The Power of Fun

stephen
By Stephen Welch
Communication, HR and Change Consultant. @stephenwelch11

When was the last time you had some fun?  Some real fun? I’m guessing maybe quite recently seeing as most of us have just had a break over the New Year.

But what I mean is real fun at work? For many, 2016 was not only a year of depressing news, but also a year of hard slog at work. Almost every I know said their plan over Xmas was to get lots of sleep and try and recharge. But why should work be so hard? What is it about being trapped in our day-to-day lives that means we run out of energy at the end of the year. (Or in my case at the end of every week!)

We can get fun from different ways. For 2017, I challenge every IABC member in the UK to find a way to have some fun at work. You can do this in many different ways:

  1. Work with people you like, on a project you like. Admittedly, this is easier for some than others. My favourite project last year was developing Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders with Casilda Malagon: a new way of helping communicators develop their career through gamification. The game itself is a lot of laughs and developing it was too. We’ve now run it with people from 8 countries and continue to develop in new directions, with video and new designs for our popular workshops.
  2. Create excuses to take a break. I’m working with a colleague on a corporate design and internal communications project. Our modus operandi is to have a one hour meeting late afternoon and then reward ourselves for a successful meeting down at the local wine bar.
  3. Change the scene. Why meet at your office when there are millions of great alternatives? Sure, this is easier if you are in a city, where there are plenty of cafés. But don’t limit yourself to simply Starbucks, a common Costa or pedestrian Pret a Manger. In the last year, I’ve had meetings at London Clubs, Museums, the Royal College of GPs, Somerset House, and many other places which are free and open to the public. Or: support your local small, artisan café, please.
  4. Make the most of your memberships. Obviously as an IABC member, I am biased, but whatever association you join, make sure your objectives for joining are clear and tailor your activities towards those objectives. Take a moment to see if your original reason is still the right one.
  5. Focus on the essential. This Friday (Jan 6) is the official Epiphany. Mine came over the holidays when I realised I wasn’t listening to my own advice. Let me explain. I run lots of courses on how to be a business partner and strategic adviser. One of the components is time management and how to say ‘no’. But in 2016 I wasn’t focused enough and got too distracted. In 2017, by focusing on the essentials, I’m going try and leave more time for fun.

I’m not saying fun is something you can have all the time. But in my experience these are five things that you can do to have a more fun experience at work. Not all of them will be possible for all people. And I fully expect to look back at the end of 2017 and realise I’ve totally forgotten at least one of them.

How are you going to have fun this year?

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.

New Models & Approaches from the UK Govt Comms team

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In the spirit of open and collaborative communications, last week the Government Communication Service launched two new initiatives to support public sector comms teams – both are worthy of the attention of communicators across sectors.

These are internal approaches for government communicators, but anyone can view and download these models/approaches via the beta version of the gov.uk website, which is itself a model of simple, clean design and straightforward language.

Serving audiences effectively

The Modern Communications Operating Model looks at the principles for improving communications team capability, structures, skills and resources. The aim of the MCOM is to support internal teams – and one would assume broader public sector communication teams – to structure and deliver more effective, efficient communications.

The GCS website says: “Modern teams should be seamlessly integrated, based around audience understanding, be insight and data-driven and be digitally-orientated. To create this consistently the model sets out ways of arranging communications teams for varying sizes of organisations.”

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Evaluating impact

The second initiative – the New Evaluation Framework – lists metrics and approaches to measurement of  media, marketing, digital, stakeholder engagement and internal communications.

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The GCS website notes:

“Good evaluation leads to a better understanding of what works well so we can do more of it, and of what doesn’t so we can stop doing it.”

Whether you are in public sector comms, or in the private sector, these are really useful, simple tools to use with your teams and assess your own approaches. Hats off to the Government’s comms teams for a) developing them, and b) making them broadly available.

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a global  membership association with a network of 12,000 members in more than 80  countries. We deliver on the ​Global Standard in communication through educational offerings, certification, awards programs and our annual ​World Conference.​ Follow  us on Twitter ​@iabcuk.

Gay Flashman is a former Managing Editor of Channel 4 News and an experienced communications consultant.  Gay is CEO of ​Formative Content​, a UK based agency providing high quality blog  content, live event coverage ​and social media content ​for clients around the world.

Leadership and communication lessons from the Apprentice

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In business, securing revenue is key, so this week we saw the focus sharply put on the sharp end of business: sales. The task was simple: sell. Pet products, at a pet show. Cue loads of bad puns.

What not to wear

The first lesson we learned about sales was about matching how you dress to your audience. We saw, possibly for the first time ever, the entire gaggle of wannabes…  without ties! Even Claude Littner treated us to an unbuttoned collar.

If you want to build a connection to your audience, and be seen as a credible connector, then dressing in the right way is key.

Know your market

It is important to do your market research and know your market: so you can identify key focus areas and be credible when you sell. When you are doing your stakeholder analysis, then try to be more insightful than this gem of an insight:

“T-shirts are for humans”, and “In London there is quite a high force of cat lovers”. 

Communicators who limit their stakeholder to this level of analysis are unlikely to make the impact they need to.

“We shouldn’t just jump in and talk about price. We need to build a rapport first.”

 

Communicators can’t be trusted advisors without building trust.

 

Clear and incisive decision-making

Your credibility as a leader wins or loses by your capability to have confidence in your own decisions. Of course team input is vital, but indecisiveness gets you nowhere.

Witness this series of statements from the leader of the losing team:

Team member 1: “The two products for me could be the poop bags and the t-shirts.”

Leader: “I was thinking exactly the same thing….[two minutes later] … I definitely think the heat pads and the balloons are the best products for us … [another two minutes later] … I don’t want to hear any more about balloons, we’re going to go for the heat pads and the cat tray.”

 

Sales & Communication Skills

There is an on-going discussion in The Apprentice about the importance of sales skills. This is always high up on Lord Sugar’s agenda, but today we learned three important lessons about those skills in practice.

First: we saw a couple of people nominating themselves as team leader on the ground that they were good sales people. No, no, no. The skills for team leadership and sales are completely different: putting your best sales person as the sales leader creates two problems: 1) you lose a great sales person, and 2) you risk having a poor leader. As Ruth said, “put your best sales on your best opportunities”.

Ditto communications: being the best communicator or the best at media relations, or the best social media expert, doesn’t necessarily make you the best Director or Manager. Indeed, the guy who claimed he was the best sales manager turned out to be the losing project manager: “you put the wrong people in the wrong place, and not being able to assess what people can do, is bad news in business terms”.

Second: despite the importance of sales skills, Lord Sugar has been known to forgive the occasional sales “duck” (ie zero sales) – especially if the candidate has other skills. However, if you define your main skill as a Sales Trainer, as Ruth did, then surely you need to pace set and demonstrate those skills in practice. Her technique, according to Lord Sugar was “talk talk talk”. I’ve written separately here about the power of listening. Two ears, one mouth: we all know the maths.

Third: back to stakeholder analysis. Witness this exchange:

Ruth:           I don’t think we talked to enough people. I know we’re being criticised for talking to too many people.

Claude:      You’ve got to get rid of the people who can’t pay.

Ruth:           What do you want to say to them? “Please can you just go away?”

Lord Sugar: Yes. Bottom line? “You’ve got no money, sod off.”

In sales, as in communications, it is important to work out who your key audiences (or potential customers) and invest your resources in the right areas.

 

So what else did we learn from the Apprentice this week?

  1. Male candidates are able to get dressed without putting ties on.
  2. People will spend up to £700 on pet accessories.
  3. Animal balloons!!!!!!!