A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 5/7/12

Happy Friday, all! It’s finally a beautiful Spring day in Philadelphia, just in time for the many graduation ceremonies taking place for college students. I don’t know why, but I always have the feeling of wanting to play hooky this time of year, perhaps because the end of the school year is still engrained in my psyche. I should blame it on the “Senior Skip Day” phenomena. Does that happen to you in the Spring? Well, while we suppress the desire to leave work early, here are a few articles and posts of interest to share– enjoy!

Effective Higher Education Video by @gettysburg via @mStonerblog:

Working in higher education with students and alumni with limited time, I get the value of video in promoting important messages. Mallory Wood from the MStoner Blog wrote on her evaluation of a video Gettysburg College produced from a social media photo project with students. The end result is a very simple, short video that showcases what makes the college fun and engaging—the students and student life.

For students, this is effective because it is directly related to their lives now; for alumni, it’s a peek into the world of students today and perhaps even stir some nostalgia for what used to be. It also makes for an interesting way to crowdsource for content and include the target audience in creating the video content.

Seven Signs of an Unhealthy Corporate Culture by @jacksonwightman:

It’s been a while since I heard from Jackson Wightman, but this post is dead-on with his signature blogging style. Instead of simply listing what makes a health corporate culture and gushing about the poster-boy companies (like Google and Zappo), he paints a picture of the worst-case scenario of companies with really poor organizational cultures.

Seriously, if he is writing from experience with this list, that’s pretty scary! It just might make you appreciate your company’s corporate culture, even if you think it sucks, to think it’s not as bad as those listed in Jackson’s hall of shame.

Your Brand Needs a Social Media Value Proposition by @mikeschaffer:

It should go without saying, but all too often, companies and brands fail to remember the importance of the value proposition in social media. Mike Schaffer makes a good point with his post that in order to cut through the clutter, a real value add is necessary in order for consumers to feel connected to a brand on social media. Otherwise, the brand is just blowing smoke and further adding to the collage that is social media.

And if per chance you are at a loss for a strategic vision or goal, Mike also lists some common ideas to consider.

The Business of PR and Reputation Management via The Independent:

For those working in PR, it’s interesting to read about perspectives on the profession in other countries. The Independent in the UK offers this article about the business of PR and reputation management, as more and more corporate leaders, and not just celebrities, are seeking personal PR counsel.

The article makes a good point that the increasing need for personal PR for company leaders is merely a sign of the times, as corporate transparency is increasing as is the accountability for a company’s board and stakeholders. I’m really surprised to read an article like this where personal PR counsel professionals actually share some of the inner-workings of their strategies for companies and their leaders.

Feel free to share any articles you found interesting this week as well– have a great weekend!

May 11, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Alumni Relations, public relations, social media. Leave a comment.

Stuff We Say and What We Mean

There has been quite the Internet meme going around lately.

It’s all about stuff, or to put it into more colloquial terms, sh*t, people say to other people.

And with all the variations on the Internet, it’s quickly becoming the “New Haircut” of 2012.

I first caught a few of the “Sh*t Girls Say” episodes via Twitter.

A few weeks later, I caught sight of the “Sh*t Girls Say to Gay Guys” on Facebook.

Then, last week, a PR agency really hit it home with a video about “Stuff PR People Say”

I admit, of all the “Sh*t (insert category here) Say” videos, the PR one resonated the most with me. I watched it; I laughed; and I tweeted it. (Look, I even posted a copy of the video on my blog.)

But all these sh*t people say videos made me think —are we really just caricatures to other people? How does our communication and perpetuation of behaviors result in how others perceive us?

Perception as a result of our words or actions is important. As communications professionals, we are challenged to get to the point and be clear in what we want our target audiences to do.

The constant stream of information in short form via social media and mobile technology only adds to the necessity to be clear in our communications, in both the professional and casual setting.

But if we use sh*t when we communicate, such as buzzwords or corporate speak in press releases or talking points, then we might just as well perpetuating the party line.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that what I said when I worked in a PR agency reflects stuff said in that video.

