But if an organisation lacks a properly-designed and implemented system to communicate with staff those assumptions remain just that - assumptions.
Employees and managers that communicate well are an essential ingredient in a properly functioning organisation.
Organisational failure is often a result of a lack of a strategy reaching internal stakeholders at critical times.
To avoid this, key messages that align with organisational goals should be developed and shared with employees across the organisation from the CEO down.
Open, informative, honest and continual communication creates champions among an organisation’s workforce, which then advances the organisation’s mission and programs both internally and externally.
Platforms used to carry key messages can be varied and used to reach different internal stakeholders.
An intranet is a powerful and effective tool to communicate with staff but it is only useful if all staff have regular access to a work-based computer or tablet.
Staff who work outdoors or drive machinery will find an intranet’s utility lacking and many also have only sporadic access to emails and even text messages.
Older workers can find digital mediums intimidating and difficult to navigate.
The humble poster; newsletter, one-on-one face-to-face meeting and old-fashioned toolbox talk should never be overlooked.
Faster than a speeding bullet – with social media there’s no stopping the speeding locomotive of anger
For Ferguson, a blow-by-blow account was posted just two minutes after the shooting took place. One person who claimed to witness the shooting immediately took to Twitter to post details and photos. A 10-minute video was also posted to YouTube captured Michael Brown’s body and police standing around it.
A decade ago a shooting of an unarmed young black man may have received national press coverage, most likely the following day and would have run as long as editors deemed it newsworthy. Today it can turn into an international story instantly and will run for as long the public cares.
Don’t underestimate the power of Twitter.
Downplaying the event and restricting information is no longer possible in the age of social media.
Such fast and free information available to the entire world has never been possible before.
Not only does this escalate the coverage and attention to the issue, but it ensures restriction of information is not possible.
The Ferguson local police did not comprehend this. They delayed releasing details and clarifying the circumstances of the shooting, even as feelings of resentment about a potential cover-up escalated in the community around them.
A huge error was also made by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson by releasing the name of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, and then later the same day, releasing footage of what is assumed to be Brown robbing a corner store shortly before he was killed.
Not only is this obvious attempt at character assassination unhelpful, but releasing these details on the same day can be interpreted as the police attempting to justify Officer Wilson’s actions.
Before social media such mistakes might not have received as much attention and such a PR disaster may have been avoidable, but with the invention of Twitter it is hard to get anything past the public.
Twitter has become an early-warning service for news outlets and has a strange, potent quality that can ramp up any issue.
My advice: lean in to the power of Twitter, and make it your own.
By Benjamin Haslem
UK-based PR adviser, Stuart Bruce, poses an interesting question: is it better to hire a person who has expertise in PR and then teach them about social media or the other way around - hire the social media expert and teach them PR?
Bruce argues for the former and I tend to agree.
Social Media is just one part of the public relations arsenal. You need to understand the art of communication and you need to be strategic.
Who are your stakeholders? What are their attitudes to what you are communicating? What are their expectations? How much influence do they have? Will they share what you have to say with others and would they do so enthusiastically and react negatively to being "used"?
Is Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn the best channel on which to engage?
Is any social media platform the best forum or would an email, telephone call or even a letter be better?
Bruce quite rightly qualifies his view by stressing that some roles are clearly set out for a social media specialist, such as measurement, analytics, and evaluation, though you also need someone to look at that analysis with a jaundiced eye, to pick up patterns a person not au fait with PR may miss.
"An amazing ability with social media analytics wouldn't be enough when the alternative was someone with broader PR evaluation skills and the ability to learn social media measurement," Bruce writes.
That's not to say a good social media specialist can not shine in broader public relations. Just as I was hired by Jackson Wells after 10 years as a journalist at News Limited and today do more than handle media management.
By Benjamin Haslem
Your choice of words and the emotional response it elicits in the reader can either make your message highly effective or a disaster.
The meme at left was posted by a friend on Facebook.
It was originally posted by a group called Young Mums.
I am the father of a boy who is severely allergic to peanuts. He has to carry an epipen with him. One peanut consumed, without a shot of adrenaline from the epipen, could kill him. Thankfully, we have never had to use the epipen.
So I came to the meme with a certain lack of objectivity.
I am also a passionate opponent of the anti-vaccination movement, which poses a grave risk to public health.
