Worth 1,000 Words

When we purposefully select an image to convey a specific message, it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s also an opportunity.

While experimenting with and researching visual storytelling, I found the obvious to be true: Images are powerful. They are catalysts for endless algorithms of meaning unique to each viewer.

Framing someone’s experience can lend deeper meaning or it can skew the truth. How do we – as storytellers – reveal worth without betraying the vulnerability of intimacy?

As an example, below is a video project I wrote, filmed, photographed and – gulp – starred in.

To become a better storyteller, I thought it only fair to turn the camera on myself. It’s brutal. But the process stripped me of any urge to be impatient or dismissive of others while the camera or the microphone is staring at them. Pressure is a factor, and its power must be expected and respected.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t ask tough questions or broach sensitive subjects. In fact, it is imperative to get to the heart of the matter. The ‘matter’, however, should always be the subject’s humanity, not ‘the story.’

Below is an example of this notion.

Though Margot is talking about bookstores, not herself, it is her presence and voice that tell the story of the bookstore aesthetic. Thanks, Margot!

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Nonprofit Messages That Work

When blogging for a nonprofit, we are not just increasing awareness. We are calling people into action.

Communication strategies are not set in stone. Goals, messages and channels are unique to the people and places involved. It is key to highlight the specialized characteristics that make ‘this time,’ ‘this cause’ or ‘this person’ important. Here are some ways that nonprofit bloggers improve participation with their readers. I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences, too!

Leaping into action

Storytelling is inclusive

If we see the face, hear the voice and feel the emotions, we naturally insert ourselves into the story. Once there, we inevitably ask ourselves “What can I do about this?” Though sharing is fun and cathartic, the goal is to get people involved.

Self interest is a powerful motivator

It is from within the story that we are affected and, therefore, invested. If we can elevate the experience of the audience from “Sucks to be her” to “That could be me,” then we have a higher probability of altering behavior. Fun drives us more than shame. Don’t guilt anyone into anything – this diminishes trust and replaces action with isolation.

Interact with your readers

Photo by Samo Trebizan

Photo by Samo Trebizan

Two-way communication invites participants into the fold. Initiate dialogue and foster conversations. An RSS feed and a frequently visited comments section are great ways to explore public opinion. Does your blog ask questions that invite readers to contribute?

Now is compelling

Update publics about what is happening today. We are excited about and more easily engaged with programs in motion. Isn’t it more effective to invite potential donors to sponsor a pet adoption drive happening ‘this weekend’ than it is to ask for contributions to next year’s drive?

Images are persuasive

Visual storytelling invokes emotion and lends credibility. Seeing is believing. And it is important to nonprofits that its publics trust that their support is working. Showing progress through video and photographic images gives a sense of advancement to a cause and its objectives.

Stories are fun

Here is a great example of inclusive, visual storytelling. The SPCA and Mini partnered to make a series of videos that promote both the Mini brand and pet adoption. What makes this a sticky message for you? Enjoy!

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Here To Stay

ImageInvestor relations officers (IROs) manage the integration of finance and communication between an organization, the financial community and its current and potential investors. These mutifaceted practitioners are not strictly back-room number crunchers. In fact, they wear many hats and often sit at the “big table” with presidents, CEOs and CFOs.

Well versed in financial strategy and law, IROs must also excel in written and verbal communication with varied publics.

  • Answer tough questions posed by knowledgeable financial analysts and government officials.
  • Explain opportunities, setbacks and current state of affairs to investors.
  • Report and propose objectives to senior company officials.

Traditionally, IRO is a temporary and rotating role in an organization. A 2 to 5 year stint in IR benefits both the company and the financial executive chosen for the position. As new IROs rotate in, they bring fresh perspectives to top executives with an ‘always hiring’ mindset. For the IRO, this is an opportunity to develop valuable communication skills.

‘It shows you’re considered a well-rounded individual, and that you can do both the finance and communications sides … It’s definitely a pat on the back,’ says Nathan Elwell, managing director at FTI Consulting in Chicago.

Today, companies embrace an IRO’s role as a permanent and integral position. Diversity of experience in an increasingly fluctuating marketplace is key to attract and inform investors.

Research done by The Fisher School of Accounting at the University of Florida found that IROs are holding more centralized positions of power and influence than ever before.

How we do business is evolving. And informed communicators are no longer temporary solutions to momentary crises. The importance of strategic information sharing has taken root in the boardroom.

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Transparency

ImageWith corporate social responsibility fresh in our minds, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a local business that is getting it right. Ninkasi Brewing is as committed to giving as it is to growing. Its Beer is Love and Pints for a Cause programs are a solid foundation of both Ninkasi’s business model and workplace culture.

The Beer is Love program sponsored more than 600 nonprofit and community organizations in 2012. And the Pints for a Cause program donates 25 percent of sales from its tasting room to a weekly designated cause.

While researching options for a potential career change, I was the grateful recipient of several eye-opening investigative interviews. Ninkasi was my first stop. Its reputation for CSR was the draw, and that hour changed my path. I left thinking, “People get to do this for a living?”

However, organizing and facilitating a CSR program doesn’t conclude with driving a truck down the street, honking the horn, and giving away free beer. This is what it really looks like: a group of dedicated individuals pouring over hundreds of sponsorship applications, creatively organizing a multitude of logistical details, working with a media team to give events efficacy, and tailoring a calendar for timeliness. Don’t let the smiles fool you. These people are no joke!

CSR programs are also a relationship building tool to branch into new markets. Since its 2006 conception in Eugene, Ninkasi has introduced its beer to 6 states. By word of mouth? Of course. With marketing and advertising efforts? Sure. Through its sponsorship programs? Absolutely.

To unveil your product through socially and culturally responsible sponsorship is a great way to show (not tell) a new public who the company is and what it values. I have no doubt this trend in mutually beneficial transparency and partnerships will continue to grow in corporate culture. After all, being good is catching … and profitable.

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The Money Will Follow

Image

Photo by Vladimir Voronin

Nothing excites me more about the public relations profession than the alignment of an organization’s needs with its public’s needs. To find and foster sustainable relationships that elevate our economy and our humanity is paramount for our future global success.

Corporate social responsibility is quickly becoming a priority in the business world. When leaders of industry embrace ethics in their core business model, the money will follow. The key is to identify specific goals that improve the existence of customers, employees, communities and the environment that they all share.

Symbiotic success propels itself. By success, I mean the knowledge that we are doing good things for good people in good places. Is generating a profit ‘good’ so that you can make payroll? Yes. Is providing healthcare resources so that your employees take fewer sick days ‘good’? Yes. Is it ‘good’ to use sustainable and clean energy to manufacture your product? Yes.

These are broad concepts and seem like no-brainers. But as Gini Dietrich said in her recent post for Spin Sucks, “Great companies stop and listen to criticism, they commit to getting better, they set goals and a vision larger than themselves, and they truly behave better.”

As anyone in the workforce knows, we are more productive when we are doing something that we believe in. We go the extra mile. And we encourage others to join us. This translates into profitability and growth for businesses. Companies who have long-term goals, and the shareholders that invest in them, rely on the public’s trust and loyalty. When these relationships are symbiotic, we all win.

 

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This Time

This is not my first time. But it should have been.

Wanting to document my midlife career change, I had started a blog. I wrote about school and work and eating and crying. I wrote about feeling thrilled and terrified all at the same time. And I wrote about all of the profound insights that only real change can generate. And then I read it.

Needless to say, I was horrified. My grasp of grammar, clarity, and, especially, active voice were a joke. Not the type that makes me laugh … the other type. The one that makes me cringe. The joke that I never want to repeat. I wanted a voice. And I wanted to help others find their voice, to use it, and to improve their businesses, charities and lives with it.

In this blog, I’ll be posing questions and offering insights and resources about the evolving world of public relations. Topics will include social media, investor relations, social responsibility, written and visual communication, and professional branding. Creative problem solving will be our guide. This time, I promise to keep it interesting … and grammatically responsible.

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