It's about generating empathy -- being seen as human
Dallas (Vocus) September 27, 2009
Emotional detachment can make people cruel, says Scott Baradell, Dallas online marketing and corporate communications expert. It's easy to turn people into caricatures when you don't really know them. This is especially true when our communication is confined to electronic channels.
That's why Baradell recommends that CEOs and other corporate executives communicate face-to-face with their employees when there is a major company announcement, such as a layoff or restructuring.
"It's about generating empathy -- being seen as human," Baradell explains. "Before conference calls, before e-mail, before press releases, before internal memos, before Skype, before Twitter, before blogging, before videos -- if face-to-face communication is possible, it's nearly always the best option."
Baradell says the public's treatment of Hollywood celebrities is analogous to what happens when corporate executives don't make an emotional connection with their employees.
"Take Britney Spears. She's been lampooned by the tabloids, chased down by the paparazzi, and had fingers wagged at her by every so-called childcare expert who could find their way in front of a television camera. To the media, it's a game -- one that earns them subscribers, ratings, and money," Baradell explains.
"But Spears is a real person. And after she gave an honest, emotional interview stating her case to Matt Lauer a couple of years ago, viewers voted 80-20 in her support -- and against the media -- in an MSNBC poll. Many believe it was the first step to her current comeback."
Making a human connection is just as important in the corporate world, Baradell says.
"That's why, for example, when a company is announcing a layoff and asks me to develop a plan to communicate it, the first question I always ask is, 'Will the CEO do it in person?'
"If the company is large with multiple locations, I want the CEO to make the announcement at headquarters and the top officials in the field to break the news at those offices simultaneously," Baradell explains. "I want those officials to stand up and explain the reasons for the layoff, and to answer every last question from the people in the room. I want those officials to show that they care, and I want the people in the audience to see that there is someone at the front of the room willing to stand there and take the heat."
Memos, press releases and e-mails are good for providing supporting information. Used alone, however, they can't bridge the gap between a corporation's executives and its rank-and-file, according to Baradell.
"If a company only communicates through press releases, employees will start to view its executives as the public views celebrities -- with distance, detachment and, ultimately, ridicule," he says. "The same is true for your communications with investors, the media and other audiences. So don't be lazy; manage by talking around."
About Scott Baradell
A lot of people claim to be media and marketing experts these days. Scott Baradell's claims are backed by experience. As a corporate communications executive, he led the communications departments of two Fortune 1000 companies. As an entrepreneur, he wrote the business plan for his own venture-backed startup. And as a social media consultant, he created a pioneering marketing blog that has been cited in books and has influenced some of the top bloggers on the scene today. Now, he brings his unique combination of old-school experience and online savvy to help you energize your company's marketing efforts for today's new era. Learn more at http://www.baradell.info.
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