Managing Ethical Conversations at the Leadership Table

By Rob Campbell
IABCLA, Membership VP

Richard Edelman

On April 12, USC hosted its 28th Annual Kenneth Owler Smith Symposium. Richard Edelman, CEO and founder of Edelman Communications, shared his perspective on ethics and trust in communications during his keynote speech. Edelman is the creator of the Edelman Trust Barometer.

His remarks offered a host of information and thoughtful points intended to help communications leaders better manage ethical conversations at the leadership table. Here are a few highlights that may help you take action:

1. Existential challenge of trust: by understanding the media is now considered the least trusted institution globally, communications professionals can advocate for better ethical actions and ideas that change the purpose of a business.  Among media channels, social media is 40 percent less trusted than traditional methods. 

2. Employer reputation: employers are now considered the No. 1 trusted source of information after family, friends, groups, and the media. People are now withdrawing from traditional sources and expecting leadership to speak up and, as a result, businesses have the opportunity to change society.

3. Be your own media company: organizations can and should consider creating and distributing their own news and information to ensure accuracy and transparency. Doing so means owning story tone and language that can and does get modified in social and traditional media outlets. 

4. Perception gaps: be aware that among stakeholders your organization’s reputation can vary greatly, so be prepared to address partners. Reputation perception is key to solidifying and upholding your organization’s ethical status.

If your organization needs to establish ethical standards, Edelman offered the following four steps:

1. Accuracy: organizations should aim for factually and rigorously sharing information with stakeholders. 

2. Transparency: leaders should be accountable for what they promote through transparent communications that provide clarity and deliver information correctly the first time. 

3. Open Exchange: create platforms for consumers and employees that offer an opportunity for an exchange of ideas, conversation and, as needed, feedback. 

4. Ethics training: train employees at all levels about the importance of ethics and what it means to conduct business with moral responsibility.

In summary, the consensus during April’s symposium was communications is the vehicle by which an organization can lead change and be an advocate for a better community. Ethical communications can alter a business, give purpose to a brand, and can help solve societal problems.

Why IABCLA?

It’s membership month at IABC. If you’re interested in building your career and your network, and meeting innovative and established communicators in the LA area – IABCLA is for you. And this month you can join or renew your membership at a 10 percent discount.

I joined IABC 15 years ago when I transitioned from writer and video producer to communicator. IABC provided the resources, the contacts, and professional certification that established me in the profession. My IABC volunteer assignments expanded my horizons globally. When I moved to Switzerland, IABC was a network and safety net in a new cultural environment.

What’s in it for you?

In addition to events and programs in LA, IABC membership puts you in touch with communicators around the world and gives you access to research, newsletters, and thought leaders as well as job postings and an online directory of more than 1,000 members worldwide.

Find out what we’re up to at IABCLA.

Join Now!

-Deborah Hudson, President

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?

August Update

A little over a month ago I shared the state of our chapter and asked for help from our membership to fill some open positions. Despite being distracted by some truly lovely weather here in Los Angeles we got a fantastic response and I’m happy to be able to announce new additions to our board and some great progress on event planning.

Leslie Dodson will be joining us as VP, Social Media and Nick Duggan has agreed to join our board as VP, Communications. I’m excited about the talent and skills each of them bring to these roles; and you’ll learn more about them in upcoming messages. Until then please join me in welcoming them to our board. Several IABC Los Angeles members also wrote in to volunteer to assist with local events. We look forward to developing these opportunities and will announce them both in email and on our website.

This is great progress and a testament to the can-do spirit of our diverse membership. However, we can – and will – do more. We still have open board positions and would welcome anybody interested in volunteering in any capacity.

Lassos and Warren on “Bridging the Gap Between IT and Comms” Event Review

On Wednesday, April 30th, IABC Los Angeles hosted “Bridging the Gap Between IT and Comms” with featured speaker Alan Lewis, VP, Client Engagement for JCS Consulting.  The event produced heavy participation by attendees in a conversational Q&A and sharing of case stories throughout Alan’s presentation. (Audio files of Alan’s presentation will be available shortly.)

We’re delighted IABC-LA members and attendees Charlotte Lassos, President, Straight Up Communications, and Janie Warren, Sr. Communications Representative, Enterprise Systems Learning & Communications, The Walt Disney Company, each provided her own p.o.v. of the event:

Charlotte’s Wrap-Up:

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Charlotte Lassos

 As communicators, we look to technology to make our jobs easier. We want tools that help us work more efficiently, speed things along, and ultimately, facilitate collaboration. We usually know what we want, what outcome we want to achieve, and that the tools are probably available. However, working with IT in a corporate environment to make it happen can be a different story all together.

