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From speaker videos to event photos our SXSW recap page has it all!

This year was our 9th year hosting award-winning events during SXSW, so we decided to go bigger and better! In 2018, we officially partnered with the festival for the first time to produce 16 high-profile panels, with 62 speakers across 3 days. The programming was insightful, the audience was engaged, and the panelists were razor sharp.

Among those panelists was Noreen Pratscher, Vice President, Corporate Communications and Chief Communications Officer, Serta Simmons Bedding. During her panel she discussed how leading communicators are addressing corporate relevance – ranging from strategy to building relationships with new audiences, and how using advanced analytics allow communicators to stay ahead of the curve. I had the opportunity to chat with Noreen about her SXSW panel, career journey, and Elton John. Check out our interview below.

1. You’ve worked in a variety of industries, from health to automotive, how have your diverse experiences shaped your current role?

I have had the privilege of working across industries and in each, made it a priority to learn different aspects of the business so that my communications counsel and messaging resonated with the

From speaker videos to event photos our SXSW recap page has it all!

This year was our 9th year hosting award-winning events during SXSW, so we decided to go bigger and better! In 2018, we officially partnered with the festival for the first time to produce 16 high-profile panels, with 62 speakers across 3 days. The programming was insightful, the audience was engaged, and the panelists were razor sharp.

Among those panelists was Noreen Pratscher, Vice President, Corporate Communications and Chief Communications Officer, Serta Simmons Bedding. During her panel she discussed how leading communicators are addressing corporate relevance – ranging from strategy to building relationships with new audiences, and how using advanced analytics allow communicators to stay ahead of the curve. I had the opportunity to chat with Noreen about her SXSW panel, career journey, and Elton John. Check out our interview below.

1. You’ve worked in a variety of industries, from health to automotive, how have your diverse experiences shaped your current role?

I have had the privilege of working across industries and in each, made it a priority to learn different aspects of the business so that my communications counsel and messaging resonated with the leaders, employees and other stakeholders.  Business knowledge is foundational to building credibility as a PR strategist and being able to effectively communicating with key audiences.   In each company, I looked for opportunities to diversify my PR experience as well, to become more well-rounded, including some lateral moves.  Looking back now, each step in my career was a building block to my role today leading corporate communications for Serta Simmons Bedding.

A few key learnings over my years of experience:  solid PR skills and practices are the same no matter the industry: it’s the messaging and application that vary.  Always be open to – and in fact, solicit – feedback from your audiences to effectively shape and evolve messaging.  No matter what the industry, the rate of change today is unprecedented.  To remain relevant and effective, communications teams must have their finger on the pulse of where each target audience is today, and to help them bridge to the organization’s vision for the future.

2. What does a day in a life at Serta Simmons look like for you?

In my current role, I’m responsible for corporate communications, which in the traditional sense means being focused on business performance and corporate issues which includes corporate reputation and branding. The entity that is SSB is relatively new, comprised of two long-standing industry brands – Serta and Beautyrest, as well as our new brand – Tomorrow Sleep – launched last year.  Because of the rapid change in the industry and the business model adjustments we’re making today, much of my work is focused on change management with our employee audience, as well as sharing business progress with external stakeholders (retailers, media and consumers).  I work closely with the CEO, CFO and other business leaders on communications planning, messaging and initiatives to help our employees – and the marketplace – understand how and why we are adapting our business model.  In addition, I have close relationships with my marketing colleagues in the Serta, Beautyrest and Tomorrow Sleep brands, and we partner to  leverage their news and content to reach wider audiences.

3. You discussed mastering corporate relevance during SXSW – how should organizations measure relevance?

There is no single answer to this. Externally, I look at traditional business performance measures to prove adding value: how well we track to plan with growing the top and bottom lines.  With our retail partners, we look at confidence in our business determined by renewal rates and new business capture.  With end-use consumers, it’s awareness and market share.  I acknowledge that it can be difficult to make a direct link between communications and marketing efforts and business success, but these are all indicators of what we need to do to adjust our business – and corresponding communications strategy.

Internally, we use traditional employee engagement surveys to gauge sentiment, and this year, we launched senior leader listening tours with employees.  This is critical as most of our 6000 associates work remotely – in our network of manufacturing plants or in sales roles.  It’s critical to engage with them directly and have leaders be visible and accessible as often as possible to build trust and credibility, and also to assess employee sentiment.  These engagements also help us to identify trending topics that can be addressed in broader employee forums.

