Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Communicating effectively through a merger or acquisition

By Marc Wright

Mergers and acquisitions are two of the most important drivers in increasing the need for internal communication in both buying and target companies. In this article you can find out the 7 key steps you can take to optimise internal communication when your company is acquiring another, or is being acquired or merged.

Mergers put a huge strain on communication managers as they find themselves truly between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, senior management go into purdah as they jostle behind the scenes for the upper hand in negotiations while, on the other, staff panic about losing their jobs and related position, lifestyle and pension.

Most communication professionals go through a merger or acquisition only once in a decade so you can afford to pull on a wide variety of external help and skills to get through a process that will stretch and develop you more than any other professional experience. There is usually a management consultancy on board, who have come in to help with the rationalisation and restructuring of the merged business. They always put a high emphasis on the importance of communication. Studies by Booz-Allen & Hamilton indicate that over 70% of merger objectives go unmet, and just 23% earn their cost of capital. However, change consultants are often involved flat out on their task of bolting two disparate companies together so they will have little time and expertise to help out the beleaguered communication manager stuck in the middle.

So what should you do when those first indications of a merger start blowing in the wind? Here I suggest a 7 point strategy: More...

Taken from The Gower Handbook of Internal Communications


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Towers Watson Report: Capitalizing on Effective Communication

Companies that communicate with courage, innovation and discipline, especially during times of economic challenge and change, are more effective at engaging employees and achieving desired business results. Towers Watsons' research has consistently found the firms that communicate effectively with employees are also the best financial performers.

When it comes to communication, successful companies pay close attention to articulating their employee value proposition. In times of change, they use social media and other, time-tested tools to communicate with an increasingly diverse and dispersed audience. These companies treat their managers as a special audience — offering additional communication and training to help them manage. They focus on the customer and use communication programs to drive productivity, quality and safety.

The 2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report summarizes the findings of a multiregional study. It identifies what the companies with highly effective communication practices are doing to inform and engage their employees in challenging economic times, and shows how these practices vary around the world.

Key findings
  • Effective employee communication is a leading indicator of financial performance and a driver of employee engagement. Companies that are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that are the least effective communicators.
  • Despite all of the organizational and benefit changes employers have been making in response to challenging economic conditions, only 14% of the survey participants are explaining the terms of the new employee value proposition (EVP) to their employees.
  • The best invest in helping leaders and managers communicate with employees. While only three out of 10 organizations are training managers to deal openly with resistance to change, highly effective communicators are more than three times as likely to do this as the least effective communicators.
  • Despite the increased use of social media, companies are still struggling to measure the return on their investment in these tools. Highly effective communicators are more likely than the least effective communicators to report their social media tools are cost-effective (37% vs. 14%).
  • Measurement is critical. Companies that are less-effective communicators are three times as likely as highly effective communicators to report having no formal measurements of communication effectiveness.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Half of the change projects fail due to poor communication

Almost half of all change management projects fail. One of the reasons: Top managers overvalue their communication skills during change. 

According to the "Change Fitness Study 2012" 71 percent of the surveyed business leaders think that they have openly and clearly communicated the challenges and risks of a change project. But only 32 percent of the employees share this opinion. Self-image and external view diverge widely. While 56 percent of the top managers are convinced that they inspire employees for future change management projects, only 26 percent of employees agree to this perception. Even when it comes to the question of whether employees are fully informed, the results are different. 58 percent believe that their employees are optimally integrated in all processes. However, this view is only shared by 28 percent of employees. Around 300 people of the upper and middle management as well as employees of enterprises of various size and industries were interviewed as part of the "Change Fitness Study 2012".

Change communications needs transparency

In change management, project communication acts as a catalyst. Communication in change processes should create transparency, resolve resistance, drive processes and ensure integration. In order to succeed, communication should be: focused on the different target groups, personal or even discussed face-to-face, timely and adequate, done by executives supported by managers at all levels.

