This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
I’ve been struck in the past few weeks by the number of times I see communications go wrong because of one thing. Little or no thought was¬†given to the “audience” for the communication. No one is asking:
- if or how the ‘news’, information, change will impact them;
- what they need or want to know from their point of view;
- how they might feel about it; and
- what they might do with it, or, even
- what the communicator wants them to do with it.
It’s as if communicators are on automatic pilot. ¬†No human empathy or understanding at all.
Unfortunately, internal communicators are especially guilty. ¬†After all of the executive inputs, edits and reviews it’s very easy not to remember who you’re trying to reach.
“All employees” is often the answer. ¬†But not all employees are created equal when you’re doing internal communication. ¬†Some will be affected directly by the thing you’re communicating, some indirectly and some not at all.
Understanding these differences and framing the communication based on impact is one way of increasing meaning. ¬†And, today it’s something we don’t do very well. ¬†It’s got to be the #1 failure of internal communicators. What do you think?
First it was the Berlin wall. ¬† Now it’s the cubicle wall. ¬†Workspaces even in the most traditional environments – banks, insurance companies and law offices are changing. And they are changing in pretty radical ways. ¬†Shared work stations, open space and windows, tables, couches and banquettes instead of cubicles and enclosed offices. ¬†Even though the initial motivation of these organizations is cost cutting, according to an article in today’s Globe and Mail employees report an overwhelmingly positive experience and increased productivity.
Perhaps even more interesting, given the focus of this blog, is the implication for communication and change management. ¬†One would hope that there would be something equally inventive, but when faced with some issues “10% of negative comments are about noise and work behaviours that become distractions, the bank is doing training and distributing tip sheets about having consideration for others.” ¬†Good grief! I think the walls just went back up.
Converged media is the new marketing sweet spot.¬†I first heard Jeremiah Owyang¬†talk about it and the implications for institutional branding in spring last year on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation Podcast.
The idea is that converged media is the proactive, integrated management of three types of media:
- Paid media. This is what we used to think about as advertising. The institution pays a third party to carry their message – newspapers, magazines,¬†television, radio, cinema, direct mail, and paid search.
- Owned media. This is anything the institution carries in it’s own channels – brochures, signage, point of sale, retail outlets, websites, microsites, Facebook fan pages, mobile apps.
- Earned media. This is what happens when the brand experience generates word of mouth discussion – virtual and not. Letters to editors, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Youtube, Flickr, blogs, forums.
It’s a simple and elegant way of looking at the new world of media:
Paid + owned + earned = reputation
Since then I’ve heard and read others on the topic. But, up until now something pretty key seems to be missing. Do you see it?
- Paid media – focus on potential and current customers
- Owned media – focus on customer-focused and
- Earned media – ¬†the objective is to have customer ‘fans’ who love the institution, its products or services so much that they talk favourable about it.
We all know that brands and reputations are built and can be destroyed by employees. Imagine if the integrated media strategy was built with an intentional focus on employees:
Paid media – involving employees¬†and other key internal stakeholders [e.g. strategic suppliers]¬†- as an source of insight, a reality check, pre-launch.
Owned media – including internal communication channels – intranet, town halls and other key institutional meetings, internal micro-blogging [e.g. Yammer], instant messaging, blogs, wikis, sharepoint, orientation programs, feedback systems, newsletters, management, etc.
Earned media – was designed to support and encourage employees, suppliers and their families in being part of the discussion – good, bad and indifferent – and we had a way to learn from the conversation.
Imagine the amplification effect that would happen by including internal stakeholders!
The case for investing budget in internal communication has never been clearer. ¬†What will it take to get internal communicators into the planning, implementation and evaluation of converged media strategies? ¬†¬†
There has been much written, especially since the financial crash of 2008, about how institutions and individual leaders need to be transparent and authentic. ¬†And, there’s been at least as much written by communication professionals and leaders about how difficult this is to achieve.¬†Are we just tilting at windmills? Let’s take a closer look.
The underlying assumptions: ¬†Institutions and leaders can be either
- authentic or not.
- transparent or not.
The first assumption. ¬†Every decision or action is a reflection of who and what they are; their fundamental values.¬†How could an institution or individual be other than what or who they are? ¬†We might not like what we see, but it is always authentic: ¬†good, bad or ugly.
As communication professionals and leaders this can be hard especially where our values are in conflict. The best we can do for ourselves and our organizations: ¬†Face reality. ¬†[see below]
The second assumption. ¬†There are two possible reasons for not being transparent. ¬†It’s:
- a conscious decision designed to hide reality [there are different ways to do this - spin, black out - but these are for another post] or
- unconcious. ¬†Leaders simply don’t know they aren’t being transparent and/or don’t want to know how to be transparent.
