Showing posts with label collaboration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label collaboration. Show all posts

Monday, September 6, 2010

More Parliamentary Voices Should Improve Communication

Since the 21 August Federal Election, Australians have faced a unique political environment - a hung Parliament in which four Independent MPs hold the balance of power.  

This situation has already driven old style party machine politics off to the sidelines - at least for the moment.  Potentially it can lead to the most profound political transformation Australian voters have seen in decades.  Instead of only two approaches to matters of policy and politics - Labor and Liberal - there are now five ways to explore, talk about and resolve issues facing the country.  Labor, Liberal, Greens and the four Independents will each play to different sets of community interests.

It's early days yet.  But this change could prove organisationally healthy and  improve the national political discourse. Now more perspectives will be offered from  the speaker's podium and the interests of 20 million Australians may be better served by a diversity of opinions and voices.

What do you think?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Five Steps To Introducing Social Media

Australians are increasingly interested in social media.

Maybe it was President Obama's social media efforts during the recent US Presidential election campaign that has stirred our interest. Maybe after hovering on the fringes of mainstream communications for the past two or three years, social media has moved beyond something for teenagers in bedrooms to a point where it has emerged as a legitimate player in the PR and marketing mix. Or with the economy in poor shape, decision makers may be finding the low cost of digital media channels is simply too appealing to ignore.

So if you work for a government agency, a large organisation or a not for profit, now is the time to decide if your organisation will move into the social media space and to scope out how to do this in a disciplined and sustained way. Here are some considerations to make that transition as effective and as least disruptive as possible:

  • Decide Firstly make a strategic decision about whether using social media platforms will actually improve communications with the people you need to reach. If they will, take conscious steps to slowly blend the new digital tools into your promotional mix. If for whatever reason you decide against moving into the new media space (eg your audiences may not be on-line) at least take steps to monitor the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook and similar sites to learn what is being said about your organisation and its issues. And if necessary be prepared to act quickly to protect your organisation's reputation on-line.
  • Policy Develop a social media policy. This will not only provide guidance to staff but it will become a necessary security blanket for managers and others still nervous about venturing into the online world. A simple document should clearly spell out what is to be gained by using social media, under what circumstances it will be used, by whom, legal, copyright, privacy and other considerations and how to respond to online criticism.
  • Competence Build digital competence within your team. Make one person responsible for managing online conversations. Ensure they know the core business and the communications intent of those on the top floor as well as the issues faced by those on the factory floor. Start out using one platform (such as blogging) and then bring other social media platforms into play as your organisation becomes more and more comfortable.
  • Integrate Integrate your online and other efforts. Avoid a worst case scenario where staff responsible for online engagement do not talk to those responsible for traditional outreach such as media relations, events etc. These types of barriers lead to mangled messages and missed opportunities.
  • Measurement As with other marketing and PR efforts, measure your digital program as thoroughly as you can. Some social media applications suit some circumstances but are not effective in others. You can waste a lot of time, money and effort if you select the wrong tool.
My sense is that social media will be the "flavour of the mouth and flavour of the month" among Australia's communicators and corporates within 12 months. Everybody will be talking about it as it moves from today's early adopters in the Twitter stream to government agencies, not for profits and businesses in the mainstream.

So now is the time to start thinking through these and other issues.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing Part 2: Message Multipliers

In an information-overloaded world many of us increasingly turn to people we respect for information, advice and to help us make sense of the world.

We seek out these key influencers because they have particular skills, knowledge, experience or just wise way of looking at things. They often are at the centre of community, business, or social networks so if they support what you do, they can help you connect with people you might otherwise struggle to reach.

These ‘message multipliers’ are important whether you are in business, work in government or belong to a community group. Their value to you lies in the fact they can:
  • Give their personal credibility to your information within their networks.
  • Pass along your information in language their people understand.
  • Help you frame your issue so it makes more sense for people they know.
  • Allow you to include your information in their events, newsletters, websites etc.
You can identify key influencers among or through:
  • Your best customers.
  • Key professions associated with your cause.
  • Business and community organisations.
  • Local governments.
  • Local media.
  • Leaders of local school and parish committees, service clubs and sporting clubs.
  • Teachers and academics associated with your issue.
Even in this digital age personal contact remains the best way to approach key influencers. Invariably they are busy people and time poor but will appreciate meeting face to face.

At your initial meeting (unless they are already committed customers) your only job is to show how what you do will benefit the people they know. After all their credibility depends on the value of information they pass along to others.

Convince key influencers to support your issue and you pass a critical milestone in generating successful word of mouth marketing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Navigating the Social Media Frontier

Social media is the buzz word in PR and marketing circles these days. You can feel awfully left out and lonely if you're not talking blogs, Facebook, wikkis, RSS, Twitter and all the other new digital applications.

In our workshops we always recommend organisations seriously consider using social media to reach their audiences. But then we add three common sense caveats:
  • The people you need to reach must use that media .... using social media just to be cool will waste a lot of communications effort.
  • You must be prepared to engage in, not control, the conversation with your audience. And organisations locked into top down, command and control communications suddenly start to sweat when they realise the new media is about a philosophy of participation as much as it is about technology.
  • And finally when in Rome do what the Romans do. You need to communicate like others folks in the social media zone ... and they don't use corporate speak and words like vision, mission statement and outcomes. When you bring organisational language into a social media conversation you look like the man wearing a suit and tie on a summer beach. Uncomfortable and silly.
At this stage social media is new and no-one knows where it is heading. But sticking to some common sense principles will help most of us navigate this pioneer territory.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Career Building Step #1 Get People to Pay Attention

Lately we have run into some fairly dispirited communicators frustrated by their senior management's lack of attention to their ideas. I sympathize.
I know how trying it can be to get people to recognise the value of your media or marketing suggestions. Worse still is when they readily adopt the same ideas from a consultant "earning big bucks", treat them like heavenly revelations and implement them.

