Monthly Archives: October 2009

Why don’t we reward committed stakeholders?

I’ve been having a Facebook conversation with a colleague of mine, Erin Browning, regarding a recent post on this blog.

As our conversation has unfolded, it’s dawned on me that we seldom – if ever – directly reward stakeholders for being committed participants

Think about the typical public involvement for a typical infrastructure study, for example.

If you attend every public meeting, visit the project website regularly to stay updated, take all the surveys, go to outside information sources to learn more, what do you get?  Bupkis.

So now I’m wondering what would happen if we rewarded people for outstanding participation in a project or campaign?   Perhaps it could be something as simple – and powerful in terms of building an informed, engaged group of stakeholders – as detailing in advance a participation path along which you could promote yourself from the public to something more substantive like a topic advisory committee.

I realize I’m begging some really critical questions like how you’d measure the quantity and quality of involvement, but…..

Pew survey highlights/hides Twitter implications

There’s significant growth in the “use” of Twitter, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project and its release of a new report on Twitter and similar sites.

In fact, Twitter use has nearly doubled, particularly among younger and mobile Internet users, according to the report, which also provides updated demographic information about who is using Twitter and other social media.

But it pays to follow the links to the entire report to uncover some “buried” nuggets, like the Harvard Business School report that suggests that 90 percent of all Twitter traffic is actually generated by onlt 10 percent of its users.

Stakeholder engagement programs win KC PRISM awards

Last night’s PRISM Awards Gala was a great night for coalition builders.

My dear friend, Jackie Clark, was honored as the Roger Yarrington PR Pro of the Year at the annual event hosted by the Greater Kansas City chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Jackie’s career has been spent building coalitions around effective resolutions to complex problems, and it was gratifying to see her recognized for all she has done.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to win three awards for internal, government relations and stakeholder engagement efforts:

  • A silver award in Special Programs for “The HNTB Kansas City Office Strategic Plan Open House.” The internal communication event, developed in partnership with Jan Ruemker, engaged HNTB staff in developing our office strategic plan through information stations, surveys, quizzes and face-to-face brainstorming with office leadership.
  • A PRISM award in Special Programs for “The HNTB Infrastructure Day.” This top award in the category was also won in conjunction with my friend and colleague, Jan Ruemker.  This day-long program of tours, presentations and face-to-face interaction helped brief key Congressional staffers on our region’s transportation challenges and opportunities. The goal of this government relations program was to help members of the area’s Congressional delegation become even stronger advocates for the interests of Greater Kansas City.
  • A silver award for Internet Communications for development and implementation of the Johnson County Gateway Study website.  This group stakeholder engagement effort featured the hard work of many individuals, most notably Robyn Arthur, HNTB, and Kim Qualls, the Kansas Dept. of Transportation. The project and website are designed to engage thousands of local residents and “thru travelers” in developing a long-term solution to improving a large-scale, complex set of interchanges in Johnson County, Kansas.

Online meeting strategy for coalition building wins kudos from Missouri Governor

An online public meeting strategy developed in partnership between the Missouri Dept. of Transportation and HNTB’s public involvement group was honored by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Oct. 15.

The Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity recognizes State of Missouri teams that excel in the areas of excellence, efficiency, innovation, technology, process improvement, customer service and employee development.

MoDOT and its partner, HNTB Corp., an engineering firm, held Missouri’s first-ever electronic meeting to meaningfully and cost-effectively get input from the public on rebuilding Interstate 70 with lanes separating cars and trucks.  This innovative public involvement tool is believed to be only the second such online meeting in the country.  Due to this innovative approach, up to 10 times as many people attended the online public meeting than had attended previous face-to-face meetings.  MoDOT has since used virtual meetings for other projects as a way to broaden the agency’s outreach efforts and get more people involved in its decision-making process.

Representing HNTB at the award ceremony were Betty Burry and Michael DeMent, APR.

The online public meeting was honored earlier in the week as 2009’s best public involvement approach in the nation at the 2009 National Transportation Public Affairs Workshop. NTPAW is a national organization representing public affairs, public involvement and communications professionals at the nation’s departments of transportation.

Is the “Hi Howdy” open house the wrong way to go?

The Frontal Cortex has an interesting piece on the “rewarding properties” of information (see below) that suggest all of us might be going the wrong way with the all-too-common introductory – or “hi howdy” – public meeting.

The experiment described in the post suggests that people will respond best to meetings that have more information, particularly information about what’s coming down the pike.

Yet how often as coalitionists have we felt compelled to acquiesce to engagement processes that start with a meeting that is just an aggregation of very little information and a meet-and-greet with a study team – or that have very basic update meetings at milestones.

One interpretation of the experiment, however, is that we would better serve our target audiences’ needs – and information “pleasure zones” – if we ladled on the information ’til they’re overfull, particularly if that information helps them anticipate or predict what’s going to happen next in the engagement process.

Judge for yourself:

“Over at Mind Matters, Chadrick Lane reviews a fascinating experiment that revealed the rewarding properties of information, regardless of whether or not the information actually led to more rewards:

In the experimental design, monkeys were placed in front of a computer screen and were trained to perform a saccade task, in which they learned to direct their gaze at specific areas. The monkeys were first given the option of choosing between one of two colored targets. One of these targets would give the monkey advance information about its future reward. The advance information came in the form of visual cues, one representing a large reward and the other a small reward. Choosing the other initial colored target revealed cues that were randomly associated with reward size, thus possessing no informative value. After only a few days of training, the monkeys showed a clear preference for choosing the informative colored target.

The researchers then tested to see when the monkeys wanted the information. In this scenario, the monkeys were again initially presented with two colored targets. One of these targets had informative value while the other did not. The difference was that the monkeys always received informative cues just before their rewards. The choice each monkey had to make was whether to see an earlier informative cue. Despite always having a delayed informative cue, regardless of which initial target they selected, the monkeys preferred to have advance information as soon as possible. Like high-school seniors waiting on their SAT results, the monkeys wanted to know, and they wanted to know right now.

More via The Frontal Cortex.)

Employers increasingly blocking Twitter, Facebook, MySpace

Building a coalition just gets tougher all the time as challenges to reaching potential allies grow in number and complexity.

The latest is the proliferation of employer-driven policies barring social media usage.

According to a new survey of 1,400 CIOs of companies with 100 or more employees, 54% now completely block employees from accessing social networking sites at work.

Only 10% of those surveyed let employees use social networks however they please, while the remainder all impose at least some restrictions on usage, like limiting it to business purposes only.

The survey, which was developed by Robert Half Technology, is consistent with other recent reports that show companies are quickly moving to block social media in the workplace.

This presents multiple problems for coalitionists.

Rightly or wrongly, many individuals justify tracking issues, initiatives and campaigns as being job-related. If unable to electronically stay engaged from work, they are likely to be far less willing to remain fully informed and involved.

And if they have to shift their efforts to keep up on an issue to personal time, engagement in substantive issues or initiatives may suffer from competition for scarce discretionary time from family, other interests and more superficial social media activities.

Perversely, corporate social media roadblocks may actually backfire. There’s research to indicate that such restrictions actually reduce employees’ time on job and overall job satisfaction – in addition to making life tougher for coalitionists.