Archive for May, 2010

Does Prepared beat passionate? In Communication YES!

May 28, 2010

Polished and Prepared Trinidad and Tobago PM Bissessar Speaks from Manuscripts

How refreshing it was this afternoon to see Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Persad Bissessar speak from a prepared speech at the swearing in of Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet (full list) on May 29, 2010. There is something about a head of government speaking from a prepared speech instead of from the heart.

Reality check Bissessar haters – Obama has teleprompters so he always seems to have perfect eye contact even though his speeches are prepared – let the hating stop there. He has even been called the teleprompter president.

When a person of significant importance has a practiced and prepared speech, it communicates a level of respect to the audience. The words were thought out prior to the occasion and, given Prime Minister Bissessar’s inflection and stresses, were undoubtedly read BEFORE hand. Ah the lessons many an Executive could learn from this.

No one is saying an honest statement does not add to the message. In fact, today, Bissessar did that as well – her comment about the various religious texts used to swear in her cabinet APPEARED not to be scripted and definitely added some colour to an already good speech. Was it prepared before hand? Maybe. But the practice and eye contact allowed it to appear genuine.

Is a passionate non scripted speech a good thing? Sure. If you’re a priest, making a toast or manage to be unlike most human beings and be adept at avoiding the “foot in mouth syndrome”. When you are prepared, you cover the salient points. When you are prepared, the members of the media can be treated with respect and obtain advance or “as you are talking” copies of the speeches delivered at a NATIONAL event. When you are prepared, you are polished and your speech will be the icing on the polished presentation you put forward (her silk Shantung suit was stunning AND appropriate).

Additionally, the Prime Minister was so prepared she CLEARLY had talking points excerpted from her speech to rehash to the media in a orderly interview.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is early. We have no firm proof the country will be governed flawlessly but so far, the approach to public meetings is refreshingly polished and prepared. That, my dear friends (he he he), is something that impresses me, a communicator at heart and patriot.


Measuring Up? You Should

May 19, 2010

Size matters. Statistics do more. Numbers are often considered the arch enemy of communicators and journalists. Chances are, part of the reason you chose your field had to do with the lack of mathematics related courses for the completion of your degree. Statistics and research methods were there however for a reason!

When time is money and page views = increased advertising revenue, the head honchos and “de bosses dem” need something more than “we should because we should” to convince them to continue programs. As communications/ marketing budgets shrink, as ink costs more to print than ever before and as the desire for superfast download speed and information retrieval limits the amount of content editors will place on the home pages of websites, measurement is key. You need to measure up.

Communicators, this means more than counting the number of times your media release appears in the press. Retweets, unique page views, forwards, “Likes” etc have more meaning today than page placement in the press. Don’t believe me? Chances are your CEO does. Why? A visit to any website these days has a “Like” button and the number of times an article has been Retweeted. So while they may not be sure how something gets “retweeted” they do care HOW MANY read the material and WHAT they read and WHEN they read it. Why? CEO’s respond to numbers, dollars and sense. Generalisation? Yep. Wrong? Nope.

So what should you do to measure up? While there’s no real cure for not measuring up in the pants area for men (yep – I went THERE), there is a cure for the numerically challenged communicator.

  1. Find your CMS (Content Management System) and figure out where your web stats are located. Can’t find the manual? Find the geeky IT person that would love to walk you through it. Translate all the gibberish they speak;
  2. Make Friends with Excel: If you don’t know how to use Microsoft Excel, consider yourself directed to learn how NOW. Microsoft has many online tutorials for the programme. As does YouTube. Excel is the CEO’s friend because it can turn wordiness into easy to read charts and graphs. In other words, start your proposal with a great excel chart summary and guess what? Changes are they may just read the first few sentences of your 9 page communication report with the cute page border that NO ONE but you has time to riffle through.
  3. Read what they Read: Ok so you’re not the Chief Accountant (thank GOD!) or the Head of Operations but guess what? The CEO listens to them and knows why they’re budgets are important right? Well, learn to talk as they do. Read their reports and emulate their styles. You’ll definitely learn something – even if its the best solution to insomnia
  4. Have a Conversation: As you shift your report writing style to suit that of your CEO, have a conversation with them on their preferred reporting style. Do they want details or just high level information? Do they want a written report or are bi-weekly verbal reports followed up by quarterly reports acceptable? You won’t know until you ask. Do yourself a favour though – ask in a succinct manner.

hugs to the world!

Ethics in Journalism? Read Here Caribbean Reporters

May 11, 2010

Following a social media discussion on the recent phenomenon of journalists in the Caribbean appearing to show political bias in their reporting, I thought I’d dig out my old Society of Journalists Code of Ethics. Instead of having to riffle through boxes, I dug with my fingers. A google search and a couple clicks and there they were, the 4 basic principles all reporters should follow.

