So join us for our very first Breakfast Briefing at the brand new Mediahub in Milton Keynes on Monday, 16 January.
Hear how the following experts craft their communication strategies:
Nathan Frost, Dixons Carphone, will share his views on engaging store-based colleagues across the country.
Snéha Khilay, Chair of Diversity and Inclusion Thought and Action Group, Engage for Success, will talk about creating a culture of giving all employees a voice, involving and listening to them and inviting their contributions, expertise and ideas.
Hameed Halawani, JTI, will demonstrate how JTI involves and engages its multi-cultural audience across the Middle East, Near East, Africa and Turkey.
It’s no coincidence that our first Breakfast Briefing lands on the notoriously dreary ‘Blue Monday’ – supposedly the most depressing day of the year.
Help us cheer you up by joining like-minded IC professionals to network, learn and enjoy pastries and hot drinks at our base in Milton Keynes.
Elf engagement at the North Pole has been overhauled, resulting in its highest ever engagement score. We asked the Chief Elf Officer (CEO) how they’ve done it.
What’s the history behind employee engagement at the North Pole?
Being an elf’s a vocation so, although it will never make them ‘welfy’, we’re lucky that our workforce is a dedicated one. Making wishes come true on Christmas Day is an amazing project to be part of.
However, just because our elves are passionate, it doesn’t mean we have it easy. Until you’ve seen the operation we run, it’s hard to imagine the level of preparation required to ensure that Christmas Eve runs without a hitch and that the right presents are delivered, on time, to 1.9 billion children.
What are your biggest challenges?
Elves enter the profession as youngsters, and employee turnover is extremely low. Our oldest elf is 3,548 years old! Keeping them engaged for so many years and introducing new ways of working to those who are set in their ways is tricky. Then there’s the post-Christmas lull to contend with. Plus, we employ 550,000 elves, so uniting them is another challenge.
What is your strategy for keeping them engaged?
Since Christmas 2015, it’s been to empower, involve and appreciate them, every day.
It’s not groundbreaking, but it works. We want the elves to understand that they are all important parts of a giant jigsaw, grasp the bigger picture of where they fit in, and know that they can make a huge difference. And lastly, we have made Santa far more visible, following feedback that the elves thought he was always off eating mince pies, yet still got most of the glory at Christmas.
So what have you done differently this year?
We’ve made lots of changes in conjunction with our IC agency. Our biggest success has been introducing an elf app called Appy Christmas. It’s taken a while, but 90 per cent of the workforce has now downloaded it as their schedules and pay slips can be accessed on it.
In December 2015, we began trialling Facebook’s ESN, Workplace, which has turned out to be a wonderful tool for collaborating, networking and generating ideas. Through Workplace Live Santa now broadcasts live video message updates to all elves, wherever they are. It’s broken down barriers between Santa and the elves as he’s so active on it and they can see what he’s really doing – and that he’s a busy guy. Everyone’s on a level playing field on Workplace.
We’ve also relaunched our employee magazine, The Grotto, so it now focuses on in-depth features that you wouldn’t want to read on a screen.
The Tinsels – quarterly awards through which Santa recognises and rewards high-performing elves – have been introduced. They’ve been great for elf-esteem and for ensuring the elves know they’re appreciated.
Lastly, we’ve introduced fortnightly lunch and learn sessions with the reindeer. It’s addressing a disconnect between them and the elves, and now that the elves can remember all of their names, things are really improving.
What does The Grotto app involve?
It’s a great for instantly sharing news and announcements – and it encourages two-way conversation. We use it for polls and pulse checks, which empowers the elves and allows them to have their say. There’s also an Elfstagram section where the elves share Elfies, and Santa occasionally comments on them, which is driving engagement.
What have the results of all this been?
Our elf engagement survey has shown that we have 89 per cent engagement, which is extremely high. More than ever, everyone knows their own roles in conjunction with everyone else’s, which means less error and duplication, and more success.
On most days, you’ll find whistling, cheering and smiling across the workshop, mail house, wrapping and loading departments – everywhere. Safe to say, smiling’s our favourite!
In the age of the internet, we want to know what’s going on right now – and these days we don’t even need to wait for videos to finish recording before we can see what’s happening.
