The global community of internal communicators is truly something special.
We pulled together during COVID to help each other by sharing resources and advice.
When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died last month, it caused a ripple in the community and there was a need for guidance.
Many of us were involved in London Bridge communication planning for years, and over the past decade I’ve had numerous conversations with clients.
Being candid, it’s the blog post I never felt able to write due to the incredibly sensitive nature. Instead, I advised behind closed doors and connected my network of comms friends with each other to aid their planning and response, pointing them towards trusted sources and people with robust plans in place.
When the sad news broke on 8 September 2022, the community united again, with IC Manager Keith Riley demonstrating the very best of us, through his unselfish actions.
Keith is an in-house Communications Practitioner with over a decade’s experience, who specialises in Creative and Mixed Media Communications.
Regular readers of the All Things IC blog will know I interviewed him last year on my Candid Comms podcast: A candid conversation about inclusion with Keith Riley.
I invited him to share the thinking behind the crowdsourced comms guidance he collated, to equip comms pros with advice.
Thank you Keith, I’ll hand you over,
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to communicate a Royal Funeral – published 2021
Further reading on the All Things IC blog: Resources to help you communicate at this difficult time – published September 2022.
How to communicate the death of a Monarch
I’ve always believed there is something about the communications community. Since I joined the industry in 2011, I’ve always found there to be significantly unique collegiality about the people that do what we do.
The thing that is most fascinating to me however is that whether we make up a team of 500 looking after a global organisation, or a solo worker looking after a small family-run business, when unseen challenges arrive, they challenge us all equally.
Nothing I think really prepared us for the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I know that companies affiliated with the Royal Family had plans but you can’t plan how people will react to something so significant.
I, like many people, was glued to the news on the 8 September 2022 and couldn’t really stop sobbing from there until the day of the funeral. I kept thinking about my late father, who died the same day as Prince Phillip’s funeral.
I kept thinking about Princess Anne and King Charles III, the Princes and grandchildren. We heard time and again on the news how people said “they didn’t think it would affect them quite in the way that it had”.
You can’t plan for that.
At work, we began getting a statement ready early in the day just in case, and we began discussing which of our campaigns/activities would be pulled should the news break.
I was in the middle of delivering a Town Hall, my invitations were due to go out the following day, we decided to wait. By the time I’d got home, the sad news had been announced, and we’d been asked to send something on behalf of the CEO, which he’d already penned at that point.
My boss and I sent countless messages discussing changing brand, what templates need to be used, how we sign off and where we can soften the language. We sent it, breathed a sigh of relief that we had a strong team that could handle the volume of change that was about to come, and then we logged off.
It was that last statement that made me realise that there were people out there, communications teams and individuals, that would be staring at the volume of work ahead of them and feeling somewhat helpless in terms of where to start.
So, I fired off a Tweet offering a hand to anyone that needed it.
All comms people.
If you’re on your own / one man band – don’t struggle, announcing news like this is really hard.
If you need a hand with words or timelines or explaining how national morning affects people there’s plenty of us to help.
— Keith Riley (he/him) (@itskeithriley) September 8, 2022
It wasn’t all that long before people started commenting and retweeting lots of people saying they appreciated the offer but then a small number of folks messaging to say that they didn’t have a clue where to start.
Someone asked for copy on how to acknowledge feelings, someone else asked for guidance on branding and someone else asked if I had funeral details.
Sadly, I am not important enough for the last bit of info but the other two I felt like I had enough experience to start capturing some copy. So, I started throwing some content on a Google doc, shared the link in the thread and kept writing.
I've started a google doc with some suggestions open / middle / closed.
Please add to it – I'll continue to add some suggestions already being sent acrosshttps://t.co/CN5frvG8Xr
— Keith Riley (he/him) (@itskeithriley) September 8, 2022
About an hour later, I had over 100 Twitter notifications. A DM from Kate Jones that was packed with copy and ideas. Another from Georgie Agass.
Someone had Tweeted links to government content, mourning advice, communicating death to children and more. And that’s really when I went from writing to copying and pasting a heck of a lot of other people’s genius.
Over the next 24 hours, I saw names editing the document, Advita Patel, Rachel Miller, Jordan Hooker, Charlotte Greaves and many more. Each person adding their own thoughts, experience, ideas, creativity and support.
I don’t think there was a point really throughout the following week where there wasn’t someone in the document editing or making use of the content, which at a point when the nation mourned, made me feel really comforted that all those people were being supported by selfless and caring communications experts.
I am so grateful for this community. Ok, so not everyone that does our job engages in the same way or is supportive, and some might even try to pull others down or take another’s work.
But overall, we are a fantastic group of individuals, and this crowdsourced document is evidence of an incredible community which I for one, am rather proud to be a part of.
I am delighted to be able to give the document back to the community that made it (albeit in a much tidier format). If it needs changes, my details are on the bottom of the document, if you contributed and I missed you off, please just let me know.
You can download a copy here.
I said a few times on Twitter while we compiled it, that this was not about clout for me, and that is still very true, but I was personally very moved by the support from everyone for kicking it off, as well as how eager people were to be involved.
With that in mind, I want to provide more opportunities for us to crowdsource, knowledge, experience and support each other in this way, I know that it isn’t easy being a team of one or doing comms on the side of your desk in a small organisation but I am raising my hand here and saying “I want to help”.
If you have a project that is fast becoming a crisis, my details are below. Please send me a message with the key points and we can crowdsource the answers together, and then collate that wisdom into a document that can benefit the whole communications community. #CrowdsourcedCommunications
Thank you so much Keith for not only taking this initiative but also sharing your reflections on how the comms community comes together.
Post author: Rachel Miller
First published on the All Things IC blog 3 October 2022.