The Changing Face of Crisis Comms: A COVID-19 Retrospective

We are proud to announce the launch of our Crisis Comms Whitepaper in association with Halston Marketing – ‘The Changing Face of Crisis Comms: a COVID-19 Retrospective’ 

From the first glimpses of COVID-19 in Wuhan, no-one could have possibly imagined the extent this pandemic would impact people around the globe. It is a prime example of how quickly a crisis can escalate and how it can dominate for months on end.  

The report is an in-depth research piece that reviews the COVID-19 crisis comms strategies from a first-hand perspective. It includes accounts from leading comms professionals from a wide variety of UK industries. It covers all the multifaceted comms that were required and the huge variety of target audiences they had to accommodate.   

COVID-19 is definitely one for the history books and it was integral to understand how different businesses dealt with the crisis and what can be learnt from the situation. The comms teams are the heart of any business and are the interlinking component between all of the employees.  

The research includes 10 separate accounts from comms professionals, some of which are IABC board members and others are from our wider network. The report will follow a timeline, with each contributor given a dedicated time period for their account where they review their strategy during this point in time, including the mediums used, the messaging and delving into the challenges they were facing at the time.  

Then the piece will follow with a comparison between each of the accounts, understanding the differences and similarities between their methods and highlight any correlations between the impact on their sectors or when they experienced their peak in terms of output. It also explores predictions from the professionals in terms of their comms strategies and possible stories.  

If you would be interested in reading the whitepaper, then it is available to download on the Halston Marketing website here. 

How can communicators survive in the new corporate world? – IABC UK introduces Bushcraft for Communicators

Inspired by their experiences as consultants and specialists in organisational change, employee engagement and leadership, Mike Pounsford and Stephen Welch have joined forces to create Bushcraft for Communicators.

 

As traditional approaches in marketing and strategic communications don’t seem to work in the new corporate world, Welch and Pounsford have devised 12 tools to help communicators navigate this new landscape. The pair use the bushcraft analogy to show how to be more agile and move faster to face the challenges encountered in the ‘bush’.

 

During an interactive event in London conducted by the two IABC UK past presidents, attendees had the opportunity to get a taste of how bushcraft tools can help communication professionals facing periods of uncertainty at their organisations.

 

The starting point

 

In a time when things can appear to be moving too quickly and changes arise unexpectedly, communicators and leaders need to ask where they are heading.

 

According to Welch and Pounsford, organisations need to be prepared if they want to survive in this new landscape, which is influenced by so many different factors. And how can they do that? By acknowledging where they are and where they want to go. However, the real challenge here is getting people to a common destination, while keeping in mind everyone’s journey will be different. As Pounsford says, ‘Not everyone departs from the same starting point’.

 

In order to reach sustained change, leaders shouldn’t focus on the process or the journey, but on the destination. They need to understand that it’s not only the leadership’s perspective that matters. it’s also importenat to pay attention to other employees’ points of view when they ask the big question: where do we want to go?

Good leaders, those who bet on sustained change, will know they have succeeded when they reach common consensus on the destination.

 

As Welch explained during the event, ‘HQs tend to remain in their little bubble of the world, and for them it will seem very simple. But, actually, their view of the world may not be shared by the rest of the organisation, who have different perspectives on how changes should be implemented or the journey to follow to achieve those new results’. Welch also maintains that communicators have a key role to play in devising a new strategy to bring about change in an organisation, encouraging them to ‘remind leaders they’re not the centre of the universe’.

 

The trust formula

 

Whether it is a business transaction or a friendship, trust plays an essential role in developing a relationship. Within strategic communications, a trusting relationship contains three key elements:

 

  • R: the results obtained or business outcome (what benefit will I obtain from this?)
  • US: mutual understanding and support (what is the relationship based on?)
  • T: low levels of risk (how will you reduce possible threats?).

 

When it comes to building long-term relationships with different stakeholders, the Trust Tool created by Welch and Pounsford helps communicators. The tool assesses how much effort communicators put into each element and outlines what can be done to raise their profile as a trusted specialist or consultant. For example:

 

  • To improve R: focus on solutions and results, show you understand the other person’s perspective and their world, listen and give feedback, show confidence in your skills.
  • To enhance US: share a social element, show empathy and put yourself in the other person’s shoes, find common ground and shared values, be generous with information and connections, be willing to learn more about them, do not forget about the power of face-to-face meetings.
  • To reduce T: provide examples of what you can do, do great work and solve problems, be visible and show commitment, demonstrate you are reliable, be responsible and available, give endorsements (mouth to mouth recommendations), show honesty.

 

Find out more about Bushcraft for Communicators and how you can apply these tools to your organisation.

 

By Alexandra R. Cifre

 

IABC Leeds event – summary and conclusions

Getting to grips with internal communications

The importance of listening and tackling cultural barriers were just some of the topics covered at November’s IABC event on internal communications.

As well as discussing the latest industry trends, attendees heard from a panel of experts who outlined the challenges faced by their companies and the strategies they’re adopting to tackle them. The event, at Squire Patton Boggs’ office in Leeds, was held in association with Calls9 and Halston Marketing.

 

The value of listening

Howard Krais, this year’s IABC UK President, who is also the communications leader for Clean Air division at Johnson Matthey, focused on the importance of listening for internal communications.

While everyone has the ability to be a good listener, he said, grasping and understanding another person’s point of view can be trickier and is a key part of the communicators’ armoury. Better listening leads to valuable insights, which can be shared and ultimately lead to broader influence.

Ken Armistead, Director of Corporate Communications for PPG in Europe, Middle East & Africa used his presentation to underscore the importance of aligning communications to overall business strategies and global company guidelines.

He encouraged delegates to “put people first, have a smart presence and make positive impact.”

