The average age for getting your first phone worldwide is 10. We spend more than 5,000 days between the ages of 10 and 25 with the phone as the center of our universe, which is prime-time for when our brains form habits for life. For all of us, at any age, the phone is rapidly becoming our new TV.
This made me think of Dynamic Signal, a leading platform for unlocking how employees communicate externally and internally, so I asked Joelle Kaufman, CMO of Dynamic Signal to riff with me on the topic of workplace innovation and how we can improve our communications.
BP: What is wrong with how we share corporate information today?
JK: We’re simply not giving employees reliable information in the way they’re most likely to consume it. We’re also not giving them a scalable and safe way to share information.
BP: What’s your answer?
JK: Well, you know we built our platform to make it easy to curate and target the right information to the right people at scale. The fact that it comes to them in a personalized, mobile and natural way is a breakthrough.
JK: It’s about being able to reach employees with a mobile alert, with a notification, or via an SMS. But if people prefer Slack, Workplace or Spark, it’s about reaching them there, too. The days of being able to mandate how someone gets information from you, by restricting it to one place where they must go, is long gone. Pandora’s box has opened. Now, you have to give them the right information where they want to be getting it. It’s a completely different mindset. But it’s actually a very human, employee-centric mindset. Wherever my employee wants my content is where I should be.
BP: You mean we are not just “one more poster campaign” away from success?
JK: That is for sure.
BP: In all seriousness, what you describe is powerful. What else are you seeing inside companies that makes it so important to deliver and share content in a more personal, mobile manner?
JK: We’re seeing an erosion of trust in institutions, whether it’s the media or companies. It’s even been called a ‘trust apocalypse.’ But people trust people they know. So, companies have to accept that stories they share are less trusted than if they come from employees. But your employees are not marketing devices. They’re going to make choices about if this is authentic information and if their communities will value it. We’ve seen that when you provide a stream of authentic internal content that isn’t designed to be shared, employees then are more likely to share what is shareable because they have greater trust in the organization. It’s very powerful. It’s transformational when you realize that you have to trust your employees and give them safe ways to share information. But if you only trust them with information you want them to share, they will know you don’t really trust them.
BP: You work with a lot of companies worldwide. What is their “aha” moment?
JK: The biggest ‘aha’ for our clients is the positive reaction their employees have to being offered this benefit that is so personalized to them. How we communicate is fundamental to how we relate as human beings. When you do this, you’re saying: you’re important enough that we’re investing so you have what you need and what you want at your fingertips. Employees have reacted by saying: ‘Wow, my executives, my managers, my company really value me.’ It drives much lower turnover and much higher performance. So, their ‘aha’ is that when done well, this really makes people happy. And happy people work better.
BP: What’s next in internal communications? Will we get more sophisticated in how we reach employees via text? New messaging service ahead? Tell us more.
JK: We’re in a period of transformation. I think in the near term there will be a much deeper level of understanding about what works and what doesn’t so we can optimize our internal communications. We’re going to be much more cognizant of the impact our communication is having on recipients. Now if you want a future cast, think about the ability of saying to your phone: ‘Please tell me what I need to know about my work today.’ And then it simply tells me while I’m in my car on the way into the office. Or I get to my desk and I put on my AR headset and what I need is immediately available to me. That’s pretty cool. The trend is toward information coming to me, when I want it, where I want it. I’m not going to go anywhere to get it.
Cool, very exciting what is becoming possible to improve the way we work and learn inside our organizations. Thanks, Joelle.
There is no question that communications and marketing have been evolving over the past several years, so it comes as no surprise that so has the role of the people overseeing these functions. The increased demand for transparency and authenticity from companies as well as the multitude of different channels that are now at our disposal has increased the need for consistency of message and therefore the need for communicators to start working together or even merging disciplines. More and more, we are seeing an increase in practitioners who have both communications and marketing within their responsibilities. We’re also seeing more alignment with investor relations practitioners and corporate communications professionals.
This trend is not new for me. I’ve always been a believer that there needs to be coordination among all of these functions and in some cases, when companies are small, they need to be the same person or department.
