Oh The Cavalry

On Monday, I was at the PRCA census launch, and the figures speak for themselves. A third of our industry has suffered or been diagnosed with mental ill health. Last month's CIPR State of the Profession sung from the same hymn sheet.

Every so often I need a good cry. So I will watch the US drama, This is Us or Grey's Anatomy. I will listen to a particular speech that cuts my emotional insides. I once cried on the tube reading a book and another time listening to a podcast. As a fully formed human being with a body, soul and mind. Each part of me needs to be taken care of, nourished, strengthened and healed when the defence walls have been penetrated by sickness. This is something that I have had to learn the hard way. When the darkness comes in like the dead night, and the cavalry is not marching on the horizon coming in to save you. So, you get up and decide to be your own hero. As someone who has done media relations for almost 5 years, I concluded last year that it is a young 'person's game as Russell Grossman often says it needs a certain kind of energy and as my sanity started to mean more. I made a choice to put myself under a new pressure. I danced it out, stood in the sun listening to Thank You, Next and bowed out.

I had to do it for myself. Nobody was ever going drag me out of the situation. Certainly not the ex-boyfriend who once said to me that people like 'us' 'don't go for counselling. The concept of talking to a stranger to become better seemed so foreign to him that he would rather I suffer in silence. Years of cultural norms that brush mental health under the carpet. Because you see in my mother tongue the word, depression and anxiety 'don't exist. I can be sad or scared. Those are all perfectly normal or and accepted, but mental illness is the taboo we speak about in hush tones or associate it to witchcraft.

Because how can our wonderful, educated daughter of the soil who is working in this incredible job for this fantastic organisation, that we 'don't understand have something wrong with her mind. So, you smile and get on with being everyone's swan. Gliding through life, work and this big world with grace, until one day. Yes, the day of reckoning. It has come more than once, and I know when 'it's rearing its ugly head. I see glimpses of it. The isolation, lack of sleep, silencing of my voice, worrying and retreating to my shell. That warm lonely dark shell where it's been easy to hide is probably the most dangerous for me.

But in 2018 there was a saving grace when I needed it. It was a community rather than a person with a halo. A learning experience as opposed to a training session with a deck. It is hardly a secret at this point how I feel about Comms Unplugged. I love the outdoors, and fresh air and one of my previous occupations was a farmer. So, I'm in my element, Hunter wellies and all. But as I have said in the past, it is more than an event. 'It's a safe space to work through the highs and lows that come with working in this profession. Doing it with kin and knowing that they too have jumped the hurdles, maybe they are going through it as I write this on a train going to be reunited with some of them. See that's the thing, they catch me when I fall, and they understand. They are a text away. When I am away from our closed group, they come looking for me in the virtual world, and they are honest. The latter is the purest gift. "It will all be fine. We got you." And they had me through each and every moment. This goes for my entire comms community. They come through in a way I can only repay by being a good citizen and maybe one day coming through for someone else.

I've found ways of dealing with my mental health and identifying when things are getting to a fever pitch. Even though my tears are far away, they are there. The complexities of my anxieties are a cocktail of factors which have a splash of imposter syndrome, fear, and a hint of race sprinkled on top. Working twice as hard and navigating spaces painted with prejudices, I am powerless to control start to take their toll. So sometimes I put the baton down and rest. When I am on leave, I do what makes me happy. I keep myself in safe and drama free spaces on and offline because I just ain't that woke to be the one who changes the world with a Twitter clapback. Journaling and exercise are now part of regular rituals. I volunteer and am slowly smashing that shell to let light in. And remember the community, well they are my Calvary now, charging in like the Knights of the Vale at the Battle of the Bastards.

Please check out the work being done by Jo Hoper at Mad Sad Club who I had the pleasure of meeting an a CIPR inside event recently. She will be at IoIC FutureNet #WeMatterAtWork event on June 13.

Join CommsUnplugged 8-9pm on Tuesday, May 14, for a Twitter chat #MHinComms with Leanne Ehren. She is a communications and engagement specialist, and you'll find her on Twitter at @leanneehren.

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
ef874193-83a0-48b0-9ccf-673681cfe2e3.jpg

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.

Dancing and Finding Joy

In my imagination, Viola Davis is my ‘auntie’, but my family are concealing this information from me. I am going to borrow a pearl of wisdom from her to briefly explain my take on a piece of not so breaking news that came out recently. While accepting her Emmy in 2015 for outstanding actress in a drama series for her portrayal as professor Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away with Murder, she said, “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You can not win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." I mention this in the week when Twitter is awash with claims of Beyonce refusing to work with Reebok because of their lack of diversity, and the CIPR State of the Profession is published — showing that our industry is becoming less diverse and failing to protect the mental health of its professionals.

If diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being allowed to dance, then who is the DJ playing the music or the bouncer at the door enforcing the 'guest list' with the VIP’s who have the proverbial red carpet rolled out and the velvet rope raised for them. Some days I feel like this industry is one long evening of a silent disco. If you have never been to one, it is a fun but unusual experience. We are all wearing our various headphones each tuned to a different channel. On the dance floor we patiently wait for the DJ to work his magic, but sadly he may not switch on the music for everyone so they simply can’t dance. Because as my wise ‘aunt’ mentioned if the opportunities aren’t being offered then how do we ensure that we have true inclusion. If you don’t give me the chance to lead the teams, speak at conferences on communications and public relation principles, design campaigns and advance to positions that hold real power and influence then how do you expect me to win the awards or sing the melody of inclusiveness.

Comms over coffee

Ella Minty shared, Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity by BCG, which unpicks the defects of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Nodding to advancement and retention as a gap for inclusivity of BAME talent gives what Viola mentioned weight. Hiring diverse talent to fill quotas and then failing to nurture talent to move further in their careers to reach their full potential is similar to an employer and our industry selling us the artistic impressions, but choosing not to build the house year after year but keep referring to the plans.

So, I am at the party, and I am going to dance because the DJ is giving me a song to dance to and Polly Cziok has promised to bring the cocktails.

A full list of different blogs and articles analysing the report can be found here.

Now on to more joyous matters. This week I attended an evening with Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President of Twitter, author of best-selling book The Joy of Work and the host of the podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. I highly recommend the podcast for anyone interested in internal communications.

Dancingandfinding joy.JPG


Bruce explored many things that I will go into further in future posts as I study more and dive into the book. I am going to outline some of my key takeaways from the evening and what I am changing.

  • We need to future proof ourselves by upskilling in the areas of inventiveness and creativity.

  • The hustle culture as it’s popularly known which glorifies working dangerously long hours is contour productive to creativity.

  • Positive Affect and Psychological Safety have the most significant impact on workplace culture.

  • For an internal communications professional there is a danger of trying to implement quick fixes. At times organisations can create the ‘Smoothie delusion’ that tries to put everyone in a good mood, through improving the benefits that have a one time impact but they do little to transform the state of mind.

  • As Bruce explained, “There are no simple hacks to resolve these things, you need to think about a system to resolve these things to try and build a state of positive affect using far more strategic long term approaches.”

  • Psychological safety doesn’t scale. Amy Edmondson which Bruce references to said, “For fear of appearing ignorant we don’t ask questions, for fear of appearing obstructive we don’t raise objections, we are at a state of managing the impression.”

  • Systems of fear kill our capacity to be creative. But even more, concerning is how fear and stress linger in the air like a bad hangover.

What I am changing:

  • Turning off my notifications

  • Taking a lunch break away from my desk as much as possible

  • Have more face to face interactions

  • Foster an atmosphere of collaboration

  • Develop techniques to improve my energy efficiency

Find an extract of the book on the podcast and I will share my thoughts soon. If you can’t wait listen to Sally’s take on the podcast #CU on the air.

Part 3: Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications

Rugby has been a part of my life since I was about 15 years old. I have seen friends break bones, shared pints with legends and never had anyone mansplain the offside rule to me.

I try to reserve spamming my social media timelines for the World Cup season, so feel free to mute me in September. However, last Saturday I broke this self-imposed rule because the Calcutta Cup showdown between England and Scotland was spectacular.  In his post-match interview, Scotland's Finn Russell said in a BBC interview, “At half-time, I had an argument with Gregor [Townsend] because nothing was working. We just came out in the second half with nothing to lose”. I think of how Scotland lost to Australia in the final minutes of the 2015 quarterfinals and wonder if this is a team that plays best when they decide they have nothing to lose? And what springs to mind is a caution I was once given along the lines of; the most dangerous opponent is the one who has nothing to lose.

So, for this post, I am drawing inspiration from a quote from Steve Hansen, the Head coach of the All Blacks and have asked for some tips, hints and advice from our incredible Comms network. 

