Posts Tagged ‘Cost cutting’

I miss blogging

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

OK, I’m kind of lying. I don’t miss the blogging I did four years ago. You know, the blogging I did because I didn’t have a job or clients and needed to do something productive.

I talk to people “in transition” frequently. I try to say “yes” as much as possible, because I remember what it’s like. Communication AMMO still has just one employee, and it only now seems like it’s going to allow me to earn a living for a while. But it’s a darn site better than the waiting many of our colleagues have gone through for the past few years.

Blogging is a little bit of an ego trip, so obviously, I’m not doing it right. The frequency of posting is way down, and so to is the number of people reading my fevered musings. I’m not feeling very fascinating these days. I’m putting most of my energy into work for clients, work for classes taught and work for volunteer opportunities.

I DO feel like I still have something to say. So, don’t be too surprised if I’m a little more visible than in recent months in this space.

In the meantime, if you are in position to hire people, don’t turn your back on folks who’ve been out of the game for a while. If you can use an extra hand, reach out to a colleague working on launching their own gig. Be generous as you can be, even if only with your time, your support, and your coffee.


Employers shocked, shocked, that morale is low

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

In what can be described only as a stunning command of the obvious, a MetLife study shows that workers are growing restive as the economy rebounds from three years of struggle, and that employers are oblivious.

A story in the 28 March edition of USA Today quotes a psychologist saying that workers are stressed after watching co-workers get fired, being told to take on more work for the same pay, and longer hours. The MetLife veep is quoted (nice pop, MetLife PR!) saying that business’s understandable focus on financial matters has led to it ignoring human factors. It is pretty easy to be a “best employer” when the tide is in and Wall Street rocking.

There’s even an indirect from Towers Watson saying that companies are having a hard time “attracting employees with critical skills.”

How can any company say they’re surprised by these results? Add in a healthy dose of capitalist excess in the form of higher executive pay and you have a combustible mixture of anger and envy alongside the feeling that you need to leave to be appreciated.  During a downturn, people are OK with making less money — they indeed are just happy to have a job. After their sacrifice (which is how they see it), when the picture turns better, they expect to make up lost ground — the 3% raise isn’t enough — they didn’t get a raise for two years, so now they want 9% to pick up the slack. But Wall Street will punish any company that lets its fixed costs leap up like that!

Where’s a leader, though, who’ll redirect his or her whacking huge bonus to throw a bit more on the regular employee pile? How about a one-time 401(k) contribution? Maybe a small bonus to show the boss notices the dedication of the past few years?

If they can’t see how the tough stuff hurt loyalty and morale, they don’t deserve to be in business.



Measurement Crucial to PR’s Business Value

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

My learned Australian colleague Geoff Barbaro waxes rant in a post from 17 May (US time), where he inveighs against measurement.  Perhaps not the concept, as much as the practice. He asks:

Do you measure how you look after your family? Do you count the meals, the trips to school, the time spent with children to evaluate effectiveness? When you buy that great new dress or suit that you love, did you then sit down and work through complex metrics to measure what you did?

So why do you think it’s different in business? I’ll tell you why, it’s because you don’t trust people to do the job you employed them to do. You don’t believe they are motivated and care about their work, so you can only make sure they are working by measuring what they do, and then argue that this is the motivational tool. Measuring because “we do what we measure” is a failure of leadership, a failure of motivation, a failure of selection, a failure to define values, a failure of engagement and a failure of communication.

Sorry, Geoff, but this is fuzzy-headed thinking about a vital enhancement to the profession of Public Relations.

I started a comment on Geoff’s blog (a fine and interesting read, btw), but found that it was all too likely that I’d hijack it. And that’s not right. So, here is my reply to Geoff’s shot across the bow. Man the torpedos!


Oh, my. Nothing like an existential rant to get one’s blood up, eh Geoff?

Let’s start by differentiating terms. Measurement isn’t gotcha. It’s not “check-up-on-the-poor-employees.” Neither is it merely about outputs or activities, at least not when it’s strategic.

We in PR have long been the only department in a firm that can say to the C-suite, “trust me” and get away with it. The question on the CEO (and CFO, especially) mind these days, however, is, “What business value do I get for my investment in PR?”

We can take a SWAG (stupid, wild-assed guess) at the answer, but then we sound like witless weasels (um, we build reputation and protect…uh, no, uh, we get media coverage…no, uh, we help the organization communicate effectively, wait, ummmm.)

The fact is that most of us don’t have a clue what the quantifiable business value of PR is, and that’s why PRSA has commissioned a task force to work on that very question. It’s also one of the driving forces in modern PR. It’s created an industry specialty that people are finding value in, even though there is much sophistry and bad measurement out there.

In modern business, every department must contribute to the bottom line. So, direct sales and the support for sales is a winner, as is direct effort to improve efficiency, save money, etc. There’s also credible research about the effect on brand awareness, attitude and disposition of various PR activity. On the internal side, engagement metrics, and employee knowledge and behavioral metrics lend credence to a communicator’s value.

