10 Tips for a Perfect Podcast

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Podcasts are a powerful way to share your story.

But what exactly is a podcast?

It’s “a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer,” says Dictionary.com

Podcasts are taking off. From 2015 to 2016, podcast listening was up by 23%, Jay Baer reported from Edison Research‘s work.

What’s driving the growth? People enjoy greater mobility with smartphones and tablets, Baer says, rather than being tethered to a laptop. Podcasts are easy to listen to on the go.

This is why podcasts have become part of my own personal learning plan and drive-time strategy. Although I’m lucky by Los Angeles traffic standards, I spend more than 60 minutes commuting each day.

That’s a perfect chunk of time for learning. And with lifelong learning being both a pleasure and an imperative, what better time to listen to a podcast?

Data analytics and social media are at the top of my learning agenda. I’ve been enjoying FiveThirtyEight, Freakonomics and Social Pros.

It’s easy to get started. Just search topics of interest on iTunes, download your favorites and start listening.

My work colleague Doug Magditch first got me thinking about podcasts. He invited me to be in his Life at AT&T series, one of his Corporate Communications initiatives.

(This is where I note that opinions expressed here are my own.)

Doug’s conversations with colleagues show how employees are delivering on the company’s mission to connect people with their world – everywhere they live, work and play.

With a degree in mass media, Doug began his career as a reporter and multimedia journalist. His creative skills as a storyteller, his editing skills weaving together a narrative and his on-air presence make Life at AT&T a hit.

He invited Eliska Paratore, Joan Marsh and me to share what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership role at the company. Timing it with election season, he framed it as hearing about leadership “from the veeps.”

This was my first experience with a podcast, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are 10 tips for a perfect podcast.

BEFORE

What’s the best way to prepare for a podcast? Become familiar with the format and give yourself plenty of interesting material to work. This helps with responding naturally and spontaneously during the recording session.

  • Listen to previous podcasts in the series. Understand how the format works. Identify what worked well and what you’d like to emulate.
  • Talk with others who’ve been featured. See what previous participants recommend for preparation. This is a step I wish I’d taken.
  • Think about the subject and what you want to say about it. Brainstorm and jot down ideas. Then narrow the focus to 3 key messages.
  • Gather ideas, anecdotes and data. Chose those that support your key messages. Look for ones that add interest and provide credibility.

DURING

Many of these tips came from listening to myself after the podcast came out and thinking about what I could do better next time.

  • Relax and have fun. Conversations are fun and sharing expertise is fun. Recording a podcast should be the same.
  • Stand up. The advice for standing up during a phone call to give your voice more energy translates well to a podcast recording. People sound more confident when they stand.
  • Use short sentences. This will help your listeners get your key points, not to mention making the editing process much easier.

AFTER

  • Promote your podcast. Tell your social communities about it and why they’d be interested in hearing it. In my case, that meant sharing the podcast in LinkedIn and  Twitter, including retweeting Doug.

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This was easy, thanks to our company’s Social Circle. It provides great content about our brand, ready for sharing by interested employees in their personal social networks.

Inside the company, employees commented on the podcast in an internal social space. When the podcast was released, I visited the page a few times a day to read comments, like and respond to some, and bring additional colleagues into the conversation.

If you’ve recorded a podcast, what worked for you? And what podcasts do you recommend?

What’s Your Story?

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Stories bring people together in powerful ways.

I was reminded of this at a recent leadership offsite.

Following a day of focusing on the future and identifying imperatives for the coming year, we gathered around the dinner table.

The talk turned to people’s stories, their families and the paths to where they are today.

We heard about teachers, farmers and ranchers. We heard about people who were the first in their family to attend college. We heard about struggles and triumphs. We heard about hard work and dedication.

It was an inspiring slice of largely American history. One especially sage colleague remarked about how far each of our families had come in just a few generations.

It’s easy to lose sight of that in our fast-paced, always-on 21st-century world.

I wonder what life was like for my great-grandfather, Neils Peter Larsen. Born in Denmark in the late 1800s, he was the youngest of 9 children.

