Freelance life – one year on

It’s been a whole year since I set up Helen Deverell Communications and I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks reflecting on the work I’ve done, the people I’ve worked with and what I’ve learnt.

In the last 12 months I’ve worked with 20 clients across a broad range of industries on a variety of work including internal comms and intranet audits, writing masterclasses, change programmes, content strategies, social media policies, employee magazines, marketing collateral, and blogs.

It’s been a whirlwind and I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. But that’s not to say every single day has been easy. There have been challenges in amongst the opportunities and I have learnt a huge amount along the way…

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What IC pros don’t do

Communicators are well-versed in answering the age-old question, “what is it you actually do?”. But rather than reeling off a list of skills, knowledge and accomplishments, should we be explaining what it is we don’t do?

Newsweaver recently ran an excellent webinar on how to create and run a corporate newsroom. Yet it started off by explaining what a newsroom isn’t. It isn’t a press room, media relations or the team that look after the intranet. Instead it’s about having a journalistic mindset that identifies and tells stories about the corporate strategy using editorial standards and practices.

And this got us thinking about how internal communication can often be a catch all for anything in an organisation that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else. This demonstrates people’s lack of understanding around what we do, and severely damages our credibility and ability to become valued trusted advisers.

But by continually repeating what we do, and not spelling out what we don’t do, are we missing a trick? We asked the communications community to tell us what they thought the biggest misconceptions were to make it easier for us as an industry to address them…

Originally written for Alive with ideas. You can read the full blog on their website.

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Lessons I learnt from my Writing Masterclass

mastercalss-2Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of delivering my first Writing Masterclass in London to seven internal communications professionals on behalf of Rachel Miller and All Things IC.

It was a mixture of me talking, group discussion and exercises, and the main objective was for the attendees to take away practical writing skills they could start using at work the very next day.

It was a great session full of lively conversation, insightful questions and sharing of experiences, both mine and the people sat around the table.

And that’s the great thing about All Things IC Masterclasses, you can learn as much from the other attendees as you can from the tutor. And as the tutor, I also took away hints and tips from others in the room that I’ll certainly be using in the future.

For me, this masterclass was as much about imparting wisdom from my own experiences as it was about working on my professional development and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So, I thought I’d share some of the things I learnt about preparing for, and delivering, a masterclass.

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A lesson in PR from Melissa McCarthy

melissamccarthy-01Fictional political press secretaries have long been immortalised on our TV screens. We’ve aspired to the smart, funny and kick-ass West Wing press secretary, CJ Cregg, and despaired at the antics of the apoplectic Thick of IT’s Malcolm Tucker.

And last week we found a new face of communication in the form of Melissa McCarthy. The comedienne transformed into a White House press secretary for a Saturday Night Live skit, not once, but twice*. The results were in equal parts hilarious and horrifying…

So, we thought we’d do a post mortem and see what we could learn about what not to do when in the role of a public facing communicator**.
**Please note, if the content of this blog bears any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or current White House Secretary, it is purely deliberate.

 

Originally written for Alive with ideas. You can read the full blog on their website.

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Dusting off the DeLorean – how IC pros can become time travellers

time_travel_blogEver wished you could time travel? Chances are if you work in internal communications, you already do. And when you spend your days zipping back and forth from the CEO’s vision of the future, to the employees living in the here and now (not forgetting the ones still living in the past), the old comms DeLorean racks up quite a few miles….

However, in some organisations it doesn’t matter how many times you tell employees living in the present how great the future is going to be, they just don’t buy into it. Maybe they’re too busy, or it feels too far away, or they simply don’t see how they fit into it.

So how do we as internal communicators translate the vision of our CEO into something meaningful for everyone else?

Originally written for Alive with ideas. Read the full blog on their website.

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The power of storytelling

booksI love stories. As a little girl I would lose myself in books. One minute I’d be walking along the railway tracks in the early 20th century with Bobby, Peter and Phil, and the next I’d be sat in a bedroom in Connecticut, as part of the Babysitter’s Club. Or I’d be cycling up hills in Yorkshire rescuing animals and taking them to Animal Ark, followed by a trip to a chocolate factory with Charlie and his granddad.

