Archive for the ‘Internal communications’ Category

Leading the ethical charge in financial services

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 by Duncan Minty

There are many steps that a firm working in financial services can take to build up a culture that respects ethical behaviours, but there’s only one that acts as the keystone holding all the others in place. That keystone is the ‘tone from the top’: in other words, how the firm’s leadership sets, supports and acts upon, the right behaviours that will embed an ethical culture across their firm.

Many of those ‘tone from the top’ decisions will be made in boardrooms, where priorities are set, performances monitored and challenges assessed. Yet it will undoubtedly fail as the keystone of a firm’s ethical culture unless such decisions are brought to the attention of audiences such as employees, suppliers and business partners. Executives need to not only make the right decision, but be seen to make the right decision.

There can however be a temptation to reinforce the positive nature of ‘doing the right thing’ with lots of positive messages about how the firm’s leadership is doing to deliver it. Resist that temptation, for ethical decisions are often tricky and sometimes messy. By all means make sure your staff know of your commitment to paying suppliers on time, but equally, make sure they know when you’ve dismissed a key member of staff for inappropriate behaviour, or when you’re right behind an account executive who lost a key client through a refusal to pay a bribe.

Being open with staff in this way has two benefits: it shows them that your commitment to ethics is strong enough to cope with both the rough and the smooth, and it encourages them to be open with you in return. An ethical culture will flourish when it is more something to be aired and discussed, and less something that they just get told about.

So where should you start with tone from the top? It may seem rather paradoxical, but listening is strongly recommended. What are your employees saying about ethics at the moment? What sort of feedback are they getting from customers? Every firm has a prevailing culture and finding out how ethics currently sits within it gives you the starting point, and the challenges, that should shape your own particular ‘tone from the top’.

All this should keep your firm’s communications team busy, however, before they roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, agree some ground rules with them. Building an ethical culture takes time and is not always an easy path. Consistency in how you communicate both the ups and downs along that path is important, for it helps sustain the credibility of your tone from the top.

About Duncan Minty

Duncan is an independent consultant in business ethics, with a particular interest in financial services.

Think Before You…

Friday, June 24th, 2011 by Julie Wilson

It’s good to talk, but not online is the message from the Ministry of Defence.

In a drive to protect its service men and women and prevent the leaking of sensitive information, the MoD has launched a campaign highlighting the dangers of service personnel engaging on social media sites.

The campaign, a revival of the 1940’s ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ poster campaign, is entitled ‘Think Before You…’ and demonstrates the potentially devastating repercussions of service men and women sharing too much information online through a series of short films.

In the first of the films, two sailors are seen heading out for the night, casually messaging friends to confirm the evening’s meeting point and checking-in along the way.  The film cuts to the sailors laughing on the dance floor before panning to two armed men in balaclavas.  “Is it just your mates who know where you have checked in?” the film asks.

A second film sees a soldier’s mum enjoying tea with an armed terrorist.
The films, the first in a series, close with the message “think before you tweet, blog, update, tag, comment, check-in, upload, text, share.”

Commenting in a Defence Policy and Business News article, Major General John Lorimer, the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Communications Officer, said:

“Social media has enabled our personnel to stay in touch with their families and their friends no matter where they are in the world. We want our men and women to embrace the use of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, but also want them to be aware of the risks that sharing too much information may pose. You don’t always know who else is watching in cyberspace.

“The MOD Headquarters has its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter feeds and we see no reason to stop our personnel from tweeting or posting on their own walls. But the MOD has a responsibility to warn personnel of the risks they could be exposing themselves to, hence the launch of this new campaign.

“‘Think Before You…’ is a reminder that personal and operational security should be a primary concern and that social media merely provides a different context where sensitive details can be found.”

With over 50% of the UK population registered Facebook users and Twitter amassing over 145 million users worldwide, the MoD campaign is a stark reminder as to the potential risks of sharing personal information on social networking sites.

Online conversation may not carry such potentially devastating results for the majority of social media users, but for servicemen and women, careless talk can cost lives.


Back to the classroom…

Monday, October 19th, 2009 by Rachel Allen


In today’s guest blog Rachel Allen, head of communications at London Overground Rail Operations and one of PR Week’s “29 under 29” takes a look at social media and internal communications 

Jon Clements asked me to write a guest spot here after reading my musings on my Diary of an internal communicator blog.

Earlier this year I wrote a dissertation on social media’s role in internal communication as part of a post-graduate diploma in Internal Communications Management. As this was an academic study I needed to ensure my references reflected this.

Step forward Twitter. This incredible site connected me with professional communicators who sent me their thoughts, blogs and shared sources. Fast forward to now and my dissertation is done, studying completed and graduation invite is on the fridge.