I had the pleasure of attending the recent IABC-LA event “Bridging the Gap Between IT and Comms” presented by Alan Lewis. I found the presentation to be very informative and highlighted by lively dialogue.   Alan’s presentation covered a brief psychological overview of the IT professional, how to work with IT, cloud-based solutions that can help communicators innovate, and Communication 2.0 within an organization. He provided case study highlights and examples of his recent work with DIRECTV to implement a cloud-based collaboration platform, with built-in metrics, that has transformed they way work gets done at the company. By serving as an advocate of both teams, Alan was able to help communicators at DIRECTV get the solutions they needed in place while maintaining IT’s security requirements.   For me, the takeaways from this presentation include:

  • In the “old-school” way of thinking, IT professionals exist to fix problems. If you need their assistance with new technology, make a solid business case and present the business requirements necessary to help solve your communications challenge.
  • On-premise servers ARE, and will, move to cloud-based servers and organizations need to be ready for this change.
  • The emergence of cloud-based social business platforms will change the way work gets done. Social business harnesses the trends in market today, helping to change the business models of yesterday and drive brands forward into the operating modes of tomorrow.
  • Employees want to work with current and innovative technology tools, as well as the same social tools they use in their personal lives.
  • Corporate communicators can test cloud-based solutions on a small group within the organization based on business requirements presented. The group’s success can then be used to make a business case for use of that tool/solution enterprise wide. This may help organizations using the on-premise server model where the lack of timely software updates often stall productivity.
  • Bonus takeaway: one of the members recommended the book Grouped, by Paul Adams. The book is described as a useful resource for marketing and media practitioners on the subject of social networks.

I recently worked on a large project with a client to move from a traditional Intranet to an employee communication and collaboration portal. My role focused on content development and content management tools/processes. During this IABC discussion, I was able to draw parallels between the two projects and look at where things might have been done differently to further enhance the outcome on the client’s project. I gained additional knowledge to offer as possible solutions on future client projects.

By Charlotte Lassos Straight Up Communications

Janie’s Wrap-Up:

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Janie Warren

As a communicator in a finance/IT organization, I was elated to attend the IABC ‘Bridging the Gap between IT and Comms’ event.

The evening began in a lovely private “wine-cellar” type room of the Tin Roof Bistro, in Manhattan Beach, which included a variety of delectable eats from tasty cheeses to fruit, and let’s not forget the wine!  I had a chance to network with some fellow communicators, and then I carefully selected a seat towards the front of the room before the presentation began- I just knew I would have many, many questions.

I was immediately intrigued in the conversation ahead as the presenter, Alan Lewis, began his talk.  Not only does Alan have an IT background, he was extremely engaging and I instantly felt confident that I could ask any question.  In addition, the ‘open forum’ style of the event allowed for great conversation and experiences from an awesome group of like-minded communicators.

Topics included:  how an IT professional thinks, how to work best with IT, and how to utilize cloud based solutions in an organization.  As expected, I had quite a few comments and inquiries– all of which were addressed beautifully.   Since the event, I’ve begun to apply some of the lessons learned.  For instance, I now know that building relationships with IT pros can really make life easier.  I also understand the background of the ‘cloud’ and how to best utilize social solutions in the workplace.  I even received a great tip on a social habits book called Grouped which I plan to indulge real soon.

Overall, the presentation was excellent, Alan was very knowledgeable, and I especially enjoyed hearing different scenarios and perspectives from other attendees.  I look forward to the next IABC event!

By Janie Warren, Sr. Comms Rep, Enterprise Systems and Learning Comms – Disney

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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.

Photo Feb 26, 20 00 58

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.

 

Event wrap-up: Multigenerational Workplace Communications panel

On Tuesday, November 12th, IABC Los Angeles partnered with AMA Los Angeles to host a  multigenerational workplace communications panel.

Moderated by IABC LA’s VP of student relations, Kyle Kearney; the panel included Stefan Pollack, author, “Disrupted: From Gen Y to IGen” , Sean McGill, Sales Director: Ustream , Craig Rosenkranz, Public Policy advisor & millennial trend guru Katelyn O’Shaughnessy, founder of mobile trip app “Tripscope.

KYLE Panel Smaller pix size

“For the first time in history, workplace demographics span 4 generations, meaning 20 year old new hires find themselves working side by side with colleagues 50 years older.” – Trinet HR service.

As work paradigms shift, a communications gap may emerge between generations. Our panelists discussed millennial work ethics, economic challenges and communications trends across baby boomers, Gen X & Gen Y; referred to as “millennials.”

Millennial travel expert & CEO/founder Katelyn O’Shaughnessy described the employment landscape as “entrepreneurial.”

Having exhausted traditional employment hunting tactics, O’Shaughnessy cut her own path, creating demand for positions that weren’t officially open. The approach eventually worked. O’Shaughnessy also launched a travel app, Tripscope  ,for which she recently won Social Media Week’s $100k StartUp demo competition.

“If circumstances don’t exist, you need to create them,” said O’Shaughnessy.

Online video guru Ustream Sales Director Sean McGill agreed with O’Shaughnessy, likening today’s millennial work approach to the 2000/2001 dot com bubble.

The Pollack PR Marketing Group President and author IGen, Stefan Pollack pointing out that Millennials may be quick to skip jobs for a salary bump. O’Shaughnessy disagreed, citing college debt loads and a tight job market.

The panel discussed workplace nuances such as professional clothing attire, office vs. home work hours and corporate hierarchy. O’Shaughnessy said she might be 30 minutes late, but stays 2 hours after work.

