The New Shape of Internal Communications

My fellow IABCLA board member Ephraim Freed recently wrote a blog post entitled “The iconoclast’s guide to internal communications” where he outlined best practices for internal communications. An iconoclast, we note, is “a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions.” Freed, the employee experience manager at Regent, L.P., encouraged me to comment on his work.

Here are my thoughts:

– Item #1: “The smasher of cherished traditions has no time for dry, boring communications that may, in fact, say nothing at all,” he wrote. “Today’s leading internal comms teams help executives tell authentic stories that show emotional vulnerability, ensure transparency around decision-making, and strive to help employees make personal connections to leaders, the brand and each other.”

The words “authentic” “vulnerability,” and “transparency” stand out. In our information age, people crave genuineness. The public is inundated with news, opinion, and marketing and its volume and ease of access can create cynicism and doubt – it’s hard to know who or what to trust. Therefore, it is vital that communications professionals help others tell authentic stories that can slice through the clutter by conveying genuineness. Leaders need to be relatable to their employees, letting them know they also face struggles in their personal and professional lives.

Freed mentions, for example, Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg. The tech giant’s COO is an executive who embraces openness. She discussed the challenges of being a woman in the workplace in her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” In addition, Sandberg chronicled her grief following the loss of her husband in “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

– Item #2: “The new internal comms team is actually an employee experience team that, in addition to multimedia communications capabilities, includes skills around UXD, research and data analysis, business process management and product management,” Freed notes. “This team also needs to be connected at the hip with technical teams that work on networking and security, sys admin, development and support.”

The words “employee experience team” resonates. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve come to appreciate the group dynamic and the fact that each person brings different experiences and abilities to the collective. My primary skills are PR/marketing writing and project management, and so I must rely on those who are adept in areas outside of these. One of my favorite expressions is “I know what I don’t know,” and I’m all too happy to collaborate with a colleague who possesses an expertise that I lack.

– Item #3: “In the new model internal comms plays a role of expert sherpa, helping employees at all levels identify their audiences, use optimal channels, and deliver content that meets relevant quality standards,” Freed explains.

The phrase “helping employees at all levels identify their audiences” is noticeable. It is vital to hear from people at various standings in an organization, as everyone brings value and perspective. A personal example of this is a blog entry I recently wrote for the IABCLA site
(“I Found My People in IABCLA”). The chapter’s senior leadership asked me to talk about the association from the perspective of someone who recently moved to Southern California and joined the board. They felt that as a newcomer, I would offer a fresh take on the value of involvement in the group.

To summarize, my takeaway from the Freed’s post is: the field of communications is fluid and must change with the times. Further, the best comms is authentic, team oriented, and should involve individuals at all levels of an organization. “Today the employee is the customer, the leader is a listener, and internal comms is a multidisciplinary team that facilitates connection and change,” Freed noted, and I completely agree.

Creating Engaging Content with Facebook’s Newest Update


We hosted our first event of 2018 on February 21! Julie Wright, president and founder of (W)right on Communications, moderated our Dine & Discuss focused on the newest Facebook algorithm changes and how that impacts brand strategy.

If you don’t already know, the Facebook algorithm, nicknamed the “friends and family update,” favors content from your friends rather than from businesses. This change pushes for businesses to pay for boosted content in order to still be seen. Although paid boosted content can be very valuable, Julie advises that there’s still a great opportunity to be seen through organic content – that is if you are creating the right kind. In order to still reach audiences amidst the algorithm change it is crucial to create content that fosters engagement, meaning content that encourages comments, conversation and sharing.

Julie shared seven tips on how to do that:

1. Avoid yes or no questions: Julie says to think of social media as a cocktail party. Asking yes or no questions at a cocktail party leaves room for a one word answer and doesn’t allow for the conversation to flourish. Instead, try to ask questions that encourage a longer response and more engagement.

2. Focus on nostalgia: This is great for unique content creation. For example, take part in #ThrowbackThursdays or #FlashbackFridays.

3. Focus on storytelling: Posts that tell a story are more engaging and interesting.

4. Feature real people: Whether this means using user generated content or posting about your company’s employees, showcasing real people and real emotions creates engaging content.