When scrolling through your Facebook feed, you might have seen friends ‘go live’. Companies including Benefit and Dunkin’ Donuts have also clocked the advantages of the live-streaming feature, which launched in April, and have used it to host workshops, product launches and interviews.
And, luckily for internal comms, Workplace also allows users to ‘go live’.
If employees are out of the office during a presentation, Workplace Live is the perfect solution, allowing them to tune in wherever they are in real-time, or catch up later.
The feature was a hit with nbn employees for the launch of its SkyMuster™ satellite. Firstly it coordinated the launch using Workplace’s chat function, then it live streamed the event itself so employees worldwide could watch it live, no matter where they were.
Its success was clear from the 1,400 posts, 1,700 comments and 8,400+ reactions across the business in a day.
While Headlines had no rocket to launch, we were inspired to ‘go live’ and see the benefits ourselves.
Live-streaming a presentation for employees who were out of the office was easy – just remember to hold the device upright as the video won’t be flipped to landscape mode.
Social Media Manager Martin Smith watched our live stream from out of the office. He said: “The ease of use is impressive: open up the app and click on the feed. In terms of simplicity, it is far easier than most video comms platforms. The quality can be variable but the sound is clear and buffering minimal.
“It is a perfect solution for those on the move with little time. Two clicks of your phone and you can watch the latest company announcement regardless of location. Another feather in Workplace’s cap.”
Headlines’ very own Chris Keller was highly commended in the Best Designer category at the prestigious ICon Awards ceremony yesterday.
Run by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), the awards – at London’s Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel – celebrated the industry’s best and most talented IC professionals.
Designer Chris said: “I’m over the moon to have won this award and to have been recognised by the industry. I feel passionately about internal communication and am very proud of this achievement.”
Six Headliners were shortlisted, including Peter Bennett in the Best Editor category, writers Holly Whitecross and Katie Nertney in the Rising Talent – Best Young Communicator category, Head of Video Sara Wilmot in the Best Visual Creator category and Brian Amey in the Best Designer category.
In 2015, Headlines’ Duncan Boddy brought home the Best Designer Award.
Simon Dowsing, Director of Media Operations at Headlines, said: “This is excellent news. We are very proud of the talented, hardworking and dedicated people we have at Headlines.”
According to the IoIC, the ICon Awards recognise “the people who consistently turn theory into great internal communication practice”.
In recent weeks, Headlines has won a host of awards including Best Mobile/App in the industry at the IoIC Awards 2016, three Awards of Excellence at the same event and a Silver Award for Best Mobile App at the MK Digital Awards.
Your company narrative is the most fundamental building block when creating effective internal communications and a positive workplace culture. Here’s why.
There’s no denying that terms such as ‘storytelling’ and ‘narrative’ are industry buzzwords at the moment, and they are often misappropriated to label existing (and usually dull) communications in the hope of making them feel fresh and relevant.
But if you can get through the noise, the company narrative can be a game changer for your communications approach.
When developing your communications strategy, it is critical that the narrative is developed at the same time, because – if it is done properly – the narrative becomes the bedrock from which all other comms and key messages are developed.
What is a company narrative?
At it’s simplest – a two to three page document that covers aspects of your company’s history, values, ambitions and hopes for the future.
Mark Bonchek is founder and Chief Epiphany Officer of Shift Thinking. He helps organisations achieve growth and change by adopting new thinking to engage customers and empower employees.
He states that a narrative: “says who you are as a company; where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going; how you believe value is created and what you value in relationships. It explains why you exist and what makes you unique.”
The key aspect to make clear in the narrative is what Mark calls the ‘shared purpose’ – the outcome that the organisation and the customer are working towards together. It is the foundation of the relationship that the company has with its customers and its employees.
Mark adds that: “Most people think of purpose as what your employees do FOR your customer. But in a social age, the real power is creating a shared purpose WITH your customer.”
This shared purpose creates the opportunity for a different kind of relationship with the customer. One that is more collaborative and reciprocal than the typical “producer/consumer” relationship to which we are accustomed.
Mark took us through some examples of companies with powerful narratives built around a shared purpose, an authentic Brand DNA, and a relationship beyond the transaction:
“With a shared purpose to ‘inspire the athlete in all of us,’ Nike’s relationship with its customers is not just a producer/consumer relationship, it’s more like coach/athlete, and it comes from the fact that Nike was co-founded by a coach, Bill Bowerman” says Mark.
