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.
Converged media is the new marketing sweet spot.Â I first heard Jeremiah OwyangÂ 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,Â 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 – Â 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 employeesÂ and other key internal stakeholders [e.g. strategic suppliers]Â - 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. Â What will it take to get internal communicators into the planning, implementation and evaluation of converged media strategies? Â Â
There has been much written, especially since the financial crash of 2008, about how institutions and individual leaders need to be transparent and authentic. Â And, there’s been at least as much written by communication professionals and leaders about how difficult this is to achieve.Â Are we just tilting at windmills? Let’s take a closer look.
The underlying assumptions: Â Institutions and leaders can be either
- authentic or not.
- transparent or not.
The first assumption. Â Every decision or action is a reflection of who and what they are; their fundamental values.Â How could an institution or individual be other than what or who they are? Â We might not like what we see, but it is always authentic: Â 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: Â Face reality. Â [see below]
The second assumption. Â There are two possible reasons for not being transparent. Â 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. Â 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,Â 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.
Since the first time I saw theÂ Canadian Museum of Civilization under construction on the banks of the Ottawa River, I knew this was going to be a very special building. Â And, I knew that the architect thought about built space in a very different way. Â Douglas Cardinal has gone on to be one of Canada’s great contemporary architects and as a member of the Blackfoot tribe in Alberta remains one of few native people in architecture. And until today I hadn’t really ever thought there was anything I could really learn from him beyond the joy of experiencing one of his buildings. I was wrong.
Today I heard an interview with him on CBC, which sadly I have not been able to find the link to, that shed some light on his approach and made me think there may be something that there’s much more to Douglas Cardinal than beautiful buildings.
“The final key to Cardinal’s success lies in the research-intensive pre-design stage of each of his projects. Before designing a building, Cardinal thoroughly analyzes the project from the outside-in (looking at the natural environment around the building) and from the inside-out (consulting with everyone who will use the building about their needs and desires.)”
Imagine if we, as leaders and communicators, did research and planning from the outside-in to understand the environment and the stakeholders around our organizations and where they stand in relationship to what we are trying to do – and the inside-out to understand everyone who will work for and with our organization to understand thier needs and desires in terms of what we’re trying to do. Sadly, in my experience we do a very superficial job of this at best, and may or may not connect the inside/outside views to create a fully integrated approach to building and sustaining relationships with our key stakeholders.
What if we changed that? Â What would happen if we learned from Douglas Cardinal?Â
Here he is talking about form following function when he was designing St Mary’s Church in Red Deer. Â He describes how he started with the liturgy and how the most important thing is how the space would serve the needs of the people and then goes on to talk about how, because he’s started working from the inside-out, he gets artistic permission to design the sculptural form:
If you follow this blog, you’ve read my concerns about the recommended changes to our professionÂ before, but in the past year my colleague and friend,Â Neil Griffiths,Â and IÂ have noticed an escalationÂ we find especially troubling.
As communication professionals we are being deluged with prescriptive advice about what communication professionals should and shouldnâ€™t be doing.Â Some of this advice makes sense. Much of it seems pretty obvious. And a lot of it seems to be based on subjective opinion rather than research.
One of the few exceptions is the Arthur W Page Society study â€śThe Authentic Enterpriseâ€ťÂ .Â It’s based on â€śoriginal research among CEOs, [their] …experience and a broad range of studies and perspectives.â€ť Having reviewed dozens of reports, articles and white papers, we found it to be the most credible, insightful and provocative.
Though intuitively appealing, we donâ€™t believe anyone has ever tested the recommendations broadly with communication professionals to see how we think weâ€™re doing and to better understand the implications for the profession.
We believe it is time. Our hope is that our findings will generate practical insight and lead to constructive discussion within the profession.
Weâ€™d appreciate your input. Please complete our short confidential survey [less than 10 minutes].
This morning I came across three articles. Three different perspectives. Same conclusion. The more connected we are as leaders and as organizations the better.
Perspective 1 -Â CEOs.Â A study of 65 chief executives from around the world discovered that CEOs spend an average of 6 hours out of their 55-hour work week alone. The remainder of the time is spent in business meetings [virtual and face-to-face] and lunches and on the phone. CEOs may not like it, but it is how their work gets done and confirms Henry Mintzberg‘s seminal study “The nature of managerial work” Â .
Perspective 2: Leadership teams.Â In their new book Strategy & Business, Rob Cross and Jon Katzenbach describe how: “In most companies, the phrase top team is a misnomer…” Instead, they go on to say: Â [P]ower comes from … members’ informal and social networks, their determination to make the most of those connections, and their ability to work well in subgroups formed to address specific issues… [A]s much as 90 per cent of the information that most senior executives receive and take action on comes throughout their informal networks – not formal reports or databases.” The conclusion: Enriching networks enriches organizations.
Perspective 3: Organizations.Â ”Web 2.0 … promote[s] significantly more flexible processes at internally networked organizations: respondents say that information is shared more readily and less hierarchically, collaboration across organizational silos is more common, and tasks are more often tackled in a project-based fashion.” This study goes on to demonstrate that the more networked an organization the more business benefits. If you, or your leadership team, ever had any doubts it’s worth taking a look.
