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    Business Communication: Media Training for Senior Management
    written by tessa and filed under General | 6:13 pm | 11/20/2005

    The current and July issues of PRInfluences have two articles on media training and its PR benefit for senior management.

    According to PRInfluences, media training has the following benefits:

    · It reminds top management of the role of PR and how the company needs to prepare for it.
    · It can be a venue for developing and agreeing on corporate messages.
    · It can be an opportunity to give top management an insight on how the outside world sees the company.
    · It can be an opportunity to identify “media talent” and choose a company spokesperson or spokespersons.
    · It can be a good team building exercise for top executives.

    The current article states that media training for CEOs and other senior executives should focus on corporate messaging, or how to define what it is exactly that the company does and how to describe its products, people, partnerships and customers. Executives should keep in mind that they are speaking to media interested in facts, opinions and issues important to its readers rather than marketing hype.

    The articles emphasize that the trainer should be chosen carefully, preferably one who can work with the company in developing the message and has solid and varied experience with relevant media.

    The July article recommends having a session on telephone interviews since about 80% of media interviews are done over the telephone.

    Training for TV interviews is also highly recommended because TV is the most demanding medium with regard to message delivery and executives who are trained to handle TV will be well-prepared for all the other media, as well.

    After the media training, participants are expected to:

    · Appreciate media’s perspective and how and why it is different from the company perspective;
    · Understand the importance of message development;
    · Grasp the key principles in dealing with media; and
    · Grasp the basic rules on dressing for, and talking to, media.

    For the company PR, in general, the following outcomes are expected:

    · Top executives have a better appreciation of media and of why the company’s media relations need to be handled professionally.
    · Top executives have a greater understanding and appreciation of PR and its benefits to the company.
    · Top executives are better equipped to handle media relations.
    · The company has stronger and more credible messages.
    · Key persons are identified as spokespersons.

    Even for top executives, there’s always something new to learn.

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    Business Communication: The Corporate Spokesperson
    written by tessa and filed under General | 1:21 am | 11/17/2005

    The current issue of PRInfluences carries an article on the type of corporate spokesperson that works best.

    It presents four types of spokespersons in Australian organizations:

    1. The “Egotist CEO” insists on being the only person to speak to media. He/she is either an entrepreneur, owner or significant stakeholder. This type of spokesperson can enhance the organization’s profile but usually brings no structure or depth to the PR.

    The advantages are that he/she can give the organization a personality and a profile, can build good relations with key media people, and can get a greater share of media for the company. He/she can be a potent weapon if talented and willing to listen to advice.

    The disadvantages are that the organization’s profile and media coverage becomes personality-driven, the spokesperson often does not have the discipline to deliver consistent messaging supportive of the business and its objectives, and, therefore, it can be difficult to implement formal PR.

    2. The “Recluse CEO” refuses to interact with media, or does so only when there is no other option. He/she is often a finance person or a multinational on assignment.

    There are very little advantages. A less effective alternative would be to have a separate spokesperson backed up by a PR program.

    The disadvantages are that the organization will have less media coverage, the staff will have lower morale, and PR and stakeholder engagement becomes more difficult.

    3. The “Career Company Spokesperson” is usually a career company manager who is given the job before retirement or because he/she presents or speaks well or knows the company very well.

    The advantages are that he/she is well-supported internally and knows the politics of the organization, runs an administratively sound PR and public affairs unit, can protect the company from controversy, and can be relied on not to embarrass the company.

    The disadvantages are that he/she lacks media knowledge; distrusts media and doesn’t build relations with them, thus, not earning their confidence; and sees his/her role as to keep the company out of media. In return, media tends to avoid him/her, knowing they won’t get news.

    4. The “Specialist Media Spokesperson” is usually a journalist or media personality hired to be part of the public relations team under the PR or Corporate Affairs Director. He/she needs to be backed up by a comprehensive PR structure to do strategy, planning and wider stakeholder communication.

    The advantages are that he/she has media expertise, knowledge and contacts; knows how to deal with media and how to deliver messages; and is favored by reporters.

    The disadvantages are that he/she usually has little knowledge of the company or of PR, is only capable of handling routine media inquiries, and may not defend the organization to the extent expected by management.

    The article clarifies that these categories are generalizations. In a large organization, PR players include the CEO and/or senior management, the PR or Corporate Affairs Director, the company spokesperson, the PR Department and the PR agency. The spokesperson is just part of the team.

    The article aims to present guidelines in determining the strengths and weaknesses of certain types of spokespersons so that organizations can take the necessary steps to complement these and come up with more effective PR.

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    Business Communication: Advertising and Marketing to Men
    written by tessa and filed under General | 4:06 am | 11/16/2005

    An article in the current issue of PRInfluences discusses findings of several recent surveys on how men feel about themselves and how they relate to advertising and marketing images of men.

    The article cites results from the US survey of advertising agency, Leo Burnett, which classified men into four segments:

    Metros believe it’s okay to show their feelings and a more feminine side of their personality, and tend to take a more gentle approach to their sex life. They won't be aggressive sexually, and prefer a more sensual kiss, for example.

    Retros believe it’s important to be the breadwinner and the boss of the household, and don’t see their wives as equals. Thus, they don’t tend to share parenting duties.

    Patriarchs believe that having children and being a father are the most important things in a man’s life, and are struggling to find a good work/life balance.

    Power Seekers have a distinctly masculine view of the world. They play to win and chase career advancement, hating to show signs of weakness.

    According to the survey majority of men are not concerned with being either Metro or Retro but fall into the category of Patriarchs and Power Seekers. They are “more focused on defining themselves in the eyes of other men, largely by seeking respect and admiration for success either in their professional life or their family life.”

