Adapting IABC during COVID-19 with Patrick Armstrong, SCMP

Summary

IABC Board Member, Patrick Armstrong SCMP joined us on the show from Australia to chat about the effect COVID-19 has had on membership, how his local chapter is getting creative about connecting communication professionals amid the restrictions, and the opportunities that newly remote IABC events are highlighting that will stick well into the future.

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Transcript

Kyla:

Hello and welcome, I’m Kyla Sims.

Adam:

And I’m Adam Brayford, and you’re watching the Bananatag morning show. It’s a show by Bananatag in the morning.

Kyla:

But, but depending on where you’re tuning in from, it might not be your morning. It might be your afternoon, it might be your happy hour, but regardless you can find us here every Wednesday and Friday at nine Pacific and 12 Eastern. And we’ll be talking to communicators from around the world about what it’s like being a communicator during COVID-19. We’ll talk about best practices, tips, and tricks, and hopefully have some, a few laughs as well.

Adam:

And meanwhile, you may have noticed that we’re joined by quite a dapper gentleman, Patrick Armstrong SCMP. He’s a senior advisor in communications and stakeholder engagement. He is also treasurer on the board of directors for IABC New South Wales. And he is an experienced people leader, driving measurable communication for organizations to achieve their business people and cultural strategies, particularly through times of change. So he’s an excellent guest for us today. Today he joins us from his home in Sydney, Australia, Patrick. Welcome.

Patrick:

Hello guys. How are you?

Adam:

[crosstalk 00:02:11]. So good to have you on now, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room, this is our first episode that’s not truly live. Patrick is joining us from the future to record an episode in the past. It’s like, an X-Men movie or something because of time zone, we’re recording this on our Thursday and we’ll be posting it Friday morning.

Adam:

And as it airs Kyla, and I will be in the chat, engaging with you at home. So we are here. We are talking to you, but we are prerecorded. So you’ll see members of our Bananatag family in the chat saying, hi, commenting and asking questions throughout. Now, Patrick, it’s so good having you on today. You and I first met at IBC’s leadership institute conference in Long Beach, California, a year or so ago. I think.

Adam:

Yeah, I had, I had just gotten my SCMP certification after that terrifying exam. At that point, had you already gotten yours?

Patrick:

No, I had not. No. I thought I’d take the opportunity while I was there to actually do the exams. We hadn’t hadn’t hosted any in Australia at that point. So if they were going to try and do our first one here in New South Wales later on this year, so amazing experience there, right? Yeah. Three hours was, was quite grueling.

Adam:

Yeah. Yeah. I took me right up to the last second. I don’t know about you.

Kyla:

Well, before we get into things, we do have to acknowledge another elephant in the room. Patrick, has anyone ever told you that you kind of look like the third Wilson brother?

Patrick:

You know what? I’ve never had one, which was very strange. I’ve had very strange ones like Sean Penn [inaudible 00:03:48] never got, but I’ve no, I’ve never had that one Wilson brother, there you go. I can kind of see that one. Actually.

Kyla:

You must just have one of those famous faces. Everybody thinks that you would think somebody [crosstalk 00:04:00].

Kyla:

So one more thing before we get going, I would love to know what’s in your cup today. What do you got in your cup this morning?

Patrick:

Morning here? The virality of New Zealand. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a strong skim flat white. [crosstalk 00:04:16] If that means I’m not sure that’s a flat white is very much an Australian beverage. It’s kind of a double shot with milk, essentially, a cappuccino with less froth and without chocolate.

Adam:

[crosstalk 00:04:33] I love that when I’m not having a low class instant beverage and I’m actually paying for it, it is a skim, flat white it’s, that’s a good choice.

Patrick:

Ironic in North America has. I didn’t realize that

Kyla:

It has, but I think I know that it’s very popular in Vancouver, but I think it’s because we’re the second we have probably just about as many Australians as Australia at this point,

Patrick:

[crosstalk 00:04:56] But I was in Canada for a little while and I couldn’t believe the Aussie accent in Whistler. It was like being home.

Kyla:

Oh yeah. It’s the capital of Australia. Whistler is the capital of Australia. This was something that we know.

