Posts Tagged ‘IABC’

IABC Heritage Region Conference: Outstanding

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Professional association conferences can be rather tedious affairs. They’re hard to program owing to the wide variety of experience of membership, the need for a balance of presenters between people who are selling something and those who are merely sharing, and no small disparity in skill as a public speaker. I know, because I’ve worked on several of them. One conference I’ve come to appreciate is the  International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) regional conference for members in the upper-right quadrant of the U.S. — the Heritage Region. When the Heritage conference came to Cleveland in 2009, I ran sponsorships, and in 2010 for Philadelphia, I was speakers co-chair and introduced a keynote speaker, and in 2011, I spoke in Detroit.

This year, Pittsburgh was the venue, and I sponsored the event and conducted a breakout session on employee engagement. It was an excellent conference, filled with first-rate programming at a fraction of the cost of other, larger ones.

I met some new people (which is the main goal for me at these things, along with having the chance to present), and heard some excellent communicators share interesting perspectives on our profession and its future. Here, briefly, a few of my observations:

Alison Davis got us started with an inspiring, if familiar, call to earn our stripes as strategists. Davis is a good speaker, and my only complaint is that the message is pretty basic stuff (see above on comment about the difficulty of programming when many levels are in the room).  But her methods were fun to hear, and she used Joan Jett and Bob Seger to open and close her talk.

Dina Wolfman Baker reorganized her communication department to align with an organizational refit, and started the process with primary research among 30 stakeholders, plus a time study to see where staff time was being spent. It’s rare, in my experience, to see so strategic a method for reorganization. The process too frequently is more political and financial — wider spans of control, certain number of reports by budget, etc.  Baker’s insights emerging from the research weren’t limited to structural questions, either — one factiod — a disconnect among leadership in expectations regarding willingness to accept advice from communicators and sharing strategy with them. The new structure brought more focus and expertise to bear on the topics that mattered most to the organization.

Robin McCasland runs internal communication for an IT services firm facing cultural change owing to acquisitions. She focused on the combined company’s shared distinctiveness and the appeal to a higher purpose to reinvigorate leadership enthusiasm and employee identification with the essentially new firm. But, she doesn’t ignore, either, the very real need to ramp up understanding of the industry and business among employees as the company looks to grow.

Erin Dick, whom I try never to miss on a dais, gave a terrific talk on a familiar topic – the ever increasing pace of change in society, including in the communication field. Dick is a high-energy, entertaining speaker who really gave a clinic on how to give a presentation. Great multimedia, enthusiasm and excitement (and some really cool, even scary new tech that’s already here, not just in the future.)

Jeff Hutson, who I got to introduce, had the unenviable position of kicking off the second conference day at 8 a.m. after the inevitable dinner out at the end of day one. Jeff is a research geek like me, and he shared some practical tools to help math-o-phobic communicators get over their fear and embrace the numbers — or at least, embrace someone who knows how to embrace the numbers. This notion informs a class I teach at Kent State University on measurement and ROI in communications — the goal isn’t to teach people to do measurement, it’s to help people do an RFP and evaluate the people who’ll do the work.

Betsy duWaldt, a colleague and Kent and former head of internal comms at First Energy Corp., is finishing up her Ph.D. at Duquesne, and she shared First Energy’s path to reinventing its employee communication — including a fascinating look at how the CEO won over a skeptical workforce. (Sorry Betsy, no photo!)

D. Mark Schumann, amid his trademark flowing mane of steel-grey hair and frequent self-deprecating quips, called on us to reinvent our profession and ourselves in our third keynote, then presided over a panel discussion where four breakout facilitators (including Moi) shared details and action steps that participants suggested to complete that reinvention.  It was a great close to two great days.

I may be largely “done” with IABC’s international conference, but the Heritage is a must for me.

I’m seeing a lot of IABC this fall — I’m speaking in mid-November at the IABC/PRIME Research conference in New York and talking employee communication measurement. Should be a great time — and another great, small conference from my longest-tenured professional association.

P.s. Why do I think IABC, PRSA, etc., are valuable, and what are my concerns and complaints about them? See this post on PR Conversations.


