Posts Tagged ‘internal communications’

An internal brand? 5 things to watchout for…

posted by Scott McKenzie

We have been doing a lot of work helping organisations package up their change programmes recently. Often clients will ask us to create an identity or brand for their programme. I think there are some inherent risks attached to this. After all isn’t the overall brand the customer sees the only brand that matters?  This is  a brand which is recognisable, has associated values, is ultimately part of helping create a sense of belonging or connectedness for employees and customers.

So it’s entirely possible that creating an internal brand actually adds another layer of complexity to your programme, rather than simplifying it?

In any case I have ended up with five key watchouts if you are considering building an internal brand for your change programme:

 1) Ask yourself whether you are really building a “brand”? Or is this simply a way of packaging the programme – perhaps via a campaign, or visual identity which helps to express the vision, mission and values of the programme.

2) Be clear on how this fits with the overarching brand. Is it an extension of what customers see? Are the values, etc consistent? Is the architecture you create supplementary, or distinct? Do you want people to most feel like they are first and foremost part of the organisation, or this new programme brand?

3) Make sure this is about making things simpler for your audience – in my view the job of the comms practitioner is to reduce the complexity, not add to it. Introducing a brand or identity should be to aid understanding, not to add a layer of confusion.

4) Have an end goal in sight – is this a six month programme or campaign? Or is it something which is long term/permanent? If it’s the former then have an exit strategy in mind in terms of killing the brand (or identity) when it has passed its use-by date… Or perhaps it supercedes what was there before and becomes the new Business As Usual

5) Keep an eye on cost – many of the programmes we are involved are (at least indirectly) about making the organisation more efficient and/or managing costs down. Having a high-profile showy brand identity may look expensive and thus insensitive when you’re asking employees to do more with less at the same time…

Hope that’s a useful guide – I’d be happy to hear other views, or share some of our learnings working with large complex, multi-national organisations…

P.S. – great to see so many friends at the London Communicators and Engagement (LCEG) event at Deutsche Bank last night. Thanks to my old muckers Terri for hosting and Euan Semple for his usual mix of wry humour and simple wisdom. I’m pleased to say that the next event will be at H+K on 20th March… we will be testing out the awesome concept that is the “unconference”… Please let Matt O’Neill who runs the LCEG group (or myself) know if you’d like to attend.

Coming up for air

posted by Scott McKenzie

My second daughter Niamh  is 7 months old today.

It’s fair to say that I subscribe to the concept of the second child multiplier-effect… in other words 1+1 does not + 2… it feels many times harder than that!

The early casualty of this has been what Sir Clive Woodward calls the critical non-essentials. The things that make an incremental difference but could be described as non-core. A bit like this blog.

The cumulative effect of very little sleep, an incredibly hectic work schedule and no free time has often felt like both myself and my wife have been living our lives under-water… in a kind of parallel world, where everything takes much longer but paradoxically you have even less time…!

Since the new year I have tried hard to change things. I’ve taken a bit more exercise. I’ve had the odd night out with friends. I’ve booked a holiday to go and see my parents who live in Canada (it’s the first time my dad will have seen Niamh since she was born). It all feels a little bit selfish when there are so many other demands on your time. But in another sense it has felt like I am coming up for air…

For example, last night I attended VMA’s excellent event at The Hospital Club which revealed the results from their comprehensive Business Leaders in Communications survey. It was a stellar panel with senior communciators from GSK and BP as well as academics and thought leaders. The key-note speaker was Charlie Mayfield, Executive Chairman of John Lewis Partnership. Clearly John Lewis have been much in the news recently, with the Deputy Prime Minister seeking to build what he describes as a “John Lewis” economy. Charlie rightly pointed out that the co-operative model is not a panacea for all known ills. As I have stated in previous blogs I am a huge fan of co-operatives but would also concede their limitations.

Instead what I took out of Charlie’s remarkably candid and inspriring discussion was his clear view that communications is a major cultural lever. His view is that great communications contributes directly to increased engagement from partners (employees), and as a result… an increase in dicretionary effort. So this is not fluffy. There is a clear competitive advantage to be drawn from great communications.

That message certainly helped me take a deeper breath…

The perils of embracing technology

posted by Scott McKenzie

This is a guest post by John Tilbrook, consultant in Hill & Knowlton’s Change & Internal Communications practice

This is the first blog I’ve ever written and it’s taken some time for me to get my act together and write it. You see, I’m one of those ‘too old for my age’ young kids who sits on the suspicious side of the technology divide.

In fact my boss Scott, whose blog this is, constantly reminds me that I’m a Luddite and while I always remonstrate (at the same time feeling secretly proud that I know what a Luddite is), he probably is partly right… and he certainly has more followers on Twitter… whatever that means!

So you’ll probably expect me to agree with the 31% of companies that still block employees from using social media such as Facebook and YouTube at work.

Well actually, no.

Once described as recreational, these technologies are now considered to be important business tools for companies. But for me, from an internal communications perspective, it’s more than this.

I think companies should be encouraging the use of social media. Firstly, it shows employees that you trust them. Secondly, it allows them freedom to share their views – which transcend your corporate image – on what the company stands for, its products and its services, which will inevitably result in better customer interaction, more customers and business results.

