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We are in uncertain times. Your customers, employees, partners, the media and other important constituents are looking to you for helpful information. Unfortunately, a lot of the communication shared in uncertain times ends up confusing and frustrating these groups even more.
As we witness the stock market lows, travel bans, event cancellations and more businesses asking employees to work from home, here are three tips to help guide your communication.
Tip #1: Stick with what you know — be direct and don’t share hunches and guestimates.
Tip #2: Show up with your Emotional Intelligence (EI) so you can respond thoughtfully and not react to challenging communication.
Tip #3: Appreciate the feedback you receive — it’s a gift — even the negative feedback helps you to learn and grow.
Here’s my video discussing these tips in more detail and how they can help you.
It’s time to FEEL First in your communication. I’ve been working on my passion project, the FEEL Model, gathering research about the type of communication that builds relationships and creates stronger bonds. In uncertain times, FEEL (facing Fears, engaging with Empathy, Using Ethics and unleashing Love) can make a difference. As the Coronavirus spreads and new cases are reported in the U.S. and globally, effective, meaningful and valuable communication requires a FEEL First approach.
Check out the tips and please share yours too. Together, we can lead with compassion and understanding, and offer helpful and accurate information to the people who matter the most to us professionally and personally in our lives.
Happy 2020, friends! Here’s to a year that’s filled with happiness, good health, and prosperity.
When I look back at 2019, I realize it was an intense year for so many reasons. Every week was one of reflection and new insights with a 52+ week millennial research project.
Today, as a result of this reflection and realizing my research had uncovered a new Mode of Operation or communication model, I’m focusing on a FEEL roadmap in 2020; adding FEEL to all of my communications. At the same time, I’ll be helping other professionals understand why strategic communications can only get you so far in your connections and relationship building. FEEL is the stepping stone to real relationships personally and professionally. How much do you use FEEL in your communication through all of your channels? Now you can find out with the FEEL First Test.
I decided to evaluate myself and my ability to FEEL, by taking the online FEEL First test, which came together as a result of the deep conversations with millennials in 2019.
I was surprised, not so surprised, to learn that I still have some FEEL work to do in the areas of facing Fears, engaging with Empathy, etc. In 2020, I’m on my way to FEEL Mastery, which is the highest range of scores you can achieve. The FEEL First Test not only evaluates your ability to FEEL, in every area of the model, and in different settings, but it also recommends exercises to increase your level of FEEL.
And, so my roadmap begins and yours can too.
A huge thank you to all of those millennials who took the time to interview with me, and who wanted to share the value of communication, what it means to have trust in a real relationship and what they expect from the important people in their lives. You have helped me to get through a difficult time and to turn loss and sadness into purpose and focus.
Here’s my video discussing where my roadmap begins and how professionals and companies would solve a lot of their issues and communication challenges with the FEEL model.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Amit Jain at Unsplash
It’s official … the FEEL First Test is online and ready for you to evaluate how much you FEEL (face Fears, engage with Empathy, use Ethics and good judgment and unleash your Love) in your communication.
I’ve been asked, “Why the launch of the FEEL Model and the FEEL First Test and what will you learn from the data?” The answer is simple … to help business professionals understand the major components that build trust in communication and to move from connections and simple transactions to genuine and meaningful relationships. The data we collect from the survey participants will give us an indication of FEEL by age, generation, and profession.
This test came from a year’s worth of research with millennials. After about 52 weeks and 55+ formal and informal one-on-one interviews, the millennials who participated in my passion project answered pointed questions about their communication; how they wanted to show up, be perceived and what they expected and preferred via different channels from the people around them, especially the Leaders* in their lives.
The FEEL Test scores you on each part of FEEL and lets you know how much you FEEL in your communication (from beginner to FEEL Mastery). From my work and what I’ve uncovered from this passion project is, if you don’t FEEL first, then how do you tap into how someone else feels to build an unbreakable bond?
Along with social media intelligence gathering and analyzing conversations, the FEEL model is an approach that applies all parts of FEEL across communication channels to build genuine and meaningful relationships.
Take a look at the video which offers more details and please take the FEEL First Test. We’ll be gathering and sharing data in this ongoing project that launched after my Millennial stepdaughter, Noelle, passed away last September. It was Noelle who put me on the road to FEEL. I want to share what I’ve learned with you so you can FEEL First to improve your relationships moving forward.
*Leaders were defined as supervisors, managers and/or executives at their companies, business leaders at their favorite brands or brands they followed, and political and religious leaders.
My FEEL First research journey continues. I’m speaking with Millennials every week to learn what they expect from leaders, including their interactions with business executives from their companies or the brands that interest them to government officials online and at different communications touch points. The communication model I’m building is based on these informal one-on-one interviews, social media searches using the Talkwalker Quick Search platform, as well as 30 years in communications and relationship-building best practices.
