ESNanon – an unconference for ESN professionals

A repost from Rachel Miller’s All Things IC blog…written by me http://www.allthingsic.com/esnanon

Come and air your ESN successes and stresses

Who can you turn to in your contacts book to ask for confidential advice and guidance about all things enterprise social network (ESN) related?

esnanonI regularly get emails from people asking for my opinion, but what if there was a whole room of your peers willing and able to share their stories?

Well now there is, and here to tell us all about a shiny new unconference – that you’re invited to – is comms pro Paul Thomas @tallpaul75. Over to you Paul…

Come and air your ESN successes and stresses

Rachel has invited me to write a post on her blog, which is incredibly gracious of her seeing as it is her idea (and that of her The Big Yak compadres in The IC Crowd) that we’ve stolen, belt and braces!

Alex Chapel @achapel01, from KPMG, Kim England @miss_england_19, from Pearson, and I have recently announced our plans to hold an ESN unconference, #ESNanon. It’s being held on 21 March at Pearson’s offices on The Strand, London.

This is the first in what we hope will be a series of events dedicated to those who work in the ever-growing world of ESN.

So why an unconference?

PaulThomas

I have a love/hate relationship with conferences and networking events. Attend a good one and I walk away invigorated, a spring in my step, a song in my heart, ready to embrace the challenges I’ve taken away.

Attend a bad one and pretty much the reverse is true.

In most cases the conferences I attend are neither altogether good nor altogether bad, they just don’t do a good enough job of designing themselves around the most important people – their attendees.

Usually it’s plenary, coffee, plenary, lunch, workshop, coffee, workshop, close, networking drinks.

Coffee is interrupted by vendors selling you something you don’t need, lunch is the usual juggling of plate, glass and conversation which generally ends up with you not enjoying any of its constituent parts.

It was at one of these events where Alex and I sat at the end talking about how we’d not managed to have many conversations at all with our peers. The whole event had moved so fast that actual conversation had only played a very small part.

“What we need is an unconference” I said.

Quickly rewind…

I met Alex a couple of years ago when introduced by Euan Semple @euan. I was probably bleating on about how hard my job was proving, leading Grant Thornton‘s social business approach, and he suggested we meet.

Alex works for KPMG and collaboration isn’t necessarily the first word that springs to mind when you mention our firm’s names in the same breath, but here we were.

For our initial meetings, in the pub, were joined by a couple of others struggling with Enterprise Social Networks in large organisations. Thank God beer was involved!

What followed were a couple of downloading sessions where we shared the challenges we were facing and offered each other advice on how to overcome them.

Back to the point Paul…

#TheBigYak is organised by the trinity of Rachel, Jenni Wheller and Dana Leeson (You can find us @theICcrowd and read about the event here – Rachel). It was clear we needed a third Musketeer and so we spoke to Kim England at a networking event, briefly outlining the idea and agreeing to meet for coffee.

One coffee and one lunch later we had a rough plan, a name for the event (ESN Anonymous seemed to reflect the peer therapy sentiment) and a location.

And so now all we need to do is to replicate that peer sharing at scale. 70 people in one place, on a Saturday, willing to contribute, share and help each other through a wide range of challenges and conundrums.

We’ll follow the rules of the unconference, allowing our attendees to lead the agenda, employing the rule of two feet and making sure everyone leaves feeling they’ve learnt something or contributed in some way.

There’s so much to discuss including:

  • how to write the business case for ESN
  • getting buy-in at senior level
  • approach to implementation
  • launch strategies
  • big questions around proving long-term value
  • interpreting your numbers
  • plus managing your community.

I’m always blown away by the amount of egoless sharing that goes on between communications professionals and their dedication to doing a great job.

We’ve chosen a Saturday so we get the really dedicated. ‘give up my Saturday’ comms pros who will bring immense value to the room. All yours for a tenner (£10) and a Saturday!

So, if that sounds good…and come on, it really does…sign up at our Eventbrite page now and we’ll see you for a really good chat on 21 March!

Post author: Paul Thomas.

Thanks Paul. I have signed up to attend, babysitters for my toddler and newborn twins permitting, and hope to make it along. Hats off to Paul, Kim and Alex as I know how much hard work it takes to organise such an event, especially alongside the day job.

