Archive for February, 2010

IS the Big Cheque Overused? OMG Yes!

February 9, 2010

I committed a Communication sin last week. But a look through the local paper today shows I was not alone…I used….THE BIG CHEQUE to signify the donation to a charitable cause…Open mouth. Exude Yawn. Rolle eyes.

In the modern world of donations, the Big Cheque is dead. Why is it so many Communicators still turn to this sad gesture to show CSR?

  1. 1. Easy = Ineffective. Corporate Social Responsibility is not cheque writing. Social Investment is a real hard and fast commitment to communities served. It is working along side them and with them to make their world better. While some donations are involved in this process, what is not, is the empty gesture. Be real people, the big cheque IS an empty gesture.
  2. 2. Big = Small. Often, the amounts reflected on the “Big Cheques” are drops in the bucket. Um, $5,000TT for Haitian Relief Efforts…do you REALLY want the WORLD to question how EFFECTIVE that donation will be? No one is saying that the gifts are meaningless, but hey, give a little more especially when it comes to PR.

So What instead?

• LOCATION + ACTION: The media conference of today is an orchestrated photo op. Think Michelle Obama planting a Garden at the WhiteHouse instead of making a speech about the importance of agriculture…The message was in the action and it hit home. Who DID NOT plant a kitchen garden last summer? (note, we do NOT have summer in the Caribbean…I use this term as an example) Sponsoring Golf? Have a “launch pic” with your executive hitting a golf ball or holding a Tee. Donating funds for a children’s home? Skip the press conference and hold a breakfast or teaparty for the kids instead and invite the media along to get pics of your “peoples” actually DOING something. Get the drift? NO BIG CHEQUE!

  • • STEP BACK: Hmmm. No branding at the event? OMG right? Wrong. Use what I call the “Black Friends” approach. Have the company/ organization receiving the funds speak and host the “media conference” and have your boss shut up. Imagine the impact a tour of a dilapidated home will have combined with a the owners of said home talking about what the funds will do for them. SO much more effective than you standing and saying all YOUR company will do to improve lives….Step Back for impact.


Others talking can have more impact than you opening your mouth…its like a non black person saying they have lots of black friends in response to being called a racist….no one listens but THEY will listen to the ONE black friend that stands up and says – that guy, no matter what colour he is, he’s my friend. Nuff Said. Please kill the big cheques. I’ll try to as well.


Communication Sancoche? Yes – You need a mix

February 4, 2010

Social media in the workplace gained a new, powerful ally yesterday. The Harvard Business Review sent a Management Tip of the Day  with the title “Encourage the Use of Social Media At Work”. Great. Facebook and LinkedIn for all now right? Wrong. When it comes to communication at work, your organization needs a Communication Sancoche (Caribbean Soup with Split Peas Base traditionally made of a variety of left over meats and provisions) – not just a the entree of Social Media which can, be as bland if not seasoned right.

Just as the flavour of Sancoche varies from household to household, so should the ingredients in your communication mix. The exact ingredients will vary based on the communication appetite of your audience as well. Social media is not a panacea. Its not a band-aid either. To quote a colleague, “Know your people. know your people. Know them some more”. How do you do this….Old fashioned Communication and modern communication approaches. Introducing the standard week one communication sancoche recipe:

Is Your Workplace Hungry? Find Out With this Basic Communication Sancoche Recipe

  1. Face to Face Meetings: “OMG, who has the time these days?” Make time. The exact quantity of this KEY ingredient to making your Communication Sancoche depends on the organization size. The more workers you have, the more face to face you need. YOU (yes you well dressed Communication Exec) needs to walk the oil rigs, visit the lunch rooms, talk to staff in kitchens AND YES, pull them aside at the watercooler or bathroom sink and TALK. Not from a script or with a survey, just talk and gain the pulse/ feeling/ sense of the average employee.
  2. Surveys: D’ (the) Boss man likes numbers. Give him/ her some. Communication survey samples should be no less than the average size YOUR BOSS thinks is sufficient. IE, don’t say “This is a survey sample of 10% which scholar xyz says is sufficient”. Instead, find out (via ingredient #1) what survey size he/she is comfortable with AND EXCEED IT. What to ask? What do you want to know more about? What communication channel/ method would you like to receive most of your information from? Etc. And guess what, dstribute the survey via various channels. Remember, not everyone loves Survey Monkey as much as you do….
  3. Recognition: Um, is this communication? How would your recognize excellent performance without communication? Thus, find a way to include it in various communication channels. Think of this as the SALT in your recipe. You need it, even though you don’t always think you do. Is it a small section in your employee magazine? Is this a weekly “Kudos Korner” on your Intranet? The ways you highlight this will vary on the results from ingredients #1 and #2. But don’t skip it, because you Communication Sancoche will be bland without it.
  4. Memos, Letters and Handbooks: Soooo two thousand and late right? Well if you want your communication sancoche to give your audience that “Boom Boom Pow” feeling, you still need  these old fashioned channels as much as the Black Eyed Peas need that heavy baseline to make their songs ROCK. Yep. Nothing beats a memo (hardcopy or not) to drive home the “Official Nature” of a major policy change, important happening OR to recognize employees (scroll up amigo!). Again, like too much of any ingredient will kill the flavour of your Communication Sancoche – you need to balance the memos with informal communication events
  5. Events: What? Spend money to wine and dine? Yes – without employee events the ingredients 1-4 won’t gel. People need to commune to feel part of a common group/ shared vision/ family (yes, I said it). You can work with your Executives to squeeze out every ounce of ROI from your employee event. Example: ensure they network, ensure best performers are highlighted and help your boss remember key achievements/ names (FYI – you are the person that gets them this info and reminds them of it through the event.

Is there more? Yes. Your staff will tell you what else is needed. See ingredients 1-3.

Are you engaging employees? If Not, reach for your lipstick!

February 2, 2010

Anything you say these days can and will be held against you. No comment is safe. Ask Steve Jobs. On February 1, 2010 Mashable’s Stan Schoeder wrote: “What a time we’re living in. You can’t even make fun of your competitors at your own company meeting without your words leaking out to the Internet” – could not agree more. But what does this mean for employers in the Caribbean and how can we work with “management” to show them that it no longer matters who you are talking to – everyone is powerful and they know it. They (we know)”My MEDIA” will change you and if you don’t I’ll make an example of you – no manager wants that!

Arguably, social media has given the “worker” more power than we had since the words “strike” and “union” first became meaningful to business owners. At the click of a button, conversations, off key comments and (yikes!) opinions can go global. Managers, be afraid – be very afraid (crap – self included!) and thinking of firing someone if they do this? There are tips on how NOT to get fired because of social media!

So what can we do? Some (as I have) try the SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY. Reality? They fail – ask the Associated Press, Ministry of Defense or Steve Jobs that now has an enemy in Google because he did what all leaders inevitably do – talk ‘not so nicely’ about competition – except this time, the WORLD knows about it.

Today, bosses are being managed and their policies fail.

Why do the policies fail? Why is trust in the workplace now so low?  In today’s world where opinion is king, telling any digital native they “can’t” or “should” or worse yet “MUST” comply means one thing. They won’t and YOU WILL suffer for attempting to do same. Possible Solution= Assume the position and give trust first.

WHAT? Trust those 18-35 year olds that are wasting time on social networks? Yes. Consider it new wave employee engagement. Court your employees and, as in the first phases of a relationship assume trust or risk losing what could be a good thing. Seriously. What female/ male would “stick around” if on day one you presented them with a list of relationship don’ts? Its the same with today’s employees. Try guiding us. Tell us about what the company stands for and walk the talk. Don’t just SAY “the company” is better than the rest – show us how and inspire us to be as well – by being ourselves. Scary concept – you bet! Guess what, like the social media policy, this won’t always work either – but guess what, its less likely to fail miserably – chances are, they’ll at least consider moving towards engagement if the trust package and what you have to offer looks good.

In the Caribbean, we are not by nature trusting people. We have, will and do OPENLY and EARLY share rules and regulations as if we all comply with same – then work towards breaking every rule and taking the “do what I say” approach to management. Those days are as over as the days of one dimensional TV will be soon (3-D is coming and coming fast!). The reality is, “MY MEDIA” with “MY FRIENDS” will change how you manage and how you act – if you don’t believe me folks, dare yell or be rude at an employee with a cell phone…touch up your makeup first though because you’ll be youtube bound before you know it. Guess what, its legal too and the advice is online! Or worse yet, they’ll use xtravideo and turn you into a cartoon (note this link contains coarse language)