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A lesson in listening

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A lesson in listening

I recently returned to the world of internal communication after nine months off to have my son. It’s been a pivotal time for internal communicators, not to mention exhausting, and I’ve watched and listened in awe as our profession more than rose to the occasion.

Here, I summarise a few key topics that stood out for me and how internal communicators can maintain our newfound momentum.

Internal communications matters

Well, obviously. But it seems that many organisations woke up to that fact pretty abruptly in March 2020. Internal communicators were called upon like never before and played an enormous role in how employees across the world adjusted to new ways of working.

66% of respondents say their level of influence on senior leaders has increased over the course of 2020 – Gallagher Gatehouse State of the Sector 2021

In the beginning, much of what was communicated was reactive (whoever thought holding government briefings to the nation at 5pm was a good idea??) and IC pros’ crisis and change comms experience proved invaluable.

However, we now have influence, and the eyes of leadership are upon us, so it’s time to get our houses in order.

Every year the Gallagher Gatehouse State of the Sector report reveals low numbers of IC pros with long-term strategies, and this year in no different:

Just 40% have an overarching strategy in place to cover a period of more than one year (although this is up from 33% in 2020)Circular image: Measure, measure, measure and use this insight to inform your strategy.

Now that we have the attention of leadership, we need to seize the opportunity and show them just how strategic we can be. Measure, measure, measure and use this insight to inform your strategy.


Organisations can’t ignore the outside world

In the past year, the world watched on in horror at the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and their deaths were just the tip of the iceberg.

Employees waited while leaders around the world debated whether they should make a public comment. For many it was a double-edged sword; to stay silent would draw criticism from employees and customers/clients but saying something could also expose the unaddressed inequalities within their own organisations.

It was a wake-up call that was long overdue, and as leaders turn their attentions to inclusion and diversity, internal comms has an enormous role to play.Circular image: We need to ensure our communications include a diverse range of voices - don't only look at issues through a narrow lens

Internal communicators need to listen to employees, understand what needs to change and feed that back to the business. We need to challenge and push back on internal communication that pays lip service to critical issues. We need to ensure our communications include a diverse range of voices and that we don’t only look at issues through one very narrow lens.



Our relationship with IT has never been more important

The days of presenteeism are now far behind us. In the early days of the pandemic, organisations had to scramble to ensure their tech met the needs of entire workforces working from home. For example, companies that always insisted upon written signatures from clients switched to electronic ones almost overnight and found it sped up their processes (who would have thought?).

So, as organisations embrace technology in a new way, it’s the perfect time to ensure internal comms is part of the conversation. Understanding your IT roadmap is a must. And in turn, the IT team needs to understand the role of IC and what employees need from their communication tools now that the way we work has fundamentally shifted.Circular image: Understanding your IT roadmap is a must.

How do we provide opportunities for human connection through technology? Are we using tech that isn’t fit for purpose but we’re reluctant to change it because of the time and money spent on it? What is the future going to look like and how can we be ready for it (for example, are you thinking about AI, or making it possible for employees to choose how they receive communication?). Questions like these need to be part of our discussions with IT.

“Don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it.” Aubrey De Graf

The past year has brought many challenges, but it’s also presented opportunities to make positive changes to our workplaces and society as a whole. There’s a lot of work to do and change won’t happen overnight, but now is the time to make a real difference.

By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas


Read more on listening …

Six ways to supercharge your listening

Supporting line managers: are you listening to me? 

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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

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Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

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Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

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Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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