Category Archives: PR

Purpose driven brands – Pizza Hut Restaurants UK csuitepodcast interview

Show 43 of the csuitepodcast was recorded at The Holmes Report’s In2 Innovation Summit in London and my first guest was Gareth Hopley, Head of PR and Communications at Pizza Hut Restaurants in the UK.

Chatting with Gareth Hopely (left) of Pizza Hut Restaurants UK

Chatting with Gareth Hopley (left) of Pizza Hut Restaurants UK

Gareth had earlier taken part in a panel discussion at the event on the topic of ‘Purpose driven brands in an era of PR nightmares’, which had centred on brands with a purpose behind what they do, how that purpose is found, whether it should start internally and then be used for external marketing or whether agencies can help find the purpose to give you a reason to connect with your customer base.

Gareth said that it was heavily agreed on the panel that it is best to start with an internal purpose, which helps define who the brand is and that it should be authentic and genuine to what that organisation believes.

According to Gareth, Pizza Hut Restaurant’s purpose is ‘to be the most loved place to eat and work’ and the motivation behind this is that, as a restaurant business, the organisation wants customers to love to eat with them and want its employees to love to work for them and to feel connected to the company. Gareth said that the belief is that you will never make the customers feel better than you make your own people feel.  He added that the broader reason for this as a mission statement is that customers choose to spend an hour eating at their restaurants, for whatever reason, i.e., they could be celebrating or commiserating, but they have chosen Pizza Hut to spend that hour and so to make that hour great.  He said that you therefore need to ensure the workforce want to be there and support each other or they will not deliver the necessary service and therefore the business would fail.

Pizza Hut employs 8000 people in the UK and Gareth said that given they spend much of their time at work, it’s important to ensure they love it and care about the company.  Looking after the workforce is therefore extremely important and so Pizza Hut has partnered with Mental Health UK and Rethink. These charities were chosen because people are at the heart of the business – added to those thousands of employees, Pizza Hut also has about two and half million visitors to its restaurants every month.

Gareth explained that, with 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, this will mean a lot of people that touch the business are likely to be affected at some time.

Pizza Hut therefore want to create an environment and culture, internally, where people feel supported and can connect with each other.  The aim is to get to a point where all team members can raise their hand and say, ‘I need help’, without feeling judged and Gareth thinks that all Pizza Hut Restaurant’s employees have reacted positively to the charity partnerships.  Their management are therefore trained to help use emotional and behavioural skills, teaching them leadership and how to recognise how their behaviour impacts those around them, how they can empathise and support their team and recognize when their team members need help.  Of course you can teach them how to make a pizza, Gareth says, but he adds that it’s this management training that will ensure the customer gets the best service.

Gareth shared a story about a specific team manager who had been impacted by a mental health condition and recognised the stress of being a manager but he felt he couldn’t ask for help.  As he explained, at Pizza Hut, you can be running a team of 30 to 50 people and be responsible for a multi-million pound business at a very young age and the strain of that exacerbated this particular individual’s situation. He was therefore given the time off that he needed and returned to company as a team member when he felt ready, but has since re-joined the management program. Gareth was very proud of the fact that this proved this particular employee felt he could ask for help without the fear of being judged or treated badly.

Finally, as far as other campaigns that have inspired Gareth, he said liked Heineken’s ‘World Apart’. He felt the ad showed many similarities in what Heineken were trying to do compared with Pizza Hut’s purpose – just as a restaurant connects people so does going for a beer in a pub.

The campaign shows pairs of strangers who were shown videos about each other and realised they had contrasting and opposing views. They were then given the option to stay and discuss their differences or not.  Obviously they chose to stay but Gareth felt the way the campaign was shot and delivered felt very genuine. He thought that what it was communicating about Heineken having a broader purpose of bringing people together in the world resonated very strongly with what Pizza Hut believe, i.e. no matter who you are or what you are wearing or where you come from, everyone is welcome in their restaurants.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the websiteSoundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Authenticity across Integrated Communications – csuitepodcast show 42

Show 42 of the csuitepodcast was the second of two shows I recorded at PRWeek’s 2017 PR360 and the first of my three guests was Stuart Jackson who is VP for Communications, Europe at Nissan.

russ-stuart2Stuart had taken part in a panel at the event on the topic of retaining relevancy in an integrated world and one of the topics that came up was the authenticity of brands, and how this is spread across different channels. To highlight this, he talked about his own media diet during the first couple of hours of that morning, where he had already checked his social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, watched BBC News and had read the Metro newspaper on his commute. Stuart used the example of Lloyds Bank being a stand out story across three of those channels that particular morning.

Talking differently across channels can be a way of, as Stuart puts it, fooling people to think of the brand in a different way. It is not to say that brands can’t tweak their adverts, stories or news between channels.  But he believes the challenge for brands, as in that situation with Lloyds, is how they need to be credible, relevant and ensuring the brand DNA remains authentic across each of those channels.

