I knew this day was coming

As soon as I said yes, well over a year ago, to become Mike’s number two I knew that the day when I would have to step up as President of IABC UK would come round soon enough. And on Wednesday evening, with brilliant blue skies and the beautiful London skyline providing a wonderful backdrop for our AGM, I became President of the UK chapter of the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators).

The beauty of getting involved with a professional association such as IABC is that there is built in continuity. You sign up for a three year term, a year as President-elect, a year as President and then a year as Past President. The continuity has come from a succession of great teams. For the year just finished it is right to pay tribute to Kira Scharwey who has completed her three year term and to Mike Pounsford, who has been an inspirational president, leading from the front and giving me a great base to build on.

And we have an exciting year ahead. We have a great Board (names below). Several new faces adding to the majority of last year’s team. These are people who come from a range of roles across the communications sector, and who are passionate about communications and how we can help improve the profession.

I want us to continue focusing on delivering value to our members, something we’ve tried hard to do over the past year, for example not charging members to attend events. We need to keep challenging ourselves to improve our offering thereby encouraging comms professionals to take out a membership because they value what they get for it. That doesn’t just mean the events we run either, but access to so much more, including mentoring (either providing or receiving), recognised certification, a new corporate membership offer, a fantastic wealth of resources and seminars, as well as the Gold Quill awards process and probably a bunch of other things I’ve not mentioned.

This year I judged for Gold Quill for the first time. If you don’t know about them then I can only recommend you find out. I was so impressed by the way Gold Quill sets out what excellence looks like in communications, not just as an award but simply for structuring a communications project.

What really differentiates IABC is the global nature of the organisation. Whether through the connections you make, the events you can attend such as Euro Comm, this year an excellent experience in Copenhagen or World Conference, where just a couple of weeks ago over 1,300 communicators from 30 countries met in Montreal. All reports were it was a great event and next year I want to join them in Vancouver.

Another way we can display our international credentials is through our own activities. Earlier this year we worked with the IABC San Francisco chapter to hold a live ‘Conversation Across the Ocean’ where we had a panel eight hours apart but chatting as if we were in the same room; examining the cultural differences that communicators face. Feedback from the event was brilliant and we know there is interest from other US and Canada chapters to follow up.

Events are our ‘bread and butter’. Over the past year we have run a range of different events targeting and attracting people from across the communications spectrum. We ran one event, a hugely interactive opportunity to learn about improvisation in storytelling, in London and also in Leeds, with the latter attracting over 150 people.

Our relationships with Leeds University, and the London Communications College are flourishing. This year we will think about how we can do more for students, not just so they get a good experience this year, but also to provide skills students can take with them in their careers. We have two student board members this year. One of them Alexa Cifre has already blogged about how she has developed her networking skills at last night’s AGM.

Another key area of focus for this year will be our own communications (which may either be a strange or obvious thing to say for a comms sector organisation). We need to improve our proactivity around social media and website particularly and have plans in place to do that.

One other really important thing that I’m keen we focus on is listening. It’s a subject that I am very passionate about. My belief is listening forms a key part of the communicators’ armoury. As someone said to me recently, for communicators the output of listening is getting and sharing valuable insights, but the outcome is increased influence. Yet I believe, that in many big companies especially, listening is under threat. This may be because teams, shrinking in size but expected to do more are focused on huge tasked-based in trays, or the difficulties of getting around an organisation in an era of strict travel policies or maybe simply a lack of confidence or capability.

I think this is important and we need to do something about it. I want IABC to be involved in this, but it is probably bigger than something we can do ourselves and I’ve had conversations with colleagues from across the industry including some of the other sector groups, such as IOIC and CIPR Inside, to see where we can work together for the benefit of the profession as a whole.

Sometimes we do need to temper our enthusiasm and ambitions though and remember that everyone involved on the Board of IABC UK is a volunteer. For me personally, I’ve just started an exciting new job at Johnson Matthey. Leading a volunteer board means you won’t always get to deliver all the exciting things you might like to. Sometimes real life will get in the way. All the best laid plans etc. I say this because whilst our ambition is big, it is important to have a degree of pragmatism. Hopefully both the quality, and quantity of people we’ve got this year will mean we can cover when someone has to deal with other priorities.

Ultimately though it comes down to what members (and non-members) think. Are we offering value, are we providing something that helps them develop or do their job better? I hope so!