You learn from everybody. Every encounter you have with a human being, or even animals, if your mind is open, you’ll learn something. If it’s not, you’ll go through life learning nothing.
— Steve Hansen
  • Look outside: Take advantage of our wealthier cousins advertising, marketing and tech. It may sound strange but an actual past time of mine is to get lost in the ‘Our Work ‘page of agencies. Last year during London Tech Week, I went for a few of the free or low-cost evening events and learnt so much. I will be keeping my eye on Ad Week to see what themes, conversations, and trends emerge. You don't have to go to Cannes Lions  Festival to see what the best in the Ad world are doing watch the best of 2018 online for inspiration and check out the website to see what is coming through this June. In January Darren Caveney, arranged an agency day for the LGComms Future leaders and summarised it in a post be fierce and never mediocre – 28 lessons from a top creative agency.  You will find that there is a lot of crossovers.  Brand guru James Kerr wrote one of my favourite business books which is inspired by the All Blacks but is drenched in employee engagement tips, strategy and communications principles. Go further afield for learning whether that be in terms of industry or location. Draw inspiration from across the ponds. What behavioural science, strategy or creative ideas can we learn from sports, psychology, business, entertainment and the military.  

My best advice is to read and read. Don’t get stuck in your lane. Every time you see a comms response try to unpick the story, spot best practice, tactics but from every industry not just your own. That and get a mentor but not always as easy.
— Sam Hodges, Director of Content Communications (EMEA) at Netflix,
  •  Collaboration: It may be the new buzz word, but it rings true. Come together with others and form communities that are built with the goal or learning, sharing and developing each other. Start a culture in your organisation and beyond of sharing the knowledge from training, conferences, events and campaigns. Why not invite someone for lunch with your team or set-up a group call to work out a problem together. Face to face events have a cost attached to them, but many professionals are happy to spare a lunch hour or evening to have a chat about ideas. Over the last few months, I have organised quite a number of these sessions over the phone with senior people talking about a range of things from Artificial Intelligence, development courses, job interview prep and idea development. Even if you don’t have anyone to share with yet start building a collection, so you are ready as you look for your tribe.

Whatever one colleague gains bring it back to the team. In other words, share the learning around so the team and the organisation benefit. That’s definitely the main one. If you’re a larger team and need some core skills, consider commissioning a bespoke version of a set piece for your whole team. It is good for team dynamics as well as learning. I’d say be selective about it if budgets are tight.

— Georgia Turner  1/3 of Comms Unplugged and Head of  Communication and Marketing, Bournemouth Borough Council and Borough of Poole
  • What are you entitled to: Understand your organisation's policy on training, development and allowances for registrations to professional bodies. Get savvy on what you qualify for and how you can ensure you get what you need, i.e. does it need to be in your appraisal or are you entitled because of your role or because of the business your organisation is. If you can register with a professional body make all effort to do the CPD, be on committee’s if you can to network and ask questions.

  • Say Yes: One yes has the power to change everything. It can be hard in the beginning, but it creates a domino effect. One ‘Yes’ changes everything as Josephine Graham shared in her blog post, “What if….?“ for Comms Unplugged.    

Learn from those you work with and be situationally aware. Find a mentor you trust and can share dilemmas with. Use all available free resources (in particular research articles on google.scholar, ResearchGate and ScienceDirect - buy an individual subscription which is not expensive at all). Leadership and Development should be replicable regardless of the industry/role one works in so you need to have an excellent grasp of their general applicability.
— Ella Minty Co-Chair @CIPR_UK Energy Leadership Platform; Chart. PR; @ILM_UK Fellow; #powerandinfluence founder.
  • Mark your own work: I know it sounds brutal but at the end of match teams and players do a de-brief so that they work on their weak area for the next game. Create a benchmark by which you score your campaigns and content. Whether that be the OASIS model or by industry awards standards. From that identify the areas where you need to grow. For example, measurement of campaign objectives, or public speaking skills.  If you are at a higher level why not start judging awards so you can get a better understanding of what is happening in the industry.

There’s loads of stuff out there for free online - TED talks, podcasts, blogs, Twitter chats etc. Maybe look at accessing some of this together with other team members to share and discuss what you learn and make it more collaborative and interactive. Also, make sure anyone in the team who does get some development from that precious budget brings it back and shares with the team. Think of fun and active ways to do this and get people involved rather than talking at people. Choose your learning opportunities carefully so that they really meet a need and you can implement what you learn. Make those pennies count. Finally - learn by doing.  Just try stuff - explore, create and be curious. Oh and books. Good old-fashioned books (Or audiobooks if you prefer). Do book swaps, get recommendations from people. But going analogue is a great way to feed your brain in a more relaxed, peaceful way going at your own pace.
— Sally Northeast, 1/3 of Comms Unplugged and the Deputy Director for OD, Communication and Participation at Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust .

Find the gap and sidestep: What are the unexplored ideas, the unwritten stories and the unanswered questions that you can hone in on? A perfect example of this is the informative blog post by Lisa Potter, "Learning on The Go Making time to learn new things." in which she provides her perspective and fills a gap in content. Another is Comms Hero who are giving me so much FOMO at the moment with their exciting and fun conferences.

I really hope this series has been helpful and please leave your comments below or share on Linkedin and Twitter. My vision for this space was that it be a place of experimenting and learning, so posts like this are special.

Some starter Newsletter to subscribe or websites to check out.

  •  Digital Buzz Blog

  • Hubspot’s Marketing Blog

  • Campaign Live

  • Buzzfeed  Adweek

  • The Marketing Society

  • Creativepool Daily,

  • Social Media Today

  • Gorkana

  • DigiDay Tech Crunch

  • Social Media Today

  • The Verge

  • Marketing Dive

  • The Drum

     

Podcasts to try

  • IPA AdTalk, CNN Boss Files,

  • Virgin Voom

  • Campaign podcast

  • Connected Podcast

  • Eat Sleep Work Repeat

  • NPR How I Built This

  • Marketing Week

  • O Behave

  • Ogilvy

  • Secret Leaders

  • The IABC EMENA Podcast

  • The Drum

  • Innovation Ecosystem

  • Strategy Skills

  • HBR Ideacast

  • The McKinsey Podcast

  • Madison & Culture with David Sable

  • Ice Cream for Everyone with Willem van der Horst

  • The Bottom Line

  • Vergecast, Pivot hosted by Kara Swisher & Scott Galloway

  • The Green Room, Connected

  • Secret Leaders

  • How to Make Brands Real Famous,  

Awww you Don’t Know What AI is?


 

 

Has anyone else seen the MacDonald’s advert? You know the one, where all someone needs is an answer to the question, What is a flat white?

Well, I am every person in that ad and at the end of my version is Kerry Sheehan who kindly answers my conundrum, what does AI mean for Public Relations and Communications professions? I ran to her with all my questions about artificial intelligence.



Now I have been around AI for a while, but I naively thought that I was secure because the robots aren’t writing the press releases yet or designing the agenda for the employee engagement events, so why care. But I too had to confront the existence that we now live and work in. In my day job I am surrounded by smart people who are well plugged into their niches and fields of expertise, so after our Women’s Day breakfast, a conversation started about how AI  has become a stumbling block for women when applying to specific companies. The data that has been inputted is biased. The example of Amazon who had to scrap their AI recruiting tool as it showed bias against women. A colleague has since shared with me how AI is being used in the legal profession and examples from my world internal communications. Although there are already examples such as Attuned in Japan, Xexec, Yva, Trustsphere and Kronos. On further exploration, I discovered work being done by start-ups such as Fuel 50 and Gloat which will most definitely be taking me down a hole of learning. I want understand how AI can help us with employee engagement?  How are companies such as Microsoft already using AI to boost employee engagement? Find resources for Microsoft employee engagement summit 2018 here.  

I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. I mean with artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon.
— Elon Musk warned at MIT’s AeroAstro Centennial Symposium

It isn’t, however, all doom and gloom, I came to the realisation that AI in a way has been my saving grace. I am dyslexic and so 12 years ago when I started out as a young journalist, I struggled immensely and had to take a break from the media because of it. Today I have tools such as Grammarly which were non-existent. I have something that can help me develop my writing skills and gave me the confidence to come back into the industry five years ago. I'm now writing again, am working in the profession I love.  

So what can one do to equip themselves for the ever-changing world? I remember being at Best and scanning through piles of nationals and dailies to clip the stories that would make great features of the magazine or going through look books every season, that now is a thing of the past. We all now have the freedom in my communications role to focus on mapping out change and developing new creative ways to communicate.

I want to share Kerry’s advice to me from our conversation which I hope helps anyone who is sometimes overwhelmed by all the new changes like me.

 

Start reading and learning about it. What is try AI and what is automation?

  • Understand what skills are in danger and where you need to equip yourself. The CIPR AI committee has produced a skills wheel, #AIinPR in 5 years, it is a concise and clear breakdown of where we are a profession. Where are we using AI now and how do we ensure we get the most out of it. Some ideas that come to mind are media monitoring, sentiment analysis, personalisation and audience segmentation.

