How Companies Can Cut Through Clutter With A Stronger HR Voice

November 30th, 2016

Employee Communications

Effective HR communications is a lot of things. It’s often behind the first impression your company gives to recruits and new employees (the welcome mat) or the door that closes on the way out on their last day of work. HR communications is also a platform for employee engagement. HR communications can help humanize the company by being that helping hand to help navigate through work life. People want to work for a company that cares for its employees and HR communications can be the string to tie all of the pieces together. Having an HR communications plan in place is key to harnessing all the people-oriented programs companies have to offer their employees.

Without effective HR communications, it can be like the “Wild West” where every HR team sends out their own communications whenever they want (often with inconsistent style and content full of jargon). Those messages can get lost in the shuffle, unseen by employees. An overarching HR communications strategy that aligns with company priorities creates a more holistic approach to HR programs, helping their messages cut through the clutter with a stronger voice.

Without effective HR communications, it can be like the “Wild West” where every HR team sends out their own communications whenever they want (often with inconsistent style and content full of jargon). Those messages can get lost in the shuffle, unseen by employees. An overarching HR communications strategy that aligns with company priorities creates a more holistic approach to HR programs, helping their messages cut through the clutter with a stronger voice.

Here are some key points to keep in mind when developing an HR communications strategy:

  1. Establish an HR brand that complements the company brand. Communications should have a consistent look and feel for materials so they are easily recognizable as coming from HR. This also includes consistent key messages to build connections and connect the dots for associates about why this matters or why they should care.
  2. Build synergy with other corporate initiatives. Look for opportunities to integrate key HR messages into companywide communications tools as well as regular meetings and events where appropriate.
  3. Arm leaders with key HR messages. Managers need to be able to explain key programs or updates to their teams. Employees often look to their managers for HR-related information.
  4. Lose the jargon. Many HR programs like benefits and compensation are ripe with industry lingo. It can be tough to increase employees’ understanding and value perception of what the company offers when this information can be tedious. Look for ways to make it more interesting. For example, use storytelling with real employees showing how they use a benefit. Make it visual with video and infographics to explain key points.
  5. Centralize HR communications on the intranet or external site. People want their HR info — especially benefits and compensation information — when they want it, not necessarily when you send it out. That’s why it’s essential to give them easy access to this information. Family members are a secondary audience who are often involved in benefits decisions. Making this information readily available at home is helpful with this in mind.
  6. Think like an employee to guide how you develop your HR communications — and organize your information accordingly. I think of it as the employee life cycle. What are all the major touch points in this life cycle — from recruitment to onboarding to retirement? Communications should be targeted to employees in each stage of the life cycle. Similarly, arrange information according to these stages on the intranet and/or external website.
  7. Meet regularly with each area of HR from benefits and compensation to organizational development. This not only helps when creating a communications strategy for the year but also with ongoing communications or to stay in the loop when new opportunities arise.
  8. Tap into employees to “beta test” your communications. Create an ongoing “focus group” of key employees at different levels you can lean on for input on communications before you send them out. Does the messaging and look and feel resonate with them? What could be more clear? Do they have ideas or do they hear questions from other employees that need to be addressed?

8 Video Production Lessons From Donald Trump’s Video

November 21st, 2016
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No matter your opinion about Donald Trump and the controversies surrounding him, business leaders can learn the following eight video production lessons from the short video he released about his transition into The White House.