Rather than the ‘airline-passenger’ model, Virgin America’s narrative (and therefore marketing and advertising) is, Mark argues: “more like they are the host of the party and we are the party guests.” It also connects back to the Brand DNA established by Richard Branson, known for throwing a great party.
“Typically, the relationship in the hospitality industry has been one of lodger/guest, based on the a transaction. What Airbnb has done is shift that relationship to neighbour/neighbour, based on a shared purpose of ‘Belong Anywhere.’” says Mark.
Shared purpose for employees
What is interesting about the Airbnb example is that the shared purpose of belonging and the neighbour/neighbour relationship is reflected in how the company engages with its own employees. Meeting rooms are inspired by active Airbnb listings, free lunches are themed around the 191 countries where it hosts, and there is a $2,000 (£1,360) annual travel budget given to each employee to use outside of work; all geared towards immersing their employees in the brand and making them effective ambassadors.
Airbnb is just one example of how a strong narrative can help to take employees on the journey with you, and this is particularly important when dealing with subjects that – at least on the surface – are not what employees will take a huge interest in.
Using narrative for specific campaigns
Kate Shaw, Internal Communications Manager at Nationwide, recently won a raft of awards for her work on a campaign to get colleagues more interested in, and signing up to, additional contributions to their pensions.
Not the most engaging subject, you might argue, but one that nonetheless is very important to Nationwide’s colleagues, as Kate explains: “The organisation was very keen to engage people on the importance of pensions. There were important changes happening so if we had communicated these in the wrong way, all they would have heard was ‘you’re taking more of my salary every month, and I don’t get why’. So getting our narrative right up front was really important”.
The resulting campaign, one of the highlights of which is a witty and accessible pensions video, has seen the number of employees signed up to make additional contributions rise from 10 per cent to 83 per cent.
A huge achievement, and one that Kate puts down to planning, and having their narrative established from the beginning.
She said: “We had a story written down about how we wanted employees to feel and what we wanted that end experience to be. We wanted to articulate from the employee point of view how it feels to work for Nationwide, how the organisation cares and looks after them, and then go into the pension details.
“The narrative itself is the most unglamorous document! But that’s on purpose so stakeholders don’t get distracted from the story. Having it signed off along with the strategy then meant sign off on subsequent materials was dramatically easier because you have agreed the narrative content upfront, everything you write reflects that original document.”
And Kate is clear that the narrative must come early in the comms planning process, saying: “Before we even went near the video or any of the methods for delivering the campaign, we sat with Ian Baines, Head of Pensions, and went through with him what we were trying to achieve from a business perspective, and how we could achieve this through narrative and storytelling. We had to understand where we were going first and agree that with Ian, so we made sure we could deliver what the business wanted.”
Humans + stories = communication
Kate’s success proves that knowing where you want to get to and having your narrative straight from the beginning gives you a huge advantage in creating a successful communications campaign. Whether you are writing a narrative for your whole business or a specific time-fixed campaign, the benefits cannot be underestimated.
A good story is the most powerful way to communicate an idea, a concept or important information. So it makes absolute sense that, when planning our communications, the narrative or story elements are not an afterthought or something bolted on to make our messages easier to digest, but instead at the very heart of everything we do.
Narrative versus story
It is important to make the distinction between narrative and story because they are not the same thing, especially in the context of a company narrative.
Story is a structured narrative; it has a beginning, middle and an end (although not necessarily in that order) and, most importantly, has some sort of conclusion. Story is something that we witness or experience, but we do not play a part in.
Narrative, on the other hand, is open. More like an unfinished story that doesn’t need to have a distinct beginning or end. The narrative creates a story world in which we can get involved, a place for us to create our own stories.
A good parallel is the difference between movies and a video game like Minecraft. In a movie, we witness the linear progression of the story, hopefully enjoy it, and then the plot is all wrapped up at the end. In Minecraft, all of the elements of a story are there — the world, characters, the stakes — but it is left to the player to then take part, to build, to make the world their own, to create their own stories. And, crucially, the world of Minecraft never really ends either.
In the context of IC, the company narrative should usually contain at least the beginning of the story – the history of the company, their values, what they are trying to achieve (shared purpose) and then leave it open so that employees can play their own part in the success of the business and create their own stories within the world that the narrative has created.