Category Archives: Communications

PushmePullYou Comms

And following on from my post on Google’s potential internal comms engine, the question here is push and pull. Users, those consuming information want to have information pushed at them (broadcast) and pulled by them, (selected and chosen).  Those sending information want to broadcast, to propagate their ideas, to propagandise.

The broadcaster wants to know that their message has been delivered, even if to deaf ears. A broadcaster can be happy knowing that the leaflet is disappearing into 10,000 recycling bins. It’s the shout mentality. Send more, speak louder, make more hullaballoo and some will get through.

Of course the problem inside the corporation is that we have a captive audience. That audience doesn’t want to be deluged. They want to be kept informed and to choose. They want this as easliy as possible. They want PushmePullYouComms.

Over-egg a Desktop Notification system, send too many e-mails, even fire up too many RSS feeds and the audience is lost.

So how to achieve the mix, how to create a PushMePullYou Comms structure? Two things are needed I believe. One is an effective internal comms system with a central point of truth that is able to stay independent of PR and HR (both will sway the message). The second is social media. Only if the comms ecosystem can be filtered through a social medium will the balance be made.

Google Internal Comms Machine?

Who noticed Google’s new ‘Google Internal Comms Machine’ announcement last week? No, we’re not talking about Wave this is far more fun. Google announced news of its Desktop Notifcations API.

Now for many many years I managed something ultimately very similar, (albeit with video) which needed very strong governance to work. Problem was these notifications could be bloody annoying. Net result was that around 20% of users switched them off (aka sabotaging their desktop image).

Nonetheless, around 50% saw the notifications we sent and about 35-40% watched the videos. This left a very grey areas of those not seeing the notifications. What was happening?

The word on the ground was system failure – or ‘sabotage’, the messages weren’t getting through. In reality thought they were. The truth was that people weren’t interested enough to watch the exec videos but were too wise or embarrassed to say so.

Which takes me back to Google. If their Desktop Notification isn’t going to go the way of Microsoft’s very helpful Mr Paperclip it will need very strong management from whoever uses it to send the notifications.

Who/How will that be managed? Have Google even thought about this? One wonders and waits…

Yes Tweetminister

Not sure why anyone would want to do this, but a new Twitter application lets UK citizens (or anyone else mad enough to do so) follow their MPs on Twitter. Called Tweetminister Wire the app – in beta as I write – is made by Tweetminister and lets users stalk, follow the every move of their favourite ministers and members of parliament via their Twitter accounts.

Tweetminister Wire
Tweetminister Wire

HP Source

Inspired by the American http://tweetcongress.org/ the app hopes to increase engagement with our politicians, by drawing in data from APIs such as the Guardian and The Register and mashing this with their Tweets. As Techcrunch explains:

Users can participate within these conversations, tying in to TweetMinster’s aims to foster an active community around UK politics.

Will Ann Keen Twitter?

Whether this aim is met is a moot point. And beta caveat aside it is still early days with many MPs not using Twitter. My local MP Ann Keen for example. One also has to wonder on the quality of information being disseminated, not least after the Damien Green affair and the whole tendency of British politics to be wars of spin and PR, rather than fundemental debate on real issues. Tweetminister perhaps not surprisingly see their role as quote the opposite, as they claim it:

gives you the ability to search tweets, view and compare topics and identify trends in UK politics from the real life conversations behind the spin.

Commercial Uses

All this aside the app has interesting commercial uses too. A corporation could provide it as a way of filtering through vast swathes of Twitter and API connected data with either advertising or their own content taking pole position.

The Tweetminster Wire is also a Twitter client, so you can tweet, follow, reply, retweet and direct message your friends and followers.

How, who when puts this to new commercial uses will be interesting to follow.

What's at play in internal communications?

