Changing the conversation three weeks on

October 31, 2019 

Earlier this month we hosted our Internal Comms conference in Birmingham in the beautiful Town Hall. The theme of the day was Changing The Conversation and delegates were encouraged to think differently about the way they approached Comms. One of the attendees on the day was Hannah Claffey, Senior Comms Officer at Newport City Homes, who has kindly written this insightful blog on how she will be #ChangingTheConvo in her role, over to Hannah!

 It’s been three weeks since I attended the CIPR Inside Changing the Conversation conference at the fabulous town hall in Birmingham, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

I filled up pages upon pages of notes and came back to my team brimming with excitement about what I’d learned – especially around the various types of bias, which was a lively discussion for us as we discussed the different forms we’re guilty of in our communications. I know that confirmation bias is an issue for me – the seeking out or interpreting information to confirm what I already believe. I’m definitely more aware of it now, and I’ve called myself on it a few times since. Many thanks to Chuck Gose for a brilliantly informative session.

Chuck also made a strong point in his introductory speech. We make 35,000 decisions every day – that’s two every single second. With technology moving even faster than our brains, where are our employees when we’re trying to engage? This is something that I’ve challenged my fellow colleagues with, to get them thinking about how we can take the conversations we need to have to our staff and encourage two-way dialogue in a way that works for them.

A mix of measurement

An interesting aspect of the day was that every single person that I spoke to was anticipating the measurement discussion.

The current level of reporting was mixed. I met some people at the very beginning of their measurement journey, and others who were further along, but not one person who I spoke to told me that they were comfortable with the level of measurement they carry out in their work. I’m not overly surprised by this; it’s an industry-wide issue, and we’re all dealing with it to some extent.

Let’s be honest, we’re an incredibly supportive bunch. I have always been able to reach out to the wider comms community, especially on Twitter, and the help I have received is amazing. I consider myself very lucky to work in communications, not least because of this level of support.

For me though, a question mark remains over how we can truly ‘change the conversation’. We come together and have these fantastic, worthwhile discussions – but we now need to push forwards on changing the conversation in the wider world. This isn’t something that our professional body can do for us. Only we can move things along.

Taking ownership

Jenni Field, incoming president of the CIPR, closed the day and challenged those attending to go out and take ownership. If we keep having the same conversations in the same circles, nothing will change. Take measurement as an example – we know that it’s not easy to do. We do. But it can be done. Have we become compliant and fallen back on the excuse of measurement being too difficult?

As in-house practitioners, time is against us and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of competing priorities, so I know it’s not always that easy. But if we can justify our activity through demonstrating ROI and measuring the results of what we do, we can make steps towards that elusive position as a strategic management function and begin to challenge how our company approaches IC.

We’re the ones out there having conversations with senior leaders, trying to get our purpose across and demonstrate the real value and ROI communications can provide. Solving the measurement issue is something which we desperately need to be proactive about – taking the information we have and using this to shape an approach which works for us in our busy day-to-day.

Based on the conversations I had during the conference, this means taking the next step in the measurement discussion – discussing how we link the models and theories to the day job. This is easier said than done for many, but if we share our own experiences, we may find new inspiration on how to move forwards. I’d be interested to hear how we make this easier for people – maybe a closed LinkedIn group where people can post their measurement ideas, or an anonymous Twitter handle which posts ideas submitted through DM? It would be good to hear your thoughts and ideas on how we can progress.

Many thanks to the CIPR Inside team for arranging such an informative and valuable day.

To join in the conversation follow the hashtag #ChangingTheConvo over on Twitter by following @ciprinside.

Credit to TyneSight Photographic Services for the amazing photos from the day.