development

No such thing as BAU: how can internal communication professionals manage in changing times?

Earlier this year I was working with a Head of Communications in a government agency that has undergone significant structural transformation and operational change over the past two years.

She was working on deepening the engagement between leaders and employees in different areas and had asked for some advice on how to ensure communication was flowing two ways. I asked, “What business as usual channels do you rely on today?”

“We don’t use the term BAU any longer. Transformation is going to continue. Change is business as usual and we now adopt a continuous improvement approach” she said.

It was a moment of absolute clarity for me. How many of us think of ‘BAU’ communication as distinct from the projects and initiatives that come through the door, or into the inbox.

BAU is dead. What now?

As part of the IC Kollectif IC In 2017 Project, I had some thoughts at the start of the year about how communicators can work with other areas to learn, innovate and adapt. But this realisation, half way through the year, made me consider what communicators can do in times of perpetual change, not just to service their organisations, but to ready themselves for ‘no more BAU’.

Read my full response on the IC Kollectif IC In 2017 Project.

  • Strength in shared practices. Continue to talk about what works, not just with other communicators, but across disciplines. Ask the questions like “why did this work in this environment?” But don’t just ask communicators. Ask marketers, change managers, leaders and innovators.
  • Invest in development. Don’t wait for your company to value you. Skill up, both communication skills and non-traditional skills: design thinking, user experience and business acumen.
  • Change what you can. Look for the opportunities to add the value that our profession can deliver. Be brave.  
  • “It’s not me, it’s you.” Know when to stop pushing the rock uphill. There are amazing organisations that foster and grow innovation. If yours is not one of them, find one that is.
  • Keep the faith. As a communicator, a great day at the office or in the field is a humbling thing. Bank those experiences as a reminder of why great internal communication matters.

 

 

What does a great day in the office or the field look like?

When did your communication activity lead to an outcome that furthered the organisation, the employees and the leaders? Creating connection, improving performance, perhaps just a moment of insight quoted back to you. Share what your ‘great day in the office’ looks like below.

A Time Of Transition

A crisis of trust threatens innovation

Edelman have released the 2015 Trust Barometer, subtitled Trust and Innovation.

One of the most significant long-term research projects for communication is the annual Edelman Trust survey. Its past findings have had profound influences on the way organisations communicate:

  • the rise of peer-based communication based on declining trust in institutions
  • changes to native advertising and trusted storytellers
  • the decline of the authority of government as a voice
  • the failure of leadership in building and maintaining trust

The theme of the 2015 study is Trust and Innovation, drawing the links between current levels of trust, rapid change, and the challenges presented by low trust and rapid innovation.

Edelman’s Ben Boyd says of this:

We live in an era where trust must be earned and not managed, where the microscope for transparency is constant and where business must listen and measure the interactions, intentions and sentiments of shareholders. At the same time, the need and capacity for innovation that solves and disrupts has never been greater.

Some standout messages from this year include:

  • An expert and person like you is now twice as credible as the CEO
  • 51% believe the pace of business innovation is too fast
  • innovation is perceived as being driven by technology and greed, but not by improvement to people’s lives of improving the world
  • higher trust creates the opportunity for faster innovation
  • engagement and integrity are areas for focus to increase trust in business

Read more about the trust survey at the Edelman Trust information centre.

The changing world of change communication

Communication professionals are in the business of change. We design campaigns to understand perceptions and attitudes. At our best, we can contribute to shifting understanding, increasing awareness and influencing intentions.

Intent is key for internal communication. We communicate to create change.

Intent is key for internal communication. We communicate to create change.

And yet, when it comes to the processes of managing change within organisations, the world of communication and the world of change can seem like different planets.

Short-term versus long term

PR – particularly when not in-house- is frequently a short-cycle activity. Communicators get in, understand a problem, an issue or a stance, manage our campaign, and then get out again.

Three years ago, I was facilitating a discussion with communication professionals about the differences between internal communication and external communication, and why specialists in the two fields don’t always see eye to eye. One very experienced practioner summed up the challenge well. At the risk of making broad generalisations, he indicated that external comms practitioners are adept at short cycle communication, deep diving into an issue as required, working with the news cycle and then moving on to the next issue. By contrast, he felt that internal communicators may be used to longer time scales for achieving changes in culture or engagement, looking holistically at the interdependencies and ongoing employee experience.

