Reflections from a communications conference in Bahrain

The International Association of Business Communicators organised the first ever conference in the gulf. As the world’s largest network of communication professionals, IABC bringing this two-day event to the middle east offered the region’s communicators with the insights, know-how and tools that they need to help their organisations achieve strategic transformation through communications, be it external or internal. This was part of the EMENA chapters initiative, and the chair of the conference (Alex Malouf) was thoughtful in inviting an Indian delegation to be on a panel.

With six tracks covering leadership and strategy, corporate social responsibility, the impact of technology, crisis response, and the latest thinking in external and internal communications, EMENAComm was able to showcase best practices and innovations that are changing how corporations, consultancies, and NGOs are achieving success through communications. The theme was – Transformers: Communicators at the heart of driving strategic change.
I have highlighted the seven sessions that stood out:

  1. Internal Comms expert Sean Trainor sought to challenge and make one rethink the perception on an organisation’s visions and values, so that one is able to better understand one’s people and think critically about what matters to them.
  2. Keynote speaker Dawn Metcalfe helped attendees to – Learn how to Understand how neurobiology makes difficult conversations even harder; learn the impact of not having difficult conversations on critical areas including brand and reputation management and crisis communications; And the way to build high performing teams through kind candour.
  3. IABC’s past APAC Chair Dr Rajeev Kumar shared his expertise on how figures of speech can be used to promote change and engagement internally. He explained how metaphors in Change Management can be used as guiding images of the future; creating shared understandings and cognitive reorientation; understanding individual perceptions and identifying resistance to change, unearth emotions related to change and identify gaps in individual acceptance of proposed changes and improving organisational effectiveness
  4. As communicators, if we are going to “use transformational communications to drive strategic change” we have to become better strategic advisers to the leaders we support. Communication lies at the heart of leadership, and yet leaders are often ill-prepared for the specific communication challenges change presents, and often under-served by the communication professionals who support them. Colin Hatfield revealed a few of the tools and techniques he has developed that strategic advisers can deploy with leaders to help them be more effective, inspiring and influential communicators and engage more strongly and productively with their teams.
  5. In his session, Cameron Craig shared how communication played a pivotal role in Apple’s turnaround period from Steve Jobs’ return as CEO to the launch of iPhone. Over this period, Apple would prove the cynics wrong and dazzle the world with its groundbreaking innovations, masterful marketing and against-the-grain approach. He shared five communications lessons from those days and how one can take advantage of these same principles for one’s company or brand. Themes include the importance of keeping it simple, prioritising influencers, staying focused on the message, and leveraging outside milestones for internal momentum.
  6. Brad Jennings delivered an interesting session which covered how there is a growing movement of people who have decided that change starts with them. Across the globe, start-ups, scale-ups, social enterprises, charities, inventors, thinkers, and communities of like-minded individuals, are all making change happen through a burning ambition to create a better world.
    Communicators hold the key to unlocking human centred change in organisations. By helping people feel part of something greater than themselves, communicators have the potential to inspire people to make change happen.
  7. The finale was the session comprising India’s most senior communicators which I curated and had Rachana Panda, Sunita Venugopal and Sujit Patil in conversation with Shreya Krishnan sharing their insights on how they’ve shifted their function from tactics and execution to becoming a strategic organisational asset. They shared insights and tips on how others can seek to do the same.

Overall, the experience was enriching. We came away richer with new learnings, new connections and new experiences.

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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