Communication design | training your team

I dwell in an organization that inherently has complex vision and ideas that can be difficult to communicate. Last week I wrote about communication design and I want to start fleshing out those ideas a little further.

On our team I have started to introduce a few of the players to my new favorite phrase; Whack Bat. We are in the middle of rolling out a strategy that is very complex yet needs to be communicated simply.

Whack Bat

//// There’s a video here. Click through to view it.

The issue that arises in such a large collaboration is that different people are passionate about different pieces of the puzzle and can start to feel threatened when the communication effort doesn’t appear to show what they think the value of the component is.

What strategies does your team use to take a complex idea and whittle it down to something simple?

Objectified | communication design

Communication has seen a rapid change in the last couple years. Most of that shift coming from the demand side as people have changed their content consumption habits and content creators  have had to play catch up. People are going to less movies, reading less newspapers, watching less cable and network television.

When I was taking my public speaking and homiletics classes in college the entire focus was on delivery. How to talk. How to stand. How to look around the room. How to not be boring. There was very little focus on understanding what the consumers of my talking were thinking our how to cater to their needs in any given environment.

This is where design comes in.

No longer is it good enough to simply make something that works. Or to simply write out an idea. Gone are the days where you can walk on stage with your notes and do the talking head thing for 40 minutes.

Communication needs design just as much as anything…and maybe more.

Enter the film Objectified.

It’s a film about design but as a watched it I understood that design wasn’t just about tools, furniture and living spaces.

Design is the vehicle that communicates the idea of what an object is and how to use it.

The film takes you on a journey of stories from different people at different places in the world of design and as I watched it I couldn’t help but draw the¬†parallels to communications.

If you teach, write or in anyway communicate, you must watch this film.

If you watch it and don’t get it, take an inventory of how relevant you…because things are changing have changed.

Three blogs you should subscribe to

For 2011 I’m going to be focusing very heavily on content creation and delivery. An important part of content creation is for me to consume a lot of content. On Mondays I’m going to share three blogs that I read regularly and I would love for you to share blogs that you’re reading in the comments.

This week, some design focused blogs:

Public School

I started subscribing to Public School a few months ago because it was making some noise here in Austin. Public School is a design studio here in Austin and the content of their feed reflects that. It’s less of a source of a original content as it is a aggregate of what the designers at Public School come across in their internet travels.

// Keywords: design, culture, communication

Mike Industries

Mike Davidson is a seasoned web developer with some really big sites under his belt. He doesn’t post a lot so this one won’t bog you down. If you are into user experience (not just the web kind) you might want to add Mike to your reader.

// Keywords: user experience, industry news, web design

Promise Tangeman

Promise Tangeman is a good source for design inspiration. She promised (hehe) to post more often this year….didn’t we all? Anyway, a little of this a little of that and some good links to.

// Keywords: graphic design, photography, fashion

Hit me with your favorite design blogs, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 go!

Your church’s content is puke…literally

Eric Schmidt of Google fame said that more content is now being created in 48 hours than from man’s beginning until 2003.


That is a huge piece of information that should haunt you in some ways and motivate you in others.

Take a look at your church and the content that it creates.

Most likely your church creates most of it’s content for consumption on Sunday morning in a live group setting. Worship. Talking head. Maybe a video. Some churches also produce content in the form of books and¬†curriculum. There’s a good chance your church has some web presence and maybe a blog. Churches are catching up on Twitter and Facebook.

Continue reading Your church’s content is puke…literally

Communication Layers

*read part 2 here

Technology and the communication tools that come with it are supposed to make things better. More productive. More Efficient.

I am a fan of tools, if they work and if my team will use them.

Here’s a run down of the workflow of communication layers that I’m trying to implement with the staff and leaders at Gateway Church. Starting with the outside/front door communications and moving toward the internal staff communications.

Public Spaces

Main Website
This is still our main portal with the most content and traffic. It is voiced so that people with no affiliation with our organization can understand the content and navigate to the info they will be most interested in. People who are a part of our organization still use it and it is a very important tool for communicating with them but it is targeted at people who are not yet a part of our community.

Organization’s¬†Twitter and YouTube channel
A companion to the website, our twitter account is voiced for people who are not yet a part of our community but is used also for communicating with insiders. YouTube videos are voiced to people not affiliated with us.

Organization’s Facebook Page(s)
I may get some disagreement here but I think Facebook is for people who have accepted your brand or organization as a part of their life at one level or another. Yes, some may find Facebook as a front door to your organization, but the voice and interactions on it are geared toward your community.

