On Friday 2 May, 100 plus internal communication professionals gathered at #ioiclive14 in Brighton. I was really looking forward to the day. I love learning and taking the time to meet new people who who share a love of comms.
I was there with two hats, one my own, and one for CIPR Inside the specialist group for internal comms at the CIPR.
In the true sense of sharing and partnership across institutions, CIPR Inside’s chair, Jenni Wheller was one of the speakers on the day and was involved in the conference organisation.
So here’s an overview of the first three presentations of the day which I have written for the CIPR Inside blog and am sharing here too.
BT – Case study – Blurred lines
Jon Hawkins, Head of Brand and Language at BT and Neil Taylor, Managing Partner, The Writer were first up to share with us how BT transformed its language internally and externally and changed its culture.
BT, like many large organisations full of highly skilled technical teams and individuals had a clumsy style of language. Some examples they shared showed how confusing, laden with jargon, and almost nonsensical some of the communication had become. Jon and Neil had a huge task to take on the language at BT.
There was a general over-use of words, with internal bureaucracies making it worse and sometimes cited as a reason for the loss of meaning.
And what was the external view of BT? As a customer, you would have received literature with a snappy headline, but with very long terms and conditions and more explanatory notes and exclusions. Customers may well have felt confused, bewildered and misinformed (as some of the content was so difficult to interpret, or they’d just not bother to read on or listen). So it’s clear the customer perception of BT would not be in line with BT’s ambition.
Jon and Neil knew to get the external view of BT right, that the internal view had to be fixed. And it was not only about internal comms and language for clarity, but also about the impact of poorly written communication reaching deep into business. Wordy statements, visions and strategies become impossible to act upon if they are not easily understood. Quite simply, stuff is just not going to get done if people don’t understand what’s required, or they’re bogged down in heavy bureaucratic jargon.
Neil and Jon shared three vision statements, and we were asked which we thought was the current BT vision. They were each very similar, bland and to be honest could have been for any communication provider or tech business.
So what did they do?
They created clear brand principles, which they underpinned by explicit descriptors:
- Write with clarity and confidence – say what you mean, and say it clearly
- Show a world full of promise – what’s your reader really interested in
- Add small moments of wonder – a flash of personality goes a long way
They are working to make sure that everyone knows how to write, with the new style a suite of training and guidelines which have been implemented.
- E moments
- Train the trainer
People are getting used to the new clarity, not tinkering with it and its becoming set as standard.
What did colleagues think?
“The best workshop I’ve ever attended” Patricia Hewitt, BG Group non-executive director former cabinet minister.
Not only is the communication simpler, but it’s also much more effective with more forms filled in for routine HR tasks for example.
Is language aligned externally and internally?
There are blurred lines for internal and external and call centres are at the cusp. So call centre language and scripts were slashed to reduce word count, simplify and cut the legal disclaimer. The call handling time has been cur and in the process £6m has been saved.
98% of BT people say the language change is significant and saving them time.
1,400 people on webinars, more ‘informed’
Now it’s a time to work on showing the BT personality, being bold, sharing our heritage and making the language project stick.
Government communication service – IC excellence
Russell Grossman is Director of communications, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
There’s a new drive for communication excellence in government, pushed forward by Alex Aiken. Creating Excellence in UK Government Communications is the overarching project and Russell is heading up the IC excellence within the change programme.
The communications capability review looked at three areas of delivery of communications:
- Delivery itself – writing and the tactics
- Leadership – creating the opportunities for others and great leadership
- Strategy – how is it you are planning to go where you are going and why
Evidence showed that the teams were great tactically, but were less strong on strategy, and working out where the audience needed to be in the future.
With 4,000 communication professionals to reach, the project has involved segmenting them into manageable groups.
This ‘reform’ is rolling out across the whole of government communication, and there are 11 streams of reform.
Internal communication is one of those streams, and the reform aims to move the government practice of internal comms to become ’’excellent’ and an exemplar for the profession.
So how is it being implemented?
Everyone who works in communications in government is in the GCS (Government Communication Service). Membership is automatic, and there are three levels of membership – core, affiliate and associate.
Career pathways and CPD (continuing professional development) are central to the membership, and everyone receives advice and guidance on their career path and needs.
