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Are you being dazzled by comms bling?

What do you do when faced with something new and whizzy, a product or service perhaps which promises to soothe and solve your comms woes?

I regularly see comms pros being entranced by the latest gadget or new platform.

I call this comms bling.

1Comms bling is when you’re tempted to discard everything you know about your culture and what works for your employees, in favour of the latest kid on the block. Regardless of whether it is the right thing to do for your company. (Tweet this)

Sometimes it works, I’m all for taking calculated risks, but more often than not, simply introducing something to be “seen” to have it fails. Sound familiar? I’d love to know your experience of this, do please get in touch.

Stephen Welch, MCIPR, @stephenwelch11 (pictured) is Past President of IABC (International Association of Business Communicators), UK. Here he writes for my blog on his take of this topic. Over to you Stephen…

Shiny tools

As humans, we like to be seduced. We like to be captivated. We like to entranced.

Internal communicators are no different. As far as I know, most of them are human(!). So it should be no surprise when we get excited by the prospect of a new relationship … with a shiny new internal communications tool.

stephenwelchBut sometimes we need to stop and think whether we are being enthralled and hypnotized by the shiny tool, forced into a relationship with technology that we don’t want.

Personally, I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to shiny communication tools. As internal communicators, we need to remember that, for the most part, we’re not on the communication business, we’re actually in the behavioural change business.

Our job – broadly – is to communicate information to employees so that they change their behaviour in a way that they wouldn’t do if we hadn’t communicated.

If the sexy new bit of kit helps achieve organizational objectives, then great. Otherwise it is just a bit of a luxury – like that eighth pair of black kitten heels you just couldn’t resist.

When I looked at the results of the latest #11ways research (a project developed by Michael Ambjorn, Dana Poole and me), I discovered my scepticism was a bit misguided. No: we didn’t ask about shoes, but our database of over 100 organizations, covering over a million employees told us that high performing companies were more likely to invest regularly in new tools to improve communication.

58% of them say they do, compared to only 35% of average companies.

So perhaps there is something in shiny new tools after all. And when it comes to measurement tools, there are some important differences too.

High performing companies are much more likely to use social media monitoring (57% vs 34%) and website analytics (76% vs 58%) to measure their impact.

So all those cool new tools maybe make a difference.

Or do they? Some of the biggest behavioural differences between high performing organizations HPOs) and others come from good old-fashioned tools like market research.

HPOs are almost twice as likely to use survey results and reputation benchmarking as average companies.

And they are also twice as likely to use awards programmes as a way of measuring their success.

Remaining faithful

So maybe it is about the new, but also the old. Trying something new but remaining faithful to the old. In measurement, perhaps promiscuity pays off.

The research also reveals that many communicators are as much seducers as ‘seducees’. Communicators in high performing organizations reveal that they are much more likely to create emotional connections with their target audiences, think about communication form the audience perspective, and try to create great sticky corporate stories. Typically 70-80% of HPOs do these things, compared to around 40%-50% of average companies.

This is a very different approach from the “send out stuff” or “pump out product” we sometimes see in low performing organizations.

These communicators take time to really work out how to get the behavioural change they need in their organizations and it is perhaps no coincidence that they are more likely to say that all their communication is aligned to organizational strategy and goals. 89% of those in HPOs say this, compared to only 60% of others.

Shiny tools? Yes. In some cases. But just because you have the latest kit, or the cool technology, it won’t make you a better communicator. That’s the same thinking of the middle-aged man wearing socks with sandals who buys a Ferrari in an attempt to look cool: no thank you.

But if the kitten heels, the Ferrari, or the internal communications tool is an integral part of your behavioural change strategy, and you have a plan to ‘seduce’ your target audience into changing their behaviour: yes please.

Post author: Stephen Welch.

What your take? Have you, or are you being seduced by comms bling?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to get in touch, Tweet @AllthingsIC or comment below,

Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 13 July 2015.

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