The Gatehouse Blog

Phone blogging at Carlsberg UK

The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at www.internal-communication.com/joic

Head of Internal Communication Richard Baker explains how phone blogging enables conversations at Carlsberg UK.

Carlsberg UK is part of the Carlsberg Group, the fourth largest brewer in the world and home to some 500 drinks brands – some you will recognise and some that will surprise you. It’s home to Carlsberg, San Miguel, Staropramen and Somersby, to name but a few.

We also distribute alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to customers all over the country from depots in Torquay all the way up to Alloa.

There’s a lot going on in Carlsberg UK. Already this year we’ve launched three new Somersby Flavours, two new San Miguel 0.0% alcohol drinks and made a return to our iconic marketing campaign ‘If Carlsberg did…’.

As you can imagine, with a business as diverse as ours, we have very different communications requirements. We have mobile sales teams, dray crews (drivers), warehouse operatives, marketing teams, and lots more, all in different parts of the country.

Shortly after he became our CEO in February 2014, James Lousada, started writing a weekly blog for all employees. It was published on our corporate intranet, and data from our channel audit showed that employees who could access it were positive about it. However, for all the reasons stated above, a lot of people didn’t get the opportunity to see it.

Introducing phone blogging

As part of a broader internal communications strategy designed to ‘reach the hard-to-reach’, we introduced phone blogging to engage with our non-wired people.

Contact Engine are the people behind iPadio, a mobile app and platform that allows you to record a message and distribute it across your business. It’s a simple, quick and easy way to record audio ready for wider sharing. He shares his personal views about what’s going on in the industry, what challenges we’re facing, and what’s happening across our business. Our colleagues are encouraged to give James a call directly on his mobile if they want to discuss anything.

So, once James records his blog using the smartphone app, I login to our control panel online and make any edits and prepare for publishing. It’s automatically posted on our intranet homepage through a little embedded widget that has a brief description and an accompanying image, and most critically, people can also phone up and listen to James, using a standard phone line.

To remind people to dial in, we send a text message to all company phones. Within minutes of James recording his blog, his voice message can be shared with everyone in the business, wherever they are.

When people dial in, they can do three things: they can listen to James’ update, they can rate the call and they can leave a message – either a question or a comment for James. He always responds directly to people who have taken the time to get in touch. It closes the loop and it’s a great opportunity for anyone in the business to have a conversation with the CEO.

A different approach to leadership

As we all know, large companies often struggle with leaders’ visibility. Visibility doesn’t necessarily mean seeing people face-to-face; it’s about hearing from them and knowing they care. Most people don’t expect to see their leaders every week. But you can still create connections; a key part of our strategy is to make it easier for people to have conversations and remove the barriers in business – whether that’s processes, hierarchies, distance, time – and phone blogging is a part of that.

Another benefit is linked with one of the most important issues facing leaders today: trust. Sometimes we as internal communicators get overly concerned with gloss and shine, whether with fancy jingles, glossy mags or overproduced videos; and it doesn’t seem to be hitting the right spot with people. Thanks in a large part to social media, the way people consume media has changed. They’re much more comfortable viewing user-generated content.

The more authentic we can be in the way we produce and share content with each-other, and employees, the greater the chance of an impact on the viewer… It’s about enabling honest conversations between people.

Management expert Henry Mintzberg recently that it’s no longer about leadership, it’s about “communityship”: “Communityship is not a word in the English language. But it should be – to stand between individual leadership on one side and collective citizenship on the other. Communityship certainly makes use of leadership, but not the egocentric, “heroic” kind that has become so prevalent in the business world. Communityship requires a more modest form of leadership.” I believe he’s right; we still need leaders, but ones who are more ‘light-touch’ and let their teams shine. Phone blogging helps people see our CEO is approachable and most importantly – listens.

Lessons learned

No one channel is a silver bullet. What I’m trying to do is create communications that work for employees in the 21st Century. If people prefer to read about what’s happening on their PC then they can. If they are sitting in a cab on a break and have a few moments, they can dial up and ask the CEO a question..

What we need to be doing as internal communicators is replicate how we consume information outside of work, inside of work.

There is so much information available we need to be smarter about what we communicate, and how. We should be sharing less, but when we do, create more impact.

Some of the key learnings for me from all of this is that it takes time – especially the introduction of brand new channels, like phone blogging. You’ve got to have patience and faith; it takes time to build a following. Seven months on, we have a steadily increasing listenership and I’m pleased with our progress.

BIOGRAPHY – RICH BAKER

Rich Baker MBA MCIPR MCIPD FInstLM is an experienced & strategic senior communications and employee engagement expert, passionate about enabling success through people.

He has over 20 years leadership experience in highly regulated and complex companies including Carlsberg UK, London Midland, Virgin Trains and McDonald’s.

He speaks and writes on strategic internal communications, employee engagement and the future of work. http://uk.linkedin.com/in/richardbaker/