Posts Tagged ‘Hill & Knowlton’

The waiting game

posted by Scott McKenzie

And so the waiting game continues. By any standards this week could be a big week in the McKenzie household. We are hoping to finally exchange on the sale and purchase of a new house.

This has been a process that has been delayed seemingly by endless minutiae, and has required some fairly tough phone calls and emails this morning to various solicitors, estate agents, vendors and buyers to get the transaction (hopefully) to the right place. I now have to sit and wait to see if  it will all finally fall into place. Or not.

At the same time my wife is 9 months pregnant. Our due date came and went yesterday. But no new arrival. This situation is even more difficult – while I can (at least try to) negotiate and influence my way to a successful house purchase there is nothing I can do to make our second child arrive any quicker.

Although the mysterious purchase of big packets of liquorice, whole pineapples and red hot chillies suggests my wife doesn’t share my fatalism.

Meanwhile work carries on unchecked. Lots more new business opportunities this week. A client call scheduled for a Sunday afternoon. Another client asking if I can meet on Monday. And at the back of my mind I’m thinking “will I really be at that meeting?”…

Meanwhile my colleagues have been incredibly supportive. Filling in for me when I am pulled in one direction too many. Helping me manage the transitions in my life.

They have demonstrated the levels of patience, empathy and understanding that should be the template for all great teams, all great workplaces.

Peep hole

posted by Scott McKenzie

I took the above picture after dropping my daughter off at nursery the other day. I was walking past a large construction site and noticed this  eye-catching window.It had clearly been deliberately created to encourage passersby to take a look.  I then had to do a double-take. Someone had blocked the peephole. 

I imagined some Marketing person sitting in the Construction company’s head office.  I am sure they are really proud of their “peep hole” concept. Perhaps they talk about how it demonstrates openness and transparency across all of their sites. I can almost hear them saying: “We have nothing to hide in our working practices”.

Move then to the site manager and his crew arriving on site one morning. I can envisage the conversation taking place when they spot the “peep holes” and thinking “what is that all about?”.  Would they welcome the increased scrutiny? Has anyone even consulted them about it?

Perhaps not. Which is why the “peep hole” is now covered by a huge bit of plywood!

Of course there may be a simpler explanation but nonetheless it provided a nice flight of fancy as I walked to work. And demonstrating what can happen when there is poor communication between those making the promises on behalf of your brand, and those who have to fulfil that promise on a day-to-day basis.

Connecting employees with your sponsorship

posted by Scott McKenzie

So Budweiser are now going to sponsor the FA Cup. One iconic US brand sponsors an equally iconic brand synonymous with England.

My colleague Andy Sutherden makes some great points about this deal which you can see here.

The deal certainly looks a little incongruous at first glance. And I wondered how Anheuser-Busch are going to explain it to their employees.

I know Andy is equally passionate about the role employees can play in effective sponsorships. But often they are not front of mind when brands are making decisions  around investing in a sponsorship property.

However, it was certainly front of mind for the panel discussion we hosted here at H&K last week. Thanks to those of you who braved the inclement weather to get along. I hope you found it worthwhile.

For those of you not able to join us, we were fortunate to have three great panellists Louisa Cheetham from Aviva, Morag Taylor, from British Gas and David Stubley from Soho Partners.

The case studies Morag and Louisa presented were incredibly impressive and persuasive.

It’s clear that Aviva makes incredible use of their vasy array of sponsorship properties to engage employees. From the use of access to events (providing employees with tickets), to call centre visits from athletes, to the creating experiences that money just can’t buy as incentives… you can see the vast potential in using sponsorship as a lever to connect employees with the brand.

Similarly I was struck by how effectively British Gas had tapped into their partnership with British Swimming. They have worked hard to get employees in the pool as part of a health and wellbeing agenda. This included inter-company swim galas, the establishment of a community of interest (essentially swim champions)  as well as local events targeted at employee’s friends and family.  I thought this was  relaly, really great. The idea of British Gas providing something that actively engages the families of employees with what British Gas is about as company really works for me.

I think of my own growing family and wonder if they know why I choose to invest the effort I do at work… Anything which helps bridge that work/life balance divide is surely worth exploring?

But is this just me being soft and fluffy?

I don’t think so. We have long know the power of “word of mouth”… even before we had some of the fruitless, recent debates about measuring the effectiveness of employee engagement.

Indeed when I look at employee engagement surveys I tend to ignore most of the questions (some critics would say ignore all of them!). But the one I always seek out is the question around whether you would “recommend this as a good place to work to your friends and family”. This score – sometimes known as the “net promoter score” – really tells you whether an organisation has employees who are engaged, who are proud and who are committed to the organisation.

So, can we we connect sponsorship to engaging employees? Yes. And can we use this engagement to drive pride and productivity. Absolutely.