A couple of weeks or so ago I set up one of those polls in LinkedIn asking what the single most important aim of internal comms was. The chart of the results so far is thus:

internal_comms_chart1

The discussion continued on LinkedIn, with a lively engagement on what the most importan aspect might be. Now of course, this is all a bit phantasmagorical as in real life there’s no single one most important aspect, but the discussion did draw out some interplays between the different aspects.

I tend to agree with Nicky Fried’s comment that:

If we, as communicators, are able to link each employee to the corporate vision – the rest takes care of itself.

but as we see above most people disagree and think engagement is the most important aspect rather than the vision or strategy. There was also an important contribution from Mark Barwick, who argued that I’d made an error by missing out Productivity as the key aim. For Liam FitzPatrick  however, asking what aim might be most important implied conflict or polarities between ‘productivity/strategy/engagement’.

My view on this is that we’re not talking about polarities and certainly not about conflicts, but different spheres of action and influence. I’d still place strategy as the most important aim and align its relationship with engagement and productivity as so:

internal_comms_triangle

But then, as I pointed out to Mark, the strategy might not be productivity, it could be to say, increase market share. The ultimate end, and the ultimate end of all business, would be Profit. We might therefore, replace Producivity with Profit as the driver. Thus all internal communications becomes a drive to profit.

We therefore end up with a chart such as this:

internal_comms_triangle1

This creates a very instrumental, one might almost say brutalist picture of the enterprise. What’s missing is the ethos of the company – it’s brand and its culture. For me at least, the brand is all about internal communications – we’re articulating the brand to our shared internal audience. So what we need to do is bring this branding aspect into the equation:

culture

Taken together these aspects create the enterprise’s culture. One can then begin to imagine who the communications would change as each of these gains ascendancy over the other. Profit must always have the final say – or the business goes out of business. But if profit becomes the only driver, what then for internal communications?

I think this is where Visteon came unstuck. They created a Culture, complete with a well-defined Corporate Social Responsibility and communicated it well enough so that their employees not only knew about it, they both understood it and bought into it. It was when Visteon itself, driven by the profit motivator, forgot that aspect of its culture, that the workers of Visteon decided to occupy their plants.

Ethics and Integrity Policy, Visteon.

What's the aim of Internal Communications?

Over at LinkedIn I recently created one of their polls to elicit some information about what really drives Internal Communications. The LinkedIn poll widget allows one to solicit 5 possible answers to a question.  So throwing caution to the gales I asked “What’s the single most important aim of corporate Internal Communications?”

  • To inform employees
  • To create a shared vision
  • To increase productivity
  • To engage employees
  • To support the strategy

The results so far are as so:

poll

This I found interesting. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong answer, but my reply would be “To support the strategy“. Why so? Well I think that ultimately this is what focuses internal comms. We have a strategy and we align our comms to it. Engaging employees is/could be a mean to this end. If we engage them for example in directions that aren’t the strategy then we’ve missed our target. At least that’s what I think, your chance to put me right below 😉

Update:

After writing this blog I added a question to the Melcrum discussion page on LinkedIn. A lively discussion ensued. You’ll need to be a member of the Melcrum group to participate.

Burton report on Enterprise Social Networks

Mike Gotta has produced a very useful Field Research Study for Burton: Social Networking Within the Enterprise (free registration required).  There’s a good exec overview at CIO.com: Report: Enterprises Struggle to Adopt Social Networking Internally. Note however, CIO’s somewhat negative angle there, a closer read shows that there are a number of key hurdles to overcome:

Culture

Winning over old ways of doing things is key – ‘we communicate top down’ is an issue to be turned into an opportunity. Cultural dynamics are central. Conservative practices will win through, unless countered with a winning and workable option. In this HR is pivotal- you need to have HR on side. For IT, the argument is  different – Gotta argues that IT need to see that the needs of the business are what counts, not their systems. As one respondent put it:

“[IT] people are  not thinking about what’s best for the company, but rather what’s best for SharePoint. Ops is a consideration, but at the end of the day, it’s the business that counts.”

