MOVE Methodology Adopted Globally

By Joanne Cleaver

Do you love women?

Who doesn’t?

Every company loves women. Everyone’s all about women: recruiting them, retaining them, promoting them, helping them start companies, win investments, sponsoring them and helping them to learn and gain confidence.

Women are one of the biggest ongoing business news stories of the year.

And they continue being a story because, for all the confetti and marching bands, women still comprise a sliver of top leaders in nearly every industry.

Anything that translates the business case for advancing women to business results shows a new way forward. That’s why the certification for gender equality offered by EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) has been grabbing attention in the last few weeks. It’s a ‘seal of approval’ that verifies that an employer actually advances women into leadership. EDGE sounds new — but it isn’t.

The EDGE methodology is great. I’d know: I developed a virtually identical methodology in 1998 for Working Woman magazine.

Working Woman imploded in 2001, but the methodology lives on in the MOVE Project, an annual research effort that measures the proportion of women in various industries, such as public accounting. My firm, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc., designed and manages various MOVE Projects. Currently, MOVE and EDGE vary slightly in the execution of the methodology, but remain largely aligned in purpose and process.

Here’s the secret behind the methodology used by both MOVE and the EDGE Certification: It’s not about how many women you have.

It’s what you do with them.

If 31% of your employees are women, as Facebook recently reported, and 23% of your senior employees are women, you are not making the most of the female talent you already have. Women under-index in the top ranks.

The beauty of this methodology is that it equalizes across industry, professional category and geography.

This eliminates the apples-to-orange-to-pears comparisons that result in recommendations so generic that they are meaningless. Yes, mentors, sponsors and coaches can make a huge difference. But how and when that difference translates from good intentions to good results varies by industry, by workplace culture and by the size and growth stage of each employer.

EDGE is just getting going, but we have over a decade of MOVE results that prove that this methodology works.

For example, women comprise 19% of the management committee members for the 50 CPA firms that participated in the Accounting MOVE Project this year. Women comprised 23% of the management committee members for the 10 largest CPA firms that have participated in MOVE for each of the past four years. As well, those ten firms have consistently improved how they retain and advance women in their partner pipeline. Every year, they do a little better.

MOVE gives them context for continually reinvesting in the women they need to fuel firm growth. When firms start to have measurable increases in women at top levels, they have evidence that they are living their values. That’s something to talk about. Increasingly, MOVE firms, such as Seattle CPA firm Moss Adams, publicly release their diversity efforts and results. Job candidates, clients, and anyone else who cares can see how women fare at these firms.

That’s why the approach shared by MOVE and EDGE is emerging as the standard for catalyzing genuine advances for women. It’s all about transparency and accountability. Don’t just say you love women. Prove it.

Can’t Find Female Sources? Grow Your Own.

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.


Keeping Up Is Hard To Do

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
  • Hiring

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.


Haystack, Meet Needle

All the news that’s fit to keep.

That’s the expanded mission of the Internet Archive. Having aggregated volumes of print news, the Archive now offers access to the video of national news shows. “TV News Search & Borrow” enables users to search for video based on the terms used in closed caption transcripts.

This makes it much easier to find relevant coverage if you are scheduled to be interviewed for broadcast. You’ll want to view prior shows to see:

  • the interviewing style of the host
  • what points were made — and best received — by guest experts
  • the length of the segment

Plan accordingly!

New Old Rules for the Interview Road

Is it ok to request or require that a pre-publication review of a story before conducting a media interview?

It used to be that only amateurs asked: the answer from any credible news outlet would be ‘no.’ Newspapers, magazines and broadcast news journalists did not, as a matter of policy, allow sources to review quotes or stories for approval. (Though it has been standard for reporters to read back direct quotes or clarify technical or contradictory information.)

Then journalists started to trade away their power for access to well-placed sources, as reported today in the New York Times. The rules got fuzzy. Understandably, sources took as much leeway as reporters would allow. It was no longer the mark of an unsophisticated source to ask for quote approval.

Now, the old rules are back in place: don’t ask, because they won’t tell. To quote the Times’ memo:  “So starting now, we want to draw a clear line on this. Citing Times policy, reporters should say no if a source demands, as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit.”

The Times’ stance gives other publications permission and backbone to firm up their own no-review policies. Always clarify the “rules of the road” before you start an interview…even if you have been interviewed in the past by that journalist.

Women Nearly Absent in Election Coverage

If you’re thinking that election coverage is testosterone-driven, you’d be right.

Men are quoted much more than men, across all types of news outlets, topics, and issues, according to election coverage tracker 4th Estate. Even on abortion  — a topic that you’d think women would have the final word and the moral high ground — 81% of the quoted sources are men.

Men dominate the source lists for other women’s issues, too:

  • Birth control -75%
  • Planned Parenthood – 67%
  • Women’s rights –  52%

Of the major newspapers, USA Today exhibits the strongest gender balance, with women comprising 19% of its courses. The Washington Post brings up the rear, with 15%.

What does this mean for your organization? Editors are acutely aware of this gender imbalance. To increase your chances of getting your point of view into print during the election cycle, have a woman be your spokesperson. (Qualified, of course, with media readiness training!)

The Editor Who Said, ‘No Comment’

Oh, if only what was good for the goose was served up for the gander.

Sources — people interviewed by reporters and then quoted by them in news stories — are always concerned that their comments are quoted accurately. But you’d certainly think that a newspaper editor would be the last person to serve up a ‘no comment’ when the microphones and cameras turned on him.

