Posts Tagged ‘communication vehicles’

Bloggers – Got Paid? It’s Commercial Speech

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Earlier this year, I did some research on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission guidelines on endorsements and testimonials for a class. As I dug into it, I wrote a post promising to share the paper, so here it is. I thought I’d share the results in hopes that anyone in social media would understand that pay means business, and that means disclosure.  The style is academic, which means there are a lot of endnotes and a sizable bibliography, but it shouldn’t kill you.

The short version: If you get stuff from a company to write about (even if they don’t demand it be positive), you are expected to tell your readers. If what you say is deceptive or misleading, you could be blogging from the Hotel GrayBar — or at least be a little lighter in the cash department.

But wait a second, what about free speech?  Journalists don’t need to disclose if they get free stuff!  Well, let’s just say that the Government — and the Courts — have ruled that your free speech is secondary to the rights of consumers.

I don’t think I can argue. But you can — just read the paper first.


Video for Internal Communications Is Still Relevant

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
Kodak Zi8

Image courtesy of Kodak

We’ve heard all the declarations. Internal Communications is corporate propaganda, and employees get the real story through the media. The media is dead, buried by social media. Employees care only about their pay and benefits, not about the organization and its business. Employees don’t want to read; we’re viewers. Employees won’t watch company video, and if we let them access YouTube, they’ll waste time all day.

Steve Lubetkin -- Photo by

There’s just enough truth in each of those statements to make people believe them. And it’s the video question that animated #icchat 19 May, with @PodcastSteve, audio/video expert Steve Lubetkin, as special guest.

The overriding theme of the chat, which extended more than 20 minutes after the scheduled one-hour time frame, was that lower-cost and higher-quality equipment is making video in the workplace more effective. That’s whether it’s professionally produced or user-generated. Even Steve’s equipment of choice has improved in quality while lowering in cost.

@PodcastSteve: A1 Biggest change is drop in cost & increase in quality of lowend equip. I srtd out using Sony VX-1000 SD cams. #icchat

@PodcastSteve: A1 …now I use Kodak Zi series and PlayTouch for much of the work. #icchat


Participant @MikeBrice noted that IT departments are now making bandwidth available for video, what he called the biggest change he’s seen.

@podcaststeve: Bandwidth and server space issues are IT bugaboos. But with YouTube, Blip, Vimeo for hosting, I dont see why. #icchat

@CommAMMO: Agreed — if GM can distribute a full-on news program to a factory in Ecuador, why can’t we get 90 sec to Nebraska? #icchat

However, accessing the video has presented some issues, @Mike said:

@MikeBrice External sources like YouTube and Vimeo raise firewall issues. My corps block access to external options. Security a concern #icchat

@PodcastSteve:  Best way 2 get video 2 NE, IMNSHO, would be to host externally, create pages on internal (intranet?) & embed player. #icchat

External hosting but internal access is a compelling argument — especially because most material shared widely with employees must be considered “public” anyway.

@PodcastSteve: @mikebrice They usually block ppl from visiting sites, true, but maybe U can get them 2 open ports to allow embedded vids to stream? #icchat

@PodcastSteve: there r other alternatives like BrightCove, but frightfully expensive for most companies. #icchat

I’ve looked at a number of distribution solutions — Kontiki, Cisco’s digital signage, for example — and indeed, the costs can be significant. However, I’ve also had success engaging the usual constituencies with a goal of finding a solution.

@CommAMMO: @podcaststeve @mikebrice so much of  “security” concerns are abt control – I’ve gotten traction talking abt EE expectations #icchat

@CommAMMO: @podcaststeve @mikebrice Employees expect the internal resources to match what they have at home – search, audio, video… #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @commammo […]Key issue IT needs to understand. Emps can’t be engaged w/customers if socmed blocked. #icchat

Steve says costs can vary — the do-it-yourself route, with Flip cams or his fave, the Kodak Zi series, is less expensive and offers acceptable quality. A production company and professionals may offer good value at higher cost depending on the situation.


