Tag Archive: Communications Choreography


After nearly three decades in the political, association, corporate and agency trenches of professional public relations, and the last four years intensely studying an increasingly complex industry from academic settings, Almost DailyBrett is ready to take a stab at the 17 essential qualities of the consummate PR practitioner.

Please note the list is not meant to be exhaustive and undoubtedly some vital characteristics will be missing. If that is the case, please let this humble blog know your thoughts. For better or for worse, here are the Top 17 attributes of the super-star public relations professionals in alphabetical order:

1. Attuned to the World 

Even though it is impossible to capture everything that is happening on this quickly changing planet, the best PR professionals are well versed even in cases in which their knowledge is one-mile wide and one-inch deep. They don’t know everything; they are not afraid and their ego will allow them to simply state: “I don’t know.” Having said that, they are good at getting to the bottom of an issue quickly, and then presenting the answer in the best interest of their employer/client. 

atlas2.“Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry”

The famous John Wooden quote definitely applies to super PR practitioners. Sometimes it is best to buy time. You may suspect you have the right answer, but your instinct guides you to seek out more. This is especially true in crisis situations. A great PR pro is quick, but never hasty. She or he instinctively knows that a rushed answer or editing of a vital document may result in a wrong response. The best counsel may be to quietly recite: “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” before offering a response. That little extra time can make all the difference in the world. 

3. Communications Choreography 

Similar to a producer or director of a Broadway play, the 21st Century PR star knows how to ensure that all the dancers, actors, actresses are in the right place, the lines are perfectly delivered and the music is on key. In the case of public relations, the research has been completed; the messages are composed; the communications are ready to be delivered, and the follow-up evaluation is set to be undertaken. It is without a doubt: Message-Candidate-Campaign in that order.

4. Confident Presentation Skills 

Glossophobia (e.g., fear of public speaking) is not in the vocabulary of the effective public relations professional. She or he responds with a smile, while deep down inside sneering at reportedly the number one fear of most people, public speaking. The great pro doesn’t seek out the stage, but doesn’t shy away for it either. Once there, the message is confidently delivered and questions are coolly answered.

janis

5. Constructive Listening 

Two of the most effective public relations professionals the author of Almost DailyBrett ever had the privilege to meet, are two of the best when it comes to constructive listening: Janis MacKenzie of MacKenzie Communications in San Francisco, and Bruce Entin of Silicon Valley Communication Partners. For both of them, the issues and concerns of you the client or you the subordinate are the only topics on their minds, even though in reality there are always many competing demands for their mental bandwidth. The point is they made time for you. They care. They are ready to help.

Entin

6. Cool Under Pressure

Did someone mention the word, “cool?” We are not talking about being smooth. Instead, we are focusing on a skilled communicator that stays composed when others are losing their heads. Is the company stock down five points? Does a product need to be recalled? Is the CEO being terminated? At least the Bay Bridge is not in the water (remember being told, just that). The sun will come up in the morning. The birds will chirp. The bees will buzz. Life will go on. 

7. Doberman, Not A Cocker Spaniel 

A Cocker Spaniel PR practitioner is simply proficient in providing necessary information to the conventional and digital media. A Doberman PR pro is just as knowledgeable, but even more to the point is also an impassioned advocate and will fiercely guard and protect the reputation and brand of the client/employer. If getting into a fight with a reporter/editor/analyst is deemed necessary, then that is what the job requires. The cheap-shot stops here.

8. Expansive Vocabulary 

A winning public relations professional is a well-read/versed professional. This practitioner is skilled in the use of English, the lingua franca of international business. Knowledge of a second or third language is highly desirable in our digitally flattened global village. It is not just a matter of knowing the words and the meanings behind them, but the right words at the right time in the right settings.

9. Fiduciary Responsibility & CSR 

It has become de rigueur for a public relations professional to advocate corporate social responsibility (CSR) or “doing good.” The best PR practitioners balance CSR with fiduciary responsibility or “doing well.” Fiduciary Responsibility and CSR are not mutually exclusive. PR pros, who understand this undeniable truth, have a better chance of being invited to sit at the boardroom table.

10. Great Student/Lifelong Learner 

What is the next killer app? What is the next “destructive technology?” How is social, mobile and cloud driving technology? What is the next driving mantra in global communications (e.g., radical transparency)? How can we best show (e.g., infographics) as well as speak and write? These are all questions that are constantly pondered by the student, lifelong-learner, PR pro.

11. Honest, Ethical, Reliable 

The first two of PRSA’s core values are “responsible advocacy” and “honesty.” Public relations practitioners are not Switzerland. They are not neutral. They are advocates. Some contend that PR pros cannot be persuasive advocates, advancing a well-researched set of arguments, and maintaining the highest standards of integrity at the same time.

Au contraire!

12. Offensive Without Being Offensive 

Being able to passionately debate crucial points and not make it personal with those who differ is a vital skill, not in great supply. Can you be offensive without being offensive? The best PR pros know, the most important public relations are personal public relations, and that includes interactions with work colleagues and teammates.

