IABCLA Roundtable for Freelancers
Have you thought about freelancing, but aren’t sure where to begin? Do you currently freelance and want to up your game?
Join a small group discussion and talk through the ins and outs of freelancing as a communicator at IABCLA’s Roundtable for Freelancers. The virtual event will be held on Friday, June 19 at 12 p.m. via the chapter’s Zoom.
Jake White, principal consultant of Zaptin Communications, will lead the conversation. He’ll will touch on must know topics for freelance communications professionals, including how to procure a business license, taxes one is required to pay, and the process of setting up a company website.
The event is free, but attendance is limited to the first 12 people who sign up. To do so,
click here. Zoom login information will be provided upon registration.
IABCLA Independent Consultants Happy Hour
Would you like to meet new colleagues and develop your business?
Share ideas and swap stories at IABCLA’s Independent Consultants Happy Hour on Wednesday, June 24 at 5 p.m. via the chapter’s Zoom.
Bob Finlayson, president of Impact Marketing & Communications, will host. Bob has extensive experience in consulting to small businesses and major brands, and he’ll explore such subjects as creating a statement of work, managing workflow, and ensuring payment for services.
Don’t miss this chance to hear how other indies are managing during the pandemic!
To sign up, click here. Zoom login information will be provided upon registration.
(Note: I’m IABCLA's vice president of operations, and I often post updates
on chapter happenings.)
Thank you to all who attended the IABC Southern California virtual happy hour on May 14. Members from the organization's Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego chapters met online to share drinks and COMMingle. The event included introductions, announcements, breakouts and, of course, a group photo!
In wake of the pandemic, IABCLA has moved to an all digital format. The chapter will have many more virtual programs in the weeks and months to come. Please stay up to date on happenings by visiting the chapter’s website — IABCLA.com — and by following the group on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
(Note: I’m IABCLA's vice president of operations, and I often post updates on chapter happenings.)
IABCLA is hosting a virtual happy hour for Southern California IABC members on Thursday, May 14 at 5 p.m. Pacific time. The chapters of Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego
are invited to bring their drink of choice, add their wildest Zoom background, and COMMingle!
Click here to sign up!
(Note: I’m IABCLA's vice president/president-elect, and I often post updates on chapter happenings.)
Note: Deborah Hudson, my fellow IABCLA board member, wrote the following piece for the chapter blog and I wanted to share. I serve as the group's vice president/president-elect.
From the article, I took a run at the CDC website to find what they had to say about communications emergencies. I found a 460-page manual for a course titled Crisis Emergency and Risk Communication. Published in 2014, the social media section may seem a little dusty, but even the table of contents gives a sense of the thorough and practical guidance available for communicators. There’s something reassuring to know the course was built by people who have seen devastating emergencies and crises before and have field-tested their response.
Some of the things I am taking away can be put on a wallet card:
Four ways people process information during a crisis:
o We simplify messages.
o We hold on to current beliefs.
o We look for additional information and opinions.
o We believe the first message.
The six principles of effective crisis and risk communication:
o Be first.
o Be right.
o Be credible.
o Express empathy.
o Promote action.
o Show respect.
Yes, in many regards it’s basic stuff. But for me that’s the just ticket during these overwhelming times.
Note: I wrote this piece for the IABCLA blog on the chapter’s website. I serve as the group’s vice president/president-elect.
“The purpose of a seminar is to take time to step back, to reflect, to get to know each other, to identify problems, priorities, goals, and plans,” he said. “For most of my career, it’s been my job to bring people together, to communicate, to help others collaborate more effectively and help folks reach their potential.”
Ephraim shares his philosophy on the two intertwined components of teamwork:
- Trust: great teams have a foundation of trust. Building trust needs to be an intentional effort and it takes time. It also requires people to be vulnerable with one another, to learn about each other, and come to appreciate one another.
- Structure: good teamwork and collaboration relies on the right process and arrangement. In order to have people work together, you need to have the right system in place in order to produce the best results.
He noted trust is fundamentally about safety. What he’s seen during his career are leaders who miss out on critical information employees possess — on the market, customers, systems the company uses — because workers don’t feel they can share their thoughts openly.
“Trust kills bad ideas, trust drives innovation,” he said. “When it’s a good idea, people will recognize it, and when it’s a bad idea, people will tell you it’s a bad idea — but individuals have to feel safe in order to do that. They need to trust their leaders are good people, their leaders care about them, their opinion matters and it will be respected and heard and thought out.”
How do you build trust? Ephraim explained the key is to first create vulnerability. He makes a point to incorporate into his sessions moments where people reveal who they are. When people do this, they create vulnerability and that vulnerability breeds trust. If, for example, a group was working on a marketing initiative, he might pose the question to each person: “What’s your favorite marketing campaign — and why?” This allows for personal disclosure that ties into larger goals.
“You have to build the right levels of vulnerability into a team building workshop," he said. “When people let their guard down, they start to see the human in there, they start to be more forgiving of each other, they start to be more inquisitive about each other, they start to make connections at a personal level — all of that helps to build trust and helps others work together better."
As far as structure, a classic teamwork exercise Ephraim facilitates during conferences is brainstorming. He noted the most common way to brainstorm — everyone randomly throws out an idea — is not the best way to execute the process. Given power dynamics and different personalities, extroverts and leaders are more likely to speak up than introverts. Also, there’s going to be a certain “herd mentality” where somebody will suggest an idea and others will go along with it. You, therefore, might lose brilliant insights from those who have less hierarchical power.
A better way of brainstorming, he suggests, is to provide Post-it Notes all in the same color, as well as pens with the same shade of ink. Each person adds their ideas to the pieces of paper, and then the team organizes the messages silently and collaboratively. In short order, folks will have collectively built a prioritized list. This approach will yield a rich collection of ideas, and the group will leave with better alignment and a sense of shared ownership because they contributed equally in generating the outcome.
He offers this final thought on team building: “There’s a great saying, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ I think about that a lot — when you’re trying to build a team or get people to work together you have to slow down so folks can build trust, so you can then prepare to do big things and great things over a period of time.”
I'd like to express my appreciation to IABCLA for spotlighting me in their most recent newsletter and on their website — click here to read the piece. The chapter regularly draws attention to its volunteers, and I serve as the group’s vice president/president-elect.
IABCLA has moved its programming online during this uncertain time, and it looks forward to helping communications professionals stay connected and build their careers in the weeks and months ahead.
Please stay up to date on events and activities by visiting the chapter’s website — IABCLA.com — and by following the group on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Note: I originally wrote this piece on "COVID-19 Comms Tactics" for the IABCLA blog on the chapter’s website. I serve as the group’s vice president/president-elect.
Chapter leadership recognized the need for Los Angeles-based professional communicators to come together and share insights they gathered during this difficult and unparalleled time.
The discussion was led by Rachel Mann and Julie Wright, both IABCLA board members. Rachel is vice president of communications at Emburse, and Julie Wright is president and founder of (W)right on Communications. The duo shared several “aha” moments during the video conference, and their thoughts are below.
2) “Necessity is the mother of invention”
People are exercising their imagination right now, and Mann shared examples of this at Emburse:
- Virtual Events: her company had an in person gathering scheduled, but they were forced to cancel due to “social distancing” guidelines. It was switched online, and more people ended up attending the virtual session then had registered when it was scheduled to be in person. Organizations, therefore, may want to consider a mix of physical and online happenings when the pandemic ends. There are those who may want to attend events, but they aren’t able to travel from one point to another – online gatherings might allow them to take part.
- Social Platforms: Emburse has a messaging platform on Slack called “Virtual Water Cooler.” Employees post content about their children, their pets, their home office — there’s even a gentleman who performs daily with a guitar.
“Virtual Water Cooler allowed us to connect to our employees during Coronavirus, and it’s added a level of levity and fun in an otherwise stressful time,” she said. “Part of communications is remembering the human connection and need for empathy and compassion during these times. People are craving connection, they just want to talk to others.”
3) Messaging changes with an evolving situation
The standard best practice in communication is to keep messaging consistent, as well as crisp and clear. However, this isn’t always possible in the current climate.
“The messaging needs to evolve, and be tailored for each target audience. You have to hone in on the tone you need to take with employees, with the media, with customers, with partners — it’s very different for each stakeholder depending on what matters to them,” she said.
Also, the media isn’t concerned with products or services at this time — they care about what companies are doing to help the broader community. Organizations need to think, “People first.”
“What does it mean for the future? We can’t unring that bell,” she said. “Now that we’ve become accustomed to this, will we come back to this with a deeper connection to our employees? Will we embrace remote working and get more comfortable with it going forward? I’m pretty sure we will.”
2) Pandemic in terms of the “Five Stages of Grief”
In her 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the “Five Stages of Grief.” Wright applied this model to the current state, as her job as a communicator is to move people through these periods.
- Denial: in early March, some of Wright’s clients still wanted to communicate to customers it was “business as usual” even though all indications were the pandemic was likely headed to the U.S. She, therefore, advised stakeholders not to indicate such as it might damage their credibility.
- Anger: some clients responded to the looming crisis with aggravation, particularly at the suggestion meetings or travel should be cancelled for reasons of health and safety. Her reasoning: “The virus is here, so let’s get ahead of it.”
- Bargaining: Wright noted it was positive when employees or stakeholders arrived at this point as it indicated progress was being made. She was able to convince them painful decisions had to be made in order to save lives and incorporate that in messaging to help their stakeholders, too.
- Depression: bargaining can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and that’s when she introduced resources to clients to help others pull through. It’s important to let people know plans are underway even if there are no definitive outcomes at a particular moment.
- Acceptance: leaders, decision makers, and communicators want to make decisions from a place of acceptance — “this is what’s happening, this is what we must do.” This will allow leaders to have greater clarity in developing messages, in introducing them, and doing it in a way respectful of whatever emotional turmoil stakeholders may be feeling.
“As much as we have the crisis templates and we know what to do, the unprecedented nature of coronavirus is truly unbelievable,” she said. “Using this psychological framework helps me, makes me feel more purpose-driven in communications, and it gives me a neutral way to talk to clients and coworkers.”
3) Even in the virtual world, presentation still matters
Wright quickly realized she needed to “up her Zoom game” when, in recent weeks, she and her team began conducting business entirely by way of video conference.
She suggests various ways to make the best of online meetings: the computer screen should be at eye level, blinds need to be drawn to avoid backlight, shy away from a distracting background, and make sure audio and internet connections are solid.
“I need to make sure to let the technology do its job, and that I’ve stepped up to meet this opportunity,” she said.
As always, IABCLA will continue to pass along “aha” moments and other communications insights — and we ask you to do the same. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a member and would like to share your expertise with our community. You are also encouraged to utilize the chapter's LinkedIn Group — IABC Los Angeles Chapter — as a means of support and connection during this trying period.
Note: the coronavirus pandemic has created a number of obstacles for IABCLA, as well as the communications profession as a whole. Jenny Matkovich, my fellow IABCLA board member, addressed this topic in an item in the chapter’s March 2020 newsletter. Her thoughts are reprinted below.
In the weeks to come, we’ll be cancelling face to face meetings, but we are committed to continue delivering value for our members and the profession. We’ll be offering curated member blog posts and interviews, COVID-19 insights for communication professions and best practice webinars via IABC international, and one-on-one Zoom coffee connections sign-ups to introduce you to people who have developed shortcuts and strategies to get the job done effectively in 2020, AC.
— Jenny Matkovich, IABCLA President
Note: due to the coronavirus pandemic's social distancing protocols, many are now spending their workday at their kitchen table — and this has likely led to a few obstacles. Deborah Hudson, my fellow IABCLA board member, wrote this post on the “virtual workplace” for the chapter blog in which she shared lessons when working at home. I've reprinted her advice below.
By Deborah Hudson, ABC
IABCLA Vice President, Member Retention; Past President
I am a fan of the virtual workplace. For more than half of my career I’ve worked from home, attached to my team by phone and eventually GoToMeeting and Zoom. Once, when I was not working virtually, my company discovered asbestos in the building and everyone in the building moved home within days. With COVID-19 quarantine, lots of colleagues are joining me in the virtual workplace.
Here are a few lessons I learned that may be of help:
1. You have to be disciplined. Check in and check out. You may be tempted to do a little housework midmorning. Don’t. More importantly, when you walk by your office after dinner, don’t boot up your computer “for just a few minutes.” It’ll be a few hours.
2. Without the water cooler, you’ll need to make a consistent effort to check in personally as well as professionally. How is Jane’s mom doing? What’s happening with Denny’s kids?
3. Silver linings: at home you can play your music loud, subvocalize, and write off a percentage of space and utilities on taxes.
Leading Remote Teams:
Keeping a scattered team on task, in synch and motivated is a challenge. For several years, I led a global communications team, tied together with a monthly teleconference call.
Here are a few things I learned that made remote collaboration work for me and my team:
1. Distribute an agenda and stay on track.
2. Start with one-on-ones. You need to know team members – what are their work issues, how are they managing through the COVID-19 quarantines? Are there kids at home? Parents? Roommates or partners sharing internet?
What would be the best way for them to work with the team?
3. Teleconferences are better than nothing, but bad teleconferences can be worse.
Here are some fundamentals:
1. Start with a structured check-in from everyone.
2. When you lead a team conference, it’s your job to surface issues, make sure everyone is participating, and create space for innovation and challenge. It’s easier for people to “hide” in a teleconference than in a team meeting. Find a way to draw everyone out. Inject some fun.
3. End by summarizing issues and listing actions and responsibilities. Schedule the next call.
About the Author:
Deborah is a writer and communications consultant, providing advice, research and coaching to business partners, as well as developing and facilitating writing skills workshops. As a corporate communications leader, she was Global Editor-in-Chief and Global Head of Employee Communications for Zurich Insurance. Previously she managed internal CEO communications and community relations strategy for Farmers Insurance. She is a graduate of Yale University. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn
Thank you to all who attended IABCLA’s Brag N’ Brew on March 10 at The Cat & Fiddle in LA. Guests enjoyed sliders, pints, and lively conversation at the longtime British themed bar.
Please stay up to date on IABCLA events and activities by visiting the chapter's website and by following the group on social media: iabcla.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
(Note: I’m IABCLA's vice president of operations, and I often post updates on chapter happenings.)
I'm Eli Natinsky and I'm a communicator. This blog explores my work and professional interests. I also delve into other topics, including media, marketing, pop culture, and technology.