24 May 2019

10 takeaways from PRSA Connect, Arizona

When we saw the line-up for PRSA Connect 2019 Employee Communications Conference, we knew it was too good to miss.

Look out for the full conference notes coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s Gemma’s round-up of the top 10 sessions.

1. Influencer programmes, Danielle Guzman, Mercer

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 41% of consumers believe that employees are the most credible source of information when it comes to a company. So businesses should be making influencer programmes a top priority.

Make it happen: Use data to find out which of your colleagues could be great influencers. Then support and encourage them. Do it by 1) creating conversations that involve, challenge and encourage and 2) giving your community of influencers the right training, coaching advice, message guidance and a sneak preview of info/products.


2. Partnering with your influencers, Marcy Frank, BNY Mellon

Ask your influencers for their advice and opinions on a range of subjects. Be sincere, appreciate their efforts and allow time for it to build.


3. Survey participation, Anthony Bolton, Gulfstream Aerospace

Gulfstream wanted to encourage more colleagues to take part in their company survey. As part of their staff survey they created a character called ‘Be Frank’. He appeared in different uniforms as stickers, cut-outs etc. Colleagues loved him and participation shot up from 62% to 79% – brilliant!


4. Diversity & Inclusion, Leeno Karumanchery, Ph.D., MESH/diversity

You don’t get to tell people how they feel. People will look at what’s happening and simply feel the way they feel! So instead, check what your people are actually doing, and practice what you preach. 


5. Engaging remote colleagues, Amy McConnell, City of Mesa

Engage your field workers by:

  • Speaking to them to find out what they want, when, where and how
  • Talking openly about why you’re keen to share and want to hear from them
  • Keep comms short, punchy and visual
  • Locate your comms where it’s easy for day-to-day accessibility
  • Empower your employees to be the real content creators – help and support them


6. Personal brand, Rachel Miller, All Things IC

Building your personal brand? Make sure you think about what you stand for, the promises you make, who you are, what you’ll do, how and why you’ll do it. Know your personal brand values and stick to them.


7. Strategic communications, Priya Bates, Inner Strength Communication Inc.

Communicators need to have (and in this order!): impact, influence, integration across the business, interaction and implementation.


8. Strategic foresight – past, present and future, Rebecca A. Richardson, Northrop Grumman Corporation

When thinking about the present, you need to consider:

1) STEEP: Social, Tech, Economy, Environment, Political trends

2) Macro changes: globalisation, mobility, demographics, values and behaviours

3) Emerging issues: diversity & inclusion, privacy/trust, ageing workforce, zero touch consumption

Taking all this into account, you can then ask yourself, ‘what are the possible futures?’


9. Online communities, Paola Storchi, UNICEF

Paola’s team re-ignited Yammer across their global organisation by studying what content people were reading/interested in. They surveyed people to understand their needs, going back to basics, re-branding the communications, promoting the content via multiple channels and coaching people to be content ambassadors.

Big learning: By focusing on projects with integrated teams, the team used the platform to really bring people together around a purpose.


10. Hard-to-reach audiences, Kyla Turner, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores

Talking to a traditionally hard-to-reach audience of truck drivers, Kyla’s team found that the drivers were actually hungry for content. They:

  • Hung around and chatted with the drivers to really get to know them/their every day
  • Provided them with a mobile sharing platform and asked them to share what they did
  • Created video sharing by senior leaders for updates, tips etc
  • Built the community then stepped back to let the community build itself

Top quote: Trust your employees – if you set the stage, they will pay you back.”


The big themes

It was fascinating to hear directly from so many American companies. Lots of their hot topics definitely mirror those in the UK: building brand influencer programmes, engaging field-based colleagues, bringing strategy to life, line manager comms and encouraging conversation and involvement through internal social networks. But there are also a few I’d add myself for subjects we’re focusing on in the UK, including a big focus on purpose, vision and values, employer brand, wellbeing, continuous learning, ongoing performance coaching and cyber security.

If any of these subjects are a priority for you right now and you need ideas, creativity and communication, get in touch

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