How IC it

What I like in the world of internal communications and employee engagement.

Archive for the tag “internal communications”

Coming next week: Budget cuts – when the axeman cometh

Does your new financial year bring a cut to your internal comms budget? Don’t panic! Check my blog next week for tips on how to stay effective when the April axeman cometh.

If you’ve got questions or tips to share with fellow comms pros, tweet me @how_IC_it and I’ll include them in next week’s blog post.

My Big Yak (infographic)

While others stood in the mud in a Glastonbury field, there was only one place to be for internal comms pros. All roads, trains and even flights led to Richmond for the second Big Yak, the unconference from the IC Crowd.

I was lucky enough to go last year so there was no way I was missing this second instalment. And it proved to be an even more valuable day, with brilliant ideas a-plenty.

Here’s my key takeaways in infographic stylee. Many of my fellow Yakkers have been blogging their own reflections – make sure you hit the IC Crowd website for a round-up from Friday 4 July.

And if you’re working towards continuous professional development with either CIPR or the Institute of Internal Communication, there are 10 CPD points available to Big Yak attendees, so get ’em logged!

You can download a pdf of my Big Yak infographic here: BigYak_infographic



My dad doesn’t understand me! How comms pros broke line managers

Soon before he died in 2008, my dad and I were talking about how he’d loved watching us girls grow up into jobs we enjoyed and were doing well at. It’s a chat I’ll treasure but he also said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“I know what you do, love, these staff magazines and things,” he said, “What I don’t get is WHY you need to do it.”

After I’d pouted – way to make a girl feel special, pops – I started to understand where he was coming from.

In 1964 my dad was 20 and working in the defence industry, packing parachutes at a rural Worcestershire airbase. Soon after, he stepped onto the factory floor at Rolls-Royce and spent more than 25 years grinding gears. At no time during his 40 working years did he come across the lesser-spotted internal comms manager. If you’d asked him what a business partner was, he’d have told you not to talk daft. But he was a loyal, proud worker who bought shares, knew exactly what was going on and felt responsible for how the factory was doing.

And here’s the reason he didn’t get why I existed. “When we needed to know something, the foreman just called us in a corner and we talked about it. So how come these places need you these days?”

Get a group of internal comms pros together and it won’t be long before the conversation turns to line managers. We acknowledge their vital role in engagement and we agree most of them aren’t very good at it.

But here’s the rub: we did it to them.

As we worked hard for our value, our profession, to be recognised within our businesses from the boardroom down, we took on a lot. We do that; own that; deliver that, we said. In the great editorial era of internal comms, we bypassed the hierarchy with newsstand-quality company magazines.  We crafted and drafted podium-worthy speeches for our leaders. And we equipped line managers with highly detailed briefing-by-numbers scripts.

Come on, you know we did. I sure know I did! But where does equipping stop and emasculating start?

Coming out of the editorial era and into the era of engagement, we rediscovered what my dad and his foreman knew in 1964. Employees want to hear from their manager. So now we’re making up for lost time and the lost art of manager-led comms with toolkits and training and an uphill struggle to get leaders to agree that they signed up for engagement when they got the job title.

I daresay my dad’s information was top-down and heavily filtered. And he was certainly as likely to believe what he read in the papers as anything on the noticeboard. But at least their manager talked about it when they clocked in for the night shift.

I think about my dad now whenever I’m writing. He’s my audience – whether I’m prepping bullets for a line manager to use when talking about change, or when I was writing for magazines for factory and frontline audiences.

Just one of the many things I have to thank him for.

Looking for a great line manager comms toolkit? Try these for size:

The line manager mixtape – by Daniel Grafton via CIPR

Why managers are the key to poor signal strength – by Lee Smith via IoIC

Six steps to get manager communication right – from Headlines


Ted Jones 1944 – 2008


Vive la resolution: what IC can learn from January’s good intentions

The road to hell is paved with unused exercise bikes, low-fat recipe books and nicotine patches. I’ve decided to forego the annual round of personal resolutions and apply some of the most popular ones to my IC career, instead.

1. Shed the flab

Are you carrying a bit of extra weight? A channel that nobody reads? A process that’s slowing you down? Take a cold hard look in the mirror of colleague feedback to see if the audience is telling you “it’s not you, it’s me…” Ask your team and your regular stakeholders what feels smooth and efficient and what’s the sluggish equivalent of a ‘Quality Street baby’ hiding under a Rudolph sweater. How about using your January team meeting to make your own New Year Resolutions that will mean you work smarter?