IABC’s @ArchanaVerma asks:

@ArchanaVerma: @CommAMMO @podcaststeve Q What’s the balance betw having professionally produced versus amateur videos for internal/external use? #icchat

@PodcastSteve: Int Comms ppl can do themselves w/o spending a lot. I do a lot of interview clips w/just Kodaks. See #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @commammo @archanaverma Doesn’t have to be “amateur,” but certainly doesn’t have to be high-end pro produced unless needed 4 b’cast #icchat

@PodcastSteve: My point, u can learn pro techniques and use them with lower end equipment. Doesn’t have to look bad because you’re not @NewMediaJim #icchat

I use 4 Kodaks, edit in Sony Vegas Pro. We sync extrnl audio, looks like I had a 6-person crew. #icchat Example –

Steve also notes that internal communications people enhance their credibility when they can DIY, especially because as internal resources, we can cover our organizations better than anyone else.


@GypsyNits: me thinks every #intcomms person becomes at pro at self serve, qlty improves with time #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @commammo Few cos have luxury of hiring b’cast pros for internal video any more, but almost not needed for daily video. #icchat

@GypsyNits: in the midst of doing a production myself.everyday is a learning and i know next time i will rock at it #icchat

@GypsyNits: not to mention the goodwill and the employee connect from having attempted it myself.everyone is more accomodating #icchat

Returning to employee expectations, @GypsyNits makes a good point: With more and more user generated content available alongside the professional stuff (and in some cases considered more creative and interesting), useful video isn’t limited only to top-notch, broadcast quality.

Judy Gombita

When it comes to length of video, what’s the right time?  @JGombita offered her view:

@JGombita: (As end-user, not producer) make sure yr videos are SHORT (UNDER 2 minutes). And make it a supplementary comms channel, not only one #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @jgombita I agree with short up to a point. For daily news blips or features, yes. Sometimes longer is called for. #icchat

@PodcastSteve: Examples of longer form video: keynote speeches, conference panels, storytelling documentaries used for fundraising #icchat

@CommAMMO: @jgombita @podcaststeve re length: But we still watch TV, films, news-topic, presentn drives viewership. Talking heads, not so good. #icchat

@JGombita: @podcaststeve in terms of amount of material it may be called for, but I can tell you, you’ve lost most (or all) of my attn. at 2+ m #icchat

Where is video going, more, less, or the same?

@GypsyNits: Q3: more opens up the channels of using mobile to send msgs & podcasts too where folks dont have to read lengthy emails #icchat

@JGombita: A3. Supplementary video! Example: a video featuring HR or legal rep, indicating the rationale behind a company social media policy. #icchat

@GypsyNits: Q3:But thin line between too much video and too little.essential to gauge audience receptiveness from time to time #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @jgombita Intl comms ppl shud be like thos journalists, understand how to tell a story with images, video, etc. Not just heds. #icchat

@PodcastSteve: @jgombita Making videos the aud wants means ASKING them. Research! #icchat

Hallelujah! We should start with research to ensure we address the need of the audience as well as that of our organization. Otherwise we’re going to fail.

There’s more in the transcript — which is a bit less attractive than in past chats owing to the demise of WTHashtag. However, thanks to @JoBrodie, was able to give us a transcript. It doesn’t archive, and the output contains a lengthy numerical identifier for each tweet, but it’s usable and I’m grateful!

The next #ICChat is June 16 – I’m considering whether to change the time of day from 10 a.m. Eastern — I did a Twitter poll on this question last month, but only four people voted!  What time would be best for you? Follow me at @CommAMMO for updates.




Blog-cation coming to a close…

Saturday, May 14th, 2011
Portage Lakes, Ohio

By Sean Williams, All Rights Reserved

I’ve committed a grievous sin in social media land. I’ve taken a bit of a Sabbatical from blogging and mostly, from Tweeting, with a few exceptions. Now I have a bit more time on my hands, as I wait to see what my schedule is like for a big research project and the response to a couple of proposals. So, I’m intending to babble on a bit more in the coming days.  One such venue will be Thursday’s #icchat, the Twitter-based discussion on internal communications that I conduct monthly.  Join us at 10 a.m. eastern on 19 October.

