Creating connections – 2015/2016 IABC report

Last week, we celebrated our Annual General Meeting at the UK chapter at Madano’s beautiful roof terrace. It was a lovely informal gathering to celebrate what has been a year of growth and consolidation for the association.

As I prepared for the AGM, reflecting on my role as president of the UK chapter, I was stunned by two things: how fast a year can go by and how much can be accomplished when you have the right team in place.

This year-long adventure exceeded my expectations and gave me back more than I ever imagined. If my theory is right and IABC is like a savings account, leading a chapter makes is a high-yielding bond. Unparalleled the interest rates!

A year ago, in a lovely pub in Holborn, I took up the baton from Tessa O’Neill and pledged to focus on three things. As a board, we agreed that in every aspect of our work we would:

Demonstrate that we are an outward looking association and cover the full spectrum of communication

  • have and use our global network
  • effectively engage our members

I also made a request that the title of Chapter President be changed to facilitator in chief, because it is the work and effort of our volunteers that make the chapter work. While my request was ignored, the ambitions set out the three objectives were met and, in some cases, exceeded. This is my chance to say thank you and recognize the passion, professionalism and talent that each of our board members have put into managing their portfolio.

This year we have held eight events covering global communications, crisis, measurement and the future of the profession. We held a joint event with the Montreal Chapter, strengthened the links with the Global IABC, and contributed to the Regional board through the Leadership Institute and Eurocomm. We also launched the global #myiabc video competition spearheaded by the incoming president Kira Scharwey.

I’d like to recognize Kirsty Brown for having taken our chapter’s events to the next level and, as we prepare to host Eurocomm 2017, we are incredibly lucky to have her on board.

In addition to events, our thought-leadership blog has become a space for UK and international experts to share stories and opinions that provoke, inspire and build stronger connections. Under Gay Flashman’ s direction we covered the evolution of the Italian PR industry, the TalkTalk and Volkswagen scandals, the misadventures of Alan Sugar and The Apprentice; we also shared insights into how to manage brands, crisis, corporate websites, social media campaigns, and international communication. Communicating for the communicators must be one of the biggest challenges in the business and Gay has done an excellent job with our website and social channels. Thanks as well to Leslie Crook for shepherding our LinkedIn group into their 1000 members.

We are also looking at the future of the profession and the association: our student members. Our continued relationships with Bournemouth University and the London College of Communication remain strong. This year we welcomed an agreement with Leeds University. The latter gave us 80 new members thanks to the resolve of two people: Daniel Schraibman and Dr Kendi Kinuthia’s, who joins the board this year. This agreement also strengthened our mentoring program. This holistic and long-term approach to student membership won us a global recognition at the last Leadership Institute.

In a time when membership in associations is struggling, we are thriving and that is down the work done by the membership team: Lauren Brown, Kira Scharwey and Marcie Shaoul.

As the well-known African saying goes, if you want to go fast go alone but if you want to far go together. We want to go far, and so this year increased our relationships and partnerships to deliver content, events and opportunities for our members. Thank you to our event partners Anglo American, Simply Communicate, VMA, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, Regester Larkin and our hosts tonight, Madano. Thank you as well also to all the support of our event sponsors: Pitch Pack, Scarlett Abbott and Communicate Magazine

Thank you to each and every one of the national, regional and global volunteers that help us create connection like never before.

How can organisations prepare to communicate in a cyber crisis?

Ahead of this year’s Crisis Management Conference, Regester Larkin’s chief executive, Andrew Griffin, looks at how organisations can prepare to communicate in a cyber crisis.

Organisations must be prepared to face any sort of crisis, from major physical incidents to scandals and performance failures. According to our recent crisis management survey, organisations are more confident in their ability to respond to familiar risks, such as industrial accidents and extreme weather events, than they are unfamiliar risks. For most, a cyber attack is unfamiliar territory. Yet cyber risk is a key commercial and reputational vulnerability that has moved quickly up organisations’ risk registers in recent years.

As with all aspects of crisis communication preparedness is key. The unique dynamics of a cyber crisis need some special attention. Here are three tips for organisations getting ‘cyber crisis ready’.

