Communicating 360

Communicating 360

My daughter, Michelle, is taking a university class in public relations and as part of the class she was asked to interview 3 people about their perceptions of this field.

So she posed some questions to me and here is how the interview went:

1. In your own opinion, what is public relations? Why do you think of public relations this way?

Public relations is simple, it’s about relations with the public–communicating and connecting with people about what you do, why you do it, how you do it, for whom you do it, when you do it, and where you do it. It is includes marketing and sales, customer relations, investor relations, government relations, relations with partners, as well as crisis communications, and maybe even recruiting talent to the organization.

2. What do you think of when you think of public relations? Why do you think of this/these?

When I think of public relations, I tend to think of many of the big, well-known brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Allstate, and so on–they do a lot of advertising and communicating with the public. They invest in this and it has a pay-off in terms of organization, product, and brand recognition.

3. What do you think the skills are that are needed to work in public relations?

Creativity, visual thinking, messaging, branding, marketing, sales, and psychology.

4. Would you distinguish public relations from marketing? If so, how?

Public relations, to me, is broader than marketing. Marketing has to do with getting product awareness out there and selling, but public relations involves not only connecting with customers, but also investors, suppliers, partners, even the government, and international players.

5. Can you give examples of what you think public relations is today?

Public relations is how an organization interfaces and communicates with all its stakeholders. It is mainly external or outward facing and differs from internal communications which is inward facing, like talking with employees. Public relations uses advertising, media, commercials, messaging, branding, logos, newsletters, mailings, to get the word out from the organization’s perspective–good news and also countering bad news.

So how did this “IT guy” do with answering questions about public relations?

Not my field, but maybe the MBA and private-sector experience helped, a little. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re All Digitally Distracted

We're All Digitally Distracted

Focus, focus…forget it!

With smartphones, social media, email, texting, phone calls, meetings, and more…it takes a lot of discipline to not get distracted and actually get things done.

The Wall Street Journal (11 December 2012) laid out half jokingly that most people wouldn’t even be able to finish the article because of all the technological and people interruptions in our daily lives.

There are various aspects to this problem:

1) Digital Addiction–We love and are addicted to the information, connectedness, convenience, and entertainment that computerization, digital communications, and the Internet provide. Loneliness be gone!

2) 24/7 Expectations–Employers, family, and friends expect that we will be available to them around the clock. We are tethered to our jobs and each other with computers, smartphones, Blackberries, telework, social media, and more. If I can’t get to you, it’s because you don’t want to be gotten!

3) Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)–One of the concerns we have about getting off our devices is that we may miss out on something–that critical phone call or email may be regarding an important event, a special sale, a job interview, a long lost friend or lover, someone who needs help, or whatever. But if you shut yourself off, then you may just be missing the opportunity of a lifetime!

For most people the smartphone is the last thing they look at before going to sleep and the first thing they look at in the morning…assuming your significant other doesn’t intervene.

Even going on vacation, for many, means checking work and personal emails and voicemails…a vacation is no longer a real vacation, just perhaps less work than going into the office.

On one hand, we have more information and connectedness at our fingertips than ever before, but on the other hand, we are living in virtual, and not physical, reality.

One example is how we sit with our families and friends, but every one is on their device and no one is interacting with each other in the room.

No wonder there is a movement now to “Turn it off!” or “Leave it at home (or work)!”–We are desperately trying to balance between cyberspace and personal space.

We can’t afford to be distracted or to distract ourselves, incessantly–we need to focus on what’s important, what needs to get done, and on those who love and need us.

Whether you do a zero email day or just leave it all behind vacation–everyone needs some time be human with each other again. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Lets Play Chicken

Lets Play Chicken

So probably everyone knows the game of chicken.

They play this game in the movie Footloose–driving these big tractors towards each other waiting to see who flinches, chickens-out first, and veers out of the way before the vehicles collide. The person who moves out of the way first is the “chicken” (although that person is probably pretty darn smart not to risk getting him/herself killed!)

An article in the Wall Street Journal (18 February 2013) on making friends by sharing, but not oversharing, reminded me of this.

Like two vehicles driving towards each other–making friends is about coming together by disclosing who you are and what you are about–finding and enjoying commonalties, respecting each others differences, and being able to interact in a mutually satisfying way.

Driving gradually and carefully, you can get to know someone by mutually sharing and connecting–first a little, and then building on that with some more.

Beware of disclosing too much, too fast–it can make another person uncomfortable–like you’re dumping, desperate, or maybe a little crazy!

At the same time, not being able to open up can make the other person feel that you don’t like or trust them or maybe that you are a little boring, shallow or that you are hiding something.

Of course, the chemistry has to be there and it’s got be reciprocal–both the feeling and the sharing–users and stalkers need not apply.
However, if things aren’t working out between the two people and they are on course for a head-on collision, someone has got to get out of the way–maybe that person is a chicken or perhaps they just know when it’s time to say goodbye.

Anyway, chickens can either end up doing the chicken dance or they can end up as roadkill–it all depends on how they approach the other chicken. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Engaging Millennials

Engaging Millennials

I have a new article in Public CIO magazine called Trophy Kids at Work.

Millennials may be having a tough time finding work–perhaps they are down, but they are certainly not out!

The article explores how to successfully engage millennials in the workforce by:

– Connecting in person and through social media

– Offering leading-edge technologies with room to experiment and innovate, and

– Providing a sense of meaning through professional contributions.

Hope you enjoy,

Andy

G-d Doesn’t Have a Blackberry

G-d_connection

I saw this lovely and clever poem on Facebook posted by Yona Lunger, I assume a relative of the 11 year old girl who wrote this.

“Hashem” is the Jewish name for G-d.

And he is truly the center of our real and virtual worlds.

None of it would exist without him.

G-d keeps us all moving forward technologically–he is the greatest innovator of them all.

Thank you G-d!

(Source Poem–Chana Pessy Lunger)

What’s The Internet Worth To You?

What a great question–what’s the Internet or your Smartphone worth to you?Most people seems to say they wouldn’t give these up–not even for a million dollars!

Maybe $15-20 million–enough to never have to work again. Okay, now you’re getting closer.

Nah, I want a billion dollars to give up the Internet–that’s what some people responded.

For me, I’m not certain even a billion dollars could keep me off the Internet–but I could certainly try it for a few days.

Being able to communicate, connect, learn, share, and transact online is like air and water to us now-a-days–an absolute necessity for modern survival.

Without being able to do these things, you may as well be on a stranded island–you may own that Island (like Larry Ellison who bought the 6th largest Hawaiian Island of Lanai) and it may be quite a nice one at that, but you’ll still be quite secluded and alone in the Internet age.

Yes, the Internet and all we get from it costs only pennies on the millions (and/or billions) of dollars worth we each receive from it–and that’s why on some things you cannot put a price tag.

We’re in this world to learn and grow and for that we need other people far and wide–either that or you’ll need to have one heck of a big and non-stop party at home in paradise. πŸ˜‰

Communication, What Comes From The Heart

Communicating_from_the_heart

Leaders always seem to be trying to get their message “right”.

They ponder what will it take to win the hearts and minds.

They may hire consultants to tell them what they should say.

They engage fancy speechwriters to say “it” just so.

Then, they monitor the polls to get feedback and see how their message was received.

However a new article in Harvard Business Review (April 2012) throws a curve ball at this whole notion–stating: “It seems almost absurd that how we communicate could be so much more important to success than what we communicate.”

From my perspective, there are many factors that contribute to the success of our communications:

Firstly, let’s face it–personality, likability, charisma, and charm go a long way to influencing others–and yes, it seems like this is the case, almost at times, regardless of the message itself.

Then there is everything else from emotional intelligence and political savvy for “working” the audience to doing your homework in terms of getting your facts right, making your presentation engaging, using back channels to build support, and giving people the opportunity to ask questions, contribute, and buy in.

According to the HBR article, successful communication directly impacts team performance, this occurs through:

– Energy–“the number and nature of exchanges among team members”–with more interactionbeing better.

– Engagement–the distribution of communications among team members–with more equal distributionbeing better (i.e. communication isn’t being dominated by one person or a select few).

– Exploration–this is the communication between a team and other external connections–with more outreachbeing better for creativity and innovation.

For all of us, communicating is as much about the way and how much we interact with others, as with what we actually have to say.

That’s not to say, that what we have to communicate is not important, but rather that the mere act of communicating with others is itself a positive step in the right direction.

We have to genuinely interact and connectwith others–it’s a critical part of the influencing and teaming process.

Only then, does honing the message itself really make the difference we want it to.

People communicate with other people and this happens inΒ  a very direct, personal, and emotional way.

There is a Jewish saying that my wife often tells me that her grandfather used to say, “what comes from the heart goes to the heart.”

I think that is the correct notion–sincerity is at the core of it takes to really communicate effectively with others.

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to VisaAgency)

Beating Social Media Isolation

Lonely_with_social_media

There is a debate called the “Internet Paradox” about whether social media is actually connecting us or making us more feel more isolated.

I think it is actually a bit of both as we are connected to more people with time and space virtually no impediment any longer; however, those connections are often more shallow and less fulfilling.

There is an important article in The Atlantic (May 2012) called “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” that lends tremendous perspective on information technology, social media and our relationships.
The premise is that “for all this [new] connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier.”

