Diary from the Melcrum Summit – day one

Did you attend the Melcrum Summit last week? I was watching the #melcrumsummit tweets and could tell that @steve_murg was furiously scribbling away to write a guest article for my blog to bring those of us who were unable to attend, up to speed on what happened. Steve (pictured) is Internal Comms (IC) and Social Media Manager at KCOM Group and the summit took place at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, from 9-11 October and these views are his. I’ve created the wordcloud on this page via Wordle from this post.

Thanks very much Steve and over to you…

Good morning/afternoon/evening depending on when you’re reading this. Thanks to Rachel for inviting me back, clearly last year’s review was such a roaring success that inviting me back was the obvious answer. In fact I think there’s some serious consideration going into just having me at the next Melcrum conference and letting you all find out about from this blog :)! Anyway, on with the interesting bit.

Actually, before I start, on the way down to London I started reading a book called Culture Shock: A handbook for the 21st century business by Will McInnes. It’s a properly brilliant book and gives some great insight into the way businesses need to change moving forward in the 21st Century. If you haven’t read it I would suggest you do and combined with attending this conference my brain was overflowing with new ideas…which my colleagues at KCOM have been subjected to on a daily basis since I returned. Anyway, now I’ve plugged Will’s book, on with the conference!

Competing on the curve
This year’s Melcrum conference was all about ‘Competing on the Curve’, but what does that mean Steven, I hear you cry! Well for me, it means that it’s no longer possible for Communications to just be the people who send messages out, we have to change our place in the business to become strategic partners and ‘agents for change’.

The day began with a welcome and introduction from Rebecca Richmond from Melcrum, who was chairing the two days. We once again had the excellent and very innovative voting pads from @IML_UK. After last year’s disappointment of not using it much, this year we got lots of opportunity to vote and ask questions which showed just good the technology was. Although some people’s ability use the technology was brought into question, if Rebecca had to say ‘it’s the third button down’ one more time I might have snapped!

The day started with a talk from Anne-Lise Kjaer (@Kjaerglobal), who in the agenda is classed as a ‘futurist’ what a brilliant job! Anne-Lise talked about how society is going to change in the next 10-15 years  and as a result the way we communicate has to change as well. The first voting of the day happened and we found that 51% of the CEO’s and senior teams in the companies represented don’t tweet and won’t think about it either. I suppose that stat will go down in the next few years as more junior people step up and take their Twitter account with them.

Anne-Lise talked about some key drivers for how society will work in the future some of the more interesting ones for Comms people included:

  • Total Transparency – tell the truth
  • Smart Technology- seamless transition between devices
  • Global Citizens- Countries no longer a boundary to your workplace
  • The Good Life –Succeed in business by helping employees enjoy work

I think Communicators have a huge role to play in those four areas, and it’ll be interesting to see how people approach that challenge moving forward.

Anne-Lise also threw out a couple of my favourite quotes from the two days (not my favourite, but more about Benedikt later!) those were: It’s not about more, it’s about better and Work with the we society, not the me society.

Overall I thought it was a great start to the day, it moved people out of their everyday way of thinking and got us thinking for the future, as Anne-Lise said ‘We’re all fire-fighters and don’t have time to think’ I couldn’t agree more!

Next up was Rebecca Edwards from GE, to talk about aligning a global IC team with the world of employee comms and engagement. This was another good talk, with some very interesting stats:

  • 65% of UK people say their work is negatively affected by the amount of data received!
  • £1200 – The cost of when an employee can’t find the information they need!

These were some pretty big numbers, and as someone who looks after our company intranet the £1200 almost made me fall off my chair!

Divide and conquer
One of the things I really liked about GE’s IC structure was that it reminded me of how an agency is set up. Rather than expecting people to a bit of everything they split the comms function out into specialist areas and allowed people to focus in on what they’re good at. This is a wonderful idea and something I’d love to investigate further.

Rebecca also talked about ‘opt-in’ comms, giving their employees the opportunity to choose what they hear about, which is another idea I love. If 65% of people get too much data, then cut down the data and let them choose what they get. Obviously there are some messages everyone needs to hear but outside that let people have choice. Plus, you can then explain to someone why they didn’t hear about something…they choose not to!

Rebecca then moved onto what I took as one of the biggest themes of the conference…measurement! The word that a lot of IC people recoil from, and start weeping in the corner. Over the course of the two days there were plenty of examples of how people measure communication and the value of it.

GE’s model is quite simple but very effective, they break down into Knowing, Understanding and Sharing. Knowing is the base measurement like site stats, attendance at events etc. Understanding is how people take those messages into their job, so how often are new tools used? Are new messages embedded in the business? Finally they have Sharing, which as it says on the tin, looks at if people are sharing messages on Social Media and within the corporation. From those three measures, they can see how successful something is…simples!

Rebecca left us with a quote: ‘Comms is more than an enabling function, it’s a critical business area’

Coming out of their Shell
After the morning coffee break, David Harrington from Shell got up to talk about using data to empower Shell’s IC team to shift from outputs to outcomes. David talked about the amount of channels they have, and the relative successfulness of those channels.

He ran a quick poll to see how many people can post an intranet page at our companies. I once again almost fell of my chair when we saw that 35%  had 500 people or over who could post content…I’d be interested to see what everyone thought of this and whether you thought it was the right way to go?

David then dropped another quote which I loved, and have already used about 20 times since the conference ‘In a data free zone, my opinion is king!’ how brilliant is that quote? It explains why measurement is so important when it comes to comms channels and why it should be a huge focus for all of us (even if we hate it)!

