10 Communications Secrets Every Business Should Know

Great Companies, Great Leaders - Tianjin WorkSpace 2008
Photo by World Economic Forum

I spend most of my professional life figuring out how to most effectively communicate. Yet, my most valuable tool is having the ability to listen rather than talk. I know that you have often found yourself in a situation where you wish you had an on/off button – working at being a good listener is just as important as talking. Great communicators are great listeners, and develop keen observational powers that enable them to sense the moods, attitudes and concerns of those they hope to connect with.

Here is a list of 10 communications secrets created by Mike Myatt. While you may not wish to adopt every suggestion, I think you will come away with some very good ideas.

1-Speak not with a forked tongue
In most cases, people just won’t open up to those they don’t trust. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and decision-making.
2-Get personal
Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arms length. I say stay at arms length if you want to remain in the dark, receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth.
3-Get specific
Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.
4-Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways
The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal.
5-Have an open mind
A leader takes her game to a whole new level the minute she willingly seeks out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their minds.
6-Shut-up and listen
Great leaders know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off (mostly down and off).
7-Replace ego with empathy
Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade, propped-up by a very fragile ego.
8-Read between the lines
In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their minds that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll be amazed at how your level of organizational awareness is raised.
9-When you speak, know what you’re talking about
Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.
10-Speak to groups as individuals
Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual.

Social media has changed the landscape of the “old way” businesses communicate not only with their customers, but also with their employees. How has your business adapted to new forms of communicating?

When the Fireworks Go Off at Once

San Diego Fireworks

Photo by: Ben Baller/Associated Press

If you work in PR, like me, you know you sometimes worry, “what if all the fireworks go off at once?” Meaning you face a crisis with multiple, complex layers happening at one time.

Well, many of you may remember what happened in San Diego July Fourth weekend. The fireworks went off at once, literally.

A technical glitch caused the San Diego Big Bay Boom (ironic name, isn’t it?) Fourth of July fireworks celebration to go off at once, lasting for about 15 seconds instead of the show’s scheduled 18 minutes.

A sight to see for sure. Fortunately, no one was injured in the malfunction. What was interesting to look at was how Big Bay Boom San Diego and Garden State Fireworks (the company putting on the show) responded and handled their communications.

I thought they handled the situation as best as possible. After initially announcing via the radio broadcast that the show had to be canceled due to the malfunction, they took to social media to explain what happened.

Both parties posted updates on their websites informing the public of what went wrong. Both have taken responsibility and apologized for the brief show. The blame game has not been played. Furthermore, Garden State has diffused the situation before saying, “it will gladly take the ridicule as no one was injured.”

Mistakes and technical glitches happen. When they do, being open and honest about them will make the public more forgiving.

Garden State has offered to do next year’s show for free. Hopefully, the spectators will be treated to another dazzling display, though one not as brief.

Using Social Media to Effectively Manage a Crisis

Translation team at CrisisCamp Haiti in D.C.
Photo by cvconnell

“In a socially-networked world where investors, customers and employees are judge, jury and news editors, companies may be able to survive foul-ups better than in the old days of “traditional” news and corporate spin.”

- Francesco Guerrera, Wall Street Journal

We are living in an age where organizations can reach out and speak directly with their audience through social media. This means that social media is a powerful communications tool for crisis management. So how can you effectively manage a crisis using social media?

  1. Incorporate social media into your crisis plan and follow it: Having a plan in place before a crisis occurs is always the best step an organization can take and social media should be incorporated into this plan. In general, when a crisis occurs, the crisis team should draft key messages (and responses) for the designated spokespersons to distribute on their social media channels. The crisis team should also ensure that everyone participating in the organization’s social media has the correct (and aligned) message.
  2. Be Authentic: In a recent article, PRSA’s chairman and CEO Gerry Corbett stressed the importance of remaining authentic during a crisis situation. This is particularly true on social media platforms where a lack of authenticity can exacerbate the situation.
  3. Be Responsive: Social media is a two-way communications tool. The crisis team should be proactive and create responses that can answer any questions the organization might receive via social media. Designated spokespersons should respond quickly with the proper message points. Quick responses help to increase the organization’s authenticity, while not responding can make it look like something is being hidden.

It is important to remember, though, that missteps on social media can be highlighted as well.  I recommend reading Matthew Yoemans’ recent article in The Guardian to see examples of social media PR crises.

Every crisis is different and requires a unique approach, but incorporating social media, being authentic and being responsive can help you effectively manage the situation.