Communication is the heart of all human endeavour.

Weasel words and the failure of leadership: we get what we accept

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 4:25 pm

By Geoffrey Rowan
 
TORONTO, March 20, 2012 — Short-sheeting your brother’s bed is a dirty trick.(“Ohh, you brat!”)  Impersonating a government official to rig an election is a felony.
 
But the sad truth is most of us don’t care. We don’t expect any better from our leaders. We don’t believe what they say, and who can blame us. In the political arena, at least, we have been conditioned to ignore all the faux wounded hyperbole and ersatz indignation of our leaders. Every day someone in government does something so egregious it can only be fixed by his or her resignation, or the prime minister’s resignation or someone’s ceremonial disembowelment. Who’s to know when something serious actually happens?
 
Many if not most business leaders are just as disingenuous, obtuse, evasive and self-serving. Leadership in the worlds of religion, not-for-profits and at the local community level is no more inspiring. If perception is reality then we are one sorry family of man because around the world we perceive our leaders as a dismal lot.
 
You know this because you are aware of the U.S. race for the Republican presidential nomination, or our own robo-call scandal, a dysfunctional city council and mayor’s office or countless other examples that range from bumbling buffoonery to malicious malfeasance. I know it because my colleagues in research at Ketchum surveyed people in 13 countries to find out what they think about leaders. The results were dismal. (Here’s the link to the results media release – http://bit.ly/GCotzV)

There is a huge gap — a 28 percentage point difference — between what we expect from our leaders and what we think they deliver.

Business leaders were the best of a weak lot globally, with a little more than a third of respondents giving them an excellent rating of eight or above on a scale of 0-10. (In Canada, not-for-profit leaders were best.) Even more surprising, among businesses, leaders in banking and financial services rated near the top of the pack. (Leaders of tech companies were rated highest by 44 per cent of respondents for effective leadership, compared to consumer packaged goods firms at the opposite end of the spectrum, cited by just 20 per cent for effective leadership.) 
 
As jaded as we are in our view of leaders, we’re still hopeful. We want good leaders and believe that we need them to guide us through these difficult times. And we don’t seek the impossible in leadership. Around the world, across many countries and languages, people were pretty consistent about their expectations in response to this survey.

1. Close the Say-Do Gap – People aren’t as stupid as our leaders seem to think. If you say you love people and then you bomb them, or take away their jobs, or their health care, or abuse their trust, they will grow cynical. We want more from our leaders than catchy slogans and lyrical sound bites. We want people who lead by example, who have the courage and commitment to act, and who keep a level head in a crisis.
2. Strong, Silent Types Need Not Apply – As important as it is to act decisively and with integrity, leaders also must keep people informed. In the absence of clear communication – whenever there is ambiguity – we will assume the worst. So, no to slogans and sound bites but yes to clear, consistent communication, with a little humility. Be willing to admit mistakes. Be aware that different situations require different leadership styles, and different leadership styles require different communication styles, but they all require good communication.
3. Don’t sugar-coat it – The survey was decisive on this. Speak the truth with purpose and without ambiguity. We can handle a challenge if we understand it and if we know what our leaders are doing to address it.  
4. The way to be seen to be trustworthy is to be trustworthy – (See No. 1, Close the Say-Do Gap.) For organizations to be seen to be leaders, nothing rated higher in the survey than trustworthiness, including quality of products, services or management, financial strength, or innovation.
5. Let Them Look You In The Eyes – Face-to-face communication is by far the communication channel that creates the greatest sense of leadership credibility. The lack of credibility given to some digital communication channels was surprising given their fast proliferation, but we believe Twitter feeds and social media were useless for leadership is because most of the content doesn’t meet the other criteria for effective leadership. It’s usually bland marketing speak and sloganeering, and it’s rarely actually written by the leader. Does anyone believe Stephen Harper writes his own Tweets?

The bad news is that we have grown so cynical that we expect our leaders are going to be even worse in 2012 than they were in 2011. There is such a powerful hunger in so many to be anointed “a leader” and then to hang onto that perceived power that they have forgotten the fundamental tenet of leadership – that they work for the people they are leading.

And so cynicism grows, and alientation, and disengagement, until we end up with leaders no one listens to, or until a new kind of leader emerges — one who leads instead of manages. That’s where leadership opportunity exists now.