Language can be a barrier in communications, Ken said, but simple strategies can be used to make things more accessible. For example, sharing successful career stories and utilizing social media channels, to engage with employees.

 

The future of employee engagement

Ken also emphasised how PPG has used community engagement to boost employee engagement, enhancing people’s well being as well as the company’s outlook. PPG has harnessed these strategies to bolster employee satisfaction and generate strong content by motivating people to contribute to stories, messages and internal news.

Understanding changes in communications and employee engagement is Jess Archer’s area of expertise. As internal communications manager at Network Rail, she designs and delivers campaigns to engage employees with the organisation’s strategy and vision and has a reputation for showing how businesses can be strengthened with through internal dialogue.

She used her presentation to underscore the importance of remaining creative for employees who are “digitally disconnected” and making sure non-digital communications are given as much thought as those for digitally-engaged employees.

For example, she said older people can struggle with communications strategies that are too digitally focused. Jess said she sees her main challenge as finding solutions that make employees feel satisfied with their work and therefore more likely to produce robust work.

 

By Mathilde Schneider

Future Fit Communications 2018 – integrating technology, people and organisations

In its fourth annual edition, IABC UK’s Future Fit Communications 2018 will focus on the impact and implications for people of rapidly evolving technologies and organisation. Is technology helping us improve engagement with stakeholders, or are we in danger of running ahead of our ability to use it well? Are we losing sight of the human touch in our eagerness to embrace technology, or will cognitive technologies, augmented reality, and new organisational structures liberate people to engage and perform more effectively than ever before?

Sessions will focus on:

  • New organisational forms and the shift from hierarchy to networks; the implications for autonomy, self-responsibility and decision-making.
  • How augmented reality will transform interfaces and the risks and opportunities that creates.
  • What can we learn from each other from our personal responses to change and new ways of interaction, and how can we become better leaders and communicators.

Our Speakers:

Katherine Woods, Meeting Magic. “Technology and new organisational forms: why companies need a clear objective more than ever”

Victoria Lewis-Stephens, Managing Partner – Engagement, and Sarah Harrison, Instinctif Partners. “Creating and nurturing an influencer network: a new application of McKinsey snowball model”

Matt O’Neill, Futurist. “Computerisation and humanisation model”

Andy Gibson, Mindapples. “Managing change and health in rapidly changing environment”

TICKETS

  • IABC member £50
  • IABC non-member £100
  • IABC member + non-member (booked together) £100
  • Partner organisation member £50

Book at https://futurefitcommunications2018.eventbrite.co.uk 

Keeping ahead of the extraordinary pace of change, we have no time to lose and this event will provide you with a unique opportunity to hear from our excellent speakers and discuss your practical questions and experiences with your fellow seasoned communication professionals.

Reflections On A Conversation Across The Ocean

I’m just reflecting on a great conversation (#iabcacrosstheocean) we had between the IABC members in San Francisco and the UK. We will post a full recording of the conversation soon.

We set out to explore how we manage communication in the UK and in the USA. Rather than having an expert come to talk to us about the cultural differences and the implications of these we decided to use the knowledge and experience of our members to explore the theme.

So, what came out? First of all, thoughts on the role of communication:

  • We all agree (not just on the panel, but also in our pre-conversation survey) that communicators are increasingly acting as business partners and that our role encompasses
    • Helping to connect people to make them feel part of one company with shared goals
    • Helping leaders communicate effectively so that they share that narrative
    • Support line managers by supporting leaders – more effective leadership communication helps provide the knowledge and role models that support line managers in making connections with their people
  • What it is not: communications professionals should not be responsible for the communication skills of line managers, but we influence through the way we help leadership communication

On the challenges facing communicators today the conversation covered:

  • It’s important especially in large global organisations to be very clear about the boundaries and responsibilities in communication teams
  • One of the key challenges of new technology is helping leaders understand how they need to adapt to exploit it fully. This is not just about responding to an “always on” environment by managing different channels, media and responsibilities; it is also about a change in mind-set and a change in style. We talked about the need to be bolder and more informal
  • Demographics is an issue. Young people strain at the leash and are keen to learn and get involved, older people provide an invaluable resource and pool of experience that we would be foolish to ignore

What do communication people need to help them in their roles?

  • Less of us may now come from journalistic backgrounds, but we need to keep the key competencies and values of attention to detail, checking facts, being truthful and honest
  • We need global mind-sets. It’s not just about managing large organisations with offices all over the globe, it’s about sensitivity to the needs and demands of people in different places operating in different time zones and in different cultural environments

What are the cross-cultural perils?

  • We need to pay attention to language. Catherine supplied a great story of an acquisition in which the American parent celebrated the UK company’s habit of an annual event in which UK employees threw pies at leaders (don’t ask!), describing how they wanted to honour the tradition of tossing at the boss

It’s difficult to capture in a few bullet points the richness of the conversation that we had. These points are my take outs from the discussion. There were lots of us involved so please add your comments below.

We did not address in depth the central hypothesis that there are major differences between the UK and the USA in how we manage communication, other than Catherine’s story about the language problem. We also ended up focussing on internal vs external communication challenges – a reflection perhaps of the experience of the panellists. So, there is much more to explore in this debate and we hope to have some more of these conversations designed to put the I into IABC at the chapter level.

Finally, a big thank you to the panellists who helped in the conversation and who were brave enough to face a live audience. They were:

  • Catherine Rudiger, Vice president of ICF in San Francisco
  • Howard Krais, Communications Director, GSK plc and President Elect IABC UK
  • Daniel Schraibman, Independent Consultant and Board member IABC UK

I’d also like to record a big vote of thanks to Gay Flashman and her team from Formative Content whose technology made the whole thing possible

Mike Pounsford

President IABC UK