Introducing Chuck Chats, our new series starring Chuck Gose of ICology! In each episode Chuck gets personal with interesting Internal Comms pros to learn more about what motivates us, entertains us, and ultimately drives our impact in the organization.
Chuck Gose: Your LinkedIn “bio” begins with these words. “Dream big. Be kind. Lean In. Give back. Have fun.” Dissect those for me.
Kristin Hancock: I spent some time last year working on my personal values and mission statement. I’ve done that before for organizations I’ve worked for, but never for myself. Narrowing down my values to the five most important ones helps me focus my career and my life.
CG: Are they in any particular order?
KH: Great question...no. Although the first one could probably be described as my overall theme in life. And the last one is the most important on a daily basis.
CG: Your job is a blend of internal and external communications, correct?
KH: Yes. We’re a small team so between the three of us we get to do it all!
CG: Are you one of those communicators who believes “what’s internal is external” and “what’s external is internal” OR do you see a difference?
KH: Internal and external messaging should be complementary but not necessarily identical. The audiences are different. Having said that, I do believe that what you produce internally should be created through the lens of, “it’s possible that the public could see this.” Nothing is ever completely internal anymore.
CG: Was it before? Or has technology simply made the lines blur even more?
"Nothing is ever completely internal anymore."
KH: Great point - it has always been possible for an internal message to get released publicly. However, I do think it’s easier now and, in a way, more acceptable for those messages to reach both audiences.
CG: What is it that motivates you either as a communicator or just as a business professional?
KH: When people feel heard they feel valued. When someone I work with thanks our team for including them in a new process or I overhear them sharing something about that new process with another employee, I know we’ve done a great job.
CG: That first sentence sounds like somewhat of a rallying cry for communicators. Or at least for two-way communication.
KH: Good! It should be!
CG: In the last year or so, you started speaking at events and sharing some of the work you’re doing. What has this experience been like?
KH: I know how much I’ve gained from attending workshops and conferences and hearing other communicators share their challenges and best practices. It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to share my work in that way and I’ve made a conscious effort to connect in this way again. It’s personally fulfilling and has helped grow my professional network. Sharing my stories touches on each of my personal values, and of course, it’s a lot of fun.
CG: Through attending these past events and workshops, what did you learn that made you a better presenter?
KH: When someone’s presentation catches my eye, I make a note of it. I find it’s often humour or a great story that keeps me engaged in what they’re sharing so those are elements I try to include in my presentations. Being mindful of time is also a great lesson I’ve learned. You can only share so much in your allotted time.
CG: For a communicator who was once like you, perhaps only attending events and not speaking, what would you say to encourage them to take the opportunity to share their ideas? To stand up and speak.
"Writing is a more personal way of getting information out of your brain and into the world and could be less intimidating than speaking."
KH: That’s a great question because I’m not sure I would encourage everyone to do that. It depends on the communicator and what his/her goals are. Some communicators are fulfilled by attending and soaking up knowledge and maybe having more one-on-one conversations after each session. Some of us thrive through sharing our experiences. If you fall into that category (like I do) then my suggestion would be to start somewhere you’re comfortable - maybe your company has an opportunity to host a “lunch and learn” where you can share your expertise on a smaller scale. You’d be surprised how quickly things can grow from there!
CG: Perhaps this falls into the same category as speaking, but you also publish content on LinkedIn. One of your recent posts had a bajillion comments, shares, likes and so forth. Could this be a better platform for some?
KH: A bajillion? I’m rolling my eyes… Yes, I’m a big fan of LinkedIn as a platform to connect with other professionals and also share experiences, challenges, etc. Writing is a more personal way of getting information out of your brain and into the world and could be less intimidating than speaking. My advice (because I had to get over this too) would be to not worry about how many people read, comment or like. If what you share helps you understand your role better, you’ve accomplished something.
CG: What I like about LinkedIn’s platform is that your ideas and your writing become a part of you. It’s content that doesn’t sit on your company’s platform or somewhere else. It’s tied to your career so I see it as even a part of professional development. Do you agree?
KH: Absolutely. And further to the “likes and comments” idea, I’ve been surprised at how many times I’ve run into a colleague and he/she has brought up a recent article I’ve published. That person may not have liked it or commented on it, but they still read it. It becomes your living resume, in a way.
CG: Is this he/she and his/her stuff a Canadian thing?
KH: No it’s a human being thing.
CG: I want to jump back to a comment you made about humor. (I’ll correct your spelling.) Does humor have a role to play in internal communications? Because I see people struggling with it.
"If you want your audience to forget what you’ve said, write a paragraph on white paper and circulate it."
KH: I’m a big fan of humoUr in both internal/external communications - when it’s appropriate. We try to use GIFs on our intranet and memes in our print materials because they’re attention-grabbing, but also memorable. If you want your audience to forget what you’ve said, write a paragraph on white paper and circulate it. (I think we’ve all learned this in some way.)
CG: I applaud the use of GIFs, but I need to one a question to make sure we can be friends. Do you pronounce with a hard G or a soft G?
KH: Who pronounces it with a soft G?
CG: Some people do but I’m guessing you don’t.