  1. Use video. Video is one of the most personal forms of communication. Unlike an email full of text, video relays a person’s personality, allowing business leaders to more effectively relay their key messages to target audiences. Caution: This approach will generally backfire if business leaders display poor or distracting body language or struggle to read a teleprompter.
  2. Speak with passion. President-elect Trump spoke with passion. Communicating through video often will fail if business leaders speak as if they missed their afternoon naps. Executives who excel at making money sometimes struggle with appearing natural on camera. If this is the case, find someone else to deliver the messages.
  3. Provide simple headlines. Generally, Trump focused on some of the same messages he hammered away at during his campaign. The political analysts and Americans at their dining room tables will debate if he avoided his most contentious positions. This is an important debate because business leaders who avoid their audiences’ most glaring questions risk losing credibility. However, Trump kept things simple, which also has its advantages. Videos are more for providing headlines than sharing an encyclopedia worth of words.
  4. Include more visuals. Keeping someone on camera during an entire video normally risks lulling an audience to sleep. If business leaders are compelling and fascinating figures, you might be able to get away with keeping the key figure on camera the entire time. However, it’s usually best to include visuals to support what someone is saying to help keep everyone’s attention.
  5. Include graphics. The video includes simple graphics to reinforce his messages. Caution: Wordsmiths too often try to bloat graphics with a flood of words, crowding a screen. Graphics should reinforce the message, not include the entire message.
  6. Include a link. The description under Trump’s YouTube video does not include a link where viewers can receive additional information about his messages. Because videos often deliver only headlines, adding a link in the description helps viewers try to ascertain additional details.
  7. Keep it short. Unlike many others, we don’t believe all effective videos must be short. Check out YouTube and you’ll realize trending videos are frequently very long. However, because Trump’s target audience for this video is so vast, keeping it short makes sense.
  8. Offer updates. The president-elect offered future updates. More businesses should view a video as more than an isolated, one-time project. They should view video as the first installment in a series of important messages. One of the best ways to build a loyal audience is to create the expectation that more is to come. So stay tuned!

10 PR Lessons From President’s First News Conference Since Trump’s Election

November 14th, 2016

Public Relations

President Obama’s first news conference since the election of Donald Trump offers more than additional fodder for a nation divided politically. Business leaders should study the news conference for lessons on how to navigate tough questioning during difficult times and about competitors.

  1. Focus on key messages. Critics of President-elect Donald Trump fear a drastic turn in America’s relationships with other countries. However President Obama argued the United States will maintain core relationships with other countries and he expects a certain level of continuity. This point of view is a key message to quell anxiety among the public.
  2. Explain it simply. When a reporter asked about the future of the Democratic Party, President Obama did not delve into information overload. He recommended the party go through reflection while maintaining inclusiveness and not wavering on its core beliefs and principles.
  3. Avoid lingo. When discussing the Democratic Party’s defeat, the president did not take the tone of a political science professor. Instead he pointed out the importance of politicians showing up and competing everywhere.
  4. Share stories. When discussing the importance of campaigning everywhere, President Obama shared his own story of success in Iowa and how he repeatedly visited the state.
  5. Localize. The president explained political movements are not confined to the federal government. He touched on differences people can strive for at lower levels of government such as city councils and boards of education.
  6. Don’t memorize lines. When speaking to reporters, President Obama appeared to talk with them the same way he might discuss similar questions with friends and family.
  7. Use your hands. Business leaders often ask us if they should keep their hands still when speaking. Our answer is “no” unless someone normally speaks with little movement. Using your hands when speaking often relays the passion you might feel about a particular point. Anytime the president raises his hands when speaking, listen to the throng of still cameras clicking away.
  8. Don’t get defensive. The president’s party lost the election. President-elect Trump might reverse some of President Obama’s achievements. Reporters asked tough questions. However he never turned defensive.
  9. Avoid no comment. Reporters asked the president if he still believes the president-elect is not qualified for the position and if Trump’s temperament is ill-suited for the office. In a perfectly transparent world, President Obama would have answered those questions directly. He didn’t. On the other hand, he didn’t avoid answering such questions all together. He argued The White House will change a person and what people say when governing is often different from what people say when campaigning. Providing some information and insight is better than responding with “no comment.” In addition, when a reporter asked the president to comment on one of President-elect Trump’s appointments, President Obama argued it would not be appropriate for him to comment on every appointment. Explaining why you won’t comment is better than simply not commenting.
  10. Provide substantive soundbites. To reduce the notion that Americans might quickly see a dramatic and quick turn in public policy, the president said such change in government is not like a speedboat and is instead more similar to an ocean liner. Such a soundbite is an effective way to communicate a very complex subject matter.


