Things I am learning #3

We need to keep our eye on the goal!

I think ‘wanting to get involved with everything’ must be a symptom of being an Internal Communicator. Our tendency to offer ourselves up for ‘stuff’ we don’t really have the resource to handle is a reflection of our passion for what we do.

Whilst we shouldn’t look to extinguish this we do need to be mindful of the danger posed. Take this analogy for example:

“Billy Balmer, a professional footballer during the early 1900’s, remains Everton’s all-time top scorer. Quite an achievement. Unfortunately the goals he scored to win him this accolade were at the wrong end!”

Walters after his second own goal for Stoke recently

Own Goal

This made me think: As IC’ers is it better for us to score a few goals at the right end of the pitch rather than just shooting whenever we see the opportunity? We can probably all reflect on times where we have worked really hard to deliver tactical activity at the expense of our strategy.

The reality is activity that aligns with our objectives must take priority – unfortunately we have to practice saying ‘no’ to the stuff that doesn’t.

Unlike Billy, it is worth us getting our head up, re-focusing and remembering which way we are shooting from time to time.

I should, and could, be doing that – as featured on www.allthingsIC.com

Just incase you missed it at www.allthingsIC.com here is the guest blog I wrote for Rachel Miller (@allthingsIC) recently.

I was delighted to have been invited to attend the PR Academy awards at the Groucho Club in London’s Soho district recently. The event, which celebrates students who gained a distinction in their topic area from the prior year, provided a great opportunity to catch up with classmates as well as meeting some other IC enthusiasts too.

Whenever you put a bunch of communicators in a room together with free nibbles and drinks, it’s always going to be a lively atmosphere. However, over the surrounding rumble of conversation I did manage to have a good chat with Rachel about all things IC, learning and blogging.

Given the event, it was quite fitting that Rachel was keen to understand more about my learning experience, which I was more than happy to talk about – typical communicator!

My learning journey
The most beneficial thing I took away from the Internal Communications Diploma was the level of application. I was attending a full-day session on a Saturday and going into work on Monday with a list of things I wanted to implement. At first I thought it may be me being a bit over enthusiastic, however the course maintained its level of practicality with the introduction of guest speakers (often from a practitioner background).

For me, both Tom Crawford and John Smythe made the biggest impressions. Both presented in an utterly engaging, often comical manner, but what cut through the most was the ‘I should, and could, be doing that moments.’

I should, and could, be doing that moments
Tom spoke at length about the split personality required to be an IC’er – from the court jester, being the one who brings something different, creative and entertaining; to the coach who can challenge outdated lore.

John on the other hand provided a revolution in the way I think about IC and employee engagement: Don’t be afraid to give your people the ability to ‘co-create’ your comms.

The key thing in both of these ‘moments’ was that not only did I feel I should be doing these things – I felt like I could, and straight away. So I did, I would go back into work and start applying these ideas on new campaigns or presentations. And so my credibility and confidence grew, strengthening the learning loop.

The difference
Talking to Rachel on the evening I explained how I think the key difference between the PR Academy course and most university study is the level of application. Without the ability to practice what you are learning, I think the theories, models and approaches just don’t stick. Am sure anyone who has tried (and failed, like me) to learn a language or instrument will agree.

Things I am learning #2

We don’t have to wait for the 10 o’clock news anymore!

On a similar theme to a recent blog post I wrote on our expectations of technology, I am learning that the same applies to relevant content. In a world where we don’t have to wait for the news (it’s instantly accessible through our phones, tablets, computers) why should we sit through a full company briefing to hear the single story that’s relevant to us.

As Internal Communicators I think we have a responsibility to address the way our leaders and communication teams talk at a business-wide level. Local, non-contextual messages are no longer relevant to a generation that can fast-forward through the 10 o’clock news to the sports supplement (the joys of Sky+). Not that they ever were relevant – maybe we just find it more acceptable to switch off nowadays?

Global, contextualised (with real local and business application) and interesting content is what we should be aiming for.

What do you think?

Technology: Are you keeping up?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

As an Internal Communicator it’s likely you will have had a conversation at some point about ‘technology’. What ‘level’ of technology should we incorporate into our strategies. After all we have Twitter accounts for our customers, iPads for our sales people and QR tags on our products – why shouldn’t do the same for our colleagues.

It is likely that at some point you will have heard an argument against the use of new technology which goes something like ‘our people just aren’t ready yet’ or ‘the culture isn’t right’. Some of us may even hold these views ourselves.

