Driving Business with Communication

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The 2016 regional IABC conference, EuroComm, will be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands from 18-19 April and will focus on how communications can help drive business, in small and large organisations.

 

Coming of age

Communications as a function is coming of age in organisations across the world.

In large organisations the Chief Communications Officer now reports directly to the CEO; commercially, companies are learning that their customers respond better to community-building and intelligent storytelling as opposed to classic push strategies; and we see communication teams allocating increased budgets and time to analytics and planning.

Communication teams increasingly have a “seat at the table”, something we have been asking for, as teams now have professional processes and structures in place, this wish is being granted more frequently.

We still need to prove that we, as communicators, truly understand the workings of the businesses we work in and can drive value for the organisation; this is not only for large organisations but also for SMEs. We need to show how communicators fit (whether in-house, agencies or consultants) and how they can make a real contribution to the bottom line.

 

The challenges for the future

The EuroComm 16 conference will address some of the challenges for our profession:

  • What are the right types of priorities that drive value for organisations?
  • How do we manage communities and participation?
  • What metrics do you need to track the data and how do you gain the right insight that will inform decisions?
  • What competencies will effective communicators need in the future (being a storyteller, a connected connector, digital savvy, understanding content as data)?

Sessions at the conference will be mix of keynote speeches from the corporate world and academia, Ràpido (TED-like) sessions, panel discussions and short solution presentations, including speakers from energy companies, banks, engineering, heavy industry, consultants and agencies.

 

Why attend Eurocomm 16?

In the past, EuroComm conference speakers have included senior members of the UN, EU, communications experts from Fortune-500 companies, academia, writers, bloggers and other key influencers.

EuroComm is an invaluable event for communicators either at the beginning or the mid-level of their careers, and with its unique networking opportunities and high level of speakers, the conference should be on any communicator’s agenda for 2016. Compared to many other industry events, it comes a fair price.

EuroComm 2016 is organised by the EMENA region together with the local IABC chapter in the Netherlands and in collaboration with other IABC volunteers across the globe.

 

Why Rotterdam?

EuroComm has been previously been held in London, Brussels, Turin, Barcelona and other key European cities. This year we have decided to take advantage of Rotterdam’s unique position and infrastructure.

Being the largest port of Europe, the city has developed itself from being a traditional trade city to being a hub for futuristic design and exploring new ways of doing business. Rotterdam has museums with both classic Dutch art and avant-garde design, it has bridges that connect the different parts of the city, whether using metro, trams or just walking. Its newest horseshoe-shaped market hall has received acclaim from journalists and architecture critiques across the globe.

Please join us in the Public Library of Rotterdam, from 18-19 April 2016 for EuroComm 2016. Registration is open now.

 

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.

Magna Carta, Quantum Physics and Nick Clegg

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At the recent #EuroComm conference, I was invited to give a light-hearted talk as part of the Rapido session. Rapido sessions are a series of five minute talks on (within reason) any topic of choice. So for five minutes, I riffed on Magna Carta, Quantum Physics and Nick Clegg.

One of the common misconceptions about Magna Carta is that, out of its 63 clauses, only 3 are relevant today.

Which suggests that 60 are not. This is a 5% success rate. So the question is therefore why the document has become so famous and so revered. After all, a footballer who scored only 3 goals in 63 games is unlikely to be hero. Or a European Union that has been going 63 years, but with only three good ones …. oh wait….

But if many of the clauses are irrelevant to today’s world certainly the concepts and principles are relevant. So which is it? Relevance or irrelevance? But we don’t have to choose: we can borrow from quantum physics and declare that “Magna Carta exists in a quantum state of both relevance and irrelevance.”

And actually it can even be argued that the UK General Election of 2015 increases the relevance of Magna Carta because it is actually the party manifesto of each of the seven major parties contesting the election in Great Britain. Yes: whatever your political views, you can find inspiration in Magna Carta to help you decide how to vote in May.

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The Power of Global Communication

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The Power of Global Communication plenary at #EuroComm Conference, explored the need for greater awareness of cultural difference in international business.

