digital communications - some secret ingredients

Sometimes, it's only when you stop and take a look back over your shoulder you realise how far you've come. In this personal blog post a Coca Cola Enterprises comms person looks back to see how far forward his company has come.

by Neil Jenkins

I was chatting to some fellow internal communicators recently about our digital work at Coca-Cola Enterprises, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realised what a frantic – and fantastic – few years it’s been.

In that time we’ve launched an internal social network now used by 70 per cent of our employees, re-launched our intranet (front end once, back end twice), introduced a mobile version of it and revamped our digital signage system. We’ve won a few awards along the way, learned from other organisations who’ve been interested in what we’ve done and shared our story at conferences and seminars across Europe.

The journey never ends – we have more ambitious plans for the year ahead – but it feels like the right time to reflect on how we’ve achieved what’s happened so far. And believe it or not, it’s not down to bundles of budget. So here are some of our secret ingredients…

Have a clear purpose and goals
Almost everything we’ve done is with the main aim of improving employee productivity – which supports business goals about efficiency and effectiveness. We’ve set out to make things easier, faster and better for people to read, find or do. Everything we’ve delivered gets marked against that mantra. Better communications is a healthy by-product, but it wasn’t what we’d chiefly set out to achieve. As with all good strategies and plans, know what it is you need to achieve – and stick to it.

Governance is golden
Building on the earlier point, you can have the best-looking intranet in the world but it’s not much use if it’s not doing what your organisation wants. So who’s holding the experts and enthusiasts to account? Each quarter, commercial and operational leaders meet with the communications, IT and HR teams who manage our digital tools and channels. They act as challenger and champion, ensuring there’s a common understanding around the table of what’s needed and what’s being delivered, and then sharing that story back in the business. Without them, we wouldn’t have made so much progress – not least because this governance group has C-suite sponsors. Three of our CEO’s team, including our CIO, attend almost every meeting and the top man himself joins at least once a year. If you have leaders who you know will recognise the value that digital can add to your organisation, get them together to support and drive your agenda.

Listen to your employees
It’s a no-brainer, right? You’re clear on your goals, you know what your organisation needs, you have the support of its leaders – but what about the people on the receiving end? Ask, listen, respond, repeat. Survey, quick poll, show of hands, focus group – it all counts. Clock up the road, rail and air miles to go and hear what they have to say, and feed it into your decision-making. What’s slowing their job down? What’s stopping them from spending more time with customers, or going home on time? How can digital communications make that better? It’s worth the effort, because I guarantee you’ll be enlightened every time, you’ll be even clearer on your purpose – and you’ll be appreciated for taking the time to listen.

Have your eyes on the horizon
Technology moves fast – so do you know enough about what’s ahead to anticipate how it may help or hinder your organisation? One of things I like most about digital communications is the pace of change. But that means you need to be on your toes. So absorb as much as you can from your colleagues, peers and other organisations. Get out there, physically or virtually, and understand new ideas, ways of working and how things are done elsewhere. There have never been so many ways to learn from others, so take advantage. It will add value to your organisation by the bucket-load.

Neil Jenkins is Interim VP, Leadership & Internal Communications at Coca Cola Enterprises. This personal take was first posted on his own blog here.