October 14th Event: Selling and Selecting Freelance Services

What does it take to start up your own communications practice? How should you go about finding the freelancer who’s right for your company’s projects? We’ll ask these questions and more to our experienced panelists over breakfast. They will share with you what makes a successful partnership between a freelancer and corporate professional. They’ll talk about the successes and the nightmares they’ve experienced, and leave you with food for thought you can use.

October 14th, 8am – 10am

Maggiano’s Restaurant in Woodland Hills, CA.

So please – get up early, join us for a great breakfast & lively discussion, and then cruise on over to work after rush hour. (Click here to register).

Your Expert Panel:

Deborah S. Hawkins, Freelancer

Charlotte Lassos, Straight Up Communications

Bill Spaniel, ABC, California Society of CPAs

Judy Sterling, Sterling Communications

Click here to go to Speaker Bios.

April 22 Event: Secrets of Highly Effective Employee Communications Departments

April 22, 2008 at Villa Sorriso Restaurant in Pasadena

6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Speakers: Valli Thornton & Jennifer Lee from Watson Wyatt Worldwide

We’re very excited that Valli Thornton and Jennifer Lee from Watson Wyatt Worldwide are joining us on April 22 to share the findings from their latest Communication ROI Study.

They’re going to share both encouraging and discouraging trends that have come to light since their initial study in 2003/2004.

If you attend this event you’ll learn:

  • Best practices of highly effective communication departments
  • The six secrets for effective communication
  • How to assess your communication effectiveness
  • How to build a business case for additional communication staff and budget
  • And more!

But before the event, we’re curious to hear about your best practices. Add a comment to this post and tell us about your successful communication tools or techniques. Even if you don’t think they’re particularly “cutting-edge,” we’d like to know what’s working for you.

You can learn more about the April 22 event and register here.

April 9 Event Summary: Cut Through the Email Clutter

April 9, 2008 at Raytheon in El Segundo.
Speaker: Paula Cassin from Cut Through Communications

Download the presentation materials (coming soon)

About 20 people joined us for the lunch event to hear how Vodafone in New Zealand was able to reduce its dependence on email and improve their employee communications.

First, Paula walked us through Vodafone’s internal communications objectives (and I’m sure these will sound familiar to anyone in internal communications):

• Reduce all-staff emails
• Grow and reinforce knowledge
• Reinforce brand and values
• Increase intranet usage
• Involve staff, build engagement
• Build community spirit
• Centrally manage communications
• Targeted communications that fit with work flows

Then, she introduced us to some interesting new channels offered by Snap Communications that helped Vodafone achieve those objectives.

Okay, maybe you’re already doing this, but if not, it can be an effective way to market to your employees. Vodafone ran a series of screen savers detailing where they stood against their annual business goals. They also used them to ask employees for creative ideas to grow the business. Then, they created screen savers to share what employees were saying. They also used screen savers to promote an initiative to recycle mobile phones and drive awareness for an upcoming ‘Loud Shirt’ day to raise money for charity. And the list goes on. Using the snap tool the screensavers were quick and easy to produce and launch. They didn’t even have to go through IT! And the screensavers can link to anything you want them to link to so people can get more information.

You know how in outlook you can get that little pop-up window that tells you when you have a new email? Well, the snap alert system is similar. It pops up on the employee’s screen to give them a quick bit of information (and they can click to read more). You can target it to very select groups. For example, if you have a training class starting in 15 minutes, you can send an alert to the people registered for the training class that pops right up on their screen. This is also useful for crisis communications or if the email systems go down and you need to alert everyone.

Employee-Driven Content
She also talked about a wonderful tool that allows employees to submit news stories or announcements they want everyone to see. They submit them online using a template form that you create. When a new story is submitted the person you designate as the editor is alerted and they can accept the story, decline the story or edit the story before posting it. All the stories are then summarized on one nice html page that you can broadcast to employees as frequently as you wish. She said you can even have this html page come up when people are logging-in, so they can check out the latest stories for a few minutes each morning.