Stuart calls communications the ‘conscious’ of the business as he feels it’s closer than any other department to the true feelings and understandings of the customers about the brand because the comms team has direct customer feedback relayed to them in real time every single day through journalists [and social media], who are very clear about what the customers are saying about the brand.

Stuart added that more and more, Communications is being trusted as a barometer of your customers’ feelings, and therefore being able to advise what actions need to be taken as a business to respond to that customer need by the CEO and Chairman.  He therefore sees Communications has its place on the Board, where they can advise, not just on a communications issue in terms of how to speak/respond to a customer or journalist, but actually on what action the business needs to take, or even the money it needs to spend to resolve a problem.

He used the recent United Airlines case as an example where a lot has been written about how the initial response wasn’t very well handled, but since then, the company has come out and said it will never happen again and that ‘these are the things we are putting in place’, offering $10,000 to any customer who wants to put their hand up and leave the plane.

Another recent PR disaster to hit the headlines was the controversy over the recent Pepsi advert that was criticised for exploiting the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequently pulled.

Stuart’s assumption in this instance is that Pepsi is a very marketing led business, and therefore, he questions how much weight is put on the idea of the communications team being the conscious of the business and challenging the business ideas. He said it’s very easy, when you are within the ‘planet of your own brand’ to think everything you are producing is great and all the data tells you it’s going to work and its tapping into the zeitgeist, but it’s equally easy to get that so wrong if you don’t truly have that real time customer feedback.

[If anyone from Pepsi is reading this post or listening to the podcast and would like to respond about this campaign with an interview on the show, please get in touch.]

To emphasise the point of listening to your customer, Stuart drew on Nissan’s recent campaign to raise the profile of their X-Trail, where their aim was to tap back into peoples’ passions, looking beyond the product itself, and focus on how their customers used that particular model.  As it turns out, one of the things they do, is use the car to stick the dog in the boot, take them down the park and give them a good run out!

Due to the fact that the communications team were given a very small budget of under 70,000 EURO, Stuart stated that they had to be ‘very agile creatively’ and can’t be ‘lazy’.  They therefore came up with a concept to create a prototype of the car, specifically focusing on the needs of the dog and actually then produced it! They then made a three minute film with a completely natural launch, with no additional paid media around it.

As the campaign was focused on the feedback from customers and had tapped into the passions of dog lovers, it was natural that they were extremely interested and Stuar said the video has now received over 110 million views, globally.  The prototype car is now being looked at to go into full production and it was recently showcased at the New York Auto Show.

via thesun.co.uk

via thesun.co.uk

However, one of the most important statistics for Stuart is that, since this campaign launched, the natural search online for the X-Trail is the highest it has ever been globally for five years.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the website, Soundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The Seven Sins of Change and how to avoid them – csuitepodcast show 41

In the final interview of Show 41 (skip to 36:35) of the csuitepodcast, recorded at PRWeek’s 2017 PR360, I spoke with FleishmanHillard Fishburn’s Deputy CEO and Senior Partner, Ali Gee about her presentation, ‘The Seven Sins of Change and how to avoid them’.

To begin with, Ali explained that in her presentation, as well as behaviour change, change can encompass anything from making people love a brand they haven’t loved before, to driving up share price, engaging employees, or delivering brand and corporate reputation – anything that makes a measurable difference to a business’ or a brand’s objectives.  However, her biggest concerns for the PR industry in general is that it can’t always prove what it is doing actually works and that, as an industry, whilst it’s increasingly focussing around creativity, great strategy and content, if the focus is on output and not outcomes, Ali believes PR has its eye off the ball.

In her talk in the conference she said that winning at Cannes [Lions], being in the [PR Week] Power book and pitching and winning is cool, but she asked the audience to truthfully answer what proportion of their work makes a real difference, arguing that in many cases, they won’t know, and in lots of cases, it makes no difference at all.

So below are Ali’s seven sins and how she explained them:

