Top tips for newbie comms people!

We’ve all been there in our comms careers when we’re just starting out and we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed struggling to figure out where to begin.  Over the years I’ve given quite a bit of advice and shared some top tips with comms newbies on things they can do to give their CV a bit more of an edge. I thought it might be useful to share them via this blog –  I hope they help in some way:

Volunteer

This is always a bit contentious as I know there are some organisations who can take the mick a little bit by abusing your skill and demanding a lot for no pay. But if your CV is looking a bit light in terms of real life experience then I highly recommend that you do some volunteering work to get you going. I’m not saying you need to give up lots of time for free but even if you do one day a month, that will help boost your CV.

There are plenty of different ways you could volunteer your time, I personally prefer helping out charities who are seeking some short-term help. The best website I’ve come across is https://mediatrust.org/ – they post regular job posts from various charities looking for support from people who have comms/media knowledge.

Join a professional body

I know there are some people who are completely against joining a professional body but it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my career (see video below about my CIPR membership)

Whether it’s CIPR, PRCA, IABC, IOIC – or any other four letter acronym body ;-), just as long it works for you and your career path.

A professional body membership will also support you in your Continuing Professional Development (CPD), something you need to maintain if you want to keep growing as a professional. It’s important you don’t look at it as an expense but more of an investment in you.

CV checker

I’d definitely recommend you get your CV looked at by someone who works in the role you want to do or the business you want to join. They will be able to give you some top tips and guidance on the skills that are missing. It may be awkward at first in approaching someone but if you don’t ask you won’t get. Just make sure you’re polite with your request and don’t bombard them for help.

Think about your online brand

A few of my friends work in the recruitment field and they are always sharing stories at the rookie errors some people still make with their online platforms. So, make sure your profile on your platforms are up-to-date and your spelling/grammar are on point. Think about your profile photo, a photo of you downing shots at your mates party and looking like you couldn’t string a sentence together doesn’t give the best impression of you.

It’s also worth double-checking your security settings on the profiles you prefer not to give public access to. You’d be surprised at the things that can be found by a quick google search. Even though most people are quite savvy these days I’m still surprised at some email addresses that I’ve come across, I would strongly suggest you change it to your name if you’re going to be sharing it with recruiters, having something like sexybeast32@hotmail.co.uk, may raise a few laughs but it may hinder your chances in getting an interview.

Get yourself a blog

Blogging is a great way to share your knowledge and showcase a bit more about who you are plus it’ll also allow you to practice your writing skills. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking posting your first blog but once you’ve taken that leap the rest will be easy!

Network!

Get to as many networking events as you can – I can’t stress this enough. Each professional body tends to have them and you don’t always have to be a member to attend (NB: IoIC have recently launched FutureNet, a network dedicated to new and upcoming comms professionals).

However, if you can’t get to the events or find them a bit expensive then seek out social media comms conversations that take place regularly, it’s a great environment to raise your profile and showcase your knowledge, my favourite ones are:

  • #CommsChat on Monday 8pm
  • #PowerandInfluence Wednesday 8pm
  • #CommChat Wednesday 9am (Pacific Time)
  • #ICBookClub first Tuesday every other month at 8pm (3 July for the next one)

The fabulous Arianne Williams has done a comprehensive list here that you can check out for more online chats: http://arianneonline.com/2018/06/18/social-media-chats-pr/

Be the change you want to be

If you can’t find an event to suit you then there is nothing stopping you in pulling together your own networking event. Drop a note to a few local people and see if they would like to connect over a coffee and chat comms. You’ll be amazed on who can meet and the connections you can make.

Let me know if you have any more tips for any newbies who are starting out? Or maybe you’ve just started in your career, what are your top tips?

My top three takeaways from The Big Yak

I went along to one of the best Internal Comms events of the year, The Big Yak, on Saturday. I absolutely loved every single minute and I could have spent many hours talking non-stop about comms and everything in-between. I LOVE these types of events as they are just so relaxed and informal – the best thing about it being an unconference.