13. Qualitative and Quantitative

In our increasingly complex digital world, we cannot escape numbers and statistics. As Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina wrote in his Show Me the Money, behind every number is a story. The superb PR pro, particularly those in corporate public relations and investor relations, can build relationships (qualitative skills) with those closely following publicly traded corporations (e.g., investors, analysts, employees, suppliers, distributors). They are just as adept in reading income statements, balance sheets, cash-flow statements and interpreting the psychology of global markets (quantitative skills).

hoar

14. Refined Sense of Humor

One of the legendary public relations professionals in Silicon Valley history (i.e., Apple, Fairchild, Miller/Shandwick Technologies) was also one of the funniest, the late Fred Hoar. As he was fond of telling anybody and everybody, “that’s Fred, spelled F-R-E-D.” Every year, he served as the master of ceremonies for the SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association) Forecast and Award Dinner, and brought down the house each time with his “hick and stick.” Yours truly was charged with determining whether Fred’s humor met the standards for mixed company in a business setting. Guess you win some and lose some. Regardless, Fred was a crack-up and delightful to know.

15. Superior Judgment

The best PR pros instinctively know the difference between being “bright” and being “smart.” They are not the same. The latter is much more valuable than the former. Sometimes rocket scientists are best being left on the launching pad or maybe just at their workstations. Some are good at stakeholder relationships; some are not. That is why smart PR pros, who can provide sage counsel to those of infinite wisdom, are the best and the brightest in our profession.

16. Tech Savvy 

The 21st Century public relations practitioner is digital, not analog. As Thomas Friedman wrote in The World is Flat, the planet has been made measures of magnitude smaller by the ones-and-zeroes of binary code. All brands and reputations are in 24/7/365 play as a result of instantaneous digital publishing. The Genie is not going back into the lantern. Forward-looking PR professionals embrace new technology communications tools, and are always looking to the horizon for the next destructive technology force. During the course of my career, no PR pro was better in studying engineering and technology than Howard High of Intel, now with life sciences company, Fluidigm Corporation.howardhigh

17. Thought Leader 

Not only do the best PR pros advocate thought leadership by clients, who have proved standing on critical issues of public interest, they also use digital (i.e., blogging, social media, infographics) and conventional tools (i.e., presentations, commentaries, contributed articles etc.). They are always learning and as a result, they have wisdom to share and sage counsel to provide … particularly as it applies to instantaneous world of communications.

Editor’s Note: As the former SIA director of Communications, Janis and her firm served as our PR counselor. Fred was everyone’s friend, and the “Valley” is not the same without him. Howard was the chair of the SIA Communications Committee and provided invaluable counsel as the industry was finally able to open the Japan market. Bruce was my first superior during my decade at LSI Logic. He was the best boss in my career, and now is an even better friend. Naturally these are not the only PR super-stars on the planet, but they are fine examples of the species.

http://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#.VI4DuZU5BCo

http://www.mackenziesf.com/about/janis-mackenzie/

http://siliconvalleycom.com/Bruce_Entin.html

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Frederick-Hoar-Silicon-Valley-master-of-PR-2831416.php

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/howard-high/12/aa6/b06

“If a man says something in a forest, and there isn’t a woman there to hear him, is it still stupid?” – Too Many Anonymous Authors Claiming Credit

treefalls

Three years ago today, I began Almost DailyBrett.

Should I brag or apologize?

At the end of July 2009, my blog attracted a grand total of…drum roll…seven page views.

As I was composing my first posts, I was imagining standing alone in a cyber forest making typing noises (tree falling?), and wondering if I was making any sound? Did anyone give a particle about Almost DailyBrett? Was blogging a huge waste of time and effort?

Three years later, I am happy to report that Almost DailyBrett now totals 155 blog posts and 141 comments and counting. The total number of page views is approaching 12,000. Almost DailyBrett and by extension Kevin Brett brands are being championed by means of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, LinkedIn professional groups), tag words, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

This is not an undertaking for the humble and the modest.

It should also be noted that blogging is not for serial procrastinators or people who simply do not relish the joy of writing. For those who love words, sentences, concepts, heck even grammar, the one-and-zeroes access to cyberspace and the blogosphere is a Godsend.

In some respects, most bloggers remind me of the newbies that showed up at a health club around New Year’s Day. Their resolutions are fresh in mind. They are ready to develop a new, robust physique. Some are envisioning standing on the victory platform in their Speedos throwing muscular poses to the crowd…and then reality comes crashing down. From aerobics comes pain. From resistance training comes a form of torture. Muscles that are used to a sedentary state want to remain in a sedentary state.

As we said about these newbies: “They will be gone by the Super Bowl.”

Alas, that is the case for many new bloggers. They start with the wind in their proverbial sails and pound out their first blog; hardly anyone is clapping. And then there is the issue of the next blog…there is always the issue of the next blog. They think about their upcoming blog and no inspiration is forthcoming. Days go by. Weeks go by. Months go by. Chalk up another dead blog.

Let’s face it: Blogging requires a commitment. It demands that you can’t wait to write your next post. It means that you have to be constantly thinking about what you want to write and what your readers want to read about. So what are some hard-earned lessons about not only starting a blog, but maintaining your relationship with your readers?

