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Sergeant Spencer Stone is one of three Americans who helped foil a terrorist attack on a French train on August 21, 2015.  Since then, these overnight heroes have been greeted with opportunities of instant fame that few can imagine.  Though they have dedicated people around them, it’s difficult managing through that level of exposure, so quickly.

Recently, at the National Summit on Strategic Communications Summit in DC, I moderated a panel with Staff Sergeant Stone, U.S. Air Force, Lt. Col Glen Roberts, Director, Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office, U.S. Air Force and Ray Kerins, SVP of Communications and Government Relations for Bayer.  We discussed what really matters in life, how to put fame in perspective and focused on the lessons we can all learn from what Sgt. Stone and his two buddies endured.

Here are a few insights that are striking to me due to their powerful simplicity.

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Our core values matter — Sgt. Stone said that “I always told myself what I would do in a situation like that”. He went on to say that his decision to rush an attacker holding a gun and knives was simple.  “It was how my Mom raised me”.  The lesson in here is that if our values are strong and clear, doing the right thing every day of our lives is a no brainer.  We don’t over think it.

The right actions matter in a crisis – Ray Kerins said, “Will we run and hide or do the right thing?  Sgt. Stone took action.  As corporations we need to think about how we take action in the face of a crisis.”

I mentioned that a lot of people on the train chose not to get up, but Sgt. Stone and his two friends did.  It’s the same inside corporations.  When a crisis hits, who stands up first?

Listen to people you trust not yes men – Sgt. Stone said that he surrounds himself with people he can trust, like his family and Lt. Col Glen Roberts and not people who tell him what he wants to hear.

True humility is life-long, not episodic – Sgt. Stone said “At the end of the day, I could have walked away from this with no one knowing about it, and I’d be fine with it.”

If you are humble, you are all of the time.  And it makes life a lot easier, since you just don’t care about all of the hype.

Leadership is a team sport — Lt. Col. Glen Roberts said that “leadership is extremely important and it’s a team sport.”

We do need each other to stay strong, do the right thing and stay focused.

Maintaining your core values – Sgt. Stone said “keep your integrity and honor. Treat people right.” I would add in one word…..”everyday”.

Want to see a recap of this year’s event? Check out our Storify!

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26 -27, the National Summit on Strategic Communications, will convene at the Hilton Crystal City in Arlington, VA.  The two-day event will explore the increasing digital interconnection of people and its impact on innovation, growth, and purpose.

One of the day 1 sessions (April 26) features a panel discussion on the importance of Relevance for today’s organizations and how it’s becoming the new Reputation in today’s social/digital world.

Below are some initial thoughts from the panelists on this most intriguing subject:

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Chris Preuss, Senior Vice President, Communications and Marketing, Delphi

Living within the somewhat finite universe of the B2B realm, the need for relevance is no less important than in the consumer space. For Delphi Automotive, our ability to maintain top-of-mind presence in what is an intensely competitive and cost sensitive market, is critical to our success.  Complicating the situation is Delphi’s long history of being an off-shoot of General Motors in 1997, and having endured a very public and painful restructuring during the period of 2005-2006.  Even with reasonably informed customers, Delphi suffered from an image of being a one customer entity with little global reach. The good news is that the building blocks of solid reputation – consistently delivering above expectations and doing what you say – has elevated the company greatly over the past several years. In other words, I don’t think there are shortcuts to gaining the kind of relevance that makes a reputation transactional.

Another interesting point to relevance is the need for our brand and our reputation to resonate for the purpose of recruiting. We are now spending almost as much intellectual and execution energy on attracting young engineering and software talent, as we are attracting customers. The need to understand who we are communicating with and where they are consuming their information has never been more important. And to be honest, this is not a great muscle in many B2B organizations. Most of our analytic and marketing automation capabilities have been targeted to a very narrow customer market – now we are having to act much more like a consumer brand to find the talent.  The good news is the environment to effectively and efficiently communicate with broad reach has never been better. Developing the story and content that will engage them is an evolving journey.

