Monday, March 29, 2010

Communication Wisdom Can Lead Minds

My friend Geoff Kelly writes a regular online newsletter for leaders who want others to support their ideas. Go to and enter your name and email address in the subscription box.

We particularly like this month's post on leadership and communication. Thanks to Geoff for allowing it to be re-published here.
“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people”  William Yates, Irish Poet

2,000 year old wisdom guides today’s top leaders and communicators.

Did you know that this is the most over-communicated and over-informed society in history? Information is doubling every three years. Human capacity to take in information is not.

The internet now has over a trillion (a million million) unique URLs and is adding several billion pages a day. That makes it several billion pages a day harder for leaders to get attention and buy-in for their key strategies. Several billion pages a day harder to get prospects to notice and buy their products and services. Several billion pages a day harder to get traction with staff, suppliers, Government, shareholders and community leaders.

So what’s that got to do with leaders winning hearts and minds? Everything.

People behave according to the way their world occurs to them. Faced with the same circumstances, two people will buy differently, vote differently, and act in every other way differently based on how their world occurs to them.

Leadership implies followership – you can’t be a leader unless someone follows you. To achieve this you must influence (hopefully for their good and not for their disadvantage) the way they see some part of their world and circumstances.

So to lead followers to action in any arena, leaders must first get their attention, engage them in some way about their idea or strategy, and convert them to commitment and action over time.

If you fail to get attention in today’s communication blizzard,you fail.

This is why corporate leaders struggle to gain the support they need. They're losing sales, time and money, and often fail to connect with the people who matter most to them.

One in three of the CEOs who leave the largest publicly traded corporations in the world are fired for performance failures. Failing to earn crucial support is a major factor in CEO performance failures.

This is why Government leaders struggle to achieve traction with the community on key policies and regulation change. Political support is more volatile, with election results routinely reporting major swings in voting results. And leaders in Government bureaucracies are less influential than ever before with their political masters.

For most leaders, gaining attention and converting support now costs more money, takes more time and is less certain than at any time in human history. That is because they are poorly advised and doing what they see what most others doing.

For example, the average corporate website has more than two self-references a sentence. These are words that refer to the organisation in some way, including its staff, products and services, processes and words like I, we, our. Go to your next cocktail party and talk about yourself as much as that. You'll see a space open around you like Moses parting the Red Sea.

So why does common sense fail when we leave the cocktail party and move into the world of communicating business and Government to mass and niche audiences?

Leaders would do better to adopt the 2,000 year old wisdom of a Roman statesman. Cicero said:”If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.” At the time Cicero was the most influential thinker in the most powerful civilization the world had known.

Who has the better chance of reframing the way someone sees his world – the modern day leader with his or her average self-centred web site and average self-centred communication program? Or the ancient orator who knew enough to think, feel
and speak from the perspective of his target audience?

Cicero knew he had to immerse himself in seeing the world as others saw it, so he could deeply understand what they really thought and how they really felt. Once he understood how they saw and felt about their world, he would craft his words and argument to reframe their world view. And he would use the language of his audience, because that was language that they understood.

As a highly educated Roman and a citizen of high rank, Cicero could have used any form of sophisticated language to express the most abstract concepts. However, he chose to understand his audience and communicate meaning and language that his audience would understand and relate to.

Great leaders throughout history have known the importance of winning hearts and minds to their cause. And they knew the secrets of how to do that. As do the best leaders today.So here is the surprising truth.

The most effective leaders communicate less and differently, rather than louder with more of the same. Less because they hit their target precisely.Differently because they resonate with more meaning, with more variety and with more credibility.

This is both a tragedy and an opportunity. Most leaders don’t get it, and until they do their influence and achievement in this world will be so much less than it might have been. The tragedy is that so many great ideas and achievements will die with them.

The opportunity is that it is all learnable. You can start where you are and learn and develop high level skills and achievements as a leader who can change your world by winning the hearts and minds of others to your strategy or idea.

Anyone can do this, but few will. That is the unfair advantage for the few who choose to be the change in their worlds.

Decide now to take this journey. The steps are simple, if not always easy. However the rewards that flow from becoming a high-impact leader are life-long.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Community Radio Can Be Powerful PR

Australia is rich in radio.  But community radio stations rarely feature in PR and media relations plans. And that's a pity because community radio covers a lot of territory and reaches a lot of people in this country.  

