IoIC Live 18: Transforming reputation from the inside out

May 13th, 2018

It’s a few days on from IoIC Live 18 and my brain is still buzzing. As a member of the organising committee, I would of course say it was our best one yet, but I think a quick scroll through Twitter shows I’m far from alone in this view.

Fantastic speaker after fantastic speaker shared their insights on the topic of reputation. It truly felt like a very special conference, and the people I spoke to all felt that there was a real shift in the conversations we’re all having with our organisations and each other. Internal communication is on the precipice of change and I think the fact a conference on how we impact organisational reputation sold out and had the longest waiting list we’ve had in 22 years, is testament to that.

I can’t possibly cover everything I learnt and heard over the two days, but here are a few of my highlights…

The new normal
Sue Palfrey, from The National Trust, spoke about how we now live in an age where the media closely watches every organisation, ready to pounce so reputation has never been more important. She reminded the audience of ‘scone-gate’ – and in case you were wondering scone rhymes with gone and it’s always cream first.

Sue also spoke about how she and her team created a business partnering model to really get under the skin of the organisation, build relationships and most importantly trust.

What’s your personal brand?
Having done some work recently on my own personal values and how they apply to my business, I found the wonderful Rachel Miller’s presentation invaluable. Using Lego as an example, she provided practical tips on how to understand your personal brand and how to truly live it so that what happens on the inside is reflected outside.

Like Rachel, I spent time with Jackie Le Ferve of Magma Effect last year understanding my values. It was such a valuable exercise, and I’d recommend anyone wanting to work on their personal brand to get in touch with her.

Rachel spoke about how your personal brand should be based on your values and also what you want to be known for. Once you’ve clarified that, what are the various ways someone might form an impression of you? Rachel mentioned voicemails, out of office, body language, choice of language, profile photo, etc. All these things build a picture of who you are and if your email address is something like it might not give off the professional impression you were hoping for!

We have more than one reputation
Ed Coke, from Repute Associates pointed out that since there are so many compelling reasons to invest in reputation, it’s odd that more organisations don’t do it. He believes it’s because reputation is a huge topic and it’s hard to know where it starts and begins – especially as we have more than one reputation. Organisations (and individuals) will have multiple stakeholders all with their own definition of that organisation’s reputation.

Ed also spoke about how reputational losses can be huge (Starbucks closing its stores to provide staff with training after a well-publicised racist incident cost them around $12million). However, it’s possible to save a reputation by responding quickly, authentically and by taking responsibility (think KFC and Tesco).

A survey Ed conducted with internal communicators also revealed that we think reputation is important but many internal communicators felt they weren’t effective at supporting it.

Internal communication 10 years on
It’s been 10 years since the magnificent Bill Quirke published Making the Connections and there was a huge amount of excitement in the room when he got up to speak. It really was one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen – funny, energetic and insightful – and of course we’d expect nothing less from the godfather of internal communication.

Bill pulled out a quote from his book: “Life is moving too fast to rely on the inadequate way we currently communicate in organisations.” He pointed out that that is even truer today and that in many cases we’re still having the same conversations inside our organisations that we were 10 years ago.

He talked about communication styles and personalities and the importance of understanding the mindset of leaders, of evidencing what we do to ensure our reputation is one of strategic adviser. But he acknowledged that challenging leadership takes courage and internal communicators need to have buckets of it.

We also need to stop focusing on communication problems and start focusing on solving business problems.

Another point that really resonated with me was how in our eagerness to inject purpose and meaning into our organisations, we mustn’t forget competencies. He used the famous example of when JFK visited NASA and asked a cleaner what he did there. The cleaner responded: “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” Clearly, he has a purpose, and understands his role in the bigger picture, but as Bill pointed out did anyone check he cleaned the floor properly? It’s great to have employees with purpose, but companies can’t survive on that alone, they need employees that are competent.

Model for success
Pamela Moffat and Marc O’Hagan from P3 Works shared a model (below) they’ve developed that they believe can help internal communicators have valuable conversations with leaders.

With 30 years of organisational development experience between them, they see a lot of crossover between our two professions.

The model provides a framework which internal communicators can walk a leader through to help them think through a business challenge. The model is freely available for internal communicators to use. It has been tested in the public and third sector and Pamela and Marc are keen to try it out in the private sector, so do get in touch with them to learn more about how you can apply it in your organisation.


It’s ok to not be ok
In the most emotional and inspiring presentation of the conference, Amanda Coleman from Greater Manchester Police shared the IC team’s approach to crisis comms in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack. One of the key things that Amanda recommended was including wellbeing support for employees in your crisis comms plans, especially in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events. She reminded the room that it’s ok to not be ok and that it’s important we support cultures in our organisations that prioritise the wellbeing of their employees – not only does it support reputation, but it’s the right thing to do.


Reputation is a big topic for internal communicators and we need to see our role as shaping and protecting it from the inside out. It’s an exciting time to be in our industry and I’m confident we’ll be hearing more and more stories about the role internal communication has played in reputation management in the years to come.


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“Helen’s passion for her profession shines through very clearly and she manages to combine her deep knowledge of internal communications with a mix of pragmatism and fresh thinking. She is a delight to work with and has a high level of integrity.”

Richard Fitzmaurice, TMF Group