So how can you get your boss to recognise the value of what you're suggesting?
  • Sometimes it's sad but true. The communicators "selling the organisation, don't sell themselves". So don't just be tolerated- be valued. Continually talk up the value your communications brings.
  • When you submit your annual budget are you asking people to commit to an act of blind faith? Forecast the results and benefits you plan to deliver.
  • Most professional PR and marketing services run on a billable time basis. Clearly show how you spend your time and how your investment of effort brings results.
  • It's easy to typecast communicators as left brain, artsy types far removed from the real world. Learn to speak the language of management - outcomes and objectives, deliverables, targets, milestones, prospects and sales.
  • Managers are busy people. They want to see things at a glance. Use graphs, graphics and tables to visually present information.
  • Benchmark with the best. Ask senior management which organizations they admire and then find out why those organisations communicate effectively. If in fact they do things better, learn from them. When you introduce new ideas tell those on the top floor, where these fresh insights come from and how others have made them work.
  • Measure everything you can lay your hands on. Measuring your communications is the only way to show progress. (Check out Angela Sinickas' free resources on communications measurement).
  • Report early ... report often. Regularly send one page reports upstairs about what you are doing. Don't write a history book so keep reporting short, sharp and concise. Finish each report with a "where to next" section in dot point form.
  • When things succeed, collect and circulate testimonials to profile your achievements.
  • "Comma jockeys and font fiends" talk tactics. Top communicators talk strategy. Continually remind people who they are trying to reach, what they are trying to say, the results they are trying to achieve and how your proposals will get them there.

Sometimes convincing people within your organisation can be tougher than convincing your external audiences. But taking the time to engage management can be a career building step.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Consulting Communities

The construction of New Zealand’s first toll highway due to open in 2009 has generated a significant community relations program. The consultation effort is providing information to residents along a seven mile route in the Auckland area.

How the highway construction has been communicated might hold lessons for others involved in infrastructure and environmental projects. These lessons include:

  • Community consultations often stop once a project gets the green light. But community relations - telling people what is happening and accommodating their concerns - really finishes when the project finishes and all the teething problems are resolved.
  • It’s the communicator’s job to identify communications risks and opportunities to project management. He or she must be at the table with engineers, planners and others from the start so community issues get the same attention as legal and other considerations.
  • Everyone working on the project – from the top boss to the plant operator – has to be briefed and buy into the community relations plan. Careless actions at any level can alienate a community and prejudice a project.
  • The communicator should work on the premise that you can never give people too much information when a project is likely to impact on their environment or quality of life.
  • Provide enough communications channels so everyone affected by the project receives information. Accurate, coordinated and timely information is the lifeblood of these channels.

The days of the old style town hall meeting as a communications channel could well be over. People are often too busy to gather in large groups to hear about a project. And besides, vocal critics can hijack public meetings to the exclusion of others genuinely wanting to find out what's happening and to air their concerns. Other types of meetings include:

  • Neighbours meeting in someone’s home for very localized briefings.
  • Inviting people to drop by the project office for regular updates.
  • Offering telephone briefings at convenient times.
  • Offering to speak to established local groups at their meetings.
  • Staffing displays in shopping centres or other high traffic areas.
  • Community kiosks where people can drop in to see what is happening.
  • Working with residents' panels that include critics as well as supporters.
  • Special websites or webpages.
  • Email to deliver tailored information to particular groups.
  • Project-specific blogs where people can comment.
  • Holding site inspections when projects hit milestones.
  • A regular project newsletter.
  • Localized letterbox drops.
  • A 24/7 toll free number so people can talk to someone who can speak authoritatively.
  • Passing information through local media.

Critics might say all this is just too expensive. But in the long run a genuine approach to consultations might be far cheaper than facing legal or political challenges from disaffected communities who feel they have been neglected.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Should I share my event?

When you start out planning an event you can either be a solo sailor or a clever collaborator.

Solo sailors are event organisers who want complete control over how their event will unfold. They assume total responsibility for all aspects of planning, financing, marketing and promotions. They are responsible for absolutely everything and shape their event precisely to meet the needs of their own organisation.

Being responsible for everything has its merits but it also has downsides. When you work alone you can only bring a finite amount of resources into event planning and management. And you are completely responsible for generating an audience - the people who will attend - and getting media coverage before, during and after the event.

Another option is to see if you can share your event.

So scan the horizon to see who else you can work with. Be continually on the look out for opportunities to jointly plan and manage your next event. And if conditions are right, seriously consider merging your activity with another.

But be aware that sharing means you limit the control you have over processes, proceedings, timings and outcomes of what you plan.

Factors to consider before deciding to join in with others are:
  • does the other organisation share a similar values?
  • is there a demonstrable reason for us to work with them?
  • can they give us access to resources, media coverage etc we might struggle to attract?
  • will a joint undertaking allow us to get our message to more people?
  • can we agree on roles, responsibilities and financial arrangements?
  • is there potential controversy in working with a third party?

My experience is that collaborative arrangements do take longer to establish, but sharing energy and effort can take your event further and faster than sailing alone.