When I was in-house at Nuvelo, my title was director of IR and corporate communications. But what I really oversaw was anything that had to do with marketing or communications. We were a small company and I was the only communications person, so I wore all of the hats: employee communications, corporate communications, PR, IR and marketing. Since we didn’t have any products on the market, our booths at medical meetings were scientifically based and meant for educational purposes. A number of the people who came to visit were investors and sell-side analysts, so it made sense that I would help build the content in the booth and even staff it. Overseeing all of these functions allowed me to build one voice for the company. The context may have changed depending on the audience, but the overarching narrative was the same for all audiences.
Having these functions merged also allows for efficiency. As a PR practitioner, you have your thumb on the pulse of what is going on from and industry and competitor perspective—you’re monitoring news to see where your company can fit into the conversation. But this information is very useful for an IRO as well. They are constantly getting questions from the Street about how trends and competitors will affect their company, so being able to track this information for both functions is very useful. The same holds true for having a coordinated calendar of all events from both an IR and PR perspective. Having a comprehensive document allows the team to figure out the right cadence for the release of news, gives insight into how certain news might come into play with events that are happening at the same time and also allows for you to coordinate media and IR opportunities around travel for events and conferences. Each practitioner brings a different skill set to the table but it is clear that in this new environment of information consumption, the old model of communications in silos is no longer an option. Marketing, communications and IR need to be working together and in some cases can even be the same person!
One of the things I’ve always been proud about while working at W2O has been our ability to evolve agilely amid a radically changing industry. While at times bumpy, we’ve all worked together to shape this company from a traditional public relations firm into a fully integrated communications and marketing agency. We’ve been able to converge different specialties like analytics, digital, advertising, communications and marketing to provide our clients with a streamlined and effective solution to help drive quality engagement with their key stakeholders. When I say ‘we,’ I mean of course the collection of amazing talent and expertise that the company has amassed in just a short number of years and who have made the company’s expansion into new offerings as seamless as possible. I have been fortunate to work with an array of people who come from very different professional backgrounds, and through these experiences, I have learned valuable lessons when it comes to integrated communications. Please be advised that the below list is not a reflection of all best practices nor does it capture collective insights from industry experts, although I would like to think they would agree with my points! The below stems from my own personal experiences working on integrated accounts – six years is practically the same as 15 right? Undoubtedly not but here are my top three best practices (somewhat scattered) when it comes to integrated communications.
Embrace the P in PESO
By now, most communicators know the PESO model but often times, convincing clients to allocate budget to paid media has been challenging. It is vital for clients to understand the importance of paid media and how organic reach is a thing of the past. A colleague of mine recently applied a common metaphor to this very concept, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one heard it, did it make a sound? Same thing goes with a campaign or program, just because you make a big splash, doesn’t mean your messaging is being heard amongst the clutter.” A case in point with paid media is that we now have the ability to amplify our messages but also in a much more targeted manner. This is extremely beneficial when sharing content on social channels so much so that we highly advise clients that in order to play on social, they need to be willing to make the investment in paid.
Lose the Silos
More common than not, our clients usually employ several agencies to manage different aspects of the business and in my experience, working together can either be very seamless or rigid. It is imperative for clients to help break down functional silos and encourage cross-agency collaboration in addition to trusting the agencies to work together without having the client facilitate each engagement. I’ve seen many efforts not reach their full potential because it was not fully integrated as a result of our inability to work directly with partner agencies.
Start with Analytics
Before planning any major campaign or program, the first step should always be analytics. This is the foundation on which we build from. Without it, we are blind to many facets that our strategy will be dependent on – how can we know where conversations are happening online and who is driving them? Don’t you think it’s important to know who your brand ambassadors are or what people think of your product in comparison to your competitors before we pull together our strategic approach? Understandably, clients are always dealing with budget constraints but skimping out on analytics could be a costly mistake in the long run.
Organizations are struggling to manage and communicate with an employee base whose needs and expectations far exceed its capacity and capability
The global work environment has been changing for several years driven by technology and the expectations derived from a social and digital reality. But there are also fundamental shifts in the types of people entering the workforce, the continued impact of globalization, the increased level of noise, pay inequality, the speed and pace of competition, an emerging set of social protocols, an insatiable desire for personalization, and an increased reliance on dialogue, discussion, and debate among peers and managers to gain insight, test assumptions, and find truth.
