Why I will continue to support CIPR – if elected!

I have been part of the CIPR team for a number of years, supporting Council and the Inside group as they continue to strive for greatness in our profession. I believe in the power of communication and I believe in the integrity of PR.

I have worked in communication for over 10 years and have spent most of my career in-house. I have covered advertising, defence, retail and more recently pharmaceutical industries focussing on both internal and external communication. I believe the two are intrinsically linked but are fundamentally different. I see my role in CIPR as being a voice of the in-house comms professional – ensuring the professional development is right for everyone and that internal communications is recognised as a standalone communications skill.

I believe the members of CIPR deserve to be kept informed, updated and engaged in the work that we do and that they should be connected to each other in a way that fosters collaboration and development. As professionals it is our duty to make sure we are delivering world-class communications and PR for the organisations we serve and we can only do this through using the power of the network we have. As a collective group we will be able to raise the profile of communications and PR and what it can do for business, and we can raise the standards that we operate in. I want us to build a great and respected membership organisation that brings ethics, integrity, respect, diversity and engagement to the fore.

I want to continue to serve our members by sitting on Council, sitting on the Professional Development and Membership Committee (PDMC) and working with the Inside group so that I can be the bridge between those working in house and those setting the standards. I will listen, I will support and I will make the time to ensure that CIPR is serving all our members in what they need to become the best communications and PR professional they can be.

Horsing around

It’s week six in the new job and last week I spent the day taking part in an Equine Assisted Development day with my new colleagues to establish how we will work as a team. After years of attending workshops, development days and leadership coaching I would trade them all in for just one day like this – I had no expectations yet I left the day feeling slightly revolutionised.

Working with the horses as a tool to help us identify where we fit in the team, how we manage people, influence others and support each other is simply genius. But why should you do it?

You will learn more about your colleagues than you expect
How we behave with the horses and in front of each other in a situation like this is very telling. People I had interpreted as very confident showed signs of fear and anxiety and for others who are often quiet and shy their true determination to overcome obstacles shone through. Watching each other, understanding body language and how it affects the horses is a great way to draw parallels for your work life.
I found out where I fit
Being an ESTJ I know most people see me as the life and soul of a team and I have often thought of myself as someone who is very happy to lead people. What I learnt from the session was that I actually prefer being at the back of pack, keeping everyone together and supporting the leader who is out front. Understanding the herd mentality and linking that to the team – working with the horses as that team, in the physical place that you fit, demonstrated the importance of working together, communicating and for me, knowing that it didn’t matter who was in what role – what is important is that all the roles are taking an active part.
Understanding the important of your behaviours
It’s very easy to think about your own world when going through change. Change effects everyone differently but when you’re leading a team of people or in a position of leadership you need to consider how your behaviour impacts them. Working with the horses as a team and then changing formation you’re incredibly aware how sudden changes make an impact and how you need to work together as a team to make that change smooth.
The importance of personality
Working with two horses who had very different personalities meant we were able to really understand how you have to adapt your behaviour to get the right results. This isn’t anything new but actually seeing it, watching your colleagues influencing through body language alone, gives you more depth to what is often a very throw away comment. Understanding personality delved into trust, pace and confidence more than I could have imagined.
The physicality of seeing the impact of body language and learning from your colleagues while unearthing some real insight into how we individually work is invaluable. Some people might be sceptical about the parallels you can draw from such an experience but take the leap, go out of your comfort zone to find out more about yourself, but also to benefit those around you.
If you want to find out more just get in touch or you can speak to Charlotte Dennis

Time to choose salad instead of a pie

Attending the Edelman trust research breakfast launch earlier this week got me thinking. Trust in organisations and leadership is something I feel incredibly passionate about. This is in part because it is something we all have the power to change and while it isn’t simple, it should not be difficult to be open and honest with employees. 

There was nothing that shocked me in the research. It was just sad.

Less than half of front line employees trust the leadership. And only 57% of all employees in the UK trust their organisation. Why is it all so broken? 