I would watch, listen, and learn from others in my environment what was acceptable language. I would use the accepted lexicon within that world, but do I ever use those same phrases in another context?

Not likely. But it’s not like there’s anything wrong with that.

We’re all human and learn from our environments, so this is not a tirade against the sh*t people say to other people videos.

If anything, their popularity made me realize just how susceptible we are to our surroundings and cultural norms.

So, perhaps all this sh*t we say is not really helpful with regard to perpetuating cultural norms and professional in-jokes jokes. But it makes a pretty entertaining Internet meme.

What do you think—are we victims of our communications environments when we perpetuate this “stuff”? How can communications professionals avoid saying too much sh*t in the professional environment?

January 18, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . communications. Leave a comment.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 9/12/11

Happy Friday! It looks like autumn has arrived on the East Coast–temperatures fell so much last night that I had to break out the long pants and fall jacket when I took the dog out this morning. After the scorcher of a summer we had in Philly, I’m looking forward to the cool and comfortable weather. Here’s to opening the windows and letting the fresh air in finally! If you happen to be relaxing this weekend and need some reading to catch up on, here are this week’s links and articles of interest to share–enjoy!

Why the Minnesota Blogger Community Rocks (by @arikhanson):

Not to keep tooting my home state’s horn, but I found this post by Arik Hanson to be a great way of recapping an event around positive sentiment. Bloggers are indeed an important communications community (see what happened to ConAgra who learned the hard way). It is great to see the blogger community rally together to learn collectively and to share with one another in a collaborative environment. I hope other states will (or already are) taking Mr. Hanson’s example to heart and organize their own state blogger conferences like the MN Blogger Conference.

An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections (by @lesmckeown via @mmangen):

Here’s an example of a title that caught my attention because I could identify with it–I admit I’m an introvert, despite my public social media presence. In this post, Mr. McKeown also admits having this similar personality trait, yet he goes on to explain how introverts can make meaningful connections at the various trade conferences without too much pressure. There’s a lot to absorb at these events (we’ve all been there) and everyone is trying to make the most of it while they can. Despite that, I appreciated the author’s advice to take it easy on yourself if you are naturally introverted and to let the connections happen serendipitously.

Effective Blogging Tips (guest post by @ginidietrich via @ pgeorgieva):

I found out I share my blogging anniversary with Petya Georgieva, who writes a fantastic PR blog at Higher and Higher. And what better way to mark the occasion than inviting a pro blogger like Gini Dietrich to share her thoughts on what makes for a successful blog. Of Gini’s recommendations, the idea to have a vision or mission to your blog is key. It will set the foundation for your content and hopefully, guide you in building your blog community.

Building Brand Ambassadors with Employees (by @wordsdonewrite via @SpinSucks):

If you’re a regular Spin Sucks reader like I am, you know they feature a guest post every day around noon.

Thursday’s edition caught my eye because of the familiar face–Amber Avines whom I follow on Twitter as @wordsdonewrite. And then I read the headline and was reminded of an internal communications plan I had proposed to instill company loyalty and strong corporate culture by cultivating “brand ambassadors.” Unfortunately, the idea was not moved upon, but it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks employees are valuable resources for companies. Ms. Avines offers approachable tips on how to instill brand loyalty and corporate culture with your employees. It’s something any company of any size can manage, if they make it a priority.

Hope your weekend is relaxing and pleasant! Feel free to share your links of interest as well :)

September 16, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . blogging, social media. 8 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 4/18/11

And so another week comes to a close. What was the buzz this week? I heard something to the effect that public relations is the second most stressful job. Geesh, I guess I can’t argue with that, based on my past experiences working in a PR agency. But then again, it’s all relative, and just about anyone can have a stressful job. Let’s try to take a break from the stress and check out this week’s links and posts of interest to share. Enjoy!

Understanding Corporate Culture and Social Media (by @newpr via @crttanaka):

If you’re a sucker for organizational culture and communications like me, (or are too proud to admit you are that nerdy) you’ll love this post by Priya Ramesh (@newpr) on how corporate culture can factor into a company’s social media participation. Ms. Ramesh recalls various organizational culture profiles and how they are or aren’t open to social media. It’s helpful for social media advocates to take note of corporate culture so you can understand how and why a company adopts it as a communications outlet.

