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Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Communications’

I’ve heard it said that change begins by asking questions.

Some early questions may just involve assessing what reactions to a shift may be likely, and why.

Say communications has just become more formal and emphasized. Perhaps there is an instance of someone implementing their own outreach, or another of someone disparaging the aspirations.

Probe and you may find the first person simply didn’t know who to turn to and found it easier to just do it themselves, while the second person tends to strive for new accomplishments and is forestalling dashed expectations.

It’s helpful to recall that different people have different motivations, based on what matters to them.  Since most people are generally just trying to take care of themselves, anticipate a range of reactions.

Culture matters

Your assessment will suggest how to mold and shape the environment to reinforce desired behavior, such as these steps:

  • Link the change to values expressed by the prevailing culture
  • Enlist influential champions to demonstrate support, and
  • Look for chances for a respected leader to mention the new priorities

A soft touch may engender less resistance, and repeated exposure to the idea can help “socialize” it.   Altogether, such measures help percolate the change throughout the organization.

Meanwhile, in individual contacts, ask  questions. That allows people to consider alternatives and shift their position without feeling pressured, as well as providing time to adjust.

There are typically three reactions to new developments. About 10 percent of folks have a propensity to take a negative view. Another 10 percent seize opportunities. The remaining 80 percent are relatively neutral and open-minded.

Emotions behind those reactions must be acknowledged before new information can be absorbed. A few folks will resist out of fear. A few will embrace change early on. Many others will be somewhere in the middle, slightly confused or uncertain.

Recognize the temporary discomfort change causes, and then provide avenues for discussion. This phase could be compared to the hashing-out that occurs during political campaigns, say, by holding a debate prior to people casting a vote.

Use existing channels and new ones, such as dedicated Q&A sessions and email.

People will begin looking for concrete information, such as an explanation of how decisions are being made, the timetable and rationale.

Next: Facing naysayers

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Introduction

I love the outdoors and have learned to not mind much if I don’t reach an ultimate endpoint when weeding. I’ve discovered, as friends used to say when doing dishes, it’s the process, not the goal.

Change communications has a similar rhythm. The need is part of natural cycles, since organizations must adapt and evolve to survive. Sometimes change communications efforts are more intense and concerted, other times they are quiescent but never far off.

Coming up

I’ll be sharing tips I’ve gleaned as a point person during dramatic changes in direction and traumatic retrenching.

It’s helpful to remember that change communications affects behavior, so it needs to win people’s hearts and minds. There are roughly three approaches, that range from subtle to overt, that taken as a whole facilitate moving people forward.

In a global sense, change can be encouraged by shaping the environment and reinforcing desired actions. This effectively coaxes people to new behavior without provoking resistance. Other times, people need to openly air issues in order to adjust and come to terms with new directions.

Meanwhile, advocates will encounter chances to nudge people to do what they know they should. Such gradual shifts can be a bit like performing aikido, where you take the other person’s momentum and redirect it.

The next few installments will discuss these pointers in more detail, so stay tuned. And please be willing to share your change story or challenge. Change can be painful at times. But as a wise adviser to those dish-washing friends liked to say, without pain, how can we grow?

 

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In many respects, good visuals start with seeing in a different light.

Regardless of your gear, the human eye can see a far greater range than any camera. While we can distinguish a range of about 1000:1, the range of an inexpensive digital video camera may only be 100:1.

In preparing to shoot video, the goal is to have sufficient, and relatively even, illumination. You’ll want to avoid deep shadows, but still have the subject pop out. The concepts below should help you achieve your aims within the limitations of your budget and shooting environment.

Planning for color temperature

Indoors, tungsten lighting tends to have a warm cast, while outdoors, daylight is bluer in tone. Since cameras need to be set for one or the other, it’s best to not mix these sources of illumination.

Morning and evening provide the most pleasing outside illumination. During bright parts of the day, shooting in the shade will avoid harsh contrasts and unbecoming shadows.

If shooting inside, close the curtains and turn off fluorescent overhead lights. When setting up bright, makeshift studio,  lights at a house, use outlets leading to more than one circuit so you don’t blow a fuse. An average household circuit has about 1800 watts and lights for illuminating shoots can pull more than that.

When the scene is ready, zoom in on the subject to calibrate color balance, holding a white card as close as possible to the subject.