IABC Heritage conference is Oct. 14-16 – See you there!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The international conferences for both PRSA and IABC are epic gatherings. I attended several of them, but found the scale rather overwhelming, especially when trying to network. It seems like everyone is hustling to their next session, and there are few opportunities to connect with the same person across the days. That’s why I’m a big fan of the IABC Heritage Region conference – the scale is smaller and the ability to make personal connections better.

Besides, the quality of speakers is outstanding, the social aspects entertaining and this year’s conference is a mere two hours down the road from me in Pittsburgh. No cross-country flights, no rental cars, no tsuris. I’m a sponsor this year, and will have the honor of introducing a couple of speakers.

If you’ve wanted to shoot the breeze a bit on PR, measurement, internal comms, reputation, influence or anything else, come to the conference and find me. Hope to see you there.

Here are just a few of the sessions I’m looking forward to:

Andy Warhol: Marketing the Man and the Museum

Nicholas Chamber, Curator, Andy Warhol Museum

From Campbell’s soup cans to colorful portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol’s pop art celebrates the artistic expression, celebrity culture and ad-centric focus of the 1960s. As a renowned and often controversial artist, Warhol took the world of marketing to its limits in both his professional and personal life. The Andy Warhol Museum, which is the largest museum in the United State dedicated to a single artist, contains an extensive collection of Warhol’s art and archives. This session will take a closer look at Warhol’s early career in the advertising industry and the museum’s marketing efforts to engage with a diverse international audience about the artist’s life and work.

Best Practices in Engaging and Empowering Colleagues Through Social Media

Heather Young, Senior Manager, Corporate and Colleague Communications, Pfizer, Inc.

At the companies who do it best, no one person or department “owns” social media. Instead, they create advocates of their employees and train and empower them to speak on behalf of the company. This unique approach to social media requires hands on community management, policies that protect the company and its employees and a certain bravery and willingness to  accept risk. The payoff is an authentic, two-way, social media conversation that helps to positively shape and influence a company’s reputation. In this session, learn about these lessons through Pfizer’s Think Science Now program.

Setting Quantifiable Objectives: The Key to Proving PR Value

Mark Weiner, CEO, PRIME Research

In every business case – whether the organization is large or small, for-profit or nonprofit, local or global – there is an objective. But the best objectives in the world aren’t good enough if they can’t be measured. Corporate communicators increasingly are being required to provide proof of real value in the programming they plan and implement. An effective public relations program is rooted in research, which is used to set objectives, develop strategy and design tactics then moves through program execution and evaluation. This session will take attendees through a proven process for setting objectives that are measurable as well as address how to communicate with the C-suite about the process.

The New World of Communication: How Social Media, Games and Behavioral Economics Have Rewritten the Rule Book

Adam Wootton, Director of Social Media and Games, Towers Watson

The session will explore the new tools available for communicators to use to engage their audience with a focus on behavioral economics, social media, games and game mechanics. Participants will learn why these new tools are important, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to talk to senior leaders about them. Easy steps to get started for each will be shown along with firsthand practical examples for use.



Connect with me this fall

Monday, July 16th, 2012

There will be three great opportunities this fall to sharpen your professional saw, and to schmooze with me!  Sept. 10-11, I’m at “Connect 12” the PRSA Employee Communication Section conference at NYU in The City. Oct. 14-16, I’m the bronze sponsor for the IABC Heritage Region Conference in Pittsburgh at the Westin. Nov. 12-13, I’m back to New York for the 2012 IABC and PRIME Research Global Strategic Communication and Measurement Conference (where I’ll be speaking as well as schmoozing!)

Each of these conferences will be terrific. The PRSA section conference will be my first; I went to International in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago, and managed a section dinner which was great fun. I’m looking forward to lower Manhattan and a chance to meet new folks and connect with friends.  The Heritage conference is outstanding – I spoke last year in Detroit, introduced a keynoter two years ago in Philly, and have served on both the sponsorship and speaker committees in the past. It’s always great to connect with IABC peeps!

Two years ago, I spoke at the IABC Communication and Measurement Conference in Seattle, and I’m delighted my friend and Institute for PR Measurement Commission colleague Mark Weiner (CEO of PRIME Research) invited me to participate this year.  Expect a great program at The Yale Club.

Hope to catch you at one – or all of these!


