Can your organisation walk and chew gum at the same time?

Regular visitors will know the tired drumhead I beat is about connecting internal communications to extenal communications, while not losing sight of the HR necessities that glue it all together.  All too often our professional (over-) specialisation into marketing, HR or internal communications tactics and techniques blinds us to the bigger picture.

Gallup has published some interesting stuff in the past 6 months about where their Human Sigma(TM) product meets their Q12(TM) product.

In essence, in a study of 2,000 units across 10 companies, units with superior customer engagement (e.g. brand loyalty) outperformed the baseline by 170%.  Those units with superior employee engagement (e.g., brand engagement) outperformed the baseline by a similar 170%.

However, things got interesting for the units that were above average (not leading, necessarily) in BOTH customer and employee engagement – with their performance at 340% above baseline.

This all links nicely to the Vivaldi study in 2002 that had these metrics at 160% and 320% respectively — more than coincidence? Probably not.

The point?  If you can align your brand and marketing efforts with your internal communication and HR efforts, both your customers and your people benefit, and you make more money.  Again, it’s the AND that is more important than the OR.  Marketing alone is an OR.  Employee engagement alone is an OR.

Or, in other words, employee engagement is OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS in business performance.  Are the budgets equal?


888 words from Eurocomm 2008


BARCELONA — After a lovely walk around the marina and Barceloneta area, some Sauvignon Blanc accompanying a remarkable black lobster paella, I drifted back to the Catalonia Suites Hotel for a hot bath to reflect on the past two days.

A 1960s Dean Martin movie, one of the Matt Helm series I adored as a child, plays on the tv of the Catalonia Suites Hotel. I can’t shake the feeling that it’s been somehow strangely improved as an overall experience with the Spanish overdubbing. On screen, a group of waiters standing in the parking lot salute Dino/Helm, who has acquired the Hotel’s bell captain’s uniform, as he rides by on his newly acquired motorcycle.

The waiters’ trousers are around their ankles as Dean slaloms through them with a twinkle in his eye and that trademark smirk. I’m not sure what led to this, but for some reason it’s the only possible image for this particular moment of my life.

A good conference. My personal highlights were Suzanne Salvo’s (Salvo Photography) session on the ethics of photo manipulation and Ramon Olle Jr.’s presentation on the new face of consumer branding. And, of course, the ample and various networking opportunities that the conference schedule so insightfully provided – plenty of time between sessions rather than a quick cuppa and off to the next session. It’s the space in-between that glues these things together so well.

Personally, I enjoyed presenting my session, chillingly entitled “Are you communicating with a fictitious construct?”

Although it was a late addition to the conference’s lineup as I was asked to cover a speaker who had to drop out, I had had some time to think through the issue of audience segmentation and the accompanying pitfalls and opportunities it entails. Having some 20 people show up, when I was expecting to present to the translator, the audio technician and a tumbleweed (given Michael Spencer’s presentation was next door), was a nice surprise.

I was gratified that most of the participants got into the spirit of the thing and didn’t take me too literally. It was really about presenting one or two case studies that I felt explored some interesting audience-related communication challenges facing two of the world’s leading organisations. An opportune question at the end of the session allowed me to steer it right back to where we started off: the rhetorical premise that an audience is a construct of the communicator suiting their communication objective. This holds some intriguing possibilities.

Perhaps not your typical conference presentation, then.

I was really gratified by the feedback – some of which is paraphrased below. (If I have got anything too far wrong, please let me know and I can make amends). I was pleasantly caught quite off guard when the work SAS did for KPMG resulted in spontaneous applause. Some paraphrased examples of the nice comments passed on to me:

  • Russell Grossman (Director of Communications, Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform) – “We are all different people from moment to moment. The whole concept that your communication can be designed to ‘create’ an audience and engage it in a given context that you create has some intriguing implications and possibilities.”
  • Yang-May at ZenGuide – “Great case study and presentation — it made me want to go work for KPMG.”
  • Mike Klein (commsoffensive) – “Brilliant presentation. Actually made me (almost) want to work in an agency again.”
  • Gloria Walker, ABC (consultant and former chair of the IABC Research Foundation) – “The ideas were so relevant to a specific client situation I’m dealing with that I couldn’t write fast enough. Helped me think through some new ways of engaging communication communities.”
  • Indranath ‘Indy’ Neogy (enoptron) – “Completely applicable in a world of vanishing internal-external boundaries and the media fragmentation; audiences are not static and definable, but are constantly moving and shifting.” 
  • Kristian Ruby, Danish Ministry for the Environment – “Excellent, inspiring and interesting presentation.”
  • Sira Coll i Capella, Press Office Manager, Parc LaSalle Innovation (LaSalle) — “Can I use your presentation to add to our curriculum? Very innovative, useful, inspiring modern practice.”
  • Marc Wright (Simply Communicate) – “I would have expected nothing less from one of the new generation of 2.0 presenters and their diffident style.”
  • Julie Freeman, President, IABC – “It didn’t work for me at all. You said audiences didn’t exist, then showed some pictures of audiences, then showed some case studies demonstrating how you went on to segment audiences. And you shouldn’t have been so honest, telling the audience you put the presentation together that morning. You were too glib about the whole thing.”

(Irony can, alas, sometimes be lost on Americans, particularly when they rest in the arms of the gentle slumber of a Barcelona afternoon, peacefully jet lagged, through the lion’s share of one’s presentation. Clearly, not signed up to one of SAS‘s core values: Respectfully irreverent.)

Nonetheless, one must appreciate the sentiment, and if one were a betting man, he’d lay odds of 5-1 against seeing me presenting anything at an IABC International conference anytime soon.

So anyway … a very big thank you to La Salle University and its staff and students who were most gracious and accommodating hosts, to Silvia Cambie and her team for making the whole thing happen, and of course to the conference attendees who were the heart and soul of the whole endeavour. It was refreshing and inspiring to engage with such a fine group of people.

Well, Matt Helm is about to storm the villain’s hideout to capture the nefarious anti-gravity ray pistol, which the criminal mastermind has just used to unzip a young lady’s miniskirt.

A telling reminder to me that some things deserve far more attention than blogging.

Annual Top 5 Predictions for 2008

Last year it was three, but Top Ten sounds too much like hard work, so here are my predictions for the landsape I survey in 2008:

 1.  Monolothic brands operating in heterogenous (e.g. global) environments are going to have to flex their guidelines and rules if they are to succeed in the employer brand space.  We’re going to see more variation in expression of corporate brands.  Otherwise they cannot differentiate and appeal to specific people segments.

2.  Employer brand will become an embedded and specific role in smart organisations to overcome the inertia created by the internal communications – human resources – marketing impasse that many experience. 

3.  Developing economies will move even further into the centre stage of opportunity.

4.  There will be a social media backlash as people grapple with the issues around work-public-private boundries.   It will not be a severe one. Second Life will lose momentum and new niche players will devour their market with more focussed/segmented/pragmatic offers in the social media space. 

5.  We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the subprime fiasco and its long-term impacts on the global economy.  Combined with 8 years progressive mismanagement of the U.S. economy, it will not be an easy year and there will be some profound longer-term issues, making this election a poisoned chalice.  Although the exchange rate is great from a UK perspective…