2. Would like to meet…

If you’re looking for a meaningful relationship in 2014, get networking. Perhaps you want a long-term partnership with a mentor, or you’re after a quick fling on what video can do for IC. Whatever challenge you’re battling with, someone’s been there, done it and will probably be happy to share their story. Follow @theICcrowd on Twitter for an instant pool of potential ‘dates’. And no need to pre-arrange an emergency ‘get me out of here’ call from a friend.

3. Get out more

There’s so much fantastic stuff online for IC pros but nothing beats getting together in the real world. The first half of 2014 has some great events coming up, from full-on conferences to informal coffee mornings. I blogged about the ones that caught my eye here.

4. A better me

New year is an ideal time to think about a bit of self-improvement. You’ve had your annual review with your manager and you’ve got some ideas on which areas to focus on. If getting a formal qualification is one of the things on your PDP, you’ve got a few options. For me, the most suitable was the IoIC’s Advanced Diploma, which I took in 2012. Other qualifications are out there. I link to some on my blog here.

5. Make new friends

As well as networking outside work, think about your relationships within the workplace. Are you and team known to the right people? Do they know you? Buy a few coffees and get to know the people who can help drive engagement. HR, the health and safety guys, Learning & Development, and external comms are obvious ones, and you probably have great links there already. But when was the last time you sat down with someone from Business Development? The people who come up with new products and services? The team responsible for the new starter ‘onboarding’ process? See where there may be new places for people to contribute or to tell their stories. Then matchmake.

What are some of your goals for 2014?

Diary dates – internal comms events 2014

The first half of 2014 has some great internal comms events – everything from full-scale conferences to informal networking coffee mornings.

Here’s a round-up of the ones that caught my eye. Let me know if you spot more and I’ll add them!

I’ve listed events where guest speakers, case studies, and discussion form the agenda, rather than training courses. There are loads of those out there too – if that’s what you’re after, the websites of the Institute of Internal Communication, Melcrum, CIPR are three great places to start.

January 2014

22 January – Perth, Scotland – Institute of Internal Communication Scotland
They say…
Very informal – meet fellow communicators and share your experiences. It’s an opportunity to hear what other communicators are doing and to expand your network of other people in the industry. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear about next year’s IoIC Scotland awards with some tips on what makes a great entry.

23 January – London – Institute of Internal Communication “How to win gold”
They say…
Two winners of IoIC Gold Awards will be talking about what it takes to be at the top of the IC game. Speakers are Moira Throp, co-founder of the agency Like Minds, which won the special award for Best Overall Campaign for Training Tree, produced for the Spirit Pub Company. Also speaking will be Carmen Lothian, new business manager at Headlines Corporate News, which struck gold with Penguin, an online magazine aimed at a new generation of project managers.

*New!* 24 January – London – The Blurred Lines Between Internal and External Communications
They say… The lines between internal and external communications are becoming increasingly blurred – but what does this mean for the future of business communications and employee engagement? Speakers are Jenni Wheller, Internal Communications Manager for SSP, and Mairi Doyle, Director of Internal Communications for Bupa.

February 2014

3 February – Scotland – The Law of Human Attraction: how to turn IC into action
They say…
Imagine getting your team to do something because they believe in you, not because you’ve simply asked them to do it – and imagine the results you would get from a team that is truly engaged with what you’re trying to achieve! IoIC Scotland has arranged a seminar to help you do exactly that. The training is being run by the accelerated learning and development experts at Boundaries Edge, and they’ll be using police, military and intelligence operations and case studies to put on an afternoon which will put ‘urban intelligence’ and communication techniques into practice.

12 February (London) and 18 February (Manchester) – Cross-Government internal comms conference
They say…
The first cross-government internal communication conference. Practitioners will not only benefit from the experiences of strong speakers, but will also be able to exchange ideas while learning about the changes taking place across the Government Communication Service. Speakers include executive director of Government communications Alex Aiken and director of communications at the Department for Business Innovation & Skills Russell Grossman. The primary audience for the conference will be cross-departmental civil servants, but places will also be available for arm’s length bodies and the wider public sector.