Therefore IT need to be won over if effective ESN is to see the light of day.

Business Case and ROI

What was really interesting was the business case and ROI for Enterprise Social Networks. The data shows a lack of clarity on either in the respondent’s minds. What this highlights is the need for the technologies to solve specific solutions rather than being a nice to do exercise. After all, no other project would be rolled out without such. However, and here’s the rub – as Gotta reminds us, there’s no set and agreed way of measuring ROI in this area. These are the dichotomies that make funding more and more difficult to ‘attain (and sustain)’:

•  ROI is the wrong focus vs. ROI is still appropriate.

•  Current approaches for analyzing web systems are sufficient vs. no best practices on what to measure in social  environments.

•  Current  web  usage  analysis  tools  are  “good  enough”  vs.  social  network  analysis  tools  are  needed  (but  not mature).

People in Userland

Early adopters are essential.  Make it easy to use. Pitfalls to avoid are actually trying to mimic Facebook inside the firewall – this confuses people. Instead build communities, bring people together as Profiles, based on their need to collaborate and share expertise.

Plan

Plan + Legals & Governance – do it upfront, or pay later. We know this – why do people forget it?!

Platforms

One thing the Burton Report shows very clearly is that platforms are coming to the fore. Lotus Connections, Microsoft’s SharePoint and Jive Clearspace at the fore.

Conclusion

I think CIO’s conclusion is too negative. We are still at the watershed however and which way the current flows is still undecided.  From what I’m seeing in the UK, there’s a great deal of interest in the Enterprise Social Network, but equally the confusion and suspicion Burton has identified also prevail. There’s also an ascendancy of SharePoint here. Almost whenever social media comes up in any of the major career sites, it’s SharePoint MOSS that’s cited as the platform being used. This may have interesting consequences for the UK. Take for example Thomas Vander Wal’s SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools:

SharePoint has value, but it is not a viable platform to be considered for when thinking of enterprise 2.0. SharePoint only is viable as a cog of a much larger implementation with higher costs.

If this becomes the de facto E 2.o platform in the UK, will the ‘larger implementation’ ever really succeed?

Footnote

This list of benefits is one I personally am going to learn off by heart!

•  We need to connect people globally.

•  We need to address generational shifts.

•  We need to break down barriers.

•  We need to “know what we know.”

•  We need to collaborate better.

•  We need to innovate from the bottom up.

•  We need to learn differently.

Prince2 training and Internal Communications

A quiet week on the blog front as on a Prince2 (a UK project management system, similar to the US’s PMP) course all this week with Parity training at Moorgate. Lots of homework to do and there’s so much to cram in. Learning about Project Initiation Documents (PID) and Dr.Qil – Daily, Risk, Quality, Issue and Learning logs (better check my notes to make sure that’s correct).

Interesting to cross-reference to Internal Communications praxis and some of the DMAIC / 6th Sigma courses I’ve been on. Communications and effective ones at that are built into the core product docs such as the PID and by inference internal comms is accepted as part of the business process. I wonder if the reverse is true and how many Prince2 Internal Communicators there are out there?

Twitter: time to shift the money paradigm

There’s a good many of my compilation of social media case studies that point to using Twitter to successfully market goods or service. Few have thought of ways that Twitter itself might make money. Premium usage, advertising, pay per user, are the usual solutions proffered.

Now as Erick Shonfeld informs us, is another one: How Much Is A Suggested Slot On Twitter Worth? Jason Calacanis Offers $250,000. With Twitter offering a list of 200 suggested people to follow on Twitter, Jason Calcanis has worked out that it’s worth $250K to be on that list for 2 years.

