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A blog to remember

44’s Emily New travels back in time to revisit her teenage years – all in the name of internal communications – to take a look at the importance of giving employees the chance to make new memories through engaging IC experiences.  

It’s no secret that I’ve always been a bit of a geek. I always worked hard as a student, always did my homework and even made friends with the librarian so I could read more at lunchtimes!

Not a lot of people know, however, that I got a ‘U’ in my Biology A-level exam – and, at the time, it felt like my 18-year-old world had ended. ‘U’ stood for ‘Ungraded’ (as in, it was so bad the marker just gave up). This may not seem like that big a deal, but – to a straight-A student – it was a complete disaster.

Now, over a decade later, it’s a grade that I’m happy to share with the world and, actually, it’s a grade that I’m pretty proud of. Getting a ‘U’ meant that I could experience surviving this epic failure (as it seemed at the time) and then grow from it. This grade was also the literal result of a decision I made in the exam hall, back in 2006, when I realised that most of those biology answers completely eluded me. I remember – quite vividly – turning the exam paper over and using the blank back pages to revise for my upcoming English exam.

The remembering self

Fast forward twelve years, and all that extra English revision seemingly paid off – I’ve built my career around content!

Biology is also a subject I’m still very much interested in. I recently stumbled upon an article by Big Think, which suggested that long-term human memory was the result of a random virus that infected humans 400 million years ago. Whether this is true or not, it’s fascinating how the human memory means that we can revisit our everyday experiences, relive them, analyse them, decide how we feel about them, and then share these memories with others.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman also speaks of the difference between the ‘experiencing self’, which lives in the moment, and the ‘remembering self’, which packages experiences for later consumption. Our ‘remembering selves’ can take a negative memory – such as a difficult exam – and re-frame it later in a more positive way.

We can even make memories up completely and start believing they’re true (please, no one mention The Matrix). Just think about Derren Brown. He’s devoted an entire career to using techniques that rely on convincing or tricking the human memory in order to change actions, reactions or (albeit televised) experiences.

However, while the human memory is by no means infallible, it’s easy to forget the part that past memories can play in influencing present emotions, attitudes, behaviour – and even engagement.

Memories through IC experience

So what’s all this got to do with internal communications?

I’m not suggesting communicators use Derren Brown-style mind tricks on their employees to give their survey results a bit of a boost.

But, it’s important to remember that we operate in a much busier, digital world than ever before. The ability to store clear memories is getting harder. Social media is making us save and confront our previous memories in other ways, thanks to the huge volume of digital content that most of us can create, and then revisit, in the form of texts, pictures, blogs and comments.

With this in mind, new content needs to work harder to get remembered and talked about. Just as we need to now pick and choose the content we really focus on versus the content we skim over, IC teams increasingly need to prioritise their comms to plan in those points of impact and experience.

Perhaps one way to ensure content is digested and processed is to plan in comms ‘bursts’ around key messages that need to be promoted more heavily across the year – whether this is a new vision, a health and safety message or an important business update. These ‘bursts’ could involve interactive participation to encourage new memories – an event, a site activity, a lunchtime guest speaker, or a team workshop – and then follow-up opportunities to share and discuss these new experiences.

If this blog has given you food for thought, then remember, we’re here to help. Just get in touch:

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