You are not alone

It’s hard to sum up the two great days I spent at the Ragan Social Intranet Conference at which I heard so much informative, insightful and engaging content (check out #raganintranet on Twitter for more) but on reflection I think it could be captured in the phrase “You are not alone.” Now rather than causing you to channel your inner Michael Jackson hopefully it will give you comfort that all the challenges you face, the obstacles that are thrown up for you to overcome – they are all faced by others that are trying to be the energy and enthusiasm behind their intranet or enterprise social network (esn).

The great thing with conferences is that you get to find out what the shortcuts are to success by learning from what other practitioners do – both what worked for them and also some of the things that weren’t so successful. Of course, just because something didn’t work for someone doesn’t mean it won’t work for you – as the changing ingredient in the mix is culture – where you organisation is at right now, and where it wants to get to, will be heavily influenced by how you behave now, and if a new way of behaving will be required to get to where you want to be.

With an upfront apology to some of the speakers that I may not mention, or mention as much as I might some others I will attempt to share some of the things I learned from the event that left my head buzzing.

“Do less, but do it better”

Steve Crescenzo (Crescenzo Communications) @crescenzo kicked off the workshop day with “How to write content employees can’t resist.” I’ve tried to put into practice one of his lessons with this blog by using a headline that grabs attention. (It worked if you’re reading this!) He spoke of the importance to take ‘corporate’ out of ‘corporate communication’ and replace it with ‘creative.’

The summary I tweeted on the day was “you do more things that start with C & less those that start with P”

Do be;

  • Concise
  • Conversational
  • Compelling
  • Creative

And while you might have to write about the Policies, Programs, Procedures and Products these can all be “deadly dull” so to be creative and look for how to showcase the People or Person involved (and deliver the 4 C’s while you do!).

Steve also kicked off the conference day keynote in which he shared with Communicators how they could be relevant 5 years from now. He is a keen exponent of “Do less, do it better” and that we should all think in terms of three buckets when it comes to content. The ‘Pass’ bucket – content that you shouldn’t do, and therefore a bucket that you should fill as much as possible. The ‘Publish’ bucket – which is the content that you have to do. This should be done well and quickly. The third bucket was the one to focus on the ‘Promote’ bucket, this is where time should be spent as this is the content of real value and relevance. The 7 roles he identified for future communicators was based on the fact that at present social media is chipping away at the communicator as a publisher and that to be needed in the future change is needed.

Steve’s roles were;

  • Leadership Counsellor
  • Social Media Spy
  • Content Cop
  • The Talent
  • Community Organiser
  • Visual Storyteller
  • The Executioner

I’m not going to steal any more of Steve’s thunder other than to say if you get a chance to hear him speak – grab that opportunity.

Small team, big impact

You might be a small team, the team might just be you but Carrie Basham Young (Talk Social to Me) @carrieyoung gave an insight as to how passion and energy can win through when launching a social network.

Social breaks the hierarchy rules, therefore hierarchy has a decreasing influence over communication and collaboration. A question to ask yourself – do the Execs in your organisation think that the purpose of the intranet is the same as the rest of the team? If not you need to resolve that.

There are clear organisational benefits to social;

  • Employee happiness – the return on community
  • Co-operation in a crisis
  • Situational awareness
  • Humanizing work
  • Building collective intelligence
  • More effective new employee on boarding
  • Communication outside the hierarchy

Carrie shared the “Clothesline Paradox” (Steve Baer) when it comes to reporting on the success of the social network, there is no way to measure it like you do other ROI. The paradox is “You put your clothes in the dryer, and the energy you use gets measured and counted. You hang your clothes on the clothesline, and it “disappears” from the economy”

Value is created, the problem with is how it’s captured, how is it measured and counted i.e. the organisation benefits but it can be hard to say just how.

There are clear benefits to the employee too;

  • You become real to your colleagues
  • You can take charge of when and how you work
  • You can overcome formal support borders – FAQs can be answered and experts identified
  • You can give (and receive) thanks and credit
  • You can establish direct relationships and strengthen ties

Carrie spoke about social being a two way street and made a distinct differentiation between champions and advocates which I found interesting as prior to her talk I would have had the two as being interchangeable – I know recognise they aren’t and agree with her when she said that champions work within the hierarchy (and you use them to advance the intranet) whereas advocates “break” the hierarchy, in that they need not necessarily undertake formal roles with responsibility rather they may arise organically and will appear and assume the influential role. You wouldn’t work with one community or the other, instead look to combine the benefits of both.

In common with many other speakers (@BrianMoore320 and @BeckyGraebe) Carrie raised the profile and importance of good ‘Community Managers’ – a healthy community doesn’t just happen it requires stewardship, she had CMs being a hybrid role of doctors (ensuring intranet health) as well as traffic cop, educator and teacher, echoing the 7 roles of Steve Crescenzo.

Executive Excitement

Becky Graebe (SAS Software) @beckygraebe tackled the issue of how to get you Exec team on board – she found that a good angle was to ask them the question “How do the communication tools available to our organisation support and help us deliver on our values” She drew on some statistics from McKinsey about how 60% of execs realised that the benefits of social outweighed the risks but Becky then said to be in the 40% could be placing themselves at a competitive disadvantage when it came to employee satisfaction, retention and recruitment as they might not be offering the tools and work environment workers expect.

So when someone talks about the risks of launching a social network, you should ask them to consider what the risks are of not launching a social network.

When it came to engaging end users with using these social tools it is important to get the small, non-threatening steps right in order to foster future engagement. SAS started off with regular “You tell us” feature that encouraged users to express their opinions on non-business matters, in order that users become familiar in expressing their opinions in front of colleagues before they then started to use the same tool to canvas colleague opinion on more business related matters.

Becky’s mantra was that the “The launch and adoption strategy is just as important as your tech decision,” and that it was vital to keep the social in social network.

You can achieve a lot with one and a half

Brian Moore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) @BrianMoore320 shared the approach and success that an Internal Comms team of 1.5 can have with a social network for 3300 users. He echoed the success achieved by Carrie and showed how it wasn’t the size of the team but rather what the team did that was key and how passion and commitment went a long way to achieving success. The HMH intranet relaunch started small, focussing on delivering the information and functionality that users needed day to day (HR and IT) and made sure that they were set up to meet user expectations rather than be a promotional space for the HR and IT teams. Post launch there was a phased roll-out of more resource pages but they made sure the basics were there for day 1.

The intranet launch (to a dispersed workforce) was announced with “Top 10 facts” with a new fact being revealed for each of the 10 days preceding launch. (It was also a common theme that launch should never be a surprise) Brian too was an advocate for the need for effective Community Management in achieving engagement and commented on how a series of challenges (with associated rewards) helped adoption as well as the very simply act of colleagues being able to thank each other.

It would be great to hear what challenges you’ve faced – and how you’ve looked to tackle them and what success you’ve had – or if you are still facing unresolved challenges and would like to discuss some possible options then please get in touch