Unless you've been living off the grid, you know all about Netflix. So you're well aware that the company, which was a pioneer in digital content, is now the world's leading internet entertainment service (with 125 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 140 million hours of TV shows and movies per day).

What you may not know is that Netflix has made overtures to buy a billboard company. And not even a digital billboard company: a low-tech, old-school, big-vinyl-sign firm called Regency Outdoor Advertising, which owns a slew of billboards on the Sunset Strip and other key locations in Los Angeles.

Why would Netflix made such a retro investment? Two reasons (that I'll relate to employee communication in a moment):

1. Netflix understands the importance of reaching customers when they're not staring at their screens. There's a growing segment of advertising called out-of-home (OOH) media which includes billboards, street furniture, transit posters and digital screens in places like doctor's offices, elevators, gas pumps and electronic billboards.

According to research firm PQ Media, consumers' time with OOH is growing every year to 66 minutes a week. "With consumers increasingly accessing media outside their homes and the rise of ad-blocking technologies, brands are turning to OOH media to engage their customers," says Patrick Quinn, PQ Media president and CEO.

2. Billboards have now become an important source for social media content. In fact, eye-catching and clever billboards are "a thing" on such platforms as Snap and Instagram.

According to an article on The Hustle, billboards are increasingly important for the same reason "your cousin Stacy took 43 photos of her tiramisu yesterday: Netflix is doing it for the 'gram. Billboards blew up in the 1920s by appearing in the windows of passing drivers--now, they're doing it by appearing in millions of selfies."

The Hustle explains that "acquiring paid customers using social channels is becoming more expensive and less consistent, but amplifying a brand with eye-catching public visuals is becoming cheaper--thanks to those same networks."

I know you're wondering how this relates to communicating with employees.

Simple. Even if your company has virtual workers, most employees spend the majority of their time in a company office, manufacturing plant, store, warehouse or other facility. That means they walk through an entrance, clock in (if they're hourly workers), visit the restroom and wait in line in the cafeteria. And while they do so, they could be getting valuable information by experiencing communication in the work environment.

That means that, as Netflix is doing with customers, you should be using methods that catch employees' attention--posters, bulletin boards, electronic screens and banners.

How do you apply lessons learned from billboards to communication in your workplace? Take these 4 steps:

  1. Use a mix of methods. As with OOH advertising, one size does not fit all. That's why a static poster works best in some settings, and video on digital screens works well in others. Observe how employees move around, congregate and interact with your workplace communication to decide on the best mix.
  2. Apply that old adage: "Location, location, location." OOH advertisers know that the best places to put their messages are where people are stopping or waiting. So choose high-traffic areas where folks tend to sit, stand or pause in their fast-paced workday, such as the cafeteria or lunch/break rooms, entrances, elevators, print/copy rooms and outside the credit union or other employee service centers.
  3. Keep it simple. Each workplace communication should have one simple, at-a-glance message. Save the details for other channels.
  4. Extend the impact of old-school channels by inviting social sharing. Have a contest in which you ask employees to submit photos of themselves with bulletin boards or billboard-style posters. And think about other ways you can encourage people to interact with workplace communication.

Published on: Apr 27, 2018