    The majority also said they felt that advertising images of men are out of touch with reality. On the other hand, half of the respondents were unclear on what society expects of men today.

    Other interesting findings of the Leo Burnett survey include the following:

    · 56% of the male respondents consider themselves handsome
    · 70% would rather look good in a business suit than a swimsuit
    · 50% happily use hair and skincare products
    · 40% say they want to enhance their physical appearance
    · 36% enjoy shopping for new clothes
    · 15% enjoy manicures

    The article further cited two other recent surveys, one by MSN and another by Forrester Research, showing interesting differences between the ways men and women find information.

    According to the Forrester Research survey:

    · Men spend more time reading newspapers while women spend more time reading magazines.
    · Men watch more TV and more movies on video or DVD, and listen to more radio, than women.
    · Men spend more time using a computer, including surfing the internet, than women.

    MSN findings showed that:

    · Men go to search engines first when seeking advice, with families only their fourth choice, while women go to friends and families first.
    · Women view six or seven search engine results before moving on or refining their search, while men look at only two or three before moving on.
    · The male respondents spent an average of three minutes to each of 42 weekly searches, while the women spent five minutes on 30 searches a week.

    These data will certainly shape new advertising trends.

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    Business Communication: Share of Discussion in PR
    written by tessa and filed under General | 4:03 am |

    An article in the current issue of PRInfluences explains the PR measurement buzz words “Share of Discussion.”

    According to the article, Share of Discussion measures the quantity and quality of an organization’s unpaid media coverage in comparison to that of its competitors, in a single metric figure that could be directly and scientifically linked with hard business outcomes like sales and customer preference. It is easily provided to management, easily understood, and could be tracked over time.

    By comparing media coverage against competitors, a company will be able to situate itself in the industry and the broader market., providing valuable information to management decision makers.

    Using the Share of Discussion metric, PR practitioners can concretely demonstrate that their efforts in gaining media exposure add value to the organization’s business bottom line and are not just a cost. This can help them compete with other departments for a good share of the budget and, possibly, a seat in the board.

    The quality of media coverage is measured in various ways, depending on the specific organization’s objectives. Among the factors considered are: the article’s tone - whether positive, negative or neutral, the prominence of the organization in the article and of the article in the publication, the type of publication, the visibility of the brand in the graphics or headline and the spokespeople quoted.

    The effect of Share of Discussion on sales can be measured by calculating the Share of Discussion figure over 2 years in weekly, monthly or quarterly periods and correlating this with business outcome data such as sales figures for the same periods.

    Although Share of Discussion does not measure PR efforts directed at channels other than media, the article points out that media coverage is a good reflection of public opinion. Share of Discussion is, therefore, a good indicator of media relations, corporate reputation and brand awareness.

    Quite a handy tool, if you ask me.

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    Business Communication: Building PR Capability
    written by tessa and filed under General | 3:59 am |

    An article in the current issue of PRInfluences provides ten steps in creating PR capability in an organization.

    1. Establish the key business reason for having a PR capability - whether for marketing purposes, for a certain business event or for stakeholder considerations - and why now is the right time for it. Be very specific.

    2. Identify an internal figure of authority or influence to champion the proposal, present your case to him or her, ask his or her advice, and request his or her help in advocating the move.

    3. Show management how your competitor is using PR to their advantage. Analyze the competitor’s PR efforts and quantify specific actions and outcomes. Provoke a reaction.

    4. Do research on the type of PR measurement and evaluation tools most appropriate to your organization and management. Use these to demonstrate specific results that can be expected.

    5. Do research on PR and its benefits in organizations around the world. Present the information, including award-winning case studies.

    6. Determine the PR structure and process most appropriate to your organization and its culture. Identify who the PR team will report to.

    7. Decide whether to keep the task internal or to work with an agency. To keep it internal, you will have to employ a PR specialist. The alternative is to choose an agency with the skills, experience and knowledge you require. You may decide to work with them completely, or to have them help your company set up your internal PR team.

    8. Identify the cost of creating the PR capability for your organization. You will have to consider how much the agency will charge, how much budget will be required overall, and how much your organization can afford to spend. You will also have to identify the source of the budget. Funds currently allocated to other areas could probably be diverted to PR.

    9. Include the process of developing a PR strategy and preparing a PR plan in your proposal. Be concrete.

    10. Convince all those in the organization who may stand to benefit from the creation of a PR capability, and get them to buy into the case not only during the proposal stage but also in the first year of actual implementation.

    If there’s a will, there’s a way.

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    Business Communication: The Pros and Cons of E-mail
    written by tessa and filed under General | 12:00 am | 11/11/2005

    An article in the latest issue of Ragan’s Grapevine discusses the pros and cons of e-mail and best practices in using this communication tool as recommended by communicators, legal experts and PR consultants.

    According to the article, research firm Radicati Group Inc. put the number of electronic mailboxes in the world at 1.1 billion, having tripled in the past five years. Daily e-mail messages sent are over 20 billion.

    Because of its speed and convenience, e-mail remains one of the most effective ways to communicate with the media, employees and other stakeholders, the article says. Still the risks of e-mail call for caution in its use, whether for business or personal purposes.

    1. E-mail is best used for timeliness and accuracy.

    Public relations professionals rely on the speed of e-mail for breaking news and meeting needs of the moment, especially for sensitive issues that require immediate response.

    E-mail also ensures accuracy, e.g., as compared to phone interviews, especially when describing or outlining complex issues. E-mailed statements keep internal and external messages consistent, meeting information needs and deadlines.

    2. E-mail can help manage media relations.

    At Exxon Mobil, e-mail is part of a standard process used to manage media inquiries.

