Archives for April 2010

Leaders Inspire People

by Becky Armendariz
I presented the keynote address last month at a “Woman of the Year” luncheon for an Arizona-based professional networking association. I was a bit shocked (and humbled) to find out I’d be the signature speaker for an audience filled with businesswomen who have achieved both personal and professional success.They asked me to talk about communication, and how these individual women could use communication to build a presence in their companies, in Arizona and around the world. My talk focused on my “Getting Becky a Job” campaign—the very campaign that inspired me to begin my “What I DO know is…” blog on IABC eXchange. I talked about how I was faced with the difficult task of entering the workforce during an economic recession, and how I had to leverage my network and build my personal brand to “Be Heard” by prospective employers.

It went well, but the speaker who followed me sure stole my thunder! A successful businesswoman, author, mentor and passionate leader, Katreena Hayes-Wood spoke to the audience about leadership.

I give credit to anyone who braves the topic of leadership because it is extremely complex. What is a leader? How are leaders different from managers? What qualities do leaders possess? These questions are difficult to answer and entirely subjective—they depend on how each individual defines the terms.

Hayes-Wood started her talk by saying that managers manage people; leaders inspire people. They are two different titles, and they are not interchangable. Leadership is a responsibility, and not everyone possesses the qualities to be a good leader. For those who do, Hayes-Wood says they must consider it a blessing, because they have found a way to make the world about more than themselves. They have achieved success and are part of a much greater purpose than gaining recognition for themselves. Their responsibility now is to teach future leaders and help them achieve success even greater than their own.

After defining what leadership meant to her, Hayes-Wood listed the five qualities that she feels are essential in leaders: having integrity, and being informed, insightful, intelligent and inspiring.

She said that leaders must have integrity. They must always be honest and reliable. Leaders should be informed: aware of what is going on in their immediate surroundings, the community and across the world. Informed leaders make decisions that go beyond their immediate needs. They are forward-thinking. Leaders are insightful and intelligent. They know the best approach and can guide others to make the right choices. Last, leaders are inspiring. In order to inspire, you can’t be overly concerned with how something will affect you as an individual. When you’ve reached this stage of leadership, it isn’t about you anymore—it’s about your company. And by company, Hayes-Wood doesn’t mean just the business. Rather, it is about those around you who will one day be in your shoes, leading others.

I am neither a manager nor a leader, yet. However, I hope to be both someday. I have been fortunate to work with the “managing manager” and the “inspiring leader” throughout my seven-year career. And I can tell you this much: Managers are forgettable, but leaders are irreplaceable in the process of personal and professional development. Leaders make you want to follow them, and they give you the building blocks to one day lead others.

So ask yourself: Are you a manager or are you a leader?

 

Rebecca Armendariz is a public relations specialist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and sits on the IABC/Phoenix board of directors as vice president of community involvement. She can be reached by e-mail at Rebecca.Armendariz@BannerHealth.com, Twitter @rarmendariz, or through her IABC eXchange site, “What I do know is…” http://rarmendariz1.x.iabc.com.

Questions to Ask When Planning an Event

by Kimberley Clarke
Our audiences’ instant, global access to information has left communicators competing like never before, not just for market share, but also for a few precious moments of customer (or donor or sponsor) attention.As the economy shrinks and changes, and traditional marketing techniques shift to new media strategies, how can the modern communicator, public relations manager or fundraising professional command—and keep—stakeholder attention?

You might be surprised at the answer: live events.

That’s right. Good, old-fashioned, face-to-face events.

According to EventView 2009, a study by the Event Marketing Institute, 62 percent of senior sales and marketing executives in 2008 chose event marketing as the tactic that best accelerates and deepens relationships with audiences. Interestingly, PR came in second, at only 21 percent. Quite simply, you can’t replace face-to-face when building relationships and powerful sales opportunities.

But before you rush off to begin planning your next event, ask yourself one important strategic question: Why?

Why are you planning this event? What are the event goals? To increase market share? Develop donors? What are your precise organizational objectives, and where does this event, or any event, fit with your overall strategy? Why would people attend? What’s the follow-up strategy? And, perhaps most important, what metrics will you use to determine your event’s success and the projected returns?

First let’s examine the motivations and methods behind successful special events.

Events are marketing
No event is an island, and event marketing shouldn’t be either.

