What did I learn in 2013?


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2013 was one of the busiest years of my life! Having returned to work after a three week holiday and Christmas break it’s easy to look back and realise what was achieved in just 12 months…

Never underestimate the power of learning

I started and have yet to complete my CIPR Inside Internal Communications Diploma. I totally underestimated the amount of time this would take with a workload like mine! Even though it has been tough, it is still one of the best things I have done in my career. The value of going through the theoretical side of internal comms cannot be explained so if you have some budget this year I would recommend it to anyone – just don’t pick a hard topic for your paper!

Change is always going to happen

Our business went through a huge amount of change in 2013 with a new global CEO, a business shake up as a result and team changes within the internal comms department. It just never stops. Now I don’t know if that is the business I’m in or if we all feel that way, but it just has to be accepted as the way of the working world. Be patient, keep the professional hat on at all times and remember that timing is everything!

There are languages everywhere!

In September I did a charity bike ride from Brussels to London – cycling 265 miles for The Railway Children. It was an amazing experience and while the bike hasn’t managed to venture out since, I would do this again in a heartbeat. Cycling with some more professional cyclists meant I was able to learn their language. The signs, the arm movements, how you cycle in a group and what the words and signs are to make sure we all stayed together proved that there are languages everywhere. And you are always going to have to learn how different groups communicate to be part of the team. This can be said for departments, divisions and organisations – it’s all about listening, learning and adapting to make sure you are part of it.

Get perspective on what internal comms means to different people

I love what I do and I’m passionate about making a difference at work. Going back to the floor in one of our stores in 2013 really helped me understand what is important to the frontline. We are a small team so providing both strategic and tactical support in equal measure can be difficult and I think I need to reset the balance to the side of the tactical in 2014. The messages are important but what people on the ground need to know and want to know doesn’t always need to be as perfect or as polished as I think it should be. They are so busy that the information needs to be quick, easy and interesting – now there’s a challenge for the year ahead!

Networking is still number one

Now I would say this as a co-founder of The IC Crowd but I still think this plays such a big role in and out of work. I didn’t get to as many events as I could in 2013 and I’m really keen to get to more in 2014, mainly to keep up to date with how companies are engaging with the frontline who are offline – a constant challenge for the internal communicator.

You aren’t the only communicator

We turned a corned in 2013 and our people started to take ownership of communication themselves. I nearly cried with joy when a director posted a blog up welcoming people to the company who had tuped over on the day it all happened! I have a CEO and a COO who blog regularly and an understanding that we cannot be the only people who care about the messaging. How have we done it? Through nearly four years of coaching, educating and after taking control of everything we have now really let go. It’s amazing to watch as people take on their own blog challenges and where we have the power of crowd sourcing, people are really seeing the benefit. There is a long way to go but we started a great journey in 2013.

Know when to listen to feedback and when to act

At our annual conference this year I took on the biggest challenge of my career; 15 sessions in one day with 7 running in parallel in the morning and 5 different sessions on rotation in the afternoon. In 2012 we had amazing feedback on our conference so I listened to the constructive comments and adapted the day accordingly. The result? Not as good as I hoped. What I learnt? Have one clear message and stick to it! Sometimes you have to listen to the feedback and interpret it a bit differently. If we get the chance to do another one in 2014 it will be different again but now the team is back to full strength and with a new focus with a new global strategy we will get it right. You have to accept that you can’t please everyone and that the conference is still just a channel in the toolkit.

Write a strategy, have a plan and know your channels

It’s easy to get precious about magazines, conferences, briefings etc. but I have really learnt to step back, be objective and give impartial advice where I can. I might bet a bit passionate about what is right but that’s not because it’s the most expensive or the cheapest – it’s because experience tells you a lot. As new channels appear and budgets are reviewed now is the time for measurement more than ever. Having a good strategy with a plan is the foundation of any department and having a channel matrix that outlines purpose, frequency and method has been a real help – I would recommend that everyone has a few documents that outlines exactly how the department operates.

So as we look to 2014 what’s on the agenda? Bringing more of our strategy to life through fun and engaging events, reviewing all our channels and making sure they are fit for purpose, supporting a business that is fast paced and going through change and developing the team to make sure we are doing the best we can to support our colleagues on the frontline.

What did you learn last year and what’s on the agenda for 2014 for your department?

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