4. What was your biggest takeaway from SXSW?

I enjoyed hearing other perspectives from my colleagues on the panel and in other related sessions about connecting with audiences.  In our discussions about corporate relevance  on and off stage, it became clear that there’s no one silver bullet to effectively establishing relevance.  Rather, it’s a combination of strategies and tactics, based on the business objectives and what works for the audiences each of us is trying to reach. What resonated for me during our discussion is the critical need to define and articulate the values of your organization, and live by them.  Also, with the fragmentation and proliferation of channels, the need to build relationships with stakeholder audiences  is critical.  Communicators serve as the bridge between what the organization wants to communicate and what the target audiences care about.

Another experience I truly enjoyed – and admittedly, there’s self-interest here – was participating in Max Richter’s North American debut of his SLEEP concert, sponsored by our Beautyrest brand.  If you missed it, attendees were invited to a ‘sleep in’ at Bass Hall , resting on Beautyrest mattresses while listening to renowned composer Max Richter perform his SLEEP concert live, overnight. It was a memorable experience!

5. Tell us something people may not know about you.

I’m a pretty open book so most people who know me, know my passions are staying connected with my family and friends, enjoying the great outdoors and helping organizations understand contextual changes that impact business.  One life experience that I think is pretty unique is that a few years ago, extended family members and I visited Ireland, in part to explore family history. We found, and knocked on the door of, my grandfather’s childhood home in Kilfenora, County Clare.  The family that lived there could not have been more gracious and welcoming.  We had a fantastic afternoon visiting with them and sharing family lore.

6. Is there a book you’ve read over the last year that you would care to share with our readers?

Yes, it was actually a book recommended to me by my current CEO: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.  It’s a primer for anyone in a leadership role with practical advice and examples about how to recognize and address behaviors that have worked in the past, but will not necessarily help you advance to the next level.  The book recounts key beliefs of successful leaders as they share their own learnings along their respective career paths.  The book contains several practical suggestions and thoughtful insights.

7. If you were on a deserted island and could only bring one album with you, which would it be and why?

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John. It was the first album I purchased long ago, and I still love his music.

Want more insights from Noreen? Watch her panel from SXSW.

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An incredibly momentous decision is permeating the C-Suite today:  the prioritization of Employee Engagement.

After decades of relegating engagement to events, messaging, celebrations, and the occasional round table to determine what employees want, a true understanding of employee involvement is taking hold.

And, at the right level!

So, now what?

Employee Engagement in a digital age is a completely different animal.  It encompasses and envelopes the entire social make-up of the organization.  It involves multiple functions all working in concert – akin to a symphony-with one goal in mind: encourage interaction with each other around the business interests in a manner that results in mutual benefit.  This can be viewed in terms of career growth, personal development, goal achievement, individual purpose, and advocacy.

Engagement is now about listening intently and proactively activating content, context, programs, platforms, and efforts vs. packaging information against a pre-determined calendar that bears no resemblance to the state of the business.

It means CEOs and other senior leaders must recalibrate techniques and methods for how they lead.  Being more flexible with time and more adaptable with rhetoric. It most assuredly means conveying what is happening in the business more frequently and much broader in reach.

To get there just having leadership discover

An incredibly momentous decision is permeating the C-Suite today:  the prioritization of Employee Engagement.

After decades of relegating engagement to events, messaging, celebrations, and the occasional round table to determine what employees want, a true understanding of employee involvement is taking hold.

And, at the right level!

So, now what?

Employee Engagement in a digital age is a completely different animal.  It encompasses and envelopes the entire social make-up of the organization.  It involves multiple functions all working in concert – akin to a symphony-with one goal in mind: encourage interaction with each other around the business interests in a manner that results in mutual benefit.  This can be viewed in terms of career growth, personal development, goal achievement, individual purpose, and advocacy.

Engagement is now about listening intently and proactively activating content, context, programs, platforms, and efforts vs. packaging information against a pre-determined calendar that bears no resemblance to the state of the business.

It means CEOs and other senior leaders must recalibrate techniques and methods for how they lead.  Being more flexible with time and more adaptable with rhetoric. It most assuredly means conveying what is happening in the business more frequently and much broader in reach.

