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PRSA Employee Communications Connect 17 Conference

June 14–16 | Denver, Co.

The 2017 program is still in the planning stages. To give you an idea of the type of relevant programming the
Employee Communications Connect 17 Conference offers, we have left up the 2016 schedule as an example.

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Wednesday, May 11

Noon–8 p.m.Registration
6–8 p.m.Welcome Reception
Kick off the conference by getting reacquainted with colleagues from around the country and meeting new ones over drinks and appetizers in the Atrium at the Dallas Marriott at City Center.

Thursday, May 12

8 a.m.–5 p.m.Registration
8–9 a.m.Breakfast
9–9:45 a.m.

Opening Keynote
“You Have the Power to Transform Employee Communication (and It's Easier Than You Think)”
Alison Davis, CEO, Davis & Company

With all the tools and technology we have available, communicating with employees should be simpler than ever. But it’s actually getting more difficult to catch workers’ attention—much less create understanding and motivate people to take action.

Breaking through does not mean communicating more; it requires a radically different approach. But despite the big change needed, you have the power to transform employee communication. And once you take the first step, the process is easier than you think.

In this interactive session, Alison Davis will share insights about engaging employees she’s earned after three decades of experience—and as result of research conducted with tens of thousands of employees about their needs and preferences.

Participants will learn:

  • What employees hate most about communication—and how to stop that madness immediately.
  • How to use advancements in neuroscience to improve nearly every message you create.
  • What Hollywood, Madison Avenue and political campaigns can teach us about internal communication.
  • Why communicating less leads to more effectiveness.
  • How to convince leaders and other stakeholders to try new methods.
  • Which small changes make the biggest difference.
10–10:45 a.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 1

“The Road to J.D. Power Number Eight”
Hillary S. U, Communications Specialist, Alaska Airlines
Julie Bailey, Communications Manager, Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines’ is known for their outstanding customer service, low fares and innovative technology. With all of these award-winning services, what happens when their eighth J.D. Power award is in jeopardy? Join communication practitioners, Julie Bailey & Hillary U, as they walk through this Alaska Airlines’ case-study, sharing tips on working with geographically-diverse workgroups and weaving employee engagement strategies into an award-winning mentality.

“Thinking Outside the Inbox: Reaching Employees with Creative Communication”
Randy D. Berger, Communications Coordinator, CoxHealth

Reaching more than 10,000 employees across a five-hospital health care system is no small task, especially when 70 percent of team members spend their days at the bedside rather than at a computer. CoxHealth deploys a dynamic mix of successful tools - from email to newsletters to focus groups - to tell the story of our organization and drive continuous improvement for our staff and the patients we serve.

You Will Learn How CoxHealth:

  • Uses brand journalism to build community and pride.
  • Helps employees tie their daily work to the health system's larger strategic plan.
  • Uses tools continue to evolve through feedback we receive in employee surveys that guide our departmental goal setting.
  • Creates a multi-layered strategy to reach all audiences -- from print, to an intranet, to email and social media.
  • "Connects the dots" for our audience by telling stories that show the role we all play in achieving the organization's goals.
  • Builds pride through personal feature stories about employees and personal Q&A intros with new hospital leaders.
  • Creates real engagement through an employee communications council that gives front-line employees a direct line to our senior leaders and a chance to be in the know and ask questions about major changes as they arise.
  • Boosts readership and engagement with strategies developed from our regular employee surveys, which help is apply a "continuous quality improvement" model to staff communication. 
11–11:45 a.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 2

“A Preview of Emerging Internal Communication Standards”
Julie S. O'Neil, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Texas Christian University

Most practitioners working in internal communication measure employee and organizational outcomes to some degree and with varying levels of success. However, measurement approaches vary widely across organizations and industries, which frustrates both practitioners and senior management alike.

In 2015, the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and the Commission on Research, Measurement and Evaluation formed an international task force to identify and develop internal communication standards. These standards are important because they clarify what needs to be measured and how to measure them so practitioners can make better communication decisions. Standards provide a common language and measurement approach for comparison purposes, thereby enabling in-house communication teams and public relations agencies to cohesively measure campaigns across units and countries.

This session will preview the emerging internal communication standards and explain how you can use them in your workplace. More specific, the presentation will include the following components:

  1. An overview of the internal communication standards promulgated by the IPR and the Commission on Research, Measurement and Evaluation Commission.
  2. A short presentation of two case studies that illustrate how companies are utilizing some of the recommended standards. 
  3. A discussion where you’ll have the opportunity to weigh in on the emerging internal communication standards as well as share yours!

“Getting to the Heart of Employee Engagement”
Les L. Landes, APR, President, Landes & Associates 

The economic downturn took a heavy toll on the workforce. Many employees were told the only way to survive and keep their jobs was by going “the extra mile” and doing “more with less.” Those days may be coming to an end. Surveys show that employees are burned out and fed up. They are jumping ship in big numbers, resulting in a costly talent drain.

