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What’s the biggest comms challenge you’ve ever faced? How about launching a new strategy, introducing a new board, establishing a new set of values and behaviours for employees and celebrating the organisation’s 25th birthday at the same time?

Oh, and why not try and get employees to sign up to a new social network while you're at it…?

Actually, the last one turned out to be the saving grace, according to Will Foy who will explain how he achieved all this in a presentation at IoIC Live in Brighton on Friday May 1.

The ‘perfect storm’ of comms challenges came when he worked for one of the UK’s largest housing associations and he took it on in “one big hit”.

Will (pictured right) set up an all-day event for all 1,000 employees at Newbury racecourse – and proceeded to use the organisation’s new Yammer network as the foundation for all comms about the day.

“It pretty much forced people to use it,” he explains. “If they didn’t, they weren’t part of the day.”

Sign-up to the housing association’s Yammer increased significantly in the build-up to the event and reached 98% of employees on the day itself.

“A critical mass of people joined on the day when they saw people were participating in events,” says Will. “We nudged them via an app on Yammer and we had people walking round showing people how to sign up and how to use it.”

The event featured the chief executive and directors taking part in a series of TV spoofs like Through The Keyhole – one of the directors played Keith Lemon – Deal Or No Deal and Newsnight. They were shown as a mixture of pre-recorded film and live on stage.

Yammer was used for people to ask questions and take part in interactive elements, as well as a ‘selfie’ competition.

“The challenge was to get a selfie with the chief exec or one of the directors and you got bonus points if they were funny or doing something unusual,” explains Will. More than 400 ‘selfies’ were uploaded and the best 10 were put on Yammer the next day.

“The leadership involvement was crucial,” he adds. “Some directors were actively going round saying ‘How do you want me to pose to get more kudos for your picture?’ The leaders had real engagement with it.

“People talk about buy-in but full engagement and participation is a different ball game. That’s why the reaction was so great.”

Having got 98% sign-up, momentum continued with campaigns and competitions in the weeks following the event day.

Will, who is now senior IC Partner at Imperial Tobacco, says: “The aim was to get people using it as a social channel as an everyday thing and then build in the corporate stuff and knowledge-sharing later. Getting people using it was the main thing.”

Will Foy will present a case study titled ‘Smarter collaboratiuon through social media’ at IoIC Live in Brighton on Friday May 1. The Institute’s annual event kicks off with an evening session on Thursday April 30, followed by a full day of presentations, workshops and discussions.

Download a full programme or book your place here
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