My ask of communication professionals reading this is please get involved, come to an event, tell us what you want and where we can provide you with something that is worthwhile. IABC (and the other comms organisations) can only prosper if you help us provide what you need.

If I’ve learnt anything this year it is the truth of the old saying “the more you put into something, the more you get out”. I’ve had a great year getting more involved with IABC, you can too and I’m excited about 2018/19, which looks set to be a memorable year for IABC UK.

I look forward to seeing you at an event soon.

IABC UK Board 2018/19

Howard Krais (President). Sarah Parker (President-elect), Mike Pounsford (Past President), Ann-Marie Blake, Suzanne Brooks, Claudia Damato, Gay Flashman, Georgia Halston, Sarah Harrison, Lauren MacDonald, Casilda Malagon, Una O’Sullivan, Alexandra Cifre, Kira Scharwey, Mathilde Schneider and Daniel Schraibman

EuroComm Conference

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Every two years, leading communicators from across Europe, the Middle East & North Africa come together for IABC’s EuroComm conference. The conference theme – Power to the People – is inspired by the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – the foundation of the freedom for the individual – the basis for legal and political systems worldwide which still resonates across the centuries.

Join the conversation…

EuroComm gives you a voice as part of the conversation about the two most challenging aspects of communication today – people’s opportunity to be heard (encouraging ideas, innovation and best practice) to creating practical action.  EuroComm is a great opportunity to meet and hear from other communicators, to network in the City of London, to learn something new and to share your stories with others.

Conference Rates

IABC member and partner organisation rate: £320
Non-member rate: £480
Join IABC and attend EuroComm rate: £575

Register Now
Register for the EuroComm conference

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EuroComm Conference Sponsor

The award-winning software provider, Newsweaver is sponsoring EuroComm Conference, London, 12-14 April.

Having a well-established provider as Newsweaver signing up to sponsor our annual conference is of great benefit to both parties. Tools that can help communicators do their jobs well, are a welcome addition to the agenda of our conference, matching our theme ‘Power to the People’ this year.
Michael Nord, Regional Chair and Coordinator of EuroComm.

 

Newsweaver official logoNewsweaver is the global leader in Internal Communications Management with proven technology, comprehensive services, and expert guidance that is helping more than 400 blue-chip and FTSE 100 companies. Dramatically improve the results of your employee email communications with Newsweaver Internal Connect.. Follow Newsweaver on Twitter:@Newsweaver_IC

Impactful corporate storytelling demands singular stories, not schizophrenia

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Remember when you were a kid? Something had gone wrong. You were involved, and someone was going to be angry. A teacher, a parent or a sibling. But you weren’t seen, and to minimise repercussions you crafted a version of the truth that had an air of plausibility to it that would also get you off the hook. Perhaps a boisterous but mute pet could take the rap. The problem was – particularly for the still-developing teenage prefrontal cortex – remembering the elements you’d embroidered. Let alone to whom you’d told what.

Growing up and learning to interact with different groups – friends, family, authority figures – is a positive learning experience if you’re going to be able to swap between modes and registers in later life. Those tweens and teens who learn to apply context in different environments go on to thrive. Knowing not to swear in class or to the police, becoming a bit more estuary in the playground or on the terraces, and upping the deference before grandparents are important skills for the trainee social chameleon. But it’s ever so funny when these emerging skills lapse in the heat of the moment.

I’ve no idea what it’s like to have an affair. Coming from a serial broken home, I’ve always prized fidelity and stability highly. I also happen to have found The One at just 20 – lucky old me – and have combined being not-the-straying-kind with a strong and happy partnership. But I’m not immune to popular culture, and I’ve seen my fair share of characters in film, TV series and books come a cropper by failing to control singular sexual narratives.

Holding multiple versions of the same story in your consciousness and constantly having to switch between them can be exhausting; stressful to the storyteller and confusing to the audience. As for individuals, so for corporations and brands. And all the more so because the folk memory and representation of an abstract entity like a brand is held in the collective minds and mouths of dozens to thousands of individuals.

In a pre-social media world, companies could and often did tell different stories to different audiences with impunity.