To get there just having leadership discover engagement is only the first step albeit a critical one.  A redesign of several areas – HR, Communications, Production, Marketing, Finance – is essential.  Each group interprets engagement against a common set of principles reinforcing common themes and activating efforts at their own cadence and pace.  This mixture of sounds and activities results in the very engagement being sought.

For Communications, employee engagement is the culmination of its very existence especially given a digital workforce.   The relevance needed to connect and sustain relationships is now the provenance of employees themselves not the organization.  No more guessing. Not more false positives.  Listening, data and analysis, and behavioral insights provide a real time understanding of employee habits.

Engagement has evolved. The myth is that somehow it hasn’t and that traditional methods and strategy still apply.   While it has become a leadership priority – thankfully – unless it’s defined, designed, and developed as part of management system, disappointment will prevail. The melding of generations in the workforce also pose myriad challenges as expectations and information habits are diverse and complicated making engagement difficult.

Which is to say that engagement in a digital world is more important than ever to organizational health.  Preparation, discovery, experimentation, commitment, systems-orientation and listening are the new ingredients for a recipe that shapes and satisfies workforce interaction.

It’s truly a great time to be doing what we do!

Gary

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Change.

The word itself evokes feelings of being improved, uncomfortable, fearful, weary, and, in motion.   From an organizational sense, change management is now a 30-year-old practice of shaking up a business or entity to refocus its mission, improve its operations, streamline its delivery systems, accelerate innovation, and better adhere to a marketplace moving at incredible speed.  It’s supposed to result in something that is good for all its stakeholders – customers, suppliers, communities, and the like.  But more often than not, Change management doesn’t deliver.

Worse.  Even when a Change effort achieves part of its remit, it is not accomplishing the ultimate demand of the business – keeping it ahead of the curve.  Ready to take on the next competitive challenge.  Or customer expectation.  Or technological shift.  Or talent demand. In many cases, organizations are left limping to the future.  One recent example is a global enterprise that after several change initiatives now finds itself in a place where its very existence is in question.

In a time when one’s ability to not only assimilate but accelerate forward is critical to sustained success, then Change must be “changed.”

So, let’s first examine why Change gets stuck and then identify the signs to

Change.

The word itself evokes feelings of being improved, uncomfortable, fearful, weary, and, in motion.   From an organizational sense, change management is now a 30-year-old practice of shaking up a business or entity to refocus its mission, improve its operations, streamline its delivery systems, accelerate innovation, and better adhere to a marketplace moving at incredible speed.  It’s supposed to result in something that is good for all its stakeholders – customers, suppliers, communities, and the like.  But more often than not, Change management doesn’t deliver.

Worse.  Even when a Change effort achieves part of its remit, it is not accomplishing the ultimate demand of the business – keeping it ahead of the curve.  Ready to take on the next competitive challenge.  Or customer expectation.  Or technological shift.  Or talent demand. In many cases, organizations are left limping to the future.  One recent example is a global enterprise that after several change initiatives now finds itself in a place where its very existence is in question.

In a time when one’s ability to not only assimilate but accelerate forward is critical to sustained success, then Change must be “changed.”

So, let’s first examine why Change gets stuck and then identify the signs to avoid it going forward.  To actually begin a process to shift a business, an entire infrastructure must be put in place.  The adage, “organize before you strategize,” is indicative of a major change effort.  Starting with a Project Management Office (PMO) overseeing the entire program right down to various task teams spread out to capture multiple areas of the enterprise. This architecture is surrounded by a vast array of data, information, deadlines, and communications to support it.  In the end, it’s as if another organism attaches itself to the business ignoring what it does or why it exists. Again, the reason is to make move the business literally on the fly, so to speak, as people do their daily work.  It’s this very rigor, though, that leaves Change behind the curve.

In this scenario, what actually happens is:

  1. Change often keeps people in their respective areas to capture better ways to execute something but limits future thinking– Instead of experiencing diverse perspectives and ways of doing things, employees only see what they do in their area, robbing the business of an ability to pivot or address new situations.
  2. Change doesn’t allow true data to be shared regardless of the all charts and projections – Despite all the data typically pulled together by management consultants to fuel the work streams and functional assessments, the important data – competition, customers, and employees – is often missing and with it the ability to think through key decisions based on predictive elements. In one large change initiative, employees were only provided data reflecting their functional area thus negating an ability to see the whole picture and limiting real ideation.
  3. Change doesn’t test people; it merely involves them – Placing people in teams to jointly work on reports and PowerPoints does not test judgement and decision-making ability, two key attributes to be analyzed and strengthened. As such, the company is not using Change to become more confident about addressing the future.
  4. Change doesn’t communicate what’s important; only what’s expedient – Time and again, communications can guide how employees view the future, if constructed properly: provocative, market and customer-oriented, authentic, interesting. Instead, Change efforts find communications just restating the logistical aspects of the effort.

