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October 2010
ADM logoFall is off to a great start
Mother nature has begun to use her paint brush to give us a magnificent foliage display before it all goes away next month. So we should get out and enjoy the remarkable sights while we still can.

As you read this, I am in Poland on a visit to my ancestors' home towns. This trip is something I've been wanting to do for a while; there didn't seem to be any reason to wait any longer. As a researcher with a real appreciation for secondary research, I must report that the sources are impressive. It's amazing what a 100-year-old, handwritten Census record can tell you!

I also contacted fellow IABC members in Warsaw and met two professional communicators while here. These meetings will remain among the highlights of the trip! They were generous with their time and told me a great deal about the state of public relations, employee relations, and external communications in Poland. Watch for more on this subject.
Employee Engagement
Internal communications are as important as external   

Overlooking or underappreciating employee engagement with your brand and your company can be very risky. For a long time, employers believed that their relationship with employees was uni-directional; the current economic environment has reinforced that notion with some people. However, the wise employer understands that every employee--from the C-Suite to the mail room--is a brand ambassador. Certainly, anyone who connects with customers or prospective customers should be excited about working for the company, and enthusiastic about its brands. The tone of voice of the initial point of customer contact sets the stage. If a caller is on hold for too long, or believes he or she is getting the run-around, that customer is lost. Perhaps for good. "First people feel, and then they think," said Jonathan Willard, an organizational communications expert. It is that "gut" reaction that may cause someone to hang up the phone, or go to another store or web site.
Employee research that I have conducted supports the idea that internal communications can be just as important as the external. It can produce employee engagement or turn it off. Either way, the outcome filters through to customers and prospects all along the locus of customer interaction. Here are some things that companies can do to move the needle toward employee engagement.
  • Communicate with employees early and often. Language should be direct and clear. Legal terms or marketing jargon can reduce the credibility--not to mention the comprehensibility--of the message.
  • Convey the passion that Management has for their products and brands--more than just profitability. Give employees a good reason to share that passion--again, more than profitability.
  • Encourage communication among departments; support inter-departmental projects or activities. Research has shown that many people like those with whom they work on a daily basis, but either don't know what the department next door does, or doesn't appreciate the contribution it makes to the enterprise; and doesn't feel appreciated, in return.
  • Company-wide parties or picnics are fine, but once a year doesn't do it.
  • Make sure you have a solid protocol for dealing with dissatisfied employees, and make sure all managers are on board. There are few things worse than the unhappy person who does not feel empowered to speak to department heads or senior management (or has not been "heard" by them), and then goes ballistic before leaving the company.
  • A suggestion box can be a very good way to enlist the hearts and minds of employees, and if management rewards the good ideas it is even better. When I worked at FIND/SVP, a fellow in the mailroom came up with the idea of printing the weekly reports on two sides of the paper--saved the company a bundle. Just imagine the loyalty that engendered among the entire staff!
  • Okay, here's the shameless self-promotion. But really,conduct an employee survey once a year (depending on turnover, the company might do it every 18 months to two years). Share the findings with the employees and explain how management intends to address some of the issues raised.                                                                     
Under the category "Things That Are Universal" is part of my discussion with Magda Selwant-Rozycka in Warsaw. Magda's specialty is employee communications. Her experiences and views of employee communications can be summed up, as above. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one.

Research has shown that the biggest problem senior managers face is finding and retaining talent. Relationships between employer and employee are no longer one-way.  Even in this economy, fear will not keep your talent on board for long. High turnover rates breed a lack of continuity and confidence in the company, not only among employees, but among customers, too. If you want your brand and your company to thrive, everyone must be on board.
Mad Men Research
How Matt Faye Miller of Mad MenWeiner got it wrong

If you are a fan of "Mad Men," as I am, you may have wondered whether "Dr. Miller," the agency's market research consultant and Don's latest squeeze, is a good representation of advertising research in the 1960s. Not quite.

First of all, she seems to be a freelancer, not an employee or owner of a market research firm. That was not terribly common at that time--especially for a woman. More importantly, however, the methodology she employed a few episodes ago was horrifying. Maybe that's why she was a freelancer; nobody would hire her.

To be more specific, Dr. Faye Miller conducted one focus group, consisting of about 6 or 8 female employees of her client's agency to help them determine the brand positioning and communications strategy for a cosmetics client. This was disturbing on so many levels.
  • First, how can anyone draw conclusions for a marketplace the size of "adult American women" on the basis of 6 or 8 people. If she wanted to go the qualitative route (i.e., focus groups), she should have done at least 8 groups: 2 in each of 4 cities around the country. That, at least, would have yielded 80 opinion sets, and revealed whether there were regional differences in the way women viewed cosmetics.
  • Second, a cardinal rule for recruiting focus group participants is that they should not know one another. This is particularly important if you want to dig into the underlying feelings and motivations around something as personal as make-up. Who would want to confess her insecurities in front of other people with whom she works? DUH! To make matters worse, the men for whom these women work were watching the session! Double DUH!
  • Finally, the conclusions were delivered on-the-spot.  Miller did not listen to any tapes (they had reel-to-reel tapes in 1964), nor read any transcripts to see what hidden jewels might be there that may have escaped her attention during the groups.
Matt Weiner, creater of this otherwise excellent series, has been lauded for his attention to detail, not only in costumes and props, but in "how things were." I give him about an 85 overall; about a 50 on this episode. Matt, how about asking a real advertising researcher? There are still some folks around who were actually there!
Upcoming Events
October 13, 11:30am-1:30pm

The International Association of Business Communicators, Long Island, continues in its new venue: The Melville Marriott, 1350 Old Walt Whitman Rd, Melville. Melissa Cornick, veteran broadcast journalist, who has worked at all three network "magazine" shows, will tell us about "Citizen Journalism: The Hand In The Brand." Go to to register with PayPal; or sign up at and pay at the door.  I look forward to seeing you there!  

October 27, 5:30-7:30pm
IABC-LI is pleased to co-sponsor a sterling event with NY Women In CommunicationsLong Island Women's Agenda, North Shore-LIJ Katz Institute For Women's Health, and several other groups. Mary Lou Quinlan, author of "Just Ask A Woman" and head of a strategic marketing firm of that name, will speak about "Marketing To Women." This is a must-see presentation, so mark your calendars. It will be held at TWO, a new restaurant in New Hyde Park.
Register at Venue capacity is limited, so sign up as soon as possible.

October 28, 6:00-9:00pm
SMPS-LI is holding its fourth annual Canstruction Gala at RXR Plaza in Uniondale. This extraordinary event has teams of architects, engineers, and even student groups competing for the best "sculpture" made solely of cans of food products. Afterwards, the cans of food are donated to Long Island Cares/Harry Chapin Food Bank. For more information on the event, go to

Check out Adrian's Network,, to find out the schedule for virtual networking calls and face-to-face meetings on Long Island and in Manhattan.

If you are in New York City, or don't mind commuting there, check out New York Women In Communications, Inc. (WICI), This group offers a wide range of programming for anyone and everyone on the career spectrum.

This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman