Storytelling my way…

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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:

http://headlines.uk.com/tag/storytelling

http://www.dse.univr.it/documenti/Avviso/all/all886336.pdf

https://www.allthingsic.com/aspic20/

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

 

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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 🙂

An emotional change…

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It’s been a while since I’ve got my act together and pulled together some words for this site. The intentions were always there but as usual life got in the way. However, I’ve decided to sort myself out and put the things I love doing first – one of which is this blog.

For the last few months I’ve spent quite a bit of time involved in a significant change project at work, which involved moving 11,000 staff into a new car park – slightly further away from their current site. This probably had to be one of the most sensitive, emotionally charged projects I’ve worked on for a long time, especially with the number of people involved. This not only impacted direct employees but also other organisations who are based on the site – 147 businesses to be exact. This meant our traditional in-house channels were not going to cut it this time round as none of these organisations had access.

So, what did we do…

Firstly, we knew we needed a collaborative tool that would give people the update they needed, whenever they required it. It had to be something that we could own 100% and something that was easily accessible which didn’t impact existing channels within their own organisation. Taking this on board one of the first things we created was a news story app! As you know an app can be downloaded anywhere and can accessed anytime, which works for the stakeholders we had to communicate to (crew, pilots, shift-workers, engineers, fire people etc).

Obviously we knew not everyone was going to download the app in the time we had available so we went traditional and arranged as many face-to-face sessions we could with leaders from those organisations and with various unions. Now considering these colleagues are not our leaders, and we were not aware of their culture we made sure we were fully briefed about each organisation – who they were, what they did plus the numbers that were impacted etc. This helped us build a relationship as soon as we started as it showed we cared and taken time to understand their needs. I also created a briefing pack that contained everything they could possibly need to communicate the messages down to their teams, including FAQs, posters, presentations, and leaflets.

We also leaflet dropped to every single car that was parked in the existing car park and left posters on barriers, entrances and staff areas – old school – but it worked and I hit more than 10000 steps that day 🙂

None of what we did was revolutionary in terms of comms but working the old and new channels together, creating a robust communications plan/strategy which everyone understands and ensuring great stakeholder engagement is what made this project a success.

How did we measure this success? Well almost 99% of the vehicles were relocated by the deadline and to-date we have received fewer than 25 complaints – which out of 11,000 isn’t too bad….

It’ll be great to hear about your experiences in an emotional charged change programme, what worked well, what did you learn?

If you want to have a chat then you can find me on twitter @advita_p or drop me a note at ic-words@hotmail.com.

 

 

The masterclass…

It’s been a month since I went to Rachel Miller’s (allthingsic) strategic internal comms masterclass and I’m still energised and buzzing from the session. It was held in central london in an amazing venue called wallspace which was warm, creative and welcoming. As soon as I entered, I understood why Rachel had chosen this venue for her masterclasses.

When I read Rachel’s blog on her masterclass I knew it was something I had to do. The session promised to help us;

* Apply internal communication theory
* Equip us to have difficult conversations with our CEO and stakeholders
* Examine employee engagement and how it fits into organisations
* Understand the role of the modern senior communicator and their team
* Keep updated with the latest trends
* Analyse communication methods, including planning and stakeholders.

One of the key things I loved about this masterclass was the size of the session. It was purposely kept small and intimate (10 people). We were able to share ideas and thoughts without feeling overwhelmed or under pressure. The group I was with were fabulous and came from different organisations not only in the U.K. but from
across Europe as well.

Rachel kicked off the session with introductions and asked us why we were all there. This was great as it ensured that the session was tailored so it addressed everyone’s key concern. For me, as well as learning more about strategic internal comms, one key thing I wanted to take away from the session was measurement and how to do it successfully. This is one area that I do struggle with and I’m determined to get right as I know when it’s done correctly it can have such a massive impact on influencing key decision makers.

After intros, Rachel spoke about the evolution of Internal Comms and what it now means. This part of the session was fascinating. Like many others I ‘fell’ into internal communications and never really intended it to be my career. Listening to how internal comms came about was fantastic and gave me a greater understanding (and appreciation) for my profession.