Image courtesy of CIPR #AIinPR

Image courtesy of CIPR #AIinPR

 

 

This week has been very exciting as the Institute of Internal Communications celebrated its 70th birthday. I headed to the London region launch event.  It was great to meet other Internal comms professionals and talk about our profession. Check our Rachel Dakin, IOIC London Director’s Video with Shootsta.

 

IOIC 70th Comms Over Coffee

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 of Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications, there are a few surprises planned. You can read part One and Two  here, and the unexpected post Broke Girl’s Pleas to Conference Producers .

Please head over to the CIPR AI which has  some excellent resources to help you start laying the foundations and deepen your understanding of AI and automation. I recommend this week’s episode of The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay and her guest Stephen Waddington aka @wadds.

This week has been a bit of a blur, but I did manage to listen to the astounding Dave Trott on beating creative blindness, (live from IAB Leadership Summit) on Bruce Daisley’s very insightful podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. I'm looking forward to The Joy of Work: An evening with Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President of Twitter hosted by the IOIC on 5th April. Sally Northeast shares her learning from the book in the latest episode of of #CU on The Air podcast, listen here

Please do let me know your thoughts and experiences with AI in Comms, PR, Marketing, and  Advertising as I want to learn and share experiences.

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.

Getting Out of my Own Way

It took place on May 2, 2015, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Manny Pacquiao, fight. I know that fact. I was the only one on the table which included men that knew the answer. Seems irreverent, a by the way fact maybe. But at that moment I recalled all the times I refused to take part in quizzes because I thought I had nothing to add and was rubbish at them. But on Monday I thought let me give this a try, and I contributed. Nobody had ever told me I couldn’t be a part of a quiz I discounted myself.

So my commitment this International Women’s Day is to give myself a chance.

I am particularly obsessed with gifs and where possible I try to use one that represents women or people of colour. This week, Josephine Graham, penned a fascinating blog for Comms2Point0, one small step for womankind – support a new movement through your choice of gifs, which is a must read.


It is a reminder to speak up when you notice something and the importance of using your voice where you are. In that spirit, I assembled a panel of very diverse women this week for a peer-peer conversation on a career in communications, digital marketing and technology. I promised that it would be candid, and honest it was. It’s another example of getting out of my own way and moving forward with the dreams and aspirations that I have.

The very inspiration Caitlin Moran, came to Sky this week and gave a funny talk. What stuck with me the most was that diversity is not a target. If you are going to do, then do it right at every level of the organisation, not wearing a moral badge of honour like you have done the world a favour by employing a woman. Also, scented candles are wasted on men.


Please check out these incredible pieces.


A letter to all the women in my life… by Advita Patel

From a woman to a woman by Ella Minty

Diary of a female communicator in a world of 30,000 men by All Things IC

Secure to Innovate and Create

A few weeks ago I read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown which has challenged me to think about vulnerability and how I dare my own limits to be a better communicator. Looking at the State of the Sector report by Gatehouse and the Edelman Trust Barometer I am even more curious about how the conditions in our workplaces allow us to be creative and innovative. I am running this survey to try and understand whether psychological safety is something that is important to our industry regardless of specialism.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation creativity and change.
— Brené Brown
Create your own user feedback survey

For some context psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as "being able to show and employ one's self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career" (Kahn 1990, p. 708). In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected.

I would really appreciate it if you could feel out this short survey. I would also love to hear your thoughts or experiences.

Resources

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It by Laura Delizonna

How To Create Your Own Psychological Safety At Work by Karlyn Borysenko

In the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat
— Theodore Roosevelt


I first heard Theodore Roosevelt's arena speech as it is referred to on Tim Ferris Podcast in his audacious interview with the scariest Navy seal imaginable, Jocko Willink. At the time and until now I always thought of it as something to read when someone who knows not of my struggles passes criticism without providing a tangible solution or adding value.  I was reminded of the quote this week when I read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Although it had on my reading list for a while, I think I was avoiding it because it unearths my complex personal struggle with vulnerability, shame and disengagement. But if I'm going to be a better communicator and leader, then I have to be able to work on the things that lead me to hide away from having difficult conversations and confronting ugly truths and deal with vulnerabilities self-imposed or others. So thanks Advita for reminding me of it.