Adam:

Just announced. You’ve heard it here.

Kyla:

Yeah. Okay. So let’s get down to business day. We’re going to be chatting about navigating COVID-19 as an IBC board member and the effect that has had on all communications and communicators, especially in Australia. Since we don’t really, I mean, I feel like maybe it’s the time zone thing, but we talked to a lot of people in North America. We talked to people in the UK, but we’re going to find out what’s going on down under, but first let’s get to know you just a little bit better.

Adam:

That’s right. It is our favorite segment and we’ve surveyed some of our viewers and we know you like it too. It is the getting to know you rapid fire questions, rounds. So here’s, here’s the rules. You got 30 seconds. We got questions. You got answers.

Adam:

And it all starts right here. Patrick, what is your favorite kind of pizza?

Patrick:

Anything with a pepperoni and salami.

Kyla:

Star Wars or star Trek?

Patrick:

Star Wars, hands down.

Adam:

[crosstalk 00:06:10] Well, we’ll go with it. Should we end the interview? It’s done. [crosstalk 00:06:16] All right. Next question. Could you live as a vegan?

Patrick:

Absolutely not.

Kyla:

If you had to choose a different first name for yourself, what would it be?

Patrick:

Something bold and [inaudible 00:06:33] Armstrong. Perhaps. There we go.

Adam:

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Patrick:

Owen Wilson, according to you. He’s got the money.

Kyla:

That’s great. What’s the best thing about working in communications?

Patrick:

I like the variety of it all. I think it’s one of those jobs where you never know what every day is going to bring. You know, it brings up probably all the skills that I had in my life from filmmakers, the strategist, to writers, to whatever. I love the fact that we’ve got so much scope in what we do and, and being at the pointy end of things. When most of the time in the organizations that we work in.

Adam:

Absolutely. Well, thank you for being a good sport, Patrick. Now that we’re well acquainted, we know all the important stuff, Star Wars, Star Trek, we’ll come back to that later. Let’s get down to it. Now you’re a senior business communicator, although, very young, but we can call you a senior. What have your observations being on the role that we play as professionals throughout a crisis like this?

Patrick:

I think when crises hits, I think communicators really come to the for. And I think that’s know we really are at the pointy end of things when, when things like these happen. And I think for us, what I guess I’ve really seen is that we really sort of step up into that advisory role, particularly with our leadership communications as well. So I don’t think there’s a communicator alive who hasn’t dropped all they’ve done and start helping their leaders to help support the businesses, to get them through more effectively what’s been going on. I just think it’s time to sort of, to drop, to drop the BAU and move into it. There’s some really great innovative stuff as well. So again, I’ve had so many conversations with communicators saying, how do you run the Yam Jam because you don’t have any experience in video.

Patrick:

Has anyone got any experience in, all different types of video who’s using team who’s using younger, better, all these sort of stuff. I think most people are really stepping up and saying using it as a really great opportunity to, to push new things within the business as well. So I think that’s what I’ve really seen more than anything else, particularly that leadership piece. If you will, like I said, we’re going to talk about being a trusted advisor and I think the timing we’ve been crises is when really step into that role enormously as well. I think probably the biggest thing is that, we’ve never probably worked harder in our lives and I think there’s a lot of people be quite stressed in that as well. So I think it’s really important that we as communicators take a deep breath as well and look after ourselves, cause you know, we, we are very much at the pointy end of these things and I know I’ve certainly never worked harder then I have in a very long time throughout all this.

Patrick:

The most people I know are in the same boat.

Adam:

No kidding. I will admit I’ve not heard the term Yam Jam. What is this?

Patrick:

A Yam Jam. So when you jump on Yammer and you get your, senior your business leaders to go to people in real time, I love them. I mean, if you can do them well, it just gives you opportunity to break down the silos and get your leaders on there. Ask questions in real time. It’s been an hour and you spend an hour inside. They’re going to be on this time and ask any questions that you want. So it’s really good fun. Definitely worth doing it, if you’ve got the right kind of organization.

Adam:

Brilliant. I love that.

Kyla:

I know that there’s been a lot of conversations in commsunity about using things like Yammer and like that’s a great use case. I love that.

Patrick:

Yeah. Yeah. Yam jams are great. And because people are using video a lot more. I know I’m sort of a people I’ve got a background in, in video production and things of that. So people are asking me, how do you go about it? What are some of the software you use? How do you use it effectively, things like that. And I think that’s a really quick and easy way for people to get their leader messages out there. And I think video the last 10 years really become such an important medium in anyone’s armory as the communicator.

Kyla:

Absolutely. So you’re an IBC board member as well. How have you been adapting to this new way of working with IBC? Has, has it been difficult with the transition to a fully digital.

Patrick:

How I look, it’s been a shift. There’s no doubt about that. Where we have our model very much in Sydney is around a lot of face to face events. We have guest speakers, we have panels, we have all those sorts of things and we’ve just had to go, okay, well that can’t happen. But the show must go on. We got to keep satisfying our members and giving them what they need. So we have hosted some absolutely terrific online events, through things like Zoom and whatever else, which again, I wish I’ve watched as you know in Zoom, in six months, I have to say, cause it’s, it’s exploded. Right? And again, it’s a really great tool. You know, we, we have beak out chats. We had people talking, we had it also have live chat, things like that. And events have been really good. And what we’ve actually found is one of the big hindrances we have in Sydney, we’re really, we’re in big city with 5 billion people, busy transport, that kind of stuff.

Patrick:

We find that a lot of our events used to be very CBD focused. And people were saying who live, who work in the outer suburbs, things like that say, well, we can’t get to your events. How can you do something in our area? And it’s not necessarily easy for us. And I think what this is really is broken down that silo and allowed those people who haven’t been able to attend our events before to start to come and, think out event last week had something like 45 people want to, the biggest that we’ve had for a very long time. Cause people can just log in at six o’clock and just, and do it. And people, the feedback is absolutely terrific. So I think what we’re going to probably start thinking about when COVID is actually all over is, do we have to have all our events online? Does it have to have a networking van up or can it be just as effective doing it in an online medium, at least alternative events

[inaudible 00:12:27]

, but certainly part of what we now are going to start doing as a chapter.

Adam:

Yeah. We shared a we have the tool tip of the day segment. And one of our first shows was with [inaudible 00:12:37] our senior director of people and culture here at Bananatag and she shared a tip, which is an app called donut. And we’ve loaded all of our employees in there. And once a week, it randomly generates pairing. So three random members of our team are paired together. And again, several options for times they can meet for 20 minutes and a bunch of questions they can choose from and just socialize and connect. And it’s that same kind of idea, suddenly because we’re all constrained in a certain way, there’s more opportunity to get imaginative and connect with people you wouldn’t normally. So very cool.

Patrick:

Absolutely. I think it’s an amazing opportunity because I think it’s going to change the way a lot of business is done. Right. And there’s already talk around, return to work now a lot bit business saying we’ll get back to the old model we used to have, do people want to start working part time or think, when they’re always has done and dusted, there’ll be some really interesting kind of conversations to be had more broadly in the way businesses are run. I think it’s quite exciting actually. So we’ll see what next year brings.

Adam:

Absolutely. We want to say a quick hello to our friend Advita Patel. Who’s joining us on LinkedIn. Advita I’m so glad you’re not in bed. What time is it there? I don’t even know. It’s so great to have you and everyone else who’s watching on our prerecorded show. Next question for you, Patrick, we just can’t get enough academics, IBC people. So you’re also an academic. How has COVID-19 changed the way that you’re teaching and interacting with students?

Patrick:

Yeah, I mean, we had the, you know, it’s changed a lot. I have to say we very much had to midway through the first term change our whole teaching model potentially. So COVID happened. I worked with the largest universities in Australia and you know, with week four, we’ve got a lot of international students and they’re saying I have to go home. I, my work abroad scheme has been canceled. I’ve now going back to Sweden, the US, Malaysia, China, India, whatever, all over the world.