I’ve not done a great job marketing the chat — it’s not as sexy as #measurepr, #PR20Chat or #Kaizenblog, I guess because it’s more concerned with internal matters than social media and press relations.  However, we do have good discussions on our topic, so I hope you’l join us…




When they’re not buying what you’re selling…

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Creative Commons

One harsh reality of social media is that you find out pretty quickly where you stand.  One fairly obvious reality is that the Twitter chat I’ve been working on for a while now — #icchat on internal communications – isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

This is a little depressing for me, personally. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The truth is, the dearth of participation is traceable to a central problem. Me.

You have to shepherd these things – the most popular and vigorous get a ton of promotional support, and the topic of communication within the enterprise isn’t a social media hotbed.  Nonetheless, we’ve had some great discussions, peaking last fall with about 20 participants and more than 200 tweets. Even the smaller chats have been good, including Thursday’s intimate affair (five of us) where we talked about internal communication outcomes.  (Summary post coming, probably on Friday.)

I am conflicted, however, about whether to continue #icchat.  As I have mentioned, for the past (nearly) two years, I’ve considered social media an experiment, particularly Twitter and blogging. Facebook’s become merely a communication medium, but Twitter’s chat function represents my favorite part of the miniblogging tool.  I like the quick pace, the forced brevity. I like the diversity — #PR20Chat, #KaizenBlog, #MeasurePR, #SoloPR.

But I have to tell you – when one gets paying work, it’s bloody hard to market the chat.  I’ve been fortunate to have pretty steady gigs over the past eight months – both academic and professional. I’ve looked at different days and times to try and hit the best, but it’s been most difficult to get people interested.  I’m disappointed that the organizations – PRSA, IABC – and the commercial groups – Ragan, Melcrum – show not the slightest inclination to participate. I’ve also approached a couple of luminaries in the internal comms space about guesting, but after four or five straight scheduling conflicts, I’d better take the hint.

It is remarkably similar to building a business – it takes a while and takes a lot of effort to market.

To that end, I can’t help but wonder whether to pull the plug on #icchat.  I seem to be doing well at building my business (thanks to some terrific colleagues), am considered a worthy professor and still have a healthy marriage, so perhaps #icchat is odd man out. Gotta think about it some more.  So far, I’m planning to hit it one more time, at least, 19 May at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

I’m interested in your perspectives.


Oy, such Tsuris!

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

I like running Communication AMMO, especially now that there’s actual REVENUE in the business. Thanks, David R.! In my Media Management course, we have to create a business, and I’ve created a Frankenstein monster. The thing is, it might be a good idea. So now I’m paranoid – should I actually make the business real, sacrifice untold thousands to try and build it, or just accept whatever grade I get and continue my march to academia? I already HAVE a business that’s (mostly) sucking cash amid hope for the future. I’m no serial entrepreneur. Feh!


PowerPoint–Friend or Foe of Internal Communications?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Trent MeidingerGuest recap by Trent Meidinger.

It can inflict boredom and alienate the masses. Or it can help to inspire and win hearts. World leader? Reality television? No, it’s PowerPoint, and its use in internal communications was the focus of this week’s #icchat on Twitter.

I’ll be honest: When I hear the term PowerPoint, the boredom warning alarm rings loudly. I nearly chose to be outdoors on a perfect fall day here in Minnesota, rather than attend a chat about this widely used but frequently reviled tool. But the growing reputation of Sean’s (@CommAMMO) #icchat discussions drew me in. That, along with curiosity and a thirst for PowerPoint inspiration from special guest The Presentationist –  a.k.a., Tony Ramos – a man who’s devoted his career to communicating clearly with PowerPoint since 1993.

Our discussion confirmed there is a place for PowerPoint – if it’s used wisely.  Sean got things started with a candid question: “Why does PowerPoint suck, especially for internal communications?”

@rjfarr PPT sucks for #internalcomms because it’s boring, people don’t know how to use it well, and it tends to be really impersonal. #icchat

@tonyramos Agreed. Top reason most PPT sucks is too much text on a slide, then speaker simply reads the slides. Most common complaint. #icchat

@ZebraCracker When PPT is used well [rarely] for #internalcomms and distributed as-is to audience w/out speakernotes, it loses potency. #icchat

Solutions brought us to communications fundamentals.