Role Models, Perception, and Reputation (by Steve Cody via @ThePRCoach):

Another reason to like Twitter is that from time to time, I catch a new blog to add to my already growing Google Reader. This particular blog, authored by Steve Cody of Peppercom, has a unique voice and perspective to lend to public relations. One of Mr. Cody’s posts this week looks at the idea of role models, which is a good measure of his perception on a variety of communications issues. It should be interesting to read his blog in the weeks to come.

How to Blog Like a Publisher (by @digitaltonto via @neicolec):

There are a few schools of thought on how to publish in blogging–either it needs a schedule or it doesn’t. Because I’m an uber-organized young lady, I tend to fall on the side that needs a schedule. I’m not saying that those who blog without a schedule are any different, it’s just how I work.

This guest post by Greg Statell (@digitaltonto) on @neicolec’s blog offers great advice on how to think like a publisher for blogging, from a former publisher himself. It brings to mind the old newsroom image for a former journo like myself. And it illustrates how blogging is similar to a serious publishing business.

Is American Journalism in Trouble? (by @HighTalk):

George Snell, III really hits the nail on the head with this post about how journalistic integrity, objectivity, and just about any other basic tenet taught in J-school are being thrown by the wayside in the name of the bottom line. Is my opinion coming out a little too much with that tone?  Good thing I’m not a practicing reporter anymore…

This is an ongoing discussion I have with my pal @joshdbrett and I appreciate seeing it synthesized by others. Mr. Snell makes a frightening point in his response to my comment–that journalism is in more trouble than we think. Perhaps it’s up to the bloggers or the social media wave to pick up the current and carry the journalism torch?

And if you caught my earlier post this week, you’ll see I’m in an 80′s movie mood. Here for your viewing enjoyment is a clip from one of my favorites, “Better Off Dead”:

April 22, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . journalism, public relations, social media. Leave a comment.

Doing Good Deeds and Good Business

Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People who work in PR and corporate communications get their chops busted a lot.

PR is an easy target, especially when your name is behind a major corporation, which surely doubles the heat you’re likely to generate when you tell people what you do for a living.

But not all of our companies and clients are bad people.

In my experience, I have never seen a boardroom full of people in suits, creasing their palms, and planning elaborate ways to screw over the little guy.

Quite the contrary, some of the largest companies have pro bono and corporate social responsibility programs.

For example, Comcast has “Comcast Cares Day,” when employees and employees’ families are encouraged to volunteer in their local communities.

Starbucks offers Fair Trade certified coffee and has several international community development programs.

But wait, aren’t they just doing all that kumbaya work to mask their evil deeds?

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a bit skeptical at times. However, I’ve learned that companies with a dedicated corporate social responsibility program can succeed in making it a part of their culture and way of doing business.

Sometimes, PR or corporate communications personnel advocate for a company’s CSR program. If you need to do so, here are a few reasons why they are an asset to your company or client:

Do some good for others (really)

Set your skepticism aside and consider that there are thousands of people out there, working in various industries, who want to help in their community. What better way to make a difference than to have the company’s support behind these folks?

It doesn’t matter the size of the company, so long as it is dedicated to the sentiment behind corporate social responsibility as an integral component to its corporate culture. In that sense, it can really make a difference.

Highlight the company’s values/mission through good deeds

Sure, this is where it gets a little self-serving, but PR or corporate comms folks should draw attention to a company’s pro bono work as part of its company values or corporate culture.

This is how CSR can be incorporated into the overall company brand and its identity. It’s also an opportunity to highlight the company’s competencies or employee skill sets.

And who would pooh-pooh a little attention for their good deeds?

 
 

 

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Improve employee morale

No one wants to work in a job where they feel they like a spoke in a wheel. One way to boost employee morale is to give them something to believe in or to contribute.

