AB Thinks  →  13th November 2019

Double take: top tips from veteran comms duo Sue Dewhurst and Liam FitzPatrick

In Season Two, Episode Five, of The Internal Comms Podcast, Katie Macaulay met up with two of the IC industry’s most influential figures from the past 30 years.

Sue Dewhurst and Liam FitzPatrick are the creators of Melcrum Black Belt, a training programme that has been taken by an estimated 50% of current IC practitioners.

Over the course of 60 highly entertaining minutes, these seasoned communicators regale Katie with a succession of anecdotes and forceful opinions reflecting their experiences in IC and predictions for the future.

Here are the top five takeaways we gleaned from the co-authors of new book Successful Employee Communications: A Practitioner’s Guide to Tools, Models and Best Practice for Internal Communication.

#1 – How to create a strategy to solve any problem thrown at an IC professional
“We have a very similar fundamental view about internal comms, or comms in general, which is ‘start with the outcome’. Start with the strategic objective – what do you really want people to do as a result of receiving this communication? Then you can work your channels out later.”

#2 – Being clear and simple beats sounding clever
“Liam once sent me a dictionary because I didn’t know what a particular word meant. He said, ‘you’re a comms person, you should know what it means’ and I said ‘no, you should use simple language so everybody knows what it means’. If you can make something very complex incredibly simple to understand, that’s the clever thing to do.”

#3 – Talking about having a dialogue is pointless if you just keep shouting
“If you want people to get with the programme and focus, stop shouting at them. And even if they don’t express a point of view, they’d like to believe that, if they had one, they’d be listened to. People in the workplace now expect to be part of the conversation and part of the plan.”

#4 – Variety is the spICe of life
“I’m still working in comms after 25 years because I still think it’s interesting and difficult. Every time it’s like having a new 1,000-piece jigsaw. You’ve always got this different combination of ‘what’s the business problem? Who are the people? How do I put all this together and make it work?’ And the answer’s never the same.”

#5 – Comms pros need to do some face-to-face communicating once in a while
“There’s no substitute for actually going out and meeting people. It’s quite easy to find yourself sitting in a meeting at head office where lots of middle-aged blokes are pontificating about ‘people feel like this’. But if you have actually seen people, a little bell starts going off in the back of your head that goes ‘actually, that’s not how they’re going to see it’. That gives you just enough stimulus to step in and go ‘well I’m not sure’. It actually helps you move the conversation along a bit.”