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Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

Many of my peer-to-peer communication discussions ultimately turn to that age-old question: “What would you do if you had the top communication post – VP of Communications or Chief Comms Officer?” Seems the actions reserved for that first 100 days can make or break anyone, no matter how much experience they have traveling through the bloodstream.

So those first 100 days boils down to a few critical components. PR firm Weber Shandwick published an e-book on this topic a couple of years ago and the info really hit the mark. I’ve summarized some of that content, below, and have included my own thoughts as well as comments from my friends who practice PR and communication every day. I hope this creates more discussion on the topic – so feel free to comment and share your ideas.

The First 100 Days In The Life of a New CCO

  1. Get aligned with the organization’s culture as well as the CEO’s vision, strategy and objectives. How does the CEO communicate? What are his/her expectations? What behaviors are most valued by the executive team? What’s the political landscape?
  2. Get to know your communications team. You’re inheriting a team that has its own expectations, strengths, weaknesses and past successes. You must prepare to adjust your perspectives to fit in with the group, not vice versa. Listen carefully during one-on-ones with each communications staffer and take time to get to know the team as individuals. You can gain their respect by involving them in your planning and learning process. And don’t forget to acknowledge the great work they’re doing.
  3. Get to know the business. Spend time with each business leader. Attend their team meetings and meet individually with each of them. And yes, go to them. Use your interviewing skills to identify their challenges, desires and perceptions about how communication can help their business. These sessions will help you build support for communication across the company. Take copious notes as you have these meetings. You’ll use many of their ideas to create your comms plan.
  4. Talk to key stakeholders and get their opinions on the organization’s reputation. Ask similar questions of reporters, customers, strategic partners, and vendors. What has the company done well? What could we do better? Understanding the nuances from various stakeholders will help you craft a plan that nets results.
  5. Create the foundation of your plan by Day 100. Be proactive with goals, objectives and tactics that you and your team can drive. Don’t wait and let others come to you. There will be plenty of that along the way. Apply what you’ve learned listening to your team, the business leaders and the C-suite. Take the communication wheel or con or rudder, align PR plans with business strategy and your research steer your efforts. (And don’t forget to involve your team in the development of this plan!)
  6. Measure something. Media impressions, interactions with stakeholders, or issues and crisis situations avoided because of proactive engagement. You’ll know the C-level expectations when it comes to metrics and analytics. Include the measurement component in the comms strategy and create an executive summary or dashboard that focuses on results – at a minimum this should roll up once a quarter.

There are many more pieces to this puzzle, but these six steps are the crux of what will help you have a great experience as the chief communications person.  No matter what level you’re at in your career, think about how you would approach the role. Do you and your comms team currently work from a plan that is tied to business strategy? If not, perhaps it’s time to ask why.

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We recently set up several appointments with local companies to get estimates for a home project. Long story short, we have a couple outdated bathrooms that need to be gutted and brought into the new millennium.

After deciding exactly what jobs we wanted the contractors to complete, we met with two companies last weekend. And buddy let me tell you, it became crystal clear that first impressions make the difference — no matter what you do in life.

Estimator/contractor No. 1 arrived 15 minutes late. She was friendly, but a disheveled mess. What’s worse, she refused (or couldn’t) stay on track with our project, continually explaining projects her firm routinely does that were totally unrelated to ours. After repeatedly explaining exactly what we wanted, she took a few measurements then sat us down for a one-hour discussion about materials. While the products she offered were in line with what we wanted, the rabbit holes she kept running into were frustrating to us. At the end of two hours we had to cut her off and asked her to email or mail us a bid on the project, which she refused to do.

Estimator/contractor No. 2 arrived on time wearing a clean jacket with his company logo. He spent 10 minutes asking questions about what we wanted to accomplish and took measurements. Andy was friendly, knowledgeable about the capabilities and services his company provides and he listened to our needs. He worked up cost estimates and walked us through the project costs, pricing and time frames needed to complete the work.

Guess who gets the job?

The lesson in this story for anyone working with people/providing a service is to focus on the consumer and represent your business as if your livelihood depends on it. After all, when you make the wrong impression, you’re taking yourself out of consideration.

And business owners: Pay attention to the people you send out to meet with customers. Know them. Set expectations. Train them well. Above all, never allow someone represent your business who you wouldn’t “buy” from yourself.

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The Catholic Church in Minnesota recently mailed out 400,000 DVDs to its parishioners in the state, asking them to accept the church’s belief that gay marriage is wrong for human beings. In fact, gay marriage is so bad for the rest of the world, the Catholic leadership wants lawmakers to pass a new law forbidding it. It’s about six weeks before an election, see, and the church would really like its people to vote for candidates who oppose gay marriage.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published this piece last week (Sept. 20).

Then, an art curator at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis decided to produce a sculpture using DVDs provided to her by other Catholics who are opposed to its content. It’s her way of taking a stand against the church’s teaching on gay marriage. She was summarily terminated from her job, of course, and the Star Tribune published this article about the debacle.

As I read the story and readers’ comments, this one struck me as the most relevant…so I wanted to share it here. Naturally, not all good Catholics are anti-marriage. Some actually think with a reasonable and “modern” process about the issue. Here’s the reader’s comment from the newspaper:

Where did the $400,000 for the DVD come from?

First, I’m a parishioner at St. Mary’s, and like many fellow parishioners, my wife and I are planning to donate the archbishop’s DVD to Ms. Naylor’s art work. We feel this work of art is the perfect response to the archbishop’s actions, and it’s the Holy Spirit at work. Second, the archbishop has clearly crossed a line of political lobbying that is totally inappropriate. The church lobbies on behalf of the poor, children and others who need the protection of the church. The church builds schools, hospitals and shelters to serve, according to Christ’s command. That’s not what this DVD is about. This is the archbishop telling Catholics how to vote to change the constitution of the secular state of Minnesota. Minnesota and the United States are secular institutions which have laws and constitutions to protect the rights of all–regardless of religious belief. Instead of fighting for the poor, Archbishop Nienstedt is fighting to get Catholic theology into the constitution of the state of Minnesota where it would govern anyone, Catholic or not. We’re not a theocracy–like Iran or Saudi Arabia. We’re America, a secular society, and one of our core beliefs is freedom of religion. That includes freedom *from* religion. I don’t want my church dictating to people outside the church. It used to be illegal to buy contraceptives in many states, because archbishops demanded laws against it. They misused the authority of the church then, just as Archbishop Nienstedt has misused his authority now. Finally, I have to ask: where did this $400,000 come from? Was it a donor? Who was the donor? What else has the donor given money to? And if it wasn’t from a donor, how can the Archbishop order $400,000 be taken from the church’s budget and spent on this theocratic attempt to deprive some non-catholics of their civil rights? That money could run a daycare center in north Minneapolis for 250 kids for a year. Or a homeless shelter. Or it could have been spent lobbying the legislature to stop cutting funding for education. The number one subject Christ talks about in the New Testament is about the poor–not fighting to take away rights that are due to others. The appropriate place for the archbishop to plead his case for the church’s view of the institution of marriage is from the pulpit. Instead he wasted desperately needed $400,000 of funds on an arrogant attempt to decree Catholic law should be secular law. Each year there is a special collection at St. Mary’s, as in all diocese churches, for the Archbishops Fund. Each year as the scandals have grown in the church, the amount of donations has shrunk. So long as Archbishop Nienstedt leads the bishops of Minnesota in this kind of arrogant theocratic campaigns, ours is one parish household that will give our money elsewhere to help the poor and the forgotten. Rohn Jay Miller, parishioner at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Amen Brother!

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Ninety-one years. I’m sorry you didn’t get to celebrate today with those who love you most.

You are terribly missed and frequently thought of. The love you shared with me and all of your beloved family members will never be replaced, but I’ll always remember you for your kind words, thoughtfulness, huge heart and ability to make me forget about my troubles.

Because of you, I better appreciate the little things in life. A tasty meal that I cooked and shared…the smell of fresh-cut grass in the spring…a first snowfall. You taught me to pay attention to the things right in front of me and for that I’m eternally grateful. I’m a better man because of you.

So Happy Birthday, Mom. Know that you’re loved more than ever.

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Marrying

On Feb. 20, 2010, I’ll be married.

July 2009This major event presents the most excitement and anticipation I’ve felt about life and the future since the birth of my first child. The reasons for the excitement are many and varied.

First, she’s an amazing woman and I feel lucky to have her in my life. At no time have I held such a connection with another person. The magnet-like force that pulls and tugs on us is unlike anything…ever. People talk about North Stars and soul mates and true love. Nothing is more true than the two of us sharing this life of ours.

Another aspect of my relationship that makes it so unbelievably special is the simple fact that this time, it’s my choice. I’m not being coerced or chided into a decision I might regret. I’m not pressured by society or people or life circumstances or insecurities. We have chosen each other and there simply is no alternative lingering out there casting doubt.

Getting married again isn’t just about my wants and needs. There are kids involved – mine and hers – who want to see us happy and living life in the way we hoped life would be. Truth is, their happiness and acceptance is highly important to the decisions we’re making as a couple. We’ll always be in “mom” and “dad” mode to our respective kids.

So in a few weeks, we’ll get together – immediate families – at The Saint Paul Hotel. We’ll exchange vows and rings. We’ll take the steps we’re ready to take to live our lives together and promise to watch each other’s back til the very end. And for the next 40-plus years, I’ll be at her side no matter what life throws at us.

It’s where I choose to be…married to a woman I can respect and love forever.

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A quick scroll of the page tells you the writing bug inside me went into hibernation as the cooler months began to envelop Minneapolis. What’s with the lack of posts, you ask?

Good question.

Without making excuses, I’ll just say the past few months have been good to me. My oldest made it through her freshman year of college with nearly a 4.0 gpa. My youngest, a freshman in high school, continues to mature and become an amazing young man (wondering where he gets it from ;)).  All this, plus I’m in a new home – living with an incredible woman who contributes to my life every day in ways I never even imagined. Throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years celebrations, learning to cross country ski, and planning a trip to Mexico, and there you have it.

So much fodder for writing. And yet, writing has been the last thing on my list. I’m not even resolving to try to write more in 2010. It’s. Just. Not. That. Important. Right. Now.  Like Lennon when he left the Beatles, I’ve left my writing and the myth that I am one of the great writers to gather dust while other things in my life get my attention.

When my muse returns, it will likely do so with a vengence. Til then, I’ll poke around, observe and devleop thoughts for reference at a later date.

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And So She Goes

My daughter starts her freshman year in college next week. I’ll move her into her residence hall on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., on Saturday.

Major milestone.

No cliche in the world sums up the transition of your first born going off to college. Minds broaden; lives change – both hers and mine, but mainly hers. There is no downside to to the days, months and years to come. She’s prepared, smart, filled with common sense, and ready to make this move. More than ready, in fact.

And as much as I’ve prepared myself for the letting go part, the actual doing so may not come as easy as I intended. But it will come, just as she goes.

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