The day flies by with lots of chatter, discussion and debate. We cover a range of subjects including what we need to do to move from good to great, how to become a trusted advisor, where does comms add value, what do we mean by engagement, how to develop a robust IC strategy plus much much more. I could have sat there until midnight listening, sharing and learning but sadly I had a train to catch and other people had lives to get on with.

One thing you need to understand about the masterclass, is that it’s not a ‘traditional’ training session – it’s not death by PowerPoint, you are not being spoken at for 8 hours and expected to jot down pages and pages of notes. It’s a collaborative session with conversation, sharing and learning. Rachel shares her experience, the tools that have been useful to her and insight on some really interesting case studies. Her delivery of the masterclass is brilliant and she ensures everyone has time for discussion and reflection.

I paid for this session myself and I don’t regret a penny, in fact I’d pay it all again!
I seriously urge you to get booked onto this day, I know spaces get sold out quickly so if you get a chance book on. I promise you will not regret a second. Oh I’m now that one step closer to nailing measurement 🙂 – thank you Rachel for a fabulous, insightful and interesting day – one of the best sessions I’ve attended!IMG_8505.JPG

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My notes….

10 things I learnt at the Big Yak!

This weekend I travelled down to London and attended the Big Yak. Now there are only two reasons I would ever get up at an ungodly hour on a Saturday – if I was going on holiday or the Big Yak. If you’ve never heard of the Big Yak (where have you been!!) it’s a FREE Internal Communications Unconference set up by the IC crowd which is managed by three wonderful ladies, Jenni Field, Rachel Miller and Dana Leeson.

This is my second time attending the Big Yak so I kinda knew what to expect – or so I thought! This year it completely exceeded my already high expectations.

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Founders of The IC Crowd
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The measurement session

 

The day was filled with amazing conversations with fabulous people who had the same interests as me (this in itself was worth the early morning alarm).

If you’ve never been to an unconference it’s basically a conference where delegates set their own agenda and facilitate their own sessions. There were more than 30 sessions throughout the day and I managed to hot foot it across to four of them. Below are some my quick takeaways from the day:

1. We’re not Internal communicators we are Time Travellers! We need to take people to the future to what leaders care about, keep them informed of the present, what their managers care about and remind them of the past, what they care about.
2. Storytelling only works properly if it comes from the heart. Don’t force a story and expect people to fall in love with it. Our job as Internal communicators is to make sure we share, amplify and support when necessary. Stories to be meaningful need to be created by the people for the people.
3. Measurement seems to be one area that we all seem to struggle with. It was acknowledged by the group that it can be difficult to put measures on some of the things we do, but there was general agreement that we do need to look more at outcomes rather than outputs. A few people mentioned the government’s measurement framework: https://gcs.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/GCS_GCS-Evaluation-framework_A4-_191115.pdf
4. I heard the best acronym of the day in the ‘how to get buy in from cynics’ session: CAVE people (Constantly Against Virtually Everything).
5. It’s important to get our front line colleagues on board by going back to basics and understanding what their concerns are. Allow them to gain trust in you (and your leaders) by giving them an avenue to feedback and get honest answers on questions raised.
6. We need to work with leaders and managers to understand how communication skills can help them in their role. Holding 30 min lunch time sessions is a quick way to share some knowledge and skills that could help them.
7. Don’t underestimate on how much you are worth. Try undertaking a cross charging activity to show how much value you’re bringing to an organisation compared to external resources.
8. Digital and ESNs were the big ticket items two years ago. Now it’s more on how we can engage our colleagues without getting too dazed with ‘comms bling’
9. Talking of comms bling I did love the idea of Pecha Kucha, where people do 20 slides and talk over each slide for 20 seconds, creating a 6 min video. Great for introducing new people to your organisation http://www.pechakucha.org/
10. What more can we do as a profession to be taken seriously at Board Level? We help others share their successes, shouldn’t we be doing the same for ourselves?