Based on the above, we would recommend the following questions be addressed for your current Change initiative as a means to prevent failure in today’s unpredictable world:

  1. Who needs us to improve and why? – Note the difference. By asking “Who,” it forces us to determine exactly the forces behind the change and the need to explore further the reasons.
  2. Why do we do certain things? – Again, instead of asking “what do you do,” this calls for a more exploratory or self-examination of the type of work being conducted and the reason.
  3. What is happening around us? – From a communications standpoint, this is the most critical piece of information that can ensure Change is set-up to move people to the future as it provides context.
  4. Can we simulate what’s next? – Building in scenarios to Change allows people to experience and experiment with new protocols and the projection of the future is essential to keeping the business nimble.

As an employee, it is also important to lay out the scenario the Change effort is projecting by asking yourself:

  • Will I still be in this job?
  • What skills do I need to acquire?  What skills no longer matter?
  • Where can I acquire new skills?
  • What don’t I know that’s critical to pursuing my career at this company?
  • How am I sharing my ideas?
  • Who do I know outside of my function?
  • Who is the most important influence for you in making the shift ?

Now more than ever, organizations and leaders must work hard to keep their business future-oriented with regard to being thoughtful, agile, adaptive, resilient, and smart.  Initiating Change programs to break through the technology and expectation gates to lean into the future vs. getting run over by it are both smart and necessary to bridge to the future— if they themselves don’t become an unintended barrier to long-term benefit.

A tight, strategic communications approach that encompasses key questions at the outset or during a Change effort can significantly alter or reinforce the company’s ability to rethink the entire experience.

Just as we view Change to be something that envelopes the whole organization, so too, must we recognize that only when all the elements – communications, engagement, system, behaviors, metrics – are in sync can there be an effective route to continuous improvement and excellence.

Gary

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Forget messaging, channels, commentary, speeches, events, campaigns, PowerPoints, and the like; think customer journey, leadership focus, decision making, investments, strategy, positioning, retention, recruitment, trust, relevance.

Having spent my career in corporate communications for companies globally in a variety of industries and segments, the one truth about communications— specifically inside organizations— is that it’s a proxy for how the business is led and managed. In a digital reality, internal communications have taken on an even more critical role, becoming a reflection of the management model, the relevance of the business, as well as the strategic intent of the enterprise.

Internal communications can identify both potential issues and broken systems such as pursuing the right imperatives and priorities, to uncovering innovation and potential new markets and opportunities. The digital realm we all now find ourselves in has shifted the balance of power to customers and employees, forever upending how organizations are led, managed, and operated. For organizational (internal) communications, the migration to strategic from tactical has been nothing less than profound.  Often relegated to parties and newsletters, posters, and internal portals, communications inside companies must now not just reflect the company’s mindset, efficacy, purpose, judgement, voice but its interdependencies and vulnerabilities. It can

Forget messaging, channels, commentary, speeches, events, campaigns, PowerPoints, and the like; think customer journey, leadership focus, decision making, investments, strategy, positioning, retention, recruitment, trust, relevance.

Having spent my career in corporate communications for companies globally in a variety of industries and segments, the one truth about communications— specifically inside organizations— is that it’s a proxy for how the business is led and managed. In a digital reality, internal communications have taken on an even more critical role, becoming a reflection of the management model, the relevance of the business, as well as the strategic intent of the enterprise.

Internal communications can identify both potential issues and broken systems such as pursuing the right imperatives and priorities, to uncovering innovation and potential new markets and opportunities. The digital realm we all now find ourselves in has shifted the balance of power to customers and employees, forever upending how organizations are led, managed, and operated. For organizational (internal) communications, the migration to strategic from tactical has been nothing less than profound.  Often relegated to parties and newsletters, posters, and internal portals, communications inside companies must now not just reflect the company’s mindset, efficacy, purpose, judgement, voice but its interdependencies and vulnerabilities. It can be a major component in achieving success.