She also talked about quizzes, surveys and a ticker bar that can run across the bottom of the screens for “hot news”.

Other attendees also shared what they were up to including ensuring their external and internal webpages are accessible via blackberries and other mobile devices and hosting webcasts.

This is just a fraction of what we covered at the meeting. You can see Paula’s presentation here. (coming soon)

Let us know what you’re company is doing to limit its dependence on email as a communication tool. Are you having success with webcasts or video? Do you have a new tool or a strategy that’s worked well for you? Tell us about it!

April 9 Event: Cut Through the Communiation Clutter

April 9, 2008, at Raytheon in El Segundo
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: Paula Cassin from Cut Through Communications

We all know employees are overloaded with email but that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to low readership rates, only touching a small percentage of your staff.

On April 9, Paula Cassin from Cut Through Communications will share a case study with us about how Vodafone has successfully implemented new communication channels to reduce their dependence on email and reach more employees.

Before the event, we’re interested in hearing about your experiences. Add a comment to this post and let us know:

  • How dependent is your company on email?
  • Do you feel email is an effective communication tool for you?
  • What other, new communication channels has your company adopted to reach employees?

Then, join us on April 9 for the presentation and follow-up discussion. We look forward to seeing you!

You can learn more about the April 9 event and register here.

March 25 Event: Embracing Social Media – Why, When & How?

March 25, 2008, Woodland Hills, Maggiano’s Restaurant.
Speaker: Terry McKenzie, Senior Director of GECCO (Global Employee Communications and Communities Organization) at Sun Microsystems,Ltd.

Download the presentation materials

After a bit of networking and breakfast, Terry began to tell us the story of the transformation she’s been spearheading at Sun over the last 15 months. I know I’ll never be able to capture everything she said and all the great insights, but I’ll get down a few, and you all can add more in the comments!

At the beginning of 2007, CEO Jonathan Schwartz told Terry that while communications were interesting, communities were absolutely vital to Sun. His challenge to Employee Communications was to go out and create communities internally. Less than a year later, there has been a huge shift as a result of this work.

This has been one of the primary rockets behind their shift from a communications environment revolving around information whether in email, intranet, town halls, or podcasts (info overload was primary complaint of employees) to an environment revolving around collaborative communities – whether it be in wikis, blogs, virtual townhalls and conferences, or Facebook.

At the moment Sun has about 4,000 employee blogs (all external – http://blogs.sun.com) and 5,500 employees on Facebook. Most have begun in the last 15 months.

The culture shift which has accompanied all of this is striking. According to Terry in 205 the culture was:

  1. Kick butt and have fun
  2. “You aren’t the boss of me”
  3. We’re right – rest of the world is wrong (couldn’t take criticism)
  4. Personality cult around CEO

Now, there has been a lot of maturing:

  1. “Let’s just imagine, for one minute that the analysts are right and we do suck…”
  2. Accountability
  3. Teamwork
  4. Adult to Adult
  5. Transparency, courage, authenticity highly valued

Some of the other great thoughts from this presentation were:

1. Everything Always in Beta: experiment with what’s out there, keep what works, and discard what doesn’t.

2. Corollary: Focus on the outcomes and results your after, not the tools themselves. Tools will always be changing. It’s what they enable that needs to be the focus.

3. Sun is developing a new intranet (2010) which will be 90% customizable, 10% fixed, to enable employees to create their own work experience and optimize the information and tools that they need. Accessible by any device (PC, cellphone, pda, etc) and top levels outside the firewall.
4. It’s silly to block Facebook or other sites to stop staff from ‘wasting’ time. They do this in other ways now (personal email, phone calls, etc.) It’s a Management issue if someone is unproductive.

5. Blogs must be interesting, well-written, authentic and cannot be ghostwritten.

6. Blogs can be a great way to find out what people are thinking. They talk about it anyway around the watercooler, at lunch, with friends. Why not capture their conversations in a blog rather than try and guess what’s going on.

If you were one of the 31 people who attended, what main points did you take away? Please comment below!