And this love of stories didn’t fade as I got older. Not only did I start writing my own, but I also found myself working in an industry that is slowly waking up to the transformational power of storytelling.

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A lesson in marketing – what IC pros can learn from their glamorous communication cousins

lesson_in_marketing_blogThere’s a great quote that goes “Don’t envy what people have, emulate what they did to have it”. Never a truer word spoken, especially when it comes to internal communicators, who often find themselves in the shadow of their more glamorous marketing colleagues. So, rather than covet their bigger budgets, should we be uncovering the secrets of their success?

That’s not to say we’re not doing a brilliant job, but it can’t have escaped most IC pro’s attention that marketing teams have bigger budgets, they’re involved at the very beginning of new initiatives and you don’t often see them having to explain for the umpteenth time, what exactly it is that they do. So, let’s take a closer look at our communication cousins to see what we can learn…

Originally written for Alive with ideas – read the full blog on their website.

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Sign up for my Writing Masterclass

I made a short video to tell you a bit more about my Writing Masterclass, taking place on 22 February at WallaceSpace in London. There are a couple of spaces left, so don’t miss out – book now!

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Does your brand colour tell a story?

pantone-color-of-the-year-lee-eiseman-quote‘Greenery’ has been officially announced as the Pantone Color of the Year 2017. I have to admit, before last week I wasn’t aware that there were pantones of the year, but I was thrilled when it was brought to my attention as this year’s is the same as my brand colour.

While at first it seemed like a very happy coincidence for me, on closer inspection it made complete sense. Continue reading

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Employer Brand Management Conference 2016

deverell_twitter_ebm_2016I’m thrilled to be a media partner of Transform Magazine’s Employer Brand Management conference. It’s a topic I’ve talked about at length with fellow IC pros so I can’t wait to hear from the varied and prestigious line up of speakers.

And as a media partner, I’m able to offer readers of my blog 10% off their ticket. Simply use the code DEV10.

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Coaching 101: a guide for communicators

coaching101_blogBeing a communicator can be pretty awesome. We get to wear many hats whether it’s writer, event planner, technology guru (where budgets allow of course), confidant, mediator, strategist…the list goes on. And now we’re adding another one: coach.

Imparting wisdom to other human beings can be scary. But if our role continues to evolve from that of creator to curator, we need to be open to sharing our breadth of experience with others around our organisations.

There are lots of courses and qualifications out there if you want to become a professional coach. But what we’re talking about here is the basics we can all hone to share the skills and knowledge we already have.

And that’s really key; we already have the skills and knowledge. Coaching is obviously beneficial to the person receiving it, but it’s also a good exercise for the coach to take stock and realise just how much they do know about their chosen profession.

Originally written for Alive with ideas. Read the full blog on their website.

 

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Turning lemons into lemonade – how I experienced the power of storytelling first hand

lemons-1432439_960_720Humans have been storytelling for thousands of years, however it was often confined to the minds of frustrated, penniless novelists and mothers trying to lull their children to sleep.

Not anymore. Big brands are using it to great effect. Take the current DFS advert. They’re not just telling you about the great sofas they have available, they’re showing you real people in the workshops with the skills and enthusiasm to ensure your sofa will arrive before Christmas.

And newspapers and journalists aren’t just delivering the facts, they’re telling us stories of unaccompanied child refugees making their way across Europe and families torn apart by the war in Syria.

I’m not telling you anything new, but it does take some skill to tell a really good story and to identify what one is in the first place. How confident are we as communicators that we can find the story at the heart of the corporate world?

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Filed under Breast cancer, CIPR inside, CoppaFeel!, Helen Deverell, Internal communication, Masterclass, Storytelling, writing

Communicating communication – are we our own worst enemies?

shoes_1

Have you ever had your hair cut beautifully by someone who has theirs scraped back in a scrunchie reminiscent of the 80s? Or had a fantastic extension built by someone who lives in a house that resembles a perpetual building site?  

Just like the saying about the cobbler’s children having no shoes, it’s a common phenomenon of the modern world, that people don’t have the time to apply their skills to themselves. And internal communicators are no different.

