Strategic Communications is at the heart of driving change

Bahrain is one of the coolest Arab countries. This country is a little island in the Persian Gulf. It is beautiful; the turquoise water, the palm trees, the food and warmth of the people, all makes it special. In a nutshell, it was transformative (keeping it real with the conference theme).

After the personal aha moment of transformation, I jumped straight into the purpose of my visit. International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the world’s largest network of communication professionals, hosted their first regional event over a period of two days. Attendees had the opportunity to listen to various speakers, who flew from across the globe to share their insights on the topic. The event provided ideas, perspectives, tools, trends on leadership, strategy, CSR and the latest news in internal and external communications.

I don’t think I’ll be able to do justice to all the sessions, but I will try and share my learnings from the event. For two days, delegates networked with everyone in person and through the ‘Whova’ app. Personally, I was very pleased with this app – came quite in handy to know the agenda, speaker profile and more.

Day one was power packed. Lewis Woodward, Global Communication Leader from EY started the day with the topic ‘Purpose’ and how communications at EY aligns and creates campaigns to build a better working world. The take-away for me from this session were three simple things: aligning to the goal, keeping the narrative going, and lastly telling the story on culture. – the #PowerofPurpose.

From an internal communications map of the world, Joss Mathieson, former GSK internal engagement touched upon a few key elements: focusing on outcomes and not outputs, working as one team (this is a difficult one) and making things simple, and simpler.

This was followed by a talk by Dawn Metcalfe, an executive coach and facilitator. She has authored two books, Managing the Matrix and The HardTalk. It’s important to have a coaching perspective to communications. Culture was her topic – it’s important to know how we all understand culture. According to her, culture is the way things are done. Culture is the question we don’t ask and the processes we don’t question. How comfortable are we with being uncomfortable? Few challenging topics to talk about are: performance, money, power, personal hygiene, gossiping and mobile phone usage during a meeting. True, isn’t it?

Tasneem Chopra, a cross cultural consultant talked about changing the way we communicate, inclusively. Applying a lens to our communications strategy from a diversity and inclusive perspective, will help rethink traditional paradigms of leadership.

Executive Presence session was facilitated by Joh Hammond, former journalist and a media trainer. He is a story teller and shared the insider’s secret to making your executive presence better. To each his own style and to be comfortable with who you are – that’s important. As communicators, do we have enough executive presence in the room to have a seat and voice at the table? Something to think about.

Next up was ‘Listening’ – A critical skill for communications professionals. This session was facilitated by Dr. Kevin Ruck, Mike Pounsford and Howard Krais. I loved the research done by them and the surveys that were meticulously decoded – they hit the bullseye by making sure that the session was experiential. What’s the difference between hearing and listening? How employees listen? Good listening is about creating a thinking environment. Isn’t it?

(L – R): Sujit Patil, Shreya Krishnan, Sunita Venugopal, Rachana Panda

Lastly as a panellist on topic, ‘Tactics to Strategy’, listening to my fabulous co-panellists – Rachana Panda, CCO & Citizen Leader, GE South Asia, Sujit Patil, VP & Head, Communications, Godrej Industries and Shreya Krishnan, VP Marketing & Communications, Anviti Insurance – was an amazing experience! We summed it up with various examples of how strategy is important, it’s our North Star and how we all need to present strategy depending on audiences. A huge shout out to Amith Prabhu, for helping the voices from India be heard.

From corporates to consultancies, this conference has been a great platform to step out of our daily routine and take value from peer learnings. Creating content online, Artificial Intelligence, Building Reputation, Crisis Communications, Digital Marketing Strategy, CSR, Measurement – all topics that are important to the communications world, were covered.

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Sunita Venugopal
Director, Media & Public Affairs at Walmart Labs India
Responsible for Walmart Labs' external and internal branding and advising senior management on corporate brand and other associated topics, Sunita has almost two decades of experience in public relations, stakeholder engagement, risk mitigation, crisis communications, campaign development and social media.

When not at work, Sunita is busy coaching people to achieve their goals.

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