    Weekly global PR discussions are held, tackling hot topics and drafting position statements that are approved and made ready. These are added to an internal database that contains standard corporate data, background information on the company, press kits and other media relations content, accessible to all media relations staffers around the country.

    When reporters request data or interviews, they are asked to e-mail details of their publication or media outlet, the story theme or topic, and any additional information to identify the most appropriate response. They are then sent an e-mail with the appropriate information.

    When the request is for more in-depth information on a key issue or for an interview, though, media relations consultant Russ Roberts prefers to talk to media on the phone to “get a better sense of the story.” Afterwards, he still puts everything down in an e-mail, including links to additional information in the company’s online newsroom, and sends this off to the media concerned.

    3. E-mail is traceable and can be used against you.

    E-mail, like instant messages, text messages and web pages, are used as evidence in investigations and lawsuits. When an investigation is pending, “cleaning up” files can amount to obstruction of justice.

    To minimize risks, it is recommended that companies develop e-mail policies covering language and content. In other words, “be careful what you say and how you say it.”

    4. Reread your e-mail message before sending.

    Wait three minutes to review any e-mail message before sending it off. Consider how it would look to a third party. Consider whether you would be comfortable to have it come up in connection with a lawsuit.

    5. Edit your e-mail messages.

    Marc Baldwin, public relations consultant of Chick-Fil-A, writes each message before adding the name of the recipient, double checks each name added, uses spell check, and moves more important messages into the Draft folder for review before finally sending them.

    6. Don’t blame the tool. Blame inappropriate use.

    Shel Holtz, president of Holtz Communication + Technology, says: “It always strikes me as funny that every new technology falls under the cloud of suspicion. It’s not the technology’s fault. It’s the people who use it inappropriately. You can manage the abuses of e-mail by exception. Taking that tool away from employees completely paints them with the same brush as the few who abuse it. It’s like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This is really about using common sense, training staff and trusting your employees.”

    Once again, the development of company policies and guidelines are crucial.

    7. Do not abandon one-on-one, relationship-building phone calls and meetings with media people.

    E-mail should not be an excuse for PR practitioners to make fewer phone calls and personal conversations with media representatives as these build better relationships, provide immediate feedback, and guide story development.

    Like any other tool, e-mail has both positive and negative potentials. Use judiciously.

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    Business Communication: Employee Satisfaction Surveys
    written by tessa and filed under General | 3:50 am | 11/10/2005

    In an article at CiB, website of the British Association of Communicators in Business, Martin Day provides a step-by-step guide to running employee satisfaction surveys.

    Day points out that surveys are now easy to do through hosted survey websites on the internet such as Survey Galaxy Ltd., of which he is a Director. The site allows anyone to create, design and publish online surveys. Employees can be sent links to the specific survey, and can complete it online. The site then provides a report.

    Following are Day’s guidelines for conducting an employee satisfaction survey.

    1. Identify why the survey is needed.

    The event driven survey is called for when the organization:

    - is about to start or is going through change management, to measure the effectiveness of the change and gather feedback through the change cycle;

    - is experiencing rapid growth, to monitor internal communication and management structures and ensure employee awareness of reporting and management responsibilities;

    - is suffering from poor morale, to identify employee concerns and how they can be addressed; or

    - is experiencing increased staff turnover, to identify the causes of employee unrest and help find solutions.

    The periodic survey is used to assess personnel on job satisfaction, training and career development, giving senior management a “bottom up” view of the organization, and helping establish good employer/employee communication.

    2. Get management to buy in to the survey.

    Management has to be convinced of the benefits of an employee survey because they are the ones to implement any changes that may arise from the results. Findings may also be a wake-up call for management that has “grown complacent and detached from their employees.”

    3. Determine the survey design.

    Concentrate on priority questions based on the identified need and objectives of the survey and on how the results are going to be analyzed. Avoid time-consuming answer formats, such as individual comments, that are also difficult to analyze.

    Online, a few smaller surveys are more effective than one very long survey because longer surveys have higher drop out rates.

    4. Proofread and test the survey.

    Check the grammar, spelling and clarity of questions from the employees’ point of view.

    Provide responses like “Don’t know” or “Not applicable” to enable respondents to reply accurately. When adding “Other” as a response, take into consideration how this will make analysis more complex.

    Check whether the questions will provide responses required for a detailed analysis, e.g., if you want to analyze results by gender and by department, check whether you have asked respondents to indicate their gender and department.

    Remove unnecessary questions.

    Publish the survey and send the link to testers. Get feedback and adjust the survey accordingly.

    Check the online summary results of the test to confirm if data collected gives meaningful results.

    5. Promote and deploy the survey.

    If employees have access to the internet or the company intranet, send the survey link by email or put the link on the company website or intranet. Otherwise, a shared terminal may be provided or the survey may be printed out.

    The company has to decide whether or not to allow anonymous responses. Anonymity may encourage employees to be more outspoken. On the other hand, it may also allow respondents to be flippant.

    6. Monitor the survey.

    Online summary results are viewable in real time while the survey is in progress. If the number of responses fall short of expectations, employees should be reminded to take the survey.

    7. Analyze survey results.

    Survey results may be displayed in graphical and tabular form. When areas of concern are uncovered, more detailed analysis is recommended.

    8. Take further action.

    When necessary, more detailed surveys should be undertaken as a follow up to shed more light on areas of concern.

    In general, the survey is a medium to root out, address and resolve organizational problems and will result in improved employee morale.

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    Business Communication: European Communicators Fear Job Security Despite High Performance
    written by tessa and filed under General | 6:12 pm | 11/9/2005

    An article at CiB, the website of the British Association of Communicators in Business, discusses results of the latest survey conducted by the Federation of European Internal Editors Associations (FEIEA) showing high confidence among communicators on the contribution of communication to organizational success, yet low confidence in job security.

