Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Are You Improving Employee Communications?

Communication between departments always seems to be a challenge for most organizations, and is often rated among the top issues needing improvement. For those of us in the communications field, the problem looms large, as the issue is often dropped in our laps with a directive to "fix it." Unfortunately, there are limits to what we control. While we may be responsible for internal communications, we may not be involved in interactions between other departments. In addition, some of these departments aren't great about sharing important information with the communications area and the rest of the organization.

At Memphis Light, Gas and Water, we've done a number of things to better equip our employees with more information. Here are a few examples:
  • Someone from communications takes notes at our board of directors, City Council and manager meetings, and these notes and presentations are distributed to all employees via e-mail. 
  • If we've received media coverage, I'll send a recap of the interview, our key messages, and a story link and text once it's available to all supervisors and above. 
  • We have established an Internal Communications Committee to review our communications efforts and provide feedback on behalf of employees. 
  • We created a foreman-and-above newsletter entitled "In the Loop" that provides company updates from other areas. The newsletter is sent out monthly via e-mail and in hard copy to our field employees who do not have e-mail.

A few things we hope to implement this year:
  • Promote site visits by company executives, and publish Q&A from these visits for all employees. 
  • Create an "Ask Us!" feature on the Intranet that allows employees to ask random questions about company operations. Our staff will facilitate getting the questions answered. 
Those a few examples from MLGW. How are you improving employee communications?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Makes a Mentor?

The 2012 Communications School presented an excellent opportunity to reintroduce the NAGC Mentor Value Program (MVP), a program we announced on the blog earlier this year

Purpose of MVP
The program provides the foundation to have experienced public affairs professionals work closely with those just entering the field or changing direction in their career path.  MVP is designed to provide support, knowledge transfer and networking opportunities, enhance communication and collaboration at all levels within the profession, develop a network of mentors who are respected and recognized for their valuable role in communications and create a learning environment  where mentoring is an integral part of the way NAGC does business.

Mentees will have the opportunity to gain exposure and access to employees at different levels, gain an understanding of communication principles, values, relationships and unwritten rules, make achievable, realistic career plans, identify developmental opportunities and increase professional, technical and managerial skills and improve individual performance, productivity and preparedness to pursue professional and technical opportunities.

Mentors are NACG members who have volunteered to answer questions, provide career-related advice and coaching and help bridge the gap between the academic environment and the outside professional world. NAGC MPV mentors may vary considerable in their individual approach to mentoring, depending on their experience, time availability and personality.

How to Participate
How does it work? NAGC members who volunteer are asked to complete a mentor profile sketch and new members who would like to participate in the program will complete a Mentee Form. After a Mentor and Mentee are brought together, they will jointly create a development plan that includes ways in which the Mentor can assist the Mentee achieve his/her goals.

Please consider being a part of this valuable program that allows communication experts the ability to share their knowledge in a one-on-one setting. For more information go to the NAGC website

How Do You Mentor Your Employees? 
And while NAGC is launching this program, more food for thought: even if you don't participate in a mentoring program, how do you mentor your employees during a time where most of us see our training budgets cut significantly? 

Contributed by Liz Hamm, Public Information Officer at Bernalillo County, NM, and Development Director for the NAGC Board. of Directors.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Defining Persistence

This year’s NAGC Communications School provided great opportunities to learn, network and hear great speakers. The breakout sessions touched on numerous topics relevant to government communicators and the challenges we face each day. One of the most engaging and interesting breakout sessions was the session about journalists’ perceptions of public information officers. Anyone who heard Doc Trahan open the school with his “Gumbo Leadership” speech swore they could taste the gumbo afterwards, and they left with terrific leadership tips. My favorite session was the keynote delivered by Mike Foreman, the NASA astronaut whose personal story exemplifies persistence. 

According to Foreman, he knew from the time he was eight years old that he wanted to become a naval aviator and an astronaut.  He finished high school, applied for and was accepted to the Naval Academy.  Once he completed the Naval Academy, he applied for naval aviator training. He was finally accepted on his 8th attempt! After completing aviator school Mike applied to NASA for astronaut training.  He was 41 years old when he was finally admitted into NASA for astronaut training, but Mike Foreman was accepted into the NASA program and trained as a payload specialist. He realized his dream of becoming an astronaut and flew on two shuttle missions, walking in space numerous times.

I must admit that I have had a passion for space exploration since I was five and may be predisposed to a speech by an astronaut. I grew up in Houston, Texas, during the height of the space race; that would be the 60’s for those of you too young to remember. Many of my friends’ parents worked at the Johnson Space Center and our schools followed every mission with rapt attention. 

Mike Foreman’s speech kindled a nostalgic streak I didn’t know I had. Rarely do I look backward except to glean lessons learned from life’s opportunities. But for a few minutes that afternoon, I was a kid again, watching an honest to goodness hero talk passionately about his journey toward a dream. I cannot say what it’s like to walk in space; it’s something I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to do. But Mike Foreman helped me remember what it was like to be part of a national obsession, because obsession is the best way to describe that race to beat the Russians in space exploration. Astronaut Foreman also made me remember to dream big and to NEVER give up on my dreams. His lesson of passion and persistence is one we can all to emulate.

Submitted by Kathryn Stokes, NAGC Board member and Strategic Affairs Officer/Public Relations Manager at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.