Archive for March, 2010

Face-to-face not preferred, after all (for certain info)

March 20, 2010 2 comments
Employees prefer electronic sources over face-to-face.













For more than a decade (until 2007), I was responsible for internal communication strategy at an 1,800-employee government social service agency.

I felt extremely fortunate to have attended workshops by employee communication leaders such as Pat Jackson, Roger D’Aprix, Angela Sinickas and others. I learned a great deal from them about the importance of listening to employees — through surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews,  town hall meetings, discussion boards, informal observation and more.
After all, communication is about more than telling. It’s vitally important to listen, respond and take action.

Employees really appreciate a chance to be heard. Executives like the opportunity to harvest helpful ideas from the frontline, dispel rumors, and explain actions. They can manage expectations and possibly share updates on initiatives (perhaps forgotten) in place to address concerns of staff.

Despite my recent focus on external PR, I try to keep abreast of the latest in internal through membership in the Public Relations Society of America’s Employee Communications Section.
This week, for example, Sinickas shared an excellent article on the PRSA Employee Communication LinkedIn group.
The piece on Reasearch and Measurement was titled Why face to face isn’t the preferred information source after all: Employees prefer Intranets to supervisors 2 to 1.
It was an update to a 2004 report by Sinickas that had a great influence on how I worded survey and focus group questions — and adapted methodologies by D’Aprix and Jackson.
As Sinickas writes: “Supervisors really are not employees’ preferred information source on most business topics. Even in the ‘glory days’ of face-to-face communication, before widespread availability of email and intranets, supervisors were among the top two preferred sources on only about 40 percent of typical topics communicated in organizations.”
Her research showed that “all face-to-face is losing ground” and “supervisors trail publications and intranets.”
Sinickas concludes: “I absolutely believe that supervisors and other managers can and should play a critical role in employee communication. What the data show, however, is that supervisors should generally not be used as the broadcasters of new information.
“…as soon as the first supervisor tells staff something new, most other employees will hear the news first from colleagues who attended a meeting before they did. In other words, using a cascade is what actually creates rumors.”
Supervisors, however, can provide context after big announcements made via e-mail and Intranet. They call tell individuals in their units how the news impacts them directly.
Something to keep in mind the next time you’re planning announcement of changes at your organization to the most important audience — in my opinion — the internal one.
For the full article, please click here.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about employee communication.

PR’s public relations campaign starts with me

March 13, 2010 3 comments

We PR pros need to spread the word about what we do.

The recent post asking “Does public relations need a PR campaign?” has generated some thought-provoking discussion in a couple of LinkedIn Groups. Here are direct links:

PRWise (31 comments)

Network of PR professionals (22)

After contemplating the thoughtful comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that each of us in public relations bears the responsibility of educating others about our profession.

It took me back a decade or so to a time when I made it a priority to help the executive team at my employer better understand the role of professional PR people. I felt that they were under-utilizing my capability.

I used some of our training funds to buy each of the executives a copy of Effective Public Relations, Eighth Edition, by Cutlip, Center and Broom. I put Post-It notes on some of the pertinent parts of the text — the basis for the Public Relations Society of America’s accreditation exam.

Also, I sprinkled quotes from the text as well as other professional publications in reports about strategic communication programs I was leading. I printed out the quotes and posted them in my workspace. I shared these basics when consulting with my clients — some of whom wanted me to “do a flier” or “write an article” without considering target audience or message.

I made a point of doing all of my work in the context of a strategic plan — something that continues today. I set measurable objectives and reported results at regular intervals — also a constant.

Here are a few quotes I found helpful:

“Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between and organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.” — Cutlip, Center and Broom

“…public relations conducts a planned and sustained program as part of an organization’s management.” — Cutlip, Center and Broom

“…marketing focuses on exchange relationships with customers … transactions that meet customer demands and achieve organizational economic objectives. In contrast, public relations covers a broad range of relationships and goals with many publics — employees, investors, neighbors, special-interest groups, governments, and many more. Effective public relations contributes to the marketing effort by maintaining a hospitable social and political environment.” — Cutlip, Center and Broom

“Elements of Public Relations include: Counseling, Research, Media Relations, Publicity, Employee/Member Relations, Community Relations, Public Affairs, Issues Management, Financial Relations/Investor, or Shareholder Relations, Government Affairs, Industry Relations, Development/Fund Raising, Special Events, Marketing Communications.” –PRSA

In digging up these quotes, I found a couple others:

From Abraham Lincoln, 1859: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”

From Alfred Nobel, 1889:  “A good reputation is more important than a clean shirt. You can wash your shirt but not your reputation.”

