Too Exclusive to Be Inclusive

Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.
— Vince Lombardi

I can almost picture it in my mind. Me in the French Riviera town strolling along in my sundress at the Cannes Lions Festival, maybe that will be my gift to myself next year when I reach a certain age I had all sorts of dreams and hopes for as a child. Better start that saving pot now because it will probably cost me a pretty penny.

So why am I reminiscing about age and the industries most coveted festival, well for the last few weeks I have been trying so hard to behave myself. Do you know what I mean? Not speaking up about the brokenness in our little ecosystem, but our industry doesn’t make it easy so here goes.

 

It is about time we revamped our awards and power lists. Yes, these are vanity metrics and before you remind me that prizes don’t keep the lights on let’s just take a step back and refocus. Earlier this year I realised they actually do. Being shortlisted and winning puts your business and your prospects as an individual to the top of the pile when it comes to winning bids and gaining employment. It is a nod that your work met the objectives of the brief. It serves as an inspiration because it is probably one of the few times when we get a peek at the work our peers are doing and share best practice.

 

 Currently only one of our professional bodies has a comprehensive, inclusive people category that doesn’t have an age requirement for entry. In 2018 the Cannes Lion awards body changed categories’, put a cap on award entries to stop monopoly by the big players and allowed for speakers to self-nominate for the festival. While flaws still exist in the imperfect system maybe it should be considered as a step in the right direction. 

 

Categories are quite broad which means that a small technology agency campaign is being judged against a banking powerhouse. Using data and insight from previous years it would only be right to split across sectors or campaign objectives. As we beat that drum of moving towards being an industry that cares about the world around us and our people maybe it is time we start to highlight this work. In the next 5-10 years, our profession is going to lose an entire generation that paved the way for what we do today. Call me sentimental but in the year that the Institute of internal communications celebrates it’s 70th birthday maybe it is time we started to capture those stories and honour those individuals with awards categories that represent what they stood for. Which is why I was so happy to see the PRCA collaborate with Hotwire for their wonderful #PR60Over60 this week.

 

Then we come to money which we know makes the world go round. In some instances, award submissions cost up to £500 for some categories which excludes the public sector, charities, individual practitioners and small agencies or consultancies. Writing award entries isn't taught at school either, so it takes a certain level of expertise hence why at times this is outsourced at a cost, adding another obstacle of complexity.  I am not even going to go down the road of talking about the price of the award dinners. I leave this gif to explain how I feel about this topic.

  

Maybe there is room for us to rethink what we offer at the ceremonies. Comms2Point0 hosts The Unawards, which is an exciting alternative is a day out at the cinema. What stops other organisers from doing a Cannes style festival during the day and an affordable awards gala in the evening.

I am happy to work with our professional bodies or companies who hold awards in the public relations, communication and internal communications space to find a way to make them more inclusive.   

Fan Girl Dating Data

Swap ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘What is this trying to teach me?’. It will change everything.
— Jay Shetty
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I have been a busy fangirl. I ‘bumped’ into Jay Shetty on my way back to my desk after lunch at work. You can google him now. I have been following Jay for a few years, and his content is inspirational but what I find quite remarkable is his ethos about stepping outside of your comfort zone and perspective.

Over the last few weeks, I have been attending events and having naughty post-event blowouts. The calories gained will be burned off when I start training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon that I am running for the Taylor Bennett Foundation.

I headed to Twickenham for the Employee and Engagement Conference London. There were some recurring themes throughout the day as the award winners presented their campaigns.

 

•    Use of data and insight to inform internal communication and employee engagement strategy.    

•    Diversity and inclusion initiatives, “should quotas be removed?”   

•    Solving the mental health crisis.   

•    Breaking the Myth: “Do Employees Leave Managers, not Companies.”  

•    Implementing Workplace by Facebook. Barriers for adoption and the success stories UNICEF and lastminute.com. 

•    Reinventing recognition schemes in the public sectors with limited budgets.

Ade Cheatham  - CEO - Cooper Parry

Ade Cheatham - CEO - Cooper Parry

There were a few presentations that stood out from Ryan from Hive and Kate from Beyond.

Ryan Tahmassebi, Head of Delivery, Hive HR    

•    How to use survey tools to manage change and create effective questions for engagement.    

•    Overcoming cultural challenges when embedding new HR technologies.  

•    Moving from annual surveys to ongoing feedback for a more meaningful employee experience.   

Businesses have now realised that the more they spend on development and employee experience the better the customer experience will be.   

