What is Your Leadership Legacy?

By Licia Walsworth, Communications Strategist

3 keys to leading through a crisis

Leadership can be defined as your ability to influence people to follow your guidance willingly. Or, it can be defined as your ability to command or apply force.

Which defines your leadership style: the type that attracts or forces? It’s an important question, particularly during a time of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, when your leadership style will determine your leadership legacy. That legacy will be engrained in the hearts and minds of your team members for years to come. So, how do you want to be remembered?

I have seen the full spectrum of leadership styles over the course of my career. This has allowed me to truly understand which leadership style encourages peak performance. If you’re a leader who tends to throw your title around to get the job done, the following insights might help you understand how to become a leader people will follow willingly, without conflict or force.

For me, leadership that achieves peak performance boils down to three simple concepts: Connection. Compassion. Core values.

During today’s public health, business disruption and economic crises, these three defining characteristics are more important to embrace than ever.

1. Connection

Your current team situation could look vastly different than it did two months ago. Furloughs, remote work and virtual meetings may mean big changes in how and who you are connecting with. This does not change your responsibilities as a leader. How connected are you to your team? Do you understand their home situation amid this pandemic? Are you in contact on a consistent basis, and not just through a quick text? Do they have updates on their company, their jobs, and their financial well-being? During this time of uncertainty, be their certain.

If you regularly struggle with forming a meaningful connection with your team members, use this chance to create it. If there are silver linings to this climate, this is one. Find creative ways to bridge the gap with those who serve under your leadership. All of this will carry through as life begins to return to what will be our new normal.

2. Compassion

A heart-led leader can sometimes be seen as weak. I feel this is the biggest misconception of our time created by those that have inner fears of insecurity. Think back over your career to those who truly inspired and mentored you, to those you worked hardest for and to whom you wanted to prove yourself. If you became a leader just to move up in your career, then you have missed the point. To lead – to provide guidance, to mentor the next generation of leaders, to help carve a path for those to serve after you, that is the ultimate goal. Compassion for your team and the situations they exist in is a powerful tool in understanding how to manage them effectively.

Just as one shirt does not fit all people, neither does one leadership style. Your compassion for each team member gives you the blueprints to their inner workings. With empathy, you can recognize who makes decisions based on uncertainty, who is meticulous and needs to increase their response time, who thrives on praise, and who fears being wrong. Ask your employees how they are doing – and mean it. Find out how their family or pets are doing, and how homeschooling is going. Try a Zoom call just to check in. Think about how you can level the playing field. You are no longer in your private office, behind your large desk and name placard. You are behind a computer screen, in your place of comfort—your home–that has turned as professional as it can be.

If you show you care for your team, they will work harder because they, in turn, will care about you.

3. Core Values

Core values reflect your life’s purpose and who you ultimately want to be. What would your team say is your defining trait? Perhaps it’s integrity. Honesty. Accountability. Determination. Strength. Can you honestly say you would do everything you ask your team to do? Or do you convey the message of “do as I say, not as I do?” True leaders inspire — and not just through their messaging. They lead by example. They lead by their values.

Are you asking more of your team in this current climate than you would want to take on yourself? Are you a part of the problem instead of the solution? Take this time to reflect on the situations and drivers that landed you in your leadership role in the first place. How can you take your beliefs to inspire someone else to get to that same point in their career trajectory? How can you be the leader who others aspire to become?

True leaders arise out of challenging times. Are you living the lifestyle of a leader or just going through the motions through a title you were given? Have you rolled up your sleeves to be part of the team and to understand where they are coming from in this unprecedented situation? How will you be remembered for your leadership style when the time comes to put the pieces back together? What will your leadership legacy be?

The best video conferencing software? It depends on what you have to say

By Shae Geary — Senior Communications Strategist

Now that most of us are working virtually, video conferencing has become the new normal. But not all video conferencing software is created equal or suits every purpose. As communicators, we know that the vessel used to communicate is just as important as what we are communicating. In that spirit, we’ve taken a look at four video conferencing software solutions with our best advice for when and how to use them. Full disclosure: This is not a comprehensive list of video conferencing apps, rather those with which we’ve had some personal experience or knowledge.