The Big Yak

This year I helped the wonderful IC Crowd team with their ticket management. To watch the tickets fly off the shelf within minutes was something I’ll never forget. It just goes to show how many fabulous people there are in the world of comms, who would give up their Saturday, to talk about the ‘work’ they do Monday to Friday.

I’m still on a ridiculous high from the event and I’m so grateful that these three wonderful people take time out of their extremely busy schedules to host something so spectacular!

Jenni, Rachel and Dana – The IC Crowd

I always learn something new at this event and this year was no exception. Here are my top three lessons and ‘take-aways’ I gained from the day:

Update your CV

If you’re looking to progress in your career into a sector you’re not familiar, then seek out the senior comms person from that field and ask if they will check over your CV to see where the gaps are.

I couldn’t agree more with this piece of advice. I think often we can fall into a trap of not really understanding the skills gaps properly and getting some advice from someone who has been there or is currently where you want to be is gold dust. I also like to read Job Descriptions for roles I’d like to do in the future so I can see what I’m missing in my skill set.

It’s also always a great idea to update your CV every three months or so, whether you’re looking for a new job or not, as it’s easier to keep track of your successes.

Gain some coaching skills

This was a contribution I made in one of the sessions where we were discussing building relationships with the Exec team. The best piece of advice I ever received was to gain core skills in coaching as it’ll help when you’re having conversations at senior levels.

I was lucky to work on a coaching and mentoring scheme early on in my career so was able to get some training. It’s probably the best training I’ve ever made the most use of throughout my career. Coaching teaches you how to listen more actively, how to ask the right questions and also how to gather the right information – some of the top skills you need to be a trusted adviser.

It’s not about becoming a full-blown coach at all but the behaviours and skills you learn in these coaching sessions will pay dividends in the future.

Measure your impact

Measurement! This is still a grey area for a lot of Internal Communication professionals and it was probably one of the most popular sessions on the day so the interest is certainly there.

I’m a bit of a data geek so I love looking at various stats and to see where we can make the correlation with Internal Communications and the behaviours we are helping to influence across the business.

In my last role we used a performance dashboard that showed leaders what impact we were having on certain key objectives across the business and it allowed us to add value to the conversations taking place. We’re in a unique position in IC as we get an overview of most of the departments in the organisation. Sometimes you have to look in the most obscure places to get hold of your data but you’ll be surprised what’s out there when you start digging round.

One key question I always asked before a campaign starts is ‘what behaviours are you expecting to see change in order for you to know its success?’ You’d often find that teams keep track of their own data which you could piggy back on for your dashboard. I contributed to a blog that the lovely Helen Deverall wrote a few weeks ago which talks more about measurement.

I hope you found that useful – if you went along to the Big Yak what were your top three takeaways?. If there is anything you want to talk about further or if you just want to connect then you can find me over on LinkedIn or over on Twitter.

Be proud of who you are…

A slightly different personal blog from me today.

A few months ago I was named in the Northern Power Women #FutureList. To say it was a huge surprise to me is the understatement of the year, I had to read the email twice when it popped up in my in-box as I wasn’t sure it was meant for me. When I initially mentioned this to my family and friends I kind of did it with a bit of humour. Not because I wasn’t proud, in-fact I was bursting with pride but mostly because deep-down I felt I didn’t really deserve it and I thought they might think the same.

Screenshot 2018-06-03 14.34.29
NPW #FutureList

It was a weird one for me as I’m such a champion of people believing in themselves and never apologising for who they are, yet here I was feeling a little embarrassed about being on this list compared to what all the other fabulous people had achieved.

Around this time I was also going through a bit of a crisis of confidence, various factors contributed towards it but I did start questioning whether or not I was as good enough to do what I was doing.

Then around a month ago I was talking to someone who was just starting out in their career. They asked me one simple question: What keeps you motivated? – this one question helped put things in perspective for me.

