Six things I heard at PR Week’s Strategic IC conference

There are some seriously smart things happening in internal communication right now.

prweekOn Tuesday I had the privilege of attending PR Week’s Strategic Internal Communications conference in London and hearing about them first hand.

From monthly morale dashboards to innovative and creative employer brand strategies, it’s an exciting time to be working in this field.

I’m going to share six things I heard and what struck me from the day, which was expertly chaired by Jim Connor, Director of Communications, Commercial Banking at Lloyds Banking Group.

It was a pleasure to see clients, friends and meet fellow comms pros to discuss all things internal comms related. The stunning Royal Institute of British Architects building in London was a fitting host to an impressive day.

All Things IC was a media partner for the event. I’m thrilled to hear from PR Week that readers of my blog attended using my discount code. I hope you enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Further reading: Sign up for the upcoming Employer Brand Management conference on 6 December and save 10%.

Here’s what I heard…

1) If something isn’t working, be brave enough to scrap it

Drew McMillan.Virgin Trains decided to can its annual employee survey as it wasn’t working for them. Drew McMillan (pictured), Head of Internal Communications and Innovation described it as being as effective as a snake eating itself.

They’ve replaced it with frequent analysis and an ongoing conversation about the way employees are working (see point 2).

I audit companies regularly and find there are many reasons why employee surveys fail. However, one of the most common is the lack of action planning post-survey.

What’s your view? Who would miss your annual survey if you removed it?

2) Investing in internal insight is worth the effort

Leaders at Virgin Trains now have visibility of how employees are feeling thanks to a dashboard.

They realised managers needed to know this information and have it in an accessible format, so it’s delivered via an app on their phones. It’s updated monthly and categories include stress, pride, trust and empowerment.

James Tarbit, Head of Employee Insight at HSBC shared how they are using insight internally to shape the way they communicate.

Speaking on a panel with Telefonica’s Head of Change Communications, Sarah Mullins, he spoke passionately about the need for companies to invest in and understand the value of their internal information to help them make decisions.

3) TalkTalk is resetting its foundations

louise-myson-1Louise Myson, Head of Culture and Engagement at TalkTalk Plc (pictured) shared a model showing how they are ensuring everything aligns in their organisation.

From values to vision, they’re making sure messages and actions go together. This is to provide employees with a clear line of sight around their strategic direction and inform their employee value proposition.

This is common sense, and we know it should be done. However, it’s rare to see it done in such a succinct way.

I like the way Louise spoke about “resetting the foundations” – it’s never too late to do this.

4) Facebook at Work (Workplace) is helping employees get stuff done

FBThe Financial Times became one of the first companies to trial Facebook at Work (Workplace). Rebecca Heptinstall, Head of Brand and Employee Communications talked about how it is enhancing their sense of community.

Rebecca described how it has become part of the way they communicate and how the ease of use “we didn’t need to train people, it’s Facebook, so it’s easy to use” was helping adoption.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: All you need to know about Workplace.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: How a Brewery is using Facebook at Work. 

5) Employer branding is becoming increasingly important for companies

Over the past few years, the conversations about employer branding have become noisier.

There were some excellent examples shared at the conference including the Financial Times and ODEON.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: How ODEON designed its employer brand strategy.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: Why you need to focus on employee experience.

I enjoyed hearing Caroline Rhodes, Global Employee Engagement Director at Diageo speak.

6) Internal is external

We know this. We’ve always known this. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve written “the lines are blurring between internal and external comms.”

The time for the blurring to become a reality is here.

I heard it countless times during this conference. It was highlighted by the converged team at O2 (who combined internal and external skills four years ago), the joined up internal and external storytelling at Diageo and many more.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: Do you have the right skills to do your job?


Well done PR Week for organising this conference, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought the quality of the conversations and speakers was first-rate.

I learnt a lot and would attend again in the future. It worked for me because it was rooted in comms theory and focused on skills rather than merely case studies.

Have a great weekend, thank you for stopping by.

If you’re looking for a comms conference to attend or awards to enter, check out my comms calendar.


All Things IC MasterclassesP.s. If you want to learn about strategic internal comms, there’s one space left for my Strategic IC Masterclass on 1 December in London.

See the Masterclasses website for full info and to save your space.

If you work for a nonprofit organisation, contact me for your 20 per cent discount code.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 25 November 2016.

(Disclosure: As a media partner I received a complimentary ticket to attend).

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