It’s no wonder that leaders are already behind the times in terms of addressing this new environment – what some call “managing the future with the mindset of the past” – and continue to be frustrated at the lack of employee engagement, organizational clarity, and strategic alignment necessary to compete effectively.
So, what’s happening with your workforce?
Below are important considerations, aspects and trends in comprehending your employees’ reality. Ultimately, the critical question is, “Are we communicating to a workforce that doesn’t exist?”
Multi-Generational/Cultural Perspectives – Baby Boomers, Millennials, Women, and different ethnic backgrounds are forming incredibly diverse corporate cultures.
So, ‘who is our workforce?’ is a question that leaders must answer to ensure the business can survive and prosper. And yet, regardless of the generation, race, or ethnicity you identify with, there are common beliefs regarding work ethic, expectations, growth, and development that cut across each segment. Assimilating the generational nuances and overlaying an archetype view can result in a more specific dissection of the workforce. There are many approaches and methodologies to discover who, in fact, comprises your workforce. One such approach is the Employee Worldview™ Archetype Analysis, which identifies how people view themselves in terms of specific behavioral archetypes. Below is snapshot taken from a leading global services company.
Career oriented/strong company pride – respectful of status quo
- This group tends to be long-time employees who have had successful careers in the company. They are highly engaged but often blind about the opportunities and gaps inherent in the culture and business. They are also more often than not the ones who state in meetings that “we tried that before and it failed” or “good idea but won’t work here.”
High potential/high achievement – catalyst for change
- The most powerful group in any organization. High potential, talented and committed to winning. Can be frustrated by inertia and perceived lack of discipline and commitment to change. This is the key target for any leadership and internal communications effort!
- A large population of the workforce sits here—come to work every day, do their jobs, and are generally satisfied with the way things are.
Marginally effective/highly critical – “Victim” mentality
- Typically, the smallest group within a workforce, but also the most dangerous in terms of culture deterioration. These folks tend to gossip the most, work the least and trash every company decision inside and outside the company.
This segmentation of how people believe they behave – based on a proven methodology – open a window into how leaders and communicators can better communicate and more effectively manage performance. The analysis is a foundation for comprehending behaviors, interests, concerns, expectations. Results are then used to develop content, influence management techniques, etc.
From a communications standpoint, millennials and Gen Z staff are increasingly approaching information acquisition and assimilation in bite-sized chunks. There is an appetite among employees for content, channel and timing to be directed and owned personally, not by the organization. Employees want a Choose Your Own Adventure approach to communications, indicating the diverse nature of today’s workforce
“Here’s What I Think” – Technology is now part of our lives and as such, the ability to participate – what some call engagement – in the business has never been greater. As such, a still nascent trend is beginning to emerge in some companies: workplace democracy. This not the traditional soliciting ideas and suggestions but an actual “say” in how things are done. Businesses from grocer Whole Foods to a slew of mid-to-small organizations are giving employees a say on everything from vacation time, compensation programs, work environments, and events. Doing so establishes a standard for employee involvement making people more accountable and mitigating negative tendencies that can arise when people feel alienated. It must be noted that companies embarking on such an open culture must be cognizant of the pressure it places on managers who fear a loss of authority and control. Of course, letting people decide the furniture or layout of an office is different than letting them vote on a new pay program.
Information finds people vs. people finding information – People are tied to platforms, apps, and outlets as a means of filtering information and content that most interests them. As such, these platforms alert people when news is taking place providing an efficient means to keep informed. From a workplace standpoint, aligning different content with specific channels increases an employee’s ability to keep informed and remain engaged.
On-Demand Communications – Cultivating and curating various forms of content and placing it in easily accessible places and on well-developed channels allow for employees to retrieve and utilize information at the time and place of their choosing.
Open spaces – More and more companies are adopting “open office” layouts in an attempt to encourage collaboration by breaking down silos. This type of architecture is changing organizational communications in some subtle and not so subtle ways. First and probably most interesting is that it increases discussion speeding up topics of interest and catalyzing debate inside the workspace. The impact on leaders, managers, and employees is profound causing organizations to evolve subjects or topics quicker than normal or lose the argument. The process itself filters those that shape opinion internally from those who just consume content.