This is may well be so. I think there’s a pity here. And that’s not the usual, ‘I remember when this was all fields‘ type of lament, that Twitter has become a business trying to be a, well a business. No, my concern is as follows…

The rationale behind Jason’s offer, is one founded on advertising and traffic. Such a space Jason argues, likening it to that of a pitch at the US’ super bowl. That it may well be, and as such marks a shift from when space was space, a name name on Twitter to something monetary. No, it’s this – some of the best minds of a generation are putting their keen intellects into play not to make things, to increase the sum bound of wealth on earth, but to skim what’s already there.

It’s the service model. I remember at the end of the 1980s recession when services were proclaimed as the way forward and a £ earned from services being as good as one earned from making stuff. The City then became the UK’s biggest earner. The UK economic model being to take a small (or large) skim from all transactions flowing through its coffers.

This skim paradigm now defines our age. It’s stale, it’s overdue. I think it’s time to reinvent that paradigm, to start inventing and making things. Of course one might retort, we already do. I wonder about that though. Ask most about an invention of the 21st C, and the iPod will come to mind. We’re not in an age of grand great inventions. Just reinventions, post modern irons. Skims. Blah!

Post script. The ads on the right generated by this post are amusing. ‘How to make £1000 a day doing nothing’ etc.

Nielsen's internet footprint – a toe in the water at work?

The latest report from Nielsen, Social Networking’s New Global Footprint showing the growing normalisation of social media in internet use is of interest for several reasons. Most notable the age demographics refutes the fallacy that this is a novelty for young male users. The broad median of users extends from 38-49 across both sexes and shows a significant number of users in the 50-64 range, with the majority there being female.

Mobile time

Secondly, the report shows an increase in mobile use, particularly in Japan, where devices such as the iPhone are seen as a bit primitive, especially when compared to the functionality of the average Japanese fliptop phone. Finally, Nielsen note the increasing amount of time spent on these networks, this is increasingly not a flitter visit by users.

Implications for Internal Communications

So, what are we to make of this for the workplace? The most important aspect is the demographics. Most 2.0 literate internal communications professionals today, will have had experiences where 2.0 was dismissed as “not something our middle-aged managers will ever bother with”. One more case of refuting this. And whereas previous observers have remarked on the need to provide the same sort of tools and collaborative experience for Gen Y entering the workplace, the same could be applied to Boomers already there. If we can edit a website in seconds at home, why does it take a week or 2 at work?

Blue collar workforce

The enhancement of mobile use is also of note. As these things get better, even outside Japan then so their use will increase.This will have a knock-on effect for the the workplace. Put a WiFi device in a wireless work environment and even those not usually connected to a PC can be part of an electronic communication and collaborative environment.

Moore’s Mighty Woosh

Of course this does all presume a connected, e-savvy workforce. My point about WiFi ushers in the possibility of blue collars being connected with cheap(er) devices. Indeed I use my iPod Touch as a poor man’s smartphone and it works well as I move from wireless zone to zone. Why not then the same at the workplace? Even if the full impact of the tectonic shift – Moore’s great ‘Woosh’ isn’t there yet in the workplace, it sure is everywhere else, well everywhere that has the internet.

Not on the phone

On this we ought to be mindful of the fact that most people globally are not online. What we’re talking about here is for those countries and workforces that are already industrialised. Chomsky used to like to remind us that not only have the majority of people alive today never been online, most of them have never made a phone call. I wonder if this has changed much and if so by how much in the last decade?

Microsoft Surface Launches in EMEA – whither the Intranet?

news out from CeBIT that Microsoft has launched Surface in Europe: Microsoft Surface gets EMEA launch

As a result of a previous posting on Twitter I was sent the video below by @joshblake I’ve also been chatting with Paolo Tosolini –@Tosolini who has been doing some great work with Microsoft on video casting and using Microsoft Surface as a comms tool – (please see previous post).

Moving on from yesterday where I conjectured about the intranet browser of the future, the video below maybe shows why technology may just yet leap frog over any such solution. When I watch Microsoft Surface in action I keep thinking, what will this do for internal comms and the intranet of the future?