Regardless of whether you’re a Boomer or Gen X, Pollack said their employees are expected to pull their weight equally.

“Can millennials be drivers, or do they need to be pulled along?” Live tweeted IABC guest Richard Romero.

Pollack and O’Shaughnessy disagreed about Boomers texting and emailing clients at 1am if necessary. Pollack made it clear that iGen doesn’t have a lock on this 24/7 practice.

Former public policy advisor Craig Rosenkranz described Government millennial work life as a different ball game. Positioning towards his UCLA Anderson School marketing MBA, Rosenkranz looks forward to the private sector’s opportunities & challenges.

On Goverment workers’ multigenerational standards, a couple audience members spoke up, describing baby boomer culture vs. Gen X and Gen Y expectations.

The panel agreed with Pollack’s observation, outlined in his book, IGen; Disrupted, that marketers and employers need to gain millennials’ trust by listening.

For more event details, follow IABC Los Angeles on facebook and Twitter.

Special thanks, IABCLA volunteers, panelists, board of directors, AMA Los Angeles & Chipotle Burritos.

 

Warner’s Corner – IABC Media Leaders Content Marketing Panel Wrap Up

(Los Angeles) On Tuesday, October 8th, 2013, IABC Los Angeles hosted a networking media panel event with Media Leaders at the ROC Center Santa Monica.

Moderated by Josh Ochs, the integrated communications panel covered everything from effective content creation, industry blunders/lessons learned, content marketing trends to leveraging social media tools.

The panel comprised of Chris Bechtel, Chief Marketing Officer, Make Good Social, Debra Eckerling, Goal Coach,Guided Goals and WriteOnLine, Priscilla Vento, Founder & CEO, 30 Miles North and James Aldous, Communications Director, OpenX.

IABC members and guests mingled with a diverse mix of West LA StartUps, Investors, Marketing/PR & corporate communications pros, social media managers, web developers, entertainment folks, gaming peeps, SEO gurus and much more.

Kicking off the panel, Josh Ochs asked the panel about leveraging online platforms to gain brand momentum, for which panelists cited a variety of tactics.

From hiring guest bloggers to managing editorial calendars, Debra Eckerling shared blogging tips, workflow tools and best practices.

On driving brand visibility, “get your video into the hands of relevant influencers,” said YouTube guru Priscilla Vento of 30 Mile North.

Chris Bechtel and James Aldous agreed Facebook is more consumer driven, and less business to business orientated. Panelists agreed. Aldous cited online chat tool Quora and Linkedin.

“Understanding where your audience lives is key,” said Bechtel.

2013-10-08 IABC-LA Media Leaders Event

 On integrated communications, the panel discussed the changing tides of earned-owned-paid-evolved media silos.

One IABC member asked where the panel thinks social media departments “live” these days. Vento said their social media manager functions separately from their media relations. Panelists agreed.

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In closing, panelists each shared a unique personal story. Turns out Priscilla Vento is an avid skateboarder, Aldous a non-fiction writer, Eckerling a karate black belt with stripe, and my personal favorite…Bechtel, a Bay Area rap video production founder (no longer). “Once clients who paid all in cash wanted their money back, I left town,” said Bechtel. The audience laughed.

For more event details and photos, follow us on facebook or twitter (@IABCLosangeles)

Special thanks, IABC-LA volunteers Stephanie BelskyLinda Arres and event sponsor Angel Launch.

by Warner Boutin, VP, Communications – IABC Los Angeles. Photo credits by Calvin Lee. 

For the complete 1-hour plus event video:

http://youtu.be/Qbl8BHX-OU4

 

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February 18 Event: Integrating New & Old Media

On February 18, Cara Good, Chief Executive Officer of WunderMarx PR, spoke with a group of almost 30 communication professionals about how companies are combining new media (blogging, podcasting, social networking, etc.) and old media (newsletters, press releases, etc.) to reach their strategic objectives.

As Good explained, new media is simply another tool that communicators can add to their toolbox. These technologies don’t replace the other communication tools we have come to rely on. Instead, communicators must learn when and how to integrate these new tools into their communication plans.

One key point Good made was that, in addition to creating a blog or social networking site, it’s important to monitor existing blogs that write about your company or products. Communicators must stay on top of what others are saying so they can respond quickly when necessary. One attendee cited an example where a blogger posted inaccurate information about one of their products. Because they were monitoring the blog, the company was able to quickly send that blogger accurate information and correct the post before it was picked up by other blogs and potentially other media outlets.

According to Good, social media allows communicators to establish a personal connection with employees or customers. Blogs, for instance, should be written in a personal tone as opposed to a more formal or “corporate” tone. As a general rule, Good says blog posts should be rather short and frequent — about 250 words per post with new posts added 2 to 3 times a week.

This is just a portion of what Good covered at the event. You can view her entire presentation here.

And you can learn more about WunderMarx and Cara Good using the following links:
www.wundermarx.com
Follow Cara Good on Twitter: twitter.com/remarx
Subscribe to Cara Good’s blog: caragood.com
Get LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/caragood