 

Business, Political, Religious Leadership a Big Disappointment

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Leadership crisis expected to worsen, Ketchum global survey reveals

Canadians rate not-for-profit leaders best of a weak lot of leaders
Globally, business leaders rated first; bankers surprise
  Politicians rated worst on leadership; vast gap between expectation, reality
  Traditional media far outperforms social media for leadership credibility
 

 TORONTO, March 20, 2012 – Leaders in business, politics, religion, local communities and the not-for-profit sector fall far short of expectations around the world, according to a 12-country survey by global communications firm Ketchum, and we expect it to get worse this year.

The survey found a 28-percentage-point gap between respondents’ expectations of leaders and their view of how well leaders are meeting those expectations.

In Canada*, survey respondents were at least as harsh in their judgment of leaders as elsewhere, but rather than rating business leaders as the best of a weak lot, Canadians gave that recognition to leaders of not-for-profit organizations.

 Canadians gave not-for-profit leaders a mean score of 6, on a sale of 0-10, for effective leadership. Canada’s business leaders followed with a mean score of 5.6 out of 10. Canadians rated political leaders tied for last place, with celebrities, with a 4.2 mean score.

Besides showing the depth of the world’s lack of faith in our leader, the global survey also provides a roadmap for leadership effectiveness. Being perceived as an effective leader requires a combination of decisive action and honest, transparent communication, which is best achieved through a leader’s personal presence and involvement.

“Our study reveals for the first time the full extent of the world’s disappointment with its leaders across every category of human endeavour,” said Geoffrey Rowan, managing director of Ketchum’s Canadian operations and a partner in the global firm. “But the research is also full of practical insights – a clear blueprint for more effective leadership. One point of clarity was how inextricably linked effective leadership is to effective communication.”

A surprise finding outside of Canada, given the lingering global financial crisis, business leaders were seen as the most effective over the past year – beating politicians, not-for-profit bosses and religious leaders. But in Canada, not only did not-for-profit leaders get the highest mean score. They also got the highest number of “excellent” ratings (8 or above on a scale of 0-10) at 23 per cent. Globally, it was the business leaders who got the most excellent ratings, at 36 per cent.

“The key to leadership, particularly in the ‘social profit’ sector, is knowing what to do with it,” said Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of Toronto Community Foundation, one of Canada’s most far-reaching not-for-profits. “When working to build stronger communities, cities, and, by extension, a stronger country, it’s important to remain focused, transparent and committed to open and authentic communication. You must be guided by and communicate strong values – be constructive not destructive. “Above all, don’t confuse managing with leading.”

Within the business community globally, knowledge-based industries were perceived as having the most effective bosses. Ranked highest on leadership effectiveness was technology, with a 44 per cent approval rating, followed by media (39 per cent) and telecommunications (36 per cent). Banking chiefs came in fourth overall in the poll worldwide with 32 per cent. The energy sector and financial services leaders were ranked fifth (31 per cent) and sixth (30 per cent) respectively. Consumer business leaders lagged far behind on leadership, with consumer packaged goods leaders being rated effective by only 20 per cent.

Perhaps most significant for the business community, the research makes a direct link between positive perceptions of leadership and business-critical decisions such as a willingness to buy stock, goods and services or recommend working at a company. This explains crisis response being seen as the most important area for business leaders to communicate personally (53 per cent), followed by financial results (48 per cent) and the state of the business (40 per cent).

Personal Leadership and Powerful CommunicationA Direct Link

Clear, transparent communication topped the table of key leadership behaviours globally. For 84 per cent, effective communication is extremely important to strong leadership, while 48 per cent rated it as the number one factor. In Canada, not-for-profit and business leaders tied for top spot in effective communication, at a fairly dismal mean rating of 5.7 out of 10. Political and religious leaders tied with the lowest mean rating of 4.6 on effective communication.

 Action also matters in rating leadership. Being able to make the tough decisions, leading by example and staying calm in a crisis rated immediately behind effective communication. The study revealed that the number one action leaders should take to restore confidence in 2012 is to be open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenge ahead (57 per cent US; 52 per cent Europe vs. 43 per cent China). By contrast, only 17 per cent indicated a preference for leaders to spare them the full picture to avoid panic.

Trustworthiness was seen as the number one source of leadership credibility for corporations, placed above quality of management and financial strength. In order to win that trust, the report found that the personal “presence” and involvement of a leader in communicating was vital. As a result, communication via face-to-face and traditional media left social media trailing. Face-to-face contact provided the greatest source of leadership credibility (50 per cent), followed by televised speeches (43 per cent), broadcast media (41 per cent) and print media (38 per cent). Digital platforms and social media were well off pace, with blogs at 20 per cent, Facebook at 16 per cent, advertising at 13 per cent and Twitter at just 8 per cent.

“We were a little surprised that mainstream media was still far ahead of digital and social media in conveying leadership credibility,” said Mr. Rowan. “The message we take is that most organizations aren’t using social media as a leadership channel. It’s mostly used to push marketing messages, and even when a leader’s name is involved, most people don’t believe it’s the leader who is actually communicating. This doesn’t mean we should write off social media as a channel for building credible leadership but rather that we have to make the authentic ‘presence’ of the leader shine through.”

Visit http://bit.ly/GAcy8S for additional survey information and materials. # # # About the Leadership Communication Monitor Ketchum Global Research & Analytics and Ipsos Observer, a worldwide strategic business line within Ipsos, conducted an online survey of 3,759 respondents in 12 markets from Dec. 14, 2011 to Jan. 10, 2012. These were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, China, Singapore, India, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Brazil. The global margin of error is +/-1.6%. About Ketchum Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. Named 2012 Agency of the Year (PRWeek) and the winner of an unprecedented three consecutive PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards, Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a unit of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE:OMC), visit http://www.ketchum.com. About the Canadian Survey From March 15th, to September 16th, 2012, an online survey was conducted among a sample of 1,003 Canadian adults 18 years plus, who are Angus Reid Forum panel members. The Angus Reid Forum is owned and operated by Vision Critical. Individuals were sampled according to Census data to be representative of the Canadian national adult population. The full dataset has been statistically weighted according to the most current gender, age, region, education (and in Quebec, language) Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. The margin of error is ±3.1%, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. About Ipsos Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world’s third largest market research company. With offices in 84 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management. Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe. Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,363 billion (1.897 billion USD) in 2011. Visit http://www.ipsos.com to learn more about Ipsos’ offerings and capabilities.

Contact: Sydney Dare —  416-355-7427 — sydney.dare@ketchum.com

* The Canadian survey – the 13th country – was conducted for Ketchum by Vision Critical. It was conducted later than the surveys in other countries and asked fewer questions, which may have affected results

Talk about your ‘shoemaker’s children,’ PR is tongue-tied trying to explain itself

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

By Geoffrey Rowan

TORONTO, FEB. 17, 2012

Dear Father-of-PR Edward Bernays,

Please save us from ourselves.

In a smart blog post on the almost-always-helpful Ragan’s PR Daily  (http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/10869.aspx#) Steve Crescenzo wrote about the PRSA’s bulemic attempt to define PR. (Bulemic because the PRSA PR Definition Task Force took in a huge amount of material, which it has used to produce a bilious product.) Steve is a popular speaker, seminar leader and consultant who blogs at Corporate Hallucinations.com.)

The PRSA output is head-explodingly bad communication, exceeded only by the Canadian Public Relations Society in its attempt to violate every precept of human communication with this:

“Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest.”
Agree with Paul Nz that no one but a “task force” that believes it is doing life-defining work would use the word “publics.”

The PRSA is asking its members to choose from these offerings:

Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.

How about:
“PR is communication with purpose.”
Or “PR is communication to achieve something.”

The problem with saying something in five or six plain words instead of 20-35 self-important ones is that it doesn’t sufficiently mystify what we do. It doesn’t create a barrier to entry. If PR is just “communication to achieve something,” well, doesn’t everybody do that? Yes, everybody does that. And a lot of people participate in sports and the arts but they don’t do so at a professional level. Besides being dreadful communication, the association definitions reek of insecurity and desperation. (“Really, we do something special, we really do, and you don’t know how to do it.”)
Let’s differentiate ourselves by excelling in the art and science of communicating to achieve results, rather than by defining our craft with an arcane, impenetrable, self-aggrandizing, jargon-filled, uninspiring and meaningless bit of tripe that will never be used anywhere anyway.   Too much?

 

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