Smile London – let’s stop feeling bad about our internal social media

Today I attended my second, albeit not consecutively, simply communicate SMiLE event in London. The format was much the same as before but my reasons for attending very different. Now four months into the new role I need to learn more about Office 365 so I was on the hunt to learn more.

There were some great sessions throughout the day that prompted some food for thought and some great research shared from both Lecko and People Lab about using Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) inside our businesses. Thank you to Wedge for the table session on news and the intranet – the most valuable part of my day.

The biggest thing I left with today was a sense of the need to stop. There are new tools entering this marketplace every year, if not every month. The current new tool is Facebook Workplace and while it was great to hear more about it – I’m already on my journey with Microsoft so for me, the session was interesting but not practical for application. And now I feel bad. Now I feel like I am letting my business down by not having the latest and greatest tool out there – and this isn’t the case.

With the constant new tools entering the space we are bombarded with messages about why one is better than the other and how you should have this or that technology because it is more in line with how we communicate today – but the truth is, it is a big investment. It is a big investment of time and money to launch and community manage an ESN. The companies that built them years ago – IBM, Microsoft – are constantly evolving them and if we have bought them, we need to nurture that relationship and learn together to adapt to how people change in the way they communicate.

Throwing out one tool for another won’t solve our problems. Yes we probably need to be quicker at adapting to change and integrating these platforms with others, and we also need to make sure our comms teams have the skills to evolve with the needs of the people and the functionality the tools can bring. But we can do all this if we work together.

I had some brilliant conversations today, learnt a vast amount about what I need to do for success in my organisation and got myself back into reality in knowing that I’m on the right track. But my ask for the future of any event about social media inside organisations is this:

  • Tell us how others have adapted and grown something they invested in years ago
  • Tell us how the strategy for collaboration has been a long-term wow – to quote intranetizen – and not a big bang launch
  • Understand where the audience is on the journey – some having nothing and others have had office 365 for the last few years and need to improve it
  • Tell us how to drive adoption, measure success and work with what we have to make it amazing

Everyone’s journey is different but we are all on one. I don’t want to feel like I’m behind the curve because I don’t have the latest and greatest – I want to feel proud of the tool I have, how it has grown, developed and adapted to the needs of my internal customers and I want my peers to celebrate (and when needed commiserate) with me. There was an audible laugh in the room when IBM Connections came up – I wonder how many people in the room have ever used it or know that it has been voted the number 1 platform for 5 years, ahead of SharePoint, for functionality. I know because I used it for years and while adoption remains a challenge – when people can see what it can do, they are blown away.

Let’s stop being trendy and get back to being functional – helping our colleagues collaborate and our businesses be more efficient – that is, after all, the goal (for me anyway).

PR and Internal Comms; the debate goes on…

At yesterday’s PR Academy summer drinks, CIPR president elect Stephen Waddington took to the stage to talk about social, digital and all things comms.

Unsurprisingly the debate about whether PR and Internal Comms are the same thing came up again. This debate has been running for a long time and as the lines between the two continue to blur it is no surprise it is a question that is being asked more at the moment.

Editorial management, listening and stakeholder understanding are all things that give PR a USP, according to the discussions last night. And I would have to say that I think is exactly what internal comms is about as well.

Our biggest issue with this debate is that the role of internal communications is so varied across industries and countries that it is impossible to compare the two. PR has a much longer history and therefore has evolved further… Until we can operate to the same level across more companies we will never be able to confirm or deny if it is the same.

Should it be more joined up? Absolutely! More so now than ever before. As social becomes more embedded in our culture people publicly talk about their company and what is happening, they are more informed and informed quicker than ever before. Just last week colleagues, including me, found out about a big change in senior leadership through the press! So let’s be more joined up but let’s also respect each others disciplines.

The essence of what we do is the same and the skills required to do the jobs are also very similar. But I am here to take everyone on the same journey. To make sure that people understand why we do what we do and help them be part of it.

I have always believed we communicate to inform and/or to change behaviour and this probably is the same for PR. I don’t think one is more important than the other but the subtle differences in audience needs and business objectives has to be respected on both sides… Internal Comms should not be the poor relation to PR nor should it be seen as not as important… All stakeholders require our attention, and those working to put money in the till and drive growth deserve the same, if not more attention than those people you want to sell too.

The future is now


Today, comms agency theblueballroom hosted their first Future Story event at RADA in London. Over 40 professionals linked to the comms world came together to hear about what the future holds for us and our businesses. The keynote of the day was Olivia Solon from Wired magazine who talked about four challenges/issues:

  • Personalisation and customisation

Hyper personalisation is not only applicable to the digital space. More and more companies are looking at ways to personalise your experience and your product. Examples from Heinz about creating your own soup label and fashion label Trikoton making clothing linked to voice patterns. The one thing to make sure is that the personalisation is not creepy and doesn’t go too far.

  • Transparency

Companies should have nothing to find. With the increasing desire to bring CSR to the table we need to make sure that our house is in order before we talk about it publicly. CSR allows you to align purpose and profit and be honest about what you’re fixing and managing. Some great examples about how brands engage in the online space being honest and transparent (O2 and Patagonia were some examples)

  • Privacy

Surveillance and privacy go hand in hand. Some interesting insight into some of those big games companies and how they wanted to use their tech that allows you to be in the game, for bringing you into the adverts. Creepy.

  • Automation

Talk of bots, software that can take data heavy information and turn it into copy, and how we can no longer tell the difference between reality and automation. Make sure you’re adding value beyond what a computer can do but also take note of how some of this stuff can really help our jobs.

There were three sessions in the afternoon and I went along to Euan Semple’s session on relationships in a connected world. Euan chose to run his whole 90 minute session through each person introducing themselves and talking about how they use social tools in business and in their personal lives. What we were part of, was an organic discussion about social that was aided by a facilitator who could add more insight than anyone I know….

  • We are in danger of turning social media into an initiative – we are professionalising it which we shouldn’t be doing
  • There were a lot of people in the room who ‘lurk’ on Twitter – Lurking is a long and honorable tradition!
  • Organisations are lunging at social media. It is like watching your dad dancing; you’re proud of him for trying but wish he would stop
  • Social media is one person at a time and it is for their reasons, not yours
  • As comms professionals we are still very focused on our leaders blogging – does it really matter? Why are we clinging onto the guy at the top that knows everything. He doesn’t exist and hasn’t for a long time
  • We lack patience for these tools to deliver
  • Transparency of the organisation has to link to transparency of the individual
  • BYOD: If your organisation wants to get on my phone as an internal comms tool it needs to behave itself
  • Measuring social media? How do you measure good conversations with interesting people?
  • The internet is like talking to yourself but better. It is like walking side by side with someone rather than across a boardroom table
  • Be visible, accountable and trustworthy
  • We have stopped being curious. The web is about learning and we need to remember that there is so much out there for us to find out
  • Social media works through a basic desire to be part of something. Through the need to be liked
  • Adoption is not about age or gender. It is about outlook.
  • The internet is just a thing. If you don’t like what you do with it that is more of a reflection on you as a person than the internet

While I didn’t take away any practical stuff for the day job, the event gave me time to think and reflect on some of those challenges we face every day. It gave me the chance to meet some people I have only ever met on Twitter and for once, I feel like I attended an event that really looked into the future!

#thefuturestory