Posts Tagged ‘speaking’

You are the expert in communication

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Does that headline make you nervous? A lot of corporate communicators (public relations, internal comms, etc.) don’t embrace the full extent of their capabilities. Your organization has internal experts in finance, law, accounting, operations, supply chain, marketing, public relations, etc., but you might not be seen in the way that could be most valuable for your organization.

What sort of impact would improving communication among managers and employees yield? If you seize the mantle of “expert in communication,” you can move into new territory beyond being the tactician, and have great impact on the functioning of your organization.

There is no one better qualified than you to take this on. Your friends in HR may “own” training, but you’re the best judge of the state of communication among managers and employees. You can be the sponsor for improving it.

When I ran the Face2Face Communication Learning Program for Joe Williams Communications, the people who typically brought us in to train their managers were communicators. Companies like John Deere, Lucent, Merck and Prudential had communicators who saw the effort to build communication capability in their companies as crucial, and they made it happen.

Now that I’ve bought the F2F program from Joe, I’m once again beating the drum for a more strategic view of communication that includes this type of training. Sure, I’m a capitalist – but this happens to be intrinsic to my purpose in professional life: To help people and organizations communicate more effectively.

This purpose gets me going every day. It’s a passion — because I see the impact in real terms. Companies that communicate, perform. People who communicate well foster and maintain better relationships with everyone.

I can help people, teaching them these tools, sharing my own experiences and setting an example to others.  Communication can change peoples’ lives for the better, and it starts with someone declaring that more effective communication is something the organization deserves, wants and needs.

Can we start with you?

 

 

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Summing up: IABC Heritage Conference a Winner

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Conf_BrochureI’ve given serious thought in recent months to letting my IABC membership lapse. With all the drama earlier this year, it crossed my mind more than once. But then, I attended the Heritage Region Conference, Oct. 13-15 in Indianapolis.

The IABC International is huge — 1,500 isn’t out of the question — and its venues, large hotels in big cities (New York, Toronto, etc.) makes for a spendy trip for the likes of a sole proprietor. But the regional conferences are more compact, are in smaller cities, and yet offer terrific programming.

This year was no exception.

I’m a little biased, as I had the chance to speak once again, but the quality was wonderful — Jim Lukaszewski held court for three hours, evangelizing on the concept that communicators need to be much more business-centric than communication-centric, particularly in times of crisis.  We know that we get more popular when it’s time to sweep up after some sort of conflagration, but too often, Jim averred, we see communication as the solution to every problem.

Case in point at my own expense:  Jim asked why the CEO of BP — Tony Hayward, of “I’d like my life back” fame — lost his job in the wake of the oil platform explosion that killed people and brought the US gulf coast to its economic knees.  I piped up instantly — blame-shifting, insensitivities, cluelessness

Jim said I was wrong – it’s just how things are done. The disaster happened on his watch, and so he paid the price. He’ll be OK, Jim added, because these guys get paid no matter what. But he’ll never lead as large or important a company as BP.  Jim’s point: we communicators need to better understand how business operates, not just the role that communicators play in it. There’s more, of course, including Jim’s gentle good humor, phenomenal stories and exceptional insight that comes from doing this work for 40-odd years.

Tim McCleary of The Involvement Practice keynoted Monday morning, offering not only a valuable speech, but a couple of fun exercises demonstrating how we can move from informing to involving people.  Establishing the central objective, then helping people understand it through real dialogue, then immersing them in the world of the new so that they own that objective and finally activating the power of the internal network (the What, Why and How of communicating change), was clear, intuitive and actionable.

Kent Lewis of Anvil Media, and serial entrepreneur, talked social media analytics — but not in a dry, statistical way. He shared stories of how to measure effectively — key performance indicators, metrics and goals for each platform, content strategies, etc. — that resonated well with attendees. Two big reminders for me — YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, so having content on that platform is critical; and that SlideShare adds immeasurably to both search performance and sharing content effectively. One more from Kent — LinkedIn is essential in B2B, and one’s company page needs to be robust, clear and urgent.  I need to get on that right away!

That’s just a couple of examples.