28 February – Leicester – IoIC Central annual seminar and awards
They say..
. The IoIC Central’s seventh annual seminar takes place on Friday 28 February 2014, immediately before the Awards. Speakers will include some of the country’s leading communication experts, who will be sharing their opinions and expertise on today’s hot internal communication topics – ranging from coping with the digital evolution to securing top team buy-in and improving communication competencies and skills. The seminar is always attended by many of the region’s established and up and coming communicators, so there’ll be plenty of opportunity for you to network with your fellow communication practitioners, share challenges and solutions and to contribute to top class debate about the burning internal communication issues of the day.

March 2014

4 March – London – The Employee Engagement Event, Manners & Murphy
They say…
At the event you will take away clear insights and new ways of thinking to tackle the area of engagement to drive greater productivity and loyalty from your staff. We will have four expert speakers presenting case studies, top tips, key learnings and mistakes to avoid in the field of Engagement. Speakers include Christer Holloman of Glassdoor, Karin Volo, author of Engage! Early bird discounts available.

24-26 March – London – BOC Internal Communications Conference
They say…
This two-day highly interactive exchange is designed to reveal how communication executives can go about setting up a strategic ‘Centre of Communication Excellence’ to deliver internal communication tactics that produce real business benefits and impact in the organisation. Speakers include Philips, IBM, Ericsson, UK Home Office and more.

May 2014

1-2 May – Brighton – Institute of Internal Communication annual conference, IoIC Live

They say… The IoIC’s 2014 conference will focus on strategies, tools and tips to help professional communicators step up to meet the challenge. It’s a rare opportunity to step off the merry go round to re-think, re-charge, re-shape and re-connect with what’s great in internal communication right now. Speakers include Bupa, BT and Virgin Media. Early bird discounts available until 31 January.

I’ll do another round-up for the second half of the year. In the meantime are you going to an event that I should know about?

The seven deadly sins of measurement

I’ve been judging awards recently and measurement seems still to be the holy grail, with some teams really hot on measurement and evaluation of their efforts and others either not measuring at all or looking through only a limited lens. Got me thinking about the perils and pitfalls of this hot topic, so here are my Seven Deadly Sins of Measurement.  How many are you guilty of?

1. Not measuring at all

Let’s start with the obvious. You’re busy. Your team are busy. Look at us! We’re so in demand! We’re in that meeting… working up that campaign… writing that email… Why? What for? Who’s reading it? If you don’t measure your activity, you’re a busy fool. You don’t know the right place to spend your blood, sweat and tears – and busy does not a business case make or protect you when the restructure axe comes swinging.

2. Measuring the wrong thing

All measurement is equal, right? Not so. Have you agreed with your stakeholder the outcomes of the project you’re supporting? That’s what you should be measuring. I use an ‘engagement curve’ to plot agreed outcomes along the comms journey – from awareness and understanding through to buy-in, commitment and ownership (where people start to take action). It shows me what I should be measuring at each stage of a comms plan. It’s no good showing that 1,500 people have read your beautifully-crafted intranet article if nobody is actually following the new way of claiming expenses.

3. Hits or hearts?

Your vital statistics – hit rates, viewing figures and downloads of documents – are a good indication of your awareness waistline. And for some projects, getting people to awareness or understanding is plenty. For others, though, your business is looking for a change of behaviour. That requires hearts as well as minds, habits rather than hit rates.

4. Keeping your successes to yourself

It’s tempting to put all the comms planning effort into the early stages. We build a detailed comms plan and map out every step of delivery. We burn the midnight oil over the campaign materials. The project doesn’t end when the posters come down. A project closedown report is as vital as the start-up plan. Make sure you present back to your stakeholders at every step of the way and certainly at the end of the campaign to show how your comms have met their objectives. It can hardly be a bad thing if you can include some of your impressive achievements in your own performance review… Oh stop, you’re making us blush.

5. Doing what you’ve always done

The great advantage of measuring at every step is that you’ll soon pick up if things aren’t taking you where you need to be. Listen to the jungle drums and be prepared to adapt or bolster your comms approach. Chances are your messages aren’t getting through if the HR mailbox is bursting with questions about the new policy, the programme office is taking calls from directors about the impact on customers, or line managers are beseiged by worried colleagues who have heard a rumour. Don’t stick unswervingly to ‘Plan A’ when the insight tells you a detour is needed.