Historically that may have been correct, but communicators need to be agile when communicating change internally and externally. This means being adaptable and responsive to circumstances that may be constantly evolving. It requires communicators to be active agents of change.

Change agents and Change Agents

Organisational development and transformational change, process change, operational change management: each are different varieties of change that rely on different communication methods and approaches.

There is more to managing (most types of) change than communication alone. Understanding the key steps in the change management process, the different types of organisational change, and the key roles for leadership, communication, training and even HR, helps create the partnerships that lead to effective change.

We explored these ideas and more in the  PRIA webinar, The Business of Change, The Art of Communication on 14 November. PRIA members will ion be able to access the webinar recording, and the slideshare is available.

In the session, we defined and aligned approaches to change communication for in-house practitioners working on major projects, PR and comms professionals who are part of an agency response to change, or even managing changes in your own business.

What leaders should expect from their communication counsel

As a leader, what should you expect from a communication strategist?

What a great question, and the subject of a recent post on the LinkedIn CommsScrum Group (requires membership). Having worked with C-suite, executive and Board-level leaders across a range of industries, here are some things I think leaders should expect from their comms strategists.

They will treat you as a person. Trust is a process of reciprocity, but it pays dividends. Experienced comms strategists will understand that leaders are human. They will recognise that in business, an executive can seldom get to where they are without some communication strengths, but that their current positions may mean that constructive feedback about areas for improvement isn’t always forthcoming. A good strategist will seek to understand the executive’s business goals and personal context in order to develop programs that help to achieve both.

They will listen. And they might ask more questions than you may be used to from anyone except the CEO or Board. As an executive, you have so many aspects of the business in your head that making connections, judgements and evaluations about your operation is instinctive. Experienced comms strategists will seek to understand your business priorites from your perspective. And in the process, they will (depending on their approach) seek to understand the ‘why’ before helping you with the ‘what’.

They will build on your strengths. An experienced communication strategist understands that protecting the authentic strengths of a leader is a key priority. They will take time to understand what you are best at. This isn’t the same as never asking you to do something you aren’t comfortable with; strengths are sometimes underplayed.

They will talk to you about the business, not just about communication. Experienced comms strategists are business people using communication as a driver for business results. They will ask about goals, about performance, about metrics, about culture, about competition, about risks and issues. And then they will start talking about communication. If they jump straight to the comms stuff, beware.

With that in mind:

  • Be clear about your expectations and in describing what a successful engagement will look like from your perspective.
  • Be open to professional counsel with a view to building trust.
  • Be prepared to contribute time, opinions and knowledge in the development of strategy.

 

Not the zombie apocalypse

Preparing to work with a communication advisor doesn’t need to be scary

Social Media Club Fail and the perils of scheduled tweets #SMClub

Update: Following the publication of my article, there was formal contact from Social Media Club apologising for the post and acknowledging that appropriate action would be taken, and the original post by Audrey Rochas has been removed from their site

12 hours after the original contact, Social Media Club have apologised and removed the original post by Audrey Rochas

12 hours after the original contact, Social Media Club have apologised and removed the original post by Audrey Rochas

 

Earlier today, the scheduled tweets of the Social Media Club, a loosely organised social media promotion organisation, posted the following tweet:

The offending tweet from @socialmediaclub

The offending tweet from @socialmediaclub

As a communicator, I am interested in community management, effective use of social tools such as Twitter to build awareness and drive engagement.

As a human, I am also interested in social good, including mental health. I have family members who have experienced a range of long and short term mental illnesses, have lost extended family and friends to suicide and my partner works in mental health education. It’s kind of a vested interest, and as such I care about representations of mental illness online, in the arts and in the workplace.

So my ire was already rising when I clicked through to the article, which perpetuates the ‘mutiple personality’ myth of schizophenia throughout. Most offensive however, was the accompanying image of the ‘angel and demon’.

The offending imagery attached to Social Media Club post

The offending imagery attached to Social Media Club post

There is a long history of equating mad with bad, which goes a long way to contributing to the lack of awareness of mental illness, the perpetuation of outdated knowledge and stereotypes.

Am I overreacting? Considering Social Media Club positions itself as an organisation that promotes good online practices, and has over 150,000 followers on Twitter, and 42000 likes on Facebook, it has a substantial potential reach. As people working in communication, marketing and social media, there is a responsibility to perpetuate constructive and factual information.