Pro bono work provides staff with an outlet to break free of the daily grind, be it a volunteer initiative or a team project in which they can donate their talent or service. It helps to not only boost their morale, but might also inspire them to do more good deeds outside the confines of the office.

Provide an infrastructure for budget

While everyone wants to help, it’s important to keep pro bono work and charitable contributions in check. You don’t want to get carried away or sucked into a project that hinders productivity or drains resources.

A CSR program provides an infrastructure that guides the company’s charitable work, keeping it within budget and within scope, so it can keep doing so.

Corporate social responsibility can be an important part of a company’s culture, depending on how it’s structured and adopted. Either way, it is worth exploring how these programs can contribute to the cycle of benevolence as an outcome of daily business.

What do you think about CSR? Do any of your companies or clients have a CSR program?

Or feel free to take the contrarian point of view — is CSR a load of you-know-what?

March 3, 2011. Tags: , , . corporate communications. Leave a comment.

Follow the Leader…

What is a good leader?

It may depend on how you define the terms “good” and “leader.” It depends on a lot of things, actually.

The issue of leadership is one that both intrigues and perplexes me.

It’s interesting because there’s a lot of room for good discourse on the topic out there and many ways to view it.

But it’s also perplexing because there is no perfect formula for leadership. What works for one leader in one company may not work for another.

For PR folks, part of our job is often to support the company leader (or the company vision) through communications tailored for various audiences, both internal and external.

When it comes to good leadership, how are we as communicators defining those terms?

As a result, how are we counseling our company leaders in their communications to the various stakeholders?

Having worked in several different settings myself, for various leaders, I can’t say there is one prototypical perfect leader model.  But I have observed some characteristics that either worked or didn’t work, depending on the setting.

While I hesitate to pontificate any further on the subject, here are a handful of observations of what I believe to be characteristic of good leadership (but this is all up for discussion):

A good leader fosters the company culture I’ve already discussed organizational culture, but it’s usually the leader who not only fosters it, but reinforces it to staff and external audiences. The two often go hand-in-hand as the leader sets the example for the company culture.

A good leader not only listens but acts on feedback – how many times have you done an internal survey and felt it went into a black hole? While the information may not always be positive, it helps if leaders actually learn and demonstrate improvements based on that feedback.

A good leader practices what he/she preaches – I should do a separate post about how employees are smarter than most leaders think. They’ll pick up if a leader says to do one thing, but then does another. The old saying holds true here, and it can actually strengthen the company morale and culture if done right.

A good leader is a good communicator – this is where we PR folks come into the picture. A leader may only be as good as his/her ability to communicate to the various audiences. It’s partially our job to help them understand that they are setting an example in anything they communicate, from a casual conversation in the café to a town hall meeting. It’s all about perception shaped by communications, and most importantly, leaders need to be good communicators.

Like I said, this is all up for discussion and my observations are not nearly the end all, be all of good leadership.

What are some of the good leadership traits that you have observed? What are some of the bad ones? (you may choose to change the names to protect the innocent!)

February 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , . corporate communications. 4 comments.

A Little Birdy Told Me…Week of 1/24/11

For many in the Northeast, it was a snowy, sloppy week. Good thing I grew up in Minnesota, so 15 inches and impacted snow isn’t a big deal.

Here are this week’s entries from the Little Birdy—enjoy!

Blogging in the Post-RSS Era (from @geoffliving)

I remember loading my RSS feeder back in 2007, which gave way to Google Reader, to keep up with various blogs. Apparently, though, folks are changing the ways in which they share and receive blog information, with RSS use declining.

Geoff Livingston offers several creative options to keep your blog visible and well read without RSS. He makes a good point about participating in a community to not only garner blog traffic but also to provide relevant content.

Dan Rather Worries for American Press (from @EagleOnline)

For many years, I watched CBS Evening News because of Dan Rather, before he was revealed as “The Dan” and before the 60 Minutes debacle. Despite leaving regular television news, he’s still a stalwart advocate for journalism and discusses his concerns regarding journalism for students at American University.