The bit that made me the saddest was the gap between thinking it is important and actually doing it. I asked the question of why and we don’t really have an answer; on average there is a 20% difference between people thinking we should do it and actually doing it. On the way back to the office this went round and round in my head as I just couldn’t understand it… But putting it in a context we can all relate to I wondered if it was like having the intention of ordering salad but actually having a pie. We all know how important it is to exercise and eat right but how many of us do it? Which then leads me to think about the deeper psychology of human behaviour and why we do what we do and in many cases don’t do what we should. 

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It’s unsurprising that societal issues have moved up the agenda and the talk about financial results has moved down. I think we all know that the business needs to make money and we need to keep costs low to achieve that, but if that is your only message to employees I don’t think they will remain inspired for very long. 

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Someone at the event asked the question of whether there is a difference between listed and private companies. This is something I would love to see, because I still think that until shareholders and the city hold CEOs to account on how they engage with the workforce and they appreciate the impact it has on the bottom line we are still climbing a very steep hill. 

While it may sound I left feeling deflated I actually left with some comfort in the knowledge that data is supporting opinion. Knowing that there are organisations that are putting this on their agenda and making sure we do something to restore faith in the organisations we work for or we buy from. 

I’m now off to order a salad and run round the block…. 

Align, drive or engage – can all three come together?

Everything I am reading about what 2016 will bring to internal communications is about employee engagement. And at a time when I’m putting pen to paper on my own communications strategy it got me thinking about what it does in my organisation – and I’m not sure employee engagement is on the list. Writing that down/saying it out loud has been filling me with guilt about whether I’m doing something wrong, or whether the function is not doing what it should. So I took to Twitter with the thought “Is internal communications just about employee engagement?”… And I’m not alone.

In the past week I have had various conversations about internal communication. Some outside my organisation where they have talked about how good an organisation can be on alignment of message rather than engagement and another internal discussion was all about how we drive the message through the business.

Neither talk about doing this in a way that is engaging. So when I read all these articles about engagement being the main focus for 2016 I’m not surprised, but I’m also not sure where it really fits.

I have been in an organisation on a cultural journey. And at the moment all we want to do is get the message out through the business and get everyone on the same page. This isn’t about engaging them in the strategy, it’s about getting some basics right to help us achieve the strategy. And getting them engaged in it, for some, is not my job, but the job of the line manager and the leadership. My job is to show them the right channels to deliver the message to see success. And success, is a change in a behaviour.

So can you change behaviour through internal communication without considering engagement? Is an alignment to the strategy considered engagement? Only time will tell.

Is employee engagement the only thing internal communication should focus on? If you work in my team the answer is no.

What makes up your job?

At the summer drinks for CIPR Inside last week I had some great conversations with some old faces and some new.

For a while now I’ve been thinking about the balance of work/life and also what makes up the job you do. More and more I hear people talk about their lack of time to do anything and when our focus is on CPD it’s easy for this to fall off the list at work.

So after some discussions on Wednesday, it got me thinking – what makes up a normal day at work? And why do people keep saying they don’t have time to do the things that are part of their job?

I’ve wasted a day in meetings

Part of your job is having meetings. We need them to discuss how to move things forward, to discuss issues we are having and to make decisions with stakeholders included. It is not a waste of time as without them, we wouldn’t be able to do our job. Now I know sometimes there are meetings that do seem a little pointless which is why for every meeting I have I make sure I know why I’m invited, what the objective is and what outcome the organiser is looking for.

I don’t have time to spend in the business

Part of the job of an internal communicator is keeping the bridge between the centre and field. If you spend all your time in the centre, you can lose touch with the business. The senior leadership teams often look to you to be the person in the know so you have to make sure this is part of your job. Spending a day in the field is invaluable. It can help you solve problems you might be having or clarify the issues you think are out there.