Finding “Truth” – Why do people react to certain topics and not others? What are the information habits of your workforce? What tone breaks through? Is there a better day and time to announce important news? Who do people believe? Trust? Where is context coming from? What do you want people to do more of? Analytics is uncovering the real areas to focus and improve upon mitigating waste and the tendency to chase symptoms and no causes. How are you employing data and insight into your thinking, planning and execution?
Organizational Clarity – Or the comprehension an employee has about the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, strategy, opportunities, challenges, priorities and competitive reality is a CEO imperative. Without clarity, employees are rudderless, so to speak, performing duties and responsibilities that neither ladder up to a more meaningful goal nor remain relevant in a changing environment. As you construct clarity, three elements must be targeted: the Job dimension; the Strategy dimension; and the Market dimension. Each one provides a view into the enterprise from an employee and a business perspective.*
Broadcast to Conversation – The workplace of today is akin to a Greek bazaar full of conversations, debates, discussions around ideas, concepts, opinions meant to promote new thinking and motivate new behaviors. Slowly fading out is the old Broadcast model driven solely by leadership dictate and interest. It’s now about employees being able to discuss, debate, share and initiate conversations on various subjects pertaining to the business and their situation. Social collaboration tools are accelerating such activity and in so doing reshaping the dynamic internally.
Advocacy (Activists vs Audience) – Today’s employee is more active than at any time in history. Social media provides the forum and the highway to share, posit, debate and discuss anything including the organization. Leaders are becoming more aware that employees can be the company’s best, new product.
Why Do We Exist? – An intriguing take-way from all that’s happening is that people are much more inclined to challenge an organization’s very existence. It’s efficacy. How prepared are you in answering such a question. More importantly, how prepared are you if your employees answer in a manner that is not in synch with yours?
Work/Life = One – One of the hard truths today is that there is little balance between work and life. It’s now all one and the trick is how you coordinate different elements at various times depending on what’s needed. This “always on” reality forces a complete redesign of the employer brand experience. How is mobile iterated into your workplace experience?
“How Smart do you want people to be?”
This is something only you and your leadership can answer but is, in fact, the only real way to approach today’s workforce. “Smart” in this context means more than competence. It also encompasses being confident, informed, agile, reflective, decisive, collaborative and respectful. Deciphering the new codes of conduct and expectations must be at the foundation for any business strategy development, communications or marketing effort, managerial model, and HR approach.
The new workforce and workplace is here. Are you managing it with the mindset of the past?
*Organizational Clarity is based on a 2016 Signature Study conducted by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR)…for a complete report please go to www.instituteforpr.org
Earlier this year, our CEO, Jim Weiss, paved the way for the future of W2O Group with the concept of “InteGREATness”. In theory, the Committee of Millennials (COM) has had this in practice since its first meeting in 2013. With over 60 interns, associates and managers across the New York, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis offices, COM offers a space for millennials at W2O Group to educate, collaborate and innovate as we continue to develop our careers. This past month, we challenged the committee to think about how we are already “InteGREATing,” and what more we can be doing to truly “InteGREAT.”
What we’re already doing…
- Engage-alytics: Engage-alytics is the crossover and collaboration between our analytics and engagement divisions. Using the data mining, insights and influencers identified by the analytics team, the engagement team is able to better serve the client. Additionally, the engagement team is able to consult about end results and best practices with influencers, which better informs the original analytics output.
Where we can improve…
- It’s never too early or too late to “InteGREAT”: Whether you are kicking off 2017 planning or in the middle of executing one of many 2016 tactics, it is never too early or too late to bring in an outside expert to lend a new point of view and to contribute to the overall strategy. Ultimately, we should look to involve a team with diverse expertise early to maximize the ideation, counsel and services that we can provide.
As we look towards the end of 2016 and the future of W2O Group, we are excited to see how we can continue to put “InteGREATness” into practice as millennials and company-wide.
I’ve sat on a number of committees and boards over the years and been part of hundreds of companies as an employee and counselor. In doing so, I always gauge the level of commitment and engagement among colleagues and members to determine if success is attainable.
