Monthly Archives: July 2006

Breakneck change, but keep basics at the core

Our profession is getting increasingly sophisticated, spurred on by fast-paced technology and a desire to keep up with our colleagues.

I worry about losing sight of the importance of keeping basics at the core of what we do best, or should be doing best. Using sound judgment in our counseling, having the ability to write with clarity and persuasion, being able to bring special insight to serving the public interest, and expressing it better than anyone else at the table. These are but a few of the basics we should be mastering.

Some years back, a young hotel trainee had the golden opportunity of talking with Conrad Hilton, the mastermind behind the worldwide chain.

“Mr. Hilton,” he began, “what advice can you offer young people trying to emulate your extraordinary career in the hotel business?”

Hilton reflected for a long minute, and replied, “Keep the shower curtain inside the tub.”

I wonder how much attention we pay to keeping the shower curtain inside the tub?

This is not an isolated example. A close family friend of many years became one of the nation’s most distinguished neurosurgeons. If ever a profession suggested an endowment of God-given, sophisticated skills it is neurosurgery. At least, that’s what I thought.

The doctor’s hobby is repairing and rebuilding expensive cars (he started with jalopies) and he has a drive-in basement that houses his collection. One day I watched him as he performed a delicate procedure on a carburetor.

I asked him “What drew you to this hobby?”

“What I’m doing here is not unlike neurosurgery. Discipline, precision, dexterity. It helps me when I go into the operating room.”

So brain surgery, too, has basic skills that shout for attention and fine tuning.

In future visits here I will explore this subject further because it is important to define and analyze which of the basics are most important and how they are applied at the senior professional level.

(Posted by Larry Foster)

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“Unmediated” media

Online social media is an interesting phenomenon. Many companies working outside of the information technology arena are still having a hard time getting their arms around it.

One way that may help is to think of this as a space where a company can tell its own stories, in its own voices, unfiltered by the priorities, agendas and gaps in knowledge and context that are sometimes present among professional journalists.

The media, by it’s nature, “mediates” information on behalf of its common audience. (The common Latin root “medius” is no coincidence.) Online spaces, particularly those characterized as “social media”, provide companies natural vehicles to carry their own voices and stories to publics whose priorities or focal points may not line up precisely with the common audience served by journalists.

So, in effect, these spaces provide a media space that is unmediated by third-parties; thus the somewhat self-contradictory notion of “unmediated” media.

Note that I say this space allows for company “voices”, not “voice”. The price of entry for companies in this space is authenticity. That comes from individual voices. They may speak in harmony, but they cannot speak in an authoritative, opaque, singular voice.

When you think of it, can a company really have a single voice? It may have a single vision, a strategy, an underlying ethic, a culture. But with its many audiences, products, issues, it will sing with thousands of voices. A company’s song is one built of the harmonies of a chorus, not the solitary wail of a diva.

(Posted by Ray Jordan)

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Chief Communications Officers… and Wikipedia

You know, over the past nine months or so, I’ve become fairly impressed with Wikipedia. A year ago, it seemed so far from useful that I held out little hope. But in the interim it has grown and matured in fine fashion. Today, for me, it is generally more useful than Google search as a means of getting a quick introduction to a new topic. (For instance, a paltry, partly-correct sentence in Wikipedia last year about a relatively little-recognized secondary fermentation in winemaking has become a downright informative discussion of malolactic fermentation.)

My disappointment was palpable, then, when I searched Wikipedia a few days ago for references to “Chief Communications Officer”. I use that term to refer to a communications professional who has the chief communications advisory relationship with a senior business leader of a company, organization or corporation. Sadly, I could find no reference whatsoever on Wikipedia to “Chief Communications Officer”. Plenty about the other chief officers you’d expect – finance, information, operations, etc., but not communications.

But, wait, there WAS a “CCO” listed on Wikipedia.

Oh, not “Chief Communications Officer”… but “Chief Credit Officer”. C’mon now! “Chief Credit Officer”?? Good grief.

I believe the language we use with respect to our profession has a profound effect over time on the profession itself. Wouldn’t you counsel your clients the same? Well, now there is a Wikipedia entry for Chief Communications Officer. I made it up. Pretty much from thin air. Give me a hand. Wikipedia is a collaborative effort. Good for people who need help. I need help.

(Posted by Ray Jordan)

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Filed under Communications / PR, New Media