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! 

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? 

How did I get into IC?

I’ve been wanting to start my own blog for quite a while now but never really knew where to begin. However, earlier this week it was announced that we had been shortlisted for a CIPRinside award which has thrilled me to no end. So I thought that this was a perfect week to start my journey into the blogging world.

I thought I’d dedicate my first post to my actual physical journey into Internal Communications as I’m often asked by people how my career started! It’s a bit of a longish one so might be worth grabbing a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Promise my future ones will be much shorter.

Internal Communications has been part of my life for around 10 years in some form or another. I never saw myself as a writer or particularly creative, I liked science and all things technical.  I left university with my 2.1 in IT tucked under my arms, ready to face the world with ambitions to become the next female Bill Gates. Fast forward six months and I was working in an organisation data inputting prescriptions. My dreams of working in web developing were slipping away. Work was limited in the North of England and I really didn’t want to leave behind my beloved city, Manchester. So I persevered in the role for a further six months before my parents intervened as they were concerned that I wasn’t my usual bubbly self. I used to wake up in the mornings dreading work, no one spoke as it was all about targets and I spent much of my time wondering what on earth had happened to the enthusiastic 22 year old, who was so looking forward to her future. After the chat I decided it was time to take control of my life back and I handed my notice in without another role to go to. It was a risk but I needed some time to reflect and figure out what I wanted to do. It was this point in my life I decided I would never work another day in a role that made me so miserable – life is too short!

I started applying for basic admin jobs to tide me over and I booked myself a trip to Kenya for a few weeks. A few days before my flight I was called in for an interview to become an admissions officer at MMU. This is where my IC journey really started.

I was offered the role and started work as soon as I got back. During my time I noticed that the faculty didn’t really communicate with each other about business, changes in teams, new starters etc so I decided to create a newsletter called ‘Toasty Times’ as our building looked like a toast rack (clever hey!). From this fortnightly newsletter I was asked to support my marketing colleagues a couple of times a week. It was a wonderful lady called Katherine who gave me encouragement to apply for a masters in Strategic Marketing as she saw how much I enjoyed the work. I completed the masters over three years whilst working part time and in my final year I moved to a new role at the NHS as a project support officer for a mentoring/coaching scheme.

This was a brand new project that helped develop my skills in Communications, from creating newsletters, intranets and websites to brand development. My boss Becci was one of the best and she was hugely encouraging. Which gave me a huge amount of confidence in my ability and skills.

A few years later I applied for a Comms Officer role at a Mental Health Trust. Again this was a brand new role with a huge focus on IC. I loved this job, it helped me develop into a specialist. I loved working with colleagues and cresting new channels. My biggest achievement was developing a brand new intranet from scratch as I was able to tap into my, albeit slight rusty, web development skills.

Of course it wasn’t always plain sailing. There were plenty of challenges along the way, things that tested my resilience (more on this in future blogs), but I have no regrets!

I decided that after almost seven years I wanted to move away from the public sector and gain some commercial experience. It was a tough decision but the best one I’ve made to date.

I started working at Manchester Airports Group almost three years ago as a specialist in Colleague Engagement. Soon after we had a change in our team and I moved to manage internal comms for operational colleagues based at East Midlands and Manchester. Working with remote colleagues took me back to my NHS days. I learnt so much in this role and my manager Anna was fantastic and a fabulous mentor. It was around this time I decided I wanted to expand my networks and help out in the IC community, especially by expanding networks in the North. I joined the CIPR inside committee last March and it’s been a fab experience. I’m looking forward to continuing my work with the committee and seeing what the future brings. A couple of months after I joined CIPR inside we had another change in the team and I became Comms and Engagement Manager for Manchester then a few months ago I moved on to managing our Group and MAG US services. This is a really exciting role as it has taken me into international markets which I’m loving.

This is a whistle stop tour of my IC life and even though it hasn’t been easy I’m extremely proud of where I am today and what I’ve achieved.

Internal Communications is a huge passion of mine and no matter how tough the day has been, I always wake up the next day with a leap in my step, excited to start all over again!

Thanks for reading! If you want to follow my daily musings on IC and other random stuff then you can follow me on Twitter @Advita_p.

Advita