6. Beware data distrust

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve presented the results of the satisfaction survey to senior managers who have dismissed the findings because we didn’t ask enough people… or because Site X has a negative culture… or Team B have just had a change of manager. Agree upfront what a credible representative sample will be. Work with your stakeholders in the early days to explain what they can expect from the findings. After all, once you hit a certain response rate, you’ve captured all views and anything else is duplicating.

7. Treating IC as a nice to have, not a risk management tool

This comes down to the ‘why are we here?’ question. Done well, internal communication is a risk management tool. It’s not a nice to have, soft business activity. If you believe anything less, then you’re holding yourself and your business back.

So, confession time – are you a saint or a sinner?

Looking for an internal comms qualification in 2014?

While you’re planning for your end-of-year review, it’s also time to give some thought to 2014’s personal development plan. For me last year, that meant formalising my experience with a ‘proper piece of paper’ – it was time to get qualified.

I chose the Advanced Diploma from the Institute of Internal Communication and I’m pleased (and more than a little relieved) to have passed with distinction. The Advanced Diploma is one of four tiers of accreditation offered by the IoIC depending on where you are in your career.

I’m an IoIC board director and enthusiastic supporter of all its training but, in the interests of impartiality, other qualifications are available! There’s a great round-up here from Kevin Ruck, a founding director of PR Academy.

As well as my newly minted IoIC Advanced Diploma, I completed Melcrum’s Black Belt programme back in 2008. My team has also drawn on elements of the ‘bitesize’ learning formerly provided by Gatehouse Group and which is now neatly rolled-up into the ‘Accelerate’ package offered jointly by Gatehouse and the IoIC.

There’s no doubt that there’s plenty out there, whether you’re looking for a formal qualification or a workshop on a specific tactical issue from change to web editing.

So where do you start and how do you know what your PDP should focus on?

I’m a great fan of the competency framework developed by Sue Dewhurst and Liam Fitzpatrick via Competent Communicators and the one from the IoIC. Personally I use a hybrid of the two which I’ve tweaked to suit my own circumstances. I’ve carried a paper copy around from role to role – old skool – and admit that I take great satisfaction in highlighting things as I feel I’ve achieved them!

If you work in government comms, there’s a professional competency framework just for you from the Government Communication Network.

So go on – spend the weekend in the company of some of these resources and take your best ever development plan to that annual review.

Stop: grammar time

I read an interesting Twitter exchange of grammatical opinions on the use of apostrophes for clarity, with different views from Engage 4 Success and Mark Shanahan (both well worth a follow). In the blue corner, the idea that an apostrophe in a plural can assist the reader; in the red, the traditional view that plural apostrophes are always wrong.


The link to the ‘helpful’ point made by Engage 4 Success is here on Grammar Monster. There’s a slightly different view from Oxford Dictionaries here.

Now, I might be a multi-faceted comms pro now I’m all growed up, but in my heart I am still the schoolgirl who would cry if she got fewer than 10 correct answers in her Monday spellings (and yes, I would probably have said ‘fewer’ too; I was that sort of child). I’m a grammar geek. I give a silent cheer for a correctly placed ‘only’. I love a good pun. I can wilf away hours reading the glorious linguistic timeslips of Shakespeare Lyrics and the like.

So if I see a fellow comms pro tweet a typo, do I judge them? Well, a bit, I’m afraid. I fully appreciate that our profession has come a long way since we were the in-house editors and we have so much more to offer than our syntax. And yet I believe these skills are our ticket to the game. Only once we’ve cut our crafting chops can we expect to be listened to on the big stuff. That’s why I will (gently, I hope) point out spelling mistakes in emails from my team, and get completely out of proportion if I receive agency proofs including errors. We should be whiter than white. We should be always on. Up with this I will not put.

I’ve pondered whether semantic slippage is acceptable on social media, where ‘ran out of characters’ is a reasonable defence. But spend a few moments reading any heated exchange on Twitter and you’ll soon come across one poster criticising another’s grammar. It’s the grammatical equivalent of Godwin’s Law. So I’m not alone. Good. Pedantry loves company.

Of course, I should end this post by pointing out that I would never do such things.


Brrrrr. It’s cold up here on this high horse. Maybe I should relax a bit… Bazinga. Who am I kidding?!

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