  1. Timidity
    In a new business situation, when a client brief lands in an agency, 9 times out of 10 you are trying to ingratiate yourself to the new prospect, rather than pointing out that often the brief isn’t totally clear in terms of what the client wants.  So the sin is that people don’t ask the client “Can I ask you to be clear?  What is the change that you want to see?”
  2. Assumption
    In situations where you’ve been made aware of what the change is that the client wants, often, PR people just go straight for it.  Ali used the example of helping people lose weight, where PR will think it needs to do is campaign towards that goal, when in actual fact, asking people for a much simpler behaviour change can still deliver that same outcome.  In her presentation, Ali used the example of two scientists at the University of West Virginia who, when faced with the task of reducing obesity in the US State, established that the one thing most Virginians had in common was that they drank milk most days.  They therefore concluded that if they could secure a switch from full fat to skimmed milk in these people, then the average Virginian’s diet would immediately attain the USDA recommended levels of saturated fat.  She explained that asking people to change from drinking full fat milk to skimmed-milk is totally different to asking them to reduce calorie intake, or eat their five a day or do more exercise.
  3. Greed
    Often a client side sin, where they ask for too much.  For example, if a client asks for a 25% in consumer behaviour or shift in attitude to a particular issue, that result is unlikely to be realistic.  Ali said that big scale behaviour change doesn’t happen in months and double digit behaviour change takes time and large budgets, usually requiring a multi-layered campaign
  4. Blindness
    Too many campaigns say they are based on research, when in fact they are based on what Ali calls, ‘sight’ research’, i.e., observations of what we see people do.  However, Ali believes what’s missing here is the ‘In’ research, i.e., what’s actually inside their heads, or hearts, and why it drives the behaviour you observe.  It’s her way of explain why the two elements make up ‘Insight’, and so without both, you won’t be able to deliver a strong strategy that will deliver change.
  5. Laziness
    Ali said that people don’t want to be forced to be different and are happy being in the status quo and that therefore, it’s important to make the ask of people small.
  6. Hubris
    Arrogance or overt pride.  In Ali’s opinion, as an industry, PR goes around slapping each other on the back for some great creativity, but sometimes that glamour and excitement of the work is allowed to get in the way of whether the work actually delivered real change.
  7. Finger-licking
    No, nothing to do with fried chicken!  Ali was referring here to people waving their finger in the air in lieu of doing real measurement.

After talking through the list, I asked Ali for one thing, and one thing only, that she would ask the industry to do to help her in her cause, ensuring she follows her own rules by not being too greedy and asking for a small change to start with!  Her response was to ask the judges and owners of awards in the industry to literally throw out any entry that doesn’t have proper outcome measurements or where the outcomes that are measured don’t relate directly and clearly to the stated objectives.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the website, Soundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Influencer Marketing in the Fashion Industry – csuitepodcast interview with Levi’s


Show 41 of the csuitepodcast was recorded at PRWeek’s 2017 PR360 and the second of my three guests was the Europe and UK PR Director of Levi’s, Morven Mackinnon, who had just taken part in a panel discussion on influencer marketing. (Interview starts at 20min)

Russ-and-Morven-cutMorven has held her position as PR Director for around six years, and she explained how the nature of how we do PR has changed quite significantly, specifically on how social media influencers have become a more important part of the overall mix over the past few years, and how using these influencers takes a different mind and skill set to that of using traditional media.

Morven talked about how important it is to get the balance between platforms and experience.  She said that whilst Levi’s may be using as many channels as possible, it is necessary to understand how they all link, as this affects the way in which products are marketed and how brands keep the support of their customers.  Looking further into social media marketing, she explained that using online influencers can offer a share of voice on a channel that perhaps you may not have had otherwise.  Therefore, when Levi’s are selecting social media influencers to work with, Morven stated that while obviously the size of their reach is important for getting the brand’s message out, there are other aspects that are important too. Naturaly, from the fashion industry point of view, visual channels such as Instagram and YouTube will feature heavily. Morven also mentioned Snapchat as a new visual platform, and whilst she feels its relevance is being questioned since the launch of Instagram stories, she feels it does still cater for a particular audience.

Morven also said that podcasts are becoming more popular in the fashion world as a form or marketing. However, she argues that the world of influencers is becoming ever more crowded and at some point they will need to find a way to differentiate themselves from everyone.

There are many things that go into choosing the right influencer to collaborate with, which Morven said is a challenge for the brand, but ultimately the audience must feel that the relationship that the brand and the influencer have is an authentic one. Factors include the number of followers, but also who is following them; social engagement levels in the form of likes or comments; and the fact that, as she previously mentioned, the fashion industry is a very visual market.  This led her to say that the aesthetics of an influencer’s profile is an extremely important aspect in the process of picking the right influencer. Morven also said that she also looks at what other brands an influencer is working with as that gives her the chance to see whether the influencer would also be a good fit for Levi’s.

It is also important to make sure the influencers that are chosen are genuine about wanting to be part of Levi’s and so they are regularly invited to events, such as those at their VIP gifting suites in Central London and LA, and encouraged to pick out products in order for them to understand the brand values.  This enables Levi’s so see if there is a genuine connection with them.  The key is that Levi’s are looking for long term relationships and do not want influencers who see the opportunity as, what Morven described as a short term pay cheque.

Whilst the world of marketing and PR is changing and influencer marketing is now the focus of what Morven is doing, she believes that traditional media is still important and critical in the mix as it gives credibility in the fashion industry. However, she said social media can reach a different and often younger audience.

Morven said that Levi’s was fortunate to have some great campaigns with some really good influencers. For example, they partnered with Chiara Ferragini (below) of The Blonde Salad, an Italian YouTuber and Instagrammer, to set up a capsule product collection that was sold in selective and exclusive retailers across Europe.

via theblondesalad.com

Levi’s took Chiara out to their Innovation Lab in San Francisco to create the designs, and so this collaborative collection allowed for Chiara’s followers to feel both part Levi’s community and Chiara’s.

The collection sold out everywhere almost instantly, which as Morven mentions, is a clear way of seeing how much influence such YouTubers have and how this can benefit brands.

