Communications case study: Responding to a CEO’s potentially unethical demands

By IABCLA President Deborah Hudson

Ethics. My thoughts about ethics are pretty simple and direct. I have a strong moral bent and can tell the difference between right and wrong. When I encounter ethical issues I quickly find a clear, specific response. I thought that covered the bases.

But IABCLA colleague Cheryl Farrell opened my eyes. When we met with a handful of other members to dine and discuss “Communications Ethics in the era of ‘alternative facts,’” she said, “I think there’s always an ethical issue. Whenever human beings are involved, there’s conflict.”

And the discussion proved her point.

Case study: A CEO’s demand for employee names

Cheryl posed a case study based loosely on the changing fortunes of a communications giant: massive layoffs, followed by the CEO’s resignation and conviction on fraud. Employees faced insecurity, a loss of control and disillusionment in a corporation that they were once proud of.

The new CEO introduced himself and his new direction during a town hall, but was surprised by tough and confrontational questioning from employees.  The CEO shut down discussion, then demanded the names of questioners from the Communications department.

What is the ethical response?

5 responses to questionable ethics from the CEO

It turns out that everyone at the table that night had a different ethical resolution:

1: Build the CEO’s connections with the employees

One said, “I’d agree and set up a lunch for the CEO to sit down and talk to the employees whose names he asked for so he could get beyond the bitterness and see their sense of ownership and engagement.”

2: Advise the CEO on legal issues

Another suggested that it might be time to consult Compliance and would be important to counsel the CEO about legal protections for whistleblowers.

3: Advise the CEO to listen more before acting

A third suggested reframing the demand in communications terms – pointing to other CEO communications transitions – suggesting taking the high road of listening before launching new plans.

4: Ask the CEO why he wanted the names

Another person at the table suggested asking the CEO why he was asking for names in order to understand his intentions and try to speak to his underlying needs.

5: Wait

After tempers cool, ask the CEO how he wants to respond to the questions at the town hall.

Hearing the different approaches broadened everyone’s perspective. For me, it was a profound learning moment in the complexity of ethics: there’s more than one right answer.

Internal communicators: Holding the middle ground

All of these responses speak to the role of internal communicators today: We sit on this shaky ground between employees and executives, trying to serve both while ensuring ethical behavior and doing what’s best for the business.

A strong ethical foundation can make the internal communicator’s in-between ground more firm, but it doesn’t make these types of challenges any easier.

Based on the responses from peers around the table I see a simple checklist for those moments when we need to engage with an executive around an ethically challenging demand:

  1. Do your research on the legal implications
  2. Ask the executive why he’s made the demand
  3. Look for a way to show the human side of the issue
  4. Find a way to help the executive listen more to employees
  5. Help the executive connect with employees

This simple checklist can turn an ethical perspective into actionable next steps. Responding quickly from an ethical center is more important than ever In these days of “alternative facts,” viral videos and rushed judgments.

Employees and executives both need us.

So, if you were facing the situation in this case study, what would you do?

Event Recap: Nine & Dine Discussion About Ethics in the Age of Alternative Facts

Six LA communicators gathered around the dinner table in Venice March 31 to share experiences and challenge each other on how ethics play a role in our professional lives. As one diner said, “we have a balancing act inside us.”

The discussion focused mostly on internal communications, reviewing ethical issues inherent in leadership, as well as corporate culture, change management and organizational strategy. The group’s discussion continually circled around the idea that internal communicators, especially, play a variety of roles all at once. While they help executives and organizational leaders drive change, they also are like the nerve networks of the human body, bringing signals in from all the extremities to inform the central brain.

Cheryl Farrell (Internal Communications Manager at RAND Corporation), who facilitated the conversation, posed a “lightning round” where individuals posed solutions to a short case study. Six participants contributed six unique solutions.

IABCLA’s new VP for Communications, Ephraim Freed, summed up the discussion at the end of the night saying: “internal communicators are advisers to executives, champions of employees and bastions of truth and ethics.”

IABCLA members and those interested in IABC can look out for our next Nine & Dine event, which will focus on the topic of diversity and take place in downtown Los Angeles.

