11 July 2011

Fifteen minutes of fame

Proudly presenting the first guest blog from: Manon Sas, internal communications advisor, The Netherlands. Manon's private blog

Being the very first guest writer at this blog is just one of this year’s memorable moments. What else? Well, I’m taking my career to an exciting next level: I’m the best followed member at my organisation’s Yammer platform! It’s like being the kid that’s picked first to join the sports team.

What are you working on? That’s that main question of Yammer, a free application that can best be described as internal corporate twitter. Read what your colleagues are doing, comment, like, share or set up a community. Basically: the same things that happen at the coffee machine, but then without the ‘how was your weekend’ and ‘did you hear that Ian …’ chitchat!

At my company early adaptors were very eager to join Yammer. Many first time visitors never returned. Others started to really use the platform. It didn’t take very long before the IT and Legal guys started asking questions. Are we sure our competitors are not on the platform stealing our ideas? True – after leaving the company (i.e. to work with The Competitor), you can still access Yammer if no one else deletes your Yammer account. And yes, we use the basic free service (as opposed to the premium account which has security tools). But so does global consulting firm CapGemini who use Yammer with approximately 20,000 members worldwide, including the CEO. So our Yammer community is growing as well as my fanbase ;-).

Do I miss the coffee machine chitchat? No worries, I still have lots of coffees. Isn’t that the whole point of coming to the office?

28 June 2011

Any guest writers out there?

I would like to open up my blog for guest writers, as I’m sure that you will otherwise get sick and tired of hearing from me all the time ;-) So, would you like to contribute, just once, or on a regular basis, on a broad spectrum of communications subjects, please drop me a line at vanveenarns@gmail.com, or add a comment in the comment box.

This blog is a hobby, of course, so I cannot offer you any financial reward, just a growing number of readers, and a change to engage with other professionals. I am looking forward to your contributions!

07 June 2011

A CEO from communications heaven

I was lucky enough to be invited to a town hall meeting with a CEO of a company. For multiple reasons I cannot share with you who the CEO is, or what name of the company is. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is what happened to me. I was inspired by this CEO. I was invited to the meeting by his communications advisor, and she told me beforehand how wonderful he is in town hall meetings, and what a pleasure it is to work with him.

In the meeting he addressed a crowd of around 300 employees, who were just told that their budgets were cut. Employees were given the opportunity to ask questions beforehand. My communications contact there told me that the CEO never wanted her to prepare questions. His philosophy is that he should be capable to formulate the answers himself, and boy do I agree with that!

Now, what did the CEO do that inspired me?

1. He used just one (!) slide, to reiterate the company’s strategy, explaining it in simple words, and stressing the importance of every word, not leaving room for any doubt about the fact that he had thought about it, made the choice, and was ready to defend that strategy to any audience.

2. He did not use any business lingo, on the contrary, he spoke in clear, personal, genuine words.

3. When answering the questions, he picked the most difficult ones, and answered them straight on, with great respect for the feelings behind the question, addressing that feeling and explaining very calmly the rationale behind his decision. Every question, no matter how hard, or sometimes unreasonable, was answered this way. Here, it really showed that he was not prepared by a Q&A session, but that he could answer from his own knowledge of the matter.

4. He took ownership of his decisions, admitting mistakes, explaining which parts were his call, and why he made those calls. He said: “I believe in chance before you have to chance”, which I think is a great one-liner, and explained that that was his duty. To chance the company’s direction before this chance would be enforced.

5. I came out inspired, and so did 300 employees, so whatever he did, it was successful.

Communications, it can be so simple if you keep it simple!

11 May 2011

Secretaries are communication heroes

Way back, when I was a student at university, I was taught that secretaries are important communications hubs, both in formal and informal communications networks. So, if you want to do communications research, on how informal communications networks function, for example, secretaries need to be included in that research.

Over the years I have learnt another feature about secretaries: they may be the most important communicators in many organizations. Actually, it is fair to say that apart from organizing their bosses work, communicating is probably their main task. I dare to state that secretaries communicate as much as communications professionals and I feel that their work is underestimated and underpaid.

Think of it: they write emails, letters, make phone calls all day, organize meetings, make meeting minutes. And I have found that they often master digital communication tools, like Office programs and social media far better than their bosses, or most other employees in the organization. They are probably the group with the best communication skills in the workforce.

I feel that often they are a victim of the tendency in many organizations to delegate the real work as far down as possible. They don’t have anyone to turn to, and most often they deliver time after time. Just felt the need to write that down at least once in my life.

Value them, my friends, they are the heroes of the modern office!

27 April 2011

Is social media ruining students?

Last month I wrote a blog post entitled 'students don't use social media'. Under this somewhat provocative statement, I shared with you my observation that students don't see social media as a separate entity; it is just part of their lives. Highly recommended reading, that blog post, of course ;-).

Interestingly enough, I received an email from Cathryn Vance (thanks Cathryn), who shared this infographic with me, stating that it would be interesting to the readers of this blog. And, indeed, it is a nice overview, very balanced, leaving room for your own judgement. To me, it shows that research and insight around social media are maturing. We have left the phase of fore or against, and we are starting to focus on pro's and con's. I find this a very healthy development, as all media have pro's and con's. Knowing these, help us communicators choose the correct media wisely. Hope you enjoy the infographic as much as I did. If you find it hard to read, here is the link to the original site. http://www.soshable.com/is-social-media-ruining-students/. There you can click to enlarge the image.

Is Social Media Ruining Students?
Via: OnlineEducation.net

21 April 2011

Enter the Intranet Innovation Awards 2011

Just wanted to point you to a very interesting award. Last year, working at my previous employer, we entered the competition, and although we did not win the award (darn…), entering did benefit us. The award is not for the entire intranet, but focuses on great ideas and individual improvements to intranets. The awards are given for specific, tangible innovations that benefit the organisation.

Last year, as we entered, we were forced to sit down with a couple of people involved and think about what we did. And that is great; in every day’s fast business life we hardy take the time to look back and write down what we achieved. I found that to be one of the benefits.

The award is organized by James Robertson, one of the world’s leading intranet experts, and a regular speaker at the leading intranet events around the world.

Try it out, who knows you will win this time and get worldwide recognition. Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate this year, as I have very little involvement (yet) in the intranet in my new job.

29 March 2011

Grumpy Old Communicator

Reading the blog post that I wrote over the past few months, it struck me that I have been writing a lot about what is wrong in our communications profession, or what needs to be improved. Why is that, I asked myself? Don’t we have great jobs? Every day is different, we get to be involved in all parts of the organization, we can be creative, can organize fun events, our jobs are becoming more and more important in organizations.

So, to all my readers (and I can see from the statistics that they are spread all over the world), I am sorry if I came across as a grumpy old communicator. Hey, being in communications in 2011 is a ball! Never in the history of mankind have we been using so many different media. The social internet is revolutionizing our jobs, but the old communications rules still apply, so we are in the middle of a revolution.

Why then, was I so grumpy? After some thorough soul searching, I came up with two possible answers to that question:

1 I am in the middle of a mid-life crisis…

2 As our profession is changing, our scope becomes very unclear: what is, and what isn’t corporate communications? These questions bothered me, and I just wrote them down.

I leave it up to you to decide, but I promise to cheer up!