#thebigyak – Yakking the day away

We’re now well into conference season in the Internal Communications world and with that comes a multitude of options to ‘meet, collaborate and learn’ from other communicators.

While each conference bills themselves as the biggest and the best, they can often flatter to deceive and you leave unsure what the benefit of attending was.

On Saturday I experienced what it’s like to attend a conference that fully lives up to all the hype. Dana Leeson, Rachel Miller and Jenni Wheller (collectively know as @theICcrowd) held the first ever #thebigyak at eBay’s offices in Richmond. For an idea of how the day worked, you can read the blog I did for Words&Pictures

I was attending anyway, but was then given the opportunity to become a sponsor of the event through the company I work for, Words&Pictures, which we gladly accepted. This meant I could bring two colleagues down with me, Nicola Cadman and James O’Shaughnessy were the lucky two.

Once we’d got to know each other, there was plenty for all communicators to get there teeth into and we certainly did. The full agenda for the day is below:

Session one

  • Social media KPIs
  • Intranets
  • Measurement – from hits to habits
  • Creating creative strategy

Session two

  • Sneakily social/social for leaders
  • Blurring the lines between internal and external communication
  • How do we evaluate and use feedback
  • Changing role of internal comms

Session three

  • How do you define employee engagement
  • How to communicate with hard to reach employees
  • Importance of editorial
  • Virtual collaboration

Session four

  • Hard to reach can do digital too
  • Traditional tactics using social approach
  • Engaging the senior team to be trusted advisors
  • Overcoming cultural differences

Session five

  • Video
  • Internal comms in redundancies/economic downturn
  • Improving morale quickly
  • How IC leaders can improve their comms

Session six

  • How to win more budget
  • Pension Auto-enrollment
  • Gamification
  • Internal social/digital/weight around our necks

There was lots of spirited debate and discussion and everyone seemed extremely engaged. For me there seemed to be three topics that came up on more than one occasion in different sessions and mentioned by different people:

The rise and rise and rise of Social

Without doubt social is growing exponentially within businesses and it’s simply not good enough to say “we’re looking into it!”

As more and more employees expect to be able to give their opinion back to the business you need to be able to give them the ability to do this. I heard so many people say over the course of the day that employees are going to say these things anyway so wouldn’t you rather have them do it internally…personally I’m not too keen on that idea because it still suggests a level of secrecy.

For me, the most important reason you have social elements in your business is so you can very quickly judge how your employees feel, see if there’s a specific issue affecting more than one of them and also respond, openly and honestly, to anything they say.

This isn’t an issue which is going to disappear anytime soon and there’s no right or wrong answer to it…but quite simply if you’re not offering your employees some element of collaboration then you need to look into that before they go somewhere that does!

The need for IC to be more confident in themselves

Confidence has always been an issue of IC people I believe. IT employees have the best knowledge of the systems so they own them, HR people have the best knowledge of recruitment/reward/training processes so own them, IC people have the best knowledge of how to communicate and make sure a message is fully understood so we get to check the text and send it out. How does that make sense? It doesn’t!

However, this has resulted in the belief that IC people have to do what they’re told or we’ll be cut out of the loop…I propose the opposite that if we don’t say no then eventually we’ll get cut out of the loop. If IT never said no to downloading software then eventually you’d just download it…the same is the case with comms, if you only ever agree then eventually you’ll be cut out of the process.

The two most important words in a Comms person’s arsenal are No and Why…until we start using those words more then we’ll never be taken seriously at a senior level.

In one session I mentioned how if a senior manager tells you that they’re too busy to write something and says you should, respond with “I’m too busy to write for you”…the audible gasp in the room when I said it suggested this was something that most people would never consider…but until you do that and suggested a way to do it which doesn’t take up too much time for the senior person and doesn’t take up too much time for you then nothing will ever change!

Are we focusing on the tools too much, rather than the culture?

Through out the course of the day there were plenty of discussions that started with someone saying they launched Yammer/insert other tool in their business and it’s not suddenly made everyone social. In the second session I attended about the changing role of IC, you would have been forgiven for thinking we were at an IT conference, all people were talking about was tools or technology.

I made the point that if you start at the beginning and create a culture in your business which promotes a collaborative element and employees feel comfortable to give their opinions without the worry that they’ll be reprimanded for it then no matter what tool you introduce it will work.

Social Media doesn’t force people to become social, the culture they experience does!


In the final session of the day I facilitated one about gamification, after being worried that no one would turn up I was pleasantly surprised to see the room was very busy and we had a great discussion about what gamification is, who’s doing it at the moment and what that means for businesses. Hopefully if you attended that session and you’re reading this you enjoyed it and I facilitated well :)!

Overall it was a truly amazing day, a few hours later in the pub and we were still solving all the problems in the comms world, while also networking and having a good laugh. It was a great chance to put some names to twitter profiles (Helen Deverell, Padraic Knox, Tony Stewart and many more!) and get to know some new people as well.

The #thebigyak14 should be bigger and better than this year, if that’s possible, and I can’t wait to see the continued great work @theICcrowd do everyday on Twitter.


About Steven Murgatroyd

Northern Social Media and Comms enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Internal Communications, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to #thebigyak – Yakking the day away

  1. Pingback: The IC Crowd | Thank you for having a big yak!

  2. Simon Wilkinson says:

    Hi Steven

    This looks great and wish I’d known about it. Can you recommend any places to sign up so I don’t miss out on things like this please? Also any good newsletters / blogs to follow re IC / Comms / Engagement?


  3. Pingback: Bigger, better and more yakking than ever! #thebigyak | Invert the pyramid!

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