Patrick:

And then we’ve had to re-read our entire course. And a lot of the course that I was particularly teaching was around class patients had 20% of your grade was turning up to class and participate in class. Obviously when people are in time zones all around the world, you can’t get up to have that structure. And so we had to really completely remodel how we, so we’re actually doing in term two to, doing videos, submissions doing, again, using the patient, like we did say on zoom to sort of chats and things like that, participating through things like that and, and really engaging students in a different kind of model a different kind of way.

Patrick:

But I think that’s going to happen pretty much I would say until at least term two and possibly later part of the year in August, October as well, but again, there’s opportunities in that, so I think it’s, it’s giving students a lot more flexibility, again, that tyranny of distance thing. I mean, most students have to travel over an hour and a half to get to university every day. So of a lot of time back to through that, that actually helps, things like mental health and stress and all those kinds of things. So I just think it’s an opportunity to, just to rethink things very broadly. And look, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think online learning will ever take over from a classroom. I don’t think that, but I, but I do think that again, it’s another one of those things where it could be used as a complimentary thing in the future to integrate into the courses and things that we teach. But yeah. I don’t think nothing ever beats face to face.

Kyla:

Yeah, absolutely. So I’m curious, you’re teaching, but obviously like as an IBC board member, you’re all navigating this stuff together. What kind of advice and tips are you giving to communicators right now to navigate through COVID-19?

Patrick:

The biggest thing that I find sometimes we communicators is that they don’t kind of know the value often that we bring. And I think that the idea or the [inaudible 00:16:40] about things that we sort of, we just often getting on with things and whatever else. But I think now the biggest advice I can have is that [inaudible 00:16:46] and say, I am an expert in this. People are looking to me to help them in these things, our senior leaders and things that aren’t communications experts, they aren’t video maker. They aren’t experts the way that we are. And they’re looking to us to really do that.

Adam:

[crosstalk 00:17:02] Oh, that’s a first, I love it.

[crosstalk 00:17:09]

Oh my goodness.

Kyla:

I love it. That’s super funny. [crosstalk 00:17:20].

Adam:

There’ve been so many opportunities for things [crosstalk 00:17:24] I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more often anyway you were saying.

Patrick:

So I think, I think that’s the real advice that I would give people is to say back yourself. You are an expert and you have got a lot to say and you have lots of offers and we’ve got skills that people don’t necessarily have in a lot of organizations. So those, those creative skills, even as well, we can make videos. We can things like you guys doing a Bananatag and innovating by doing online channels and things like this. This is all the kind of stuff that I’m talking about that we can really offer organizations. And my biggest advice to say use this an opportunity to think outside the box and try new things and do things differently.

Patrick:

And you’ll be really surprised just how receptive people in senior leadership roles are and what you might often, we often get blockers and that’s not going to work and whatever else, sometimes you just do it and then sometimes you just do things and you go, okay, Hey, it worked the world hasn’t fallen down. And so I think that’s the biggest advice I give you what is a real opportunity in this to drop the day to day tactics and innovate. I think that’s certainly what I’m doing in my area and certainly in the IBC and everything and teaching as well.

Adam:

You know, it’s interesting for creatives, I think constraints can be a catalyst for creativity. You know, if you’re operating within certain constraints, then you have to imagine how you can make absolute most of that. And it feels like that’s the opportunity for communicators to, if you’re focused and your audience are all living a shared very specific experience, this is the time to take advantage of that common understanding.

Patrick:

Hmm. Oh, I could, I couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly right. You know, innovation is bred out of adversity, isn’t it? And that’s absolutely correct. And so I think, yeah, I think all of us communicators embrace it and push there is opportunity to push the envelope a little bit.

Adam:

[crosstalk 00:19:24] Absolutely. Oops, sorry, go on.

Kyla:

Oh no. I was going to say Patrick, what you were saying about just trying things and just doing it, if there ever was a time to sort of push, senior leadership or those are those traditional blockers of things that you want to try or innovate on, like everyone is way more receptive probably than they have been ever to new ways of doing things, because we simply don’t have the choice, but also just we’re in such an uncomfortable position anyways, that it’s like, well, what is one more experiment? One more thing that we’re going to try. What does that really going to do? Especially when you get perspective on like the stakes, right? The stakes are, of course, you could try a new channel, you could try a new product, but, no one’s going to get hurt and things are not going to get worse for you. Like you can really only go up from here. Let’s be honest.

