Monthly Archives: March 2013

Emphasizing Reputation Management

I would recommend that all those involved in Corporate Communication and public relations training start focusing more and more on Reputation Management. As with our personal lives, the more companies invest in building good relationships with their ‘significant’ others or stakeholders, the more they will earn in terms of loyalty and support in times of trouble.
Try and source a very useful article by Deon Binneman (posted online on 30 November 2012) entitled, “7 Compelling reasons to educate, train and develop your employees about Reputation Management”. It has always been my contention that reputation management should be core to any business activities. I emphasize reputation management in all my courses and enjoy using the term “reputational capital” because often managers response more readily to the idea of capital. “Soft skills” like communication, relationship building, harmony, stakeholder perceptions and the like don’t grip their interests. They are more focused on sales, profit and assets and forget that relationships contribute to the most valuable asset – reputation.

According to Binneman, “A good reputation means your name is trusted….you are considered a sound investment….and employer.” Educating your employees about reputation management encourages them to work collaboratively in building your corporate reputation, resulting in benefits like increased productivity, increased competitiveness, stakeholder identification and loyalty, to name a few.

The brittle condition of South Africa’s moral backbone

The brittle condition of South Africa’s moral backbone
I read Willem Landman’s piece entitled, “SA is already knee deep in moral bankruptcy” with great interest and sadness. However, I do believe there are enough people in South Africa today who feel as strongly as I on this matter, and if all these people could band together in the fight against a corrupt and unethical society and start building a common ethos of honesty, authenticity, regard for others, accountability and social justice, life for our children and their children has far more promise in the future. Individuals and groups should start a public discourse, form a forceful coalition that will contribute to the advancement of a more ethical South African society. In Tony Manning’s view, “If you don’t make a difference, you don’t matter” and we must make a difference to show that our beliefs matter in making society better.
Willem Landman, CEO of the Ethics Institute of South Africa (ww.ethicsa.org) offers some harsh points [extracted by me] when he claims, “The state of ethics in our country – in our politics, economy and even personal lives – is in a critical state. There is a growing gap between the normative vision of 1994 and what has happened since then. By means of our Constitution, we committed ourselves to a new value system, but in our personal and professional lives, we are increasingly moving away from those values….the basic prerequisites for an ethical journey in our personal and public lives were established, namely extraordinary people as role models and democratic institutions imbedded in a standard-setting legal structure. But it is in our public life – in our political economy – that the depth of our moral bankruptcy is reaching serious proportions. Indicative of this is the behaviour of our politicians and public officials…..They do not understand the difference between the law and ethics….. public health care and education were the most unfortunate examples of the lack of ethics…… Almost all the speakers [at a recent conference] highlighted our sad lack of ethical leadership.” We need to act on this immediately.
One of the most commonly held views today seems to be, as long as it’s legal who cares if it’s ethical. Courts are overrun with cases that should never have been addressed by the legal system at all – if only those involved had acted ethically. Our society is morally bankrupt simply because its ‘ethics’ bank account has been robbed to pay for the legal costs of the ever-increasing reliance on litigation to solve battles created by unethical businessmen, politicians and the like. We must act to change this.

PR “Boot Camp” Workshops

Getting ahead in Public Relations – A Series of 4 Workshops

The venue is The Barn at Kwanyoni in Hilton [District Road 534, off Hilton College Road]
Each Tuesday morning 8.30 – 12.30, from May 21 to June 11

Who should attend?
Managers, supervisors, NGO staff, public service personnel and individuals who need to communicate more effectively with key stakeholders with a view to building relationships and enhancing reputation.

Objectives
To develop an understanding of why and how stakeholder relations can build a company’s brand and reputation through a strategy of targeted messages and actions.
This series of workshops teaches participants the basics of:
• The role of PR in building stakeholder relationships
• Developing a mission statement and corporate identity
• Constructing messages, selecting media and activities
• Specialised PR techniques.
The purpose is to enable participants to engage interactively with the information or theory by applying it to their own organisation. Facilitator, Desiray Viney, guides participants through the process of analysing their work situations; planning and strategizing; using techniques relevant to their own scenarios. Based on the experiential learning concept, using and sharing information facilitates understanding and retention. Hence, participants can return to the workplace able to contribute to the organisation’s PR plans and actions.
Cost
Each workshop costs R500 per participant. This includes the workbook and refreshments.
The cost of attending all four workshops is R 1,800-00 per participant – a saving of R200 – if paid in full in advance.
Ideally, participants should attend all four workshops to obtain a certificate of completion, however, each workshop is also offered as a stand-alone.
PR Workshops’ Schedule
Date Workshop Title Topics covered
Tues, 21/5
8.30 – 12.30 What’s up? Development, Role & function of PR
Who cares? Setting goals and Identifying Publics
Tues, 28/5
8.30 – 12.30 Who are you?
Do you care? Corporate culture, identity, image and reputation
Tues, 4/6
8.30 – 12.30 Say and do what? How do you communicate and behave with publics?
How? Why? Developing messages for publics to improve relations
Tues, 11/6
8.30 – 12.30 So what? Corporate citizenship – being part of a greater system.
What else? Explore PR techniques to build reputation & fulfil goals.