5. Use Facebook Live: Facebook Live achieves 6x the interaction than organic content. Followers are notified when a buisness goes live, encouraging more viewers to watch and engage with the video. Furthermore, the video can live on as a post on your page allowing followers to watch the video long after it was recorded. Julie advises to still prep before going live: decide on an introduction, have a focus for the video and end with a call to action.

6. See First option on Facebook: Facebook users have the ability to check off a “see first” option for a Facebook page. This guarantees that your page’s content will have priority for showing in their newsfeeds. Julie says not to be afraid to ask your followers to check off this option for your page! For example: “If you want all the latest news on our upcoming event, make sure to check off the “see first” option on our page….” More information on how to set it up is here.

7. Turn on the Audience Optimization setting: Facebook allows you to improve your organic visibility on posts by turning on this function in your settings. This allows you to target your posts to specific segments of your page’s audience based on their interests! An easy and effective tool. More information on how to use the function is here.

We want to thank Julie for the invaluable insight and to all those who could make it last night! We all enjoyed great food and even better conversations. To those who couldn’t make it, we hope the above tips will help get your social media strategy focused in the right direction!

Join us at our next IABCLA event: Coffee Connection on March 3!

Ready to learn new skills and take a leadership role in a supportive environment?

IABCLA has several board openings….

… If you have web experience or would like to add WordPress to the list of skills on your resume, IABCLA needs a Director of Website (Webmaster)

… If you have the gift of gab and are interested in reaching out to communications vendors and corporations to build our partners, sponsors, IABCLA needs a VP, Sponsorships and Corporate Membership

… If you’re interested in professional development and have or want to develop skills and experience in events, IABCLA is looking for a VP, Professional Development

… If you’re a skilled networker, or someone who wants to build your LA network, IABCLA needs a VP, Membership

… If you’re detail oriented, IABCLA needs a Treasurer

To learn more, email:

Communications Specialist Opening

PCL – a top general contracting organization – is seeking an experienced Communication Specialist for the Los Angeles District office located in Glendale, California. If you have a bachelor’s degree in communications or related field, excellent skills, and the ability to work effectively under pressure in a fast-paced environment, this may be for you.

Read the detailed job profile. 

If you’re interested in applying, contact: Ana Stokley at

Communications case study: Responding to a CEO’s potentially unethical demands

By IABCLA President Deborah Hudson

Ethics. My thoughts about ethics are pretty simple and direct. I have a strong moral bent and can tell the difference between right and wrong. When I encounter ethical issues I quickly find a clear, specific response. I thought that covered the bases.

But IABCLA colleague Cheryl Farrell opened my eyes. When we met with a handful of other members to dine and discuss “Communications Ethics in the era of ‘alternative facts,’” she said, “I think there’s always an ethical issue. Whenever human beings are involved, there’s conflict.”

And the discussion proved her point.

Case study: A CEO’s demand for employee names

Cheryl posed a case study based loosely on the changing fortunes of a communications giant: massive layoffs, followed by the CEO’s resignation and conviction on fraud. Employees faced insecurity, a loss of control and disillusionment in a corporation that they were once proud of.

The new CEO introduced himself and his new direction during a town hall, but was surprised by tough and confrontational questioning from employees.  The CEO shut down discussion, then demanded the names of questioners from the Communications department.

What is the ethical response?

5 responses to questionable ethics from the CEO

It turns out that everyone at the table that night had a different ethical resolution:

1: Build the CEO’s connections with the employees

One said, “I’d agree and set up a lunch for the CEO to sit down and talk to the employees whose names he asked for so he could get beyond the bitterness and see their sense of ownership and engagement.”

2: Advise the CEO on legal issues

Another suggested that it might be time to consult Compliance and would be important to counsel the CEO about legal protections for whistleblowers.

3: Advise the CEO to listen more before acting

A third suggested reframing the demand in communications terms – pointing to other CEO communications transitions – suggesting taking the high road of listening before launching new plans.

4: Ask the CEO why he wanted the names

Another person at the table suggested asking the CEO why he was asking for names in order to understand his intentions and try to speak to his underlying needs.

5: Wait

After tempers cool, ask the CEO how he wants to respond to the questions at the town hall.