My parents came over from India and Kenya more than 45 years ago. It’s the common immigrant story, they came with nothing and worked extremely hard to make sure my sister and I had everything we possibly needed. They worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year so we never got the opportunity to have family holidays to Disney or Spain and we spent our holidays helping in the family business.

We also lived in an area of Manchester that didn’t really like the fact we were Asian and we faced racism every single day for 12 years. We had fireworks through the letterbox, the house set on fire, racist graffiti on the windows, chants telling us to go home and cars vandalised (in fact the day after my parents bought me my little Peugeot 106 for my 18th it was completely trashed). We had panic alarms installed, CCTV and the police were becoming regular visitors.

School wasn’t great either but I seeked solitude in the music department. I often jokingly share a stories about how the recorder saved my life, as I’m not quite sure what would have happened to that geeky Indian girl if I didn’t have the music department to hide in (thanks to a teacher who saw me sitting (hiding) behind the music block). I obviously didn’t love school, teachers were distracted by the bullies and I was an average student. Average in the sense I wasn’t an A* student nor was I failing or mis-behaving. The forgotten group who just plodded along hoping to leave school without too many scars.

When I relate this back to friends or colleagues they have a look of sympathy and disbelief that we actually went through all this growing up. However, as strange as it may sound I don’t think I’d change anything as it’s made me who I am today – I realised that these blips in life were/are my motivators to keep working hard and to give me the kick I need when I’m feeling sorry for myself. It also gives me the power to keep fighting and not allow myself to be a victim.

No matter what life throws at you, just remember one thing – no one can take away your knowledge. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on round you, if you keep working, learning and investing in yourself you will succeed. Without this knowledge I wouldn’t be working in a career I adore, I wouldn’t have been able to start my property business and most importantly I wouldn’t be who I am today. Take every opportunity that’s thrown at you and don’t allow anyone or anything drag you down.

Sure you may not be a CEO or MD at the age of 35 but it doesn’t make you any less worthy of your accolades, everyone has had a different path to get to where they are and you should be extremely proud of yours – I just needed that one question to remind me  – so yeah, I’m on the Northern Power Women #FutureList, I totally deserve it and I couldn’t be prouder.

Huge shout out and thanks to my parents and my sister – my heroes – who have been with me every step of the way, throwing out encouraging words and a listening ear…none of what I’ve achieved could have been done without you! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all about the people…

Last week I attended a Culture Summit with the new Institute of Management who hosted the event in collaboration with University of Bolton.  The event was completely free to attend and it was being held in the North – I had to double-check the Eventbrite link to make sure I wasn’t misreading. Those of you who are based north of Watford will understand that events, particularly free ones, are few and far between outside of London so this was a real coup (thanks to the lovely Gemma McCall for giving me the heads-up on this!).

I went along with slight trepidation as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It wasn’t with my usual ‘networking’ crowd and I’d only just arrived back from Marrakesh that morning so my mind was still in the souks as I was driving along the M61. After mis-reading the directions for the car park I arrived 10 minutes after the summit started and I entered the room with paper balls flying round the room. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on but soon realised that they were kicking-off the conference with a laughter expert.  I unfortunately missed the majority of the talk but it seemed to have broken the ice and there were lots of smiles around the room.

Paperthrow

The first presentation of the day was with Avril Morton, former Change Communications Lead at BBC Scotland. Avril shared her insights and learnings on the Making It Happen project which was Greg Dyke’s major initiative programme to help unlock creativity and ideas within the BBC. Avril explained how tapping into staff pride really helped support the change programme. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Getting staff involved in change right from the beginning and working with them to implement change goes down much better than just telling them what’s happening.  There are obvious caveats to this and often Internal Comms peeps are brought into change programmes late so it can be challenging as we’re often on the back foot ourselves and are generally catching up. However, there are always various ways you can involve staff in some of the decision making and allow them to feel empowered – something that can often be overlooked in haste.

