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?
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!)
Ever walk into an office and get a “feeling?”
Without words, there’s a sense of something as you pass through.
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:
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.
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?