10 steps to building an employee champions network


We trust the people we work with, so we trust what they say.

Once again, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that we have twice as much trust in ‘experts’ and ‘someone like me’ as we do in our CEOs.

That’s not good news for internal communicators, where traditionally we’ve spent time and resource on developing core channels such as leadership communications and managers as communicators.

So why not invest in a network of employee champions who will communicate your organisational story in a credible way to the people they work with?

A champions network will be your extended voice, reinforcing key messages on the ground to engage the hearts and minds of the people that matter.

Champions know the area of the business they work in better than you. They will instantly localise and tailor your messaging to their audiences. It will be more impactful, more relevant and more authentic.

Take time to listen too. Your network will be your ears and eyes on the ground. Get your champions to feedback on how messages are landing to help you tweak or even switch up your strategy.

Are you in? Here’s how to start…

Here’s a ten steps to developing your network of employee champions:

  1. Be clear on purpose: What do you need your champions to be saying and doing in the role – how are you going to get them there?
  2. Build prestige around the role: Give the programme an official title, ask leaders to nominate champions, make it ‘exclusive’.
  3. Take your time: It’s crucial to get your champions engaged with the role. You’ll need a face-to-face event, supporting materials and maybe a little incentive.
  4. Trust and empower: Give champions information before other employees.
  5. Get champions to support each other: Put champions in touch with one another (perhaps via an online community) so they can collaborate, share ideas and overcome challenges.
  6. Coach and train: Partner with your Training Dept to create some skill sessions; create a template objective for personal development plans. Make sure your champions get something back for their CV.
  7. Get senior leader endorsement: Champions need to be comfortable taking time out of their day job on their champion role.
  8. Be clear on tasks and due dates: As you build a committed, engaged network you’ll find this matters less and less.
  9. Build relationships: Take the time to regularly check-in with your champions.
  10. Finally, have a plan for how to sustain your network: Plan regular engagement activities; a process for champions who need to leave the role; and most importantly some reward and recognition for all that hard work.

Developing your network will be hard work and resource intensive – particularly at the start. But the end result is a new type of internal channel that will be credible and can help make a real difference to your organisation.


Anna Lowman
Article written by Anna Lowman, Communications Manager – Employee Communications and Engagement, Transport for London

Twitter: @annalowman
Read Anna’s blog: In the word game

Developing and destroying relationships


In my Communications World Magazine column last month, I promised to tell you about developing and destroying business partner relationships. And so by reading the next few hundred words, you’ll gain 15 tips, techniques and ideas that will help you develop—and not destroy—your business relationships.

Actually, I have just used three of those techniques in the last paragraph. But before I reveal what they are, let’s take a step back and look at relationship building.

Building relationships is at the core of any business partnering activity. You can’t be a business partner without relationships. And yet it is amazing how little thought goes into the analysis of how to build and sustain relationships.

In my opinion, building relationships is about building trust and putting yourself in a position where the partnership is a true two-way affair, not an asymmetrical one. But how do you build and measure trust?

The work of people like management expert David Maister and Shaun O’Callaghan of Quartet Research suggest that trust can be measured and mapped, and that a “trust equation” can be a useful analytical tool to help you understand which of your relationships are working well and which need attention.

In a business relationship, trust can be thought of as having three key elements:

Intimacy: How much do you really understand the other person and their business?
Value: Are the benefits you bring to that person greater than the “cost” of involving you?
Perceived risk: What are the risks of involving you and how can you reduce them?

Clearly, the name of the game here is to increase the first two elements and reduce the latter. It can be a useful exercise to plot your relationships on these three dimensions to perhaps see where you could take some action. And of course, destroying a relationship is achieved by doing the opposite of the points below. Here are some hints and tips in each of the three areas.

Intimacy is about making connections, investing in the relationship and demonstrating that this person is high on your stakeholder map. If intimacy is low, you can:

  • Invest in the relationship by showing you want to learn more about their business or their challenges.
  • Ask personal questions about family, friends, interests, etc.
  • Respond to their feedback.
  • Engage with them outside the specific project.
  • Help make the other person feel special. Use language (e.g., “you”) to get their attention.

Value is about ensuring that the benefits you provide are greater than the cost of involving you. This cost might be measured in terms of time or money. If you think the other person doesn’t see the value you can bring, you can:

  • Use referrals or testimonials from people they consider their peers.
  • Identify their business needs and frame your solutions in those terms, not your own.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of the challenges they face and how you can help.
  • Keep their costs low (i.e., make it easy for them to involve you).
  • Be sure to articulate the benefits (what is in it for them?).

Perceived risk is about helping the other person feel comfortable about involving you and demonstrating that you can deliver. They might be nervous or unsure about involving you in the process, so you can make it easy for them by:

  • Showing your track record or giving examples.
  • Being responsive, quick and accurate. One or the other is not enough.
  • Helping them look good in the eyes of their peers.
  • Providing regular updates and showing you are in control (especially at the beginning of a project).
  • Delivering on your promises.

No one sets out to destroy a relationship on purpose. But sometimes we do it accidentally via omission or by not thinking about whether our actions are likely to have a big impact on one of these three variables. If you think something is going wrong in a business relationship, then analyzing each of these three elements can often point the way to a solution.

Have you worked out the three techniques I used at the beginning of this article?

First: I talked about promises. At the end of my last column, I said I would write about relationships. At the beginning of this one I acknowledged that I’d made a previous promise and was now following through. This hopefully tells you that I can be trusted to deliver and therefore lowers perceived risk.

