I attended PRSA’s Connect 19 conference in Phoenix. For a whole host of reasons (mostly lame excuses and scheduling conflicts), it was the first Connect conference I’ve attended since the inaugural event in 2011. Spoiler alert — Connect 19 was fantastic.
As you might expect from the premier internal comms conference on the planet, there were fantastic presentations and workshops from phenomenal speakers and lots of great dialogue and best-practice sharing going on all over the place. If you’ve never been, stop missing out. You’ll enter the conference as a pretty good internal communicator. You’ll leave it as a much stronger communication business partner and advisor. No lie. It’s that good.
As I soaked in all that great content and conversation, I noticed a few themes that seemed to keep coming up — things that all of us in internal comms wrestle with on a daily basis. Beyond the craft of internal comms, most of what I heard at Connect 19 centered around the respect we desire as business communicators.
I quickly shared my findings on LinkedIn while I was at the conference:
My friend Becky called me out immediately: “This is a great list of challenges, but how do we solve them?” As usual, Becky was right. It does none of us any good for me to point out the rather obvious challenges without also pointing out the less obvious ways we could tackle and solve them.
So, let me try again. Here are the most common internal comms challenges I overheard at Connect 19 and how we — individually as IC folks and collectively as the IC profession — can solve for each.
Internal Comms Challenge #1
We add tons of value but don’t know how to quantify it. As a result, we lose budget face-offs with marketing and external comms who are better at measurement and proving results.
The rallying cry for the IC Nation ought to be: We want a seat at the table! I’ve heard that 83 bajillion times in my 30-year-career and have said it about as much as you have during that same time. But here’s what I’ve discovered—your seat at the table is earned with data. Period. Everyone else sitting there brings data with them to celebrate and validate what they are accomplishing for the business. We cannot come to that table with just pretty words and pictures. We have to bring the numbers. Sure, bring the obvious output numbers like town hall attendance, intranet hits, video downloads, and all that. But bring the not-so-obvious outcome numbers as well, like safety incident rates, quality levels, on-time deliveries, same-store sales rates, conversion rates from recruits to new hires, employee turnover rates, engagement scores: literally anything business outcome related that you can tie your efforts to. Driving business outcomes is our main focus (just like it is with every other function in our companies). Prove your value as a communicator by proving that what you do drives business results. Not sure what to measure? Check out what Sean Williams and Angela Sinickas have to say if you want true insights into what to measure and why. They are experts, they understand what we do, and they are on your side.
Want the insights and solutions to the other six challenges I overheard at Connect 19? I’ll be sharing them over the next few weeks via email. You can sign up for those little shots of internal comms courage right here.
In the meantime, let’s start a conversation! Comment below and let me know what lessons you learned from PRSA’s Connect 19, whether you attended or have been inspired by all of the great coverage since.