Following Avril was Alyson Fadil. Aly is the Chief People Officer for N Brown but has held senior roles at Misguided, Sofology and Selfridges over the years. I’ve ‘followed’ Aly for a while on Social Media so I was excited to hear her talk on all things culture. It was fascinating to hear the work she has done over the years at these retail giants, particularly around the people strategy and aligning it to the commercial aims of the business.  Aly started her presentation with the shocking fact that almost 85% of the UK employees don’t feel engaged with their organisation – I knew this number was high but didn’t realise it was in the mid-80s.  Aly quite rightly pointed out that people make organisations and it’s important to take these people on the journey with you.

AlyFadil

Aly went on to speak about her time at Sofology and ‘tearing up the rule book’ there by moving away from a commission led business and moving more into a more reward led business, therefore encouraging a different way of working. She also mentioned how important it is to ask staff what customers want as these are the guys who face into the customers everyday – the best feedback can often come from the people you least expect, in Sofology’s case their delivery drivers gave some invaluable lessons learnt.

As a conclusion to her fabulous presentation Aly went on to say that it is vital for staff to feel empowered and when they have the right tools to do this, it can help drive performance – but what about those leaders who refuse to take part, I hear you ask? Well according to Aly, that’s when they may need to look at their options and think whether or not the organisation is the right fit for them – I couldn’t agree more!

After lunch Glenn Grayson, Internal Communications and Engagement Partner at Misguided took to the stage to give his insights on some of the fantastic tactics that have worked really well at Misguided. Glenn’s energy and enthusiasm was catching, he definitely lifted the lunchtime slump by entertaining us with the wonderful ideas he’s implemented at Misguided based on feedback he’s received from the colleagues who work there. Such as:

  • Wheel of fortune
  • Ice cream Fridays
  • Gemma Collins Bingo
  • Pet dress up competition
  • Baby boxes for expectant mothers/fathers

Glenn Grayson

Of course, the average age at Misguided is approximately 27 and some of the ideas are probably a bit ‘out there’ for some more corporate organisations. However, Glenn explained that it’s important to see what works for you and your organisation and in order to do that you need to get out and speak to staff – it’s impossible to create ideas from behind on your desk on your own. Once you’ve spoken to colleagues, make sure you implement the ideas where possible and if you can’t do it explain why, don’t leave people hanging.

After Glenn, Imogen Osborne, co-author of The People Business presented her thoughts on what drives happiness in the workplace. I’ve read Imogen’s book and I highly recommend it as it shares stories of how leaders drive engagement through Internal Communications.  Imogen shared some very interesting facts on what drives happiness and when questioned what is the most important factor than enables you to be happy at work? 40% of the people who answered said feeling valued and supported.

This seemed to be the common theme in all these presentations – people feeling valued, empowered and supported is the driver to success. Without these then it’s likely you’ll have disengaged low performing workforce. Imogen ended her presentation with top five tips that we can embrace to help drive engagement and happiness in a workplace:

  • Embrace variety – be open, outgoing an honest
  • Network, be interested in people
  • Hone your listening skills (ninja listening)
  • Adopt a continuous improvement mindset
  • Know/understand your audience and stakeholders and their pressures

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the question and answer panel at the end as I was going to a Bryan Adams’ gig that evening (which was brilliant by the way!) but overall the day was absolutely fantastic. It was great to meet different people who I wouldn’t have normally crossed paths with and it was wonderful to hear from such inspirational speakers. Well done to Carol Brown and her team at IOM for putting on such a wonderful summit – I look forward to future events!

*Photos courtesy of IOM Twitter Feed

It’s good to talk…

It’s been Mental Health Awareness week and I’ve loved seeing so many people open up about their experiences with mental health as it helps break down the barriers that surround the subject. I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to Mental Health as it’s something that’s quite important to me. I’ve just finished taking part in an online chat hosted by CIPR UK about Mental Health in the world PR and it was great to see so many people take part and share their thoughts (search for #CIPRChat to catch up on the convo).

