3 quotes on brand purpose from PR Moment’s PR pros event

Last week’s PR Moment ‘brand purpose’ event brought together speakers from M&S, BMW, Lexis Agency and Ladbrokes Coral to share how and why brands develop their purpose and how this impacts communications.

So, what did the PR pros have to say on this topic? Here’s my top three quotes from the evening:

  1. Purpose helps you ‘say no more’ ~ Tania Littlehales, M&S (@tanialmns)

Brand purpose defines why you do what you do and what you stand for.

It allows you to be more strategic by providing a framework for business decision-making.

It will help you to put the customer at heart of everything you do, be more selective about what you do, and confidently say no to initiatives that don’t fit your purpose.

Case in point, this one from M&S, when CEO Steve Rowe felt the brand was losing clarity on what it stood for:



2. ‘Our brand purpose doesn’t mention cars’ ~ Graham Biggs, BMW @biggs3008

BMW’s purpose doesn’t mention cars. Starbucks’ purpose doesn’t mention coffee.

Why? Because it’s not about what you do or what you make, it’s about how you make the world a better place (credit for this quote: @chonners) 

And in a highly-competitive world that purpose is your differentiator. It’s what sets you apart and influences customer and investor loyalty.

‘The power of purpose’ will also be a key driver for employee engagement. It’s much more inspirational and motivational than any of your products and services.

3. Brand purpose ‘is not a comms thing’ ~ Toby Conlon, Lexis Agency @chonners

It’s no good having a purpose that simply sits on a some documents within the comms team. Brand purpose must be backed up by action.

That means helping employees demonstrate the right values and behaviours, recruiting the right people for your purpose and ensuring leaders demonstrate integrity that’s consistent with the purpose too.

At the sharp end, leaders must be willing to ‘take the hit’ on revenue if opportunities come along which don’t align with the organisation’s purpose.

Take outdoor clothing company Patagonia – its Black Friday promotion told people ‘Don’t buy this jacket’. Why? Because Patagonia believes in sustainability and the company wanted its customers to think twice before they bought new items.


Thanks to all the speakers and also everyone at PR Moment for an interesting and useful evening; I really enjoyed hearing about how brand purpose has impacted all of these companies.

Posted in Brand, Corporate communications, strategy | Leave a comment

Trust implodes: it’s time for less perfect, more personality


Trust has imploded according to this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer. CEO credibility is now at an all-time low, having dropped 12 percentage points to just 37 percent.

As I ponder these results, I can’t help but feel that the communications profession must shoulder at least some of the blame for erosion of trust in leadership.

In recent years, the internal communications industry has been steadily more resourced, professionalised and invested in. We’ve practised and perfected the art of crafting the perfect announcement, talking points or script on behalf of – or for – our leaders.

We’ve media trained our senior executives, coached them on what to say and wordsmithed content to incorporate key messages.

Along the way, we’ve sacrificed authenticity as a result. Employees see straight through the vanilla. It jars with the raw and bona fide voice they access in peer-to-peer communication and ‘unofficial’ sources.

No wonder we’ve lost all trust in our leaders as a result.

Now is the time to act
As an internal communicator we cannot continue to help further damage leadership credibility. We must partner with the leaders we support, and balance the goal of strategic communications with authentic and transparent communications.

Less perfect. More personality.

We need to adapt how we work – coaching not doing; advising not controlling.

And leaders must play their part too: making time to inject their own personality into communications and working with us to incorporate personal stories and experiences. We have to be braver and we have to push for transparency and openness.

Today’s report is the overdue wake-up call we needed.

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Are the robots coming for us too?


It was William Gibson who said: ‘The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.’

So, consider this about the future of jobs and the automation of the workforce:

What does this all mean? More than likely, it means that the World Economic Forum prediction that more than five million jobs could be lost to automation by 2020 will become a fast reality. And that is surely just the beginning.

As an internal communicator, predictions on the future of work fascinate me because they provide a glimpse into our how industry will need to evolve and adapt too.

We’ll need to consider:

  • The increasing demand for a change management skillset as part of the internal communicators role
  • How we engage a workforce that is rapidly moving to automation
  • How we support the ‘survivors’ of such change as they move into the new world of work
  • Whether our own roles might disappear, as teams are wholesale replaced by automation and there are minimal employees left to engage. (I think the answer to this is quite likely to be ‘yes’ for some industries)
  • And finally, is it even thinkable that the role of internal communicator could be automated? Is there an algorithm for that?!

Automation is just one of the key themes emerging from the World Economic Forum report on the future of work, released in January this year. It’s definitely worth a scan through in full if you’ve not seen it yet. Check out the full WEF report – the future of jobs.



Posted in Change communications, Employee communications, Employee engagement, Internal communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making global communications work: top insights from top global communicators

It's a small world

On Wednesday night I joined 30+ comms professionals at the IABC UK event ‘The world is your oyster: making global communications work.’

