leadership

A crisis of trust threatens innovation

Edelman have released the 2015 Trust Barometer, subtitled Trust and Innovation.

One of the most significant long-term research projects for communication is the annual Edelman Trust survey. Its past findings have had profound influences on the way organisations communicate:

  • the rise of peer-based communication based on declining trust in institutions
  • changes to native advertising and trusted storytellers
  • the decline of the authority of government as a voice
  • the failure of leadership in building and maintaining trust

The theme of the 2015 study is Trust and Innovation, drawing the links between current levels of trust, rapid change, and the challenges presented by low trust and rapid innovation.

Edelman’s Ben Boyd says of this:

We live in an era where trust must be earned and not managed, where the microscope for transparency is constant and where business must listen and measure the interactions, intentions and sentiments of shareholders. At the same time, the need and capacity for innovation that solves and disrupts has never been greater.

Some standout messages from this year include:

  • An expert and person like you is now twice as credible as the CEO
  • 51% believe the pace of business innovation is too fast
  • innovation is perceived as being driven by technology and greed, but not by improvement to people’s lives of improving the world
  • higher trust creates the opportunity for faster innovation
  • engagement and integrity are areas for focus to increase trust in business

Read more about the trust survey at the Edelman Trust information centre.

How Not to Be ‘Manterrupted’ In Meetings

I once worked in an ASX 25 company where despite there being more women than men in the workforce, only one person in the ‘top 200’ senior manager group was female. Such a chronic lack of diversity changes the quality of communication, collaboration and leadership within a corporate culture.

Similarly, within the communication professions there are a higher number of women in internal and organisational communication roles (although senior roles as disproportionately held by males, as is the focus of research by IABC and Global Alliance). Too often, the biggest issue named by communicators is ‘getting heard’ by management.

At the risk of mansplaining – here are some ways communicators can ensure their voice is heard.

What leaders should expect from their communication counsel

As a leader, what should you expect from a communication strategist?

What a great question, and the subject of a recent post on the LinkedIn CommsScrum Group (requires membership). Having worked with C-suite, executive and Board-level leaders across a range of industries, here are some things I think leaders should expect from their comms strategists.

They will treat you as a person. Trust is a process of reciprocity, but it pays dividends. Experienced comms strategists will understand that leaders are human. They will recognise that in business, an executive can seldom get to where they are without some communication strengths, but that their current positions may mean that constructive feedback about areas for improvement isn’t always forthcoming. A good strategist will seek to understand the executive’s business goals and personal context in order to develop programs that help to achieve both.

They will listen. And they might ask more questions than you may be used to from anyone except the CEO or Board. As an executive, you have so many aspects of the business in your head that making connections, judgements and evaluations about your operation is instinctive. Experienced comms strategists will seek to understand your business priorites from your perspective. And in the process, they will (depending on their approach) seek to understand the ‘why’ before helping you with the ‘what’.

They will build on your strengths. An experienced communication strategist understands that protecting the authentic strengths of a leader is a key priority. They will take time to understand what you are best at. This isn’t the same as never asking you to do something you aren’t comfortable with; strengths are sometimes underplayed.

They will talk to you about the business, not just about communication. Experienced comms strategists are business people using communication as a driver for business results. They will ask about goals, about performance, about metrics, about culture, about competition, about risks and issues. And then they will start talking about communication. If they jump straight to the comms stuff, beware.

With that in mind:

  • Be clear about your expectations and in describing what a successful engagement will look like from your perspective.
  • Be open to professional counsel with a view to building trust.
  • Be prepared to contribute time, opinions and knowledge in the development of strategy.

 

Not the zombie apocalypse

Preparing to work with a communication advisor doesn’t need to be scary

The 5P Business Case – Part 2

Video is an important part of the communication channel mix for employees, but building the business case can be a challenge. To build the case for including video as part of your overall communication infrastructure, cover these five points.

  1. Pain. Find the right opportunity that is causing pain: what challenges need attention, what change is under way, what results need to shift? Is the pain at the top, or is it your employees who need help?
  2. Partners. Find internal sponsors: who has the greatest stake in addressing this issue? What will they invest to see the situation change?
  3. Potential benefit. Put a price on success: What is the value of addressing this issue?
  4. Pilot. Before a TV series is made, producers invest in a pilot to test the concept. This is a solid approach for internal video. Start small to test capability, appetite, and audience.
  5. Prove. Measure the impact of the initiative to build momentum

In the last post, we covered Pain and Partners. Now lets look at Potential, Pilot and Prove.

POTENTIAL BENEFIT

What is the current situation costing the business? What will solving the problem contribute to the business?

At an enterprise level, doing anything that improves communication pays dividends. Companies with effective communication financially outperform those with ineffective communication. A long-term study has demonstrated this can mean that over a 5 year period, a company with effective communication would return 1.7 times higher shareholder returns.[1]

The same study showed that 70% of highly effective organisations agree that “The use of internal social business/collaboration tools for work-related purposes has a positive impact on employee productivity at my organisation.

In order to build the case, however, it will be necessary to get specific.

By clearly defining the change in knowledge or behaviour, you can calculate a return.

  • Will sales increase with better training? Will the time to learn new products reduce?
  • Will safety improve? Will incidents reduce? What is the current cost? What would an improvement mean in terms of days lost?
  • What is the current cost of all staff town hall meetings?

Not every initiative will have a definite dollar positive outcome. Other organisational outcomes may be valuable too. However, in seeking investment for an initiative, it can be useful to target opportunities where there are both financial and non-financial benefits to demonstrate the result.

In defining the potential benefits, work with your partners from Finance to ensure your calculations are relevant and acceptable in your business.

PILOT

Based on the problem and the potential benefit, where can you start?

By clearly identifying the business outcome a communication activity is designed to solve, measurement becomes a simpler task. In each of the following examples, identifying the costs of the current state, and quantifying the outcomes provides a simple method of targeting benefits.

Potential Benefits

Potential Benefits

PROVE the case

What just happened? What changed as a result? How did people use the new approach?

Effective measurement is a perennial topic in communication. While top marketers are comfortable with demonstrating traffic, leads and conversions, internal communicators sometimes struggle with clearly demonstrating the return on initiatives.

However, if you have clearly identified the business outcomes, been clear about how video will help contribute to the solution, you are in a strong position to measure the impact.

Analytics packages allow for detailed viewing behaviour to be measured: who watched for how long, where and what did they use to watch, when did their attention shift. These data help shape the approach and provide essential information for looking at the impact of video content. Combined with audience feedback, this information will contribute to the evaluation of a pilot.

 

Prove the impact

Prove the impact

It’s a wrap – for now…

Video is an iterative channel. It grows and evolves with your overall business strategy. Great stories have a way of capturing people’s attention. If you find the right opportunity and take a strategic approach, people will take notice. You can transform a tactic – a broadcast, a leader message, an employee story – into a powerful strategic tool. Taking a planned approach to building the case and demonstrating the outcomes is the first step in making video an integral part of your engagement agenda and delivering valued outcomes to your business.

 

[1] Towers Watson 2013 – 2014 Change and Communication ROI Study Report http://www.towerswatson.com/en/Insights/IC-Types/Survey-Research-Results/2013/12/2013-2014-change-and-communication-roi-study