In fact, the five key elements of organizational success today, which can be summed up below, are in fact both driven or hindered by ineffective internal communications:

  1. Customer (Trust) – gaining loyalty, positive discourse, and repeat purchase from customers begins inside with smart, productive employees
  2. Innovation/Technology – keeping ahead of market and customer trends, driven by employee ingenuity, passion, and collaboration
  3. Cost – constantly balancing costs and investments is a reflection of individual and collective actions throughout the enterprise
  4. Talent – attracting and developing people is essentially the most powerful competitive advantage in business and is centered on how engaged, informed, and motivated the workforce is managed and communicated with
  5. Agility – speed and flexibility rule the business landscape

Unfortunately, communications is often viewed through a tactical lens with time wasted chasing symptoms of unhealthy environments rather than propelling the business forward, informing and influencing management planning and behaviors.  It is deployed by leaders as a siren for espousing promotional content about the current and future state of company.

In a digital and social reality, this is a deadly mistake.

First, employees don’t believe the rhetoric any more.  Second, the expectation is that they will be sought after to provide the solutions to the business.

When employees have information on the business along with context they can participate in creating value.  They can operate more strategically and operationally in a nimble and agile manner.  They can initiate dialogue, discussion, and debate with colleagues and managers.

The can go from being passive members of the organization to confident, aggressive partners.

So, what is it about internal communications that provides such magical power?

First, communications by nature is about people.  The relationships and interactions between and among people in different circumstances, scenarios, functions, and regions, which result in rich and diverse data and insight.  It can paint a picture around collaboration, engagement, and understanding.  It can shape perspectives and the promise offered to customers and external stakeholders.

At its best, organizational (internal) communications opens and cultivates a discussion (and even a debate) with everyone inside the business. At its worst, communications becomes a series of messages directed at people via multiple mechanisms, producing a contrived feeling of connectivity and relationship building.

Second, the ability to capture the business in a clear, comprehensive way, giving meaning to people inside and outside the business, is necessary given the information overload we all face. Further, in a time of flux both politically and socially, the ability to gauge risk around policies, programs, and decisions internally with a highly informed workforce is critical to organizational balance and health.  Finally, with everyone calling for authenticity and transparency, internal communications allows the business to see itself from the audience in.

Digital makes everyone more aware today due to 24/7 access to information.  But for organizations, internal communications make employees smarter due to context.

The values and imperatives associated with today’s organizational (internal) communications can be summed up in three ways:

  1. Expert in perspectives (worldview), mindset, behaviors, actions of the workforce using analytics, digital intelligence, and insights to form arguments and perspectives
  2. Expert in issues, policies, investments, strategy, operations, financials, and relationships to connect the dots in a manner that moves the business forward
  3. Expert in narrative and content formulation for various audiences through numerous platforms and among key leaders and managers

Internal communications in a digital age is a strategic management catalyst directed at:

  • Behaviors
  • Connections
  • Confidence
  • Collaboration
  • Relationships
  • Knowledge

It is a connective tissue for major corporate initiatives and employee engagement.

But it is not about employee engagement.

As an example, true employee engagement requires several elements to work in concert – Leadership, HR, Line Management, IT, and the employees themselves – to engender interest, involvement, discussion, and advocacy on behalf of the organization.  To that end, communications is the means to an end that without strategic intent can be a myopic activity that tends to favor activity over result.

The democratization of the workplace is an outgrowth of a digital world where information is ubiquitous and relevancy difficult to achieve.  Acting as an expert in how the organization behaves and operates based on data and insight, and shaping the nature of your story using digital platforms and face-to-face interaction, has elevated the practice of internal communications from the Christmas Party to the C-Suite.

The question is: where do you reside?

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It’s been nearly 30 years since the business world discovered a host of new programs and initiatives generated by consulting firms to rethink strategy, improve processes, deploy new systems and technologies, reduce costs, streamline functions and business units, recruit and retain talent, and solidify leadership practices.  During that time, the success rate – defined as the organization achieving the results set out by these various initiatives – is approximately 30%. Translation: Over 70% of these efforts fail.

Countless millions of dollars are invested each year on change management, yet the Return on Investment remains extremely low.  Ironically, adding to this dilemma is that a review of the communications approaches typically used to drive such programs internally reveal little has changed in the analysis, strategy, content, frequency, and structure.  This failure to improve and strengthen internal communications in support of change management initiatives is a key contributor to their mediocre results. In fact, it’s astounding to see the same mistakes being made year in and year out and no one – leaders, managers, communicators, consultants, employees – standing up to declare defeat.

