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Review: MyPRStack 2.0

20 Oct

When I was asked if I’d like to write a review of the second edition of MyPRStack – an open source publication aimed at simplifying and explaining the tools and practices that form the basis of modern PR and Marcomms workflows, all lovingly curated by Stephen Waddington (@Wadds) Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum PR – I honestly did not know where to start. The reason for this is simple: its breadth and depth are as vast as its aspirations and ethos are admirable.

bothbooks

Split over 30 chapters and 120 pages, MyPRStack will introduce the reader to a huge range of digital tools – predominantly tools that practitioners can use totally free of charge (though some have more advanced enterprise versions that do carry costs) – with each tool explained by some of the best and brightest in the PR and Marcomms industry right now.

While on the subject of cost, you can download a digital copy of MyPRStack edition 2 right now and totally for free on the following link (It is also available in hard copy if, like me, you enjoy the owning of books). This is one of the things I most admire about MyPRStack, at its heart beats the aspiration to help make the industry better and more effective because in doing so we become more credible.

Learn from Rich Leigh (@RichLeighPR) on how you can Open Site Explorer to influence media and Blogger engagement; Agharad Welsh (@Welsh_PR) on using Talkwater to Steer through a crisis; Stella Bayles (@stellabayles) on using google trends to prove audience action; Tim Lloyd (Timolloyd) on getting real people to test your digital content…I could go on and this is one of MyPRStacks biggest strengths each and every chapter is a gold mine of practical information. MyPRStack is your guide to the free tools with practical advice that can make you better at how you do the day-to-day tasks involved in delivering brilliant campaigns, managing crises and measuring the effectiveness of what you do. There is not a single publication, that I am aware of, that comes even half-way close to delivering on that.

In the current climate of shrinking budgets for communication teams, especially for those working in-house, it’s unlikely that your manager is going to be able (or willing) to send you on 30 training courses to learn about these tools. MyPRStack exists so you, the practitioner, can take charge of your professional development and learn in a very accessible way from those who have trodden the path before you.

There are a number of tools explained that I was not aware of and/or tools I was aware of being used in ways I had simply not thought of. I’m still processing a lot of the learning from the second edition of MyPRStack, but I’m fairly confident in saying that I will improve as a practitioner from the things I am taking in.

As a practitioner, Wadds is fairly unique in straddling the, often huge, divide between the academic study of the communication disciplines and the practical delivery of PR and Marketing and his curatorship of MyPRStack reflects that. Whether you are a PR student, an academic or practitioner (and I agree with Wadds that the gulf should not be so vast as it is); whether you work in-house or in an agency; whether you work for a large organisation or are a solo-practitioner there will be something within MyPRStack that is for you. Personally I think it will be a long time before MyPRStack will stop feeling relevant and useful to our industry at large, but don’t just take my word for it, download your free copy today.

Also if you are interested in finding out more about how Wadds is trying to bridge the gap between PR academics and practitioners, check out his community of practice of Facebook.

Change Communication: Rumour Watch

21 Nov

Following on from my post about Change (My favourite word beginning with C) I’ve been giving some though to the common issues that arise during a Change process and some potential tools that could be used to overcome them. Today I’m thinking about Rumours.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Rumour’ as thus:

Rumour (Noun): Information, often a mixture of truth and untruth, passed around verbally.

My experience is The Organisation is afraid of rumours, they see them as an issue that should be eradicated and come up with a number of solutions to this end that, invariably, will fail. It strikes me you’re as likely to succeed stamping out rumours with reactionary activity as you are to prevent the flow of glacial ice by giving it a stern talking-t0. I think, all-too-often The Organisation looks at rumours in the wrong way.

For me rumours are a good indication of two things about any organisation. Firstly, on the positive side, I always see rumours as a good indication of organisational health, the desire to pass on a piece of information points to an informal information sharing network, which only tend to spring up when you have a workforce who care about the work they do. Rather than worrying that you have rumours in your organisation, start to worry you don’t and no one cares enough to informally pass on information.

The more negative side of rumour is that they often become most prevalent at a time when staff do not feel like they are getting enough information about things that are taking place. During a change process, information is often the most valuable currency; if you’re going through change and suddenly see an increase in the number of rumours circulating throughout the organisation, I would be be inclined to see this as a very clear message from staff: We do not have the information we need around this process. There is no doubt, in this interpretation, that rumours can be damaging to the Change process and, in extreme cases, increase the time it takes staff to engage, but how can you combat the rumours?

One thought I had for helping The Organisation to address rumours during the change process is to run a organisation wide Rumour Watch scheme. Just to say I’ve searched to see if there are any accounts of company’s using anything similar and have not managed to find any, but that doesn’t mean there are not. Likewise, if you like the sound of this idea by all means take it and make it your own; I’m not precious, if it’s used somewhere and  proven to be effective then I will be happy!

The Idea

  • Using existing channels, encourage staff to send in the rumours that they have hard circulating around change in the organisation. It would need to be made clear that no areas should be seen as taboo and that no questions will go unanswered, while reassuring that those who wish it will allowed to remain anonymous.
  • It might be difficult to encourage people to be honest about the rumours they have heard to begin with, so perhaps start by addressing rumours that have already come to the attention of managers.
  • Once you have rumours coming in, it’s time to start answering them. Pick somewhere well used, such as intranet or electronic notice board, and publish the rumours and explanations of the reality on a weekly basis, drawing staff attention to this through normal internal communication channels.

This approach will only work if you are prepared to be completely honest with your workforce. Sometimes rumours will be raised that are entirely accurate but that you were not expecting your staff be aware of yet, deal with it! If they do know about something you thought was secret, then there is little use continuing to pretend that they don’t or that no one else will find out, all the effort you make trying to prevent it will be futile, the evil of the world cannot be forced back into Pandora’s Box!

Love to hear if people have any thoughts on this: Does it seem like an good solution to the ‘problem’ of rumours within organisations? Do you know of similar schemes being operated by organisations during Change? Do you have any organisation rumour horror stories? I’d be interested to hear from you, why not post me a comment below.

Please note: I make frequent references to ‘The Organisation’, this is used as a generic term, it does not immediately (or logically) follow that I am necessarily referring to the organisation that I work for or any other particular organisation.

My favourite word beginning with C

16 Nov

As a writer I love words and language. The English Language, alas the only one I speak, is a beautiful construct, it evolves as we do, increasing it’s lexicon as we find new and interesting ways to describe the world around us. ‘Retweet, Manflu and infograph were all added to official usage this year whilst aerodrome and charabanc all had time called on their existence having fallen out of popular usage. Despite this loss and gain of words, some have remained constant and it’s one such word I dedicate this post to.

The word that I want to talk about is one of my favourite words and concepts. This word was the heart and soul of Charles Darwin’s most celebrated works; in 2008, this word was exactly what the American people wanted to hear and became the catalyst for them doing something that they had not done before; and earlier this year, this word rang out throughout the Arab World and announced their spring of popular discontent and uprisings. The word is, of course, CHANGE.

I was raised to embrace change and over the years I have grown to love it. In my humble opinion there are few greater thrills in life than affecting positive change on whatever scale, micro or macro, it’s a truly amazing thing to be involved in. This said, I have come to realise these sentiments are not shared by everyone.

For many people, change of any type is something to be feared and to be resisted. For these people, things are better when they stay exactly the same and I have noticed this is especially true of Organisational Change, which is the focus of this post. Seth Godin likens change within some organisations to a unicorn in a balloon factory. The people working in the balloon factory know how to make balloons well, just so long as nothing changes, but a unicorn is unknown and many don’t know how to react and they find themselves paralysed with fear. Many of us work in balloon factories, but all of us are living in a world with an ever increasing number of unicorns.

If you’re reading this, whether you work for a Local Authority, like me, or somewhere in the private sector, the chances are that you will have experienced organisational change recently. The global economic slump and faltering recovery has lead (and is leading) to change on an unprecedented scale, the models that we relied on and that worked yesterday no longer work today; the unicorns are running amok.

I find it interesting how organisations deal with change and the way that change is communicated. Time-and-again I hear the same story: a few months into a big change process, where no particular attention has been paid to communication, issues begin popping up all over the place. You begin to hear managers complain that staff are not getting behind the change, malicious rumours are flying around and damaging things begin to leak out to the press, which has the knock-on effects of increasing pressure on everyone and lowers moral dramatically. I was inspired to write about this as there seems to be a worrying trend when these issues start arising.

Picture the scene: 2 months into a change process, no extra thought has been given to internal communication above the norm and a group of managers are meeting to discuss the problems. Manager one reveals that there has been another leak, highly damaging and untraceable; manager two admits savings targets are unlikely to be met as staff are not engaging with change and it goes on…round the table, everyone has issues. Eventually someone will chip in, normally with the smug satisfaction of someone who has created lasting world peace and solved the energy crisis whilst being fellated by a mermaid, they will say: ‘ah but change is a process they are just coming to terms with it…’

They normally go on to talk about the natural cycle of emotions to change, maybe draw a nice curve with the following 5 elements:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and, finally, Acceptance. Normally this is used to justify no special attention being paid to internal communication, ‘hey, change is a curve right? They’ll get there in the end, let’s just leave them to it!’ Five stages, sounds cool right?

Some of you reading this may recognise the 5 stages from somewhere else, if you’ve been through the process of grieving for a loved-one you’ll know them as the ‘5 Stages of Grief’ or the Kübler-Ross Model of grief. This for me is the first problem, if you’re comparing your change process to the death of a loved-one then there is something massively awry with your approach to change.  Grief is something that happens to people against their will; no one chooses for a loved one to die, no one plans to get divorced or to get raped and here’s the big difference with change. In my opinion, change is something you should do WITH staff, not something that you do TO them.

In my opinion, change communication is simple and best summed up by this: communicate often, keep on message, reinforce the need for and the positive outcomes of change and provide an outlet for staff to ask questions. Simple and no one has to die.

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