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Friday, January 20, 2012

3 Communications Lessons Learned from Miss Ann and Romper Room

Firstly, I apologize to my younger friends.  They didn't have the pleasure of meeting Miss Ann and being a part of Romper Room everyday and therefore missed out on these experiences.  However, now that Wikipedia is back up - thankfully- you can learn about Romper Room by visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romper_Room.

Now back to Miss Ann and what she taught me:

1.  Always listen - she was amazing to not only listen to the little people in her studio, but she also listened to her little viewers too.  I can't tell you how many kids I knew that sent letters to Miss Ann.  By listening she was absolutely loved by all kids, whether you were in the studio or not.  Of course this brings me to my next lesson learned.

2.   Always recognize others - how many of you gathered around your television at the end of the show with anticipation and the hope that she would call your name?  For those not familiar, at the end of each show Miss Ann would pick up a mirror - with no glass of course and like the picture you see here- and look into it and say, I see Danny, I see Steve, I see Donna and I see Heather.  Wow and YAHOO when she said your name.  It was like she could ACTUALLY see you. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.  Lesson learned?  Remember to always recognize others.  Whether we seek the lime light or not, it is human nature to want to be a part of something.

3.  Be a good sharer - Miss Ann was wonderful at telling stories.  She captivated her young audience and made us feel included in who she was as a person, even though we never really met her.  She told us stories and shared experiences.  It was all good.  Lesson learned?  We can all share different tidbits of our lives with others, but when we come across something that might be useful to help another person, we should definitely share with others.  By doing so, we are building a relationship, even with strangers.

So, I thank Romper Room and I thank Miss Ann (who passed away a couple of years ago) for making positive lasting impressions on thousands of children!

Do you have a Romper Room memory you would like to share?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

3 Lessons Learned From Tony Clement's Social Media Activity

We all want more transparency from our government, regardless of where we live.  Depending on what side of the fence you sit however, the transparency may just never be enough.  Despite the various partisan analysis that will inevitably be shared of Clement's intentions, there are three very important lessons that we can all take away from this exercise.  Before I get into those lessons learned, I do find it refreshing that government, or at least this government, recognizes that people - citizens - want something different. 

We all crave transparency in our government's actions.  While this is a good thing to want and to desire from government,  I believe, and anyone is welcome to take exception with this, that there should be a limit.  Having worked in government I am well aware that there are contracts that are signed that do require confidentiality and whether we want to accept this premise or not, it is to the citizens' advantage to NOT have the details.  This level of confidentiality is necessary for a number of reasons.

Sometimes confidentiality is required due to the fact that government has secured pricing that would not normally be given and therefore, it could compromise the position of the supplier with its other customers.  Other times it could be required due to intellectual property or other sensitive information. 

Now, this is not to say that the cloak of confidentiality should be taken advantage of - that is definitely not what I am saying.  What I am saying is that it is "sometimes" necessary and in our best interests.  Using social media as a communication tool is a critical step in the process of transparency.  When you look at the statistics and demographics of our population, more and more people use social media for not only communicating, but getting information. 

Lesson number two is probably the biggest one in terms of government and any organization.  The protection of, and building of one's reputation.  As discussed in my last posting, "Pst...We KNOW What You Did Last Summer," the number one concern around boardroom tables is a crisis or some other event that can impact reputation.  One of Clement's reasons for leveraging social media is based on this very fact - reputation.  Real-time listening.  Real-time response and real-time communication.  The challenge will be how Clement not only manages the volume, but also how he and his team will manage consistency.  And yes, he will need a team.  To expect otherwise is unrealistic.  To do this properly, he cannot do this alone.

Lesson three - culture change.  I have to say that I was really pleased to see Clement acknowledging this.  I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here as we have heard others say this before unfortunately.  We all have examples where leadership has said and acknowledged that they are operating in a different world now and that using social media, being open and transparent without spin while being timely and consistent with their values and mission is essential.  However, when things got difficult, they quickly reverted back to old practices of trying to control the message, the timing of the message and having multiple layers of approvals prior to release.  In the end, not only has the expiration date of the message come and gone, it often says nothing. 

So, in closing, while this is not a revolutionary step, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction.  A culture never changed overnight.  It is now our responsibility to be responsive to these actions.  After all, listening and engaging is a two-way street.