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Carol Cone, ON PURPOSE Collaborative

We live in a world where more people care. Public demands – for transparency, for trust, for sharing, for inspiration – have never been greater.  People expect brands and organizations to stand for something meaningful, and want to know more about how products are sourced and made, what businesses do to minimize their impact, and how they make a positive difference.  More than just hearing nice stories, people want to feel and be a part of purpose-driven change.

No longer just consumers, we are now citizens who want more. More sharing. More caring. More meaning. More understanding about why brands and organizations exist, what they stand for, how they engage employees, people and communities, and how they play a positive role in the world.

We’ve believed this for decades, and pioneered the idea and breakthrough programs that brought purpose to life. In the beginning it was “if” an organization existed beyond profits. Now it is about the “how,” with the power of purpose proven across every metric: revenues, productivity, innovation, employee retention, consumer loyalty, and community support.

Bringing purpose into the core of your business is the single most important action you can take. We call it the evolution of purpose. It’s a process. It takes vision, patience, and organizational champions.

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Rob Clark, Vice President, Global Communication, Medtronic

A 2014 study showed the following:

Every minute…

  • Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content.
  • Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
  • Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
  • Apple users download nearly 50,000 apps.
  • Email users send over 200 million messages.

With all of this content flying around, how can a company or institution break through?  How can we meaningfully engage with customers, partners and employees through this noise?  This is the challenge for communicators and marketers around the world – being relevant with our message and growing brand equity in a time of a data and information explosion.

The answer is routed in what we have known for years – we have to fundamentally understand our customers and employees and never have we had more data and insights by which to determine this.  In a digital world, virtually all things can be tracked, monitored, and assessed for insights on what is relevant to our stakeholders.

At Medtronic, we have been tackling the following areas to better identify, understand, and engage with our stakeholders in the hopes of meeting their needs and advancing our reputation and preference in the marketplace.

  • First, infrastructure.  Legacy systems and siloed approaches are coming down.  We recently began implementing a single, global platform for digital and social media that provides a common content, distribution and analytics platform globally.
  • Second, content.  We’ve reassessed our content and how we deliver it.  Technical, bland content goes nowhere.  Though hard for a technology company in a complex, regulated industry, we are striving to develop content that is simple and interesting — crafted through better insights and delivered through compelling stories.
  • Third, data and analytics.   The good news – we have never had more data and information on our stakeholders than now.   The bad news – we are generally bad at aggregating, analyzing and turning into this information into action and relevance.  We are seeking to better track data longitudinally and then close the loop to better craft our content and programs.
  • Fourth, and probably the toughest…culture.   Large companies are not set inherently positioned to win in a digital world.  Historically, IT, HR, Marketing and Communications have operated independently with different roles in customer and employee engagement.  To the stakeholder – the employee or customer – that typically creates a complexity, blandness and lack of timeliness that makes the company increasingly irrelevant.   Bringing those constituencies together to examine and engage our stakeholders more horizontally in a digital world requires a new conversation and a new connectedness.

In the end, this work cannot be divorced from our core purpose – delivering great products and services that meets our customer’s needs.  Actions ultimately speak louder than words.  And, when these actions are paired with meaningful content, the company’s purpose and reputation will find its way through the clutter and be deemed meaningful and relevant.

Looking forward to seeing you there next Tuesday, April 26 at the Strategic Communications Conference in Arlington, VA for what will be an incredible discussion on the future of our work and efficacy! Register using code C786W2O for a discount on the conference.

 

I’m excited to share that W2O has partnered with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) with the first–of-its-kind fellowship targeting ethnic minorities pursuing careers in healthcare communications. It’s a $50,000 three- year commitment which will fund the Future Leaders in Healthcare Fellowship Program, placing 2 fellows per year in a 10 –week paid fellowship in one of the following offices: San Francisco, New York, Austin, Boston or Minneapolis.

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More than ever, we need to diversify our workforce and continue to help you, our clients, increase diversity in your communications functions. This is a win – win for everyone. It gives men and women something to aspire to and allows a venue for stellar, diverse talent.

