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Virtual Teams Downside & The Death Of Camaraderie

Virtual Teams Downside. There are lots of people who champion the idea of working from home or some other location that is not the office. Most of the advocates of working from home are the people who want to work from home. They declare that they are more productive with fewer distractions or interruptions. In the age of the Internet and the knowledge worker if I get my deadline met at noon or 2:00 a.m. what difference does it make as long as the deadline was made? Compelling points all, but each misses an important component that contributes to the success of any work group and that is team work and better interpersonal communications between members.

The Charge of The Light Brigade was a series of miscommunications and blunders that got a lot of British soldiers killed by their own artillery.
The Charge of The Light Brigade was a series of miscommunications and blunders that got a lot of British soldiers killed by their own artillery.

Non-Verbal Cues

There is so much more to human interaction and communication than words on a page or spoken over a phone. Critics of those who work from home find that there are more misunderstandings or miscommunications as a result of the absence of non-verbal cues, which is also known as body language. Experts believe that 50% to 70% of human communication is non-verbal. There are also added costs of video conferencing equipment and licenses, added web security and the overall inconvenience of not being able to walk a few feet and speak to a colleague.

Death By Friendly Fire

In the military miscommunications cause death from so called friendly fire. The military factors the deaths from friendly fire into the cost of miscommunication. For military miscommunications, this price can be really high. The people killed by friendly fire pay the highest but there are consequences for the people who initiated the mid-directed weaponry.

For business, the costs are also high but instead of being “KIA” the costs manifest in security breaches and regulatory problems, which are high costs, but not life or death. That said, there is no reason not to take miscommunication very seriously. As stated above, in the military the people who died and those who caused the death both suffer greatly. So think  about what happens when both sides in a company miscommunicate?

We tend to blame one side (the one we are not on) when there is a disagreement over meaning and intent. Public relations people and employees in any industry need to remember that all communication is a two way street. One side of the communication needs to be receptive and the other needs to be clear. Stop thinking about and in terms of the blame game and think more about this problem of geographically diverse employees as an  issue of process that needs fixing.

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Texas Needs A Law Against Texting While Driving

I’ve lived in two other states and this our second time to be in Texas. My wife and I were born here and my great great grandfather was a Texas Ranger. I’m no newcomer or Yankee. That we allow texting while driving is beyond me. Last May the Texas legislature failed to pass a law against this and Texas is one of just six states in the U.S. to not have at least a statewide ban on texting behind the wheel. (Texas bans younger drivers from any cellphone use while driving, along with barring all drivers from texting or hand-held cellphone use in school zones.)

Why does Texas need a law against texting while driving? Easy. We have a lot of people who own cars in the state who simply lack the good sense not to text while driving. That’s why.Ban Texting.jpg

Anyone who believes their personal freedom is at stake over such a law cannot be taken seriously and are the reason the rest of us need to be protected. Don’t wear a seatbelt? No problem, I don’t care. You’ll grab serious air flying through the windshield and will not harm anyone other than yourself. Not going to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle? Hey we need organ donors now more than ever. But when you text while driving you put others at risk. Kill yourself through ignorance and arrogance if you like, but leave the rest of us to die quietly of natural causes.

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Nine Ways Media Monitoring Gets Better

Nine Ways Media Monitoring Gets Better.

Be aware of the ways to track mentions of you and your organization on line. It matters.
Be aware of the ways to track mentions of you and your organization on line. It matters.

There’s this joke that says what other people say about you is none of your business. It’s not terribly funny nor is it true by any stretch. You are a brand. That’s right, you. Whether you are an employee, business owner, wannabe business owner, or fledgling blogger, your reputation on-line will help to make or break your brand. Worse, employers are monitoring what you say or said on line. I am not aware of anyone ever being rewarded for a positive post about an employer. They are not watching to catch you doing something nice.

Similarly, most customers who post reviews on line are not inspired to do so because of overwhelmingly wonderful treatment or service. Our species is wired to focus on the negatives, the failures, goofs and stumbles that should not characterize any of us but will unless we pay attention. If you want the web to paint an accurate portrait of who you really are, it is important that you be aware of what’s out there.

Articles written by or about you, blog posts, social media or on line reviews all combine together and spill out onto the screen as a reputation. Your reputation! And since you cannot control much of what gets said about you online it’s a good idea to monitor and respond to things that are said about you, your products and/or services.

  1. Brand Yourself. I like Brand Yourself ( and I use it myself. They give me the option of doing things with the tool myself or paying for expertise when needed. It’s easy to use and if nothing else shows what’s out there whether good or bad.
  2. Google Alerts. Enter your name, your company name into Google Alerts ( and it will sort, sift, collate and send you what you want and need to know. Just put the name of the company and any other key words and receive e-mail alerts. The best part is that there is no charge for this.
  3. Social Mention. A very cool way to see what’s on line and in social media. Social Mention ( is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.
  4. Hootesuite ( offers business a way to track mentions on social media in places like Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked In and others. To leverage all of the tools on here there is a fee, but it is very reasonable.
  5. A more expensive tool, but Trackur ( offers a lot more in terms of value and capability. In addition to monitoring mentions, it has a social analytics dashboard that provides knowing about trends and sentiments as expressed on line.
  6. As the name implies, Reputology ( the study of your reputation. This tool is directed at customer reviews. It monitors and manages online reviews by providing alerts, dashboards, and analytics. In addition, the tool includes a summary report to help you make decisions based on consumer feedback. It integrates with Hootsuite and other social media management tools. It is not free, but certainly valuable.
  7. Do you own a franchise business or work in marketing or management for one? Consider Chatmeter ( It provides reviews, social media, listing accuracy and search rankings for multiple stores. Pricing varies for and gets steep for chains with over 20 outlets.
  8. Review Concierge. Are you a medical doctor or do you run a medical practice? With Review Concierge (, you can monitor 75 web sites where patients can read reviews by other patients. Doctors go to school a lot, so Review Concierge gives a weekly report card. I think the people who work in a doctors office are the ones who will create the most trouble for a physician. This is a good tool for you, doctor.
  9. Want to know every time someone says something about you? Sure there’s a fee, but Socialdraft ( sends real-time notifications when a business is mentioned on the web or in social media. Monitoring the general social media sites, it also scans niche sites that specialize in restaurants, travel, medical, legal, and real estate industries.