10 Things I Miss Most About Covering Election Nights As A Reporter

November 8th, 2016

Media Relations:  10 Things I Miss Most About Covering Election Nights

  • Technical problems we all secretly predicted
  • Watching the carefully thought out newsroom election night game plan quickly disintegrate
  • Being assigned to a new candidate at the last second after conducting weeks of research on another one
  • Wondering what genius decided to assign several crews to work under tight deadlines on the same laptop editor
  • Watching normally cordial co-workers turn on each other when things really start to fall apart
  • Trying to be first on air with a winning candidate only to learn the station has no plans to take me live until next week
  • The growing whispers that the others stations whipped us
  • Trying to figure out how to get 20 employees at a hotel convention room back to the station in only two vehicles
  • Feeling lucky no one chose me to stake out until 1am the big losing candidate hiding behind a closed door
  • Getting a memo in my mailbox praising the night’s efforts as if all went perfectly as planned

Disney’s 14 PR Lessons To Help Make Businesses The Happiest Ones On Earth

October 27th, 2016



We recently visited Walt Disney World in Florida. You don’t need a billion-dollar budget for your business to put some similar ideas in place:

  • Sweat the small stuff. Details separate companies from competition. In Dinoland at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, tiny dinosaur toys sat on a ledge above where families waited in line to meet Goofy and Pluto. At the Starbucks in Epcot, the barista added chocolate drizzle to drinks in the shape of Mickey Mouse.
  • Provide convenience. We didn’t rent a car. From buses to trams to monorails, an extensive infrastructure provided us easy access and transportation to Disney parks throughout the day and night. People with fun personalities, one who provided tidbits of behind-the-scenes information, drove modern buses which showed Disney shorts and movies on monitors above seats.
  • Communicate well. A Disney employee put a smile on her face and struck a friendly tone even when telling people they couldn’t venture into roped-off areas or stand in spaces reserved for oncoming foot traffic. When we stood in line to take pictures with characters, employees warned us when those characters would take short breaks so no one panicked. Security sparked friendly conversations when checking bags at park entrances.
  • Don’t be cheap. Tickets for Disney parks are not inexpensive. However, elaborate shows and fireworks displays are some of several reasons you feel the ticket prices are well worth it.
  • Share stories. Disney doesn’t miss opportunities to weave stories of Walt’s inspirational influence or, while we stood waiting in line, share information with us on screens about legendary animators.
  • Be flexible. When families posed with famous Disney characters, professional photographers gladly shot additional stills with your smartphones even if doing so might mean you wouldn’t buy their professional shots. And photographers and their teams didn’t hurry us along. They allowed families sufficient time for different poses and interaction with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy.
  • Don’t engage in high-pressure sales. At Epcot, a face painter proactively told us where we might find a similar service the next day. He didn’t try to sell us on immediately spending our money.
  • Cross promote. While we shopped at Disney Springs, Star Wars and Marvel stores drew us in. An employee standing at an entrance passionately congratulated customers who successfully lifted Thor’s hammer. While we ate dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom, the menu reminded us of Disney’s experience in Hawaii.
  • Hire brand advocates. We never heard Disney employees publicly complaining about their work, bosses or schedules. We didn’t witness them with disgruntled faces, finishing off cigarettes outside stores or restaurants. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, even employees sweeping the ground and pushing carts asked if they could help us find something. Other employees danced and sang along with shows at parks. Another employee offered us a fist bump.
  • Quickly address concerns without passing the buck. When one of our park entrance cards didn’t provide access into the Magic Kingdom, an employee raised his hand and someone within seconds walked over and quickly fixed the issue.
  • Tie into calendar events. During our visit, Disney’s Magic Kingdom held special, nighttime events tying into Halloween, allowing people to wear costumes and trick-or-treat for candy.
  • Deploy an awesome mobile app. The MyDisneyExperience app helped us navigate to rides and locations. The app showed us pictures taken of us by photographers at scenic locations. Also, the app let us signed up for Fast Passes, which helped us choose rides and times to essentially jump to the front of the line.
  • Be visual and interactive. A Magic Kingdom store called Crystal Arts selling hand-blown glass attracted a crowd inside with an employee demonstrating how to make the glass. At Magic Kingdom, A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasures of the Seven Seas provided us a map and sent us on a scavenger hunt to find “treasure” in Adventureland.
  • Know how to say goodbye. When leaving Disney parks, employees said goodbye with the same enthusiasm with which they said hello. They offered small compliments, said congratulations to those wearing branded birthday buttons and welcomed us back. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a row of employees wearing oversized Mickey Mouse gloves waved goodbye and offered high fives at closing time.