If you are in the fortunate (or unfortunate) position of wearing both the event marketing and corporate communication hat in your organization, then alignment between your event and marketing will come easy.

If not, marketing and communication people should work together closely. Consistency is king. You must determine your organization’s key corporate messages and how your event can reinforce and support them.

Since we are all being asked to do more with less these days, there is a huge opportunity to cross-promote and create efficiencies. If you have limited resources to get the word out about your event, rely on existing channels like the corporate newsletter. If you have some promotional funding, share your event real estate with your communication partners.

Follow up, follow up and follow up again
In addition to being a part of annual strategic and communication plans, an event is a campaign in itself. While many people focus on the details of the day (and sure, there are a lot of details), the true success of an event is established well before the event actually happens, and lasts quite a long time after it’s over.

Before your event, consider how many people you can realistically connect with in the promotion process, from invitations to follow-up e-mails and phone calls. How many people can you get in contact with—and how frequently—before the event even happens?

Follow-up is key to your event’s success. It’s not enough anymore to put your logo on an invitation and wait for the RSVPs to start rolling in. (Unless, of course, a movie star is headlining your fundraiser.)

Getting to sold-out
Your audience wants more for less, and has seen it all—maybe even seen someone else do it better.

So how do you get them to your event? You need a hook.

A hook can be anything that serves to draw in your audience. Perhaps you have the most intriguing speakers? Or celebrity guests? Are you known as “the best party in town”? What’s the compelling draw that will get customers, donors and sponsors through the door of your event?

Once you’ve developed your hook, marketed your event (in partnership with your corporate communication folks) and followed up relentlessly, you monitor. Ask yourself where you are in comparison to your year-to-date or projected plan target.

Post-event
Be sure to collect meaningful feedback about your event.

You know about the room temperature, the speaker, the food. You were there. In follow-up surveys, create opportunities for attenders to discuss their experience at your event. Ask questions like, “Did the speaker address your challenges?” and “Can we send you more information on this topic?”

And follow up you must, for at least 12–18 months after your event. Follow-up should include personal phone calls, direct mail, e-mail and social media campaigns—and yes, maybe even an invitation to the next event.

Before you start planning that next event, keep in mind the five most common mistakes made in event planning:

  1. Lack of follow-up on event marketing materials. You can’t just sit and wait for registrations to arrive.
  2. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Having too many people involved in the event planning process can lead to a lack of accountability. You must determine who has the ultimate decision making power over your event.
  3. Underestimating the work and the intense time lines. Everybody thinks they can organize the ultimate event but project management can be incredibly time-consuming.
  4. Lack of WOW factor. You must create a compelling reason for people to attend your event.
  5. Underestimating the budget. Event budgets are challenging, and there are always unforeseen costs so be sure to build in contingency plans.

If you follow the steps outlined here for before, during and after your event, you should be well on your way to having a successful live event.

 

Kimberley Clarke is founder and principal of KCI Management, an event management firm specializing in corporate event marketing. With a client roster consisting of blue chip companies in the IT, finance and academic sectors, Kimberley and her team regularly manage events with tight deadlines, high stakes, and multi-million dollar budgets.

Integrating Social Media into Event Strategies

by Coree Silvera
Social media communication tools are proving to be a valuable resource for successful event marketing—they create buzz, increase attendance and foster interaction long after the actual event. While event marketing focuses on the face-to-face experience of attending, sponsoring and speaking at trade shows or industry meet-ups, social media facilitates shared experiences and creates brand advocates on a much larger scale.

Integrating social media into event strategies allows audiences to contribute to event content, promote the event to their friends, share the event experience through images and conversations, evaluate the event in real time, and extend the post-event experience.

When using social media to achieve these goals, you should consider the three phases of event marketing. Here are some recommendations for each aspect of your event.

Before the Event
Consider surveying your members or past attenders to ask them which social media platforms they use. Build your communities where you have the largest participation and cross-promote the event on all channels.

Make sure your customers are aware of your social networking initiatives by placing social media or video menus in a prominent place on your company web site. Create a page that lists all the event speakers, with their Twitter handles. Consider creating a Twitter list of all event speakers to promote the event. A Twitter list is a newer function of Twitter that allows a user to group together and name a list of favorite or industry-related users. The lists are given their own distinct URL, which can then be promoted and followed. There are even sites such as Listorious which allow you to publicize and promote your Twitter lists and gain followers.

