The power of information in a networked world

What do jargon free comms, neuroscience, a seaside resort and introverts have in common?

Answer: They were all integral parts of the annual Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) conference that took place in Brighton, UK, recently.

ioic_groupFrom 1-2 May, 100 professional communicators gathered at the Hilton Metropole hotel to experience #IoIClive14.

Amid the faded grandeur of the beachfront hotel (although with no windows in the conference room, we really could have been anywhere), the conference examined The Power of Information – Smarter Working in a Collaborative World.

In recent years there has been criticism of IoIC among IC pros of operating like an ‘Old Boys’ Network.’

I certainly experienced that at their conference dinner in 2010, which didn’t feel as inclusive as one would expect from an event like that. That experience has kept me away for a few years, and I know I’m not alone.

This conference stood out because of the variety of speakers and topics, so I decided to go along. I was glad I did as it was a worthwhile few days. I welcome the fact IoIC and CIPR Inside teamed up to offer deals for members, in the same way CIPR Inside did for their annual conference last year.

Working together
It’s brilliant to see the various comms organisations working together to benefit members. IABC were represented at the conference too via their International Vice-Chair Russell Grossman, who spoke. Well done to the organising committee for putting it together in an extremely thoughtful way.

It was good to see that apparent cliqueyness in years gone by not being evident, and there were lots of new faces.

Although, having said that, the conversations over lunch on the Friday were full of people discussing the introvert/extrovert session that had just happened, but the speakers and organisers were nowhere to be found. It’s a shame that they were given lunch in a separate room as they missed the opportunity to carry on the conversations with delegates, who were wondering where they were. 

What was discussed?
The event started with an unconference style session on Thursday evening expertly hosted by one of my fellow
@theICcrowd co-founders Jenni Wheller @jenniwheller.

During the course of a couple of hours the delegates swapped tips, advice and ideas on a whole range of topics including IC strategy, leadership comms, how to reach ‘hard to reach’ employees, employee engagement, social media and professional development. This format worked well and the topics were great ones to get people sharing and talking.

Friday was an action-packed day. Various people have blogged about it, so I’m going to link to their articles throughout, rather than go into detail on every session, or this article would be enormous.

The agenda was excellent and included Why CSR matters with Mari Doyle, Director of Internal Communications at Bupa, Comms pro Hilary Scarlett  @hilary_scarlett, on using neuroscience to communicate, collaborate and innovate, and the panel I mentioned above.

Further reading: IoIC article on Bupa’s initiative.

Transforming culture through language

Jon Hawkins, Head of Brand Language at British Telecom (BT) and Neil Taylor, Managing Partner at The Writer opened the day by discussing how:

BT transformed its language internally and externally, and by doing so, changed its culture.

Yes you read that right, BT has a dedicated “Head of Brand Language.” I think it’s fair to say that IC pros in the room were initially skeptical of the need for such a role. However, by the end of their presentation and the irrefutable evidence and results being highlighted by the pair, many around the tables were questioning why more companies don’t have it.

They shared multiple examples of how they have simplified language and the effect it has had. E.g. a 13 page travel policy was eradicated and replaced with a handful of sentences: “We’re a frugal company. But don’t show up dog-tired just to save a few bucks. Use your common sense.”


Love that! The dynamic combination of Jon and Neil worked well on stage to steer us through the work that has taken place and the different jargon free comms has made at BT. They urged delegates to

“write like you speak, don’t speak like you write.”

They created some principles that are in use for both internal and external communication:

  • Write with clarity and confidence – say what you mean, and say it clearly
  •  Show a world full of promise – what’s your reader really interested in
  •  Add small moments of wonder – a flash of personality goes a long way.

What stood out for me was the return on investment. Through focusing on making smart choices, they saw real results. For example, call centre scripts were cut to reduce word count and simplify them.

This led to a reduction in call handling time, saving the company £6m in the process. Six million pounds. Nice!

Focusing on IC Excellence

Russell Grossman, Director of Communications at UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Director at Engage for Success spoke about the UK Government Internal Communications Excellence Project #ICExcellence.

I’ve highlighted the project and the dedicated website The IC Space on my blog a couple of times. Russell focused on the drive for communication excellence in government, spearheaded by Alexander Aiken @alexanderaiken, Executive Director, Government Communications.

A communications capability review looked at three areas of delivery of communications: Gov Comms

In July 2014 a line managers’ toolkit is being rolled out to provide information across Government. I like their approach of “internal communication is too important to be left to the comms team alone” – reinforcing that it’s everyone’s responsibility in an organisation.

Russell and his team have identified six strands of excellence to make the reform work: Six standards

I enjoyed Russell’s presentation and hearing about the sterling work to drive up standards. Further reading: Sequel Group’s blog  on Russell’s session and an IoIC article on the review.

Panel discussion: Introverts and extroverts
Regular readers of my blog will know I was looking forward to this session. It was hosted by Belinda Gannaway @contentqueen, from NixonMcInnes agency and featured a panel of introverts: Helen Deverell @helenW7, and Robin Hall @robinhallHR, extrovert Shiona Adamson, head of IC and change at Natural England, and omnivert Dana Leeson @danaleeson.

It was a hugely enjoyable session and was sparked by Helen’s article for my blog last year on the introverted revolution in internal communication. Congrats to the panel for such a thought-provoking session and thank you for your honesty.

Further reading: IoIC article on the session.

Communicating with Gen Z employees

jenniJenni Wheller, Chair of CIPR Inside, recently researched communicating with Generation Z (people born after 1995), as part of her CIPR Diploma in internal communication.

She shared her results at the event and what surprised her. Through her own surveys she discovered Generation Z respondents cited email as their preferred communication channel for receiving business messages (67%) followed by intranet (45%) and from their manager (34%).

“It goes against everything I’d read about email being dead,” said Jenni. “Only 11% said they wanted to receive information via social media!”

Jenni’s overall conclusion was that you can’t segment by generation: “It isn’t about generations, it’s about individuals. Their personal preference is powerful and something we need to be mindful of if our communication is going to be successful. Similarly, we need to consider the ways different channels are used some are great for ‘broadcast’ some perfect for listening to employee voice and feedback.”

Further reading: IoIC article on Jenni’s presentation and CIPR Inside article on it.

Well done again to the organising committee. If you want to read about Hilary Scarlett’s neuroscience and internal communication connections, see the article on Melcrum’s website.

Further reading – blogs from other IC pros

Katie Marlow writes for CIPR Inside blog – part one

Blog by AB

My Storify collating Tweets, pics and Vines.

Post author: Rachel Miller.


  1. […] Rachel Miller’s post about the event here […]

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