Category Archives: Communications

IABC Gold Quill Blue Ribbon Panel 2010

This year has been a pivotal one for corporate communications with the speed of technological change and global economic turmoil. The work that came in from around the world to be judged at IABC headquarters in San Francisco reflected that turmoil. Crisis plans that managed H1N1, companies struggling to do more with less, non-profits getting amazing results with limited resources and the continued integration of social media characterized the work we reviewed. Work plans both challenged the judges to contextualize the results and to be critical where little strategy was in place and when excellence was found we celebrated. A cow bell from Vancouver was the sign of exuberance inspired by the world’s best communicators.

The judging panel was made up of some of the best minds in the communication business and the best personalities. We had representation from Russia, India, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, China, Belgium, England, Canada and the US. Collectively, we represented all aspects of the communication world from technical to written, and creative to management. Together, we looked for winning entries.

The IABC staff did a great job acting as a host and a resource. Thank you for your efforts and the instant creation of a spell checker (which I should always use).

Entry Highlights

Great work seemed to always follow a good understanding of the business need and some solid research of the audience.

One area that seemed be weak in many entries was the audience description. Note to all who enter in the future, everyone is not an audience you should program for. A great example of a description is one that lets us know the primary audiences demographic details, and provides an evidence based assessment of their behaviours and attitudes.

One trend was an increased number of entries for micro sites to support organizational programs. I am not sure if this was a reflection of smaller budgets or the ease of implementation when we do not have to attach our efforts to our corporate websites.  I was surprised to note that many of these sites did not integrate social media options for feedback or sharing.

What a great time to learn and improve my own professional practice. To give you a flavour of the process above is a short video with Tim Buckley finishing strong with an original Gold Quill anthem.

A special thanks to:
Julie Freeman, ABC, APR for the use of her office.
Paul Matalucci, ABC for opening his home to us and being such a great host.
John Finney, ABC for his wisdom and good humour.
Stacey Thornberry for getting us there and making us feel so welcome.


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Kendra’s Leadership Lesson – Where does your help come from

Kendra’s Leadership Lesson

Off to the weekend. Looking forward to having my kids teach me.

What I learned from Kendra, my almost 3 year old girl. Last night we walked to the park. Kendra is a cautious little girl, but still loves to do things on her own. I am her Dad, I love to help her all the time. As most of us do, she can climb her way up ladders, but she has a harder time coming down. I would like to go over and teach her how to get back down and spot her along the way. She would rather figure it out on her own and like last night she will tell me, “Daddy go sit down on the bench.” I did, she climbed down a couple of stairs, doing it her way, got scared and then called me back with a little quiver in her lip. I helped just enough for her to get down and then we celebrated her success.

Do you currently have help that you do not use? Do you recognize that those who would help loved to be asked? I know I do.

Have a great weekend.

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Don’t be a tool – Website management gives me daja vu

Once upon a time, when management communications happened in person, a term was coined to describe the blame we attach to negative outcomes – in a single explanation. It was the fundamental attribution error. This error was identified whenever someone was not motivated to perform a task the right way.

Example: Bob didn’t load the truck. His manager assumed he did not want too.

Human behaviour was reduced to a simple view of motivation. The motivation movement grew as we bought into this world view. You may have bought a book on motivating yourself. We might have believed that we failed our diet, exercise programs, school exams, simply because we didn’t want it bad enough.

I want to make all my shots but that never happens ;)

I want to make all my shots but that never happens 😉

I am not sure if enlightenment happened but we discovered that our ability, social relationships and culture could have an equal influence on our behaviour. I fear, in our technological age, we are at it again – blaming a single thing when it is much more complicated.

When we build online communities, we conduct usability studies to test the impacts of our tools. These tests often determine the tools to be insufficient. We add functionality, fix navigation, simplify the look, make the site more logical, and add a much improved database. We do all this because the behaviour and influence we expect our sites to cultivate, did not occur.

The reasoning – if the site was constructed better it would have delivered the desired result?