Yet, that’s precisely what occurred when the fabulously monikered  Ossie Sheddy was asked by another newspaper’s reporter about a plaigarism investigation. Sheddy is the president of the board of the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association. A member of its board lost his job amid the discovery of serial plagiarism.

According to The Telegram, Sheddy rolled out his defense thusly:

I don’t give quotes for fear of being misquoted,”he said. When pressed by The Telegram about why the president of the association wouldn’t say if it plans to investigate — and whether his refusal to be interviewed suggests a lack of confidence in newspaper reporting — Sheddy, the editor and publisher of the Drumheller Mail, said, “I’m not saying anything more because of what I had just told you. I can’t say anything about newspaper reporting or confidence in it. I can only say I have confidence in my newspaper reporting, not about anybody else’s.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the profession. But Sheddy’s shyness does underscore how fear can derail an opportunity to connect with key audiences through media interviews. Sheddy could have used his opportunity to simply reinforce the importance of journalism ethics. He could have emphasized the trustworthiness of the association’s publications, especially given the swift boot given the transgressing editor. At the very least, shy Sheddy could have made a statement about the importance of community newspapers — that, after all, comprise the association he leads — as vital communication channels.

Instead, he undermined confidence in all those things. If an editor can’t count on being quoted accurately, who can?

VC’s Invest in Conversation

They might be late to the party, but venture capitalists are determined to make the most of their newfound appreciation for working with the media.

Historically, VC’s  have preferred to wield their influence and spend their millions quietly in the background. But according to the New York Times, the success of Andreessen Horowitz has been an eye-opener. Great deals pivot not just on who has the most money to shell out, but also on who has the greatest reach and clout. Reach and clout are amplified by reputation. And reputation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

Here is some Media Skills advice for publicity-hungry VC’s:

Explain it to your grandma. Short, sweet, and simple: that’s how to explain your point of view to the public without being condescending.  

Work against type. The public doesn’t think that you’re called a ‘vulture capitalist’ for nothing.  Infuse your messaging with mission and show how your investment priorities make the world a better place for everyone.  You’ll be memorable and believable.

Get everyone on the same page.  The firms you invest in, your staff and your communication advisors: get everyone on board with the same methodology for identifying, framing and delivering messages. That will streamline your messaging and conversations and ensure productive collaboration.


The Power of Positive

If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”  — Barack Obama

I’m not worried about poor people.”  — Mitt Romney

This is not a blog post about negative campaigning. It’s not about the frightening power of digital viral communications, which can rip a quote from its context like a sapling in a tornado.  And it’s not about…gee, why don’t I quit telling you what it’s not about and start telling you what it is about?

The power of positive messaging is about more than being upbeat and hopeful. It’s also a smart strategy for avoiding misquotes.

Say what is.

Not what it isn’t.

It’s that simple.  It’s too easy for a negative statement to be pulled out of context. And for negative statements, context is all. For example, here’s the greater context of Obama’s now-infamous quote:

Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.”’

Recast this as: ““Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you built it as part of a community. We are all invested in your business, and your business is invested in your community. “

Totally different. And any single sentence could be pulled out as an accurate representative quote.

Always spot on, Peggy Noonan makes a related point in her Wall St. Journal column: “Mr. Obama was trying to conflate a nice thought  — we must help each other — with a partisan and ideological one, that government has and needs more of a role in creating personal success. He did not do it well because his approach was, as it often is, accusatory and vaguely manipulative. Which makes people lean away from him, not toward him.” 

In other words, backing into a comment is confusing. And offputting. So go positive.



How to Avoid Mitt-in-Mouth Disease

You’d think that Mitt Romney would have a virtual Ph.D. in strategic communication and messaging. Just look at all the messages he has had to deliver over the years: wins and losses in business, sports and politics.

But he has a chronic case of foot-in-mouth disease — which makes me wonder if he really has gotten top-quality media training after all.

Here’s Mitt as quoted in a recent Peggy Noonan column in the Wall St. Journal:

“All great political families have myths, stories they tell themselves about how history happened. The great story about Mr. Romney’s father, George, is that one word—”brainwashed”—did in his presidential candidacy in 1968. People have hypothesized that Mitt is careful with words and statements, that he edits his thoughts too severely, because of the power of that myth.

“I don’t think my father’s comment figures into my thinking at all,” he says. It’s his own mistakes “that make me want to kick myself in the seat of my pants,” that “cause me to try and be a little more careful in what I say. . . . I’ve had a couple of those during the campaign, which have haunted me a little bit, but I’m sure before this is over will haunt me a lot.”

Asked for an example, he mentions “I like to be able to fire people.” He meant, he says, those, such as health-insurance companies, that provide inadequate services. “I have to think not only about what I say in a full sentence but what I say in a phrase.” In the current media environment, “you will be taken out of context, you’ll be clipped, and you’ll be battered with things you said.” He says it is interesting that “the media always says, ‘Gosh, we just want you to be spontaneous,’ but at the same time if you say anything in the wrong order, you’re gonna be sorry!”

Mitt’s comment about ‘being spontaneous’ makes me think that he’s trying to memorize messages and simply unload his script at the right moment. That’s not how to navigate a media interview. Reporters know a prepackaged quote when they hear one. What they want are comments that are both substantive and quotable.

Memorization doesn’t work because an interview or conversation inevitably drifts off-point. That, Mitt, is why you need to learn how to stay on-message even when you’re off script.