Cringeworthy comms, lustful words and identity crises

One of the great things about currently being on maternity leave is that I’m now able to participate in the various webinars that take place over lunchtimes and see them live rather than watch archives, as ‘lunch break’ isn’t something most comms pros are familiar with, as I’m sure you’ll agree!

Today I tuned into #SimplyTV which is hosted by Marc Wright from Simply Communicate, who I’m certain I first met at a Comms event about six years ago on the London Eye while I was working in-house at Visa.

The title of this post reflects just some of the topics that were discussed. Marc was joined by various guests who gave a taster of their Simply Summit sessions.

They were:

If you missed it, you can watch the archive online, but the standout thoughts for me from each speaker are below.

Jeppe Glahn speaking on SimplyTV today

Comms success
Jeppe said: “I was invited in by senior management when business strategy was being discussed – this was a turning point as it wasn’t the comms strategy but business. To me I think this is one of the biggest goals we have achieved”. This is something that I’m hearing more and more and I agree with Jeppe that it is a sign of success. My top tip for IC pros was published in a book recently and is along these exact lines.

He also talked about how the comms team has been working alongside top management and seen a 60 per cent increase in employee satisfaction and motivation in the areas where they’ve been involved. Impressive stuff!

Cringeworthy comms
Keith Porter described attending a Simply Summit back in 2006 and how he “sat cringing” as Steve Crescenzo spoke about awful internal comms. He noted that every single example e.g. management speak, terrible photos and bad captions was happening within Standard Chartered bank.

As a result he assessed the channels, wrote a change paper and took it to the CEO who backed him, which he says was vital when people resisted the planned changes.

L-R: Keith Porter and Marc Wright

Keith left the bank for a while and joined British Airways. He said: “It was the week of the ash cloud and morale was at an all time low. We looked at making changes to BA News, the Group publication which had been an institution for decades but had lost its impact. It was a tabloid style newspaper and viewed by many as a management mouthpiece. People in Head Office loved it but people on the ground tore it up”.

The comms team introduced Up To Speed, a monthly magazine that put people at its heart. They built relationships with as many people as they could and included good and bad comments from customers – the first time they had opened the company up to such criticism internally.

Keith said: “We linked everything to the business plan and where BA wanted to go. It had a massive impact as it came at the right time. People saw we were moving away from the company telling people what to do and were being more inclusive”.

Upon returning to Standard Chartered, his colleague Julie Bellham, who is also speaking at the summit, had implemented standardisation across comms as some countries were doing well while others were ‘churning things out’. Keith said that highlighting best practice e.g. the Thailand team who produced a good weekly update, has helped cement what they’re trying to achieve through standardisation.

Jim Ylisela speaking on SimplyTV today

Seven deadly sins – lust
Jim Ylisela spoke about the seven deadly sins of comms and highlighted ‘lust’, saying: “Communicators fall in love with their own words, to the detriment of trying to connect comms with the business”. He is going to elaborate more on this topic at the summit.

Journalist and lecturer Mark Cromerford described how journalists face ‘an identity crisis’ and need to shift from storytelling to story building, particularly due to social media: “We now need to show the story and then leave it for people to make their own minds up as they have all the facts. Gradually we will see a shift from story telling to story building to collaborative stories”.

Mark described one of the major issues everyone faces as ‘issues of control’. He said: “Measurement has to change as old metrics no longer work now that we are operating in a networked comms environment. Networking rather than control is becoming a much more important communications tool. All change can cause problems but issues of trust and control are key – the best control you can have is to trust the people who work for you”.

John Smythe was up next and highlighted the ‘rapid acceleration from top-down to bottom-up approach’ which is being seen in organisations. He said: “What we have now is sufficient momentum behind employee involvement in everyday decision making – this is what they demand and the fundamental idea is to share power. Managers often fear this is a can of worms and they will lose control if they give power. They need to establish what the non-negotiables are and have the confidence to open up decision making to broader groups and we are now seeing this happening in both the public and private sector. Internal communicators need to recognise and respond to this social shift to allow engagement to take place”.

If you want to view previous SimplyTV shows, check out the archive online. The next one is on 4 May at 1pm GMT. Comms pro Sonsoles Lumbreras is planning to attend the Simply Summit at the end of this month and will be writing a guest post for Diary of an internal communicator, so watch this space for a full report from the speakers I’ve highlighted today.

Post author: Rachel Miller

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