Thursday, 3 November 2011

Internal Comms and the Social Media Revolution

This article from Marketing Week caught my eye this week. Coca Cola are launching a new internal social network, as a mechanism to support their global employee base in staying connected. Sainsbury’s are apparently trialling the same thing although their objective seems a little less focused.

Social networks seem the obvious way to go for big companies and as more and more do it I shall be interested to see what the early results are. I think there will be sections of companies and industry sectors in which this works really well, and others in which it just doesn't fly.

Why? Well much depends of course on the thing being done well in the first place. Presuming a great job is done however, creating and sustaining an internal social network will still throw up all kinds of good questions for the trail blazers (which hopefully have great, innovative answers).

For example: how do you make this work for front line staff in the retail sector? Or for those who need to remain focused in call centres?

How do you get employees to engage with corporate social networks, when they already have enough going on with Facebook and Twitter? And how do you engage those sections of the company who have no interest in online networking at all?

What about the corporations who have banned F’book and Twitter under suspicion of lowering productivity? Do they feel differently if their staff are talking only to each other?

Honestly, I don’t know all the answers and it will be different for everyone. For a start though, internal comms professionals will need to be thinking about:

Focused, measurable objectives

Buy in at the highest level

Engaging managers

Intranet access at home

Mobile devices for non-desk based staff

Relevant, regular content

Identifying advocates

Engaging entry points

Maximising the online network offline

‘Social’ is set to become a prevalent part of the internal comms mix, and is already a key part of HR strategy for many. Today at the HR Tech Europe conference, the audience heard from Ian Bird, Social Learning Leader at IBM who says that, “social is the glue for hiring, learning and retention”. (IBM is a long time leader in this field with their maxim ‘not mass communication, but masses of communicators’ standing out from their social computing guidelines - which were themselves created in a wiki by IBMers).

My sense is that we are reaching a tipping point and that soon there will be few internal comms and HR professionals who can afford to ignore the social media revolution. I certainly don’t think every company should have their own social network, far from it. Depending on your objective, a social network for its own sake might be rather missing the point.

Rather companies should be thinking a bit further ahead, and facilitating the social behaviour of employees both on and offline - to learn, to share, have fun, and just get stuff done. Twitter is just the twip of the iceberg (sorry). What’s more interesting is to think about what something like Pinterest might mean for sharing great work across a global organisation, or what the corporate version of Streetbank might be if you applied it to skills instead of stuff... Oh and if you want to explore social learning, you could do a lot worse than take a look at NoddlePod.

There is so much great work just itching to be done here. Viva la revolution!

Thursday, 24 February 2011


This is what's on my mind this morning. Businesses the world over name agility as one of their 'core values' and many more reference it in their client spiel. It's quite hard to achieve though, as William Hague will tell you.

So how do you build 'agility' into your culture, and really mean it? Here are 5 suggestions.

Work on your internal communication. No not your newsletter, the communication that happens within the 4 walls of your office. The more you're talking, the faster you'll understand a new situation and its implications. If you've got a new brief, take the time to give everyone all the information they need, before you get them working.

Share stuff. What happened that time when it went wrong? What did it look like that time when it was brilliant? What was the end result? What did we learn?

Keep it simple. Take a look at your processes, and ask you staff what holds them up. Do you really need it? Can you change it? If agility is what you want most, then cut right back on the admin.

Empower people. The blocker to agility is often the person who has to approve everything before it goes out the door. Think about what you can do to empower people to get stuff out themselves. That's not just about giving more junior people more responsibility, it's about giving them whatever support they need to be able to make those decisions and make them well. Consider specific training or mentorship as options.

Stay calm. Agility isn't the same as speed. Anyone can do something fast, but you need to do it fast and well. if the end product / result (whatever it is) is sub-standard, then you've made a false economy and your clients will let you know all about it. So take time to listen and make sure you're clear on requirements. Check and proof as you go.

There's plenty more to do besides, good planning for example, but if you're getting this lot right then you're in a great place.