IABC Cutting Edge Internal Comms Panel Wrap Up

(Los Angeles) On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, IABC Los Angeles hosted a networking panel event “Cutting Edge Internal Communications” with internal comms experts at the South Pasadena Central Library in Pasadena.

Moderated by President-Elect, Mike Spasoff, the internal comms panel provided everything from insights to the newest internal comms vehicles, what new tools add value and which tools get in the way, approaches to cross-generational challenges, tried-and-true skill sets, and the differences from internal comms compared to external marketing and PR.

The panel consisted of Kristin Wong, Manager, Internal Communications, Global Corporate Communications at Avery Dennison, Jeremy Soule, Manager of Employee Communications at Activision Blizzard, Daniel Penton, Founder of ICPlan, and Betty Henry of Betty Henry Communications.

IABC Members, non-members and guests enjoyed a light dinner, pithy panel discussion and Q&A.

Kicking off the question on what “stubborn” vehicles are still being used vs. what’s new, Jeremy Soule simply replied, “Email!” Regarding new tools, Jeremy emphasized a social collaboration platform is a must with  a “fun, positive voice” to reflect the employees. Kristin Wong stated Avery Dennison made the decision “the email attachment was dead” and transformed the entire employee population to Google Docs for shared collaboration.  Daniel Penton discussed Yammer, smart phones as engaging employee comms tools. Betty Henry emphasized connecting the company’s brand with internal tools, including entertaining or humorous ways to engage employees.

Attendees at IABC-LA's "Cutting Edge Internal Communications" event on 2/26/14 in Pasadena.

On tools adding value or getting in the way:  Kristin stated employees absorb information visually now in an anytime, anywhere platforms. Avery Dennison created a risky yet very rewarding video blog of the CEO who uses his own iPhone to capture himself all over the Avery Dennison global offices and shares the super short video blog posts with employees, and answers questions.

Jeremy Soule says tools must reinforce Activision Blizzard’s “We make fun” motto.  He shared his views on how extremely important trust-building is with employees, especially when there are tough announcements later.

Kristin Wong shared on cultural shifts and a values-based company culture affecting Avery Dennison’s significant milestone building location change.

Betty Henry discussed mapping out employees’ ages, education-levels, towards understanding the employee audience. She also discussed a fun case study engaging employees through an employee film festival in which over 50 hilarious films were submitted. Betty also mentioned employee audiences are more of a finite audience compared to external audiences.

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Internal comms approaches also included wi-fi, no company phones on desks, gaming, using enthusiastic employees as change champions, training bosses to walk the walk, and profiling departments separately vs. treating employee populations as one homogenous group.

“Use your feet!” says Jeremy Soule.  Face-to-face hallway meetings can be incredibly effective in gaining needs information, even at super-cool and gadgety Activision Blizzard!

Daniel Penton emphasized internal communicators “must give internally what employees are exposed to externally.” In other words, same quality counts inside as outside messaging and visuals.

The attendees’ Q&A produced some terrific follow-up discussion on different apps such as Crowd Campus, push notifications, MailChimp and more case studies. The audience got a big laugh at Betty Henry’s story on “Compliance. A Hotbed of Comedy” and enjoyed Kristin Wong’s recap of how a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the CEO was photographed all over the world and authentically connected employees from Ohio to employees in Asia.

Huge, special thanks to Mike Spasoff for putting such an outstanding, informative panel together and the South Pasadena Library.  Thanks to board members Dustin Alipour, Kyle Kearney, Gerhard Runken and Christie Ly. And thanks to Bill Severino for assisting in the set-up!

For more event details and photos, follow us on facebook at “IABC Los Angeles” or twitter (@iabcLosangeles)

Photo credits: Kyle Kearney.

 

November 15, 2012 – Erin Dick presents Megatrends in Communications at Il Fornaio, Pasadena

One of my favorite laugh-out-loud commercials of all time is when a then-unknown Jane Lynch (of “Glee” fame) hammers a microchip into the forehead of a new customer at Washington Mutual’s competing bank. A few moments later Jane’s colleague tries to scan some other poor customer’s head over and over.  With all the megatrends in technology moving at lightning speed, we may not be too far behind this commercial…and Erin Dick, Director of Communications for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne knows this.

