Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Do you have a super-recognizer on your comms team?

When I was a new communications director at a big national nonprofit association, my first job in Washington, DC, I called some colleagues in town to ask them to recommend a photographer. And I'm glad I mentioned that the first task would be to attend a few receptions on Capitol Hill we'd be holding for Members of Congress and their staffers.

"You want Bob, then," my friend said. "Bob McNeely. He's a great photographer, but the best thing is that he recognizes people. He can pick out who's important in the crowd and get their picture--and that includes key staff as well as members and celebrities. They don't need to be obvious for him to find them."

Today, researchers call people like Bob "super recognizers" or "memory champions," and I think your comms hiring strategy should keep an eye out for folks with this talent. Fortunately, some researchers have come up with a five-minute test to screen for the talent, and they're willing to do further testing if you are interested.

First, read this article about the test, then take the test right here--and share with your team. And by team, I mean everybody, from the support staff to the interns to the vice president. Knowing which team members have this ability will come in handy many times. That person might be your photographer on the loose, capturing important photos without having to be told who the subject is; the greeter for dignitaries and visitors; a really valuable speaker or moderator who can recognize individuals in a crowd and call on them; the person who can spot someone in a crowd when you need them urgently; a fundraiser who can work the room faster if she knows who's important; or the person who can decide which of those crowdsourced photos on Facebook contain people of note. This may not be a core skill, but in certain positions, it's a true asset.

McNeely went on to be White House photographer for Bill Clinton, no surprise to me, both due to his talent and the fact that his tearsheets for my events sometimes included Democratic party events. I think it was one of the genius hires of the administration. You can see his work there collected in this book. Can your comms team find a similarly talented super-recognizer?

Friday, October 21, 2016

The weekend read

I started this week leading a workshop in a castle in Austria, and end the week at my favorite speechwriters' conference in Edinburgh, home to this impressive castle. Time to conquer the castle that was your week, communicators, and check out my finds, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Philip McErlean)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When should communicators push back against clients' bad requests?

I just finished leading Be an Expert on Working with Experts, my popular workshop for communications pros, in Austria earlier this week. And at some point during that day, no matter where I do the workshop, we talk about pushing back against unreasonable requests that experts make when they work with communications pros. (For the record, we also talk about the tactics experts use to push back against communicators' requests and how to handle that.)

Sometimes, participants express a reticence to push back--it seems ungrateful, impolite, outside your job description. Maybe even arrogant. But a non-anxious, needed pushback might just be a requirement, particularly when working with unreasonable demands. My own favorite laid-back, slightly humorous pushback line? "We're not that desperate for the publicity. How about we try x instead?"

Pushback really may be one of the most important tools in your arsenal as a communications pro. In The professional pushes back, Seth Godin shares some examples of what that looks like in your world:
The marketer won't help his client produce a spammy campaign filled with tricks and deceptions, because she knows that her career is the sum of her work. 
The statesman won't rush to embrace the bloodlust of the crowd, because statesmen govern in favor of our best instincts, not our worst ones. 
There are plenty of people who will pander, race to the bottom and figure out how to, "give the public what it wants." But that doesn't have to be you. Professionals have standards. Professionals push back.
So, before you start pushing back, you need standards--and everyone on your team needs to know what they are. Then all of your clients need to know what they are, a process that should be continual, not just once or twice. Do you know your standards, and where you will need to push back? This is a great ongoing exercise to do with your communications team, and sometimes, with your clients.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jon-Paul LeClair)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The weekend read

I'm traveling: This week, I've been working in Walldorf, Germany, with executives at SAP who want to incorporate TED-style tactics in their presentations. Pack up your week in a suitcase and check out my finds of the week, shared via @dontgetcaught on Twitter and curated here for you. There's a weekend coming, no matter what time zone you are in:
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Marc Smith)