- Practitioners Toolkit for internal comms people
- Line managers took kit for operational leaders
- Effect change across the government
- Talent and development is built into everyone’s career in comms
Internal communication has been moved up the agenda, with Russell championing it in government, to the point that now:
“If you want to get a promotion, then you need to have done a spell in internal communication”
It’s clear that this emphasis on understanding internal communication for all communication professionals can only be a good thing. What’s more there’s a commitment to expect the same standards, metrics and rigour from internal comms as you would from other disciplines such as marketing. You can read more about internal comms in government at IC space.
As part of the review and change programme an event dedicated to IC excellence was organised and some familiar names from our committee and award winners from this year’s #insidestory awards presented their ideas. Have a read here.
You can read the DWP case study from the #insidestory awards here.
Rachel Miller has also written an interesting post about the IC space which you can read here.
The longer term aim is to make this ‘certified status’ portable to other organisations. What you may be asking, like we did, is what about the CPD offered by CIPR. The answer is simple, Russell is in conversation with the CIPR and IABC to make sure GCS takes advantage of the experience and courses on offer already.
A video of what’s on offer cna be seen here.
Generation Z – an insight
Jenni Wheller, our chair this year has just completed her research into Generation Z and what we can expect when communicating with a new generation coming into the workplace. Generation Z covers the group born after 1995 and just entering work and college.
The research is based upon the premise that the world has changed significantly in recent years, and the way we communicate with each other has been transformed.
To put that statement into context, in 2002 365 billion text messages were sent, in 2010 that was an incredible 6.1 trillion messages sent (we can only guestimate what that may be in 2013 – more or less? With so many other platforms for ‘instant messaging’ is the text message becoming less used?). In 1990 there were just three million internet users, by 2010 there were over 1.9 billion.
Jenni undertook some colleague research at her company, SSP UK which has a high proportion of young people working in its numerous food and refreshment outlets at train stations and other hubs around the country. She discovered:
- 80% were interested in the company’s plans for the future.
- 75% were interested in their own business area
- 39% were interested in values.
On channels, overall employees of all ages said they preferred:
1) Messages from the head of function
3) Peer to peer recognition
4) Messages from senior leaders
5) Annual conference
Is email is dead?
In contrast to popular belief that email is ‘dead’ and that Generation Z individuals are just interested in social comms, Jenni’s research found that Generation Z respondents put email as the top comms channel, with 67% saying they want to receive business messages that way. While 45% said they liked messages via the intranet and 34% from their manager. Just 11% said that they wanted to receive information on social media.
The Generation Z respondents were keen to retain their anonymity in surveys – 45%.
When it comes to using social media, 78% expect to use social media as they like, and just 42% expect a set of rules, which is a slight concern for comms managers managing social media, creating strategies and guidelines. How would you manage and protect against confidential info being shared, or defammatory and inflammatory comments being posted? Perhaps that should be managed as a whole within the code of conduct or contract, and not a specific set of guidelines for social media.
Face to face was found to be a really strong channel for communication, and while it’s expensive to deliver, it is often the first to be cut and ‘replaced with social’. But little can replace the impact of face to face communication, so this reinforces the need to retain budgets for roadshows, town halls and other face to face events, as it can’t be ‘replaced with social’ completely.
In a world where seven out of 10 of us own a smartphone, BYOD is an exciting and cost effective opportunity for employers. So Jenni asked, can we talk to you on your mobile? 80% of Generation Zs said that they expect to be contacted on their mobile phone which is great in principle, but Jenni noted that experience had shown her that getting mobile numbers from people can be trickier in practice.
One of the most notable findings of Jenni’s research is the fact that 80% of Generation Zs expect to opt in or opt out of different communication channels just like they do in their personal life. This presents a big change for communication professionals in how we manage channels.
The overarching theme of the results from this research is that you can’t segment by generation. It isn’t about generations, it’s about individuals. Their personal preference is powerful and something we need to be mindful of if our communication is going to be successful. Similarly, we need to consider the ways different channels are used some are great for ‘broadcast’ some perfect for listening to employee voice and feedback.
- Information should be relevant to individuals and not generational.
- Review your channel mix and how you use it. Broadcast or listening? And can your colleagues opt in and opt out?
- Avoid segmenting by generations, and consider everyone as an individual. The effectiveness of your communication will be subject to their individual beliefs, choices and actions.
- Explore the use of social media – especially how it can help employees share information and have their voice heard.
Storify of the day by Rachel Miller here
IoIc blogs here
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – email symbol
Rachel Miller – photos from the event