Hearing the different approaches broadened everyone’s perspective. For me, it was a profound learning moment in the complexity of ethics: there’s more than one right answer.

Internal communicators: Holding the middle ground

All of these responses speak to the role of internal communicators today: We sit on this shaky ground between employees and executives, trying to serve both while ensuring ethical behavior and doing what’s best for the business.

A strong ethical foundation can make the internal communicator’s in-between ground more firm, but it doesn’t make these types of challenges any easier.

Based on the responses from peers around the table I see a simple checklist for those moments when we need to engage with an executive around an ethically challenging demand:

  1. Do your research on the legal implications
  2. Ask the executive why he’s made the demand
  3. Look for a way to show the human side of the issue
  4. Find a way to help the executive listen more to employees
  5. Help the executive connect with employees

This simple checklist can turn an ethical perspective into actionable next steps. Responding quickly from an ethical center is more important than ever In these days of “alternative facts,” viral videos and rushed judgments.

Employees and executives both need us.

So, if you were facing the situation in this case study, what would you do?

Event Recap: Nine & Dine Discussion About Ethics in the Age of Alternative Facts

Six LA communicators gathered around the dinner table in Venice March 31 to share experiences and challenge each other on how ethics play a role in our professional lives. As one diner said, “we have a balancing act inside us.”

The discussion focused mostly on internal communications, reviewing ethical issues inherent in leadership, as well as corporate culture, change management and organizational strategy. The group’s discussion continually circled around the idea that internal communicators, especially, play a variety of roles all at once. While they help executives and organizational leaders drive change, they also are like the nerve networks of the human body, bringing signals in from all the extremities to inform the central brain.

Cheryl Farrell (Internal Communications Manager at RAND Corporation), who facilitated the conversation, posed a “lightning round” where individuals posed solutions to a short case study. Six participants contributed six unique solutions.

IABCLA’s new VP for Communications, Ephraim Freed, summed up the discussion at the end of the night saying: “internal communicators are advisers to executives, champions of employees and bastions of truth and ethics.”

IABCLA members and those interested in IABC can look out for our next Nine & Dine event, which will focus on the topic of diversity and take place in downtown Los Angeles.

Leadership Institute Volunteer Opportunities List

The Los Angeles and Orange County chapter members are being called on to form a Hospitality Task Force for the IABC Leadership Institute conference in Long Beach this February, 4-6. Several exclusive volunteer opportunities are available within this committee  for those wishing to be part of an international event while demonstrating leadership skills.


  • Hospitality Committee CO-CHAIRS: One member from Los Angeles and one member from Orange County chapters, preferably past chapter leaders. This position(s) will:
    • Name the three positions on the Hospitality Task Force for the Leadership Institute and ensure that they understand their roles:
      • Volunteer coordinator
      • Hospitality coordinator
      • Dine-around coordinator
    • Set up regular meetings of the Hospitality Task Force and establishing a reporting structure to track progress
    • Communicate important information from staff to other task force members
  • Volunteer Coordinator:
    • Recruit 10-15 core volunteers to hep staff registration, hospitality and dine-around tables.
      • These volunteer staff positions are to be organized in shifts for a total of 2-5 hours throughout the LI conference.
    • Assign volunteer schedules at least two week prior to LI and provide instructions about responsibilities
    • Provide IABC staff liaison with a schedule that lists volunteer names, contact information and schedule.
    • Working with the Dine-Around Coordinator to recruit a dine-around host for each of the dine-around restaurants and provides direction for their assignment.
    • Working with Hospitality Coordinator, recruiting volunteers to lead the hospitality activities on Thursday/Friday of the LI conference.
    • With the hospitality and dine-around coordinators, recruit volunteers to staff the hospitality and dine-around tables over four days of the LI conference.
  • Hospitality Coordinator: The Hospitality Team is largely responsible for making sure that the conference’s social programs not only capture the international culture of the association, but also the spirit of the host city and region. The coordinator of this team will:
    • Manage the staffing and setup of a hospitality table onsite to introduce visitors to the host city, including where conference attendees can get information about restaurants, city tours, points of interest and other must-sees.
    • May develop a resource list of city restaurants, attractions and information to help familiarize attendees with the city.
    • Obtains hospitality tale materials such as city maps, transportation information and coupons (if possible).
  • Dine-Around Coordinator: The Friday-evening dine-around, coordinated entirely by the local chapters (LA and OC), has proven to to be of the highlights of the Leadership Institute. The dine-around provides participants with an opportunity to network with one another in a relaxed, informal setting and to enjoy one of the city’s restaurants while learning more about local city. Chapter volunteers serve as hosts at this “pay your own way” dinner. The coordinator of this team will:
    • Coordinate Friday evening dinners to approximately 10 local restaurants.
    • Identify restaurants in a range of cuisines and budgets, make reservations prior to the conference, and reconfirm all reservations on the day of the event.
    • Develop individual restaurant sign-up sheets with sample menus, cost information, and other key restaurant info for the dine-around table at the conference.
    • Works with volunteers to manage sign-ups at the dine-around table at the conference, Thursday-Friday
    • Identifies and recruits volunteers (dine-around hosts) to lead dinner groups on Friday evening. Provides instructions to the hosts.
    • Designs and prints a dine-around guide for onsite distribution at the conference and/or posts dine-around information on chapter websites prior to the conference.