    The article describes FEIA as a federation of business communicator associations in Europe founded in 1955 and covering 12 affiliated member countries, namely, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland. Member associations reportedly collaborate on projects, share knowledge and aim to improve the effectiveness of employee communications.

    According to the article, the previous FEIEA study on the role of communication in the European workplace was published in 2001. The Federation’s current study was made among almost 5,000 practicing workplace communicators in 13 countries across Europe, with findings presented at a conference for FEIEA’s golden jubilee in Brussels on October 21.

    The article says survey results show that communication plays an increasingly important role in organizations and is a factor for success.

    Defined internal communication goals are shown to have shifted, though, from long-term goals in the 2001 study to short-term goals in the current survey.

    Respondents identified the five biggest barriers to effective communication as: low management commitment to communication, lack of time, ineffective organizational structure, insufficient communications skills, and ill-defined communication goals.

    Internal communication patterns are shown to be still dominantly “top down” with only one percent of the surveyed communicators seeing “bottom up” communication in their organizations. Cross-level or lateral communication increased by six percent since 2001. Internal communication channels can be used to address sensitive issues, according to half of the respondents, but more than a third disagree.

    Communication tools are said to be changing, with immediate information disseminated through electronic media and supplementary background information disseminated through magazines. E-mail and the intranet are the dominant electronic media while magazines are still the top traditional medium believed to be effective as a communication tool. The notice board declined in popularity by 26% since 2001.

    Magazine production still remains as the most time consuming task for communicators, followed by the distribution of internal information, and the intranet and internet. Communicators were shown to believe, though, that their time could be better spent on developing strategies, crisis communication, and communication structure, respectively.

    Despite the fact that 85 percent of the respondents feel that internal communication will become more important in their organizations, only half feel secure in their job, showing a decline of 30 percent since 2001. They stress the value of professional education in journalism, marketing, public relations and business studies.

    This is a pity, considering the gains in expanding the role of communication in business these days.

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    Business Communication: Ten Core Skills for Communicators
    written by tessa and filed under General | 7:19 am | 11/8/2005

    The October 24 issue of The Source published by Melcrum features an article outlining core skills for communicators, namely:

    1. Face-to-face

    Effective communicators know when to use the most effective communication channel. They know how to listen, understand shades of meaning or nuance, and even know “when not to communicate.”

    2. Writing skills

    Good writing is a great enhancer. It maximizes the impact of messages. All communicators know how to optimize their technical skills and develop a style that, simply put, drives the audience to action.

    3. Business literacy

    Senior management respect knowledge of business. Communicators are competent in budgeting, financial awareness, marketing theory and practice, business law, quantitative analysis and brand management.

    4. Working in a wired world

    Communicators understand that writing for the web is different from the traditional writing for print. They also understand the benefits and pitfalls of email. They use the corporate intranet to advantage.

    5. Strategic insight

    Effective communicators relate their communications strategy with the organization’s strategy. They have a communication plan that discusses the key issues. They have an understanding of cross-functional strategy and how the audience uses communication to achieve strategic goals.

    6. Building strategic models

    Communicators use communication mapping to promote corporate strategy and models, which help to identify opinion leaders and issues. They understand how people use models.

    7. Issue identification

    Communicators recognize danger zones before they become problems for the company or organization. They are media savvy and understand the emotional and rational aspects of the brand. They learn from both internal (employee surveys) and external (web activity, proposed laws) sources of intelligence.

    8. Coaching

    Communicators know how to coach. Coaching could mean helping managers with a presentation or identifying weak points in skills and processes. Coaching demands skills in presentation and motivation, training needs analysis and an understanding of the way people learn.

    9. Influence

    Strategic alliances are a boon to the communicator and increase the value of the business. Communicators will never change the way people work if they can’t influence people. Key characteristics of influence include focus, awareness, judgment, accessibility and trust.

    10. Measurement

    Communicators apply data to solve business problems and demonstrate cost-effectiveness. They know what works by employing measures of effectiveness. They focus on outcomes and use executive interviews and feedback management in addition to basic tools like surveys and focus groups.

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    Business Communication: Tips on Web Writing
    written by tessa and filed under General | 6:48 am | 11/7/2005

    In the November 2005 issue of The E-Writing Bulletin, Leslie O’Flahavan and Marilynne Rudick give pointers on writing for the web.

    1. The authors caution against “bland, clichéd” mission statements which web visitors rarely read. Instead, O’Flavahan and Rudick suggest making the About Us pages clear and specific because “visitors care more about what your company can do and what you believe in.”

    2. While PDF’s are all right if the content will always be printed and read as hard copy, O’Flavahan and Rudick say they should be avoided for the following reasons:

    · PDF’s are slow to load and clumsy to scroll through.
    · PDF’s are rarely hyperlinked to related content at the site.
    · PDF page numbers get messed up.
    · Reading in Adobe’s browser within your web browser can be irritating.

    3. Don’t just say “Click here,” tell visitors where the link is leading them and what they’ll find when they get there. Examples: Click here to learn more about; Click here to pay on-line; Click here for answers to FAQ’s

    4. Proofreading shows you care. Run spell check. “Errors make even good content look bad.”

    5. Be concise. Avoid using three words when one word will do. The authors cite a wordy passage from the Future of Family Medicine site and transformed it into a concise 35-word paragraph.

    The original 80-word version: “In the increasingly fragmented world of health care, one thing remains constant: Family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focusing on integrated care. Unlike other specialties that are limited to a particular organ, disease, age or sex, family medicine integrates care for patients of both genders across the full spectrum of ages within the context of community and advocates for the patient in an increasingly complex health care system.”

