PR Specialization

If you can change only one thing, start here: Reduce friction

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You face so many challenges in getting employees’ attention that it’s sometimes hard to know which to address first.

And, if you’re planning to attend the PRSA Connect 16 Conference in May, you’re looking forward to learning lots of bright ideas to help you address those challenges.

But even if you can’t make it to Dallas next month, here’s one simple idea that can make a big impact. And, interestingly enough, the underlying problem is such an important one that it can determine whether employees are drawn into or turned away by your communication.

That problem is friction.

To understand friction’s importance, let’s start with Cambridge Dictionary’s definition: “The force that works against an object as it slides along the surface of another object or moves through a liquid of gas.” Used in a sentence: “A gasoline engine loses over 70 percent of its energy to friction and heat.”

In internal communication, friction occurs when an employee is intrigued by a topic, but then encounters resistance on his/her quest to engage with content.

Friction occurs when:

  • The experience doesn’t work right. A link is broken. A video doesn’t play. A website isn’t mobile enabled so it can’t be viewed on a smart phone.
  • There’s a barrier to overcome. The most common is the lowly password. The employee doesn’t remember his/her password. Or must register for the first time, answering many questions to do so.
  • Content is too long. A video is 10 minutes, and the employee only has three. There are too many pages or too many words. The slide show is 55 pages.

These and other sources of friction all add up to the same result: When communication requires too much of a commitment, employees abandon ship.

And here’s the very bad news: Even if employees are completely interested in the topic—even if they need the information—and even if your content is really awesome, friction can cause failure.

As Bob Garfield writes in a recent column on online publishing, “Because it is human nature not to be bothered if bother can be avoided, it takes very little friction to stop a transaction, or any action, in its online tracks.”

The good news is that there are many ways to reduce friction. But you’ve got to be committed to creating an experience that’s easy, convenient and, above all, employee-centric.

So take out the WD-40 and look for ways to reduce friction—to make communication easier for employees to access, process and use.

It’s a small change that will definitely make a big difference.

See you in Dallas!


Alison Davis, CEO of Davis & Company, will be the keynote speaker during the PRSA Connect 16 Conference, an employee communications conference. The conference will take place May 11-13, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. Alison will open the conference by speaking about how easy it is to transform employee communication. Register for the conference here.

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