Although I have a few favorite research questions, there was one that yielded powerful results. I asked Millennials to fill in the blank for the following statement, “I don’t like leaders who…” They were told they could answer in a few words or a sentence. What I ended up with was much more than I had imagined. Millennials had a lot to say about leaders they don’t like.
As a matter of fact, they elaborated far more on this question than any other. Why? Is it because their leaders are coming across as leaders who don’t meet their expectation? Or, is it because they’re seeing communication that lacks an open perspective or appears self-serving and disingenuous, especially on social media? I see it everyday … there’s very little listening with a low tolerance for opposing or differing opinions, not to mention communication that is self-absorbed and isn’t transparent. Do you see this too?
The Millennials I’ve interviewed are clear, and they know exactly what they don’t like about leaders today. Take a look at some of the partial responses to the statement, “I don’t like leaders who …”
- Don’t follow anyone on social media, and they don’t post anything other than policies and products.
- Have a bad attitude and their tone is passive aggressive.
- Blow up your feed and you still don’t get the answers you need.
- Don’t have integrity and are full of hot air.
- Communicate through multiple persons and a complicated chain of command.
- Don’t know how to lead; they were just put into a leadership position and have no leadership skills.
- Ignore the criticism you share; Millennials want their voices to be heard.
- Talk more than they listen.
- Are egotistical and self-centered.
- Are unwilling to learn and who have a finite agenda in their communication.
Strategy and planning have always been the focus of my work in PR and marketing. I’ve created countless communication roadmaps for brands and professionals, to successfully prepare, launch and implement their campaigns with a goal to build relationships and to create business value.
Today, my research uncovers an approach that must be applied first. Based on Millennial responses to my questions over the last six months and numerous social media searches, leaders and business professionals must FEEL First before they communicate. FEEL stands for: Facing Fears, engaging with Empathy, using Ethics and good judgment and unleashing the Love of their mission to genuinely connect and to build loyal and unbreakable bonds.
What is the genesis of my passion project? It all began after my step daughter Noelle passed away. She was only 24 years old and she was an outstanding scholar and an amazing young woman with a giving heart and someone who would have done great things in this world. Noelle’s passing was heartbreaking and it really threw my family’s world upside down. I started to research Millennials and their communication habits. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Millennials value themselves based on their performance and image. I also quickly uncovered that Millennials were more stressed out and anxious than years past. Anxiety and depression statistics are at alarming levels and so are suicide rates. Did you know that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Americans from ages 10 to 34?
From everything I’ve learned, it was time for me to step back to take a good look at the communication differences between generations; how people interact, the level of integrity, authenticity and the empathy in their relations. Are increasing communication touchpoints and a technology-driven world fueling stress and anxiety? Plus, when we communicate, how much do we really know about the people that we work so hard to build relationships with? As a communicator of 30 years, I want to make sure that any workshops, training, speaking and the courses I develop will always stress helpful, ethical, communication with EQ in the driver’s seat.
So what does all of this have to do with the development of the new communications model, FEEL First? Everything! Communication can make a situation better; it’s an opportunity to put on your emotional intelligence hat so you can listen and help people; an important first step to lending genuine support. When there’s good communication there’s more understanding and empathy; kindness and caring are also present. Most of all good communication is a time for openness and transparency and even vulnerability. Brené Brown, who is a researcher and storyteller, nailed this in her TED Talk. When you’re vulnerable you can build a real relationship. Plus, with good communication that exudes passion and pure enthusiasm you will attract inspired and motivated supporters.
However, today, we’re seeing far less good communication. Think about it. As you spend more time on your smartphones and engage in new technologies, are you noticing increased noise, frustration, and anger, whether it’s on social media, in the news, and within the four walls of your companies?
Of course, leaders have to be strong, take a stance, show confidence, be innovative and have a clear vision that people will follow. This must come through in all of their interactions. But, if you can’t balance your strength and IQ, with greater levels of Emotional Quotient (EQ) then your ability to build relationships, bond with your tribe and create blind loyalty will be limited.
In an age of automation and Artificial Intelligence, it’s your emotional intelligence that separates you from the machine. Machines don’t have intuition, they don’t experience kindness and caring, they don’t know empathy and they don’t build relationships. Millennials are not shy about wanting their leaders to have more emotional intelligence. Here’s a FEEL First research blog post on this very topic.
What’s my advice to leaders about their communication, based on how Millennials finished the statement, “I don’t like leaders who?“ In a nutshell, you have to FEEL First!