Here is a brief glimpse into some thoughts around social media’s role in internal communication.

There are seemingly endless invitations at the moment to social media seminars. Communicators are being deluged with ‘must-reads’ and ‘must-sees’ to help get buy-in at board level.

There’s certainly a lot of noise around, but what is the impact on internal communication? The key point for me is that social media is here. It has been for a while. It isn’t new anymore. Even if you don’t yet have a strategy in place within your organisation and even better have it linked to your internal communications, your employees are already using collaboration sites in their personal lives. This impacts internal communication as people are used to communicating in this way and expect to be able to do the same at work.

Love (2007) warns: “It’s important not to get caught up in the hype – new media won’t suit every person or organisation, in the same way traditional media aren’t fit for everyone.” However Love points out the impact it can have as being “often exceptionally useful with remote workforces. If you can harness it properly, blogs and wikis are often a great way to pull those people into a community”.

That’s exactly what internal communication is about – choosing and providing tools for employees to have two-way conversations.

According to a global Nielson (2009) report, social networks and blogs account for one of every 11 minutes spent online and UK-based mobile web users are most likely to visit a social network using a handset. So the frequent calls we see to ban access to sites such as Facebook seems naive as employees will always find a way.

Social networking offers employees the option to maintain relationships and have access to people at all levels all the time (aka horizontal networks). Communicators strive for this already. Herrero (2008) says that although we usually base communication processes around the formal structure of an organisation, that ‘this isn’t how influence spreads’. He says that 75% of interactions happen through horizontal communication and terms it ‘networkcracy’.

Social media provides ways for employees to interact, what benefit does that bring? Fraser (2009) says that: “When you have horizontal networks it’s a much more efficient way to find true expertise…outside and in all kinds of unlikely, unexpected places. Web 2.0 harnesses what is often called collective intelligence and the way you harness that is by going horizontally.”

Whether your communications go horizontally, vertically or any other direction, the key is the need for comms professionals to be aware of how employees are interacting and ensuring internal communication maximises that desire to share information.

So in a nutshell, I think social media’s role in internal communication should be kept simple. It s role is to help improve interaction between employees at all levels. I think it needs to be demystified and viewed as another tool in our toolbox to help employees communicate with each other and the outside world.


Fraser,  Matthew and Dutta, Soumitra (2009). Quoted in Turning Social Networking on its head: where horizontal and vertical networks meet. International Business Times published 23 February 2009. (@frasermatthew)

Herrero Leandro, Dr. (2008). CEO of The Chalfront Project. Quoted in Melcrum (2008). Viral Communication in the Workplace. Practical new technologies for engaging employees and changing behaviours. Melcrum Publishing, London, UK.

Love, Helen (2007). Independent consultant and former Internal Communications Manager at Microsoft UK, quoted in How to use social media to engage employees (2007), Melcrum Publishing Limited. London, UK.

Nielson Co (2009). March 2009. Global Faces and Networked Places. A Nielson Report on Social Networking’s New Global Footprint. Published by Nielson.

Employer branding: the employee is always right

Monday, October 12th, 2009 by Bridgett Gayle


New York-based writer and editor – and previous PR Media Blog guest blogger, Bridgett Gayle – talks about why company branding begins at home. 

A brand must deliver on its promises. A product brand that markets itself as being 100% natural is promising that every ingredient is natural. At any time that promise is broken, the brand is damaged and customer loyalty is threatened. Companies are beginning to realize that they need to make promises to their employees as well. Product brand promises are crafted by the marketing team and employee relations are managed by the human resources team. Employer branding is when marketing and human resources collide with the goal to create a work environment that promises to be a great place to work.

Business owners know the adage “the customer is always right.” Satisfy the customer and they’ll become loyal to your product brand. But the more effective way to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty is to first satisfy the employee. A great place to work, the employer brand, has a work environment that engages employees.

For about five years now I’ve been an on-staff freelance writer for several companies. And for those five years I’ve witnessed employees so disengaged that I wonder how the companies managed to stay in business. Engaged employees talk about what they can do for the company. Disengaged employees stick around for what they can get from the company. And I was no different. The paycheck kept me around for another day. Free lunches were nice but that couldn’t ignite engagement. And when my contract was up, I was ready to leave. But worse yet, I wasn’t at all interested in telling anyone about the company’s product.

The marketing-HR mash up takes a different approach to employment: employee engagement becomes a factor. Just as the marketing team devised ways to keep a customer loyal to the product, the new marketing-HR team seeks to keep employees engaged, leading to loyalty to the product brand. Engaged employees are more than happy to become product brand ambassadors. Happy employees create happy customers.