  1. Plan the logistics of communication

All organisations should have a crisis communications plan but few of these plans consider the logistics of this. A cyber crisis might require direct communication with consumers, customers and stakeholders, sometimes with important information about actions they should take. But a cyber attack could debilitate normal communication channels, most of which don’t have the capacity to reach large numbers in short time periods. And, of course, internal systems may have been directly impacted, isolated or disconnected to contain the attack. Thinking through these realities during peace time is an invaluable time saver in a crisis.

  1. Don’t be a victim

Even if an organisation is the ‘victim’ of a cyber attack, it can never play the victim card.

Stakeholders may feel let down: an organisation they trust has failed to protect their interests. They must feel that you understand and regret that they have been impacted by the cyber attack. The watchwords here will be care, concern, containment and control. Containment in particular is hugely important in a cyber crisis. If the organisation cannot put a fence around what has happened, the assumption will be that the situation is out of control and uncontained. The last thing stakeholders want in this situation is for the organisation to play the victim card: they want to see action and hear the right emotion.

  1. Ensure you know the facts

A cyber crisis, again like most crises, is characterised by a lack of information in the early stages. What exactly has happened here? What has been compromised? What information is lost? With a cyber incident, the lack of knowledge is about other people’s information and details. Knowing what the organisation does and doesn’t hold on its customers, employees and consumers is the most important step. The organisation’s spokespeople (many of who will find the whole ‘cyber thing’ very unfamiliar and confusing) will need to be reassuring wherever possible.  Knowledge is key: information should include what data is held on customers, how the data is stored and details of the organisation’s investment in cyber resilience.

We have seen through a series of recent high profile data breaches that cyber attacks can have significant commercial and reputational impacts. Preparedness is the key to successful response.

The Crisis Management Conference will be held on Wednesday 14th September in London. For further details on the programme and how to register, please visit the CMC website.

LUBSxIABC: New Communication Frontiers

On Wednesday the 8th of June 2016, Leeds University Business School hosted the second of a chain of LUBSxIABC events as part of its agenda to develop the newborn partnership with the International Association of Business Communicators through student-organised conferences where industry professionals are invited, as speakers, to share their experience and valuable insights.

As professor Kendi Kinuthia and CCPR program director Tony Byng underlined in their introductory statements, the aim of this collaboration is to make sure the program stays relevant and delivers knowledge and skills that can be applied in the world and in the workplace; all while granting students the chance to organise the event planning committee and IABC’s new UK chapter a broader influence and impact.

After regional vice-president Daniel Schraibman briefly introduced the students on the many ways they can still benefit from their membership after the end of their studies; the mic passed on to the first of four speakers for the day, freelance communications consultant Janet Morgan.

Janet’s speech covered the topic of opportunities and threats of social media in the context of today’s organizational crises. After discussing the loss of control on their storytelling that organizations have suffered from the introduction of digital media, Janet went on to analyse how brands are trying to face the issue today by improving the timeliness of their response and integrating their communications across all departments and branches. The best companies today are able to address issues raised by users anywhere in the world with timeliness and consistence responses to online comments and messages.

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The floor was then left for Grant Mercer, LUBS alumni and CMO of DJI Holdings Plc., who shared his future perspectives around the topic of “Brands vs Consumers. Who’s leading who?” providing the crowd with a very clear answer and warning early on in his speech: “Make no mistake: Brands will win”. Grant then developed his speech around the two core reasons for that to happen, focusing on how, although brands have had to step back and re-invent themselves, “brands do not surrender”. And the amount of data we share every day has reached such unprecedented size and detail that in around 5 years’ time brands should be able to develop techniques to use all this data in order to profile consumers ever more accurately and provide even more customer-tailored solutions to all their needs and wants. And thus retain their position of power. While this will most probably be the case in terms of monetary power and influence which brands, contrary to common beliefs, are indeed planning to hold on to; the question remains whether these techniques will also allow brands to re-gain the level of control they once had on their message. In particular enabling customers to participate in co-defining both brands’ public image and their performance may very well instead constitute a power loss that brands will accept as a given cost; given that more and more brands today tend to mould their activities around expectations expressed by their customers online and tailor their offer for specific customer profiles and customise their offer to the needs of particular market segments. As the same Grant admitted this to be the case for corporate responsibilities they “kind of” endorsed, such as being more responsible and the idea of being held accountable for everything since “where there were once walls, there are now windows.”