Do you need more to do? Probably not, but this is important. What other people say about you is your business.


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Eight Ways to Answer Media Interview Questions

Eight Ways to Answer Media Interview Questions.

Be prepared before accepting any media invitation.
Be prepared before accepting any media invitation.

I have a recurring nightmare that there is a You Tube video of me that has “gone viral” because of some incredibly ignorant thing I’ve said and done. In my dream, the details of what I said or did are unclear. What is clear is that I somehow disgraced myself while on camera. I wake feeling flushed, embarrassed and not able to get over whatever it was that got posted everywhere. It is not a good feeling.

The best thing to remember when preparing to answer media questions is that you are there to promote you, or your business, cause or candidate. You are not there to make friends, get laughs, or prove how smart you are. An interview is about getting on the air or in print the facts and point of view you want to read and most importantly you want current and prospective customers, donors or voters to hear, see or read. Here is how.

  1. Know your message points. Write 3-5 short, declarative sentences that are the core of your communications. These are the points that will anchor you to a good outcome. I like to call these message points “must airs” as they are the points that you “must air” during the interview to be a success.
  2. Learn to bridge. There are going to be times when a reporter will ask you a question that you do not want to answer or are not able to answer. Instead of a silent dead-eyed stare, take the question and build a “verbal bridge” to one of the must airs you want to make. Here is an example. Say you are in the pet food business and you are introducing a new type of cat food for people who have a lot of money to spend on pets. This food is made domestically (one of your must airs) and is very high in protein, vitamins and minerals (another must air), and made under the supervision of the U.S. government (final must air). These are the points you want to emphasize for an interview.

You are talking with a reporter about this new cat food and she asks you about concerns that cat owners have about contamination due to ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol is used in anti-freeze and is extremely poisonous. A number of pets were killed by it when contaminated cat food made in China was sold here. The last thing you want associated in the media with your new cat food are the words “contamination” or “ethylene glycol” so you bridge. Here is how that answer could look. “Our new food is very high in nutrients and made domestically under the watchful eye of the FDA and other regulators, so our customers can have complete confidence in it.” See what you did?

You re-stated that your food was made here, that it was high in nutritional value and regulated under U.S. law. See what you did not do? You did not repeat any language about China, contamination, ethylene glycol or poison. Instead of a response that would reinforce negative ideas about cat food and remind everyone about how cat food once poisoned a lot of cats, you used this as a place to emphasize positives about your product. That is bridging. It is not easy and not for beginners. To be good at it takes a lot of practice.

  1. Bridge to keep the conversation on track. The time you and the reporter have are limited. There are times when friendly, get acquainted chat can take up too much time. If you find that the conversation has strayed from the topic you want to talk about find a way to bridge back. Here is an example. A reporter has started talking about all the funny cat videos on You Tube that are shared on her Facebook page and just how entertaining they are. This has gone on for about long enough, so bring the conversation back by saying something like, “those videos remind me and other pet lovers about how important these animals are to us and how we have a duty to care for them in the best way possible and that includes how we feed them…” This is not a great example but you get the idea. Gently deliver the conversation back to the thing you want to talk about.
  2. Practice. This is not something any of us was born knowing. To get good at it will take practice. Get a co-worker to ask you difficult or irrelevant questions so you can practice bridging to the answers you want to see or hear.
  3. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. So many times interviewees believe that they have a duty to know every single thing about their topic. No such expectation exists, as no reasonable person would expect you to know every last thing about anything. So if you do not know, say so. It is an honest answer. Promise the reporter to look into their question and to get back to them with an answer, then do so.
  4. Keep your answers short. This too comes with practice. I love to talk, so keeping my answers short has taken a lot of time and effort. Also I’ve spent a lot of time working with technical people over the years. Technicians and engineers are really smart and know a lot and they love to talk about how much they know. This is great for technical presentations but not with reporters. Long answers can be misunderstood and are easy to misquote. If you keep the answer short, there is less chance for a misunderstanding. So if you tend to go on and on, realize it and practice shorter answers.
  5. Always tell the truth. If you tell the truth 99 times and tell a lie 1 time, you are a liar. Getting caught in a lie is embarrassing. Getting caught in a lie by a reporter will end your career. If there are things you are not able to talk about then say so. For example, if there is a court case ongoing or some other information that needs to be kept confidential, then say that. If the results of a study or test are positive, then say that too without embellishment. Interviews with the press are not the time for “fish stories”. If there is some negative to report, then do so. Trying to be cute, clever or spin answers will alienate reporters and they can spot and smell “bovine excrement” for miles.
  6. Practice more. And practice on camera if possible. Speakers will learn a great deal about how to better their performances watching themselves on camera.

There are tons of other articles and even entire books written on just this topic. So do not limit yourself, go and read those too. There is lots to know and plenty of smart people who can help you. The 7 points made here are all techniques that I have used for nearly years and I can tell you from personal experience that they work. Good luck with your interview. Now go practice!