Friday, May 23, 2014

Work Done.

Part of the power equation is work done. Today my work is done. I’ve reached the final day of my Plank Center Fellowship Program here at FPL and it is most certainly bittersweet. I’m excited to fly home to see my family in Ohio, yet sad to leave this experience that has allowed me to grow beyond the walls of academia.

I have mountains of notes from the experience. As promised, I’ll provide some snapshots of what I gathered about the corporate culture here at FPL.

  • You all carry your phone and use it as your umbilical cord. Never to be shut down from what is happening in the world around you, both internally and externally.  No one wears a watch because it’s not needed—You have your phone. 
  • The amount of people who eat at their desk during lunch is incredible.  The food in the cafeteria is great, don’t get me wrong, but no one leaves the building for lunch. I suspect you secretly recharge at your desk? You do have such a beautiful setting outside, you should really try to enjoy it once in a while.
  • Meetings, meetings, and a meeting before a meeting. The time involved is quite overwhelming – I suspect it cuts into the work-life balance. I have the same struggles in academia, but I do have summer months, holidays, and breaks off to recover. I hope you take the opportunities to do the same.  
  • Collaboration is such a key component in your corporate culture.  It was hard to distinguish the organizational hierarchy without looking at chart first.  I find that speaks volumes to the culture here at FPL.  It also leads me to the last point.
  • At the end of the day, it is clear that you all do this because you love and believe in FPL. You work together well to reach the end-goals, week, season, and in many cases year after year. The positive vibe that permeates from this is contagious!

As I walk out the door today I want to say thank you to those who opened up and patiently and kindly shared your FPL life. Never having worked in the corporate world, I was genuinely excited to learn first-hand about what you do and how that work translates back to what I am teaching the next generation of students who will walk through your doors ready to take the challenge.

Work done. Energy Transferred/ Two weeks  =  A Powerful Experience

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Power to the People

Yesterday’s blog post spoke about what I wanted to gain from the opportunity to be a faculty fellow. But as I mentioned, it is a give and take relationship.  Here is my paragraph from my application regarding what I could share.

            How I can add to the sponsoring company
One area of expertise, I could provide to practitioners is in social media. As you can gather from my enclosed CV, I have done numerous research projects involving social media and have attended and presented at conferences, both large and small, on this emerging topic. Additionally I recently implemented a social media minor here at ONU and teach the three main courses regarding the subject including: Social Media Principles, Social Media Campaigns and Digital Branding.

I have also developed an expertise in writing. I have a love-hate relationship with my AP manual. My students also affectionately know me as the red pen queen. This skill set has served me well in teaching our public relations writing courses.  I enjoy editing and would delight in helping write or edit any pieces for the sponsoring organization.

In return for all the things FPL has done for me to help in my continued learning, I agreed to present a workshop on the mechanics of social media to share some of my expertise. I was supplying power through shared knowledge!

During meetings throughout the fellowship I would ask those who I met what they wanted to learn from the workshop. What was something that he or she wanted me to include in the presentation?

The answers ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some answered very specific such as, how to measure ROI on a particular video.  Others stayed very general asking for best practices to keep corporate jargon out of all writing pieces.

I compiled a list and began to create a Prezi presentation. I decided to structure my workshop by lecturing first. After 40 minutes of listening to me, attendees were broken into groups and given a press release. Each group was then asked to collaborate and develop a mini-promotion strategy (if needed) to present to all attendees.   

I was pleasantly surprised how engaged attendees were in the group activity.  Scheduled to be completed at a certain time, most stayed and wanted to participate in the lively discussion that took place after the allotted time.

I’ve included screen shots of the infograph below. My hope is that the next time attendees from the workshop begin to put together their campaign plan they will remember the lessons from the workshop. Implementing just one lesson learned will make their social media tactics even more powerful!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Power Trip That Quickly Was Grounded

I have to laugh as I reflect back on several of my individual meetings with people throughout FPL. Most started with a very inquisitive, “Why are you here?” question. With such a high-level of security, I’m certain most rightfully wanted to know exactly what I was going to do with the information gathered.

For the Plank Center application process we are asked what one area of expertise do we have to share. Mine was social media. Additionally, applicants are asked to explain what one area of expertise he or she would find value in learning more about. Here was my answer:

I would like to develop an understanding and gain experience in media relations. I have had little professional contact with the media, outside of doing a few on-camera and print interviews. This is important, because I supervise the internships of all our PR majors. In this capacity I do on-site visits with every student and their supervisors.  Through this, I have learned how much interaction and experience students are gaining in media relations. This has been impressive to me, in part because it is very different than what I can teach out of a textbook.

I believe media relations is learned best by doing. I know my teaching would benefit from practical experience in this area. By having direct exposure to public relations practitioners interacting with the media on a daily basis, I would have a much stronger grasp and insight into this area of public relations.

Fast forward to today. At 9 a.m. I met with several key media relations team-members in the pressroom, which is full of flat screens for imaging, proper company signage and a stage built for press conferences. The room is amazing and was just a little intimidating!

Over the next several months, the team members present in the room today with me will meet to practice being on camera. After today’s half hour presentation of best practices for speaking on camera, I found myself thinking this is no-brainer stuff, how hard could it be?

So, like all newbies, they put me in the hot seat so see how I’d do. Confident in my ability to be drilled with questions, I found myself sitting down and nervously giggling. Yet I felt powerful, equipped with all the “no-brainer” do’s and don’ts of media training.

As he was hooking me up to a mic, the veteran reporter started drilling. I nailed question number one. Stepped up to the second question, I stumbled a bit but eventually got out the right response. Question three and four I found myself still thinking about question two and how I should have addressed the issue, and before I knew it, the interview was over and I was ushered back to my seat. 

Next my interview was played back on the big screen for all to critique. Wow.  Should I say WOW again so you get a full understanding of how I felt? My non-verbal communication was what I call an “epic fail.”  I bit my lip, rolled my eyes, and nervously fiddled with the lapel mic.  Ugh. This is the type of blooper reel I play in class to illustrate to students why you have to practice and work with communicators who will represent your company on-camera.  Now, I’m the blooper!

So my key takeaways from my on-camera media training?
  1. Practice may not make perfect, but sure beats doing it on the fly
  2. You are ultimately not talking to just the reporter, you are speaking to the entire viewing audience
  3. Silence is deadly.  Don’t feel the need to fill it with mindless babble
  4. Start and end with your most important message, regardless of how you are asked
  5. Don’t get caught up in speculating.  It can come back to bite you
  6. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication – relax…or at least pretend!
  7. Take criticism from professionals seriously – forget your ego

Thinking back to some of the most powerful on-camera interviews I’ve ever seen, I now know how much training and prep was put into crafting the perfect message and how skillful those people doing the interviews truly are. I am grateful for the experience and appreciate the candid  (yet, kind) feedback from the FPL media pros.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Research EmPOWERs

Today I spent time with the research guru of the communication and marketing team here at FPL. I have to admit, I could have talked to him WAY longer than the 30 minutes that was allotted.

We started off speaking to brand strategy and the conversation led to research and how vital the skill is in communication. I couldn’t help but inform him I teach our communication research class at Ohio Northern University and warn him of how I wanted to pick his brain about concepts we teach from our university textbooks. 

I began asking questions about the importance of research. Answers spoke to how the customer can play a critical part in gathering and validating research. Essentially it empowers the decision making process.

Decisions here at FPL are made based on foundational empowering research.  After digging to find key themes, FPL employs a validation process to build upon those key themes…an evaluation process if you will. I know my students grow weary of hearing me address the importance of pre- and post-test as a form of benchmarking, yet today the research guru spoke to the importance of this research and how FPL implements these tests regularly. (Oh good, I’m not losing all touch on reality!)

Furthermore we talked about the value of both qualitative and quantitative research. In academia there are camps on both sides, and few that try to make peace between the two. Here at FPL they find value in both—and rightfully so.  For example, although the research team may be doing a focus group with very ridged and structured guides to lead the discussion for quantitative purposes, sometimes the most fruitful information is what’s not said or how it is said (qualitative).

Like every solid research plan, FPL’s research is constantly refined. Conducting solid research allows FPL to pick up on things it might otherwise miss.  Because there is such a diverse customer base, research is essential to find what messages and ideas are reaching and resonating with core constituents. Without this insightful research, communication plans are reverting back to the outdated “spaghetti and see what sticks” model.  Not a good plan when you are making decisions that cost both time and money. 

In public relations, we are taught to conduct campaigns using the RACE model. R = research. This isn’t a new concept, but it is refreshing to see a corporate entity utilizing resources to engage with this all-important task. Empowering those who make decisions with the data to support foundational campaign building. Kudos to FPL for realizing and tapping into this critical, and oftentimes overlooked, step in preparing a solid communication campaign.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Electric!

“A March 2014 Digital Life in 2025 report issued by Pew Internet Project in association with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center looked at the Internet’s future. Some 1,867 experts and stakeholders responded to an open-ended question about the future of the Internet by 2025. They said it would become so deeply part of the environment that it would become “like electricity”—less visible even as it becomes more important in people’s daily lives.” 

Today I’m taking the word power more in the utility sense of the word. If the Internet is going to become “like electricity” then it is certainly beneficial that FPL has the proper digital and social media teams in place.

Working this past week with the social team here at FPL, it has become evident that FPL takes social just as important as any other tool in the communications toolbox. The quote above to reinforces the need for all companies to not only have a social team in addition to their traditional teams, but also to provide the resources for the social team to effectively do their job. 

The Internet is so important and experts say it will continue to be a driving force in how companies conduct business. With that being said, social is obviously a major part of what the future of the Internet looks like.

I applaud FPL in its efforts in building its digital and social team. Today I sat in on a social media audit. Yep, that alone should speak volumes to how the Internet has changed the game. Now those who are being audited are held accountable to the social channels each manages on behalf of the company and asked to provide evidence of how it fits into the higher-level communications strategy by showing ROI, fostered relationships, unique users, etc.

I’ve also received a fresh-off-the-press copy of a social media market study that speaks to how with recent technological advances, posts and comments from a single customer can now reach and influence the opinions of an exponentially large universe. 

Of course as a public relations professor, I can’t help but smile when those on the social team are using RESEARCH to ground their assumptions.  In an era of corporate quickness to reach the bottom line, it’s refreshing to see FPL take the time to do the research in order to guide its focus.

In addition, I’ve also sat in on meetings planning for crisis on social while at this fellowship. FPL is ahead of the eight ball here. Recent research by eMarketer claims that many are still missing a strategy for negative social posts. As the Internet continues to become more important in people’s daily lives, it’s probable social will be quick to follow. FPL is part of the 45% of companies that indicate they have an effective plan in place.

As I evaluate my daily life, I see how integral the Internet has become. Similar to electricity, the Internet is not something I spend time in thinking about—that is until it’s not available. Then I desperately look for ways to get it integrated back into my daily routine as quickly as possible!