I don’t have the time to attend that course/webinar/conference

You do. If you really valued your own development you would make time. It’s really that simple. I can be guilty of missing out on development when it is a free to attend event or webinar but the truth is, I can make the time to go. Whenever I go to a conference it gives me amazing clarity and focus on my role. Taking that step away from the business you work in all the time is a great way to look at the issues differently and give you ideas to take forward. You need to make sure you are developing your skills so that you are able to give your employer the best ideas, service and value for money possible.

Time is precious but the responsibility for your time rests with you. Your job is not just about sitting at your desk and responding to emails – it is so much more than that…..

Collaboration, data and how being vague is a great way to start!

Yesterday I had the honour of presenting at the IBM Smarter Workforce Summit (#swf2015) at the Kia Oval in London. Sadly I missed the morning but as I popped in to talk to them about the journey of collaboration I have been on for the past few years it was clear the day had been good.

A very engaged audience welcomed me to the event and so began a frank and open discussion about delivering collaboration channels and how engaging the workforce in them is tough.

What followed my session blew me away. Professor Brian Cox took to the stage to discuss the theory of the universe and everything we understand about our existence – not too heavy for 4pm on a Thursday!

His ability to translate seriously complex data into things we could understand is amazing. I have never felt more like Penny in Big Bang theory but I was starting to understand more than I ever thought I would.

While he covered a vast amount of theory there were two things I really took away that I could relate to the day job:

Data vs opinion
Everything he talked about was backed up by data; data to prove or disprove a theory. It made me realise just how much we accept opinion in the world of communication.

Employee engagement and the correlation to productivity is proven in data. Yet if the opinion of leadership is the opposite we just back down. How can we overcome this huddle when opinion is overruling what the facts are telling us? What do we need to do differently to get engagement on the agenda of the board?

Vague but interesting
This was the comment from Tim Berners-Lee’s manager on his first paper about information and the theory of the World Wide Web. I’m pretty sure this is how my manager thinks about some of the stuff I come up with, and no I’m not comparing my ideas to the introduction of the World Wide Web, but it makes you think about how we approach change.

The concept and theory about what you are trying to do can be vague. We then have to go and find out a way to prove we can do it or that it needs to be done. It doesn’t matter where it starts… Vague but interesting is a great foundation.

For me, attending events like this not only helps to contribute to your CPD but they also gives you that head space away from the day job which we all need.

I’m about to take three weeks off to get married and have my honeymoon and my brain has been horribly full of everything I need to do before I go. Now, with some space yesterday I’m clearer about what I need to get done before I go and I have some great ideas about how I want to influence our strategy going forwards.

I got all of that in 2 hours so I can’t even imagine what other delegates took away from being there all day!

Are internal communications functions influencing technology?

I haven’t blogged for a while and it’s for a few reasons…

  1. I have done a few on LinkedIn to test out that platform – I quite liked it but I think i prefer my own space. I have just published a blog from September here
  2. I have a new role and was struggling with having an opinion with this blog while my role is more external comms
  3. It’s been a while since something has inspired me to write… Until last week.

When it comes to internal social media we turn to technology experts to help us meet the needs of our business. But just last week, in a discussion with our technology partners, I realised that the people designing these tools don’t necessarily have the experience of working in internal comms for a big organisation and therefore don’t build it with all the functionality we need.

The example here was about files stored on the online platform. These files are owned by one person and can only ever be owned by one person. When they leave, they still own the file, their name is just greyed out with ‘inactive’ written next to it. Can this be changed? No. Why not? Because the legacy of that person should remain visible. Sure, that’s exactly what I need, a load of inactive people owning content all over the site. So when someone needs that document or has a query and they comment on it, that comment isn’t highlighted to anyone, and if someone else replaces that person they will never own that file, they can upload a new version but the owner will always be the inactive one. How demotivatong to see all these inactive people that inevitably you come across when a system has been in place for over 4 years.

Quite honestly I think this is a bit rubbish and it made me think that these people, designing these platforms don’t seem to consider the real businesses they are going into, nor do they think about the internal comms function.

This could just be an issue on the tool we have but as it is built by a huge global technology company I hope that others have the same issue so I know I’m not alone!