When I started this company in 2001, it was grounded in healthcare PR, and the reason I’ve been in healthcare communications for so long is because it fuses two of my passions – communications and health. Now that W2O group has expanded into additional verticals (Tech, Consumer, Auto, Entertainment), I think it’s important to continue to leave a positive impact and I think this partnership is the perfect venue for that.

View this interview with Kim L. Hunter, The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) Chairman & CEO, Dr. Rochelle Ford, a professor in Syracuse University’s School of Public Communications, and myself for additional insight.

I’m proud to partner with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF). We’re going into our 15th year in business and I couldn’t think of a better time to team up with an organization like TLF which aligns with our principals of excellence and progress within the marketing and communications industry.

View the press release here for more details.

All the best, 
Jim

Last week, W2O Group won one of the most prestigious awards in marketing research: an Advertising Research Foundation Ogilvy Award. These awards are unique because the entries are judged on the basic fundamentals: the insight, the creative, and the campaigns’ impact on an audience. It’s not about the bells and whistles that typically adorn other research and analytics award submissions. The “bigness” of the data doesn’t matter, nor the does the “advancedness” of the data analyses. All that matters is the research team’s ability to discover a novel truth about the target audience, and the creative team’s ability to execute a great campaign based on that knowledge.

At W2O, we believe one of the most important factors determining the success of creative execution, is the speed at which an insight is uncovered and made actionable by the research and creative teams. The speed of delivery is just as important as the correctness of the results. This is why we tend to favor social and digital data-driven insights in conjunction with panel-based survey data over slower research methods like focus groups and field-studies. If the insight is correct, it doesn’t matter if it’s delivered after the campaign has been executed.

David Ogilvy, who the award is aptly named after, was a huge proponent of “good enough” research. He used to say that many agency researchers favored slow, methodical perfection, over faster, sometimes sloppier, but directionally correct research methods. In his classic book On Advertising, Ogilvy argued that the later type of research was the only useful kind advertising since creatives can rarely wait four months for the research team to come back with insights about an audience. Most agency research needs to happen in a matter of weeks, if not days.

Ogilvy would have been pleased with the fast, directionally correct, and “good enough” research we conducted to win our Silver award in the “new audiences” category.

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The work was done for Western Digital, who was looking to increase awareness and consideration for its personal cloud storage product MyCloud audience segments beyond the traditional tech-savvy, IT-professional. Using social media listening and monitoring techniques (imperfect, but directionally sound), we found a valuable target of personal content “curators,” consisting of 60% women, with an average age of 42, and those who made household purchase decisions. Through research and analytics, WCG, a W2O company identified that this audience segment prioritized security and control when it involved their personal data – photos, videos and personal documents.

W2O’s creative team, led by Creative Group Director, Walt Whitman, created content that was visual, consumable and sharable by capturing life moments that our target audience would relate to personally, including imagery like the sexy selfie, awkward family photos and pet portraits. The #KeepItPersonal campaign was executed across multiple channels both online, and offline (you can see much of the creative content here).

The campaign was a huge success, exceeding targets for engagement with campaign content and conversion rates through e-commerce.

Fast, good-enough research was important 33 years ago when Ogilvy wrote On Advertising. It’s even more important today in a fractured media landscape where brand’s best chance of winning market share is through highly targeted, highly relevant, and timely content that works across traditional broadcast, social, and digital channels. The researcher’s luxury of arriving at insights in weeks or months is quickly becoming a thing of the past. As creative teams produce more content, far faster (and cheaper) than ever before, researchers will increasingly feel pressure to deliver insights at a faster pace as well. That’s exactly why social and digital data are at the center of the agency’s new research toolkit and why they’ll likely stay there in the years ahead.

 

As each year passes, graduating classes of Millennials continue to join the workforce, bringing with them their media and technology focused minds and experiences. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials are on track to make up 44% of the workforce by 2025. To say that Millennials and technology go hand-in-hand is an understatement. Luckily, they bring that insight to the PR industry day-by-day. With this in mind, we went to the movers and shakers themselves to discuss how the Committee of Millennials at W2O group believe that Millennials are shaping the industry and what is ahead for this “disruptive” generation.