CMP Exam Proctor(s): The Communication Management Professional certification exam is to take place on Thursday during the conference. It is preferred that one male and one female volunteer to be present to sit in for this exam, as proctors must escort test-takers to the restroom if needed, in order to eliminate any opportunity for cheating. There will be a 20-30-minute training session provided to the proctors for the exam.

Core Volunteers: 10-15 volunteers to receive LI registrations and participate in the following duties:

  • Provide support at IABC registration desks to welcome attendees and distribute conference badges and materials
  • Checking badges at general session doors
  • Staffing the following two tables:
    • Hospitality Table. The volunteers who staff this table provide attendees with info about restaurants, points or interest and other must-sees. They will host a table with city guides, maps and other visitor info. Hospitality Table hours roughly follow IABC registration hours, Thursday/Friday.
    • Dine-Around Table. The volunteers who staff this table assist attendees in sign-up for the Friday dine-around restaurants. Familiarity with restaurants on the list is an asset. Dine-around table hours roughly follow IABC registration hours, Thursday/Friday.
    • Note: Hospitality and Dine-Around tables may be combined into one table for this event.

Dine-Around Hosts to act as hosts for dinner groups on Friday evening during the dine-around at local restaurants. These volunteers ensure their entire group is assembled and assist the group in traveling to the restaurant by taxis, public transportation, or by foot. All dinner attendees pay for their own meals and transportation to the restaurant. Local chapter current members are preferred. These volunteers do not receive a complimentary LI registration.



IABC will arrange and assist in the delivery of onsite training at the hotel for all volunteers within the week prior to the conference.

The hospitality task force benefits from the opportunity to promote chapter activities and membership to attendees. Further, volunteers have the chance to network with other chapters’ members and demonstrate leadership within the chapter.

IABC’s conference budget does not include funds for any additional initiatives that the hospitality task force may choose to develop. Any initiative that the task force may wish to pursue should first be discussed with the IABC conference staff to ensure that it is in line with programming and sponsorship goals as set forth by the Program Advisory Committee and IABC, and the task force understands that it is responsible for all associated expenses.

IABCLA Presented “Hack Your Life” Webinar

On Tuesday, April 14, 2015 IABC Los Angeles presented a new “Hack Your Life” webinar as part of IABC-LA’s Learning Lounge Webinar Series during lunchtime. The webinar was presented by Demir Gjokaj, Founder of Lifehack Bootcamp, a system in eliminating, automating and outsourcing the clutter in your life. IABC-LA board member Nick Duggan moderated the well-attended webinar while Demir presented five life hacks to reclaim time in your life…not so you can do more(!) yet so you can truly be present, less stressed and focus on one task at a time.

Built on the premise we live in a perpetual multi-tasking, time-starved world, Demir states emphatically “there is no such thing as multi-tasking”...we’re switch-tasking (poorly) from one unfocused task to another. (I’ve been saying this for the last few years!)  Lifehacking is about applying single-minded focus to a task by knowing exactly what outcome you’re working for. How many of us can admit it’s seemingly “more productive” or “more efficient” to answer email threads first to get them “taken care of” before we would suffer the pain of shutting off our phones, email and other gadgets to work on a priority project? Shut off our cell phones? Is Demir crazy?! Not so much.