Mental health impacts almost 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives [i] and according to the recent #StateofPR report 16% of PR pros live with a mental health condition, which was an increase of 10% on previous year’s research. As communicators our roles are getting very busy as each day passes on. Gone are the days where you could do your job within the traditional ‘9-5’ slot. Nowadays with the introduction of technology and Social Media we’re expected to be switched on 24/7 – it can be exhausting.

pink carnation flower and pink rose flower in clear glass vase beside mug of coffee
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

With this constant noise around us it’s important to take some time out for yourself and evaluate your mental health regularly. A few years ago I worked within IC at a Mental Health Trust and I learnt so many things whilst I was there but one key thing I took away is that NOBODY should ever be ashamed of their mental health. I know it’s not easy to talk about it and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or who to talk to. If you feel you can’t talk to your friends/family/colleagues then there are lots of places you can seek out help: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

I’m by no means an expert in this area but here are some top tips that have worked for me in the past when I’ve not been feeling mentally well:

  • Switch off. I think it’s important on occasion to switch off your devices and do something different. Whether it’s reading an actual book, colouring in or treating yourself to a massage, even if it’s only for five minutes.
  • Get physical. As much as I dread the thought of exercising I have to admit going for a long walk or doing a quick workout really helps lift my mood.
  • Go for a coffee and a chat. It’s so important to talk to someone if you’re not feeling yourself. I know it’s hard to take that first step but once you do you’ll feel much better for it.
  • I know harder said then done when your mind is whirring but one thing that’s really helped me is the CALM app. It plays relaxing music, teaches you mediation but best of all there are some ‘sleep’ stories that you can listen to and within five minutes you’ll be knocked out – promise.
  • I scoffed when someone first told me about mindfulness, I thought it was just some new age stuff that people who were into yoga and mediation did. However, it really works. Being aware of your present moment helps you to experience things that you may have been taken for granted. The Mind charity explain it much better than me here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/#.Wv7tbYgvw2w

I really hope the above tips help some of you. Below I’ve also captured some of the sound advice that was shared by the participants on today’s #CIPRChat which I hope you find helpful. Remember you’re never alone, if you ever want to chat and you’re not sure who to talk to then please drop me a note – whatever you do don’t suffer in silence:

 

It’s so important to talk about it. I know there can be a long wait time for help but there are so many great helplines, apps and local organisations that can help e.g. Happier (app), SaneLine (helpline) etc. #CIPRChat #MHAW18 @ChantePlom

#CIPRchat Taking steps to look after your physical health can help you manage your mental health too – get good sleep, eat well, keep physically active @Emma_Mamo

It’s important to champion people who are passionate about #mentalhealth as they will help drive that message across the organisation. We’re lucky to have people like @ChantePlom for example who is leading our employee wellness efforts #CIPRchat @KetchumUK

A2: encourage open discussions, provide wellness packages, create a “safe space”, offer time off & flexible working, create a “buddy system”, have a white board with anonymous post-its where each employee can share their thoughts #CIPRChat @EllaMinty

Make it as usual and normal to ask about an employee’s mental health and wellbeing as it is to ask about their physical health. #CIPRchat @Judetipper

A2 There is a lot employers can do to help starting with workplace schemes designed to prioritise staff wellbeing. An open door policy helps especially where employees have no fear of repercussions #CIPRchat @Hallmeister

#CIPRChat Encourage a constructive, open environment, where employees feel comfortable enough to raise issues that matter to them; hold regular team meetings to ensure workloads are manageable and to give people the chance to speak up. @CIPR_UK @ToodlyPipski

 

 

[i] McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.

“What do you want from this?” – The question we should all be asking!

How often have we all looked at some comms and thought ‘why on earth are we sharing this?’ Over the last few months my life has been consumed by the American drama Scandal. It’s a fabulous series created by the writer of Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes – I highly recommend you check it out.

The programme is centred around a character called Olivia Pope – she manages a problem-solving agency with a team she calls ‘the Gladiators’ – they fix problems and make them disappear – very similar to an Internal Comms department but we probably deal with fewer murders (hopefully!)

There is one question that Olivia askes her clients when they ask for her help ‘What do you want from this?’ and this got me thinking about our roles as communicators. If we asked this question to anyone who requested comms to be sent out or even to ourselves would it help us think more effectively about the outcome rather than just the output?

