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 🙂

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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!  

Engaging our leaders in engagement…

Next week is kind of a big deal for me and my organisation. Our full year engagement survey is out (eeeek!). It genuinely feels like I’m waiting for my exam results. 
So to stop me nervously pacing, and checking my emails every 30seconds I thought I’d take this opportunity and wade into discussions around engagement. It’s a subject that most IC people have an opinion on and recently there have also been debates on who owns it in an organisation. Does it sit with IC or HR or neither? 

Currently at my org it sits with IC but with very heavy support from HR. I’m not saying that this is the perfect model but it does work for us. However, it was becoming quite apparent that we needed to make a few changes in the way we handled this process this time round. So we looked at three key areas: 

1) Training – We needed our managers to truly understand what engagement and empowerment meant for our organisation. We needed them to have confidence in the process and feel comfortable when they speak to their teams rather than relying on HR or IC. In these training sessions they had the opportunity to hear from an independent engagement specialist who gave them insight on how it works at our organisation, what it means for their teams and how they can make a difference. This session did give them some clarity and throughout the year we will continue with ad-hoc training with various specialists focusing on key areas. 

2) Accessible information – we wanted our leaders to have an easy to use tool that was available to them 24/7 no matter where they were in the world. So we created an online portal which contains a best practice library, top tips, guides and a space to write down key actions, which can be shared with their teams either remotely or face to face. The portal will be bespoke to each leader and will give them, we hope, confidence and support to keep conversations around engagement and empowerment alive all year round. 

Finally we looked at the way we campaigned the survey. 

3) Branding – this was a crucial change for us as we knew that the survey needed a refresh. So we stopped calling it employee opinion survey and referred to it as Your Voice. Not revolutionary but it does what it says on the tin. We produced some posters, pushed via our magazine, tv screens, social media, colleague app and director updates. And it must have worked as this year we increased our response rate by almost 35% taking us to almost 80%, which for an org where 70% of the population are non-office based – we were very pleased. 

It’s still early days but we are hopeful that our leaders will embrace these tools and that our people feel more valued, connected, inspired and empowered because without them we can not continue to grow successfully. 

Why CPD? 

I’ve been a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) for the past three years and this is the first year I’ve logged my CPD with them (*hiding behind the sofa in shame*).
I work in an extremely busy role, which I’m sure many of you do. So, the thought of logging on after a busy work day or at a weekend to fill out a form and write about what I’ve learnt wasn’t really at the top of my list. I already had a good job, people at work valued me, I was recognised for my skills and I never struggled to prove my worth. So why bother logging it? However, this all changed when I heard Sarah Pinch, former CIPR UK president, speak about CPD at the AGM last year. She very eloquently spoke about the importance of professional development. How as comms professionals we had a duty to ourselves to keep on learning, to improve our skills so we can keep up with the latest trends and most importantly to be the trusted advisors that our stakeholders seek. Other professional industries are rigorous on their CPD and without it they wouldn’t be able to continue practising. So, why should our industry be any different? 

Sarah’s speech gave me lots of food for thought. What she spoke about was so on point – we are professionals, just like the accountants, lawyers etc and as such we should be logging our learnings and prove how we are keeping on top of our industry, so we can be the best we possibly can be. 

Logging my points this year has given me much more confidence in what I do. It’s given me time to pause and reflect on the things I’ve learnt. It’s also been a great reference point as I’ve had the opportunity to go back to my logged work and remind myself of just how much knowledge I’ve gained. I just wish I started logging three years ago. 

If you are a CIPR member but haven’t started logging your CPD yet, it isn’t too late. There is just over a week left to log your points (29 Feb). I promise you that you won’t regret it. 

Find out more about CPD by clicking  here

Getting some control back….