Demi Gjokaj’s journey and his qualified exuberance for the life hack topic began with an admission he was, in fact, originally terrible at time organization and de-cluttering his life. While excelling as the youngest frequent commentator on Bloomberg and co-founder of start-up MONTAJ, which pioneered social media and video storytelling, Gjokaj became frazzled from the constant demands of managing time, technology and daily work and home life. Demir became dedicated to the notion it really doesn’t have to be this way. We make constant choices throughout the day to mismanage our work and home life resulting in too much stress, ignoring what’s really important and many times because expectations of others’ are involved…we allow our lives to become “stolen”.

We learned there are very painful consequences to not having life hack systems in place including being supremely scattered with and without tech, big dreams not moving anywhere closer, getting seriously behind, losing out on opportunities, and even financial problems.  We also learned some techniques towards reclaiming your life so you can be engaged, alive, present…and joyful!

If you’d like to learn what the tomato timer technique is (hint: turn off everything for 25 minutes and get to some focused one-task-at-a-time work) or some super-efficient strategic”snooze” delay email applications like Boomerang along with some other “Hack Your Life” techniques, play the recorded free webinar here (about 52 minutes long) which simply requires registration of your name and email first:

Demir provides a tremendous amount of thought-provoking and time-saving tips and techniques that helps turn all IABC-LA-ers into happier, more productive, less stressed execs, team players, managers, and consultants! And with the active participation by IABC-LA-ers in the webinar, clearly this topic was well-received and will be put to great use throughout the chapter!



“IABC-LA Learning Lounge: Hot Topics in Communications” Engages and Informs

On November 18, 2014, the chapter kicked off a new online event series “IABC-LA Learning Lounge: Hot Topics in Communications.”  In one pithy and productive lunch hour, IABC-LA members shared experience on social media, intranet engagement and career advancement. The online event format allowed for very efficient and effective resource sharing, and most of all, for members to reach out to other members to gain more fluency in a particular platform, software or resource.  Board Member Nick Duggan of Citrix hosted the webinar.

Highlights included:

  • An in-depth discussion on whether or not larger companies engage social media, both externally and internally.
    • Challenges faced by members included: social media generally used yet compliance, info security and corporate reputation issues (Board Member Vinca Russell of Amgen), how to get C-suite execs involved and model productive social media behavior; external corporate social media communities thrive yet internal communities are challenged.
    • What’s working: Merging/blending social media with real world events as a cornerstone comms strategy (not an offshoot).
    • Bill Spaniel complimented Janie Warren of Disney’s “dig-deep usage” of social media. Janie said it’s a work-in-progress at Disney to use social media tools that fully engage employees.
  • “SharePoint is so ubiquitous.” stated IABCLA President Mike Spasoff. He noted most major companies are not as educated on the competition. So what’s emerging in the intranet world?
    • Jive got Rebecca Gallagher’s attention in terms of it’s internal security benefits.
    • Igloo specifically markets itself against SharePoint. “Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like” is the tagline.
    • Denise Pierre recommends
    • Nick Duggan of Citrix stated it takes 2-3 years for a new system to be embraced by employees or an audience. Change is hard. Yet benefits those who resist it the most, initially. Leslie Dodson of Kaiser Permanente noted KP had to take something away in order to put something in place. KP took a paper system away that did not facilitate sharing of information in a truly engaged way. While an uproar happened initially, now KP physicians “can’t live without the portal.”

Everyone on the call got at least one very valuable resource takeaway to use in his/her respective work environment.

What’s on your communications mind? The IABC-LA Learning Lounge: Hot Topics in Communications webinar series invites you to engage, discover and gain resources to conquer your next communications challenge…while helping another member!

Lassos and Warren on “Bridging the Gap Between IT and Comms” Event Review

On Wednesday, April 30th, IABC Los Angeles hosted “Bridging the Gap Between IT and Comms” with featured speaker Alan Lewis, VP, Client Engagement for JCS Consulting.  The event produced heavy participation by attendees in a conversational Q&A and sharing of case stories throughout Alan’s presentation. (Audio files of Alan’s presentation will be available shortly.)