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The communication conundrum

communication_conundrum_blogAn internal communicator, HR manager, and an L&D manager all walk into a CEO’s office. The CEO says, “I need everyone in this organisation to be better communicators. Whose job is it to make that happen?

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. And in many ways it is. For communicators, nirvana is everyone across the organisation taking personal responsibility for communication (even if it means doing ourselves out of a job in the process!). But who should be leading that drive to turn everyone into good communicators?

Is it us as the communication experts? Or would we be stepping on the toes of L&D who are responsible for training and coaching? Or is it the job of HR to ensure that communication is a key component in job specs and appraisals?

Originally written for Alive with ideas. Read the full blog on their website.

 

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How important are awards?

awardsI was thrilled to be asked to judge one of the categories in the IoIC awards 2016, earlier in the summer, and tonight I’m attending the awards evening. No doubt it will be a fantastic night, celebrating the very best in internal communications.

But it got me thinking, how important are awards? It could be easy to dismiss them as a self-congratulatory, back-packing exercise, or a great thing to list on your CV. And of course, as with any type of award, you’re only judging what’s been entered, so there could be a world of other first-class examples that you never get to see. Compelling points, but I think there’s more to it than that.

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Wake up to employee branding

wake-up_blogInternal communicators have been rolling their eyes for a while now, as our organisations slowly wake up to the idea that employees make great external brand advocates.

Who better to promote your brand than the people that live it, day in, day out?

But sometimes that’s where the problems begin. Employee experience doesn’t always tally up with the image organisations like to project. Therefore, many internal communicators are being tasked with creating an employee brand. So what exactly is an employee brand and how does it differ from employer brand?

Originally written for Alive with ideas, read the full blog on their website.

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Closing the gap

AICC2016_SocialMedia_800x800As a member of the CIPR Inside committee, I’ve been involved in planning the next annual conference on 4 October. This year’s theme is Closing the gap. This might mean different things to different people, depending on the organisation you work for and the role you’re in. So, all the committee members are sharing what Closing the gap means to them…

I’ve worked with organisations where the gap between internal and external comms is equivalent to the Grand Canyon. The view has been different audiences, so therefore different responsibilities (and budgets!). But recently, that’s begun to change as organisations are waking up to the power of employee advocacy.

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Creative failure

Be creativeImagine if Mozart had been so afraid of people’s reactions to his music, that he only ever played it for himself. Or if Shakespeare just got his kids to perform his plays, rather than open himself up to critique from the general public. I’m sure they had moments when they feared failure, but they didn’t allow it to stop them living creatively and sharing it with the world.

I recently read a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic, which looked at how we can all live more creatively. Elizabeth dispels the myths that we all need to be tortured souls willing to sacrifice anything for our art. In fact, all we need is curiosity, courage, passion and the ability to overcome the too-often crippling fear of failure.

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Delivering a top notch community service

community_magaement_blogCommunity is making a comeback.

While we still may not know our neighbours, many of us have become well acquainted with people online who share similar interests to us. So it’s only natural that this way of building relationships and collaborating has seeped into the workplace.

But while local communities of the previous century didn’t need a community manager to moderate their various activities, the same can’t be said of our modern equivalents.

As enterprise social networks (ESN) become a key channel for communication within many organisations, it’s important that we as internal communicators understand how to maximise the benefits they can bring to businesses, as well as support and encourage our colleagues to use them.

Originally written for Alive with ideas. Read the full blog on their website.

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Going for gold – what internal communicators can learn from Olympians

rio-going-for-gold_blogWhile you could argue the likes of Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah aren’t exactly relatable to the average Joe on the street, we may have more in common with these super humans than you think.

What do we know about some of our greatest Olympians, currently on their way to Rio 2016? They’re at the top of their game, in peak physical condition and have committed the best years of their life to achieving their dreams. Following London 2012, they also inspired a generation to get moving and enjoy participating in sport.

That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with internal communications? Well sport is about more than just winning or physical exertion, it’s about realising what you’re capable of, gaining confidence, commitment, team work, accomplishing goals. Sound familiar?

Originally written for Alive with ideas. Read the full blog on their website.

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