@tonyramos Moving to stronger imagery, less text, story structure aid in better #PPT for #internalcomms

PowerPoint alone won’t do the job. Speakers are responsible for engaging the audience.

@dblacombe I treat each slide as a chance to have a convo with *one* person about a topic I’m interested in #icchat

@dan_larkin I prefer using images only, or images with key phrases. I want an audience connecting with me, not my slides. #icchat

@tonyramos Good models to follow for image-oriented #PPT are Steve Jobs and #icchat

The energy – or lack thereof – put into internal communications was called into play with Diane (@ZebraCracker) asking, “What approach best overcomes the notion that ‘this is good enough – it’s just internal.’?”

@tonyramos Resources funnel to where value/ROI perceived 2 be. Deliver top Internalcomms and aud will see value you accord them. Fight 4 it! #icchat

@Commammo lot of time the need is a leave-behind, not a preso – even Word is better for that…

@dblacombe I’m experimenting with putting up on Slideshare and then blog posting versus handout #icchat

@dan_larkin How you communicate with internal teams influences their communication with customers. There is no “just internal.” #icchat

Sean steered us into the creative aspects of PowerPoint, asking if text is dead for presentations and whether animation and motion are useful.

@tonyramos Q3 Just cuz u can doesnt mean you should. Save animation/motion/builds for when it is critical to understanding the message. Great example of a story told thru sparse text, images, video, soundtrack #icchat

@ZebraCracker Depends on audience. There is a time and place for big, stark, powerful text sans animation, etc. Time and place = when on big stage, with big audience, when presenter shd be star of show.

Developing stories to engage audiences is essential.

@tonyramos There’s the key word: engaging. If u r truly engaging/engrossing ur audience, u might even turn off the projector! #icchat

@ZebraCracker Next time would love to chat about these mgrs who spend too much time building slides and too little time with story structure #icchat

And with that, the topic for the next #icchat was born: structuring stories for internal communications. Join us November 2 from 2 – 3 eastern time (North America).

[Note: You can read this week’s transcript here.]

Trent Meidinger’s expertise is in internal and executive communications – strategy, counsel, coaching and messaging. He has worked at American Express, Target Corporation and United Healthcare in communications and operations-management roles. He writes about business and personal communications at and is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators. Follow him on Twitter as @wheati.


‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Newly Relevant

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Image via Creative Commons

Twelve years ago or so, Dr. Spencer Johnson wrote a slender volume about change and dealing with it that featured mice and “littlepeople.”  I read it somewhere around that time at the behest of my boss, discussed it with my colleagues and promptly moved it into the “management cliche” category, soon to be followed by Total Quality Management.

When I saw “Who Moved My Cheese” (and its intellectual compadre, “The One-Minute Manager“) on the syllabus for my grad class on media management, I remembered just enough of it to see where the conversation was heading. “Cheese” tells a simple little story about two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two littlepeople who ostensibly are smarter than the mice, Haw and Hem. The four live in a maze equipped with Cheese Stations and spend their days going to and fro, stuffing themselves with cheese.  The mice notice a change (less cheese at Station C) and take off to look elsewhere, whilst Hem and Haw (wait for it) dither until all the cheese in Station C is gone.

They’ve refused to change. They like Station C and expect that one day, the cheese will magically re-appear. That is, until Haw summons up the courage to face his fear of the unknown and leave Hem behind.

Haw finds new cheese, tries to convince Hem to move on, Hem refuses, and Haw goes back to the new treasure of cheese, but keeps his running shoes handy just in case he needs to move again.

Part of the books appeal is that it’s not complicated, and it seems to speak to many people in many ways.  The discussion 12 years ago was about who we saw ourselves embodying among the characters. Thus, we’re supposed to discover the wider truths of the book as it applies to us.

In the media management course, we’ve begun looking into media business models, and I see that most media organizations have been Hem — they’ve stayed with what worked in the past despite the warning signs, and are failing. A few are like Haw — they’ve realized their errors and have forged ahead, albeit slowly in some cases: “The Christian Science Monitor” dropped its paper edition; television news organizations now put “packages” together for both broadcast and Web; Slate and Salon stuck it out as online-only magazines, eschewing the temptation to put out print; “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” are planning to put most of their content behind paywalls.