As an event organizer, a Twitter list of all keynote speakers would allow you to easily track their updates and retweet to help promote your speakers to your followers and build an event community. You can also import your lists to Facebook and have those updates automatically feed into your fan page. You should also create and promote your event hashtag. Effectively using hashtags enables tweets about your conference or event to be organized and searched.

During the Event
When recently asked for his best tip in using social media for events, Jason Falls, well-known social media consultant and founder of Social Media Explorer, advised, “Stop thinking about events as a push (awareness) tactic and find ways to let attendees tell the story before, during and after.” Social media is about putting control of the message in the user’s hands.

Social media allows event attenders and those who are unable to be there in person to engage using micro-blogging sites like Twitter. Be sure to use the event hashtag in all tweets. Consider providing real-time footage of the event on Ustream, an interactive platform that allows anyone to broadcast videos through its web site.

Media companies often set up official tweeters and create Facebook pages for big events to foster dialogue about the event. NBC, for example, created an Olympics “Tweeter Tracker” to help viewers see the trends on Olympic-related twittering.

Provide a special area during events for bloggers, videocasters and podcasters, and allow them to use PR facilities to interview speakers and attenders. Ask attenders to post to your photo galleries, either on your site or on public forums like Flickr. Provide Wi-Fi and public computers at your event to aid this process.

After the Event
Just because the event is over does not mean the conversation is. A well-written and opinionated post by one of the event organizers on your event’s blog can move the post-event conversation to your web site. For example, if you take a look at the 2010 SXSW Interactive Festival web site you’ll see the recaps and reviews. Here is a good example of how SXSW organizers let their audience know why to keep coming back after the event:

“Now that the SXSW Interactive Festival has come to a close, you may be wondering where you can go to catch up with sessions you may have missed, relive talks you want to experience again, or, if you didn’t make it out to SXSW this year, get a glimpse of the 2010 event.”

Along with attenders, those who were not able to attend will want to read reviews, view photos and videocasts, and listen to podcasts from the event. Use the content to help build a house file for future events.

Continue to engage attenders on social media platforms. Comment on and retweet any blog posts or updates from attenders. Begin planning your next event by speaking to potential presenters, exhibitors and attenders while the iron is still hot.

Your events are catalysts for relationships. The roots of social media marketing are not found in technology, but in the relationships you develop within your community through collaborative conversations live and online. Nurture your community with events.

Case Study
Public relations company PR 20/20 was selected to manage local media relations for the 2009 Senior PGA Championship in Cleveland, Ohio. With only three months of preparation time, a goal was set to add 500 Twitter followers by the start of championship week. Several online tools were used to find and follow new contacts, including Twitter Grader.com’s search function, a free online tool that allows you to compare your Twitter profile to millions of other users, and search.twitter.com.

Using the methods below, the organization was able to attract 908 followers in a three-month window. Each method is listed in the order in which it was implemented.

  • Researched and followed Clevelanders who listed golf in their profiles (using Twitter Grader). This was the least successful method.
  • Researched and followed Ohioans who listed golf in their profiles (Twitter Grader).
  • Researched and followed Ohio and Cleveland sport fans (Twitter Grader).
  • Researched and followed golf twitterers with the best Twitter Grades (Twitter Grader).
  • Started following all professional golf tournaments on Twitter.
  • Monitored and followed all twitterers discussing “golf,” “PGA,” “Senior PGA,” and various player names (using search.twitter.com). This was the most successful method.
  • Reviewed the followers of other professional golf tournaments and started following them on Twitter.

In order to gauge what Twitter followers wanted to see from the event coverage, PR 20/20 posted a tweet asking them. The overwhelming answer was pictures—images that they could not find on TV or in the newspapers.

Leading up to the event, photos of the golf clubhouse and course construction, media day, practice rounds, and player arrivals were posted. During the event, the organization posted photos of players, the course, media interviews, the putting green, the driving range and fans getting autographs. Each picture that was posted to Twitter would get between 20 to 30 views, with player photos generating the most traffic.

People enjoy having access to privileged information about events. If you have interesting content, and you share it in the communities that are appropriate and relevant, that message will travel and can be leveraged with social media.

Measuring Event ROI
According to a 2009 survey of 555 professionals in a variety of industries worldwide by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education, 84 percent of survey respondents who have adopted social media indicated that they do not measure their social media programs. Forty percent were not even sure they could monitor social media ROI.

