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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: Robin McCasland

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.

robin capitolRobin McCasland, Executive Board Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), is a communication expert recognized for her creative approaches to employee engagement strategies and internal branding. She recently joined Tenet Healthcare in Dallas, Texas as Director of Internal Communication.

Previously, she led employee engagement and internal communication for a business unit of Dell Inc. Over the past two decades, Robin received IABC Gold, Silver and Bronze Quill awards and earned several Communicator Awards for her work on clients’ recruiting and benefits communication projects.

At the May 15 IABC Phoenix professional development luncheon, Robin will present “Growing Your Personal Brand and Protecting Your Reputation.” During this event, you’ll learn how to recognize the intangible qualities that enhance your personal brand and make you more valuable and marketable as a communication professional. You’ll also learn why it’s worthwhile to go “ego surfing” online to ensure your reputation is solid.

Register for the luncheon at http://www.iabcphoenix.com/growing-your-personal-brand-and-protecting-your-reputation/

For more information, visit www.iabcphoenix.com. In the meantime, read on to learn more about Robin and her creative approach to communication planning:

Peggy Bieniek: What is most important for people to know about you?
Robin McCasland:
I believe that creativity and an open mind can overcome virtually any challenge (including a lack of budget). Also, it’s helpful to know that I believe if you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it, whatever “it” is.

PB: What are you most interested in and speak most enthusiastically about?
RMC:
I love the process of employee engagement. I’ve experienced first-hand how workplace cultures can transform for the better with a long-term, consistent and creative engagement strategy. I love showing people how to take a more creative approach to strategic communication planning. I use a slightly different method that helps get at the “heart and soul” of an organization, engages employees and inspires them to do their best.

I also love presenting on personal branding and reputation. Most people don’t often think about their personal traits and habits that make them more desirable to employers and clients. Those traits are, in my opinion, key to their personal brands – more than their actual communication skills. It’s fun to get people thinking about how they can enhance those positive qualities that make them stand out from others.

PB: How have your leadership roles within IABC influenced your career?
RMC: I’ve been a chapter leader twice – in Fort Worth and Dallas. Each experience taught me much about managing people (volunteers), public speaking, presenting, managing a budget, event planning, fundraising and more. I’ve used all of those skills in my jobs.

Those chapter roles provided management experience that prepared me to take on more senior roles in my career, with far greater responsibility. My IABC experiences over time have given me the confidence and courage to seek bigger horizons – in my career and within IABC.

IABC is in a challenging but necessary transition. The International Executive Board (IEB), staff and I have worked through some difficult situations to move IABC forward. It’s not been fun. However, the experience as IEB chair has made my career seem so much easier by comparison! The things that used to rattle me at work don’t usually faze me now.

PB: What communication projects are you most proud of?
RMC:
If I had to choose one, it would be the work I did at Texas Instruments (TI) to help transform its university recruiting program with creative employment branding. I had the good fortune to work with amazing human resources pros at TI who gave me a real budget and a lot of freedom to do incredibly creative work. Overall, our work was so effective in this area that the Corporate Leadership Council benchmarked our programs as best in practice. The work was so much fun that I couldn’t wait to get to the office each day. How many people can say they’ve had a job like that?

PB: What are some communication best practices you’ve developed and/or helped to implement?
RMC:
When I’m developing a strategic communication plan, I ask a few additional questions that will evoke an emotional response or cause people to take action or think differently. That’s the essence of developing clear, compelling messages. Depending on the circumstances and what we’re trying to accomplish, I might ask questions like:

–How do we make a difference in the world?

–What do leaders expect from employees? And – equally important – what should employees expect of their leaders?

–How do shareholders, customers and vendors view us? Is it easy to do business with us?

–How would we feel if any negative comments from those stakeholders were posted in social media? How would we respond?

–What do we value in this organization? Do we value the right things? How would others perceive our values? How would they discuss us in social media?

The answers to those questions and others help me build a more engaging, “living” communication plan.

Oh, and there’s one more unrelated, boring but tried-and-true best practice: Always have someone else proofread your work before you finalize it! Don’t rely on spell-check. Don’t rely on your own brain and eyes that have looked at the same copy for days. Have someone “fresh” read your copy. Always.

PB: What are your current projects as you continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge?
RMC:
I’m leading special event planning to launch a refreshed brand among employees. I’m excited to pull all the messages and activities together for this special event, which has the potential to impact tens of thousands of employees positively.

I’m developing a second-half 2014 internal communication plan for an organization in the healthcare industry. I’m learning the challenges of communicating with very diverse audiences, many of whom don’t sit in front of a computer on a daily basis.

PB: What are some of your favorite resources that inspire your work?
RMC:
I’m an audiophile. Music inspires my creativity. Music can literally change my mood in minutes! Some of my best ideas come when I’m listening to music. I love alternative and classic rock, but sometimes a beautiful movie soundtrack will help me engage emotionally in developing good communication.

Children inspire me. If they’re young enough, their creative minds aren’t stifled by people who tell them “no.” I like to approach each communication opportunity with no limits. Brainstorm as if there is unlimited possibility – and unlimited budget. That’s how kids think, generally. No limits.

PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
RMC:
The easiest way to reach me is via email at robinatiabc@gmail.com or on Twitter @robinrox.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?