Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghost Writer!

hire a ghost writerIf the only thing holding you back from being a more active thought leader is time to write, Thought Leader Zone can offer you an effective solution.

Maybe you need a ghost writer …or a ghost blogger or a ghost tweeter. Managing your online presence can be challenging while you’re also trying to maintain high visibility as a spokesperson or a speechmaker or author of technical-, trade- or business-related articles.

During peak times, you may need a writing service to keep up the momentum necessary to maintain your virtual and your real presence as a thought leader. Ghost writers can support you with extra pairs of hands and ghost thinkers can help you clarify thought and meaning.

Do you need to multiply the output and the impact of your thought leadership strategy?Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo: Carney Lentz

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A 10-Step Starter Kit for Kick-Starting a Start-Up Company

If you’re launching a new company, you’ll want to create a thought-leadership strategy to cement your reputation. Follow these 10 steps (and see our companion visual guide) to develop a plan that will guide you as you kick-start your start-up:

  1. Define Goals and Metrics
  2. Create Strategic Communications Plan
  3. Clean Up/Archive Content on Company’s Current Websites
  4. Review Existing Brand Materials for Consistency of Style and Voice
  5. Create a Reservoir of Provocative Blog Posts
  6. Finalize Website Content
  7. Design Launch Events
  8. Design Thought Leadership Plan for Post Launch
  9. Build/Document Internal Communications Processes
  10. Develop External Communications/Media/Branding Guidelines

Do you need help implementing any of these steps? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Five Steps for Rolling out Employee Survey Results

graph comparing actual versus normal

How will you translate aggregated employee survey results into authentic, meaningful communications?

Your employee survey results have just landed on your desk. Remain calm.

Here are five steps to follow when you as a leader communicate the results internally, and even externally:

  1. Categorize the results into a four-square grid with ”urgent” on the x axis and ”important” on the y axis.
  2. Work with your communications team to develop a message architecture that provides clear context, consistent messages and careful action plans for rolling out the results.
  3. In these communications, ask for leaders and employees in different levels or roles inside the organization to volunteer to guide the change program based on the survey results.
  4. Set up a ”rapid roundtable” work session with those volunteers to determine the specific issues underlying the worst scores in the urgent/important grid, to identify the impact of those prioritized issues and to offer ideas for amelioration.
  5. Ask the volunteer work group to identify interesting, noteworthy results that might attract media attention, if appropriate, and then task the communications team to create an external communications plan.

Internal and external audiences alike demand ”authentic” communication pieces that celebrate the successes revealed by the data but still recognize the shortcomings your company needs to improve.

Do you need help rolling out the results of your latest employee survey? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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What’s in a Name?

alphorn playersOn Swiss National Day, 1 August, villages put on events with food and drink, music and dancing. Affoltern, our village near Zurich, sponsored a small festival with Alphorns and a local steel drum band. One of their songs, they announced in English and then explained in thick Swiss German, was called ”No Name Song.”

So what’s in a name? More than you might expect, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman in his highly respected book, Thinking Fast and Slow. Swiss researchers found that companies with easy to pronounce names, like Emmi or Swissfirst, fare better in the stock market than those with names like Ypsomed.

Another publication, this time a recent Financial Times article by business humorist Lucy Kellaway, pokes fun at the nomenclature of an organization’s top leaders.

For an example, she points out that the Bank of England no longer has only a governor and deputy governors, but it now has appointed a chief operating officer. She goes on to decry the hyperinflation and ”creativity” of titles like chief agility officer or chief visionary officer and calls it a fad.

But what isn’t a fad is the fact that the head of an organization, whether called a CEO or President or Managing Director or head honcho, must exhibit leadership characteristics, have a high emotional intelligence and demonstrate mastery of the skills that fall under the umbrella of social capital.

Those core capabilities are often misleadingly labeled as soft skills, but the hard fact is that they are critical to a leader’s success. Despite the sound of their name, they are basic competencies associated with the term ”felt leadership.”

Would you name your thought leadership style ”felt leadership”? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Does the ROI of Internal Communications in Business Differ from Academia?

statistic high cost of communication barriers in organizations

As a business leader, how do you measure the impact of your internal communications? Does it differ from the way an educational leader measures the impact of internal communications in schools? I was asked to address this question in a presentation to a progressive international school in Germany earlier this year, so I’d appreciate your insights on the comparisons.

On the business side, a group called People Driven Performance conducted research on the costs of poor internal communications in 2009 that still has applicability today. They report that good internal communications has a positive impact and poor internal communications has a negative impact on five elements of a company’s ROI:

  1. Engagement
    Every employee that crosses over from being disengaged to engaged adds an incremental $13,000 to the bottom line each year
  2. Direct Cost of Miscommunication
    $26,041 is the cumulative cost per worker per year due to productivity losses resulting from communications barriers
  3. Opportunity Cost
    A business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication, which translates to an annual cost of $528,443
  4. Safety
    The average cost of a safety incident for an engaged employee is $63, compared with $392 average cost of a safety incident for an unengaged employee
  5. Turnover
    Employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better & are 87% less likely to leave the organization

If you’re in education or academia, what is your impression? Does poor internal communication in schools have a similarly negative impact?

Whether you’re an educator or business leader, contact us if you’re interested in improving your internal communications impact and your organization’s ROI along with it. Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

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Sound Check for Thought Leaders

quite normal loud microphoneSound check! When you take the stage, you want to make sure the microphone is on and emanating the perfect level of sound for the audience and venue.

Do you as a thought leader have the perfect level of sound for the situation you’re in? In general, you as a thought leader should have three sound levels: quiet, normal and loud. Let me explain.

Thought leaders need time built into their schedules for contemplation, a time when they can think deeply and listen to what the silence reveals. They need to be still and quiet, not talking at all.

At other times, thought leaders need to join into discussions at a normal pitch, as if they’re just like all other members of the team. They’re equal contributors so they need to modulate their voice levels.

The third level of sound for thought leaders is loud, but not necessarily in volume. They don’t need to shout to be the voice of reason in heated exchanges or debates. They just need to be loud as in commanding and authoritative, perhaps even lowering the pitch of their voices to their deeper ranges to get attention.

Do you have ”perfect pitch” when you communicate as a thought leader? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Sharing the Know-How to Know How

When explaining complex topics, thought leaders make a clear distinction between two key terms: ”knowledge of” and ”knowledge how.”

Let’s say, for example, that you want to shape your industry to be more agile and responsive to changing demands of the economy. You shouldn’t only show colleagues what that future will look like so that they have ”knowledge of” that vision. It’s important also to show them the way to reach that goal — to give them ”knowledge how” to get there.

to define and articulate change, use knowledge of and knowledge howSimilarly, if you want to change the culture of your organization, it’s important not only to give them ”knowledge of” what the changes look like and the advantages the new culture will bring. You must impart to them ”knowledge how.” Articulate clearly the steps each employee — no matter where in the organization they sit — will need to take to move toward the defined future.

Cultural change is a journey, not a destination. Employees need ”knowledge of” the destination and ”knowledge how” to navigate the path ahead.

Do you need help defining and articulating the roadmap to change internally or externally? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Three Steps to Becoming an e-Commerce Thought Leader

3 steps to lead in e-commerceBecoming a thought leader in the B2B, B2C or C2C arenas will require focus on improving the overall e-commerce experience in three ways. You must, step-by-step, strive to become:

  1. The best people to shop with
  2. The best people to do business with
  3. The best people to work for

To be successful at the first two steps, you must make sure that your employees truly believe that you have achieved the third step. Companies have permeable walls through which such internal messages seep to the outside world. Any mismatch between your internal and external reputation as an e-commerce thought leader will destroy credibility.

Countless articles on this website address the fact that ”thought leadership begins at home.” If your own team members don’t believe that you and your company are

Your employees are also ”message multipliers” who take your viewpoints into the world.
thought leaders who excel in a given field, then you certainly won’t be able to convince external stakeholders you are.

Your employees are also ”message multipliers” who take your viewpoints into the world…the virtual or the real world. But you’ll need to remember to simplify the messages so that your staff can amplify the e-commerce messages you want to deliver.

Does your e-commerce thought-leadership approach need a refresh? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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5 Actions for Leaders in the Golden Hour of a Crisis

fire exit signA recent article floating around the blogosphere focused on the “golden hours” of crisis communications. Those are the critical hours immediately following an event when information is incomplete but audiences are continuously seeking additional facts.

The article lists five steps as the “Grand Crisis Response Strategy” for covering those first stages of the crisis.

1. Stop the production of victims. Continuous victim production is what drives the media coverage, the public interest, the emotionalization, the commentary and criticism from 1000 sources and the reputation destruction.
2. Manage the victim dimension. This is what leaders and senior managers should be doing rather than hanging around and second-guessing the command center.
3. Communicate directly and frequently with employees, stakeholders, and those directly affected
4. Notify those indirectly affected, those who have a problem now because you have a problem; regulators, licensing authorities, neighbors, partners, those who need to know and who should hear from you very promptly.
5. Manage the self-appointed and the self-anointed; the news media and the new media, those who opt in on their own, the critics, the bellyachers, the backbench bickerers, the bloviators.

Are you prepared to make good use of that valuable time window? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

Photo: Paul Harrison

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Three Ways to Electrify Your Organization

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Air 1816 Painting Benjamin West Philadelphia Museum of Art

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky 1816 – Benjamin West (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

As a thought leader, you may find it more difficult to build your reputation internally than externally. Think, for example, about the saying that ”Genius is never recognized on its own soil.” Your communications team can and should help you build your professional brand internally while they work on developing your reputation in the industry.

My husband trained as an engineer and uses a great metaphor about electricity when he coaches team leaders. Applied to communications, these message-multiplier teams can help to electrify your organization in three ways. At the least, communications teams are transistors or transformers. At their best, they are transducers of the energy inside their organization.

Transistor teams simply send out messages like radio signals, rather than acting like radar, which also listens for responses. This is the least effective of the three ways to communicate internally.

A transformer communications team takes the same energy inside the organization and

At the least, communications teams are transistors or transformers. At their best, they are transducers of the energy inside their organization.
boosts it up or steps it down as appropriate to the situation. When false rumors are floating around inside an organization, for instance, a transformer team might communicate hard facts to take the energy out of the watercooler discussions. Or when a new sales campaign is launched, the transformer team might energize their employees with an electrifying communications campaign.

The third, most effective way to electrify your organization is by establishing a transducer communications team that will create a different form of energy within your company. Transducers will convert the strategic energy that exists at the top of the organization and the operational energy and dedication of the employees into a new energy source to drive the company.

Do you have transistor, transformer or transducer communications teams to help electrify your organization? Ask, assess then act. We’re here to help!

See related post: Sending the right and wrong signals

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