Welcome to our weekly profile about who's who in internal comms.
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Changing The Terms
Author and Principal
Time with company
Connect with Mike
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted first to be a politician, and ultimately a political campaign manager. I actually did this professionally for eight years in the US, working in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, and North Carolina.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
I have several:
1. Delft, Netherlands: a gorgeous low-countries city where I live with my wife and stepson
2. Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina: a collision of sights, sounds and cultures, and home to some of the nicest people I've met
3. Madison, Wisconsin: the best small city and university town in America and where I attended the U of Wisconsin
4. Myvatn, Iceland: soothing waters and Icelandic nature in a setting that blows its rival Blue Lagoon away
5. Tel Aviv, Israel: a vibrant, diverse and welcoming city that represents the best of modern Israel
If you could have one wish, what would it be?
Tottenham winning the Premiership and Champions League titles in our first year in our yet-to-be-named new stadium.
What’s the secret to a good life?
Being serious without taking yourself too seriously. Having a silly and unpredictable side.
If you could choose a mentor who would it be?
Alastair Campbell. Even though I never supported Tony Blair (I became a British Citizen later), he always impressed me as a world-class communicator, strategist and stakeholder manager.
Tell us a bit about your role:
I'm in an interesting space, dedicating a fair amount of time to opinion writing and leadership in the IC and Change Comms profession (I am Regional Vice Chair for IABC in Europe - Middle East - North Africa) while servicing strategy and writing clients and pursuing new opportunities and projects. My real passion is internal communication strategy: namely looking at how organisations can drive outcomes by mobilizing the right people, rather than inundating all employees with irrelevance in the name of "engagement."
What’s on your internal comms agenda right now?
My main thing on my internal comms agenda is internal comms itself, and its future, as well as figuring out my own role in making it happen. My blog, Changing The Terms is intentionally provocative as I see the IC and change comms fields as being at an inflection point. Either we integrate real strategy and get serious about what we don't do and who we don't focus on, or we run the risk of becoming a bunch of headless channel managers, or being outsourced or automated out of existence. I don't pull punches on this. And I do see more pros recognizing that we need to focus more on deep impact rather than mass awareness.
Who or what has had the biggest impact on internal comms in your organisation in the past year?
Looking at the IC profession, it's got to be Lise Michaud, founder of IC Kollectif who has created a powerful, independent, and practitioner-led voice for the profession and an incredibly diverse resource of curated and original content.
What’s your proudest achievement or best day in your current role?
Asking four fairly controversial questions in a speech about the Future of IC at the CEB-Gartner Internal Communications Summit on 11 October 2017, turning around a written copy of the speech, getting it posted on LinkedIn and having coffee with Australia's amazing digital IC expert Rita Zonius made for a dizzying 24-hours in London a few weeks ago.
How would you advise someone considering a career in internal comms?
1. Study politics and sociology or read on them at least. Internal comms is not "internal PR," "internal social media," or "internal marketing." It's about complex relationships, deep expectations and the serious pressures employees face. Employees are more like citizens than consumers.
2. Join at least one professional association. All of them are great and none of them do everything. IABC,
are my favourites but they all can be useful as networks and resources.
3. Try to be platform-agnostic and tactic-agnostic. Focus on delivering outcomes rather than acquiring new toys and launching new channels.
What do you think are the top three trends in internal communications to watch out for in 2018?
These are more potential than anticipated trends, but I see them as being worth watching:
1. Whether more communicators will start questioning the relationship between IC and employee engagement and seek more ambitious objectives.
2. Whether the sponsorship base for IC events and organizations will expand again.
3. Whether the initiative by Shel Holtz for practitioners to embrace his idea and model for rethinking "internal comms" as "employee communication" will gain traction.