Finally, Morven said that the world of influencers is becoming increasingly crowded and almost every influencer now has an agent. She therefore believes that while it is important to use social influencers, there aren’t enough ‘marketing dollars’ to finance everyone with an Instagram account and so it is important for the influencers to be able to differentiate themselves, potentially diversifying across different channels and standing out enough to keep their relationship with the brands going. She added that it is just as important for brands to keep on top of the changing processes too and therefore suggests that brands need to work out new ways to keep influencers wanting to work with them, asking “how can we offer unique experiences to influencers that will make them genuinely want to post about the brand, outside of campaigns”.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the website, Soundclouditunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Creative Success in Business: csuitepodcast show 36

image via Amazon

image via Amazon

Show 36 of the csuitepodcast was recorded at the Cass Business School in London where Claire Bridges was launching her book, In Your Creative Element.

Claire is founder of Now Go Create and she invited two of her book’s contributors to join us on the show, Gerry Hopkinson, Co-Founder of PR agency Unity, who were recently awarded Creative PR Consultancy of the Year by the Holmes Report, and Dr Sara Jones, Senior Lecturer and Course Director for the Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership at Cass.

show36guests

L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Claire Bridges, Gerry Hopkinson, Dr Sara Jones

If you’re reading this post before Friday 24th February 2017, you’ve still got time to win a copy of Claire’s book.  Just follow @csuitepodcast on Twitter and then tweet that feed the answer to the question Claire asks in the Show (Terms and Conditions apply).

Claire explained that the question she set out to answer when she started writing the book was ‘What does it take to be creative in Business?’, but beyond that, she also wanted to find out whether you can encourage and give people the skills to be more creative, whether you can drive and develop a creative culture and what makes companies stagnate or thrive or even die if they are not creative.  That led Claire to study the Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership (the MICL) at Cass and in the final module of the course, she, along with the other students, had to actually be physically creative.

Having been binge-watching the TV series ‘Breaking Bad’ and therefore constantly seeing chemical symbols in front of her (see below), she was inspired to create a Periodic Table of creative elements as a poster, and from there it led to the book!

As we recorded the podcast, we delved into some of the individual creative elements listed in the book, but in terms of ensuring that creativity comes through in your company, for Gerry, it’s really about the little things that you bring together that create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  He said the key things that you can point to are Culture [C], Leadership [Lr] and setting the right Environment [Ev] where people can find a way to realise their creative potential.  First and foremost, that environment has to be one of Trust [T], where people are allowed to experience Failure [Fe] and where people are believed in – where they have the Freedom [Fr] to share ideas.   Gerry also believes that creativity comes from diversity and therefore the more different kinds of people you have together, the more likely you are to get to good ideas.

Sara agreed with the point about diversity and added that for her, one of the lovely things about the MICL was that the students on the course come from so many different directions.  She also felt that it’s not impossible for any business that may be established in its ways to bring in new creative thinking and processes, perhaps by bringing in some new influences and that whilst change may be difficult, ultimately, it comes from individuals within the organisation.

When it comes to those individuals being creative, Claire thinks a huge part of it is about confidence, about being disciplined and practice.  In fact, she believes Creativity [Cr] can be taught out of us – she said there are quite a lot of studies that show that the creative output of many 3-6 year olds is at a genius level, but when tested again at 11 years old, only 2-3% are still at that level, not because they didn’t have it in the first place, but because they now don’t believe in themselves as creative individuals.

Sara added further to this about the fact that creativity can be stifled in the business environment and that there is research around the social factors that come into play when people are being creative in a group context, such as ‘Evaluation [Ev] apprehension’, where people are too scared to say anything because they think their ideas might be poorly evaluated, or ‘Production Blocking’ where one person holds the floor and won’t let others contribute.  However, there are digital tools that have been designed to support the creative process to mitigate against social factors, for example, making ideas anonymous through an electronic brainstorming system to help get over evaluation apprehension.

One of the elements in the book that Gerry’s business was quoted around was that of Courage [Co] and he said that one of the most courageous things he and his business partner Nik Govier did when setting up Unity was to completely reinvent the planning function and the way they thought about what PR is.  They believed PR should be about humans, and trying to increase human happiness,  They therefore went against the grain of the whole industry (PR, Advertising and Marketing), which Gerry believes is still based on behaviourism, i.e. watching what the target audience does rather than asking what people want out of life and what employees want when they come to work and how can they be happier at work.  They therefore invested, at the very early start up stage, in bringing in someone with a PhD in Social Psychology to set up a planning function, which helped them learn things that are now the bedrock of their business.  Building on this, Gerry said that they also brought in completely different disciplines to their team, for example, introducing product design to what is essentially a service industry, which Gerry said was fantastic as the people they brought in had a completely different way of thinking, energising the way the company worked and responded to briefs.

