Diary of a diploma: Day three

Despite snow, wind and rain everyone made it to class on Saturday 23 March for discussions around planning, branding, employee voice, persuasion and internal social media.

We were joined by Juliet Earp who talked us through her case study with HSBC and Tom Crawford from The Brain Miner who discussed engaging with brands and also the importance of our own personal brands in business.

I have really struggled to keep up with the reading this time. I think as work gets busier you use any downtime you get to just relax and and get some head space, using that time to read and learn just hasn’t been feasible. Still, this is why I chose the face to face course. After 4 hours in class the bug is back and I’m really starting to get excited about my paper now.


We started the day looking at planning and discussed the CIPR Inside Measurement Matrix and the RADAR model designed by Kevin Ruck: Research, Assess, Decide, Act, Review. A simple but effective model that demonstrates what we should be doing as we work through our comms challenges. Measurement is high on my agenda for next year so this is really relevant for me at the moment. As I start to explore what to measure and how to map this to stakeholders the tools we are talking about throughout the diploma are really helping.

Employee Voice

Employee Voice is a real buzzword at the moment. For me, it should be part of the conversation and dialogue that internal comms facilitates so it was great to hear how HSBC are integrating it into the business.  Once a quarter they have asked managers to swap a normal team meeting for an ‘exchange’. This is where the manager or team leader says nothing, there is no agenda and the people are allowed to talk about issues, challenges or give feedback on everything. I love this idea and will be looking at how we can use a similar method in our business.


From channel champs to brand builders was the topic before and after lunch. Tom used to work at EON so he took us through his challenge and how he overcame it. It was great to hear from someone talking about communicating with people who are are offline and hard to reach – there were some great ideas:

  • Using audio and video for team briefs and senior leader profiling
  • Sending magic tree car air fresheners to the guys in the vans with the phone number to listen to the audio cascades
  • Using a more intelligent conference call system where everyone can dial in and ask the CEO or the board a question. Managed through a moderator and with people being able to speak managed throughout the call this seemed so simple yet so effective
  • Use of storytelling to engage people with the strategy
  • A strong team of one internal comms person per thousand employees – something I think every department struggles with
  • Changing meeting rooms to be customer spaces. For EON this was different rooms in a house, with products in use throughout the room

As the role of the internal communicator changes our personal brand in the business needs to be considered. I’m often guilty of letting frustrations air in public and being impatient with the speed at which we can affect change.

“A brand is what people say about you after you’ve left the room” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

So it is time to think about my own brand and what I stand for. Not just what my career says about me but what is important in my life – something we probably don’t share enough. Tom also gave an example of where the internal comms team should have their own ambition/mission to give them a sense of branding:

“Through sustaining pride and belief in this organisation we will ensure colleagues feel inspired to do their best work and advocate for our brand, right when we need it most.”

As we start to look at what our personal brand says, and the brand of the department we also need to consider the roles that we play in our businesses:

  • The court jester – telling the truth and being a bit different to the norm
  • The Gok Wan – offering advice on what clothes, appearance etc. are appropriate and when a suit just isn’t ok
  • The Mystic Meg – looking outside the business and determining the effect that will have on our business and our people
  • The spin doctor – the role that will never go away but is not our main focus
  • The psychologist – understanding people

Internal social media and persuasion

We ended the day with a quick look at internal social media, persuasion and ethics. We looked at the four types of digital culture: Closet communicators, co-creators, controlled communicators and constrained communicators. Great to start looking at some theory around such a hot topic.

So as persuasion and ethics ended the day it became clear that being a credible communicator is the way forward. Showing expertise, trustworthiness and goodwill are all traits we should be demonstrating, everyday.

So as day three closed, the plans for the project start to take shape even more and it’s time to seriously hit the books and write this literature review!

Diary of a Diploma: Day two

We are now well underway with the Diploma and after day one on 2 February, we all had to read nine chapters from two different books. I am not sure how I would fit this in if I had to drive to work – the 40 minutes each way on the train is now my study time and allows we to get through a lot!

I’m really enjoying the reading as I’m starting to plan my strategy for 2014 and some of the themes we are reading about are very relevant to my organisation.

On day two, 23 February, we moved on to explore change communication, problem solving and our projects. We were joined by management consultant and author John Smythe, who took time out of his Saturday to talk to us about his theories and ideas on the role of communications and how things are changing.