Organizations that want to attract and retain top talent in this shifting climate will need a more serious and systematic approach to getting employees fully engaged in boosting performance.

In this presentation, Les Landes will reveal critical keys to keeping employees tuned in, turned on and eager to go the extra mile. He will offer thought-provoking ideas on how to foster a trust-based workplace by tapping into the uniquely human qualities of imagination and free will, using the right mind-set, the right heart-set and the right kind of people-first systems and processes to heighten employee engagement and alignment.

What participants will take away from this presentation:

  • A deeper appreciation for how improved employee engagement strengthens bottom-line results.
  • Ways to propel the "human rocket" of performance.
  • How to get “real” with the kind of communication that makes a genuine connection with employees.
  • An alternative to ineffective employee suggestion programs that usually produce mediocre results.
11:45 a.m.–12:45 p.m.Networking Luncheon
12:45–1:30 p.m.

Luncheon Keynote
“Connecting With Employees in a Digital Era”
Ally Bunin, Assistant Vice President, Organizational Communications, Northwell Health

As one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ) has the challenge of keeping its 61,000 employees engaged and centered on patient and customer experience to deliver the best outcomes.

With the workforce being predominately front-line clinicians and physicians, the health system’s Internal Communications team had to rethink its entire communications platform, messaging strategy, and approach – particularly in a digital era with more than 80% millennials joining the organization each year. As part of a massive rebranding effort, the company redesigned the Intranet, rolled out a social media platform and launched a mobile app to better connect with employees and deliver engaging communications in digital formats.

Real case studies that will be presented include:

  • How to rebuild an employee Intranet and successfully launch it for front-line employees.
  • Creating a social media platform and encouraging employees to be social.
  • Why going mobile with an employee app addressed many of our challenges.
  • Key KPIs that were measured against and how the results were shared with the C-suite.
1:45–2:15 p.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 3

“Superheroes of Change: How Topgolf Evolved Its Company Culture”
Adrienne Chance, Director, Corporate Communications, Topgolf

On the verge of rapid expansion, Topgolf recognized the need to redefine and re-engage Associates with regard to company culture. Find out how Topgolf developed a culture, training and communication strategy that resonates across the enterprise.

This session will cover:

  1. The landscape before the new culture rollout -- including our less-than-impressive Associate engagement survey results, recent leadership changes and our internal communication tools and culture up to that point. 
  2. How we developed the new culture -- soul-searching treks in the Arkansas wilderness, hours of debate and wordsmithing, an investment in training and ongoing communications, 100% commitment from the entire company leadership in a unique ceremony.
  3. The plan -- The collateral, the roadshow, the costumes, the new communication and Associate recognition tools.
  4. The results and lessons learned -- including quantitative and qualitative examples across the company. Topgolf is now a Best Place to Work in four major markets.
  5. How we will improve in 2016 -- sharing some of our internal communications roadmap.

“(Don't) Take Me to Your Leader: Enterprise Social Is Not for Robots”
Carrie Basham Young, Principal, Talk Social To Me

Have you launched an enterprise social network yet? Do you have small teams using their own collaboration tools? How do you unite them all? Who owns the program? These are all questions that pulse through a modern communicator's mind when attempting to unify the social efforts of an entire company. This presentation will provide senior Internal Communications decision makers with key considerations and a tangible framework through which they can organize and manage the launch of a formal enterprise social network.

We will discuss the following details in this session:

  • Why "social networks" are important to an enterprise, and why Communications teams should own programming.
  • The 40 (yes, 40!) work streams involved in a successful social network launch
  • Staffing considerations
  • Who owns the program? Where does IT fit in?
  • Building leadership engagement, product champions, and superusers.
  • The Value of Community
  • Tangible and intangible ROI
  • What your software vendor won't tell you - from a former vendor herself!
  • How we built tools and what assumptions have been guiding their development in the past 5 years.
This presentation is based on Carrie's 10 years of enterprise social networking work with dozens of companies from F100 retailers, financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and SMBs. As a former cofounder of Socialcast (acquired by VMware in 2011), and now an independent consultant, she offers experience on all sides of the table.
2:30–3 p.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 4

“Help the Leaders You Work With Be More Authentic”
David Grossman, APR, Fellow PRSA, CEO, The Grossman Group

As communications professionals, part of our role is to help leaders find their authentic voice and build trust with their teams. There’s no magic formula to authentic leadership or a certain “type” of leader who’s most effective. However, there are strategies that can help leaders be more of who they are in the workplace and help them build trust and engagement.
The big challenge in global business today with cover-ups, unethical deals & shoddy leadership underscore the dire need for authenticity. From the presentation, attendees will have a solid understanding of authenticity—what it is and isn’t. They will understand best practice strategies used today to be more authentic.