Why is telling the truth so hard?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Creative Commons, by Brian Hillegas

The Institute for PR has published “Ethical standards and guidelines for public relations research and measurement“, which PRNewser’s Tonya Garcia summarized as “Basically, don’t be a horrible, self-serving liar.” The statement, By Dr. Shannon Bowen, John Gilfeather, & Dr. Brad Rawlins, is a stake in the ground, and on the surface might seem to be a statement of the obvious. But PR as a profession still seems ethically dubious — witness the latest in a long line of Walmart amazin’s stories.

Walmart hired Mercury Public Affairs to lobby LA city hall to approve construction of a store in Chinatown. No problem. But when Mercury employee Stephanie Harnett went to a meeting of Warehouse Workers United, which wants to unionize Walmart’s workers, she lied about who she was, claiming to be journalism student from the University of Southern California.

Both Walmart and Mercury declaimed any responsibility — Mercury saying that she was a junior member of their staff and that no one, neither Mercury nor Walmart, told her to do any such thing.  I’d be tempted to write this off as a sad commentary on PR education and the “anything goes” culture of the modern age, but Socrates did a better job of making that argument.

What seems likely is that both Mercury and Walmart tossed her under the bus. Media reports say that Harnett was shaking like a leaf during her ruse, so she has to know that what she was doing was wrong. Of course, apparently she got over it in short order. Her Twitter account is closed (good idea; it can’t have been much fun to read the tweets), and she’s keeping a low profile.

Walmart’s not known as a Pantheon of ethics — the Astroturf campaign, the Mexico bribery issue. And many PR firms seem willing to do whatever will generate revenue, from selling war through deliberate falsehood to representing dictators.  PR ethics can seem like a contradiction in terms.

But I won’t give up, and neither should you. Thanks to Bowen, Gilfeather and Rawlins, we’ve got another arrow in our quiver.


PR Learnings from Mobile Marketing

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Michael Schwabe, thunder::tech

For the marketing folks, the advent of sophisticated handheld devices like iPhones, Blackberrys and tablet PCs is an irresistible draw to push messages out. Michael Schwabe of thunder::tech, an integrated marketing agency, made that abundantly clear at the May 12 meeting of the Cleveland Chapter of IABC.

Schwabe covered a high-level set of interesting uses for smart phones and always-on Internet geegaws — provided your main goal is to sell stuff, one way or another.  This is no knock on Mike, he did a great job — the title of the talk , after all, was “mobile marketing.” Applications for your iPhone to facilitate ordering.  Websites optimized to look good on a Blackberry screen, QR and AR codes that make it easy to snap information off a flyer or add content to some kind of arrangement that isn’t there beforehand.

Perhaps most fascinating (and a bit disturbing) were the applications that use GPS to tailor sales appeals — you’re at the mall, and American Eagle texts you, saying: “Hey, Sean, check out the sale on jeans we’re having at the AE store?”  Holy Phillip K. Dick!

Amid all of this talk about relevancy, situational marketing, search optimization, SMS, Web display ads, and in-application advertising, I just had to ask about application to public relations (broadly defined.) Mike’s response was a good one, albeit a little limited. He talked about reaching media members where they want to be reached — pitching via text or email, etc.  He’s right, but my follow-up questions are more targeted. Here’s what he said in an interview by email.

Sean: I get the mobile applications when it comes to media relations – but what of reputation management, or issues management?  What about using these tools for building stronger relationships among our stakeholders?

Mike: It’s a very interesting and complicated question and I’m glad we have this chance to discuss it more. Reputation and issues management in a mobile world really translates to PR practitioners being available 24/7/365. Because so many people have their mobile device by their side both day and night, it’s seemingly expected that we are open to communicating at any time. There’s positives and negatives to that.

Positively, a perception of always being available is a great client relationship point. It moves PR practitioners from being vendors to trusted advisers. The other side is that PR professionals need to find a personal and professional balance in their lives (as I believe every professional does). We need to ask ourselves when “accessible” becomes too accessible.

Right now, the effect of mobile on the core concept of media relations is that it speeds it up – accessibility, surveying, RSS reading, etc. Also, the 24/7 nature of the job that mobile technology allows us really plays into the true nature of crisis communications.

However, I can easily see more dynamic impacts in the future – dedicated applications and websites for pushing information and taking inquiries, for example – imagine if we could easily mass email a news release from our phones. The problem isn’t so much that the technology doesn’t make all of these things possible; it’s that no one has blended them together to make an ideal tool set.