With little economic opportunity on the Danish isle of Laeso, he left his country as a young teen. As a cabin boy, he sailed around Cape Horn to San Francisco.

Some years later, he became the captain of his own ship, the St. Katherine. My grandmother and sister share her name and adventurous spirit.

That’s the ship pictured above, temporarily stuck in the ice in the Bering Sea in the early 1900s. How cold must it have been that day? How likely was it the ship would break apart as the ice moved? How scary was it to walk across the waves?

Or maybe it was just business as usual in that line of work.

According to the San Francisco-based Pacific Telephone Magazine where my mom was featured as an employee in the 1960s, “Captain Larsen made history with voyages to Alaska during the Yukon gold rush and later with the Alaskan fisheries.”

I can only imagine what those experiences were like today, as I gaze at my family’s framed sea charts from California, Hawaii and Japan that line my walls.

It’s absolutely incredible to think how far sea navigation has come in little over 100 years – from large paper charts to electronic navigation systems. What amazing advancements will the next century hold?

My great-grandparents honeymooned by sailing around the coast of China. That chart hangs in my parents’ house in Connecticut, complete with pencil markings of an uncharted island my ancestors discovered on their journey.

These stories and the ones I heard from my colleagues remind me of the hard work and determination that are the hallmarks of our country.

They remind me that when things get tough, there’s always a way through – or around or over.

They remind me that the future is exciting and that we’re each creating it, one day at a time.

We have what it takes. We got this.

As I contemplate a visit to Denmark, I’m inspired by the serendipitous family reunion that the multi-talented photographer Denice Duff experienced on a magical trip to Italy.

While looking for her great-grandmother’s house in Sicily, she had the unexpected good fortune to meet family members she never knew she had.

This heartwarming story may be one of the reasons I recently picked up a book called The Storyteller’s Secret.

In this captivating read, Carmine Gallo says that, “since the next decade will see the most change our civilization has ever known, your story will radically transform your business, your life and the lives of those you touch.”

Why is this important? Because “ideas that catch on are wrapped in a story,” he says.

Stories connect us, inform us and inspire us.

That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons behind the golden age of television, with so many compelling shows. This is why it’s so exciting to work in an industry at the intersection of entertainment and technology.

This is where great stories are told that entertain us, help us make sense of the world and prompt us to think about our own stories and the difference we’re making.

(And this is where I remind readers that opinions are my own.)

Speaking of stories, I can’t wait to hear from the speakers at next week’s TEDWomen 2016 conference. Fittingly for me, it’s in San Francisco, close to where I was born and where my daughter is attending college.

What’s your story? How are you writing it every day?

12 Ways to Take a Great Headshot

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Everyone needs a great headshot.

Why? Social media profiles. Executive biographies. Email signatures. Conference badge photos.

Having a great headshot helps build your personal brand.

But sometimes being photographed is the last thing we want to do. Here are 12 ways to get a great shot and have fun in the process.

Just do it. Get a new photo taken every few years. I waited 5 years since my last headshot, which was way too long.

My colleague Roger Hyde‘s team had created such a perfect environment years ago, complete with a wind machine, that I was hesitant to do it again.

But thanks to the gentle coaxing of photographer Jessica Sterling, my husband Kevin and I finally took new headshots.

Decide what message you want to convey. What do you want your headshot to say about you? It should amplify your personal brand – what you want to be known for.

I wanted a new photo I could use in a corporate environment. It also needed to work in other contexts in my professional and personal lives.

Pick a great photographer. Ask your colleagues and friends for recommendations. Or use social media to find someone local.

On a tight budget? Find someone who’s starting out or team up with friends who need headshots.

If you’re planning a professional event, bring in a photographer for attendees to get their pics done.

The global youth media company Fullscreen did this at a recent women’s leadership event – brilliant idea!

In my case, I had the good fortune of knowing Jessica Sterling from work, and I was familiar with her visual capability with people and organizations. I personally retained her services, and so it began.