My initial take on the meme was one of anger. To my eyes it was cheapening the risk posed to some children by peanuts.
The words "because someone might be allergic" smacks of condescension or a sense that people are being put out or inconvenienced, especially when contrasted with the message below.
It also suggests the danger posed by peanuts is not very high or even exaggerated.
However, my friend argued that he read it as along the lines of (to paraphrase) "why is it that as a school community we can organise to ensure our playgrounds are safe for kids with peanut allergies but we can't make parents vaccinate their kids?".
That's a reasonable interpretation for someone who doesn't have a child with a peanut allergy.
But the problem with the meme is that the choice of language doesn't convey that message.
By Benjamin Haslem
The United States-based National Public Radio (NPR) has conducted an interesting experiment comparing how often its Twitter posts are re-tweeted when a human clicks the Tweet button compared to when its feed is automated.
On 22 May, World Goth Day (yes, apparently they have one) NPR's intern, Lauren Katz, tweeted a 2013 story on Goth Barbie to the broadcaster's two million-plus followers.
The Tweet was retweeted 156 times, among the highest of any tweets from NPR that day.
The automated (or bot) Twitter feed would not have tweeted the story because it was from 2013.
But Katz decided to Tweet it because it was the goths' big day. She used human intuition that would be hard to replicate using a bot.
The five-day non-bot experiment yielded some interesting results.
Using Google Analytics data, NPR found there were 142,219 visits to its website from @nprnews tweets — a 45 per cent increase from the average (98,213) of the five weeks leading up to the experiment.
As Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Journalism Lab reports NPR's bit.ly account revealed "links tweeted by @nprnews were clicked on nearly 100,000 more times than links shared automatically the week before.
"And the account gained 5,010 followers — about 14 percent more than the week before."
By Benjamin Haslem
Kleinpeter Farms Dairy, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been dealing with a crisis over the taste of its milk products for a number of months.
Consumers had been returning the company's products en masse, complaining about a "funny taste" and issues with the milk going off before the expiration date stamped on containers.
Despite hiring consultants, replacing equipment, firing staff and a invoving a dairy scientist, the problem
continued. This was serious issue for the brand.
Once the issue was solved, CEO Jeff Kleinpeter posted a message on YouTube explaining the problem and the
By Benjamin Haslem
"I realize that it seems like a hashtag is a trivial thing. But actually it's not. It's an SOS to the world."
The quote above is from Ramaa Mosley, a Los Angeles commercials and documentary director and mother of two.
The hashtag she is referring to: #BringBackOurGirls
The SOS to the world was a call to action through social media to developed and powerful nations to save 276 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram on 15 April.
Mosley heard about the kidnapping on her car radio on 19 April. Upset, she went online and found some news on the abductions on African websites "but couldn't find anything else in the United States".
Mosley, like others on Twitter, began tweeting the hashtag to "Barack Obama, my senators in California, to any celebrity that I could think of and within a few hours, I started getting responses".
As of 7 May #BringBackOurGirls has been tweeted over 800,000 times.
The hashtag was created in Nigeria by locals enraged by a lack of action by their national government and the indifference of the western media.
It worked. Suddenly there was an outpouring of press coverage internationally of the kidnappings and the origins and motivations of Boko Haram, which incidently has been engaged in a reign of terror in Nigeria since 2009, killing some 5,000 people.
As Mother Jones' Erika Eichelberger explains: the kidnapping and the initial radio silence "hit a nerve in the Nigerian diaspora and among communities of color, and in particular women and girls," says Adotei Akwei, a former Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International.
Christopher Anzalone, an expert on political violence and terrorism at McGill University, agrees. "I think that the media in certain places, such as the United States, which did not initially report much on the most recent kidnapping, may be trying to 'make up' for their tardiness."
The onslaught of media coverage also spurred the Obama administration into action with US Secretary of State John Kerry offering to send a team to Nigeria to help search for the girls.
Mosley also created a Facebook page, which at writing has over 75,000 likes.
The Daily Mail online has an excellent gallery of photographs uploaded on social media.
