Ideas Worth Spreading: 5 TED Talks to Inspire Your Work & Stir Curiosity

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It’s no secret that I love TED Talks. When I’m facing a tough challenge at work or need inspiration, they’re a fantastic resource. I even listen to them in the car on the way to work or on long runs. Here are a few favorites:

Simon Sinek: Start With Why

This TED talk not only changed the way I approach PR and marketing campaigns, but it changed the way I approach life. In this talk, Sinek unveils a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with the question “Why?”

Arianna Huffington: How to Succeed? Get More Sleep

In a world where most people are overworked, overstressed and under-rested – and wear it as badge of honor – Arianna Huffington’s mantra is refreshing. Huffington shares a small idea that can awaken much bigger ones: the power of a good night’s sleep. She believes we can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. This is a short talk – only four minutes long and well worth your time.

Seth Godin: How to Get Your Ideas to Spread

This talk is 11 years old but is every bit as relevant today as it was back then. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones.

Madeline Albright: On Being a Woman and a Diplomat

There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help women”

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks bluntly about politics and diplomacy, making the case that women’s issues deserve a place at the center of foreign policy. Far from being a “soft” issue, she says, women’s issues are often the very hardest ones, dealing directly with life and death.

Olivia Fox Cabane: Build Your Personal Charisma

OK, OK – this one isn’t a TED talk. But it’s close! This talk helped me learn a lot about active listening, eye contact, warmth, body language and presence. Olivia Fox Cabine teaches us that charisma isn’t purely innate or magical. Instead, it can be something that one cultivates.

How to Handle Crisis Communications

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If you’re at the center of a crisis when one hits, like it did April 15 when two bombs killed and maimed spectators and participants at the Boston Marathon, make this your mantra:

Communicate early. Communicate often. And communicate accurately.

Communicating early, when facts are still coming in and very little can be confirmed or validated, means at least letting stakeholders know that:

  1. You’re on it.
  2. You care.

Social media might be among the first places you let people know that your organization is working to fact find and planning to release more information as it becomes available and verified. If you’ve pre-planned your crisis communications, you will have some prepared responses to many potential crisis scenarios so that your posts are a keystroke away and do not need vetting or wordsmithing under high stress. If you have an important message that you need to get out, use social media and ask people to share your message. Many people will be glad to help.

It’s important to show people as early as possible that you are the best and most reliable source of information about your crisis and that you care. Do not assume that they realize you’re as upset, saddened, shocked or dismayed as they are. Tell them so. And if your attorneys tell you not to comment at all, just keep in mind that their primary goal is winning in the courtroom or negotiating table. They might win there, but if you don’t communicate early and empathetically, you lose in the court of public opinion and that may cost you more dearly than any court-mandated settlement. (Just sayin’. If the lawyers start driving the communications strategy, it’s game over. Think of BP in the Gulf of Mexico or Toyota with its faulty brakes.)

If people were harmed, you care deeply and are empathetic. If people have been inconvenienced, you’re sympathetic and are working furiously to ensure that everything is returned to business as usual.

The lawyers want to be sure that you’re not excessively admitting to responsibility for their inconvenience or injuries. This is valid, but it is a terrible and irreparable mistake to withhold any response and, as a result, project an image of callousness. You cannot be too compassionate. And compassion does not mean taking responsibility.

Think about this: What if the CEO of Carnival Cruises had gotten himself airlifted to the ship adrift and suffered alongside his customers? I would feel entirely differently about the problems Carnival and its passengers have suffered through if I knew its executives shared in the discomfort. And the headline would not be: “Boss of Carnival Adds Insult to Misery By Going to Basketball Game as 4,000 Suffer Aboard ‘Stinking Stricken Ship’…”.

Communicating often is essential because media coverage can be around the clock. If it’s an evolving situation, plan to hold media briefings every few hours. Listen closely on social media so you can correct misinformation that is getting passed around as it happens. Use your social media channels to release details in between media briefings. Establish a hashtag for your crisis communications on Twitter so that people can more closely follow the ‘official’ information source.

The frequency of your communications are a way of showing that you care about your stakeholders and are serving their needs and not just your own. Today, people make judgments based on your organization’s behavior and not just a carefully crafted message labored over by your attorneys, senior executives and others.

Inaccurate information can un-do all of your tremendous communications. To increase the likelihood that accurate information is presented on a timely basis, your crisis plan should have designated spokespeople, chains of command and reporting structures so that people in the field, on the scene or troubleshooting the issue know the protocol for providing updates. They should have the names and contact information of the crisis team, there should be a clear method of capturing and reporting out the information to the crisis team, and everyone in the field should know not to speak to but instead properly redirect the media and to limit internal speculation.

Stress degrades decision making, so successful communications in a crisis are typically based on a pre-existing communication plan that reasonably anticipates various crisis situations and develops responses so that they’re at the ready when a crisis hits.

Whether you have a plan or are planning on the fly, just repeat after me: communicate early, communicate often and communicate accurately.

Where’s the Beef?

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Communicating Value

No one ever likes losing a customer or client, especially when they leave for the wrong reasons or never share any of their doubt or discontent about your product or service. We often mistake no news for good news, but many people actually prefer the door to the daunting prospect of sharing their discontent.

