One of Aspic’s founding members, Sheila Hirst, explains why Aspic is still as relevant today as it was 20 years ago
Sheila Hirst, Director at OmiliaHirst, wants you to cast your mind back to 1997. Maybe you were picking up the first novel from unknown author J K Rowling, or trying to stop yourself humming Celine Dion after the release of Titanic. Or perhaps – like Sheila – you were attending the birth of Aspic in a slightly underwhelming Slough hotel.
Originally named the Association for Strategic “Planners” in Internal Communication, Aspic “filled a need”, says Sheila, who was instrumental in setting up the network. She explains how it was a response to a growing need to prove internal communication’s impact and value in a new business world.
In 1997 the best communication tools an internal communicator had at their disposal were a fax machine and, if you were lucky, a clunky mobile
“In 1997 the best communication tools an internal communicator had at their disposal were a fax machine and, if you were lucky, a clunky mobile,” Sheila says. “Your daily routine didn’t extend much further than the employee magazine and the occasional team briefing document. But all that was about to change.
“Against the backdrop of globalisation, privatisation and mergers, internal communication teams were growing; there was a strong need to facilitate two-way conversations and increasingly our influence was recognised with a seat at the ‘top table’.”
With no formal qualifications available, Aspic was a chance to showcase the power of the internal communication profession. In 1997, peers came together to share best practice and create a body of influence, confidence and impact. “And of course, to show that we were awfully good, leading, cutting-edge thinkers!” Sheila adds.
So 20 years on, what does an Aspic member look like? A coach and critical friend, a relationship manager and facilitator, a writer and channel specialist.
We may have come a long, long way together, but in essence Aspic’s purpose remains the same. Through its network, quarterly seminars and specialist AQ magazine, Aspic is still bringing internal communication professionals together to learn from one another, share highs and lows, and swap the tips and tricks that help make the job that little bit easier.
Here’s to the next 20!