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Looking on the Inside

In Marketing/PR Theory on May 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I think The Architects could be extraordinary. I do. However, I do not think they are extraordinary now. There are changes needed.

The first step I would take to making these changes would be to figure out exactly what changes need to be made. You can’t fix the problem until you are clear on what the problem is. Sometimes it is not obvious. I do believe this is what is called the “research” step in strategic public relations.

Employees are key in a successful business, so that is where I would start. You can’t just “clean the outside of the cup.” Start on the inside. (This is theoretical, assuming the Principals are on board and have given free reign to do whatever it takes to make things head in the right direction toward extraordinary. Fantasyland, I know, just bear with me.) I believe the textbooks would call that internal public relations. Employees are a “public” to which a company has a responsibility to communicate on a regular basis. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is surprising the number of employers I’ve worked for who let assumptions run wild. It’s as if employees have to be mind readers. That is the perfect way to make employees spend each day on edge and unproductive.

Employers want engaged, loyal, productive employees. They should want employees who are all of these things of their own free will. How does an employer keep employees engaged, loyal and productive without cracking the whip and forcing them to be productive? Respect them. Treat them humanly and give them respect. What is respect to an employee? I don’t know. You must ask to find out because each person’s definition will likely be different.

When you start asking employees to speak up about what would make them feel respected in the workplace, you might find out some things about how the company is viewed by its “guts,” those who make it work from the inside. Finding out what people really think of you can be painful. Being honest is painful to some extent. One has to be honest with oneself to be extraordinary, to achieve greatness. There is not a single person, or company, on this planet who has reached perfection. Not one. Zip. Nada. You know what that means, right? It means you have issues. I have issues. We all have room for improvement. Get over it. Live each day trying to be perfect, the very best, but get over the fact that you are not. Get over the fact that no one else is either. Do not judge those around you by an ideal that even you cannot reach. Just don’t settle for where you are today. Keep striving for that perfection.

I think The Architects need to ” ‘fess up” to not being perfect and start taking steps toward improvement. Admitting to faults does not destroy a company’s appearance to the public. Ignoring the faults, however, just might. Thinking you have reached the top leaves you nowhere else to go. Greatness involves continually striving to be better. There is no shame in admitting the need for improvement.

So go ahead! Take that first honest look and start improving.

What if I could do something GREAT where I am?

In Marketing/PR Theory on May 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

That day, in a clearing in the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, “Whatever is right,” and added, “You ought to do something great…I mean, the two of us together.” “What?” she asked. He said, “I don’t know. That’s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

There is an element in a person’s character that sometimes sets her apart from the crowd. That certain something, the “it” factor, the WOW, the intrinsic value that is within a few. These are the people we are drawn to. It may be something we can’t quite put our finger on. It’s as if their personalities have a gravitational pull all their own. [One day I will write a post about the children I met, loved and lost who had this quality, but that walk through Cancerland is for another day.]

Usually, if one of these such people runs a company, you feel that same vibe in the whole organization. Take, for example, Frank Batten, founder of Landmark Communications and The Weather Channel. The link is a bit old, but I did pull this accurate information from the company description. I think it points out a key element in these “great” people.

Core values focus on “doing the right thing” through high ethical standards, uncompromising principles, integrity, fairness and respect for people.

I had the privilege of working a short time for a company owned by Landmark Communications, now known as Landmark Media Enterprises. That company was The Roanoke Times, the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia. I met so many extraordinary people while working there that it changed my life in a very positive way. You can see why when you read their Core Characteristics on the web site. Again, doing the RIGHT THING seems to be a common theme here.

Interviewing for The Roanoke Times was not exactly a breeze. It wasn’t the most difficult interview I’ve ever had either. I think The Clarion Ledger holds that record with the interviewing process for ad sales staff. Both of these resulted in a job offer. I had my mojo working back then.

Orientation with The Roanoke Times was a week long process during which we learned about each and every position at the paper from the delivery route to the editor. This was to instill in each employee a respect for the role of others, and understanding of each building block that made up the whole. Training continued on a monthly basis for everyone. There were sack lunch training sessions. Mandatory training in diversity helped to improve co-worker relationships and team building. The career path program encouraged employees to plan for their future, even if growth led to a future career outside of Landmark and The Roanoke Times.

I could go on and on. Really. You know I could. These guys were just pure awesome in a cup. When my son was diagnosed with cancer, The Roanoke Times paid me a full month of salary JUST IN CASE I was able to come back and work for them. I didn’t even have to give it back when I found out Jeramie’s treatment would last 3 1/2 years, keeping me from ever going back to Virginia and my dream job.

Respect. Integrity. Principles. Fairness.

I believe these concepts are the “it” that makes some people, some companies, extraordinary.

What if The Architects could be extraordinary?

I think they could. I think the first step to becoming extraordinary is to take an honest look. Take an honest look within FIRST to resolve issues that seem to be external, such as falling sales and an inability to gain new clients. What is going on inside an organization, at the roots, causing the ripple effect throughout the company?

My first  step to bringing greatness to The Architects would involve a little internal public relations. I’ll elaborate on that more when I am not about to fall asleep.

…goodnight…

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