Through “The Future is Now…Now What?”, Erin presented some equally amusing demonstrations of just how far we’ve come with communications methods and gadgetry, as well as some very dramatic evidence of how technology supports our message-delivery choices, keeping us connected in ways that were impossible even just a decade ago.  Over appetizer skewers, stuffed mushrooms, and warm red wines at Il Fornaio in Pasadena, about 25 IABC-LA members and non-members listened to how megatrends in communications has evolved.

Erin discussed key elements, especially over the last decade, which includes shrinking gadgetry (think phone booths vs. cell phones and Nanos) and attention spans, transparency and decentralization, socialization and personalization, the need for speed, and the constants that continue to remain in the sea of change.

Besides a humorous overview of past devices such as brick-like cell phones and 8-track tapes, we got plenty of laughs from a spoofed newscast depicting the use and heavy reliance of social media amongst its “anchor and reporters.”  The reporter was up to 88 followers on Twitter yet just couldn’t seem to report the actual news.

On a more serious note, yet absolutely astounding, Erin presented a simulation of tweets that occurred before the earthquake and tsumami hit Japan and just after.  Social media was a means of communication that allowed Erin, who was in Florida at the time, to exclaim “I was in Japan!” meaning she was following the tweets as it was happening. She was stunned by the gravity of the unfolding situation as well as the importance of just how fast Twitter facilitated communications amongst the watching world.

Shrinking gadgets translate to shrinking attention spans to process the barrage of informative overload expected on a daily basis. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of heavy multi-tasking having experienced the underbelly of it: brain fog!  Both Erin and other studies show our iCrazy “smart’ world is leading to shrinking attention spans, an inability to use imaginations, poor focus and much lower comprehension.  Erin points out we are assimilating data at such a rapid pace, our brains are adapting to this new pace. Instead of memorization, we are analyzing data more.  Yet through these shrinking gadgets, the world just got smaller.  We are globally connected…big time.

Some constants that still endure are:

  • the need for timely and relevant information,
  • the use of both traditional and non-traditional media and
  • the importance of keeping relationships on track

There is evidence that our bullet-train information overload is now creating a welcome backlash through marketing and ads that suggest unplugging, communicating and recharging in the most old-fashioned of ways.  And as Erin concluded, let’s remember to meet face-to-face, write a handwritten note sometimes and be socially connected through one of the best pieces of technology on the planet…our human selves.

We thank Erin Dick for her passion in communicating these megatrends and for bringing her extraordinary experiences from her U.S. Air Force experience to illustrate just how far we’ve come into the future…which is now!

Thanks to Betty Henry, Communications Chair, for connecting and arranging Erin’s guest spot and event postings, thanks to Mike Spasoff, Media Chair, for his experimenting with streaming the event as well as setting up the tech side of things. Thanks to Christie Ly, Treasurer and Past President, for coordinating details with the restaurant and Eventbrite coordination, and thanks to Paula Cassin, Past President for some admin coordination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event Summary: May 8th, 2012 Master Storytellers: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Scientists are great master storytellers. One of the Voyager themes at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is “reaching out to touch where no one has gone before.” IABC-LA members got to participate in an event never before offered through the chapter: “Master Storytellers: Jet Propulsion Laboratory”…an extraordinary look into NASA’s JPL California Institute of Technology where scientists and engineers have so many stories to tell.

Dana Edler, JPL’s Communications Specialist and IABC-LA Chapter President-Elect ’12-’13 led an out-of-this-world event featuring a tour of JPL’s von Karman Visitor Center and Space Flight Operations Facility before members heard insight into the use of storytelling communications.

Our tour guide explained JPL’s focus on robotic planetary spacecraft and astrophysics, not jet propulsion at this time, leading to missions such as the exploration of Mars. When visiting the Space Flight Operations Facility, the precise communications data told a story as code and numbers came through on big screens from satellites.  While we were not visiting the Facility during a launch of a  Mars mission, our tour guide explained the relatively quiet room was a good thing…it meant that all the robotics and satellites, missions and projects are humming along.

