Last week I had the great privilege to attend the annual CIPR conference in London. I’ve never attended a previous one so had no pre-conceptions to the day. I did very much like the theme though ‘making an impact’…sounded right up my street and an interesting line up of speakers. I thought it only fair to share some of my key learnings from the day and if you don’t have time to read the rest of what I’ve got to say and you work in Comms and Engagement then get yourselves there next year (and in the meantime get yourself connected with the growing IC community by contacting Jenni Field, Chair of CIPR). It is an inspiring and very lovely bunch of people doing great things in your space and all are so willing to share their experiences good and bad. Do it now! And in the meantime, I’ll tell you more about the day…apologies in advance if I misquote or get any of the facts wrong!!
Opening – Steve Murgatroyd, Vice Chair CIPR Inside
Loved the stories and photos shown of characters like Glen Mills (Usain Bolt’s coach), John Favero (Barack Obama’s speech writer) and Margaret Hamilton (the lady who wrote the code that got the Apollo spaceship to the moon). All names that not many people in the room had heard of, yet people who have however made a huge impact. The correlation was made to people working in Internal Comms. I loved this analogy and thought it was a great way of front running the rest of the content. Internal Comms have the ability to drive and heavily influence change without being front and centre. Maybe there is more of a need to demonstrate the impact you do drive every day!!!
Sarah Pinch, President, CIPR
Inspiring to hear how CIPR are driving the profession forward.How the board are lobbying hard when it comes to diversity, inclusion, ethics and providing on-going support and development for all of those working in your space.
Rachel Miller, All Things IC – The importance of content
Absolutely loved the emotionally charged video shared by Rachel at the beginning of her session. It really demonstrated the power of creating an emotional connection with your audience…and it was about plastic milk bottles!!! Intrigued? Click on the link to the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRt4lEXkDJs
Here are some of the key points from the presentation:
- Each individual interprets content in a unique way – we need to find ways to tailor content accordingly
- The average human attention span is 8 seconds!!! If you want to make an impact, make it fast!
- The shortest distance between two people is a story! So true…
- Always think about the Maya Angelou quote: people don’t forget how you made them feel
- Internal Comms have moved from being content creators to content curators
- With any content use the RAW framework: Is it real? Is it accurate? Is it right for our organisation?
Tim Rutter, Tata Steel – Offline audience
Tim gave some fascinating insights into the Port Talbot steelworks in Wales and the challenges working with a 5,000 strong employee base that are predominately offline. He made me laugh a lot too! Here are my take-aways and AHA moments:
- For them a tabloid style newspaper reporting the good, the bad and the ugly drawing on humour and reflecting their values and key areas of focus has helped drive a real cultural shift
- It has taken 6-7 years to really become embedded
- The number of lost time incidents has reduced in this period from 4.5 to 0.3 – real measurable results!
- You have to tailor the content to the majority of your people, don’t fall into the trap of basing decisions on your own likes and preferences
- It’s ok to be brutally honest if it works in your organisation
- Sensational headlines make people smile and attract attention. Remember we are all human-beings who like a good laugh ‘Just a little prick!’ 😊
- It takes dogged determination to keep going with it – stick with it and know that it is making a difference!
Saskia Jones, Oxfam – Engaging remote audiences in conversations with leadership
Saskia talked about the challenges working for a not for profit NGO and engaging remote audiences in conversation across the globe. To put that in context they have 5,000 staff and 30,000 volunteers in 50 countries! From a recent survey it was found that people were feeling increasingly disengaged from Oxford-based leadership. They needed to come up with a way to break down barriers and open up communications on a global basis!
Here are some of the key points from the presentation:
- They launched a digital platform accessible to all called ‘Ask Me Anything’ with three exec contributors including the Chief Exec
- People could start discussions and comment on other discussions 24/7
- Not censoring and genuinely allowing people to ask anything including if the Chief Exec was wearing his lucky pants!
- The importance of moving from ‘cascade to conversation’ and creating authentic connections with leaders
Sarah Purdie, Clarks – Engaging Video
Sarah brought to life the power of video and it’s growing importance in communications in bringing company stories to life. For Clarks it was to really bring meaning to what being a global brand really looks like and creating a ‘little film that made a big impact!’
- Leader videos have their place absolutely and they use them, but this was about creating an emotional connection to the brand (190 years old this year! Wow congratulations Clarks!)
- The importance of including their own people in the video ‘made by Clarks people for Clarks people’
- In terms of reach, every store has a TV and DVD if not infront of a computer all day so a video was a great choice in reaching all
- Creating something short and powerful, just over 3 minutes!
- You could see what a great conversation starter it would be across the business, a great brand awareness tool and a great way of attracting/on-boarding new employees so that they can see what they are becoming part of!
