This year’s event was held in Washington, DC against a backdrop of fake news, polarisation and many questions about ethical communication. We were there and amidst all the anti-Trump marches, here are some of the things we learned:


Avoid ‘the curse of knowledge’ – the cognitive bias that occurs when you’re communicating and unknowingly assume that your audience has the background to understand. As ever, all good comms starts with knowing your audience, so think about what it might be like to hear, read or view your message. Where might the gaps be?

Consider the emotional impact of your comms. Our brains process emotions more quickly than data, and that’s why we remember where we were when we heard of important events, such as 9/11. Share a little of yourself in your stories, to make a connection


While computers can store information, artificial intelligence (AI) systems can learn through interaction and get better over time. For instance, a computer can store an MRI scan in 0s and 1s, but an AI system can analyse it and diagnose illnesses. This technology is already being used to write newspaper and ad copy (no, that’s not fake news – this is really happening), so it’s only a matter of time before it comes to IC too

In change comms, the most common cause of failure is not explaining the ‘why’ well enough. People often assume that others are clear about why the organisation needs to change (there’s that ‘curse of knowledge’ again), so avoid falling into this common trap by answering that core question from day one

Enterprise social + real work = business value. In other words, an intranet is great for comms, but becomes even more powerful when it’s used to tackle day-to-day business issues. It also tends to get more support. How can you make your ESN part of what people do every day?

One study of comms found that call centre reps in one organisation were being asked to read 100,000 words each week – the equivalent of a novel. So instead the business gave people 15 minutes at the start of their day to read important messages. This saved time later as they had the information they needed to answer customer queries

Don’t waste time trying to improve the things you’re hopeless at: that’s because, at best, you will only improve by 10 per cent or so. And it’s likely to be a painful experience! So, instead, focus on your brilliance. What are you really good at that makes you stand out from others?

“If you don’t ride innovation, it will crush your face”. OK, that’s not a new idea, but we liked that quote from author Gary Vaynerchuk. New techs finding their way into IC include virtual reality (being used for recruitment and induction, for instance) and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), which uses location data to provide personalised messages

Go where your people are. If they’re out on social media you have to embrace that and go to them. Give them stories they can talk about and share on their personal social networks

More than a million people attended this year’s World Conference (no, hang on… that really is fake news).