Dana welcomed all of us and briefly discussed utilizing storytelling as an alternative to formal, fact-filled yet dry presentations that simply do not get an audience excited.

Stephen Kulczycki, Deputy Director of Communications and Education, and Dr. Teresa Bailey, Information Science Specialist and JPL FIOA Liaison, discussed the methods of JPL’s storytelling to inform, educate and persuade audiences.  While scientists’ and engineers’ data can be as boring as a bad Powerpoint presentation, these two communicators presented just how lively scientists and engineers can truly be when their passion for the planets and for discovery is the focus.  Stephen presented a few videos with different tones…one example was an emotionally-charged video on the history of the NASA space programs and how a disconnect exists between what the U.S. public perceives as too much money spent on space exploration and what is actually spent.  “How much would you pay for the universe?” was the theme.

Dr. Teresa Bailey developed the JPL organizational storytelling program beginning in 2000 and wrote her dissertation “The Experience of the Storyteller: Moving from Personal to Collective Knowledge Sharing.”  Teresa emphasized the importance of experiential knowledge sharing and “stepping into the light”. Teresa shared insights with us that while she had to endure some teasing at first about the very concept of storytelling (“Will there be cookies, Teresa?” came from a few JPL participants!)…these events soon became an engaging part of the JPL communications culture, including a more opened-space remodel and arranging furniture, and using props and audience participation to better serve the storytelling events.  These events allowed scientists and engineers to connect his or her personal experience to a project or mission illuminating knowledge in a way that placed expected facts and figures in their rightful place: as supporting information, not lead information and therefore losing the passion of the “why”.  As Stephen noted, the scientists and engineers truly become stirred up when they are connected to “the why” they want to explore a specific planet or star…dream makers as opposed to machine makers.

Big universal thanks to IABC-LA shining star, Dana Edler, Membership Chair, who did a superior job in pulling all the JPL event pieces and parts together. Thanks also to Cheryl Farrell who was instrumental in helping with event registration and welcoming guests.  Adam Kevorkian also assisted Dana with the event.  Thank you, Adam! Catering provided by Jack M. Smiler of Black Diamond Catering.

We thank JPL for the overwhelming hospitality to IABC-LA during the tour and event.  And finally, JPL really is a cool, quirky place… I walked to my car post-event and was greeted by a live deer in the parking lot.  Perhaps a satellite directed him to go there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health Care Reform Event at L.A. Care Health Plan on March 21, 2012

IABC-LA presented a highly informative panel of communication experts to discuss “Communicating Complex Change: Health Care Reform” on March 21, 2012 at event program sponsor L.A. Care Health Plan’s headquarters.  Cheryl Farrell, Board Member of IABC-LA, moderated this invaluable panel session to share how local health care professionals are communicating the complex changes of health care reform to various audiences (Event Podcast).

The distinguished panel included Patricia Clarey, Senior VP, Chief Regulatory and External Relations Officer of Health Net ;  John Merryman, Senior Director, Marketing/PR of South Bay Family Health Care; Ronald Owens, Director, Corporate Communications of Kaiser Permanente Southern California; Elena Stern, Communications and Marketing Director of L.A. Care Health Plan; and Cheryl Fields Tyler, Owner and CEO of Blue Beyond Consulting. The panel informed our chapter members how health care reform is being received and integrated by leading health care companies in Southern California (listen to the event podcast).

The panel discussion after a quick buffet dinner covered topics such as how this legislation is an extraordinary opportunity for innovation within the health care system as well as communications, how the new competitive environment created by mandating state-based Exchanges on individual policies will create positive benefits for consumers, and how do communicators break through to its new and existing audiences (we learned about the role and importance of Spanish-speaking Promotoras!)

So many advances have been made towards creating a communications system that is much more efficient than yesteryear including revolutionary a $5 billion electronic computerized patient records system as opposed to handwritten files and notes as discussed by Ron Owens of Kaiser Permanente.  Doctors are required to learn this system so a patient can be treated across states with tremendous efficiency.

