With each day that goes by, we are getting closer and closer to our final presentations, and working harder than ever in the process. One key component to our plan for GE’s Technology Services Group (TSG) is providing some guidelines as to when it is necessary to have in-person meetings. TSG employees are spread all over the world, and when it comes down to it, having regular face-to-face meetings can be a challenge, both in terms of cost and general time management.

However, having face-to-face meetings at least periodically is essential to strengthening bonds among team members while building trust and relationships. If nothing more, distributed teams should strive to meet face-to-face at least once during a project’s life-cycle.

This post outlines why face-to-face meetings are still best for building relationships, and provides some tips for when trying to decide if holding an in-person meeting is truly necessary.

If the purpose of the meeting is only for information sharing, it is possible to hold an effective meeting online, especially if the group already knows each other. However, if attendees need to build relationships and become motivated, face-to-face is by far the best way to meet.

In essence…

Ask the question: why are we meeting?

  • Is it for information sharing? If so, it may be possible to meet online.
  • Is it for relationship building? If so, you should probably meet face-to-face.
  • Is it for motivation and inspiration? Both avenues can be effective for this one.

When you’re deciding whether to have an online meeting or a face-to-face meeting, consider whether the relationships everyone will form are more valuable than everyone’s cost of traveling to the meeting.

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This past Wednesday, May 4, 2011, we had the great honor of meeting Mickey G. Nall from Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and attending his presentation: Tradigital is the Future of Public Relations. Aside from giving an exceptionally interesting and entertaining presentation, he gave us some great advice about life in the PR world.

A few takeaways:

We in PR have to make the truth fascinating. Good PR is honest and truthful—always. PR is about masterful storytelling, but your stories must always be true.

The Tradigital Approach: The democratization of global thinking. These days, things happening locally are having great impact globally.

The Age of Deference is now the Age of Reference. People want to hear from the man on the street before they want to hear from the leaders of society. Although leaders used to be at the top the list for people seeking opinions and advice about products, the common man has taken their place.

Consumers have become co-brand managers of products. Consumer PR drives brand-specific editorial coverage that focuses on the rationale (the practical benefits) and the emotional (how the brand makes you feel). This in turn elevates the relevancy of a brand to a consumer’s life.

Media Relations & Opportunities: local news and grassroots are making a connection. It’s about the fringe, not the center.

What drives the purchase? Word of mouth.

What breaks through? The Big Idea. Tie it to the trends, make it engaging and newsworthy, and go where the media is.

The bottom line: The brand must be integral to the story and not get lost.

After presenting our plan to the exec’s at TSG, it’s time write up some solid communication guidelines to help them out. After a bit of digging, here are a few that stood out:

The importance of Face-to-face communication: Effective communication is unlikely unless there is discussion and the opportunity for questions to be asked and answered.

Various internal audiences will require different forms of communication. Some will be satisfied with simple verbal presentations, others will require documentation of significant information, etc.

Face-to-face communication is most effective when used for team leader, supervisor, manager and general manager briefings and discussions as appropriate.

Feedback should always be encouraged: Obtaining feedback and effective listening are critically important for good communication.

Effective communication will only come if communicators at all organizational levels seek out feedback and take appropriate action to ensure that the intended meaning is passed on to the relevant audience.

Employees should always be able to say what’s on their minds without retribution.

Always be committed to acting on feedback, either with clarifying communication or relevant action.

Remember – Information is not communication: Written or electronic messages should be supplemented by face-to-face communication as necessary.

The team leader is critical: Important information must be made available to team leaders in a timely manner so they can communicate it to their teams. Information should be both cascaded down the organization and communicated direct to team leaders as appropriate.

Team leaders should make clear what information is available and communicate as requested.

Effective team leaders regularly communicate with team members on a formal and informal basis, and actively seek feedback from their teams on the effectiveness of communication with them.

The importance of Training: Training in effective communication will always be available to team leaders, supervisors and managers, and communication materials and support will be provided as appropriate.

These particular tips came from a boutique consultancy specializing in employee communication and employee surveys. Check out the complete list here.

As Week 4 comes to a close, the TSG team is still working steadily to put together the perfect solution for the group’s internal communications crisis. Low and behold – could Pfizer have found us an answer?

Much like the current TSG, Pfizer discovered in 2008 that their internal communications had spiraled out of control. The company had a total of 410 information sites branching out into over 10,000 team specific sites – all lacking a consistent look and feel, providing no way to measure satisfaction and success, and costing $10 million per year to maintain. You are not alone, TSG!

The Solution? To develop one point of contact – a Pfizer World site. The redesign developed both a global addition of Pfizer World and local templates that provided “guidance without prescription.” New policies were designed to improve the intranet, not control its content. By focusing on a One Pfizer ideal for all online channels to align to, they were able to give direction without mandating the content.

The ultimate goal was to Connect, Educate and Listen to employees. Using a variety of different tools, Pfizer was able to facilitate a culture of open communication while giving employees the ability to “get the work done.” This article in HRM Today explains the situation and the results in more detail.

Could this work for TSG? If not the main solution to our challenge, it could definitely serve as a very key piece to it.

I Love UO

November 15, 2010

Check out my slideshow for incoming University of Oregon students!

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As of this year, I am a senior at the University of Oregon, trying desperately to finish my degree in Public Relations, while still maintaining a real life that involves cooking and baking.  For my Strategic Public Relations Communications class this term, and I am required to keep blog that is related to public relations.  So, for the next three months, Adventures of a Vegan Girl with include public relations-related posts, and not just recipes.

As of now, I have been a happy vegan for about two and a half years.  Have I been a perfect vegan?  No.  London, France, Switzerland, and Italy did a good job of pushing me back into the vegetarian category for the duration of my time abroad, and cooking for myself was out of the question.

Overall, London proved to be the most vegan-friendly, and is great for vegetarians.  While I was there, my boyfriend sent me the link to a great little website called Vegan London, which outlines how to survive being vegan in London. After spending three months there, I can say that MookyChick really knows her stuff!

Unlike here in the U.S., you can easily find vegan food in the ‘Free-from’ section in the local London supermarkets.  Both Tesco and Sainsburys had plenty of options.  Beware of ‘vegetarian’ cheese, though.  My London host-mom bought some for me thinking it was vegan, but it’s definitely not.  :(

Overall, London was surprisingly vegan/vegetarian aware in general.  Vegan products were well-marketed in grocery stores, and were readily available to the general public.  According to my host-mom, ‘free-range’ eggs really do mean free-range in London, where laws are enforced and the industry is actually regulated.

One thing that I especially enjoyed in London was the delicious vegan soymilk and soy yogurt.  Alpro Soya milk was the most creamy, satisfying vegan “milk” that I have ever tasted, and the Alpro Soya yogurt was literally a godsend.

If only I had known about Alpro’s Soya Chocolate Desserts.  But now I know for  next time.  :)