Yes. I do think public relations needs a PR campaign. And I think I need to do my part by continuing to perform strategic PR and educate those who may not understand how it works and why it’s so important.

Social media and word-of-mouth

Gary De Jesus of Tremor (P&G) spoke about Social Media and Word-of-Mouth marketing at today’s Cincinnati PRSA meeting. Here are some notes live-blogged from the event:

Everybody gets excited about new tools, new technology. Reality, social media is not about the technology. Is not about the medium, is about people do. Connect, escape, write… are empowered, socialized.

Focus: How do we facilitate what people do and want to do? 

Must understand the function of the brain. Work with universities to understand cognitive. schemas. Strand of thoughts that puts together multiple strings of ideas. Helps you make sense of what is going on in the world. When interrupt stream of thoughts, disrupt. Mind wants to go back and understand why. Talk to people. Leverage some tools. 

Create a conceptual blend. 2 separate thoughts and mesh together to create a new thought. 

Frequency of time occurs. Disruptions. Drives conversations. Bengals win (2 years ago) drives more conversation than Giants win. 

Conceptual blend: iPod, an entertainment center. Blended two entities into one piece that made it disruptive, engaging, talkable. 

Theory of congruence: In a consumer’s mind, must be true to who you are (congruent) — with occasional interruption. Example: Dawn clean oil spills. 

Family Friendly Las Vegas went over the edge. Wasn’t mildly congruent. Was wildly incongruent. 

Wild vs. mild. Don’t just create buzz. 

Tremor believes in the message. If message disrupts, people will go to social media to facilitate. Important to listen to the consumer, understand what they want to embrace — and what they know, so can disrupt and create a message. Then, leverage relationships that people have in relationships. Don’t necessarily believe in influencers. See peers as credible sources of information. Message must be credible, and not wildly incongruent. 

Leveraging relationships to spread around info. Believe is info networks will employ. Disruption can help you create the message for them to distribute. 

Individuals with a natural desire to share. Most using social media not innovators or early adopters. Are Early Majority — individuals who are connected. 

Need to have a level of passion. Must to be almost emotional about a proposition to support. 

Lot of brands high Word of Mouth potential. Social mediums drive this. Danger zone: Brands with not much advocacy, but lots of amplification. 

Consumers must understand how to advocate for the brand. Otherwise, buzz useless. 

Tremor examples:
*  Secret: more move releases more scent. Disrupts notion because when move more actually smell better.
* Venus Breeze: Lotions while shaving. Can do unpleasant chore and do something good for skin. 
* Frosted Mini Wheats: Cereal marketed with kids with as much protein as an egg and as much fiber as toast. Fits with who Frosted Mini Wheats is, but talks about in a different way. 

Key lessons:
* Does the message make sense? Did you address a foundational truth of a brand? Can a consumer say: Yeah, that makes sense
* Did you disrupt schema
* Does it make sense, add to
* Does it make sense for the social medium 

Listen to your consumer. Be open to schemas different from your own. Test and verify. 

Here’s the description of today’s talk from the PRVisions newsletter. 

“Consumer Advocacy through Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Social Media 

“Does your brand need advocates? Join us as Gary De Jesus, Head of Marketing for Tremor (, speaks about consumer advocacy through word of mouth marketing and social media. 

“TREMOR is a Cincinnati-based agency developed by Procter & Gamble that combines P&G’s market research expertise with principles of cognitive science. TREMOR is the first and only marketing approach to recognize and apply the idea of consumer advocacy as the driving force behind effective, measurable word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. 

“Tremor has served clients such as Crest, Kashi, and Venus. Gary will take us through not only the art and science behind sharable messages, but also give us a glimpse into some inspiring case studies. 

“Gary, a 15-year veteran of Procter & Gamble, joined TREMOR in 2003 as the Head of Marketing. He is responsible for all of TREMOR’s marketing efforts, managing how clients and consumers view the organization. Gary has also worked within Procter & Gamble’s Food and Beverage division and the Crisco brand.” 

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Live-blogging at BlogWell, April 7

I’m really excited about an upcoming event called BlogWell: How big brands use social media. It takes place the afternoon of April 7 at the Duke Energy Center in downtown Cincinnati.

I’ve been invited to live-blog as people responsible for social media for some of the world’s most-recognized brands share case studies. I’ll be sure to post on this blog after the event, so we can continue to learn together.

Previous BlogWells have taken place in San Jose, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta and San Diego.

They’re sponsored by GasPedal and the Social Media Business Council.

Great news! Members of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and Cincinnati Social Media get a 20-percent discount. Hope to see you there.

Followup to last week: The post asking if public relations needs a PR campaign has generated lots of discussion, especially on the PRWise LinkedIn group. I’ll sum up the feedback in an upcoming post.