Insights

Communicating Layoffs

Organizational ChartWhile the pundits are claiming the economy is getter better, I keep getting questions from a variety of organizations about handling communications for additional rounds of layoffs. Frankly, this is something everyone in communications should be thinking about before it happens.

Going through layoffs is a traumatic event. It is a clear statement that there is a problem; that the organization must change. Making a reorganization work will require support from every level of the organization. If you don’t incorporate building that support into your planning and communications strategy, you’ll create even more problems.

I’ve experienced layoffs from every angle. I’ve been let go, one of the people left behind, the boss who made the decision to let people go and the consultant helping clients go through the process. None of these roles is enjoyable but the two worst were being the boss who had to cut staff and being one of the people left to pick up the pieces. Seriously, I found it harder to be in the organization after the reductions.

Answer the Question!

Young BoyGood public relations people know how to get their clients ready for interviews. We know our clients’ goals and objectives, and can help them project a favorable image if we prepare them well. But what happens when we don’t? Below is a recent case in point from ‘Face the Nation’ with Bob Schieffer.

I think Schieffer is one the smartest interviewers in the business and I enjoy watching him on ‘Face the Nation’ because he’s totally prepared. His questions are often tough, but almost always fair and based on facts. From a PR point of view, that’s the best you can ask for and you should be able to get any client ready to engage with him pretty easily.

So why do I frequently want to yell at his guests, “Answer the damn question!”

Last Sunday, Schieffer shared my frustration when he wrapped up the show with a commentary about political candidates who don’t answer direct questions. You can see the full segment here, “When politicians don’t answer questions,” but I especially loved this rant:

Listen & Learn Your Way to Communications Success

Message on Typewriter Paper = Open Your MindCorporate communications is challenging. New issues every day, shifting sentiments and changing media channels mean there is always something to learn. If you want to get ahead as a communicator, you need a curious and open mind.

You also need a curious and open mind if you want to stay on top, no matter how many years of experience you have. The value of your experience begins diminishing the minute you stop learning because you think you know everything.

Rich Becker (@RichBecker) at Copywrite, Ink., got me thinking about all this with his post about Making It Up: Orabrush Marketing. Basically, some smart young marketers realized they didn’t need to reach millions of people to succeed. Instead, they needed to reach a few people at Walmart who could put their product into the hands of millions for them. It was a huge success without wasted effort.

Three Ways to Get to Simple Communications

Red Autumn LeafGetting to simple is one of the hardest things communications professionals ever do. Gathering input and getting approvals can be a battle every step of the way. But each time you keep clutter out of a message, you’re a step closer to success.

Whether planning, writing or executing, communicators always need to be looking for ways to simplify. The people whose ideas stand out will be those who tell the clearest, most compelling and candid story. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or the situation you find yourself in, the simple message will be the one that people hear.

The founder of the global PR agency, Hill and Knowlton, John W. Hill, wrote, “…the chance of persuading public opinion when a cause is right, increases in direct ration to your success in explaining your facts in terms your audience can grasp.”

Giving Back. Getting More.

I just got home with my brain in high gear from a great week, even though much of it was spent in a small conference room (and in Washington, D.C. traffic just for good measure). I was invited to D.C. to be part of a management seminar for Air Force Public Affairs (AFPA) personnel who are newly appointed as functional leaders at the Wing level.

This was a sharp group of young people—some officers, some non-commissioned officers and a few civilians. For the most part, these folks are just moving into their first management job where they can no longer be ‘only’ a broadcaster, journalist, photographer or whatever else they were before. Now their jobs are about pulling the big picture together to tell the story and support their commanders’ priorities.

Tools Change. Not the Job…

“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
Henry David Thoreau

The debate about what PR is and should do in the brave new world of social networks makes no sense. I do not buy into the concept that there is a PR 2.0. The tools have changed. The job has not.

Too much of what I read is about how everything has changed. Really? Isn’t an organization’s progress toward its goals still one of the few reasons any resources should be committed to anything? It should be.