FaceTime Takes the Place of the Office Drop In

Video conferencing software hardly gets easier than Apple’s FaceTime. Platforms like FaceTime are great for quick check-ins with co-workers or clients. However, they often have limited capabilities for anything other than chatting. In the case of FaceTime, all participants have to have an iPhone or Mac. Some people also find FaceTime’s group chat distracting since faces zoom in and out depending on who is speaking.

Alternatives: Alternatives do exist for Windows and Android users. Facebook Messenger has a video chat option and is easy to use with people in your follower network. Google’s Duo works across Android and iOS devices and allows you to chat with up to 12 people. Subscribers to Slack also have the option of video chats.

GoToMeeting is Ideal for Team Meetings and Smaller Group Presentations of 250 or Fewer 

The team at (W)right On Communications has been using GoToMeeting video conferencing software on a fairly consistent basis. This is a paid platform, with a free 14-day trial, and has proven easy for our weekly company-wide team meetings and client partner meetings. Users have access to features such as screen share, text messaging with other participants and the option to highlight just the speaker on screen.

One feature especially useful is the choice of computer audio or audio via a dial-in phone conference line. In a household where several of us are using Wi-Fi bandwidth at the same time, the dial-in conference line allows you to continue to hear the conversation even when video may pause due to slow connection time. Another helpful feature is the personal join screen prompt. This provides you with the opportunity to adjust camera angle and background clutter before joining the call.

TIP: Find a list of video chat best practices in our blog post, “7 Tips for Pitching TV Reporters During the Coronavirus Outbreak”

Alternatives: Skype has many of the same functionalities and is free for up to 50 people to meet and collaborate. Microsoft Teams, which has video conference capabilities with Skype integration, is another alternative for those who use the Microsoft Office suite of software. G Suite users have free access to Google Meet, which supports multiple users and doesn’t require separate software installation.

Zoom Supports Large Group Presentations and Gatherings

Zoom has quickly emerged as the most popular video conferencing software. Quick growth has not come without controversy including security concerns (hello Zoombombing!) and allegations of sharing private user data with Facebook. Challenges aside, basic Zoom features can be used free of charge with paid plans offering enhanced video conferencing features.

While Zoom can be used for just about any purpose and has all the functions that you’d expect—shared screen, appointment setting and ability to invite people to chat on the fly—it has quickly become a standout for meetings and presentations to larger audiences. The video conferencing software offers a number of handy features for larger group conferences. Examples include non-verbal feedback (such as hand raising), screen annotating for both presenter and viewers and ability to record a session direct to your computer. I particularly like the virtual background option, so people don’t have to see that you are actually calling in from your bedroom!

For instance, check out these beautiful vineyard backgrounds from our client partner, Visit Napa Valley.

Invite Your Co-Workers to Happy Hour with Houseparty

Let’s be honest, all work and no play are no fun. When it’s time to just socialize with your team, Houseparty is where it’s at. This video conferencing app alerts you when friends are “in the house” and allows users to jump in and out of chats as desired. There are also some fun features like games, including Heads Up!, Quick Draw and trivia, so you’ll feel like you are at the local pub for happy hour!

7 Tips for Pitching TV Reporters During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Pitching TV reporters

By Julie Wright — President

Local news anchors have always broadcast into our living rooms, but suddenly they’re the ones inviting us into their homes. From New York to L.A., television news reporters are reporting from home so they can stay safe while keeping the public informed.

The public is hungry for storytelling that informs, entertains and comforts, and, thankfully, news reporting is an essential service. Organizations like the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) have Guidance for Newsrooms to keep broadcasters safe; however, the association’s number one recommendation is that they avoid the newsroom.

For tips on how media relations professionals should be pitching TV reporters in this environment, we talked to Joe Little, a multimedia journalist and news reporter for NBC 7 San Diego where he’s also director of storytelling.