What’s the difference between strategic marketing and strategic communications?

posted by Scott McKenzie

My friend Henri has just asked me a great question: what is the difference between strategic marketing and strategic communications?

Marketers would probably see PR (or communications ) as just one component part of the marketing mix. I would challenge this assertion. 

In fact I would see strategic marketing as essentially being part of strategic communications. And to be clear I don’t necessarily see marketers as “owners” of the brand. Marketers may make promises on behalf of the brand but it is down to employees (and other touchpoints) to deliver on that brand promise.

Indeed this is a topic we will be tackling head on at our event next Wednesday here at H&K London. We have great speakers from Aviva, British Gas and Soho Partners lined up on our panel. It’s invite only but if you would like to get along drop me a note.

So going back to Henri’s question I would define strategic communications along the lines of: 

“Shaping conversations with key publics, influencers and opinion formers in ways which fulfil the organisation’s strategic objectives, reputation and brand”

What do you think? What would your definition be?

The big day

posted by Scott McKenzie

So after months of anticipation today is the big day.

Sitting here in my front room in the centre of London there is a real sense of excitement. Messages of support are coming in from all over the world. A brief scan of my twitter and facebook accounts make it clear that there is a feelgood factor beginning to build.

Yes there is no doubt that the world is watching with baited breath. Will my daughter finally crack this potty-training lark?

What you thought I was talking about something else?

Okay, okay I admit it. I am a curmudgeon. I see the Royal Family as an anachronistic institution. And while I wish the young couple the very best on their wedding day I am genuinely ambivalent about their big event. The constant hyperbolic media attention is leaving me cold. Surely this should not be a story that displaces war, revolution and natural disasters from the news headlines?

But it has. So what to do when you appear to be in a minority of one?

Grudgingly try to get into the spirit of things I guess. We are currently listening to the playlist from our own wedding last year. Sarah will switch the telly on at 10.50am to see that dress. And we will wander along to Rosemary Gardens for the specially arranged community fete later today…

Honestly? I will probably be wearing a pained expression for much of the day.

P.S. – Talking of big events you should really get along to the Engage Inside Expo on 5th May. It is an absolute bargain and you will have the opportunity to hear from some outstanding speakers including David MacLeod – who is leading the Government’s Employee Engagement Taskforce

Exit through the gift shop

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve got a guilty secret. I’ve been a member of the National Trust for well over 5 years – and I’m under 40. Say it once, say it loud – I enjoy looking round sites of architectural and historical significance! I could make the excuse that it’s a great day out for the family, but I was a member before I was a Mum. Basically I’m a sucker for weathered stone walls, multiple portraits of disturbingly similar family members, and a well-stocked gift shop.

The best one yet was Barrington Court in Somerset. If you’re ever in the area, I urge you to drop in – not just for the amazing Gertrude Jekyll-influenced gardens, but because the house is a fascinating and unique place.  Instead of the usual tapestries, four-posters and chairs with dried teazles on them, there’s nothing. Well, almost nothing.

As you stand in the echoing, empty rooms, you can appreciate their scale and design in a way you couldn’t if they were filled with furniture. And there’s something else – in the old kitchens you can hear the faint sizzle and pop of pig being roasted slowly over an open fire. In the attics there’s the murmur and scratch of generations of owls and owlets (yes, that is what they’re called). And the old schoolroom is filled with ghostly reminiscences of an evacuee, now an elderly man, sharing his memories of the sounds, sights and smells of rural wartime.

What has this got to do with internal communication? A couple of things have been resonating with me since the trip to Barrington Court. Firstly, that sometimes it pays to do the unexpected thing. The National Trust were, for various reasons, left with an empty house, and rather than try and fill it with stuff borrowed from other properties around the country, they decided to find a creative way to work with what they had. Secondly, I learnt that sometimes what you leave out is more important than what you leave in. Leave space for the imagination, and people will fill it themselves, becoming truly engaged in the process.

This was a guest blog by Laura House, Senior Consultant in the Change & Internal Communications team.

How to do a communications audit

posted by Scott McKenzie

My colleague Naomi Goodman and I have noticed a lot of conversation on LinkedIn and the other forums recently discussing internal communication audits, ways to conduct them and how you can gauge effectiveness.

 We’ve done a good few audits for our clients here at H&K, so we thought we should share some thoughts on our methodology; as well as why getting it right is beneficial for an organisation.

 Our five step methodology

 1.       Planning – the inital planning phase is critical in confirming scope and objectives, review existing data and assessing audiences, channels and messages. From this you’ll be able to understand the context, ask the right questions and ultimately, run a successful audit.