KH: Those are not my people. (JIF = peanut butter / GIF = funny moving picture)
CG: Thank you. We got off track a bit but that’s my fault. Let’s go back to the professional development topic. For communicators who don’t have a large budget or money to use for PD, where should they look?
KH: There are so many free resources online - LinkedIn being one of them. If you’re not using Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook professionally, you’re missing out. Lots of companies offer free webinars and while there might be a sales pitch attached to them, the content can still be really helpful. Something else I’ve jumped into in the last year or so is the world of podcasts - yours is one I listen to regularly (ICology) and again, it’s a completely free resource.
CG: Sweet. Other than ICology, who are the peers or voices out there that you listen to or you think communicators should start paying attention to?
KH: I’m a big fan of learning from people who aren’t specifically in the communications “world”. So much of what we do is about emotional intelligence, relationships and connecting with people. Adam Grant, Cy Wakeman, James Altucher - all of these business professionals produce content that is so incredibly valuable for life and work.
CG: That was a nice fan-girl moment but what about those that ARE in the communications “world.”
KH: I’ve been fortunate to meet some great communicators through my involvement with IABC, ALI and other groups. Most of the valuable connections I have are with people I’ve reached out to at events (like Priya Bates) or after hearing them on your podcast (like Elisabeth Wang). They’ve become colleagues that I can bounce ideas off of and learn a lot from.
"So much of what internal communicators do is about emotional intelligence, relationships and connecting with people."
CG: But you do make a good point around what employees see OUTSIDE of work being brought INSIDE of work. (the caps are for emphasis) Other than the appropriate use of GIFs and emojis, what are some other things?
KH: I’ll name drop again - Rocky Walls makes a great point about that with video. The majority of the videos your employees and co-workers are watching outside of work are unedited clips filmed on smart phones. We don’t expect Spielberg quality videos in our social lives so there’s no reason we should be focused on producing them at work. Of course, they have their place for certain projects, but it’s not crucial for most.
CG: Video is a great example. Are there other channels or tactics where you think internal communicators need to raise their game a bit?
KH: I think we should be aware of all available channels. That’s not to say we should use all of them, but we should have knowledge of what’s out there. We’re exploring an app for the first time this year - will we end up using one? I’m not sure. But at least we can say we’ve done the research to make an informed decision.
CG: What’s your most favorite communications accomplishment?
KH: I hope it happens this year. We’re transitioning our print magazine content into a new online ‘portal’ with an interactive component and a blog-based platform. It was our innovative way of sunsetting the print version without losing the content. Stay tuned!
CG: I’m still a big fan of print, and I also still read the newspaper every day. I’m not accusing your organization of doing this because you’ve done the research but do you think companies and communicators can be too quick to kill off print? Or “sunset” it as you would say?
KH: Yes. I’m equally fond of print publications and I cry a little inside every time a magazine I enjoy goes completely online. In some ways, maybe that’s why we looked at a unique way of transitioning the content. I knew if we simply put a PDF online, nobody would read it. And interestingly, the first conversation we had about this project was when we were given the direction to simply “put the magazine online.” I’m so proud of the research we did after that to truly explore every option and make sure we were doing so in a way that made sense for our readers.
CG: You can’t wipe away tears with digital.
KH: Ha! I’ll remember that one.
CG: The last topic we’re going to talk about is trust. When you hear that word, what does it mean to you relative to the workplace and communication?
KH: I refuse to use the word “transparent” but for me, trust and honesty go hand in hand. We can’t always be transparent for a variety of reasons, but we can always be honest. Sometimes that means saying, “I don’t know.”
CG: The words “transparency” and “authenticity” are so overused. But when there is high levels of trust, you often don’t need all of the information because you trust who’s making the decisions.
KH: That’s a great point. And if you’re honest with your staff, the trust will come naturally.
CG: “I don’t know” are probably three words that leaders are uncomfortable saying but maybe they should say them more.
KH: Funny you picked up on that - I was just reading about that in the book Think Like a Freak. They talk about kids being honest because they haven’t developed that same filter that we build as we become adults. There’s a lot of power in admitting you don’t know something. It immediately builds trust and also opens you up to finding out the answer.
CG: I think there’s an element of vulnerability that leaders see as a weakness but one that employees would welcome.
KH: I completely agree. Leaders forget that we’re all human. And showing your humanness (is that a word?) to your staff will build rapport and trust. I would say the same thing about showing emotion.
CG: A lot of interviewers would like to end these on a high note. But I’m not most interviewers.
KH: This sounds interesting...
CG: What is something that you see other communicators doing that drives you crazy?
KH: Being terrified of not having complete control over communications messages or projects.
CG: Is this back to vulnerability again?
KH: Probably, yes. It’s empowering to let others in on the conversation and let go of some of that control. And it allows for a much better discussion.
CG: I was kidding about the negative thing. We are going to end on a positive message. Talk about your obsession with glitter and polar bears. Not together but separately. Or maybe they are together.
KH: If you’ve seen a glitter polar bear please tell me! What can I say, I’m easily distracted by shiny things and I’m convinced I was born with a love for all things glittery. I keep a jar of glitter on my desk for times when people need to be reminded that life isn’t so bland.
CG: At least not when a coworker sprinkles you with glitter. Is that right word, “sprinkles?”