The Digital Effect – It’s all about Dialogue and Debate

With business and society now ensconced in the digital age, such apathy

It’s been nearly 30 years since the business world discovered a host of new programs and initiatives generated by consulting firms to rethink strategy, improve processes, deploy new systems and technologies, reduce costs, streamline functions and business units, recruit and retain talent, and solidify leadership practices.  During that time, the success rate – defined as the organization achieving the results set out by these various initiatives – is approximately 30%. Translation: Over 70% of these efforts fail.

Countless millions of dollars are invested each year on change management, yet the Return on Investment remains extremely low.  Ironically, adding to this dilemma is that a review of the communications approaches typically used to drive such programs internally reveal little has changed in the analysis, strategy, content, frequency, and structure.  This failure to improve and strengthen internal communications in support of change management initiatives is a key contributor to their mediocre results. In fact, it’s astounding to see the same mistakes being made year in and year out and no one – leaders, managers, communicators, consultants, employees – standing up to declare defeat.

The Digital Effect – It’s all about Dialogue and Debate

With business and society now ensconced in the digital age, such apathy regarding change communications can no longer be tolerated.  Employees are often operating with as much or more information on the company, industry, competition, and customer set as managers and leaders.  Opinions and discourse on change efforts are shared openly and sometimes discretely. Employees can reference outside sources as to the legitimacy of the initiative, check on past efforts, look up commentary on forums and blogs, and determine how media and analysts covering the organization characterize the situation.

The bottom-line: If people believe the information they are hearing and are involved from the outset, then the rate of success rises exponentially.

So, why in an age of open discourse and new technology, are internal communicators and leaders still following an outdated playbook regarding change management communications?

Here are a few reasons:

  • Communications is not integrated with the management model
  • Communications is based on a “sell” approach (what the organization wants to say) vs. a “discover” (the information employees want to know and discuss) approach
  • Consulting firms denigrate communications to a tactical necessity (PowerPoints, events, meetings, materials), severely limiting its value
  • Communications professionals rarely employ any type of analytics to understand the workforce relying instead on instinct
  • Communicators fail to ask relevant questions or to learn about the change effort in enough detail to challenge or offer better ideas for execution
  • Leadership fails to recognize and demand that Communications be seen as a strategic driver of the change effort

The “New” Playbook

The major lesson taken from over 30 years of change is this: employees want dialogue, discussion, and debate to understand, engage, and believe. The digital age is all about connectivity and conversation.  From a communications perspective, it’s about Discover vs. Sell.  Allowing people to get there themselves rather than selling them on the idea.

The example below describes just how different each method truly is:

The Six Questions to Ask at the Outset of a Change Effort… to Get Results

If you’re about to get involved in a major change initiative, you might consider getting answers to the following questions before doing anything:

  • What’s the current understanding of our business situation internally?
  • How does the workforce perceive the company today?
  • What communications content and methods are being used to engage and connect with employees?  Are they going to be effective going forward?
  • How much do I understand the change program itself and how am I connected to the PMO overseeing its implementation?
  • What do we ultimately need employees to know, feel, and do regarding the initiative?
  • How aligned am I with managers and leaders to drive this effort?

The pace of business is only going to get more intense, causing leaders to rethink everything from purpose to products to process to people.  Communicating and connecting with employees while engaging with them in meaningful and authentic ways throughout the change effort itself increases the chances for success. Employing new techniques, utilizing analytics, and developing new forms of content work together to expand thinking and give people the freedom to be – accept the shifting environment and choose the path forward.

Organizational communications has certainly come a long way…

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Relevance is the measure that any organization regardless of size, scope, and category can employ to truly understand and address the reality facing their audiences in a manner that provides mutual benefit. Ensuring our clients understand the power of relevance and that they’re accurately able to measure their relevance is something our firm values deeply.


Learn more about Mastering Corporate Relevance in a Distracted World during SXSW


I had the opportunity to chat with fellow colleagues Gary Grates and Rob Jekielek surrounding our recently announced W2O Group Relevance Model and Index. During our conversation we discussed our  new corporate intelligence framework, why this matters for every brand, and how this will allow our clients to build an unfair advantage. Take a listen below.