● Afford yourself maximum flexibility in the title of your blog. Avoid painting yourself into a proverbial corner. If you only want to write about movies, travel, sports etc., then give your blog a name appropriate to that genre. If you want to explore a wide variety of topics, then look for an umbrella that gives you wide latitude, but also builds your brand (e.g., Almost DailyBrett).

● Steadfastly guard your credibility and reputation. A blog should be provocative and fun to read. Keep in mind that blogs are the ultimate in discretionary reading. Nobody reads your blog because they have to read your blog. However, there is a difference between being provocative and being outrageous. Maintain your professionalism at all time…and follow the “When in doubt, leave it out” rule.

● Follow the Potter Stewart philosophy of searching for a subject for your next blog. The former US Supreme Court Justice will go down in history for his famous line about obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” The public relations escapades of Tiger Woods, Anthony Weiner, John Edwards, Spirit Airlines just to name a few became instant fodder for Almost DailyBrett. Keep a close eye on the news and trendy topics.

potterstewart

● See yourself as a thought leader. What unique perspectives can you offer to your audience? For me, I have written extensively on not only widow(er)hood, but also the challenges associated with dating post-positive marriage. My “Competing Against the Dead” and “The Trouble with Widowers” blogs still receive considerable traffic. Others are in the same boat. I have also devoted considerable time to communications choreography, fiduciary vs. corporate social responsibility and other subjects close to my heart.

● Develop thick skin. Just as they nailed Jesus Christ to the cross, you are not going to please everyone. Anticipate getting negative responses from time-to-time, and don’t be afraid of publishing them in your comments section. As long as they are fair (or close to being fair) and are not nasty, racist, sexist diatribes and spam, I will allow them to be posted to my site.

● Use push marketing techniques for your blogs. What are your tags? Wonder if the words, “Playboy,” “Jenny McCarthy,” “Lindsay Lohan,” and “Pam Anderson” will attract the search engines? Once a blog is posted (including this one), market your blog subject and a related link on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. If the subject is germane to a particular LinkedIn group(s), then post a question to the group about your blog premise. Sometimes you can really stir the pot.

All one has to do to start a blog is to establish a WordPress account. It’s absolutely free. Even the technologically challenged can figure out the software. From that point you are in business. Some contend that blogging is dead. The numbers point to the opposite: 54.1 million WordPress sites; 327 million subscribers viewing 2.5 billion pages each year; 500,000 new posts and 400,000 comments are uploaded every day. And that’s just WordPress. There are oodles of other services to host your blog.

That’s a lot of noisy trees falling down each day.

http://en.wordpress.com/stats/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potter_Stewart

An electronic job application for a privately held, big media marketing firm offers candidates a choice: Upload a soft copy of your resume or your LinkedIn profile.

Is this a choice or a trap?

linkedinleftbehind

The candidate has to choose one or the other (assuming she or he has both a CV and a LinkedIn profile). Certainly one can opt to upload a resume and copy-and-paste a cover letter, but what signal does that send? Did we ever have to consider potentially sending a potentially fatal technology laggard message by simply submitting a cover letter and resume?

If the candidate elects to offer her or his LinkedIn URL in lieu of a resume (and copy-and-paste an obligatory cover letter), is she or he telling this future employer that she or he gets it when it comes social media? Weighing the realistic potential of a trap, I would advise job candidates to submit their LinkedIn URL and carefully crafted and edited cover letters.

You may be thinking that I am being slightly (or even more) paranoid, but let’s face it: The job market is a minefield particularly in this long-time distressed economy.

Does this mean that resumes will soon become so 20th Century? We shouldn’t be so quick to throw dirt on resumes, but their usefulness is obviously being challenged by the agility and completeness of LinkedIn.

In some respects, resumes or curriculum vitae (CV) are the equivalent of name, rank and serial number. They chronicle your career, and if you are wise you will quantify your accomplishments to help the hiring manager make the critical interview or no-interview decision. A cover letter encourages the reading of the resume. The resume encourages or discourages an interview. Interviews are either path-ways to the employment promised land or a one-way ticket back to square one.

resume1

LinkedIn URLs accomplish the basic task of the resume (chronology of career, academic degrees, awards, memberships etc.), but they do more…so much more. First, submitting your LinkedIn URL implicitly demonstrates that you get it (or at least you are on your way to getting it) when it comes to social media. A potential employer can review the number and the quality of your LinkedIn “connections” to determine the company you keep, who knows you and vice versa.

The same point also applies to your LinkedIn groups that you have joined. I am a member of 24 groups, including a wide variety of public relations and communications professional groups, and those from my present and past employers. These groups are another way of demonstrating your “online presence” as emphasized by professional branding guru, Dan Schawbel. His recent Forbes article predicted that social media will replace resumes within 10 years. He may be conservative.

In addition, your LinkedIn profile not only lists who recommended you but allows hiring managers to immediately read your praises from former superiors, colleagues and most important of all, your subordinates. Examples of your PowerPoint or Prezi presentations can be uploaded to LinkedIn, giving employers’ insights into your presentation skills, design capabilities and thought processes. Try doing that with a resume.

A huge feature for me is the automatic posting and updating of my Almost DailyBrett blogs from WordPress to LinkedIn. An employer doesn’t have to surf WordPress to read Almost DailyBrett, particularly those posts that directly apply to the practice and teaching of communications choreography.

