Saying Yes…

Late last year I finished listening to Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes book after it was recommended to me by the fabulous Gemma McCall and it may seem a bit dramatic but it had quite a significant impact on the way I approached situations in my life. I’ve told absolutely anyone who listens to me to buy the book and here’s why:

Lesson one – Say Yes to having a voice!

“Everyone’s got some greatness in them. You do. The girl over there does. That guy on the left has some. But in order to really mine it, you have to own it. You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it.”

This is one of my favourite quotes from the book. I’m a fairly confident person but I did have these inner fears that I wasn’t quite good enough to excel at what I do. I was surrounded by amazing comms professionals who seemed to have it nailed and I just felt like I couldn’t compare.

The book made me realise I actually had my very own personal experience and I should be brave enough to use my voice to speak about it (hence the reason for writing this previous blog). Standing up for what’s right and speaking up regardless of the fear you have in you can be exhilarating. We all have this power and we should use it for the greater good, where we can, because even if you can make a small difference to one person, it matters.

The below extract from the book is one of the key reasons why I didn’t hesitate to speak at the Northern Power Women celebration event – it was an opportunity to use my voice to speak about something I really cared about. You can listen to what I said here:

“Who you are today . . . that’s who you are. Be brave. Be amazing. Be worthy. And every single time you get the chance? Stand up in front of people. Let them see you. Speak. Be heard. Go ahead and have the dry mouth. Let your heart beat so, so fast. Watch everything move in slow motion. So what. You what? You pass out, you die, you poop? No. (And this is really the only lesson you’ll ever need to know.)”

Lesson Two: The Power to say ‘Yes’ to ‘No’

“There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.”

We’re all guilty of taking too much on or surrounding ourselves with people who can be pretty draining mentally. Like Shonda I used to have this crazy fear of not being liked by people. Now don’t get me wrong, if my morals, values or ethics were compromised in any way then my issue with confrontation would disperse. However, I’ve lost count of the times I’d worry myself to sleep wondering why certain people behaved the way they did. However, taking the advice from the book and for the sake of my own happiness, I decided to stop focussing on the negative, remove toxic people from my life, surround myself with powerful and empowering humans and basically just stop worrying about what people think. After all if you were everyone’s cup of tea you’d be a mug!

Lesson Three Say Yes to accepting compliments

“Not a single woman in the room could handle being told, “You’re awesome.” I couldn’t handle being told I am awesome. What in the hell is wrong with us?”

I’m definitely guilty of stopping people mid-flow of a compliment or just shrugging it off. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing or a woman thing but I’ve seen quite a few people really struggle with it. I normally stand there looking a bit awkward and not really knowing what to say. But Shonda’s advice is just smile and say ‘thank you’ then stop there.

If someone is generous enough to take the time to give you a compliment then it’s quite likely that they genuinely mean it. So it’s important not to belittle yourself by pretending it wasn’t a big deal because to them it was.

These are just some very small nuggets that I took away, there’s so much more. Hopefully it’s enticed you to grab the book and bring it into your life – you honestly won’t regret it and finally in the words of Ms Shonda Rhimes:

“I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”

How to bring your organisational values to life…

A few weeks ago when I saw that Jackie Le Fevre was going to be holding some bitesize value sessions in my neck of the woods to say I was excited was the understatement of the year.

I’d been hearing lots of great things about Jackie from my comms friends who had completed their personal values profiling with Jackie via the Minessence Values Framework (highly recommend!). But now I was finally going to have the chance to listen to her first-hand and boy oh boy I was not left disappointed.

Values and what they actually really mean has always fascinated me. To be able to hear the theory behind the subject was really appealing and it would finally allow me to understand how, as a communicator, I can help support organisations in making sure they are embedded properly in the business and more importantly are meaningful.

We covered so much ground in the sessions I attended from satiable to insatiable values to dopamine and how to use power posing to give you an extra boost when you need it the most (check out Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk she’s amazing!). However, the one area I really wanted to write about was organisational values, as this is something that I’ve discussed with comms colleagues in various seminars, workshops and conferences I’ve attended – and there are always differing opinions on the subject (and quite a few passionate views!).

Before I attended these sessions I did a quick poll on my twitter feed to ask if people felt if values were necessary for a business to succeed, 44% said yes definitely, 36% said depends on what they are and 20% said No. I have always been an advocate of values in organisations, as long as they match the culture. Some believe that if the organisation gets its core business right then there is no need to have them – which I don’t think is wrong either but considering that we all have values, surely we should try to utilise this for the benefit of the business?

Only recently I read a fab blog by Rachel Miller where she interviewed Glenn Grayson from Missguided about their values (or vibes as they are called internally). Glenn’s approach was fantastic and it was obvious by the feedback he’d received on how much their colleagues related to the vibes. You may argue that Glenn works for a creative fashion brand and it’s very different from the corporate offices some of us work in. However, from attending Jackie’s session and from reading the process Glenn undertook it’s quite clear that it doesn’t matter what type of business you work in as long as the values are meaningful to your people.

At the start of the session Jackie spoke about the Iceberg effect which is derived from Glasser’s Choice Theory. This theory basically explains that human behaviour is based on internal motivation and without understanding this first you can’t really implement random values as these are what drive those behaviours. So those execs in organisations that come up with a set of values sat in a room on their own are really going to struggle to get them ingrained within their organisation, especially if they haven’t considered the views of their colleagues to find out their underpinning beliefs and what working in that organisation means to them.

So what can we do as Internal Communicators to support and ensure that values are embedded in the right way?

Thankfully I have a fabulous specialist to hand to help us out. Jackie has very kindly agreed to share her top five tips on how we can make values more meaningful in organisations so let me hand you over.

Thank you Advita! Values have been my ‘thing’ for nearly 14 years now and it is so exciting to see comms people actively seeking to explore the potential in their work so I hope these tips will help.

No 1 Start with reality

Every organisation has already some values which matter more to it than others. This is true irrespective of whether values have been deliberately stated or not. Many values initiatives fail because they centre on an idealistic wish list of things we imagine other will admire us for or that someone else thinks will track well with shareholders or investors.

Get your organisation to understand that its values exist and the work is to reveal them in all their glory not to create them from scratch. To embed something effectively it needs its roots in reality. One way to surface values which both already exist and inspire is to involve the workforce in sharing their best experiences and if you’d like an example this link takes you to the case study of Parrs Wood High School.

No 2 Make it meaningful

Each of us uses our unique personal framework of values to make sense of the world and our place in that world. We can do that because our experience of our values is an emotionally rich, energy laden sense which guides our choices in terms of ‘what a person like me does next…..’. When an organisation simply expresses its values as a list: integrity1, respect, quality, customer, teamwork are frequent examples; then we have no consistent shared sense of the values so we can’t collectively use them to evaluate options, inform decisions or nurture relationships. It we can’t use them then they can’t be embedded. Embedding values is about so much more than simply making sure that everyone has a copy and can recite them during annual performance reviews.

Invest time in exploring the meaning of the big ideas that lurk behind the word used to name the value because that’s what brings them to life.

No 3 Tell the story

Values are a sense making framework. So when you have news to share or a question to ask use the core values as a frame. Framing to helps people understand the message in the context of who the organisation thinks it is and therefore why this information or enquiry is worthy of attention and how it should be received.

For example a mental health client of mine was recently unsuccessful in a tender process. When we look at that fact in isolation we could be forgiven for interpreting it as bad news. My client, however, has as their highest priority core value “Relationships: we listen and ask questions to understand others to build trust; people matter to us both inside and outside our organisation”. The execs shared with the workforce that the feedback from commissioners was that their proposal had put “too much” emphasis on client centred processes compared to the winning tender which was perceived as more time efficient. The response of colleagues to “losing” was essentially one of relief: one person said “we just wouldn’t work that way”.

No 4 Be relentless

Every action, every decision, every connection is driven at an unconscious level by values. Bring your organisations core values up to in to the light as much as you can and encourage others to do the same.

If you produce an employee newsletter think about ways to gather and share peoples first hand experiences of the values in action. If you manage an intranet is there scope for a values dedicated element? A tech client of mine created a mini ‘You Tube’ equivalent where people were encouraged (with no editorial ‘control’) to upload films of up to 59 seconds recorded from their desktops about things that happened or that they had done related to the values. It took a little while to get going but pretty quickly people got very creative, one guy even brought in a couple of his daughters cuddly toys and made films using these two characters in quick fire conversation.

No 5 Be a champion

Start with yourself and your work. We know comms occupies a special and privileged space inside an organisation. Yes you can spread the word and shine a light but you can also stand up for the values and get others to think more deeply. So if an exec asks you to get a message out and you think “doing that doesn’t fit with our values” then challenge. Not a ‘pistols at dawn’ type challenge but a simple “so I can develop this the best way could you take a couple of minutes to explain how this fits with our values?” type challenge.

Be vigilant to things that may be received by your audiences as values violations. If something looks like a value has been dishonoured but it hasn’t really then explain. If a value has been dishonoured however, encourage execs to be honest about what went on, any consequences that followed and what we are going to do in future to be better. Covering up or looking the other way is not part of embedding values the right way.

Closing thoughts

I love working with values. We each have our own unique pattern of priority values which mark us out as a remarkable individual. All people have values and that provides some golden threads of connection and a new way of talking about what really matters most at a human level. At their simplest organisations are just groups of people coming together to do something bigger than self. In those groups shared core values can be a force for cohesion and coherence if they are real, meaningful and relentlessly championed.

“Words mean more than what is set down

on paper. It takes the human voice to

infuse them with shades of deeper

meaning” Maya Angelou

For more from Jackie on values and comms check out these two AllThingsIC guest blogs

http://www.allthingsic.com/are-the-words-on-the-wall-your-values/

http://www.allthingsic.com/world-values-day2017/

1 A quick word about “Integrity” – you may be interested to know that this ‘value’ appears in the list for many companies including Enron, Barclays, G4S….

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.