Light kits

Producer Amy Miller of KQED’s QUEST science unit recommends a Lowel brand tungsten kit that is one step above basic, and sells for about $1,000. Since these lights get hot, she brings gloves to use when moving the lights, and face powder to keep down the sheen on subject’s faces. Her other essentials are a grip clip, voltmeter, headphones, and small sandbags for stabilizing the base of the lights. A small monitor is also great for previewing how a scene will appear on screen.

For video interviews, setting up classic three-point lighting will provide a soft, even illumination. The components and their location are:

  1. Key light – positioned about 45 degrees to one side of the subject and about 30 – 45 degrees above their head. On this bright light, use a soft box for diffusion.
  2. Fill light – goes on the other side, also about 45 degrees away, and should be half as bright. She makes hers 2 -3 stops dimmer. Moving the light back twice as far would also halve its brightness. Good choices for the fill are a V-light or broad throw light.
  3. Rim (or shoulder) light – shines from above and separates the subject from the background by defining the edge.
  4. If available, a fourth light can be used on the wall – here, an omni light would allow the angle to be adjusted.

If you do not have lights, she suggested using daylight as a key light and a reflector as a fill.

Camera position

For added definition, having the background out of focus looks best, which means setting the subject as far from the background as possible. Move the camera far away too, take it off autofocus, and zoom in.

The interviewer will sit as close as possible to the camera, so the subject’s gaze across that space will appear natural to viewers.

Framing

Have the subject positioned slightly to one side of the frame, but not all the way to the edge. This framing is more comfortable to watch than dead center, and suits both wide and narrow formats (high-definition is wider than standard). For someone watching on a cell phone, frame fairly close, with minimal space above the head.

To envision some lighting guidance, see the following online tutorials. The final installment will wrap up with tips on interviewing and audio recording.

http://www.techlearning.com/article/1162

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcMX1RcNRYA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkUqBJoxZ-I

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Public media may be driving what’s been called “unimedia” – where web content encompasses video, audio and text. Integrating media, however, means diversifying skills.

That was the impetus behind a recent training by the experts behind QUEST, the multimedia science production at KQED. A handful of producers presented tips to community partners, who were invited to attend from Bay Area science institutions.

The trainers offered the following advice for creating accessible and readily shared web video:

  • Shoot fairly tight shots for small, mobile screen views
  • Be aware that text still gets the most hits in searches
  • Offer links for embedding in blogs, and DVD-quality versions for download
  • Provide high-definition, as well as standard, podcasts

The main message was that effective storytelling will always be key. With that in mind, start with a hunch of what the story will be about, and explore that. If need be, sketch out a quick storyboard. Anticipate what you can easily obtain given time, travel, and access restrictions. Ideally, your images and audio will all be of sufficient quality to support whatever way you ultimately decide to frame the story when it is time to edit.

Sometimes I think the online video medium will evolve to simple and practical forms – not exactly a la Max Headroom, the 1980s-era show where a video producer formed an entire TV crew, single-handed (or, headed – where the equipment was actually placed). When perusing online how-to videos, I am perfectly happy viewing simple sketches and illustrations shot with narration and a few waving hands. The simplicity is somehow engaging, pleasing and charming.

Already, news crews have shrunk to a single V-jay handling both equipment and interviews. Often, talking heads are beamed from to the studio by lower-bandwidth Skype than expensive satellite uplinks. It will be interesting to watch how explorations of online medium production by new messengers will evolve – ideally incorporating or adapting solutions already devised by pros, such as the suggestions that follow.

Storytelling – in video

Opening with an element of mystery, intrigue, or challenge hooks the viewer, says segment producer Chris Bauer. Clues and context can be sprinkled in like a trail of bread crumbs. As long as the first sentence or two are engaging, the crux can appear in what would be the 10th paragraph of a 100-paragraph piece.

The information should naturally encompass the basic journalistic who, what, where, why, when and how. Framing the story as a conflict that is resolved, such as a challenge overcome, adds drama and narrative thrust.

The piece should also lead to a take-home message, which KQED’s Chris Bauer calls the “and so . . .” To support a conclusion, think of parameters when gathering information – such as, what challenge was overcome to accomplish this? In what way is it superlative – first, best, longest, fastest? What is its context, and how is it unique? Meanwhile, in video, it is nearly impossible to be too over-the-top in dramatic action or gestures, so allowing your subjects to ham it up or go deep will also reinforce an aura of importance and immediacy.

Setting the stage

Quipping that he hates the “corporate plant” – the potted type that is* – Bauer discussed dressing a scene. Producer Amy Miller suggested other practical props, such as the warm glow of a lamp or candles, which typically appear over the subject’s shoulder, in soft focus, in the background.