That’s a really quick whistle stop tour of the things I picked up. You can follow the hashtag #thebigyak for more information and you can read the following blogs from fellow attendees from the day. It truly was a fantastic day with some wonderful people. I can not wait to see what next year will bring!

@allthingsic: http://www.allthingsic.com/tby2016/
@southendscribe: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/little-help-from-my-friends-simon-rutter
@how_ic_it: https://howicitblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/the-big-yak-generation-ic/
@tolsen: http://thomasolsende.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/the-big-yak.html

If you’re interested in more Internal Comms networking sessions then check out CIPR INSIDES Closing The Gap conference on 4 October: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/closing-the-gap-annual-internal-communication-conference-tickets-26587288295

Believe in yourself…

For the past couple of weeks work has been very busy which has meant my weekly musings have taken a back seat lately. However, whilst I have a few minutes I thought I’d clear the cobwebs and reflect for a bit.

Today’s blog isn’t anything new or revolutionary but just my thoughts and general perceptions. Recently I’ve been involved in many conversations with friends around the topic of confidence. These conversations centred mostly around confidence in their own ability. I like to think I’m a confident person, sure I have moments of uncertainty but generally I’m a strong believer in my own skills and I know I am good at what I do. This isn’t me being cocky or arrogant, I know this because I have worked really really hard to get to where I am today.

I spend hours everyday working, learning and developing – I never really switch off and that’s because I really love what I do. However, I’m not unique in this, many of my friends and colleagues are also hard workers and are great at what they do but for some reason some of them really struggle to see how amazing they truly are. They constantly think that they are lucky to be in that role, and continuously worry that other people must think they didn’t deserve the post. When you dig a bit deeper on why they feel that way, it’s generally down to a flippant comment or a remark someone made in passing.

Now I’m all for constructive feedback – as long as it adds value. Telling someone something is rubbish but then not telling them why is not helpful. Or commenting on someone’s behaviour without any valid evidence to back it up is not appropriate. Most of us want to continue to develop and grow. We are all adults in the workplace so it’s important people are treated with respect regardless of what role they are in.

So a message to my wonderful friends and to people reading this blog: Never forget who you are and believe in yourself more. You have worked hard to get to where you are, so please don’t allow anyone to dull your sparkle. You’re all amazing people and you truly deserve whatever good comes your way – please remember that!

A little bit of thanks can go a long way…

I genuinely think people can sometimes underestimate the power of those two little words: Thank you. It’s a common theme that comes up time and time again in the various organisations I’ve worked in:

“My manager doesn’t appreciate the work that I do!”

“S/he never says thank you when I stay late to help out!”

“They just don’t care about how hard I work, it’s all about them.”

However, when I speak to leaders about the comments or feedback they always seem bemused claiming that they do always say thank you and appreciate the work their teams do. Though when I dig deeper it becomes obvious that it was the more meaningful thanks their teams were after. Not the passing ‘thanks’ shouted from their manager’s desk as they are walking out of the door, or the blanket generic email that is sent out to everyone whether they were part of the project or not.

What people truly want is ‘genuine’ thanks – the thank you that comes from the bottom of the heart.  We’ve all been guilty of not giving our full attention when recognition is given, especially when we are rushed off our feet. However, taking a few minutes out of your schedule and popping over to their desks to say a face-to-face thank you or writing a personal handwritten note on why you are thanking them will mean a lot to that individual. Not only will they appreciate the time you’ve given to them but it will also help build stronger, trusted relationships with your teams/colleagues.

I’ve seen the positive impact that can come from a meaningful thank you. Teams perform better, profits are up, customer satisfaction is higher and more importantly people are happier which means engagement is generally more positive –and all this for absolutely no financial cost to the organisation!

Next time you go to say thank you, think about what you are thanking that person for and how you say it – I promise it will go a long way.

 

 

Top tips on filming in-house

For the past few weeks I’ve spent quite a significant amount of my time learning how to use the new video camera we’ve just purchased for our team. We’ve always been big fans of short videos in my organisation but recently we’ve upped our game a bit and decided to do more. 

