It goes without saying that today’s Boards have an incredible responsibility as it relates to corporate governance. In a digital world, governance takes on a whole new meaning. The result is that directors, management, and shareholders must be cognizant and capable of handling the onslaught of scrutiny and opinions by employees, investors, regulators, and influencers that now traverse the social landscape.  Further, Boards must ensure a climate of integrity, dignity, and ethics from which to lead and manage the organization.

But the most interesting shift in terms of Board responsibilities has to do with Reputation. Long understood to be at the core of Board value, maintaining or strengthening corporate reputation in a digital age is no longer a reactive exercise.  Rather, Relevance is now the single most important oversight responsibility. It is quite frankly the strongest asset an organization possesses. Relevance can influence valuation, recruitment, retention, interest, and foster innovation. Relevance magnifies engagement among key stakeholders. It can also highlight a deep divide between a company’s position and a marketplace’s expectations.

As Boards grapple with this growing complexity fueled by technology and shifting circles of power, two critical questions must be addressed:

  1. Are We Relevant? As cited above, Boards need to be aware of the organization’s relevance among key stakeholders in order to gauge strategies, drive investments, monitor leadership performance,  and determine risk. Unlike the view past Boards had of reputation, relevance is much more fluid and agile either accelerating momentum or choking off growth.
  2. What Is Our Narrative? Now more than ever, companies need to have an organizing story or narrative that captures the essence of the business at a certain point in time. Boards need to be grasp the clarity and simplicity of the corporate narrative so it becomes a natural frame of reference for their work.

Navigating an organization in a connected world in which convergence of knowledge, data, technology, and communication are intertwined completely changes the relationships inherent in our social and business paradigm. For Boards in particular the pressure to balance often competing priorities can be daunting. Not dealing with the two questions posed here only intensifies the demands placed on directors as well as the scrutiny shone on the organization.

Getting your narrative right and comprehending Relevance can result in organizational resilience or the ability to tackle head-on the challenges that confront a business. With this mind, Boards can go a long way to guiding the agenda in the context of a changing environment and focus their energies on increasing value for the enterprise.

It’s certainly a new day for Boards in shaping how organizations succeed in a global environment and assimilating the resulting effects in a proactive manner.

Doing so will ensure its work remains fresh and unfettered.


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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There seems to be an unwritten rule in change management as it relates to communications. That is, communications is a tactical element and the only audience that needs to change are the employees. Why is that noteworthy?  For want of a better term, because it’s lazy thinking driven by management consulting firms and the expediency necessary to moving an organization forward. However, the difference maker in change is and remains communications…strategic communications. Moving people to believe in what’s next and reinforcing new behaviors through relevant information and a process that encourages dialogue, discussion, and debate that fosters learning and collaboration.

To effectively transform an organization in a digital realm, one must recalibrate your entire mindset. It starts with how the business needs to redesign itself to succeed. It reflects different structural forms to place people in a better place to satisfy customers. How the business needs to pivot in the face of competitive shifts. How the business needs to keep ahead of the customer connecting in multiple places.  How the business absorbs technology and analytics. How the business ideates and innovates. It then shifts to the behaviors and multidimensional techniques people need to drive the business in new and better ways.  It then moves to a whole new conversation internally revolving around different topics ranging from financial and performance measures to insights from the marketplace and opinions of colleagues.

The most important assumption, though, that needs to be overturned involves redirecting change communications to leaders. This is a major difference with change efforts to date. Leaders must truly grasp the multi-dimensional demands on the business during change. They must initiate a new discussion inside. They must gather information and interpret it for their respective staffs. They must establish new decision-making mechanisms and spatial distribution of interactions inn their groups.

Communicating to leaders initially as the change initiative unfolds results in:

  1. Mitigating Ambiguity, Complexity – The key is making sense of the situation in way people can grasp and learn
  2. Organize Around Customers, Marketplace – Shift the view to external and reinforce values
  3. Expand Communications Beyond PowerPoints & E-Mail – Establish a holistic leadership model that combines multiple communications techniques
  4. Strengthen Interdependence – Breakdown bureaucracy at the senior levels and encourage teamwork and sharing
  5. Increase Voice Internally – Multiple voices vs one expand conversation providing interesting points of view and garnering more interest
  6. Shape Perceptions – Reframing situations and offering an array of perspectives including examples tell their own story to people

Further, if your change effort including communications is focused on employees solely there will be an immediate pushback as the workforce realizes nothing will actually change if their leadership is not being held accountable. This includes endless presentations about the future and cryptic messages about job loss and performance. The resulting take-aways include fear, uncertainty, and doubt leading to paralysis.

Organizations are now reconstituting this troubled approach and targeting leaders upfront to be the beacons of change for the organization and the models of behavior for the workforce.  For communicators, this means taking our efforts a step further to being more sensitive to the dynamics of the workplace and the symbiotic relationship between employees and the organization.

To find change with employees, you first must initiate change with leadership. It’s the only way people believe the effort is actually important!


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Ah, the ubiquitous crisis. In today’s digital, all-access world, a damaging video, negative tweet, verbal misstep or computer network breech can leave a company reeling, causing stock prices to plummet, a mass exodus of customers and employees, major regulatory fines…the list goes on. While unfortunate, every one of us in the business world will be hit with a crisis at some point. It’s inevitable.

Whether the crisis is massive or minuscule, it’s important to be as prepared as possible, hunker down, respond quickly, transparently and effectively, and go about rebuilding your reputation… perhaps even for the better. A critical component  of a crisis response plan  is having data at your fingertips that can help you develop a fact-based plan of action. By tracking various forms of conversation occurring online and on social media platforms, you can glean important insights into customer and company sentiment, which will undoubtedly help inform your crisis plan. 

Today, I am excited to sit down with Steven Cutbirth, an analytics and engagement Senior Account Manager at W2O  to learn about the value of data analytics and social listening in helping mitigate and/or manage crises.

Steven, you have been using data analytics and social listening as a platform in mitigating several crises for our healthcare clients. Can you explain the role that analytics specifically plays in managing a crisis situation?

Analytics represent the “secret sauce” in effectively managing a crisis, helping guide a company’s response strategy with precision. In my experience, clients who invest upfront in an analytical approach to measurement and monitoring are the ones who truly understand their audience during a crisis. My team recently helped counsel a client through an unforeseen crisis situation that escalated quickly, generating viral social sharing and national media coverage within hours. We acted quickly to prepare a real-time solution by conducting social and media analyses to determine how the coverage was trending, which themes were becoming most apparent, and how the situation was being positioned. These analytics-driven insights proved that the crisis was sidestepping our client and ultimately trending downward. Having this data in hand proved invaluable in guiding the client to engage in a measured response. We simply couldn’t have done this without data analytics.

How does data gleaned from online analytics help inform a proactive crisis plan before one hits?

Potential crises can often be identified through predictive analytics, the process of utilizing previous patterns to predict potential future outcomes. Understanding potential outcomes can alert us to issues we don’t yet know about. The use of AI-based early-detection tools can automatically uncover unexpected shifts in previous patterns and immediately bring these to our attention as a potential cause for concern – in essence catching a crisis before it becomes one.

There are literally millions of negative social mentions made about brands each and every day. How does social listening and analytics help cut through the proverbial clutter and identify a crisis in the making?

I look at this as a three-part approach:

  1. You must be actively monitoring online conversations about your brand on a regular basis. That way you will know when there are significant upticks in conversation around a specific topic or unexpected marginal shifts that may hint at an upcoming crisis.
  2. Benchmarking is crucial. It’s more than just identifying negative mentions on your social channels. You must have a keen understanding of overall engagement metrics for each of your social media platforms. Regularly analyzing these engagement metrics on a recurring basis will make it far easier to spot when something is not quite right.
  3. Know and regularly engage with brand and industry online influencers, as they often serve as the bellwethers who will alert you to trends that may affect your brand. Develop an active monitoring program to ensure you are in-the-know about industry- or brand-specific topics they are actively discussing.

Want to learn more about W2O’s analytics-driven approach to crisis communications? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a note.

The key to effective engagement in a social/digital reality is relevance. Relevance manifests itself in content, consistency, cadence, channel, and commitment.  It turns brands into publishers, consumers into partners, and employees into advocates.

Relevant content breaks through the clutter and grabs attention.  It provides a pathway to and from the organization allowing for real conversations to take place and a deeper sense of comprehension regarding the brand, the organization, the customer, and the policies inherent in the enterprise.  Relevant content teaches and learns. It’s all about allowing people to discover who you are, what you stand for, how you think, and why you are important to them.

Note the word “discover.” It means content that allows people to find you on their terms vs. shouting at them in yours.

