TUESDAY 4 DEC 2018 3:04 PM


Far from the salty mist of the sea and with feet firmly on green mossy ground, the annual Communication Directors’ Forum (CDF), run by Richmond Events, took place at a luxury hotel in Hertfordshire, with its appeal, efficiency and assembly proving once again that it is one of the communications industry’s favourite events.

Kicking off the forum, after a luscious lunch, was professor Steve Peters, author of ‘The Chimp Paradox,’ giving the keynote speech. He explained the fascinating ways the human brain works, in order to optimise and transform human performance. “You’re not in control of your mind,” he said bluntly. “Stop thinking you are, you’re delusional.” People don’t know and will never fully figure themselves out, he says. What they can do however, is learn the skill of mind management, which they can apply in both their personal and professional relationships, in order to better communicate and achieve what they desire.

Across a two day span, filled with speeches, presentations and sessions, insight into the communications business was shared by leading communications professionals.

The highlights of the first day include, among other, the session led by Sean Pillot de Chenecey, called ‘Post-truth communications: How to rebuild brand authenticity in a distrusting world,' which addressed the ever-pressing issue of lack of trust in the industry. “Once you have trust, the rest is easy,” de Cenecey said. He continued to examine ways to gain the audiences’ trust, “For democracy to thrive, politicians need to focus on transparency. The same goes for brands.” As an example, de Cenecey mentioned Beauty Pie, a beauty brand that lifted the veil behind the beauty industry by selling unbranded products in reduced prices, and Spotify, a genuine disruptor in the music industry, essentially giving out music for free. The session concluded with the realisation that US President Donald Trump’s continuous lies and putting the blame of fake new tactic has had a direct impact to the branding world the needs to step up and be fully transparent. “The problem is, a lot of brands that are doing great things, are very bad at articulating them,” de Cenecey said.

The event focused heavily on both employee and corporate engagements, having sessions about the ways brands can engage their audiences in a genuine and effective way. Speaking on how to engage with current and new customers through creative content, communications professional Inge Wallage said, “We need to into account that communications exist in a changing context.” That might be obvious, but from theory to practice it is a long and difficult road. “Creation doesn’t live by itself anymore, we don’t own our brand and stories, However you can really get through to people with fiction,” Wallage added.

On the topic of employee engagement, people director at House of Fraser, Kerri-Ann O’Neil revealed that according to BetterUp 2018, $160bn has been spent in 2018 on leadership development programmes, while according to Google 250bn items appear in Google search in regard to ‘employee engagement.’ However the amount of money that has been invested is not analogous to the progress that has been made in employee engagement. “Despite there are pieces of hero brilliance in employee engagement, we are not doing a great job overall,” O’Neil said. “As I reflect on my own experience as a practitioner, there’s a mass confusion on what we’re shooting for and how to achieve it. The term ‘engagement’ has become an umbrella term of all that’s good, and that’s a problem of itself.”

A highlight of the event, was the much-anticipated keynote speech of Kate Adie, former chief news correspondent for BBC News. After showing a rather shocking video summarising her carrier as a journalist, Adie talked about communicating in a changing media landscape during difficult times. “It took some time to understand how the comms worked. How to get the best story: Clear language and no superfluity, none of the waffle that infests our communications nowadays,” Adie said. She added, “Democracy needs factually-straight, informative news. Trust is enormously important when anyone can say anything.”

With great energy, good food and drinks and incredible conference sessions, the Communication Directors’ Forum proved that its removal from the sea didn’t cost it its glory. The annual event sailed smoothly and left nothing to be desired.

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