I’ve seen many conversations take place via social media about the use of video and I think majority of us agree that they work well, providing they contain good content. They are particularly great for colleagues who are time poor, regardless of whether they work in operational functions or in an office. It enables us to give them a quick snapshot of what is going on. 

During the time I’ve shot my own videos I’ve learnt five key things: 

1) Keep it short – anything longer than 3-5 minutes you are going to lose the audience. I filmed some leaders speaking about international women’s day this week and the videos that lasted around 3 minutes had twice the number of views than the 5 minute videos. If it’s impossible to keep it within that time frame then I suggest you break them up into chapters. 

2) Eye contact – depending on the type of content you are presenting you might want to consider how you get your presenter to position themselves in front of the camera. If it’s an interview then getting them looking away from the camera chatting to you is much more engaging, as it looks like the viewer is in the room with you. However, if it’s a more personal message I found that if they spoke directly into the camera it’s much more effective as it’s like having a 1-2-1 conversation. Though a little disclaimer, if your presenter is nervous or insists on reading from a piece of paper then this method will not work. As difficult as it might be, take the paper away from them and get them to do it in sections. A nervous presenter will find it much easier to talk to you directly with the camera off angle and you asking them questions. 

3) Equipment – before we purchased our new camera kit, which was around £500, we used our smartphones to film. Okay the quality isn’t as great as the Canon SLR but it does the job. Buy yourself a good stand, download a good editing software for phones, which are around £3.99 and you’re good to go. At the moment I’m using movie maker which comes free with Microsoft – you can download iPhone videos to this software as well. It isn’t the most sophisticated editing software but it does the job for an internal film. If you have time and money to spend then look at Adobe Premium Pro. 

4) Location – think about where you are filming, the big pro cameras with proper microphones can handle lots of background noise but our little cameras can’t. Nothing is more distracting than hearing chatter in the background or doors slamming. Also make sure you try and keep the wall behind the presenter clear, e.g no distracting information on whiteboards or PC screens showing any confidential data. 

5) Clothes – It’s also a good idea to check what the presenter is wearing. Sounds weird I know, but certain stripes on shirts don’t work well on camera and if they have a white shirt and you’re filming against a white wall it will look like a floating head. Also worth checking when you meet them to make sure that their buttons are done up, shirt is tucked in and that they have no lipstick or food in their teeth. Nothing worse then going back to your office and spotting these things. They won’t appreciate having to do it again either. 

Finally there are 100s of short (free) courses online plus there are groups that meet up around various areas to discuss how to make the most of your camera equipment. If you are not familiar with meetup then check them out. In Manchester they have a short iPhone video masterclass which you can join for free! 

It’ll be great to hear from you on what your top tips are and what works well for you!  

My inspiration…

As it’s International Women’s Day on 8 March and Mother’s Day today I wanted to write about the woman who has inspired me to be who I am today – my lovely mum!

Both my sister and I have been brought up believing we can do whatever we want to do regardless of barriers or any hurdles that might be thrown our way.  
My mum was sent to the UK by her own mum when she was 15 to look after her four older brothers who had settled in the UK a few years earlier. It was the first time she had ever left Kenya (where she was born) and the first time on a plane. She worked 18 hour days to ensure that my sister and I never struggled when we grew up and we had the best start. Her strength, tenacity and self-belief is something I’ve always found inspiring.
No matter what life brings her she approaches it with as much positivity as she can. When she was diagnosed with mouth cancer a few years ago she never once faltered into a ‘woe me phase’ and she could have, especially as she never smoked, drank and has been a pure vegetarian her whole life. Her fight, determination and unwillingness to give up has taught me a lot. 
I understand more now that life is precious and you are responsible for your own happiness. My mum has always taught me to believe in who I am, to trust my own judgments and to fight for what I want, without her I wouldn’t be who I am today. 

Happy Mothers Day to my amazing mum and to all you wonderful mummies out there!