The “L” Word

September 1, 2015

by Roger Pynn

People in our profession ought to see it as job security that so many articles on success in business are dedicated to communication.  For instance, my inbox today brought one from Forbes and another from Fortune.

On, SnappConner PR founder Cheryl Conner’s item headlined “3 Steps to a Billion Dollar Company” had a parenthetical subhead:  “A Hint: Communication is Key.”  One of those steps was “Tell the authentic story only your brand can tell.”

Fortune published a piece by Halogen Software VP of HR Dominique Jones titled “The single worst mistake that a manager can make.”  She shared a list of things managers should do, beginning with “Communicate goals clearly and often.”

You ought to read both of these.  They deliver things you probably already know, but they are good reminders.  More importantly, both make it clear that communication isn’t just about what you say.  What you hear is critical … which means you have to remember the “L” word.  Listening is just as important as sending messages.

Conner, who was talking about marketing communications, wrote “Figure out what people will want, and give it to them.”  That takes active listening … sometimes in the form of formal research, but in today’s world it more and more frequently is about listening to the countless conversations that go on around us.

HR exec Jones was talking about internal communications.  So what did she say is the worst mistake a manager can make?  Hiring people just like you.  But her remedy is the “L” word:

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of hiring employees whom you can relate to, but building a strong team starts with understanding the strengths and weaknesses of you, the leader, and your team members. 

“By simply listening to what employees have to say and responding to their specific issues, you can provide meaningful feedback that will not only help them in their current role, but also assist them in achieving long-term career aspirations.”

And that would make you the good boss.

How Many Times?

August 4, 2015

by Roger Pynn

I’ll bet you can relate to this photo.


How many times have you been really disappointed – or, for that matter, really pleased – but left an establishment wanting to let someone have a piece of your mind?  It happened to me twice over the weekend … one of each variety.

I’d already patted everyone on the back when I saw this phone on the wall at my auto dealer, but I thought “I wonder how many people ever pick up that phone to say ‘good job’?”

That phone couldn’t have cost them anywhere near what they save every time someone with an itch under their collar about bad service picks it up and feels better after having shared their concern.  So hats off to Mercedes-Benz of North Orlando and General Manager Walter Grundorf.

The next day at a Dillard’s store in Volusia Mall, I really longed for a phone that would let me share a really bad experience.  But in addition to nowhere near enough sales staff in sight (a common retail problem these days), there never appeared to be anyone in a management capacity.

So, rather than complain to the Dillard’s folks with a phone call, I think I’ll print this out and mail it.


July 16, 2015

by Roger Pynn

The timely reporting of events has always been at the heart of the news business, and yet more and more often I’m seeing the word “recently” – a word that was verboten in my days as a journalism student – creep into news stories.  In fact, I counted three in the last week where it was clear the story had been missed … one by as much as a week.

Not so long ago I’d have written a blog post about lazy reporting, but the more you look at this the more it becomes clear it is a matter of total change of focus for newspapers.  The transition to “digital first” is happening more and more every day … and resources are being deployed for an era of a different type of reporting.

Our Orlando Sentinel provided great examples this week in its Business Monday section where we were treated in print to several stories you’d already have seen if you were subscribing to their new Growth Spotter – a subscription email product focusing strictly on business stories.

You can subscribe only to the Sentinel’s Web-based product for one fee and they throw Growth Spotter and a lot of newsletters in for “free,” or if you get the good old newspaper in your driveway, you get all the digital products as part of the deal.  But you really have to wonder how long the broadsheet will be around.  Perhaps one day they’ll give you the paper if you subscribe to the digital product.


But not if Tampa Bay Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash has his way.  This essay published first in his paper and then shared via the related Poynter Institute website is an eloquent sermon on why media companies should do everything they can to sustain the newspaper … as an institution and as a product.  Tash acknowledges exactly what I said about resource deployment.

In the end, people don’t buy newspapers – or click open their news websites – for the advertising.  They are a collateral advantage of pursuing information and knowledge.  People crave to know what is going on … right away, not recently.

Haunting Words

July 7, 2015

by Roger Pynn

From the “things you wish you hadn’t said department,” one has to wonder how badly former USA women’s soccer coach Pia Sundhage wishes she had never called Carli Lloyd “a challenge to coach.”

Quips like that ought to be hung on the wall of all who find themselves in a position to be an organizational spokesperson or aspire to political office or are frequently sought out for quotes due to their experience and expertise.  You never know a) when someone will have a breakout game or b) when your words will bite you in the backside.

Of course, as this story from suggests, Lloyd not only got the last laugh with her world-class World Cup performance on Sunday, but she’s likely to be laughing all the way to the bank for a long time to come.

Second Chances

June 18, 2015

by Roger Pynn

We talked last week about NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams’ fate and today we learn that the network has seen what most observers said … he is damaged goods.  But the network has done what I had hoped.  They found a way to give him a second chance.

There’s a great deal of difference between a malicious act and a mistake.  Let’s wish him well.  MSNBC certainly needs help and if he can avoid mixing dreams and news, he could be just what the doctor ordered.

What Do You Say?

June 10, 2015

by Roger Pynn

I gave a talk titled “Old Ethics, New Media” at a media summit hosted last week by the Treasure Coast Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.  My premise was simple.  There is absolutely no difference in ethical decision-making for PR people when it comes to traditional vs. new media.

We reviewed a number of high-profile situations where governments, businesses and people made bad judgements … from the currently raging FIFA soccer scandal to the NFL/New England Patriot #Deflategate drama to ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos’ questionable treatment of his donations to the Clinton Foundation to the continuing saga of managing editor and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

I took a poll and asked the nearly 100 attending whether:

  1. Brian Williams is toast and should look for a new job?
  2. Brian Williams deserves a second chance in the chair?
  3. NBC is having really bad heartburn over what to do?

It was divided between #1 and #3.

My prediction was that Brian Williams is damaged goods and NBC cannot afford to put him back on the Nightly News.  Then today comes this story predicting you won’t see him in the anchor chair again.

Just Couldn’t Wait

June 3, 2015

by Roger Pynn

Sometimes I wonder why advertising folks go to the effort (and cost) of some of their promotions.

When I got this bill (I won’t embarrass the advertiser because I take enough pot shots at them already), I wondered if perhaps the ad folks just wanted me to have a good laugh.


Or did they think I would enthusiastically rip open the envelope to see what new form they had chosen to ask me to pay my annual bill?  When I finally got around to opening it a few days later, it looked the same to me.

There’s a lesson here:  paper real estate like a monthly statement can be very valuable, but as with all other consumer communication you ought to make the message matter to the receiver.


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