Diary from the Melcrum summit – day two

Following on from his report from day one of the Melcrum summit, I’m going to hand over to Steven Murgatroyd for, you’ve guessed it, his report on day two of the event that took place in London last week. Steve is Internal Comms and Social Media Manager at KCOM Group and is based in Leeds, UK. All views are his and here he guides you through his experience of the event. I created the word cloud on this page from the ‘eight steps to engagement heaven’ mentioned at the foot of this article.

If you’ve attended a comms conference and think other internal comms pros would enjoy reading about it, do refer to my guest guidelines and get in touch, Rachel. Over to Steve…

A tricky start
Day two didn’t exactly start brilliantly. After getting to the Tube station in London I realised that I’d managed to set off at peak rush hour time. This meant every Tube was packed…usually I would just take on the role of a southerner and push my way on…but as I had my bag with me, it was slightly trickier. After letting three trains go because I physically couldn’t get on it, I decided to about turn and get a taxi. I arrived at the venue with just enough time for a cheeky toasted sandwich and a coffee, then on to the day’s learning.

Rebecca Richmond from Melcrum kicked off Day Two, by telling us that the main learning she’d taken from the Strategic Communication Management (SCM) awards, was that if you book a James Bond look-a-like, they should look like James Bond. Having subsequently spoken to people who attended the awards, it sounds like he looked less like Daniel Craig and more like Craig from Big Brother (old school reference!).

Plan A

The first talk of Day Two, was Mike Barry and Clair Foster, from Marks & Spencer, talking about how comms can help support and land sustainable business goals. It was a very inspiring way to start the day as Mike told us about all the amazing things M&S have done to help the environment.

Their plan is called ‘Plan A’ which I liked,  and their aim is to ‘improve human life where it touches it’. Now that’s a pretty lofty goal they’ve sent themselves, but it looks like they’re well on the way to achieving it. Sustainability and community is a huge focus for us at KCOM at the moment and this presentation was brilliant to see what a company who are slightly further down the line have achieved and how they’ve done it.

Plan A is simply part of everyday life for M&S, people live and breathe it so it doesn’t need to be pushed from all angles by the comms team. They have champions who coordinate for stores, regions, offices etc and run big events to promote what they’re doing. I like the idea of shwopping – see the film below for what this is.


… and obviously if you can get Joanna Lumley involved that helps! Clair spoke about the specific comms they’ve used and none of it was re-inventing the wheel, it was things we all do, but they’d simply made sure it resonated with their employees and let it grow from there. Overall I thought it was a great start to the day, and got everyone ready to kick on.

Next up was Julie Langford and Anna Vaughn from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), to talk about refocusing the IC function to support a new era of comms at RBS. Julie started by telling us about the troubles RBS have had recently, I’m sure you’re all aware, and how that affected both customer and employee morale. Clearly this brings huge issues and they needed to make sure that their internal comms and marketing teams were able to deal with this issue.

A large Marketing and Comms team
Julie told us that globally, RBS has 1,300 people working in Marketing and Comms…I’d never heard anything like it. I couldn’t work out if this was good or bad…either way it provided a challenge in itself of how to make sure all of them we’re able to work together and deliver the same messages. To enable this, they developed  the RBS academy (pictured) to enable all their people to receive the training they need to deliver fully in their role. The academy was designed to; build capacity, shape culture and create networks. It sounded like a great idea and when you have a team of that size it makes perfect sense.

Anna then got up to talk us through some of the channels they use to communicate the messages ad get feedback. They have three main channels they use which all have a different purpose:

  • Insite is a moderated comments board for hot topics
  • Ambassadors is an open and unmoderated forum for trusted people (I’ll come back to this in a minute)
  • RBS World is another moderated comments area, which I think is similar to an online employee magazine.