    The 35-word rewrite: “Family physicians treat the whole person. Family medicine’s cornerstone is a personal patient-physician relationship; the focus is on integrated care. Unlike other specialties, family medicine cares and advocates for patients regardless of gender or age.”

    6. Avoid text effects that make text move, scroll or disappear. Words are easier to read when still.

    7. Avoid fluff. Use concrete language. If you can’t avoid it, link abstractions (e.g., implementation and innovation) to case studies full of specific information.

    8. Page design must support, not fight, the content. The page design oath admonishes us to “do no harm to written content.”

    9. Use headings. Headings help readers scan content before reading the whole piece. They also help readers find the paragraphs they want to read.

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    Business Communication: Story Ideas for Corporate Publications
    written by tessa and filed under General | 12:00 am | 11/3/2005

    The latest issue of Ragan’s Grapevine carries an article giving five story ideas that can be used by any editor in any organization.

    1. Following the money trail

    Employees want to know how the company is performing, how it makes money, where the money is from and how it is spent. The goal is to simplify complicated finances for employees.

    A good way to do this is through pie charts with easy to understand numbers. It would also be helpful to tell the story through the experience of an individual, e.g., how a person’s action can affect the company’s financials.

    2. “Magic numbers”

    t would be very beneficial to the company if you could identify the most important figures that need to be tracked to understand how the company is performing (e.g., net income), then explain simply and clearly to employees what these figures are and how they impact everyone’s financial future.

    It would be even more beneficial if employees could be urged to join in brainstorming on how to improve these figures, pulling them into action. Perhaps a status report could be featured in every issue, tracking these all-important numbers and keeping everyone involved.

    3. Employee debate

    Find a controversial company topic on which employees have widely varying opinions and find an employee to speak out for each side. This will highlight diversity and openness.

    4. Print support for the Corporate Intranet

    Write about any changes in the corporate intranet, explaining the new structure and navigation. One such story featured a screen shot of the home page with a magnifying glass on the site menu, then listed “all the cool stuff you can get to from the site menu.”

    A printed story on the intranet is very useful because it can be clipped, put up on employees’ cubicles and referred back to when necessary.

    5. Employee profile

    Feature a profile on project managers, their challenges, accomplishments and lessons learned. It salutes the hard-working managers and highlights what needs to be emulated by others in their own projects.

    These five story ideas could, indeed, be made to suit practically any organization.

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    Business Communications: Training Junior PR Staffers To Handle Sophisticated Media Relations
    written by tessa and filed under General | 12:01 am | 11/2/2005

    An article in the latest issue of Ragan’s Grapevine discusses how junior staffers could be prepared to handle sophisticated media relations.

    The article argues that although maturity is required for the task, this does not necessarily mean age. It could mean personality, gumption and natural talent.

    Jon Lieb, managing director of New York-based Thirty Ink Media & Marketing, is quoted as saying: “I think you have to hire junior staffers who have the right personality make-up and proactive aggressiveness. You can’t teach it. Either you have it, or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if the person is 24 or 34.” This coming from a man whose company consists of himself and two junior staffers he hired right out of college.

    The article also quotes Ali Randall of Metzger Associates in Boulder, Colorado: “A level of maturity is required, but it has little to do with years or experience. Some people just shouldn’t be on the phone because they don’t have the maturity and presence to pitch the media, or interact with clients. However, some people show us that they have that ability from Day One.”

    Once the right junior staffers are hired, however, the article points out that proper training and practice is still required.

    Amanda Frederickson, founder of PR Amanda in Chicago, is quoted saying: “”I think it is important to recognize a major problem in many agencies today. To ensure a greater profit volume, agencies are sourcing out the majority of media relations and account services to junior staff, and are assuring clients the same level of results that would be attained using more seasoned employees. This is a problem, as many junior staffers are simply not receiving the training they need to pitch media properly. And I completely understand the frustration from the reporter’s point of view. They want to obtain as much information in the shortest amount of time possible, and ill-prepared junior staffers are often unable to handle the situation properly.”

    The article cites Emily DeLizza of Robin Leedy & Associates Inc. of Mount Kisco, New York recommending that junior staffers be given a short introductory media relations or professionalism course, and to teach them to have “the highest ethical standards and professionalism” which she often finds lacking.

    She is further quoted saying: “Hiring a new employee should be viewed as an investment for the company. Time should be taken by the senior level staff to give constructive criticism. As a young professional, I learn from my own experiences just as much as I do from watching others I admire within the company. ‘Lead by example’ couldn’t be more true than it is in public relations.”

    Neil Vineberg, president of Vineberg Communications in Westhampton, New York is quoted in agreement: “”Not everyone is good at pitching and follow up. A junior staffer needs to pitch to get good at it. We run our staff through a step-by-step primer on how to write a pitch, target media and follow up.”

    The article cites the more hands-on approach of Gary Baker, communications director of AnswerThink & The Hackett Group: “I work with my agency staff, scheduling weekly training sessions keyed to general topics and specific pitches. They hear how I talk about things, and then we role-play pitches, so I can hear how they do it, and make corrections, suggestions and additions. We usually do it as a group-kind of a pop quiz approach… No, it isn’t easy to put junior staff on the spot, but it’s better to start them off well prepared and give them the opportunity to do their first few pitches on me. [Equip them] with training wheels, so to speak.”

    Indeed, good communication should start in the coaching and mentoring process within the organization itself.

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    Business Communication: Focusing on Communication Outcome Rather Than Mere Output
    written by tessa and filed under General | 10:16 pm | 11/1/2005

    In the latest issue of CiB, Mark Shanahan, director of Leapfrog Corporate Communications, writes an article on moving the focus from communication output to outcome.

