Archive for January, 2011

Giving employees their due

I’ve been at this business of communications longer than I sometime care to consider. Longer if you count the first mono-syllabic utterance that escaped from my infant lips that was in no way tied to the gaseous expulsion resulting from lactose intolerance. (That would come later in life, but I digress.)

It's not that much of a stretch to talk to your employees

Consequently, what has struck me the most often is the chasm that exists between external and internal communications or the utter lack of integration between what gets communicated externally with what gets communicated internally.  When it comes to big news and even bigger campaigns, employees are often “brought up to speed,” then forced to sit on the sidelines as they hear the news after the fact.

While the irony of missing the boat with the company’s “greatest asset” has often seemed evident, it often also didn’t seem to matter. That chasm between external and internal comms was too great and most likely would never be crossed without some incredible stretching super powers like those of Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four…or real collaboration between the heads of employee communications and marketing.

The sad part is that the chasm appears to show no signs of closing except in the halls of the companies that sit somewhere in that nirvana of management otherwise known as enlightenment. The economy continues to give many organizations an excuse to do really stupid things.

What’s the problem here?  It’s not as if the situation has gone without a considerable amount of attention. Management gurus have been making hefty consulting fees trying to solve the problem for decades. MBA programs at prestigious universities have raised millions over the years to study it. And enough trees have been cut and ink run to publish a library of reading material large enough to fill the state of Delaware. The best that seems to have come out of this predicament is a somewhat heightened recognition that employees want to know what’s going on with their place of employment before their 14 year- old nephew sees it on YouTube and creates an anti-authoritarian themed mash-up.

Lest you think I jest, look at the intranet of any major company(although doing so would mean you’d have to either be an employee, a consultant or a university professor in a prestigious MBA program writing about it.) They’re often poorly organized, lacking in design and the search function was better on the internet in 1994! Yet that same company could very well have the latest in interactive gizmos and whatchacallits on its corporate internet site, along with Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and yammer. And the search works!

Is most of corporate America clueless when it comes to the potential power of integrating an internal employee communication program with that of an external branding campaign? Is it too hard to consider that employees want to be an advocate and will be if you give them the tools and rewards for doing so? It shouldn’t be that difficult. Even airlines still treat their frequent fliers better!

While in an era of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, the easy route for the less enlightened might be to not give this a thought, a quick look back at history proves that nothing lasts forever. The economy will start to drift up again, more companies will start hiring, and employees who’ve not been engaged will more than likely pick up and leave. There goes the corporate gene pool.

You have to ask yourself…is it really worth it to risk keeping your employees on the sideline with a lack of information and inclination, or do you want them out there more informed than your best customer and more enthusiastic than your best salesman? Give them their due and they’ll more than likely give you their all.

I know there are examples out there of companies who “get it” – Nike and FedEx come to mind. But I could probably stop counting the number of big corporations that “get it” in full measure by the time I reach the middle finger of my second hand.  And that’s not the finger you want to see when your employees leave to work for a company that “gets” the idea of integration.

-Aaron Heinrich, Communications Consultant

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Passion: What a biker can teach you

“The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one thing when a person died. Did he have passion?”

That’s a line from the John Cusack movie “Serendipity.” It’s likely not true, but it should be. It should be the only question we ask during life let alone after it.

In our crib-to-cubicle world we give status to those who pursue and achieve wealth, instead of passion, happiness and health. We tend to question those who would do foolish things for the sake of a moment of joy. It was 17 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City yesterday. Most people would think it stupid to leave the house to take their daughter to piano practice and utterly insane to go look at motorcycles you can’t even take for a ride.

Smiling ear to ear off U.S. 1 in California last year.

But these are bikers. Motorcycle riders. Whatever you want to call us, you can’t call us passionless. We’ll talk your ears off about our bikes and the adventures we had on them. (Remind me to tell you about the time a hawk landed on my leg when I was riding a rented Harley.) People who don’t ride scratch themselves bloody wondering why anyone would risk life and limb to do 65 miles per hour with five gallons of fuel between their knees and a battery two inches under their ass. I will never run in the house with a knife, but damn it will I ride.

I ride because there’s something Zen in finding calmness from the raw and visceral experience of going fast through the landscape that taking a walk or a ride on a mountain bike can’t give you. Nothing synchronizes the heart, mind and breath like the potential of being maimed. It’s that sense of danger that makes me focus and find peace in that tiny little space behind the handle bars. I can get to that calm and joy with the twist of the throttle – air space usually reserved for only the highest order monks and yoga master.

In that space, it doesn’t matter that I’m not rich and still spend most of my days in a cubicle.  Because, under my helmet you’d see I am happy.

Jose Mallabo

Carbon version of the Diavel is $20,000 of hotness.

Best in show from the New York IMS in descending order:

  1. Ducati Diavel. Nothing on the floor looked like it. But why would you stick this in the corner of the booth?
  2. Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle. American brute force.
  3. BMW R1200R. Hottest do-everything sport standard anywhere.
  4. Kawasaki Ninja 1000. Even the 50-year-old cruiser guys thought it was cool.
  5. Victory High Ball. Spokes, white walls and Victory style may make this the only true cruiser I would buy.

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If my George Foreman grill could order meat it would be a Kindle

If my George Foreman grill could order meat, it would be as important to kitchen appliances as the Kindle is to the book and e-commerce industries.  In June, this ZDNet blogger said he felt the Kindle’s days were numbered because of the iPad.  But just this month ZDNet posted a story that outlines wall street analyst projections that Amazon sold 4 million Kindles in the fourth quarter alone — and is projected to sell 10 million more in 2011.  I just got my Kindle this past Christmas and love it like the year 1987 and the 2002 World Series. (That’s a hyperbole.)

My two favorite Christmas presents

Since getting the Kindle, I’ve spent $475 on Amazon.com (about double what the typical Amazon customer spends per year) — only $20 for e-books. Obviously, the Kindle is my personal gateway drug back to Amazon.com. And it’s far easier to clean than my George Foreman grill.  See smashed left thumb.

Dear Jeff Bezos, You now have 121 122 million customers. I’m back.

Everyone wants to talk iPad vs. Kindle.  Not so fast. The Kindle is different than my iPad.  It replaces paper books while my iPad seems to replace part of my laptop, TV, MP3 player and portable DVD player that I never did buy. The beauty of the Kindle is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Like the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe that tries to be a BMW 6 Series and a Corvette at the same time.

The book is dead.  Long live the Kindle.

– Jose Mallabo

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Tolerance is good

In the movie Men of Honor, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character turns to Michael Rappaport’s stuttering character and asks “aren’t you leaving, too?” after every other cadet walks out of the barracks when told they’d have to bunk with a black man.  He responds, “I’m from Wisconsin.”

I recall talking about the civil rights movement in grad school and how involved students from the University of Wisconsin were, but this story of the 20 Most Tolerant States explains the response to Gooding’s question quite well.   I’ll never be in the majority.  And I’ve been on the sharp end of intolerance more than once. Tolerance is good. So for the rest of this NFL season. . . go Packers.

– Jose Mallabo

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