IC Pros. Let’s kill the Town Hall.

By Sarah Mullins

June 7, 2016

We love hearing from you and sharing your insights. This is one great example. Sarah just dropped us a DM on twitter about a blog post she had written, we got chatting and et voilà, here's a fantastic post from Sarah Mullins.

Sarah is a hands on comms professional working at Telefónica, she's a straight-talking, down to earth, hard-working IC Pro just like you. So over to Sarah for her take on killing the town hall...

Don't panic. I do not mean the concept. I mean the name. Like 'you said, we did' this label is a throwback to the 1970's yet so many of us still use it. I am curious why. You can have so much fun with face to face it's a crime not to get creative with it.

This is a ‘mini’ case study blog. I hope you find is useful.

Set the scene: Take yourself back to 2012. To help it was the triumph that was London 2012 and the Olympics and Paralympics. Obama was elected. Whitney Houston died and, not related, Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France. It was a pretty good year for UK.com in fact. There was some good feeling about.

I was an IC business partner for a brand new Sales and Service Director. He came from a retail banking environment and was totally sold on the need to get out and talk and listen. He challenged me with creating a concept and a story around how we did that. I enjoyed this challenge. I asked lots of people in Sales and Service if they'd enjoy a town hall. They said:

"What is that?"
"Is it to do with my local council?"

Plus other gems. They got me thinking.

I decided that Town Hall needed explaining so why not invent something instead. Yes I'd still need to explain it but at the very least I could have some fun with it.

I knew I wanted video content to promote and intro it. Video was all the rage and we had our own internal TV show so I was keen to join in. Never shy away from joining in a trend if it has genuine value for what you need to deliver. I also knew I wanted it to be a genuinely audience led conversation. Not a presentation. I had a feeling that brevity was king for the leaders who came along and answered questions. Let's keep it simple and real. I am glad about that now. Authenticity and listening are common topics now but back then they were less so.

For all the fans of the IC Crowd Big Yaks, here's the heritage. It came from O2 and from my brief from our Sales and Service Director. My boss at the time, @tomster72 and now owner and lead consultant at The Brain Miner, shared our concept and we love the fact it was used elsewhere. There's nothing nicer.

More credits. I had serious help from our in-house creative, IC and events team and @williamsglyn now a partner at Belong Comms. I could not have done it without them.
So what is a Big Yak? I'll use our content to explain:


We 'Yakked' with over 4K people in a single year and the insight was truly fabulous. There were also hairy moments where the leadership team were hauled up on things and they took it well. We took it on a national tour to Northern Ireland, Aberdeen, and Bournemouth; anyway you get the point. It wasn’t just for our usual F2F places, it was for everywhere.
The senior team said it helped them to really understand the reports and numbers they were seeing in a more human way. For me it helped them as a team bond. Any one of us, and yes that included me, could be asked a challenging question at any time. We were all signed up to not only answering the questions in a simple and clear way but also in an aligned way - inconsistency is the enemy of IC pros. I am proud to say this wasn't a problem. This is not about managing the message and propaganda by the way. It's about leadership being tight and clear together.
So where is our O2 Yak now? And what's he been up to since? Well he's found some friends which is always nice. Here's a pic from the last Yak in Slough HQ last month.

First a quick Yak highlights history.

In 2013 when we announced TUPE transfer of over 2K of our people, our entire board, including the CEO, went on tour with the Yak. It was hard and emotional but it was the right thing to do. I gave us real results and insight. It also showed people the leadership team cared about how they felt.

Last year when we announced a potential purchase of us we used the Yak for our entire senior team to go out and listen and answer questions again. Our CEO hosted a Yak in our HQ. It was delightful. It helped us all move on. Given there now is no deal that's was enormously useful.

Today the Yak has gone… digital. The right thing to do, alas nothing to do with me, I hasten to add!

Terrific innovations by the team and leaders mean we now have Yammer Yaks and online yaks regularly to help reach those people in our business that can't really show up at a place and a time. This includes every quarter for our store teams to help them hear about our financial results. All this ‘digital’ activity is still complimenting the face to face original. It's fair to say the Yak has prevailed in O2 in a big way. I will be honest to say I am enormously proud of that.

I'd love to hear what you have done with your town halls and what you think the future of leadership face to face could become.

Thanks for reading and bye for now.

Image credits: Images supplied by Sarah Mullins, Telefónica