligatory story” – such as the annual open enrollment. Good luck making a comedy routine with that, right?

But maybe the headline could be: “What You Need to Know Before You Step on That Banana Peel.” And the visual, of course, is a peel! I’m pretty sure you’ll get more clicks on that post than: “Open Enrollment Is Coming.”

Playfulness gets people’s attention.

But What If You’re Not Particularly Funny

Many of us aren’t comfortable trying to be humorous. It’s not our nature. But there are people in your organization who probably are naturally funny.

When I was Director of Communications at SAS, we did a casting call for people who were willing to be in our videos. They just had an improvisational aspect to their personalities who were great at doing things like interviewing people for man-on-the-street videos. Think about creating a select group who might have that in their toolkit.

Another idea is to simply have some trusted people around the company who you can run ideas by to jazz up headlines, breathe life into stories, and make them must-reads. They can give honest feedback about if something works or not. My colleague Mark Emmons tells me that when he was a newspaper reporter, he would always run first drafts of his articles past other writers before handing them to the editors – and they were always better for the critiques.

Break the Routine

Sticking to a schedule is comforting. We know what to expect. But spontaneity, delight, and surprise can play even better.

Let’s say you have a regular video series where the CEO shares company updates. They go out on Tuesdays. She’s sitting behind her desk. It’s three minutes long. It’s always the same.

There’s no way it’s ever going to stack up against highlight clips from the latest Shark Week. But a little stagecraft can make the video more interesting, so employees actually want to watch. Get her out of the office and at different locations like on the factory floor or visiting with a customer. Think of ways to create some element of suspense. (“Stay tuned to the end because I’ve got a really exciting announcement.”)

What If That’s Not the Style of Our Top Execs

It’s true that maybe no one in your C-Suite embraces that kind of idea. But I promise there will be some executive (maybe one tier down) who would be willing to go all-in on that idea of being a voice for the organization. Use your bench strength.

If and when the workforce begins paying attention to how that person communicates, you’ll have a validation point to share with the more senior leaders about the importance of adding some flair to company announcements that drives greater engagement.

Pick Your Battles

Sometimes, it’s OK just to get the message out the door because it’s not earth-shattering and won’t have a big impact. There’s no reason to put hours into something about a blood drive on Thursday. But there’s a time to put your time, energy, and creativity into a post.

Think about that blood drive example. Maybe it’s an important initiative for your organization because you’re competing with other companies in a community-wide effort, and a local TV crew is going to be out filming it. Then you might pull out all the stops to rally the troops with a funny theme (vampires anyone!) to gin up interest and excitement.

Put your effort into the things that matter and can make a difference.

Why Style Helps Substance

Communication icon Mark Ragan has this funny little quip that he uses at his conferences about how no one gets up in the morning and says: “Honey, I’ve got to grab my coffee and get to the office early because this is the day the employee newsletter comes out.”

It’s true that for internal communicators, our content rarely is “Stop the presses!” stuff. But the things we share are essential to help employees do their jobs.

There are a lot of carrots out there for us to churn out the boring stuff. That’s what gets approved faster and has fewer edits. There’s less push-back when you do things the “expected” way.

If all you’re looking at is the number of deliverables that you pushed out on your intranet, well, that’s how you get dull because it’s a meaningless metric. The real wins come when we help meet key company initiatives – like reducing safety incidents. Driving employee action that’s tied to organizational goals is about impact, not volume.

Yes, there’s some risk when you try something different. But the more significant risk is being ignored.

If we can capture a little bit of employees’ time, then we’re on our way.


Interested in learning more about the importance of an Employee App as well as how to make it indispensable in the lives of your workers? Here are some additional posts to check out.

Post Author

Becky Graebe

As Senior Director, Communication Expert at Dynamic Signal, I work with a great team of people to connect, align and engage employees in modern and meaningful ways, wherever they are and in the manner they choose.