Why did you become a CEB member?
When I joined JTI I had the opportunity to re-establish a membership they had and I was so impressed by the best case practices and the resources available, that I made a case to join and I think that was probably three years ago and we’ve been a member since.
How do CEB events differ from those of other service providers?
The focus on research and all of the data, often in communications we’re asked to justify or provide evidence for doing things that seem really soft to leaders in an organization and this helps me make that case.
What business challenges is CEB helping you address?
My main project right now is a programme that we’re calling ‘leadership communications’ and it’s about building a corporate narrative. One of the benefits I think to CEB, is that you poll and you talk to people across many organizations, you know what the hot topics are. That’s probably the biggest issue we’re facing right now, getting leaders aligned to our corporate strategy.
Have you made any changes since working with CEB?
We have put together a comprehensive approach to communication planning and recently rolled out the tool kit for our 120 markets all over the world and functions. My whole team attended the Black Belt training a couple of years ago, before you were integrated, and built a six step approach to communication planning. We took the research that CEB had done in terms of outcome based communication planning and put together a six step plan for communication plan building, based on business needs and it is now part of our annual corporate planning for the communications function, and it has been a huge success and something that has also brought a lot of consistency and business focus to the communications function. We are seeing for sure the focus on business needs and outcomes versus fluffy communications objectives.
Why did you choose CEB’s Communications Skills Assessment?
We chose to do the skills assessment as part of our annual plan for my internal communications team, to identify where we had gaps and to benchmark ourselves against what’s happening in other organizations. We used the tool as a dialogue for the managers in my team to talk to all of the communications folks. One of the areas that came through was writing skills, so it’s something that we have since tackled strongly with a big writing session for my team, plus all of our other functions. With a real focus on the way people read and consume information today.
How are your team benefitting from CEB membership?
My team and the extended global team of corporate affairs and communications at JTI benefits greatly from CEB. I look at it as sort of an extension of HQ resources, we have people from all over the world who access the site for research, for best case practices and for tools. When I polled four, five hundred people or so in the organisation last year to understand what benefit they were getting from it and if they thought we should continue. Overwhelmingly people said please continue, it’s something that we can’t get anywhere else, it’s a great corporate benefit and individuals really appreciated the fact that HQ sponsor membership for the whole organization of communicators.
How have you utilized Black Belt training?
The Black Belt training is probably the single most significant thing we have done as a team, in the last three years since I have been with JTI, and what it has done is given us a format for how we plan communications, what focus we put on business needs and it has been so revolutionary, that it touches every single thing we do. From how we write objectives, to the tools that we now develop. We’ve developed an in house programme based on the Black Belt Programme. There’s really nothing that we do that isn’t in some form a result of having done that session as a team.
Has working with CEB helped your function support the goals of the organization?
There’s no question that using the step by step planning process that we went through at Black Belt and the information we’ve gathered from the CEB Resource Centre, that we have a more business focussed approach to communications, it’s absolutely hands down no question. People understand now much more, that communications is about helping the business progress and it’s not about a fancy brochure or something exciting that would be really cool to do. It’s really about helping our business achieve its goals and my whole team now, is absolutely rallied around that concept and this is how we operate now and have for a couple of years.
As head of function, what personal value do you take from working with CEB?
Personally I’ve benefitted from being a member in CEB, by having access to a wide network of communicators, when needed I’ve been put in contact or in touch with people dealing with the same issues I have.
How has CEB supported you to deliver commercial impact?
I would say definitely the tools for communication planning and the Black Belt Programme. Internally without having concrete metrics is difficult, now every single communicator at JTI uses this system for developing outcome based and business results, focussed communication plans. So while I don’t have any ROI on that, the fact is that where there were none, now every communicator in the company is using these tools.
What separates CEB from other vendors?
The biggest difference with CEB as compared to other organizations, is the best in class organizations that belong, so that you can benchmark yourself easily against best in class. The other differentiating factor would be the research, the pertinence of the research CEB does, is helpful every year because you’re addressing the hot topics in communications.