We heard from Claudia d’Amaoto about her experiences working in Brazil for Anglo American; Emma Thompson, an international communications consultant who’s spent more than a decade working in global communications; and Tom Blackwell, CEO, EM Communications who has more than ten years’ communications experience based in Russia.

This session was perfectly timed for me as I start a new role at Pearson next week, as an Employee Communications Manager. This will be my first comms role in a global organisation of this size so I’m really excited about the challenge ahead.

Here I’ve summarised some of the insights that I found valuable from Claudia, Emma and Tom:

  • Research the demographics of a country: find out about the education levels and skills levels. Remember, IT industry in some emerging countries is only 10 years old – in the US it’s 30 years old. So that affects things. Some people will have never worked in another company culture. The World Economic Forum is a good for country briefings.
  • Speak to local teams and ask them: what three things should I know about your country? What three things should I be doing to make comms better?
  • Spend time in the country you’re working with if you can. Live and breathe the issues. Shared reference points are crucial. If you don’t have the luxury of travel organise virtual coffee mornings / brown bag sessions / focus groups. Work hard to get to know the teams.
  • Identify your comms sponsors who’ll be your champions on the ground. Could be the sales guy or the GM. They can be a source of info and intelligence for you too.
  • Listen. Learn. And adapt.
  • Understand the practical elements that will impact what you do. Things such as working days of the week, religious holidays and their impact.
  • Focus on the outcomes you want from your comms and work with the local teams. Be prepared for longer planning cycles – if you launch something don’t expect it to be launched locally within even 8 weeks because of local activity.
  • ‘Double up and double down’. Emma told us that her team had carried out research which showed non-english speakers must hear a message 7-8 times in order to digest it and act. That’s versus English as a first language speakers needing to hear it 3-4 times.
  • Work closely with HR and leadership. You all play a part to help employees understand why a company is run and how it’s run, no matter where they’re based.
  • Think about the plan, but think about the relationships you need to build to ensure you’ve created the right plan and to help you deliver the plan.

As the session wrapped up, it was really reassuring to hear all three speakers say that in reality there is no perfect formula for making global comms work. It’s about using your gut instinct and having the conviction to go for it. Thanks to Emma, Tom and Claudia for your valuable insights – I’ll definitely be using what I learnt and applying it in my new role next week. Wish me luck!

Image: ‘It’s a small world, isn’t it’ by Dennis Jarvis. License courtesy of Creative Commons

Posted in Employee communications, Internal communication, Language | Leave a comment

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in a high-vis vest

wearing a high-vis vest in London on NYE

Me in a high-vis vest at Tottenham Court Road on NYE

As Big Ben chimed the start of 2015 I stood by a bus stop in the centre of the city, London’s skyline obscuring all but a glimpse of the fireworks.

Dressed in an oversized high-vis vest, with an assault alarm in my pocket, I got hugs and high-fives from dozens of merry revellers celebrating the New Year.

I’d volunteered to support Transport for London’s bus events team on its busiest night of the year. I was one of hundreds of employees from our head office locations who took the opportunity to support frontline operations. After a short briefing we worked in teams of three at various bus stops around the capital. Our mission: to help the public get to where they wanted to go.

Yes it was cold, yes it was a very long night, but as I made my way home at 4.30am I made my New Year resolution to find more time to get out and about in the organisation that I work.

fireworks just visible over the top of buildings in london

London fireworks just visible from Tottenham Court Road

Why? For me, the night was a reminder of some important principles for internal communications:

  • The importance of knowing your audience. Make the time to learn about the work that people in your organisation do – especially if it’s in different locations and hours of the day to what you do. It’ll help you be a more effective and authentic communicator.
  • Even if you’ve worked in a similar organisation before, every audience is different. In an effort to get to know my audiences, I’ve spent time with car rental franchise owners in the outback of Australia, with paramedics on a Friday night in London and with teams of staff at retirement homes. While all are in operational and service-based industries (and do have some commonalities), they are also very different. Only time spent with your audiences in the role you are now in will help you understand the nuances.
  • The influence held by your customer-facing employees. Every interaction between a customer and an employee can build or damage the reputation of your organisation. Know this, and work out how to use this influence.
  • ‘Purpose’ is your strongest tool for engagement. Find out why people do what they do – what’s their ‘purpose’? I’m lucky to work in an organisation that has such a strong purpose. I felt satisfied after my shift that I’d helped hundreds of people get home quickly and safely. Purpose is the most powerful motivator you have – so use it.
Posted in Audiences, Employee communications, Employee engagement, Internal communication | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In defence of the annual staff survey

CC image courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr

CC image courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr

Is there still a place for the traditional annual employee survey?

I think there is.

I’ve been hearing a lot of backlash recently about annual surveys: that a yearly check isn’t enough; that employers should know how their people feel without surveying them; or that senior managers just pay lip-service to the results.