Contact
For information and bookings contact Desiray Viney at REAL Communication Consulting:
Cel: 082 875 7194 Email: dviney@realcommunications.co.za
Visit www.realcommunications.co.za

Building Relationships is the core of business

Over the years business has learnt that reputational capital is not gained only through product quality and sales, but also through the way we do business and the impression we make on our key stakeholders through our actions externally, in society, and in the the way we deal with our employees. Therefore it is necessary to develop the knowledge and skills to maintain and manage these ‘target public’ relations to create a positive brand image that leads to loyalty to us when the going gets tough.

For a business or organisation to be consistent, clear and in its stakeholder communication and action, all employees and management have to uphold the same values and mission and develop common messages or stories based on this vision, and be specific to each of their stakeholders. Each target public, including staff, must feel they have a stake in the success of a company they’re involved with.

And that is where a workshop course in public or stakeholder relations can be extremely useful – not only for management, but for shop-floor people too. Learning more about how corporates communicate is crucial in getting all employees aware of the influence of their communication and actions on specific publics.

Using an experiential learning method within a workshop format, participants at these workshops are exposed to the ‘theory’ of public relations while engaging with theory by applying it to their specific work scenarios. This enables them to return to the workplace with new ideas and perspectives to contribute to the corporate communication function.

REAL Communication Consulting is facilitating its first series of workshops entitled, An Introduction to Public Relations, in May/June. It is aimed at small business owners and staff, NGOs, public service providers and individuals who want to improve their relationship building through communication. Each workshop will run on a Tuesday morning from 8.30 to 12.30 over four weeks from May 21 to June 11. The venue is The Barn at Kwanyoni in Hilton. Being in a beautiful environment away from the office stimulates interaction with people from other companies and encourages out-of-box thinking. Participants can then return to work with positive and constructive contributions to the company’s operations.

A Workshop schedule and the cost will be posted on the website too.
Anyone interested can contact the facilitator, Desiray.

SA education is failing but is going online the answer?

One of the pervading themes of our social discourse these days is our failing (as in not working and not passing) education system and poor teachers (as in bad and as in badly-paid). It seems everyone, from the Education Department itself, to the business community, parents and the public in general, all under-value teachers, not only in terms of monetary value but also in terms of the respect and the status given to the profession. It’s a really serious social problem that needs to be addressed.

I am an educator and have been one for close on thirty years. So for me it’s sad and demoralising when I read, hear, see and experience how lowly people perceive teachers. On a daily basis I’ve heard students say things like, “My father would kill me if I wanted to be a teacher!” Asked why, they reply, “There’s no money!” or “It’s an awful job!” Yet when parents are asked what they think is their most important wish or goal for their children, they say “education.” Isn’t that strange? What’s going on here? How can we begin to repair this damaged outlook? We can’t expect our children to be educated without teachers. And, yes, teachers have to earn respect through showing dedication to their vocation and understand it’s not just a job. Being a teacher is also being a mentor, a role model, one who socializes the youth regarding ethical, responsible citizenship.
I could go on and on, offering my own solution to the problem, but hey, I’m only an educator, what do I know? So can’t we throw it open up the conversation to allow really concerned and capable educational, social, economic parties – not the government or politicians – to come up with constructive workable plans of action?

Many who view education, like everything else in society, in terms of economics are offering solutions. One of particular interest is that of giving students computers and/or offering online education. Although very valid and logical in terms of access to information, there are very important educational and cognitive factors that seem to be overlooked. (Read Jeff Selingo’s article on free online courses – LinkedIn.com).
For example, based on the belief that teacher/student contact is no longer imperative to learning and teaching, some educational institutions are in the process of phasing out contact sessions such as lectures and tutorials, and using online teaching materials and methods. However, I believe that, if these ‘places of learning’ take away the personal contact between teacher and student, it will be the very students who desperately need the extra personal attention who will fall behind and by the wayside.
So, what’s the story here? Is this new ‘educational’ plan based on teaching and learning theory or on economics? Perhaps it’s because educational institutions get more funding for the research they produce than for the students they put through, so lecturers are made to spend more of their time on research and not on teaching in classrooms. Who wins? NOT the students. What educational values are being embraced? Is money and funding the over-riding value even in an educational institution?

On the topic of online learning, Walter Baets’ article, “Online education heralds changes” (Source: Financial Mail via I-Net Bridge on 17 Feb 2013, in BizCommunity) questions, “Will online studies be a panacea for Africa’s learning deficit? For example, in business education, will online programs stimulate entrepreneurial growth and improve practical business acumen? In order to achieve more than mere material presentation, “online learning must be delivered in an appropriate way, based on an understanding of what learning is, how people learn, and why they feel the need to learn. Simply making intellectual content available online will not necessarily result in learning. Learning is a complex process that takes place in the head of the learner, who engages with the material that is presented in a certain way and in a certain context”, says Baets.

He is not the only writer who emphasises the importance of experiential learning. Baets maintains that “A key part of this process is that people need to experience learning…… to feel it happening, similar to an athlete who can feel the burn in his muscles as he trains. For learners this should happen through interaction with peers in the classroom, or back in the workplace, where learning is doing, where theory is put into practice……it is crucial that learners be given the incentive to embark on this kind of experiential learning journey. Content must be delivered in a way that demands that learners try out what they are taught. Learning really only comes alive when it is given personal meaning. What is learned is only a small part of the equation. How the knowledge is used afterwards counts for everything.”

Baets concludes, “… online education is a blessing for the many who have little chance of gaining access to high-quality, credible educational material. But….. higher learning institutions in Africa should become more rigorous about their roles and responsibilities in developing the intellectual capacity of nations.”

For me, online courses serve to give learners access to material or content that will assist in their obtaining some form of certification but that needs to be augmented with skills gained from experiential learning.

Another view on online education comes from Douglas Rushkoff (@CNNOpinion on Twitter) who maintains that “For pure knowledge acquisition, it’s hard to argue against such developments, especially in an era that doesn’t prioritize enrichment for its own sake. But it would be a mistake to conclude that online courses fulfil the same role in a person’s life as a college education, just as it would be an error to equate four years of high school with some online study and a GED exam”.

Although Rushkoff sees the merits of online education, he has certain reservations:
“First off, subjects tend to be conveyed best in what might be considered their native environments. Computers might not be the best place to simulate a live philosophy seminar, but they are terrific places to teach people how to use and program computers. Second, computers should not require the humans using them to become more robotic. Some online video lectures are delivered according to a rigid script, where every action was choreographed. That’s not teaching; it’s animatronics… …….online learning needs to cater to human users. A real instructor should not simply dump data on a person, as in a scripted video, but engage with students, consider their responses and offer individualized challenges…..the good, living teacher probes the way students think and offers counterexamples that open pathways”.
“Finally, education does not happen in isolation. The course material is almost secondary to the engagement. We go to college for the people……..heterogeneous groupings of students based on their profiles and past performance… [classrooms] create ample opportunities for them to engage with one another in the spirit of learning. Perhaps this spirit of mutual aid is what built the Internet in the first place. Now that this massive collaborative learning project has succeeded, it would be a shame if we used it to take the humanity out of learning altogether”.

I second that. So let’s put our heads together to develop relevant and appropriate teaching and learning in South Africa in a way that makes optimal use of people, technology, knowledge and skills to deliver to our society thinking, caring, hardworking citizens. Education is a core aspect of our society and what it says about who we are and what values we uphold as a nation.
Ends.

Thoughts on Leadership Education

There has been so much discussion and criticism in the media recently of greedy corporate bosses and corrupt politicians. Much of the debate focuses on issues relating to the fact that corporate and political leadership equates with individual power and wealth and total lack of interest in the public good. Most of the big corporate bosses hold MBAs or other business degrees, but were they ever trained in being socially responsible, accountable, ethical and upholding public-interest?

I have recently read an interesting article on leadership by Ken Starkey, Professor of management and organisational learning at Nottingham University Business School, in which he explores ideas around how MBA courses could initiate changes in thinking through shifting the core focus of leadership training……..more

Starkey begins with the argument posed by Nitin Nohria, the dean of Harvard Business School, that we need leaders who “demonstrate moral humility”, saying “we need an approach to leadership in which the starting point is our lack of knowledge, a frank admission that we do not know very much about how to build a sustainable system for business and society”. He calls this a “humility-driven vision of leadership” whereby “future leaders reflect and critique…move away from self-interest, and focus on finance, economics…. to challenge their own orthodoxy—a crude Darwinian view of business and society rooted in the survival of the fittest. They need to focus on the social consequences of their actions and accept responsibility for the business excesses of recent years”.
Starkey has seen a number of business schools already making changes to a instil this new approach to leadership with courses in, for example, “responsibility, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. The more inventive are using philosophy and the arts to critique dominant business mindsets. Jim March’s pioneering use of literature to teach leadership at Stanford is an example of this. The increasing interest in the psychology of personal development is another”.

If these adjustments could be made across all business schools, they could become “places of dialogue where citizens collectively addressed the limits of their knowledge. For this, business schools might recruit graduates from other disciplines, such the arts, humanities and the sciences, and create innovative courses to help future leaders imagine products and services which fulfil a more social need”. Over time we may see the creation of “a business system—in particular a financial system— responsive to the greater, rather than the minority, good”.
Starkey ends by saying, “This will not be easy. It requires a difficult balancing act between the intellectual, emotional and spiritual. But if we are to create a new business model out of the chaos of a crisis to which business schools contributed, we will need to take a long hard look at how leadership is taught in our schools. Business as usual is no longer an option”.

I hope the South African business schools are taking heed. This country needs a change in leadership and hence, a change in the training of its leaders.
Ends.