The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.

What have you lost as a direct result of the Internet? What have you gained?

I partly funded my way through University by working in Virgin Megastores and Our Price Records, both now defunct, sadly missed, killed, at least in part, by the rise of digital music propagated by the Internet.

Our Price Records
There are several mid to late nineties albums I can claim a small amount of responsibility for pushing sales of, Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs being one in particular that I played and played in Fleet Our Price. The hit rate was impressive – passers-by, sucked into the shop by the sounds of the musical saw in Holes, would walk up, ask what was playing and leave with a copy.

Ah those halcyon days!

And now I find myself leading Social Business at Grant Thornton, a role, at least in part, made possible by the Internet and peoples’ constant struggles to get to grips with it. I now help people to explore social selling – not records this time, but their professional selves and expertise…often without help from a musical saw.

So, lost – my perfect job and most of the world’s record shops, though those that remain are all the more special for their scarcity. Gained – another job, another industry and still trying to sell music to people every day through my Twitter account!

So, what have you lost as a direct result of the Internet? What have you gained?

(This post brought to you in association with a long train journey and Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan on my headphones. Available to watch by the power of the Internet here or to buy from your favourite local record shop here.) 

Not curious? Then you’re shit out of luck. 

Doing the communications work that I do, I’m regularly in front of rooms full of people talking about the importance of connectedness in organisations and business. This usually translates as “how do I better use social and digital media for work?” 

Some come bursting with enthusiasm – they’ve done some stuff and are starting to see the value or they’re curious about how they can do more. Some come laden with fear – they know they ought to be better connected, and understand social media may be a means to that end, but they’re not sure what to say, when to say it and to who. 

Some come ready just to be taught. 

There is a curiosity and deep interest at the heart of any passion. If you don’t have these things, then the end result is a function, something you purely need to do to exist. 

Connectedness is not a function. It’s not taught, but learnt. Those with enthusiasm will find a path, those with fear will overcome it, those who only want to be taught are shit out of luck. 

Hello (darkness) my old friends (sic)

Once again this morning I was confronted by two old friends in a meeting about social media for communication.

Round of applause please for ‘lack of time’ and ‘nothing to say’.

OK, end applause.

If you can argue that everything you do to communicate with your clients, peers and teams is 100% effective, then please, carry on and we’ll move on to someone less effective who wants our help.

If, however, you see room for improvement or the teams you manage have forgotten what you look like, then take heed.

It may be time to think about what ineffective uses of your time you could put aside for something more effective. Open yourself to the possibility that a blog post or a status update isn’t actually a waste of your time and may lead to something unexpected.

And if you have nothing to say then perhaps use the time to listen to what others are saying and contributing. I guarantee there are conversations out there where you could listen and learn or contribute and add value.

I’m banning my two old friends from darkening my meetings ever again! Until the next time…

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.

Las Vegas: Why speak at events?

This week I’m using ‘downtime’ in Las Vegas to think about changes to my role over the last few years. 

Speaking at SMiLE London September 2014

Speaking at SMiLE London September 2014

I wrote in a previous blog post about the changing role of the internal communicator and one of the biggest changes for me has been attending and speaking at events. As I ready myself for a presentation in Las Vegas on Thursday, I thought it may be a good time to reflect on why I see this as an important part of my role and why I’d recommend taking the leap to anyone in internal communication.

I’ve had a number of opportunities and invitations over the past three years and I’ve tried to take them all. At first, I saw doing this as a chance to take myself right outside out of my comfort zone and it really made me think about the messages that I wanted to get across. Whilst it seemed important to have an idea of what I wanted to talk about and a way of getting there (ugh, the slides…the slides), what I was really getting out of it was a more carefully crafted, sense checked message to take back into my organisation.

It’s hard sometimes to get perspective on something you’re so close to. Taking the time to think about the best way to translate the work you do, or the project you’re running for an audience who have no expectation beyond you being engaging and interesting, can be massively beneficial to your own understanding of what it is that you do and how you go about doing it.