If there was an editorial process for inclusion of material on the blog, it has clearly failed to pick up the tone and issues relating to the post.

Comparing to 'normal' people is only one of many issues with this post.

Comparing to ‘normal’ people is only one of many issues with this post.

 

If substantially more established communication organisations like Edelman can make errors of judgement when it comes to discussing mental illness and mental health online, it is understandable that a content engine like Social Media Club is going to struggle from time to time.

Particularly frustrating is the Social Media Club’s inability or choice not to respond effectively to the criticism. As their twitter account clearly consists of scheduled tweets, with no editorial owner, the inappropriate link is being repeatedly tweeted with slightly amended wording at regular intervals. (An earlier tip from #SMClub points out that twitter is cracking down on identically worded scheduled tweets, so they are at least following practice here.) Despite multiple attempts to contact members via twitter, the link keeps coming…

Scheduled tweets mean an inability to rectify a problem

Scheduled tweets mean an inability to rectify a problem

 

Resources for mental health awareness

For information on effective social media practices relating to mental health and mental illness, here are a range of resources that will help social media professionals and community managers.

Useful Twitter Tags for mental health resources online

http://reports.youngandwellcrc.org.au/a-better-practice-guide-for-services/appendix/twitter-mental-health-hashtags/

Mindframe Media

An Australian initiative to support positive communication of mental health and illness in media, the arts and online.

http://www.himh.org.au/home/our-programs/community-media-and-arts-program/social-media-and-suicide-prevention

US National Institute of Mental Health

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/index.shtml

Mind Charity UK

http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/minds-media-office/

Sane Australia (including Stigma Watch)

http://www.sane.org/stigmawatch

This is only a small selection; there are extensive resources available.

Watching this space…

Is my response disproportionate? Perhaps. But this is an opportunity for Social Media Club to demonstrate their degree of thought leadership and practical steps to rectifying issues online when they occur.

What an ironic place the social web can be. Only a few tweets further up their timeline is a post on managing a social media crisis. If expertise is demonstrated by actions rather than rhetoric, it will be interesting to see how Social Media Club addresses this issue.

If you are a member of Social Media Club, I encourage you to contact them through your chapter to raise awareness of this issue.

The contact details for the Board and Volunteers are here:

http://socialmediaclub.org/contact-us

Postscript: As of the time of posting, the offending site appears to be down.

 

We're not in right now...

We’re not in right now…

Insights from Strategic Communication Summit part 2

[View the story “#scmsyd #internalcomms top tweets part 2” on Storify]

Insights from Strategic Communication Management Summit part 1 #scmsyd

[View the story “#scmsyd #internalcomms top tweets Part 1” on Storify]

Communication feast during October and November

[View the story “Communication events roundup – October and November” on Storify]

PR versus HR is the path to extinction

End of TImes Copyright Jon Kudelka

"Evolution is essential". Image copyright Jon Kudelka

I received this tweet today from Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications:

HR Isn’t Dead. It’s Called PR | Blogging4Jobs http://bit.ly/dkVP8c

The headline is deliberately controversial. I read on. The link is to an article by Jessica Miller-Merrel, in which she clearly outlines the way in which different functions contribute to the reputation and communication context of organisations. However, there is much in the article to fuel the mutual mistrust between these areas. And that has to stop. Thanks to Jessica for a good article, even if a little sensationalist in tone. I hope it is the last.

Here’s why.

(An open letter to HR, PR, Organisational Communication, Organisational Development, Internal Communication, Marketing, Change Management and all other professional groups who contribute to achieving better business results. That goes for you too, IT.)

There is so much hand-wring, introspection, flinging of grenades across the invisible walls (or actual cubicles) in companies. This spills over to the blogosphere. Most of the thousands of ‘hammer HR’ or “pound PR” posts seem to originate from people who have had a bad experience within an organisation, but have been unable to effect change. And, let’s be honest. While that happens sometimes, there is a better way.

When we continue the discourse from these deeply entrenched partisan positions, we weaken the position of all the participants. We perpetuate the stereotypical responses of the past:

* HR people can’t write
* PR just spin things
* IT cost us too much
* OD think this is a cult.

