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Four stories from the silly season

 

IABC’s Wayne Aspland reflects on four communications lessons he learnt while staring at screens over the silly season.

 

Steve Jobs shows how it’s done

January 8 was a milestone in the world of telecommunications. It was eight years to the day since Steve Jobs walked onto the Macworld stage and gave the world its first glimpse of the iPhone.

If you want to see how to release a product… if you want to see how to tell a story… if you want to see how to use slides… watch this video from 1:20 to 3:00.

In less than two minutes, Jobs turns the usual “I’m proud to introduce the blah blah blah (cue stirring music)” into something far more memorable. He brings humour, drama and a great twist to the iPhone tale: a twist that slams home just how revolutionary the product is.

He creates a launch that stands out from all the others – not just for the quality of the product but for the way it was launched.

And he does all of this with nothing more than creative communications. That's the power of a good story.

 

Engagement surveys for the masses

Just the other day, Survey Monkey made a rather interesting announcement. Working with the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation, the near-ubiquitous online survey provider released a new Engagement Survey template for their rapidly growing toolkit.

Engagement (or employee opinion) surveys have been a valuable staple in large organisations for years. But they tend to be expensive and, as such, beyond the bounds of smaller organisations.

Now, I know this service doesn’t come with the professional analysis that the big companies provide (although it does provide a benchmarking facility).

And, to me, there’s a few important questions missing. Namely those covering the level of understanding of, engagement with and adherence to the things that drive our organisations – visions, vales, strategy etc. Mind you, they can always be added in.

All in all, though, this looks like a great new offering and a useful way for smaller organisations to take the pulse of their people.

 

Strategic vs tactical: what's the difference?

A few weeks ago, that juggernaut of all-things-strategic, Kotter International, put out this short video comparing change management with what they call change leadership.

Kotter claims that change management, while the most common change approach, is inadequate in today’s rapidly evolving world. They claim that change leadership, which aims to align everyone to a vision rather than a chosen few to a project, is the way organisations need to go.

Now, this approach from Kotter isn’t new (see the 2012 video below), but when I was watching the latest piece, something struck me.

The issue Kotter is raising isn’t unique to change. In fact, it relates to something much more basic: something that’s been concerning marketers, communicators and everyone else for many, many years.

It’s the question of strategic vs tactical.

There’s been volumes written on this topic. And there’s an almost constant call for communicators to be more strategic.

But what does it mean to be strategic? How does a strategic approach differ from a practical one?

To me, there’s three things:

You’re focused on the organisation, not just the comms

As a strategic communicator, you will see everything you do in terms of the organisational goals it achieves, not just the comms goals. A simple way to think about this might be a social media campaign. If you approach social media tactically, you’ll feel the need to be there because everyone else is. And you’ll measure your performance in terms of the likes, shares, followers etc you generate. The results might be great, but you’ll struggle to explain what you achieved for the organisation. A strategic approach, on the other hand, embraces social media only if there’s specific organisational and stakeholder goals it can achieve. These goals will guide which networks you adopt and what you do with them. Progress will be determined not just through engagement volumes but by measuring whether or not those goal/s were achieved.

You’re focused on the journey, not just the steps

Tactical plans tend to focus on the steps – the actions, milestones and dependencies. A strategic plan still has these steps, but it’s overlaid by the journey: who we are today and where we’re going. The steps then detail how we’ll get there. A strategic communicator is focused on the journey first and the steps second. They are concerned with the end result. This makes them both free and able to change the steps as they need to. The tactical communicator is a slave to the steps.

You’re focused on the story, not just the cells

Because a strategic approach is about the journey, it’s an easy story to tell. And it has the potential to be far more compelling to the listener. A tactical plan begins with the GANTT chart or spreadsheet… and that can be a long and tortuous thing to explain. There’s a simple rule of thumb here. If you can’t explain the core of your strategy in 30 seconds, it’s a fair bet you don’t have one. 

 

Innovation, Intransigence and Interstellar

Just before Christmas, my son and I went to see Interstellar at IMAX. Now, to say I was in awe of this monumental film would be an understatement the size of the Milky Way. I now know how cinema-goers felt after the premiere of 2001 all those years ago.

There was a letdown though. It came after the movie when I got home and read all the naysayer articles bagging the science behind Interstellar – in particular, the black hole scene.

I hate reading things like this because I hate intransigence.

There’s lots of science out there about the nature of black holes… lots of formulae, theories and talk about the joys of ‘spaghettification’. But, in reality, there isn’t a single person on the planet who knows what goes on in a black hole or what would happen to us if we entered one.

And this leads to a question… a question that applies not just in science but everywhere else in life, including business.

Why are people so quick to dismiss alternate views – even when the truth isn't known?

Intransigence is easy… and you see it everywhere. It’s enticing because it makes us feel in control.

But intransigence is a dangerous luxury to have – in both business and life.

The moment you assume you know is the moment you close your mind to alternate views and possibilities.

It’s the moment you stop learning and stop being innovative.

It’s the moment you stop moving forward.

 

Happy New Year to everyone at IABC Victoria. I hope you all move forward in a big way in 2015.

 

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