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Recently I noticed that I wasn’t making a dent on my task list and it was almost 5pm before I even looked at it. So one week I decided to log my time and see what the ‘eck was going on. What I found out was eye opening – on average I receive around 200 emails a day, I spend about 1 to 2 minutes reading and responding, which totals to more than 4 hours in a day dealing with queries. Add in the number of meetings I have on a daily basis and ‘poof’ my day has disappeared and I spend a few hours extra every night trying to catch up.

I decided that I needed to take some action and claw some of my time back so I introduced some key changes, none of them are revolutionary but they have definitely revolutionised the way I work:

  • Check emails twice a day – I used to have my emails on in the background and have alerts popping up every time I received a message, which was a constant distraction. I switched the alerts off and now only try and check my inbox twice a day. Once in the morning to scan the emails from the night before to make sure I’ve not missed anything important (I give myself 30 mins to do this). Then I spend an hour or so in the evening responding or making notes on the ones I need to get back to using one of the methods below.
  • Ring people back rather than drafting a note – These days many of us are so gung-ho about getting ‘proof’ that you’ve dealt with something that trust has gone out of the window. Honestly, pick up the phone and just have a chat, it’s much quicker and they will definitely appreciate it. If you do want to have ‘evidence’ that you’ve answered their query then there is nothing wrong with dropping them a quick note at the end of the day just to summarise the conversation, if it’s needed.
  • Use Instant Messenger (if you have it) – we have the oldest email system in the world (okay slight exaggeration but it is old) however the great thing about it is our instant message facility. This little gem allows you to message someone really quickly and receive a response within minutes. However, be warned that this can be a distraction as well so if you do have lots do turn on the ‘do not disturb’ sign.
  • Move and go to see people – not only will this give you some exercise but seeing someone face-to-face can really help build better relationships. However, even though most people are generally quite happy for you to pop along unannounced it might be worth just giving them a quick call to see if they have a few minutes for a chat before you turn up. Seeing people is still a new phenomenon for some, so they may be surprised to see an actual human appear next to them without prior warning.
  • Pushing back and saying no – this one was the toughest of them all and to be honest I’m still working on this, though I am getting better. I try and cc the person I know could help (this is where my fountain of knowledge comes in handy) or I try and explain, normally face-to-face, that it really isn’t the IC departments remit to deal with that query. This can be uncomfortable, particularly if you’re a people pleaser like me but in order to bring some control back in your life it needs to be done.

These little tips have been somewhat life changing for me – I’m not saying it’s perfect and I’m skipping out of the office on time every night but it’s given me a sense of control back, so surely that can’t be a bad thing.

What are your top tips in managing your time? Do you have a secret tip?

Stepping into measurement! 

For my second blog I thought I might enter (very gently) into the world of measurement and metrics (risky I know).
This is one subject that often causes some of us creative types to break into a sweat. 

Often in our role we are caught up in the designing and implementation phase and we rarely tend to give measurement the time it requires. 

Since the CIPRinside conference last year, which was all about making an impact, I’ve been looking into this area in more detail and with great interest. Now I’ve not been totally blind to it before and I have produced reports of some sort in my previous roles but I’ve never really taken it too seriously and it was always a last minute thing to do. That was until I saw Kevin Ruck’s presentation on AVID (you can see it here) and I started to see the value IC measurement can actually bring to our role. 

My measurement journey generally starts at the meetings I hold with each of my stakeholders. It’s here I spend some time asking them about their KPIs and how I see Internal Comms helping to achieve them. This meeting helps to give me great insight in what they are trying to achieve and help me prove that IC can have a positive influence in delivering some of our key business metrics. 

Proving the impact we can have on an organisation is really powerful. Obviously having the right tools to help you with metrics does help. Whether it’s click through rates for an email, engagement scores, the number of visits to the intranet story or the number of queries received in our inbox based on our colleague app article, it all contributes in forming a very compelling report for our leaders.

We can finally start to show that we are more than just email distributors and formatting gurus – we can now prove how we make a significant difference to our organisation!

Now where is that spreadsheet…..

How do you handle measurement and metrics in your org?