One recurring truth in my experience is that even in highly engaged environments success or even progress against a set of goals is not guaranteed. Now this would seem to go against everything we read and are told about engagement – that it’s essential to achieving organizational success.
However, engagement without direction, clarity, measures, consequence, and reward is basically a more pleasant situation. It’s akin to the famous quote “the operation was a success but the patient died.”
So before you run out to improve engagement in your organization or on your local committee ask yourself:
- What are we here to accomplish?
- What does it look like to customers?
- How are we measuring progress?
- How will we recognize achievement?
- How will we address failure?
- What do people need to do individually and collectively to win?
- What do people need to know every day to contribute?
Engagement continues to be the holy grail of organizational excellence – the subject of countless books, blogs, presentations and conferences. The truth is engagement alone achieves little. It must be part of leadership’s formula for managing the business with communications serving as both catalyst and fuel. As communicators the most important question to answer becomes “is engagement a cause or symptom of our performance?”
How you answer will most assuredly dictate the future – good or bad!
Anything less, engagement becomes a feel good destination with little hope for sustained results.
The first day of spring, St. Patrick’s Day, Daylight Savings…the month of March is eventful to say the least, but the “madness” truly ensues with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Throughout the tournament, we’ve seen Goliath’s fall and buzzer beaters drop. No matter who you are, or what team you play for, athletes and coaches alike are now center stage as the entire country watches the tournament unfold.
As many of us know, the team that is seeded higher, or deemed the clear cut favorite, does not always win. Teams and players tend to overlook the so called little-guy, you know, the mid-majors and smaller colleges who have made their way into the tournament by receiving an automatic bid from the NCAA selection committee after winning their conference tournament. Nevertheless, these teams are rarely given a shot to beat the best of the best. However, in March that all changes.
Now that we are down to the final 16 teams, there seems to be one thing in common with most of them, great coaching. The coaches that still stand are battle tested, having been in these big game situations before and they have prepared their teams accordingly. It is no coincidence that these coaches continuously reach this stage of the tournament year after year. While their team’s talent tends to be a bit stronger than others, we know that if a team is not prepared properly (ex. Michigan State), does not have the correct scouting report, or game plan in place, the team can falter and be upset by a “David” at any time during the tournament.
Similarly, for organizations across the globe, keeping an eye on your competition and understanding their business model is just as important as knowing your own.
It seems like ages since Nokia and RIM (Blackberry limited) were the kings of the mobile device space, as Apple and Samsung have since taken control. Who knows how different our world would be if Nokia had taken a stronger interest in the happenings at Apple’s headquarters rather than focusing solely on Nokia’s next step (or lack thereof). While it is important to continue to grow your organization, it is equally important to stay informed on the latest industry shifts and happenings, continuously converting that awareness into action.
Just like on the court, when an opposing team is gaining on you, it may make sense to change defenses or substitute certain players (fire and/or add new talent) to help improve your team’s chances at success. Change can be a good thing and should be embraced.
So, coaches, what changes will you make and how will you prepare your teams for the inevitable madness?
The Arthur W. Page Society is a professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives. Each year, they have an annual conference in which the members, sponsors and new members get together to network with one another, share case studies and present learnings to help strengthen the management policy role of chief public relations officers in the industry. This year’s meeting took place at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia from September 21 through September 23. We (Anke & Lauren) were selected to be volunteers at the conference this year and help orchestrate the meeting. We are excited to share with you some of the key insights and learnings from our extraordinary experience in Philly.
Infusing a taste of W2O into the mix: LiveCube
As all communications experts know, interaction, integration and engagement are key for success in anything one pursues. That’s why this year, the Page Society Annual Conference adopted LiveCube as an interactive social platform to help increase audience participation and attendee interaction. Housing all vital conference information on the app and enabling attendees to ask questions, comment on sessions and post pictures of the event on the LiveCube dashboard gave this year’s conference a much needed digital footprint that was smart, cutting edge and a major success. We were not surprised to hear that this new addition to the conference was suggested by non-other than W2O Group. Page members enjoyed the app and all its capabilities, and it was fascinating for us to be able to see the interaction between CCOs on various sessions.