Don’t make this mistake – see the kaleidoscope that is human behaviour. Use diagnostic tools and approaches that enable a balanced and layered view. Take a page out of the Balancing Act and apply it to our communications, technological or not.


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Symbols work, but few use them at work

As much as I am an optimist, I know that our business world is in a funk. Here is the thing, it is summer and my optimism grows when the sun shines in Vancouver. So if you want to gain that positive momentum back into your work place here is one trick in the leadership trade: Use symbols that support who you want to be and where you want to go. They work to focus and encourage the positive. When done well, they become a point of celebration and encourage progress.

Four great reasons to use symbols:
•    Motivational
•    Fun
•    Values re-enforcing
•    Unites

Ax Handle

Key things for successful symbol implementation:
1.    Be right for the group and the organization
2.    Have a story
3.    Leader shares the story and builds the process
4.    Award it to those that epitomize its symbolism
5.    Build a routine
6.    Look for opportunities for the team members to champion the process
7.    Select things that need to be celebrated

The video tells a story of two different approaches that football teams have used to encourage and celebrate what they wanted to be. Sports teams do this the best in my experience and that is why I use their stories. We can do this at work; it will just be a different symbol, one that is right for you and your team.
Screaming Eagles – D Line
Golden Bears – Defence

Others who have posted on symbols:

Leadership and Symbols By Robert Behn

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Well meaning leaders, need to pause and pay attention to the needs of followers

Every once in a while you see a great illustration of a concept that is hard to communicate. Leadership should be about walking along side people and progressing together. Far too often it becomes a well meaning person dragging others behind them.

It has been hot here in Vancouver and we have been spending the evenings outside with friends watching our kids play. Keon, the little boy in the picture below,  is a great big brother. He watches out for his little sister Mya and tries to keep her safe. He knew she was suppose to stay on the grass and off the road. He went over and said “Mya we need to stay on the grass.” She knew that, but has a mind of her own. Keon ever so gently took her arm to lead her to the grass. Then he pointed his eyes to the goal he had in mind and dragged her there screaming. When this happens and it happens often, she is likely to fall on the pavement and scrape her knee. The other thing she is likely to do is go the opposite direction when she sees Keon the well meaning leader coming. IMG_0181

So how often when you intend to be a leader, do you engender this response from would be followers?

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In addition to – integration with social media is key

This short blog post is focused on the phrase in addition to.”

The first time I heard the phrase was when Shel Holtz used it on FIR.
Shel got me thinking and when I went to an IABC/BC social media meet-up this week, it reminded me that what we have always done is still very important – be face to face.

We are social beings. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook help connect some of our social bonds; however, we still need to sit down and share a drink, eat some food together and share stories.

Many organizations are setting up exclusive social media functions internally. This is short sighted. The effective social media function should be integrated with corporate communications. To build sustainable communities with a long term view (more than a fad or campaign) on how our efforts enhance sales, our brands, and employee performance etc. – our social media tactics will have to be in addition to many other traditional tactics that glue us together.

Personal Update:
My wife is 7 days overdue and I am a little distracted, so I hope this short post was a complete thought. Next week baby pictures – can’t you wait?

My new little one at 25 weeks.



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How to make good decisions

The most useful tool in my tool box has been a decision making framework. This is a tool that clarifies my context, balances my thought process and identifies available resources. A framework has been my most useful tool because it helps me make better decisions. When I am planning for TWI Surveys, scoping out a project for a client or getting ready for a new baby, I run through the framework.

Below is a simplified planning model I use. Planning can and should be more complex than this model, but I find a simplified model helpful in making quick assessments. If it is a big decision more complexity can be added.

Here is the challenge. Can you make this model better without making it more complex?


Here are some other resources for making decisions:

The case for making decisions
The Decision Making Pocket Book

Where decisions can be life or death:

The US Air Force framework
The US Naval War College framework

Engineers have great models:

MIT IS&T Decision Making Framework
Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

If you use a decision making model please share it and how it has helped you.

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