Knowing how many people clicked on a news story and read the information will certainly help your dashboard. It will also allow you, to an extent, understand the level of interest but would you really know what the overall outcome was? Would you able to demonstrate or measure where and what behaviours have changed due to the comms that was sent out?

You’d be able to do this if you knew what the aim was of the comms – is it to stop people calling in sick? Is it to improve safety performance? Is it to get people to log onto a programme more often? Once you know this, you can then find the relevant data set to help you but without this – it’s just another piece of comms that disappears into a black hole.

As Internal Communicators I don’t think we should know all the answers -though at times it may feel like it. We should be leaning on our leaders a bit more to find out exactly what they want to achieve from the messages they want to distribute and ask – “What do you from this?”

I’m not an advocate of sending out comms if it doesn’t align with the overall business objective or add any value to the strategic aims of the organisation. If it doesn’t contribute to any of these factors, then should we really be sharing it to the wider workforce?

I know it can be challenging for us at times, especially as we’re in busy roles that are non-stop and it can be a bit difficult with some senior leaders but what have you go to lose? The next time someone asks you to just send something out and you’re not sure of the value it will add, then step back and ask them “What do you want from this?” and see if it helps get the results you need.

Let me know what you think, you can catch me on twitter @advita_p or Linkedin.

FYI: Dr Kevin Ruck, from PR Academy wrote a great formula on measurement which is definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it before : https://www.prplace.com/blog/posts/2014/october/a-new-standard-for-internal-communication/

Five things to remember when communicating with remote workers…

 

I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my comms career working in organisations that have remote workers. I say lucky because I genuinely believe that some of my best times were when I was getting out and about with these teams and seeing what life was like for them on the ‘front-line’.

Over the years I’ve learnt some valuable lessons which might be useful to those of you who are struggling to make traction:

  • Get out and about. Spend some time work shadowing them, if you can – it’s genuinely the best way you can understand exactly what their day consists of. It’s easy sitting in HQ coming up with wonderful creative ideas but a complete waste of time if they are useless when they finally get out in the operation.
image1
Me loving life in the operation!
  • Curate over create. Some of the best stories and solutions have come from the guys who see the real action. Your staff magazine should be colleague led where possible – and as Internal Communicators we should be curating information rather than having to create our own. Get the guys involved on an editorial board, let them have voice and allow them to get their view across.
  • Find your advocates. If you work in a large organisation or a multi-site then it can be hard to understand how things have landed or what the general consensus is on a new strategy or even a new leader. This is where you need your advocates or comms ambassadors. On my walkabouts I always tried to spot the influencer, or someone who took a genuine interest. These guys are your extended team. I often gave them a quick call if I wasn’t certain about something, needed some intel or even just to bounce some ideas around – and they also loved that they had someone who listened. A project I was part of once created little pin badges to hand out to these ambassadors so people knew who to approach – people really embraced it.
  • Don’t assume it can make an ‘ass-out-of-u-and-me’ – Just because something has worked really well somewhere else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work where you are. Even if the two organisations are exactly the same in terms of what they do, you need to remember culture and behaviours are always different. Do your research before you bring anything new on board. Host focus groups, speak to leaders, managers, the operational staff etc
  • Find a healthy balance. This is the most important one and sometimes it can be over-looked by our enthusiasm but it’s imperative that you find a healthy balance with the amount of their time you take up. You need to remember that they are out in the operation, not generally sat behind a PC and they actually have a job to do. So, sending several emails a-day or ringing every few hours to get an opinion will just annoy people. Find out from the teams and individuals when it’s the best time, try not to take up their break times and be considerate to their needs. I hosted regular monthly meetings, so they were scheduled in and I generally went for a walkabout when it was a quiet period, so I knew I’d have a chance to chat. If I wasn’t sure I used to drop them a text or a quick email to see if it would be okay for me to call them. All of these little things make a huge difference in building your relationships.