The trick is to a) Measure what matters; and b) Link communication outputs to business outcomes. This is, indeed, a hairy process, filled with risks — bad math the most prevalent, if you ask me.  Correlation is not causation, but frequently it’s a pretty good stand-in for it, if your math is good.  We mustn’t give up on the goal of establishing impact metrics and ROI just because it’s so much easier if we don’t!

I don’t know, Geoff, if I agree that “what gets measured gets done,” but I’m sure that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.





Great discussion at [grow] on Social Media dissent

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Mark W. Schaefer writes a great blog, and today there is a terrific discussion there regarding the echo chamber surrounding social media’s expert class, the Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Julien Smith, Beth Harte, Amber Naslund slate.  Namely, Mark observes that we are lacking strong dissenting voices.

Obviously, there are a few people out there who are refusing to drink the social media Kool-Aid — @amandachapel the most notable.  My own experience with social media as a user is putting me in the class of skeptics, not outright refuseniks, but I have been asking about the value of social media in PR and bemoaning the lack of objective, independent research to evaluate the often breathless claims of its moral superiority.

At the [grow] blog, commenter @tamadear offers this important proviso:

Nobody responds well to “You’re wrong; I’m right” dissent, to those who dwell on our weaknesses. It makes us defensive and unwilling to listen.

This is very true, and is why in virtually all of my consulting (both inside and outside organizations) I always assume that I may be wrong and use language accordingly.  There are far too many pronouncements, baseless and unresearched, in all of public relations, but especially in social media.  I have used the term “self-described experts” many times because I have no visibility into the qualifications of the speaker (or writer). Many of them could be literally anyone, and will even call out their lack of qualifications as a benefit of working with them. From Drudge’s refusal to be called a journalist, to Chris Brogan’s declaration that he is not in public relations, I’m often left wondering why I am supposed to regard these people as authorities.

With a tip of the cap to @amandachapel, it’s “caveat emptor” in the world of communication these days — there is big money to be made (a worthy effort that I share the desire to attain) and precious little objective information to help the consumer evaluate claims.  There are also few best practices that include true outcome measurement of the sort Olivier Blanchard describes in his excellent slide show, “The definitive social media ROI presentation.”  My only beef with the esteemed BrandBuilder is that such end-state ROI calculations performed without care lead to assuming that correlation equals causation.  We would love to see revenue increase and expenses go down concurrent with our social media campaign, but what percentage of the improvement is due to social media and how much due to other factors, including simple continuous improvement?

This is the point of the dissent discussion — for every Olivier and Mark there are five people claiming that the action of participating in social media IS the return on investment. That’s just not going to fly, and the more the experts try to convince people otherwise, the worse off we all are.  The “conversation” MAY be important — it always has been prior to all of this Web. 2.0 stuff — but aside from questionable research by the people poised to benefit the most from its findings, there simply isn’t much data at this point to declare the social media discussion closed.

What’s your view?


Effective Management Needs Effective Communication

Monday, June 1st, 2009

It seems like such an easy management win. Not liking the numbers early in the quarter? Time to sharpen the knives!

Too many times in my career I’ve seen executives react to lower than expected revenues and/or higher than expected costs by cutting their marketing and communications budgets. It’s seen as a no-pain action: The principals don’t have much juice to stop the slashing, the budget gap closes a bit, and everyone knows about “our sacrifice.”

The problem is that during hard times — we are waist deep at least in a global recession — should be the times when we make the most investment, taking market share, enhancing organizational reputation and demonstrating to employees that we’re in it for the long haul.

Worse yet, organizations tend to handle budget crises poorly, with executives hiding out and managers left repeating media speaking points that don’t address employee concerns. Here are three suggestions:
1. Don’t make decisions that gut long-term capabilities to close short-term budget concerns. In a volatile market, things can change quickly. We want to be ready to take advantage, not hamstrung trying to catch up.

2. Address the specific budget issue with targeted action, not across-the-board cuts. When I worked at KeyCorp years ago, every year, it seemed, we had a new program to cut costs. The only sustainable reductions came when leadership changed the strategy of the company — its overall mission and vision — and then adjusted the enterprise to fit that new strategy. Never use a “peanut butter” approach to cost cutting, it typically doesn’t work.

3. It is reasonable to change the communication strategy to fit the new reality — measurement and evaluation is critical to this process. If you don’t know what works and doesn’t work, you fall back on the jar of peanut butter for your approach. Other departments know their specific contributions to the bottom line, and so should we.

How prepared was your leadership team to communicate with its various constituencies during the financial crisis? They need to know how to prioritize audiences by business objective, choose the right messages and transmit the messages through the right vehicles. As the internal experts on communication, it’s up to us (to use the contemporary phrase) to Represent communication as a business process. Let’s get on it.

P.s., if you’re attending the PR News Measurement Conference in DC this week, find me. I’m on a panel on internal communication measurement in the afternoon.