Lee's 'Better Communication Results' blog

A blog to help YOU communicate better for better business results!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Nice...

Just finished fiddling around with the template for this blog and found a really nice one -- much happier with this new look.

Now, when I get the time (ha ha ha!!) I'll update my website to look like this site...

Don't hold your breath, though... [smile]

Off topic, but...

This just cracks me up!

Imagine how any visitor would feel when first opening the door and taking that first tentative step...

.

Podcasting in business - why should I?

Podcasting can save the busy executive from the tedium of countless non-productive hours. Here's how...

Let's consider the average manager or executive.

They receive 60-70 emails a day, links to spreadsheets and pages on the company intranet, links to other websites...

Then they take a trip to another city. Hop on a plane... but now what?

If they're in 'cattle class' there's not enough room to swing a cat, let alone open their laptop.

They could probably read some of the material their colleagues sent them, but there's no printer available so unless they printed off the equivalent of 'War & Peace' before they left they are stuck with the airline magazine. Interesting, but...

But if they brought their mp3 player with them they can listen to that!

And on that mp3 player they could listen to:
  • A recent presentation the MD gave to the investment community
  • An update on sales figures from an affiliate organisation
  • A synopsis of KPI performance by the executive's own division
  • News and commentary from leading online broadcasters relevant to the executive's own industry
  • A few really nice tunes to help take your mind off your troubles!

But how do you get this sort of material (apart from the tunes, of course!)?

Simple.

  • The sound guy at the MD's presentation saves the speech as a digital file.
  • Adam in Finance reads the sales figures into a cheap microphone attached to his computer. A few clicks of his mouse and he's saved the file as an mp3.
  • Rob in Admin reads the performance stats into a cheap microphone attached to his computer. A few clicks of his mouse...
  • The executive has some inexpensive podcasting software on their desktop, which with a few clicks of their mouse automatically collects relevant sound files and downloads them onto the executive's mp3 player.
  • And the executive transfers some songs from a favourite cd onto their computer, then with a few simple clicks of their mouse transfers them to the mp3 player.

So what sort of software can handle all of this?

For recording the speech files and converting them to mp3 format:
Audacity (www.audacity.com)

For notifying other interested parties that the sound files are available:
RSS technology - Feedspring (www.feedspring.com)

For downloading the mp3 files:
Doppler (www.dopplerradio.net)

For automatically loading them onto an mp3 player:
see your mp3 player software

For reading blogs and other text-based RSS feeds:
BlogExpress (www.useablelabs.com)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sponsored blogging and podcasting

A commentary on Shel & Nev's FIR today raised, for me, the issue of sponsored blogging and where the ethical line is drawn.

More and more mainstream media are utilising blogs and bloggers to capture news for them, both local and international.

Which is fine if you trust the blogger.

But what if your blogger is just someone with a winning way with words who readily accepts financing from a third party in order to both fund his hobby and to put bread on the table? Where does the ethical line lie?

I would think that the ethical line is that the blogger in question would announce prominently on his/her post/site that they are sponsored by XYZ Corp.

But I'm not stupid (my wife would disagree, judging by her views on how much time I spend on my internet interests).

A loud, opinionated, 'squeaky wheel' of a blogger or podcaster can easily garner significant airtime and media time, with a corresponding growth in reader/listenership. Indeed, its how many great PR campaigns begin - with a controversial point of view.

-- sidebar --
Consider the average GP (local doctor for my non-UK/AUS friends). They are extremely time poor, so rely on third parties to feed them synopses of conferences and medical literature. These third parties are 90%+ of the time pharmaceutical companies.

Wither the editorial integrity? Can GPs trust the provider of the information to be unbiased? Of course not, which is why more and more GPs that I know are no longer attending seminars and conferences put on by the drug companies.

--- end sidebar ---

Back to the mainstream media or blogworld (like my fellow compatriots at Corporate Engagement, I find the term 'blogosphere' faintly laughable) ...

If a particularly successful 'squeaky wheel' gets a lot of oil (attention), who is to say that their rants and raves aren't influenced by someone who is secretly sponsoring them? Or at least 'supporting' their cause...

Just as 'product review' websites are little more than clever and highly successful affiliate income earners for their owners, so bloggers can very shortly become PR darlings, and the most capable bloggers will no doubt be approached with sponsorship offers.

Watch the feathers fly on PR blogs when examples come to light!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Technology, schmechnology...

Arrghh!

I listened to Shel & Neville's interview with Steve Rubel and found Steve's feed really low in the mix.

So was about to rattle off a quick post about using SoundForge and 'Normalise' to quickly bring up volume levels, but just wanted to check my 'how to' post.

Imagine my annoyance when I found that my MX version of SoundForge doesn't have the lovely presets that my SF version 4 has?!

Instead of a very simple process for normalising/compressing to a suitable level for speech, the MX version has a *very* convoluted workaround.

So I might reinstall my old version 4.

BUT --- version 4 doesn't save to mp3 format, whereas MX does...

So I may well have to keep BOTH versions on my system - v4 for quickly editing and bringing the audio to a suitable level, then MX for saving as an mp3.

How wasteful is that???

Anyone got a useful workaround?

Lee

Draft for in-house presentation.. comments please!

G'day,

I'm putting together a presentation to senior management of a client of mine (we are very 'close' so I am able to talk about 'us' rather than 'you') about blogging and podcasting.

I am indebted to Neville and Shel for pointing me off to Lee Lefevre's blog for support material.

I would REALLY value comments regarding this draft presentation, such as any omissions or additions, etc...

For your info: Michelle, Bill and Eric are extremely senior MDs, all other names are managers under Michelle (who sits under Bill who sits under Eric)

============================

If we don't learn to communicate in new ways with our audiences we will cease to be relevant within 5 years.

We live in a post-modern world. Let me explain what that means.

For example, within the realm of spirituality, there is a greater awareness of 'spirituality' and a greater seeking for personal 'answers to life's questions' than ever before.

But people are no longer accepting organised scientific or religious statements of fact or faith -- they are coming to their own conclusions.

The Modern world had the scientist and expert as the definer of what is 'true'; the post-modern world has the indvidual's 'truth' as paramount; individuals are willing and able to make their own decisions about what is 'truth' for them.

So how does that impact us here at MBFH?

The average member of our audience no longer takes as 'gospel' marketing puke, the sort of stuff that marketing departments have traditionally vomited out like clockwork -- glossy, relentlessly upbeat, full of happy smiling faces.

The cynical Joe Punter much prefers to hear news that appears 'real' to him. Joanne Bloggs wants to hear authentic voices, not 'shiny happy people' lecturing her on what she should think or feel.

They want a Dr Phil, who tells it like it is, not 'Corporate Man' or 'Corporate Woman' who tells it like they want us to believe it is.

And you know this to be true, don't you, because it's how YOU are: consider the glossy brochures companies send you in the mail. How many envelopes actually get opened in your house? How many sales letters, newsletters and brochures are actually read as compared to tossed in the bin straight away?

How many people actually read the letter and glossy newsletter we sent out late last year about the benefit changes to our old products? Not many, I would suggest, because I got the calls from members saying they never received them, or the more honest ones sheepishly admitted they didn't read it.

But we'll read the newspaper, or catch the evening news, or listen to a trusted friend who tells us the same thing in a non-PR, non-corporate way...

Why do you think we got a much easier time than predicted over the rate review? Because the media had forewarned everyone for us, our membrship was *expecting* to pay more.

So how do companies react to the new, post-modern audience?

They can do two things...

One: they can read The Cluetrain Manifesto to understand why these days communicating with an audience must be a dialogue, a conversation, not a one-way vomit.

Two: they can explore new ways of conversing with their audiences.

Firstly, the Cluetrain Manifesto: it is the first book to ever be sporned from a website. The website still exists, where you can still read the original 95 theses. These theses contain more wisdom about understanding and communicating with the post-modern audience than has ever come out of MBA courses.

As one CEO says of the book, "when people can get faster and smarter information from one another than from the companies they do business with, it may be time to close the shop. Or, maybe, it's just time to get on the cluetrain and fully understand that your customers are living, breathing creatures who want one-to-one relationships with your company, not just one-way rhetoric."

So: read this book. It explains our audiences, both internal and external.

Secondly, explore new ways of communicating with these audiences.

Wonderful new tools exist to do this and more and more companies are taking them on board. And not just hi-tech companies, who you would instinctively think *would* be the first to explore and exploit these tools.

For example, General Motors and Ford, not small companies, have started some one-to-many conversations with their marketplace. They use 'blogs', which are new communication tools, as effective means to enter into conversations to specific groups of people. There's a blog for engine lovers, for example, where all they talk about is engines. Not everyone's cup of tea, but enthusiasts of car engines are flocking there in droves and entering into an authentic conversation with the company. When these enthusiasts are looking to buy their next car, who do you think has a prominent place in their mind?

IBM has something close to 3,000 internal blogs, where staff from around the world can converse with each other, share ideas, find answers, build a community across geographic divides.

More and more Fortune 500 companies are creating blogs as new ways of communicating with audiences that want authentic conversations, not just occasional mailmerged letters.
We could use that same technology here to enter into conversation with our marketplace AND our colleagues. Imagine the ability to capture the knowledge of Robert, or Marilyn, or Gail, and have that available for everyone within the company to tap into...

And podcasting, which is a subset of blogging, is also incredibly simple - you record yourself as you talk about an issue, then post it on the intranet or internet for people to download and listen to -- which connects them to a 'real' human being. Incredibly simple to do and incredibly powerful. Imagine recording a management meeting, then sending that recording to other managers who couldn't be there but need to know what went on and what was discussed? You don't have to send them the whole meeting, just the bit that is relevant to them. They can download it overnight at home and listen to it on the way to work.

Imagine the ability for Michelle or Bill or Eric to reach out to both our membership base and us and let us know what is happening and impacting on our health insurance? Imagine how our membership base will feel if they can actually talk to Michelle or Bill or Eric and voice their concerns and their praises -- and get a human voice back, not some marketing puke.

Does that mean that Michelle, or Bill or Eric, or Robert, Marilyn or Gail have to put everything else aside to spend hours a day answering emails?

Certainly not - it just means that they all, and others as well, can communicate one-to-one and at the same time one-to-many with an audience that is crying out for this human touch. Robert can blog about things in his world, and people with an interest in those issues will be able to provide instant feedback. Gail will be able to blog about things in her world, and people with an interest in those issues will be able to provide instant feedback. And more importantly, everyone will be educated and kept 'in the light' about what is happening in their interest area.

Does this mean members will spend all day begging for us to let them know what is happening to their claim and why we didn't pay out for a procedure? No -- because Gail will be able to tightly manage what the conversation is about, more tightly than companies have been allowed to before without making the audience feel 'squeezed out' of the conversation.

More and more companies are 'getting it', more and more companies are exploring new ways of conversing with their audiences. WE need to explore these new ways of conversing with our audiences before our competitors do, otherwise they will take our audiences away, because our competitors will appear (and actually BE) more 'real' and interesting.

If we don't learn to communicate in new ways with our audiences we will cease to be relevant within 5 years.

=================================

Then I leave them with a handout which includes the most relevant of the Cluetrain Manifestos, plus a list of F500 companies as per Lee's list, and a photocopy of pp 107-113 of my hardcopy version of the Manifesto (which discusses the risk of blogging/posting online and the risk attached to NOT blogging/posting)

A brave new world

Had an interesting challenge and surprising result from a potential client yesterday.

They are looking at building a website for their new venture and have already gone out to the marketplace for quotes.

What stunned them was the costs they were facing -- and all from developers who were looking to build a website, not build to a communication strategy.

So I took them through the discussion that I take all of my clients -- that the 'visual' is the LAST place to start; that you first start with defining your USP then analysing that usp and associated keyphrases against search phrase trend metrics.

Warning them that they needed to run, not walk, from developers who give their prospects visuals first and no discussion of strategy, I explained that it is absolutely pointless to spend thousands of dollars building a website when no one is going to find it in the search engines.

I let them know in no uncertain terms that they will need to relentlessly update their site with more and more content, and that they need to look at multiple delivery channels.
All of this surprised and delighted them. They even understood why I charge so much [smile].
But when I talked about blogging, a term they hadn't heard of, and explained to them the business potential, they were REALLY excited!

Surprisingly, this fledgling business 'got it', whereas more established businesses, perhaps because of entrenched views on what 'marketing' means, don't get it.

Who knows if this prospect will come back to do business with me? I do know, however, that there is hope for those of us who are attempting to 'sell' the new conversation tools to businesses, be they our own clients or our own employers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Podding before podding was even known...

Having just listened to seven of Shel & Nev's superb podcast in the last week (just love my mp3 player and the bus trip into work), I suddenly realised that I was podcasting before the term was even on anyone's horizon.

Back in 1997-99 I was working for Rupert Murdoch's startup webplay, LineOne.net, as the Producer of the Business channel. I used to catch the first train out of Guildford every morning and record a 'Morning Business News' report which we streamed out as a Real Audio file, as well as made available as an mp3.

Now that I am across the other side of the world in sunny Adelaide, Australia, I am looking at podcasting again -- I even found my old theme tune, which I may well use again as my intro music (because it brings back lovely furry memories for me of London and LineOne).

In the meantime I investigate how to 'sell' the idea of podcasting and blogging to corporates and SMEs here in Adelaide... thanks for another Lee's blog yesterday on this.

Now I find that I've been mentioned in Shel & Nev's podcast - I've just downloaded it and look forward to the bus trip back home tonight!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Performance accountability for a corporate communicator

If we take as granted that the role of the corporate communicator is to add value to the dialogic exchange between a company and its constituent audiences, then how does one measure one's own performance?

Is it by how many printed or pdf'd newsletters we get out in a period?

Is it by reader response metrics, like "Did you receive our in-house newsletter?" and "Did you read it?"

Is it by how many blogs per week, or podcasts, we write/produce?

Is it by increased takeup of most wanted responses (MWRs) such as new procedural directives or customers responding to 'call/write us' initiatives?

We cannot rely on just consumer sales or in-house work process conversions alone, since multiple factors usually impinge on the data -- like other DM initiatives, POS material or in-house managerial pressure.

Where does the role of a communication pro end and a marketing/PR pro begin? Is there, indeed, any division? If there is a division does the Communications Professional risk playing 'second fiddle' to PR and Marketing pros?

So how DO we value ourselves and our contributions to the marketplace and our clients/employers?

How do YOU value yourself? I'd love to hear your views...

Friday, March 18, 2005

Introducing blogging and podcasting to management

Here's a challenge:

Take a typical management team -- busy, time poor, concerned with meeting budgets, deadlines and KPIs.

Take a typical professional communicator -- busy, trying to find new ways to engage in dialogue with the target audience.

Put them all together in a room and see how quickly the communicator can make the managers eyes glaze over.

We communicators may be really excited about how blogging and podcasting can enable even greater levels of discussion within an organization, but unless we can enthuse both management and shopfloor employee in the new tech, then we are pushing a wet string up a drainpipe.

I recently set up a bulletin board at a company aimed at helping employees communicate with each other, share knowledge and throw around ideas. The result was less than impressive.

Whilst management were keen to introduce any new technology that allowed their teams to keep working but also share knowledge, the team members (with all but two exceptions) steadfastly refused to embrace what was for them 'new' technology.

Any communication initiative must, first and foremost, consider the target audience. If the audience is largely technologically illiterate (which this audience definately wasn't), or scared of the new technology (possibly they were), then it is the communicator's role to ensure management gives enough incentive for teams to change existing behaviours and embrace new behaviours.

In other words, the communicator must become a change manager, using the team manager as a change agent.

So... you can now add 'Change Manager' to your portfolio!

Corporate gifts

Just been having a fabulous email discussion with a long-time friend of mine.

He recently received a company-badged thermos flask as a gift from his employer (everyone in his office got one).

In itself, the idea of the gift is lovely. But the problem he has it that the flask is a 'second'. Which for him raises the issue -- "how valuable am I?"

Indeed, over the years I have received lots of promotional 'seconds' from my employers:
  • t-shirts that were four sizes smaller than the label suggested;
  • t-shirts and pens with the 'old' branding/logo on them, but only given once a new branding or logo was being rolled out;
  • a golf umbrella that had puncture holes in the fabric and one bent spoke that repeatedly fell out of its holder
  • a desktop calculator/notepad combination that didn't work (the batteries had leaked, damaging the circuitry)

... all of which does indeed make one ask the question: "How valuable am I to my employers that they are willing to dump their unwanted, broken marketing junk on me?"

One of the roles of any internal communication is to create a feeling of comradeship between sender and recipient, so that the recipient feels 'valued' and that the communication isn't a waste of their valuable time.

Whether that communication is an intangible like a smile, or a tangible like a newsletter, email or a thermos drink flask, surely it beholdens the organization to ensure that the message it is sending along with the gift is one that enhances the relationship?

If communication is all about dialogue, a one-to-one or one-to-many dialogue, then what dialogue (either verbally or internally) do you think follows the receipt of yet another piece of marketing junk?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Welcome

Hi,

Just wanted to welcome you and let you know this blog will update on an irregular basis - because work often gets in the way!

Kind regards,
Lee