Fortunately, there are a host of free or low-cost tools available to help companies and organizations track the social media effectiveness of their event marketing strategies. A few choices include Trackur, PostRank, Google Alerts, Social Mention or TechrigySM2.

Your event community should be the communication hub before, during and after your event. You want conversations to flow between attenders sharing ideas, networking with other attenders and discussing trends. The long-term effect will be a viral event community that continues to grow year after year.

 

Coree Silvera works in event community management and social media marketing. She is the founder of Market Like a Chick, and her blog focuses on presenting tips and tutorials in social media, event community management, and marketing from a woman’s point of view. You can follow Coree on Twitter as @marketlikeachik.

Tips for Communicating Change

Excerpted from Complete Guide to Integrated Change Communication: Best Practices for Major Announcements, available from the IABC Knowledge Centre.

Initial material (open letter, speaking notes) should address the following points:
• Explain why the change is necessary and what will happen if there is no change.
• Include the external/competitive reasons for the change—how does it fit into the overall business strategy and the organization’s priorities?
• Describe the future state from the perspective of the target audience—what is changing for each group, what role does technology play, any changes in decision-making process, etc.
• Identify what is not changing at this time.
• Explain the process, including what will be done to help each affected audience through the process.
• Outline timing and when they will get more details.

Updates during the change (regular meetings, written updates) should:
• Repeat the messages over and over again. (Research shows that most people have to hear something five times before they really understand it.)
• Create ways to ask questions, provide feedback and express resistance.
• Provide information and answers in a variety of ways, using a variety of media.
• Identify and acknowledge the obstacles to change.

Note: Change management studies indicate that once a week is the minimum frequency for ongoing communication updates during a major change.

As you approach the end state:
• Acknowledge the distance people have come.
• Remind them why they had to change.
• Identify any future changes.
• Thank them for their efforts and the result.
• Hold periodic celebrations.

Working Words

How to Write in Someone Else’s Voice
by Natalie Canavor

When I chose this subject for “Working Words,” I wanted to know whether communicators who frequently ghostwrite material for someone else’s byline could share some tricks of the trade. Like most writers, I am sometimes called on to draft this kind of material—“From the Publisher’s Desk” pieces for magazines, articles published under specialists’ names, and lately, other people’s blogs.

I thought it would be good to learn from the experts and pass their advice on to other “generalists” like myself. So I talked to two of the best experts I know and quickly learned two things:

  1. More than ever before, it’s crucial for leaders to project a credible, individual and authentic-seeming presence. So the ability to speak with the voice of the CEO (or other executive) is a major 21st century skill for communicators.
  2. Conversations about taking the CEO’s voice for print or digital pieces quickly segued into talking about speechwriting. This shouldn’t have been a surprise, since the line is hard to draw, especially because business writing should be more like spoken language than is usually the case. Today, readers don’t have the patience to glean ideas and information from meandering, complex written materials. As this column often maintains, what we write should be clear, to the point and conversational in tone. My own favorite trick to improve writing, in fact, is to check its say-ability.

My conclusions are to take the subject seriously, and not distinguish much between techniques for written messages and speechwriting, particularly because I grew more and more convinced that learning to write good speeches really matters to in-house communicators who want job security, and freelancers who want an always-selllable skill.

So here are some ideas for writing in another person’s voice.

Arik Ben-Zvi, managing director of the Washington, D.C.-based strategic communication firm Glover Park Group, writes frequently for corporate executives, heads of foundations and associations, CEOs and politicians. The work includes op-eds, letters to the editor, shareholder letters, annual reports and speeches.

“My role is to capture their ideas and communicate them in as persuasive a way as I can,” he says. “Typically they have a set point of view and are trying to advocate for positions important to them.”

Where to Start?
Ben-Zvi begins the process by eliciting a general sense of what the client wants to communicate. “I try—and sometimes this is difficult—to get them to tell me the central idea that they want the audience to take away from the piece. Sometimes they’re ready to do this, while at other times the question makes them think, which is valuable in itself. In parallel, I ask them to provide me with the substance behind the point of view—the data, the studies, the fact points.”

The more information the better, he observes. If clients need this kind of assistance, they may lack the time or skill set, or may not be the best judges of the strongest proof points. “So it takes more time,” Ben-Zvi says, “but it’s useful to get more information than less so we can find the nuggets that make the case in the most compelling way.”

