We all experience ‘lightbulb’ moments of insight or inspiration that shape how we think and work. Sometimes, they are defining moments in our careers. In our Communication Breakthrough series, our members share their stories in the hope they will inspire your own journey. Welcome to our third issue!
Introducing … Neil Griffiths, ABC
An IABC member for around 8 years, Neil has been an ABC (Accredited Business Communicator) since 2013. He is Past Chair of the EMENA region and has served on many international committees, most recently being appointed to the Global Communications Certification Council.
Down below, Neil shares his story on how he and his team successfully bridged communication tactics and strategy, theory and practice — on a very special occasion for their company.
What’s your specialism, Neil?
At work I am a corporate communications specialist — having spent 10 years in non-profit, public and private sector organisations in a variety of roles: brand, program development, member relations and more.
At present I am Internal Communications Manager at ERM, the world’s leading sustainability consultancy.
Where were you working when you had your breakthrough moment?
I was working for SNC-Lavalin [a global engineering, construction and assets company] and was put in charge of creating the communication plan for its centennial celebrations in 2011 — a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It was one of the first times I had the luxury of having the comms team involved in the strategy of a project from the outset. I took the opportunity to set out a real agenda, with strong communication goals and objectives for the project — and not letting it go by as just a series of events with no real organisational impact.
It was a real chance to apply the theory of communications planning I had been pursuing academically over the previous few years.
Can you describe your breakthrough moment for us?
I knew this was an important moment for the company. We had to make it count. We had often heard that, being so large (35,000 employees), we didn’t have much that kept us together as one. We had commissioned a book on the company history, but otherwise didn’t have much else lined up.
Rather than rushing straight to tactics, we took the necessary time to think through what we wanted to achieve through the project and set meaningful objectives for the communication program.
These objectives related to sense of pride in the work we do, belonging to a global company and knowledge about the business and its impact on the world.
For the tactical planning, I worked very collaboratively with the corporate team, so that we were all bought into the ideas and orientation of the project. We also established a network of project ambassadors around the world.
Having a common vision for the project and alignment around the vision for the project, we were able to harness the energy and enthusiasm for communication in a very decentralised way.
We were so confident in our teams that we had very few centrally driven tactics (we designated a day for the ‘birthday’ celebrations, for example, but did not stipulate what each office should do. But no one let us down!).
We all knew where we were going and what we were trying to achieve.
At the end of the project, we were able to measure our success against our original objectives. This was also quite a luxury! As it turned out, we achieved everything we set out to (in some cases because we had monitored and adjusted throughout the project).
Our activities had spanned an entire year and we had a lot of fun along the way, knowing that we had increased the engagement of our employees and brought them closer to the company through the work we had done.
That was golden!
So what lessons would you like to share with us?
This project showed me that you CAN plan according to the models you hear so much about. The science of what we do was evident throughout, and it set me up for applying this in many projects (of all sizes) since then.
It also showed me that when you take the time to build a team that shares a common vision for the project, you don’t need to be on everyone’s back all the time. They can and will do what needs to be done.
And senior leaders are most impressed when you can show you moved the needle. This project was a big investment, but we were able to provide the returns. That felt good.
Want to share your own story?
Drop us a line on [email protected]
We’d love to hear from you!
— IABC EMENA Board