Presidential Debate’s 7 Lessons For Business Leaders

October 19th, 2016


  1. Share stories. Hillary Clinton shared the story of a Las Vegas girl to relay the candidate’s position on immigration. Share personal stories to humanize and effectively illustrate your key messages especially when they are complex.
  2. Don’t pivot. When asked about information from leaked emails, Clinton awkwardly pivoted the focus of her answer to criticism about Russia. It’s OK to answer a question and bridge to a different key message, but doing so in a clunky fashion may appear that you’re trying too hard to change the subject. When the topic was about Donald Trump and women, he awkwardly pivoted to discussing the controversy surrounding Clinton’s emails as secretary of state. And when the moderator asked Clinton about ethical questions regarding the Clinton Foundation, she instead talked about the foundation’s accomplishments.
  3. Prepare sizzling soundbites. Clinton characterized Trump as a potential puppet of Russia’s leader. Don’t be nasty, but prepare ahead of time quotes or memorable soundbites to package your message. On two occasions, Clinton said Trump was hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” at the same time she was fighting the country’s enemies.
  4. Watch body language. We do not recommend that business leaders adopt Trump’s body language. Body language is often half the battle to effectively sharing your message
  5. Don’t attack the media. Trump referred to the media as corrupt. Criticizing the media in general may please your supporters, but it won’t effectively broaden your reach or conceal you from criticism.
  6. Don’t proactively bring attention to your controversies. Trump called Clinton “such a nasty woman” while he faces harsh criticism about his treatment of women. Some people might consider it a sizzling soundbite, but it’s not if it ultimately reinforces a negative image.
  7. Finish strong. The moderator gave both candidates the chance to end the debate by addressing the key messages of their choice. When reporters end interviews by asking if you want to add anything, take the opportunity to hit a home run.

Jim Mora’s 7 Media Lessons For Business Leaders

September 28th, 2016
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  1. Don’t rant.  Watch the above video about former head football coach Jim Mora. The video is entitled, “ESPN First Take – Jim Mora Rant: “Saints’ Season Is Not Over.” It is not positive when people characterize your response to an answer as a “rant.” Imagine the reactions from clients, employees and the media if a business executive answered a question in such fashion.
  2. Don’t let temperament overshadow.  Your tone and temperament, when viewed poorly, can overshadow your efforts to educate the public with your key messages. Temperament was a topic in this election year’s first presidential debate.
  3. Don’t be awkward.  When you answer a question with a rush of adrenaline, you risk creating an awkward and uncomfortable environment for those watching and surrounding you.
  4. Don’t entertain too much. You’re not playing the role of a reality TV star. Viewers should consider you interesting. However, that’s different from viewers considering you entertaining due to high-octane emotions.
  5. Don’t be the conversation. When your tone turns into the topic, you instead of your key messages become the conversation.
  6. Don’t risk reputation. When your temperament is in question, people will hold this against you. Ask former presidential candidate Howard Dean.
  7. Don’t confuse passion with emotions.  Showing spirit and passion is different from a rant or emotions the public might describe as out of control.