“Successful Communication Starts with Listening: How to Use Research and Measurement to Create a Communications Plan that Works”
Cindy Crescenzo, President, Crescenzo Communications, Inc.

No communications plan is perfect. Nothing works all the time. That's why it's crucial that communicators find out what works and what doesn't. Want to change behavior? Are you hitting your goals? Do your communication channels work? Join Cindy Crescenzo of Crescenzo Communications to learn how to put together a strategic communication plan that is agile, effective and gets results.

During this session you'll learn:

  • What they think vs. what they know — how to use qualitative and quantitative research.
  • How to interview executives, (which, done properly, establishes you as a business partner) and gain support for your plan.
  • The best strategies for conducting focus groups that don't turn into gripe sessions.
  • Survey do's and don'ts — write a survey that fuels your plan.
  • How to use the relevance formula to make sure your content grabs your audience.
  • How to tie it all together — research as the basis of your communication strategy.
3:15–3:45 p.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 5

“We’re Not What You’d Expect: Modernizing Government for the New Millennium”
Lise Harwin, APR, Internal Communications Manager, Port of Portland

A 125-year-old organization can’t maintain a modern appearance without a little freshening up. For the Port of Portland, a quasquicentennial was the perfect motivation to check on perceptions – internally and externally – of the Port as an employer of choice. After engagement surveys and new employee focus groups, Corporate Communications and Human Resources teamed up to draft a brand promise and create:

  1. A social media-friendly recognition tool.
  2. A modernized careers website.
  3. Launch activities for both that involved employees visually and verbally.
  4. PROPS (Peer Recognition of Port Staff) real time employee recognition and rewards.

You will learn how we used a network of “site champions” to build excitement and exceeded the first month’s 80% activation goal with a rate of 88% in just two weeks.

“Ready, Set, Action, Fun: Get Your Executives and Employees in Front of the Camera”
Debbie Litwak, Vice President, Communications, Glazer's

Glazer's launched the Video Leadership Series three years ago with this goal in mind:

"Get our new C-suite executives in front of all of our employees to introduce them and to share content that is meaningful and will help employees with their knowledge of the company's goals, direction, and programs."

But, they didn't want to produce traditional talking head videos. So, they went on location and crafted video stories that tied the business content into a format, context, and length that people want to watch. Currently, they have over 20 videos in this series covering all aspects of the business: finance, career paths, leadership, performance goals, mentoring, operations, new sales force technology, and company programs and initiatives.

And why stop with the executives? They've taken the same strategy with their vision, mission, and values videos and print campaign. In this series, they highlight employees throughout the company who represent our core values in both their personal and professional lives. People are attracted to the personal stories behind their colleagues. It makes everyone more real, more approachable, and more engaged.  

4–4:45 p.m.

General Session
“Creating Breakthrough Employee Content in the Era of Pizza Rat”
Christopher Hannegan, Executive Vice President and Global Co-Lead, Employee Engagement, Edelman 

In this interactive workshop, you'll look at what's going on in the consumer marketing space and how people are currently interacting with content.

Then discuss the implications for employee communications professionals and how they can retool internal content strategies to compete more effectively with external "distractions" like the Pizza Rat video, endless cat videos, and Buzzfeed quizzes about sex.

You'll review a simple framework to create sticky and lasting content, including messaging, expression, delivery, engagement, and measurement. Armed with these perspectives, participants will then pair up to discuss real-time challenges in their work and discuss opportunities to apply new approaches to content creation.

Friday, May 13

7:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.Registration
7:30–8:30 a.m.Breakfast
8–8:45 a.m.

Breakfast Keynote
“How to Get Leaders to Listen to Us”
Angela Sinickas, CEO, Sinickas Communications, Inc.

Your professional experience and your title seem to have less impact than you would like on getting leaders to listen to good communication advice. What to do? It helps to speak their language—numbers—to get their attention.

This session will share examples of how to gather research quickly and effectively to make yourself more credible when you advise your management team. Some of the examples will include:

  • Gathering qualitative research on emerging issues to let leaders know exactly how a planned change is likely to be interpreted by stakeholders, which may be quite different from their original intent.
  • Using previous situations where your advice was not taken to show the resulting negative business impact.
  • Using pilot/control groups to demonstrate the difference the right communication approach can make.
  • Gathering quick survey data to show the extent of an existing communication need or the ROI of a recent communication solution.
9–9:45 a.m.

General Session
“Video Killed the Writing Star”
Steven Handmaker, Chief Marketing Officer, Assurance

Video is the single most consumed media on the planet today. Yet many organizations still rely solely on email, flyers, and (gasp) printed newsletters to engage employees.

This presentation will show how to build employee engagement by maximizing low-cost video to bolster internal communications. Whether it’s to build support for the local football team (Go Bears!) or encourage employees to do something specific, like attend an event or sign up for a committee, attendees will walk away with practical new ideas for using video.

You will see a number of hilarious, low budget internal videos we’ve produced here at Assurance for inspiration. Most importantly, we’ll focus on the ease with which we’ve built our video platform, the rapid growth we’ve experienced in viewership (vs. readership) and the low budget which makes it all happen. Further, while video is busy lifting employee engagement, many of these same videos are also being shared by our employees on social media and extending our brand and message across multiple channels. More and more, we’re encouraging employees to stop writing and start recording.

10–10:30 a.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 6

“Connectors: Using Employees for Grassroots Engagement”
Elisabeth Wang, ACHE, Executive Director, Communications and Public Relations, Piedmont Healthcare

In 2010 Piedmont Healthcare was beginning the largest change management endeavor it had ever faced. We would implement a new and systemwide ERP system as well as a new enterprise EMR and PMS – a project that would take the next three to four years and would touch every employee, changing some aspect of how each one did their work. This meant that more was on the line for communications than ever before.

This was in the face of shrinking budgets, so forget “new” money for a new and shiny communications tool. Out of necessity, we developed an “influencers” or “ambassadors” program that we called the Connectors. Once the major hurdles of the IS project were complete, Piedmont encountered challenges in other areas and employee morale took a nosedive. We re-engaged the connectors, gave them a new purpose and achieved phenomenal results on our most recent employee engagement survey.

In the presentation, you will learn:

  • History of the program, rationale, and organizational need.
  • Who they are.
  • What they do.
  • How they are chosen.
  • How their role has evolve.
  • How they have been key to our success.

“Employee Engagement Never Dies: 007’s Techniques for Employee Engagement”
Paula L. Pedene, APR, Fellow PRSA, Owner, Pedene Public Relations

In this presentation you will learn seven techniques with real case samples to show how you can make an impact with employees. These techniques lead to a PRSA Silver Anvil under Reputation Management.

Seven Techniques covered:

  1. Look at Your Assignment
  2. Give Employees Insider Information
  3. Maintain Ongoing Dialogue and Tackle Employees Questions
  4. Create Communications Allies
  5. Be Social
  6. Create an Employee Impact Recognition Campaign
  7. Help Create a Roadmap for Employees to Achieve their Goals
10:45–11:15 a.m.

Breakout Sessions: Set 7

“The Future of Technology in Internal Communications”
Chuck Gose, Founder and Host, ICology 

Communicators are pretty tech-savvy and tech-friendly compared to other professions, they understand the value technology brings to the table. However, in the world of internal communications, technology is often late to the table.

Whether it’s because of a lack of budget or leadership support, internal communicators can be slow to introduce new technology to the workplace. It is time for this to change! The pace for technology adoption is speeding up like never before… the future for one communicator is the present, or even the past, for another. It is time for communicators to get on board and be strong technology advocates.

In this session, you’ll learn about the future of internal communications, and be able to answer the following questions:

  • What current technology is available today that communicators may not be aware of?
  • What are the best methods to introduce technology for internal communications?
  • What is YOUR role as a communicator regarding future technology?

“Generating Excitement and Buy-in for a New Brand”
Irene Clark, Senior Manager, Internal Communications, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
Mary Jo Polidore, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

 DFW recently launched a new brand to reflect significant organizational changes including a new CEO. Internal Communications developed an exciting and engaging communications plan based on the organization's preferred change management model - ADKAR.

In this session, you will learn about the goals, methodology, and results from this communications plan. 

11:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Closing Keynote
“Seven Ways to Make Sure You Are Relevant Five Years from Now”
Steve Crescenzo, CEO, Crescenzo Communications

 The role of the corporate communicator is changing . . . and if you don’t change with it, you risk becoming irrelevant at your organization. As social media and other factors chip away at the traditional role of the communicator as “publisher,” organizations are going to take a harder look at just what they’re getting from their communications department . . . and whether or not they need them at all.

That’s why senior communicators, communications managers, and directors need to know what organizational needs their people will be asked to fill five years down the road.

In this fun, informative seminar with #1-rated IABC seminar leader Steve Crescenzo, you will learn:

  • Why the old “job description” for corporate communications just doesn’t make sense any more;
  • What skills and talents you need to start developing now in order to be a force in your organization five years from now;
  • Seven crucial communication roles that will be in demand in the future, no matter what organization you work in;
  • How your new role will make people in the organization want to get a seat at the table in your department . . . rather than the other way around;
  • The tools, tactics, talents, and tricks you’ll need to master in order to succeed in the changing communication environment.
12:15–12:30 p.m.Closing Remarks