Tuesday 14 May 2024

Purpose must be practical

I am a big fan of articulating an organisation’s purpose, but only if it is accompanied by action.  

A purpose statement might read wonderfully and look lovely on a slide or website. But what are companies doing to engage employees in what the purpose actually means? To help teams and individuals align activities? To introduce it to new (or potential) colleagues?

Ideally, employees will have already contributed to shaping the purpose by sharing views of why the organisation exists and what difference it makes. Even if they have – and especially if they haven’t – the company has to help them understand what an articulated purpose should mean for their work. Guide them on how to put it into practice. Equip teams to challenge their own behaviours and strengthen alignment.

That’s why any purpose statement should be a practical tool, not just a fine set of words. The articulation is just the starting point of a process to embed what it really means across the company. Without that, any statement risks becoming a house built on sand.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

What do I do now?

 “What do I do now?”, asked the UK band Sleeper some years ago.     

Admittedly, this was in a very different context to internal  communication, but I was reminded of it last week, having seen some (non-client!) communications that lacked a clear call to action. Why put so much effort into developing materials that connect with your audience, but then fail to show them what’s next?

This only creates frustration among readers. No matter what the topic, or the channel(s) you’re using, provide a clear route forward (e.g. specific actions, sources of further information, feedback loops). Don’t leave them guessing or trying to work it out for themselves.

And if you know the Sleeper song I mentioned, you now have an earworm for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

Monday 11 March 2024

Sing for your supper?

Many years ago, Nick Wright and I were working on a major change project for a global organisation. We were discussing communication activities and opportunities, when someone mentioned the existence of a company song.

Not a piece of music. Not a ‘sting’ used regularly at company conferences. But an actual song, with lyrics penned and crooned by employees.

Hush descended on the meeting, as if this were a secret the team did not wish to come out. And I can’t share a snippet of it, or even provide a review, as we never got to hear it. Despite asking several times!

It is still the only one I have come across in a client organisation, despite nearly 30 years in this field. However, I know there are others out there…

Wednesday 21 February 2024

10 thoughts at 10

 A few weeks  ago, as Sweet Comms celebrated its 10th birthday, I promised to  share some suggestions for anyone else thinking about starting their own business. Some are more serious than others!

1.     Start before you start – LinkedIn gives you the chance to find and re-connect with people who might otherwise be long lost to you. Time spent building your network will never be wasted. 

2.     Decide on your ideal day – I’ve blogged on this before, but when I was thinking of starting Sweet Comms, someone asked me a deceptively powerful question: “What is your ideal day?”. This really helped me articulate what I wanted us to focus on.   

3.     Love coffee – or tea, or whatever your poison may be. I have been a significant contributor to the coffee industry since I started this business, meeting a wide range of people in-person or virtually, always with coffee cup in hand. I have loved those interactions and they have been really important to the business.   

4.     Be yourself – LinkedIn is full of people crowing about drinking power shakes at 2 a.m. or the workouts they completed while I was still snoring. Running a business is intense and exhilarating, but you don’t need to be something you’re not. Ignore the noise. 

5.     Focus on what matters – I’m not an entrepreneur and never will be. My colleagues and I stick to what we are good at through the support we give our treasured clients. Don’t spread yourself too thinly or in too many directions, you could lose clarity and focus. 

6.      Involve others – I’m grateful for a lot of support, not only from clients and colleagues but also from partners and people from my network who have popped up with words of advice or encouragement. Don’t be afraid to ask, if only for a second opinion. 

7.     Get the right tech – you can waste a LOT of time and money on technology. And unless you’re clear on what you need, potential suppliers of new tools or platforms may never leave you alone. Explore and obtain the right things for you, not the latest shiny new toy. 

8.     Carve time for learning – clients are of course your main focus, but don’t neglect yourself. Early on, I realised that being ’head down’ on work all the time meant I missed opportunities to learn new things and connect with peers. 

9.      Spend money on a decent shredder – anything else is a false economy! 

10.  Learn to count – something I failed to do for this post. 

There is loads more I could say, but I’ll stop at 10 (ok, nine). If you’re considering taking a similar path, I hope at least some of this is helpful.  

 

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Maintaining lifelong learning

How can you keep learning in a micro agency? When you’re deliberately small and encouragingly busy?

My thirst for self-development remains unabated, even after nearly 30 years in this field. I’m always eager to learn new things, to explore different angles on the employer-employee relationship, to build my knowledge of emerging techniques. It enables me to keep growing and helps me strengthen my support for (and sharing of new tools with) the clients and partners I work with.

However, it’s not always easy to get to in-person learning events or attend day-long conferences. It can be difficult to commit in advance, given that client needs can change rapidly. And as a consultant, you are sometimes excluded anyway (I did register for one event, but was rejected the next day and told I was not welcome. In those exact terms!).

So kudos to the organisations hosting webinars to which everyone is invited. Some are sponsored by service providers, others are not. Some have an entrance fee, others are free. Many are available afterwards on-demand. The range of such opportunities is expanding and I’m setting aside a couple of hours every week for sessions directly related, or providing wider context, to my field of internal communication and employee engagement. Over the last month, for example, this has involved events from the IOD, IABC and CIPD.

Online learning will never replace in-person interaction, and I am hoping to get to more such events and meet more people in 2024. But there is an ever-growing range of online options in the meantime…

Wednesday 8 November 2023

The new sweetcomms.com

Sometimes, you have to recognise that your skillset isn’t sufficient.

With that in mind, I am pleased to share the new Sweet Comms website. As we approach nearly a decade in business (where did that time go?), I have finally admitted that my rudimentary website skills need support! So the lovely people at GoDaddy have helped me build a new site. 

In practice, little has changed. We’re still offering the same blend of strategic advice and hands-on support to help employers connect and communicate with their people. We’re just promoting our services through a shiny new site.

We hope you like it. And if it prompts you to think about how we could help you, do get in touch.

Monday 23 October 2023

Where is the ‘workplace detox’?

Recently, l’ve seen a number of posts on LinkedIn discussing the merits of a ‘career detox’. This involves taking a step back to assess whether you’re in the right workplace for your personal values and/or on the right trajectory to achieve your career goals. And, if you’re not (on either count), taking immediate action to ‘course correct’.

This makes sense from an employee perspective. But shouldn’t every employer do the same?

Pausing every now and then to review whether they are nurturing a culture in which their people can thrive. Assessing whether leaders and managers have the skills and support they need. Considering whether current communication practices are delivering value. Examining whether the organisation is engaging employees effectively or what could be improved.

I am sure there are lots of other facets to this, beyond the areas I specialise in, but the key thing is to create space for such analysis. That’s tricky at the best of times, given daily priorities and pressures, but I do think creating that opportunity to review and reflect delivers long-term benefits for employer and employee alike.