Check out other headshots for inspiration. Look at headshots of people you admire. Check out leaders and standouts in your field. Find images that express what you want to convey. Think about how you’ll express what makes you unique. Share samples and discuss ideas with your photographer.

Personalities shine through in the speaker headshots for the upcoming TEDWomen 2016 conference. I can’t wait to attend this in October and hear from these fascinating women and men.

Have your makeup and hair done. Bring in the professionals!

Whether it’s your own go-to hair and makeup glam squad, or a stop at the Dry Bar for a blowout and Sephora for a makeover, have your hair and makeup done.

Thank you, Emma Willis and Countour Fosse!

Wear solid colors. Solids photograph well and are bolder. Bright colors pop and attract more attention. Too much white can wash you out.

Bring several wardrobe options to your shoot and play around with the pieces. Have different jewelry options.

Blue is my employer’s brand color, so I chose a jewel-toned blue jacket (this is where I mention that opinions are my own). But I also love red, so I brought my favorite Nina McLemore jacket.

Try to smize. While searching for tips on taking a great headshot, supermodel and entrepreneur Tyra Banks rose to the top. Here I learned how to smize. This is all about smiling with your eyes to take a great shot.

Relax and have fun. Cue up your favorite music. Bring a friend who makes you laugh and brings out the best in you. Let your playful side emerge and enjoy all the attention. After all, how often do you get to be center stage for the better part of a day in real life?

Take “behind the scenes” pics. Among the four of us in the studio, we each got some pictures as the shoot was unfolding. These were fun to post on Instagram that day.

Choose the best image to be your personal brand. Look through all the shots on a few different occasions. Mark your favorites. Ask friends for feedback. Think about the brand you want to express. Does your selection capture that essence?

Use your headshot consistently in EVERYTHING. I used to use one photo in “professional” social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and a more casual one in more “personal” social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). I tried to keep the two worlds separate, but the lines continue to blur.

So this time I took Guy Kawasaki‘s advice in The Art of Social Media. I picked one picture to use in everything.

Just as a business brand uses the same logo consistently, your headshot is YOUR brand. You should use the same photo consistently in your social world.

When I made a list of where I’d use my new headshot, it kept growing. Executive bio. Social media profiles. My gmail signature (another nod to Guy Kawasaki for recommending Wise Stamp). College alumni profiles. Google. Yelp. AirBNB. On so on.

My headshot is on my camera roll so I can upload it into event apps and anywhere I might need it.

Take advantage of events that offer headshots. Be camera ready to take a new pic at a variety of events that offer photography.

And don’t forget to smize!

Speak Effortlessly with a Compelling Opening

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Thrill your audience. Spark engagement with your ideas. Transform people’s views of the world.

That’s the promise of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, out this month by TED curator Chris Anderson.

And it’s also the new bar in public speaking. It’s no longer acceptable to under prepare, to meander or to bore your audience.

With so many people taking in a steady diet of TED talks to enlighten, educate and entertain themselves, the bar is sky high for anyone who speaks in public.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a keynote speech for an audience of a thousand or a tabletop presentation to your colleagues. Using the strategies in TED Talks will help spread your ideas.

Elements have come in handy for me in everything from town hall meetings and operations reviews at work to city committee meetings and inspirational talks in my community. Not to mention a decade of writing speeches and presentations for C-level corporate leaders.

Speaking effortlessly ties into my recent posts on grit and on sprezzatura, the art of making the difficult seem easy. In his book, Chris Anderson does a terrific job of outlining the hard work it takes behind the scenes to give a compelling talk. One that might change the world.

Take openings, for example. You have to grab people from the very first sentence. The opening words or a talk are similar to the way you need to think about headlines, subject lines and the first line of an email message. You only get a few words to pique people’s interest, or cause them to tune out.

This month I was presenting to a live and web-based audience in a town hall meeting. The topic? Our team’s annual scorecard – the priorities, initiatives, metrics and targets we’re striving for this year.