Healthcare communications consultant Cheryl Fields Tyler emphasized the extraordinary opportunity for innovation that comes with such far-reaching legislature and how this is a game-changer for U.S. business overall.  She also emphasized the need for communicators to embrace and support the new legislation positively to create better understanding and trust between employers and employees.  Employees trust face-to-face meetings with direct managers.

Pat Clarey of Health Net has served as chief of staff to both former California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson, with current Health Net responsibilities for federal and state regulatory, legislative and compliance issues.  Pat discussed the new legislative concept of “guaranteed issue” for individuals seeking individual insurance policies through the reform’s American Health Benefit Exchanges, which has not been offered in the current California landscape if an individual had a pre-existing condition such as asthma.

John Merryman of South Bay Family Health Care noted the importance of funders for newly established programs.  In his view “money follows money” and the health care reform will shift how funding funnels through non-profits as well as private health care companies.

Elena Stern of event sponsor L.A. Health Care Plan enlightened us on how significant the role and use of a Promotora, a female Spanish-speaking healthcare advocate, is to underserved communities needing an array of healthcare and healthcare related services.

Finally, audience participants engaged in a Q&A with more information shed on topics such as how doctors are receiving all of this new legislation.

Big thanks to “Communicating Complex Change: Health Care Reform” event committee including IABC-LA members Cheryl Farrell, Paromita Ghosh, Adam Kevorkian, T.J. Stevko and Cimone Farrell.  Bill Spaniel served as podcast engineer while Ed Carreon of www.carreonphotography.com provided photography.

The chapter also kindly thanks event sponsor L.A. Health Care Plan for its sponsorship and use of its downtown headquarters facilities.

Please click here to listen to the event podcast.

 

11/17/11 – Shel Holtz Presented “Maximum Awareness, Minimal Effort” at Avery Dennison

IABC-LA presented “Maximum Awareness, Minimal Effort” by Shel Holtz on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at the Avery Dennison headquarters in Pasadena.  Holtz is an expert in communications, social media and technology and was superbly engaging in sharing “What’s the least we need to stay in touch, remain marketable and keep up-to-date?” And who has the time to use all these tools?

Holtz of Holtz Communications+Technology, is also known for his outstanding “For Immediate Release” (FIR) podcasts on business communications and tech with co-host with Neville Hobson.  He is a former IABC-LA chaper president and his expertise covers employee communications, corporate PR, crisis comms, media relations, financial comms, IR, marketing comms and compensation and benefits communications.

Shel addressed over 20 IABC-LA members over a buffet dinner at Avery Dennison’s cool 1960’s-style headquarters (the welcoming Koi pond was incredible!).  Christopher Swan of Avery Dennison assisted with providing the venue and an outstanding professional development evening.  The evening kicked off with member introductions and Paula introducing Holtz. We were just delighted to have Shel address the chapter…knowing full well of his intense global and domestic schedule.

Shel led everyone through various social media channels with an emphasis on matching the right tool with what the user is trying to accomplish with an audience.  Going beyond the standard FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn tools, Holtz illuminated outstanding resources such as Delicious, Paper.Li, ScoopIt, Mashable, Marketing Over Coffee and Storify.  And audio podcasts like Marketing Over Coffee and FIR allow you to multi-task and take a break from a screen. While you do not need to become an expert in all of these tools, it is very important to understand how content curation is integral to creating a filter for information overload.  (Look for the chapter to start using Storify…this was one of my favorite tools presented besides Marketing Over Coffee…and of course, FIR!)

Content curation was one of the big takeaways of the event and how trusted guides in content curation have evolved in media. Yet Shel spoke about the absolute necessity of context with content curation. Just like an art curator, it’s not enough to add pictures and artwork to a collection, there must be a context of what and why content is being added to a social media or media platform.  Shel supports the notion there’s no such thing as information overload, yet there is a serious problem with organizations and sometimes communicators not using enough filters to mine information.

