All posts in Communications

The truth about common ground and community engagement

Common ground is something that people agree about even if they disagree about other things (Merriam-Webster, 2018). It can be an important objective of community engagement where there is strong disagreement or conflict between groups.

However, reaching common ground is not always an engagement objective. Sometimes it’s an unintentional bonus when engaging with groups with obviously opposed values and agendas.

We recently facilitated a meeting of two groups (residents and landowners) where the objectives were to present a new proposed development and understand the groups’ support for and objections to this development at a deeper level.

There was no specific objective for the two groups to reach consensus or find common ground, and in fact, given the history of the two groups this outcome seemed unlikely.

However, during the course of the meeting, something amazing happened. One of the residents shared a personal story of the negative impacts the unfinished development was having on their health and wellbeing. It was a truly courageous moment to witness and there were a few tears from those in the room with similar experiences.

One of the other group members responded by acknowledging that although they didn’t agree with all aspects of the new proposed development they understood the groups’ struggles and also wanted the new development to deliver solutions to improve the lives of this group.

The two groups had reached a sense of common ground. They had a shared level of understanding and awareness of the needs and perceptions of both sides. This outcome created an environment where there was more willingness to listen, communicate and be supportive.

When people understand each other, there can be unexpected and beneficial outcomes. In this case the contribution made by the groups provided greater insights and the client was able to move forward with their engagement in a more positive light.

Help stamp out burnout in a 24/7 world

You know them. They left the office at 10pm, kept working overnight and they’re back in the office at 6am. By then they’ve already scanned what was trending, the media clippings and their emails.

Breakfast was a double shot coffee. But it didn’t really pierce through that dull headache like it used to.

They’re living on adrenalin, and even though they’re desperate to stop working they can’t. They really can’t. Because the phone never stops. Ever.

In the modern communication world there are no deadlines. There’s no off button. Media, communities and stakeholders expect instant answers, 24/7.

Here’s recent proof it’s getting worse:

1. It’s not unusual for some of our stakeholders (themselves no doubt under time pressures) to email staff at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning, wanting answers that day.

2. Print journos have to publish on print, online and blogging platforms so there’s no such thing as getting back to them later in the day. They might have a 12-noon deadline.

3. Every communication opportunity needs words plus at least one visual (video, interactive, animation, photo, map or meme), a hashtag, and tailoring for multiple mediums. And even then people say they didn’t see it.

4. Deadlines are set for 9am, but the source materials don’t arrive until 5.30 the day before. And it’s not that the source materials were running late. That’s the earliest they could be delivered.

So what can we do to stamp out burnout?

Here are some things that our favourite clients and colleagues are doing:

  • Taking leave – have a system to make sure people are taking annual leave
  • Having two points of contact on projects so if you’re sick you can rest because someone is already across the project
  • Forward planning to avoid mad rushes
  • Templating everything you can
  • Setting deadlines with margins, so there’s a time buffer
  • Simplify approvals processes by setting delegations of authority to those with knowledge but more time

What else can the profession do to help stamp out burnout?

No one’s listening, right?

How good are your powers of persuasion? Here’s 5 simple steps to selling the most complex ideas.

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It’s a celebrity… get ME outta here!

When it comes to reality TV, celebrities sell. But when it comes to facilitation, sticking a celebrity out front won’t fool ‘em. And you might pay dearly for the mistake.

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We know how to manage complex change

Climate change is an issue facing all of us. Community awareness and engagement around how to deal with climate change is something that a number of councils are working towards.

Articulous recently worked with Moreton Bay Regional Council to plan how to engage with their local communities to communicate climate change related risk and build resilience.

The Council’s objective was to prepare the community for the more frequent, larger and longer lasting extreme weather events that Australia is experiencing, including heatwaves and sea level rises.

In the case of heatwaves, this pattern is expected to increase the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Australia, particularly within more `at risk’ community sectors, including the elderly, the very young, people with a disability, CALD communities, low income households, and those with existing illnesses.

Sea levels on the east coast of Australia are currently predicted to rise by 1m by the end of this century.

