Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Once Upon a Time: Getting Your Message Across

I was in Borders scanning across a magazine rack when I saw a headline that grabbed me, and I started to reach for a copy – but suddenly a fire alarm went off.

What do I do? Exit, or pick up a copy of the fall issue of Harvard Business Review’s OnPoint publication with the bold headline: “How to Get Your Message Across”?

Actually, the alarm turned out to be just a security buzzer at the door. But I refuse to let that technicality get in the way. With a little fudging, I’m applying one of the core principles that emerge from the 20 or so meaty articles about effective communications in the business world.

Rather than try to summarize all of OnPoint’s insights, let me single out three “Communications 101” rules that came through the strongest, and that are always worth a reminder.

1. “Tell them one thing, and one thing only.” Audiences remember only one thing, so make sure it’s the one thing you want them to remember. Then essentially eliminate everything else.

2. Beware of PowerPoint. Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, points out that PowerPoint can be an obstacle to clear thinking rather than a help. “Bullet points without ‘a subject, a verb, and an object’ do not convey ‘complete thoughts'," an article quotes him as saying. “PowerPoint itself is not the problem; executives who use it as a shorthand for thinking are. Too many managers use it to sketch out thoughts rather than flesh them out.”

3. Most of all, tell a story. Facts and figures alone aren’t persuasive, they aren’t memorable and they don’t hold an audience’s attention. We have all seen a bored audience, fidgeting with their BlackBerrys, snap to attention when the droning speaker finally says, “That reminds me of a story . . .” And that’s why I began this piece the way I did.

As for the first rule: The one thing I’m telling you here is, Pick up a copy of the fall issue of OnPoint. And refresh yourself on some of the basics of effective communication, which we’re all capable of forgetting.

- Potomac Communications Group

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Serious about Solar

“People see you as hippies on a mountaintop.”

That’s how Democratic political pundit James Carville described the solar power industry during last week’s Solar Power International 2010 show in Los Angeles. The event is the world’s largest solar power trade show and attracted more than 27,000 people to discuss the explosive growth of solar power in recent years and make plans for the industry’s future.

PCG's client, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), is one of the two main sponsors of the show each year, along with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

While the future of the solar power industry may be challenged by historical perceptions that suggest it is not a feasible idea to meet the nation’s growing energy needs, Mr. Carville’s perception doesn’t reflect the reality on display last week.

When an industry outgrows the state of California (as solar has – the show is moving to Dallas next year because no convention center in California will be large enough for next year’s SPI), it’s past time to take it seriously. The fact is, solar has come down from the mountaintop, rolled up its sleeves and now looks better suited to the boardroom or shop floor than the Ultimate Frisbee field.

PCG is proud to be on SEPA’s team as we continue to change the conversation from “hippies on a mountaintop” to “serious engine for economic growth.”

- Potomac Communications Group

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

With Facebook, Who Needs an Intranet?

Company intranets often are underused by employees and frequently require a ton of time to keep current. The result is more pain for already overworked corporate communicators. It seems at times that intranets continue to exist because they’ve always existed.

So, what is the purpose of your intranet? 

Ideally, your intranet is a place where employees can share information. It is a portal for essential programs and often serves as a place where workers can catch up on the latest news at the corporation. Anecdotal evidence tell us that employees will use the portal to launch programs for human resources, accounting and other similar programs. But it seems that other functions are seen as less than useful.

In a Web 2.0 world, we need to take a new approach. With more than 600 million Facebook users worldwide, it’s a given that many of your employees are “hanging out” on this social media monster. You would probably be surprised to find that the truck drivers, mill workers and those who handle other field jobs at your company often stop by Facebook in the evening. These same people rarely if ever stop by your intranet.

The moral of this story? Meet them online where they already live.

By creating a closed Facebook group, you can invite employees to join a company-sponsored community that does not require them to friend each other, but does allow them to interact. And it comes pre-loaded with all the functionality your intranet would have, if only you could find room in your budget. It shares video, audio and pictures, as well as quick news. And it can be customized to take on a company identity. Best of all, in a closed group, what is said in the group stays in the group, allowing for meaningful interaction.

Facebook. It’s your next intranet.