The death of public relations and managing reputation


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I am writing this final post of Public relations and managing reputation to let my subscribers know I am closing this house down, largely influenced by the fact I am now working as a permanent employee, rather than running my own business.

PR is dead

What I will probably continue doing, however, is publishing posts on LinkedIn and in media outlets, while also speaking in professional forums. Having said that, my focus is on doing the best I possibly can in my job with Toll Global Express, while also spending time with my family and maybe, just maybe, finding some way to fit some ‘me’ time in the mix!

This PR, change comms and corporate affairs blog has been running for about six years, but it’s been a barely noticed child for a while now. For a long period, I was pumping out at least one post per week, and it’s funny how for most of that period it wasn’t much of a problem to think of something I thought was worth scrawling about.

For me, writing helped prompt me think about my profession more deeply than otherwise would have occurred. So I was paid back by the process, if you like.

Why blogs work

There is no hiding from the commercial side of the blog, as well. When I started my own business way back when (remember the GFC?), there was really no intelligent option other than having some sort of standalone web footprint.

Since then, many enterprises have made Facebook, or even Instagram, their online hub.

For a sole operator like myself, the blog was clearly the best option. It has allowed me to write about topics relevant to my profession. This accomplished three things – in theory, anyway:

  • It exhibited, through thought leadership, I knew what I was talking about and worth commissioning
  • It offered people value through analysis and thinking, for free, that may have prompted them to want to reciprocate in kind by giving me work
  • It generated content that helped the SEO of my blog, driving more traffic to it and ranking me higher in searches for relevant terms

Don’t worry, I make all of the above claims with a large grain of salt. How much did they really occur?

I don’t know, but at least when I was pitching work to clients there was online real estate there that backed up my claims for having appropriate experience and intellect to get the job done. I continue to find it amazing that people can open up a business but not have some sort of discrete, and sem-decent, web presence.

An important by-product of the process was that while I am by no means the most gun of digital communicators or SEO kings, it is true I do know a fair bit about digital and especially blogs/SEO as a result of operating the thing for so long.

Lack of thought leadership in PR

And while I am being sort-of modest in most claims in this final post, there are very few half-decent PR/professional comms blogs in the world, let alone my home country of Australia, so because of that paucity mine has definitely been one of the best! This is important because there are not that many voices speaking publicly on PR.

Which leads me to a swipe I’ll take at academics, including those who I have a massive amount of respect for in Australia. Jim Macnamara is one of this country’s most notable PR academics but also makes a big effort to reach out beyond the confines of academia with useful, readable texts which you don’t have to force yourself to read. Take his relatively recent piece on Listening, for instance, which I heartily recommend.

Why aren’t there more academics following Jim’s lead? Really, there is a lot of room for improvement here.

Industry associations? Yeah, well, they are great for the less experienced professional, which is absolutely necessary. But there isn’t much of great professional development value fostered by the PRIA or the IABC in Australia in this regard.

New steps in digital footprints

One reason why I can ditch the blog these days is because of the blogging platform that has emerged on LinkedIn. If I started my own business today rather than six years ago, I would still probably start my own blog. You still need, I think, as an ‘enterprise’, to have your own unique URL/appropriately branded online presence (yes, maybe I should have branded my URL differently to craigpearce.info in hindsight to something more PR/comms-specific, but we all learn from our errors….).

But as an employee or contractor, due to the overwhelming dominance and credibility of LinkedIn, I think it presents a strong case for being a better blogging platform than WordPress and its ilk.

You can still do the thought leadership thing, it’s definitely where recruiters will go a hunting more than anywhere else and I guess it probably isn’t too bad from an SEO point of view as well, though I can’t say that for certain.

While there have been many kind people who have encouraged me in my blog musings over the years, and have actively commented or shared the posts (all of which I appreciated), I want to thank the man who started it all, Peter Hindmarsh, in particular.

