AB Thinks  →  6th December 2018

A meeting of the bold and the brave

A couple of days after ABThinksLive and I’m still buzzing with ideas from some truly inspirational speakers and discussions.

This was the second event of 2018 run by the team at AB, with the focus on bravery (the theme in June was the future of work).

The event at the Covent Garden Hotel saw 45 internal communicators come together and explore how bolder, braver storytelling equals more compelling and engaging content.

Creativity, being brave in challenging environments, taking bold steps to tell real stories, as well as what it takes to be bold in the workplace were all discussed. It was a fantastic afternoon and I was delighted to host the event for a second time.

Managing director Katie Macaulay opened by saying there has never been a better time to be an internal communicator. We now have better tools and channels and are getting smarter about strategy.

AB’s creative director Joel O’Connor told us “you cannot be creative without being brave”. Talking us through a variety of campaigns, it was clear that the greatest impact is made when boundaries are pushed. He reinforced the importance of relationships and trust in being bold, ending with a rallying cry to collectively encourage and ignite curiosity.

Bridget Aherne, from Metrolink, was interviewed by account manager Janice Fitzgerald. Bridget has worked in highly unionised environments and shared her views on how boldness can be the best solution in challenging situations. She spoke about the problems that come from a lack of clear communication, maintaining that we should tell everyone everything unless there is a really good reason not to. She also highlighted the importance of alignment between the communications team and leadership and how being ethically led was vital.

Next up was Vanessa Unwin, from Hitachi Rail, who gave great insight into award-winning magazine Fusion. She talked about how striving to win an award pushed her to be bolder with content – drawing inspiration from newsstand publications. I loved her comment that working in internal communications made her brave, along with her advice: It’s okay to copy; improve on yourself and find your first star.

Our panel, which included AB’s head of digital Mario Theodorou and internal comms specialists Alana Renner, Deborah Brambill and Jo Twistelton, talked about how they decided to break the mould and convince leaders to try something new.

The key, they told the audience, is asking a lot of questions, understanding how leaders communicate and encouraging them to try something different. Having experience makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone.

When asked about what we should be bold about in 2019, they all agreed it should be measurement and transparency. With Mario putting it succinctly: “If we are asking employees to tell their stories to create great content, the organisations we work for need to be just as transparent with their information.”

Finally, we asked for the panel’s advice on how to put bravery and boldness into action: give it a go, be simple, be yourself and trust your instincts were just some of the great tips offered.

As always, I left the event with some great ideas for the future and a reminder that relationships and trust are the core of pushing boundaries. Hope to see you at the next one in June 2019!