Relevance is the measure that any organization regardless of size, scope, and category can employ to truly understand and address the reality facing their audiences in a manner that provides mutual benefit. Ensuring our clients understand the power of relevance and that they’re accurately able to measure their relevance is something our firm values deeply.


Learn more about Mastering Corporate Relevance in a Distracted World during SXSW


I had the opportunity to chat with fellow colleagues Gary Grates and Rob Jekielek surrounding our recently announced W2O Group Relevance Model and Index. During our conversation we discussed our  new corporate intelligence framework, why this matters for every brand, and how this will allow our clients to build an unfair advantage. Take a listen below.

Read Full Blog

How one question can lead to the wrong answer regarding workforce effectiveness

 For anyone involved in employee or internal communication hearing a senior leader ask this question often leads to frustration or even anger:

“How can we improve Internal Communication?”  This is typically followed with the request – “We need an Internal Communication plan!”

The fallacy in this thinking is that Internal Communication is perceived as an end vs. a means.  It’s not.  Employee Communication is a by-product of an organization’s management model.

As such, it begins with a thorough understanding of the current state and future aspiration of the business coupled with the CEO’s thinking and agenda.  Both of those ingredients are then processed with the culture and employee behaviors of the business to form the right approach, content, tonality, frequency, and cadence of information and interactivity to inform, educate, provoke, and connect people with the enterprise.  Building an internal communication plan without access to or a relationship with the decision-making body of the company is akin to driving to a never visited destination without a map.

Improving Internal Communication cannot be done in a vacuum.  Neither can a plan be developed without the proper inputs.  Unfortunately, there are still communicators

How one question can lead to the wrong answer regarding workforce effectiveness

 For anyone involved in employee or internal communication hearing a senior leader ask this question often leads to frustration or even anger:

“How can we improve Internal Communication?”  This is typically followed with the request – “We need an Internal Communication plan!”

The fallacy in this thinking is that Internal Communication is perceived as an end vs. a means.  It’s not.  Employee Communication is a by-product of an organization’s management model.

As such, it begins with a thorough understanding of the current state and future aspiration of the business coupled with the CEO’s thinking and agenda.  Both of those ingredients are then processed with the culture and employee behaviors of the business to form the right approach, content, tonality, frequency, and cadence of information and interactivity to inform, educate, provoke, and connect people with the enterprise.  Building an internal communication plan without access to or a relationship with the decision-making body of the company is akin to driving to a never visited destination without a map.

Improving Internal Communication cannot be done in a vacuum.  Neither can a plan be developed without the proper inputs.  Unfortunately, there are still communicators who jump to this request and prepare a “plan” based on nothing more than tactics and channels, which ultimately mean nothing to accomplishing internal alignment, organizational confidence, and employee satisfaction.

Employee Communication is the difference between success and failure of any corporate change initiative, restructuring, M&A, new leader transition, major product innovation, organizational crisis, or business strategy execution.  The reason is that at its core employee communication is about how an institution interacts with itself.  How it respects itself.  How it remains relevant. The core tenets of employee communication are neither based on tactics nor channels.  They are based on how the company thinks, operates, decides, innovates, educates, rewards, shares, listens, and projects itself.

Employee Communication at the strategic level is a behavioral and consultative function.  For CEOs and businesses to thrive, providing a bold vision coupled with a realistic view of the current reality is critical to success as the balancing act organizations must maintain is challenged by people changing jobs faster than ever, people distracted vis-à-vis technology and the choice it provides, and shifting expectations of customers and shareholders.

When given the question “How can we improve Internal Communication?” the response should be with a question of our own – “How smart do you want our employees to be?” This is the answer needed to determine the best approach, content, context, and system to achieve the business health necessary for growth.

And for communicators responsible for this precious area, let me offer the following framework to up our game and eliminate wasted effort:

  • It’s Not About Engagement…It’s About Belief – All the talk today about employee engagement is a false promise.  The place we need to focus on is Belief.  Once people believe in a company’s efficacy, purpose, mission then they believe its story.  Engagement is an outcome of Belief.
  • Who is my Workforce? – Do we really know who makes up our workforce?
  • What is the Employee Worldview? – What is our employees’ perspective?  How do they view the world?   
  • What content and context is important to their success? –  Are there subjects that resonate more?  How deep do they need to go?  What doesn’t matter?  Which information is consistent with what people experience in day-to-day work?
  • What is the story being told? – Is it consistent with the company’s strategy?  External image?
  • How are we moving people forward? – Is there a point to our communications?  Does it move people ahead in lock-step with the business?