1. Reporting While Social Distancing

Reporting remotely is nothing new to Little, but social distancing is. “The biggest challenge has been being creative while being safe.”

“Some of us still venture out into the world to get our interviews done,” says Little, who works solo. “We are just extremely careful and considerate when we do so. I no longer put a microphone on my characters. I have them walk up to a stationary microphone that I’ve already put into position so we can talk safely across a room from each other.”Pitching TV reporters during COVID-19

When pitching TV reporters, instead of offering a journalist a talking head on FaceTime, offer them an opportunity via video chat to join a family dinner table discussion, a team meeting or a site tour.

For instance, Little recently interviewed several residents who stood outside of their homes and talked from a balcony and through a closed window.

2. Interviewing Over Video Chat

A promise of a good interview will go a long way, says Little. However, interview subjects—or, as he calls them, characters—need to be tech savvy. “If it’s a situation where the interview has to be done using FaceTime or Zoom, it would be great if the people we were interviewing actually knew how to use a camera,” said Little.

If you or your spokespeople follow these basics when setting up for interviews, you might find reporters coming back to you or your organization for more:

  • Horizontal screen orientation
  • Camera placed at eye level
  • Camera on a flat, steady surface
  • Clear and even lighting on your face
  • Muted alerts and ringers
  • Fully charged batteries or a power source
  • Solid and steady Wi-Fi signal

Try to take the same attitude as Little: “Even though I’m working from home, I still try to make my stories look better than anyone else’s. The people who say yes to an interview deserve that effort.”

 3. Contributing Stills or B-Roll

In the past, network affiliates like NBC San Diego haven’t used submitted video unless absolutely necessary. Times have changed, notes Little, and right now reporters are more willing to talk with their bosses about taking video from the people they interview.

Independent stations tend to be more flexible and to appreciate b-roll if it helps to tell a good story.

Little will also use still images or a graphic as a backdrop for his FaceTime interviews just to give them more visual interest.

However, none of the above will help if you’re pitching TV reporters a story that doesn’t matter.

4. Telling Stories That Matter

News media have always looked to share stories that matter with their viewers and readers, but coronavirus is an unprecedented public health disaster. What mattered to people in 2019 is not the same as what matters to them in 2020.

Little says stories that matter are “Stories that impact more than your client’s bottom line or three people.”

It’s time to demonstrate your best news judgment and find the story angle that will make a difference in people’s lives. How does what you or your client do help people stay safe, cope, connect or feel better?

Most pitches that he receives these days don’t meet that criteria, and he says he is literally deleting dozens of emails every day without reading them because, by the first line, it’s clear they’re not pitches that matter.

5. Build Your Media Relationships

Media relationships matter more now than ever.

“The best PR representatives play favorites. Instead of casting a wide net and hoping to get two or three crappy stories on the air, the smart PR reps feed the story to the one reporter they know will do it and do it well,” Little says.

“I won’t stick my neck out for someone if I know they invited every station in town as well. What would your client rather have? Three short crappy stories or one really good story?”

Craft your pitches with each TV reporter or journalist in mind. As a professional, you need to have their backs and make sure the spokespeople, video chats or story angles you propose meet or exceed their expectations!

INFOGRAPHIC: How to Earn Media Coverage in Major News Outlets

6. Focus on Quality Information

The same goes for the information you provide. Have your facts straight. In this environment of conflicting or shifting public health information, news reporters are especially sensitive to the quality of the information that they are bringing the public. So, savvy media relations professionals need to take the same care when pitching TV reporters.

Jeff Zevely, feature reporter with San Diego’s CBS News 8 team, who says journalists are working as hard and focused as ever to deliver trusted information to people.

“I feel dealing with facts provides peace of mind to viewers and a message that we will make it through these challenging times.”

Zevely recalls being told by a veteran news anchor that there are only a few stories in a reporter’s lifetime that define a news organization. He says, “COVID-19 is one of those stories. Our viewers and web readers are relying on us for information and storytelling more than ever.”