The point is that about 150 attendees really got the chance to network. I met at least five people I’d not met before, and I reacquainted myself with dozens more.  The seven-person dinner Monday night at the Dine-Around was terrific, even if Harry and Izzy’s shrimp cocktail blasted my head (and everyone else’s) into a tear-streaked paroxysm of anguish and bliss.

IABC might be struggling to right itself, but they might have kept me in the fold thanks the Heritage Region team’s great work.  Check out the Twitter stream at #iabchrconf.

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Crisis demands understanding, says expert Hennes

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

IABC Cleveland is no stranger to Bruce Hennes. He’s the 2011 communicator of the year and his firm, Hennes/Paynter, is the local champion of effective crisis management through communication. At the 21 Feb. lunch, a small but lively crowd ate up his pithy prescriptions for communicating in very bad times.

I’ve seen Bruce speak many times, first at a luncheon for the Legal Marketing Association, then at an IABC lunch in 2011, and now today, and he always impresses me. As a speaker, he’s an unassuming guy, not given to theatrics, but his content is peerless and his delivery always excellent. Many speakers could learn from him how to hold an audience’s attention through sheer strength of story.

Hennes uses catchy terms — the 3 Tells, 3 V’s, F’up, Fess-up, Fix-up  —  and demonstrates through example what he means. The first of these is the command that supercedes all others — you have to tell the truth, tell it first and tell it all. The 3 V’s are the frame that the media places around stories. Everyone involved is one of these: Victim, Villain, or Vindicator. Care to guess where business (especially executives), education administrators and other “powerful” people find themselves?  The goal for most organizations in the midst of a crisis is to move from villain to vindicator, he says. When you, ahem, Mess up, you need to fess up and describe what you’re doing to make sure it never happens again.

The media brings its own filter to the proceedings, and they’re on the lookout for you to reinforce the role they want you to play. That’s why “no comment” or its usual cousins are so bad — what does “no comment” mean to you? Guilty!  Hennes insists that the media’s job isn’t to inform or educate, it’s to tell stories — the triumph of the Little Guy over the Establishment being a fairly common one — Victim, Villain, Vindicator.

The good thing is that when we know that, we can take action.  Hennes tells a story about an embezzlement scandal at a governmental organization. Hennes/Paynter brought the executive director straight to a reporter and gave them the story in exquisite detail, without violating privacy dicta, and when the very big story broke, its headline put the organization in very positive light, instead of the reverse. The reporter told Hennes later, that if the organization had not brought the story in, the paper would have socked it to the organization big time.

Entertaining, educational and excellent all the way around.

Note: I’m still having no luck uploading photos for the blog since it changed URLs. Help? 

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3 essentials for employee communicators

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Employee communication continues to get a bad rap. Communicators who do internal comms get paid less than the media relations folks (you could look it up!), and frankly, in a lot of cases we deserve it.

When you do internal, what is your responsibility?  Populating the intranet? Editing the magazine? Rewriting news releases? How about functioning as the in-house expert on how organizational communication works or doesn’t work? Counseling management on how to be better communicators?

I don’t know why, but the latter couple of tasks seem to be outsourced more often than not (and thank you very much!) — I don’t think I’m necessarily smarter than I was when I worked at KeyCorp, National City or Goodyear, but I am a bit more experienced, perhaps. Winning an internal consulting effort while in-house was a tough sell — a lot of people were more comfortable with me as a writer/editor, a tactician rather than a strategist, despite my efforts to develop a contrary angle.

There are three really important actions internal comm-sters need to take if they aspire to more responsibility, more professional prestige, and/or more money:

Increase your business knowledge. You need to be a businessperson who happens to use communication to help advance the organization. That means numbers, reading business, being up on the products and markets, and not caviling endlessly about how boring it all is. It’s your job.

Better understand the process of communication. Why are people more comfortable in small group discussions than in large groups? Easier to participate, share information and make decisions (at least in one view.) How do communication styles affect collaboration? (Look up Myers-Briggs).  Why do complex topics require discussion? (The Q&A enables people to process the information more effectively than merely reading something.)

