SHIP TO SHORE
What were the key lessons or pieces of advice you learned at this year’s Communication Directors’ Forum? Attendees share their experiences from aboard the Arcadia
Callum Gill, head of client insight and innovation, drp
2017 marked my seventh year at the Communication Directors’ Forum and the last time (for the immediate future at least) the event will be held on the high seas before its move to dry land in 2018. As the world and indeed our industry continues to embrace and absorb technology into all aspects of our profession, the lack of connectivity on board the various cruise ships used to deliver the event seems to have been the driving factor moving the event to a more traditional setting.
This twist in the tale of the forum neatly reflects the main challenges and opportunities that cropped up again and again over the three day event. As communicators, we need to be looking further forward than ever before to remain engaging, relevant and able to communicate effectively. The use of technology, connectivity, mobile, VR and AR solutions cropped up again and again in my meetings. Comms professionals are both excited and wary of the march of technology. We’re constantly being challenged to make meaningful connections with audiences in the ‘always on’ 24-hour news cycle environment while contradictorily being asked to maintain ever tighter control on data, tech security and brand reputation.
Ultimately, my conversations at the forum this year reflected the conclusions drawn through my own research and the work I do with our clients. The technology is not the thing. It is simple the delivery vector. As ever, our profession and our success therein is measured by our ability to deliver excellent messaging, open reciprocal lines of communication and influence behaviours.
Louise Breed, head of engagement and internal communications, Swinton Group
I was at the CDF to share the journey Swinton has been on to increase engagement and transform our culture. Based on discussions I had on board, it would seem many of us are tackling similar challenges around building trust in organisations at times of unprecedented change.
In my free time, I was able to hear from some amazing speakers on a wide range of topics. Here are a few soundbites which resonated with me:
• “For the last 14 years, honesty has topped the list of attributes we look for in leaders” – William Montgomery
• “If you struggle to get to sleep, write your to do list for the next day before you leave work (it helps you to leave work at work)” – Nerina Ramlakhan
• “Don’t let your inner voice talk you down – it allows your brain to then prove your inner voice to be right” – Tim O’Brien
• “To deliver a great presentation, show your vulnerability to build rapport with your audience” – David McQueen
Paul Jones, senior engagement consultant, Karian and Box
I find it’s stories that stick with me most after conferences. Many great ones were told at the forum. Presenting on cultural change at Swinton Insurance, Louise Breed explained how an Italian NGO team had planted a crop of tomatoes in Zambia only for them to be trampled by a herd of hippos (the tomatoes, not the Italian NGO team). When they complained that no one warned them about the hippos, the reply was, “You never asked.” Real listening and grassroots engagement matters.
In my own discussion groups, examining the relationship between internal and external communications, many stories were told about how we can use the voices of employees to engage external audiences. Kent Police asks employees to share their crime-fighting content through their own personal networks, because of the cut-through power of these viral influencer networks. SAP has taken its internal D&I campaign into the media, sharing stories of employee diversity to showcase its cultural integrity – essential in the era of culture-driven brand disasters.
There’s a huge opportunity here. In a world of Glassdoor and TripAdvisor, we need to embrace the power of employee advocacy and channel the stories they tell in the right way.