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New Podcast with Happeo

Pleased to announce the airing of my latest podcast, this time with Happeo on our research into “the present and future of Internal Communication”.

You will find a link to the podcast, as well as an excerpted transcript here:

https://www.happeo.com/blog/podcast-research-internal-communications

 

 

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The present and future of Internal Communication: Introducing the Happeo IC research series

happeo

Late last year, I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse.  

Happeo, a digital workplace vendor based in Amsterdam, asked me to do an in-depth research study looking at the present and future of internal communication.  

As someone who has been a practitioner, commentator and agitator in the IC field, the opportunity to look qualitatively at what practitioners think about what is going on in and around our profession – and to have the remit to seek input from those who employ us as consultants, managers and specialists – is proving interesting, exciting, and more than a little alarming.

My research has six parts, each based on twelve conversations.  The goal – to identify the gap between where we are and where we need to be, and what our stakeholders will demand of us to deliver and demonstrate value as the world around us accelerates and changes.

The first report covers the current state of internal communication as leading practitioners see it. The second, which I am currently completing, addresses how practitioners see the near-term future.  Additional reports will cover measurements and business cases, how corporate communicators perceive internal comms and what senior managers and leaders will need as the overall business environment changes.

You can find the first report here: https://www.happeo.com/changing-the-internal-communications-game

If the first report is any indication, the series has the potential to serve as a much-needed wake-up call for a profession whose fundamental importance is exceeded only by its collective difficulty in illustrating that importance to the people who depend on it.

This is sponsored research – and Happeo has an agenda to make itself known as an emerging leader in the internal communication space. And, in giving me, a credentialled advocate for a strategic, dynamic and sustainable approach to IC, free rein to define questions and select a global panel of active in-house IC practitioners and consultants, there is a commitment to do so by identifying fundamental issues and empowering practitioners to confront them.

Through the articles, reports and events connected with this research, my intent is to help change the conversation around our profession – and leave people prepared and empowered for what lies ahead.  If you want to discuss, please ping me at mike.klein@changingtheterms.com.

 

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The annual Changing The Terms poem: 2018-style

It’s poem time

At Changing The Terms

The annual verse

Of IC twists and turns

 

A changing world

Of metrics and tech

Yet old-school leaders

Keep breathing down neck

 

A poster – a roadshow

They still want that stuff

A trusted advisor?

Most still think we’re fluff

 

Millennials

Also make demands

Consumer-grade comms

They want in their hands

 

The tech is there

To fit any budget

But are silver bullets

What’s needed to nudge it?

 

I’m doing some research

For Happeo

To see what will move

Your busy CEO

 

To give you the platform

You say you need

And spark collaboration

And power and speed

 

My own twists and turns

Were quite to see

After six months in Frankfurt

It’s consulting for me

 

New ventures sparked

From cool to funky

Like Gorilla Games

With ContactMonkey

 

If you haven’t entered

The time will soon pass

So send us your essays

For prizes with sass

 

Next year is coming,

Let’s pick up the pace

IC folk do it

With style and grace

 

And for all in whom

The IC flame burns

Happy holidays to all

From Changing The Terms

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New guest blog posts: why I am an internal communicator – and what IC folk need to do to move farther

I’ve continued my blogging in recent months on new and different platforms – as I generally like providing content for my friends, and of course, I enjoy reaching new audiences.

Earlier this fall, and building on a presentation I gave at the IABC EMENA Leadership Institute in Vilnius, Lithuania, I wrote the following piece – which speaks to why I am an internal communicator. This one was for the fine folks at H&H:

https://handhcomms.co.uk/5-steps-internal-communicators-maximize-impact/

That much being said, internal communication does not live in a vacuum, and while I am doing reasonably well as an IC consultant at the moment, I am very interested in seeing internal communicators move up the ranks into wider-ranging communication roles.  My latest post shares my thoughts on how IC folk can mover into broader and more senior opportunities, and was published on Rachel Miller’s AllThingsIC blog:

https://www.allthingsic.com/defending-our-turf-or-leapfrogging-into-leadership/

 

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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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New Content, New Research: Working Together With ContactMonkey and Happeo

After returning to consultancy following a in-house detour that led me to an industrial park in Germany, I came back home and had a thought.