The issues behind these jabs are often real. For example:

* [Insert function] people fail to unable to develop professional partnerships effectively with internal stakeholders.
* PR people unable to develop whole-system thinking, based the myth that they can ‘control the message’.
* OD/Change commence a change that is unsustainable or has insufficient sponsorship to stick, subjecting employees to unfair uncertainty.
* HR people unable to quantify their deliverables in language that speaks to the business.
* The IT solutions blow out in terms of time or budget.

However, these localised shortcomings must be overcome in order for all these contributors to bring their specific body of knowledge, perspectives and solutions to the business. Great results occur when:

* HR attracts, develop and keeps the right people
* HR manages workforce risk effectively
* Internal Communication connects people to the brand and the strategy
* PR promotes the organisation holistically
* Marketing reflects and draws on the workforce in an authentic way
* IT deliver smart fit for purpose solutions

Before perpetuating the divide consider these ideas.

If the energy that was spent on sustaining energy and battle around these self-created issues was spent on improving the business, imagine the value that could be created within organisations.

Spend the time that it takes to read a post critical of another professional discipline on reading one about a business that has developed an innovation program without boundaries, or the business value of collaboration.

Spend the time it takes to write a sh*t-mail to your colleagues ‘over the wall’ to rethink perspectives. What can you do to align perspectives?

At its worst, the tension between these functions is neanderthal stone throwing. Territoriality and an inability to adapt will be the death of any professional species that is unable to continue to transform: to integrate, collaborate and create new value in business.

This is the time to evolve into a hybrid species: professional disciplines that can work across boundaries, can focus on the larger goal, who find new ways of creating value (outcomes) together for the benefit of the organisation.

Are you choosing evolution or extinction?

I have a lot of time for Ragan’s range of communication publications. I have picked up a lot of tips over years of subscription (anyone else remember the mustard colour weekly paper mailout?) and I’m sure Mark intended generating a great discussion with this tweet.

Stepping into the conversation

One of the benefits of not being a bleeding edge early adopter is that there is much wisdom and experience to be drawn from the pioneers who have learned the hard way. It is the equivalent of being at a busy intersection and choosing the right time to merge. There will never be a complete break in the traffic, but at least you know what you are joining.

Experienced tweeps are going to find this post a case of stating a range of obvious observations, so apologies to you in advance. You are the people I am learning from, so thank you. However, I know a number of communicators who think they may need to do more to understand these channels but are not quite sure of how to step in. For you, here are some of my early observations.

Working within an organisation, I had been a passive observer of twitter for over two years, had researched best use and had even been involved in the formulation of social media policies. I had been waiting on the kerb.

It was not until the 2010 Federal Election that I found my stride, began exploring applications such as hootsuite and tweetdeck, learned some of the etiquette of hashtags, and how to create lists to wrangle the growing sources of information and ideas. In trying out these tools, I am finding that my twitter use has grown in recent weeks. 

I have been watching behaviour. One of my main interests during the election was the degree to which these tools were being used authentically, only to observe the range of pollies who jumped in, uncomfortable and managed. There seem to be an equal number of businesses who have a twitter account but clearly don’t know why (“everybody else was crossing…”)


Over the past few months there have also been some notable public train wrecks and PR disasters amongst journos, sports stars and others who have struggled with the public/private nature of the medium, and with businesses who have applied the communication practices of the past to the new world and damaged their credibility in the process.  

I have also begun to see how many NGO and other dot orgs are using these tools to enlist, engage, enrage and encourage. Then there are the companies who have already ‘got it’, who are intelligently conducting business with their customers by being in the dialogue in an authentic way.

As illustrated at the Media140 conference last week (#media140) (and in today’s twitstorm arising from the outing of an anonymous blogger by the News Ltd paper the Australian #groggate), the acceptable norms of behaviour are still being defined in this medium.

Within the communication industry, there has been a substantial growth in the range of eduction, consulting, and ‘expertise’. There are many good resources and these are questions that professional communicators are taking seriously. (I follow many of these in my range of lists). There are others who don’t know whether to join the traffic or not.

For me, twitter is an opportunity to get prompted about a diverse range of ideas, sources and interests. I hope to take the lessons of those who have become expert at sharing information that is useful with their communities, to be succinct and relevant, to occasionally be a little irreverent. I hope to join conversations and start discussion. I have decided on a strategy. 

I’m stepping in.