Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sequel Thinking

2B or not to be?

June 29, 2011

Hamlet muses over the evolution of englishI’m often amazed by how presenters on live television can look at a camera and pretend they’re talking to just one person, rather than 15 million.

I got a reminder of this at the ‘Evolving English’ exhibition recently at the British Library.

One of the things I discovered at the event is that there are around 1.8 billion people who speak English as a first or second language. As those of us who write for a living know only too well, that’s a big audience.

Add in the fact that something like two billion people have internet access these days (although, admittedly, not all of them will speak English), and it got me thinking: whenever we publish a story, blog or tweet in cyberspace, it could – potentially – be read by millions, if not billions, of people.

That’s a big responsibility.

Always ‘write for your audience’, we’re told in our journalism training. And – like the television presenter who pretends they’re talking to their mum down the camera lens – we’re encouraged to picture a ‘Mr or Mrs Average’ within that audience and write for them.

But, as I learned at the exhibition, language has always distinguished between different groups of people.

For instance, in the mid-20th century, if you were upper class you had lunch in the day and dinner in the evening; while if you were aspiring middle class you had dinner in the day and tea in the evening.

Language is always evolving too. I know that. But I’m a traditionalist: I always use the correct spelling in my text messages, for instance.

Am I a dinosaur? Maybe – I admit that I can’t tell the difference between a modern dance track and the sound of my car alarm going off – but I know there are some people who are happy to write ‘cu l8r m8 lol’ in their texts and the recipient will know exactly what they mean.

Should we start using this language when we write, in our client work?

No, I don’t think so. We should all be aware of how English is changing, but I’m not ready to start using text speak in feature articles just yet. And, at the moment, it would alienate more people than it would delight.

We do have a responsibility to reach as many people as possible, though, so there may be a place for it – as part of a reader feedback section, perhaps, such as those used by some tabloids – but until it becomes part of the middle ground, I’m going to continue writing for the existing ‘John’ or ‘Julie’, the ‘Mr or Mrs Average’ within each audience.

Paul Jones

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Tech distractions for workers add up

June 27, 2011

Distractions caused by social media, e-mail and badly designed office technology may cost a 1,000-worker company more than US$10 million a year, a survey says.

The survey of 515 white-collar workers by software company and polling researchers uSamp depicts a workplace culture trying to balance work, manners and family demands, says William Powers, author of the 2010 book ‘Hamlet’s BlackBerry’.

The familiar picture of managers checking e-mails in meetings is only part of a picture where workers report they leave their devices on during church, movies or even sex, he says. “This technology is supposed to bring us together, but it makes us rude,” Powers says. “It’s a wake-up call to be smarter about the devices we’re on.”

The study concluded:

  • More than half of US workers waste an hour or more a day on interruptions: 60% come from electronic devices and e-mails, while the other 40% come from traditional sources, such as phone calls or chats with colleagues.
  • 45% of workers say they can’t go more than 15 minutes, on average, without an interruption. The average worker wastes 2.5 hours a week looking for documents missing in poorly organized electronic files.
  • Only 68% of people always turn their phones off at the movies. Almost two-thirds will tune out of meetings to read e-mails, tweet or take mobile phone calls. Half leave devices on at least sometimes when they go to bed.

“We really have managers captured 24/7,” says Mike Brezner, uSamp senior vice president. “We’re all tethered — wirelessly tethered.”

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5 ways to tie communications to business results

June 3, 2011

Communicators, the number crunchers might argue, are right-brain types, fine at producing a creative educational campaign, but not so good at understanding the bottom line.

So, if you want to show the bosses that your work produces real results, measurement is everything, says Angela Sinickas, president of Sinickas Communications.

Speaking at a recent Ragan conference, Sinickas asserted that internal communicators should tie their work to specific results. This will justify their efforts to the bosses and demonstrate their value to the firm.

Some, bruised by budget battles, might be leery about sloshing into the mangroves of business value, but Sinickas suggests such discussions can work to your advantage.

Here are a few of her tips:

  1. Ask what employee behaviours needs changing – From the start, get the higher-ups to consider what they’re trying to change in an organisation, so the first draft of a communication plan will match what the company wants.
  2. Find out what motivates the employees
  3. Consult with members of your potential audience
  4. Get the bosses to put a dollar value their problem – Don’t just promise to push the big message. Turn the numbers question around on the bean counters, and get them to explain how serious a problem this is to them.
  5. Demonstrate your worth with results – If a campaign succeeds, survey your audience to connect the behaviour change with your campaign. Even if the percentage who credit your campaign is small, your budget is also likely to be small. So your influence will be outsized compared with the results.

“Let’s say the results improve everywhere, but they improve even more where your communication is being used,” Sinickas said, “then you can take credit for the difference in improvement. … That’s an approach that pharmaceutical companies use all the time in clinical trials.”

Make use of the data that’s out there. For example, a communicator might launch a video campaign, but one location doesn’t call the meeting or show the video because the manager didn’t want the down time.

Don’t tear your hair out about bozos who don’t get the message. “They’ve just given you a free pilot study,” Sinickas said. “All you have to do is go back and find out which sites did and didn’t use the communication, and see if the results were any different on those sites.”

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Social media: growth rockets.

June 2, 2011

The last 12 months have seen impressive stats as social media gets bigger and develops as a broad digital channel.

Social media appsJake Hird, a Senior Research Analyst for Econsultancy, charts what’s changed in the last 12 months.

Then: Twitter has 75m user accounts, but only around 15m of them are active, regular users.

Now: Twitter now officially claims to have 175m registered users, although it’s unclear what percentage regularly uses the service.

Then: LinkedIn has over 50m members worldwide.

Now: officially, Linkedin has grown 100 per cent, now having over 100m professionals who use the platform worldwide.

Then: Facebook has 350 million active users on global basis.

Now: Facebook officially hit the half-billion member mark last year. According to figures from Socialbakers, there are now some 640m Facebook users worldwide.

Then: 50 per cent of active users log into Facebook each day. This means at least 175m users every 24 hours.

Now: still citing the 50 per cent active rate, using the official 500m figure, this means at least 250m users every 24 hours. This is more than a 40 per cent increase in 12 months.

Then: Flickr hosts more than 4bn images.

Now: Flickr continues to grow at a steady rate, having increased by some 25 per cent in the last 12 months. At the end of 2010, it was hosting more than 5bn images.

Then: Wikipedia has 14m articles and 85,000 contributors.

Now: Wikipedia now has more 17m articles. The site now has an army of 91,000 active contributors.

Then: 65m users access Facebook through mobile-based devices.

Now: it may well be the year of mobile… for Facebook. Users accessing the site through mobile devices now top 200m – an enormous 200 per cent increase in around a 12-month period.

Then: there are more than 3.5bn pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, etc.) shared each week on Facebook.

Now: clearly, Facebook is still growing: More than 30bn pieces of content are shared each month, which is an average of 7bn pieces a week

Then: there are 11m LinkedIn users across Europe.

Now: go Europe! There are now 20m+ EU LinkedIn members.

Then: the average number of tweets per day was over 27m.

Now: Twitter now states that 95m tweets are written each day. This is a staggering 250 per cent increase.

Then: the average number of tweets per hour was around 1.3m.

Now: at the new rate of growth, it´s calculated that there are nearly 4m tweets per hour.

Employee Engagement

Mine's a latte with extra employee engagement

There is no ‘silver bullet’ for employee engagement – but the secret is to find out what you do well in your business and make sure this is done all the time, according to Caffè Nero’s HR director, Steve Carpenter.

Speaking on the topic of ‘driving employee engagement during double digit growth’, at the HR Forum, Carpenter, whose organisation has grown from five coffee shops in 1997 to 434 at the end of 2010, said: “We want to keep a small business feel as we get larger. We are reliant on 3,000 employees to deliver great coffee to our customers every time – and we would lose this if they weren’t engaged.

“There is no secret to good engagement. We just keep a focus on it. Our view is that we are a people business serving coffee, not a coffee business serving people and we constantly communicate this with staff. Even when times are tough, our people sit high on the boardroom agenda.”

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Loyalty and cultural fit of staff are key elements of Caffè Nero’s strategy and this starts during the recruitment process. The firm is keen to hire people based on their attitudes, rather than their skills, so they are stretched and challenged as they learn their roles.

Carpenter has implemented a ‘strategic recognition’ scheme, to make staff feel uniquely special. This includes asking customers to name staff who have been especially helpful and when this is done it is announced in the internal magazine; area managers are encouraged to personally thank the employee.

And the ‘no silver bullet’ initiative is paying off for Carpenter. In 2001, Caffè Nero had 427 staff and this has increased to in excess of 3,000, while sales revenue for 2010 came in at £153.6 million. Staff engagement has increased alongside. The company has recently implemented engagement surveys and found 87% of employees feel proud to work for Caffè Nero.

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Playing to win: how play at work can drive success

June 1, 2011

As innovation becomes the stamp of high-value work, our working circumstances will have to provide an opportunity for childlike play and creativity to flourish.

Consultant Lynda Gratton says that in the future, playing and work will no longer be mutually exclusive, but most of us have forgotten how to play.

Work becomes play when we do something we normally don’t; when we stop doing something we normally do; when we carry to the extreme the behaviours we normally regulate; and when we invert the patterns of our daily social life, she says.

The future of work will increasingly be about breaking down the barriers that separate work from life and work from play.

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

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Managers to blame for worsening workplace morale

Morale in the workplace is getting worse and managers could be to blame, according to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The CMI’s “Spring economic outlook survey” found that 70% of managers admitted that morale in their organisations had got worse during the past six months.

In addition, 45% of managers surveyed said that the number of workers feeling involved and valued in their business had also decreased during the same period.

The CMI suggest that managers themselves could be responsible for the decline in morale. It said that in some cases where managers are failing to lift employees’ spirits, it could be because they simply do not know how to, due to a lack of formal management training.

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