Connecting Communications to Business Outcomes: Key Takeaways from FutureComms 2019

 In Comms Heroes, Future of Work

“How does your company work as one?”

Asked SocialChorus founder Greg Shove of 400 communications leaders at FutureComms 2019. “We’re committed to connecting workforce communications to business outcomes that matter, so communicators can be at the center of transformation inside their organizations.”

Our speakers, who included thought leaders, industry experts, and successful practitioners, agreed the time for comms transformation is now. Read the top nine insights from FutureComms 2019.

9 Takeaways from FutureComms 2019

 

Takeaway #1: Embracing technology frees up communicators to scale their efforts (without taxing their schedules or budgets) and generate higher employee engagement.

SocialChorus announced four product features that will help streamline workflow and remove busy work involved in keeping employees in the loop, including:

1) Channel Management allows team and frontline managers outside of the internal communications team to create and post rich content like videos, images, links, articles, and notes;

2) Assistant gives every worker one easily accessible place to search and find company information they need;

3) Content Themes lets you create immersive experiences for employees with new templates that support many media formats, an image library, and tagging; and

4) Enhanced Analytics provides actionable insights to improve your communications without the need for a data scientist. 

To demonstrate how to scale comms initiatives, Tahni Morrison, internal communications and programmes manager at Vodafone, shared how her company is embracing technology to connect its global workforce and increase engagement.

Every year, Vodafone participates in the largest mobile conference in the world, Mobile World Conference #MWC19, in Barcelona. About 60 employees are invited to join in person, and this year Vodafone brought the conference to its entire workforce virtually, using its SocialChorus workforce communications platform.

Tahni presented how their campaign was implemented. Vodafone:

  • posted a teaser video getting employees excited two weeks before the event,
  • shared daily videos for the three-day event,
  • published an exclusive video from their CEO, where employees could ask questions in real time, and
  • shared a post-event wrap up.

And the response was through the roof!

“Covering the event in this way, by bringing our people into the story, we had unprecedented engagement,” said Morrison.“The team produced 36 pieces of content that was seen more than 20,000 times by our people, globally—and we are still counting. It was the most visible and candid our leaders had ever been. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and an exercise we will definitely be doing again.”

Read more about our latest capabilities with our new features.

Takeaway #2: Yes, it’s possible to reach every worker.

“Who are your hardest to reach employees?” asked Kyla Turner, communications manager at Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores.

For Love’s, it was their truck drivers with their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. But these employees were eager to be more connected to Love’s.

Here’s how they reached them. By rolling out their Love’s Now app, powered by SocialChorus, the company gave their truck drivers a voice, recognition for what they do, and best of all, an easy way to access company news and videos when and where it was most convenient for them.

Takeaway #3: When upgrading legacy communications systems, it helps to invite employees along for the ride.

Bethany Margavio, director of internal communications at Synovus, asked the FutureComms audience: “Have you ever wanted to bring change, but were told it would break the system?” Remember Y2K? That was her analogy.

Synovus is a Southeastern regional bank, based in Columbus, Georgia, with about $45 billion in assets. They have a team of 5,000 employees working in five states. Bethany’s great challenge was bringing their internal communications tools into the modern era and getting employees to adopt and adapt to new tools.

“When tasked with bringing legacy systems and communication tools into the 21st century, it can be a scary place. But with grit, resiliency, and a little bit of fun, we successfully launched One Synovus—and within three months we had 70% buy-in,” recalled Bethany.

Takeaway #4: You may need to take risks to create a connected company.

Our fireside chats at FutureComms allowed for more intimate discussions and truly inspiring lessons on communications, business, and life.

One featured Erica Cary, senior director, digital HR, product and technology at Hilton. The global hospitality company was named #1 in 2019 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and has more than 100,000 employees in the U.S. alone.

In order to achieve this type of employee engagement and happiness, Hilton takes great pride in treating all its employees “like guests” with its exceptional company culture and offerings of people-first programs, such as industry-leading parental leave and team member travel perks.

Erica told SocialChorus co-founder Nicole Alvino: “You have to take risks in life so, I challenge everyone to take those risks as well… You have to keep your body, mind, soul, and spirit intact to do that great work that we do every day to be inspirational leaders and to lead the charge to communicate effectively out to everyone.”

Takeaway #5: Even a brand that is over 100 years old can bring stories to life and engage new audiences.  

Bethany Powell James, VP of digital products and experience design at National Geographic, talked about how the 131-year old organization has made the leap from a traditional print publication to digital media powerhouse, even earning its first Academy Award this year for the movie, Free Solo.

Bethany spoke about how the editorial, product, and design teams consider what will appeal to different types of readers and viewers—”from cradle to cane.” She walked the audience through their storytelling strategy and how they are able to give complex science topics a human layer through immersive storytelling. They typically offer two parallel narratives with the writing and the visual content; that’s because their research has shown that some people immerse themselves in the photos and captions, while others want a more text-based experience.

At FutureComms, Bethany shared a new augmented reality exhibition that has not yet been published. The exhibit inspired attendees to think about how they can add more engaging storytelling into their own internal communications.