The article is very absolute that despite all the technology and communication at our fingertips, we are experiencing unbelievable loneliness that is making people miserable, and the author calls out our almost incessant feelings of unprecedented alienation, an epidemic of loneliness, and social disintegration.

Of course, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that almost everyone can share, but there are also numerous studies supporting this, including:

1) Study on Confidants (2004)–showed that our average number of confidants shrunk by almost 50% from approximately 3 people in 1985 to 2 people in 2004; moreover, in 1985 only 10% of Americans said they had no one to talk to, but this number jumped 1.5 times to 25% by 2004.

2) AARP Study (2010)–that showed that the percentage of adults over 45 that were chronically lonely had almost doubled from 20% in 2000 to 35% in 2010.

Some important takeaways from the research:

Married people are less lonely than singles, if their spouses are confidants.

– “Active believers” in G-d were less lonely, but not for those “with mere belief in G-d.”

– People are going to mental professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, and counselors) as “replacement confidants.”

– Loneliness is “extremely bad for your health.

– Our appetite for independence, self-reliance, self-determination, and individualism can lead to the very loneliness that can makes people miserable.

– Using social media, we are compelled to assert our constant happiness and curate our exhibitionism of the self–“we are imprison[ed] in the business of self-presenting.”

Technology tools can lead to more integration or more isolation, depending on what we do with them–do we practice “passive consumption and broadcasting” or do we cultivate deeper personal interactions from our social networks?

Personally, I like social media and find it an important tool to connect, build and maintain relationships, share, and also relax and have fun online.

But I realize that technology is not a substitute for other forms of human interaction that can go much deeper such as when looking into someone’s eyes or holding their hand, sharing life events, laughing and crying together, and confiding in each other.

In January 2011, CNBC ran a special called “The Facebook Obsession,” the name of which represents the almost 1 billion people globally that use it. To me though, the real Facebook obsession is how preoccupied people get with it, practically forgetting that virtual reality, online, is not the same as physical, emotional, and spiritual reality that we experience offline.

At times, offline, real-world relationships can be particularly tough–challenging and painful to work out our differences–but also where we find some of the deepest meaning of anything we can do in this life.

Facebook and other social media’s biggest challenge is to break the trend of isolation that people are feeling and make the experience one that is truly satisfying and can be taken to many different levels online and off–so that we do not end up a society of social media zombies dying of loneliness.

Social media companies can do this not just for altruistic reasons, but because if they offer a more integrated solution for relationships, they will also be more profitable in the end.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to h.koppdelaney)

Be Who You Are

We_are_who_we_are

I watched an interesting TED video presented by Brene Brown, who has a doctorate in social work and is a author many times over–she talked about one book in particular called The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are(2010).She said that from all her studies and research, what she learned is that purpose and meaning in life comes from the connections we make and maintain.

But what gets in the way is shame and fear–shame that we are not good enough and fear that we cannot make real connections with others.To move beyond shame and fear, we need to feel worthy as human beings–true self acceptance–and say “I am enough.”

However, she points out that as a society there is a lot of numbing going on (i.e. plenty of shame and fear) and that is why we are the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated society in history.Β  I liked this presentation and thought about how hard we are on ourselves–we are never good enough.

  • All our lives we pursue signs of advancement from that gold star in grade school to collections of degrees, awards, promotions, material goods, and even relationships.
  • We constantly push ourselves further and faster on the treadmill of life–in part to learn, grow and be better, but also to try to achieve our sense of self-worth and -acceptance.

Yet, as Brown points out those that are successful with relationships and have a strong sense of love and belonging are those that feel they are inherently worthy. They have self-esteem without having to achieve any of these things.

That sense of self-worth and confidence, Brown says, enables you to achieve three key things in life:

  1. Courage–This is the courage to be yourself and to tell others who you are with a whole heart (i.e. they don’t hide in shame).
  2. Compassion–That is compassion for others, but also for yourself first–you accept yourself.
  3. Connection–Getting to solid relationships in life is a result of our own capacity to be authentic.

When you have that self-worth and confidence then you can embrace your vulnerabilities and make them beautiful, rather than numb yourself to constantly try to cover the disdain you feel for your frailties and weaknesses.

From my perspective, our growth and contributions to the world are good things–leave the world better than you found it!

However, the proving ourselves and amassing “things,” while milestones in life, are not a measure of a person’s true worth.

Sometimes it is fine to get over it all–accept yourself, be yourself, and stop worrying that you are never good enough.

In the Torah (Bible), when Moshe asked G-d his name–G_d replies in Exodus 3:14: “I am that I am.”

To me, this is really the lesson here–if we but try to emulate G-d, then “we are what we are.”

That is not defeat or giving up on bettering ourselves, but acceptance of who we are, where we came from, and wehre we want to go in our lives.

We don’t have to beat ourselves up for being those things or for making good faith mistakes along the way.