Peter convinced me to kick off the blog, being of the questionable view I had something useful to say. I’m not sure he was correct (and look at the suffering he’s had me inflict on people!), but he opened up a world of enjoyment and possibility for me and allowed me, and this is so very, very important, to make connections of substance with a large number of people across the globe.

Very cool. Just like P Hindmarsh was, and remains, a very cool guy himself.

I might start the blogging (ad)venture off again at some stage in the future but, for now, I am following my own advice from a personal branding point of view…the best thing I can do for my career – forget content curation, forget the tweeting, forget wallowing in the narcissistic mire of Facebook – is do the best I possibly can at my job.

Good night.

For old times sake, why not share this through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook et through one of the handy buttons, if they feel like working, on this page. Cheers.

By |March 2nd, 2016|Strategic communication|3 Comments

Storytelling as a cornerstone of change management


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Change communication and two-way symmetrical communication possess invaluable attributes that can enrich the change management ‘product’. They include issues & change management, listening, market research and messaging – all of which use the cornerstone component of storytelling.

Sign Language American alphabet

Communication alone, however, no matter what the indisputable logic of the change (e.g. the business won’t survive and nor will your jobs if we don’t get on the bus together) and the effectiveness of getting people to recognise that logic, is not enough to make people change.

This post is an excerpt from A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management, a free resource that explores, and provides practical strategic and tactical advice on, how communication contributes to effective change management.

Communication is imperative, yes, but it’s not the be-all and end-all and its application, like all elements of change management, requires humility, collaboration and, as Rachael Bibby has insightfully pointed out, compassion from its exponents, including executive leadership.

The ark – and the arcs – that is storytelling

At the heart of effective communication is articulating a compelling story – storytelling – a topic discussed at length in The Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management. And it’s not as easy as it might sound.

It’s the compelling characteristic which is the kicker.

The narrative ‘arc’ provides a vision and/or big picture scene setting context. This is especially relevant to transformational change, but so does it provide a context for any form of communication. From this narrative arc other messaging materialises, messaging more specific to the actual changes occurring.

The narrative arc has, embedded within it, the rationales for change. There are a number of factors relevant to the arc…

It will include a (hopefully) compelling vision for the future. But this goes to one of the core premises of effective communication (and culture for that matter):

  • Whose vision is it?
  • Was it co-created with employees or was it conceptualised by executive leadership and/or a consultancy firm?
  • “The power of a vision comes truly into play only when employees themselves have had some part in its creation” (Goman, 1999).

Employees need to be given the big picture and then have it drilled down to the what’s in it for me (WIIFM) dimension. Maybe the WIIFM is as simple as your job is at risk if we don’t change.

There needs to be honesty and transparency in communicating the rationale for change and, hence, in the narrative arc and vision.

Organisations need to share characteristics of their operating environment that are making change/transformation necessary and what needs to occur to future-proof the organisation.

Research consistently tells us that employees are phlegmatic in their response when it comes to these sorts of reality checks. They may not find it palatable, but they would rather be told the truth than given candy-coated, obfuscatory tales told in frigid auto-piloted corporate weasel words.

Operating environment factors driving the need for change could include:

  • a challenging economic operating environment
  • the unpredictability of, or emerging, competition
  • customer needs
  • leaps in technology that will facilitate efficiencies occurring and organisational competitiveness or productivity improving
  • an organisation needing to play catch up in productivity (Greece, as well as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland are examples of where change management needs to operate on a nation-wide basis!)
  • financials, risks, potential positive and negative outcomes of undertaking or not undertaking change (Goman, 1999).

Storytelling for trust

A key factor – and outcome that is sought – through organisational storytelling is trust.

This goes directly to the heart of culture (in itself heavily influenced by how much an organisational genuinely listens to its employees and acts upon what it has heard), because no amount of incisive, memorable storytelling will resonate – for the right reasons, at least – if trust is not granted from executive leadership and line management to employees.

Similarly, trust will not exist within employees unless the CEO, as the Edelman Trust Barometer indicates:

  • communicates clearly and transparently
  • tells the truth, no matter how complex or unpopular
  • engages with employees regularly to discuss the state of the business
  • is front and centre during challenging times.