On June 13th, the #PRStudChat community gathered for a discussion on “Learning Leadership Skills.” Leading our discussion was Ken Jacobs, CEO of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. Ken and our community of PR students, educators and pros shared their knowledge on how leadership is more than a fancy title, big office or a large salary. With leadership comes the responsibility to inspire and influence others to achieve their goals. Of course, communication plays a large part in a leaders’ success.
With a passion for communication that builds bridges and genuine relationships, one question during the chat session stood out in my mind. How can leaders communicate more effectively through social media?”
The answer to the question, from Ken and our community members, varied. However, the overall sentiment reflected a tremendous opportunity for leaders, if they use social media the right way and they take a human approach.
Here are a few of the tweets reminding us that leaders can use social media for open and authentic conversations and to show that they care about the people they serve:
It’s clear from the #PRStudChat tweets to the many studies shared on social media about building loyalty among audiences (especially Millennials) that social community participation is important; it’s a way for leaders to engage and be more approachable and to help people and forge deeper connections with them.
Now, let’s take a more narrow focus on the Millennial generation. With respect to “what leaders should do” and what “Millennials require” my research and passion project reveals that leaders are falling short with their knowledge and use of social media. They are not fully taking advantage of the helpful and beneficial communications, in many cases.
For several months, I’ve been interviewing Millennials (born between the years of 1981 and 1996), for a passion project called FEEL First Before You Communicate. I wanted to uncover how Millennials were feeling about their leaders (at their companies, in business, religious and political leaders too) and the way they interacted with them, especially on social media. The responses were candid and had a surprising level of detail I didn’t anticipate regarding what Millennials required from these leaders on social media, as well as how they wanted to express themselves.
The preliminary results showed that Millennial expectations are not matching the real world scenario that is currently playing out in different social media communities, from business to politics. More than two-thirds of the Millennials interviewed stated that the levels of leadership sharing they’ve experienced are lacking authenticity, understanding, and what they would call “open perspectives,” which bring people together and build the bonds that last.
Now, take a look at some of the responses from the Millennials about expectations vs. what they are experiencing from the leaders in their lives.
- I would expect a leader’s communication to be informed and not share their own personal views or biases.
- I would expect leaders to understand how their audience likes to be communicated with and to strike the right general tone.
- Sometimes leaders don’t come across as genuine … at least, I haven’t seen any consistent characteristics across fields.
- Leaders should be relatable and I don’t think leaders come across as relatable today.
- I expect their EQ to come through loud and clear … this resonates. In order to project genuine emotion … you can’t just regurgitate information.
- I would expect leaders to be calm and knowledgeable. They should also be engaged with their work and their teams.
- I would expect leaders to be strong and to lead by example, especially in a world where people post on social media. If you’re not leading by example then you are not a true leader.
- Leaders should be “that every man” and go about change on behalf of others even if it’s not for their own benefit.
Here is the text analytics of all of the different responses clearly depicting how interview subjects were feeling about the following question:
What do you expect from your leaders on social media?
It’s fairly clear … Millennials want leaders who are more social (that is, who understand social media) and who engage with their audience, show emotion, connect with the community, have a positive demeanor, know it’s about their people, are genuine and who lead by example and with confidence.
Whether it’s Millennials or any group, what happens when expectations are not met? There is a disconnect and people are less inclined to be open or take the time to listen and understand. If they do engage, then communication is guarded and not on a level of real interest or from a place of genuine care.
Falling short of expectations on social media can also mean frustration and often results in tuning out the noise. Building genuine relationships takes emotional intelligence. Of course, when it comes to leadership skills, the Emotional Quotient or EQ, such as care, kindness, empathy, understanding, and compassion, has to meet the IQ side of the equation, with knowledge, vision, innovation, professionalism, and confidence, all working in harmony.
The balance between the EQ and IQ and a communication approach that fills the gap for leaders to connect to build genuine relationships is the FEEL First model. It’s an approach that helps you to Face Fears by being more open, engage with Empathy and true understanding, use Ethics and good judgment in communication and to unleash the Love to match the enthusiasm shared by Millennials and younger generations who are devoted and deeply passionate about their causes.
The ability to FEEL First before you communicate is the difference between social media that resonates and creates energy and action, and the kind of communication noise that is quickly disregarded, addressed with anger or often blocked in social communities.
As a leader, are you meeting Millennial expectations and do you FEEL First before you communicate? You can take the FEEL First Test to score yourself … coming soon to the PR Expanded!!
In October 2018, I set out on a research journey to learn more about Millennial communication. I wanted to understand where they liked to express themselves and how they wanted to be recognized on social media. I also started to uncover the types of interactions Millennials expected from their “Leaders.” For the purposes of my one-on-one interviews, “Leaders” were defined as their own company leaders, business executives from familiar brands, or from the brands and the causes they cared about, and political leaders too.