There are lots of tools and tips on how to communicate with remote workers but ultimately you need to find a way that works for you and your organisation. If there are any more tips then let me know, you can catch me over on twitter @advita_p.

 

Five things I wish I knew when starting out…

It’ll be 12 years this year since I started working as an Internal Communicator. I have absolutely no idea where that time has gone. Like many others I didn’t start my career as an Internal Communications professional, in fact, I don’t even think I knew such a role existed. I graduated from university with a 2.1 in IT and I had huge ambitions to take over the tech world. Sadly, the year I graduated there was a huge dot.com crash and roles were tight in the North West.

Luckily during my role as an Admissions Officer at MMU I met a fabulous Marketing Manager, who encouraged me to undertake a Masters in Strategic Marketing after she saw a newsletter I created for the faculty and the rest, as they say, is history.

There have been many highs and lows during the last 12 years but I’ve learnt quite a lot (sometimes the hard way) during this time so to mark this anniversary, I’ve pulled together five key things I wish I’d known when I started out – which I hope helps some of you in some way:

  • Join a professional body. I cannot emphasise this enough. Joining a professional body is literally one of the best things I’ve ever done as it really helped me develop my career further. It doesn’t matter which one as long as you join the one that is right for you and your career. I didn’t join a professional body until I was a few years into my career and I really wish I’d joined earlier. Currently I’m a member of IoIC and CIPR (where I’m currently the Vice Chair for their Internal Comms committee CIPR Inside).
  • Be bold. In the early days I’ve sat mute and not said anything throughout an entire meeting as I feared I wasn’t senior/experienced enough. It’s important that you push that out of your mind. Remember you’re there as the advisor and an expert so seniority shouldn’t come into play. If you have something to add then speak up and if you’re sat in a meeting longer than 10 minutes and you haven’t said anything, question why you are there.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. There have been many sleepless nights where I’ve laid awake worrying about a spelling mistake in a subject line or an article I had written. Was it ideal? No it wasn’t – but the world won’t stop spinning. Learn from it and move on.
  • Keep learning and logging CPD. This is important if you want to be seen as a Trusted Advisor within your field or organisation. You need to keep up with the latest trends and what’s happening in the world of business and comms. I recently signed up for the Internal Comms Diploma with PR Academy which is brilliant and I’ve undertaken quite a few short courses including a masterclass with IC guru Rachel Miller (you can read my write up here). However, you don’t need to commit to courses if you don’t have the time (or funds), you can read blogs, articles, books and sign up for webinars, seminars and events. I wrote a post a few weeks back on my top blogs.
  • Network! Not many of us have the luxury of working in a large comms team and often we find ourselves working either on our own or with a really small team. Getting out and about at various networking events will really help increase your knowledge base and you’ll also get to meet some fabulous people along the way. If you can’t get to any events then use Social Media and make the most of your network on Twitter and/or LinkedIn. CIPR Inside has quite an active feed on Twitter so come and join in!

Let me know if you have any tips you wish you knew when you were starting out and give me a shout if you want to connect, you can find me on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Working with no budget?

Many of us have been in situations where budget is a bit tight or non-existence. Over the years I’ve pulled together a handy list of all the tools that have helped me out in my role without breaking the bank. I’m definitely not advocating the replacement of creative agencies, as these guys are absolute life-savers when you need some support and guidance on the big ticket items. I just enjoy making things look as good as they can be, as it makes such a difference to how people read your message. The tools I’ve mentioned below will definitely help take your materials to the next level:

Design

Firstly, let’s be clear, IC are not a design department and frankly it’s not really our role to make things look ‘pretty’. However, in a small organisation or somewhere where budget is bit of an issue it can be all hands-on-deck at times and sometimes you do have to support leaders/managers if you want to get things done.

Once you’ve made the decision that you have time to support, you will want to use something that’s easy and doesn’t cost the earth. Microsoft Word is fine but it’s restrictive and can be a bit boring. PowerPoint is a bit easier to manipulate but again you’re limited on what you can do. My go-to design tool has to be Canva. If you’ve never used Canva before you are missing out.