Most of the dynamism in the internal communication field of late has been coming from tech companies bringing apps and diagnostic tools to the IC market. It has become a competitive field, and a few smart companies have hooked up with leading IC personalities to help navigate the IC community and differentiate from the crowd.

It was time to make myself available. But I wanted partners who are committed to the growth of our profession as well as being committed to the growth of their own sales.

I am pleased to report that two vendors and I have connected in powerful and exciting ways.

One vendor is Canada’s ContactMonkey.

I approached them about running an essay competition.

For a profession that has writing at it’s core, the lack of a recognized essay competition struck me as odd, but easily fixable. But more than interested in running a competition, ContactMonkey has been interested in running with it. The result: a challenge to IC folk to take the gloves off and swing from the trees.

In the spirit of Guerrilla Marketing and ContactMonkey’s simian DNA, we’ve proudly and jointly launched The Gorilla Games.

I am delighted to be joined on the judging panel by five communicators who unabashedly call themselves IC Pros and embody the Guerrilla spirit of our profession. They cover all the bases: in-house, consulting and academia; and are getting the job done on both sides of the Atlantic. They are Jason Anthoine, Priya Bates, Silke Brittain, Ashli Davis and Neil Jenkins.

Together, we’ll be looking for next practice over best practice, and for entrants who, rather than simply thinking out of the box, will be willing to tell us what they could do once they rip the box apart with their bare hands. In doing so, we will make available an abundance of fresh content about what IC folk could do when the constraints are lifted off of us.

New research with Happeo

I am also thrilled to announce a second alliance, one with Finland’s Happeo, another ambitious vendor with a current focus on delivering integrated IC solutions for the Google G-Suite.  

Some weeks ago, I posted on the subject of “what I would do with a research budget.” Happeo is putting its money where my mouth is, by commissioning me to generate a series of six research reports looking at “The Present and Future of Internal Communication” to address and write about questions of mutual interest.

I am proud and delighted to be working both with Happeo and ContactMonkey. They both have excellent products. And, most importantly, they are both committed to supporting and strengthening the IC pros and the IC community that make up their market. The content and research both will unleash through our co-operation has the potential to change the terms.

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LET THE GAMES BEGIN: ContactMonkey, Changing The Terms to launch “Gorilla Games” Internal Comms essay competition

The following is a joint press release marking the launch of an essay competition for internal communicators, with ContactMonkey and Changing The Terms giving participants the opportunity to tackle one of five relevant communication scenarios and compete for prizes and recognition.

Toronto, ON/Delft, NL: In an effort to jumpstart the flow of new thought leadership and content into the internal communication profession, ContactMonkey, an email tracking service for internal communications professionals, and Changing The Terms, an internal communication consultancy based in the Netherlands, are joining forces to launch their first-ever essay competition, the “Gorilla Games” focusing on different aspects of what they call “Gorilla Internal Communication.”

“In asking communicators to write about what they would do in relatively common scenarios if they were free to act, we open up insights into a new, ‘guerrilla’ approach to Internal Comms. And since ContactMonkey is involved, it’s only appropriate to change the terms – hence ‘Gorilla’.’ said Mike Klein, Changing the Terms’ Principal.

“The approach is guerrilla in that it challenges prevailing trends. In a profession that sees itself as visual and digital, we are doubling down on the power and centrality of the written word. In a field where the awards are given for best practice, past-based performance, we are inviting people to share next practice, and what they would do if they were enabled to fight with their bare hands.’ said Scott Pielsticker, CEO of ContactMonkey.

Participants for the contest can choose to submit entries in response to a number of scenarios common within the internal communication profession. The goal is for communicators to apply a guerrilla approach as a solution to the scenario of their choice, exercising their creativity and thought leadership.

Participants may submit one entry submission for each category of scenarios if they so wish. Internal communicators wishing to participate in the contest can submit their entries online starting on 1 of November 2018 via the entry form that will be hosted on ContactMonkey’s website. The last day to submit entries is December 1, 2018.