One question was easy to analyze and the results didn’t surprise me. I asked 25 Millennials what advice they would give to leaders on social media. After analyzing their answers and using a tool to create a word cloud, certain words carried more weight and meaning. These included: TRY, UNDERSTAND, SOCIAL, MEDIA, NEED, CARE, GIVE, PEOPLE, RESPOND, MESSAGE, INTERACTIVE AND EMOTION. You can see the word cloud below.
Diving further into the interviews, the quotes from the Millennials answering this question were just as interesting. Here are a few of my favorite quotes offering advice to their leaders:
- Be relatable and much more interactive with us.
- If someone tweets to you, the least you could do is respond.
- Be clear and concise; our generation is overloaded with far too much information.
- The message doesn’t have to be perfect; this will make you more relatable and approachable.
- Show you care about the people behind your organization and brand.
- Operate your own social media, don’t let someone else; it seems a little shady.
- Take the time to understand us or your audience in general.
- Take the time to know us, especially on social media.
- You need to learn how to communicate through social media.
Millennials are asking for leaders to be more human and genuine and to show up with the emotional intelligence when they answer questions or interact with them. The smartest leaders will take this information and work on how they communicate through social media. One way to close the gap between what Millennials expect and how their leaders currently communicate is to FEEL first. What does this mean?
Face Fears – making you more open to different perspectives and not share knee jerk communication
Engage with Empathy – Don’t just listen but listen actively and ask questions, understand people so they know you care. Think less about your messages and how you can help them.
Use your Ethics (and good judgment) – Always being accurate, truthful and fair in your interactions. It also means showing up as your authentic self.
Unleash the Love – If you don’t show your passion, energy, and enthusiasm then why would anyone want to join your cause.
Here’s a video discussing the research and a new FEEL First Test (a web app) which is coming soon.
It’s never too early to learn about and start to hone leadership skills. That’s because leadership isn’t about having the big title, office, and salary, but about the ability to influence others to achieve organizational goals. That means leading oneself, “leading up” to your boss and leading one’s peers.
Join the #PRStudChat Twitter discussion on Thursday, June 13th at 12:00 p.m. ET to take a deep dive into the differences between managing and leading. Our special guest and co-host, Ken Jacobs (@KensViews), ACC, CPC, who is the CEO of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching, will lead the discussion on how to make the jump from student to practitioner and from manager to leader. Our community will also learn the importance of observing the leaders in an organization (regardless of their titles).
Some of the topics/questions Ken and the #PRStudChat community will answer include:
1. What’s your definition of leadership?
2. What’s the difference between management and leadership?
3. What’s the best way to lead up to my boss?
4. Why do some managers get promoted to positions of leadership before they’re ready?
5. Does one not get to lead until one has a senior title?
6. How early can I start to hone my leadership skills?
7. What are some important first steps I can take to hone those skills?
8. Who are some people you’ve seen in your career who were leaders early on in theirs?
9. How can leaders communicate more effectively through social media?
10. What do you know about leadership now that you wish you had known early in your career?
Get ready for a fast-paced #PRStudChat discussion on Thursday, June 13th with actionable tips and advice for successful PR leadership and career growth. #PRStudChat
About Ken Jacobs
Ken Jacobs, ACC, CPC, an experienced consultant, and certified coach, is the principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching. For 10 years, his firm has helped agencies grow and manage a business, improve client service and relationships, and enhance staff performance. It does so via consulting and training. In addition, through his executive coaching, he has helped leaders from C-suite executives to managers, achieve and surpass their goals. Jacobs holds Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credentials from the International Coach Federation (ICF) and is accredited as a Certified Professional Coach (CPC), Energy Leadership Index (ELI) Master Practitioner and a COR.E Leadership Dynamics Specialist (CLDS) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).
It began with a simple question asked by Angela Hernandez, then President of PRSSA at Central Michigan University (CMU). “Is PR Right for me?” A follow-up blog post by Communication Strategist Deirdre Breakenridge inspired a series of direct messages on Twitter between Breakenridge and fellow PR industry pro, Valerie Simon. This was an important question and one that should be explored beyond one student or one blog post. Why not build a community to help students across the country, and even the globe, learn from the experience and perspective of industry professionals … A community where everyone can learn and grow together.
About Spin Sucks
Spin Sucks was started in September 2006 by Gini Dietrich, the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. Its mission? To change the perception or PR. What started as a simple blog, soon became a movement. Spin Sucks is the number one PR blog in the world, the go-to resource for PR professionals to learn new strategies and tactics, to share and receive expert advice. It’s also the place where people have fun discussions, brainstorm, ask for help, and make new friends.