    Shanahan points out that with the current electronic communication tools available, much of corporate communication is being done without passing through professional communicators. “Everyone, anywhere within an organisation can be a communicator,” he says, resulting in unplanned communication with information gaps, information duplication, information overload, repeated mistakes and chaos.

    On the other hand, Shanahan says, communication professionals still maintain their role in defining communication strategy, implementing key parts of the communication plan and controlling communication channels. They are still the masters of the craft. Despite that, there is no way to curb the proliferation of communication initiatives within the organization.

    If communication professionals stick to making “efficient communication plumbing and shiny award-winning media,” he warns that they will amount to little more than being “an internal production agency, taking the decisions of others and shaping them.”

    To take control of the situation, he urges professional organizational communicators to challenge all those involved in the process to consider the communication outcomes of their actions.

    Communication, he asserts, “can be used as an enabler to move the business forward” by shifting from a “reactive process at the end of the decision making chain to proactivity in shaping decision making.”

    Shanahan says communication professionals should realize the right to challenge and shape all communication outputs based on desired outcomes.

    To make this happen, the author rightly points out that the organization has to first agree on the outcomes it wants to achieve, and then plan the appropriate communication output. This way, he asserts, the value of communication professionals is raised by linking their role with the business cycle and making the benefits they produce tangible and measurable.

    With this approach, Shanahan says professional communicators can become coaches, mentors, setters of standards and policies, and educators on how those within organizations can get the most out of the tools available to them.

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    Business Communication: Specialist Bats for Coaching and Mentoring
    written by tessa and filed under General | 2:00 am | 10/31/2005

    A communications specialist has recommended that organizations turn to coaching and mentoring to help people achieve high performance in communications work and realize their potential.

    This is the gist of a recent article by executive coach and mentor Sue Solomons, published by the British Association of Communicators in Business.

    Solomons distinguishes between coaching and mentoring.

    Coaching, says Solomons, consists of “a number of one to one discussions between the coach and the person being coached,” with a “coaching brief” spelling out a specific business benefit agreed at the beginning, often with a line manager.

    The coaching may address feedback, a short-term goal or long-term ambition or perhaps even a particular work relationship, according to Solomons, whose 20 years of communication industry experience saw her move from the public sector to PR consultancy.

    Because it’s important that the coachee be able to talk openly with the coach about every aspect of an issue that may impact performance, the content of the coaching discussions must remain confidential between the coach and the coachee, Solomons stresses.

    Although there are many coaching skills courses now widely available - some employing tools such as NLP (neuro linguistic programming), 360 feedback, psychometric instruments, and goal setting models - focus should remain on improving performance from the business point of view, Solomons cautions.

    Solomons says coaching works because the coachee has the chance to ‘think broadly” about his position, behavior, actions and aspirations, with someone who is focused on helping find his own solutions. And one’s own solutions, Solomons adds, work much better than the solutions offered by someone else.

    Coaching is a little different from mentoring, which works more as a “teacher-pupil relationship.” Mentoring, Solomons points out, is especially useful when a team member with less experience requires short term help with, for example, a heavy workload or a stretching target.

    In mentoring, the mentee is developed with on-the-job training while meeting business targets, Solomons says.

    Solomons discusses other features of mentoring, to wit:

    1. A mentoring arrangement would normally involve the mentor, mentee and manager agreeing on targets for the business as well as the mentee’s development.

    2. The mentor arranges frequent meetings to help out the mentee and come in with advice and the lessons of experience when necessary, often providing support between meetings.

    3. The training and development is specific to the task at hand, building the confidence and experience of the mentee for future projects.

    4. The advantage to the mentee is the opportunity to prove their potential, while being supported and hopefully feeling valued by his employer.

    Solomons says Human Resource teams often have coaching and mentoring professionals they can recommend. HR teams can also share insights on managing coaching and mentoring, and even provide advice on when a company should or should not use them.

    Coaching and mentoring would appear to provide the answer in an age where multitasking and delegating responsibility are equally important to moving any enterprise forward, from the ground up.

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    Business Communication: Web Design Mistakes
    written by tessa and filed under General | 4:03 am | 10/26/2005

    The latest issue of CiB features Jakob Nielsen’s article, “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005.”

    Nielsen asked his newsletter readers to send in the most irritating usability problems they encountered in websites and found them to be compatible with his own list.

    1. Illegible fonts

    This covers small font sizes, frozen font sizes and low contrast between text and background. Nielsen recommends using resizable text to allow users to control font size.

    2. Non-standard links that confuse and delay users

    Nielsen provides guidelines for links:

    · Use colored underlined text for links and don’t underline non-link text.
    · Use color to differentiate visited and unvisited links.
    · Use descriptive text for links, including key words, explaining what users will find there.
    · Do not use JavaScript or other techniques that interfere with standard interaction with links.
    · Do not open pages in new windows, except for PDF files and similar cases.
    · Check for dead links and bugs.

    3. Annoying purposeless Flash

    Nielsen cautions against using Flash to jazz up a page or for navigation. He instead recommends rewriting boring text and using better photos.

    4. Content not written for the web

    Nielsen describes good web writing as:

    · Short
    · Scannable
    · To the point rather than full of hype
    · Answering users’ questions
    · Using common language rather than made-up terms
    · Updated
    · Free of typographical errors and corrupted data

    5. Bad search

    Nielsen recommends investing in better software to provide navigation and search that help users find what they want.

    6. Browser incompatibility

    Nielsen admonishes web masters not to turn away customers who prefer a different platform and advises cross-platform compatibility since more and more people are using minority browsers.