But the cheese is still on the move.  The most popular online news sites are aggregators — Yahoo! News, Drudge, Google… Whither their models when the original content others are producing disappears?  What about the role of citizen journalism (or citizen curation, a la Digg, Reddit, etc.)?

The New York Times has an article today on Digg — positing that Twitter and Facebook have taken the space that Digg blocked out in 2004, and we know MySpace is hardly the force it once was.

Station C is already cheese-less, and so is Station D (the first social media station). The path to the new cheese is mighty narrow, strewn with boulders and broken glass.

Got anything to do with media at all?  Better re-read “Who Moved My Cheese.”


Getting in Touch with My Inner Geek

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
bit of a mashup from Integrate 2010

Death by IT PowerPoint - well, just illness...

A couple of weeks ago, I attended that IT conference I wrote about before, Integrate 2010: Uniting the World of IT.  The group putting it on was the Greater Cleveland Local Interest Group of ITSMF-USA, which is a professional association for IT Service ManagementAs I mentioned, it was great — I learned something new, met some interesting people and commiserated with yet another staff function that feels unappreciated. Here is part one of some observations about the sessions and speakers I saw.

George Spalding, VP Global Events, Pink Elephant

Spalding is a jovial, pink-faced man with round tortoise-shell glasses and a somewhat unconventional delivery for his speech, “2000 Years of IT Service Management.” He started his piece with a series of slides that took stories from the Bible and refit them into info tech situations. Think “Noah’s Ark” as an IT Enterprise Software project. His point was to show how silly typical IT responses to issues are — “Why do incidents happen? Someone made a change. Don’t we test these things?”

Spalding went on a while with Biblical story-telling, and from my perspective could have shortened the list. His main audience seemed to be charmed — and there was no denying the main messages: “You’re not in the IT business anymore” was the critical nugget — sound familiar? Prior to Y2K, Spalding said, “Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt” gave IT the freedom to do as it pleased. Once the world kept spinning into the new millennium, IT moved into the service business, and now there’s no returning to the old ways. He’s obviously comfortable with this speech and delivery — he could have been even better with some judicious editing, and a bit of presentation skills editing, too.

Michael Lundblad, Rational Worldwide Sales Executive, IBM

Mike Lundblad comes with a story. An ex-Marine officer, he speaks well, commands attention and represents an important company. The content of his presentation, “How to Recover from an Application Heart Attack,” was so far into the IT manual that I really couldn’t wrap my head around it.  He also seemed mainly to be describing products (Rational and Tivoli), rather than offering some type of independent advice or action steps. Of course, maybe that’s par for the course at these conferences — it was my first one!

Bob Balassi, chief technology officer, Maryville Technologies

Bob wore the same suit/shirt/tie combination on the dais as he wore in his program photo. He was a very polished, smooth speaker, but didn’t move at all (missing clicker hindered the show…note: buy your own – and don’t forget to bring it!). The static delivery hurt the presentation, but didn’t kill it. The title of the presentation is too long to include, but it was on what’s called IT Transformation. That’s the wholesale redo of a company’s IT world, moving from being technology driven to business driven. It’s kind of like when PR teams reorg to align more with their clients, rather than their own internal preferences.

His big message was that A) The transformation will continue (209 million Google results); B) Merger situations tend to push IT into the background, but improving these tools in a service format can yield a 25%-40% productivity increase and a rise in net present value of 5%-10% — that’s real strategic value, not just control-oriented window dressing. Could we make a similar claim for a communications transformation?

In another easily adapted bon mot, Bob said change management — both IT and organizational — is critical to success. Adopt-Adapt-Transform is the modality he shared, along with the need to engage employees and top leadership. He said there are stars, skeptics, cynics and slugs (and stabilizers), and you have to know how many of your team are in what category. I could have been hearing from just about any business improvement consultant. He did a fine job, though his PowerPoint was killing me.

More in part two.


Internal Communications at its Best

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The UK’s Liam FitzPatrick wrote a post decrying the tendency of internal comms people complaining about manager communication incompetence.  FitzPatrick says: “I believe we get the internal clients we deserve.  If senior managers are used to a diet of crap communications support, that is all they’ll ever understand.”

