Aware and Connected.
This is exactly how I felt earlier this month as I shared perspectives on social media and internal communication from India with a set of global communicators who attended my session at the 2011 World International Association of Business Communicatiors Conference held at San Diego, US.
The IABC World Conference brings 1,400 business communication professionals from 40 countries to learn about the latest trends, issues and best practices in communication. At the conference professionals get to access more than 70 conference sessions organized into seven tracks and presented by a global faculty of communication experts.
I attended parts of few sessions that interested me and to make the most of my limited time at the conference. Among the sessions I attended were the general session with IABC’S 2011 EXCEL Award winner, Deborah Tabart. Deborah leads the Save the Koala campaign from Australia although her reach is now truly global. Thanks to the power of social media and communication. Her ability to make the most of her resources, garner global support through communication and her interest to leverage social media tools revealed opportunities that all communicators can learn from. Bill Quirke’s address on ‘Raising your internal communication game: Be valued for what you do’ got me thinking more about the role of internal communication in driving change. I loved his sense of humor, the ability to keep the audience engaged and provide superb pointers to improve impact, effectiveness and value. Likewise, Don Ranly, a senior faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism talked about conveying complex messages to employees in his session – ‘Let’s tell a story’. It made a lot of sense and I could relate to the ongoing challenges I face as a communicator. Storytelling and clarity of thought goes a long way in cutting through the clutter. Personally, the sessions were very enriching and gave me insights to share with my team and stakeholders.
In my session, I set context on the social media landscape before talking through influences that impact adoption from an internal communication lens. As an internal communication professional I constantly worry that the youngest workforce in the world (half of India’s population is below the age of 25) aren’t engaged in a dialogue as much as they would prefer. And this is what organizations probably don’t ‘get’ still in India. Furthermore, the influence of culture, community, entertainment and sports in percolating messages is barely understood. This feeds frustrations and engagement challenges which companies in India grapple with. Importantly, the dichotomies that exist in India adds a different dimension to potential solutions. For example, while Hindi is our official language and English is our preferred business communication language we still have 21 other official languages. Likewise, while we have a mobile subscriber base that is 2X the US population only 40% can access the internet via their devices. Also, we have the world’s third largest number of internet users but 31% of India’s rural population aren’t even aware of its presence.
The appreciation, interest and keenness by the audience to understand the world’s second largest nation and one of the world’s growing economies impressed me.
Here are a sample of questions that were asked during my session:
- How can we ensure company’s information is protected while leveraging social media for internal communication?
- What are the core challenges that affect adoption?
- What can we do to help leaders understand the nuances of social media better?
- How does external and internal communication integrate better for improving impact in India?
- Can we avoid releasing control to all employees?
- What is the role of the internal communication team in managing social media and internal communication?
- How do you handle crisis for this domain?
To me these questions were a reflection of how the audience experienced their needs in managing growing workforce challenges that plague organizations with a presence in India.
It gave me a good feeling when a large majority of people (about 70 participants were in my address) indicated their interest to visit India and have a consistent level of interactions with counterparts or stakeholders in this region. India is definitely on everyone’s minds and that is a key take-away for me.
- The flawless conference event management impressed me. It worked like clockwork. The interactions with the staff before, during and after the conference gave me a very positive experience. To me it felt that consistency is crucial in delivering effective communication and I witnessed it working so well from the outside.
- As a speaker I felt extremely well supported right till the end. I now have a wonderful understanding with my moderator, Marcia Vaughan. Her experience and expertise put me at ease.
- There is a growing interest in cracking the India code in employee engagement and communication.
- How communication is understood, perceived and practiced in the western world is vastly different from how it is in Asia.
Overall, this experience is one step forward in making me understand the world better and on an important milestone on the road as an enlightened communication professional.
You can also read my article on the topic at: http://www.simply-communicate.com/news/india%E2%80%99s-new-normal-influencing-social-media-adoption-internal-communication