Gerry said that the key elements that make up Unity’s success are Love [L], Trust [T], Curiosity [Cs] and Play (interestingly not featured in the book, although Fun [F] is), the latter of which he thinks is underrated.  For example, he is a firm believer in people actually going taking their allotted hour lunch break tother, that nobody uses anymore, enjoying each other’s company and not talking about work, as suddenly ideas will pop into your head!

There’s so much more we covered in the show, you’ll just have to listen to it – where of course, you’ll hear the question, and answer, to win a copy of the book too.  Good luck!

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundclouditunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

Strategic Internal Comms interview with Telefonica: csuitepodcast show 35 pt2

telefonica

Chatting with Telefonica’s Nicola Green (left) and Sarah Mullins (centre)

For the second interview of Show 35 [starting at 15:45] of the csuitepodcast that I recorded at PR Week’s Strategic Internal Communications event in London, I caught up with Sarah Mullins, Head of Change Communications at Telefonica and Nicola Green, Telefonica’s Director of Communications and Reputation, who was making her second appearance on the show (you can listen to Nicola on Show 11 too).

Sarah and Nicola had just spoken at the conference on the topic of internal / external comms convergence: ‘how can you effectively join up all functions of your organisation’, a great presentation sharing the journey, complete with good and bad experiences, that Nicola’s team had gone through over the last four years since she took over as the company’s Director of Comms and Reputation in the UK.

Nicola explained that one thing she noticed when she first took on the role was that the team was working in silos, and so she felt that they could bring more value to the organisation if they joined up and became one team that worked together collectively and relied on each other to do the best work possible.  She believes that her team have felt quite empowered by the process they have gone through.

Sarah has been in the organisation for five years and so was there at the start of this process and admitted that when she first joined the Internal Comms team, whilst she knew Nicola headed up PR, she didn’t really know who else was in the team.  She explained that back then, they had different teams communicating to their stores, customer service teams, social customers and the press.  Now everyone in the team has a greater understanding of what each of their colleagues do across all the different functions of the team, which include Public Affairs, Social Media, Press Office and Reputation, Proactive PR, Internal Comms and Change Communication (where Sarah’s main role is now). Sarah added that it’s been an enormously creative experience too, being able to share ideas with each other.

Naturally, with all those communications functions coming together, as Nicola said, with all change, some people like and embrace it and some don’t, and as a result some colleagues did leave the organisation.  But those who stayed saw it as an opportunity to help develop their own skills further,.  This is what Nicola said she majored on, i.e. helping them be the best they could be, not just in their specialist subject but across all the other communications disciplines, which she added many organisations are looking for, i.e. more generalists.

Nicola said that a good example of the merged team working well was when the organisation faced a network crisis, which of course put the company under immense pressure in a very short space of time.  In that instance, everybody in the team experienced lots of different disciplines.  For example, the internal comms team posted on Facebook and the Public Affairs team dealt with Press enquiries.  Basically, it became ‘all hands to the pump’ with the whole team working collectively together and she believes that it was only by doing so, that they could contain the situation and get through it.

Nicola highlighted to any company looking to follow suit and merge their teams that putting structures in place is the key to make it work.  She said that that unless you give opportunities for the leadership team to come together and talk through different problems, it’s never really going to work because people in comms disciplines are very busy doing what they need to do and moving on to the next task, so you almost need to force them to step back and think about whether they are doing the right thing and get insights from others about what they are feeling.

Despite the merging of her teams, Nicola still believes specialists have a role to play and that we shouldn’t underestimate the insight that they bring in the communication discipline.  However, she also believes you should aim to get as many people to be generalists as possible as this can both help them as individuals, but also the wider team too. For example, if you have someone who falls ill for a long period of time, you’ve then got a bigger pool to pull on to ensure the comms team doesn’t fall over.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

Strategic Internal Communications interview with Virgin Trains: csuitepodcast show 35 pt1

russanddrew

with Virgin Trains’ Drew McMillan (left)

The first two parts of Show 35 of the csuitepodcast were recorded at PR Week’s Strategic Internal Communications event in London, which had a theme of creating a more agile, digital and customer focus culture in the business.

My first interview, with Drew McMillan, Head of Internal Communications and Innovation at Virgin Trains, followed his keynote address at the conference about how to create an amazing place to work by borrowing techniques more often used for customer insight.

Drew’s gut instinct was that whilst many consumer brands quite rightly spend millions understanding their customers, they spend way less than 10% of that amount understanding their people, yet so many business use the mantra of their people being their most valuable asset!

He explained that Virgin is a customer led brand that is big in the consumer space, and that the company invests accordingly in understanding its customers.  However, he felt that historically, the organisation hadn’t invested near as much effort and energy in understanding its people and that, like most employers, had previously thought that an annual survey (that often takes a long time to do anything about the responses), perhaps with some additional activities ‘around the edges’, was all that was required.

Drew believes that today’s employees expect to be listened to more often and their input to be acted upon much more quickly.  He therefore wanted to look at a fundamentally different way of applying customer insight to an internal audience and so adapted the company’s consumer facing tool, ‘The Awesometer’, to create an internal Pulse dashboard that has sub components looking at Trust, Empowerment and Engagement.  This dashboard shows an aggregated sense of how Virgin Trains’ people are feeling on a four weekly basis, i.e. how awesome the company is.

