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.

#myIABC

Screen-Shot-2016-02-19-at-12.17.03iabcuk

IABC means many things to many people. For many it is a life-long commitment. And we want to share this experience with a greater audience than ever before.

 

IABC UK is launching a global contest, with the hope that chapter leaders around the world will encourage their members to verbalise and share the many ways IABC has impacted their lives via a brief video submission.

 

With 10,000+ members in over 80 countries – we believe there is a common thread between IABC members of all disciplines and nationalities that needs to be explored.

 

The final output of this contest will be a two to three-minute promotional video featuring clips of members stating their favourite things about being an IABC member. The final promotional video will be released at the World Conference in New Orleans from 5th-8th June 2016.

 

We’re counting on chapter leaders around the world to encourage a ‘call to action’ for their members to show their support for IABC by producing a video. Whether by promoting the contest on social media channels and monthly newsletters, or by encouraging on-the-spot submissions at events by asking attendees to film video clips on board members’ iPhones – every little bit helps.

 

Casilda Malagon, President of IABC UK, said:

 

“The #myIABC campaign exemplifies IABC’s role in creating global connections. IABC UK has launched the campaign to connect with members and non-members on the intrinsic value that IABC membership brings to their professional and personal lives.”

 

Kira Scharwey, President-Elect of IABC UK, added:

“We’re thrilled to have created a platform for IABC members to verbalise what their membership means to them. To many members, IABC is a life-long commitment, and IABC colleagues a pseudo-family. The campaign aims to capture this unique feeling.”

 

There are two main audiences for the video:

  • Members – aim is to provide a feeling of connection – and pride – amongst current members.
  • Non-members – aim is to increase awareness with communications practitioners more generally and motivate prospective members to join.

 

If each chapter can take ownership of promotion and designate one video competition ‘champion’ who can take the lead, we know this video idea can be a resounding success. Let’s practice what we preach in terms of member engagement and promoting IABC with a chapter-led, on-the-ground communications campaign that reminds our members why they love being part of IABC – and educate non-members on why they should join.

 

Deadline for submissions is midnight on 30th April. If you have any questions on the campaign, please contact Kira Scharwey from IABC UK at [email protected] or via Twitter on @kirascharwey / @IABCUK. Twitter hashtag for promotion is #myIABC.

 

 

______________________

Competition instructions:

  • Submitted videos can be a maximum of 0:10 in length.
  • Submissions must be made by individuals, not by groups.
  • Try to shoot videos in locations with decent lighting and minimal background noise.
  • All video content must answer the overarching questions “What has IABC done for you?” or “What do you love about IABC?” Please see the following possible introductory phrases for guidance:

o   I love IABC because…

o   I am a lifelong IABC member because…

o   IABC has enabled me to…

o   IABC has allowed me to…

o   IABC has given me…

o   IABC has granted me…

o   IABC has helped me…

o   IABC has benefitted me…

o   IABC has guided me….

o   IABC has supported me…

o   IABC has contributed…

o   IABC has improved my professional life…

o   IABC has impacted my life…

o   IABC has…

o   My favourite part of being an IABC member is…

o   Name

o   IABC member number

o   The sentence “I agree to release ownership of this video submission to the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and IABC UK to use as desired for promotional purposes”.

 

Impactful corporate storytelling demands singular stories, not schizophrenia

768x350_voice

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.

Read more