Working with no budget?

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

Design

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

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

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

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.

Animation

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

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

 

Photos

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

Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

http://www.allthingsic.com/
http://redefiningcomms.com/
http://www.helendeverellcommunications.com/
http://www.alivewithideas.com/blog
https://www.ragan.com/InternalCommunications/Internal.aspx
https://www.ickollectif.com/
https://www.gatehouse.co.uk/blog/
http://blog.bananatag.com/internal-comms
https://handhcomms.co.uk/blogs
http://www.marginalia.online/category/articles/

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: https://pracademy.co.uk/

 

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.

 

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.