Participants’ entries will be judged on innovative thought leadership and use of creativity. Esteemed judges from the internal communications industry will decide on contest winners.. Moreover, ContactMonkey and Changing the Terms will provide visibility to the winners and their work on one or more of their platforms.

ContactMonkey is based in Toronto, Ontario and focuses on innovative solutions for internal communications professionals with its out-of-the-box solution to email building, tracking, and analyzing for Outlook. It is only solution that enables you to measure individual and overall employee email engagement and send beautiful responsive HTML emails from Outlook to Outlook distribution lists using their intuitive drag and drop Email Template Builder.  

Changing the Terms (CTT) is based in Delft in the Netherlands and works through a global network of relationships. Mike Klein, CTT Principal, is one of the world’s leading internal communication bloggers, and is the author of “From Lincoln to LinkedIn,” a communication manual outlining guerrilla-style approaches.

For more information please contact:

Katie Liston, Head of Marketing at ContactMonkey

Email: katie@contactmonkey.com                          

 

Mike Klein, Principal, Changing The Terms

Email: mike.klein@changingtheterms.com       

 

Contest Submissions: https://www.contactmonkey.com/gorilla-games?utm_source=mk&utm_medium=af&utm_campaign=ggic

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Internal-External convergence: a call to action

haka

A few days ago, while having a brief getaway to Lyon, France, the city where the Rhône and Saône rivers converge, I found myself thinking of another convergence – between internal and external communication.

Last week’s IC Kollectif Global Report devoted considerable attention to this seemingly inevitable trend, among other topics. Its findings offer room for optimism, but are also a clear call to action.

I have long contended that IC and External Comms are distinct disciplines, requiring different skills, attitudes and approaches – akin to the differences, in sporting terms, between Rugby and American Football. Nothing in the report’s findings convinces me that this fundamental reality has changed.

In fact, the most encouraging finding is that if anything, respondents (a good mix of IC Folk and senior communicators with broad internal-external remits) find more appreciation than ever for the critical importance and distinct nature of internal audiences even as the IC and external comms functions increasingly overlap.

Still, other trends are challenging. The long-fought battle over control of internal comms in organizations is largely being resolved, with IC moving back under the purview of Corporate Comms or PR in more and more organizations. At the same time, more progressive ideas like the integration of employee advocacy and ambassadorship into external communication strategies and the idea that employees be well informed about changes before they are made known externally, are still far from commonplace.

The net effect: IC remains a distinct discipline, one that could coexist with other specialties as part of a more sophisticated and strategic approach to corporate comms. But there is also the threat we could yet be subsumed into a high-tech vortex of old-school PR.

Here are the most important conclusions I draw from the report – and, concurrently, from my own experience in the fast-changing world in which we operate:

1. Same field, different games

The distinct dynamics of internal and external audiences have not and will not change. Internal audiences tend to have far more invested in relationships with their organizations as participants (careers, finances, personal reputations) than they do as consumers.

But what is changing are the boundaries and the timescales. We are playing football and rugby on the same field at the same time, with some of the key players playing multiple positions simultaneously. I see from my own experience that can lead to pressure on communicators to oversimplify. IC folk – or increasingly, communicators coming from a strong IC perspective – will be critical to resisting this tendency..

2. Internal people are all external influencers

Even though we have been talking about this for years, the IC Kollectif findings reflect a less-than-universal emphasis on organizations seeing their internal people as an external communication channel.

But at a certain level, anyone who works for an organization – employee, contractor or volunteer – represents the organization and its brand externally. When organizations decline to embrace this critical role – consciously or subconsciously – they miss opportunities. They leave their people to freelance on key subjects, or even to behave inconsistently, when their organization comes up in conversation with customers, employees, or other critical stakeholders.

This represents an area of opportunity for IC-oriented communicators to deliver significant value – by using proven approaches to connecting with and mobilizing internal audiences while seeking to engage their members in externally-facing activities. But IC folk need to be confident in positioning ourselves as credible in addressing external challenges, when engaging with PR folk who are less-than-familiar with the way we IC folk actually work and deliver.