Each of these four factors is crucial to change management. If it occurs, change has a fighting chance of becoming embedded. If it is not occurring, either from the CEO or executive leadership, then…

This post is an excerpt from A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management, a free resource that explores, and provides practical strategic and tactical advice on, how communication contributes to effective change management.

(Goman, Karen: 1999. Twelve Questions to Ask Before Communicating Change. In IABC Handbook of Organizational Behaviour. 122-135. New York: Marcel Dekker.)

By |October 7th, 2015|Communication tactics, Internal communication|0 Comments

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management – free professional resource


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I invite you to download the free resource, A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management, from this blog, then share news of the resource via the social media icons on this page and endorse me for change communications on my LinkedIn profile.  The guide can be downloaded once you have subscribed to this blog.

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management is a free resource packed with user-friendly and functional insights and advice on how communication contributes to effective change management. The guide features intel from seven experienced communication and change professionals, and will benefit all levels of practitioner.

It is of use to change, change communication and internal communication professionals, while senior leaders who have change/transformation in their job remit will also find it of use.

Communication reigns in change management

Research consistently informs us the quality, nature and consistency of communication plays a leading role – if not the leading role – in change becoming embedded within organisations. This underlines the importance of exploring what constitutes effective communication in the context of change management, enabling us to better understand the role it plays and harness its power.

It manifests itself in many different ways. Like change management, the process, and the change ‘product’ it delivers, communication is, and must be, a malleable and adaptive entity.

If you find the resource of worth, I’d appreciate you endorsing me on my LinkedIn profile for change communications (just scroll down my profile page until you see change communications under Skills and click on the + icon next to it).

Leadership, culture and communication

Communication is embedded in – and/or influences – all the different phases of change. It carries particular resonance for organisational leadership – in any of its executive sponsorship, line management and informal influencer manifestations – as it is here where the greatest possibilities for change communication impact occur.

Leadership, communication and culture are the triumvirate bedrock for change – be it good or bad, effective or ineffective. They are enablers or they are blockers. Each are addressed in this guide.

Share news of the guide through the LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook icons on the guide’s landing page – or even through face-to-face and email conversations!

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management synthesises thinking from a range of sources – practical experience from change and change communication professionals, academic discussions and management consulting resources. It is not a set of academic papers; it is intended to be of practical use – yet I am sure its content will pique the interest of academics.

Sources of intelligence for change communication guide

“For the C-suite, transformational change is indistinguishable from business strategy,” writes Jonathan Champ in this guide, a point which, I think, underlines just how significant the field of change management is to contemporary business. It pulses through the veins of every part of the organisational body – brain, organs, limbs, torso and…soul.

You’ll find many of the pieces, especially those written by myself, look at change primarily through the lens of Prosci’s ADKAR change management model.

There are other models of change – such as the influential and much cited one of Kotter’s, the Four Rooms methodology and Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model – that contributors such as Angela Scaffidi, Rachael Bibby, Jonathan Champ and Scott Guthrie discuss and put in a communication context. Though they take different paths to achieve the same end-goal, each model enriches the thinking behind change and adds rigour to the process.

More important than the model of change applied is that such is the prodigiousness and prevalence of change in contemporary business, as cogently argued by Scott Guthrie in this guide, that organisations have no choice but to make change management a built-in and embedded capability, rather than one which is procured on an ad hoc bolt-on basis. Acceptance of this view, especially when applied in a transformational sense, means there will be more demands on, and for, change communicators.

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management is an attempt to focus greater attention on the subtleties of change management communication, providing value to the increasing number of professionals involved in the field. It is also intended to foment further discussion and enrich the professional knowledge and capability of all those involved in change management communication.

I hope you enjoy the guide and find its content enriching.

If you find the resource of worth, I’d appreciate you endorsing me on my LinkedIn profile for change communications (just scroll down my profile page until you see change communications under Skills and click on the + icon next to it).

By |September 10th, 2015|Internal communication, Strategic communication|0 Comments