Internal communicators must become trusted advisors to the top table and harness new technology to engage employees in conversations rather than merely broadcast information.
That’s how the IC profession can future-proof itself, according to the opening presentation at the IoIC annual conference in Bristol.
Katie Macauley of AB, Dr Mark Smith of Ipadio and Nick Terry of Top Banana kicked off the annual gathering by talking about how best to face up to the changes and challenges of the world of communication.
Katie (pictured right) told delegates she had been in IC for 20 years and her company was celebrating its 50th anniversary before declaring: “The past just doesn’t prepare us for what’s next, it just tells us to remain vigilant.”
She said the biggest change happening in IC was the switch from cascade to conversation, made possible because of the advances in mobile communication and smart technology.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was conquering IT hurdles – the UK has 83 million mobile subscribers from a population of just 63 million, and more than half say the main use for their phone is to access the internet.
Cascade was the old way of communicating, said Katie. “It’s top down and one-way, it’s broadcasting and it’s hard to know if the message has been received and understood. It’s a bit like shouting into a darkened room.
“Conversation is different – you can raise an issue and really find out what people think. The move we’re seeing is from corporate voice to employee voice.
“Our job as communicators is to kick-start the conversation. We need to intrigue, inspire and engage – just like any other media outlet would.”
Conversation can happen face-to-face, on paper, or on screen and it was far more valuable than cascade, said Katie.
“No-one is as smart as everyone…”
Mark demonstrated how ipadio technology can reach those hard-to-reach employees. With smartphones containing good quality cameras and decent bandwidth increasingly available, the addition of apps devised by his company make it possible to communicate instantly from almost anywhere.
He showed a man live streaming from the middle of a disaster zone – the Haiti earthquake - and a video taken walking down a remote Himalayan track in Nepal, which had been uploaded minutes later in a local village.