Position your expertise at the right point in the news cycle. That’s what I did when I got a call to comment on the Yahoo telecommuting controversy.
They call it breaking news for a reason: it crashes like a wave into the news cycle. A corporate executive decides to cancel a much-coveted employee benefit– telecommuting — the memo leaks and all of a sudden Marissa Mayer of Yahoo finds herself at the eye of a storm of commentary about work-life balance.
Her misstep was news precisely because it was part of a much bigger, ongoing conversation about how and when we work. When you hope to be a source for a news story because you are an expert on the topic, it’s important to distinguish between the breaking news and the news trend.
The breaking news is an opportunity for a very short, pointed observation or judgement about the situation, using the available facts. Initially, the story about Yahoo’s cancellation of telecommuting pivoted around the apparent hypocrisy of multi-millionaire Mayer, who had a nursery built next to her own office to accommodate her own baby, denying less affluent parents the right to be close to their own babies.
As the story evolved, it opened up opportunities for comment about the perennial work-life dilemmas facing working parents. I was asked to contribute comments to a blog geared for thrifty moms about how working parents can hold onto a telecommuting arrangement and not get Yahoo’d. Because I served up tips that readers could use any time, my comments are part of the ongoing conversation, and won’t be intrinsically linked to the breaking news.
Women account for 51% of employees at public accounting firms but only 19% of partners.
That’s just sad.
And that’s why the Accounting MOVE Project exists: to quantify the programs and cultures that actually do retain and advance women. When women stay, so do clients. That makes firms grow and makes partners happy. It even means that some partners can retire. And that makes them very happy indeed.
When women can achieve the career goals they had envisioned when they entered accounting, their investment in themselves pays off.
But CPA firms are, as you might suspect, slow to change. The 2013 Accounting MOVE Project report will be published in summary form first in Public Accounting Report in early May, then in full here at this very website. Meanwhile, here’s an advance peek at some of the results.
What do women want? Change! What kind of change? This kind of change:
- Neutralize work-life conflicts.
- Amplify the authority and efficacy of women role models.
- Build out programs that equip women with business development skills.
- Evolve firm culture to remove subtle barriers.
- Communicate opportunities and career paths more consistently and clearly.
For more, read the whole press release, Women Accountants Tell Profession Leadership .
Compelling narrative motivates generous response — maybe even more generous than you’d expect. Organizations – especially nonprofits — typically describe their programs instead of the difference they make. But the messaging that really makes a difference shows how real people benefit from those programs.
In this New York Times magazine profile, Wharton professor Adam Grant comes across as a compulsively generous guy who has fueled his professional advancement with a mixture of altruism and wisdom.
The brilliance of his ongoing psychological research goes beyond calibrating generosity to help others while stoking your own sense of satisfaction and self-worth. Grant’s research also exposes what truly motivates people at work: a mission that actually makes a measurable difference.
When people see that their work genuinely improves someone else’s life or situation, they are deeply moved to strive for similar results. They are both more productive and more satisfied with their work. Because their work means something.
We got at this dynamic in the 2012 Accounting MOVE Project, which showed how community service advances women’s careers in accounting. Women who merged volunteering aligned with strongly held personal values, with professional development, not only created their own fast tracks for advancement. They also reinforced the core meaning of their work, making for a fulfilling balance.
When you want to deeply motivate your audience — from potential donors to partners, even to clients — let narratives and case studies do the persuading.
Women are outnumbered in news stories, especially when the topics are business, technology, politics and sports. From NPR to journalism associations, this problem is periodically documented – and lamented – in the U.S.
Now British women are having a consciousness-raising moment. The British Broadcasting Corporation is so frustrated with the chronic under-representation of female voices in its stories that it is sponsoring workshops to cultivate female sources.
Companies, nonprofits and universities should take a clue from the BBC’s effort and inventory their subject matter experts to detect women who are well positioned for spokesperson responsibilities. Women are a secret weapon for winning media mentions. Editors and news directors want stories to have gender (and ethnically) diverse voices representing many points of view.
