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Putting “Next Practice” before “Best Practice”: an interview with Mike Klein on the Gorilla Games

The following is an interview with ContactMonkey’s Filza Naveed discussing the Gorilla Games essay competition for internal communicators.
A guerrilla approach to marketing, more commonly known as guerrilla marketing, can be described as “an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results.”

We believe guerrilla tactics can help unleash your inner creative, which is why we decided to start The Gorilla Games competition. We also think internal comms pros are super creative and can really take their ideas to the next level by applying a guerrilla approach to their ideas.

We partnered with Changing the Terms to bring you “The Gorilla Games.” Internal Comms pros can choose from 5 different situational scenarios or challenges and attempt to solve one or more of these by writing a creative solution, using a “guerilla approach.” The best entries will get a chance to win! Entries will be judged by our esteemed panel a.k.a The Gorilla Troop.

We recently caught up with Mike Klein, Founder of Changing the Terms and one of the world’s leading internal communication bloggers, who helped us come up with the idea for The Gorilla Games. He’s also part of our Gorilla Troop of judges.

We asked him to share with us his thoughts on why he believes it’s important to kick-start the flow of thought-leadership within the IC space and what he’s looking for in terms of the essay entries. So, let’s hear what he has to say!

1) How did the idea for this “Guerrilla” contest come to life?

Awards competitions are a fixture of the communication profession – and are a major focus of leading internal communicators around the world. But by their nature, they are generally a reflection of “best practice” – to provide ideas to be imitated, repeated and polished. At the same time I’d been having some thoughts along these lines, I also realized that the conversation in internal comms had become a bit stale, and we were seeing little content at all coming from in-house folks except for case studies.

In a flash, the idea of an essay competition came to mind. I thought “why not” – most of us know how to write and many of us do more writing than anything else in our jobs. And why not an approach that focuses not on “what we did” – but on what we could do if we were operating at our full potential, free of financial, political or bureaucratic constraints. This idea is at the heart of “guerrilla” internal communication – and is the seed of the Gorilla Games.

2) Why Changing The Terms?

“When you change the words, you change the terms. When you change the terms, you change the rules. And when you change the rules, you change the game.” That’s the philosophy of my practice, and I figured there was no better way for Changing The Terms to have an impact on internal communication than to get people writing, and to change the words, terms and rules of the recognition game in our profession.

3) Why ContactMonkey?

I like ContactMonkey – I like that they are a guerrilla contender creating a space for themselves in the e-mail analytics space. And I noted that an e-mail analytics company has a stake in promoting and celebrating the use of the written word in our profession. ContactMonkey has embraced this idea, and we have been sharing ownership beautifully.

4) Why do you think an essay competition is the way to go for an internal communications contest?

We are all supposed to be visual and digital these days. But all this focus on “vigital” belies the basic fact that the written word remains central to the ability of internal communication to add value and coherence to the organizations we work with. And until now, no one has really recognized this. And in terms of addressing the “what if’s” and the “what could we do with the gloves off”, we can’t do that through videos, testimonials and measurements. But we can write, and write we will.

5) Do you think we have enough thought leadership within the IC space? Or are we lagging behind in this area?

Thought leadership has been lagging a bit – a lot of the writers and bloggers and activists in this profession have gone silent or even gone away from the field. That’s another reason behind the Gorilla Games – to get a new group of writers and thinkers to get into the game, and to do so from a next practice perspective rather than trying to justify previous work as best practice.

6) How will the entries be scored?

In the first round, entries will be judged evenly on readability, originality and impact. We want good writing (though we are very willing to accommodate non-native English speakers), we want people to share their own ideas, and we want readers to believe that something else is possible for IC practitioners by looking ahead instead of behind.

7) What do you hope to accomplish out of this contest?

From an altruistic standpoint, I want to help midwife the next generation of IC thought leaders. And from a selfish standpoint, I want to identify professionals who are seeking the kind of “guerrilla thinking” that both Changing The Terms and ContactMonkey can provide clients and customers with.

8) What is “guerrilla internal communication”?

It’s what we can do even when the sponsorship, finances and attention we “need” aren’t readily available, and we still take on the challenge. Communicating without budgets. When the CEO doesn’t give a crap. When survey fatigue is epidemic and when the old posters have to be left up for no reason. When the chips are down, the back is to the wall and the gloves simply have to come off.

9) Why “guerrilla/gorilla”?

It’s a cheeky way to “Change The Terms” – but it also combines my philosophy with the “ape-like” brand positioning of ContactMonkey. It’s a natural fit.

10) Why the judges?

I wanted IC professionals who are committed to our profession and who cover the bases: in-house, consultancy and academia. US, UK, Canada and Europe. Some are well known, and others are rising stars. People who I know will recognize “gorilla thinking” when they see it. Proud to be joined by Jason Anthoine, Priya Bates, Silke Brittain, Ashli Davis and Neil Jenkins.

Let us know what you thought of our chat with Mike. If you want to add to the conversation or have any questions regarding The Gorilla Games, tweet at us with #TheGorillaGames!

Now that you know the inside story on why we started The Gorilla Games and what we’re looking for, it’s time to put on your guerrilla thinking cap and send us come creative guerrilla entries. Go ahead. Press the button below and blow us away! 👇

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