Sharing their discontent with you, that is. They have no problem sharing with all their colleagues.

This problem is more common among consumers of services than actual products. With a physical product, if something doesn’t perform as a customer expected, they can return or exchange it. Consulting services, like those we provide at (W)right On Communications, require more proactive communication with clients to increase their understanding of the work product and value of the outcomes. And whether you’re in the communications consulting field or a seller of world-class widgets, the following five communication steps can increase client satisfaction and build client loyalty.

The Plan’s the Thing

As a service provider, it is important to establish upfront a client’s needs and expectations and how you plan to meet (and hopefully exceed!) them. Agreeing on a well-defined set of goals and objectives makes evaluation of your services turnkey. Documenting this communication in a plan of action keeps everyone on the same page.

Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow

With a plan in place, you can grow your relationship with your client by bringing to their attention relevant current events and new ideas that could impact their business. This is a value-added service you can provide that demonstrates what you bring to their team. If your contribution becomes an action item that requires amendments to the original plan, advise your client of the financial implications upfront.

Just Do It

One of the biggest benefits you can bring to the party is the ability to get things done. Find ways to solve problems apart from relying on the client for an assist. And meeting deadlines is a must. Lingering projects for any reason lead to apathy about your value and a lack confidence in your ability.

Making Dollars Make Sense

When a client complains about the bill, it means they are not fully aware of all the benefits they are receiving from you so they don’t understand the value. It’s up to you to continually communicate the benefits of your service. That can take the form of regular progress reports with measurable metrics (you can even send this with the bill). Periodically meeting with your client to review the bills gives them a chance to ask questions and for you to describe the value-added services that are often not reflected on the bill. This also gives your client the opportunity to clarify what kind of outcomes they are expecting so that there is no miscommunication.

Three Little Words

Checking in with your client from time to time is the easiest way to diffuse percolating issues. Simply asking, “How’s it going?” can initiate a meaningful dialogue that leads to good will (maybe even an accolade or two) or course corrections in advance of a crisis situation.

In a digital world, it’s easy to think we’re having conversations because we’re communicating with one another. But there’s no substitute for being in the moment with a live, back and forth, give and take conversation with real-time facial expressions and tangible emotional engagement.

And remember – it’s cheaper to keep a client than to find a new one. Beyond lost revenue, you’ve just cost yourself the time and resources to cultivate new business.

Rise Thee Virtual Web, Rise!

Fall color tour to Ouray, CO.

Did you receive some sort of electronic device over the holidays? A smartphone like an iPhone or Android? A video game, camera, iPod, tablet, or laptop or maybe a new PC or Mac?  If you didn’t chances are you know someone who did.

A year ago I wrote that for the first time smartphones sales exceeded yearly PC sales. And a few months back, I mentioned that there are African countries that have largely skipped the landline era and gone straight to mobile phones, with there now being more than 715 million in Africa. In the U.S., Comscore reports 114 million Americans used smartphones in July 2012, and that this represents roughly half the potential market. So, add another 100 million or so and the American market’s done. Thinking about the 2012 holiday period, I bet there was a healthy dent in this remaining half. So, what will people do with, and demand of, all these powerful devices?

Where I’m going with this is that I think we’re in for another sea change, and soon. Like many things, communication evolves, sometimes slowly, and sometimes with startling disruption – witness the printing press, typewriter, PC, Internet, email software, mobile text, Facebook, Twitter…

Sure, there are relative periods of stability – long like the ancient days of cave walls and word of mouth; medium like the era of print newspapers and magazines; and short, like mobile texting.

It’s this last one which days are especially numbered, at least as we know texting today. With so many smartphones capable of so much more than a simple text message; with WiFi proliferation and data costs dropping like a rock; carmakers now incorporating WiFi and imminently 4G in vehicles – texting and Twitter don’t stand a chance. Why type something when you can just Voxer someone or blast a picture or a quick hi-def video with Tout? All hail thee visual web!

texting

At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show happening in Las Vegas as I write this, one theme seems to be even larger smartphone screens to come. Personally, I don’t want to hold a brick to my head (been there done that with cell phones in the 80s). And who knows where a smartphone ends and a tablet begins. Smablet anyone? Another CES theme seems to be the connection of all the new devices to traditional devices like TVs. But ALL of these devices point to the need for more audio and visual content, and less thumbing of the written word.

While the need for compelling information, good storytelling and devices like humor and emotion are among the few communication components that are ‘traditional’ anymore, how the information is conveyed, story told and emotion evoked is ever changing. Increasingly, the cut-through will be achieved through multimedia – sound, video, graphics, animation and, I predict, soon enough smell. Yep, they’ll figure a way to trigger your device to release bacon and perfume scents. Forward thinking firms are already thinking of ways to respond to, if not lead, the rise of the visual web so as to remain connected to their target audiences wherever they are.

(W)right On celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, but we’re just getting started. Owing to our great team and amazing clients we are privileged to serve, (W)right On was recently honored as a 2012 Most Admired Company for its professionalism, integrity and accountability. But like it also leads on the more tangible fronts such as social media evolution and communication program results, you can expect (W)right On to remain on the forefront of the visual web rise. Will you be there too?