We’re delighted IABC-LA members and attendees Charlotte Lassos, President, Straight Up Communications, and Janie Warren, Sr. Communications Representative, Enterprise Systems Learning & Communications, The Walt Disney Company, each provided her own p.o.v. of the event:

Charlotte’s Wrap-Up:

CKL photo_sm

Charlotte Lassos

 As communicators, we look to technology to make our jobs easier. We want tools that help us work more efficiently, speed things along, and ultimately, facilitate collaboration. We usually know what we want, what outcome we want to achieve, and that the tools are probably available. However, working with IT in a corporate environment to make it happen can be a different story all together.

I had the pleasure of attending the recent IABC-LA event “Bridging the Gap Between IT and Comms” presented by Alan Lewis. I found the presentation to be very informative and highlighted by lively dialogue.   Alan’s presentation covered a brief psychological overview of the IT professional, how to work with IT, cloud-based solutions that can help communicators innovate, and Communication 2.0 within an organization. He provided case study highlights and examples of his recent work with DIRECTV to implement a cloud-based collaboration platform, with built-in metrics, that has transformed they way work gets done at the company. By serving as an advocate of both teams, Alan was able to help communicators at DIRECTV get the solutions they needed in place while maintaining IT’s security requirements.   For me, the takeaways from this presentation include:

  • In the “old-school” way of thinking, IT professionals exist to fix problems. If you need their assistance with new technology, make a solid business case and present the business requirements necessary to help solve your communications challenge.
  • On-premise servers ARE, and will, move to cloud-based servers and organizations need to be ready for this change.
  • The emergence of cloud-based social business platforms will change the way work gets done. Social business harnesses the trends in market today, helping to change the business models of yesterday and drive brands forward into the operating modes of tomorrow.
  • Employees want to work with current and innovative technology tools, as well as the same social tools they use in their personal lives.
  • Corporate communicators can test cloud-based solutions on a small group within the organization based on business requirements presented. The group’s success can then be used to make a business case for use of that tool/solution enterprise wide. This may help organizations using the on-premise server model where the lack of timely software updates often stall productivity.
  • Bonus takeaway: one of the members recommended the book Grouped, by Paul Adams. The book is described as a useful resource for marketing and media practitioners on the subject of social networks.

I recently worked on a large project with a client to move from a traditional Intranet to an employee communication and collaboration portal. My role focused on content development and content management tools/processes. During this IABC discussion, I was able to draw parallels between the two projects and look at where things might have been done differently to further enhance the outcome on the client’s project. I gained additional knowledge to offer as possible solutions on future client projects.

By Charlotte Lassos Straight Up Communications

Janie’s Wrap-Up:

made up

Janie Warren

As a communicator in a finance/IT organization, I was elated to attend the IABC ‘Bridging the Gap between IT and Comms’ event.

The evening began in a lovely private “wine-cellar” type room of the Tin Roof Bistro, in Manhattan Beach, which included a variety of delectable eats from tasty cheeses to fruit, and let’s not forget the wine!  I had a chance to network with some fellow communicators, and then I carefully selected a seat towards the front of the room before the presentation began- I just knew I would have many, many questions.

I was immediately intrigued in the conversation ahead as the presenter, Alan Lewis, began his talk.  Not only does Alan have an IT background, he was extremely engaging and I instantly felt confident that I could ask any question.  In addition, the ‘open forum’ style of the event allowed for great conversation and experiences from an awesome group of like-minded communicators.

Topics included:  how an IT professional thinks, how to work best with IT, and how to utilize cloud based solutions in an organization.  As expected, I had quite a few comments and inquiries– all of which were addressed beautifully.   Since the event, I’ve begun to apply some of the lessons learned.  For instance, I now know that building relationships with IT pros can really make life easier.  I also understand the background of the ‘cloud’ and how to best utilize social solutions in the workplace.  I even received a great tip on a social habits book called Grouped which I plan to indulge real soon.

Overall, the presentation was excellent, Alan was very knowledgeable, and I especially enjoyed hearing different scenarios and perspectives from other attendees.  I look forward to the next IABC event!

By Janie Warren, Sr. Comms Rep, Enterprise Systems and Learning Comms – Disney

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