In the former, where there is a conscious decision to be opaque, then as a communication professional or leader this will be a question of whether this is in conflict with your values or not. If you find yourself in this situation, you probably need to ask yourself if you can live with the lack of transparency. There is nothing you can do to change this situation.
In the latter,¬†it’s about not knowing what they don’t know. As a communication professional or leader this is where there’s a real opportunity to raise awareness, educate and build approaches to ensure transparency.
Conclusion. This is the transparency and authenticity challenge. We need to face reality sooner than later. The only situation where a communication professional or leader has any chance of changing things is where their organization or leadership may want to be transparent and don’t know how. Then there are two questions we need to ask ourselves:
- How to find out if they really do want to be transparent?
- Do we have what it takes to help them get there?
Otherwise we will certainly continue to find ourselves tilting at windmills: Exhausting ourselves and our organizations.
It’s been a long month for many world and local leaders. ¬†While Obama may have won the US election, it’s been a much harder month for many others. ¬†In fact, it feels like there’s an epidemic of leaders stepping down:
The BBCs Director General, George Entwhistle, left “…over the handling of paedophilia allegations by BBC‚Äôs Newsnight”.
CIA Director, David Petraeus, “a retired four-star general and perhaps the nation’s most revered military figure” resigned his post after an FBI investigation uncovered his extra marital affair with his biographer.
Montreal’s¬†Mayor Gerard Tremblay¬†resigned after allegations, which he continues to deny, coming from the Charbonneau Commission into corruption in the city. This was followed by the President of the Montreal’s executive Michael Applebaum’s resignation “…citing the committee’s refusals to immediately make public a damning report on city contracts and to reduce the 2013 property tax hike.”
And the long-time Mayor of Laval [a community on the island of Montreal], Gilles Vaillancourt,¬†stepped down after an RCMP search of his home and office. He suggested quitting was his only option: “Whatever I say or do… the damage (to my reputation) is done.”
Not all of these resignations were created equal. ¬†Some definitely come across as more noble than others. ¬†It seems like there’s more ‘getting out of dodge’ and not enough ‘the buck stops here”?
As leaders and communication professionals what do you think?¬†What is it about these resignations that is the same and what’s different.¬†Is there even one that make you say: Now that’s leadership? What are the implications for the organizations they are leaving? How would you handle it?
For those of you who follow this blog, you know it’s the kind of call to action that would stick. ¬†Asking the right questions,¬†stopping mindlessness,¬†developing curiosity, being courageous¬†have all been underlying themes here.
David’s call to action stuck with me as I attended the remainder of the conference as speaker after speaker confirmed that our world – the world of leadership and communication – is changing – FAST. ¬†What should we be asking that would help us get our bearings and help us position our work in this changing world?
It stuck with me as I worked with clients last week. What questions would help them get clarity and support them in delivering what matters to them and therr organizations?
It stuck with me as Neil Griffiths and I ran a IABC Montreal peer-to-peer workshop to explore some of the challenges presented in our recent survey report. What questions, if we asked them, would help us further our careers and our profession?
When the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz asked:
“What have they got that I ain’t got? “¬†The answer was courage!
We know we’re definitely “…not in Kansas anymore.”¬†As leaders and communication professionals we have an opportunity. Do we have the courage?
This week let’s ask ourselves, our colleagues and our organizations at least one courageous question and see what happens. ¬†
“She doesn’t understand what communication is.” ¬†”He doesn’t get the value we can add”. “She thinks cause she can talk and write she understands communications.” “All he wants is somebody to right the news release.”
The thing is that conversation about the communication professionals role often comes down to… ¬†”If only we had a smarter, better CEO then we could really do our job.”
And, if you work in or for large organizations, you’ve probably heard something similar from people in almost any support function.
The implication is that these CEOs are
- stupid. ¬†They don’t get what we can do.
- irrational. They see what we can do and they choose not to let us do it.
But CEOs may be many things but stupid and irrational aren’t qualities that would have gotten them to where they are. ¬†If they don’t know what communication professionals can to to further their interests for the business or their careers, the things that matter to them, then the problem might just be us.
I laughed out loud when a friend of mine, Esther¬†Barragan, who’s living and studying in Italy posted this question on Facebook a few weeks ago. ¬†I found it especially funny because my friend is a designer. ¬†I mean if any jobs could be described in a fresh and exciting way wouldn’t they be design jobs? I just can’t stop thinking about her question.
So, off I went to Wikipedia to see make sure I knew what a job description really is.¬†I think we have the answer to Esther’s question. ¬†When “strategic human resources methodologies” are “used to develop a competency architecture for an organization, from which job descriptions are built as a shortlist of competencies.”
I’m sorry, I’m still laughing. ¬†Corporate language, the jargon we use in organizations, just sucks the life out of everything, even something as important as a job description.
Maybe it’s time for a little refresher in “how to express ourselves to fit the occasion.” Here’s a perspective from another time and place: