Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Don't Usually Kiss 'n Tell, but. . .

If you know me, you know that I am not the type to Kiss 'n Tell. But, this time, I just have to. After a recent acceleration of Facebook use and connections, I have just succeeded in my first true Facebook "hookup." Over the past year, I have reconnected with old friends and learned so much more about what is important to many of my Facebook friends; but just this week, directly as a result of Facebook, I successfully introduced a guy to a company and he is joining!

Maybe that doesn't sound that exciting. Undoubtedly, a lot of people have found jobs through Facebook connections. But the amazing thing is that this guy wasn't looking for a job! We had never discussed anything like this.

Here's the general scheme of things (without saying to much in order protect peoples' privacy).

First, my friend and I have kept in touch for the 10 years or so that we have known each other. But, as a result of Facebook, we have been "chatting" so much more. After about 2 months of chats, "cross-commenting", and "wall-talking" my friend suggested we have lunch. Then, the night before our lunch, I had an epiphany: this guy who was happily living his life and not in any way looking for a new job, might be uniquely qualified to fill a nearly-unfillable role at the company of another friend.

So, we had lunch and the question was posed; the worst that happened was that the guy said no. But it turned out that he didn't say no. He got excited about the idea and the introduction was made. The rest is history.

This is so exciting because it happened by leaps of creativity. Facebook didn't do that, but the proximity of the people, the reconnections, etc. triggered the creativity.

It never occured to me that Facebook would become a part of the creative process. But it did. And, by the way, over the past year, I have had other "creative" experiences with Facebook as well (though they are somewhat less dramatic). Interestingly, it's not clear that LinkIn or Plaxo would create the same kind of creativity. Because the dialog is more stilted (or maybe I haven't figured them out yet -- which says something in itself).

Of course, this blog is about communications -- and this is a perfect example of how communications is changing and perhaps how we are all potentially more creative because of them.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

"Yes" is the New "No"

Each day I watch President Obama with continued fascination. There are certainly a lot of things to find fascinating in today's world. But, as a communications professional, it is clear that all of us have a lot to learn from our new President.

There are layers of nuances in the way the President communicates. But the single biggest lesson that we can all take away is one the nearly all of us know already and just don't practice. Rule number 1 of communicating is: be inclusive; if you can keep people listening, you have a much better chance of getting your message across.

Let's look at a few recent examples:

1. The big one recently was when Tom Daschle removed himself from consideration as Health and Human Services Secretary. Instead of being defensive, President Obama quickly said "yes, I screwed up." The issue nearly became a non-story and we could move back to the big issues at hand.
2. We are also seeing this technique in the President's dealings with Iran and the Arab world. He has expressed toughness but at the same time went first to an Arab TV station and has openly said we will talk.
3. And with the Labor Unions, which will undoubtedly need to make concessions to help keep the economy progressing, Obama said "We will work with you." Rather than "get with it and lower your expectations." They will become part of the solution through this, rather than part of the resistance.

Daily we see more examples of this very astute communications approach -- it is clearly innate to the President's view of the world. It underscores that, in addition to the other rather wholesale changes happening today, we are returning to a time of candor and what I hope is a "win-win" approach to communicating.

What does this mean to technology start ups? Here are a few takeaways:

1. Start ups are often trying to do what President Obama has been trying to do: change the way people think. Communicating early and often is most effective.
2. Be inclusive in your communications; rather than negative. Try to find a way to get everyone to be a part of the transition/solution.
3. In response to criticism and challenges, acknowledge them and move forward rather than fighting against them.
4. Always remember, "Yes is the new No."

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Monday, February 02, 2009

When Does "The President as Rock Star" Start to Work Against the Goal?

I watch the Obama camp daily with fascination. As a communications professional, there are lots of things to learn from their example. I have never been aware of a communications team that was so effective and am certain that the instinct and guidance comes from the top. The President has amazing communications skills.

I do worry, however, about two things:

1. The longer the Presidential team is in office, the more isolated/insulated they will get. Will this influence the quality of their instincts?
2. They are very active communicators. To all appearances their approach is be open, transparent, and proactive. But, having seen what happens to companies when they communication TOO much, the question is: should the President hang back for awhile now?

There are certainly no rules about this. And it's clear that the President is trying to keep the electorate informed to allay concerns, build confidence (there's nothing so scary as no information), and educate the entire nation about the new realities we all face. And of course, he is politicking -- trying to get his measures through -- working to use the persuasiveness of the electorate to sway disagreeing politicians.

But at what point does the "President as Rock Star" work against the goal? By that I mean either: when do expectations get so spun up so high that there is no result other than disappointment; and/or when do listeners become innoculated to the message?

Is there a way to keep the lines of communications open without proactively appearing in the press all the time? In this day and age, there must be.

I hope the team is thinking about this. What are your thoughts?