Wednesday, July 27, 2005

If we build it, they will come

The UK's internal communications organisation - CiB - has opened its Forum to all contributors at but it's still a pretty dead area. That's a shame since there's a membership of about 1,000 communicators who could, and possibly should, be meeting, networking and bouncing ideas around through this site. Hopefully with more people able to access the site there'll me more dialogue. But, like so many message boards, the 'if we build it, they will come' mantra doesn't hold true. It's not clear where the message board fits into CiB's own comms strategy (if there is one...) or what purpose it fulfils.

That's in contrast to a much slicker e-mail based CiB freelance forum which has built an active community of interest. Acting as a virtual water cooler for a disparate (and occasionally desperate) groups of largely UK-based freelancers and two-person agencies the forum brings a real sense of belonging to participants.

It'll be interesting to see what effect opening up the clunkier message board has. But so far, the fish just aren't biting.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Horses for courses

I've just had one of those infuriating 'turf' conversations with a photographer about using non-professionally taken pictures in an employee publication.

His view is that corporate mags, like any other media, are fighting for brain-space among readers with a host of other professionally produced magazines and have to demonstrate the same quality that one would expect from a news stand title.

His argument is that if the client is prepared to pay for the words, they should invest in the imagery too.

Fair enough when you have the budget to justify the expense. But internal comms is so much the poor relation that I've found clients prepared to spend ten times their annual internal comms budget on one external ad.

So I'm of the opinion that you need to go for 'horses for courses'. Sure get a professional in for your high impact cover shots and for key news and feature shots within the publication, but be prepared to accept submitted shots and take some of your own where necessary.

However, there has to be a quality threshold - and you'll get far better results if you can give a tip sheet of what's acceptable to potential photographic contributors. While the digital revolution is opening photography to all, the average phone camera shot won't cut the mustard - and not will that 4cm square image saved at 70dpi.

If you can give contributors a style guide with tips on how to compose a technically competent shot and also guidelines on how to save the image in a size and format that gives the page designer scope to use the shot to its best effect, you can probably cut down on 50 per cent of the rubbish you'll be presented with.

In the end there's no substitute for using a professional who's in sympathy with the aims, style and demographic of your publication. But in these days of limited budgets, you can complement the professionals with 'amateur' shots - just be picky and set high standards.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Another week...another project....

And so Monday dawned. The chance to get a couple of projects out oif the way and get into a couple of others that have been hovering for a week or two. But now as I write about six hours later, nothing much has happened.

Across the UK, kids have broken up for the summer. The result for me? A wide and varied selection of voicemails and out of office e-mails to deal with.

This week, I'm supposed to be conducting nine telephone interviews. Unfortunately only two interviewees are around. I should also be getting sign-off from a CEO on a client project, but that CEO is out of the country. I should be making final tweaks on a launch campaign for another client - but no-one's home there.

I'm open for business - but everyone else seems to be at the beach.....bah humbug!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sometimes it's all worthwhile

Being a media wannabe occasionally has its advantages. The other week The Independent asked me to roadtest a car. That in itself would be good. When I heard the car was an Aston Martin DB9, it was great.

I may be 41, but I was like a grinning 12 year old for the afternoon when Rory (my 9 year old co-tester) and I got behind the wheel of this feat of engineering excellence.

Did I like it? Well, you'll have to read the Indy's motoring supplement to find out.

The right questions v the right process

I've recently been doing some work around employee surveying - engagement surveying seems to be the term of the moment - and it has been a revelation seeing why and how organisations survey their employees.

The spectrum has run from an organisation's communication team that actively manipulates focus groups so that the results they come out with matches their expectation when they went into the room; to several organisations who have been asking the same questions for five or more years, despite huge changes to their organisation, to one company where the process of collecting and tracking information is all important - and they don't really do a whole lot with it between each annual event.

And that's what has got me thinking: how many organisations treat their EOS as an annual event rather than an integrated aspect of their people process. How many actually do the pre-work to identify potential drivers of employee engagement and then build their surveys year-on-year around that? How many really follow through on the actions using PDPs, team goals and the organisation's business strategy to deliver changes to/for/with their people? And how many complete the loop by saying what they've done, and then carrying the learnings into the next round of surveying? And how many are now moving their surveying on from an annual event to six monthly or even 90 day checks?

Some clearly are - luckily I've been able to work with a couple who are really making use of the stats to inform their people strategy and have made the links from organisational objectives right through to PDPs. However for others, I'm still seeing the holy grail of the upward employee satisfaction curve as all important. But if you're not asking the right questions in the first place, how useful is that?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Proud to be a Londoner

I'm a Londoner and immenseley proud of my city. Yesterday as I walked across the Millennium bridge, having travelled on the Tube for the first time since the bombs, my passion for the city of my birth was reborn. Decked out in its summer splendour, the panorama north, south, east and west from the Thames was stunning.

But London is about much more than great views. It's a city based on many faiths, many cultures, many talents and many strengths. I've just watched the scenes from the capital as Londoners took to the streets for two minutes of remembrance for all those who were callously killed last week; for those who remain and for all of us Londoners who are far far stronger than any fundamentalist of any creed or colour.

Strong, united, defiant.