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

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:

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:

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 :

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.
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 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:


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.

Pink Hobbies Facebook PostPink Hobbies Facebook Post (1)

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


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.



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!).


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?

Why bother with CPD?

A few months ago I took the plunge and decided to invest in the CIPR Internal Communications Diploma with PR Academy. I’ve worked within Internal Comms for more than 10 years and I was deliberating whether or not this course would add anything to the knowledge I’ve gained through experience. I’d read all about the course, spoken to several people many times about what it entailed and spent many hours weighing up the pros/cons – especially as I was paying for the programme myself.

In the end I was swayed by the positive testimonials from everyone who had undertaken the course previously. I decided to join the online version as it was easier for me to manage with work and other commitments. I’m part-way through the programme and I’m really enjoying it. I was a bit worried about going back to academia, especially as it’s been 10 years since I completed my masters (and I still have some scars!) but so far it’s been fantastic. It’s been great to learn the theory behind some of the tactics we deploy as communicators as I think it really helps us strengthen our Trusted Advisor status in organisations that we support. It’s also useful to go back and truly understand the basics of internal communications to help you think more deeply about some core decisions we make in our role. I’ll keep you all updated as I progress but so far there are no regrets!

I’m a big believer in Continuing Professional Development and I think we need to take ownership of our own development rather than relying on others to make that decision for us. Ultimately you are in charge of your future and the goals you want to achieve so you need to choose about the direction you want to go. I’m all for speaking with your manager and getting feedback/support but don’t allow budget restrictions or other influences deter you from doing what you believe is right for you.

Of course, it doesn’t always have to cost lots of money; you can gain experience and knowledge by volunteering for committees, joining a professional body or just by networking with like-minded people. Twitter and Linkedin are great forums to connect and learn from others. I particularly enjoy reading blogs and articles that others share online – I’ve listed some of my favourites below:

Let me know if there are any more I should include on this list!

You can find out more about the IC Diploma and others by visiting:


Storytelling my way…


I love a good story. How often have we been captivated by something our pals tell us down the pub or over dinner? That’s storytelling at its finest. Though that word can have some negative connotations attached from our younger days. If you were like me and had an over active imagination then you may have been told at some point: “Don’t tell stories!” 🙂

However, storytelling is now a word I often hear to describe the company culture and its values. Think about your organisation and the stories that are being told. Do you know what people are saying about the company culture and the values? And are your leaders listening?

Storytelling is a two-way street. Whether they are true or not people love telling stories to each other. Though often you will find if people don’t have the right information (or if they don’t understand what they are sharing) the stories can sometimes turn into gossip and Chinese whispers.

As an Internal Communicator I make it my business to know what’s going on across the organisation. This gives me an opportunity to understand what the general feeling is. It can also help drive the way I can shape my comms or messaging to and from the senior leadership team.

However, telling the right story shouldn’t start and end with the IC team. Every single colleague in the business has a part to play. The stories that are circulating across the organisation often show what the organisational culture is like at that time and the values that are being demonstrated. If your internal story differs widely from your public story, then there could be a problem.

These contradictions can also drive down innovation, engagement and employee experience. It can show that we are not listening to our colleagues and that we’re not doing enough to address the deeper issues.

So, how can we start to change this?

1) Have the knowledge. You need to know what stories are being shared by your colleagues. Without this you will struggle to understand what is happening in the organisation or be the trusted advisor your leaders need.
2) Share from the heart. Start to share stories from colleagues from across the business. Sometimes when colleagues are working in silos it can be hard for them to see the wider picture. Especially if you work in a disperse organisation or workforce. Most people are naturally interested in other other people and the best stories are the ones that come from the heart. Like an apprentice who has grown with the organisation and is now head of a department – what’s their story? Can it bring hope to others? Show progression in the company? Demonstrate pride?
3) Transparency. Be as honest as you can without breaking organisational non-disclosures. In my view if you don’t know the answer then say that rather than making up something that doesn’t make sense. Or if you can’t say, then say that. Most people understand – as long as there is a valid reason and you’re telling the truth.
4) Mix it up. Rather than boring slide decks that people switch off from after five minutes think about how you can bring storytelling into a presentation to make it more interesting to generate enthusiasm – think TED-Talk.  Otherwise it’s likely people will leave the meeting with their own version of the truth their mind was elsewhere.
5) Bring in an expert. Even though everyone can tell a story in their own way, it’s important that leaders/managers understand the true implications of telling a story in the right way. Bringing in an expert to share core skills in telling stories can help improve engagement and experiences for your colleagues. I highly recommend Al McCall from Present and Engage who is involved in some great work we are doing at the moment with our local strategy.