The Container Store, the US-based storage products retail chain, has been successfully using the marketing-HR mash up strategy. Their focus on employer branding has put The Container Store at the top of Fortune magazines “The 100 Best Companies to Work For” list for ten consecutive years. The company believes that their employees are an extension to their product brand.

Employer branding is a growing concept for companies wanting to get and keep top talent. EMC, an information technology company, has developed its employer brand with a 10-step plan to improve employee engagement. Dan Schawbel, who assists with EMC’s branding strategies, revealed what those 10 steps were in “10 Employer Branding Strategies to Become the Employer of Choice.”

So is your work environment building or destroying your product brand?

About Bridgett Gayle

Bridgett Gayle is a writer and content marketer bringing common sense solutions to improve the business-customer relationship.

We’re Talking About People

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 by David Meerman Scott

This is a guest post from David Meerman Scott adapted from his new book World Wide Rave. His previous book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR was a number-one bestseller and is published in 24 languages.  


This debate about social media in the enterprise is just so damn silly. It seems crazy to me to try to regulate technology in the workplace when the real harm (or benefit!) comes from the people using that technology. I’ve witnessed the same phenomena twice in the past two decades: when personal computers entered the workplace in the 1980s, and during the Web and email debates of the 1990s. If you were in the workforce at the time, you might recall when executives believed email would expose a corporation’s secrets, and therefore only “important employees” (often defined as director-level and above) were given computers and email addresses. Years later (beginning in 1994), companies fretted about employees freely using the public Internet and being exposed to “unverified information” that was not written by “real journalists.”

The solution has always been the same: Don’t provide employees with computers. Refuse to provide a company email address. Ban the Internet within the corporate firewalls. Block YouTube, Facebook, blogs, and forums from view. Yet how many companies today refuse to provide a computer to employees at work if it can help them do their job? How many don’t provide company email? How many ban Internet access completely? Virtually none. So why are companies falling into the same old foolish patterns? 

My recommendations to organizations are simple: Have guidelines about what you can and cannot do at work. Hold employees to a measurable standard for performance on the job. But don’t try to ban a specific set of social media technologies. Your guidelines should include advice about how to communicate in any medium, including face-to-face conversation, presentations at events, email, social media, online forums and chat rooms, and other forms of communication. Rather than putting restrictions on social media (the technology), it’s better to focus on guiding the way people behave. The corporate guidelines could inform employees that they can’t reveal company secrets, they can’t use inside information to trade stock or influence prices, and they must be transparent and provide their real name and affiliation when communicating.

As long as your employees get their work done in a satisfactory manner, there should be no need to regulate their minute-to-minute behaviour. You don’t regulate how often people can use the restroom, when they can chat with a colleague in the hallway about their kids, or whether they use a mobile phone for company calls while taking a cigarette break, so why regulate when they can look at an online video? If you have individual cases of people not getting their jobs done in a satisfactory manner, deal with that problem as the “people issue” it really is. If it persists after several warnings, fire the employee, but make sure your expectations were clear from the start.

David Meerman Scott blogs at Web Ink Now

Facebook for dummies?

Saturday, November 1st, 2008 by Jon Clements

What with hurling virtual food or sheep at your digital friends or being “bitten” by zombies, Facebook- not so long ago – seemed quite innocuous.

How times have changed.

The episode of the Aussie guy who goofed off work, tried to claim it as holiday but was rumbled by the HR department because of his Facebook status on the day in question (and I quote: “Kyle Doyle is not going to work. Fuck it I’m still trashed. SICKIE WOO!”), was, frankly, hilarious and probably caused a mass deletion of Facebook statuses worldwide, just in case.

But a harder edge to foul ups on Facebook was revealed last night as 13 Virgin Atlantic cabin crew now find themselves out of work after posting less than complimentary comments about Virgin passengers (“chavs”, apparently) and planes (“full of cockroaches”, allegedly).

People are paying the price for confusing conversations on Facebook with those they probably have in the relative privacy of the pub with a few mates or over the dinner table with their other half. Look folks, if you post it online, it’s thoroughly and absolutely find-able, whether you like it or not.

The Facebook thing also presents an internal communications challenge to companies, as the Virgin case smacks of stable doors and bolted horses. And sacking the offenders then turns it into an even bigger story.

Having HR policies is one thing, but staff are unlikely to be checking the company handbook while sounding off or making mischief about their working environment. After all, Facebook is personal publishing, giving immediate and unedited voice to millions who’ve been anonymous up to now.

Getting employees to understand the impact their ill-judged comments can have on the company is a communications job. But it’s one that is two-way and needs to be tackled before staff are using Web 2.0 to harm their employers and, in turn, themselves.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''