Culture and Balance

First and foremost, office culture has drastically changed since we joined the workforce. We’ve said goodbye to the strict 9-5 and hello to connecting outside of the office. Now, thanks to social media many coworkers are able to connect outside of the common cubicle; and thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, offices across the nation as well as with our neighbors across the pond, are able to stay connected through Facebook groups, and up to date on the activities occurring throughout the company, regardless of location.

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Office culture overall has become more laid back, casual and many offices include an open floor plan to encourage collaboration and communication among coworkers. Additionally, Millennials are more focused on developing friendships with those they work with in comparison to Gen X or baby boomers. There is a large push to establish and maintain office culture through fun events throughout the year, outside of the typical annual office holiday party.

In The Know

Say what you will about Millennials being fully absorbed into their phones and social media, but in the PR industry, it is increasingly helpful for those to be “plugged in.” According to study conducted by the American Press Institute, 88% of Millennials use social media, specifically Facebook, as their primary source of news and check it regularly. In this industry specifically, there has been a shift from traditional practices to incorporating more digital media strategy and encouraging a larger presence on social media for clients. Being “plugged in” has us on the frontline of all things tech and consumer based, and with that we are able to suggest different platforms and ideas on how to expand a client’s reach to a different audience in a fresh, new way.

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However, we argue that it is more than just our strong connectivity that puts us at the cutting edge. Rather, it is our desire to question common practices, to ask and learn more, which sparks yet another difference between us and other generations. Millennials love to contribute and suggest new ideas so a company that promotes that kind of participation is key for prospective jobs.

What We Look For

 When asked, “What attracts you to a job,” or what made our Millennials choose W2O Group, many of us reported that the opportunity to communicate and bring ideas to the table is a huge attraction in a potential workplace. Overall, many noted that when interviewing, they highlighted that having strong and natural conversations with interviewers was something that they took into account when choosing a potential workplace. In this day and age, it is no longer only about a skillfully crafted job description and a decent salary, but rather the work / life balance and culture a company supports that this generation is looking for.

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Gone are the days where an entry level employee is discouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. Where previously, they would have to go through their manager and then their manager’s manager to get an idea pitched at a meeting. Now, we are encouraged to contribute wherever possible and at all times. Many also suggested that it was a lack of “red tape” at W2O that drew us here and what we saw was a company that recognizes the flexibility to do what is needed to get the job done.

Moving Forward

Regardless of the daily criticism Millennials receive, whether it be for being too self-involved, too out of touch with traditional concepts or pushing back more than some would like, this generation is shaping not only the workplace, but the public relations industry as a whole. We don’t claim to know everything and our tech savviness will soon fade with newer platforms emerging every day, but until then we will continue to ask questions, remain “plugged in,” and look forward to what is yet to come.

 

In 2016, it should be no surprise that many doctors have translated their offline influence into social influence, sharing health information with colleagues and patients. While HIPAA and the need to maintain patient privacy are well understood by physicians, what is less understood is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidance on social media. In order to protect the general public and ensure that online influencers are transparent about payment and gifts, the FTC issued Endorsement Guides. The FTC suggests that this be accomplished using hashtags such as #ad, #paid, #sponsored or #promoted in posts.

STATNews recently highlighted a few physicians who did not make their relationship with biopharma companies readily apparent when commenting on the company products. When we work with physicians to educate them on using social media, central to this effort is how to use it appropriately, including an explanation of the FTC regulations. The FTC notes that “if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”

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What’s a Physician To Do?

If a physician is working with a biopharma company and is being compensated for their expertise as a key opinion leader (KOL), we recommend that this be disclosed. One way is to add a hashtag with the name of the company and the acronym KOL (#CompanyKOL) to social posts. This makes it clear that the physician has a relationship with the company. In order to provide this clarity, one of our clients requests the healthcare professionals use #spokesperson in their posts. And, because the relationships between healthcare professionals and biopharma companies can be multi-faceted, another way to highlight the connection is for the physician to add a link to in their bio that explains the details, such as involvement in clinical trials.