Drew’s Pulse dashboard works alongside other Internal Communications tools.  He explained that the company is in the middle of transferring to Office365, although had already implemented Yammer, which gives him rich analytics on sentiment within the business.  In fact, Virgin Trains has been independently audited as one of the most engaged Yammer users in Europe (with 2800 active users) and in the top 12 Yammer Networks worldwide, with a daily Yammer Engagement level of 68% Measure of Active Engagement (MAE), which Drew confirmed is very high.

Virgin also combines this with more traditional one-to-one research, working with Ipsos Loyalty to speak with colleagues in their homes in a very frank and private way about working at Virgin Trains and how the company can improve as a business.  Drew feels the importance of doing these interviews in the home is that people are in a completely different psychological place and will therefore talk differently to how they might do so in a typical open focus group environment.

All these various tools and research methods are part of Virgin’s ACE (Amazing Colleague Experience) program – born out of their ICE program (Incredible Customer Experience), which helped define the seven stages of their customers’ journey with them, from thinking of travelling, through to arriving at their destination. Therefore ACE takes the same methodology by breaking their people’s daily lives into a number of stages, from preparing to come to work in the morning through to getting home at night.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

The Power of Radio in PR & Comms: csuitepodcast show 34 review

I was back in studios of markettiers for this episode of the csuitepodcast, which was quite appropriate given we were chatting about the Power of Radio in terms of PR & Communications, timed to coincide with the recent release of the Q3 2016 RAJAR figures of UK Radio Listening – now up to 48.2m adults across the UK tuning into the radio every week.

My guests were:

Topic areas we covered off related to the topic, included but were not limited to:

  • RARAR listener numbers and their relevance as a reporting tool
  • Radio beyond audio broadcasts
  • Radio PR & the impact of local Radio
  • Influence of Presenters

RARAR listener numbers and its relevance as a reporting tool
RAJAR provides the benchmark for audience measurement in Radio, but in Howard’s opinion it underestimates the total reach as well as power, influence and impact radio and its presenters can have on the behaviour of the listeners.  For example, in the case of LBC, where Ian presents, the station is no longer just for London, thanks to their online and digital output.  However, it’s also not restricted to being a National station either, as Ian’s audience includes international online listeners, which of course won’t be registered by RAJAR.  The other issue in terms of measuring reach is that radio is no longer just a live audio platform, and so shows have podcasts and video clips that are shared across social media.

Radio beyond audio broadcasts
We referenced a talk in September by Ben Cooper, Controller of BBC Radio 1, who said he wanted the station to become the “Netflix of Radio” and who has started to achieve this by commissioning programming that will be available on-demand and therefore not broadcast on the station in the traditional way.  Howard summed this up by saying that Ben is looking to serve an audience with content that they can consume, when they want, how they want and in what format they want and he doesn’t see any reason why Ben can’t achieve his aim for Radio1.  However he feels it’s also a huge opportunity for anyone to do the same, as there are no 24/7 airtime restrictions for the amount of content that can be produced for a broadcaster – a point that, as Howard said, he and I have been making for years since doing our early Convergence Media workshops when I worked at markettiers!

Howard used Radio X’s website as a classic example of there being lots of ways you can engage with the content, be that to listen live, listen again, watch the best bits, or subscribe to the podcast.

Ian added that, like many stations, LBC is now set up for visual broadcast as well as audio and his radio studio is now set up looking like a TV studio.

Ian Collins - on Radio or TV?

Ian Collins – on Radio or TV?

He said clips of the presenters get uploaded to Facebook and can reach two or three million views within a couple of weeks – a whole other audience, which as Howard reminded us, is not measured by RAJAR.

Of course, this being a podcast, we naturally got talking about how podcasting complements radio and how Ian’s own podcast, ‘Ian Collins Wants a Word’, was sponsored by Mitsubishi.  As Ian explained, whilst podcasting is still arguably in its infancy, some brands are happy to try and test the medium out even though, whilst you can get download figures, it’s still quite hard to get real depth of data in terms of profiles and locations of listeners.

However, as Howard explained, the challenge for presenters like Ian producing their own podcasts, or stations podcasting part of their shows, is that the brand, by tapping into their own huge followings on social media, can themselves become the broadcaster with podcasts, which won’t necessarily fall under the same Ofcom regulations as traditional broadcast does.

Radio PR & impact of local Radio
Despite the increase in channels and programming output through digital radio, internet and now podcasting, Howard doesn’t believe the job of a PR has got any harder, so long as you invest the time in understanding where the audiences are, what content they are consuming, on what channels and platforms etc., and that you serve it accordingly.  Of course, this takes time and resource, which is why, as Howard explained, agencies like markettiers exist.

Lucy then explained how important radio was for her PR campaigns at Direct Line group and that quite often, her campaigns will start by carrying out research, split regionally across the country.  This then helps from a Radio perspective when her spokespeople are talking about the findings in a specific area, as she believes listeners relate to it much more.