Face-to-face communication particularly important

Change management communication is performed in phases on the basis of a sophisticated and detailed communication plan. It ideally explains the rationale for the necessary change, the reasons for particular urgency, but also visions, goals and strategies. The challenges and risks should be explicitly addressed. Also face-to-face communication is particularly important to make sure that the messages are understood at all levels. That is where the dialogue with employees starts to work. Only those who understand the reason for a change, are ready for it. Only those who change their mind and attitude, may also change behavior and actions. And only those who have time and space for trial and error, may also able to share the change. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Change communication needs structure - and empathy

How is information flowing top down, emotions bottom up? This might be less a question in large service companies that have a well-rehearsed internal communication. Because there are established communication tools such as employee newsletters, intranet, discussion forums and feedback boxes. But what for smaller companies which, for example, cannot reach all employees at the same time? Because they are working in shifts or because they have a mixed structure of employees in offices and workers at production lines?

Even with an established internal communication there are many open questions: Which method when? With what intensity and for what purpose? My recommendation is to establish a separate communication structure for the period of change: An individual or a team, in which all communication agendas are bundled. This "Change communicator" may come from any area of a business, important is his integrity and his empathy: Change occurs when we still value the good old things, are clear and consistent in communicating the new, and make change noticeable. By the way: Change can be planned.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Intensive employee communication driving strategy aligment

"You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere."
Lee Iacocca

An intensive dialogue about the company's intention, strategy and objectives with all employees is a key driver for strategy alignment and for getting every one's "buy-in". However, it is not only the corporate communications department which is in charge of sending strategic messages throughout the organisation via its various channels. Also top management needs to disseminate strategic messages down the line, with managers from all levels informing their employees and discussing their contribution to the company's performance. In doing so, the employees’ knowledge and understanding of the strategy increases and their actions will be more in line with the strategy.

Hearing is not understanding

This sounds easy. But in many organisations there seems to be a problem with communicating strategic messages in a way that it is properly understood by all employees. The fact that employees are regularly informed and hear the message does not necessarily mean that they "got it". Strategic messages might not be properly received because rationale and context are missed. A lot of articles and essays have been written on this subject as well as on what should be done from a corporate communication point of view.

Dialogue-oriented communication

Communicating about the company's strategy is about employees understanding what the strategic objectives of the organisation are, and where there contribution can be to help the organisation in achieving these objectives. This requires an intensive debate bottom and bottom-up. It is all managers' responsibility to ensure in a meaningful and dialogue-oriented way that all employees have a common understanding about what the strategy is and why the company is following it. And it is their duty to align the operational activities with the strategic objectives. Such behavior should finally result in a strong strategic alignment where all employees are pulling together - motivated and engaged.

Therefore you should not only look at internal communications as the ultimate and only tool to create alignment. The necessary impact on your staff can only be reached if you enable the managers to lead the strategy discussion by providing them the adequate material such as presentations, articles, Q&A catalogues. That is what gives a company its road map towards alignment and top performance.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Monitor 2014: Digital age enriching the job of communicators

The European Communication Monitor is the largest transnational survey on strategic communication worldwide. 2,777 communication professionals from 42 countries participated in 2014. The ECM 2014 edition covers issues like mobile communication, drivers of job satisfaction for communicators, career development, networking and mentoring, influence of new technologies on daily job routines, gender issues, and characteristics of excellent communication departments - based on a new approach to identify outperforming functions.

Based on responses, the monitor reveals that the digital age enriches the jobs of professional communicators, yet many are still struggling to find new working routines. Communicating with stakeholders at any time is the most important aspect of mobile communication for six out of ten communicators in Europe. Although a third of organisations have implemented apps for smartphones and tablets, more than 40 per cent are not planning to use such tools for strategic communication. In contrast, 61 per cent already employ mobile corporate or organisational websites. While 84 per cent state that new ways of communication are enriching their jobs, 73 per cent also say that their daily work pressure is steadily increasing and only 57 per cent know how to handle the constant information flow.

The results have been released by the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), kindly supported by Communication Director magazine and sponsor Ketchum.

They are available online auf der Website des European Communication Monitor.
A flyer with 10 Starting Points (PDF) highlights key results and invites to join the discussion.
The highlights are also presented in a YouTube video.

The ECM 2014 has been conducted by a research group of professors from renowned universities in 11 countries, led by Professor Dr. Ansgar Zerfass. Lucky winners of the special draw of five Lomography Cameras are Heather Turnbach (Switzerland), Mladen Bubonjić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Charlie Miller (UK), Lillian Phillips (Greece), and Anine Stiansen (Norway). 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Die elf wichtigsten Faktoren für ein Top-Gehalt in der PR

Hamburg (ots) - Wer Erfolge vorweisen kann, Führungskompetenz zeigt und viele Ideen produziert, hat die besten Chancen, zu den Topverdienern in der PR gezählt zu werden. Persönliche Erscheinung, Loyalität zum Arbeitgeber und der Status als First Mover sind dagegen deutlich weniger wichtig. Das haben die dpa-Tochter news aktuell und Faktenkontor herausgefunden. 536 Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter aus Pressestellen deutscher Unternehmen haben an der jüngsten Umfrage teilgenommen.

Ebenfalls von großer Bedeutung für ein überdurchschnittliches Gehalt sind individuelles Verhandlungsgeschick, berufliches Netzwerken und Durchsetzungsvermögen. Loyalität zum Arbeitgeber (acht Prozent) zahlt sich nach Meinung der Kommunikationsprofis allerdings deutlich weniger aus als ein Arbeitgeberwechsel (20 Prozent). Auch eine ausgeprägte Konzeptionskompetenz, die für die Planung von erfolgreichen Kampagnen und Projekten wichtig ist, ist nach Auffassung der Befragten eher von untergeordneter Bedeutung für einen hohen Gehaltsscheck.

Die elf wichtigsten Faktoren für ein Top-Gehalt in der PR:

1. Erfolge vorweisen (40 Prozent)

2. Führungskompetenz (23 Prozent)
3. Ideenreichtum (23 Prozent)
4. Verhandlungsgeschick (21 Prozent)
5. Netzwerken (20 Prozent)
6. Arbeitgeberwechsel (20 Prozent)
7. Durchsetzungsvermögen (20 Prozent)
8. Konzeptionskompetenz (18 Prozent)
9. Persönliche Erscheinung (14 Prozent)
10. Loyalität zum Arbeitgeber (acht Prozent)
11. First Mover sein (sieben Prozent)

Frage: "Was ist der beste Weg zu einem Top-Gehalt? Nennen Sie die drei besten Wege für mehr Gehalt."
Datenbasis: 536 Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter aus Pressestellen Art der Befragung: Online-Befragung
Befragungszeitraum: März/April 2014


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Leiter Unternehmenskommunikation
Jens Petersen
Telefon: 040/4113 - 32843

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

AP To Begin Automating Business News Stories

By International Business Times, 2 July 2014

The Associated Press announced plans on Monday to automate quarterly earnings stories starting in July, a move the nonprofit news agency said will allow its reporters to refocus their efforts on the content quality.

The financial articles will be powered by Durham, North Carolina-based Automated Insights’ “Wordsmith” technology, which can translate big data into narratives. The AP, which participated in the company’s latest round of investment financing with other strategic partners, said it will pair the artificial intelligence tool with data from Zacks Investment Research to increase its 300 manually written business news reports to more than 4,000 with the automated system. The move will allow AP reporters to “spend more time on things like beat reporting and source development while increasing, by a factor of more than 10, the volume of earnings reports for customers.”

No AP employees will be laid off as a result of the change, Managing Editor Lou Ferrara, who oversees business news, said in a blog post. Instead, AP reports will focus on “what the numbers mean … identifying trends and finding exclusive stories we can publish at the time of the earnings reports.”

This isn’t the first time the AP has made this move. Many of the sports stories have been produced automatically for several years, Ferrara explained. For example, an automated NFL ranking was introduced last year, which “included automated text descriptions of player performances each week, which were produced by Automated Insights.”

Human eyes will continue to review the reports before they are published on the AP news wire, but Ferrara said once any bugs and concerns are out of the way, the news agency will “keep moving ahead.”