Now more than ever, increasing employee knowledge and confidence about the business and people’s future is essential to long term success.  The challenge is breaking through in a distracted, noisy and contradictory environment.

But how?  Based on our extensive work in this area over 20 years, there are five actions you can take to improve the employee experience:

  • Be Provocative – People want to be challenged intellectually. Content should reflect what employees are experiencing.  The more provocative the better chance you have in getting attention.
  • Be Real – No corporate speak.  No trite phrases.  Speaking from the heart produces belief.
  • Be Clear – What is it you are saying?  What do you want people to know, feel, do?
  • Be Connected – How plugged in are you to employee networks?
  • Be Smart – Do you know your workforce?  Are you using analytics to better grasp perspectives, relevance, interests, concerns?

Employee Communication is a litmus test for how organizations manage and lead.  Done well, people have a profound sense of purpose and mission and an ability to get things done. A confidence to question decisions and seek new information while sharing ideas and reaching out to colleagues.

And it all starts with asking the right question!

Gary

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There is a myriad of factors that come into play when companies are faced with an acquisition. Attention must be paid to every part of the business to ensure that the merging of each entity will successfully transition into the new business identity. I had the opportunity to talk to discuss this process with Marta Newhart, Global VP of Johnson Controls.

I first connected with Marta at the 8th National Summit on Strategic Communications earlier this year, where we discussed brand reputation on the What2Know podcast. After that conversation I knew I wanted to chat with her again to continue to learn from her expertise. During our most recent discussion, we unpacked the advantages of a successful merger including an increase in shareholder value, better productivity and gaining competitive advantage. Additionally, we explored possible pitfalls if a merger is unsuccessful including irreversible damage to company culture and morale.

Take a listen below.

There is a myriad of factors that come into play when companies are faced with an acquisition. Attention must be paid to every part of the business to ensure that the merging of each entity will successfully transition into the new business identity. I had the opportunity to talk to discuss this process with Marta Newhart, Global VP of Johnson Controls.

I first connected with Marta at the 8th National Summit on Strategic Communications earlier this year, where we discussed brand reputation on the What2Know podcast. After that conversation I knew I wanted to chat with her again to continue to learn from her expertise. During our most recent discussion, we unpacked the advantages of a successful merger including an increase in shareholder value, better productivity and gaining competitive advantage. Additionally, we explored possible pitfalls if a merger is unsuccessful including irreversible damage to company culture and morale.

Take a listen below.

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One of the more ironic shifts in terms of organizational behavior is the increasing use of new tools, techniques, and channels by CEOs looking to breakthrough inside their organizations and connect with employees. However, these “solutions” are often more complicated than they need to be. CEOs are more inclined to gain much needed employee buy-in, attention, and trust not via technology, but through tried-and-true efforts such as authenticity, openness, being provocative, and being consistent in discussing the business and the workforce in relevant ways.

This was reinforced at a McKinsey Forum earlier this year featuring more than 75 CEOs and Board chairs discussing the impact of technology on the CEO position.

While technology aids in frequency and connectivity by providing various platforms and channels to convey information, gather facts, and engage in discussion, CEOs must possess a clear agenda, a set of priorities, a narrative, and a purpose behind their actions in order to be heard and believed by their workforce.

I guess the moral of the story is that, in the end, content and context remain king.

Gary

One of the more ironic shifts in terms of organizational behavior is the increasing use of new tools, techniques, and channels by CEOs looking to breakthrough inside their organizations and connect with employees. However, these “solutions” are often more complicated than they need to be. CEOs are more inclined to gain much needed employee buy-in, attention, and trust not via technology, but through tried-and-true efforts such as authenticity, openness, being provocative, and being consistent in discussing the business and the workforce in relevant ways.

This was reinforced at a McKinsey Forum earlier this year featuring more than 75 CEOs and Board chairs discussing the impact of technology on the CEO position.

While technology aids in frequency and connectivity by providing various platforms and channels to convey information, gather facts, and engage in discussion, CEOs must possess a clear agenda, a set of priorities, a narrative, and a purpose behind their actions in order to be heard and believed by their workforce.

I guess the moral of the story is that, in the end, content and context remain king.

Gary

Read Full Blog