Shel discussed two emerging career positions: community liaison and content strategist.  Within the community liaison role, someone has to have eyes and ears on the community surrounding an organization to achieve true community engagement.  A content strategist supports Shel’s concept that these days every company is a media company, whether the company chooses to be or not.  The difference between a content strategist and a traditional PR strategist is the content strategist focuses on content that is not pitched, yet still engages.  No corporate agenda pushing!

Interesting tidbits…Tumblr blogging tool has surpassed WordPress now. And GooglePlus is just terrific for getting answers to questions very quickly.  Christopher Swan pointed out…getting answers to Google Plus in general!  Christopher is part of the experienced trendy tool intelligentsia…with his “voice of reason” behind it all.  (Listen to Christopher on the video wrap-up of the event.)

On the subject of blocking employees from using social media on the job, the idea that just Millenials use social media is statistically wrong.  Age group 35-55 within companies using social media has created a flat statistic from even a few years ago.  It is crucial that employees have access to social media as studies have shown increased productivity.  88% of employees check social networks as a break between tasks, resetting concentration to do more work, not less work!

The evening wrapped up with a Whole Foods gift card to Shel for coming out to the chapter after a presentation same day to the IABC-USC Student Chapter.  Chapter President Paula Cassin also welcomed past chapter presidents who each told a funny or philanthropic anecdote while they were in office.

The conversation continued with Shel and well attended “After Dark” post-event socializing at “Bar Celona” for empanadas, Sangria, coffee, and connected conversations.  Shel pointed out how the face-to-face “After Dark” events are as important to communicators and the chapter as keeping up with contacts through social media connections. We appreciated Shel’s sentiments that IABC in general has a warm tone throughout its membership base.

Tremendous thanks to Shel Holtz, Christopher Swan, Avery Dennison, Christopher Cabrera who played escort to Holtz navigating Los Angeles chapter events and logistics while also moderating the evening’s event, and Dana Edler and Cheryl Farrell in welcoming/checking-in welcoming members. Special thanks to Adam Kevorkian, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes on important meeting logistics (like food!) We couldn’t have done it without him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melcrum’s “What Does the Future Hold for Internal Communication?”

May 10, 2011…IABC-LA held an exclusive event “What Does the Future Hold for Internal Communication?” for 25 participants presented by Melcrum’s Strategic Communication Research Forum.  Melcrum is an internal communications company dedicated to offering domestic and global clients comprehensive body of knowledge of best practices, toolkits and research on every level of internal communication.  Jeff Hostler, Melcrum Vice President Research and Content, presented some eye-opening research such as “people don’t leave companies, people leave managers of companies.”  Jeff was accompanied by Melcrum’s Key Accounts Executive, Mike Dombo. Mike briefly described  Melcrum’s Black Belt Program which sets the standard for internal comms globally and the basis for research data presented during the evening.

IABC-LA Social Media Chair dynamo, Rebecca Mikkelsen, introduced Jeff Hostler who led us through a discussion starting with the post-recessional environment. Companies must rebuild trust and re-engineer respective employee value propositions.  Later, Jeff covered corporate structure and management style, roles and responsibilities, partnerships, technology, research and measurement and more with an emphasis on outcomes, not just outputs.
 
• Companies must take into account how four cross-generational groups of employees must interact and communicate with each other…and then think globally, culturally as well.

• The great challenge of evolving internal communications, no longer just a function “sitting on the side of the desk.”  Developing processes to support trust and transparency as well as sustainability is a key factor.

•  Building 10% more trust equates to 36% more pay increases for employees.  Now that’s positive!

Jeff also discussed partnerships and the importance of ensuring consistency across channels and stakeholders, as well how execs can foster trust without just pushing info out. 

On the topic of technology, Jeff purposely did not discuss social media in-depth, yet stressed connecting with local IT to collaborate on defined goals.  Too many internal comms departments put the FaceBook horse before the business strategies cart, without first evaluating whether specific social media is applicable.  Business priorities must lead over choosing tech methods. That said, too many companies also negated employees’ social media use by banning use during work hours, only to discover employees have smart phones in their purses and pockets to access social media anyway. 