Connecting is what we as human beings do. We’re social creatures. Our organizational work gets done with, and through, other people.
Helping your employees connect.Â A little idea with huge potential business benefits.
It’s a potentially beautiful thing.
The other day I ran across a question on an on-line discussion group for people in Organizational Design and Training: â€śWhy do you think communication fails in organizations?â€ť If youâ€™re tempted to say â€śgood questionâ€ť think again. It is, I think, a bad question.Â Bad because there is no such thing as â€ścommunicationâ€ť in organizations, only particular people trying to make themselves understood in particular ways for particular purposes in particular circumstances. The question â€śwhy do you think communication fails in organizationsâ€ť invites mistaken one-size-fits-all answers: sales never listens, people are too sensitive, too little too late.Â It would be nice if there was a simple answer. Unfortunately, there isnâ€™t, which means the next time you want to â€ścommunicateâ€ť youâ€™re going to have to do the inescapable hard work of figuring out precisely what you want to say to whom for what purpose. If this is a formula, it certainly isnâ€™t a simple one, which is perhaps why â€ścommunication fails in organizations.â€ť
And now you know what you have to do if you want success.Â
I know many of you are fans, as I am, of design and Design Thinking. Â The field has much to offer. Understanding the ‘customer’ experience from the ‘customer’s point of view is how I’ve spent much of my career. It’s the basis of what I do when I help clients design and implement successful internal and external communications strategies.
Last month, there was aÂ Design Thinking unConferenceÂ held in Vancouver. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it, so today I’ve been trying to pick up some of the threads of the conversation and I tripped across this talk by Harold Nelson, author ofÂ The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World andÂ Nierenberg Distinguished Professor of Design in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University.
It’s a bit of a ramble but quite thoughtful. For those of you who don’t have 8 minutes: He cautions us on the “commoditization of design thinking”. And suggests that “Design Thinking can effect human evolution”… “it’s “a big deal and it’s not 4 steps you can sell to commercial clients to guarantee product success.”
Being open. Being collaborative. Being innovative. We all say this is a good thing. But how does being open, collaborative, innovative add value to your organization?
The focus on social media – the tools and tactics – is taking us away from this more important question.
What’s the value of a good relationship to your organization? Here’s a conversation between Charlene Li and Gary Hamel.
What’s a good relationship look like? with your employees? your customers? your supply chain? your board? And what’s the value of that relationship to the business. Is anyone in your organization is really thinking about that?Â
Iâ€™m just back after an â€śofficialâ€ť training run.Â Those of you who know me, know I am passionate about chiwalking and running.Â Though a â€ślate in lifeâ€ť runner I came to believe what my trainer told me, that running is â€śperfect freedomâ€ť.Â It took three years to find any level of enjoyment, but I did and was getting quite confident and competent.
Last June due to unrelated injuries Michael and I stopped running.Â It started as a short break.Â We continued to chiwalk regularly and at a pretty fast pace â€“ racking in many kilometres up, over and around Mont Royal during the fall, winter and spring.Â In fact our winter chiwalks made the winter quite wonderful no matter what the conditions â€“ rain, snow, sleet, sunny, cloudy, -10C, -30C.Â They are all about focus and alignment two of my favourite things.
Now, almost a year later we realize that even though our chiwalks have no doubt kept us relatively fit, they aren’t giving us the same results as chirunning.Â Over the spring weâ€™ve integrated a few short 20 minute runs, but without any real discipline [and to be honest mostly downhill â€“ small cheat]. Â This morning was different.Â We followed lesson 1 of Danny Dreyerâ€™s training guide for beginners, a 12-week program to prepare for a 10K. We went for a relatively flat [not my favourite, since I like the variation of trail running] 5 minutes on and 1 minute off chirun repeated 6 times.
Big lesson:Â If you want to build and maintain capacity then thereâ€™s only one way to do it and thatâ€™s withÂ discipline and practice.
Youâ€™ll not be surprised to hear that this experience has made me think about whether and how we can achieve an adequate level of communication mastery in our organizations?
Relationships are fundamental to organizations.Â Organizations exist based on the assumption that working together we can do something we canâ€™t do alone.Â Given that human relationships without communication are impossible to imagine then communication mastery, must be a critical factor for success of any organization. But do we think about communication in that way?
I donâ€™t think we do. Â We may make the odd nod to individual development, butÂ Â institutionally I think we make the assumption that since virtually all employees can speak, write and hear then as an institution you’re communicating. Â This of course is simply not true.Â Any more than making the assumption if you can walk, you can run is true. [Or if you can walk youâ€™re walking in an aligned and efficient way that will protect your body [thatâ€™s another story].] It takes training, discipline and practice to build and maintain adequate levels of skill and capacity.
So, what would communication mastery look like?Â Not just for your employees or managers but for your institution as a whole?Â What are the institutional benefits of achieving that level of mastery?Â Where are you today in relationship to that level of mastery?Â What actions would you need to put in place to get there?Â And, how do you create the right conditions for achieving it?
I think these are fundamental institutional questions. Â Shouldn’t we be thinking about getting this conversation going? Â Are you ready?