3. Challenge opacity (the practice of being “untransparent”)

Old habits die hard. This cliche is particularly true about the way in which organizations handle sensitive information. Confidentiality remains an essential part of doing business. The need for it is even intensifying in a technology world where innovation drives competitive advantage.

Even though many organizations are attempting to inform internal audiences before external audiences or simultaneously, this is not yet practiced consistently. Moreover, the risks coming from maintaining a gap between what is known and what is said are also intensifying. There is a difference between opacity for business necessity and withholding uncomfortable and inevitable messages for the sake of managerial comfort and privilege. Employees are far more likely to forgive the former rather than the latter, and less likely to be restrained in sharing their thoughts when illegitimate opacity is suspected.

4. Level – or tilt – the analytics and platform playing fields

When it comes to analytics and measurement, IC folk have a history of being underequipped and outgunned by our PR counterparts. With access to tools that give us great ability to collect the right numbers, we also have the ability to better define the questions that the numbers can answer.

But technology has no value if there is no access to it.

Companies which spend millions on management conferences and brand-name engagement surveys still resist investing in the platforms that would allow for effective measurement of day-to-day communication effectiveness while allowing for faster and deeper multidirectional communication. And then they challenge communicators to defend the return on investment that their activities generate without having giving them access to these basics.

For IC folk, a crucial battle is for the ability to track, measure and deliver communication internally at the same level as it can be done externally, and then take things a step further by asking the right questions and measuring the things that make a real business difference.

5. IC Folk can still lead

“We know the business inside and out.” That is not an arrogant boast, but a reflection of how we understand the flow, amplification and impact of communication on both sides of the firewall. Even in a world where internal and external communication are converging, one should not assume that externally-oriented practitioners will automatically lead in that world. Ambitious communicators with strong understanding about how internal communication actually works have a strong foundation and skills that this new world will need.

Bonus. Why IABC is well positioned in this new world

Looking at the overall picture presented in The Next Level, I think the landscape it describes is one where the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) could play an increasingly important role in supporting IC professionals in crossing over to broader roles.

IABC is not an IC organization. But it has long had a very strong contingent of IC pros and leaders among the many disciplines represented within its ranks.

An enhanced selling point for IABC membership is that it offers an excellent place for IC practitioners to broaden their career paths by building relationships with practitioners from other disciplines, and for PR folk and generalists to deepen their knowledge and network with those who have more of an “insider’s” perspective.

Adding in access to certification programs relevant across a full range of communication disciplines: the Communication Management Professional and Strategic Communication Management Professional credentials, IABC faces this future with several reasons for optimism. (Full disclosure: I am Regional Chair for IABC in Europe-Middle East-North Africa and have been an IABC member for 17 years).

It is time to Change The Terms

Internal-external convergence presents real challenges to IC folk. Firming up our thinking as a discipline, and becoming more adaptable to operating in an integrated communication picture, is neither optional nor something we have much time to embrace. But our strength is that we know that this integrated world will not work without an understanding of the dynamics of communication within organizations, and how IC differs from what happens on the outside. It is this understanding, our belief in it, our willingness to speak to it and our ability to deliver through it, that will give us the ability to change the terms in our direction.

ABOUT MIKE KLEIN and CHANGING THE TERMS

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a communication practice focused on writing, strategy, content, change consulting and coaching, with an emphasis on tapping into the value of the social dynamics occurring in every organization.

Changing The Terms is based in Delft in the Netherlands, and works with large corporates and startups in Europe and North America. Mike is an MBA graduate of London Business School, is Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators in Europe – Middle East – North Africa, and authored “From Lincoln to LinkedIn”, a book on the role of social dynamics in organizational communication. To download your free copy, click here.

#internalcommunications, #internalcommunication, #PR, #IABC, #MikeKlein #externalcommunication, #externalcommunications #internalcomms

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It’s time to join: why association membership has never been more important

For communication professionals, the matter of whether to pay one’s annual dues in a communications association is often a big question mark. Often the choice comes down to a me-centred choice: “what do I get for my money?”

Yes, as I submitted my annual dues payment for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), I let that thought flash for 72 nanoseconds. Quickly, though, the thought gave way to a bigger question: “What can we do to support our associations in addressing the big issues facing our profession?”