So why do brands find it so difficult to create stories that illuminate meaning?

Below are key areas where brands fall short:

  1. Content Must be Alluring – People must be attracted to the story because it’s attractive.
  2. Content Must be Meaningful – Information needs to be significant in terms of what it means to a customer or employee.  Most brand content lacks a material core to capture interest.   It’s mostly promotional in nature.
  3. Content Must be Engaging – One-way information is a dead end.  In today’s social world, customer and brand must be in continuous harmony exchanging perspectives and sharing information related to understanding each other better.  Content that provides immersive and experiential experiences.
  4. Content Must be Accessible – If you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.  Content needs to be on all platforms at all times and frequently updated and addressed.
  5. Content Must be Connected – One-off content is quickly dismissed, and forgotten.  Brands that link content to convey a fuller story – broadening the narrative – create and sustain interest while.
  6. Content Must be Channel Specific – One size fits all doesn’t work.   Content needs to be directed to each specific platform based on audience preferences.
  7. Content Must be Diverse – Visual, Video, Static, Audio, Blog Posts and Case Studies, News, Interviews, White Papers, Webinars, etc.  Each of these methods and types of content reflect a specific need and purpose in engaging stakeholders and learning more about them.
  8. Content must be Personal – When brands grasp their customer’s lives, they speak with them in a conversational manner, sensing wants and needs and addressing issues in a respectful, timely way.

Insight Breeds Precision

Given the above, the overarching reason brands struggle with relevant content is that relevance can’t be defined inside the organization.  Relevance is defined by the market – customers, consumers, prospects, influencers, media – based on behaviors and actions.   Brands utilize analytics to uncover insights that inform and influence programming and messaging in addition to product development, policy formation, and operational excellence.

In turn, insights translate into action based on more precise data and knowledge resulting in an optimal spend and use of resources from a marketing and communications standpoint.

Rethinking content in a time of short attention spans, information overload, skepticism, and choice can be a daunting task.  Brands, though, have an incredible opportunity to completely upend decades of one-way communications and see their products and services through a new lens.  One that reflects a digital world and a customer base with a variety of touch points to the brand and an expectation for a more personalized relationship on-demand.

Content then must serve a greater role in the entire marketing and communications mix defining the customer experience in new and different ways.

It begins with first letting go and accepting customers (and employees) own your brand.  It then moves to employing analytics to identify behaviors and actions providing insights that mirror lifestyles for use in content and programming.

So, how is your content working for your stakeholders?


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It’s no secret that news travels at the speed of a millisecond in today’s social/digital reality, yet for many companies, response time to mobilize around an issue often seems to be stuck in a different era. The key is accelerating responsiveness while ensuring thorough contingency analysis and planning, thanks in part to the availability of real-time analytics.  At W2O we’ve taken an in-depth look at how to make companies more agile improving their judgment and mitigating problems before they blossom.

How do we do this? We conduct a proprietary, real-time simulation process we call Inception, to pressure-test clients around preparedness. It’s an interactive workshop in which teams confront and respond to a crisis situation that emerges in a social/digital world.  In the debrief following the session, strengths and weaknesses in operational decision-making processes, intelligence-gathering, analytics, content development, and use of communication channels are identified, as are best practices.

Additionally, we follow a playbook. The playbook for an efficient and effective issues process in a digital world includes the following elements:

  • Effective triage increases decision-making. Some issues are urgent and important; others more of nuisance. If there’s a complicated, multi-person process for figuring out which is which—or conversely no process at all—company responses will be slow, muddled, and inefficient. Triage is a good solution. Just as hospital emergency departments employ triage professionals, corporations should have people trained to evaluate crises, make quick decisions, and rally resources rapidly when the situation warrants. Does yours? Are there clearly established internal signals that let him or her clarify within the organization that one issue is a “red ball” while others can be allowed to quiet down on their own?
  • A tight response team ensures you to stay agile. It’s hard to be nimble when you’re too large.  What’s the minimum team size needed to get results fast? Often you can get 90% of what you need from a small team; waiting for the missing 10% can immobilize you. Plan in advance who’s to be on the core team, put their contact information on speed-dial, and ensure they can be reached 24/7. (Equally important: knowing who’s not on this team. Rapid response sometimes requires sidestepping or tactfully saying no to some people who want to be involved but aren’t critical to the decision or immediately available to weigh in.)
  • Calibrate responses based on the platform and expectation; pre-authorize experts. Response time is directed by platform ad channel. Each has its own cadence, frequency, and expectation.  As such, knowing who in your organization has the experience and judgment to respond to key parts of the issue? Ideally, that go-to person should be pre-identified and pre-authorized by the C-suite to speak on the issue, independently providing reassurance while a more complete strategy gets formulated. Interim responses calm panic and let key audiences know you’re aware of the situation and working on solutions.
  • Address the short-term; deal with the long-term. At W2O, we recommend immediate response ideas with a more strategic long-term outlook built into the plan. It’s easier to put issues in perspective when you have initial solutions at hand with the ability to pivot to a longer-term approach; without these starter ideas, the issue can hover longer than it should.
  • Let data and realtime analytics provide the pathway. In times past, you needed to field a research study to gauge the impact of a situation and response to it. Today, you can use near-instantaneous real-time analytics to course-correct and fine-tune your efforts quickly before, during and immediately after a crisis hits. More importantly, if you are doing predictive analytics regularly, mapping potential issues that you can plan for (understanding that there are some you won’t see coming) you can actually spot an issue bubbling up in the earliest of instances and nip it before it hits The New York Times.
  • Respect the news highway. Information is power.  In a fast-paced, ever-changing media and influence environment it is critical that everyone involved in a crisis is educated on how news and opinion forms and flows.  That goes for traditional earned media most of which is also on-line today making sharing and syndication quicker and easier than ever before; the influence on social media posts by anyone with influence, media or not media, and how that can create a firestorm, often without context, within hours all the way up to the national evening news; to paid syndication of earned media and how that amplifies messaging in ways never seen in the past; to the importance of having active social channels and information on all the key influencers who follow and are engaged with your organization, to get into the discussion quickly in the same places where a crisis could be taking flight.    A little education will go a long way for most companies in this area.
  • Value speed over perfection. Issues often swirl out of control due to a lack of responsiveness that is the byproduct of being perfect. Getting your point-of-view out there quickly and updating based on new information is the difference between reputational damage and reputational gain.

Being aware and trained early on is the best remedy for mitigating an issue.  Some companies believe that a social media flare-up won’t affect them, some know it but don’t know how to prepare or get ahead of it with speed, but those who have experienced one know just how much damage can quickly occur.

Issues management and crisis preparedness in a digital age has taken on new meaning causing organizations to deal with the situation in an agile manner often upending traditional corporate protocols and processes.

Those that adopt and adapt quickly will emerge unscathed.  Those that don’t will deal with the consequences.

If you’re interested in knowing more about W2O, check out our About page.

Want to work with us? Say hi!

Implications and Insights for Communications and Marketing

On the surface, leading an organization in a turbulent business world encompasses very similar actions and decisions regarding strategy, innovation, talent, cost, and investment as it always has.  But to think this is the case would be extremely naïve if not dangerous.  Technology and its resulting impact is literally upending entire businesses and markets causing management approaches and leadership models to be redesigned or abandoned.  Communications and Marketing are already experimenting with new techniques directed by data and analytics pointing to where and how opinion is being formed, influence is being felt, purchase is being reinforced, and relevance is defined.

Given this tumult, the C-Suite is being forced to transcend tried and true processes and beliefs to address the real byproduct of a digital world:  Speed/Agility.  To win today, organizations and leaders need to move quickly, process data and insight fast, pivot at a moment’s notice, and innovate ahead of competition.  As such, decision making, research, investigation, analysis, and business savvy can no longer be part of the traditional bureaucracy.  Competitors and business models are established in the blink of eye.  Customers are gained and lost every second.

The question is how the C-Suite can be supported so as to accelerate progress?  This new found energy derived from a digital marketplace and fueled by technology can provide the following benefits to the business:

  • Entirely new business models
  • Faster talent development
  • Acute learning programs
  • Dynamic product portfolios
  • Improving decision making
  • Greater data driven analysis and insight absorption

As we work to hone our value to the organization, there are specific areas that provide new advantage to the C-Suite in a social/digital world. Doing so requires nothing less than a clean sheet approach to our thinking, our tools, our techniques, and of course, our understanding of the role Communications and Marketing plays in this multi-connected marketplace.

