Lawrence Clarke from Shilbrook Associates spoke on ‘Making Strategic Sense of the 21st Century’.

Lawrence kicked off by comparing the required functions of a website in the 20th century to the 21st century. He identified the need for a more audience representative interface with reviews, informal activities, audience insight and links to social channels forming part of the new norms along with building relationships, advocacy, the generation of ideas and facilitating self-service, product and service development.

The list of expectations has expanded considerably to encompass the world of interactivity we now exist in, with websites now being considered channels for engagement, conversation and collaboration. The 'strategy for survival' as a 21st century organisation is in listening and building relationships, and using the tools at our disposal to do so. Content has also moved from being managed purely by employees to embracing contributions from volunteers. This provoked some great discussion around the role of volunteers, best practice around harnessing a new generation of volunteers and securing contributions from 'fresh-blood'. With contributions including the need to consider and clearly communicate the 'What's in it for me?' and 'How easy is it for me to do?' aspects.

Lawrence challenged the organisations represented to imagine how they would treat their members if they were customers relating to a commercial organisation which provoked some interesting discussion, and prompted talks around the value placed on investing in relationship and engagement. We also spent some time looking at different types of customer communities and the benefits of doing so (providing help, creating new ideas, sharing passions, building knowledge). 

Likening internal communications to 'the Cinderella part of the business', Lawrence illustrated the idea of a 21st century 'social business' with free-flowing exchange of information between sites, social media, internal, partner and customer communities, a concept which motivated great interaction from the room. The power of informal knowledge to influence formal knowledge was a great talking point which led to a conversation around managing 'Digital Expression', and what that looks like in terms of protecting brands.

Lawrence landed the presentation with a challenge to consider if our digital presence provided a 21st-century customer experience.

Feedback on the event was really positive and has included comments such as;

'Excellent presentation; very good at helping us to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our current web presence; Lawrence also provided valuable insights into why a greater connection between business operations and the communications strategy is necessary.'