Love them or not, communication associations are on the front line as our profession faces tough questions and existential challenges.

At the moment, professionalism in communication faces ongoing questions about the value it adds, questions that manifest themselves in low pay rates in some markets, and egregiously demanding job specifications in those markets and others.

And, if we don’t get our act together, we won’t just be competing with mythical unicorns, novices with Snapchat accounts, or defenestrated middle managers, but with a belief that what we do and add is so simple and basic that it can be fully automated.

Why associations are key

Of all the players in our sector, only our associations have the potential resources to make a more compelling case for communication professionals, and contribute to a more positive working environment for all of us.

This is not to say that any of them have this nailed.  IABC has only recently started shifting its focus back outward after overcoming some major internal challenges. Other regional, national and local associations have also just recently started perking up since the end of the global economic crisis.

But this is also a chicken and egg question – if more people become members, and more members ask for less focus on individual benefits and more focus on creating a better industry for us to share and grow in, the difference could be substantial.

Two areas are indicative:

Associations are in a unique position not only to conduct research about the impact we make for our clients and communities; they are also in a position to aggregate existing research and to arm their members with it, so that when questions come up with clients, we can cite numbers and facts instead of having to challenge them with our verbalized intuitions.

Communication associations are also in a position to work with multiple vendors in new sectors to help make the case for technologies that offer breakthrough improvements, such as Organizational Network Analysis and integrated online communication: fields with multiple vendors beating each other over the heads for tiny slivers of market share, and who would not otherwise cooperate for the greater good.

Indeed, the only players right now who are consistently standing for the greater good of our profession are the associations. But they need our support now.

Even though I am a regional chair of IABC, it doesn’t matter to me which association you join. Learn about what we all stand for, and what all of us have to offer, and choose the one which reflects the profession you want to be working in.

Nevertheless, it’s time to join. For a strong profession, we need strong voices to make the case for the difference we make and the tangible value we provide. By lending your voice – and giving your dues – to the association of your choice – you will help move things forward.

About Changing The Terms

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a communication practice focused on writing, strategy, content, change consulting and coaching, with an emphasis on tapping into the value of the social dynamics occurring in every organization.

Changing The Terms is based in Delft in the Netherlands, and works with large corporates and startups in Europe and North America. Mike is an MBA graduate of London Business School, is Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators in Europe – Middle East – North Africa, and is the author of “From Lincoln to LinkedIn”, a book on the role of social dynamics in organizational communication. To download your free copy, click here.

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Top-down hierarchy meets a four-dimensional world: making it all work

As an internal communicator, one of my biggest challenges has been to reconcile my understanding of both the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of hierarchy as a driver of communication, with the continuing demand for hierarchy-based communication tactics and approaches.

I’m not a believer in  the “committees over titles” approach known as “holacracy,” or other more anarchic views of corporate governance. But I also don’t see brute hierarchical force alone as enough to drive strategies and align behavior, nor to stimulate employee engagement in any interactive or sustainable way.

What old-fashioned, top-down, hierarchical communication does do is a great job of reinforcing the status of those who are positioned as being authorities and the underlying framework of control. That means it remains necessary to an extent, and it explains why more authoritarian managers and like-minded communicators continue to push and emphasize such tactics as Town Halls and cascading at the expense of more interactive communication approaches.

My dilemma and opportunity in recent years has been to figure out how to reconcile the legitimate need for hierarchical communication with two other critical and distinct needs:

  • supporting effective and efficient bottom-up communication,
  • identify ways of influencing the informal, lateral communication that forms the bulk of day-to-day conversation in any organization.

What I came up with was a simple model that integrates top-down, bottom-up and lateral communication, applicable in any organization.

4 Dimensions ICK

In identifying hierarchical “ambassadors,” peer-anointed “influencers,” self-appointed “volunteers” and passive “followers” as the elements of an organization’s internal universe, it then becomes possible to have a simple but segmented communication strategy that allows for the effective integration of the formal and informal sides of an organization’s communication. And, in accepting influence as something that is both generated and received, it becomes possible to address active and passive participants in the organizations as full members, while noting and accommoating the differing nature of their contributions.