Adam:

Motto of twenty twenty

Patrick:

You’re going to play 21. It can’t get worse. Right.

Adam:

So one of the, opportunities that we talked about before, this is, in a crisis like this, sometimes when you don’t have the channels built out to reach your audience right, you can fast track that usual process that would normally take many, many months to build out a very fulsome content strategy and leverage certain channels to work for you. Maybe talk to us a little bit about what you think that looks like.

Patrick:

Yeah. I think in the last [inaudible 00:20:59] years is one of the best channels that I think that is used to communicate is now is things like teams. I think teams absolutely a terrific tool. And the office 365 suite has been game changing as far as I’m concerned in terms of what it can do. But you know, you’re doing things like Yammer, Yammer’s on there now. You’ve got, you’ve got teams, you’ve got all the different sort of regular traditional products and things like that. But I think teams have been a game changer in many ways. I pushed in every organization I’ve worked in for the last few years, [inaudible 00:21:28] it’s got the collaboration aspect to it. So insofar as you can do chat, you’ve now got, you can do, you can do video through it. You can do document sharing through it.

Patrick:

You can do all these different types of things that I think particularly when people are now working remotely, being able to sort of be able to have a one stop shop where you can sort of collaborate in lots of different types of ways. I think it’s absolutely game changing. So if you’re in an organization that uses Microsoft, I think, and you’re not using Teams. And I think there’s a real opportunity in that to push that as an agenda, because it’s got a capability, which I think is just, is, is so useful for the communicators. So yeah, that would be my biggest tip in terms of, in terms of tool.

Adam:

I love that. I know it’s funny how fast these shows go and Advita I mean, you have great comments. We have to keep featuring you today. So thank you. It was we’re going to make a couple of quick announcements and then bring it back to you Patrick, next week on the show, we have some amazing communicators and we will be sharing those with you during the live show. We’ll be revealing those. So watch for that. And you know what, while we’re here, give us a follow at Bananatag LinkedIn, Twitter as well, never miss a show, make sure that you’re following us as well.

Kyla:

Absolutely. And of course, if you’re not done with this conversation, join us in Commsunity. It’s the place to be. It’s a place to connect with communicators from around the world and experts. And we will keep talking about what it looks like returning to work and how to communicate all that. What, how you can leverage Microsoft teams or Yammer, or have a yam jam, definitely check out the link in the chat and join us there. And of course, if you’re a communicator or you’re communicating with employees right now, and you need to know if they’re reading your communications or you want to find out the content that they’re most interested in, you can now get set up with Bananatag same day. That means like real fast turnaround.

Kyla:

The best part is you don’t have to limit users, which means you can get everyone who is sending important internal communications onboard and sending beautifully branded measurable internal emails. This means that you can collaborate remotely speed up that process to get those important comms out and get real time feedback. The link for a demo is in the chat. So you can talk to one of our AEs about what Bananatag can do for you. But before we sign off, Patrick, you’ve been an absolute treat. Thank you for joining us here. You know, your morning, our afternoon, all of this chaos of scheduling and all that. I really appreciate you taking the time. Do you have any words of advice as we sign off.

Patrick:

Just keep safe and just keep doing what you’re doing and keep pushing the envelope. And yeah, and I think use the opportunity that we’ve been given here for good, I guess, and help you to think differently and change things.

Kyla:

Perfect. So you heard it here first, everybody remember we’re all in this together. You can do this, you got this, now’s the time take risks and we’ll see you here next week on Wednesday. And until then, keep safe, keep healthy and see you next time. All right, bye. [crosstalk 00:24:56].

Adam:

Word of the day, Yam Jam.

Kyla:

Yam Jam, it makes me think of like making jam with yams.

Patrick:

You can do that too. They’re great fun. They’re really good. If you’ve got kind of leaders who want to do it, they’re quite engaging, but if you’ve got a, quite a hierarchical organization through, by this to break down the hierarchy and get your senior leaders.