Golden evaluation directs better communication

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Pulitzer? Nobel? Oscars? Difficult choices to select winners – and a challenge I had sympathy with as an evaluator for the IABC Gold Quill awards recently, A very hard task – but one that is also fulfilling and fascinating.

It’s a hard task because the standard of all the entries from IABC colleagues is high, fascinating to see the range of challenges and innovative solutions and fulfilling to be able to give feedback – and for the very best: special awards. The programme has now be running for 40 years and attracts entries from 25 plus countries from Argentina to New Zealand.

You may ask why do so many busy communicators take the time and trouble to enter?

For it’s not just a question of putting work samples in the post. Within specific categories like communication management, research and training, entrants complete a detailed form including work plans and work samples. Through this process, they are helped with support and advice from the IABC organisers with the well named Midas Touch.

There’s also information and support for the evaluators such as myself. And note – it is evaluator – not judge. When reviewing the entries, evaluators are expected not only give marks but also comment with the aim of giving not just praise but also constructive evaluation. So every entry is a winner – they all receive invaluable feedback to direct better communication.

Over the years Gold Quill has developed: a recent initiative being two evaluators for each entry. We all have out passions and prejudices and to ensure an objective assessment, each evaluator has a partner. Scores and comments from each are reconciled for the final submission.

Virtual judging

For 2015 I opted to be a virtual judge, working online and my “other half” was Andrey Barannikov, CEO of SNP, a communication agency in Moscow (@spncomms). When it came to reconciling our marks on our eight entries it turned out that we shared similar reactions in the main. There were a few differences – he was tough sometimes and I was tougher on others but overall scores were remarkably similar – which was very reassuring.

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Coaching Body Language in the C-Suite

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The senior vice president of a Fortune 500 company is speaking at a corporate communication conference. He’s a polished presenter with an impressive selection of organizational “war stories” delivered with a charming, self-deprecating sense of humor. The audience likes him. They like him a lot.

Then, as he finishes his comments, he folds his arms across his chest and says, “I’m open for questions. Please, ask me anything.”

Suddenly, there is a shift of energy in the room – from engagement to uncertainty. The audience that was so attentive only moments ago is now somehow disconnected and unable to think of anything to ask.

I was at that event. As one of the presenters scheduled to follow the executive, I was seated at a table onstage with a clear view of the entire room. And the minute I saw that single gesture, I knew exactly how the audience would react.

Later I talked with the speaker (who didn’t realize he’d crossed his arms) and interviewed members of the audience (none of whom recalled the gesture, but all of whom remembered struggling to come up with a question).

So what happened – how could a simple arm movement that none of the participants were even aware of have had such a potent impact?
And what does this mean to the executives you coach?

In preparing for an important meeting most executives concentrate on what to say, memorizing crucial points, and rehearsing their presentation so they will come across as credible and convincing.

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4 ways Internal Communication can turn change to its advantage

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As the global marketplace continues to become faster and more complex, Internal Communication (IC) must evolve to meet it. Thriving, not merely surviving, in the midst of change is what’s needed. Megan Sheerin explores four smart shifts internal communicators must make to keep pace.

If there’s one thing that tires the hardiest of communicators, it’s relentless, unpredictable change. The kind that frustrates Internal Communication’s day-to-day work as much as its long-term planning. The kind that buries us under old strategies, communication plans—and complaints from employees that what we previously communicated to them is no longer relevant.

In today’s complex and fast-paced world, near-constant change is a given. Companies that can adapt—and quickly—have a competitive edge. Managing this change successfully is where Internal Communication can help. Yet knowing where to start can be overwhelming, especially when we’re dealing with deeply entrenched workflows that once worked well.

Letting go of, or adapting, some long-held paradigms is the key to communicators meeting the expectations of an increasingly fast and more complex global marketplace. But you can’t simply drop a new approach on top of an existing one and expect to win. Before you tackle changing processes and structures, it’s critical to first shift attitudes and beliefs. Only then will your Internal Communication function—and organization—reap the benefits.

Melcrum’s research reveals four paradigm shifts IC should consider, to achieve exactly that:

1. Moving from extensive, sequential planning to adaptive, iterative planning.

Rigid sequential planning wrongly assumes change happens only before or after a communications campaign. But in reality, change can occur at any point during a campaign—or even throughout it. This means as internal communicators, we need to revamp our linear planning processes to be more adaptable. It’s about being flexible and learning as change takes place, then revising our next steps to take that new knowledge into account.
EMC is one company that does this well.

The IC function in this leading IT company manages its campaigns in short cycles—working in ‘communication sprints’ to create intermittent deliverables, in turn pulling forward returns on their campaign investments. Internal Communication works alongside its Marketing partner organization to scale these campaigns quickly, pulling in expert resources from across the enterprise and prioritizing important campaigns so that everyone is aligned.

2. Moving from favoring the change curve to employee moments of truth.

The linear change curve assumes employees progress through change in a predictable way. It’s a framework that’s served Internal Communication well in guiding workflows when the business environment was more stable. However employees today are more likely to jump around, skip over and jolt backward as they learn to adapt to change—especially when it keeps occurring and employees have more and better information sources to refer to.

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4 ways to use data to tell stories

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I’m a contrarian about the “big data” revolution. I fear a world where corporate communication and marketing focuses on data at the exclusion of the human beings those numbers represent.

On the other hand, I’m a strong believer that this proliferation of data analysis, when fused with qualitative insights and human storytelling, can bring stories to life like never before. Increasingly, we are seeing how compelling use of data, combined with strong storytelling, can create memorable narratives in journalism, in entertainment, and in marketing and communications.

Here are four key ways that communication professionals can combine data and storytelling to create a particularly compelling way of understanding the world.

1. Let research and data show the scope and scale behind human stories

Journalists have perfected the craft of making human experiences the face of a story, while then using available data to talk about the broader context of that story.

Today, marketers and corporate communicators have more opportunity than ever before to connect research and data with stories of real people—whether through the content the company is publishing directly or in the stories that they pitch to media outlets. But many organizations have not invested in the resources and skills to conduct robust data analysis, or—on the other end of the spectrum—have become so enamored with data that the numbers aren’t being connected with examples that take us deep into the context of what these trends mean in people’s lives.

Global professional services firm EY (disclosure: a client of mine) has become a master at making this connection. EY has long been known for having its finger on the pulse of entrepreneurship.

And, increasingly, EY has demonstrated that knowledge and connection with entrepreneurs by highlighting entrepreneurs’ individual stories alongside regular quantitative research on global entrepreneurship patterns. The result is a steady, year-round set of stories that demonstrates both the breadth of entrepreneurship trends happening around the globe and the depth of stories of individual entrepreneurs in their particular market.

2. Draw direct connections between data analysis and on-the-ground stories

Too often, even when organizations attempt to combine quantitative insights with case studies, the connection between the two is not that direct.

That’s why stories in which individual anecdotes connect quite directly into larger data sets can be particularly valuable, such as iSeeChange, an initiative of Localore and KVNF Mountain Grown Community Radio in Western Colorado.

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