FRIDAY 26 JAN 2024 11:23 AM


Communicate magazine's first conference of 2024, Internal Communications and Engagement Live, took place this week. The day brimmed with energy as attendees debated the most interesting and important issues facing communications professionals this year.

Diving deep into issues such as reputation management, behavioural science and AI, Communicate magazine’s Internal Communications and Engagement (ICE) Live conference set the tone for the industry this year. The day brimmed with energy and enthusiasm, abetted by the possibilities of a new year ahead. With the conference programme incorporating roundtable discussions in which conversation unfolded freely, the day felt rich with ideas.

ICE Live kicked off with a talk from law firm Bird & Bird on an internal treasure hunt campaign bravely designed to ‘transform tradition’: the campaign itself was pastel-coloured in order to defy the traditional, ‘safe’ navy blue that is popular within the industry. The innovative hybrid treasure hunt concept saw clues hidden across 30 offices and utilised a web-based app to captivate and inspire employees around Bird & Bird's brand evolution. “We wanted to create a personal connection and reward curiosity,” said Sophie Bowkett, chief marketing officer at the firm. 

Up next, Ignis took to the stage to describe its work with Japan Tobacco International (JTI). Its refreshing and imapctful campaign used gamification to shed a light on crucial human rights issues. Nick Peters, Ignis executive director, described how the team were motivated by the question: “How could we democratise the subject of human rights?”

The day was dotted with twenty-minute roundtable discussions, during which the room hummed with eager and impassioned voices. Attendees examined and ruminated on issues such as how to properly support LGBTQ colleagues and the evolving role of the line manager. The impact of AI technology on workplace communications proved a popular subject, with the relevant tables becoming crowded by both the strongly opinionated and those who just wanted to listen and learn.

Many attendees arrived at the conference already excited for a talk by British Transport Police (BTP) on its ‘A force on the move’ campaign, launched at a time of crisis for the organisation. May Holloway, head of internal communications at BTP, described how the campaign took on the unenviably enormous task of transforming the workforce’s strategy and purpose while keeping employees engaged and onboard. Holloway emphasised the “power of conversation” when describing how BTP looked to promote its new direction, values, purpose and ‘strategic pillars’.

ICE Live was rounded off by a fascinating talk from Cowry Consulting on incorporating behavioural science to curate a supportive internal culture. Cowry’s Rich Milner, lead behavioural designer, and Sarah Murray, head of behavioural architecture, showed how behavioural science can produce invaluable insights that may be applied, for example, to customer interactions. When partnering with Southern Water, Cowry was able to empower employees in customer-facing roles through behavioural science techniques and training, resulting in more productive conversations and a healthier work culture.

Throughout the day, further talks from Arriva Group, Santander and Thales allowed for deeper insights into the creativity taking place in the internal communications space and how the communications tool kit is expanding. Lee Coleman, head of communications and engagement at Arriva, described the use of extensive employee surveys in order to craft a new ‘compelling vision’ at the transport company.

A conference packed with energy, creativity and a palpable, shared desire to create change, was brought to a close with final roundtable discussions exploring the value of internal conversations and purposefully curating positive workplaces. Despite wariness and apprehension over some topics - such as new technologies or remote work structures - ICE Live ended on an air of optimism and excitement for the year ahead.