S: The entire “integrated marketing communications” universe puts public relations into a box beneath marketing, with all our activity required to offer sales support. How does the mobile explosion affect all of the things that aren’t direct sale support?

M: I would respectfully disagree that “integrated” means PR must support sales. If PR departments allow themselves to be put into that box, then they need stronger leadership. However, aside from that possible tangent, it’s really the same comparison offline as it is online – which I think gets lost much of the time when you start to think about tackling an online campaign. Consider the reputation of the company or the products and services you are promoting. Each company or client has plenty to offer in traditional media relations, mobile just accelerates the access to the information.

To make these efforts effective, consideration must be given to how you are found online. If you want to rely on mobile to drive conversation, you have to have a mobile-ready website that’s easy to navigate with easy to find contact information. Further, the proliferation of social media and it’s accessibility on mobile devices mean you have real-time access to your consumers. Find out what they want and use that informal method of research to drive immediate messaging reactions or possibly multivariate testing opportunities. For some fun reading, I think the list presented here is interesting, and while it may not provide “must-use” tools as the title says, it does a good job illustrating how PR pros can use mobile technology and apps to get things done quicker and on-the-fly.

S: What sort of interest in internal communications applications have you seen? (and if not, why not? )

M: The best examples have been the mobile-enabling of company calendars and sales and support materials. Where there’s been a shortcoming is in mobile-enabling branding and media documents.

As your employees travel or are on the road for a day, the flow of information is still going – the media cycle does not stop – something your readers are no doubt aware of. With mobile networks getting faster (3G and 4G technologies), there’s no reason to limit anything you would get on a desktop plugged into your company’s network to just that desktop. Make it mobile, but do it intelligently. Make sure files are easy to download and content is easily findable. The best examples I’ve seen are executed on a tablet like the iPad where companies will develop a tablet- ready website and password protect it to give only internal groups access to as much of the same information that their intranet or local server does. Another way to Web-enable and protect a lot of the needed information is through cloud computing, which is a subject in and of itself.

There is hesitance to Web and mobile enabling much of this information and that hesitance usually comes from IT departments – we love them because they keep us running, but we turn and stomp out of their offices when they throw around their weight with arguments like, “It won’t be secure so we can’t put it online or give you access to it outside of the office.”

While that is a valid point, it’s also frustrating. All we want to do is serve our customers or not have to worry about coming into the office to get that file we forgot, but the security risk is sometimes too great. What if you could access all of your company’s financial and trade-secret information on your phone and then you lost your phone or it was stolen? There are numerous reports of it happening with laptops and mobile devices can be an even easier target. While I can’t disagree, I think there has to be a happy medium to give PR pros on-the-go access and still keeping the information secure.

S: Thanks Mike – I appreciate you taking the time!

What I surmise is that if we see PR only in the media relations or sales support view, we’re going to lose, not just our credibility, but also our jobs. We’ve seen lately more evidence that building relationships across our constituencies is more important to our organizations than simply increasing the volume of opportunities to see our messages.  Regardless of relevancy, message fatigue and competition are going to put a lot of stress on the traditional marketing environment.

I can see how exploiting the two-way (or multi-way) capabilities of mobile could lead to discussion between our clients and us — as well as between end-users and organizations. All of that gets not only to sales opportunities, but also to brand-wide communication. The ability to put such a powerful tool in employee hands alone means much for the cause of collaboration, at lower cost and more efficiently overall. Bringing customers, prospects and employees together by the palms of their hands is a very intriguing prospect.

This week on #icchat, we’ll tackle video in internal communications — still relevant or old hat? Join us Thursday, May 19 at 10 a.m. North American Eastern Time on Twitter. Just search for #icchat (though using TweetDeck or TweetChat makes Twitter chats much easier to handle…)


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.


Random Reflections on IABC’s 2010 Research and Measurement Conference

Saturday, November 20th, 2010
Working on the post

Sean and Shonali toiling in the service of communication

What happens when you get a roomful of communicators listening to a speaker on measurement? It’s not what you think. In this joint post, Shonali Burke and I sat atop the ivory tower after Day 1 of the Conference – and issued what Shonali’s husband would call “grand pronouncements.”

