Been anywhere good lately?

To continue my series of guest writers, I asked Steven Murgatroyd (@steve_murg) to write his take on the recent Strategic Communication Management (SCM) conference hosted by Melcrum with readers of my blog. Over to you Steven…

Hi all, hopefully this article will be able to give you a taste of what the conference was like from the point of view of someone who hasn’t attended before. I’ll try to keep it quite light and not get bogged down in detail. It will obviously be all my opinions so if you attended and disagree (or you just disagree) then feel free to comment. Anyway, let’s start where all the best blogs start…the beginning!

After spending three years at Asda unsuccessfully trying to persuade my line manager that the Melcrum conference was a worthwhile expense, I was delighted to find that my new employer KCOM was already a member of Melcrum and my Line Manager was eager for us to attend.

I arrived in London the night before and as usual when I go to London I got lost as soon as I left the Tube station. When given the option of turning left or right I of course picked the wrong option and headed in the complete opposite direction. I eventually realised before I arrived back in Leeds, turned round and found my hotel.

The next day I arrived at the venue with plenty of time to spare so I could grab a coffee and a breakfast pastry. While waiting I saw the perennial Melcrum conference attendees Ipadio, so took the chance to catch up with Giles (@GilesBryan) who I worked with at Asda. I’ll talk about Ipadio later, but for those of you who haven’t heard of them then it would be well worth having a look!

The conference started with Rebecca Richmond from Melcrum introducing the day and also the voting technology we’d be using during the conference. It was basically a supersized Blackberry which you put your personalised card into so it recognised you. It was a pretty clever bit of kit provided by IML (@IML_UK) Not only was it a voting pad, but you could text your questions and if you were extra brave it turned into a microphone so you could ask questions directly. If I’m honest, I think it could’ve been used a bit more in some presentations but overall it was something a bit different and was at the very least a talking point for people.

First on stage
The first presenter of the day was Simon Dolph talking about ‘Managers and leaders who can’. For me it was a bit too focused on numbers and stats without any real learnings to take from it. However there were a couple of case studies at the end which were really interesting, One in particular about Doncaster Prison and how the new “guv’nor” brought a whole new ethos to comms within the prison and through training and giving managers increased responsibility they were able to turn the prison into one of the best performing in the country.

Next up we had the fantastic David Macleod and Nita Clarke, easily one of the best presentations over the two days. They spoke to us about how employee engagement is a commercial priority and needs to be at the top of the corporate agenda. While there was a lot of detail in the presentation David and Nita’s presenting style made it easy to understand and their constant anecdotes gave me a way to identify with some of the higher ranging ideas and how I can do something similar. Quotes such as “I’m not a Human Resource, I’m a Human Being!” were great, and a couple of people in my HR department were soon tweeted with a cheeky wink accompanying!

Next up was Will Foy from NHS Blood and Transplant to talk about organisational change in light of spending freezes. As someone who has done a few presentations before, I was instantly worried for Will when he started the presentation with “I’ve never presented to this many people before so if I start to ramble then please throw something at me!” However, in the end Will’s content was very good and what he’d done at NHS Blood and Transplant in terms of so much with so little, is pretty impressive. I especially liked the idea of talent spotting from within your department and giving people a chance to shine in something outside their role.

Using film to increase engagement
After a quick coffee break, Claire Jarvis from Siemens and Pete Stevenson from The Edge Picture Company talked to us about how Siemens used film to shape staff behaviour and increase engagement. I’ve been aware of The Edge Picture Company for a while, they’ve presented at a couple of conferences I’ve been to and also pitched to me while I worked at Asda. The quality of their videos is as good as anything I’ve seen, the only stumbling block with Asda (as always at Asda) was cost. The videos they showed us, or films as Pete told us to call them, were very good and Claire spoke about how successful they had been and continue to be with their colleagues.

Next up were another of my favourite presentations, as Tobias Huebscher and Richard Davies from eBay Europe talked to us about employee engagement supported business turn-around. They started by talking about their 3 E’s; Empowerment, Empathy and Eureka! They then moved onto a weekly video meeting they have called ETB (European Team Brief).

Basically it’s a live TV programme which is done via video conferencing every Monday morning, all colleagues are invited to attend and the majority do. With the inclusion of financial and business updates as well as fun challenges they’ve created a communication channel which their colleagues are eager to attend and even take part in it. Tobias told us that some employees are now the equivalent of TV personalities in their offices and have had media training so they can interview and present. I personally thought it was an amazing idea and in terms of a channel which engages employees it was everything you could want as an internal communicator. I have to admit I was extremely jealous of Tobias and Richard in terms of what they’d achieved.

We then moved onto lunch, which I have to say was slightly more upmarket than what I would normally have, I was initially confused by having to take a plate then everything being served in tiny bowls meaning you ended up doing some sort of balancing act trying not to drop anything! A quick nod here for the pistachio crème brulee which was amazing!

EVP…easy as 1-2-3?
After lunch, we went into the streamed sessions where you had the choice of two sessions to attend. The first choices were either ‘Employee Value Proposition’ (EVP) or ‘The engaged CEO’. I chose EVP and found the session really useful. Andre Van Hooren who led the session gave us some very clear examples of how important it is to promote the brand and define a programme that allows employees to feel they can live the brand and be proud to work for the company. The biggest point I took from the session, was that if done correctly, “An EVP can be the beating heart of your organisation!”

In the second streamed sessions, the choice was between ‘Leading employees and driving results following the departure of Harrod’s figurehead’ and ‘How the Internal Comms team at First Direct partnered with marketing to deliver a consistent internal and external brand’. I went with the First Direct session, as I felt it held more relevance to the company I work for than Harrods.

Jenny Paterson from First Direct led the session and she explained to us how by creating a consistent brand both internally and externally, they’ve been able to raise engagement in their company and make people proud of the First Direct brand. The idea of a consistent brand is something I work with daily; at KCOM we have a number of different brands each with their own identity as well as working with the Group identity, so it’s a constant struggle to make sure our employees feel an association to the group as well as the brand. Simple ideas like reinforcing the brand in all comms, having a clear definition of the brand and not mixing the brand and group messages had big successes for them and are something I will definitely look into for KCOM.

And finally…
We ended the day with a panel discussion on how Internal Comms can transform an organisation. The panel was led by Richard Veal from Towers Watson and had a few of the presenters from the day on it as well as Victoria Mellor (@ToratMelcrum) from Melcrum.

Once the panel discussion was finished drinks were available and a few people stayed behind to have a chat and compare ideas on what they thought of the day. Personally I thought it was a great start to the conference with some really interesting presentation and lots of takeaways (not the fast food unfortunately!).

Post author: Steven Murgatroyd

Thanks for sharing your thoughts from day one Steven, I look forward to reading day two. The idea behind asking Steven to write about the SCM conference was because there are lots of comms events around and it’s impossible for professional communicators to have the budget or time to attend them all.

If you have been to a good comms conference, course or event that you think would be interesting for other comms professionals to read about, do drop me an email: with your idea.

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