The evolving role of the CCO
Although the role of the CCO has seen a substantial increase in responsibility over the last few decades, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to move communications into an even more mission-critical role. Communications has to focus on (re-)building itself from the core to enhance existing roles, such as building corporate reputation and employee engagement, and move into new areas, such as customer service and product development. Leveraging data-driven insights and taking risk with new ideas, needs to ring in a new era where marketing and communications work hand in hand and complement each other.
The Arthur W. Page Society serves as an example of how the role of (Chief) Communication Officer has evolved over the last few decades and it brings together the best and brightest of the communications profession. The society started with Arthur W. Page, who was the first public relations executive to hold the position of officer and member of the Board of Directors of a major public corporation, and has grown to over 500 members, most of whom have a seat at the executive table. At the conference, there were many case studies presented. We chose two that resonated with us to exemplify the great work being done by other communications professionals.
The American Lung Association: What’s in a color?
If you ask Alana Burns, Vice President, Signature Cause Campaign at the American Lung Association (ALA), a color can say more than a thousand words. These days just about every color in the rainbow is claimed by one advocacy group or another, exemplified by the ribbons worn by its supporters, so choosing a color to promote a cause as important as lung cancer can be a daunting task. Working with some of the best creative minds on the planet, the ALA, wanted to identify a color that represented both the cause and the target audience, women. Turquoise has traditionally been hailed as a bringer of good fortune or a talisman. According to Alana, the color turquoise is the perfect depiction of the “breath of fresh air” that the ALA is hoping to promote by raising awareness about lung cancer and it appeals to females, who are generally the chief medical officers of their families.
In a day and age where “just PR” isn’t enough to reach, and more importantly engage, consumers, the idea of authentic advocacy holds more relevance than ever before. An organic partnership with CVS (that just happened to announce their “tobacco-free” policy and rebranding as CVS Health at the same time the ALA “Lung Force” campaign launched) helped give this cause a voice.
Johnson & Johnson: Care, courage, connection + creativity = impact
Maggie FitzPatrick, Chief Communications Officer at Johnson & Johnson, knows about corporate compassion. As one of the major leaders in cutting edge medical products, her company knows corporate character matters. Maggie shared examples of how Johnson & Johnson is leveraging partnerships and a heritage of transparency to drive trust, engagement and advocacy. Johnson & Johnson uses the idea of “care” to create impact for those that value the brand. She delved into Johnson & Johnson’s belief in doing well by doing good with examples like Operation Smile and their 12-year commitment to its nursing campaign. It was a powerful session that demonstrated the importance and the impact caring, courage, connection and creativity can have on society.
The ‘So What’
You may say, “All of this sounds great, but so what?” Here are our key takeaways from a long weekend in Philadelphia at the Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference:
- We need to feel uncomfortable: Asking the hard questions and constantly challenging what has been known and tried, will make us invaluable to the CEOs whom we so often struggle to convince of the need for strategic communications.
- Employees are the key to long term, sustainable advocacy: Building advocacy from the core by first engaging employees and then encouraging organic growth stemming from passions and commitment to the cause or company is the key to long term success.
- With more power comes more responsibility: Over the past few decades, the role of the CCO has expanded immensely. With that comes a responsibility to solve today’s complex problems, inspired by a communications-focused approach.
- The era of communications AND marketing is over: The solution to every problem is not a new advertising campaign. Communications needs to lead the charge in solving today’s large scale problems and work hand in hand with marketing to move from image-driven campaigns to a more holistic approach of building and stewarding relationships.
Overall, we had such an amazing experience at this year’s Page Society Annual Conference. The lessons we learned and insights we gained are invaluable and we are excited to see how communications will evolve in the future. Thinking ahead, we hope to one day be able to contribute our learnings and ideas to the dialog and help continue to grow the role of the CCO.
Anke Knospe & Lauren Barbiero
It’s no surprise that achieving and sustaining an engaged workforce is beneficial for your business. That conversation has be had time and time again, and is supported with solid data. But, how do you really achieve engagement? What must fundamentally be in place in your organization in order to be successful? This conversation is less prevalent and arguably more interesting.
Our recent issue of Common Sense for the C-Suite explores this topic and sites three pre-requisites for employee engagement to come to fruition and before any engagement tactic, tool or technique can make a difference. Let us know what you think. What’s needed to engage your workforce?