IABCLA Discusses Writing Skills at September Coffee Connection

Grant Skakun led a conversation about writing at September’s Coffee Connection.

IABCLA met for its Coffee Connection meeting on September 8 at Ambrose Cafe in Pasadena. Grant Skakun, IABCLA director of newsletters and instructor at Eucrest Writing, led a conversation about clear and effective writing with fellow board members, IABCLA members, and communications professionals.

Topics discussed included analyzing the audience before writing, achieving the purpose for writing, following a writing process, structuring key messages, using professional word choice, following style guides, and improving writing performance.

Coffee Connections are fun and engaging opportunities to network with colleagues, discuss topics related to our field, and enjoy coffee and pastries. Check the IABCLA calendar for our next meeting.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

April 23 Event Summary: Inside the Mind of a Reporter

On April 23, 2009, Mark Bernheimer, Principal of MediaWorks Mark Bernheimer photoResource Group  (http://www.mediaworksgroup.com/), and former CNN correspondent, presented insight on news reporting and interviewing to 20+ IABC members.  The late, great Tim Russert would have celebrated this lively, interactive event and Mark’s key point: “Always have a message of distinction prepared.”

We watched a hilarious clip of imposter reporter Stephen Colbert interviewing Georgia Congressman Westmoreland, whose questionable PR team did not prepare the deer-in-the-headlights congressman for Colbert’s questions…or even Colbert’s fake reporter status!  

While IABC members are much smarter in preparing our executives, employees, or clients for real interviews on or off-camera, Mark’s example illustrates the crucial need for his 2-step formula when preparing interviewees:

1. Satisfy interviewee’s own objectives first (get his/her messages across)
2. Help the reporter satisfy his/her objectives

We watched more video clips illustrating tricks by reporters, who are not looking for answers. Capturing sound bytes is the goal.  Unsuspecting, unprepared interviewees provide emotion. Better story, but an even better train wreck from a PR perspective if unprepared.

In addition, interviewees:
• should never answer a question they don’t know the answer to (instead say, “We’ll try to get information for you later.”)
• should not answer a question they don’t understand (reporters often prepare minutes prior to interview asking confusing questions…interviewee should ask for clarification.)
• should direct a question better suited to someone else when necessary
• should not answer questions based on reporter’s speculation about the future (news stories are more dramatic regarding what could have happened, not what did happen.)

Finally, volunteer Jessica Schlotter put Congressman Westmoreland to shame during Mark’s surprise on-camera interview. Jessica did a terrific job answering Mark’s questions.  She delivered messages of distinction regarding IABC’s purpose with the audience in mind. Mark suggested Jessica’s only improvement was to always insert the organization’s name instead of using pronouns like “we” during the interview.  Here’s Mark’s interview of Jessica…

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March 20th, 2009 Event wrap up: venturing into new territory, experiencing a new approach to writing

After spending some time networking and catching up over breakfast, we spend an hour and a half with Virginia Green, PhD, who took us through some exercises to help up approach writing in a new way.  We drew self portraits using 5 lines (!), brainstormed over a Vermeer painting, explored our strengths through an entrepreneurial lens, and then tied it all back to tapping into right brain creativity as well as left brain analytics and language.

Here’s a video wrap up from some of the participants:

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In order of appearance:

Jeff Gilling of McCrindle Research, visiting from Sydney, Australia

Rebecca Mikkelsen, new IABC member recently relocated to Los Angeles

Virginia Green, our esteemed speaker, and

Kerry Bonner, IABC member and PR/Marketing freelancer.

Selecting and Selling Freelance Services – Hear it now!

Please find below the full podcast of our recent breakfast meeting in Woodland Hills – our panel of experts discussed what it takes to be a successful freelancer, and what to think about if you need to use a freelancer for a project in your company.

We all got some great insights and thrashed out the topic quite thoroughly!  Thanks to Bill, Deborah, Charlotte, and Judy, our panelists – and thanks also to the audience members who contributed their own insights and asked great questions…

This is the PODCAST LINK

Here are some podcast markers for you:

Introductions until 5 min 20

5:20 Bill Spaniel – from an employer’s standpoint, what’s he looking for in a Freelancer.

13:40 Charlotte Lassos – discusses personality fit, connections/referrals, persistence when hiring

17:30 Charlotte Lassos – stand out as a Freelancer, show you care/be responsive, portfolio tailored to needs, never burn bridges.

20:50 Judy Sterling – anecdote about friends, acquaintances – make sure you let them know what you do -great potential business sources.

27:10 Deborah Hawkins – branch out, try new things if you need work/having a lull, use IABC (fabulous for connecting)

31:15 Audience Questions – what about graphic design/creative Freelancers, what about collaboration (dynamics of pulling a team together), how to pull a team together, etc.