Now as soon as I heard the word moderated and comments board in the same sentence I got a bit nervous. I’m not a huge fan of moderation, I think it allows people the opportunity to avoid difficult subjects. To be fair to them, RBS don’t seem to use it like that, and when I asked how much they moderate it seemed like it was only for the most obscene and offensive comments.

However there was one comment which struck me as strange, when asked why the ambassadors forum is unmoderated, they said that the people who use it are trusted to be able to start conversations and they were being treated more like adults. Now, I’m sure it wasn’t meant as it sounded, but the meaning I took from that was if the unmoderated board is for adults, then are the moderated boards for the people they treat like children? Overall I think the engagement levels they have on their sites are great, and I’d love to have the same level myself!

After coffee, Susan Kelly from Syngenta spoke about shaping their global IC function to partner with leaders and drive business strategy. It was a great presentation with some really key points in it. One of the main ones I took was that it’s not enough for a comms person at Syngenta to just be able to write, they have to be able to provide more the business. That usually comes in three areas for them;

  • Strategic foresight
  • Leading change
  • Professional insight

I think these are areas that all IC people can provide value in, but not many businesses take advantage of that. Susan also talked about some of the ideas she believes will show in the future, which I agree with wholeheartedly;

  • IC will be from all to all
  • Leaders who can’t communicate, effectively won’t be leaders
  • Internal and External comms will be synonymous
  • Will move from controlled comms to a more open and collaborative discussion

Susan finished by telling us what she thought were some of the main attributes an IC person needs; vision, understanding, clarity, agility. It was a very powerful presentation with some clear and inspirational points.

Next up was our interactive session for the day, I was happy to hear we would be doing this and taking advantage of the @IML_UK voting pads. Rebecca Richmond led the session and the previous day had asked people to send in questions to be asked to the entire room. As I was so involved in the interactivity of the session, I didn’t actually tweet anything or write any notes but we covered areas like: what are the main issues we’re all currently facing, as a comms function, do we have the skills to succeed, where is our focus for the next year,  what skills do we need to show to become a trusted adviser?

‘In a data free zone, my opinion is king. And you need to smell people!’
I’d love to give you the stats…but as mentioned, I forgot to tweet in all the excitement! I’m sure the results will be published when the Melcrum post-event website is made live, so I’ll make sure to tweet them then (sorry!). The last question asked us to send in what the main thing was that we’d take away from the conference. My entry was ‘In a data free zone, my opinion is king. And you need to smell people!’ I was quite happy when that got a chuckle from people as it appeared on the screen.

After lunch (which was delicious again), Jorg Dirbach got up to talk about how learning is more important than knowledge and how Yammer has made knowledge management more social at Zuhlke. Jorg talked about how the workplace is moving towards informal learning and tacit knowledge. This was quite an interesting point, as I think personally I find it easy to learn in less formal situation, I was never a huge fan of exams etc but could pick things up during group discussions. He also told us about T shaped people, those of us who have a depth of knowledge in one area, but a breadth of knowledge across the business. According to Jorg, that’s what we should aim to be!

Once we’d covered that we moved onto how to collaborate and what makes collaboration effective, mainly the four areas to focus on:

  • work
  • worker
  • company
  • information flow

It was great to hear the theory behind collaboration; I think sometimes the word gets thrown about without any through, same with innovation.

Jorg explained how their knowledge network is set up using Yammer and SharePoint and how each serves a purpose and how their search functionality can search on both sites to find the answer (dreamland!) I was very jealous of what Jorg has and it’s certainly something I’d like to achieve at KCOM as our intranet is on SharePoint and we’ve recently started using Yammer.

The final thing Jorg showed, was a sample business case for using Yammer, for those of you who don’t know…it isn’t cheap when you decide to pay for it! It’s not the first time I’ve seen a business case like this, but basically it showed that if you can cost time wasted by an employee looking for something you can justify why you should spend money creating something which will get rid of that time. All very interesting and something I’m sure I’ll look at in more detail in the next six months or so!

