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Posts Tagged ‘Strategic Communication’

Writing skill is the fundamental core competency of the communication/public relations professional. Why? What will you do to improve your PR writing style and ability once you graduate?

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The New York-based global consulting firm, rogenSI, reports that employee morale declined last year to low levels not seen since 2009/10.

And that was during and immediately after a severe financial crisis.

The firm’s 2012 Global Mindset Index surveyed 4,000 business professionals, and half said they felt “overwhelmed and undervalued”. Respondents also said that they were motivated more by ” a fear of failure than a drive for success” on the job.

Additionally, 64 percent of respondents said their primary driver for staying at their current job was money.

Clark Perry, director and lead researcher of the Global Mindset Index, says that over the past four years and in other surveys, he has seen a historical link between depressed employees and low gross-profit margins.

According to Crystal Kim, who covered the research in Barron’s January 28, 2013, issue, the bottom line in all this is that “businesses and markets are much better served if they can connect job security to a focus on personal achievement, rather than on sales and profits only.”

And how should business leaders do that? Through effective, two-way, strategic organizational communication. There is no other tool as powerful in the business executive’s tool kit than employee communication.

Obviously, in a weakened economy, employees worry about their jobs much more so than when the economy is good, businesses are growing, and jobs are more plentiful. Employees are fearful of losing what they have and take fewer chances, preferring to play it safe. Effective employee communication must deal with the realities of the economy and what it means to employees, creating a dialogue between employees and management in which issues can be discussed candidly and real solutions to mutual success can be found.

If business leaders want innovation and positive results, then they must create an environment in which innovation and positive results can flourish, an environment in which employees feel secure enough to concentrate on personal achievement without fear of failure. Open and honest two-way communication helps shape such an environment.

Employees want to be successful personally, and they want their organizations to be successful. The most effective way to facilitate these mutually desired outcomes is by communication that provides employees with solid information about the organization’s strategic situation and how they fit into it.

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The practice of organizational communication is all-important today. An organization must communicate effectively with its internal audiences or face real peril. Here are some of my thoughts (“Lesterisms”) on the subject of how to conduct effective organizational communication:

Lesterism #1: Never assume anyone knows anything. Organizations are funny; you can never assume that any individual organizational member knows what is going on — strategy, major issues facing the organization, organizational performance, organization happenings, news about other employees, etc. Therefore, look at everything that is happening around you and explain it to organizational members. You will have a lifetime of work. There is so much happening in organizations today that is worthy of being reported and discussed. Be alert. Be curious. Poke around and find out the details of what is going on. Report that to your internal audiences. You will find that what you are doing begins to feed on itself, and your stream of valuable information increases.

Lesterism #2: Know your audiences. You simply must conduct research into who your audiences are and what they are like. This transcends mere demographics and moves into psychographics. Know who you are talking with and what information they want, when they want it, and how they want to receive it.

Lesterism #3: Using a  media mix is always better than a single medium. Do not concentrate on one medium to share a message. Instead, use a mix of media, including social media and traditional print and broadcast media. You need them all to effectively communicate a two-way message. A good channel strategy is a mixture of all types of media.

Lesterism # 4: Communicate frequently. This is where social media and electronic media are extremely valuable. Using those tactics, you can communicate easily and frequently. However, this does not preclude publications. For example, a more frequent and cheaper production value publication is always better than a more expensive, less frequent publication. If you can afford it, you could have a frequent newspaper-style employee publication plus a quarterly magazine. Each’s editorial objectives are unique and individually useful. But augment those with very frequent social media and electronic media updates, such as Tweets, blog posts, podcasts, and a supervisors’ ezine.

Lesterism #5: The cornerstone of an effective employee communication program is an employee publication. An employee publication should not be the only thing that makes up your employee communication program, but it remains the most effective tactic. Employees are an information-seeking audience. They want the information you provide them. Organizational communication has high persuasive impact among the other types of tactics, including interpersonal communication, news media, and advertising/promotion. And tops among the individual tactics that constitute organizational communication is the employee publication. Make it strategic and two-way, allowing for feedback and discussion.

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I attended the IABC World Conference in Toronto, June 4 through 9, in order to answer the pressing question: are we communicators still relevant?

To address that question, I attended a variety of presentations, held endless hallway conversations, chatted over coffee/tea/beer/wine/meals, and in general, poked around looking for answers.

Did I find any answers? Yes and no. Some specific things came very clear. Others are left to be answered another time, if at all.

I pose the question of relevance because conferences like this seem to devote extraordinary amounts of time and energy in justifying what we do as a profession. It seems a bit paranoid to me. If we feel compelled to question our own relevance, then something is wrong. We should know.

I know that communication is more relevant now than ever. As an example, consider the exchange I had with John from Ottawa, who works for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We were sitting together in an afternoon general session called, “Why should anyone trust you? Lessons from leading change in international organizations.” John leaned over and asked, “Is it just me, or are we talking about the same things we talked about five, ten, even fifteen years ago?”

Yes, we are still talking about many of the same things. Why? For several reasons:

  1. We have not sufficiently solved the problem, like improving employee engagement or gaining the ability to write clear and compelling copy or successfully integrating social media into our overall strategic communication plans or communicating organizational change effectively or making employees brand ambassadors.
  2. New people enter the communication field and seek answers to important questions they encounter on the job. For the neophytes, these questions, however fundamental, are new and exotic and demand answers. That’s a competitive advantage for professional development providers like IABC. It constitutes a source of recurring revenue.
  3. New answers arise to old questions. For example, three phenomena that have risen in importance over the past few decades:  strategic planning in communication; the need for high quality research on which to base strategy; and the impact of social media on society in general and communication management specifically. These phenomena all help to keep communication relevant and serve to make it even more competent.

Several presentations targeted the fundamental questions we must answer in order to practice communication management effectively. Then there were unfulfilling presentations that promised to explain what communicators must know, then didn’t.

Thankfully, I attended presentations that were insightful, practical, and immediately useful. One notable presentation was “Integrating multimedia into your social media campaign,” by Toronto-based consultant and ace podcaster Donna Papacosta. In a world consumed by what Neil Postman termed, “technological adoration”, Donna’s down-to-earth treatment of technology used to support and enhance overall communication strategy was refreshing.

Speaking of technological adoration, I blogged last year about the obsessive use of Twitter at IABC’s World Conference in San Francisco. Everything was Twitter; everywhere you looked, people weren’t talking face to face, they were tweeting — in sessions, in the hallways, at meals, and who knows where else. The obsession with technology, especially Twitter, was all-consuming. It was not so much so this year. There seemed to be a more mature approach to the use of technology, especially Twitter.

Perhaps we are evolving. Perhaps we are transforming our technological adoration into practical managerial applications. I hope so, for evolving and transforming is the only way the profession of organizational communication will truly stay relevant.

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