Align content and strategy. This should be a no-brainer, but there are many constituencies in an organization, and a lot of them don’t care about anything except “getting the word out.” Guess what? If there’s no link to the business objectives, no one will care.  Too many times I’ve heard, “no one reads that stuff” as they’re demanding additional tactics (more email, a video, a paper newsletter). The fact is that some stuff just isn’t interesting and people won’t consume it. If you have a strategic content plan, you have something to point to when you say no. Now, my pal Patty Vossler would say, “don’t say no without a yes in your pocket,” and she’s right. Ask the question, “what do you want people to think, feel or do as a result of the communication?” If their goal doesn’t match the objectives of your organization, probe for clarity and bridge the gap. More on that another time.

In the meantime, read this excellent speech from Dr. Bruce Berger of the U of Alabama. It’s more pithy and not as simplistic. But then, he’s a darn smart guy.

Whatever you do, do not punt, fumble or otherwise abdicate. If you feel like you can’t do these three things, go into some other line of work. Nuff said!

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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.

Well…

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?

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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?

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Hooked on PR Research

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

One of the great professional pleasures of my life involves an academic conference filled to the brim with fascinating public relations research. It’s the International PR Research Conference put on by the Institute for Public Relations, and I’ve attended four of the past five years. That it’s held early in March in Miami, Fla., has NOTHING to do with it!

OK, well, it has a little bit to do with it.  The tropical breezes feel especially fine in the icy wake of February in Cleveland, and there is terrific food, shopping, pleasant walks and an excellent pool. But, other than that, it’s all business for three days.

I’ve had the good fortune to present at IPRRC twice; the first time, 2008, I presented a paper with my research pal Dr. Julie O’Neil of Texas Christian University that covered one large company’s internal communication program, focusing especially on the measurement of the work. It won an award, of which I am very proud indeed – the Jackson-Sharpe Award for research by an academic and a practitioner (I’m not the academic, or wasn’t…).

This year, I presented a work in progress, an exploratory study of corporate blogs and Twitter activities, with an eye on whether they’re demonstrating James Grunig’s Excellence Theory – are they conversations? – or other PR theories.

The idea is to see what actually IS in this space for 18 companies – the work is ongoing (frantically; the final paper is due May 1), and I was able to share a few key findings.

  1. There’s a lot of using social media as a broadcasting tool – no two-way, no evidence of symmetry (mutual change) – and persuasion, therefore, still rules.
  2. There are a couple of firms that are doing yeoman’s work and engaging in conversations – there are also seven or eight companies who’ve abandoned their blogs since December 2009.
  3. One industrial giant, interestingly, has subject matter experts blog and then engage engineers and customers in a discussion about improving the product – this is a rarity.
  4. Twitter as link-bait is quite in evidence.
  5. The Cluetrain may have left the station, but it’s creeping along a siding, not hurtling on a MagLev track.

This is hardly conclusive or particularly scientific – that’s why we call the paper exploratory. Dr. O’Neil and I have more work to do this coming month, but this paper is intended to be the first of three. Next step is a qualitative discussion with some of the people behind social media at our subject companies, followed (we hope) by a quantitative survey of users of corporate blogs and their associated Twitterverse (we’ll see; that’s going to take some cash…).

In the meanwhile, stay tuned over the next few days as I recount some of the work that impressed me the most at IPRRC this year.  Once our paper is done, we’ll share.

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PR News Measurement Conference an Interesting Event

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

More to follow on this, but I had the fortune to join Ogilvy’s Michelle Rios and Tim Keefe of JP Morgan Chase Card Services on a panel on internal communication measurement yesterday.

The conference was filled with interesting information and hindered only slightly by fairly large panels that required individuals to spend just a few minutes speaking. Otherwise, it was terrific — I’ll report on a few of my favorite presentations in upcoming posts.

Meanwhile, thanks and kudos to my co-panelists, moderator Courtney Barnes (PR News Editor) and that august publication for putting on a great conference.

Here’s a thumbnail:
Angie Jeffrey — Institute for PR Measurement Commission colleague and VMS research and measurement maven — talked about a new way of looking at advertising effectiveness. Linda Locke of Mastercard showed off some very impressive metrics. Matt Gonring of Gagen MacDonald was his usual inspiring self as he called for integrating engagement metrics and other business data. There’s much more. See you later.

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