Takeaway #6: We need to pay attention to the negative effects of hyperconnectivity.

Communications professionals tend to think a lot about how to keep employees engaged and connected. However, some speakers at FutureComms acknowledged there is such a thing as too much connectivity.

In their presentation, “The Dark Side of Constant Connectivity,” UC Berkeley neuroscientists Dr. Sahar Yousef and Lucas Miller talked about the global productivity epidemic and discussed eye-opening studies on how smartphones and collaboration technology like email has changed the way we work. Even open offices have reduced our productivity and increased our stress.

After hearing this presentation, one FutureComms attendee said, “I found The Dark Side of Constant Connectivity to be fascinating and I’m hoping I can make changes to my own work/life balance based on what they spoke about.”

 

Takeaway #7: Trust in business is low right now, so internal communicators need to be mindful of ethics and “fake news.”

Author Shiv Singh, talked about how trust in business is low. However, people do trust their employers. What does this mean to internal communicators? They need to learn how to build trust in their organizations despite the rise in fake news and understand how the idea of “working as one” is critical to increasing employee productivity.

Also, Nicole Alvino, chief strategy officer at SocialChorus, talked about her first job out of college, working for Enron. At its height, it was the darling of Wall Street, and its executives were featured on magazine covers. But it went from a Fortune 7 company to total bankruptcy, with a few executives being convicted for criminal conduct (former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was recently released from prison). From this experience, she made a promise to herself that she would only start companies with strong corporate ethics and culture.

“All of us are here because we want to create impact,” said Nicole. “We want to transform our comms. Change our culture. We want to innovate. You are the leaders of this movement. You are change agents. And you are trusted advisors to your CEO. You have an immense amount of power and opportunity, to influence the ethics of your company. So think about your influence. Think about your impact. Think about your headline on your cover of Forbes.”

Takeaway #8:  Great communications skills can earn you a seat at the strategy table.  

Gina Clark, executive vice president and chief communications and administration officer at AmerisourceBergen, told the FutureComms audience that good coaching is essential to help communicators connect with the workforce.

“Just because someone communicates doesn’t make them an expert in communications,” said Clark. “That’s where you all come in. You are the experts. Be confident in your skill set and unique perspective. Approach work with conviction and passion. It’s your job to push business leaders and coach them to communicate authentically and transparently, especially if they shy away from town halls, videos, engagement opportunities, memos, or an investment in an internal comms mobile app. Whatever it is you’re recommending, it’s your job to convince them why it’s right and coach them. This coaching skill is one of the fastest ways to earn a seat at the strategy table.”

In her presentation, Sonia Fiorenza, VP of communication & engagement strategies at SocialChorus, added another layer to this idea, saying communicators need to stop being order takers and need to become strategic leaders. With more than 20 years of experience in both external and internal communications, she shared how communicators should embrace their new role.

“Communicators need to start letting go of command and control communications,” she said. “We are emerging as a new type of function that enables and empowers storytelling and reputation management in a new way. And we are just starting to scratch the surface of being able to measure our impact, especially in internal comms.”

 

Takeaway #9: The entire organization needs to be invested in internal communications and workforce alignment.

SocialChorus strategic advisor and Culture, Comms, & Cocktails podcast host, Chuck Gose hosted a game of Jeopardy with WashREIT CIO, Susan Gerock.  

The entire organization—not just CIOs—can get creative with their internal comms teams to engage employees; this will ultimately improve the employee experience.

 

Thank you to all our FutureComms sponsors!

Be sure to check out their special offers for attendees:

Diversified is a leading global technology solutions provider delivering a comprehensive suite of solutions designed to connect today’s leading enterprises to the global marketplace.

IC Kollectif is an award-winning global organization dedicated to the strategic management of internal communication as a business function, with award-winning reports and eBooks.

The LAGRANT Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 by Mr. Kim L. Hunter to address the lack of diversity in the advertising, marketing, and public relations fields.

LEWIS is a fully integrated communications agency and is offering a free marketing audit using their proprietary methodology, the LEWIS Marketing Engagement Tracker (MET).

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the nation’s largest professional organization serving the communications community with a mission to “make communications professionals smarter, better prepared and more connected through all stages of their career.”

ScribbleLive provides global brands with the insights and solutions they need to better attract, convert, and retain their audiences. Companies such as Red Bull, FedEx, Dell, Reuters, Yahoo, and American Express leverage the ScribbleLive Content Cloud to create scalable, premium content, interactive experiences, and real-time audience engagement. And they are offering a $500 off your first project.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails is an internal comms podcast served straight up and hosted by Chuck Gose. Available wherever you listen to podcasts (AppleGoogle PlayStitcher, etc.)

 

Closing fun and a song…

At FutureComms 2018, Jonathan Mann (the “Song a Day Man”) created an original song from the day’s presentations. He’s been writing and posting songs on YouTube for the past 10 years and holds the Guinness World Record for Most Consecutive Days Writing a Song!

We brought him back and this time he had a band to back him up. Watch a snippet of his fantastic and humorous performance.

And don’t miss FutureComms 2020! Contact us and request an email reminder when registrations open, and download our latest guide to help you improve employee engagement at your company.

 

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