Shonali: Coming down in the elevator, I chanced upon a conversation between a gentleman attending an event hosted by The Gates Foundation, and an attendee of “our” conference. She said, “[Your conference] sounds so much more interesting. I doubt mine will be as riveting as yours.”

On being asked, she said, deprecatingly, that it was a communications conference. At this point, I couldn’t resist. I said, “You mean you’re not overwhelmed with excitement over the IABC Research and Measurement Conference?” She looked at me as if I was crazy. Just before she found out I was a speaker.

Was I mean? I don’t think so. Naughty, perhaps. Not mean. Heck, if you’re going to say whatever you like in an elevator, so can I.

Sean: Several people seemed quite taken by the morning sessions, though one person I encountered less so. She hemmed and hawed when I asked what she thought of the conference so far, never a particularly good sign. But in the end, she didn’t seem to have a clear set of objectives for attending the conference.

This is a huge theme in my teaching: Objectives are everything. If you don’t know what you’re hoping to achieve, you don’t have much of a shot at achieving it.

Shonali: A common editorial comment I keep hearing from attendees at measurement conferences (or presentations related to measurement) is: “It doesn’t seem like the basics have changed… so what do I take away from this?” It drives me a little crazy. No, the basics haven’t changed. That’s because they’re the basics.

How can you not grasp the importance of measuring numbers that matter instead of numbers that make you look good? What part of, “measure [what] has an impact as opposed to simply focusing on the tools,” isn’t easy to understand?

Sean: Angela Sinickas is a treasure trove of case studies. I have to remind myself to call her for research fodder. I saw Angela at PRSA’s 2010 International Conference, and suddenly realized I’d seen her presentation before. Some of that, no doubt, is that she boasts 23 of the Forbes worldwide list as clients. Maybe it’s rank envy! I love the fact that she represents for measurement, and I wonder what she might do with Dr. Don Stacks and Dr. Don Wright nipping at her heels on projects.

Shonali: What was really interesting about this conference was that it wasn’t the usual [measurement expert] suspects presenting.

Well, not all the usual suspects.

Well, not two-thirds of the usual suspects.


Sean: Shel Holtz said you have to measure something, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I always say that getting your objectives right is the single best start to a measurement program. You’ve got to measure something, and starting with progress on attaining objectives is a great place to start.

I also loved that Patti Phillips went 100 percent professor on the crowd, demanding us to calculate.

Shonali: Represent. Ruminate. Calculate. Especially when it’s way after hours.

What else is a conference for?


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.


The ‘Professor’ Becomes The Student

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

It's 1992...AGAIN!

For 15 years, I’ve known that when my corporate career wound to a close, I wanted to teach, write and speak. That always has meant I’d need to get an advanced degree, and the question only was exactly when that would happen. The master plan was to start a master’s degree in 2009, which would have been the start of my second year at National City Corp. You want to make G-d laugh? Make plans.

My experience at regional bank National City began in January 2008, just in time for the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. By the end of the year, PNC had acquired National City with government help, and in short order, Communication AMMO was born. I flirted briefly with the idea of enrolling in a master’s program right away, but jumped on the small business train instead. Now, after nearly 18 months toiling through the Great Recession, and a year after beginning my teaching career at Kent State as an adjunct prof, the academic fire is burning pretty brightly in me.

So, I decided to start the next phase of my communication career with pursuing a master’s in public relations from Kent State University.

This presented an interesting sidebar — in my Theory of Mass Communication class, seven of my fellow students took my PR Theory and Ethical Practice course last fall, and one of them is in the PR Tactics course I’m teaching this fall.  No copying off Professor Williams!

I’m excited and a bit terrified — I was last a student about 20 years ago, and wonder if I still remember how to study.  Preparing to teach is an education in itself, but being accountable for academic readings and schoolwork is a dim memory. The first week of classes (I’m taking two) is under our belts, and I still have time to complete the initial assignments. I count that as a victory!

With three speaking engagements this fall (PRSA International, the Parma, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce, and the IABC Research and Measurement Conference), the two classes, the one I’m teaching, the twice-monthly Twitter meeting, #ICChat, and the position as membership director for IABC Cleveland, I’m not going to lack for things to do.

I hope to still remain active here and elsewhere in social media, but don’t be too surprised if my frequency drops and length of post shrinks.