  • One story for their supply chain, whom they wanted to see them as partners: “Through our long-term commitment to you, we can help your company grow with ours.” (Or maybe: “We’ll parasite on your innovation until it becomes synonymous with us not you. And then we’ll cut your margin until it’s no longer viable for you to supply us.”)
  • One story for their shareholders and investors, whom they wanted to reassure they were running the business keenly: “We’ve removed all unnecessary costs from the supply chain and now produce our products more cheaply than the competition.” (Or possibly: “We screw our suppliers to the floor to maximise margin.”)
  • One story for their customers, whom they wanted to woo and bewitch: “We make the best products – bar none.” (Or perhaps “We’re brilliant at accentuating the positive.”)
  • One story for regulators and legislators: “We’re the greenest business in this sector.” (Or read: “We stick to the letter but not the spirit of the law and pollute as little as possible.”)
  •  And one story for employees: “With our company on your CV, you’ll have the pick of the market for your next role.” (Code for: “You should be grateful to work here, and accept the fact that we’re not going to give you a raise, even in line with inflation.”)

I’ll admit that the alternative readings (in brackets) are cynical, and historically the different narrative strands may all have been well-meaning from each of the different parts of a business. But very often the CSR story was 180 degrees from the key messages for city analysts. And a tale told to assuage environmentalists and local government would lead shareholders seriously to consider shuffling their investment portfolios.

The problem was – and amazingly still is in a surprisingly large number of organisations – that communication wasn’t joined up. The era of brand monologue was linear, siloed and separate. When it wasn’t easy to collect and collate different strands of brand communication through platforms and search engines, different strokes for different folks didn’t matter. No-one could discover the contradictions inherent in such a system.

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How to present as a CEO

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When CEOs stand up and talk, they have the power to lift or lower the mood of their audiences. Too often, they lower it. Sometimes they even alarm or alienate people. This is not, of course, their intention. But it happens when they misunderstand some of the basic ground rules about communication. In this article I’m going to share ten top tips to help the world’s CEOs spread more light, understanding and engagement when they speak inside or outside their organisations.

1) Think about the audience

This sounds obvious, but too many CEOs prepare generic speeches and presentations that they give to many different audiences in many different places. Before writing or assembling a presentation, ask yourself first of all how your audience are likely to receive it. Will it contain information which is new to them? Will they benefit from hearing it? If so, how? Do you want them to do or think something different as a result of hearing you speak? If not, there’s probably no point delivering your presentation.

2) Build a bridge

As the salesmen say, people buy people first. In other words, before accepting your product, advice, information or point of view, they make a judgment, often subconscious, on whether they accept you as the kind of person they listen to – whether they like you, trust you, admit you to their group, find you interesting, funny, authoritative and all the rest. All in the blink of an eye. So start your presentation with something that (a) they can relate to and (b) says something about you. The words you say may be trivial – a joke, a pleasantry, a story, a compliment to the host – but they must signal that you deserve their attention, and that what you are about to say has something in it for them.

3) Keep it simple

The best and most intelligent writing can be understood by primary (elementary) school pupils. Long words, convoluted sentences and jargon only confuse. It is actually harder to write simply, but it repays the effort. And the simpler your language, the more people you will reach. Don’t patronise, but don’t assume too much knowledge of, or interest in, your specialist subject. Avoid subordinate clauses, in-jokes and humour based on language or cultural assumptions.

4) Structure your presentation

Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em. Don’t labour this. However, the audience will feel more comfortable if your presentation has a beginning, a middle and an end, and both you and they know where you have got to in the structure. It’s best to schedule questions after the body of your presentation but before the very end. Give a time limit for questions and remain in control. After questions, end on something uplifting.

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10 steps to building an employee champions network

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We trust the people we work with, so we trust what they say.

Once again, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that we have twice as much trust in ‘experts’ and ‘someone like me’ as we do in our CEOs.

That’s not good news for internal communicators, where traditionally we’ve spent time and resource on developing core channels such as leadership communications and managers as communicators.

So why not invest in a network of employee champions who will communicate your organisational story in a credible way to the people they work with?

A champions network will be your extended voice, reinforcing key messages on the ground to engage the hearts and minds of the people that matter.

Champions know the area of the business they work in better than you. They will instantly localise and tailor your messaging to their audiences. It will be more impactful, more relevant and more authentic.

Take time to listen too. Your network will be your ears and eyes on the ground. Get your champions to feedback on how messages are landing to help you tweak or even switch up your strategy.

Are you in? Here’s how to start…

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