Through its engagement, Moreton Bay Regional Council aimed to:

  1. Raise awareness within the community (particularly `at risk’ groups) of the very real risks that extreme weather event related conditions pose to health, safety and property
  2. Facilitate behaviour change that practically builds both individual and community level preparedness for climate change related extreme weather events and in doing so reduces their impact on health, safety and property

At Articulous we really enjoy working with the challenges that the future presents us, particularly with the ‘tough’ projects like dealing with climate change.

Good presentation skills require us to challenge our preconceptions

What are the elements that make for a good communicator, or conversely, a poor one? Why is it that some have the gift of presenting and some do not? How do presenters stand out when most follow a very similar formula?

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Artificial Intelligence: Is it something to fear or favour?

I am intrigued by the fear of a potential technological revolution. Will technology steal away my livelihood? Will it mean we are devoid or lacking of skills required to fully embrace new technology?

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Good Engagement Practice leads to Safer Communities.

Articulous has been fortunate to be working on a number of projects in 2017 in the Rockhampton and Yeppoon areas and our best wishes go out to residents affected by flooding as a result of Cyclone Debbie.

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Using technology to create responses

Quite often, a major goal of any communication or public relations strategy is to have a significant impact on the feelings, attitudes and behaviours of stakeholders. The rise of technology like virtual reality offers new possibilities for storytelling and new ways to impact people. As a practitioner who loves the power of the written word, the potential impact for life-changing communication programs to be implemented is both intriguing and challenging.

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What makes a great leader?

Drawing from my own personal experience, there is one exceptional leader who I will never forget. He had a way of connecting and cutting through. His authenticity, energy and commitment to delivering his vision was palpable, you could feel it simply by entering the room. He acknowledged that as the face of a successful company he was never alone, he explained that his success was a collective effort of his team and that he was “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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Could non-verbal expressions add value to an engagement campaign?

Communication is so much more than the spoken word. While many of us like to verbalise how we feel or think, it’s often the expressions that go with our words that add meaning. The question begs then, could we analyse only those expressions to gather rich and meaningful data?

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The Millennials: How do we engage this new workforce?

Millennials certainly are creating change and challenging our traditional beliefs when it comes to how work gets done. Managers who are traditionally accustomed to a Baby Boomer workforce will need to engage new strategies to retain and motivate this growing group of Millennials.

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5 simple tricks to turn ‘No’ to ‘Yes’ and get your campaign off the ground

While communicators are intuitive when it comes to delivering successful campaigns, your campaign can be stopped in its tracks before you’ve had time to gather the team for a motivational high-five. A few simple tricks can help overcome these road blocks and get your campaign off the ground.

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Why a Sesame Street explanation of Empathy Should be at the Centre of your Community Engagement Practice

In community engagement, we talk a lot about collecting people’s ideas and feedback. We talk about the power of active listening. But, if you really believe in community and engaging at a deeper, more meaningful level, then empathy should be the key focus throughout your planning, strategising and most importantly-engagement activity.

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Is the communications team from the ABS ready to explode? They should be!

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently stated that it planned to actively prosecute Australians who had failed to complete their census within the allotted timeframe. Apparently there are up to one million Australians facing a fine for an incomplete census! There are questions that have to remain.

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Data-driven Communications 

In the olden days - aka 5 years ago - consultancies could produce great communications programs built on instinct and experience. Fast-forward to 2016, and communication experts can take that instinct and experience and triangulate it with data. Here are just a few ways modern communication teams are integrating instinct with data.

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Facing the Music can build Community Trust

I recently had the pleasure of travelling throughout the Surat Basin in south west Queensland with a client of Articulous for a week, facilitating community information sessions. There were a few key lessons that I took away from that week that I thought were worth sharing, purely from a practical perspective.

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The Art of Communicating Controversially without Resorting to Name-Calling

The level of animosity in public discourse seems to be at an all-time high. So how can we ensure than we communicate effectively, yet steer away from inflammatory rhetoric?

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Big Data or Human Data?

Much is made of big data and data-driven communication. But so very little is spoken of human data. So what is the difference?

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