But thinking of the arena speech takes me back to all the conversations that can be summed up in our constant conflict as communicators, “Everyone thinks they can do comms.” Yes, everyone standing on the side-lines assumes that what we do is write a tweet or two, print a few posters and churn out the press releases. But I wonder whether they see the blood sweat and tears behind the scenes. So let's all give each other in the arena a pat on the back and embrace vulnerability. But let’s also make sure we aren’t a critic too judging ourselves harshly and holds on to toxic perfectionism.

 

aroma-beverage-breakfast-347144.jpg

I went to FutureNet’s Trailblazer event to get some insights into the fantastic triple awarding winning employee engagement campaign, Trailblazers by Kerry Foods. Jacqueline Ryan, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement Advisor at Kerry Foods, and FutureNet committee member shared great insights and here are my five key takeaways.

  • Employee engagement which is leader led has to be precisely that. People need to see and hear leadership at every stage in an authentic way. 

  • Be flexible and allow the campaign to flow. Sometimes the best-laid plans change, and that is fine.

  • Let the stories shine through.

  • User-generated content is the future as budgets gets tighter and communicating with hard to reach audiences becomes harder.

  • Recognise people for their courage and desire to take part. These are the things that cost nothing but mean so much to people and should be at the heart of the business values.

 

I managed to catch up with Jess, The Voracious Nomad who put me on the spot slightly and interviewed me for her podcast. We talked about professional development, storytelling, black tax and the future.  Doing this interview was entirely out of my comfort zone, and I usually would have said no but over the last year I have been saying yes more thanks to Shonda Rhimes. Listen to it here

 

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Who will be my Ellen?

Year of Yes- Shonda Rhimes

Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

Slay In Your Lane - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Legacy – James Kerr

AllThingsIC

Comms2point0

The IC space

Alive with Ideas

Comms Unplugged  

#CommsChat

Power and Influence by Ella Minty

The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay

Thank You, Next

It is a possibility that the marketing team at Republic never sketched me out as a persona when they were curating Ariana Grande’s target customer but, I’m sold so that conversion was easy.

There is a relief that comes over you when you see your flaws, victories and struggles in someone else’s story.

I teared up when I heard Ariana’s acceptance speech at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards, so much of what she said resonated with me. People look at you and think, oh wow she has it all together, over there living her best life. But some of us are out in these streets singing Breathin and Thank You, Next.

Comms+Over+Coffee+Thank+you+next.jpg


I’ve loved and lost romantically and professionally. Giving myself unconditionally often with an intense amount of sacrifice. I have worked hard on projects and had them quashed at the last minute with no explanation, but I have also been given awards for my work. I have an incredible media and public relations network that spans almost 10 years, and I have been the victim of the most horrific workplace bullying. I’ve fallen in love with a job only to be rejected at the final interview stage and had some incredible pinch yourself speechless, OMG moments over my career.

Through each experience, I have learnt something different about myself as a person and a storyteller. The job where I was going through the motions taught me that there was something more for me, the global organisation reminded me that there is a big wide world full of opportunities, and the list goes on.

So here I am in the limbo week dancing to Ariana in my pyjamas, which sums up quite well what this year has been about. Being re-introduced to Harriet, who she is and what she is really capable of, but also taking the time to concentrate on developing my career, courage and grabbing the opportunities that I’m given.

I know that we all have to live our lives with a degree of caution but what is your Thank You, Next for 2018. That thing you’re grateful for teaching you a lesson, but it needs to stay in the past because you are on a new journey. For me, as a communications professional it is this notion that “we are just, comms”. We are an integral part of the business and if you empower or allow us to do our work we deliver and can support the company to solve problems where good communications are critical.

So what is your professional or personal, Thank You, Next for 2018? 

Next Chapter

I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. Please don’t even bother asking. Don’t bother telling the world you are ready. Show it. Do it.
— Peter Dinklage

Going into 2018 I had no resolutions or grand plans. All I knew was that something needed to change. And boy has there been change.

This year has been one of the best years of my life, as far as my career and the opportunities that have come my way go but, it has also been lonely and at times dark.

I have pushed myself out of comfort zone, stepped up and gone the extra mile, without being asked or seeking permission. On the other side of the same coin, I have experienced Imposter Syndrome on a grand scale for the first time.

So why would I choose to start another year with uncertainty, looking for a new job? Because the time is right. Am I scared? Of course, I am. Do I know what comes next? Not in the slightest. Am I afraid of change? For sure. But I’m ambitious and apologising for that does nobody any favours.


18 PHOTOS, MY 2018