It’s all in the numbers
David then focused on the measurement model they use, which is an actual formula…that’s right not just some KPI’s around visits etc, this is a proper formula which I’ve tried to show below…


Number of visits + (number of likes x 20) + (number of comments x 50)

____________________________________________________________       x 100

Intended audience x number of stories


This blew my mind, I never thought you could create a formula to measure engagement/effectiveness. It might not work for everyone, but the fact it works for one person is enough to make me think it’s worth looking at!

David was great and even talked about one of the things I mention all the time to people at KCOM, negative comments can be seen as a positive sign of engagement. In his measurement formula, an article which gets lots of negative comments will score higher than one with a couple of positive. He said that the fact that people are willing to take the time to post their opinion, especially a negative one, shows that they are heavily engaged with the business. It’s easy for someone to say something is great, but takes true dedication to say it isn’t!

After David’s Q&A we stopped for lunch, which as always was lovely! I won’t go into too much detail or you’ll all stop reading and go off to eat!

Honest conversations
The first session after lunch was Flemming Norrgren, Professor of Management at Chalmers University, Sweden, talking about how to have honest conversations about strategic change.  Flemming had some great ideas around how to structure conversations around change the process to follow when doing it. We saw another formula which I won’t write here but it’s called ‘Gleicher’s Change Forumla’ for those interested. Basically it explains how to think about and approach change. Flemming talked about the ‘Silent Killers’ – the areas in a business which stop collective learning but people never deal with.

These included;

  • ineffective top teams
  • top down leadership style
  • unclear strategy
  • closed vertical communication

When Flemming asked us to vote on which silent killers was a problem in our businesses, they all pretty much had an equal share…showing that most of them are present in some form or another in every business.

The process Flemming spoke about was great and rather than explain it all here, I’ll just direct you to his book ‘Higher ambition – How great leaders create economic and social value’. If you’re going through strategic change in the near future, probably worth checking it out!

After Flemming we moved onto Antje Burbach and Nigel Edwards talking about how Pfizer shifted the role of IC from messenger to change agent. Before they started properly, they both told us they have since left Pfizer and that it had nothing to do with this project…however I think the room was sceptical of that!

If I’m honest (sorry Antje and Nigel) but this might have been the weakest presentation of the two days. I felt as if there hadn’t been as much planning and preparation going into this as the others. Perhaps this is because they’ve both left Pfizer now so it’s not a priority, I’m not sure…but it was certainly one presentation where I struggled to see the value. There were a couple of interesting points made, the ‘Bridges model’ seemed like a good way to check your progress through change and work out how you should position your communications. While the importance put upon visible leadership was something I agree with fully and want to focus on within KCOM.

We then had our final coffee break of the day and when we came back we saw Jeremy Hewitt from Speakeasy and Sona Hathi from Melcrum talk about creating meaningful videos for the YouTube generation. This was an interesting session and Jeremy gave some great insight into three things to think about before creating a video; aim, audience and viewing context.

He also spoke about how important it is to have a focused message when creating a video, I think sometimes that’s where a lot of internal videos fail because people want to communicate too much or they don’t know what they want to achieve by doing a video. The points Jeremy raised will certainly help me when I next look to do a video.

Disruptive forces
The final session of the day was Benedikt Benenati (@benediktbenenat) from Kingfisher, talking about IC being a disruptive force behind cultural change. I could tell this was going to be good when before he even started Benedikt asked us to hug the person sat next to us…disruption number one! (The image of the cook was in his presentation and taken by @kjaerglobal – Rachel) Benedikt was a quote machine throughout this presentation, I’ll post a selection of the best ones below;

  • (when talking about his job title) How can you manage IC when they should be spontaneous?
  • I don’t have a job, I have a mission
  • I want to be a pain in the neck
  • It’s not a communication plan, it’s a contamination plan
  • Skype sessions are ok, but you need to smell the person

As you can see Benedikt was the perfect person to end the day. There was no lack of energy in the room…even though he ran over his allotted time by quite a bit…disruption number two!

Benedikt told us about some of the events he’d run previously to create disruption…my favourite had to be the ‘elephant in the room’ meeting. This is where they talk an issue which is affecting business but no one wants to talk about it and discuss it amongst a large group of people, most people would just do this on a stage with a presenter…which Benedikt did, but he also had a model elephant in the room to show this visually…amazing!

Some of Benedikt’s ideas and principals are genuinely inspiring, if you ever get the chance to see Benedikt present, don’t miss it. It will change the way you think about communication…or maybe that’s just me!

Once Benedikt finished, day one was closed and the networking drinks began. It’s always good to take the chance to speak to comms professionals in an informal environment and especially if there’s free alcohol involved. I took the opportunity with both hands and had a good chat to a few people. Once the alcohol started to dry up, I made my way back to the hotel and out for an evening in London with a few KCOM people where I’m sure I bored them to death talking about some of the main points from day one…and how excited I was for day two.

Thanks for such a vivid account Steven, I could tell from the tweets that you were getting a lot from it and I’m looking forward to reading day two.

Further reading
If you can’t wait to read the next instalment from Steve, Jon Ingham has written his own accounts of the Melcrum Summit on his blog and you can read his articles here. Plus Jenni Wheller has blogged on her take on the summit, read Jenni’s thoughts here. You’re welcome to comment below on what you’ve read – did anything surprise you?

The purpose of publishing reports from events is so other comms pros who were unable to attend can benefit from what was said. If you’re going to a training course, seminar or conference and would like to capture it for my blog, do read my guidelines and get in touch, Rachel

Update: You can read Steve’s summary of day two here


  1. Bob Hammond says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Steve. Plenty of food for thought that I’ll be investigating further.

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