All of this can be true. But it doesn’t mean that the annual staff survey in itself is flawed.

Done right, the all-staff survey should be the piece that gives you the powerful set of data about your people that you can benchmark year on year.

But if that’s all you do, then no wonder you’re not seeing the benefit.

The survey should always form part of a continual cycle of seeking employee feedback. A programme of activity that includes smaller pulse checks, focus groups and discussion about employee issues in as many of your internal channels as possible. And it shouldn’t replace regular check-ins between managers and individuals.

Most importantly, is what happens afterwards. Does feedback get actioned? Does the business improve? Do employees see a genuine intention by the business to show that their feedback matters?

Unless you take action as a result of employee feedback it really doesn’t matter if you survey your people once a year or every single day.

So. If you can’t sustain that, don’t do it.

All surveys need to start with the will of the business to improve and to be a better place to work. They need to be supported by clear processes for acting on the results, and the resources to back this up. ‘We’re too busy to look into this right now’ cannot be an option.

Better still, you develop a culture where everyone feels accountable for business improvements and where everyone is empowered to make those improvements.

It shouldn’t just be the responsibility of leadership; that just isn’t sustainable.

As internal communicators, we need to continue to press our organisations to look beyond the annual employee survey. To build continual improvement into the way we work and as something that everyone is truly responsibly for.

Posted in Employee engagement | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The connectors get connected: Five key take-aways from Big Yak 2014


Who needed Glasto this weekend when the internal comms industry had its very own festival…..a festival of conversation at The Big Yak 2014.

And what a conversation it was, with more than 150 new people to meet, exchange ideas with and problem-solve our challenges.

Here’s five of the biggest take-aways from my Big Yak day:

1) Digital literacy was the biggest theme of the day for me.

“Every single role I see coming through, has some element of digital in it now” ~ Michelle Morgan, VMA Group

I facilitated one of the first sessions of the day, ‘The future role and skills of IC’. During that discussion, it was quickly clear that every single person in the room has had their role impacted by digital and social. We spoke about needing to build relationships with our IT departments, understanding in detail the various ESN tools available and the race to learn the language of digital. This theme continued throughout the day, with barely a moment that passed without some reference to digital or social. It got to the point that in the last session of the day we tried so hard to talk about something other than social media!

2) The role of IC continues to grow

Our role and skill-set is expanding rapidly. When we describe what we do, we’re now ‘building relationships across our organisations’, ‘listening’, ‘managing stakeholders’ and ‘coaching our leaders’. We’re ‘acting as change ambassadors’ and ‘facilitators’. We’re ‘measuring value’, ‘increasing our analytical skills’.

Wow! The scope of our role in IC is ever increasing. But one thing we all agreed upon – it’s a really, really exciting time to be a part of this industry!

3) We all work with challenging leaders
“So, are we all just waiting for our leaders to die?!”
Leaders came up an awful lot throughout the day too. We spoke about trying to get buy-in for our ESNs with those who don’t see the point; trying to increase authenticity in leadership visibility; and trying to get our leaders to get out into the workforce and listen. We also shared the frustrations of leaders who fail to act on the feedback that we’re representing from our employees.
By way of problem-solving, there was a lot of talk about working with leaders who enjoy communicating and using them as catalysts for others to follow. We also said that we’re sure to see more and more leaders recruited into position for their communication skills, not just their technical skills.
4) Organisational culture is the context that makes each of our roles unique
I was fascinated by the range of organisations represented at the Big Yak. We shared so many ideas about success stories and challenges. But, if we all worked within the same organisational culture it would be dead easy simply to lift and replicate these ideas in our own workplace. That’s what makes the role of IC so complex – that we each work in unique organisational cultures which means we can never exactly do as others have. We’ll always have to tweak and mould to our own culture. Again, that’s what makes IC so rewarding when we do get it right!
5) Everyone has a battle scar(s) to talk about
“It’s like group therapy”
It was okay to share the battles that we’ve won (and lost). And I was reassured to find so many people had their own battle scars from the world of IC. It was like group therapy in a way – because we are all in this crazy world that we call IC together. And we’re creating the industry as we go. It is an industry that is developing, and developing fast and none of us can really know exactly where it’s headed.
There were many, many more takeaways from The Big Yak (search #thebigyak on twitter to see just how many!) and I’m sure I’ll be mulling over the ideas that I heard for the days and weeks to come.
On a personal note, hello to everyone I was able to meet on Saturday, it really was fantastic to meet so many talented and dedicated people working in internal communications. We spend our working days connecting the employees in our organisations to each other, so it was great to get the chance to get connected ourselves.
And thank you, thank you, thank you to Jenni, Dana and Rachel of The IC Crowd and their band of volunteers and sponsors for such a fabulous day.
Posted in Employee communications, Internal communication, Leadership, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments