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#commsbingo – Conference Edition

It’s comms conference season, and that means the internet will be abuzz with 140 character insights from a range of events.

There are exciting – and challenging – emerging trends and new insights. We will see that in abundance at the excellent #IABC16 this week as the worlds leading communication membership association gathers around the theme of innovating global communication.

When you have been fortunate to have attended, chaired, co-curated and presented at a fair range of communication conferences and events*, you do start to see patterns in terms of insights and learnings. These recurring insights form a kind of communicators BINGO!

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#commsbingo

If we are to judge the progress of our profession by the wisdom shared on twitter from many comms events, then it seems we are caught in a loop. Yes, communication events do attract emerging practitioners. But seeing foundation knowledge shared as revelations does raise some questions about how effectively we are preparing communicators for professional practice.

If we are to continue to develop, to grow our collective commons and body of knowledge, we need to keep pushing for deeper insights, evolve our discussions and move beyond the foundations through research, education and creating connection.

Oh, and if you have any other #commsbingo insights, please tweet them so we can collate the common knowledge.

Share well!

*I have been a past chair and co-curator of Melcrum Strategic Communication & Digital Communication Summits in Asia Pacific, presented at the 2014 IABC WC in Toronto, and have been involved in communication professional development since before twitter was invented. Learn more about the Shorter COMMS Plan in this free webinar.

Follow, Filter and Fold Together

How to use Twitter as a research tool and manage information overload

Catching ideas. Vivid Sydney Launch.

Sydney is doing its best to create information overload through May and June. With the Vivid festival, Creative Sydney, AMPlify festival, Sydney Writers Festival and TEDxSydney (just gone), Sydney Film Festival and a mass of related events, noone has any excuse to be bored.

With so many events, how can you keep track of the things that might be relevant to your industry or creative pursuits?

With Twitter and paper.li it can be quite easy. If you haven’t dived into the Twitterverse, this is the perfect opportunity to do so – with a purpose.

Follow.
Choose the organisations, companies or individuals that are of interest. There are a couple of ways of finding them on Twitter. The first is to search Twitter directly. This can be relatively simple for some organisations, but there can be so many different accounts, spellings and other factors that it can take time to track down the right one. The second, easier way is to go to the websites of the organisations of interest, find their official social media links and follow those.

Filter.
There are some great tools within twitter that you can use to begin filtering information so that you get more of what is of interest and less of the noise.

Lists. Taking a moment to create some categories for the accounts you want to follow will provide benefits down the track. You can then create a list for each of these major topics. For example, a communicator might choose to have a few lists such as:

  • Agencies
  • Thought Leaders
  • Clients
  • Media
  • Associations
  • Colleagues

As you find new Twitter accounts to follow, take the time to add them to one or more list categories.

Hashtags: The next essential Twitter tool is the hashtag. Take the time to explore and watch how those accounts that are of interest and see what tags are used.

Conferences and the ‘livetweet’. Livetweeting is one of the greatest aspects of Twitter. While there is seldom any substitute for being there at a great conference or event, finding and following the right tags for the event can be a great source of potted wisdom, triggers for new contacts and links to great information sources.

Find the official hashtags for the events and organisations that are of interest. You can create and save these searches.

Fold it together
There are a number of tools that let you aggregate this information.

Twitter clients. There will be a twitter client to suit you depending on your systems, mobile, aesthetic preferences. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are two examples. These applications will allow you to view lists and searches easily.

The personal touch. The range of Twitter clients are excellent, but how do you make it a little more fun. paper.li is an excellent resource that enables you to specify lists, twitter accounts, search terms and hashtags and create a ‘newspaper’ from the tweets.

You have significant control over the content and can then share this information in a range of ways – via email, tweet or webpage. It integrates with Facebook as well as Twitter, so you have a great range of sources from which to draw.

There is a degree of ‘randomisation’ – not everything these sources produce will be included every time. It is still a great way of bringing together the collective content of all the sources that interest you in one space.

BrainBusiness is an example, sourced from the range of organisations, speakers and events underway across Sydney over the next few months.

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PR versus HR is the path to extinction

End of TImes Copyright Jon Kudelka

"Evolution is essential". Image copyright Jon Kudelka

I received this tweet today from Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications:

HR Isn’t Dead. It’s Called PR | Blogging4Jobs http://bit.ly/dkVP8c

The headline is deliberately controversial. I read on. The link is to an article by Jessica Miller-Merrel, in which she clearly outlines the way in which different functions contribute to the reputation and communication context of organisations. However, there is much in the article to fuel the mutual mistrust between these areas. And that has to stop. Thanks to Jessica for a good article, even if a little sensationalist in tone. I hope it is the last.

Here’s why.

(An open letter to HR, PR, Organisational Communication, Organisational Development, Internal Communication, Marketing, Change Management and all other professional groups who contribute to achieving better business results. That goes for you too, IT.)

There is so much hand-wring, introspection, flinging of grenades across the invisible walls (or actual cubicles) in companies. This spills over to the blogosphere. Most of the thousands of ‘hammer HR’ or “pound PR” posts seem to originate from people who have had a bad experience within an organisation, but have been unable to effect change. And, let’s be honest. While that happens sometimes, there is a better way.

When we continue the discourse from these deeply entrenched partisan positions, we weaken the position of all the participants. We perpetuate the stereotypical responses of the past:

* HR people can’t write
* PR just spin things
* IT cost us too much
* OD think this is a cult.

The issues behind these jabs are often real. For example:

* [Insert function] people fail to unable to develop professional partnerships effectively with internal stakeholders.
* PR people unable to develop whole-system thinking, based the myth that they can ‘control the message’.
* OD/Change commence a change that is unsustainable or has insufficient sponsorship to stick, subjecting employees to unfair uncertainty.
* HR people unable to quantify their deliverables in language that speaks to the business.
* The IT solutions blow out in terms of time or budget.

However, these localised shortcomings must be overcome in order for all these contributors to bring their specific body of knowledge, perspectives and solutions to the business. Great results occur when:

* HR attracts, develop and keeps the right people
* HR manages workforce risk effectively
* Internal Communication connects people to the brand and the strategy
* PR promotes the organisation holistically
* Marketing reflects and draws on the workforce in an authentic way
* IT deliver smart fit for purpose solutions

Before perpetuating the divide consider these ideas.

If the energy that was spent on sustaining energy and battle around these self-created issues was spent on improving the business, imagine the value that could be created within organisations.

Spend the time that it takes to read a post critical of another professional discipline on reading one about a business that has developed an innovation program without boundaries, or the business value of collaboration.

Spend the time it takes to write a sh*t-mail to your colleagues ‘over the wall’ to rethink perspectives. What can you do to align perspectives?

At its worst, the tension between these functions is neanderthal stone throwing. Territoriality and an inability to adapt will be the death of any professional species that is unable to continue to transform: to integrate, collaborate and create new value in business.

This is the time to evolve into a hybrid species: professional disciplines that can work across boundaries, can focus on the larger goal, who find new ways of creating value (outcomes) together for the benefit of the organisation.

Are you choosing evolution or extinction?

I have a lot of time for Ragan’s range of communication publications. I have picked up a lot of tips over years of subscription (anyone else remember the mustard colour weekly paper mailout?) and I’m sure Mark intended generating a great discussion with this tweet.

Stepping into the conversation

One of the benefits of not being a bleeding edge early adopter is that there is much wisdom and experience to be drawn from the pioneers who have learned the hard way. It is the equivalent of being at a busy intersection and choosing the right time to merge. There will never be a complete break in the traffic, but at least you know what you are joining.

Experienced tweeps are going to find this post a case of stating a range of obvious observations, so apologies to you in advance. You are the people I am learning from, so thank you. However, I know a number of communicators who think they may need to do more to understand these channels but are not quite sure of how to step in. For you, here are some of my early observations.

Working within an organisation, I had been a passive observer of twitter for over two years, had researched best use and had even been involved in the formulation of social media policies. I had been waiting on the kerb.

It was not until the 2010 Federal Election that I found my stride, began exploring applications such as hootsuite and tweetdeck, learned some of the etiquette of hashtags, and how to create lists to wrangle the growing sources of information and ideas. In trying out these tools, I am finding that my twitter use has grown in recent weeks. 

I have been watching behaviour. One of my main interests during the election was the degree to which these tools were being used authentically, only to observe the range of pollies who jumped in, uncomfortable and managed. There seem to be an equal number of businesses who have a twitter account but clearly don’t know why (“everybody else was crossing…”)


Over the past few months there have also been some notable public train wrecks and PR disasters amongst journos, sports stars and others who have struggled with the public/private nature of the medium, and with businesses who have applied the communication practices of the past to the new world and damaged their credibility in the process.  

I have also begun to see how many NGO and other dot orgs are using these tools to enlist, engage, enrage and encourage. Then there are the companies who have already ‘got it’, who are intelligently conducting business with their customers by being in the dialogue in an authentic way.

As illustrated at the Media140 conference last week (#media140) (and in today’s twitstorm arising from the outing of an anonymous blogger by the News Ltd paper the Australian #groggate), the acceptable norms of behaviour are still being defined in this medium.

Within the communication industry, there has been a substantial growth in the range of eduction, consulting, and ‘expertise’. There are many good resources and these are questions that professional communicators are taking seriously. (I follow many of these in my range of lists). There are others who don’t know whether to join the traffic or not.

For me, twitter is an opportunity to get prompted about a diverse range of ideas, sources and interests. I hope to take the lessons of those who have become expert at sharing information that is useful with their communities, to be succinct and relevant, to occasionally be a little irreverent. I hope to join conversations and start discussion. I have decided on a strategy. 

I’m stepping in.