It’s also important to note that, similar to bloggers, the physicians are not being paid for their positive opinion, but for their expertise. Consumers want to hear from physicians and learn from them. It’s just important that the context is apparent.

Always Keep Fair Balance in Mind

Many physicians also aren’t aware of the complex Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on promoting drugs. This includes the need to include “fair balance” (i.e. if you feature the benefits of a medication, you need to equally feature the potential risks). The FDA is clear that this requirement needs to be maintained even when there are only 140 characters on Twitter. A link to the important safety information does not suffice.

When working with influencers, whether patients or physicians, we always share the FDA and FTC guidelines so that they can make educated choices when sharing on social. No matter who you are, authenticity and transparency are essential to building relationships via social media.

 

 

Even though I can only assume, I think it is safe to say that most people with college degrees can relate at least a little to the job search conundrum facing recent graduates. Just six months ago, I was in that position myself. I had applied to many different internships and jobs over the course of a few months, but had not gained much traction. I was beginning to get a little nervous about my options after graduation, and then I found W2O Group. W2O Group was willing to take a chance interviewing an internship candidate without a degree in communications, but instead in Spanish Literature. Although I cannot deny my love of Garcia Marquez and Cervantes, something told me that I would not go on to write the next great Spanish novel. So I dove head first into the interview process, fully embracing the chance to work at an innovative company like W2O.

Andrew Echeguren and his rock-star team
Andrew Echeguren and his rock-star team

After the hiring process, I moved back home to San Francisco and walked excitedly through the doors of 60 Francisco St. thinking that I was about to embark on a two and a half month PR journey. I was wrong on multiple accounts. Instead of focusing solely on PR, my internship at W2O Group engaged me in many roles within the company. During the internship, I was able to combine account management experiences with media relations work, all while collaborating with my fellow interns to complete a challenging yet rewarding intern project.

All these experiences made a lasting impression on me, and I made it clear to my supervisors that I loved working at W2O Group. At this point, I knew my destiny of becoming the next Garcia Marquez was not in the cards just yet, and that instead I wanted to become a full-time employee of W2O Group. Thus, in addition to clearly communicating my aspirations to my colleagues and mentors, I worked hard to establish myself as an important member of my teams. All the hard work I put forth paid off, and I still clearly remember the day when I accepted an offer to become an Account Associate in the Tech Practice here. One of my coworkers even organized a welcoming party for me, which is when the thought crossed my mind, “This is the place for me, because they value what I can contribute to the company, but also, more importantly, who I am”.

After completing my internship, I transitioned into a more account management focused role, and I feel like I have grown tremendously, both professionally and personally, in these first few months. Truthfully, if someone had asked me six months ago if I had planned on doing what I do now, I would not have even understood my current job title. That just goes to show how much one can learn with hard work and support from the right people. After these first six months working here, I can safely say that this beats reading and writing about Don Quixote’s adventures in Spain (despite how awesome they are), and that I am even more excited about the next six months here at W2O Group than I was on my very first day.

Andrew Echeguren is now an Account Associate at the W2O Group office in San Francisco. Learn more about him on LinkedIn and at @therealbigech .

This post, written, by Dr. Augustine Fou, Chief Marketing Science Officer for The Advertising Research Foundation is part of our CES-Inspired blog series.  This topic is our first, Geo-location.  My related post is here.  

What?

As more and more consumers spend more and more time on their mobile devices (even exceeding their time in front of computers) we are aggregating a massive new data set — geolocations based on the GPS locations in their mobile devices.

There are obvious benefits to having this data. Waze (Google) uses real-time speed information to crowdsource traffic stats that inform navigation systems. Ads for the closest barber shops or listings for restaurants in the vicinity can be brought up based on where the user actually is. Furthermore, geolocation can be used for additional context to understand the meaning of users’ searches. For example a search for “pizza” on a Friday night from home, usually means the user is looking for home delivery of pizza for dinner; while the same search for “pizza” at noon from an office location might mean the user is looking for a restaurant near the office to go to for lunch.