This online tool is easy to use, doesn’t require any software and has 1000s of templates, icons and images you can use. I’ve added some examples of some designs you can create.

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It doesn’t cost a fortune and it’s something that will pay for itself throughout time.

Animation

I love animated videos and if I could do everything in animation I would. The only downside is that it can cost quite a bit of money. If you’re doing a big campaign that requires quite a bit of buy-in then I definitely recommend you spend some money to bring in some experts as they will not only design but they’ll also advise based on their experience. Biteable is great for creating quirky short videos that doesn’t require much text. You can upload your own images or use one of the many templates they have.

It’s an online software package which again doesn’t require you to download software to your machine. There are a few templates available which are ridiculously easy to use. You choose the templates, add your words, choose the colours and add some music from their music library, and you’re on your way. I recently created a #CIPRProud video which I’ve attached below. It only took me 20 minutes but it definitely did the job I needed it to do.

 

Photos

If you take quite a lot of photos on your phone then you definitely need to download the Photoshop app from app store. It’s a lifesaver and can make your images look like they’ve been taken by a professional. It’s free to download but there is a small fee if you want to use all the features. Definitely something to consider if you’re the resident photographer as well (we’ve all been there!).

Events

This is a bit contentious as some organisations can be a bit funny with anything that involves collecting data – especially with GDPR on its way. However, if you can get through the legalities of using it then Eventbrite is well worth the effort as this tool really helps keep things in order. It sends automatic alerts, allows you to collate lists, you can sort by acceptance, ask custom questions and to top it all off it helps you to create badges (if you know, you know!). It’s free to use if you’re not charging for the event – so definitely look into it if you’ve never used it before.

I hope you find these useful. Are there any more you use that you think should be added to the list? Let me know and I’ll include.

Do we really need a seat at the table to make a difference?

Earlier this week, I took part in #commschat which was all about how IC plays a part in managing reputation in an organisation. It was a great conversation and if you’ve never taken part then I urge you to check it out (every Monday at 8.00 p.m. via @commschat).

During the chat a point was raised about IC having a seat at the table. This topic of conversation has been part of my IC life ever since I started working in the field. I’ve held many conversations with lots of peers about how they could transform the organisation if they had a place at the table rather than their ideas being ignored or being treated like someone who ‘just writes newsletters.’ I completely agree that having a voice or a seat at the table could definitely change the way some senior bods saw IC but I also believe that this shouldn’t really stop us delivering and making a difference.

For a few years I was part of the gang that spoke about the unfairness of not having a seat at the table and how we were poor relations to PR/Marketing and External Affairs. I moaned about being an after-thought and some of my ideas not being taken seriously at senior level. However, after a particularly challenging day at work I decided to change my mind-set. Rather than sit in the corner staring at my emails I started to make small changes – first thing I did was to leave my desk. I went and spoke to people about their roles and what they did. I listened to them and made connections. I invited myself to team meetings and shared ideas when they were facing some tough decisions. I basically became a ‘fountain of knowledge’ as some of my colleagues used to call me. I made sure I understood the organisation inside out and who the key influencers were, I kept my ear to the ground and tried to sense the general feeling of the organisation. It’s not an easy task and some people will be reluctant to let you in but perseverance will pay off in the end.

Understanding the culture and the people of your organisation is something your senior leaders will thank you for. Not only does it help you get a sense of what is happening across the site but it allows you to grow into a trusted advisor. In my opinion if you want to make significant changes you need to be able to build trust with colleagues, leaders and your peers. Going in like a bull in a china shop is not going to do you any favours and even if an idea worked brilliantly in the last organisation it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work in the next one.

It will not always be plain sailing – there will always be challenges along the way but one of the great things about Internal Comms peeps is that we tend to be fairly resilient and we rarely give up.

So don’t worry too much about not having a seat at the table – remember actions speak much louder than words.

What do you think? Do you agree or do you think having a seat at the table is crucial if we’re to make a big difference?