By Isabelle Walker
How is it an era where Twitter is king company protocols (like no refunds) can still trump human emotion and graciousness? Camper Travel learned this the hard way today, scrambling into damage control after asking a customer to prove the death of his wife, and then refusing the refund anyway. This starkly contrasted with Virgin Australia’s approach to the situation, which can only be hailed as best practice.
If there is one thing that can truly inspire faith in the human race, it is compassion, grace and understanding in the wake of a horrible tragedy. Conversely, the opposite can prompt one to all but lose faith in humanity.
There were two examples of this over the weekend when Mr Rob Armstrong, widower to shark attack victim Christine Armstrong, had to cancel their upcoming trip camping trip from Darwin to Adelaide in July.
In a public relations nightmare for any company, an inadequately trained staff member informed Mr Armstrong that proof of his wife’s death would be necessary to proceed with the cancellation. The employee even suggested Mr Armstrong send through a news article to confirm his wife had indeed been the victim of a shark attack. To add insult to serious injury, after it was confirmed that Mr Armstrong was telling the truth, the company informed him he would not be refunded anyway.
It was not about the money, Mr Armstrong said, but that he was “cancelling all our bookings as a matter of courtesy”. It was only after he had received the unfathomable correspondence from Camper Travel, compared with the compassionate response of another travel company that he realised just how “completely immoral and unconscionable” Camper Travel’s reaction had been.
The ‘other’ travel company was Virgin Airlines, who, after receiving Mr Armstrong’s cancellation requests, “immediately” replied with a compassionate email offering the full refund of their cancelled tickets. Obviously, this is the expected response, not just of a well-managed brand but also as an act of human kindness.
Although when coming from a PR perspective on these types of ill-managed matters, you tend to ask how any firm could be so unprepared for a situation which warrants so obvious a response. Nonetheless, it was a PR disaster that Camper Travel’s Managing Director scrambled to ameliorate today, finally reimbursing Mr Armstrong and admitting his company policy fell short of what should be expected.
Let’s hope they learn from their mistakes.
By Isabelle Walker
Having people want to follow you, he said, was just as important as having the natural and learned skills of leadership. They work hand in hand. Respect and admiration are the keys to gaining followership, he declared: you cannot treat your employees with disrespect and expect them to go above and beyond for you.
The theme of today’s Business over Breakfast was leadership, and keynote speaker Mark Bouris just flipped my thinking on its head.
Bouris’ speech exemplified why the business leader has been so successful in his career, from Wizard, to Celebrity Apprentice, to Yellow Brick Road.
From anecdotes about being pushed to his limit by Kerry Packer, to explaining why being involved in every level of your business is the key to success (“you must descend deep into the bowels of your business and wrestle in the mud with your employees”), the choice of Bouris as the keynote speaker enthused guest with the vitality and wisdom the Branson-like businessman brings.
Bouris, emphasised adaptation and unorthodox thinking as the two skills required to be a successful leader, in business or otherwise.
The first was adaptation to situations that one cannot control.
The second was an unorthodox approach to thinking about what your job actually is - the why beyond the how. Whether you sell coffee or sell home loans, he said, what mattered was the larger purpose – not just profits. Understanding what your company or your role means for your customers, clients or stakeholders is the most critical element of leadership and success.
I asked Alexandra Mayhew about – our why – and she said: Wells Haslem’s why, our purpose , is not just providing public relations services, it’s about people and it’s about trust. We provide our clients with the security that we can get the job done, not only well, but in a manner whereby they can relax, knowing they’ve got the best people on the job, people to protect their reputations, people they can trust.
The Business over Breakfast event saw special guests Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy of the Sydney Swans give their personal takes on what it is to lead. Swans leadership has been quite unique in the last decade and Hannebery believes it has been the key to their success in recent years.
Australian recruitment start-up, SpotJobs hosted a Business over Breakfast this morning at the University of NSW. It was the first official event for “The Spotters Club”, a group organised by SpotJobs to facilitate networking among the business community.
By Benjamin Haslem
The recent decision by the Biennale of Sydney to reject private sponsorship from Transfield is another example of doing something because it makes you feel good and not because it will deliver any tangible benefits.
I've lost count of the number of times I've cautioned a client against taking a particular course of action with the words: "It may make you feel good but...".
When planning any communication activity it is important to understand who your stakeholders are, their interests in an issue, their expectations, their level of influence and how they are likely to react to particular actions.
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?