Organization’s Blog
This may differ for you in where you place your organization’s blog in these layers; but for us, a non-profit church, it fits in here. We find that it is a place that gets most traffic from Facebook and is read by community members. It serves as a place to provide more detailed info than Facebook.

Community Space
We are rolling out an app called SoChurch that is launching this month to provide more robust communication and group management for our church. Facebook can’t quite handle the functionality that we need. This also provides a way for us to voice directly to and with insiders. The app will work with ¬†Facebook and Twitter so that members won’t need to worry too much about tending to another social media profile.

Internal and Employee Communication Layers

There are a plethora of tools for communicating and implementing one without understanding where it fits in the layers will just frustrate your team and put everyone on different pages making an attempt at improving workflow do just the opposite.

Here are the layers we use, ordered by time sensitivity:

Face to Face | Real Time
Need an answer now? Don’t email, walk to their desk.

Instant Messaging/Video Chat/Phone Call | Real Time
We use Google Apps so we are all on a common platform for IM and video chat. We are also distributed throughout the city of Austin so face to face isn’t always an option. This may be true for you if you are on a large campus. I like IM a lot because a lot of ground can be covered while at the same time team members can multi-switch and keep moving on other things. A phone call works but requires more attention than an IM and can slow you down.

Text Message/Twitter DM | +/- 15 minutes
Not quite real time but close. If you don’t hear back in 15 minutes assume they are out of pocket and you may have to move to a slower platform.

Yammer | 1-4 hours
We use yammer for this layer and so far I’m digging it. Not everyone on your team will sign up for Twitter nor is all that content appropriate or helpful to the Twitter community. Yammer works like Twitter as far as functionality and it takes some training to get your team up to speed. This has helped us trim down a lot of email that should have never been emailed; “check out this link” or “what is everyone doing for lunch?” and it has even replaced more useful emails too.

Email | 24-72 hours
Email is not a real time communication tool! It’s not a project¬†management¬†tool either for that matter. I can say that by bringing in Yammer and Google apps my internal email has been cut in half or better. If you can establish with your team that you will not respond to email for at least 24 hours…you will be 90 percent of the way there in terms of¬†communication¬†efficiency. I recommend turning an auto-responder on that let’s people know that you will respond to their email in a day or two. I do this every couple months to remind people that there may be a better way to get a hold of me.

Art & Copy

I have been reinventing leadership in my mind for the last couple years. I’d like to think I’m changing the way leaders think all over the world but I’m pretty sure I’m not.

The way leaders communicate has changed from one way platforms to dialogue, conversation and story. I watched the film Art & Copy a few months ago and it really impacted me on a couple thoughts, but one in particular that anyone who desires to move people into action can learn from:

If your story can add value to someone’s life without them ‘buying’ what you’re selling then you’ve nailed it.

This is the new standard. The reality is that the current generation is very good at ignoring you and is overwhelmed by stimuli.

So for you, a communicator, the point is to keep the conversation going so that you earn the right to make the ask (again). If you try to close too fast you’re just going to get ignored.

New Leadership Essentials Pt. 3 – Conclusion

In parts one and two of this little brain dump I contrasted what I think are dying leadership skills with vital emerging leadership skills. This begs the question; I’m a leader, what about me? Where do these thoughts hit the ground?

Management is dead

I see management based leadership roles going away… and they already are. It took this recession to kick start the process. In a strapped economy a person who doesn’t produce won’t have a lot of value to an organization. Let’s face it, management positions haven’t been about producing. If the first words out of your mouth when you describe your job are: “I lead a team that…”, you may need to take an inventory of what it is that you do and what you produce.

If and when we recover from this recession, organizations will have learned that carrying dead wood on their team like they did when things we’re booming in the nineties won’t cut it anymore. Everyone on your team needs to carry weight when it comes to producing what ever it is you produce, not just go to meetings…even at the top.

This is happening because of the reality that anyone can have great ideas and platforms to communicate them, but not all have the skills and gifts to make these dreams reality.

Your Whole Team is the Customer Service Department

And your customer service department is open 24 hours. In the past organizations had a customer service department and a¬†communications¬†department and the ‘voice’ of your¬†organization¬†was crafted and delivered to the public and your clients via these people/teams. Everyone else was internally focused.

Real time communication and marketing is quickly becoming the norm and your brand must keep up. This reality doesn’t make room for customer service to address the issue and the communications/PR people to draft a statement. Your¬†organization¬†is being represented¬†publicly¬†by every person in it; top to bottom. This means every person on your team needs to understand the ‘voice’ to which your brand speaks…and execute it well.

Are you and your team ready to face this reality?