It had the potential to be boring. How to capture people’s attention? For that, I turned to the chapter on “Open and Close: What Kind of Impression Would you Like to Make?”

According to Anderson, “you have about a minute to intrigue people with what you’ll be saying.” He encourages readers to “script and memorize the opening minute.”

Here are 4 ways he offers to start strong:

  • Deliver a dose of drama. Anderson suggests asking yourself, “If your talk were a movie or a novel, how would it start?”
  • Ignite curiosity. Here you can ask a surprising question or give a little illustration that piques an interest to hear more.
  • Show a compelling slide, video or object. These capture even more attention when you reveal something surprising about them.
  • Tease, but don’t give it away. “Channel your inner Spielberg” and imagine what will make your audience want to learn more.

So how did I start my scorecard talk? My current work focuses on metrics and measurement. But numbers alone wouldn’t engage or inspire my colleagues.

I thought about how to link it with our bigger purpose. At our annual leadership kickoff meeting, our technology leader talked about the magic our team creates every day in marketing a storied, nearly 140-year-old company.

And there it was – the dramatic contrast of measuring magic.

“If you think you can’t measure magic,” I began, “I’m here to show you how we’ll do just that.”

Yes, the opening may have given too much away. But when a few people mentioned the magic reference to me later that day, I knew it had been a good way to start.

Equally important is how you close. And everything you do in between. I’ll explore those in future posts.

For a spine-tingling close, check out Brené Brown in her TED talk, The power of vulnerability.

Speaking About Soccer

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What makes a great speech?

Humor. Brevity. Meaning. Emotion. Love. Those were the hallmarks of some touching remarks I heard over the weekend.

And no, it wasn’t a TED talk or a corporate retreat. It was a high-school soccer banquet. Seen through the eyes of a freshman parent.

The most impressive part was the level of preparation. Each graduating senior had a freshman talk about what they learned from that player.

And whether they pulled a piece of paper or an iPhone out of their pocket, they had all clearly put thought into what they were going to say.

After the freshmen had their say, some of the seniors shone the spotlight on their coaches.

A few memorable mantras from the many vignettes –

  • No matter what happens, you have to make the best of it
  • Some of the biggest learnings happen off the field
  • Someday I hope I can make people feel as special as my coach made me feel.

Whether they were talking about soccer, or life or both, a lot of great lessons had been role modeled, learned and shared.

What struck me the most was the level of poise these young athletes demonstrated. That’s what comes from having many opportunities to speak in group settings.

They showed how much inspiration – not to mention humor – you can bring to a very short speech.

There’s no need to hem or haw or spend a long time leading up to the punchline.

They simply shared what was in their hearts.

What Makes a Great Acceptance Speech?

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The Golden Globes is a great reason to gather with family and friends.

It’s fun to celebrate favorite movies and TV shows, rooting for favorite performers.

And if you’re a communicator and marketer, like me, it’s entertaining to listen for the best speeches of the evening.

The winners in my book? Sylvester Stallone for Creed and Lady Gaga for American Horror Story: Hotel.

Show emotion. Sly looked stunned when his name was announced, sitting in his seat for a few moments before he stood up. (The standing ovation may have begun before he stood up himself.) And his first words were about his genuine surprise.

Lady Gaga pulled her hand to her mouth, stopping time for a moment as the win sunk in. And among her first words were, “This is the biggest moment of my life.”

Shine the light on others. Sly endeared himself to the whole world when he said, “I am the sum total of everyone I’ve ever met.”

Lady Gaga said, “Because of you I was able to shine.” And, “Thank you for sharing your talent with me.” And, “You guys pick me up every day.”

Be brief. The best speakers leave you wanting more. Not wondering if they’re going to say something memorable (eventually), or wrap it up and be gone. Not so with Sly and Lady Gaga. I would have been happy listening to them speak for hours.

And that’s the art of a great acceptance speech.

Give Yourself the Gift of Presence

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What’s an upside to waking up in the middle of the night?

Here’s one: when a pre-ordered book from Amazon downloads after midnight on the publishing date.