The Differentiators and Similarities Between the Marketing Function and the Comms Function:



Intent Relevance Growth
What are you solving for?
  • Clarity
  • Belief
  • Culture
  • Revenue
  • Brand
What do you need to know?
  • Where opinion is formed
  • How people receive and share info
  • What techniques work
  • Business drivers
  • Consumer insights
  • Efficiency of spend (ads, digital etc.)
New Tools/Technique
  • Data/Analytics/Insights
  • Platforms
  • Apps
  • PESO efficiency


  • Data/Analytics/Insights
  • Idea generation
  • Information exchange
  • Internal networks
  • Metrics
  • Influencer outreach
  • Comms Efficiency
New Partnership
  • IO
  • IT
  • HR
  • Sales
  • CMO
  • Experience
  • CCO

Based on the above, there a couple of points that must be raised.  First, data/analytics is now table stakes.  Second, insights and how they are incorporated into a multitude of potential areas – innovation, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, marketing spend, pricing efficiency, etc. – is where the real treasure can be found. Third, the above comparison shares one key element: Precision.   Analyzing data and uncovering insights gives both the CCO and CMO the confidence to inform and engage the C-Suite in new and different conversations about the business with the ability to impact key decisions vital to the future.  Such precision is also based on engaging in new relationships inside the organization providing different perspectives.

For decades, the C-Suite dynamic was relatively stable.  Highly consensual and rigorously formatted.  Comprehending the ever changing situations now facing business leaders and applying that knowledge to optimizing our respective roles in Communications and Marketing raises the value inherent in what we do and ensures the organization is agile possessing the mental dexterity and speed necessary to succeed.

Dynamic Signal’s 2018 Employee Communications/Engagement Report Paints a Haltingly Frustrating Picture of Today’s Workforce Reality

Organizations today are struggling to find the right content, context, and cadence to engage employees ensuring they have the right information and relationships to succeed.  However, from an employee standpoint, the difficulty goes beyond just information flow.

In the just released Dynamic Signal (DySi) 2018 “The State of Employee Communications & Engagement” report –  employees report that the time it takes to keep up with the alerts, texts, e-mails, and conversations both inside and outside the company is robbing them of valuable productive time.  The annual DySi report surveys employees of Fortune500 companies and collects data from communications/HR and marketing practitioners in the field.

This year’s survey data was compiled from employees across these three groups:

  • Employees (1,072 respondents)
  • Corporate communication & HR professionals (311 respondents)
  • C-suite (108 respondents)

Among the key findings:

  • Three out of four (75 percent) employees report wasting time to keep up with the constant dings, pings, chats and more
  • Two-thirds of employees (66 percent) report losing between 30 minutes and 1 hour every day from pressure to keep up, costing over three billion dollars in annual profits from wasted time alone
  • Two-fifths (42 percent) report missing critical information necessary to do their job caused by ineffective communication tools, with nearly half saying this was at least a weekly frustration

“My favorite finding was this: 80 percent of executives we surveyed were effusive in their praise for how well their companies are communicating with their employees. They were thrilled! But then 59 percent of them also said they personally missed critical information intended for them. Well, if communication is not good for me as a senior executive, I assure you, then it’s terrible for employees,” said Joelle Kaufman, CMO, Dynamic Signal.

The digital workforce is one where people are able to multi-task given the information, platforms, and devices but the increasing volume of information and content is causing that behavior to short circuit. As such, employing a strong advocacy system where employees can better participate in the mission and narrative of the organization on their terms can mitigate the tension in the system.

According to Gary Grates, principal, W2O Group, and a noted expert in the employee communications/engagement space, the DySi report shines a light on the ever evolving workforce of the future uncovering the strategic insights and tactical nuances necessary to recruit and retain talent.  “All of this must be viewed through the lens of an open environment, one that has no walls – physical or emotional – and an information system designed to be accessed freely and openly.  Advocacy allows people to control their own adventure, so to speak, and engage in the organization on their terms and in their time.”

According Dynamic Signal CEO & Founder, Russ Fradin, employee communications’ pros must adapt their tools to the developing workforce. “Our report shows that communication professionals continue to rely on technology designed to reach employees in an office, at a desk. This is ineffective and leaves companies totally unable to communicate with half of their employees who are remote, lack a corporate email address, or are generally disconnected. The fact is that mobile phone penetration has exploded in recent years. Technology is finally allowing companies to communicate with every employee, everywhere, reaching an entire workforce in a way that is personalized, convenient, measurable, and efficient.”

Looking for more insights? The 2018 DySi Report on Employee Communications/Engagement can be found here.

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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 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 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!


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