One of the great things about the course is the face-to-face element. We are all in different places in our careers and all from different industries so it is great to spend time working things through together. We discuss, in depth, some of the models used for internal communication and on Saturday this was no exception. We spent time looking at Kotter’s model for change and explored how this differs to Wheatley’s and Herrero’s views, all underpinned by the fact that how we communicate is changing and the top-down model is no longer valid.

There were some great stats and thought provoking statements made during the day that really provided some food for thought:

  • 60% of management problems are due to faulty comms and 75% of change projects fail
  • Communication and engagement can be different roles in organisations. Engagement is not a role, it is a way of leading and managing
  • When looking at change we need to consider how we communicate it – not just the models that explore the steps to manage it but let’s explore the channels and message management
  • Authoritarian regimes, whether in countries or in organisations, are coming to an end
  • God Vs Guide. Our leaders should be on the dance floor with everyone else
  • Our communications strategy should support the what and the why coming from the top, but the how coming from the bottom

An afternoon of creative problem identification and problem solving was amazing. I have never done anything like this and it was a great technique I’ll be taking back to the office. In small groups we each stated our problem. One was chosen to explore. Through exploring the problem the group ask the problem owner a serious of questions about it and the responses can only be factual. After 5-10 minutes the group then re-write the problem based on their findings – it makes you understand what the problem really is before you start looking at solutions. I will definitely be using this when people come to me and ask for a poster or a leaflet to understand more about what they are looking for.

The day flew by and I now have about four ideas for my project! As this is the first time I have done anything like this I genuinely think I have caught the bug as I’m already thinking about what is next for my own development. Before I started this I would have budgeted to attend various conferences throughout the year and some of them are over £1,000 to attend for just two days. Next year I think I’ll spend this money on my own development. I am learning more from doing this over six months than attending any conference – something to think about when you come to setting your budgets next year?

Diary of a Diploma: Day one

On Saturday I attended the first day of my CIPR Inside Internal Communications Diploma. I was really looking forward to the day and it didn’t disappoint. We started with a fun ice breaker to get to know each other which was a great way to start the next 6 months. There were about 12 of us in the class and a real mix of experience and industry which should lead to some great discussions.

Getting the books for the course was a real bonus for me as these have been on my list to buy for some time. I have already started reading one of them as I have to read about 10 chapters before our next lesson on 23 February.

Our first session was looking at the evolution of internal communication. This was a great discussion and took themes from the CIPR Inside video issued earlier this year. One of the main things that came up was whether we had really moved on since the 1980s – any thoughts? We were joined by Paul Roberts from Ibis Communication who talked about measurement. It was great to see some insights into how measurement should be undertaken and has made me realise that this needs to be a focus in 2013/14.

There were 5 rules Paul shared with us:

  1. Only measure what you can influence
  2. Build quantitative and qualitative research into your measurement programme
  3. Measure at intervals that allow you enough time to change course
  4. With quantitative data, focus on top and bottom box scores when analysing results
  5. Approach your programme from the perspective of your audience

I don’t plan to share too much from the course as that wouldn’t be fair, but as the day went on and we each reviewed our own internal comms function measurement came out as the weakest part of our role.

We reviewed several different communications models, some I remember from my degree which was refreshing! It got my mind thinking about how we can apply some of these more traditional models to the role social media now plays on how we communicate.

Organisational behaviours and leadership also came into focus as we reviewed the role leaders play in culture and engagement. Kevin shared a great video that asked the question, who needs leaders?

Leaders have a huge role to play to make communication successful and we reviewed how informed employees felt much more engaged in the business. I did challenge some of the research as being informed doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Are you informed about news that is relevant to you? And how do you know how much has been shared to warrant feeling informed?

The reading has already got my brain buzzing and it was great to take some time to sit back and think theoretically about the work we do and how it is so intrinsically linked to culture and the organisation. Although it has only been one day it has given me a fresh perspective on my work and provided some great ideas to shape my strategy for the next year – roll on 23 February!

Mapping our careers is no easy task

Last week I co-hosted an event for CIPR Inside with Angela Gostling to discuss the career pathway model for internal communicators. There was representation from IOIC, Melcrum, in-house practitioners and recruitment agencies all interested in discussing how we can understand more about the skills needed to be an internal comms professional.