Looking beyond internal and external communication, this four-dimensional model also has implication for other, related fields: employee engagement, team dynamics, and the launch strategies for organizational tools and software being relevant to me at this moment. If there are other arenas where you think this approach can apply, please ping me at mike.klein@changingtheterms.com

About Changing The Terms

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a communication practice focused on writing, strategy, content, change consulting and coaching, with an emphasis on tapping into the value of the social dynamics occurring in every organization.

Changing The Terms is based in Delft in the Netherlands, and works with large corporates and startups in Europe and North America. Mike is an MBA graduate of London Business School, is Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators in Europe – Middle East – North Africa and is the author of “From Lincoln to LinkedIn”, a book on the role of social dynamics in organizational communication. To download your free copy, click here.

 

 

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Writing for leaders and managers – some things that work

As a communications professional working with senior leaders and managers in large organizations, I make no apologies for the fact that I like to write. For me, writing assignments are not simply opportunities for me to put my best foot forward with clients, they are also moments where I can help amplify and accelerate my clients’ intent and aspirations.

Rather than try to guess what my client would say in a given situation, I write from the standpoint of “what I would say if I was in my client’s situation, if I had her status, responsibility, goals and ambitions.” Or, put another way: “I write ambitiously, with a willingness to edit comprehensively.”

For me, writing successfully for clients, especially new clients, requires the opportunity to interview them in a wide-ranging way.

Having worked my first job in my teens as a market researcher and then building on that experience to commission political polls for US political candidates, I understand the power of open-ended questioning to produce enough content, insights and original phrases to convey the client’s viewpoint, but also to connect that viewpoint with her authentic voice.

Some tips:

1)     Ask for “threes”

Whenever I am interviewing a client and asking about what she feels is important, pressing or challenging, I always as for three options instead of one. Aside from producing more material, “asking in threes” also provides strong insights into a client’s perspective and priorities. Also, while the first two choices tend to be fairly obvious in a given context, the third choice can often be less obvious and more interesting.

2)     Ask the same question from multiple angles

If you ask, “what are the biggest challenges facing your organization?” and “what are the most pressing challenges facing your organization?” you may get different answers. If you do, then you open up a conversation about why something is more pressing but less substantial.

3)     Be clear on your client’s goals and ambitions

Even if your intent is to find words and phrases for your client to embrace that may be more powerful than what they come up with on their own, it is crucial to understand what your client’s current goals and ambitions are. The more you can connect the language, format and messages you choose to the fulfilment of your client’s goals and ambitions, and the more that she sees you as being an asset in fulfilling those goals, the more license you have to be ambitious.

4)     Add small amounts of detail that provide personal color

Corporations often have great difficulty in humanizing their leaders but conveying a small detail about something like a personal interest, a sports loyalty, educational background or geographical origin may help directly connect with an interested subset of the audience. Such detail also makes the message seem less corporate, which could make it more credible and memorable to the people who will read the piece, and, ultimately, act on its intent.

For me, writing forms the basis for my effectiveness as a communications professional. Good, strategic writing can stand on its own. It can also form the basis for initiating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships that can build confidence for other levels of communication opportunity, ranging from more ambitious writing and editorial projects to communication planning, video scripting and production and even event design and coaching

Mike Klein is a Netherlands-based corporate writer and communication consultant with experience across sectors and geographies in Western Europe and the United States. Mike can be reached at mike.klein@changingtheterms.com.

Uncategorized

What I would do with a research budget right now

As an internal communicator with a strong bias towards written communication and the use of survey research tools, I often have faced challenges from employers and potential clients over strategic and tactical preferences and precedents.

In many organizations, tactical priorities and the budgets attached to them are non-negotiable, with employee engagement surveys and management conferences being at the top of many companies’ untouchable lists and commanding substantial shares of internal comms budgets. In the same vein, insistence on cascading and the primacy of managers as communication channels can only be challenged at the margins.