Lucy went on to talk about a recent campaign called ‘Churchill Lollipoppers’ that she had worked on with markettiers, where local radio was a vital part of the strategy and resulting outcomes.

The aim of the campaign was for Churchill Insurance, part of the Direct Line Group, to provide extra funding for Lollipoppers around the UK – the reason being that since it became no longer necessary for local councils to provide the funding themselves, Churchill had found that the numbers of Lollipoppers had been diminishing in particular areas.

To highlight the issue, Churchill researched child pedestrian accidents around school areas, and found that those areas with fewer Lollipop people had a higher rate of accidents.  Therefore to raise awareness of the issue, they carried out a series of radio interviews with their Head of Claims, Kelly Cook, who had first-hand experience of seeing the number of claims coming into the company about accidents in those particular areas of the country.

Lucy believes that, whilst it was an integrated campaign that included TV and radio advertising together with traditional PR, by engaging local radio listeners, and highlighting the stats in each area, Radio PR became a key factor in its success.  Therefore, when the next stage of the campaign launched, which was asking the nation to go online and vote for their local schools that they felt needed the support of a new Lollipopper, Churchill received over 50,000 votes.

Both Howard and Ian backed up the importance of local radio up.  Howard explained that to try and mobilise the behaviour in a particular region, you want to engage with the local station, as the national stations never rank higher than those in their local areas, although the ideal is a combination of both.  Ian added that in his experience of presenting on local radio, where as a presenter, he’d turn up to local events with the local station, they’d be treated as huge celebrities!  He added that now, as a presenter of a national station, he was recently asked to talk at a student radio festival in Cardiff alongside the breakfast show host on the local Capital station.  However, everyone in the room knew the local presenter more than they knew Ian, despite Ian being the national presenter.

Whilst we are not suggesting that in this discussion we came up with the ideal solution to measuring the power and impact of radio, one thing we all agreed on was Ian’s theory that when you get out of a train station and jump in a local cab, 90% of the time, they will be listening to their local radio station!

Influence of the Presenter
We talked in depth about how influential the presenters are, across all stations, national and regional, to their listeners, which comes down to the trust the listener has with them.  Of course, those presenters now have even more opportunity to influence beyond their few hours on air each day, as their loyal listeners will also follow them on social media too.  For the record, at the time of writing, out of my 110 guests that I’ve interviewed to date on the csuitepodcast, Ian was my 5th most followed on Twitter:

Pos. Guest Title Show Twitter Followers
1 Janet Devlin Singer Song-Writer 5 @JanetJealousy 335406
2 Joe Pulizzi Founder, Content Marketing Institute 27 @JoePulizzi 111770
3 Prince Ea Spoken Word Artist 25 @PrinceEa 65148
4 Hannah Witton YouTuber 12 @hannahwitton 64537
5 Ian Collins Presenter, The Late Show, LBC 34 @iancollinsuk 44560

Due to that influence, it’s no surprise that PR’s are now approaching Ian directly, bypassing the station researchers and producers, in the hope he’ll give their stories coverage either on air, on his podcast or across social media.  He explained that as a presenter, whilst he is currently full time at LBC, he is still freelance, and so has never been more aware of being his own product/brand, which he feels a lot of his peers in the industry haven’t necessarily explored.  He believes it’s vital to be able to take your ‘product’ as a presenter onto Social Media, although bringing it back to how we started in terms of measurement, he’s not sure how that will all be achieved, particularly in terms of RAJAR.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

Internal Communications interview with IBM: csuitepodcast show 33 pt3

withSandra Grieden of IBM Europe

withSandra Grieden of IBM Europe

For Part 3 of Show 33 of the csuitepodcast [starting at 29:48] that I recorded at Quadriga’s Internal Communications conference in Berlin, I spoke with Sandra Grieden, Brand and IBMer engagement at IBM Europe.

Sandra had been speaking at the conference about how IBM is now emerging as a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company and how her team has to manage the internal communications of those changes to their 370,000+ colleagues, which she achieved by creating an engagement platform, built around IBM’s Watson technology.

For those unaware, Sandra briefly summed up Watson as being the core of IBM’s cognitive business strategy.  It’s a technology platform that understands human and natural language and uses machine learning to reveal insights from data and unstructured data (which could be visual content like videos, social media insights, books etc.).  Watson then analyses all this data, understands it and adds a layer of intelligence to it, as well as understanding complex questions or situations.  It evaluates all the possible meanings of the data and determines what is being asked, presents the users with answers and solutions, who can then make decisions based on the solutions they are being presented with.

Sandra then talked through how Watson was used in IBMs own internal platform, Think Academy, which is a learning tool that has new content uploaded to it on a monthly basis, to help with the strategic priorities for the company, and how it relates to all IBMers (the company employees).