Even though one would assume there’s less work as it’s unstructured, I promise you that’s not the case! But the beauty of an unconference is that you get out what you put into it. Plus you should leave with your questions answered as you help shape the content.

Are you going to #ESNAnon? If not, you can follow the conversations via the hashtag #ESNanon before, during and after the event on Twitter.

You can get your ticket for just under £10 here.

Further reading
Want to find out more about enterprise social networks and using social media internally? See the links below for articles I’ve published about them over the six years I’ve been writing my blog for.

PR360_You can also discover what events are coming up for comms pros to attend globally by checking out my comms calendar.

Plus save money off PR Week’s PR360 event simply by being a reader of my blog – see my exclusive deal.

Here are the links:

Rachel Miller @AllthingsIC

First published on All Things IC blog 13 February 2015.

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It’s our party and you’re not invited!

Spurred on* by the success of our project to bring an ESN (Enterprise Social Network) to our people in Grant Thornton UK LLP, our Grant Thornton International colleagues have launched a global event to bring collaboration to our 30,000 plus people worldwide over three days.

Our people have been encouraged to talk about this on their social networks which led to a number of tweets from all over the world yesterday and undoubtedly today too.

Nice to see?

Well yes, if you work for Grant Thornton it’s great to see the engagement it’s driving across the firm.

And if you don’t work for Grant Thornton?

An interesting question from a UK journalist asked, “Can we come in?” The answer? Er, no. Sorry.

So my question. Whilst internal communications beyond the firewall undoubtedly has its moments, is it good practice to talk about internal events with little context out on platforms like Twitter? Does it appear like we’re hosting a party you’re not invited to, or does the value of our employees growing internal networks outside of the firewall outweigh the perceived lack of value for our wider audience? Should internal comms stay internal?

My view: I have talked to many internal people who use Twitter as a barometer for internal comms. They have little time for the intranet or our ESN unless they have a purpose to be there, which is another blog subject. However, a quick check of Twitter and they feel connected. So whilst we won’t overdo it, a bit of contextual internal communication on Twitter has value to our employees. And for everyone else? Please bear with us. It’s our party and we’ll tweet if we want to.

* spurred on or inspired, imitation, down to the name, IS the sincerest form of flattery!

The changing role of the internal communicator

The last seven days have been hectic. An unconference, a forum meeting, a networking dinner, an interview in The Times, an amazing gig and….oh yeah, sign off on the huge Enterprise Social Network project me and the team have been working on for the whole of our lives. So in the calm before the implementation storm, some thoughts on the week’s major theme; the changing role of the internal communicator.

Communications? PR? Marketing? – we need to be able to wear all three hats, or at least be able to walk in all three pairs of shoes.

Comfortable behind our desks – we can’t continue to expect people to come to us. We need to be out there making change happen, visible and essential. In our rush for a seat at the table, we have to leave our own seat behind once in a while.

Embrace your marketing colleagues – there was a recurring theme at ‘The big Yak’ of marketing being the competition. “They have the biggest budget”, “They have more sway”. Marketing people are people too – talk to them, learn from them, work with them not against them. There’s an immediacy to marketing because they understand the link between what they do and the bottom line. Maybe that’s not as tangible to some of us in Comms.

Making comms ‘sexy’ again – Marketing is ‘sexy’ because they make it so. Networking, dinners, awards, events, clients. We have those things too people!

Socialising the workplace – the emergent role of the social business manager. Doing this right means the marrying together of all the above and understanding that ‘social’ and ‘digital’ are just words. Communicate the business benefit of an ESN (Enterprise Social Network) or a simple Twitter feed, show people what’s in it for them, and don’t expect it to be easy!

Community – two elements to this. 1) Community Management – understand what this means to your business and to you. The tools we now have at our disposal are changing this from a little bit of what we all do, to the be all and end all. 2) You’re not alone. There’s a growing, engaged community of practitioners out there to learn from and who want to learn from you. Follow @theICcrowd for a start and switch on to a whole bunch of people walking in your shoes.

Finally, and this may be just me, but having been the quiet ones (all things are relative…) in the corner, suddenly the ‘digital’ part of Grant Thornton’s Comms team is going to be awfully noisy from now on. ESN signed off and social business hats pulled tightly on, call it what you want but the ‘digi’ boys and girls are coming!!!

What changes do you see coming over the horizon for communicators?