Now for the Caribbean translation:

Talk Your Talk (Speak the Truth): Unlike the 3 canal song which states “Talk your talk you roarin’ pretender”, journalists, should always report facts – not views and opinions. Indeed, it is this very ethical code that so distinctly allows announcers and talk show hosts to fall OUT of the realm of the journalistic profession (no offense meant and none taken – I once hosted a talk show). The truth, (dare I say) “my dear friends” is not dotted or coloured with the tone of opinion or the potential stench of a personal view. The truth is what is it – facts, supported by research and reported with additional frills of ACCURATE quotations and the image (or two) that support same.

“What happens in the Dark, always Comes to Light” (Act Independently): True journalists “owe” no favours. Acting independently means reporting facts without the influence of an outside entity – whether it be a sponsor or worse, a person offering financial reward for a story slant. As a reporter, your facts should be able to stand up to queries and your dealings should be above board.

Minimize Harm: This one SO important, no colloquial phrase to go with same.  SHOW COMPASSION! Consider the families of the murder victim and how THEY will feel to see the body on the front page of the paper. Consider the harm of publishing the names of two school children found with underage pornography for all to see and read. Consider the impact of a slanted or poorly reported story about race relations in an already race sensitive nation.

Who Doh Hear, Does Feel (Be Accountable): A journalist that does not welcome feedback is not a journalist. Criticism can be hard and corrections can feel worse but the willingness to accept same is what separates the sheep from the goats. Shutting out feedback just makes you, as a friend once told me, a goat (LOL) and while you may not always agree with what your audience says, you always grow from the experience and we need some grown up reporters!

So journalists, budding journalists, rogue announcers and fellow bloggers, spread the Code and more importantly, use it. Would love to say I had a hand in helping the media improve – but even I not so bold!


A Coworker Died? What do we do/say

May 10, 2010

It happens. Someone you work with everyday is very late, has not called, and there’s no excess traffic. When coworkers die, it impacts an organization. How the death is handled can be very critical to both current employees and the family of the employee who now rests in peace.

Many companies do not have policies to deal with employee death and most HR departments will alert the various Employee Assistance Programme representatives and deploy said personnel to the affected team. However, it is the actions of management and the messages communicated that will have the greatest impact on the memories of how the company handles the loss of an employee. Handle it badly or say the wrong thing, EVERYONE remembers. Do the right thing and you can shape employee culture forever.

Here are a few tips, a guide if you will, for management:

  • Reach out to the Family: The head of the company AND the deceased employee’s direct manager should make personal contact with the employee’s family. A phone call is a good first step, but a visit to the house is an over the top gesture that will make a statement – this company cares.
  • Allow a Moment to Breathe & Grieve: Many companies get this wrong. In the hours it can take to find “the policy” or “remember what was done last time” teammates of the deceased begin to build resentment about “inaction”. While “the policy” is being located/formulated have the manager of the affected team call a meeting to allow direct co-workers to air their views/ pray or have a moment of silence. It is important to both ask questions and set some limits for same: “We are here and can take a few minutes to recognise the loss of our team member. How would you like to do this?”  Failure to set limits can have an adverse effect on the day’s already diminished productivity and no one wants to be the manager who has to interrupt a prayer or story to say “back to work!”
  • Create a Living Tribute: For at least a week after the passing of a colleague, have an area where he/she can be remembered. Maybe its a plaque or sign on their desk or possibly flowers placed on the now empty workstation. Ensure you COMMUNICATE with colleagues so they are aware of the tribute (no one wants housekeeping to throw out the sign/flowers). Make sure a time limit is also communicated so staff can know the tribute will not live forever. Encourage those closest to him/her to create the tribute (so its tasteful) and welcome them to dismantle it as well so they are involved in the beginning and end of the process;
  • A Mighty Meeting: It is important for those with “weight” in the company (Managing Director, CEO, etc) to have a meeting with the affected team soon after the passing of the employee. At this meeting it should be stated – “I share your loss and have been in touch with the family”. At this meeting, ideas can be shared about how a greater tribute (donation to family/ charity etc) can be made should also be discussed; and last but not least…
  • HOLD OFF ON IMMEDIATE REPLACEMENTS: Vacancy notices and temporary staff must be carefully planned and timed. Have the temp come in after the team has had their moment to grieve – ensure they are introduced and UNDERSTAND they are “filling the shoes” of a team member that has passed away. This will build and create understanding on both sides and prevent the new employee from being the target of resentment of hurt.

While this list is not comprehensive, its a start. Most importantly, understand a loss of a coworker is a loss of a family member. Their presence and spirit will be missed and its up to those left behind to create  an atmosphere of empathy that will allow for productivity to continue without the tone of resentment that can be  bread by apparent inaction.