Who's who Wednesday
Welcome to our weekly profile about who's who in internal comms.
If you'd like to be featured, just complete the online template and send your favourite photo. If there's someone you'd love to know more about, let us know and we'll do the rest!
Time with company
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
An actor. That's why I play host at smile events. Eventually my simply colleagues will get one of those hooked sticks to pull me off stage.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Anywhere overlooking the Thames; it is my life force.
If you could have one wish, what would it be?
To switch the UK off this road to the Brexit cliff edge.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Russell Grossman, when he was Head of Comms at HMRC, said "be humble - we communication experts don't always know what's right".
If you could have any super power what would you choose?
The ability to read people's minds. It would make our job so much easier.
Tell us a bit about your role:
I founded simply-communicate back in 2004 after selling my last business (MCA Live, an IC and engagement company) to WPP. The original idea was to be a competitor to Melcrum and provide online case studies and advice to internal comms professionals. I pretty soon learned that IC people have little to spend on themselves; Melcrum got swallowed up into CEB and Mark Ragan had a 40 year head start on us in the US market, so I figured I needed to revise the business plan... Fortunately social intranets came along - first with Yammer and Jive - and then with a plethora of new products and platforms. We noticed that whenever we wrote about Yammer or ESNs our readership spiked. It was clear that a lot of professional communicators were struggling to get these new channels up and running with reasonable adoption levels. So that is when we invented the smile events - it stands for social media inside the large enterprise - and we have not looked back since. Today we have over 8,000 professional communicators as registered readers and around 500 each year come to smileexpo and smilelondon. We also have a thriving consultancy business and have helped National trust, COTY, Monster Worldwide, Wates and others to build their digital workplace.
What’s on your internal comms agenda right now?
IC professionals are being asked to step up and make the digital workplace a reality in large organisations. This means holding on to the old roles of good communications, information and engagement, but also encouraging new ways of working, particularly collaboration, 'working out loud' and knowledge management. Oh and it all has to work on a mobile device the size of a playing card... So integration (of platforms and people) is the name of the game.
Who, or what, has had the biggest impact on internal comms in your organisation in the past year?
The arrival of Workplace by Facebook has shaken up the market. Not necessarily because large companies are buying the platform (they still have less than 10% of the market) but because they raised the stakes when it comes to user experience. The platform far outperforms Yammer and Slack, mostly because it is based on the habits of a billion users. No one else has that size of sandpit to try out new ideas. However, while it is great for conversations, groups and video streaming it is not designed for knowledge management and information compliance. So we spend a lot of our time helping companies caught between the powerful but complex 0365 tools and the high adoption lure of Workplace by Facebook. This can involve lots of research, defining user journeys, diplomacy, governance advice, and putting together a combination of an employee app, chatbots and a personalised news centre.
What’s your proudest achievement or best day in your current role?
Without a question it was at a smilelondon event which was a) sold out and b) the audience really got why they were there. It is hard work being an evangelist (ask Gerry McGovern, Euan Semple, Paul Miller or Lee Bryant). But when a flywheel starts to have its own momentum it is a wonderful feeling! These days we have as much expertise and brilliant ideas in the audience as we do onstage.
How would you advise someone considering a career in internal comms?
You have to get it that we are no longer in the business of managing communications. Our job is to help managers (at all levels) to communicate. If you want to broadcast go into broadcasting. We are now all curators and we work and succeed through the communications of others. It is extremely satisfying to help a person or community find its voice and then make a real difference in their organisation.
What do you think are the top three trends in internal communications to watch out for in 2018?
1) Getting IC to run the digital workplace program. Don't wait to be asked - grab that role because you hold the key to adoption.
2) The move towards chatbots will be truly liberating. Just as Asana and Siri are taking the friction out of our home life, so chatbots are going to save companies thousands of (wo)manhours by getting us away from the tyranny of keyboards and interminable menus. Soon we will all have our own PA bot!
3) Realtime dashboards will show how information is coursing through an organisation and that data will really help our profession. We will be able to prove what is working and what is failing in the morning and adjust and improve it by the afternoon.
© pfk the communications agency.