10 Presidential Debate Lessons For Business Leaders

September 26th, 2016


  1. Tell the truth. Fact checkers will share with us which statements from the presidential candidates were exaggerations, misleading and lies. While political candidates often survive their tall tales, business leaders and their companies are generally more vulnerable when the media point out their untruthful statements.
  2. Speak with passion. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke with passion. A business leader’s key messages might perfectly strike target audiences, but sharing words robotically or without enthusiasm, even under uncomfortable circumstances, are quick ways to lose people’s interest.
  3. Don’t deviate too much from talking points: When answering questions, presidential candidates often end up talking about whatever issues they prefer. This is why politicians often face a reputation of dodging questions. Dodging questions generally reflects poorly on business leaders in the eyes of clients and employees.
  4. Get ready. The media have analyzed different approaches Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump apparently took to prepare for their first presidential debate. Whichever approach you prefer, be prepared to discuss the topic at hand or be prepared how to handle questions when you don’t know the answers. News media interviews offer business leaders an opportunity to position themselves as industry experts. Take advantage of such occasions.
  5. Watch the adrenaline. Both presidential candidates showed spirit. Don’t mistake crazy adrenaline for spirit. People won’t listen if your tone turns them off first.
  6. Don’t overload us with information. Almost all presidential candidates at times lose their audiences with details most of us don’t understand. The media provide business leaders far less time to clearly explain themselves. Unless your audience is industry savvy, explain yourself and connect the dots assuming people don’t know much about what you do.
  7. Prepare great sound bites and quotes. Our guess is most media will repeatedly show us the same sound bites from the debates. Presidential candidates don’t generally provide such words by chance. They look for opportunities to deliver their clever sentences. Business leaders don’t need to play it deviously. However, considering sound bites that might sum up complex topics can be strategically important.
  8. Beware of body language. We don’t recommend adopting Trump’s body language. It may work for him and every rule has its exemptions. Business leaders may consider body language superficial, but we’ve watched too many executives lose the war of words by not what they say … but how they say it and how they look.
  9. Realize traditional media are only one part of the story. If you’re handling a crisis, trying to persuade public opinion or simply attempting to extend your reach, not strategically considering social media is the equivalent of a head football coach claiming special teams won’t play a role in determining victory or defeat.
  10. Don’t blame the media. Your fans and supporters may love blaming the media, but your goal is building business, bringing in more clients or increasing support for important causes. Blaming the messenger for your troubles won’t resonate with outsiders giving you and your team initial consideration.

10 Media Training Myths

September 20th, 2016

  1. Media training is not about attempting to memorize a script of lines you may or may not believe in.
  2. It’s not about stifling your opinions. 
  3. It’s not about cleverly sidestepping questions, which most people realize you’re doing anyway. 
  4. It’s not about hammering your critics with hyperbole and overused cliches. 
  5. It’s not about analyzing your body language to the extent you move robotically. 
  6. It’s not about asking reporters to review their questions beforehand.
  7. It’s not about blaming the media. 
  8. Media training is not about stating you don’t know information you clearly should. 
  9. It’s not about pretending to understand or rationalize the reasoning of someone who made a decision you clearly believe is ridiculous. 
  10. Media training is not for people afraid to tell the truth at every turn because they want to perpetuate an illusion that everything is always awesome. 

13 Reasons To Hate Social Media

September 2nd, 2016

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Social media can play an influential role raising your profile. However, the relationship with such marketing tools can feel like a rocky one.

  1. Social media reminds you of birthdays for people you don’t know or care about.
  2. It reinforces nobody cares about something you think is funny or interesting.
  3. You infer someone behind the social media curtain is stifling your engagement to persuade you to purchase an ad.
  4. You conclude some of the social media statistics are genuinely B.S.
  5. Checking your social media apps in public makes you feel you have relinquished yourself to a futuristic world of mind control.
  6. You wonder if most of your company page’s fans are in your age bracket because they are actually family and friends instead of loyal customers.
  7. You bristle in frustration when no one likes your awesome photo but others receive tremendous attention for routine images that bore you.
  8. You don’t read other people’s posts because you fear coming across faces who are the opposite of friends.
  9. Social media is exhausting because your better judgement leads you to delete your most edgy (and interesting) updates before sharing them.
  10. You resent those who laughed at your social media efforts in the early days but now view social media marketing as indispensable.
  11. You want to show the strength to quit social media altogether but are too darn scared you’ll miss out on something that would change everything.
  12. You force yourself to pretend your number of followers isn’t important to you.
  13. Nobody actually looks as good as their profile picture.

Which ones did we forget?