He’s right, and he’s wrong.

The challenge always is whether to keep fighting or just give managers what they want.  FitzPatrick relates a story about a senior manager who wants “intelligence” about what employees are saying and thinking from her internal comms support.  There are a lot of things a skilled internal communicator can do to gather that intelligence, but much of the budgetary process is more output-focused than outcome-focused (echoing the same tendency elsewhere in corporate communications.)

The key for any of us is research (he said self-servingly — my practice includes research services, just sayin;.)

The research doesn’t even have to be quantitative, though tying qualitative assessment to intranet traffic, for example, can shed a lot of light on the effectiveness of our internal comms activities. We don’t have to do formal surveys, which can be very expensive and time consuming, if all we’re looking for is a snapshot to share for planning and strategy.

At Goodyear, we used an intranet poll to get just that sort of intelligence — it was a great window into what at least some employees were thinking, and it gave us a source of content, too.

But, there is no replacement for more formal measurement — even with qualification of our poll results, we still got management questions about the reach of opinion, which is a valid criticism. The old ROPE method (Research, Objective, Programming, Evaluation) still holds truth.

Meanwhile, read FitzPatrick’s piece. It’s worth reading (and commenting — no comments on his blog, so I wrote this post!)


IT Conference Reveals Unexpected Connection with PR

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Ask most PR people whether they’d like to attend a conference filled with IT people. Go on, ask. Read the conference brochure and marvel at “2000 Years of IT Service Management,” “Achieving Technology and Business Superiority through IT Organizational Transformation,” and “IT Alignment: It Takes Two to Tango.”  It turned out to be one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended.

Everyone should take the time to assess their own objectives for attending a conference, seminar, luncheon or other event. Think through what you want to get out of it, what you’re willing to put into it. My objective, this summer, is to expand the network, among people who might want to engage my services.  I’ve been marketing myself through social media, and among communication organizations — the IABC Conference, my presentation to Lake Communicators, and this fall’s presentations at the PRSA International Conference and IABC’s Research and Measurement Conference.

While reviewing networking opportunities here in Cleveland on Pat Ropchock’s blog (she’s locked in big time), I noted “Integrate 2010: Uniting the World of IT” put on by the Greater Cleveland Local Interest Group of the ITSMFUSA — it’s a mouthful of an acronym that means, “IT people who want to be more relevant and strategic.”  They call the main discipline Service Management,” a process for aligning IT services with the needs of the enterprise.

The themes that emerged from most of the presentations I saw were fascinating.

  • IT feels like it’s not at the leadership table. Instead, they’re brought in after the business strategy’s in place and have to scramble to make things happen.
  • IT struggles to articulate its business value for all but a handful of services.
  • IT gets stuck on describing activities rather than defining its service portfolio in terms that the business leadership understands.
  • IT often can’t “sell” itself effectively, caught up in jargon and technical detail that isn’t relevant to leadership.

What happens if we replace “IT” with “PR” or “Corporate Communication?”

  • A consistent theme of IABC/PRSA material for years was “winning a seat at the table,” and then keeping it. We’ve been talking amongst ourselves for as long as I’ve been in the business about being business people first and communicators second. Yet, we’re still not there consistently.
  • Think about the debates over measurement methods — PR activity is difficult to isolate in the communication mix, and there are no standard answers for return on communication investment. Just last year, PRSA and the Institute for PR began working on a project to prove the business value of our profession. Internal communication is especially vulnerable to the question of ROI — and social media value outside of direct sales is still an unfinished book.
  • PR/Communications people frequently take as a given that their professional activities are impactful, regardless of the lack of data to support that claim. Our “service book” describes our activity from our perspective, not from that of our customers.
  • We (especially in internal communications) tend to resort to tactical explanations using our own lingo, rather than speaking about our work in terms readily understood by HR, Finance and leadership.

Sometimes it may seem like IT is on a different planet — more science than art, more Mars than Venus.  We, however, aren’t that different in our desires to be taken seriously by leadership as business people who employ specialized skills.

In addition to a few other things I discovered, this knowledge about IT was worth the price of admission.

More to follow on the conference shortly.