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Table-talk lessons from the IABC UK’s ‘Gift of Comms’

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC UK) held their first UK ‘Gift of Comms’ half-day conference in London with two speakers and five round-table discussions led by experienced communicators. The conference had a focus on charity communications, but mixed a great deal of business experience into the day. Here’s the major points I was reminded about.

Carla Faria of Say Media UK – talk from a sponsor

Tell stories and have a point of view. Stories are more memorable than facts and views challenge people to think.

Say Media UK, @SayMediaUK

Susan Walker – audience research (table talk)

Before designing surveys, know the biases and statistical mistakes / assumptions your information gathering process can create. Ignorance will cost you valid data, yet you won’t realise. Every question must be asked for a reason. Why ask about sex and gender if you’re not going to act on any found differences? Take action on the results, and communicate the actions. Make managers responsible.

Susan Walker

Ezri Carlebach and Michael Ambjorn – brand management (table talk)

Brand is about what you stand for, not your product and logo.
Look at ual’s brand – it’s black / white Helvetica: then it is vivid student activity.
Do not sub-brand your departments or projects beyond simply identifying them.
Brand elements (images, colours, fonts, etc.) have to be easy to use by staff if you expect everyone to adhere to standards.

Ezri Calebach, University of the Arts London, @Ezriel and Michael Ambjorn, @MichaelAmbjorn

Ethics cards - click to embiggenJane Mitchell – ethics (table talk)

Ethics, while encompassing a great many matters, is a framework that can be referred to.
Leaders can be low on ‘love’ and ‘humility’ and high in ‘courage’. We need to talk about difficult decisions so that no one goes home sad after hard choices. Ethics should spring from an organisation’s values.

Jane L Mitchell, @JMitchComms

Mike Pounsford and Michael Nord – engagement and change / organisational development (table talk)

Reach audiences with the right message, and measure.
Right to reply to mass emails from the director.
‘Engagement’: create the environments within which people want to perform.
Read ‘The Extra Mile‘ by David MacLeod.
Major lesson is to communicate the journey – in words and pictures! Where we are, what we need to change to get to a new place and why. The narrative, the strategy.
Helen Morris-Brown of ReallyResponsible @RResponsible reminds those wiser than me that Action Learning is more effective than external training, sustainable and cheaper.

Mike Pounsford, The Big Conversation Company, @MikePounsford; Michael Nord, Fifth Business, @MNordNL

Mark St.Andrew and Daniel Schraibman – media and strategy (table talk)

Comms is a support service, it doesn’t being in any money; so add value and support real business.
For media, develop the story of your organisation; separate out different themes to be attracttive to different media.
Develop a ‘position tool-kit’ on every issue, so your organisation knows how to talk.
Crisis comms plans; out of hours contact details. Who else will a journalist ring for ‘details’? Call those people first!
Shareholder matrix; identify everyone who has a hand in your organisation’s success. Allocate a relationship manager to them!

Mark St.Andrew, Action and Drama, @MarkandDrama and Daniel Schraibman, South Hook Gas

Marc Wright, of Simply Communicate – social inside the enterprise – main talk

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software is too expensive and static. Yammer is not too expensive; let’s focus on people and not massive Oracle software(!). Speed and agility trumps size. Communities are the killer app of the intranet – maybe of everything. Stop talking to individuals and start talking to communities; network effect.
Intranet directory? Mmm; Social search shows what a person does and thinks they do, the directory only says one thing. An individual will become the product, just like in Facebook. Internal social media showcases what you’re adding to the organisation
A third of people prirotise social media freedom over salary – McKinsey Report.
Let’s co-create content and comms!
Piggy-back on others’ news – “own the second paragraph” add the comment, the view and the context. Read ‘News Jacking‘ by David Meerman Scottt.

Marc Wright, Simply Communicate, @Simply_Marc

I was very much engaged throughout the day as there were so many people to talk to and a variety of views and insights.  Marc also referenced me as a news jacker on Twitter, explaining that without Twitter activity, Simply Comms articles get half the attention. I was also one of two people who were given a gift of a book and magnetic word art by Say Media UK for tweeting throughout the day. I got to speak with people I’ve seen on Twitter for months and years, and that was just the best thing. I failed to catch Chris Day’s contact details as we didn’t finish our conversation about intranets, if you know Chris, could you ask him to contact Wedge please?

Gift of Comms Speakers

Review

It is truly fantastic for the IABC UK to focus on the third sector and charity communications (while my ‘day job’ is writing, business comms and intranets, I run a tiny charity in my ‘spare’ time). It would have been good to hear from some actual charities about their engagement and communication successes and methods.

The format of dual-hosted table-talks was problematic. Discussion leaders did not know each other, and I was conscious of tension about time spent talking. I didn’t hear from everyone I could have.

The price was incredibly important. Although many people don’t worry about budgets (‘the business will pay for my day out’) anything over £70 is dear. The Gift of Comms was £40.

My thanks to the IABC UK and the speakers, many of whom are IABC leaders and experienced communicators. Thanks to everyone who took the time to speak with me; you are my heroes.

IABC UK Gift of Comms – 31 January 2013 @IABCUK and thanks to Danniella Cross of Say Media UK.

[ Wedge ]

Photo credit: me (sorry, just a snap)

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About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.