ten things internal communicators can learn from wales

To mark St David's Day we thought that it would be rather good to have a Welsh post and a Welsh guest editor. Over to you, Nat Corney...

by GUEST EDITOR Natalie Corney

Please indulge me here, I wrote this for St David’s Day. Yes, there is some stereotyping, yes, it could apply to other countries and areas etc., but go with it – I think it has some important points...

1.Be proud

Welsh people are incredibly proud of where they come from – and not just the country – their actual town or village. There is a great affinity to home. Whether people still live there or whether they’ve moved somewhere else in the world, Wales is still home. It doesn’t matter if it’s the smallest village or the biggest city.

You don’t have to be a large multi-national company such as Apple to have something to be proud of. Everyone has the right to be proud no matter how big your organisation.

2.Don’t be afraid of change

Wales used to be famous for mining. Only we don’t have mines these days. As the mines closed, Wales changed. It started looking for other ways of generating income and providing jobs and it’s still changing today. North Wales is a great example of this. It’s rapidly becoming the home of outdoor activities: Snowdonia, white-water rafting and a place called Go Below are just a few examples.

Organisations should be the same. As the world changes, businesses need to embrace change and, while not everything will work, some amazing things can come out of it. Change isn’t something to be scared of, it’s an opportunity.

3.Bonkers traditions are a good thing

Ever heard the word “Eisteddfod” (pronounced ‘Ice-sted-ford’)? If you’re not from Wales, the chances are pretty slim. For Welsh children, it means every year (usually around St. David’s Day) they’ll be dressed up in traditional Welsh costume and stood in front of the fireplace to get their picture taken. They’ll then get sent off to school to read poetry, sing songs, play music (often in my case very badly) and do a couple of folk type dances. Also, someone often gets to sit in a big chair with a floral wreath on their head. I think it’s fair to say that many Welsh people don’t know why they ever participated in one as a child every year or why they continue to encourage their children to do the same now they’re grown up. But that’s okay. It’s a tradition that we accept: it’s a bit mad, a bit fun, a bit cultural and brings people together.

All organisations should want to create some traditions of their own, ones that people remember year after year – even if they are not quite sure why – as long as it has a feel-good factor and brings people together.

4.Knowing your neighbours

In Wales, you know Dai the Butcher, John the Car, Mary the Hair. It’s not a myth, people really do use names like that to describe people, but they also know a lot more about them than just the name. I once bought a car from a little known place called Pontyberem. The garage owner not only knew the person they had bought the car from, but went to great lengths to tell me about his family, his dad, what car his dad had just bought, and even pointed out which house they lived in.

Getting to know more about people is not part of some crazy kind of George Orwell Big Brother world, it’s people taking an interest in each other, taking the time to listen to what colleagues are saying - and remembering it.

5.Language is everything

If you don’t live in Wales and have never visited, you may not know that all the road signs are in Welsh and English, in fact most of everything is in two languages. And although only around 19 per cent of the population are fluent in Welsh, many Welsh words are used every day, even by those who aren’t fluent. A few of my personal favourites which I regularly use are “cwtch”, “bendigedig”, “twp” and “ych a fi” (I’ll let you Google them).

My point is that it’s great if you have your own language, tone, style that you and your colleagues understand, but remember, just because you get it, doesn’t mean everyone else will. 

6.More isn’t always greedy

Most countries have a national flower or plant – Ireland has the clover, Scotland the thistle, England the majestic rose. Wales has the very happy, yellow daffodil. However, Wales isn’t content with just the daffodil, it also has a vegetable – the leek. Oh, and a fire breathing dragon too. And that’s okay, there’s space for all of them.

You can have more than one type of anything whether that’s a number of completely different communication channels, different leadership approaches or being completely radical – different types of branding! It won’t always dilute the message. In fact, it can help reinforce it, just in different ways.

7.Being vocal is important …but so is singing from the same hymn sheet

Welsh male voice choirs are not just a stereotype in Wales – they do exist and they sound great!

Applying the choir analogy to your organisation, it’s all well and good making a load of noise, but if it’s unstructured, uncoordinated and inconsistent, no one understands and it can be painful to listen to. If, however, you’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, the ‘noise’ is far more powerful and has far more impact.

8.Celebrate and recognise your achievements

Seriously, if anyone knows how to celebrate an achievement it’s the Welsh. If you’ve never been lucky enough to watch Wales win a Grand Slam in the Six Nations, you’re missing out. The whole country embraces it, not just those who were at the event or watching it (though actually there is probably only a small number who weren’t watching it!).

My point is, make a song and dance about good things. Whether it’s that famous people come from the country like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Dylan Thomas, or the fact that your Nan has just won on the bingo, or your child has just lost their first tooth. Whatever the reason, the Welsh are all over it – embracing it and recognising it. It doesn’t need to be the biggest achievement, they all matter and they need to be recognised.

9.You don’t have to be at the top table to be a force to be reckoned with

Wales may be the only country not represented on the Union Flag, but it doesn’t stop the Welsh.

If you’re not at the top table, you can still get your voice heard and still have a huge impact. Don’t let the fact that your name is not on the invitation list stop you (I’m not suggesting that you gate-crash a meeting way above your level, I’m simply saying find other ways to raise your profile J).

And finally,

10.Welsh Cakes

Everyone has a Mam or Nan that makes the best Welsh Cakes. We bring them out for birthdays, christenings, weddings, funerals, because it’s Monday, Tuesday or any other day of the week.

Cake brings people together, you never hear the same thing said about a biscuit. So next time you are organising anything, remember the cake.

Natalie Corney is Corporate Communications Manager at Brent Council

pic chosen by Natalie via Flickr creative commons