Some may be tempted to play down LinkedIn and its reported 150 million users in comparison to Facebook with its 901 million users or Twitter with its 500 million users. The difference is that LinkedIn is focused on attracting commerce and building professional networks. LinkedIn is a quality play, not a quantity play.

Wall Street seems to be noticing the difference in business models as LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) was initially priced at $45, immediately jumped to $85 on its IPO date and has been holding north of the three-figure mark, today finishing at $103.84. Despite all the springtime histrionics, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) was offered at a $38 IPO price, rose slightly and immediately plunged. Today at close of market it stands at $28.09 per share.

Maybe one of points that is becoming clear to users, employers, potential employees, investors, analysts, media and others is that LinkedIn (and potential direct competitors/successors) is changing the way that candidates are identified and hired. At the same time, LinkedIn may be shoving the resume/CV into the back seat or may even be taking the wheel.

Is it time to sing LinkedIn über Alles? It could be; it very well could be.

Almost DailyBrett note: The writer of this blog post is a subscriber to LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. More to the point, the blog writer owns a low double-digit quantity of LinkedIn shares and a low triple-digit quantity of Facebook shares. It is extremely doubtful that my endorsement of any publicly traded social media site will have any impact on Wall Street. If that were the case, I would ask my readers to subscribe to my “letter.”

http://www.bond-us.com/blog/linkedin-profile-or-resume-staffing-agency

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/career-education/resume-writing/CAR_RSW/924819-5780993

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/02/21/5-reasons-why-your-online-presence-will-replace-your-resume-in-10-years/

http://blog.cgsm.com/2012/02/08/when-will-a-linkedin-profile-replace-a-resume/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LinkedIn

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter

Are there really, “Dog and pony shows?”

Is he really, “All hat and no cattle?”

Is there really, “Wood in front of the house?”

And what happened to the White House chief of staff who, “Always wanted to see the pyramids?”

There are at least 12,000 English language idioms, words and phrases, which constitute figures of speech for native speakers, or at least those who understand the lingo. In Silicon Valleyese, one spoke of “Insufficient bandwidth,” “Open kimono,” “Biological breaks” and “Hard stops.” Texans are fond of stating, that someone is, “All hat and no cattle” or “That dog won’t hunt” (former Governor Anne Richards). Granted these are all in English, but without translation or inside knowledge they may not be understood in the proper context by those who claim English as their first language.

annerichards

As communications choreographers should we use idioms in our discussions with internal and external stakeholders, including employees, customers, public officials, reporters, editors, bloggers and analysts? The short answer is we should first softly recite, “One Mississippi, two Mississippi (another idiom)” before letting loose with our clever colloquial use of the language. Time and place is everything, and if miscalculated an idiom may come back to bite the messenger.

For example, when the communications team for the US semiconductor industry was trying to pry open the Japanese market for our chips in the 1990s; some would make reference to an upcoming shameless Tokyo media event as a “Dog and pony show.” Native Japanese speakers wanted to know what dogs and ponies had to do with foreign access to Japan’s indigenous semiconductor market.

Never mind.

And English speakers don’t have the corner on idioms. The Germans have a phrase for a well-endowed woman, Sie hat Holz vor der Hutte. The literal translation is, she has wood in front of the house. How many non-Germans would understand that? And should men of any ethnic background go there anyway?

Former White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan (Carter administration) reportedly was admiring the wood in front of the house of the Egyptian ambassador’s wife, prompting him to reportedly comment, “I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids.” Former White House Press Secretary Jody Powell denied this item that appeared in the society section of the Washington Post. Nonetheless the damage was done and it contributed to Jordan’s fraternity boy reputation.

Last week, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said that constitutionally valid Obamacare may still be “An albatross around the neck” of the president. The White House reportedly was less than pleased with his use of an idiom from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Let’s face it, idioms are an everyday part of our language and sometimes we use them without even being overtly knowledgeable about their use. Here are some that immediately come to mind as candidates for regular use: “Life’s too short,” “Giving him the Heisman,” “All bark and no bite,” “Cross the Rubicon” and “One taco short of a combination.”

There are some idioms/metaphors that are particularly prevalent in “Inside baseball” (another idiom) discussions between and among communications choreographers: “Drinking the Kool-Aid, “ “Drinking your own bath water,” “Going postal,” “Deer in the headlights,” “Feeding frenzy,” “On the same page,” “Singing from the same hymnal,” “Off the reservation,” “Lone ranger,” “Thrown under the bus,” “Still in denial,” “Acceptance stage” and “Making chicken salad out of chicken sheet.”

Just as parables were used in Biblical times to get across points and ideas, idioms have and can be used by those in the public relations profession to position our clients and deposition the opposition. This is particularly true in public affairs and issues management in which the media is generally much more skeptical — bordering on cynicism — compared to reporters/editors/correspondents covering other topics. If you never use idioms and metaphors, you may be considered to be an uptight “space cadet” (another idiom).

