The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a bold organization that has reshaped health in the United States by taking on tobacco, tackling childhood obesity, and now, embarking on the ambitious goal of creating a culture of health.
Evidence of RWJF’s ability to foster conversations and introduce ideas through their communications abounds.
As RWJF President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and Fred Mann, VP of Communications, observe in Making Ideas Move, our series produced in partnership with Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Policymakers responded. Educators responded. Industry responded. Even the White House responded.” Read their piece, Bold but Flexible: How to Effectively Share Your Vision.
People matter most! We may say that, but is it really true at your organization? Many current and future leaders are locked inside their organizations, afraid to venture out into the world. The Internet and especially social media shout: Danger! Avoiders and their organizations become irrelevant — they literally don’t matter anymore — and “age out” of their jobs and industries. Fear of losing control over every little detail prevents attention to details that do matter. How, then, can we use social media to connect and engage with our audiences and cultivate meaningful relationships, relationships that matter? Allison Fine, author of Matterness: Fearless Leadership for a Social World, joins The Communications for this webinar on Wednesday, May 20 at 1 PM ET. We will explore how organizations can utilize their social media channels to create cultures that promote engagement and empower their audiences to take action. Questions addressed will include:
- How can we become fearless in the digital age?
- How can we learn to work with rather than at our constituents?
- What does it take to keep the daily churn of internal processes from overwhelming us and our work?
- How can we find out if people feel like they matter to us?
Network peeps: as many of you know already, I’ve been chief conference maven for the Communications Network for several years running. Starting last year, and for reals this year, I have gratefully passed on the maven scepter to our fabulous new Executive Director, Sean Gibbons, who proved with last year’s conference that he can bring the substance and the dazzle when it comes to great content. And with this year’s conference in San Diego, Sean is already unveiling great speakers, with still more exciting developments to come.
Despite having passed the torch, let me be clear on one thing: I still care. I am still deeply invested in putting on a great conference. I got involved in the conference planning to begin with because a) I like my fellow Network peeps so much and I want you to get something of value from this conference and b) I wanted to spare you the indignity of yet another badly-planned conference.
So here are the commandments we try to follow when planning the Network conference—and we have a particular interest in drawing your attention to the last one:
- Go after the most interesting, entertaining, relevant speakers you can find. Don’t always look for an obvious connection to strategic communications—look for the big ideas, the poetic speakers. Diversity—of opinion, age, ethnicity, background—really matters.
- Pay attention to everything, big and small. Like, plenary speakers are one thing, breakout sessions are another, but you also have to pay attention to the production values, the food, the networking time, the reception venues, etc.
- Make the content good, and promote the heck out of it. We know there are so many conferences you could be attending, and that you have huge limits on your time and travel budget. So we’ve got to remind you ahead of time what you’ll be missing if you don’t show up.
- Be transparent that suckitude will have consequences. We do everything we can to ensure that speakers and session presenters will shine. We watch speaker videos if they’re available. We schedule planning calls and let speakers know that they’ll be speaking to an audience of communications professionals, who seem like the least likely group you’d want to see you bomb. Despite all this, we lay some eggs from time to time—but it’s not for want of trying.
- And the last commandment I’ll share today? THIS IS THE ONE I NEED YOU TO FOCUS ON, FOLKS. Rely on your smart, enterprising (did I mention scintillatingly attractive?) Network colleagues to bring us their best ideas, stories, and experiences for breakout sessions.
So, yes: this post about the commandments of conference planning? Really my unsubtle way of encouraging all of you to get busy on submitting breakout session ideas. The deadline is May 11, which feels like tomorrow, frankly, and while we know that many of you are busily fermenting your ideas in your brains until the very last minute, we’d like to see the trickle of proposals we’ve seen so far start to look more like a stream. We’d like to think you don’t always need a contest to submit a great breakout session idea.
If you submit great breakout session ideas, others will, too. And that will increase our chances of learning something valuable at this year’s conferences that will help us do our jobs better. (Example: the session on behavioral economics and the analytics presented by Bully Pulpit helped me get off to a running start with my very smart digital marketing colleagues at EDF, where I work.) So learn more by doing more. Bring us your best ideas.
Communication creates influence. And influence enables communication to resonate. They’re inextricably linked.
75% of the people who participated in our recent Communication Matters research project agreed, “…without effective communications we could not raise the support we need (such as funding, partners, and good will).”
In Making Ideas Move, our series produced in partnership with Stanford Social Innovation Review, Judith Rodin, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Neill Coleman, Rockefeller’s Vice President of Global Communications, share 5 steps to building influence in Greater Influence, More Impact. Check out the below infographic for a roadmap on how to leverage your organization’s influence to create impact.
To learn about more qualities that make an organization excellent at communicating, please visit www.com-matters.org/attributes.