Along with these enormous benefits there are new risks that should not be overlooked. For example, knowing that someone is not home during certain hours every weekday could allow bad guys to easily burglarize the house. Knowing someone’s favorite restaurants, bars, or home address may present personal safety risks if that information falls into the wrong hands. So it really boils down to who has access to what information about individuals’ locations, at all times based on their mobile devices.

So What?

For the most part, the forerunners in the mobile data space like Foursquare, with location-based “check-ins,” have done a good job protecting users’ privacy by careful handling of their geolocation data; these were “walled gardens” with unique, custom data sets. But more recently, data management platforms, which sell user targeting data to programmatic ad exchanges, collect users’ place-based information via their mobile devices, often without their knowledge. They collect this information on users via many partners, from mobile apps, analytics packages, and even telecom providers (that pre-install tracking on locked phones).  Then they sell the data to drive prices higher — i.e. higher premiums associated with greater targeting, because advertisers are willing to pay more for users whose locations are known.

But while these members of the ad tech supply chain are making higher profits from the buying and selling of user data, most users are not aware of the extent to which their data is being used, nor do they have any means to determine that and control their own information. That leads to bigger questions — who owns this geolocation data — the users or the companies that collected it? What rights do users have and what can they do if they wanted to “get their data back?” There is clearly enormous value in that data; but consumers are not getting any value from it at this point, while companies are profiting from it. Is this sustainable or does it have to change?

Now What?

History has shown that any significant imbalance of value must ultimately be rebalanced in order for a healthy ecosystem to persist. We see this in physics – areas of high energy will balance with areas of low energy. We see this in nature – ecosystems with an explosion of invasive species will rebalance and settle into a new steady-state. In our digital advertising ecosystem, as consumers continue to gain power, they will also start to exercise their rights to see what data is being collected of them and demand the ability to control, edit, take it back, or delete it.

Other ecosystems have had to “rebalance” and acknowledge the rights of the consumer – think, Do Not Call List. There is already the digital equivalent called Do Not Track and Ad Choices, pioneered by digital advertising trade associations. Facebook and Google both now allow users to download their own data from the cloud — from emails to photos to videos, and every other type of asset — if they so choose to take their data with them.

Further, past analyses of how ecosystems evolve show some consistent patterns: 1) when a new market is being developed, pioneer companies create walled gardens in their attempt to set and become the standard and own the entire market, 2) then in order to continue to achieve growth, fast followers promote interoperability in order to gain access to previously established walled gardens — the interoperability increases the value of the network effect, and 3) once most players are interoperable, most of them no longer have unique, defendable competitive differentiation, which leads to waves of consolidation and eeking out more efficiency.

In the programmatic ad tech ecosystem, we may already be in phase 3 and some consolidation has already been witnessed. But the companies in the ecosystem that can most proactively make changes to empower consumers to know and control their own data will likely be the ones that succeed long term.

 

Recently, after being briefed on the company’s internal communications strategy and plan for the year – the CEO of a global organization posed a compelling question: “Fast forward to December, tell me why all of this didn’t work.”

As we enter a new year, it’s always a positive and somewhat idealistic time. Strategies and plans come together with their requisite measures and synchronized business goals. For communications professionals, specifically those involved with organizational effectiveness, the challenge remains – how can we improve employee engagement.

Former General Electric CEO and leadership guru, Jack Welch, often describes employee engagement as the most important measurement for a CEO. “There are measurements you need to understand at a business to know if you’re on the right track, Welch once told a major business journal. First and foremost, is employee engagement.”

As you begin the year, ask yourself the following questions as a means to test your internal communications programming to ensure the results are met and possibly, exceeded.

What are you Solving for?

The most important question to answer is whether internal communications is directed at improving employee engagement. This can be done based on specific business goals – providing line of sight between people’s jobs and customer needs, marketplace expectations. Engagement includes but is not limited to leader rhetoric and commitment; manager involvement; feedback and discussion; and recognition.