Our objectives were to:

  • Stimulate professionalism amongst practitioners
  • Help internal communications practitioners plot a career path to their ultimate career goal
  • Closer alignment to other professions – such as law, engineering, HR, marketing
  • Link to a CIPR-wide professional development project to create an online career planning model.

This set the scene for some conversations around competencies and skills, exploring what we do and how we do it. We explored how qualifications fit into the industry and had some debate around whether you can map the career model for internal comms in isolation.

What is interesting is that many people came into the profession through various roles. Some worked in journalism, others in the industry or the business and ‘fell’ into internal comms and some of us have been in comms since leaving university/college. But where does a qualification come into the career? And where is our industry? Is it even a profession yet?

I noted some key points made during the 90 minute conversation:

There are different levels of IC everywhere

Every company and industry is different. I heard once that for every 1,000 people in the organisation there should be 1 person in the internal comms team; by that logic I should have a team of 10! My biggest challenge in the industry is that it seems anyone can be given the task of internal comms. It can be someone who is experienced, with qualifications and internal comms knowledge or it can be an add-on role for a PA or HR professional. How can you map a career pathway when there is no fixed understanding of where and what internal comms really is. There are so many varying degrees of what the function does; some produce magazines or company wide emails and others are strategic partners to the business – the scales is huge.

We did agree that the business needs to take ownership of internal comms and at the same time we need to do what is expected, but also surprise our CEOs and stakeholders. We shouldn’t be asking what do you need, we should be finding out what their challenges are and then we can find the solution. I have said this before and will continue to say it; we need to be the experts in our field and own the communications.

Being the glue

We need to understand the business and how people are connected across it. We need to be able to speak in the language of our business, knowing what is important to different people and different departments. I was told just last week; “I need you to be the glue” and this is something we also discussed. It is our role to bring people together and make connections across the business. This became quite a passionate debate and something some felt should be a key focus for the career model of internal comms.

GP Vs Consultant

We referenced the T model during the presentation and had a great medical analogy from one of the delegates. He described the internal communicator as a GP and that sometimes the problem needs to be referred to a consultant or an expert. I loved this. The GP role seemed very close to reality and certainly in my role there is always a need to bring in the experts for projects that involve video or design work. So what would make up the skills of the consultants? And should every ‘GP’ have some understanding of these?

What we do and how we do it

We showed the chart below to the delegates and after some debate around what those skills and competencies are we also agreed that this list explains quite nicely what internal comms is all about:

What and how we do it

As always, a few statement takeaways

  • You cannot take IC expertise and apply it across all industries and business – it is not text book
  • Hybrid roles are needed more in current climate
  • Specialist roles are needed to manage change and transformation programmes at the moment
  • Leaders are not always where they are because they are good communicators
  • Balance between learning and application – you don’t always get the chance to manage a crisis even though you learn the text book approach

The debate and discussion continues so please take part!

Hitting the books again

This year I’m taking on a professional qualification and will be keeping track of my progress and journey on here…

I have a degree in Marketing so I have been keen to learn a bit more about the theory behind internal communications for a while. It’s a hard thing to choose as there is a lot on offer from various bodies covering so many topics.

I wanted something that wasn’t going to go on for months, that was recognised and that allowed me the freedom to manage my time with some classroom learning as well. I was also keen to make sure that I was mentally prepared for the time needed to do the course – it’s a big commitment after all!

When I joined the CIPR Inside committee I was torn between their course and another one – why did I choose this one? Honestly it was down to timing – a 6 months course that wasn’t going to break the bank. The other factor was the tutor. I have been working with Kevin Ruck for the past 8 months and his theoretical knowledge of the internal comms world has impressed me during that time. It was probably the deciding factor for me to do the course as I was totally out of my depth in a conversation where models and theorists were mentioned – I needed to get my head around all this!

I’m expecting to learn about models and theories that I can apply to my work. Theories that allow me to think more strategically and look at things away from the tunnel vision working inside an organisation can do. It’s been a long time since I was at uni so I’m quite looking forward to hitting the books again!

So I start on 2 February with the first lesson in London all day – I’m excited and almost itching to get started – I just need to make sure I keep myself disciplined and do the 8 hours a week I need to do!

I am studying the CIPR Internal Communications Diploma which is taught at PR Academy.