As for people populating the scene, outfits that look good on camera come in solid, medium tones, like green. Large swaths of clothing in whites, bright reds, or pinstripes can render unpleasant effects in video, so should be avoided.

Some inspired improvisation will nearly always be part of this creative endeavor. For instance, Bauer joked that extraneous intrusions – like freight trains – often seem to find him. He recommends if you cannot avoid a jarring element, then shoot it, so it can be woven in. For instance, having seen a train could prime viewers to accept hearing a train whistle later at the tail end of an impassioned quote or similar material that might seem jarred by that unexpected intrusion, but be difficult to recapture in a more pristine state.

That’s a wrap on this topic for today. The next two posts will delve more into lighting, shooting, audio recording and interviewing.

*N.B.: A reference to Bauer’s dreaded “corporate plant” might also conjure the image of someone doing industrial espionage.

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In lieu of an ending comment, today I’m opening with a lyric I caught the other day that indicated the digital age becoming, well, lyric – it was Peter Yorn singing, “I googled you in quotes and got no results,” which I found bemusing.

Socializing over the use of social media:

Speaking of getting energized by interaction, at the latest Social Media Breakfast – East Bay, a closing conversation about extrapolating guidance from past emerging technologies seemed to fire up the 20-plus participants present from around the bay.

Jen McClure of the Society for New Communication Research had presented results of a variety of studies about best practices among corporations (http://sncr.org/2007/12/08/research-educational-services/).

Adopting best practices seemed to leave attendees feeling somewhat uncertain about socializing the use of social media within an organization. The meeting’s co-organizer, Shel Holtz, said he particularly likes IBM’s social media guidelines (http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html).

Overall, the advice was to make employees feel safe by providing guardrails, not rules, while offering training and mentorship if desired.

I’ve always believed social media needs to be integrated into an existing communications program and serves as an extension to that – sort of like the way a car gets you somewhere quicker than walking. Ideally, you will have something of value to share! One measure would be if your posts are picked up and retweeted, or if the twitterstream is recommended by others using the #ff follow Friday tag.

Someone commented that some of the current social media issues in organizations are extrapolations of adaptation of past new technologies, such as email usage. That seemed like a good approach to lowering the barrier for making the adoption comfortable for employees and organizations.

When it comes to community moderation, I had been wondering about handling comments that are not customer-service issues. It’s been well-established that social media channels create opportunities to demonstrate responsiveness to concerns by stepping in to troubleshoot problems for customers when snafus are raised (similar to my friend’s serendipitous luck in having help finding lost luggage after she tweeted about her concern).

What about cases, say, of a Facebook fan questioning organizational directions, or hijacking the focus of the page?

It seemed to me the pre-existing analogies could be a public speaker’s need to handle a heckler, as well as dialogue between executives and employees within an organization, that serves to clarify decisions and hear concerns.

A pseudo-heckler, in the two-sided nature of discussion online, has about an equal voice to the speaker sponsoring the page. For handling vocal detractors, a couple of approaches come to mind. Communities tend to self-police, so another community member may chide the person. The analogy there might be someone shushing a loudmouth at the same table during a live performance. Or, a simple acknowledgement, such as during public comments at a local government meeting, could suffice to keep lines of communication open while not veering far off-topic.

Borrowing from an internal communications perspective, pointing a vocal online community member to resources that explain the organization’s stance could be compared to responding to an employee comment at a workplaceTown Hall-style meeting.

The important point of course is to join the conversation and have something thoughtful and respectful to share – building relationships by keeping the energy of interaction flowing.

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Factoid from today’s BusinessWire webinar on social media, news releases, and investor relations:

  • 16 percent of Fortune 500 companies have external-facing blogs
    (naturally, tech companies, and then the drug industry, were among early adapters)
  • 90 percent of those allow comments

Here’s a brief recap: Social media is still largely being treated as a way to distribute content, although its value as a communications vehicle for listening to consumers is being recognized by Dell and others, the presenters concurred. As with other types of corporate communications, assessing its risk and reward concerns the extent of control that may be possible.

The speakers noted where C-suite trends in using social media are going. Besides having made a commitment to maintain blogs, more companies are providing Facebook pages, potentially investor-useful LinkedIn profiles and real-time Twitter feeds of quarterly earnings conference calls, with eBay as a prime example for that level of immediacy and potential interactivity.

The bottom line: These channels and vehicles will be another mode to manage, with an eye to credibility as with any other potentially material announcement that may move a stock price and be subject to regulatory requirements.

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