Second: I talked about value. I was quite specific about the benefits of reading this article: “You’ll gain 15 tips, techniques and ideas.” I was also quite clear about the cost: There are a “few hundred words” to read. The “bargain” was there in print and you had the choice to consider whether the benefits outweighed the cost.

Third: I tried to create intimacy. It’s difficult of course because we’re not talking face-to-face. Therefore, I had to rely on a clumsy old trick: the trick of “you.” In the first paragraph, I used the words “you” or “your” four times to try to make you feel at the center of the article.

This article was originally published in IABC’s Communications World Magazine.

stephen welchStephen Welch helps organizations with culture change, communication and leadership, and explores the connections between behavior and job/organization design.

He is a member of the Market Research Society and the Chartered Institute of Publications, a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and past president of the IABC U.K. chapter.

Follow him on Twitter at @stephenwelch11

Who are the Millennials and how to engage them effectively

Who are the Millennials?

The Millennials generation are people born between 1981 and 2000 (age 14 to 32) and they are changing the world as we know it.

Brands and organisations have been taken by surprise by this audience who is eschewing traditional methods of communication in favor of a life largely spent online and are having to innovate and change business as usual practices in order to keep up with them.

From an early age, Millennials learned that they can use computers and mobile devices to get things done as efficiently as possible and on their time. They are early technology adopters and use four or more devices on a daily basis. They may live at home with their parents, have money, they shop based on friend’s recommendations and online reviews, they converse via social media or messaging apps and are completely unfazed by celebrity status.

View more in-depth stats (captured in a visual infographic) about Millennials compiled from three recent studies, originally published via adweek.com

How to engage them effectively

Michael Lewis, IABC member and senior managing director of strategy and insights at Teach for America,  Sandra Lopez, marketing strategy director for new business at Intel and Nick Shore, senior vice president, strategic insights and research at MTV, discuss during the IABC World Conference how the millennial generation is affecting their organizations, including changes in structure and approaches to marketing and social media.

Some key insights from their conversation:

  • Millennials are creating a huge cultural wave that’s about to hit the world
  • Millennials are a brand themselves, they create a brand every day on social media so how can brands interact with someone else’s brand?
  • Millennials are the “connected generation”, the new leaders (sometimes kids) who feel super-empowered and want things immediately.
  • Millennials are creating a state of perpetual beta where brands need to test ideas and learn, evolve and innovate

The other generation that has had a huge impact on our lives has been the “boomers”. As the boomers travelled through time – they have changed what is to be a parent, what is to be a boss and a what is to be a consumer. Millennials will do the same.

To engage them we need to look beyond traditional marketing, to innovate and find ways to engage them on social media and through technology. We need to define the purpose behind our social media platforms, share things that are relevant to them and more importantly allow them to share back – when they see you are willing to engage, they will trust you, take you seriously and start the conversation.

Video originally published in IABC’s CW Publication.

Watch this Webinar – The Rise of the Millennials: Transforming the Enterprise through Gamification

In this webinar, gamification expert Gabe Zichermann takes you behind the scenes to discover what’s driving this extraordinary trend, key successes and failures, and major design patterns that will enable your organization to take advantage of this innovation.

View on-demand webinars

Learning to inspire


Mentoring is a powerful personal development and empowerment tool.

It’s an effective way of helping people to progress in their careers and is becoming increasing popular as its potential is realised. It is a helpful relationship between two people (mentor and mentee) based upon mutual trust and respect. The mentor guides the mentee in finding the right direction, helping them develop solutions to career issues and think about career options and progress.

Tessa O’Neill, IABC UK President talks about her experience of mentoring and inspiring others as well as the rewards of being a mentor.

You learn about yourself and realise you know a lot more than you probably think you did.

As a mentee, you get the chance to look more closely at yourself, your issues, opportunities and what you want in life.
Mentoring can help you:

  • Become more self aware about strengths and weaknesses
  • Take responsibility for your life
  • Direct your life in the direction you decide, rather than leaving it to chance.

Read more about 7 Habits of highly successful mentors and meentes

Communicator or engineer – who’d be your best bet on a desert island?


I’ve always been a little puzzled why we communicators go to great lengths to differentiate ourselves from one another. “I’m a PR professional” or “I’ve always worked in marcomms” or “Digital is the only option for me”. Why do we do this when we have so much in common and share so many practices and capabilities? Rather than focusing on what differentiates us, shouldn’t we be championing what unites us? A love of language and an ability to connect most effectively with a target audience.

It’s not the fault of any individual but of the communications community as a whole. The infinitesimal job titles given to communicators are actually limiting rather than expanding our potential remit. And it’s a large part of what stops communications from being seen as a profession.

Take engineers as an example. They may have different disciplines: mechanical, IT, technical etc. but they all have ‘engineer’ in their job title. And consequently, they are seen as expert, methodical problem solvers. The people you’d want to be stranded with on a desert island as you know they’d have built a shelter or a raft in a matter of days. The Wikipedia definition of an engineer is “a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics, and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical, societal and commercial problems.”

But what about communicators? It’s a much broader church and can encompass people who are naturally gifted at speaking and not just communications professionals per se. So wouldn’t it be great if the primary definition of a communicator was something along the lines of: “a professional practitioner, concerned with applying communications skills, theory and creativity to facilitate the most effective exchange and understanding of technical, societal and commercial information.”

Read more