A Christmas gift arrived early this week with Amy Cuddy‘s new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

You may have been among the 30 million views of her TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

If so, you know about “power posing.”

When you’re facing a challenge – whether it’s a big presentation or a job interview or an everyday interaction – strike a powerful pose for 2 minutes. Making your body big will make your mind feel more confident.

Two years ago I tried this for the first time. I was planning our Chairman’s annual leadership meeting. As I was meeting with my boss to finalize the agenda, he suggested I should speak at the meeting.

WH-A-A-A-T?

The terror and excitement of speaking before 200 of my leadership peers fought a valiant duel. In my mind. In seconds. And then I said, “Sure, I’d be glad to speak.”

The opportunity won out over the fear. But now I had to perform. And it had better be good.

I began with the usual speaking preparation I would bring to any C-suite leader in my role at the time leading corporate communications.

The topic? Leading Communications.

Or, how my fellow leaders could lead communications among their teams, cascading leadership meeting messages across the enterprise.

And perhaps not so coincidentally, it’s also the original title of this blog.

The brainstorming, writing and practicing began. The weekend before the event I set up my iPhone to record myself giving the presentation in the meeting room.

Two days before the event, I did a dry run for a few colleagues and team members.

And it it fell painfully flat. No connection. No spark. No magic.

They were nice about it. But their body language spoke louder than any words of encouragement ever could.

There were still 48 hours to redeem myself.

I remembered the time Mark Cuban came to speak at our company in the early 2000s. He drove all night to get there. He was friendly and engaging with our employees.

Most memorable were his words about client meetings and commitments. A client would ask for something, and the group would agree it would be delivered the next day.

Later, Mark and his colleagues would look at each other and say they had no idea how to do what they’d just committed to. But they had all night to figure it out. And figure it out, they did. Time and time again.

If they could do it, so could I.

Picking myself up off the metaphorical floor, I got to work. I revised my speech so it focused more on the audience. And what was in it for them.

But what made the most difference on the day of my speech was the simple, yet powerful advice of Amy Cuddy in her TED talk.

It was to adopt the Wonder Woman pose for 2 minutes, before my speech.

The only problem?

My talk was right after a few other speakers, so I couldn’t  power pose in private, as Cuddy recommends. So I did the next best thing. I took up as much space as I could, without violating too many social norms.

I sat up straight. I stretched out one of my arms across an adjoining chair. I put another hand on my hip. I planted my feet solidly on the floor. I took deep breaths.

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The audience body language post speech? Smiles. Applause. Fist bumps.

Yes, power posing really works.

Two of my work colleagues screened Cuddy’s TED talk at a Lean In circle last year. It was a great session, with ideas like jumping into group conversations one beat after the current speaker’s last word.

So I couldn’t wait for Presence when it came out this week. I wanted to know more secrets to bringing my best self to the challenges of life.

What is presence? Cuddy defines it as “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, value and potential.”

And what did I find? A well-researched, highly entertaining, inspiring and actionable book. Most of all, it reminded me to do the following:

  1. Start each day with a power pose
  2. Stand up straight
  3. Take up space
  4. Breathe deeply
  5. Share the power of presence with others.

The book also underscores the importance of personal power – an infinite resource that’s always available to you. It’s yours for the taking.

As Cuddy describes personal power, “it’s about access to and control of limitless inner resources, such as our skills and abilities, our deeply held values, our true personalities and our boldest selves.”

As a new year dawns, I hope you’ll bring your boldest self.

What are You Learning this Fall?

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It’s hard to tell who’s more excited about the start of a new school year – my children or me.

While every new season and every new day bring a fresh start, there’s something extra special about the fall.

Maybe it’s the combination of a new school year, a new football season (full disclosure: I work for the company that brings you NFL Sunday Ticket) and a new world of possibilities.

You get the benefit of a new start, without the pressure to make resolutions that a new year brings.

Fall is the perfect time for kids of all ages to recommit to learning. Here are my favorite ideas for learning something new this season.

Go online. Your professional association probably offers a myriad of on-demand webinars. I’ve been working on my APR recertification through the PRSA website, with sessions like Digital News Releases, Twitter PR Secrets and Media Pitching for 2015.

One of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, has amazing career courses at Quistic. I can’t wait until the end of this month when her series of Myers-Briggs sessions delves into the ENTJ type.

And one of the exciting things about the company that acquired my employer this summer is the access to hundreds of online courses through AT&T University.

Go the library. My neighborhood library has a great section of new releases when you walk in the door. I can stock up on all the latest books with a swipe of my library card.

I just finished Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind, with strategies for “thinking straight in the age of information overload.” Because our brains can’t keep track of all the stimuli that bombard us, it helps to set up systems to get information out of our heads and into external storage systems. This premise also reminded me to read the refreshed version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

And when my brain really needs a break, there’s nothing like the charming reading room at the Malaga Cove Library. Reading, reflecting, thinking or just chilling out are the perfect activities in this historical landmark built in 1929.

Go back to school. Whether it’s a MOOC or a university extension class or a local community college, there are lots of options. This may be my next strategy for learning Spanish, especially because I need an accountability mechanism!

And going back to school doesn’t necessarily mean doing so as a student. You can learn just as much by teaching a course – the process of distilling your thoughts into a structured framework can be an invaluable learning experience.

Mix up your exercise routine. My evening walks and treadmill sessions just earned me a New Zealand badge, according to a congratulatory email from Fitbit. But besides actually wanting to travel there sometime this decade, I’d like to experiment with some new forms of exercise.

This seemed like the perfect weekend to try Cardio Barre and stand up paddle boarding. And I loved them both. My mind recalled my years of ballet training much better than my body did, so I’ll have get up to speed on the barre over a bit more time.

The mind/body connection between exercise and the brain is fascinating, as Gretchen Reynold explores in her “Phys Ed” column in the New York Times.

Be a tourist in your own town. It’s easy to get complacent and not take advantage of all your city or town has to offer. My husband and I started the holiday weekend with a favorite walk around the Lake Hollywood reservoir.

Our reward afterwards was the Urth Caffe, where we talked about fun things we could do this fall and winter, like go to a few college football games and finally see the Rose Parade in person.

And my good colleague Katie Jenks gave me a great lead on a comedy club. A good laugh is just the thing to put life into perspective and making the living much more fun!

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3 PR Skills for the Future

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A colleague recently asked me about the top three qualifications in public relations, today and in 2025.

It was for a curriculum review at a university’s journalism and mass communications school.

My first thought was about the tsunami of change we’ll see in the next 10 years. It would be easier to predict what the next three to five years will bring.

The Future Work Skills 2020 report by the Institute for the Future came to mind. Smart machines, new media and global connectivity are just some of the trends reported that will shape the future of PR and corporate communications.

For today, Tell Me About A Train Wreck, my blog post on what I’m looking for in a new hire, led me to the top qualifications for 2015:

  • Critical thinking. Using reasoning and and systems thinking to make decisions and solve problems is the foundation for this field (and many others). This is a key skill in the framework for 21st century learning.
  • Writing – for a social, mobile, global and video-based world. Writing reflects sound thinking. And in a world suffering from information overload, writing today has to be clear, concise and compelling.
  • Business acumen. A thorough understanding of the business, the competition and the industry is key to successful PR and corp comms. Give equal weight to learning about PR and the business world.

As I started projecting future qualifications, I ended up with the same three. Yet, those will hardly be sufficient for what the world will look like a decade from now. So to those foundational skills, I would add:

  • Tech savvy. This encompasses everything from video production to learning to code. As the Wall Street Journal reported, it’s about gaining “procedural literacy” and thinking about how processes work in the world. In the PR realm, it will become increasingly important to bring art (writing) and science (technology) together to engage and influence people in the future.
  • Data analysis. With the explosion in data creation, it will become increasingly important to analyze data, see patterns, choose an appropriate course of action, and know how to ethically and appropriately present data to change behaviors. This is also vital to consider on a personal branding level through Michael Fertik’s The Reputation Economy.
  • Creativity. This is another 21st century skill. And it’s one that’s closely linked with innovation. With data, technology and information, a creative ability enables connections and something new and fresh from considering and combining seemingly disparate ideas and concepts.

With so much to learn, where’s a good place to start?

Often, it’s by doing one new thing and taking just one step.

As a new school year kicks off, I’m recommitting to learning a new language with my Spanish studies. My husband is brushing up on his Italian, and our children are heading back for the first day of school.

What are you learning this fall?

New Ways to Work

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Speaking at the Intranet Global Forum this week at USC made me reflect on new ways to work.

At Toby Ward‘s invitation, I joined a variety of speakers including digital luminaries Shel Holtz, Dion Hinchcliffe and Aadam Zaidi.

The focus? The future of corporate intranets, spotlighting the design, governance and management of enterprise and social intranets.

My talk was a DIRECTV case study, looking at how we’re changing the way work gets done in our connected enterprise.

Today it’s more collaborative, productive and innovative. And tomorrow it should become even more so, as technologies and cultures evolve.

It started four years ago when my Communications team began working with the I.T. team to explore technologies for social collaboration.

We began with a vision – to make it easy for employees to connect, collaborate, access and share information with each other and partners, leading to greater engagement and productivity, along with better decision-making and increased innovation.

Our work was informed in part by the McKinsey & Company study, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.

Across four sectors studied, it reported that social technologies improving productivity could potentially contribute up to $1.3 trillion in value. And two-thirds of this amount lay in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises.

Those are hefty numbers. And big potential to achieve.

We embarked on our journey with a group headed by Michael Ambrozewicz on my team, and later joined by Thyda Nhek and Mani Escobar.

We have a great technical partnership with I.T. strategy leader Frank Palase and his team, along with insight from various consulting partners.

Together we could put a social collaboration platform in place, but how could we encourage people to use it? How could we achieve its full value?

We had to make it part of how people did their daily work. Not a separate site that people would visit and engage with when they had time.

It had to be a way to get important work done every day. It had to foster new ways of working, with employees creating content to share in places where teams collaborate in real time.

Senior leader involvement is a key way of doing that. If leaders are active in a social intranet, then employees will join the dialogue and the action.

In our beta phase, I launched a communications leadership blog. My purpose was to encourage the beta participants to experiment and learn. And I’d learn enough about blogging from first-hand experience so I could advise our C-suite leaders on launching and growing their own blogs.

In the next year’s annual leadership meeting, we wove social collaboration into the program.

  • Our CEO talked about its importance in the context of our overall business strategy.
  • Michael and Thyda manned kiosks and helped leaders set up their profile pages and get started with initial actions, like following colleagues and bookmarking key content.
  • Each day I blogged for all employees about what was happening at the meeting. Our CIO jumped in with blog posts and perspectives of his own.

Blogging for me created a “flow state” experience, where time drifts away and I’m completely engaged in the art and craft of thinking and writing. It’s one of the things I wrote about in my very first post.

And it’s one of the reasons I launched this second blog, Leading Communications, earlier this year. I wanted to continue learning, sharing knowledge and engaging in dialogue.

What are we doing with our social intranet today?

First, we’re providing company news and information in real time, that employees can like, share, comment on and add their own perspectives.

Second, key teams are regularly collaborating on projects and keeping their colleagues up to date on emerging industry trends, new technologies and consumer insights.

Third, major work locations and teams use spaces to engage colleagues with relevant information and project-based resources.

And where are we going tomorrow?

First, our social intranet will sustain and build on organizational knowledge. Information is increasingly less likely to be buried in individuals’ email accounts, and more likely to be available for colleagues to access and build upon.

Second, our word-based content is becoming more visual, with photos and videos increasing in importance compared with text. People can process visual information much faster, not to mention that it’s more engaging.

And in our rapidly changing world, that provides tremendous upside. Step by step, we can all make that trillion-dollar value creation a reality.