- The video would not have been enough on its own – needed manager briefing notes on how to talk around it and follow-up so people knew what was in it for them
- All done on a limited budget using internal resources at Clarks and a locally-based video company to film and edit the footage! Making an impact in practice with amazing feedback and results to show from it!
Stephanie Davies, Laughology
The afternoon started with a bang! This was a fab way to wake us and shake us all up after a rather yummy lunch! Stephanie had us clapping, cheering, banging on tables, standing on chairs and there was definitely lots of laughter in the room!
- Stephanie talked about the power of laughter and how it changes your neurotransmitters so you are engaged in a different way to normal – I could definitely feel the energy flowing around the room!
- Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins are all triggered when you laugh!
- I loved the fact that science can back up how important laughter is and how it can change the way we feel in the workplace
- Stephanie talked about her happiness research and how the following 5 areas affect our ability to be truly happy : confidence, personal development, positive relationships, support and coping skills
- What a great thing Stephanie is doing in going out to organisations and schools and reminding them of the importance of laughter with results to show for it too!
Jenni Field, CIPR Inside Chair
Jenni then talked about and encouraged the group to become more involved in the CIPR and to help in recruiting new members. A video was shown on how you can develop your own careers with the CPD courses and you can get points for completing them!!!! Jenni also talked about the regional ‘Ask the Guru’ events…another great way of finding out what’s working in other organisations. One of the main take-always from Jenni as well was from her own experiences working for SSP and the importance of measurement and strategy for the work that you are doing to earn your seat at the table. This is not about the number of campaigns that have been done, it’s showing that behaviours have changed. Measurement shouldn’t be a tick box exercise.
Unfortunately I missed most of John Nielson’s session from Lockheed Martin but the bit I did catch was the positioning at the beginning. John has an external Comms background and a huge amount of experience working for global companies in various parts of the world. He talked passionately about the need for an integrated communications plan (external, internal, stakeholders, government, digital) and the absolute need to partner with business functions and stakeholders when communicating in a large, global organisation. Sorry I can’t do your session more justice John. If anyone would like to fill in the gaps…please do!
Kevin Ruck, PR Academy – Measurement
The next session was all about measurement and I’ve included a couple of photos of the models shown on where to start with this shared by…..
The bit that struck me the most in this session was the Alex Ferguson story and how he took the time to know everyone’s name and always said hello to everyone at the club. The simple act of saying hello helps people feel valued! Start with the basics…no big power points, keep it real!
Sasha Watson, ARM – Measurement in Practice
Sasha had such great energy and brought the topic of measurement to life in a really engaging way. She explained the importance of having research to back up her plan.
- Started by asking employees ‘what does good look like?’, looked at what had been done in the past and conducted a full Comms audit
- Used data to drive decisions which worked really well in a company made up of engineers/technically-minded people “It’s not me, it’s the research!”
- Get lots of feedback and use this to tweak the plan
- Use data again to look at the effectiveness
- Have behaviours changed? Just because people have read it, doesn’t mean that their behaviour has changed
- People bought into the strategy because of the feedback, it earned her a seat at the right tables and even an increased budget!
Janet Morgan, GSK – Strategy in Action
The final presentation by Janet was around ‘turning strategy into action’. At GSK, all Comms sit together and head of sits on leadership team. Huge, global organisation, very complex, highly regulated, 40% of employee base offline. Newspapers won’t work as they operate in a clean environment. 26 languages. Wow!
- Historically, all internal Comms have sounded like a press release to get past government regulation
- Internally, when asked about brand reputation, employees felt proud but were unable to say why and articulate it
- Employees felt a disconnect from the corporate strategy and their work
- Externally, unsure about what GSK actually do. Like us when they get to know us. Unaware of heritage, products and impact
- The goal was therefore to increase pride internally and reputation externally – to think, behave and be seen as one company
- They needed to develop a corporate narrative that was consistent, adaptable and flexible – what would unite all?
- They succeeded in creating a 7 page narrative that did just this ‘a global healthcare company on a mission’
- Janet shared great visuals of the website, the video created and how different countries had tailored it to meet their own requirements
- She explained how popular ‘fill in the blank’ documents are
- Finally, Janet spoke about how important it is for employees to hear things first rather than through the media
Phew! If you’re still reading this, well done! I know that was a bit of a mammoth download of info but there were such great learnings from the day. I wanted to be able to log this for myself and for others as a reminder or if you couldn’t make it on the day, a way of being to grab a nugget or two and get you thinking about coming to the next one!
For me though, it was really about the strategic role that internal Comms plays in all aspects of business but especially in how you instill that sense of pride and belonging. How you connect people to your companies mission and purpose for being, and help them feel valued and part of something bigger than themselves. I come at the world with my ‘Appreciateologist’ head on and know that without you all then my ambitions when it comes to creating a culture of recognition would be impossible.
Be proud, and thanks again for letting me be part of such a great event!
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