Let’s put this into context. We live in a world where Facebook has 850 million users worldwide, 140 million Tweets are sent every single day and the internet glues our lives together in a way that we couldn’t have imagined 15, 10, even 5 years ago. Technology is endemic from the TV you watch, to checking your bus timetable – where used to simple, intuitive digital assistance.

The important thing to realise is that we as individuals, nor our colleagues, leave our expectations at home – we bring them (and our iPhones) to work with us! In a recent piece of research I conducted into preferred communication channels, the most poignant piece of feedback I received was:

“Our work technology doesn’t keep up with our home technology”

What a wake up call that was. Why should we settle for less at work? The colleague who shared this feedback with me gave me an example of how employees are ‘hacking’ traditional systems for the better with technology: “we have one manager who instead of saving updates up until an end of shift briefing (and running the risk of forgetting stuff), sends live ‘instant messages’ to his team via his personal Blackberry.

If we look closely enough its possible to see that technology does find its way into our systems, whether we embrace it or not.

Whilst I am not advocating we all introduce Social Media into our strategies, I do believe we have to really understand the needs of our businesses to ensure we do not underestimate our colleagues needs or equally over-complicate their experience.

Luckily there is a fairly simple solution to understanding these employee needs. Just ask them.

Things I am learning #1

Alongside the blogposts I have lined up for An IC Journey – I also wanted to include some bite-size snippets of thoughts, musings and learnings. There’s no structure to these, I am just going to list them as I think them. Please feel free to share or challenge. Here’s the first:

I am learning that analogies are a great way for communicating with senior managers. Let’s face it, the senior people in our organisations are busy bees. They’re challenged with absorbing lots of information everyday, often bouncing from meeting to meeting. As communicators I think we can help them retain ‘detail’ better through analogies. Lets break up the bulletpoint-ridden Powerpoints and dull agenda sheets with a well woven analogy which stitches a message together like a story.

Get a rapper on your latest ‘single’ to widen your audience

I was listening to a radio interview recently when it struck me that us IC’ers could learn a thing or two from the world of music collaborations.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the competition for ‘air-time’. Every artist wants their song to be heard and so it is in our workplaces too. The HR department wants to push employer brand, at the same time Marketing have their latest ‘single’ out (maybe, a new product or promotion) and simultaneously we have Health & Safety delivering their monthly brief.

The audience surely cannot cope with all of these messages. And they don’t have to. Rock fans will choose guitars and drums, blocking out that ‘dance rubbish’ whilst our safety colleagues are more engaged by reading ‘weather alerts’ than new product launch stories (to make a mass generalisation).

This situation is fine, for a short while. Each audience sees its name in lights, month in, month out. But surely the process gets old. We’re obsessed with our favourite band’s latest album – but if they kept re-releasing that would we continue to buy it?

Bands that fail are the ones that fail to evolve with the times. Much like business processes. If we don’t keep people engaged and excited, our monthly newsletter is likely to go the same way as your old Steps albums!

The artists who succeed are those that evolve and keep their message relevant to the changing needs of their audience. The artists who prosper though are those who widen their audiences.

Take Jay-Z. A rapper who quite rightly sat at the top of the Hip-Hop genre in the late 90’s/early 00’s. In 2004, despite success in his own field, he teamed up with Linkin Park (a rock metal band) to produce Collision Course, an album that bridged genres and audiences. It worked, selling more than 5 million copies worldwide. He followed this up by headlining Glastonbury and with future collaborations alongside Coldplay and R Kelly. By using a relevant partner in another genre Jay-Z was able to get his message heard by a wider audience and continues to do so.

I've got 99 problems - but getting my message heard ain't one

I’ve got 99 problems – but getting my message heard ain’t one

This made me reflect. How often do we IC’ers try to win over ‘hard to reach’ or disengaged audiences alone and to no avail. Maybe we can take a leaf out of Jay-Z’s book and build partnerships with key influencers in other departments to act as our ‘stage’ to a wider audience. Heavy bass optional!

An IC journey

I’ve always fancied starting a blog, so with the combination of a New Year and reasonably new job I thought I would give it a crack.

Watch for IC

Starting out in an Internal Comms role really feels like the beginning of a journey for me. I’m a few months in, pulling together a strategy and starting to get to grips with things but I know there’s so much I want to do. Wanting to ‘run before I can walk’ is a cliche that springs to mind. Speaking to other IC’ers they’ve had the same experience, you probably have too. This blog is intended to be my outlet – a place where I can share the thoughts, questions, musings, rants and raves (hopefully less of the latter)  along the way.

Oh and the name. The name is really epitomised by the picture, running before you can walk invariable leads to you ending up on…

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