Jun 16

The long lost art of the handwritten note

June 16 - penpal1-main_Full Maybe it's a generational thing, but I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into sending a handwritten note by snail mail.

Having just returned from the most excellent PRSA Counselors Academy spring conference, I was greeted by no fewer than three (count 'em, three) handwritten notes.

I'll bet I don't receive three handwritten notes in a quarter, so opening three in a day was, well, a trifecta of sorts.

All three came from fellow counselors: Eric and Shanny Morgenstern of Kansas City, Sydney Ayers of Golden, Colorado, and Dana Hughens of Raleigh. All three were short, sweet and to the point. But, the words and thoughts meant so much more to me precisely because they were written on paper.

Handwritten notes tell me a great deal about a person. I already knew Eric, Shanny and Syd were great people. But, I'd just met Dana.

How cool is it that Dana decided to use a handwritten note to follow-up to our brief meeting in Palm Springs? And, taking Dana's decision one step further, how smart is it to write a letter to totally distinguish oneself from the competition? For example, Ed 'Measuring Up' Moed just lamented about the poor interviewing skills he'd seen from three recent jobseekers. I'm guessing here, but I'll bet not one of the applicants followed up their Ed meeting with a handwritten thank you. It's subtle. But, it's huge.

Eric, Shanny, Syd and Dana aren't looking for jobs. They're just friends who took the time and effort to tell me they cared. And, in today's information overloaded world in which we live, that's huge. Thanks guys! I owe you a handwritten response.

Apr 17

I’ll let my successor deal with this

The most excellent Arthur Page Society Spring Conference was chockablock this year with great speakers.Awp
One, in particular, was Rick DeLisi of the Communications Executive Council (CEC).

Rick analyzed the rapidly-changing landscape and shared his views on how organizations are changing the way they communicate. Most, he said, are moving towards knowledge sharing. It’s no longer a ‘top down, here’s what management thinks and wants you to think’ strategy. Rather, the communications model is quickly evolving towards the market deciding what it thinks and wants, and organizations struggling to keep pace.

The good news: the corporate communications functions will be at the epicenter of facilitating knowledge sharing. The bad news: most corporate communicators interviewed by the CEC admitted they’d made absolutely no change to adapt to this changing environment.

The CEC questionnaire provided multiple choices, including: ‘greater centralization of your function,’ ‘deeper integration in marketing,’ ‘change in hiring profile,’ ‘change in function’s reporting line,’ ‘greater decentralization of communication’s staff and resources,’ or ‘deeper structural integration with human resources.’

But, the corporate communications types overwhelmingly selected ‘no change.’ Are they whistling past the graveyard? Fiddling while Rome burns?

I think the answer may be more basic. Guessing that most senior corporate communicators are well into their middle age, I wonder if they feel adapting to change will be their successor’s headache? Most are nearing retirement, are probably in comfortable positions and may not want to rock the boat.

I really hope I’m wrong. But the CEC findings speak for themselves. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake the respondents’ fast-track successors are as swift as the adjective suggests.

Apr 14

We haven’t fallen behind. The rest of the world has caught up.

Dr. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and a guest speaker at Thursday’s Arthur PageFareedzakaria_2
Society’s Spring Conference delivered one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard.

Speaking without notes, Zakaria covered such topics as terrorism (we’ve never been safer, he said), competitiveness (the U.S. hasn’t fallen behind, the rest of the world has caught up, he observed) and immigration (it should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness, he argued).

Zakaria made a powerful argument for free trade and open borders. He believes, as we all do, that U.S. health care costs as a percentage of overall GDP are absurdly high. He also believes, as most reasonable people do, that the Iraq misadventure is sucking us dry and has cost our beleaguered economy anywhere from one to three trillion dollars.

Zakaria shed new light on fears that other countries like China and India are graduating far more engineers than America. Zakaria dug into those stats and reports that tens of thousands of so-called engineers are no more advanced than the average air-conditioning repairman.

There’s much to celebrate right now, says Zakaria. He says the 24×7, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ media is to blame for many of our fears. The facts tell a different tale, he says. For example, there are far fewer civil wars and deaths caused by organized force than ever before. And, the current economic downturn is far less severe that any of the four recessions during the 1950s, a timeframe now looked upon as a period of significant growth. What’s lacking on our end is perspective.

The Page Society has always delivered outstanding speakers at various events over the years. Dr. Zakaria was not only the best I’ve seen to date, he also delivered macro views that not only enlightened, but uplifted. And, when’s the last time any of us could report back on an experience like that?