Internal Communications Masterclass: Step back. New rules. Go forward.

“Do less. Do it better” was the theme of Steve and Cindy Crescenzo’s Internal Communications Masterclass run by Simply Communicate last week.

The room was packed with IC professionals from organisations including AB Agri, Action for Children, BP, the European Investment Bank, Jaguar Land Rover, RBS, Sony, Virgin Atlantic and WeAreSocial.

 

Steve and Cindy are a charismatic husband-and-wife team, who travel the world offering training and helping people produce amazing communications that others love. They are fun company and delivered a highly effective masterclass. After all, we learn more when we’re enjoying ourselves, right?

The old way doesn’t work anymore,” said Steve. “As IC professionals, are we just everyone’s private publisher, pushing their messages out through different channels? No! We’re strategic communicators, changing behaviour.”

“In this age of 8,000 new apps launching every day, our communications have to fit in somewhere. If we don’t tell poignant creative stories then we will sink,” he said. “We all have employees in our organisations with passionate dramatic stories, but we’re not getting them because we’re ‘deck-heads’.”

It’s crucial to make the important interesting, the couple said. They advocate avoiding the four deadly Ps: Programmes, Policies, Products and Procedures and focusing instead on People. There are at least three layers to unveil when questioning an employee, before they really open up – so keep digging!

They shared several case studies depicting worst and best practice in Internal Communications. These were great reminders of what to avoid – the super-dull chief executive reading quarterly figures to camera – and what we should be aiming for, with the third layer of questioning. For example, an employee revealing the real reason they work for a pharmaceutical company: their father died young of cancer, their mother suffers from MS.

As communicators we need to prioritise to create the best content we can. Steve pointed out that it doesn’t matter if you made your deadlines if nobody read what you produced. Who cares if it got approved, if nobody liked it?

Cindy then took us through her step-by-step guide to measuring the effectiveness of communications. This was an invaluable strategy we could all implement the next day. Rarely is something we all find so difficult to action, made so clear and easy to adopt.

We finished the masterclass with an exercise called the six-word story. While this can be used as an effective tool to elicit sentiment from employees, Cindy and Steve asked us to create a six-word story about the masterclass we’d just completed.

Mine was: “Step back. New Rules. Move forward.” Others included: “Take risks, make it about people” and “Influencing leaders through data and evidence.”

Afterwards I asked Steve and Cindy where they felt they’d made the most difference with a client, practising what they’d taught us about reaching the third layer of questioning! They’d worked with a number of global blue-chip companies, so their answer surprised me.

When working with the Seattle Children’s Hospital to improve communications with the families and relations of patients, they conducted focus groups and collected feedback. This included powerful stories about the patients’ and families’ experiences at the hospital, as well as the positive impact of the employees. Cindy smiled as she recalled how, what started as a simple communications audit, turned into something much more meaningful for engagement, as employees learnt first-hand about the difference they were making to families’ lives.

I came away from the masterclass with a refreshed positive attitude about the importance of the role of internal communications in changing behaviour. I was also reminded that challenging leadership is part of the role, and it’s down to IC professionals to help business leaders get it right, even if that’s as fundamental as coaching them to appear as their best selves on video.

Finally, Cindy’s measurement strategy was a fantastic takeaway for anyone working in communications to add to their armoury.

 

By Sarah Harrison