Archive for the ‘Internal Communications’ Category

What’s The Buzz – Tell Me What’s Happening

Friday, April 21st, 2017

whatsgoingonBill O’Reilly. The Facebook murderer. Media and society.  All were hot topics and the center of conversation last night on Fox-2′s “Let it Rip” with Huel Perkins.  As we helped weigh in as part of a distinguished panel something apparent became even more disturbingly clear: something is wrong in Denmark, on many fronts. And, tying in to the blog’s title (which comes from the 70s musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”) what is going on out there?

In the wake of Fox’s firing of Bill O’Reilly, one of the panelists, an attorney, suggested that the TV giant and his former boss may well have been targets because of their money and fame.  As I posited on-air, if I was being accused of something of this nature and I did not do it, I’d be fighting back tooth-and-nail rather than hiding behind millions of dollars in payouts and “hush money.”  I’d use that money instead to sue these women for defamation.  Instead, denials reign and questions remain as Fox tries to repair a corporate culture and image from the top down.

Of greater concern, of course, is Facebook and its “Live” video component that is growing in popularity and usage among the media giant’s 2 billion users. No other media allows anyone, at any time, to post whatever they want, whenever they want.  TV and radio employ time delays. Print media, of course, has editors.  Now, more than ever Mark Zuckerberg and his team must come up with a solution that more widely, comprehensively and effectively monitors and vets what is posted. Call it “Big Brother.” Call it censorship. I call it making sure the majority of our society is protected from those who are disturbed and looking for a forum to be heard.

And what of society in general? Have we become desensitized to brutal images of gang beat downs and bad behavior and their being posted and displayed on-air and online? Is the media to blame? Cue the sociologists but we all bear responsibility – from home and parents to churches and counselors to video game manufacturers and news outlets. Ultimately, it is about respect for humanity and human life and providing our young people with the mental and intellectual tools, support and guidance they so desperately need and is altogether lacking. Because when we fail our kids, we all suffer the consequences.

Yahoo! Should Consider The Power of Quiet

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Increasing-ConcentrationIn recent days, Yahoo! Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer made major headlines with her decision to end full-time working from home for all employees, citing a need for greater collaboration and productivity. I had originally intended to write a blog based on ‘work-life’ balance but a piece this weekend by Miami Herald syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, running locally in the Oakland Press, presented me with a new angle for consideration: Is in-person collaboration always the best approach?

There is no doubting that when people come together, great things – in the area of innovation and creativity – can happen. In the world of information technology, for example, the need for greater proximity of software developers is fueling a major repatriation of jobs to the United States.  At the same time, Pitts reminds us, in a new book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” (one I am reading and recommend), author Susan Cain argues for and provides examples of the need for many to also work separately in their own space in order to achieve maximal results. In fact, the open, collaborative workspaces with little or no walls or separation from others – so trendy at one time is – according to Cain and recent studies, far from “all that.”

Before reading “Quiet”, I, like Pitts, struggled with my Myers-Briggs pegged introvert-ism.  After all, in our ultra-hyper, YouTube society where virtually nothing is private, the word conjures images of someone sitting alone in a dark room watching “Wheel of Fortune” re-runs. Rather, “introverts” (like me and millions of others) enjoy life, people, events and public speaking but also need quiet time to rest and rejuvenate, emotionally and spiritually.  I greatly enjoy interacting with my family, colleagues, clients and the media. I also look forward to closing my door sometimes to write, think and strategize – whether at the office or at home.

Thus, I would argue that Yahoo’s Mayer, considered a visionary working for a high-tech, creative-thinking company, is perhaps a bit ‘off’ in her recent decision regarding where her people can or cannot work. Certainly, her directive could have been better communicated and executed (Why go so public and so hard-hitting with the policy change. Is there not room for some flexibility and compromise)?  In the end, it would seem to once again be a stark indication of today’s competitive business landscape where CEOs must appease board members and shareholders – progressive image, culture , morale and brand be damned.



Boss Says No Hoops At Work? – That’s March Madness!

