The future’s bright…


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The annual IOIC conference 2013 drew to a close at lunchtime yesterday after two and a half days discussing how we future proof our profession. This was the first IOIC conference I have attended and it was great to be part of the team organising the event. I was dubious about the three-day itinerary with evening sessions on the Wednesday, a full day on Thursday and then a morning session on the Friday as this was a lot of time to take out of the office – but it was worth every minute.

Another conference talking about the future was always going to be tricky but for the first time we spent the whole time talking about exactly that. We discussed the power of storytelling, gamification, social networks and what we need to do to develop ourselves for the future.

Cascade to conversations
It comes up when you we talk about the future and this conference was no exception. Moving from the corporate voice to the employee voice is where our profession needs to get to where we can facilitate and enable conversations between employees. The days of pushing messages out and broadcasting them to the masses is over. Don’t get me wrong, we will always need to push messages out but we need to be able to give people the chance to comment and discuss these messages in an open space.

Death of the survey
This is the third or fourth time I have sat in a conference and heard that the annual employee engagement survey is dead. This is all well and good but when the HR Director of the CEO wants to see the ‘state of the nation’ it is not an easy thing to say no to. I asked the experts on Thursday how we can move them away from these and got some great advice; find out why they want to do the survey. If it is to tick a box then don’t do it, also find out what employees think about doing it. If it is a survey that allows you to benchmark against other companies and rank yours in comparison this might be important to your audience and is therefore worth doing.

Embrace the technology
The ipadio team gave us a great demo of the power of video and the mobiles we have in our pockets. The rise of user-generated videos is something we should start to embrace and with their technology that allows you to upload that video instantly to social networks it allows you to create and share content quicker than ever. With social taking centre stage as we discuss the future the ’email is dead’ phrase runs through. I’m not convinced – I use email a lot as I communicate with people outside the organisation and our ESN wouldn’t allow me to talk to them in that space.

When trying to change behaviour use the power of social networks. You can get a message to thousands of people so quickly and you can put the message in the hands of the audience and ask them to pass it on – the power of peer-to-peer.

We heard a great case study from the FT about how they have launched their digital strategy. The integration of channels shows just how you can get it right and their Digital Learning Week to engage and educate their teams is inspired. Use video and learning sessions with people and create a space for them to revisit that content so they can continue to learn.

When designing a new platform for your internal audience find out what they want to know, not what they think of the current intranet or what they want from the intranet. Relevance and local content is king.

Social media fear based on security risks but underneath it’s really about the fear of disengagement. When did we ask for an ROI for using the telephone? We shouldn’t be asking for it with social either. Make the leap and once you’re in the network you will understand the power of it. It’s time to get over age and generations as a factor. It’s about attitude, not how old you are; some university students are leaving too scared to tweet. Managers and social is still a battle; they shouldn’t be monitoring conversations on internal social networks – they should be part of the conversation.

The importance of face-to-face
A startling statistic that 50% of events are created and delivered within three months! As someone who likes a plan this absolutely shocks me. I know that we often have to move quickly and adapt to the business needs but 50%?! Further research said that most people use live events for leadership engagement and as a channel in the strategy and communications process.

Talking in person allows people to understand the tone of voice and the body language – giving you the chance to see and hear feedback.

We had a great session finding out more about the importance of voice. We make a decision within 6 seconds about a person based on their voice and we judge voices based accents. Scientifically there are three things that affect the voice: volume, clarity and how interesting your voice is. And how interesting your voice is depends on pitch, pace, pauses, tone and inflection. When recording your voice message smile because it changes the tone of your voice to make it softer and happier! I enjoyed this session because we so often spend time looking at the content and messaging of our face-to-face events and so little time on the voice delivering that message.

Become a trusted advisor
Gone are the days of being the police and controlling the messages. We need to become advisors to our senior leaders and the business and work with our stakeholders to add value to their projects and strategies. When supporting out leaders we need to coach, report on trends, give them a voice and add value to the strategy.

Decide what you want to be
Internal comms has various roles and responsibilities in different organisations. The panel discussion on the Wednesday evening created great debate about where we sit in the business and what we do. If you want to be tactical  and just post the news from the business on the intranet that’s ok, but admit it. If you want to be part of the strategy then work hard to position the function there. Where should it sit? Does it need a seat on the board? will always bubble around the industry. The panel made a great comment asking what IC brings to the strategy. The other functions round the board table set the strategy and internal comms positions and communicates it – what does it shape or decide?

It’s not just what we do it’s also about our function and how we structure it. The future for us lies in the art of communication not just the structure and process of how we do it.

The power of storytelling
We have been telling stories for 27,000 years and we are pretty good at it. Brooke Kinsella MBE opened the conference on Thursday to tell us how she has raised the issue of knife crime after the death of her brother years ago. The Ben Kinsella charity has set up an exhibition to educate people about the impact this has and through video, stories and art she has raised awareness and changed behaviour. The story has to be told by someone who is authentic, honest and open. Painting a good narrative needs to meet the needs of the audience, be relevant, vivid and vibrant and cynic-proof. Take learnings from Hollywood; characters, plot, conflict and resolution and if a picture paints 1,000 words a metaphor is worth 1,000 pictures.

Internal Vs External
The difference is no more. After a lot of discussion about it over these few days and before at other events, we seem to be accepting that the distinction between internal and external comms is no more. Sure there is still a need to look at audience segmentation – employees, suppliers, clients, customers, investors – but we need to work together more than ever – especially as social networks start to play more of a role inside and outside business.

Gamify your content – it’s not just about badges
This was an intelligent session and made us all realise that gamification is not just putting badges on an intranet. Learning about the different gamer profiles that exist; explorer, achiever, killer and socialisers. The badge idea only appeals to the achieve gamers – all the others are left behind. We should use gamification to drive people to do things to be part of something and with 31 million active UK gamers we need to tap into this market.  We need to be a bit more playful with communications so it is more consumable and engaging – it’s time to stop taking our role so seriously!

Love a few takeaways and quotes from an event so here were my highlights:

  • Don’t fight fire with fire, fight it with water and communicate calmly and openly without anger
  • You don’t need to believe in yourself to empower people and impact change. You just need to believe in the message
  • Twitter is the best tool to engage with the next generation. The power to get the message out there is huge
  • Changing behaviour takes time – sometimes u[ to 3/5 years
  • Listening is just as important and talking. Empathy helps you to relate, listening objectively is a key skill
  • Behaviour on Twitter (or any social network) should be similar to that at a dinner party. You wouldn’t arrive and walk up to someone and talk in their face!
  • Never forget the importance of ‘why’
  • The art of communication is the language of leadership
  • To survive in the future we need to be leaders, followers and change agents
  • This is not an Information Age. It is an age of networked intelligence
  • If you always do what you’ve always done you always get what you’ve always got


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