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Our key takeaways from Smile Expo 17 

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Our key takeaways from Smile Expo 17 

Chat bots, social amplification, and ESNs were just some of the key themes to come out of the latest Smile Expo. We were thrilled to be asked to deliver a session on the Elements of IC and thoroughly enjoyed attending many of the others. Here are just some of our top takeaways…

The bots are rising

According to Sharon O’Dea, chat bots may very well be the future of employee experience. As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, we soon won’t be able to tell if we’re chatting online to a person or a computer.

Chat bots provide a single user interface saving the employee from having to visit various systems to carry out a relatively simple task, such as room bookings or organising travel.

It’s a fascinating area of technology and communication especially as language, tone and emotion are all intrinsically linked to their success.

And they can be surprisingly easy to implement as Sharon demonstrated by getting us all to create decision trees for chat bots people might use in the workplace. However, she also revealed that there’s no need to create your own due to there being successful chat bots readily available on the market.

But what about the fear of them taking the jobs of actual humans? For the time being, Sharon thinks there will be some questions or requests that a chat bot can’t deal with and it will need to refer to a real person. And chat bots should ideally free up people’s time to get on with other tasks.

Definitely a trend to keep your eye on and you can read more about chat bots here.

Workplace by Facebook

As the event sponsor, Workplace by Facebook featured heavily throughout the day. An interesting takeaway from the keynote session was how employees at RBS weren’t trained on how to use Workplace, due to their familiarity with the product, saving a huge amount of time and resource. Although there were reassurances on Twitter that there were guidelines in place around content, the platform itself didn’t require explanation.

Most IC pros would probably agree that there needs to be thought and planning around culture and behaviours when introducing a new online tool. However, we don’t get training for the social platforms we use in our personal life, we just get on with using it and learn as we go. So, it could be argued that we don’t always need to train people on the technology within organisations either.

It was also controversially put forward that Workplace effectively means intranets will revert back to their original static purpose – a point hotly debated throughout the session and afterwards.

And a top tip from RBS was to include the compliance team at the early stages of rolling out an ESN. Include them in the pilot so they can see the benefits for themselves, rather than trying to get their approval without ever having been involved.

The millennial factor

During the Workplace by Facebook session, attendees also heard that by 2020 millennials will make up 50% of the workplace. There has been much made in recent years about the impact they will have and how they will want to work.

A story was shared on the stage about how some companies are having to teach their millennial employees how to use email and the etiquette involved due to their prolific use of messaging apps. This caused quite a stir on Twitter with many feeling that generalisations are often made about millennials and actually they are just one of many audiences we communicate with, all of whom have different communication preferences.

It was a valid point from the stage as far as recognising the changing ways we all consume information, especially as more and more of us use messaging apps like Whatsapp or Messenger. But that’s the key bit, it’s not just millennials using those apps. And while millennials may not use email as much, it’s highly unlikely it’s because they don’t know how.


The average person looks at their phone 150 times a day, which is equivalent to 240 minutes per day and 96 seconds per interaction.

And when you consider that the average person also has roughly 33 apps on their phone, 12 of which they’ll use on a daily basis, and only three of those will take up 80% of the time that person spends on their apps, the thought of introducing an employee app can seem quite daunting.

However, amplification apps can be very useful in getting employees to share your content as they allow you to source, curate, consume and share content on social media. But Jonathan Phillips advises that if it’s to compete with all the other apps employees have on their phones, there needs to be clear benefits to the employee, such as it:

  • pulls all the various places information is stored into one easily accessible place
  • saves them time
  • helps them build their own social media presence by positioning them as thought leaders by providing insightful content for them to share
  • needs to be fun and engaging.

And there needs to be clear benefits to the business too:

  • Creating a network to help spread your content more widely.
  • Legitimises the content you share as employees will be seen as a more trusted source of information.
  • Employees can also create content on these apps – businesses can still moderate before making it ‘shareable’ meaning you have authentic content to share with the wider world.

As with all communications, when deciding on whether to introduce an amplification tool there needs to be a clear business need, you need to understand your audience and have an implementation plan in place around engaging people with it. But as the lines between internal and external comms continue to blur, it’s an interesting solution many companies could benefit from.

Elements of IC

Alan from Alive with ideas presented a session on the Elements of IC. Dreamt up with Chuck Gose, it’s an online tool which brings together the Elements of IC under one roof to jump start conversations, spark new ideas and demonstrate the complexity of internal communication, helping you in your role.

The aim is for it to never be finished – we want to continue adding to it and evolving it with the internal communications community. We’d love to hear your thoughts so do get in touch if you have suggestions for new elements, resources you want to add in, or just some general feedback!

As expected, Smile Expo provided a lot of insight and interesting debate. We came away with lots to think about as did other attendees – be sure to check out:

Lisa Pantelli’s blog

Simply Communicate’s Storify

and #SmileExpo17 on Twitter.

We’re already looking forward to Smile London in November!

By Helen Deverell for Alive!


“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

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

“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

“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

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

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

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

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 —

“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

“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

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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