10 tips from today’s PRWeek Strategic IC conference

Is your organisation pushed from the outside or driven from the inside?

Today Heather Wagoner, Director of Internal Communication and Engagement at the BBC posed this question to delegates at PRWeek’s Strategic Internal Communication conference.

She shared one of the business challenges they have: “We need to do the same, or more for less” (budget).

How can you do that?

Doing more with less was a running theme though today’s conference, which was held at the Shoreditch Courthouse in London. The event was expertly chaired by Jim Connor, Director of Communication at Lloyds Banking Group. Well done Jim, I enjoyed our chats in the break.

The official theme of this 13th annual IC event from PRWeek was: “creating progressive workplaces in a rapidly changing world.” But more often that not, conversations came back to how can you be progressive and/or creative with less budget? 

I was delighted to partner with PRWeek as a media partner again this year, thank you to everyone who stopped me today to say they booked using the discount code we offered. I’m thrilled so many people benefited from our partnership and I hope you enjoyed the conference as much as I did.

What makes it worth attending?
The reason I value the PRWeek Strategic IC conference is the level of conversation, which is peer-to-peer among Communication Directors. The case studies and people sharing their thoughts are superb.

Content feels relevant and timely and is delivered by experts who are clearly doing excellent work in their organisations. It’s always a place where the content feels pitched at the right level to help me learn.

I’m going to share 10 things I heard today that I made a note of to share with you. But first up, I’m going to reveal some more information from Heather’s talk, as it was the highlight for me.

Three levers of success at the BBC

Heather revealed the work the BBC is doing within its comms function. They’re focusing on three levers for success:

  • Empathy at the heart of our organisation
    “Empathy makes us uniquely human. How can we build communities?”
  • Leading with purpose
    “Communication is the activator of engagement.”
  • Including everyone
    “Everyone is welcome in the workplace. We work hard to encourage employee voice. There should not be hard-to-reach audiences.”

Pleased to see empathy in that list, it’s surely been the word of the year for comms pros. How do you talk about empathy in your organisation? If you’re not, could you start with your team and define your approach?

I particularly like Heather’s thoughts around change:

“For change to be sustainable, we need to build trust, so we have worked hard to do that.”

There’s been a lot of change at the BBC over the years, not least the number of channels and services being offered. The picture below shows just the last 21 years…

Further reading: If you want to learn more about change, sign up for my Change Comms Masterclass on 30 January 2018 in London. Two members of Heather’s team came to my last one.

The BBC has been coaching their leaders to be communicators and storytellers.

I remember first hearing the phrase storytelling back at a Melcrum conference in 2008 or 2009 and wondering how it could fit into organisations. Now it’s odd to go to a conference and not hear how companies are encouraging their employees to curate and create stories. That’s quite a shift in less than a decade and I welcome it.

Mapping stakeholders

A recurring theme at the conference was around integrated teams and outputs. More on that in a moment. But I liked this slide Heather shared to show who their stakeholders are and what channels they have in place:

“We’ve worked really hard and are measuring the heck out of everything.”

Further reading: How to create, map and keep stakeholder relationships.

Ten tips from PRWeek’s Strategic IC conference

Here are quotes, comments or thoughts that made me think today. I hope you enjoy them:

1. The BBC has two ongoing initiatives to support employees’ mental health. Open Up to encourage conversations, and Speak Up to air concerns.Their employee assistance programme stats revealed most calls were due to non-work-related stress. So they’ve been working hard to communicate the fact the organisation is a safe place where you can come and talk about issues via Open Up.

Tip: What are you doing in your organisation to address mental health and wellbeing? Could you do more? Do you know why people call your employee assistance line? 

2. “Organisations are integrating mindsets, if not teams, with regards to IC and external comms – we’re recognising the need to treat content differently.” – Jim Connor, Director of Communication at Lloyd’s Banking Group.

Tip: Does that apply for you? Have your external and internal comms teams started to share content, but not structure? How do you talk about your function?

3. “Within the Metropolitan Police, we are keen on repurposing content internally. Our IC and Press teams are increasingly working together to ensure our people know our news first.” Yvonne O’Hara, Head of IC. Yvonne also talked about how they published their internal peer-to-peer blogs externally to support a BBC documentary about the force.

Tip: How well do you repurpose content? That means reshaping information to be used across different channels. E.g. could a strategy become an infographic? 

4. “There has been a shift as the Press team now say ‘we’re missing an audience‘ (meaning employees) as they understand the value of internal communication” – Tanya Burack Director of Internal Communications, Savills.

Tip: Does your external team think like that? Could you do more to communicate the power of viewing your employees as stakeholders?

5. “We have integrated in terms of our ways of working, but not the structure. The fight for budget and resources is over as we’re now thinking about how we work together” – Tanya Burack Director of Internal Communications, Savills.

Tip: How could you work better with your external team? If it’s working well, how can you celebrate that success and build on it?

6. “After 18 months of a dual internal and external approach, we found structure got in the way and made us less effective. Since Summer 2017, we have come back together as a single team. We are a function of comms experts and put a premium on content and our people. If you’re thinking of integrating IC and external teams, I encourage you to collaborate on employee insight” – Phil Askham, Global Head of Employee Communications, HSBC.

Tip: Do you put a premium on content and your people? How could you do that in your company? What would that look like for you? Could you add it to your next team meeting agenda? If you’re a team of one, are you clear on your stance?

7. Hannah Moffatt from The Writer has three tips for language use during change: 1) Get to the point. 2) Be concrete. 3) Be active, not passive in your writing. “The clearer and more concrete your language is, the better. It’s about using phrases like doing everyday things better, rather than operational excellence. If we can picture it, we can make it happen.”

Tip: I loved Hannah’s tip today – she advises adding the words “By Robots” to the end of a sentence to see if it is passive. Review your last official IC channel content. Is it in the active or passive voice?

8. “The question I want to know the answer to constantly is: “How can we change the way we engage our people? We use the four drivers of success from Engage for Success to help us have a structure that works for us, we can benchmark and hold ourselves accountable to” – Danielle Chan, Head of Internal Communications, Community Integrated Care.

Tip: Do you know the four drivers? See this article on my blog to learn more.

9. “Leaders are not mythical figures. We’ve been using Yammer to clearly connect our organisation and create opportunities for our CEO to be more visible and for people to ask her questions.” – Emma Guise, Director of Communication, Macmillan Cancer Support.

Tip: How can you ensure your leaders aren’t mythical figures? 

10. “The biggest benefit of using video conferencing in our organisation? We know each others’ faces” – Deborah Smith, Head of Internal Communications, Skyscanner.

Tip: Does your organisation know each others’ faces? What opportunities do you create for your people to meet face-to-face or at least know who each other are? Could you do more?

Well done PRWeek for organising such a vibrant and educational conference.

What do you think of these tips? What’s struck you from this article? Do comment below or Tweet me @Allthingsic.

Here’s a glimpse of what comms pros shared throughout the day via Twitter #PRWinternal:

Thank you for stopping by,

Post author: Rachel Miller
First published on the All Things IC blog 21 November 2017.

Want to learn more about internal comms?

Sign up to my monthly newsletter – The Water Cooler..


  1. […] 10 tips from today’s PRWeek Strategic IC conference 2017 […]

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and 1-2-1 support to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.