The many hats of internal communication

What is the worst task you have had to perform as an internal communication professional? This topic had me in stitches yesterday when it was raised at the Melcrum Live conference for IC pros. It’s really not something to laugh about, but bear with me…

Examples included washing hundreds of strawberries, wrapping up Christmas presents, negotiating the release of cream-filled Belgium chocolates from Customs, fashioning a hood for an autocue via an IC pro’s personal sewing machine, putting up thousands of pictures in the Olympic village bedrooms and my absolute favourite: sewing up the, ahem, bottom area of a Superman costume – with the company CEO still inside.

I liked the example Steven Murgatroyd @steve_murg Tweeted:

Sound familiar? I’d love to know if you have your own examples – feel free to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC. This was part of a wider discussion around moving from tactical to strategic comms and what that looks like. There’s more info below.

MelcrumYesterday’s one-day Melcrum Live event took place at the Lancaster Hotel, London and was free for Melcrum members. It was attended by around 180 people working in internal communication.

First topic of the day was a session led by Victoria Mellor, CEO and co-founder of Melcrum.

She looked at how internal communications can drive positive change and operate in the most effective way in the face of business challenges.

Victoria identified four key drivers to ‘the new era of IC.’

They were:

  • Growth of social media “conversations need to be linked to the business and reduce pain points for employees”
  • Power of the employee voice (see my previous article on the Edelman Trust Barometer and CIPD research on employee voice)
  • Evolving role of the internal communicator “From craft experts to organisational connectors” (see the image above – it opens larger so you can read it)
  • The manager breakdown – Victoria revealed a study of managers that showed 86 per cent self-perceived their communication performance as ‘good to very good,’ compared to 83 per cent of employees who rated managers’ communication ability as ‘poor to average’ – and discussed what this means for IC pros.

Back in May I wrote about a new report from Melcrum that looked at groundbreaking IC innovations. If you missed it, you can catch up here. Many of the key themes for the day were echoed by the research.

Sona Hathi, Head of Research and Content at Melcrum was up next and looked at 10 best practices they have been looking at in internal comms globally:

1 Training leaders and managers differently
2a Choosing the best Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Deloitte presented theirs as a pyramid structure
2b Reporting the best KPIs: Dashboard presentation for leaders
3a Adapting IC metrics to a new environment. Shells’ algorithm was highlighted (see pic)
3b Adapt channel metrics
4 Lifting above social media features: a hierarchy of adoption drivers from IBM
5 Tailoring training and tools to empower employees: employee advocacy programme at PepsiCo was highlighted
6 Using a system to migrate culture
7 Unlocking managers through network analysis: comms as facilitators of collaboration
8 Strengthening internal dialogue: 70-80% of change programmes fail ‘due to lack of employee buy-in’
9 Building agile planning processes to combat complexity and overlap between external and internal comms
10 Redefining internal comms competencies: Melcrum has created an online competency model and tool

Next up was Kelly Freeman, who until recently was IC manager at Superdrug. She shared her story about the culture of Superdrug and her new role at Interact.

She spoke about the importance of understanding organisational culture to inform communication strategy and how Superdrug employees adopted the use of their Interact intranet in their own time using their own mobiles. I enjoyed her talk and you can read more about it via the Interact blog.

This was followed by a roundtable discussion about leadership and problem solving – group therapy if you will!

After lunch there were four ‘ignite’ sessions – five minute long presentations. I really like this format as it gives you a snapshot view and you get to hear from in-house IC pros.

Speakers were:

  • Camilla Cousins, Communications Manager, John Lewis Partnership
  • Wendy Scarlett, Senior IC Business Partner – Change, Barclays
  • David Orford, Head of Internal Communications, UK Trade & Investment
  • Linda Rolf, Director of Internal Communication and Employee Engagement, Specsavers

I enjoyed hearing their perspective and stories of how they came to work in IC, their career path to date and hopes for the future. You can read more info via my Storify.

The many hats of IC

The penultimate session was hosted by Involve and was great fun. The concept was: If your employer outsourced you and your team tomorrow but offered you the chance to pitch for the contract as a supplier what would your pitch be? What exactly are you offering? Where will you be adding value in 3 years time? Is it ‘communication’, ‘engagement’, ‘change’ or something else? Where will you fit in the organisation? Who will your ‘client’ be?

Board Melcrum Everyone was on tables of similar industries, so we had public sector, financial services and FCMG. Then there were a few tables of Boards. I was on one of the Board tables and was amused to see we had hats to wear to depict different roles.

The Ops Director had an Army style cap, Legal had a Mortar Board, Marketing had a gold glittery hat, Comms had a parrot and I was CEO of my table, with a lovely gold crown – you can see my table pictured here.

We had to walk around the tables and listen to people preparing to pitch and then based on what we read and observed, make a decision about who we wanted to pitch.

The winning team were then invited up on the main stage to pitch to their respective board. They did remarkably well considering they had hardly any time to prepare and we were armed with pre-prepared ‘killer questions’ that we had hastily written down to throw them off course.

The pace and energy Involve managed to muster in the post-lunch session is to be commended. They did a great job in getting everyone enthused by the activity.

Competencies for Communicators

Sophie Sheppard, Melcrum’s Head of Relationship Management, Training and Delivery closed the day by asking us for examples of the worst tasks we had undertaken in the name of IC – as mentioned at the start of this article.

competenciesShe then guided us through the diverse roles, responsibilities and activities undertaken by the modern Internal Communicator and the ways in which tactical and strategic activities are balanced.

Sophie also looked at the new Competencies for Communicators model and talked us through what this means in reality for many IC pros. Apologies for the quality of this image, it was taken on my iPhone, but you can hopefully see what it says.

She talked about how this model could have been three times as large, but they tried to be succinct and determine the key areas that are important for internal communication professionals and ones that add the most value.

Is there anything you think is missing? Hearing Sophie describe it, it seemed a comprehensive approach to me.  To find out more about the discussions from yesterday, see my Storify for all the Tweets, pics and vines. There were two hashtags – #melcrumlive for the day and then #futureproofIC for the Involve session.

As usual when I leave an IC event, my brain was buzzing and has been for the past 24 hours with what I heard. One of the best things about yesterday was the ample opportunity to network. The conversations kept coming back to the big yak – I had lots of people either express dismay they weren’t able to come or say hello and that they enjoyed it, which was lovely.

It was also great to finally meet some people I have Tweeted with for a long time, ‘in real life’ and get to know them offline as well as virtually.

Congrats to the Melcrum team on a productive day.

Know of an upcoming event you think other IC pros would be interested in being aware of? Do Tweet @theICcrowd for it to be added to the comms calendar.

UPDATE: You can read my follow-up article, the worst task in internal communication here.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

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