Having said that be careful to avoid an inopportune use of an idiom. Rendell’s, “Albatross around the neck” of the president  sent the signal that last week’s Supreme Court Obamacare win may be an idiomatic “Pyrrhic victory” for the White House. The occupant may have thought of some idioms in reply to the former Governor of Pennsylvania.

http://www.idiomsite.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiom

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/

“People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching.” —  Literary critic George Bernard Shaw

shaw

Sorry George.

The vast majority of decorated public relations pros are accomplished when it comes to bloviating and pontificating. They thrive on using PowerPoint and their clickers. Most of all, they love the stage and the spot light. These are all talents.

They counsel executives, choreograph communications campaigns, train presenters to face the media and others, and once in awhile they even get into a fight with a reporter…if that is what the job requires. They have oodles of experience spanning a decade or two, maybe even three.

They know the intricacies of public relations and communications. Their instincts are refined and proven. Their careers span the globe and may even include tenures in politics, government, corporate and/or agency work.

More importantly for many PR practitioners, they believe their days of marketing a client’s product that they really don’t care much about to a journalist who cares even less will eventually come to a merciful end. There just has to be something else in life.

Isn’t there the prospect of having the summer off as well as winter and spring breaks? They can just imagine having all that time to walk through the cobble-stone streets of Europe, stopping at sidewalk cafés and solving the problems of the world over glasses of wine with their newly found infinite academic wisdom.

Why not impart your repository of knowledge to the next generation of communicators? Why not fire up the PowerPoint, making sure there are batteries in the pointer/clicker, and start teaching? Sad to say, it is not that easy. There is a reality behind the perception of academic glory. (Those with Glossophobia or believe the words of George Bernard Shaw need not apply).

So what is the reality of college teaching for those who think the grass is greener on the academic side of the fence?

● Your days of six-figure salaries with stock options and participation in an Employee Stock Purchase Program (ESPP) will most likely be in your rear-view mirror. Instead, you are taking a vow of relative poverty (VORP). There are exceptions to every rule, but they are just that, exceptions. If you want to make millions, you should stay away from academia.

● When was the last time you took the Graduate Records Exam (GRE)? My first time was 1980. My second time was 2010. After those twitchin’ experiences, one must contend with the 19-month-plus forced march that will hopefully lead to a Master of Arts, Master of Science, MBA etc.  Are you sure you want to do this?

● If you think SEC regs are restrictive, please allow me to introduce you to academia. There are a few ways, very few, to write academic papers. Instead of The Associated Press Stylebook, there is the APA style, which has as much flexibility as a crocodile after it grabbed hold of your arm. APA stands for the American Psychological Association. How come the irony does not escape me?

“…South America is located directly south of Central and North America (Fouts, 1971; Musgrave, 1990; O’Neill, 1994; Graziani, 1995; Smith, 1998; Harrington, 2001 ). And Europe is situated on the other side of the Atlantic (Clemens, 2004; Dixon, 2007; Masoli, 2009; Thomas, 2011)…” There are literally hundreds of thousands of APA-style pages written this way, waiting for you to read and somehow understand them.

● You don’t just waltz into the classroom and start imparting your wisdom to an appreciative student audience clinging to every word. There is this thing, called a syllabus. Just like Bernard Montgomery planned his military thrusts against the Desert Fox, your syllabus illustrates step-by-step, day-by-day how you will teach your class. Weeks will be spent before the first class devising your syllabus. Say goodbye to spring break and good portions of your summer and winter break (It may actually provide you with a tantalizing excuse to avoid relatives during the holidays…see Almost DailyBrett, “If They Weren’t Your Relatives Would They Be Your Friends?”).

montyrommel

● Each lecture needs to be planned. How much time do I have? What points do I want to make? What questions should I expect? How will I divide up lecture to refresh student’s minds? Think of how you start mentally tuning out after about 20 minutes. Students will do the same, but maybe even in quicker time. After answering these questions and more, it is time to devise your PowerPoint presentation.

● You will have office hours. You will hear about the lives of students, some with serious issues…and others with not so serious issues…but all sound as if personal Armageddon is right around the corner. You want to be fair, but firm as well. This is easier said than done.

● No discussion about teaching can be complete without a discussion about grading, more grading and still even more grading. This reality seems universal among academics. Never underestimate the literally hours and hours of time spent grading. There is a certain amount of bandwidth it will take to devise a grading rubric to hopefully impart some consistency into your grading. Personally I am a serial editor. I mark up all papers, and the more work I have to do, the lower the grade.

Once you have completed your grading, then it is time to return the documents to your students. The results of multiple guess exams should be easier for them to accept as one either answers the question correctly or not. Grading one-page memos, shareholder letters, portfolios, research papers is a subjective exercise. Always take cover and fix bayonets when you assign a B+ or even worse, an A- to a student’s work. She or he is so close, yet so far from the Promised Land. Expect a challenge here and there. Be prepared to defend your decision with a smile on your face, but don’t anticipate a smile in return.

And always be prepared for the “Rule of One.” At least one student will literally hate your guts and will make that point unequivocally clear in your quarter-end course evaluation.

Certainly, I did not exhaust all of the issues (e.g., cheating, plagiarism, dominating students) that will come before you if you decide to traverse the yellow brick road of academia. Should you do it? I humbly opine that teaching is a great way to give back to the public relations profession by preparing the communications choreographers of tomorrow. At the same time, you need to be prepared for the largely inflexible new world of academia in which change comes at glacial pace.