Joan Detz, well-known to IABCers as a master coach on speechwriting and author of books, including How to Write and Give a Speech, agrees that information gathering is the place to start. For speechwriting, she recommends getting as much personal information as possible.

“It sounds basic, but have a complete biography of every person you write for,” says Detz. “And flesh out what might not appear on a corporate bio, using a client information sheet. Find out the person’s favorite sport. Does he coach the Little League team? Is she a weekend hiker and does she participate in extreme hiking events? If you know he loves golf, why not make it a golf example?”

Knowing what college the executive attended can lead to good angles. So can information about his or her family, Detz says. “Who is the CEO married to? What is her occupation? How does she volunteer her time—with something she is passionate about? Are the kids in private or public school? You may never mention this, but it’s important to know. And you’ll only find out if you ask.”

Ghosting for “Strangers”
What if you have to write for a person you don’t know and may never have spoken to?

“It happens all the time,” Ben-Zvi says. The relationship might be a new one, and/or the CEO might not have time to engage with the writer. “You work through a filter. The staff interacts with the principal and takes feedback, which goes back and forth. You can look at earlier writing and speeches and try to be consistent. You can use your knowledge of the organization. But then you have to make educated guesses about their voice. Mainly you try to do good writing and for a speech, depend on fundamentals like short, clipped sentences, built-in pauses, very smooth transitions.”

Joan Detz, too, says she typically works through staff. “I never take a CEO’s time when I can get that information elsewhere. I often work, usually by phone, with a trusted communicator on staff who really knows him. Then I may e-mail him directly for a few details.”

Detz poses questions such as, What’s the most interesting volunteer work you did this year? In your family, what are you most proud of?

“CEOs are often enormously pleased at this question,” she says. “I’ll get answers like, ‘For 15 years we’ve been taking in puppies to train as seeing eye dogs and we’re so proud.’ You can do an awful lot with a thing like that to add life and individuality.” And from the speaker’s standpoint, telling stories that are close to the heart makes for comfort and better delivery. “She doesn’t need notes on that, she knows it—so for those three minutes she can look at the audience, build rapport—it becomes a wonderful force for making the speech succeed on many levels.”

When You Get a Little Phone Time
When Detz gets a chance to talk with a CEO by phone, she makes the most of the five or 10 minutes by letting him carry the conversation and picking up on key words, repeated phrases, and the order in which he puts things, as well as cadence and speaking style. She suggests asking questions that follow up on what is said, such as, Why is the statistic you mentioned important? Is this a change in strategy? “That gives you what you can’t get from others, and he’ll see it as a good use of his time.”

Both Detz and Ben-Zvi say it’s important to remember that ghosted material must be seen from a big-picture perspective. “You can’t lose sight of overall strategy,” Ben-Zvi points out. “It’s meant to be in the service of a broader objective.”

“You want a benefit,” Detz says. “You want the speaker to feel good delivering a speech, and you want the organization to communicate its key messages. This is their prime time—there’s no filter like when they do an interview or a print piece that’s edited.”

And never before has such high value been given to helping CEOs and other leaders speak in their best voices. “I’m seeing increased demand,” Joan Detz reports. “There’s nothing more credible than a CEO or president speaking with real clout, clarity and compassion and having an audience feel he’s really connecting with them. That’s as powerful as it gets.”

Ben-Zvi finds that demand for communication services is growing generally and that there’s greater pressure than ever on corporate leaders to “go out and speak in their own voices rather than corporatespeak. A corporation can build a web site,” he says, “but only a CEO can give a speech or place an op-ed piece.

“Personalizing the message this way, putting corporate officers out there to humanize the organization, reveals that they are not faceless untrustworthy robber barons, but people who understand the business, have a conscience, and are trying to do their best for stakeholders.”

 

Natalie Canavor is a business writer, author and workshop presenter who teaches writing-for-results. She has been a journalist, national magazine editor and communication department director, and is a two-term past president of IABC/Long Island.

With Claire Meirowitz, she owns and operates C&M Business Writing Services, which creates publications, e-media content and training programs.

Their new book, The Truth About the New Rules of Business Writing, has just been published by Pearson/FT Press.

Reach Natalie at natalie@C-Mbizwriting.com.