Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Feeding mind & soul at PR research conference

Monday, March 10th, 2014
Dr. Vincent Hazleton, Prof. Michele Ewing & Dr. Dean Kruckeberg

Dr. Vincent Hazleton, Prof. Michele Ewing & Dr. Dean Kruckeberg

Many of my colleagues in public relations quail when I tell them I make a habit of attending the International PR Research Conference.  It’s an academic conference that features scholars presenting papers they have written (or soon will write) in 15 minute blocks. Half the time they explain the main points of the research, and the other half we listeners get to ask questions and make suggestions. That works great for me, and beginning in 2014, I’m now a member of the IPRRC Research Advisory Board, so will have a chance to be more involved.

For a lot of these papers/presentations — which are requirements for Ph.D.s and doctoral students — there isn’t a direct connection to practice. That doesn’t mean discussing them is not useful, and I admit readily to being enough of a geek that I appreciate the deep mental stretching that the more esoteric topics bring forth. Among the more usual questions I ask: “So what?” Most of the time not quite so bluntly (though one longtime friend of the conference, a practitioner who passed away last year, Jack Felton, felt no such reticence), and always with the desire only to understand the research’s impact on our practice.  We need more of the usual PRs to delve into this stuff, because the academics need our feedback, and we need to be there to give it!

One of my favorites was among the most academic. Denmark-based professors Finn Frandsen and Winni Johansen of Aarhus University are exploring a general theory of intermediaries in PR. That’s trade unions, trade associations, the news media and others as stakeholders on their own account. Finn and Winni pose that there’s a trifecta of reputations at stake — the industry represented, the members of the intermediary organization, and the organization itself might be sharing reputation in a commons of sorts. Made my head hurt a little, but in a good way.

There were several other presentations that made a strong impression. Here’s the first few I took note of. 


Dr. Shannon Bowen listens to Dr. Katie Place

Dr. Katie Place of Saint Louis University, presented on ethical decision-making in public relations. She is seeking to understand how professionals evaluate or reflect on their decisions. Dr. Place has started a qualitative study on the topic, and finds that there are few constants in process, with relying on one’s “gut” one of the few.  It’s a highly personal and rather eclectic mix, she finds, and that matches with much I’ve read on the topic.  We need more research on this, especially as PR Ethics is so often considered an oxymoron.

Doctoral student Arunima Krishna of Purdue University explored a “big 4” accounting firm’s unauthorized Facebook “Confessions” page, exploring whether the passion, vigor and dedication associated with highly engaged publics (groups of people) who are negative toward their organizations present particular challenges to our practice.  She posits that engagement — frequently assumed to be positive and desirable — might have a dark side. Stay tuned, and look for your organization’s Facebook Confessions page ASAP.


Holley Reeves, doctoral student

Holley Reeves, doctoral student

Holley Reeves, a doc student at University of Georgia, looked at corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs as contributors to organization public relations activities. She conducted interviews with PR pros to determine what they thought of their org’s CSR, and sought to determine whether the CSR was primarily used to accomplish PR goals. It’s early, but the preliminary findings are encouraging for those who a) believe CSR is the right thing to do regardless of its business or PR value, and b) that CSR is no replacement for confronting and solving organizational problems and issues. 

There are more to review — look for another 3-4 in the next post, including the offering from my Kent State University colleague, Prof. Michele Ewing!



A study in crisis: Blazin’ Blazek

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

iStock_000011508802_SmallUPDATED 26 Feb:  If you’re a PR/Comms pro in NE Ohio, you know about @NEOHcommjobs, run ably by one Kelly Blazek.  She recently was honored by IABC Cleveland as its 2013 Communicator of the Year.  You also probably know by now that Ms. Blazek flamed the bejesus out of a young PR person who reached out via LinkedIn, responding with an email best described as more than tart.

KB abides strongly by the LinkedIn credo that you should LinkIn only with those you know well. Thus, a passing acquaintanceship on social media, or mutual “friends” is highly unlikely to meet with a favorable resolution.  Back a few years, I reached out via LI and got a nice note back outlining her policy in that regard, along with the hope that one day we might indeed work together.