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Next up was pensions & benefits consultant Karen Bolan, who introduced the audience to “The 7 mega trends of Communication”. She connected to many previously mentioned novelties within the industry such as the influence customers have acquired thanks to product validation they nowadays seek to find in online reviews by other random users online and the segmentation of companies’ offers to address different behavioral or attitude-based customer profiles and the consequent customization their products.

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Finally, LUBS alumni and eminent scholar Joep Cornelissen took the floor to give us a more academic and analytical overview of these recent changes, analysing the evolution of communications from mass dissemination (broadcasting) to individual stakeholder engagement (crowd-casting) and how marketing and public relations are increasingly combined in the one activity such as content creation or storytelling. His analysis underlined once again the increasingly key role of transparency and authenticity, along with mentioning advocacy and interactivity as other two trends of the new millennium.

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After many questions from the audience, the event ended with drinks and refreshments in the hall, granting participants a chance to network with one another and ask further questions to the speakers in private.

 

By: Marco Romero

Lost in translation – the perils of international communications

For me, good communication depends on building an emotional connection with someone. It’s about considering their feelings as well their need for information. It often requires a balanced conversation, where you use the right verbal and non-verbal communications so that you understand each other, give each other space to talk, take time to listen, and be respectful of differences of opinion.

This is particularly important when organisations communicate internationally. The desire for a globally consistent brand and approach needs to be carefully weighed up against the importance of ensuring your message ‘lands’ and is sensitive to how things are done locally. With this in mind, I thought I would share a few points that I have learned about how to avoid some of the potential perils of international communications.

Language

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As George Bernard Shaw once said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” This is true not just for England and America. Every country has its own dialects, idioms and words so, for example, Filipino English will be distinct from Irish English or Ghanaian English and so one size is rarely going to fit all.

My last in-house communications role was for a British company that was majority-owned by the Qatari state oil company and so we issued our press releases in English and Arabic. When I needed to arrange for the Arabic translation to be done in London, our Qatari General Manager asked me to check where the translator was from. According to him, the Arabic spoken in the Gulf States has a lot of slang and colloquialisms whilst Syrian Arabic is considered more ‘pure’ (i.e. less tainted by Western influences.) However, in his view,  finding an Egyptian translator was the preferred option as a lot of  Arab language TV is produced in Egypt, and so this is the Arabic dialect that most people in the Middle East understand.

I also experienced this richness of variety and potential linguistic sensitivities when I spent some months travelling around South America. I particularly loved Argentina. However, I also learned that it has a difficult relationship with its neighbour Chile so if you’re trying to engage with a Chilean audience, it would be wise not to use an Argentine Spanish dialect.

2) The law

I previously worked for an American company which needed to make some changes to its operations in Europe. Some of the senior leaders were surprised that they couldn’t just sell a business, close a plant or make people redundant in the way that they could in the US because employees have more protection in Europe. This means that you have to consult with the employees, unions or works councils before you take significant action.

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In some countries, such as Spain, the unions have a lot of influence and can actually stop you from doing what you want to do if you don’t manage things in the right way. Ensuring that you give employees or their representatives sufficient time to review your plans, be able to provide feedback and, in some cases, come up with alternative proposals, can make the difference between being able to implement the actions you want on the ground or not.

Of course, the law doesn’t just affect employee rights, it can influence how you engage with other stakeholders too. For example, I was involved in the community consultation for a proposed new power station in the UK and, in the last few years, the law has changed so that you now have to pre-consult with the local community before the actual consultation i.e. you need to explain what you’re thinking of doing and give the local people a chance to provide input before you set out your final plans.

