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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: Consultant and Author Paul Barton, ABC

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a new series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.

Paul Barton, ABC

Paul Barton, ABC

Veteran communicator Paul Barton, ABC of Paul Barton Communications, LLC, specializes in internal communication and has helped organizations communicate effectively with employees for over 20 years. Paul has led employee communications at Arizona Public Service, Phelps Dodge, America West Airlines, PetSmart and Hawaiian Airlines.

Since we last caught up with Paul in March, he has published his book, Maximizing Internal Communication: Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Ret Results, available now on Amazon.com and PaulBartonABC.com, and available soon on Amazon Kindle and iBook.

You can also meet Paul and learn more about his internal communication strategies at his book signing party on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 6-8 p.m. at the Phoenix Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., 4th Floor Lecture Hall in Phoenix, Ariz. Paul will share his insights on employee communication and sign copies of his new book. The ticket price includes a copy of his book. Refreshments will be served and lots of prize drawings will be held.

In the meantime, read on as Paul shares his insights about writing his new book and how it can help your organization implement best practices to boost employee engagement.

Peggy Bieniek, ABC: How did you come up with the title for your book?

Paul Barton, ABC: It was a collaborative effort with my publisher. We wanted the main title (Maximizing Internal Communication) to speak to the head, and the subtitle (Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Results) to speak more to the heart of my audience. Winning heads and hearts is a theme carried throughout the book. The tagline is about the practical things (Tools, Templates and Proven Practices) the audience can start using right away. The title and subtitle are depicted on the cover in talk balloons, and they are interlocking to symbolize that we need to be sending meaningful messages and simultaneously obtaining meaningful feedback. As pointed out in the book, two monologues don’t make a dialogue.

Peggy: What is the main message you want your readers to understand?
Paul: Employees are an organization’s most important audience, and great internal communication is the key to employee engagement and sustained business success. I also want employee communication professionals to understand that what we do is important not only for the business, but for employees. We help to enrich the lives of employees and their families. What we do is a noble profession, and we should be proud of what we do.

Peggy: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Paul: This book is primarily about the strategies and techniques I learned from my mentors and colleagues over my 20-year career in internal communication at five fast-growing corporations. I was extremely fortunate to work alongside some of the best and brightest in the business, and to have led some incredibly interesting large-scale projects: first-ever intranet and social media platform launches, building an internal team from inception to implementation, a 401(k) conversion, a large safety initiative, major operational performance and customer service initiatives, crisis preparation, implementation of a full flexible benefits plan, mergers, acquisitions, and re-organizations. I supplemented my on-the-job experience by reading a lot of research papers and several books, and I conducted several telephone interviews with subject matter experts.

Peggy: What did you learn from writing this book?
Paul: This book allowed me to organize my thoughts in great detail and clearly articulate the communication philosophies I have forged over the years. One of the things that stood out was how much my approach seeks to win over hearts as well as minds. I have always known it that was a part of it, but I didn’t realize to what extent until I conducted research from change experts like Alan Weiss and John Kotter and completed my book.

Peggy: What are your goals and intentions for this book?
Paul: My goal is to inspire internal communicators to take their organizations to higher levels and to help them get there with this book serving as a roadmap to success. This book provides tools that communication professionals can start using immediately to get things headed in the right direction, and there are solid methodologies that will help them to sustain their efforts and build a solid internal communication function.

Peggy: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Paul: The approaches in this book were forged on the job over a 20-year period in multiple industries to handle a wide range of communication challenges. I think the blend of deep-thinking philosophies and proven practices from someone who’s been in the trenches make this book unique.

Peggy: What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about employee communication, that isn’t so?
Paul: The single biggest problem in employee communication is the assumption that because communications are going out, that messages are getting through. Employees are drowning in a sea of information, but they are thirsting for clarity and purpose.

Peggy: What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about employee communication that they need to know?
Paul: Research consistently shows that the better an organization is at communicating with its employees, the more profitable an organization becomes. There’s a direct correlation. Organizations that understand this have a competitive advantage over those who fail to give their internal communicators the resources and autonomy they need to get the job done.

Peggy: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
Paul: You can connect with me in a variety of ways. My website is http://www.paulbartonabc.com, my business Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/PaulBartonCommunicationsLLC, my Twitter handle is @PaulBartonABC, my LinkedIn profile is http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulbartonabc and my Google Plus profile is https://plus.google.com/+PaulBartonABC/posts. I look forward to talking internal comms with you!

What are your ideas for topics or people to be featured in upcoming profiles?

 

 

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What do Hashtags, Speeches and Intranets Have in Common?

Wanaka_(8326144391)Photo by paul bica

Answer: Interaction, collaboration and engagement.

Here are some creative ideas to use as “springboards” for launching new communication programs that will encourage interaction, collaboration and engagement with your internal and external audiences:

What are some resources you’ve discovered that transformed your communication programs with interaction, collaboration and engagement?


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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: Paul Barton, ABC

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.

Paul Barton, ABC

Paul Barton, ABC

Veteran communicator Paul Barton, ABC, of Paul Barton Communications, LLC, specializes in internal communication and has helped organizations communicate effectively with employees for over 20 years. Read on as Paul shares his insights on strategic internal communication planning and best practices for boosting employee engagement.

Peggy L. Bieniek: What is most important for people to know about you?
Paul Barton: I’m an eternal learner and very passionate about internal communication.

PLB: What makes you stand out in a crowd of professional communicators?
PB: My ability to take high-level philosophies, find all their nuances and then see ways to apply them to the world communication challenges makes me stand out, along with my depth and breadth in communication. I grew up in the back shop of my father’s weekly newspaper, so I learned writing, photography, layout and design at an early age. I’ve helped usher in a lot of technological changes. I helped four different companies launch their very first intranets, and I helped two companies begin their first-ever forays into social media. A lot has changed, but the basics of communication remain the same, and writing is still the fundamental skill. Clear writing is still a reflection of clear thinking.

PLB: What are you most interested in and speak most enthusiastically about?
PB: The things we do as communicators that not only help organizations be more successful, but also enrich the lives of employees and their families. What we do is a noble profession, and I am very proud of that.

PLB: How do you help organizations inspire and inform employees?
PB: The first step is usually to put out the immediate fire. Often that’s a credibility gap between the organization’s leadership and its employees. You have to ensure your leadership has credibility before you can attempt to reach employees. Without credibility, a message is worthless. You begin to inspire employees when they see what they personally do is vital to the overall success of the organization, and then you help them to not only understand but to become part of the organization’s vision. Employees want to know that what they are doing has meaning. They are seeking clarity and purpose. If we are communicating just to inform, then we aren’t really communicating at all. We need to approach communication as an ongoing process. That process seeks to influence, is inclusive and listens to employees.

PLB: What inspired you to create your blog “Employee Communication Nirvana” and what types of information and ideas do you share with your readers?
PB: I wanted to share a vision for what the nirvana state of employee communication would look like. What would an organization look like if its internal communication function was as good as it could possibly be? What is our ultimate goal? I share philosophies and best practices that I hope inspire internal communication professionals to strive higher. I really like the feedback I get from my industry peers and the ongoing dialog.

PLB: What communication projects are you most proud of?
PB: The ones that really moved the needle for companies and at the same time made a real difference in the lives of employees – the wellness, 401(k) and safety campaigns, and the culture change and performance initiatives. I’m also proud that I was able to take struggling internal communication functions and turn them into high-performing teams. I believe I inspired a lot of young professionals who were new to internal communication. I still get calls from people who worked for me asking for advice and that’s a great feeling.

PLB: What are some communication best practices you’ve developed and/or helped to implement?
PB: I’ve developed a lot of tools, templates and processes over the years that have helped me get out in front of my work, think strategically and act as an executive counselor. You have to plan the work or it will plan you. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Having the right “tools and rules” in place sets you free to do higher levels of thinking. For instance, my colleagues and I developed a strategic communication planning template that we improved upon continuously over a 15-year period in four different industries. It gives us the structure to make sure we are on time, on budget and on brand, and the process itself has been the springboard for some real breakthrough thinking.

PLB: How do you incorporate strategic storytelling into your communication programs?
PB: Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate because it gets to our emotions. Logic makes us think, but it is our emotions that get us up out of our chairs and willing to take action. I’ve seen a CEO tell a story to a group of managers that had them pumping their fists into the air and yelling in support, and I’ve seen a safety video that had a widow telling a story about the husband who was no longer with her and her children that made the audience openly weep. A lot of front line managers think they can’t communicate company messages because they aren’t great presenters, but get them telling a few stories, and they turn into very effective communicators. The most successful employee communications appeal to heads and hearts, and storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to do that.

PLB: What are your current projects as you continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge?
PB: I’m just about to go to press with a book called Maximizing Internal Communication. It will be available in a couple of months on my website at http://paulbartonabc.com and on http://www.amazon.com. It’s full of all the tips, tricks, templates and techniques that I’ve learned and developed over my career. I’m also developing workshops about strategic communication planning, communicating change, crisis communication, employee benefits communication, and how to be an effective internal communication consultant.

PLB: What are some of your favorite resources that inspire your work?
PB: I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some great corporate communicators over the years and learned so much from them. I’ve also learned a lot from workshops and reading from the greats like the godfather of internal communication Roger D’Aprix; communication consultants Tom Lee and Bill Hiniker; writing coach Ann Wylie; measurement experts Angela Sinickas, ABC and Wilma Mathews, ABC; and technology guru Shel Holtz, ABC. I stay current by reading and participating in the LinkedIn groups dealing with internal communication and by following the #internalcomms hashtag on Twitter. There are a lot of great ideas out there!

PLB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
PB: You can connect with me in a variety of ways. My blog is http://www.paulbartonabc.com, my business Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/PaulBartonCommunicationsLLC, my Twitter handle is @PaulBartonABC, my LinkedIn profile is http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulbartonabc and my Google Plus profile is https://plus.google.com/+PaulBartonABC/posts. I look forward to talking internal comms with you!

What best practices in communication would you like to share in future Brilliance@Work profiles? What are your ideas for topics or people to be featured in upcoming profiles?


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Every Great Intranet Reveals a Great Story

Flickr_-_paul_bica_-_hiddenPhoto by paul bica

In January and February’s posts, I shared ideas on how to incorporate strategic storytelling into your overall communication programs. I also provided you with a template to help you get started in identifying your organization’s great stories.

This month, I will share ideas on incorporating storytelling into your internal (employee) communication programs.

Let’s begin by focusing on your organization’s intranet. Use “9 Types of Content Every Intranet Should Have” by Andrew Wright, posted on www.ragan.com, as your checklist to build or improve upon your organization’s intranet.

A highly effective intranet makes it easier for employees to do their jobs, which means increased productivity, collaboration, engagement, and profitability for your organization.

Need some inspiration on why and how to tell great stories? Read “Three Tips to Telling a Persuasive Story” by ePals CEO Katya Andresen, posted on www.linkedin.com.

What features of your organization’s intranet do your employees find relevant and use the most? How does your organization’s intranet incorporate storytelling?


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What’s Your Story?

Photo: Macau Science Center, Macau, China. Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo: Macau Science Center, Macau, China. Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 3.0

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” – Philip Pullman, educator and writer, http://www.philip-pullman.com

Although storytelling is certainly not a new concept, it has emerged in recent years as the key to strategic communication programs. Many communication experts like Park Howell, http://parkhowell.com/, have learned how to successfully harness the power of a story for their organizations. For 18 years, Park has been the owner and chief storyteller of Park&Co, an advertising agency in Phoenix, AZ. He and the agency’s sustainable marketing work have been recognized in many publications.

In this video of Park’s presentation, AzBAS Presentation_Park Howell_Storytelling, you’ll learn how to tell compelling stories about your organization or brand. You’ll also learn something about your own life as Park describes “The Hero’s Journey” by the legendary mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s your story?


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Kick off 2014 with Strategic Storytelling

Photo: Jon Sullivan

Photo: Fireworks, Jon Sullivan

2014 promises to be a brilliant new year for learning, sharing and implementing best practices in communication. Each month, we’ll focus on a different topic to support your continued quest for timely, relevant and successful communication programs.

January’s topic is storytelling. This week, you’ll learn how to kick your internal communication program into high gear this year through the use of strategic storytelling.

Speaker, trainer and speaking coach Doug Stevenson, www.storytelling-in-business.com, explains how internal communication becomes more memorable through the use of storytelling and shares his “Nine Steps of Story Structure” in this article from IABC’s CW Bulletin: http://www.iabc.com/cwb/archive/2004/0704/storytelling.htm

As you’re getting started with your storytelling strategy, keep in mind that “the beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else, but keep heart, it will turn out all right.”  – Vincent Van Gogh (www.goodreads.com)

Here’s to you and your success in 2014!