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

 

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

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

Why employers need to make sure we take pride in our work

Employee engagement is an important topic for companies. But do they truly listen to what is important to their employees and furthermore, do they act on it? And what can individuals do to manage their own successful working life?

 

These were the questions discussed by a panel of experts at the recent IABC event, How to Make Work Work, held at the VMA Group.

 

At the heart of the discussion was a new book by communications consultant and IABC member, Sheila Parry, “Take Pride: How to Build Organisational Success through People”. The book calls on business leaders to consider not only their organisation’s goals, but also what makes their people tick.

 

Parry’s research shows that companies often think about how employees can become company ambassadors. But they don’t give the same consideration to their employees’ own values. The book argues that corporate and personal values and agendas need to be aligned in order for employees to take pride in their work and throw their weight behind the organisation.

 

Panellist Joss Mathieson, until recently global head of internal communications at GSK, agreed that corporate reputation has to be built from within the organisation. He highlighted that, with our working lives extending into our 70s, it is more important than ever to make work a place we feel proud of and involved in. This is particularly true of younger generations who are looking for experiences that enrich their lives − including at work. They want to work for organisations that have a purpose they can identify with and contribute to.

 

Christina Fee, internal communications manager at DS Smith, emphasised the power of enabling employees to develop their own sense of purpose alongside that of the company. When it comes to achieving this alignment, she said, business communicators have a key role to play in ensuring that every single person is pulling in the same direction, and knows how they fit into the bigger picture.

 

For Howard Krais, communications manager at Johnson Matthey and IABC president, energy is a critical factor in the relationship between an organisation and its employees. People draw energy from the work they do, he said, and the more they are passionate about their work, the more energy the employer can tap into. It’s important for organisations to ensure that employees maintain their energy levels. And while companies pay lip service to wellbeing and mental health, Krais said that many had yet to fully grasp what it means to care for their employees on an emotional level.

 

The panellists agreed that an employee’s success also comes down to their taking greater control of their working lives. Rather than just accepting what is being handed down to them, employees need to take a much more active role in shaping how they work. This, above all, requires courage on the part of the individual − and listening on the part of the employer.

 

By Andrea Willige