As you’d expect, consumer rights, copyright, licensing and advertising standards are different in different countries, meaning that your global marketing campaign may need to be tailored for each market using alternative words and contract terms.

In another example, I recently attended a Chartered Institute of Public Relations event at the UK Houses of Parliament where the main speaker was Lord Bilimoria, the founder of Cobra Beer. In his speech, he explained that a ban on the use of advertising for alcoholic beverages in India meant that he had to use public relations much more extensively to promote his brand there than in other markets.

So spending some time finding out about a country’s legal idiosyncrasies before you launch your global campaign, is a wise investment of time.

3) The right spokespeople for the right audience

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4) Culture, images and symbols One of the few exceptions to the ‘local is best’ approach that I’ve experienced was when I worked on a launch campaign in Spain. In that case, the local management team specifically asked for senior leaders from overseas to be involved so as to add weight to the launch with the local media and to explain how what we were doing in that market fitted into the company’s global launch plans.Whenever I’ve worked on global campaigns, I’ve tried, where possible, to use local employees as external spokespeople rather than someone from head office. Not only do they speak the language and understand the local market and customs better but they normally have more credibility with their audience. In a crisis situation, they are also more likely to be able to appreciate the full impact of a situation, be perceived as being able to do something about it and are able to respond quicker than someone on a different time zone.I have a personal view that, with the right training, preparation and support from their communications team, there is no reason why any leader can’t be a good communicator. The key point for me is about matching the right spokesperson with the right audience. I have found it helpful for the companies I’ve worked for to have a mix of representatives, with some able to talk about any topic at a high level and others acting as technical experts to talk about a specific area in more detail.

Another potential peril to consider with international communications is what particular images or symbols mean in different cultures. In the Western world, an open hand is perceived as welcoming,  demonstrating open behaviour. However, if it’s a left hand, in many parts of the Muslim world, that’s considered the ‘toilet wiping’ hand – hardly the best brand association. Similarly, the soles of the feet and use of animals may not be appropriate images to use in communications in Muslim countries or communities either.

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In Western cultures, the number 13 is unlucky, but in China it’s the number 4 or any numbers including a four that are unlucky. The image below from a Chinese lift respectfully avoids 4, 13 and 14 so that everyone will think that this is a lucky building!

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Some cultural sensitivities are harder to know about unless you’ve spent some time there. I had a colleague that was running a media training session for communicators in Nigeria. One of the golden rules if you are being interviewed on camera is that you should always maintain eye contact to avoid looking insincere. However, in Nigeria, as a sign of respect, people are taught not to look directly at someone who is older or more senior to them which made for quite a challenging course where most of the participants stared at the floor throughout their TV interview practice.

Similarly, a lot of companies sign up to the principle of 360-degree feedback where managers are encouraged to seek feedback from their team and their peers as well as their line manager. However, in more traditional and hierarchical cultures, such as Japan, if a junior member of staff gave honest feedback to a senior manager in an open forum, this would likely be embarrassing for everyone in the room. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a 360-degree feedback system in these countries. It’s just that you might want to tweak the approach so that the feedback is given in an appropriate environment.

5) Channels

One other area where international communications can get ‘lost in translation’ is when you don’t use the best channels for your audience. In one example, an international consumer brand employed thousands of seasonal workers in East Africa to pick its tea harvest each year. A tea picker is normally at their most skilled when they are 16- 26 years i.e. young, experienced and fast. This is also the age group that has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS cases yet often has the poorest understanding of good sexual health practices.  In short, people were dying – and the company was losing a significant number of its best workers.

My partner was asked by this firm to help develop a sexual health awareness campaign for their workforce. With little access to technology, a high level of illiteracy and over 27 separate languages spoken amongst the workers, this wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

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In many communities where people can’t read and write, oral storytelling and music are important ways to share information. With this in mind, she worked with the local team to develop a campaign in Kiswahili (often the ‘common’ language amongst tribes in certain parts of Africa) that used song and dance to explain to their employees how to protect themselves against infection. Tribal elders were engaged in the process and asked to help deliver the message, as the weight that their views carried was significant. The success of this campaign resulted in significantly lower new infection rates amongst  the company’s employees.

