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?

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