There are many logical reasons to bypass this opportunity. There is an equal amount of illogical reasons why you should take the plunge as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/if-they-weren%e2%80%99t-your-relatives-would-they-be-your-friends/

When is not enough, not enough? When is too much, too much? And is just right, just right?

Finally, when is it time to get off the stage?

As I contemplate the to-the-point immediate communication demands of our 2012 attention-driven society (particularly via social media), I keep on pondering the lessons of four legendary English rock n’ roll bands of the 1970s.

After standing in the rain for nearly eight hours outside some sterile Southern California department store in 1975 (amazed the call of nature didn’t intercede…ah to be young again), I finally reached the front of the line and bought two precious tickets to see Led Zeppelin.

page

In my mind’s eye, I could envision Jimmy Page laying on the first riffs of “Rock n’ Roll” with his Gibson Les Paul, Robert Plant hitting the high notes, workmanlike John Paul Jones on the bass/organ and John Henry Bonham pounding away on the drums.

A friend, who saw the show a few nights earlier, implored me to sell the tickets. I should have listened to him. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Led Zeppelin fan owning the band’s entire catalogue on both vinyl and CD. Listening to the band’s recordings is one thing; sitting through four hours of guitar, organ and drum solos comprising only 15 songs (do the math) was exhausting. When it was over, no one was demanding an encore.faces

During that same year, I saw the last tour of Rod Stewart and the Faces (Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagen and Kenney Jones). All-in-all, I have checked out four Rod Stewart shows, including the aforementioned Faces concert. Each one was over in approximately 90 minutes. And each time the audience wanted more but there was no more. The crowd felt jipped and there was a smattering of boos. We were not even close to being exhausted and we were far from satisfied.TheWho2

 

 

The Who was a different story. I saw the band for the first time at Anaheim Stadium in 1976 with the original lineup of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle (The Ox) and Keith Moon. The second time was in Los Angeles with the Faces’ Kenney Jones replacing the deceased Moon on the drums. The band played for more than two hours and ended its regular set with “See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Alas, the encore was an anti-climatic throw-away.

Early this month, the Rolling Stones announced the availability of a bootleg recording of its July 13, 1975 concert at The Forum in Los Angeles. I was 20-years old at the time and vividly remember Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” dramatically introducing the band at that very same concert to thunderous applause. And then there was Mick Jagger and Keith Richards singing the chorus to “Honky Tonk Woman” with Charlie Watts on drums, Bill Wyman on bass and Woods just joining the Stones from the Faces.

Since the 1969 “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” tour, the Stones have always been masters of choreography and pacing, starting their concerts at a kinetic pace (i.e., Honky Tonk, All Down the Line, You Can’t Rock Me) and then slowing down (e.g., You Can’t Always Get What You Want). The 1975 concert concluded with a series of Stones classic rockers including: Brown Sugar, Midnight Rambler, Street Fighting Man, Jumpin Jack Flash and the encore, Sympathy for the Devil.

Stonesya-yas

The show was 22 songs and ran about two hours or so with the audience coming away satisfied (Who says you can’t get no satisfaction?), but wanting more. The Stones knew when it was time to get off the stage. Led Zep played a four-hour concert; The Stones gave us a show. All together, I have seen the Stones six times live, and if they tour as rumored next year to celebrate their 50th anniversary as a band, my attendance will be a pilgrimage as it will for literally thousands and thousands of people.

The purpose of this epistle is not to simply recount how fortunate I have been to see some of the greatest rock n’ rollers of all time, but to deduce the lessons of these bands and project them to our 21st Century world of communication.

Recently, I was imploring a very bright colleague to drop her plans to market a 4.5-hour AUDIO ONLY tape. I borrowed the famous line from the late Texas Governor Ann Richards (no relation to Keith) stating: “That dog won’t hunt.”

A NFL game takes an average of 3.5 hours obviously accompanied by video and audio. The Led Zep show ran four hours with amplified sound, lasers and lighting. My entrepreneur acquaintance wants to market a 4.5-hour audio tape, broken into nine chapters, but still 4.5 hours. I urged a series of two-to-three minute YouTube videos as an alternative. No go…so I had to go.

My failure to convince someone (not the first) about the merits of quick messaging social media reminds me of The Diffusion of Innovations Theory by professor Everett Rogers. The theory is represented by a curve with innovators on the extreme left and laggards on the extreme right of the page (not implying any political connection). I am afraid that 4.5 hour audio tapes are heading in the laggard direction akin to the buggy whip. We live in a world of 140-character Tweets/20-second sound bites/quick Facebook posts.

We can either embrace this new world or coming into it kicking and screaming. We are not going back to Johannes Gutenberg and his 15th Century printing press or the modern-day equivalent in the form 4.5-hour audio tapes. The Stones and The Who proved four decades ago that less is more in rock ‘n roll. This same wisdom applies to 2012 communications choreography as well.

http://www.rollingstones.com/news/rolling-stones-release-la-friday-live-1975

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Copland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faces_(band)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

http://www.biography.com/people/ann-richards-9457298

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

What is “Communications Choreography?”