It is estimated more than 4.5 million adult Australians listen to community radio stations every week.  That makes them an effective way of channelling campaign messages to grassroots and often committed audiences.

Community radio caters for many interests including community, multicultural, Indigenous and religious broadcasters. And like its commercial cousin community programming includes a stew of  music, news, current affairs, lifestyle and local content.

Although bigger stations may have a full-time station or program manager, volunteer broadcasters who give a few hours of their time each week are the lifeblood of stations.  As well as their broadcasting value these volunteers are often activists in their own right who can provide word of mouth and other engagement opportunities beyond the reach of the station. 

Here are the websites of peak and other bodies where you can learn more about Australia’s community radio sector:

Community stations even have their own news service. A small team of dedicated journalists run National Radio News from Bathurst in NSW supported by communications students at Charles Sturt University.  Their three minute news bulletins are syndicated to local stations across the country.

Many years ago I was a part-time community broadcaster.  That plus recent experience of working with a host of community stations has convinced me that volunteer radio can be an important medium in a PR project.

What has been your experience of community radio?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Facebook Guidelines for Parents, Students and Schools

I thought you would find this interesting:

Facebook Guidelines for Parents, Students and Schools -

Shared from wiredPRworks, an iPhone app.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Open Government: The Canadian Way

Recently I met Canadian Chris Moore, the  Chief Information Officer for the City of Edmonton.

Chris is spearheading  efforts to deliver “Open Government” to the City’s citizens.  That means making the processes and data held by Edmonton's agencies more available to people …and in easily accessible forms.

The City of Edmonton is the fourth municipality in Canada with open government initiatives rooted in the IT department.  Chris’ measures include crowd sourcing new ideas and launching an Iphone app to allow citizens to easily report graffiti and potholes around the city to a municipal call centre. 

Chris has over 25 years of IT experience and has only been in his current job around 18 months.  Based on his experiences - which I’m sure have involved many bureaucratic struggles - he identifies three conditions as necessary in any efforts to make government more open.

  • There must be support from the top which means political  and CEO backing.
  • Administrative arrangements must support the move to change.
  • There must be genuine community engagement with peers, staff and with residents.

Chris blogs Edmonton’s Open Government program here.

Follow the Australian Government’s progress on Open Government here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Say It Loud

I have just started using Audio Boo, a new social media application that allows you to share audio files via the Internet.

Audioboo is an application for recording and sharing your voice with the world. The free version allows you to create audio up to 5 minutes in length and post that to an account on the web. You can add titles, tags, geolocation info and a photo to the recording before you upload it and all that will be saved with the file.

I recently "did a boo" especially for people who attended one of our workshops. A sort of enhanced word of mouth.   Listen here

Audioboo could be a good way to go if the people you need to reach, prefer to listen rather than read information.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stories: The Key Ingredient for Successful Launches

A launch of a new product, service, idea or campaign can either be just another occasion or like the launch of a rocket heading to the moon it can be an opportunity to inspire.  Too often in the hurly burly of a campaign it is easy to overlook the power and importance of a launch and fail to draw maximum value from it.

A launch provides the chance to introduce new ideas, different ways of working or even to bring forward a new CEO or team.  It can start the telling of a corporate story or continue the telling of a necessary tale.  And it can be a golden opportunity to gather, energise and send forth key supporters to promote your issue.  

Of all the different types of events the launch is one that should be as impactful and emotional as you can possibly make it.  After all if you are not excited about your issue at the outset, then why should anyone else care?  And these days just having one speaker follow another - unless each delivers riveting presentations - is hardly likely to make the grade.  Today audiences expect something novel and compelling.

I have attended two launches in recent weeks - both on similar issues.  One used a standard format with a succession of VIPs speaking in generalities.  The other got real people to share with the audience their personal stories of tragedy, triumph, failure and achievement.   The first was scripted.  The other poured straight from the heart.

Perhaps there is an old lesson to re-learned.  The art and craft of embedding personal stories into a launch should take primetime over the logistics of invitations, catering and other things that can so easily overtake our pre-launch efforts.