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

All over America over the next few days, there will be managers inside workplaces actually worried about employees watching college basketball at work. I know. I’ve worked with that type.

They’ll be so worried that many employees will be forced to sneak in viewing (pretending to do something else) while one survey shows 6 out of every 100 workers will take at least one day off to watch the NCAA Tournament away from the office. So many bosses will stress over “lost productivity” and a “lack of focus.” Talk about March Madness.

For some good internal PR, just let your workforce enjoy two half-days of basketball on the job. It’s something we do every year at Tanner Friedman, for those who are interested, and it’s not just because I’m an admitted college hoops junkie. It’s because it fits our core value of work/life balance and because there’s simply no real downside.

It’s hard to imagine a company suffering a catastrophic loss of business just because employees have at least one eye on basketball games during one Thursday and Friday afternoon in March. With trustworthy people on board given the right technology, customer needs can still be met. We’re not talking about shutting down an assembly line. We’re just talking about letting people keep up with games via computer and/or TV.

The latest survey shows the aggregate loss of productivity for US businesses this week to be more than $1 Billion. But leave it to the author of the survey, a PR master himself who is always positioned well on workplace trends, John Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas to put things into the proper perspective. Time “wasted” keeping up with basketball this week “will not even register a blip on the nation’s economic radar.” This is coming from an HR guy! He went on to say, “Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie.”

In the name of morale and camaraderie (not to mention reality), enjoy the games, even at work.

Reexamining Generational Motivation In The Workplace

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Last time, fresh from Las Vegas and the Interactive Manufacturing Experience (imX), an event and summit on the present and future of manufacturing presented in part by client SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers), I relayed keynote speaker and global futurist Jim Carroll’s thoughts on world-class innovators. How they think. What sets them apart.

Continuing in that vein, Carroll spent much of his discussion focusing on “the new workforce.” In high-tech manufacturing the need for attracting and preparing a trained next generation is among the greatest challenges facing the industry. The key, he says, for any field, is adaptation to  new way of thinking – theirs.

“Years ago, young people used to ask me, ‘What do you do,’ referring to my line of work. Today they ask me, ‘What do you like to do,’ meaning, beyond my career.” To that end, Carroll talks about world-class innovators focusing on flexibility of structure – considering that traditional work protocols (i.e. inflexible 9 to 5 work schedules and typical annual reward systems ) are not always desirable to today’s work/life balance-minded professionals living just as much in the ‘here and now.’

To underscore his point, Carroll relayed a few eye-opening statistics from recently college-graduated young professionals:

• 50% believe being self-employed is more secure than a full-time job

• 67% indicate they are already thinking about their next job on their first day of a new job

• The majority feel 2-5 years in any one place is a long-term ‘career’

It is a mindset, Jim Carroll says, that is mirrored by the speed of today’s development cycles (i.e. today’s iPod used components not available four years ago, while, 80% of the sales of a new video game come in its first four days of release). The next generational way of thinking is even more understandable when one considers this astounding fact: On average, by the time a college student graduates with a four-year degree, everything they will have learned in their first year will be obsolete.

Conference Examines Ethical Behavior

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

We blog a lot about ethics and treating people the right way day-to- day and moment-to-moment.  That’s why it was particularly rewarding to be asked to speak on the topic over the weekend at Central Michigan University’s PRSSA Annual Conference. From the definition of the word ‘ethics’ to the importance of setting a foundation and following particular principles, a range of topics, including many real world (albeit anonymous), examples were discussed.

Over the course of the next three blogs, I’m going to recount the three primary areas covered with the CMU students with regard to audiences we should all behave ethically toward: colleagues, clients and media. This time: Colleagues.

One area of particular interest to attendees was career-pathing and the right of all professionals to be provided with proper guidance and feedback from superiors in order to grow and succeed. Telling someone in a review to “keep on doing what you are doing” and then berating them for not possessing particular skills at a later point is obviously the opposite of an ethical approach to employee communications. So is continuing to put someone on small clients, deciding the individual is not a  fit for larger initiatives, and then refusing to give them a decent salary increase each year as their “billables are not high enough.”