Of course, there no doubt are many of you who are hoping for just such a reduction. Anyone want to write a guest post?


Employee Engagement Still Relevant

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

On 24 August, a group of internal communication folks gathered on Twitter for #ICChat, the twice-monthly discussion that a few of us think might be valuable. The topic: Employee Engagement, the Gallup Q12-fueled effort to make employees feel good enough about their organization that they turn into brand champions. (Or peer leaders, or influencers, or advocates, what have you. Pick a term).

This edition was far and away the most participation we’ve had, thanks to interest from several prominent IABC’ers and, no doubt, relentless marketing by Yours Truly (grin).  We’re following in the huge footsteps of Twitter mega-chats like #SoloPR, #PR20Chat, #BlogChat, #B2BChat #PRStudChat #IMCChat and a bunch of others, so 20 chatters and 241 tweets gives me hope.

By the way, #ICCHat and those other # thingies are ‘hashtags‘ – a string of text that makes it so that you can find tweets that contain it when you search on Twitter.  I use a third-party application,, to organize my chatting — it automatically puts the hashtag into the tweet and makes it so you can see the chat stream separately from your other Twitter activity. E-mail me if you need a primer.

If you’d like to work through the transcript, you can find it here. Otherwise, read on for my summary and opinions.

Defining employee engagement was quite the task, as you can read here.  Not much consensus, but many interesting perspectives. I liked @DMarkSchumann‘s line:

“you know, engagement is simple – we all simply want to believe we matter – silly us”

I also loved @JGombita‘s:

“Q1: Employee engagement is when corporate values can talked about without eyeball rolling or sniggers”

@JPChurch said:

Q1: EE is the point where emps are in synch with your org’s goals, know how they affect their own jobs, and can take the ball & run

And the capper of employee-focused employee engagement-ism from @CSledzik:

“Q1: we’ve been using a 1st person description. An EE can say: ‘I fit, I’m clear, I’m supported, I’m valued, I’m inspired.'”

We talked about how to foster engagement — and our answers ran the range from the general, from @HeatherSTL:

“Honestly? Extend trust, hold ppl accountable, reward success :)”

to the specific, courtesy of @BenjaminRossDC:

“The best way to foster engagement, hands-down, is though profit-sharing incentives”

and @JostleMe:

“helping each individual understand they are part of a winning team that is making a difference”

and @JGombita:

“One of the best ways to foster engagement is if you ask employees for feedback, .actually do something with it”

Walking one’s talk — building trust through authenticity and openness — was another frequently offered mode of generating engagement. Responses to the question, “Why is authenticity, transparency, ‘do right’ seemingly so difficult for organizations to embrace” were fascinating. @JPChurch:

“Because leaders wrongly think those things are “soft,” and have no obvious ROI. Au contraire.”

@RobinRox offered the contrary example:

“Depends on how you get to that bottom line. Container Store site “what we stand for” makes me want to shop there more.”

I could go on, but just read the transcript – there are great quotes (one cool by-product of Twitter chats)…

With so much responsibility falling on the shoulders of leadership, we discussed the role of communication styles on the engagement equation. @RobinRox:

if the leader’s style is so contrary to the “feel” of the company and its values, it is harder to gain a loyal following


“Culture of comm. equally important. Nothing beats two-way open comm channels, esp when leadership is involved in the convo.”


“Q4 don’t think it’s so much whether the leader is an extrovert/introvert, it’s whether s/he actually LISTENS & implements”


“[…]engagement only matters to employees if leadership demonstrates that people matter”


“Must be careful not to change comm efforts too much to match exec style, though – messages must be genuine & lasting.”


“no longer can a leader delegate engagement to others – it is the job”

It was a terrific conversation.  You could see for yourself.  If you’re not on Twitter, just sign up for a name — you don’t have to do the rest of the stuff we Twitter-people do if you don’t want to.  Just use the account for participating in Twitter meetings like #ICChat.  By the way, we resume our discussion September 7 at 2 p.m. Eastern time — topic is likely “Emerging Internal Web Tools/Trends.” Hope to see you there.

By the way, Jostle’s Brad Palmer wrote a summary here; and D. Mark Schumann did so too.  Many thanks to all of you.

Q1: EE is the point where emps are in synch with your org’s goals, know how they affect their own jobs, and can take the ball & run #icchat