Very rarely do I read something that makes the hair on my arms stand up. But this article makes me remember why I studied journalism when I read sound bites like “We can’t let journalism sacrifice itself on the altar of entertainment,” from Mr. Rather. Yes, he is a newsman and good at the dramatic quote. But he does so as he warns of the growing trend of media commentary over journalistic fact and integrity.

The Value of Internal Communications (from @ThoughtPartner)

Internal communications can be defined in different ways, depending on whom you ask. But they have the potential to provide real value to companies if executed effectively. David Grossman provides inspiration in the form of communications students’ elevator speeches on what they see as the value of internal communications. It’s heartening to read these because they all reinforce how internal communications are an integral part of corporate communications and organizational culture.

News Releases Aren’t Dead. They’re Just Worthless (from Aaron Perlut on @Forbes)

My age really shows when I get the television references in this post. (hint: Alex P. Keaton was on “Family Ties” – an 80’s sitcom) Also, the news release isn’t dead so much as it is just worthless. Tongue n’ cheek sentiment aside, Mr. Perlut contributes a good post on the ongoing discussion of how news releases need to evolve in the age of social media. He also discusses alternate resources for PR folks, such as HARO, that help bypass the need for news releases.

January 28, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . journalism, media, public relations, social media. 3 comments.

Culture Shock – Tips for Understanding Corporate Culture

Ever walk into an office and get a “feeling?”

Without words, there’s a sense of something as you pass through.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More than likely, that gut feeling or impression is a reflection of the company’s organizational culture.

From a communications perspective, it’s important to understand a company’s culture in order to reinforce communications for both internal and external audiences. A strong corporate culture supports the core of a company, which will in turn affect employees and trickle out to external communications.

So what exactly is organizational or corporate culture?

One way to think of organizational culture is like the brand essence of a company—you may not know how to describe it, but you know it when you see it (or is that obscenity? Oops, same idea, though).

Here’s a run-of-the-mill definition — culture can be understood as the shared beliefs, values, and customary ways of thinking and acting which guides the behavior of an organization’s members.

To quote Marty McFly, that sounds a heavy. But think of organizational culture as you would think of culture from a sociological perspective or from your own personal perspective.

A favorite approach of mine to understanding culture in organizations is by way of Edgar Schein, who suggested that culture is a manifestation of three fundamental levels:

1. Artifacts - observable items, such as colors and decor, dress code, and emotional feelings an organization’s members convey.

2. Values - what a company explicitly says are its values, or the norms, ideologies, and philosophies. These may include a mission statement or value proposition.

3. Underlying Assumptions – this is what happens to the values at a certain point of time as they transform into what is accepted as “the way things are” within an organization.

That third level is where you get the feeling with regard to organizational culture, and it’s often the more tricky aspect to study or articulate. But that is where the core of culture resides.

For communicators, it’s worth the effort to understand and study a company’s culture and find avenues to integrate it into corporate communications (both internal and external).

It all goes back to supporting the company’s core– culture is like the heart of an organization, and a healthy heart will support and strengthen the rest of the body. A healthy cultural core supports not only a company’s business direction and staff, but also creates a being that is consistent internally as it is externally.

Here are some examples of organizational culture in action:

Google
Leave it to the leading web company to have one of the coolest-looking offices and oft cited cases of superb corporate culture.

See the artifacts in this picture? The colors, furniture choice and how comfortable the staff looks? Google’s offices are a reflection of its commitment and openness to innovation and great ideas. No wonder anyone would drop to their knees to work for them.

Zappos
What do zombie elves and social media have in common?

They’re both a part of the Zappos coroprate culture. Seriously. Zappos Community Architect Thomas Knoll participated on a panel discussion at CES where he shared the company’s commitment to integrating its use of social media with its unique company culture. With several corporate blogs and numerous staff on Twitter, Zappos openly shares its culture with its customers and reinforces why they’re a great company.

Do you think PR folks should also support a company’s culture? What have you observed of your company’s culture or do you have any additional examples to share?

January 11, 2011. Tags: , , . corporate communications, internal communications. 8 comments.

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