Despite the title of this article sounding like aliens are coming, it’s referring to the fact internal communication has an incredible role to play.

Done well, it connects people around moments in time and helps employees feel a sense of belonging to an organisation.

(The opposite is also true).

Last week’s annual Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) conference examined the role of internal comms at the heart of an organisation. It also looked at why understanding the way minds work is crucial to success.

Did you go? If, like me, you were unable to attend, don’t fret as I have a guest article right here to update you on what we missed at #ioiclive17.

I’m delighted to welcome Sue Palfry to the All Things IC blog. Sue is Head of Internal Communications at National Trust here in the UK.

We met in person at last week’s IoIC conference after Tweeting each other for years.

She’s here to share her thoughts about #IoICLive17 which took place in Bristol on 11 and 12 May. I’ll hand you over to her…

The ‘I was there’ moment

The IoIC Live event last week was one of the best internal communication conferences I’ve attended.

Not only was there the right balance between theory, practical application and case studies, but the room was full of highly energised, passionate communicators, all with similar experiences and goals, regardless of their organisation or role. And it was particularly reassuring to hear that we’re all facing the same challenges.

That feeling of ‘we’re not alone’ resonated with me for the rest of the weekend.

Below are some thoughts from me, after a few days reflection.

The 96 second test
In a fast paced world, with expanding channels and content options, internal communication needs to be snappy. Some staggering facts from Sharon O’Dea @sharonodea in the opening presentation included:

  • 71% of UK adults own a smartphone
  • 87% say it never leaves their side, with people even taking it to bed and it being the first thing they reach for when they wake up
  • The average person reaches for their phone 150 times per day
  • And they’re on it for around 240 minutes each day
  • This equates to just 96 seconds per interaction.

96 seconds! That’s why our content needs to work harder than ever before. There’s less room for lengthy emails or wordy text. Content needs to be snappy and attention grabbing. It needs to be ‘thumb stopping’.

Here are Sharon’s slides:

People are unique, emotional beings
However much we segment our audiences, we shouldn’t assume we’ll understand and reach everyone in that group.

People are unique and highly emotional beings.

It was staggering to hear from Graham Cox that 86% of all our decisions are made with the emotional part of the brain. This is even true for those of us who profuse to be the logical types.

This was jaw-dropping enough, without later hearing from Nicole Utzinger that we work with seven basic human emotions and filter our experiences through 14 possible meta-programmes.

Oh, and on top of that we each have a host of ‘emotional buttons’ that can be triggered at any one time.

I can’t do the maths, but that’s a heck of a lot of possible responses to one message.

No one likes to join an empty dance floor

Despite overwhelming change and choice, people still like to follow others and feel part of something.  Nicole Utzinger told us that we’re driven by seven basic emotions, and Graham Cox highlighted that fear is our most powerful driver.

Our role as internal communicators is to remove the fear and encourage people to take the leap of faith.

This was demonstrated in a number of ways – encouraging senior leaders to be visible on apps and intranets, understanding what might trigger the pressing of an ‘emotional button’, demonstrating the measurable benefits of an activity and encouraging leaders to be human.

‘The Pratfall Effect’ is a great tactic I learnt at the event to help leaders with this latter challenge.

Wikipedia describes the Pratfall Effect as: the tendency for attractiveness to increase or decrease after an individual makes a mistake, depending on the individual’s perceived ability to perform well in a general sense.

A great example of this can be seen in this video of Steve Jobs:

The ‘I was there’ moment

Even though the variety and number of channels available to us is constantly growing, Dale Parmenter told us that face-to-face communication and events remain the most powerful.

They are the only ones that can truly create the ‘I was there’ emotional connection between the event and the message.

Even in a world where virtual reality and digital streaming are becoming more prevalent, events should be hybridised to create live human interaction with a small audience.

As I summarise my reflections from IoIC Live 2017, this last point really hits home. I was there. And I loved it.

See you next year my IC tribe.

Post author: Sue Palfry.

Thank you Sue, so many cracking ideas in there and lots of food for thought. What did you think of the conference?

Further reading about the conference from IC pros

Sam Thomas posted a great summary of the event, sharing her top five takeaways. You can read it here.

Annique Simpson has also blogged her reflection of the event via LinkedIn.

Save money on SMILE

Next week is a packed one for me, I’m dashing all over the place (what’s new!), including attending Social Media in the Large Enterprise (SMILE), running a Strategic Internal Communication Masterclass in London, helping to judge the Institute of Internal Communication awards and working with the Guardian newspaper.

If you’re thinking of heading to SMILE, check out this offer from Simply-Communicate.

As a co-founder of The IC Crowd @TheICCrowd, it’s my pleasure to offer you this discount they’ve created for crowd members:

Thank you for stopping by and to Sue for sharing her thoughts.

There are still some spaces left on my Internal Communication Masterclass on 27 June in London, I’d love you to invest a day in your career and join me there.

See the Masterclasses website for all  you need to know.

Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 16 May 2017.

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