And why did I include this term on my new business cards?

cho·re·og·ra·phy

n. pl. cho·re·og·ra·phies

1. a. The art of creating and arranging dances or ballets.b. A work created by this art. 2. Something, such as a series of planned situations, likened to dance arrangements.

Are we all on the same page?

Are we all singing out of the same hymnal?

Do we have all of our (Oregon) ducks in a row?

Insert your favorite organizational metaphor here:___________.

My new business cards just arrived. They introduce Kevin M. Brett, Communications Choreography.

More than one person has asked me what is, “Communications Choreography?” Is it similar to the producer or director of A Chorus Line? Yes, there are many more similarities than differences.

chorusline

On Broadway, there are dancers and dances. There are musicians and music. There are singers and songs. They have to be on pitch, in time and the performers need to be where they are supposed to be at exactly the right time…easier said than done.

In football, there is the down, distance, score and time in the game. The ball is spotted. The play clock is running. The play comes down from the offensive coordinator. The play is signaled in from the sideline to the offense. The quarterback comes up to the line and notices the annoying “Mike” linebacker is lined up in the “A” gap.

Time to call an audible at the line of scrimmage as the play clock runs down. The play has changed. The ball is snapped. The guards pull. The tight end and wide receivers throw blocks on their way down the field. The quarterback reads the defensive end, fakes the handoff to the dive back, who plunges into the line drawing faked out defenders. The quarterback pitches the ball to the H-back…

lmj

These two descriptions, A Chorus Line and read-option college football, are the essence of choreography. Now let’s extend this definition to communications.

In communications, it is more than speaking with one voice, although that element is crucial. The first step in communications choreography is always the message. What exactly does your organization want to communicate? Who is the target audience or in many cases, who are the target audiences? Do they all see the world in exactly the same way? In most cases, the answer is a big, fat “no.”

The message must always be truthful, or as Henry Kissinger once said about a given statement, “It has the added advantage of being the truth.”

Who is going to tell this message and to whom? Who are your best messengers and are they ready to deliver the message? Do they need to be trained for the television interview, for the news conference, for the briefing, or how to present at a financial conference?  Do they understand the technique of acknowledging the question and bridging to the answer, which reflects the pre-ordained message?

And what will be the methods of relaying this message? Will the communications choreography program dictate the use conventional means, such as town hall meetings, small group briefings, one-on-one sessions, communicating through newspapers, radio or television? Or will the communication be digital? What role should there be for blogging, social media sites and webcasting just to name a few? Those who thought that social media was a fad better get out-of-the-way of next month’s expected Facebook IPO.

Communications choreography requires skillful planning. When will the message go out? Once we know the given date or even hour (e.g., close of market), then it is time to start marching…backward.  That’s right, you need to build your timeline back to the present and work your way to the future…if you follow me.

Is it good news? A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Is it bad news, then let’s plan for Friday right before the weekend…even better if it is a holiday weekend.

Is it “material” under the dictates of Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) of the Securities Exchange Commission? If you are planning communications choreography for a publicly traded company, then you have absolutely no choice but to disclose this information once it becomes available…usually right after the close of market or before it opens in the morning…giving investors time to digest the news. To do otherwise runs the risk of selective disclosure of material information or withholding this information from investors, thus inviting a nasty SEC proceeding.

If you are planning a major financial conference that includes a game-changing product launch, then corporate public relations (e.g. “The Forest”), marketing communications (e.g. “The Trees”) and investor relations (e.g. “The Investors”) all have to be on the same page. The “Forest” refers to the company as a whole including the most valuable asset, the employees. The “Trees” refer to the individual products that serve as the revenue stream of the company. All three disciplines need to be in alignment and must follow the predetermined time table…beginning with the news release crossing the wires.

When choreographing a communications campaign, there are many questions that need to be asked and answered. Experience and instinct play a huge role in successful communications choreography. A campaign must reflect not only the culture of an organization, but its look and feel as well. Communications choreography must be consistent with the brand.

If you always think of communications in the same way as a choreographer sees a Broadway dance troop, then there is no excuse for not having your message, messenger and campaign in perfect three-step harmony.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/choreography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Chorus_Line

Considering the worldwide infatuation of PR-Marketing types with 24/7/365 digital publishing, a simple reflection-prompting question needs to be posed:

Where does social media fit within the mantra: Message-Candidate-Campaign?

The development of the message? Nope.

The selection of a candidate(s) to deliver the campaign? Nein.

How about as part of the campaign for the candidate to deliver the message? Yep.

Or…?

… As an increasingly effective weapon in the arsenal of a proven communications choreographer.

So maybe the mantra should be amended to read: Message-Candidate-Choreography-Campaign? Hmmm…

My point in raising these questions is to not to rain on the publicity industry’s euphoria about Web 2.0 (e.g. blogging, podcasting, webcasting, micro-social media sites) because I would like to think of myself as an evangelist as well when it comes to digital publishing. Social media is an increasingly vital component of the campaign, but message, candidate and choreography have to come first.

