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1 January 2013
My 2012 confessions

2012 has been an eventful year for my comms world. I like to think that every communicator out there has a list of things they want to do during their career. There are a number of things that every communicator should go through to add strings to their bow and I’m pretty sure I ticked a few off in 2012!

Taking a chance and making a case
Last year I took a chance on an intern to join me for 3 months. I was desperate for some help and wanted to build a team but there was no budget and no case for it. Jade actually joined us in December 2011 and in February 2012 I was able to offer her a full-time job! My advice to anyone doing an internship, struggling to find work or an internal comms person looking to build a team, take a chance. Taking Jade on was brilliant for me as it gave me the help I needed and I was able to show her the ropes and in the end secure the role in the business. But if you are going to take the leap of faith and give someone an internship then be prepared to spend time with them, teach them and mentor them – they aren’t free labour and should be made to feel part of the team!

A crisis like no other
In February 2012, our main distributor went into administration leaving our units without stock (milk, coffee, baguettes etc.). Within hours, our supply chain team set up a command centre with key stakeholders and comms were heavily involved from the start. We had to manage the flow of information through the business to ensure our operators could continue trading. We opened up a phone line and locked down our intranet to allow only business critical news into the business. This was a first for me (and great experience for Jade) and we learnt a lot:

  1. Be involved at the start and go to meetings whether you think you’re needed or not – you need all the information you can get
  2. Don’t be afraid to lock down channels – you have to operate for the business and the softer stories can wait until people can do what they need to keep the business going
  3. Give people more channels to use – we had phone lines, our intranet etc. and whilst we had duplicated comments we didn’t miss anything
  4. Manage expectations – everything else has to go on hold when a crisis hits and people outside the bubble of the crisis might not be aware what is going on
  5. Be part of the team. It’s not just about managing the comms, it’s about being part of the team working to get us through something. All for one and one for all!

A whole new Board

The other thing we often expect to go through is leadership change. In 2012 we went through a change in CEO, a change in organisational design and the start of a whole new culture.  The highlight for me has to be the return of our annual conference in December which provided the platform to introduce our new CEO, COO and CFO to the business. With 95% of people saying it was very good or excellent and a definite plan to host another one in 2013, there is no doubt in my mind that face to face remains a fundamentally important tool in business.

There are many things you can learn from a change in leadership, a crisis and building a team and I’m sure if more come along in 2013 I’ll do some things differently. But the one thing I really learnt in 2012? Change is something we have to manage and we have to get to know the people we are working with to manage it effectively. We need to be at the heart of the business and network with our peers and teams across the business.

The plans for the year ahead? Time for a professional qualification for me and hopefully the start of adding value to the business, taking it forwards with new tools and harnessing more conversations… I’m even pledging to get out with our teams twice a quarter!

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