Jeff also covered research and measurement and again, emphasized how important it was to measure outcomes not output.  It is internal comms responsibility to prove the value of a specific suggested strategy, which does require extra work time.  It’s not enough to know that 4,000 employees actually read an email (output)…how did they act on it (outcome)?   Company internal comms mistake survey answers from employees who state they understand a company’s business goals, yet that’s not a measurement…how do the actions of the employees support the business goals?

There were some excellent feedback and suggestions from our savvy participants providing terrific takeaways for everyone.  Chris Cabrera of Southern California Edison described a truly innovative employee resource group at SCE supporting SCE’s employee value proposition.
 
Big Thanks to the incomparable Gail Herring and Toyota for hosting the event.  Gail also serves on the chapter board as Treasurer.  Participants were also very appreciative to meet and hear experts Jeff Hostler and Mike Dombo of Melcrum, and to partner with Melcrum on senior internal communications events.

Please see video posted on YouTube at http://youtu.be/b54ZNZ9X5cI

Post Event Report: Nov 17th, 2010: “Staying Relevant as a Communicator”

November 17, 2010…IABC-LA presented Susan San Martin’s “Staying Relevant as a Communicator.” This event was graciously hosted by Ernst & Young in downtown Los Angeles, and coordinated by our talented chapter member T.J. Stevko. “Who is hiring?” “What skills are in demand?” “How can a communicator showcase his or her special experience?” These questions and much more were addressed by San Martin, Principal, Plan B Communications, a results-driven executive search and consulting firm.

“It’s always dangerous for me to draft a presentation a few days early before the event.” said San Martin. San Martin shared with us her decision to scrap her well-prepared presentation in order to re-tool the entire thing…brainstorming on her dining room table with large sheets of rolled paper connecting boxes and brainstorming notes. And San Martin does get results. Feedback came in from 18 reliable lifelong communications contacts. This global outreach fostered an even more substantive cross-section of answers and suggestions from communications leaders all over the U.S. and the world…including India.

Is the hiring market improving for communicators?

• In absolute numbers, hiring is quiet in the U.S., yet we’re seeing a lot of hiring where business is growing in Asia and Latin America.
• There’s an increase in internal and employee communications communicators
• Re: social media expert hirings: Hire a 20-year employee. They know how to write and how to work through the system of a company.
• Bi-lingual and tri-lingual employees are in demand regarding social media with their ability to switch between cultural environments

What role does social media play in your communications strategies?
• Just knowing how to use FaceBook and LinkedIn does not define you as knowing social media.
• A really strong social media strategy pairs an employee 2-3 years out of school who knows how to connect with bloggers and dig out resources with a more traditional communicator of 20+ years who truly understands how to edit content.
• (One of our favorites!) Question: Do you have a social media strategy? Answer: Do you have a telephone strategy backing up your social media? (Nice!) Too many social media strategies rely on digital relationships without any personal touch.
• For communicators intimidated by social media…social media is a new tool, but not a new skill. Relax…you can do this because you already know how to communicate.
• Audiences do care about the written word, it’s just not accessed the same way.

What career missteps do you see?
• Communicators can be too choosy and too fearful. Get outside of your comfort level. If you’re a specialist, take on communications challenges so you become a generalist.
• Google, Ford, Intel all produce exceptional communications employees. Why? Because the employee does a stint in many different departments, becoming a business person first, a communicator second. Become a business person.
• Don’t forget how to write…grammar, SpellCheck. Print, emails, blogs all count.
• You must tie communications to business results.
• Don’t ramble in interviews. Practice sound bytes.
• STOP TMI!!!! Too much information on an interview or exchange.
• Not enough follow-through. Excitement on a social media project does not replace follow-through.

What smart moves are communicators making?
• Companies look for intangible qualities; sometimes the softer piece of information on a resume can make you stand out…rather than “blaring” it out loud.
• Go above and beyond. It’s about attitude…unexpected opportunities are your friend.
• Use a pay-it-forward mentality. Have a relationship-building focus.
• On an interview, do say “I’ve got initiative” as opposed to “I’m a fast learner”…be prepared to back it up.
• Research the company culture in your job search and understand it first, be honest with yourself if it’s the right culture for you, regardless of the company.
• It’s okay to make a resume 3-4 pages, as long as the information helps you to stand out.
• Look for successful communications organizations who reward good work and punish bad work consistently the same. They talk the talk and walk the walk.
• Develop relationships with subject matter experts.