7. Remember We’re All In This Together

There’s a lot of pressure on the media: smaller newsrooms, tighter budgets and now even fewer resources as reporters report from home.

Little and Zevely have all the safety and broadcasting equipment they need to do their jobs safely and solo. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss their friends or worry for the safety of their own loved ones.

Little says he’s meticulous about cleaning his gear, car and himself and careful to keep his distance from other people while telling his stories. But he also says he misses his coworkers, a lot.

“I’m a hugger and I haven’t hugged a friend in almost three weeks.”

Strengthening Connections in the ‘Stay Home’ Era

By Licia Walsworth — Communications Strategist

How businesses can adapt via the virtual world

Individuals and businesses alike are experiencing a profound shift in reality, with life feeling more and more like the plot of a novel or movie. Organizations have seen their entire workforces confined to their homes. Schools and universities stand vacant. Small business owners have no customers coming through their doors. Friends, colleagues, teammates, and extended family members suddenly find themselves isolated from one another.

But a remarkable thing happens when people are faced with a challenge: They become innovators, problem solvers, and out-of-the-box thinkers.

Physical Distancing – Not Social Distancing

Technology makes it possible to keep the economy moving. It enables us to remain connected in ways that would not have been conceivable just a decade ago. In a world where coworkers had typically been spending more time with one another on a weekly basis than with their own families, the virtual world is now providing people with a unique opportunity for valuable human interaction — on a personal level, as well as on a professional level. Companies are adapting to virtual team meetings and telecommuting on a grand scale. If carried out correctly, these shifts can result in a greater sense of engagement and self-worth on the part of employees.

Connecting online actually does more than keeping us connected. It is strengthening connections by creating more personal or intimate interactions than coworkers could ever have had before. On a video conference call, for instance, coworkers might glimpse one another’s kids, pets, and home-based work spaces. This levels the playing field in a new way; it makes everyone human and more than just a title or job description. This increases the emotional investment coworkers, managers and direct reports have in each other. The old adage stands true: You work harder for those you care about and those who you know care about you.

That quick knock on the door to ask a question or to chat briefly has been replaced by such platforms as Microsoft Teams or Slack. The ability to quickly bounce ideas back and forth without multiple emails or an extended meeting makes for more efficient communication and a valuable savings on time.

Business-to-client interactions have seen a dramatic change, too. Marketing messages are more mindful, taking on a human element over sales-driven campaigns, as businesses of all kinds recognize that everyone is living in a new state of reality. Communicating to your target audience may mean pulling back from your business-as-usual marketing, but it does not mean sacrificing your brand. As client and customer priorities change amid crisis, companies must take the time to coach them through this next phase — whether that means making sure a client’s business keeps running or reassuring a customer that you will be there for them through the thick and thin. Interactions in this new reality matter; relationships strengthened in a time of need will continue to prosper moving forward.

From Karate to Cake-Making

Communicating in new ways is forcing innovation everywhere. Karate instructors are using Zoom to hold virtual classes. Schoolteachers and principals are using Twitter to stream book read-alouds or to recite the Pledge of Allegiance first thing in the morning. Grandparents are sharing cake-baking lessons with their grandchildren via Google Duo. Maintaining that level of interaction with students, loved ones, and your community during this time is crucial.

Business owners at all levels can find similar ways of engaging their customer base, strengthening connections in the virtual world, in order to continue moving their work forward and ensure they remain financially stable. That does not mean that you need to push your products or take advantage of your customers during a difficult time; it means staying true to your brand and what you can do for your audience. Consider distance learning education companies that are sharing strategies and tools for free not only with teachers, but also with parents who now find themselves homeschooling. Airlines and hotels that are waiving change and cancellation fees for travelers. Keep your loyal customers and be an example of goodwill during a time of crisis.

This is the time for strengthening connections to push a heightened sense of community and trust, to serve as a resource to your clients, and be an example in the virtual age to your team.