Overcoming the weapons of mass distraction

London’s Social Media Week is in full swing and it has been a fantastic week so far, with lots of interesting quotes, statistics and people sharing ideas. I’ve been watching webinars live online all week or catching up afterwards, and have been really struck by the quality of the questions and enthusiasm all round. You can follow it on Twitter @smwldn or the hashtag #smwldn.

Yesterday I was privileged to be speaking alongside some of my fellow Share This book authors at an event at the Facebook offices in London (pictured). I learnt that 1600 copies of the book have been sold and only 10 of those were in digital format, the rest were hard copy, which surprised me. Jane Wilson, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) chaired the two-hour session and Q&As. The panel was made up of Stephen Waddington, Katy Howell, Andy Smith and I.

There was a crowd of around 80 people and I thoroughly enjoyed their questions and the conversations that I had afterwards in person and via Twitter. I also met Pamela Mounter, which made my day as I love the book she wrote: PR in practice: effective internal communication. It’s been part of my staple internal comms reading and recommendations for a good few years now and I highlighted it on my blog back in May 2010.

The hashtag for the event was #smwcipr and if you missed it, you can catch up by reading the Storify I created (if you’ve never used this site before, I recommend it as a way to capture interactions around a certain topic or event). You can also read an overview by the CIPR.

The film has been made available as the event was live-streamed, and you can view that here.

I was amused to receive a picture message from my husband of my four month old daughter mesmerised by our TV screen as he was watching the live-stream on it, and she was apparently chatting at me on the screen.

Lingo bingo
We decided to issue ‘lingo bingo’ cards for the audience to have some fun with, in recognition of the fact there are many phrases that are used when talking about social media. So the challenge for the audience was to cross them off as they came up in conversation, for their chance to win a copy of Share This. There were also definitions on the back of the bingo cards to ensure everyone was clear about the meanings.

The key thoughts from my presentation and what I answered in the Q&A  – and I can’t share the slides as I didn’t use any – are below. Do let me know your feedback and thoughts from what you see and read. It’s often quite hard to read content like this without the full context, so you may want to watch the film instead, but they are below.

An area that I didn’t cover but that I know is a continuing challenges for comms pros is how to connect the ‘unconnected’ employees e.g. remote workers and people without access to company email addresses or computers. This was the topic of a CIPR Inside event last week and you can read about it here. I’m going to be talking at the next CIPR Inside conference, Putting Employees First which is taking place on 7 November at the Kia Oval. Full details and how to book tickets are available here.

There’s also a Share This social media conference on 1 November. Experts in various sectors will cover aspects of social media including the BBC’s Director of Communications, Paul Mylrea FCIPR, who will be discussing how the BBC-managed Twitter during the recent Olympic Games; David Bailey from Staffordshire Police will present a case study on social media guidelines; Penny Fox & Elayne Phillips from Defra will be presenting a joint case study on integrating traditional and social media; and Metrica’s Richard Bagnall as well as Marcus Gault from Precise will present the latest thinking on social media measurement. The keynote speaker will be Robin Pembrooke, Head of Online for ITV and Global Radio.

Your name here?
What else is happening in the comms world over the next few months? What conferences, talks or training are you going to? Let me know by commenting below.

Don’t forget that I’m on the lookout for your experiences of Social Media Week or recent comms events. What have you learnt that you’d like to share with others? Do read my guest article guidelines and get in touch if you have something you’d like to write and see featured on my blog. You can also ask @theICcrowd if you are working on something that you’d like help with, or want to point people towards something interesting that you’ve found.

I’m looking forward to the Social Media Week special Ealing Tweetup tonight, the largest of its kind in the UK. A Tweetup is essentially people meeting up in person who use Twitter. I am social media adviser and web editor for the Ealing branch of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) charity, so am doubly interested in meeting people that I only ‘know’ via Twitter – power of face-to-face and all that! You can read about it via the hashtag #EalingTU and I believe you can still sign up to attend or just drop in. Thanks as ever for stopping by and here are my key points from yesterday’s presentation, Rachel

  • The basic fundamentals of comms are the same now as they’ve always been. However through social media we now have the ability of make previously ‘invisible’ conversations visible, for the benefits of companies
  • I explore themes including the shift in employee expectations and in the role of internal comms pros
  • Employees communicate in real-time and expect to do the same at work
  • Closed, one-way communication tools and channels no longer cut it with employees – they expect more and to be able to share their views. They are having the conversations anyway and it makes sense to have ways of capturing and sharing them
  • Benefits of social media and collaborative, two-way comms channels include knowledge sharing and transparency
  • Role of comms pros has shifted from being ‘internal journalists’ to strategic business advisers and facilitators who enable communication to happen effectively and efficiently
  • Social media is helping to make ideas, innovations and connections visible within companies and available to a wider audience – having a closed community doesn’t allow innovation to happen
  • The era of senior managers and leaders thinking of social media as weapons of mass distraction is ending. Blocking Facebook/Twitter is pointless as employees will always find a way to access them (e.g. using their smartphones in toilets!)
  • Companies need to treat their internal audience as well as their external audience – investing resources, time and effort as employees can and should be your most engaged brand ambassadors, both while they work for you and when they leave. I think it’s money well spent.
  • Employees expect transparency and openness from leaders and it is the role of the comms professional to facilitate that to happen. The days of ghost-writing are over, employees aren’t daft and know/see the difference
  • Social media isn’t always the answer
  • For a blog to be successful, it needs to listen to what people want, ask for feedback and content and constantly evolve
  • Steve Jobs said you need to identify the customer experience and work back towards the technology. That is true for internal comms – you need to define your strategy and what action you want employees to take, then determine the channel you are going to use. Not the other way around.

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