IBMers were first invited to go to Think Academy and firstly get to understand what the company means by cognitive, and what can it do for them as an employee, for their clients and for the world at large.  They then had three months where they asked colleagues to submit ideas into the platform, ideas that could be about anything, and then team up to find the solutions through cognitive build.

Sandra explained that the teams, which could be virtual as they were in different locations, then had to, in effect, become a mini corporation/enterprise, i.e. have a CEO, head of development and someone in charge of promotion.  IBM provided the teams with collaboration tools based on design thinking, to help them, and then asked them to conduct agile sprints to think about their business model, create an initial feasibility study and perhaps even an initial prototype of their solution.

After the ideation phase, the programme went into an investment phase, which is where the entire company got involved, as every IBMer was given $2000 (virtual) to invest in one or more of the 8,500+ ideas that were submitted to the programme, all judged by cognitive coaches, which meant the teams had to promote their ideas across the business.

The ideas that received most funding from their colleagues were then shortlisted and divided into three categories:

  1. New apps/solutions for clients
  2. Improving an existing product of service
  3. Improving existing IBM business process

The top ideas in each category were then selected and representatives from 50 of the teams were invited to IBM’s design studio in Austin, where they met with business and technical mentors, that helped push the idea further and build a working prototype.  Finally, they the finalists were invited to a pitch fest to present to the board, from which eight were selected as winning ideas, which included:

  • Anti-terrorism screening apps
  • Calorie counting apps
  • Environmental apps
  • Chat apps when in need of emotional support

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation.

Internal Communications interview with Lloyds Banking Group: csuitepodcast show 33 pt2

with Louise Wadman of Lloyds Banking Group

with Louise Wadman of Lloyds Banking Group

For Part 2 of Show 33 of the csuitepodcast [starting at 12:43] that I recorded at Quadriga’s Internal Communications conference in Berlin, I spoke with Louise Wadman, Head of Internal Communications at Lloyds Banking Group.

Louise was the keynote speaker at the conference and at the start of the session she asked the audience to call out barriers that get in the way of them engaging with their colleagues, some of which included:

  • Cascading
  • Different perspectives colleagues have within an organisation
  • Lack of resources
  • Engaging line managers
  • Company culture
  • Having clear messages and calls to action
  • Job Security
  • General apathy
  • Engaging people in a peer-to-peer way

Louise spoke about three parts to Employee Engagement:

  1. Shared belief
  2. Desire to act
  3. Ability to act

A key part of all of this though, according to Louise, is the absolute need to get line managers on board and the need to encourage leaders to take ownership for the various internal comms activities and deliver very clear messages, something she has achieved through role modelling.

Louise explained that at Lloyds Banking Group, their cascades, particularly within the branch networks work very well.  However, as they go through each layer in a traditional cascade, the context can get lost, which is why it’s so important for that context to stay there so that colleagues know not just what they have to do but why they have to do it.

She also talked about the need for advocates in the company and shared a case study in her talk about how Lloyds Bank used ‘Brand Builders’, people in the business, not necessarily with a communications role, but who Louise’s team could go to as change was coming, and ask how processes, systems and customer services could be improved.  These were volunteers within the business who were passionate about serving their customers, who were frustrated at all the things that got in the way of doing so, and wanted to help change to make it better for them and their customers.  The result was that any change to the business had to go through the Brand Builders in some way, which could have been as simple as asking them to participate in a survey or in a focus group to examine a process with subject matter experts from elsewhere in the bank and look at how to improve it.

The other point Louise focussed on was ‘cut through’ of messages, something she said was a tremendous issues across the industry, particularly in the context of social media.

Louis also talked about how Internal Comms can learn from marketing, particularly in five areas:

  1. Engaging the heart and the mind – by using emotion and storytelling in communications, we engage much more of the brain and therefore the emotional connection is stronger
  2. Distinguishing between brand building and triggering sales – too often, in Louise’s opinion, internal communications has the same sort of purpose
  3. Humour – the fun things that are done often get the cut through that is otherwise often hard to achieve
  4. Importance of Video – a format that is easily shared and enables them to reach more colleagues
  5. Campaigns – making sure all channels are aligned on the same campaign

Finally, Louise shared some information about a case study campaign of her own – ‘The Great Debate’.  This was launched at a conference with line managers within the group, with the aim of giving all colleagues the opportunity to share their ideas over a two week period, in response to a single question about the business.  Ideas were posted online, where other colleagues could like it and share comments.  After the two weeks were up, the ideas were assessed, based on how cost effective they would be and what customer benefit they would have.

Out of the 1,230 ideas that were submitted, 27 were taken forward, some of which could be implemented immediately, which meant colleagues were seeing immediate change. However, some ideas on that shortlist needed to be worked through in more detail to see if they could be viable or not.  The colleagues who had submitted those ideas were therefore invited to participate in sessions with others who had commented on the ideas, Lloyds Bank Brand Builders and importantly, business subject matter experts, to explore if it was possible to implement the change.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud, itunes and TuneIn.  If you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

The show also now has a Facebook page and Twitter feed so please do follow and get involved in the conversation