Melcrum’s Strategic Communication Management Summit: Day Two 2010


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Stock imagery of conference

After a brilliant day one I was holding out a lot of hope for day two and it certainly delivered. With talk on the internal comms role in business, culture, social media and Melcrum research there are lots of highlights to share with you all. My first caveat is that due to work meetings I did miss the last two sessions in the day.

What are we trying to do in internal comms?
One of the big things discussed over both days was the role of internal comms in business – where it sits, how you attribute it to the financial success of the business and where it will be in the future. Victoria Mellor opened day two and highlighted some key points about what we, as internal comms professionals, need to do to move forward:

  • Be better at partnering with other functions in the organisation
  • Be much more confident in what we can achieve and put ourselves out there
  • Link strongly to the strategic focus when building a case for internal comms
  • Be more proactive rather than reactive to stakeholders
  • Be more focussed and prioritised – a theme that Rebecca Richmond emphasised when looking at the research from Melcrum

These are points I hear again and again and I do think we have yet to establish internal comms as a true pillar of the business (like HR, Finance etc.). It is also very clear that how strategic you are to the business, depends on where the business sees internal comms fitting in.

When we talked about the research Melcrum have done around becoming a more strategic partner, they shared these thoughts on where we add value:

  • Raising awareness
  • Creating understanding
  • Joining the dots
  • Identifying and sharing what’s in it for me
  • Getting people on board
  • Being strategic influencers
  • Shaping the employee/business relationship
  • Enabling, facilitating and coaching
  • Challenging the strategy and approach
  • Stakeholder management and relationships

We need to decide where we want to play in the business – do we want to be strategic influence, a strategic communicator or a communicator that simply executes? Depending on where you are and where you want to be will determine your level of partnership at the strategic level.

Audience participation
Some audience participation throughout the day showed some interesting views from the room:

  • 67% don’t struggle to get face to face time with their CEO
  • 74% don’t have a separate change communication team away from the internal comms team

When we talk about culture it makes some people very tense and some people embrace the way of a business. We learned a lot about Volvo and the challenges they went through when it came to redefining their ‘Volvo way’. Some critical issues identified:

  • Customer first – distinctive strategy for delivering value to targeted customers
  • Organisational fit – culture designed to drive change, innovation and execution
  • Leadership – develop global competencies
  • People alignment – employee engagement and commitment to perform
  • Learning – enhance sharing of best practices, learning and growth

The speaker asked people what they would find their biggest challenge and the highest response was People Alignment – this shocked the speaker and I have to say, me too. I opted for the organisational fit option as I think engagement will come as you go through such a change – getting it right for the organisation would be a big challenge!

The research
Looking at how internal comms can be a more strategic partner was the topic for this research and its proved to be some of the most useful content over the two days – some great tools for us to take away and use!

One of the models I tweeted about was the 4 box model from Synopsis about how we get where we want to be. This model resonated with me because I know, once I have done a year in this role and been through the business cycle I will need to look at the function again.

The next tool to be discussed was the “Placemat Plan”. This was a simple principle of having a single sheet, or a placemat, with boxes of content. So from the top:

  • The company vision
  • The business goals
  • The business priorities
  • Reputational priorities
  • Internal comms key objectives
  • Yearly strategic comms priorities

The idea being that when stakeholders ask you to do something, you can refer them to this and ask them where their request fits into the segments.

Social media and internal comms
Still a very big topic for us internal communicators and something I believe will still be a big topic in five years time. Some key thoughts from both the roundtable discussion and the panel debate:

  • Leaders in organisations don’t like it when people use internal social platforms to talk about non-business content
  • Start small – get buy-in and use the groundswell to build on the success
  • When you open the doors people don’t always say what you want to hear – but if you open them you have to listen, and respond
  • Talk about collaboration rather than social media to get buy-in – this works!
  • When you look at engaging remote workers (those not online) you need to create a tool that not only helps them do their job but that fits in with their routine. An example from BT, that is just in the thinking phase at the moment, was around an engineer photographing a piece of kit/issue and uploading it to get a response/how to. This would help him/her get the job done and fit with what is needed
  • You can become a victim of your own efficiency – all that work that was done to get as many jobs/tasks done in a day stopped the chit-chat over a coffee – that chit-chat helped people solve problems and we are now looking to technology to help get it back
  • Culture will dictate social media use in your business – if people can’t access social media sites like Facebook from work, why would they use a social media tool internally?
  • Yammer is a tool that everyone knows and sometimes it works, and sometimes it stays with a few employees who chat on it all day long
  • Sharepoint is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it – my question would be ‘is it the tool for dialogue in a business?’
  • People internally will navigate towards the branded named sites rather than internally built systems – I’m not sure how true this is in all organisations?
  • People are using Facebook to communicate with those employees that don’t have work email/PC’s – not quite sure people are ready to blur the lines between work and personal life just yet though
  • Companies will try more things internally than externally – getting it right from the inside out

As the panel discussion continued it raised some great points and thoughts. The trivial stuff to leaders is often so important to everyone else – the price of a chocolate bar in a vending machine going up or the coffee brand changing all impact colleagues. You need to let them talk about it and have that discussion, get involved and be part of it.

Not once, when we talked about reaching those offline colleagues, did anyone mention making an intranet accessible from home or mobile… it’s on my agenda and I wonder why it didn’t come up?

So that’s all from Day Two and Melcrum’s annual SCM. The two days have really shaped where I’m going to take internal comms forward and I’m looking forward to hearing more about where the industry is going at future events.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts…

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