Return of the Yak and the continuing evolution of Internal Comms

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I wrote a post last year following the first, brilliant Big Yak unconference about the changing role of the internal communicator, as well as some other emerging trends from the day. Rather than eulogise about this year’s event too much, (it was great, brilliantly organised again by The IC Crowd ladies and their band of volunteers) I thought I’d post a few comments on how things have moved on in the last year.

Enterprise Social Networks are now commonplace

Last year there was a lot of talk from the people in the room about ESN. A few of us had concrete plans to bring one in, but the majority were considering it. This year there were a lot of conversations about how we are using our brand new, shiny networks. Lots of us wanted to know about launch strategies, about how to deal with engagement and particularly, now we’ve got ESN in place, how do we as internal communicators use them?

One point we all agreed on, cultural readiness is key. A number of people I spoke with mentioned concerns that internal comms hadn’t been consulted about a launch planned by their IT teams. One contributor talked about how their ESN had been forced down on them from HQ, despite them already having something in place that worked for their UK business. But those who were bringing in the systems as part of a wider cultural change were confident and clear on what needed to happen to achieve success.

One question that seemed to have no clear answer was do you go for a Big Bang launch to all your people all at once, or do you release gradually to advocate groups and build strong business use cases? At Grant Thornton we went for the latter and with 80% of the firm now on board, I feel strongly that the drip feed release worked wonders to build strong word of mouth and therefore greater goodwill for the platform.

Will internal Comms teams be redundant in 5 years?

This is paraphrasing a session that I ran with a colleague, Helen Deverell. Our main question was “how does giving employees a louder voice within the organisation change the role of the internal communication team?” It’s a question we’ve asked in our team as well and lots of ideas were shared and summarised nicely by Helen in her blog post this week.

Most agreed that we need to evolve and that whilst our roles will definitely change, that it was a positive change and one to be embraced. Journalistic and consulting skills will be brought to the fore and lengthy sign off processes are a thing of the past. News will happen in the moment, not yesterday. Employees have always been the source of the story, but now they can be the story and we have to react to that. That means more live events, live blogging and demonstrating that these platforms live and breathe in ways that our old intranets never really could.

My own assertion is that we can no longer afford to hide behind the internal communication moniker. People are more likely to follow rockstars than corporate news feeds, so we need to step out from the shadows and show personality and develop our own style or risk irrelevancy. Authenticity is key.

A last point for this post – are we our own worst enemies? Helen touches on this in her post too, but there’s a sense that we don’t always follow our own best advice. Can we really sell in these groundbreaking tools if we don’t use them honestly ourselves?

Like the unconference format itself, social collaboration platforms are disruptive. Our internal communication teams will either ride the wave of that disruption and come out stronger, or risk getting swept away.

Image from http://gapingvoid.com

The Big Yak: a snapshot

My thoughts to come, but this is a really good summary from Helen Deverell.

There’s not many conferences where people happily give up their Saturday to attend and the excitement in the lead up is comparable to going on holiday or Glastonbury. The Big Yak is undoubtedly the conference of the year and last Saturday again proved why.

The agenda less day saw 130 communicators get to the heart of the issues in our organisations and discuss them with honesty, humour and frustration. Many people commented after that it was like therapy – and I have to agree!

The sessions I attended covered a range of meaty subjects that inspired a lot of debate. Some of my key takeaways were:

Are communicators the worst at communicating within their own teams?

• implement a quick five minute catch up first thing in the morning with your team and use the time wisely – don’t run through to do lists, focus on the ‘rocks’, issues that…

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