2.       Interviews – To get a deeper understanding of the key issues we would recommend conducting some stakeholder interviews. This helps you understand the business priorities and further refine the objectives for the audit. We would suggest keeping the interviews quite structured (with the ability to go off-piste as required). This would involve creating an interview guide to ensure consistent facilitation of the interviews.

3.    Survey – Once you have analysed the results of steps 1 and 2 you should design and conduct a survey, test it and then launch it. Your analysis should help you to get a snapshot of collective views and have statistically robust data. It should also act as a baseline set of results for future surveys.

4.       Focus groups – The quantitatve data from the survey will usually identify a few key trends or issues which warrant further research. We would usually suggest holding some focus groups to understand these key issues a bit more, and/or to test some possible solutions to those issues. We certainly regard Focus groups as a great opportunity to test new ideas.

5.       Recommendations – The final audit report includes the findings from the insight work in steps 2-4 as well as some detailed recommendations for further action. The report would usually include a high-level internal communications strategy with a range of recommended actions and tactics.

 So, conducting a successful audit isn’t a quick task. But is it worth it?

 In one word. Yes.

 If your organisation is going to be successful, employees need to understand what is expected of them and the role they play in achieving the company’s goals.  They need to feel they are playing a meaningful role in your organisation and its future.

 Internal communications can genuinely help you engage your people. But only if the tools and conversations you use to communicate are effective.

An audit is therefore a critical process for listening to what employees need from you, and then just as crucially giving you the evidence you need to respond to their needs.

If you would like to hear more about our experience of communications audits please email me at scott.mckenzie@hillandknowlton.com

The Power of Chocolate Buttons

posted by Scott McKenzie

I am constantly amazed by my daughter’s growing ability to communicate.

She has only just turned two but we are now having quite in-depth conversations about her likes and dislikes, which currently are:

Likes

Dislikes

  • Mummy and daddy’s “telly programmes”
  • Bathtime
  • Getting her hair brushed
  • Naptime
  • Any green vegetables

What has also impressed me is how quickly she has grasped the concept of incentives and rewards. We are currently going through potty training. This has led to various accidents. Some of them quite messy (parenting is not glamorous!).

But the offer of a simple reward – in this case a white chocolate button – seems to have transformed the situation. She now tells us in (just about enough) time when she is ready to use the potty.

And last night her frequent trips to the potty ended up with a whole bag of chocolate buttons. I suppose that’s one way of rewarding good performance!

Are we in the armbands business?

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’m not the first to say that change is a continual process. But we often fall into the trap of thinking that we can ‘do’ change, when the truth is  we are all of us being carried along by an invisible and unacknowledged  ocean swell, made up  of hundreds of decisions, actions, circumstances beyond our control .

There we are, happily doggy-paddling, or grimly front-crawling away, our own destination in mind, when we stop and tread water for a moment, only to discover that we are suddenly a lot further out than we thought, and being swept even further out with every passing moment.

As communicators, our role is often simply to draw people’s attention to a change that is already happening. The risks are self-evident; we can’t let people drown, we don’t want them to panic, we need them to keep swimming. We need to find a way to support employees through the change in direction – give them some armbands, if you like.

So it’s a case of letting them know I’m swimming beside them, so they don’t feel alone. I match my stroke to theirs and keep reminding them where we’re headed. That way they can work with, not against, the wave.

This was a guest blog by Laura House, Senior Consultant in the Change & Internal Communications practice here at Hill & Knowlton

How Gypsies can embrace change…

posted by Scott McKenzie

One of the great things about working at H&K as every now and again I get a request that completely bemuses me.

So when my colleague Lou Watson asked me for my views on what the Gypsy community should be doing to “embrace change” I was initially dumbfounded. She later explained it was for an article in Corp Comms magazine  (you can read the full article here).

I will confess I know relatively little about the Gypsy community. And am not one of the many millions of viewers of the scarily popular My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

But even allowing for that it did make me think that the big principles of change should still apply – whether it’s for a community or an organisation. Right?

So here’s what I suggested as a five step approach:

1. Set out the case for change: Leaders in the Gypsy community need to explain their vision for the future of their community. Including the societal and economic imperatives driving the need for change.

 2. Leaders need to act as role-models:  leaders in the community need to step up and be voices for that change.

 3. Engage the Gypsy community (ies): Leaders need to bring their community with them, actively consulting, listening to concerns and demonstrating how they’re responding to feedback.

 4. Reach beyond your borders: Leaders need to identify and consult with advocates for the Gypsy community in broader society seeing politicians, police and community groups as allies not adversaries to explain a new vision and gain buy-in and support along the way.

 5. Celebrate successes: Visibly demonstrate where examples of the new type of community are working in practice and keep praising your heroes to help people see that the new vision for the community is becoming a reality.

I hope that constitutes good advice… I would value your views!