The problem isn’t simply the insistence of clients on tired traditional tactics. It’s that we as a profession lack hard evidence with which to challenge these preferences in terms of communication effectiveness, nor in terms of Return on Investment.

While groups like the Institute of Public Relations are looking at internal communication measurement overall, as a practitioner, I have a need to get four specific questions answered – four things I would focus on if I had my own research budget, or at the very least, some ability to crowdsource from my position as an IC blogger with a bit of an audience:

  • What is the real relationship between organizational performance and employee engagement scores? There is more skepticism about whether and how employee engagement surveys play a constructive role in organizations, but in many organizations, improving engagement scores remain an objective that often gets assigned to internal communicators.
  • What is lacking is any real sense of whether improving engagement scores actually improves performance, or whether improvements in performance actually drive higher engagement scores. It’s a crucial question because if there is a real disconnect between employee engagement scores and performance, effort to improve the scores could either be a waste of time, money and social capital that could be better dedicated elsewhere. It’s also a challenge because many practitioners and clients have conflated employee engagement and internal comms.
  • What is the relative ROI of different types of IC interventions: management conferences, Organizational Network Analysis and mobile applications?
    Management conferences, where companies tend to gather their top 100-500 managers in a hotel conference room somewhere, are nearly universal. But the cost they involve is substantial. To physically transport, house, and feed 100-500 people for 2-3 days is a six-figure or seven-figure undertaking, not to mention the cost, time and process involved with developing content that is entertaining enough to keep the snoring in the conference hall to a minimum.

    But what is the actual business case for a management conference? How does it compare to other investments of comparable cost: organizational network analysis and internal mobile applications, to name two with potentially seismic impact, particularly in the context of specific business goals. And, in terms of ROI, if you are going to insist on having management conferences, who are the right people to invite?

  • Can frequent small-sample surveys deliver useful data while minimizing “survey fatigue?”
    “Survey fatigue” is unquestionably a disease. But while most cite it as the unwillingness of employees to complete surveys, I see it as more pernicious condition where organizations refuse to conduct essential research, and then act or block action knowing that the research essential to driving good decisions is missing.

    A way to bypass survey fatigue involves reducing the numbers of people approached for each survey. Small samples tend to be less valid statistically, but the question is whether they are valid enough to conclusively recommend them as an alternative, particularly when the alternative is to act (or not act) based on managerial judgement or sense of smell.

  • What is the connection between written internal communication and word of mouth?
    I see this as the ultimate question facing internal communication today.

    Far too often, written internal communication efforts are killed or marginalized because of a belief “that no one reads that shit.” With readership and “eyeball” figures often being unspectacular on their face, research needs to document the relationship between the content, the people who actually read it, and their influence on organizational conversations.

    This is research that can be done in different ways. Measuring changes in behavior, or tracking least awareness of issues injected into an organization through intranet or newsletter mentions reflect one approach. Tracking the recall, acceptance and rejection of official terminology among readers and nonreaders represents another. I’ve long contended that written internal communication is the fastest and most effective way of changing and directing word of mouth in organizations, yet intuitive beliefs about its value often prove hard to overcome without bulletproof evidence.

Could we get this done?

Much of this research is orphaned – while definitive answers to these questions would help the IC profession immeasurably (not to mention my own prospects as a practitioner, fessing up to my compelling self-interest here), no one alone has sufficient business imperative to sort all of this out in one go. But even one-company examples could go a long way to reshape arguments and make a case for investment in further research.

More importantly, common awareness of the weak points in our profession’s business case can strengthen the common will to resolve those weaknesses and make a better case to the CEOs, CFOs, CHROs and Communication Directors who drive our scope and agendas. To the extent practitioners have the ability to ask such questions, we need to ask them. And to the extent to which the task is bigger, we need to challenge our industry bodies to commission the research we need to empower us to do our jobs effectively and demonstrate the value we add.

FREE BOOK OFFER: As another path to empowerment, my book, From Lincoln to LinkedIn, talks about the interactions between formal and informal communication in organizations and communities. Invoking ancient principles of political communication articulated by Abraham Lincoln in 1840, I look at how identifying, connecting and mobilizing informal leaders can drive social and business communication and results. For a free download, click here.

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