The panel was chaired by Anisha Jhina, Director of Internal Communications at Mars Global Petcare and a self-confessed ‘transculturalist’. Having lived in three continents from a young age, Ms Jhina launched proceedings by speaking of her awareness of a Western-centric mindset in European and North American business environments that can thwart or limit successful intercultural relationships.

Dr Barbara Gibson has undertaken qualitative research with CEOs from 12 different firms that suggested that nearly all business cultures – not just Western ones – suffer to some extent from what she called an “ethnocentric arrogance”. Such imbalances frequently lead intercultural business relationships to fail or work at sub-optimal efficiency.

By identifying trends in her research, Dr Gibson outlined five “intercultural competencies” that successful intercultural communicators possessed:

  1. Adaptability: The ability to change one’s behaviour, communication style or business strategy as needed to fit the circumstances.
  2. Cultural self-awareness: An awareness of one’s own cultural influences, tendencies and biases, and awareness of how one’s own culture may be perceived by members of a different culture.
  3. Cultural sensory perception: The ability to recognize when cultural differences are in play, utilizing a range of senses to spot verbal and non-verbal cues which may differ greatly from those of one’s own culture.
  4. Open-mindedness: The ability to suspend judgement based on one’s own cultural biases and accept that other ways of thinking and behaving may be just as valid.
  5. Global perspective: Viewing the business from a transnational perspective, rather than as “domestic first, rest-of-world second.”

In addition to these competencies, Dr Gibson believes it is the communicators and CEOs with the greatest capacity to reflect and improve upon their intercultural competencies who perform best over time.

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Leadership communications at EuroComm

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It is often said that you cannot lead if you cannot communicate. But, as Björn Edlund points out, it is also true that you cannot communicate with impact unless you can lead. He asks:

  • What is communications leadership?
  • What are the traits of a successful communications leader?
  • Is the function different to how its leaders need to behave in order to galvanize their teams, as well as their C suite colleagues?

Here’s his opening keynote at EuroComm 2015, the conference for members in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa of IABC, the International Association  of Business Communicators.

Björn Edlund shares experiences from nearly 20 years as Chief Communications Officer in three multinational corporations, working for 11 CEOs through external and self-created crises and deep corporate transformations.


At the heart of much of the discussion at day 1 of the IABC’s EuroComm Conference in London was the changing nature of the environment in which communicators are working.

Not only is technology changing, and the expectations of executive teams, but the nature of communicators’ expectations of their senior managers is also developing.

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Are communicators natural players in the C suite?

Björn Edlund, formerly of Royal Dutch Shell and now a communications consultant and owner of Edlund Consulting, believes that communicators must be respected as a valid member of the C Suite in organisations.

“We must be, in order to be effective. And we ought to be, because at its most ambitious, public relations is truly and completely about how to lead. It starts by helping our C Suite colleagues find the words and imagery – the narrative – that best express their strategic intent.”

Mr Edlund referenced one of the key themes that cropped up several times during the Eurocomm conference – the matter of trust, and its importance for communicators:

“A facilitator leads through competence and inclusion, often the best way for a functional expert to wield power. Trust will enable you to nudge the rest of the C Suite team along in a shared direction.”

How do we help leaders lead?

It’s simple enough to outline how we need to act within organisations – support leaders in their messaging, engagement and communications – but how does one move tactical work to a strategic level?

The starting point is to see the value of your involvement. As Björn Edlund puts it:

“It is the No. 1 job of PR to help business leaders recognize and meet a deep-seated human need, of both individuals and groups, to be included, inspired, engaged and rallied towards a common goal. It is our job to lead C suite discussions away from the false certainty and comfort of Excel spread sheets, customer analyses and market projections to thorny explorations of distrust, dissent, conflict and controversy – of why people and communities may be closing not only their doors, but also their hearts and minds – and their wallets – to us, and how to engage them constructively – ideally on their terms.”

CEO as storyteller

Björn Edlund referenced a seminal time in his working career, at ABB in a time of great crisis, when he was reporting to CEO Jürgen Dormann in 2002.

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