Why aren't we getting employee engagement right? We seem to be missing critical insights provided by data. Some businesses are now trailing a metric that focuses on ‘Are you having a good day?’ This is a measure of physical and emotional energy.   

Could the solution be adopting an integrated approach for employee engagement that looks at   

•    Meaningful Work     

•    Great Management    

•    Fantastic Environment   

•    Growth Opportunity   

•    Trust in Leadership   

  Based on Bersin by Deloitte Engagement Model

 

Some of the key considerations when implementing an employee engagement campaign  

•    The employee life cycle.   

•    How data is used to craft a narrative to justify the organisations' objectives.   

•    The truth behind response rates and whether the data can be trusted if incentives are attached.   

•    An understanding of the current organisational culture and subcultures. Because introducing new technology doesn’t change a culture.   

•    Real thought and time to test new initiatives.  

    

Kate Rand – People Director, Beyond  

Thinking differently about our people, diversity and inclusion initiatives, agile evangelist and total wellness. A great example of cross-agency collaboration through Flipside which tackles socio-economic diversity. 

  

I went to my first Sharing Social London Event at Runway East. The theme of the meet-up was audience intelligence - what is it and what can you achieve with it. Having data and insight about audiences is something that is becoming more important as the competition for attention gets tougher.

How then does a brand or organisation extract value from existing data and make that a base for their strategy? The two speakers shared best practice and tips on how to get started. 

Emily McReynolds, Passion Digital - How can social analysis be used to inform decisions?

Key Takeaways

 

·       Start with what you have. Social listening, brand sentiment, existing audience intelligence, historical data and trends analysis, competitor data, and previous campaign data.

 ·       Develop questions that guide your data analysis and don’t look for the answers that you want.

·       Insights can inform more than messaging and tone of voice. Effective use can also help with making decisions on media spend, product and service opportunities.

Ben Davies, Media Chain

Ben Davies, Media Chain

 

Ben Davies, Media Chain - Gaming The System: An exploration into the world of gaming and social media. His talk was based on the report Gaming the system? An exploration into the world of gaming and social media

 

Key Takeaways

·       Create a map of what insights and data you are looking for, i.e. Demographics, lifestyle, spending power, social habits, media consumption patterns, and interests.  

·       Brands should build and enhance experiences instead of invading spaces. An example of a brand that has already done some great work in this area is Mercedes-Benz.   

·       The key is value, content and community.

Check out Media Chain’s research and insight reports into Black Friday & Cyber Monday 2018 partnership opportunities and Navigating the next generation fan: How football is social. I will be keeping an eye on their work as we gear up for the Rugby World Cup in September.

 

I've been reviewing themes and examples from the recent Adobe Experience Festival. The Always On, Always Personal, Always Relevant session by Matthew Harwood, Head of Digital Solutions, Royal Bank of Scotland was a snapshot into how RBS transformed the way they think about their business. It is not only about technology and data, but people & process have also been essential to their success.

·       More timely, more relevant and a better understanding of the customers has better results.

·       Spend as much time as possible with frontline staff, and build a closed-loop of feedback.

·       Bring the customer experience to life. In banking, a customer connects with buying a home rather than the process of acquiring a mortgage.

·       As channels change and your strategy evolve there is a need for the ecosystem to grow too.

Check out Data and research in PR by Claire Simpson as it’s a great place to start.

Broke Girls Pleas to Conference Producers

I like nice things. I adore my Frank and Green coffee cups, yes, I have more than one, I need choices as I do my bit to save the ocean. I love my Aldo boot collection because it’s the only shoe shop that seems to have stylish footwear that fit me and I cherish my Marks & Spencer granola slices. As much as these things make me sound like a snob, these small luxuries all fall neatly into a modest budget, that my salary bracket can accommodate.

What does, however, make my eyes water is the cost of industry conferences. I am very passionate about professional learning and development. I think that communications and Public Relations pros should be given the opportunity to network, share ideas and develop authentic in-person relationships. Recently I wrote two blog posts, with the title ‘Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications’ and as I begin thinking about part 3, I am struggling to suggest conferences, because of their cost. There is an undercurrent of rumblings which is calling our industry to do better in many areas, but it is time our professional bodies and the influential voices began to holding organisers to account, on the cost, content and location of events.


While I understand that on this subject I speak from a place of privilege because I now work for a company that has a rather forward-thinking view on learning and development. I believe that I would not have this job if I hadn’t been given professional development opportunities. That is why I care about how much things cost and content. Why throw the ladder down at those coming up behind you, when you have climbed to the next level, a nugget I got from Dr Rosena Allin-Khan at the Marie Claire’s Future Shapers event 2018.

The glaring lack of young voice on conference line-ups is worrying. As we fix our crowns and halos with our International Women’s Day glow still fresh, can we address our industries failure to do anything that celebrated or acknowledged the outstanding young women in our space? While I respect the graft of those who have gone before me and sit at their feet, we need more peer to peer support and a space that encourages this. Apprentices, communications assistants and junior executives of all genders, races and backgrounds need to be able to see themselves and know it is possible. Are we an industry that celebrates them now, or only after 20 years in.

Comms Unplugged Marquees by Night - Courtesy of Comms Unplugged

Comms Unplugged Marquees by Night - Courtesy of Comms Unplugged

An example of this is at last year’s Granicus Summit in London, the outstanding Connie Osborne presented Crisis Comms - Managing Manchester's Darkest Hour. It’s a testament to the leadership of Amanda Coleman, the Head of Corporate Communications at Manchester police who is one of the most respected people in public relations, and it is clear to see why she encourages younger people in her team to shine. Please note that when I say young, I don’t merely mean in age, I also refer to industry experience or role. I am only a year into specialising in internal communications, but I too have something to add to the discussion, an award shortlist in my first year. Which is why I am grateful for platforms such as the Institute of Internal Communication’s FutureNet initiative. Comms Unplugged is a pioneering event that is extremely well run and has all the elements of what makes a conference great. As someone shared in the Comms Unplugged what’s app group recently, “Give me a pizza and a night in a tent for a fraction of the price over a gala dinner and a night in the Hilton any day”. The popularity of the Comms Hive dinners being organised by Advitia, the Chair of CIPR Insider is evident that we need inclusive alternatives. It was cheaper for me last year to see Bruno Mars in VIP, Ed Sheeran at Wembley and Kevin Hart in San Francisco combined than one ticket to many industry events. It put the guilt I have about living my youth into perspective.

In case you missed the news, on the other side of the aisle, our counterparts in the public sector are grappling with austerity. High conference fees are unjustifiable when it comes to balancing the budget at the end of the year. As one senior professional in communications shared, it would cost her almost £900 for a day conference and expenses. While many would willingly dip into their own pockets and are, for the benefit of their own careers. What example does this set for future generations, the best events are reserved for the high rollers? I applaud the LGComms Future Leaders Scheme and mentoring programmes such as BME Pros, but places are limited. We need sustainable solutions that can accommodate a wider audience and encompass pros at all levels. While I also argue that not everyone has their sights set on being a director of Communications or being a consultant, opportunities for growth and development should be accessible regardless of their career ambition for their current or future roles.

Throughout my entire career, I have been lucky enough to find a way to network and interact with people who have influence and have the power to make a difference. From Terri White, Hugh Muir, Sam Baker, to the wonderful men and women I have informal mentoring relationships with today. But a lot of these relationships were formed because I was in the right place at the right time. A room I paid to be in, at times.

We are an industry that is rewarded to craft narratives, but what story are we telling about ourselves when our flagship events fail to reflect the vibrant, inclusive industry we wish to see.

Unplugging

Purchasing my  Comms Unplugged tickets has been a journey.

 

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Even with a few weeks left to go, I am slightly unsure where exactly it is that I'm going. Somewhere in Dorset is what I say when I'm questioned. I think I have been a Diva delegate asking at every stage of the process. I love to network and have a very curious mind so going for a conference in and of itself is my idea of a wonderful weekend. I have no anxiety with the camping element of it either. Maybe my worries are more to do with the unpredictable British weather and getting lost because both are bound to be an issue for me. 

Now that the ticket is booked and I am getting excited by my out of office reply which may read " I am away at an industry conference and will respond to your email on my return when I'm refreshed and rejuvenated".

I am looking forward to the opportunity to network with my industry peers over a coffee. I haven't been in public sector communications for too long, coming from the European Union there are similarities but so many differences so am eager to share experiences and finally put names to faces and profile pictures to voices. (Talking comms podcast)

The thought of unplugging is becoming quite appealing as the days draw closer because I've always enjoyed my periods offline, but to do it with other people will be interesting. Maybe it is the nostalgia of it all.

The crucial component is the learning aspect of it all. I am open-minded to the new ideas, techniques and skills that I will come away with. 

Finally, I'm looking forward to getting those Hunters on and breathing in some fresh air, eating delicious food, star gazing, and trying yoga for the first time. 

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