    7. Cumbersome forms with unnecessary questions and options

    Nielsen provides guidelines for forms:

    · To make forms short and simple, do not include unnecessary questions.
    · Do not make fields mandatory unless they truly are.
    · Avoid using unusual field labels.
    · Set keyboard focus to the first field when the form is displayed.
    · Allow flexible input of phone numbers, credit card numbers, and the like.
    · Follow guidelines for internationalization.
    · Use streamlined registration, checkout, and other workflow.

    8. No contact information or other company information provided

    Nielsen advises providing a physical company mailing address to add credibility. He also recommends “About Us” pages and store finders and locators.

    9. Frozen layouts with fixed page widths and/or heights

    Nielsen emphasizes that users be allowed to resize windows through liquid layouts. This will eliminate problems with big or small monitors and in printing pages.

    10. Non-existent or inadequate photo enlargement

    Nielsen points out that users often need a close-up view of a product to aid their decision-making. Not only should sites provide zoom features, but they should also offer a range of close-ups to meet various needs.

    Business communicators should check their websites against this checklist.

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    Business Communication: The Employee Recognition Communication Program
    written by tessa and filed under General | 11:55 pm | 10/25/2005

    An article in the latest issue of Ragan’s Grapevine introduces the idea of “recognition communication” or using employee recognition as an internal communication program to bring the company goals, vision and mission to employees’ hearts and create an “emotionally engaged work force.”

    The article urges company communicators not to leave employee recognition completely to Human Resources, saying, “it could be your greatest success as a communicator” showing impact and value on the corporate spreadsheet.

    Research results from the consulting firm, DDI, reportedly prove that such programs can raise productivity by as much as 65 percent. The Watson Wyatt Human Capital Index reportedly shows that “clear rewards can generate 16.5 percent to 21.5 percent growth in annual shareholder value, as well as 5.4 percent to 14.6 percent improvement in recruitment and retention.”

    And it doesn’t cost much, the article points out. You only need to change your focus and redirect current spending.

    Corporate communication from the top down in the form of intranet messages, videos, executive speeches and written communication, including glossy magazines, are not very effective, the article asserts, because research has shown that employees value feedback and acknowledgement primarily from their direct supervisor and next from their peers.

    For example, reading about the company’s cost-cutting initiative would not be as motivating to an employee as witnessing his or her manager publicly recognizing a teammate for suggesting a new cost-cutting measure. The latter constitutes a direct, one-on-one, personal benefit from the cost cutting initiative. The goal is translated into a concrete activity that everyone understands. Furthermore, the manager’s message in the award ceremony is personal and emotionally charged, thereby, going straight to the heart.

    The article cites the case of the investment management firm, T. Rowe Price, which implemented an employee recognition program by giving employees a way to send free e-cards and handwritten cards to each other, and giving managers a way to nominate and reward employees with tangible awards presented in team settings for living the core values of the organization. Employee satisfaction improved, leading to better service to clients and investors and, ultimately, higher client and investor loyalty scores.

    To build a strategic recognition communication program, the article recommends partnering with Human Resources to do the following:

    · Aligning rewards with specific behavior you want to be repeated for the success of corporate goals, mission and strategy, e.g., customer service, innovation, cost-cutting, on-time delivery, safety, new revenue, teamwork, etc.

    · Training managers and other leaders in how to motivate and give recognition to their people

    · Providing media resources in support of the employee recognition program, e.g., recognition tool-kits containing a training DVD, book and thank-you cards, or an intranet site offering recognition training for managers

    · Getting top-level management support for the employee recognition program, e.g., keeping top-level executives informed of and in touch with recent award nominees

    Such a program is a perfect example of how business communication can work in synergy with other department of the organization.

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    Business Communication: Getting Copy Approval - Some Useful Tips
    written by tessa and filed under General | 7:26 am | 10/24/2005

    Getting senior management to approve copy and proofs can be frustrating and stressful.

    Journalist Jill Wedge gives helpful tips in an article that recently appeared in the British Assocation of Communicators website.

    “Get in early and manage their expectations,” says Wedge, a journalist for 20 years before moving to PR then corporate communications.

    She advises:

    · Explain the purpose of the publication (especially if new), it’s target readers, the role of the story within it and what you expect them to contribute. It also helps if you indicate if it’s a feature or a news story, if photos are to be taken etc. In regard to photos, schedule a time for photos as soon as possible to avoid conflicts in schedule.

    · If copy will come from the customer, specify the word count, a clear deadline and then call them or their secretary to check if they can meet the deadline - or need an extension.

    · In regard to interviews, explain when they’ll receive written copy, then confirm how much time they have to approve it. Check their schedules always - they might take time off for a holiday. Remind them of the length of copy at this stage and that they’ll have to delete something if they add something on.

    · Be clear on deadlines and tell the approving officer when you need their sign off - and what will happen if they don’t meet the deadline (costly changes to time-sensitive components of the project, re-scheduling of printing, etc).

    · Giving exact dates for deadlines rather than a vague ‘end of next week’ makes you sound more professional and gives them something to work to.

    · If you fear they’ll still ignore your deadline, give a false, early one, which will buy you time if the worst happens. Have a talk with “repeat offenders” about future issues. Ensure their messages get across in the magazine or website. Conduct frequent dialogues so they know you’re on their side. Understanding the production process will make them realize how difficult it becomes if they delay you - and all the other senior people’s articles! You might even find one of their peers can help you out if they think their own agenda is at risk.

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    Business Communication: Writing FAQs
    written by tessa and filed under General | 12:35 am | 10/20/2005

    The articles “Putting the A in the FAQs: How to Write Excellent FAQs that Answer User Questions” and “Making Self-Service Work: How To Write FAQs That Help Customers Help Themselves” by Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan at E-WRITE give tips on asking the right questions and answering them effectively.