Overall, Susan encouraged all communicators to get out of our comfort zones, and reassured those with 20 years experience that traditional skills still work in our rapidly changing landscape. Re-aligning relevant talent and skills is challenging…yet very rewarding.

Susan San Martin was a Vice President and Executive Recruiter with The Repovich-Reynolds Group where she conducted mid to senior-level communications and marketing searches. She has partnered with clients such as: SC Johnson, DaVita Inc., Dell Inc., Western Union, The Blackstone Group and many others. Over the last two years, she stepped out on her own to create Plan B Communications, using her 20+ years of diversified communications and marketing experience to become a highly-regarded executive search professional.

We welcomed Susan to join us for the “After Dark” portion of the evening at “The Library Bar” to learn more about Susan’s passion for talent acquisition and her love of cooking!

Thanks to T.J., Ernst & Young and Susan San Martin for a very powerful evening of professional development.

October 26th, 2010…IABC-Los Angeles presented “An Entertaining Evening with Sony Pictures Global Communications”

 

Imagine developing integrated global employee messaging to 140 countries. Or creating a fun, interactive worldwide online employee scavenger hunt to find “Salt.” Or pondering what Jimmy Stewart would think of solar panels on his namesake Sony lot building.
 
IABC-LA members packed the Thalberg screening room in Culver City on the historic Sony lot to hear how Sony approaches its external media and integrated internalmedia campaigns. IABC-LA Board Member Myra Jolivet, event coordinator and presenter host, introduced Jim Kennedy, Executive Vice President, Global Communications, Erica Netzley, Vice President, Employee Communications, and Helen Porter, Director, Employee Communications for an inside look at how the Japanese-based company keeps a global focus through its diverse media divisions. The Sony panel covered internal, external, corporate social responsibility and employee meetings and events.

Kennedy discussed how home entertainment has evolved with changing consumer habits. (BlueRay is hot!) Meanwhile, Sony expands further into Russia, China and India where movie audiences are the fastest growing.  Kennedy noted “Movies still remain one of the most cost effective means of entertainment” for individuals. External communications strategies also include building up environmental responsibility, as well as the current popularity of 3-D movies.

Kennedy and Netzley emphasized Sony’s commitment to a creative, casual culture, while Kennedy stated the company is not a factory.

While all Sony employees access the recently launched “my SPE” (Sony Pictures Entertainment) for worldwide internal news and interactivity, Netzley discussed sharing the 30,000 ft. view from above through a still-hard-copy-printed quarterly newsletter. The quarterly educates employees across Sony divisions including Imageworks, Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures and more.  Global employee communications include a Q&A from division execs to take a “deep dive” into the inner workings of each division. A weekly “Sweeps” newsletter has been transitioned from print to e-newsletter. Erica and Helen noted Sony employees were currently not interested in using social media on the employee site, yet this is a topic that will be revisited.

Netzley and Porter discussed the importance of “my SPE” and “SPE Life” as “Cool…new…fun…and on the lot.” This casual, accessible strategy allows Sony employees to enjoy video clips of Sony Co-Chairs Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal discussing, for example, a current tv show with great humor. “My SPE” also includes video clips of employees’ jobs all over the Sony world.

There was a tremendous emphasis on being, acting and staying environmentally friendly as Sony transforms its culture as a worldwide globally green leader. The “My SPE” dedicated green home page communicates pilot composting programs, earth days, beach cleaning days, transforming sets for reuse, and much more. Culver City employees have influenced green behavior resulting in 99% of Sony waste being diverted from landfills. And Sony’s movie productions are now receiving awards for green behavior.

IABC members enjoyed a substantive Q&A with the panel at the end of the presentation, and then continued the conversation at the “After Dark” event at Culver City’s “BottleRock Wine Bar” for some loud(!) lively wine and beer networking at a record turnout.

Big applause and thanks to Myra Jolivet and the engaging Sony presenters for such an informative inside look!