Advita Patel is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, a chartered PR practitioner, and the Chair for the CIPR Inside committee. These impressive designations, as well as 14 years of experience in various industries, supports her work in her own consultancy, CommsRebel. With a passion for people and helping, Advita specializes in working with large organizations on employee engagement, change and transformation, and engaging remote workforces.

Chuck: Welcome to Chuck Chats Advita!

Advita: Thanks Chuck.

Chuck: When you think about employee communications, what excites you the most?

Advita: I love the fact that we, as Internal Communicators, have an opportunity to support the business by helping it thrive and meet key objectives.

But I think there is a misunderstanding across organizations on how IC can support the business like this.

Chuck: I’m going to be a bit of a thorn here. Don’t you think we can do more than just support?

Advita: Yes of course!

We are the ones who should be driving some of these key objectives forward.

We are in a position to help our leaders see what is happening across the organization. We should be leading, advising, and guiding as well as supporting. :-)

Chuck: In a talk that I gave recently, I talked about the “curse of knowledge” that communicators have. And after, an attendee came up and wondered why I didn’t use the word “privilege.” That’s a somewhat challenging word now.

Do you see communicators as being privileged?

Advita: I honestly think it depends on what organization you work in and what relationship you have with your stakeholders and leaders.

I personally don’t see communicators being privileged. We have to work hard to get the knowledge and become that trusted advisor.

I think sometimes having too much knowledge can be a curse, but it’s completely dependent on how you use that information. Very interesting conversation and use of the word though.

 

I have never ever relied on a company to pay for my development.

Click to Tweet  

 

Chuck: Agreed.

You do a lot of your own creating and volunteering for the internal comms profession. You are the current chair for CIPR Inside. What has that been like?

Advita: Yes, I’m a serial volunteer :-).

I’ve been a volunteer for CIPR for around 5-6 years now and it’s something that I really enjoy.

CIPR is the only professional PR membership body that’s chartered and that’s quite important to me personally.

But being a volunteer has its ups and downs. It’s all done in our spare time and we don’t actually get paid for it (though some people believe we do).

Chuck: And the “Inside” part of CIPR is focused on IC?

Advita: Inside is focused on IC and employee engagement. It’s been running as a sub-group for around 10 years now.

It’s one of the largest sub-groups within the membership now and we have quite a large following on our social media channels. On Twitter, @CIPRInside is our largest channel. We do lots of online chats there, including our famous #ICBookClub

Chuck: That sounds very familiar to the Employee Comms Section Group I lead within PRSA. It seems like we have to fight for some attention amongst the traditional PR groups. Do you feel the same way?

Advita: Yes, sometimes.

It’s taken a while for us to get some sort of voice with our PR friends. But there is now some great work taking place and every day I’m in awe of the stuff that people are sharing and researching to help our profession progress further.

CIPR Inside is actually in the process of launching a measurement report in the next few weeks which I’m really excited about, as measurement has been a massive bugbear of mine for a LONG time.

Chuck: “BugBear”. . . that’s a new one. I learned about “pants” and “pickles” from Rachel Miller but I’m now adding bugbear.

Advita: Haha it’s one of my favorite terms. I use it to describe the most annoying things!

Chuck: Love it. Let’s get back to the #ICBookClub Twitter chat. How does that work?

Advita: Every other month we ask our followers to choose a book they’d like to read and discuss. It’s very similar to a face-to-face book club.

We do a poll and people have to choose the book they prefer. We have around 8 weeks to read the book and then we do a ‘live’ twitter chat. We’ve read some fantastic books over the past few years. The next one is Bruce Daisley, The Joy of Work.

The Twitter chat will be on June 4th at 8pm BST.

Chuck: Well that’s certainly time zone friendly for those of us on this side of the world. What’s a book that’s been part of the club that would surprise communicators?

Advita: I think Busy by Tony Crabbe was definitely a book that took many of our readers by surprise, in terms of how useful it was to communicators.


It’s an absolutely fantastic book if you feel you’re constantly busy and don’t have five minutes.

Chuck: But I imagine people who feel that way probably don’t think they have time to read a book ;) What was one of your biggest takeaways?

Advita: Haha very true. But I listen to audible so there’s no excuse.

I loved the way he broke down what being busy actually meant. He shared some really fantastic tips.

Here’s a great Ted Talk he did:

 

 

 Chuck: This sounds like a very cost-effective approach to professional development, too.

I know that’s a bit of a “bugbear” for you. So I’m building you a virtual soapbox to get on. Why don’t communicators invest in themselves more?

Advita: This is definitely on the top of my bugbear list! It’s a constant frustration of mine and I honestly struggle to understand why people don’t invest in themselves a bit more. It’s so important for our development.

I know there are some people who think it’s too expensive and a ‘rich’ person privilege but I’ve come from a working-class background and I’ve paid for all my development myself.

There are so many tools, resources and articles out there that are free.

Membership to most professional bodies works out to be around a cup a coffee a day. If you can afford that, then you can afford professional membership.

Chuck: In a recent conversation with some internal communicators, I asked if they were attending an event and they said, “no, it’s not in my PD budget.”

But when I dug deeper, it was their companies’ PD budget. They didn’t actually have their own PD budget.

Would you recommend someone budgeting a certain amount that they get to spend on themselves, without needing company approval?

Advita: 100%.

I have never ever relied on a company to pay for my development. Every year I do my CPD plan and decide what I want to invest in. I save that money, like I do my mortgage payment, and invest in what I think will help me progress.

If you can only do one event or one course a year then that’s absolutely fine, just make it count. You can’t expect your organization to keep driving your development. They should certainly support you with days off or study time but in terms of budget, I never expect anything.

Chuck: Next let’s jump to one of your creations: The Comms Hive. What is that?

Advita: The Comms Hive started after I had dinner with a couple of my comms friends. On the drive home I was buzzing with ideas and felt lucky I had such a good network of people to tap into.

This got me thinking about creating some sort of gathering with other comms pros and wanted to replicate the dinner vibe. After a chat with the fabulous Bridget Aherne, who sparked the idea for the name, the Comms Hive was born.

It’s basically a dinner with people who love comms. There’s no program or structure as such, just good food and a safe space to chat with each other and build a good network!


Chuck: And allegedly that’s exactly what communicators want to build, especially locally. How often do you meet?

Advita: Yes, that’s often the feedback I used to get at conferences - that people don’t have time to chat.

Well, we’ve just held the first one in Manchester and we have London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Cardiff coming up.

We’re also going to host one in Vancouver. So if anyone is coming to IABC World Conference in June drop me an email :-)

Chuck: I’ll be in Vancouver. Can I get an invite?

Advita: Of course! We would love to have you there.

Chuck: Well until we meet in Vancouver in June, let’s wrap this up the way we do every Chuck Chat. Share your thoughts and dreams on internal communications using only emojis.

Advita: 🙌🏽😃👌🏽💃💥

Chuck: Thank you for being on Chuck Chats!

Advita: Thank you for inviting me!