This makes perfect sense because without a message, without a candidate, and without the completion of communications choreography, the waging of a public relations/marketing/branding campaign is impossible.

leeatwater

I first heard “Message-Candidate-Campaign” in that particular order from a presidential campaign address by the late Lee Atwater, running then-Vice President George H.W. Bush’s successful campaign for president in 1988.

Campaign consultants are not warm-and-fuzzy people and certainly Atwater was no exception. He was wickedly smart and two decades later I can’t argue with Message-Candidate-Campaign manifesto, but obviously I have been tempted to amend it.

We can also take the global embrace of social media and put it in the proper context.

The catalyst for any PR offensive is the message. What are the attributes of the product that a company wants to sell? What are the intended societal benefits behind the public service announcement? What are the promises that are being made by the candidate for office?

The answers to these questions and many more are what constitute strategy. Essentially what can the company, product, non-profit, governmental agency and candidate do and what are the selling points? The strategy also includes what is not being said and not being offered because there are always resource limitations.

Now, who is the candidate? Who is the messenger? What is the brand? Essentially who or what is delivering the message?

Next up is the choreography or in this case, communications choreography. Just like someone mapping the movements of dancers or actors on a stage and synchronizing them to a script and/or music, a communications choreographer must ensure that everyone is on the same page. What is the message? Who is the candidate? Who is/are the end audience(s)? What media will be used (conventional? social? Both?). What are the deliverables? What is the timetable? How is success measured?

And now it is time to consider the execution of the campaign, the actual delivery of the message by the candidate following the guidance provided and employing conventional and/or social media to enhance reputation, build brand, advance thought leadership and ultimately win the day.

Every few years, and the pace is rapidly accelerating, there is a new landmark medium of communication (e.g. fax machines, cell phones, PCs, Internet routers/switches, social media, tablets…) and each one indeed changed or is changing the ways that we do business. These innovations have globalized, accelerated and reduced news cycles to about four hours. Social media is now a permanent fixture of the communications landscape.

Having acknowledged this undeniable fact, the message is still paramount…and then comes the candidate, followed by choreography that must require social media and finally, the execution of the campaign.

Message-Candidate-Choreography-Campaign. That’s the new mantra.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Atwater

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choreography

If you asked my opinion a year ago what is easier in a troubled economy, managing an agency or corporate PR team or selling a house, I almost would have laughed…well of course, selling a house is easier. Everyone knows that.

Right? Ah, wrong.

Working with at times irksome and annoying external or internal clients/stakeholders of varying degrees of talent and temperament demands tremendous amounts of patience and perseverance. There is simply no argument. In addition, a skilled PR practitioner must coordinate the development of the message, prepare the messengers, set the timing and target the recipients, what could easily be labeled as “communications choreography.”

That means that everyone is on the same page and singing out of the same hymnal (pardon the awful clichés). Is this process very similar to…staging a house for a sale? Let’s delve a little deeper into this comparison.

Working for an international public relations agency, you are aligned with a series of people with various tasks and hopefully the majority with the same agenda. There are the members of your own team, your agency bosses, your clients, their executives, their partners, their suppliers, the legion of analysts, editors, reporters, bloggers…Negotiating through this litany of humanity to achieve a desired branding or marketing result in a tough economy requires an incredible amount of resolve and fortitude.

And in the case of a publicly traded company, financial results must be reported four times a year, an annual meeting for shareholders must be conducted and the annual report (the 10K) must be issued each spring regardless of exogenous events. These could include: pre-announcements, mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, restructurings, mandated restatements or any other “material” event that requires immediate disclosure under SEC rules. That means that a company must not only employ PR people trained in telling the story, but also a legion of attorneys, accountants, controllers, IR pros and corporate development types to go along with the CEO, CFO etc…the folks that make up the team.

So does this same team building exercise and plan execution also apply to selling a house? Based upon my recent experience, I can safely reply in the affirmative.

A seller must interact with an assorted collection of contractors, pool remodelers, granite counter-top builders, “equity beige” rug installers, nosy neighbors, pest inspectors, house cleaners and pesky Realtors. If you think Mussolini had trouble keeping the Italian trains on time, try coordinating/choreographing this motley crew and keeping them to a schedule. There is no place in your schedule for the “manana” syndrome, but you will be asked repeatedly if this task or that task can be put off to another day. You have to resist the temptation of being too nice, while maintaining your professionalism.

In the corporate world, the SEC requires quarterly financial result reports, the 10K, annual meeting, and any “material” disclosures on the corporate side. Who serves as the SEC when it comes to a home sale? I guess that would be the seller…in this case, little Ole me.

Starting tomorrow, my house will go on the market first with the Realtor tour and then with open houses this weekend. My purpose in bringing up this point is to not market my house via my blog. I am helping my Realtor with the marketing and she is the one that will carry that burden.

My point is that I am sitting at the vortex of a $749,000 business…yes; selling your house is a business. A house sale has its own particular P&L statement: the costs associated with staging the house, the obligatory Realtor fee, paying off of the first and second mortgages and after all of that…hopefully something for me (e.g. the profit). I never thought that selling a house would be akin to managing agency PR or corporate PR teams and all of the associated players that are a necessary evil and require the same degree of people skills.

Guess this experience is yet another one of life’s lessons learned.

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