Storytelling is highly dependent on your organisation and how much your leaders want to embrace it or don’t. Though as an expert in communications you can certainly help push it forward and bring it to life in your everyday comms.

There are 100s of articles online and books that give you more details about the impact of storytelling. Below are a few I’ve found really useful:

What are your thoughts about storytelling? If you want to have a chat then you can find me via Twitter or LinkedIn.


Top tips on gaining more visibility…

On Friday I had a great conversation with an amazing HR Director who I admire. I asked her advice on a few issues and we started chatting about Internal Comms and the role it plays in an organisation.

This got me thinking about IC in general. Those of you who know me know that I'm passionate about IC and everything it stands for. For me the role is making sure we help support conversation between leaders and colleagues using a variety of methods. This is to ensure that colleagues are motivated and engaged so they feel empowered enough to deliver towards the business objectives, aims and vision. You may or may not agree with my definition but Rachel Miller has written a great blog where you can check out other views.

As Internal Communicators we are often the link between leaders and front line staff. We're the ear to the ground and are generally seen as trusted advisors but some of us still have to work hard to get a seat round the table.

Over the years I've spoken to many IC professionals about how they are perceived in their organisation. It's led to really interesting conversations and over time I've picked up some top tips that seemed to have helped me and others in getting their voice heard.

Top tips

Get yourself out there. Spend some time understanding and getting to know people across the organisation. Without knowing what they do or how they work you will struggle to build trust with them.

Ask questions. If you don't ask questions how will you know the answer or be able to do a robust comms plan. Nobody will ever begrudge you asking a genuine question about something you don't understand. In fact, it shows you're interested in them and what they do.

Be innovative. There's nothing wrong with thinking differently than your peers. In fact I'd say it was in our DNA to be the quirky ones with creative ideas. With change becoming the norm we need to make sure we're keeping on top of our game.

Keep learning. It's easy when you're an in house communicator to sometimes forgo your own development. You're often working on your own or with a very small team so time is scarce. However, keeping on top of your learning will make sure you are always one step ahead.

Prove your worth. There has been much debate around measuring Internal Comms and the value it adds. Some people say it's difficult to measure. This can be true – sure it isn't as easy as other functions but it's not impossible. Look at some of the metrics you have available round you:

  • Engagement scores
  • Absence rates
  • Retention
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Performance rate
  • Intranet views
  • Click/open rates
  • Followers on yammer/FB etc

These can all be used to pull together an amazing dashboard to show how IC can influence these metrics.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any more to add? Let me know down below…

Some great tools…

I’m always seeking out new ways to make posters and presentations more attractive – obviously for key projects we do like to invest in a specialist design company to support us but for those basic presentations or one off posters it’s always helpful to have a great tool on hand without relying on indesign or photoshop or even word!

Over the years I’ve come across several packages but the two I’m going to mention have always come out on top.

1. Piktochart – I love this site for the fabulous infographics you can mock up. It’s so easy to use and the basic package is free. I’ve whipped up a few impressive charts within 20 min using their pre-designed templates. If you’re looking for a new way to showcase your data then you need to check it out
2. Canva – this site is just fabulous. The things you can create on here are fantastic. Not only can you do presentations but also create posters, insta templates, Facebook gifs, twitter headers…the basic version is free but it’s well investing a couple of hundred dollars to upgrade to the professional version as you get access to a load of templates. Best of all you can access via an app through your mobile device so can create smart looking materials on the go! IMG_5472.PNG

Check them out, if you haven’t done so already, and let me know how you get on. If you have any other recommendations then let me know 🙂