I’ve got no truck with that.

Well, as this post outlines, Blazek went off on said young one and impugned the professionalism of all like her in the process.  The process to even join the Yahoo! group that gets you an email summary of NE Ohio jobs in our field requires a brief email to include some background and why you want to join.  Apparently, failure to follow directions to Blazek’s satisfaction is strike one, with a LI invite worth two strikes, two additional outs, and a “blazing” email — which then the offended party shared with several close friends…wait for it…on social media.


@NEOHCommJobs is shut down, as is Blazek’s LI.  Bruce Hennes says there are Villains, Victims and Vindicators in any crisis scenario. Right now, it’s all Victims and Vindicators — all that’s missing is the Red Queen shouting, “off with her head!”

Go read the post (it includes images of the offending missive), or watch WKYC-TV and tell me —  Should IABC Cleveland go through with the honor?  And, excuse me, Ms. B., but where is your voice in this?

What should IABC Cleveland do? What should Kelly Blazek do?

UPDATE — In a story on by @janetcho, Ms. Blazek apologizes. It’s fairly textbook, and it doesn’t seem to be a “non-apology apology” that you hear from sport figures and politicians.  I do wonder (as do others who’ve commented on Facebook) about its true sincerity. If it’s true that this was, as one person told me, “standard operating procedure” and “the most open secret” then you have to assume that only the social media scrutiny brought about the rejection, no?  If we apply an ethics lens to this, however frustrating it might be to receive off-topic notes from people who aren’t in the target market, and who perhaps are a bit presumptuous in asking for help without first attempting to create a relationship, you don’t have license to be rude, in my opinion.  I try to be understanding and kind, well, all the time. Sometimes I don’t succeed, and when I’ve been a snarky dude I own up and apologize. Because I’ve got a rep as a nice guy, people know I’m sincere. I’ve declined LI and FB invites from people I know only tangentially, but lately I tend to be more open just because I know how hard it is to get connected with the right people.

But seriously — given the fact that people can take offense rather easily (not speaking of this current situation, as I do not know the principals well), is it right to share your outrage publically?  Does KB deserve to be blackballed, banned, placed in stocks in Public Square? What do you think?





What’s the matter with IABC?

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

It’s happened to a lot of organizations.  Business shifting under their feet, departure of key exec, search for new leader, struggle to change without losing customer base, new leader leaves sooner than expected after difficult tenure.

It shouldn’t, however, happen to a membership organization comprised of professional communicators.

The drama over Chris Sorek’s departure after less than a year at the helm of the International Association of Business Communicators has to have been avoidable.  We counsel our execs and clients about this. Books are written, conference presentations, academic papers all say the same thing: “Tell the truth, tell it first and tell it all,” according to Bruce Hennes of Hennes/Paynter, the crisis management firm based in Cleveland.

The tragicomic saga opens when Sorek takes over, succeeding Julie Freeman.  Julie, who held the post for 10 years, communicated quite effectively, in my book. She was visible, involved, supportive. Sorek was a little invisible, a little remote, seemingly more comfortable out of the spotlight in his 11 months. That’s fine; not every leader is an ENFP.

But as the changes began, including massive staff layoffs and restructuring, I believe the numbers were 15 of the 32 employees, Sorek still hung in the background. The always excellent David Murray had a good summary and analysis, as did, all without a word from the executive director.  In corporate life, we often call that, “insulating the CEO” from delivering bad news. But hey, this ain’t a corporation, its our bloody (and bloodied) association.

On IABC’s web feature, “IABC in the news” Sorek hasn’t been present since an interview in August 2012.  Freeman often took to the IABC Cafe, the blog platform. Sorek never did.

Who was that masked man?

Meanwhile, IABC’s LinkedIn group is full of members and nonmembers asking about what was happening at our association (I’ve been a member near continuously since, well, a long time ago). The International Executive Board (IEB), a volunteer leadership group, did its best to fill the void, but the paid head of our association was strangely reticent, leaving the spokes duties to our IEB chair.

I am wondering whether I need IABC anymore. I’m active in other groups — PRSA’s Employee Communication Section for one, the Institute for PR Commission on Research, Measurement and Evaluation, for another, and have a strong community of outreach via social media.  Add to that the desire to speak and write less for my communication family and more for senior execs in industries that might need my professional help, and we’re coming to an inflection point.

In the end, I’ve opted to stay in IABC, at least for 2013. I have a few personal frustrations — despite a long history of chapter leadership and good experiences with the Heritage Region Conference, the International has been a tough speaking nut to crack. As a small business guy, I need to make good decisions about how I spend my time and money.

This latest imbroglio, including a request from our IEB chair to “stick to the speaking points” was a real tale of the cobbler’s children. Seriously?  IABC tried to tell it first, but the technology didn’t cooperate. It didn’t tell it all because of privacy concerns (and a desire to avoid feeding voyeurism, according to one comment).  That made it seem like IABC wasn’t telling the truth — the failure to explain reasons behind decisions makes people believe they’re being deceived, as Joe Williams teaches.

Now, the search for an executive director begins all over again. The question is, who wants that job?  It better be someone who knows how to connect with membership from the very start, who will do a good job of listening to membership and who can exude confidence about the plans for the future.



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.


I guess I don’t ‘live social’

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

As much as I like fulminating here, and pinging around Twitter, I don’t think I’m all-in on the social media poker pot. When there’s little billing activity and no classwork from either the one I teach or the one I take, I write posts, do Twitter chats, and otherwise try to be a participant.

I’ve met some terrific people through Twitter, enjoy catching up on Facebook and LinkedIn (though my LI activity is woefully small), but I don’t post my status at all hours, don’t use location apps like Foursquare, have barely scratched the possibilities for Google+ and couldn’t tell you if Quora is better than Posterus.

I feel guilty that friends will send emails, “you ok? you’re so quiet!” — but not guilty enough to be up at 10 p.m. playing the social media butterfly. I likes me quiet time, non-electronic. I love hiking in the woods or along the lakeshore. I love playing my guitar and talking to my Esteemed Spouse. I love our friends, face to face discussion, anything featuring food and wine.

Perhaps, after all, I’m analog in a digital world, a mere social media dilettante.


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.


Returning to normalcy? Recovering from conference mania

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Make a note. It takes practice to handle two conferences in five days’ time.  Of course, maybe my energy level would have been higher if I’d been speaking at them instead of attending one (live-Tweeting my way through a couple of days), and introducing speakers and serving as sponsorship chair at the other.  Anyone who knows me will aver that I’m a fairly well-smoked ham, so being at the center of attention is exciting for me, rather than exhausting.

But the stress of pressing the flesh, talking to new people, and simultaneously trying to stay engaged in a sudden spate of potential business opportunities turned out to be rather a bit tiring. I also wondered whether the evil humours surrounding new friend Richard Bagnall and his lovely friend Marian might have attempted to seize me, but as it turns out, a couple o’nights of good sleep returned me to fit-as-a-fiddle status. Just ask my students if I lacked energy 22 October in class… Hah!

But now, devoid of excuses, I’m faced again with the ever-growing list of things to do, with ideas for a paper roaming in my head along with the still-warm and previously mentioned business opportunities. Oh, and I do need still to write a final exam and figure out what I need to do when I teach “Face to Face Tactics” at Kent State in the next semester.  I also had slowed the pace of my blogging, owing to the madcap hilarity of the past couple of weeks, but accelerated the Twitter-ing at #iprms09. The social media experiment continues.

So it seems that indeed, I’m finding a bit of normalcy amid the falling leaves and gathering chill.  Providence willing, I’ll soon have a fall more complicated — this time by billable hours.


Thinking Theoretically About Social Media

Monday, October 12th, 2009

One terrific side benefit of teaching PR Theory and Ethical Practice at Kent State University this fall has been reading a whole lot of interesting work from outstanding PR scholars.  William Kennan and Vince Hazleton of Radford University contributed a chapter on internal PR that got me pondering certain aspects of the Social Capital Theory as it might apply to social media.

Two items in particular in their discussion stood out. 1) The existence of a network of connections and its effect on relationships and related outcomes; and 2) Identification, the extent to which people see themselves as connected to others.

The network, the opportunity to send and receive messages that contribute to the creation, maintenance and expenditure of social capital, is a pretty obvious bridge to social media. A fair number of people think that the network is the outcome of social media use, rather than a tool for some other purpose. But let’s stay on target (we could amble down that path for hours…). My own use of social media has focused on this purpose — expand the network and see what effect it has on my ability to forge a new business. The social capital theory indicates that the network itself takes on a role apart from its human factors; that the existence of the network influences relationships and relationship outcomes.

We can see this effect in action when members of one person’s network interact with each other and cross into other networks — not for the specific purpose of dialogue toward an outcome, but merely for the sake of discourse. That discourse creates additional meaning — leading to different understandings among network members.

Secondly, identification might originate with some kind of common interest or purpose, either large or small depending on the specific subject.  The organization typically wants its employees to identify strongly with the organization, to feel strongly connected to it — that’s the heart of much employee engagement activity.  Social media users appear to identify with other users — being “in the club” commenting on Twitter gives the users a sense of belonging that they find important or pleasurable. That may be one reason, as Mark Schaefer observed, there seems to be cronyism among the social media mavens.  Heck, there seems to be cronyism among users of social media in general.

This all leads me to reinforced suspicion about whether social media can replace mainstream media.  With a tendency to see social media use as a measure of self-worth (and therefore to see people who don’t use social media as somehow inferior — “they don’t get it!”), the ability of social media to adopt a third-party objective perspective is compromised.  We can debate whether any media can be objective — if you have a strong perspective, people will know where you stand, rather than guessing about it — but making caveat emptor work requires some amount of transparency.

Authenticity can’t be a mask, it needs to be real and grounded in personal ethics so that one can judge the source and properly execute “buyer beware.” Otherwise, the identification among members of the network becomes more important than being honest.


Research Report Finds Little Impact of SocMed on Brand

Friday, July 24th, 2009

A study conducted by Cleveland-area research firm WorkPlace Media may be bad news for social media marketers.

“A whopping 96% of respondents said their opinion of a product brand did not change if that brand had no presence on a social networking site, only 11% of social networking users reported following any major brand through a social networking site, and just 12% of respondents
said their opinion of a brand changes if that brand maintains a social networking presence.”

The research echos a recent Harris poll that found just 4% of its respondents mentioned “private social networking sites, such as customer communities,” when asked about pre-purchase information gathering.

Well, then.

As with many announcements of this kind, my skept-o-meter kicks in. The news release offers the highlights (as it should), and the offer of more detail comes with a requirement to fill out a contact form.  What’s missing for geeky old me is some more of the math — I’d be interested in the actual correlations — what were the variables? Or, was the research just a preference exploration — a quick marketing tool?

The role of social media in forming perceptions needs more study.  That’s pretty hardcore research — there are so many factors that make up people’s perspectives on things, including on brands and marketing and companies.  I am not a stat guy, but I know the work on Marketing Mix Modeling is very promising. Structural Equation Modeling permits multiple dependent and independent variables, so you can see how different variables interact on one another, which is critical to determining which are the most important and effective.

The excellent work of Dr. Don Wright of Boston University and Michelle Hinson of the Institute for PR since 2006 have examined how social media is affecting PR.  It seems to me that this is what’s really needed in the social media space: The bridges to brand perception, disposition and purchase intent still need to be built.

I realize that this opinion may brand me as seeing social media as just another channel for messaging. But unless we have better understanding of the impact of social media on the people using it for business, we’ll fail to get the resources to study how the conversation itself affects people.

We see casual, superficial research on social media all the time, usually from consultants with a vested interest in pushing social media as revolution.  I don’t deny that this new suite of tools is important — I just want some facts on my side before I go declaring that the tide is permanently shifted.