Posts Tagged ‘Talk’

It’s all about communication

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Regardless of what field of public relations/corporate communications/ marketing/ social media you are in, your ability to communicate effectively and to use the tools of communication effectively are what make you different from other business people.  Yep, we are all business people — it doesn’t matter if we’re in-house, agency, researcher, academic, not-for-profit, or what.

Sometimes we forget that, and sometimes we forget that we are communicators.

Reading the New York Times’ Corner Office feature on the second page of the business section every Sunday reveals that 99% (not a real number – just, well, a lot of them) of the leaders featured say that their own effectiveness depends on communication. They value good communicators, succinct, cogent, thoughtful, planful. But it’s often not about the “telling” part of communication.

The apogee of my career came when Dennis Long, then the head of retail banking for KeyBank of Washington, told me that my communication style was going to be career-limiting. He said, “there’s a line between confidence and arrogance, and you’re crossing it.”  He told me to make fewer statements and ask more questions, to realize that I didn’t have much of a base of experience on which to demand people take heed.

This echoed my boss, Rob Gill, who told me, “You are a talented guy, but you don’t have enough experience…” Rob told me to start learning how to listen and ask good questions.

This took me aback – I’d heard from pretty much everyone how terrific I was since joining Key on the teller line, moving up quickly and eventually into the management training program.  We didn’t cover asking questions, listening or really anything else but effective presenting in that program. I thought it was about positioning myself as an expert, making pithy, amusing, but still important comments based on my experience not only at Key, but also in my years elsewhere.

Communicating, to me then, was about me — not about other people. Now, I see it quite differently.  It’s about our audiences, the receivers of our communication, certainly — but they also are human beings deserving of respect as sources of wisdom.

In many communication professions, we scorn our publics — they’re too stupid to understand our brilliant campaign, they’re clueless about how our business works, or merely disdainful of business in general. They’re ignoramuses who don’t understand the Very Important Work our not-for-profit does in the world!

As a part-time educator, I’ve learned the hard way to respect the students – not merely as the vessels into which I pour wisdom, but as participants in an almost sacred ritual: Communication.  We don’t have it without them, without the circle, never ending or completing; always open at some end.

I’m so grateful to Dennis Long and Rob Gill.

It takes commitment to be a business person who uses communication, who is a communicator. It takes courage and a desire to do right. It’s my calling.

Is it yours?



In praise of persistence

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Calvin Coolidge said it best:

Press on- nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.


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?


‘Dr. Doom’ sees $3.6 trillion in bank losses

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

NYU’s econ maven Nouriel Roubini hasn’t yet glimpsed any sign that the system financial crisis is abating.  In the WSJ Tuesday, the “professor who called the housing and credit collapse” and his co-writer paint a horrifying picture of bank losses yet to come, and call for an interesting solution for the government to apply.

  • Getting toxic assets off of bank balance sheets is essential, Roubini writes.  It’ll be a bloodbath for the firms, which will need to reduce dividends as well as cut salaries and bonuses, and there will be failures. Of course, how this is really different from last year, I don’t know.

  • The public relations issues that the ongoing crisis foment are legion — not the least of them will be the tendency of companies to clam up during a time when they most need to speak up. Transparency isn’t situational — it carries myriad risks at any time, but opaqueness also is a risky play.

  • Here are three things the banks should do immediately:

    • 1. Recognize that their employees can help manage the significant customer impacts arising from bad news. Prepare them and their managers and call upon them to reach out to customers all of the time.
    • 2. Take your medicine: The news media is going to focus on the worst aspects of the crisis and its impact on your firm — don’t be surprised by this and don’t try to talk them out of it. The best you can hope for is that your most urgent message (sometimes two or three) can be included in the story.   Don’t ignore “bad press” with either customers or employees — you need to have ongoing dialogue with your stakeholders anyway, so talk about the story and where you felt it went wrong. (but don’t throw rocks at the media, it’ll never work…) The stories are a pretext for conversations.
    • 3. Consistently remind your stakeholders of your commitment to them — and your plans for working through the issues. You gain much more from talking about these things than not.
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