Q&A with abrdn

Precision and creativity are two essential qualities for a winning campaign. Here, the abrdn team explains how, through thorough planning, they were able to achieve both and triumph at the IoIC Awards

‘Our approach was almost scientific – with an added element of intuition and passion’

Winner: Strategies & Campaigns > Best Leadership Communication Programme

Congratulations on winning the IoIC Award. How did you feel to win?
It was such an amazing feeling to hear our name being announced as the winner.You always have that sense of “It might be us”, but you don’t want to get too excited. This was the first time we’d been shortlisted for an IoIC National Award at abrdn and although we were keeping everything crossed, we knew we were up against some tough competition. While we don’t do what we do to win awards, having our work held up as best in its class by industry experts felt incredible – what a boost!   


What do you think makes your programme so special?
Our approach to leadership communications was almost scientific, of course with that added element of communications’ intuition and passion. We had a real problem to solve, and I think that drove our approach. As a team, we were determined to build something different and special that actually met the needs of our people, but was also connected to what our leaders wanted to achieve within the business. Those things have to align if the work is going to be a success. We approached this in the right way from the start – using the data and insight to drive our decisions and allowing us time to focus on getting the content and creativity right for our audiences. Our results were reflective of that clarity and the time spent planning was, without doubt, well spent.  

What do you put your success down to?
By taking the right approach at the outset. Firstly, we interrogated the employee survey data and read every single verbatim comment – over 14,000 – and data from the last few years so we could truly understand the sentiment behind it. We were looking for the root causes, the sentiment over time and the trends – this wasn’t about a quick fix. The work had to be sustainable and effective. We identified pockets of best practice internally and took time to scan the external landscape – what’s working, what others are doing, how we use technology, etc. And then we worked together as a team. This wasn’t a directive from the top, or a one-size-fits-all approach. It also had to evolve.We sat down with each of our stakeholders to listen and get on the same page together. We knew it wouldn’t be perfect and that we would have to listen and learn as we went. It sounds like a cliché, but continuous improvement is at the heart of the success of this work.  

What advice would you give to anyone considering entering the IoIC Awards this year?
Be methodical in your thinking. The success of your campaign hasn’t just happened by chance, so spend time thinking through all the steps you took to get you there. What research did you do? What planning did you put in place? Who did you speak to? Who were your key stakeholders? How did you get them onboard and what were your audience objectives? These things don’t happen by accident, and sometimes as communication professionals we overlook the “process” that we went through because it seems so obvious. But it isn’t always, so put it down in there, as ultimately you will be helping others learn from your success too. Think about how you approached it from a creative point of view too – where did you get your inspiration from? Were you curious and how did you develop your creative thinking into something meaningful and impactful? And importantly, what difference did it make? More than the numbers – how did what you built make people feel?  

What do you think of when you think of IoIC?
The best of the best! A professional body that celebrates, recognises and develops great communication talent in the UK.  

As an IC team, what would you like to achieve next? 
We want to keep up with emerging trends – in the workplace, with technology, and with the changing expectations of our colleagues. We must stay one step ahead if we’re to remain compelling, and relevant and keep our colleagues connected. That’s what makes this profession exciting. No two days are ever the same.