Is it a Conversation-based model?

How are you planning to catalyze dialogue internally? Without dialogue, discussion, and debate, internal communications is nothing more than a cadence of information with no real intent or meaning. A key measure of this approach is to constantly discern what people are talking about inside, which leads to the next point.

In order to ignite discussion, are you provocative?

How is Data informing decisions?

Where do employees go to get specific information inside the company? Do they prefer video? Are they active on social channels? What is the volume and the key themes from feedback?

All of this is now available through technology and must be incorporated into your planning and decision-making. Data and insight provide precision allowing for course corrections during the year.

Is your plan Activity-based or Solution-based?

Step back and objectively size up your plan. Is it designed to solve the key objectives of the business. Or is it a series of activities? Do the elements connect and work together to create a better destination? Often this simple exercise is an eye-opener leading to a more strategic realignment.

Is the CEO involved ?

The most critical determinant in engagement, as Welch stated, is the CEO’s commitment. Engagement and effective communication starts at the top and is based on leadership’s view of the business, its prospects, challenges, opportunities, and competitive reality. Internal communications professionals must have access and influence in the C-Suite helping to direct the organization’s narrative and counsel the appropriate actions that link strategy to execution. When this takes place, companies achieve coherence and most importantly, clarity.

Are you Mobile?

With organizations increasingly featuring employees outside of their own offices and placed across the globe working across time zones, while more office stable or manufacturing oriented employees operate across boundaries, companies are building their IT systems including communications platform outside their walls. Mobile applications allowing everything from benefits updates, to stock price alerts, to CEO briefings, and up-to-date competitive news, are becoming more visible.

Delving into these questions at this point to avoid end of year mea culpas can prove to be a wise investment of time and talent.

Is the Organization Getting Smarter?

Ultimately, employee engagement and organizational intelligence are inextricably linked. At the heart of engagement lies information (content). Is it contextual? Is it relevant? Does it challenge assumptions? Does it encourage experimentation that leads to innovation? Does it help people to make the argument themselves?

One notable organization, upon naming a new CEO, went from focusing on what they knew to what they didn’t. Translation: Internal communications became more provocative and meaningful touching on competitive moves and products, societal shifts, internal issues such as quality and productivity, etc. It’s focus is on expanding people’s knowledge and building confidence in the future. Results thus far indicate a more robust interest in important company initiatives and a more active discourse among employees on topics that just a few months ago were never broached. A recent CEO blog to employees reflects this new found approach. In it the CEO asked a very profound question – “Who is our most dangerous competitor?” He explained that competition today comes in all shapes and sizes and is no longer confined to a company’s competitive set. After an incredible amount of employee posts, most offering key competitors as the answer, the CEO stated that Amazon was the most dangerous competitor because it keeps “changing the level of customer expectations.” Amazon, which is not in this company’s competitive set provides a different way to think about the business and is a proxy for a new business strategy about to be introduced.

This is particularly important to capture employee attention with so many distractions. It is also crucial for long-term business success especially as companies continually redesign business models in a social and digital context to be more fluid, agile, and omni-channel.

As business becomes more seamless and friction free the very nature of the workforce will be revolutionized. Analytics will provide more specific information on employee engagement making it easier to discern performance and thus merit compensation. This type of transparency will result in higher levels of organizational acuity that couple with new technology will force a more sophisticated approach to internal communications.

Now Ask Yourself …

The role of internal communications as we’ve reiterated is to improve engagement. To do that, it needs to move the workforce to become future smart or capable of recognizing and navigating the myriad changes taking place around them. It’s about balancing the marketplace with the organization and the individual. And then balancing the individual with improving the lives of others as well be it colleagues, customers, communities, etc.

Given all of that, how will your own performance be evaluated at the end of the year?

It’s December 2016…

Spending time now to address the inherent discrepancies or gaps in your internal communications strategy and plan will go a long way to ensuring you get the results you seek and the company demands.

It really comes down to seeing ahead … just as this CEO did!