    With well-written, user-focused FAQs, Rudick and O’Flahavan say you can offer customers web self-service that is personalized, customer-enabling, transaction-completing and purchase-facilitating.

    The authors identify the most common FAQ writing problems and provide solutions and other tips.

    · Too many questions overwhelm the user. Limit the general FAQ to a few top questions with links to additional information and related topics included in the answers. Create specialized FAQs for specific products, services and types of users.

    · Disorganized FAQs are difficult to use. Group questions into logical sections with consistent scopes and no overlaps.

    · Vaguely worded questions are useless. Write concise and precise questions using the appropriate question word, whether who, what, when, why or how.

    · Some FAQs fail to answer questions. Give clear and direct answers. For example, “why” questions should be answered with reasons; “when” questions should be answered with dates or times; and “how” questions should be answered with processes and procedures.

    · Dead-end answers do not enable the user to do what needs to be done. Include or link to information needed by the user to take action.

    · Marketing hype is just fluff. Provide instead a list of specific product features and benefits that the user can base decisions on.

    · Place the FAQ section near other types of help. Provide users with other ways to get answers, such as via e-mail, mail, phone, fax or live chat.

    · Do not limit questions and answers to the FAQ section. Integrate these in relevant areas throughout the site.

    Finally, the authors advice that FAQs be updated frequently.

    Now that answers a lot of our questions.

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    Business Communication: The Roles of Newsletters
    written by tessa and filed under General | 5:44 am | 10/19/2005

    The article, “Roles Newsletters Play: Who Are You To Your Subscribers?” of Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan at E-WRITE describes the different types of newsletters and their contents, while their other article, “26 Ways To Spruce Up Your Newsletter,” in the same site suggests more topics for content enrichment.

    The authors recommend giving your newsletter a specific personality and role to play for subscribers, among them, the industry insider, efficient assistant, experienced consultant, storyteller, and subscriber stand-in.

    The industry insider, according to them, spots trends ahead of everyone else and informs the subscribers of these.

    The efficient assistant, on the other hand, has the subscribers’ specific interests in mind while going through available materials, compiling what are relevant, and making summaries.

    In contrast, the experienced consultant, according to the authors, offers expert advice and information in the first person and is personal, conversational, informative, and practical.

    The storyteller, they say, narrates success stories and case studies from actual interviews. These stories present problems, the solutions tried and what worked, and lessons learned.

    Finally, the subscriber stand-in asks resource persons questions that subscribers would want to ask given the chance, and does so in an informal and conversational tone.

    Rudick and O’Flahavan warn that although newsletters can play more than one role, they should not attempt to take on too many roles to avoid confusing subscribers.

    The authors suggest the following items for content:

    · Editorial
    · Columns written by in-house or industry experts
    · Photographs
    · Informed and unbiased product reviews
    · Interviews with experts
    · Profiles of subscribers or company personalities
    · Behind-the-scenes look at people or processes
    · Advice column by an expert
    · Resource list of useful websites, white papers, books, or training opportunities
    · Reader anecdotes on real-life events
    · Success stories and feature stories on successful projects
    · How-to’s
    · Account-specific information
    · Instant downloadable information
    · Calendar of events
    · Conference coverage
    · Networking, inviting subscribers to respond to blog posts, attend real or online meetings, or join discussion groups
    · Legal updates
    · Time-sensitive reminders
    · Surveys
    · Coupons
    · Industry updates
    · Trendspotting
    · Giveaways or sweepstakes
    · Testimonials

    Once again, the specific mix should reflect the personality you have chosen for the newsletter, otherwise you’ll end up with hodgepodge.

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    Business Communication: Read This Before Repurposing Documents for the Web
    written by tessa and filed under General | 11:47 am | 10/18/2005

    There’s a web content writing buzzword that’s not yet in my dictionary but I suspect will soon be - repurposing, which is the subject of an article written by Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O’Flahavan.

    Repurposing appears to convey more than what web writers would normally refer to as rewriting, redoing, reorganizing or transforming-print-into-readable-web-text, say the authors, who are partners in E-Write, a training and consultancy company.

    According to Rudick and O’Flahavan, repurposing “contains the essence of what good web writers do when they adapt a print document to the web: they change the document substantially so it fulfills a purpose on the web. They alter the print original so it communicates to web readers who read in different ways and for different purposes than print readers do.”

    Why do web readers often encounter articles that are not user-friendly? That’s because it is difficult and time-consuming to repurpose, say Rudick and O’Flahavan. Which is why they have come up with five guide questions on repurposing of print documents for the web:

    1. Will web visitors want this content?

    Know thy target market - it could be clients, members, potential customers, or researchers - and why they visit your site, e.g. to learn about you, to purchase products or services, or to get information.

    2. Which is the best format — online text or rich in graphics?

    Ask yourself, say Rudick and O’Flahavan: “Will my site visitors want this content in the form of online text or would they prefer a print download?” Repurposing may not work as well if the print original is rich in graphics or formatting.

    If a long print document is long and needs to be so, breaking it up into short chunks could force readers to click endlessly. Not recommended.

    Also, would readers prefer to read the content online or to download it?

    3. Does the content support the website’s mission?

    Any content that doesn’t support the mission of the site detracts from it. If you’re in the business of selling software, the authors illustrate, don’t bother to repurpose the results of your employee satisfaction survey.

    4. Will the content fit well into the existing site structure? Or will the site structure need to be changed?

    To decide whether to repurpose print content, writers for the web must consider how the content will fit into the existing site structure.

    5. Is the content worth repurposing?

    Outdated content does not make for site credibility. Readers expect online content to be up to date, nearly to the minute, say Rudick and O’Flahavan. Therefore, if you do not expect your content to have a long shelf life, no need to repurpose it.

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