Over my more than 30-year career and positions in radio, print journalism and public relations, I have seen it all: the good, the bad and the terrible. Individuals being yelled at; others having items thrown at them; those not supported by management when clients are unethical; still others being physically threatened.  These occurred not in prisons or backstreets, mind you but in “professional” work settings.  Unethical if not bordering on litigious examples all.

Such shameful tactics are  aimed at keeping employees “down”, “in a box”, “under control.”  And when such employees leave and, down the road, are in decision makers role to perhaps hire outside support, do you think their former employers stand a chance in (you know what) of getting the business? Not a chance – and an appropriate comeuppance.  Next time: ethics with clients.

A New Example Of The Professional Services Success Strategy That Matters Most

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In our business, we get lots of questions that can be answered in a variety of ways. There’s usually not just “one thing” that can make a PR, branding or any communications campaign successful.

But, working in professional services ourselves and serving as communications counsel to a variety of professional services firms over the years, there is one strategy that leads to success in professional services 100 percent of the time – hire and retain “good” people. “Good” people aren’t just good at what they do, they are good at working together. They are good to work with and for. They are good to clients – likable and trustworthy. And they are good for the culture, embodying the firm’s brand.

In our past experience and in working with clients, we have seen first-hand what happens when a firm becomes successful by attracting “good” people – but begins to implode when those people leave. In other types of businesses, the brand can be bigger than the people and enable a business to be sustained despite turnover. But, in professional services, the people are the brand, especially the people with client relationships. If those people leave a firm, particularly those with an equity stake (often positioned, in the clients’ minds as the most important), a firm can face disaster.

The Washington Post reported a new case in point just yesterday – a law firm that grew by hiring attorneys who knew how to make money and build relationships. As those attorneys have left, the firm has suffered. Assuming the Post got the story right, this should be a warning for all of us in professional services. Your people really do matter the most. Empower them, keep them engaged and allow them to work together in ways that make them want to stay.

We realize that we are far from the first to dispense this advice or even note the correlation between retention of “good” people and long-term success in professional services. We just want to be among the first to actually follow the advice and live it for the entire lifespan of our firm.

Detroit Pistons Player Mutiny is Shameful

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Usually I try to temper my opinions with as high a degree of professionalism as possible.  However, where the Detroit Pistons are concerned, I simply can’t hold my tongue, in particular in the advent of events this week between literally half the team and Head Coach John Kuester. In a word: It is a ‘disgrace.’

Admittedly, I am not well-versed in today’s NBA world of guaranteed contracts and egotistical, hard to manage players; actually it’s largely because of the latter that I don’t waste my time watching (and I know I’m not alone – just ask any college basketball purist). Yet, I would like to see the league come down hard on the players that chose yesterday to abandon their team and, in essence, throw a game. I know the NFL would.

Obviously, there is immense turmoil in the Detroit Pistons’ locker room which appears to be centered around Rip Hamilton that has been brewing for some time. One would hope that Joe Dumars and David Stern would work together to nip this thing in the bud, off  the court, once and for all with dialogue and action. Fine someone. Suspend players without pay. And, guaranteed contracts be damned, cut someone and appeal to the league on compensation commitments based on derelict of duty.

One would also hope that these spoiled millionaires realize how they are bastardizing the game and their legacies. They are supposed ‘role models’ who should be ashamed of themselves. Get out there and do your job for those in the stands who pay your outrageous salaries. If you don’t respect yourselves enough to do the right thing, at least show respect for the fans, authority and the game. And if that doesn’t resonate, how about showing respect for your six teammates who gave their all to the point of exhaustion last night against Philadelphia. They also deserve better.

Let The Corporate Bullies Beat Themselves Up

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

As I began writing this blog I discovered that November marks both national and international anti-bullying days. Synchronicity perhaps?

As a member of the corporate world for more than two decades, I have long since left behind the days of the school yard and the bullies who often roamed there, preying upon innocent victims.  Still, we all must unfortunately encounter the mean-spirited of the business world from time to time – those that use not their fists but their position or station in life to psychologically badger and belittle.