Camera shy?
We then had a quick coffee break, during which the Melcrum camera crew grabbed me and asked if I didn’t mind being interviewed for the official conference film. While I pretended to resist, I was actually quite happy to get involved…if you ask my employees they’ll tell you that I have no issue being the centre of attention. I won’t ruin my pearls of wisdom here, but keep an eye on my Twitter account and I’ll make sure to link to the video when it appear (let’s hope I make the final cut now!).

After coffee, we moved into the final sessions of the day and the conference. First up was Dr Andy Brown, Nick Crawford and Erin Rowsome from Engage Group to talk about three steps to create engagement through organisational collaboration. This was a really interesting session on collaboration and like I mentioned with Jorg, gave some great insight into the theories behind collaboration, not just saying you have to do it!

Hard Organisational Outcomes
I think a lot of companies just think collaboration should happen without first deciding the results they want to achieve. Andy Brown got up first and said that you have to start with deciding your ‘Hard Organisational Outcomes’, from there you can decide in what way will employees collaborate and then you decide what the key drivers are to get people collaborating. It was a fascinating way of looking at it and he went into more detail around specific examples of outcomes and drivers. He then moved onto a measurement framework which I liked and have talked about since getting back to work. He explained that there are usually three types of measurement;

  • Functional – Are people using it?
  • Behavioural – Are behaviours changing?
  • Organisational – Are we delivering desired outcomes?

Most people measure at the functional level, how many visits to the intranet, how many people read the newsletter etc. Some people measure behavioural change but not many measure organisational and that’s where you have to be to truly see the benefits of collaboration. Andy finished by saying that to be a collaborative leader you need to be three things; Holistic, Involving and Trusting…without those you can never be a leader for collaboration! Nick and Erin then got up to talk about whether we are culturally ready for collaboration within our businesses.

They asked us all a number of questions using the voting pads and then plotted our results on a 2×2 graph showing cultural readiness vs technology/tools. I’d love to go into more detail on this matrix and see in more detail just where KCOM is on the scale. I would think that we have the technology and tools, but culturally we might not be there just yet.

If I’m honest, the engage session was one of the better ones of the course of the two days, it gave some great insight into theories of collaboration which I think most people can bring back into the workplace.

With the room strangely emptying a bit (never understand why people leave early!) Oliver Strong from RSA had the job of closing the conference. He was talking about the link between engagement and IC. I immediately noticed that Oliver used Prezi for his talk which was great as I’m a huge fan of it and try to use it when I can. Although my eagerness to use it overshadows my talent with it by a long way! However, Oliver’s presentation was brilliant a creative use of Prezi but he was also very engaging and funny…perfect for the last session of the day.

Oliver talked about how they’ve created world-class levels of engagement in their business and it was very good. The 8 steps to engagement heaven were very good;

  1. Board level advocacy
  2. Hold leaders accountable
  3. Bottle and share best practice
  4. Celebrate the best
  5. Support low scoring leaders
  6. Fix big issues
  7. Emotional connection
  8. Alignment

These are all great tips and while some are easier than others to embed, I think they’re all worth looking at! They’ve also introduced some pretty simple ideas which I’m sure make huge difference. For example, all managers at RSA are called leaders, that might not seem that much…but from a cultural point of view I’m sure it has a huge effect. If you’re called a leader then surely you’ll act more like a leader? When Oliver finished he said it was his first Prezi, which if it’s true then makes him a genius…because it was one of the best I’ve ever seen!

As Oliver finished up Rebecca Richmond closed the conference by thanking us all for attending, it was a brilliant two days and very inspiring. I’ve taken a lot from it and hopefully will be able to implement within KCOM to help us achieve our goals in the future by making sure our IC team is able to compete on the curve.

Post author: Steve Murgatroyd.

Thank you for such a detailed analysis Steve, sounds like another action-packed day and is great to get updated on what happened for those of us who were unable to attend. Thanks again, Rachel.

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