That translates to a clear advantage for female sources. Women who have subject matter authority and are confident and prepared to navigate on-the-record interviews have a better chance of being interviewed, and a better chance of being included in a story. Communication leaders can accelerate their messaging goals simply by adopting the BBC’s approach and grow their own female talent.
Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?
Not the prettiest metaphor, but there’s a reason why it endures: business owners make their living selling goods and services. Why give away valuable professional insights through media interviews, especially if you are a consultant?
Because people want to taste the milk before they buy it, that’s why.
I recently gave away the ‘secret sauce’ to navigating the transition from staff to entrepreneurship that I present in a fee-based workshop on a regular basis at Chicago’s Women’s Business Development Center. And, of course, this advice is in my book, The Career Lattice. So why dish it to Minda Zetlin, a blogger for Inc. magazine’s website?
Because a little sip makes people thirsty for more. Just a couple of hours after the post went live, it was trending on the Inc.com home page as a ‘most shared.’ That’s how things go viral. In the short term, this sharing draws people back to my website,
No amount of media training will overcome the lack of a message. You know right away when someone is talking just to hear their own voice. You don’t want to be that person.
The Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance had that problem.
Wilson-Taylor had the solution. We’d go on, but we already did, in this article just published in Signature magazine — MOVE in Signature March ’13 – the publication for association communication executives, put out by their own association, Association Media & Publishing.
The notion of the career ladder is so embedded in American workplace culture that it’s..well…the yardstick for every other model of professional advancement.
I’d know: as the author of The Career Lattice, it seems that every interview starts with a variation on this question: “We all know about career ladders. What is a career lattice?” (Short answer: taking strategic lateral moves to position yourself for an upward move.) In December, this is how I opened an hour-long radio interview with career coach Bonnie Marcus.
Of course, the title of my book resonates with the public specifically because it almost sounds like ‘ladder’…but isn’t. “Ladder” and ‘lattice’ look similar on the page, conjure up similar images, and sound similar. Riding the coattails of the ladder makes it easier for me to expand the message and brand of the lattice.
Keep an eye – and ear – out for similar metaphors for your key messages. What terms or images are embedded in the culture of your industry’s culture? Hijack one of those metaphors by tweaking it just enough to catch attention and surprise your audience with an image that starts familiar and ends fresh.
Well, not in public, anyway.
But the very nature of crisis communication is that you’re reacting to an unplanned event. By definition, you can’t plan for the actual crisis. But you can have at the ready a response plan.
As you frame your crisis communication plan, consider the whole spectrum of stakeholders with whom you must communicate. That’s what I advise in this recent story in The Network Journal: business partners, suppliers, vendors and their influencers are just as important as the public, employees and customers.
Media training needs to pivot around messaging techniques that enable you to rise to any occasion — crisis or not. You can’t memorize ‘talking points’ in advance. But you can create a grid of key audiences so you can quickly develop messages — using the proven Wilson-Taylor approach, of course — appropriate for each.
You’re not the only one on information overload. As wave after wave of information washes up in our inboxes, desks and brains, information overload is becoming a top problem for communicators.
In fact, according to a new report from the Plank Center for Leadership, a think tank for public relations types, “speed and volume of information flow” was cited by 23.1% of the survey’s array of international respondants, making it their number one concern.
What they’re doing about it indicates unfolding spending priorities. In descending order, the top five tactics for dealing with information overload are:
- Adding new skills and work processes
- Adopting new technology to collect and disseminate information
- Same staff, more work
- Bringing in consultants
The most powerful driver of new strategies was social media and digital communication. Conspicuously absent: overarching strategies that integrate all strategic communication channels. While the leaders who completed the survey reported that they are boosting training and skills for staff, they appear to overlook the one thing that will always support growth: creating work structures that are designed to always integrate change and adaptation, instead of constantly resetting to accomodate the latest, greatest communication innovation.
Want to build influence?
Less talk. More listen.
It’s counterintuitive, but it works, according to research cited in the November 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind. Referencing research accomplished at Columbia University, professional colleagues credit you with more authority and insight when you listen more than you speak.
Balance is the key: thoughtful responses based on careful listening reflect genuine engagement. The key takeaway: win trust by paying attention to what others are saying. Then, speak up, not out.