Such individuals don’t try to steal your lunch money but, rather, your dignity. They threaten not with physical size but, quite often, with your job. The corporate bully intimidates and extorts and seeks to rule the roost just like his grade school counterpart (and with a similar I.Q.).

The funny thing is, these people, we know well from Psychology 101, are actually cowards. They seek to strike fear because they themselves are insecure and fearful, ill-equipped to lead or manage people. Rather, they actually seem to enjoy chaos, confrontation and conflict.

Of course, the best way to deal with the corporate bully is not to lower yourself to their level. Rather, professionalism and decorum are the wooden stakes and silver crosses to these vampires of the boardroom – a methodology by which you can preserve your reputation (and sanity) while, over time, they ruin theirs with a permanent, self-inflicted black eye.

What’s New In Crisis Communications? Everything (and Nothing)

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Police Car Lights - GOODFor the second time in a year, I was very flattered to be asked to serve as the featured speaker at a meeting of InterCom, a group of professional communicators from a variety of disciplines in West Michigan. The topic was “How To Communicate Effectively In a Crisis” – I was asked to present on what has changed and what hasn’t changed in communicating “bad news.”

I’ll share a few of the “takeaways” from the session, which sparked a lively discussion among the members present. First, even in the age of the Internet and instant, personal communications, the fundamentals of adversity communications are perhaps more important than ever. If you nail the basics and apply them across every platform, you put yourself in a position for success.

Also, the internal audience has never been more important. If you deliver your message effectively to the audience closest to you, you stand the best chance of having the right message emanate from that audience. Right now, the organizations that get into trouble are those that ignore the internal audience or miscommunicate in that part of the equation and then are doomed by negative or inaccurate emails, texts or phone calls that taint the communications chain.

As for the public, it’s worth remembering that the days of “put a statement on the wire and go home” are long over. The Web has added a new dimension (and more work) to navigating crisis communications. It’s important to remember that the public will look to your website for updates and information during a bona fide crisis and your Social Media presences for your organization’s take on other “bad news.” Of course, audiences like journalists, government officials and close business contacts must still be communicated to directly.

One member of the audience asked a good question – how should the growing number of sole proprietors heed this advance? I suggested the example of the lone entrepreneur getting sick with the flu. That could mean days of delays on deliverables to customers. In that case, customers and others need to know, in clear terms, what to expect, as well as reassurance. Like the factory that would be temporarily closed because of a chemical spill, the flu could cripple a “single shingle” business. The same communications rules apply.

Even with fewer journalists digging for scoops and fewer newsroom ears listening to scanners, crisis communications is still a hot topic, as evidenced by the well attended meeting last week. For communications professionals, the good news is that you don’t have to relearn what you already know. But you need to add to it to be most effective.

What Goes Around Comes Around in Employee Relations

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

jbo0008How do you treat your employees? Do you guide and mentor and set them up for success, or, do you badger and belittle and set them up for failure?

I am continually amazed by stories I hear. How about the boss that does not provide a roadmap for future growth (“Keep on doing what you’re doing”) and then chides the employee when certain un-communicated milestones are not met in their mind. Or, the superior that gives “all or nothing” ultimatums rather than guiding and encouraging the colleague towards success in reaching particular goals.

Such individuals-in-charge seem to operate out of fear and ego. Don’t they realize that they are stifling and paralyzing their greatest resource for sustained and future success – their employees? Sadly, no. And when times get tough, rather than rallying the troops and circling the wagons, they fire poison tipped arrows directly at their own people.

The biggest barrier to change for such individuals, in my experience, is their past successes. “My way works so why not keep doing it” seems to be their motto. What they don’t realize (and find out in time) is that treating people badly always comes back to haunt you. It may take 5 years, it may take 20 years but your reputation (cemented by all of the former employees you treated poorly) will soon precede you and the death knell for your company becomes only a matter of time.

As the 80′s “hair band” Ratt so famously sang: “‘Round and ‘Round.”