In fact, as David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan state in the book ‘Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead’, your trust in employees will be rewarded as they build followings who will eventually buy your products or services.

So why not let employees guest blog on your company website, tweet about your products or contribute to your company Facebook page? You should probably put some guidelines in place, so they know what they are doing, but leave it at that.

Ok, they might do something wrong, but if they do, own up and move on. Your customers will respect this more than an attempted cover up. Embrace technology and you’ll find it has mutual benefits to your employees and your company.

We’ll see, this may be the last blog I’m ever asked to write, but I’m learning… I’ve even just joined LinkedIn. I may not be playing Angry Birds all day long, but at least I’m not smashing up computers either.

John Tilbrook, Consultant, Change & Internal Communications, Hill & Knowlton

The tragedy of Parenthood

posted by Scott McKenzie

So I’m back… In truth I’ve been back from my Paternity Leave for a few weeks but it has been a fairly hectic schedule involving projectile vomit, screaming fits and sleepless nights… and that was just my wife’s reaction to my business trips to Switzerland and New York…

So it’s not been easy to find the time to update the blog. For the record Niamh Frances McKenzie was born on 26th June. She is thriving well… even if sleeping in the evening is not one of her favourite pastimes.

To be honest it has been a wonderful experience. I’m genuinely enjoying being a new parent for the second time.

But one of the things they don’t tell you before you become a parent is that you become incredibly sensitive to stories which involve the unnecessary death, or injury to children. Following this story about a mother accused of killing her children has been particularly harrowing.

When I look at my two little girls I want to imagine that they are going to live long, happy and fulfilled lives. Obviously Sarah and I will do everything we can to make that happen.

Indeed, I was hugely touched by the simple but desperately sad words Mitch Winehouse used at his daughter’s funeral last week. When he said, “Goodnight, my angel, sleep tight. Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much,” any father in the world could have been uttering those words at bedtime…

The tragic context of the words being spoken at his daughter’s funeral make the words more moving. More powerful.  More raw.

And yet the story which has touched me most in recent week is the unfolding tragedy in Somalia. Children are starving to death on an unprecedented scale.  It is catastrophic.

Yet, this is a story that has struggled to compete for airtime. And while I don’t want to underplay the understandable media attention paid to the loss of a true icon like Amy Winehouse – we all need to pay far more attention to the story unfolding in East Africa.

FYI – You can donate to the charity appeal through this site.

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.

It’s the brand… Stupid

posted by Scott McKenzie

I despair I really do. Today’s news on Bank of Scotland’s handling of complaints is the latest in a long line of self-inflicted injuries by the Banking sector.

I spent 10 years working in Banking and here at H&K we work with a number of Financial Services companies manage their reputation, engage their employees and deal with issues and crises.

And there have been a few. We have witnessed banks stumble from one self-inflicted PR disaster to another. From the nadir of the economic crisis to unjustifiable overdraft charges and the shambles of Payment Protection Insurance.

What is so difficult to understand? The brand really does matter. And frankly it doesn’t matter how fluffy and people-centric your advertsising is (stand up NatWest)… if you treat your customers with such wanton disregard your brand will be in tatters.

Yes balance sheets are important. But so is trust. So is reputation. The Banks really need to up their game on customer service, on handling complaints on having greater transparency on pricing.

The new UK regulatory regime likely to be far more punitive when banks get it wrong. Rightly so. But we all have a role to play.

In his wonderful book “Whoops: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay…”,  John Lanchester brilliantly explains how banks make their money in a wonderfully simple and clear way. We should demand the same transparency. The banks have a right to make (lots of) money. But they should be doing it the right way. And we all have a duty to hold them to account.

BTW – if you are interested in how employees can help brands really work you should come along to our event on the 15 June. It will be a panel discussion with great speakers from Bacardi, Aviva and British Gas. One you should not miss!

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.

What we can learn from Robert Owen

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve been reflecting a bit more about how “wellbeing” connects to Employee Engagement.

I recently watched a fantastic BBC documentary on the co-operative movement. One of the founders Robert Owen has become a bit of hero to me .

Owen was literally a hundred years ahead of his time. He sought to build working environments which were safe, sustainable and sustaining for those involved. He was aiming to build communities which were genuinely collaborative, where colleagues worked for the greater good.

Profits were ploughed back into the business. Investments made in the working environment, living conditions and education.

Indeed, there was a real focus on taking children out of poverty and putting them in purpose-built schools – at a time when there was no state education system and children commonly worked in factories and mills in truly appalling conditions. I have no doubt that all of these initiatives were key factors in genuinely engaging employees.

Owen was a visionary and a philanthropist. A leader in every sense. His ideas shaped the co-operative movement which has given us great companies like  the John Lewis Partnership.

As our Prime Minister puts his weight behind employee engagement, and struggles to bring his vision of a Big Society to life he would do well to reflect on Robert Owen’s work.

Indeed you could say the same for our business leaders as they bring their organisations through this economic crisis, and prepare them for growth.

These leaders are demanding more innovation, more productivity and more discretionary effort from their employee. They would do well to think back to Robert Owen and ask themselves what they are offering in return?