Lastly, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are still a lot of people working in areas like manufacturing, retail, hospitality and mining that might not have access to a PC or tablet. Similarly, the Wi-Fi or mobile reception 2,000ft underground in your company’s copper mine or 300 miles offshore on your company’s oil rig might not be as good as it is in head office.

With this in mind, if you’re planning a global employee communications programme aimed at these ‘offline’ audiences, you may have to incorporate some more traditional communications channels such as staff meeting discussions, using notice boards or including messages on payslips.

In summary, effective international communications does come with its own particular considerations. There is no replacement for upfront effort in finding out what will work on the ground in the countries you want to reach. It’s all about getting to know your audience and, with sensitivity and understanding, there is no reason why your message should have to  get ‘lost in translation.’

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Daniel Schraibman is a director of communications, coaching and business consultancy Serekinti www.serekinti.com.

 

How to ensure great user experience for your corporate website

 

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A corporate website needs to offer simple functionality, as well as innovative design that reflects the brand narrative accurately. Juggling these elements, amongst many others, is a difficult task. But ultimately, it all boils down to one thing: user experience. Here, Luke Dodd, Global Digital Specialist at FTSE 100 mining company Anglo American, shares some tips on refining your user experience strategy.

Half a second. A blink of an eye.

That’s how long it takes for someone to form an opinion of your website. It is a matter of milliseconds, and is essentially instantaneous.

However, while this first impression is important to get right – features such as homepage design are critical for this – it’s what follows, the user experience and user journey, that really is make or break for your corporate website.

As Global Digital Specialist for Anglo American, a key responsibility of my role is to ensure that user experience is strong across our digital estate.

But to talk about user experience, it is important to first define what we mean by it.

For me, user experience is the overall experience and satisfaction a visitor has when navigating through your website – therefore, good user experience is where your website has met the exact needs of your user, simply and efficiently.

Sounds simple, but remember, the users that visit your corporate website will all vary in ability and what they are looking for. But they all have one thing in common: they want answers, and quickly.

And those answers are borne from a user’s expectation of your website. By establishing who your key audience groups are [for example, students, NGOs, job-seekers etc…], you can quickly find out what they expect to achieve when visiting your site.

In the spirit of good user experience, I am going to present the remainder of this article in bullet points and lists – providing you guys with ‘quick answers’:

6 questions to test if your website offers good user experience

  1. Does your content provide your users with the information they are looking for?
  2. Are users able to easily use all functionality of your website
  3. Are images and design used to tell your brand story on your website?
  4. Can users find the content they need simply when they need it?
  5. Is content accessible to all across all platforms, devices and abilities?
  6. Is your website reputable?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, in my opinion your website offers good user experience. If you answered ‘no’ to any questions, this may be an area to foc

3 top tips to correct inadequate user experience

  1. Gather feedback on your website

Get as much intelligence as you can from your users. Set up user research groups, conduct website surveys and internal interviews with key stakeholders – and then filter through the responses and decide what action is required.

It may be tempting to steam ahead and make changes immediately, but consider all feedback carefully and see how it all fits together before taking action.

  1. Try new [and old] things

If you feel something isn’t working on your website, or it feels clunky to use, try a different approach – whether it is a brand new approach, or a method previously overlooked.

For example, a recent tweak we made was to our website’s navigation. We had introduced a burger menu to the desktop version – but following feedback from both internal and external sources, it was clear that our users were finding it hard to use.

We made the executive decision to move to a dropdown meganav and make all three levels of navigation visible in one glance. This could be seen as a step-back in terms of the evolution of digital navigation when compared to a burger menu, however, it doesn’t matter how swish a new tool is if it doesn’t meet our users’ requirements.

  1. Audit and correct

We perform an annual audit of content and user experience across all of our websites, which occur in tandem with major content updates that align to our results and reporting cycles.

In these audits, we reflect upon the purpose of each section and what they mean to our key audiences, while using analytics to help us figure out what needs to be improved/changed.

Twitter: @LukeDoddComms

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukedoddcomms