Key communications learnings from Katrina Neill of DayMen.
When handling delicate topics what are the most important things to keep in mind as a communicator?
I think a variation on the carpenter’s rule (measure twice, cut once) is a good thing to apply to most delicate topics – a kind of ‘think twice, write once’ approach. Because emails and texts fly in and out so fast today, it is easy to respond too hastily to a consumer’s complaint, reporter’s question or fan’s rant.
I know I have been guilty of responding without measured consideration to my message and need to remind myself to slow down.
A book that has inspired me to handle sensitive topics with more clarity is Choosing Civility by Dr. P.M. Forni of John Hopkins University. His thoughts on treating others with respect, applying manners to all interactions, and just basic caring, are helpful and needed more than ever.
When I handle a situation with respect for the person on the other side of my communication, it always seems right and well received.
What would you consider your greatest communications success in your career?
I hope that is yet to come…
I find the little communications successes are some of the most rewarding. A few of those might include: getting more people to open B2B emails and click through a few times; finding ways to share good news and keep teams updated in different countries and right around the cubicle; keeping healthy relationships with brand advocates via frequent and thoughtful messages.
What experience in your career have you learned the most from?
One that stands out is admitting to a mistake and moving on. Years ago, I was shouted down by a vice president of PR for making a typo on a printed invitation to a gala event. She was yelling so dramatically, that I just kind of stood still and took it. Once she stopped, I calmly apologized and took the blame. I asked my supervisor if we could reprint the piece. The answer was yes (kind supervisor!). The vice president was left without a reason to be upset. And it all ended up fine.
So admit your mistakes. Keep calm and carry on. Most things can be fixed. This is not a real crisis. Toss all the clichés into the mix – they are pretty true.
How do you see the PR/communications field changing in the next five years?
I am very curious to see how the look and navigation of online publications will evolve in a few years. Some of my favorite pubs have moved to a web design where one can’t separate news and reviews from ad space. I could see a return to a clean separation of content in the future, and believe readers would appreciate the definition.
How social channels will evolve, or devolve, really interests me. We can share video clips, great reviews and inspiring images all day long, but each post is over in a moment.
Since a recent survey of 1,000 Millennials (by Mattersight Corporation) found that those queried wanted more direct interaction, how will PR and comms folks serve that up? I’ll have to do some extra thinking on that one!
What do you to unwind?
Spend time with lively friends. Walk. Read. See plays. Go to concerts. Float on a lake in a fishing boat with husband and dog. Sit and be. Deliberately take time away from phone, laptop and tablet to connect with people, nature and culture the old-fashioned way. And maybe that will be the new normal one day in the future.