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Poppulo Customer Summit 2018 – Learnings from the best seat in the house

Rob ShimminRob Shimmin·
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I really enjoyed moderating Poppulo’s Customer Summit in London last month.
Moderators get the best seat in the house, not least because of their proximity to the stage, but they also get to chat to the speakers in the weeks before the event to understand what they want to get across.

When summing up an event, I work from my pre-event interview notes and captured ‘memorable utterances’ throughout the day.
Here’s an extended version of those notes, giving (hopefully) some insight into what was a great discussion around internal communications and the role of Poppulo in making it more effective.

Poppulo’s CEO: Andrew O’Shaughnessy.

I caught up with Andrew the night before the summit and enjoyed a wide-ranging chat around his driving force for the business and a sense of why customer demand had steered the company to triple its workforce over the past two years to over 170 employees.

In his address, Andrew explained the formative experience of his early career working in the family wool business. When the tide turns against you, it’s clear your very best chance of survival is to harness the enthusiasm and skills of your workforce.

To get there, you need to invest in your people. And it was clear to Andrew that issues impacting the business, including uncontrollable international market forces, as well as poor management-employee communications, were going to negatively impact the future of a company that everybody had worked so hard to make a success.

He was right. The family business did not survive. But the silver lining was a newly invigorated Andrew with a resolute passion for getting internal communications right.

His opening address captured his and Poppulo’s enthusiasm perfectly and gave some exciting ‘heads-up’ on new products like mobile that woke up Twitter early in the morning.

Mossy O’Mahony – VP Product, Poppulo

Of course, the newest and shiniest product will always grab the headlines, but Mossy O’Mahony reminded us that Poppulo’s Innovation Lab, which was there for all to see at the Summit, had been set up to capture as much customer feedback as possible across all product areas.

Damien Daly, Head of Engineering, joined us on stage describing seven product teams focused unerringly on driving simplicity.

His colleague Mark Foley,UI/UX Design Lead, added that the five customer user interface teams took that product simplicity and built-in beauty – aesthetics is important!
After the event, Mossy told me customers had given wonderfully useful feedback in the Innovation Lab

AIB: Susan Elliott, Head of Internal Communications & Employee Engagement at AIB & Louise Hodgson, Strategic Communications at AIB

A great story of a corporate turnaround and the power of internal communications to make it happen. Here’s a bank that’s experienced a colossal change in a very tough Irish economic environment. With the meltdown of the Celtic Tiger and the pummeling of banks like AIB, Susan and Louise described employees’ hesitance to admit working for a bank at a dinner party.

Stats in the toughest times told a tough story with three actively disengaged employees for everyone engaged! Fast forward to a rapidly moving IPO and a relaunch as a truly digital bank with 1.3m online customers, and improved employee engagement had altered the picture dramatically. Eighty-four engaged employees for every one disengaged.

Brilliant Ink: Ann Melinger & Jackie Berg

Ann and Jackie brought alive the concept of personas by introducing Texas’ greatest fan…Bubba. Want to stop Texans littering their highways? Figure out what makes them tick and create content that’s super-targeted to them. Bubba drives a pick-up, is not really motivated by ‘don’t litter’ signs and fines…but he just LOVES Texas. Ann and Jackie said the building of personas had been made far easier with Poppulo’s ease of use and powerful data. The result is nicely honed messaging and an audience that’s easier to write for. The output…a highly effective “Don’t mess with Texas!”

Big learning came from the Q&A. How many personas are too many? Their advice…keep it down to seven or so.

ERM: Neil Griffiths, Senior Manager, Global Communication (ERM), interviewed by Poppulo’s Robin O’Sullivan

Neil shared survey results from Gatehouse’s recent survey and Poppulo’s own Inside IC Global Survey showing that 66% felt measurement was hard and 12% simply did not do it. ERM is ahead of the game in using Poppulo’s analytics across channels with Neil pointing out the ease of data gathering delivered by the approach. “We used to have to gather it from lots of sources.” With that comes a nice problem….lots and lots of data.

My big learning? The ability multiple data points have to investigate things that are perplexing or surprising. When feedback puts a low value on a function and staff are demotivated, it’s powerful to be able to point to the corresponding consumption of output. It’s a case of actions speaking louder than words.

Amazings. Lego isn’t just for kids.

After security had supported the revelation of my Gold Brick (thank you, Charlotte Simonsen, Lego)….we saw Dirk lead a great session that explored creativity and the big messages behind what we’re all actually doing. Oh, and some of us can actually sing too!

My big learning? It’s not for kids, but working with it can remove inhibitions. Nobody turned up thinking they’d have fun, sing and succinctly nail their purpose in such a short time.

GSK: Joe Lees, Manager, Internal Digital Channels Communications & Government Affairs, and Chelsea Moore, Editor In Chief, Your GSK News

It was great to see personas used in the context of a highly complex (behind the scenes) newsletter with a hugely tailored simplicity that moved the persona approach forward by profiling real people to produce a targeted personalized newsletter for every single employee. To get a sense of the variability of content we were treated to a single sheet that spanned almost the length of the room….capturing every version available of GSK’s internal newsletter, Your GSK News.

Biggest learning? Decommissioning multiple newsletters into one is hard but easier if the replacement is a high-quality offering.

Panel discussion: Linda Woodcraft (CYBG), Clare Wills (Moorfields Eye Hospital), Chris Rice (Unilever):

I really enjoyed hosting this panel with Linda, Clare and Chris…all at different points of the Poppulo journey. Each brought massive insight into how best to engage with internal audiences. Some take-outs:

Linda Woodcraft (CYBG):
It helps to have a charismatic, supportive boss (CEO David Duffy) with a particular eye for measurement.
He and the management team really look at how their messages are landing and ask what they can do better if one area (such as video) is not performing as it should.

Clare Wills (Moorfields Eye Hospital):
Tailoring a newsletter takes on a new dimension when you realize some of your audience are visually impaired. Clare described the flexibility of the system to improve accessibility vastly.
With new tools and reach comes a drive to ‘up your game’ in terms of the quality and quantity of content provision. Clare estimated almost five times as much was being created and contributors had to be better aware of audiences – who they are and where they are.

Chris Rice (Unilever):
Chris talked us through his approach to data cleansing and the effort undertaken to ensure the employee data used in their Poppulo account is the most up to date and accurate.

Why is this so important? An example he used is an inactive contact who’d long since left the company will never open a newsletter or communication. As a result, you’ll get inaccurately low engagement figures.

Olga Kilmanovich (Change management, comms, and engagement consultant)

Olga took us through eight essential building blocks to successful internal communications. My favorite? Dancing in a Russian house starts by the oven. Her analogy impressed upon us that communications have to start with the strategy and those best placed to explain it are the organization’s leaders.

She also summed up the importance of strong measurement: “Numbers are so much better than opinion when you talk to business leaders.”

Sum up of the sum up:

Nearly 300 people gathered to learn more about internal communications, how their peers are managing IC challenges, and the tools Poppulo can bring to create more intimate and engaging conversations wherever an employee might be. I learned a lot and enjoyed the day immensely.


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