I’ve used this focusing of message to good effect. Not only do I think I’m more convincing and able to explore more angles when having internal conversations about online and social communication, but it has also enabled me to challenge the attitude of more senior stakeholders by saying, “you know, I was presenting at a major HR technology conference and they were really impressed with what we’re doing at Grant Thornton.”

In fact just recently, in looking at my role and how it needs to evolve again, I’ve started to use the external interest in what we’re doing with social media to draw attention to the fact that internally we still have work to do. Speaking at external events gives me ammunition and gravitas to say, “look, this stuff is increasingly important and still needs to be taken seriously.”

However the major thing about events is the opportunity to talk to your peers. I won’t call it networking here because that word still strikes fear into my heart. It’s more about listening to and asking questions of people who do similar roles to you in other organisations. I’m a massive fan of the unconference approach for this very reason; giving people the opportunity to set and lead the agenda or engage and contribute as they see fit. It takes away the pressure of the coffee break and connects people so much better. How often do you get to have a really good natter with people who share your challenges?

So what’s the message? Why do I speak at events?

  1. There is clearly awareness value to my organisation and brand and whilst sometimes it’s low key, the value of having our name out on social media channels and in event write ups is exceptional.
  2. It’s personal brand building. As comms pros we can be somewhat apologetic in approach. Get out there and share the hard work you’re doing. Someone will get value out of hearing how you overcame your challenges and it may lead to an invitation to Vegas!
  3. Ultimately though it helps breed confidence in your work, your message and how you convey that message. The brand wins, you win and you’ll ultimately find you become a better communicator for putting yourself out there.

Digital natives? Perhaps.

Let’s do some myth busting.

A trip to Amsterdam* means that I’m going to miss a Grant Thornton Executive networking event on social media tonight.

The event, put together by some of our Executives and trainees, is further evidence of the importance that we’re placing on understanding social media’s position in the workplace and should find an audience very much in touch with the changing landscape in which we all do business.

However, I think this is a bit of a myth.

The truth is that the partners and senior leaders in our firm will usually make the assumption that those new to the firm or coming up through the ranks are the experts in social media. They use it at school, at university, “they’re on it all the time!” And that is also, usually true.

But I also think that this ‘generation Facebook’ are very much in the same boat as our leaders. Yes they understand the nature of the platforms, but do they always make the connection between them and the workplace? I don’t know. What I do know is that we in communications and HR spend a lot if time talking about what this generation needs, that they want to work differently and won’t accept a world of Blackberries and email.

So that’s the question I put to tonight’s organisers – the business makes these assumptions about you, are we right to?

The landscape is still shifting, but some of our most active and connected users of social media for business are our partners and managers and their success stories with these channels are coming thick and fast.

From induction to retirement we should be helping our people to understand all aspects of social media and work, and something like reverse mentoring can help us get there.

However, we shouldn’t make assumptions about where our mentors sit in the business. Where social media is concerned, we all have lessons to learn.

Are we expecting too much from this generation? Should we make anything of the rise in popularity of LinkedIn among graduates? Is this just them conforming to a platform which sets itself up as THE business social network?

Interested to hear thoughts.

* I’m flying to Amsterdam this afternoon for HRTech Europe where I’m lucky enough to be speaking on Friday. Come along if you’re there and find out why we try to always put people before technology (but make great effort to ensure the technology fits, and works!).

State of Love and Trust

20130605-100227.jpg

I was having a conversation with a colleague about governance, rules and regulations and ‘thou shalt nots’ for our anticipated new social business platform yesterday.

We were discussing my previous employer’s Acceptable Usage Policy and what we may need to have in place for this new platform.

We decided on trust.

We trust our colleagues to behave appropriately, self regulate and in turn, they develop deeper trust and respect for the organisation and this leads to the platform being able to grow into what it needs to be, for all of us.

Plus, we only read policy if we think we’ve broken it…don’t we?

So that’s our starting point. I’ll update as we go along and roll with the challenges.

And…points for those who read this for the song reference alone.