Degrees don’t matter anymore, skills do

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The top 6 skills today’s employers want

Look out for big things from Gordon Square in 2015! In the meantime, here’s a teaser…

Work In Progress

After four years of college, my son is about to graduate with a degree in Environmental Politics. We are both aware that he is entering the job market at a time when more and more young people cannot find work.

While putting together his résumé, he recently asked me what kind of skills today’s employers want from a new job candidate. A lot of people his age are probably asking the same question, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

According to recent surveys, employers these days aren’t just looking for experience. They’re also interested in “softer skills” like problem-solving and creativity that can play as big a role in career advancement as training or education.

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Three strategies, nine months and a plethora of positive outcomes

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The final versions of the national communications strategies for EURES Croatia, Spain and Slovakia have been delivered. Congratulations to all the EURES managers and their teams for an intensive and rewarding nine months of audit, analysis, evaluation, strategising and creation! Now the hard work of implementation begins.

The strategy is the first step in delivering effective, evidence-based communications (note our strapline: Smart Strategic Communications) that will produce the desired outcomes for all target audiences – jobseekers, employers and partners and stakeholders.

To achieve this, it will require consistent implementation, integrated use of the full communications mix and effective monitoring. More than this, it will require the understanding of and ownership by all members of the national network in order to ensure that those who should be message-givers aren’t message-fakers when engaging with clients.

Each document includes an action plan for the next twelve months, a communications activity template to assess a comms activity before starting it and to highlight potential flaws and a factsheet on evaluation to complement the chapter on evaluation.

To give the teams a headstart on promoting their strategies so that they don’t gather dust on a shelf or take up valuable hard disk space, I developed an ideas sheet called Embedding your new communications strategy internally. This, like the strategies themselves, is a collaborative document which I hope members of the network will contribute to in order to share best practice with their colleagues across Europe who are also working on taking their communications to the next level.

Three down, one to go! The outstanding strategy, for EURES Ireland, is a work in progress. I’m due to present it to the national network at a meeting in Galway at the end of the month and solicit feedback from those who know better than me the challenges in their day-to-day work that make promoting EU job mobility in a time of crisis a difficult task. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to listen, learn and adjust accordingly.

So, in terms of those all important outcomes, I would say they are these:

  • a renewed commitment to communications, from the top through the middle and all the way down, and vice versa
  • an improved understanding of not only the challenges but the benefits of strategic communications
  • a team more confident in planning and implementing communications activities and campaigns

And these outcomes will only multiply as the strategies are ‘taught’ and embedded within the wider networks.

Do you know what to do in a crisis?

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Here are seven tips for handling a crisis from Ragan:

1. Get the facts.
To deal with a crisis, you must be fully briefed. If you suspect someone’s holding out on you, gently but firmly explain that whatever they don’t tell you now, reporters will probably find out later. If you’re to deal with the situation then there’s no time like the present to be brutally honest.

2. Sort your spokespeople.
This is Crisis Comms 101. The spokesperson should be senior, so stakeholders know you’re taking the situation seriously; they should be prepared to have their name associated with the crisis and the subsequent statements/interviews; and preferably (becomes “crucially” if there’s a broadcast element) they should be media trained to answer tough questions in front of a camera.

Tip: ABC—answer, bridge, control—is the way to deal with tricky questions. Just listen to politicians to understand how this works: They answer with one word and then bridge to their actual message before delivering it again and again.

3. Coordinate your team.
How many people are on your team? Do they all know who should get the calls when journalists start ringing? Has every person in the company been informed that all calls should be directed to one person/department? Are they aware that a journalist might not identify himself or herself as a journalist?

Make sure they are, because some reporters don’t care who gives them a quote. The people handling the calls should be well briefed and experienced.

4. Stay calm and composed.
Whoever’s handling the calls will probably get difficult, leading questions, which can easily lead to inadvertent, damaging quotes appearing in print if you’re not careful. Get a statement ready, get it approved, and offer it to anyone who contacts you. Do not get into a conversation. Going “off the record” is a myth. You will be quoted as a spokesperson.

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‘I wish I had breast cancer’ campaign draws flak

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Objectively, pancreatic cancer is one of the worst types of cancer someone can get, with a survival rate of only 3 percent.

But when the United Kingdom charity Pancreatic Cancer Action released an ad campaign depicting patients wishing they had other cancers—all with higher survival rates—representatives from other organizations did not take it well.

In one ad, the words “I wish I had breast cancer” are written in a huge font next to pancreatic cancer patient Kerry Harvey’s somber face.

“While the intention of the campaign is great, the adverts are hugely upsetting and incredibly insensitive and divisive,” Dyleth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, toldCivilSociety last week.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said, “I’ve yet to meet a man or woman with breast cancer who would consider themselves in any way fortunate to have received a diagnosis.”

Writing in The Guardian, Pancreatic Cancer Action Chief Executive Ali Stunt explained that the ad, which the organisation created with the firm Team Darwin, was designed to spark debate.

“With a limited budget, it was vital that the advert would stand out and provoke thought and initiate discussion among members of the public, the media, and influencers,” she wrote. “The decision to run this campaign was not taken lightly, and we carried out a fair amount of research to understand what the likely reaction was going to be.”

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8 reasons why companies don’t succeed at global PR

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1. “Americanitis” 
Some U.S. executives think that having a high profile in the domestic market automatically guarantees a hero’s welcome when they land on foreign shores. After all, why shouldn’t the image they’ve spent years building in the U.S. magically cross the Atlantic and Pacific, conform to local societies, adapt to local market nuances, and reach out to their targeted constituencies?

Unfortunately, such an attitude leads to thinking that the same PR tactics and strategies that work so well in the U.S. can just be tossed over the fence to be used in other countries. We’ve come to call this mentality “Americanitis.”

2. Resources spread too thin 
Companies often find that they don’t have the resources and/or budget to effectively address all the target markets in a given geography.

For example, a company’s European focus might be on the U.K., Germany, France, and Italy. Rather than spread a modest budget across all four markets, it’s better to deploy the budget in one or two countries where you can make a difference.

3. Corporate HQ control 
Often, the early funding for a global PR program comes out of the U.S. coffers. It stands to reason that the U.S. public relations people would want some involvement in the international PR activities and how the money is spent.

When the corporate HQ exercises strict control and approval over every single overseas action, an incredible bureaucracy takes hold and handicaps the global PR effort. Just the simple task of approving a news release can turn into a nightmarish saga as suggestions and tweaks ping-pong between HQ and the country office, eating up everyone’s time.

4. Failure to localize content 
Localizing content goes beyond the translation of materials. Business issues vary from country to country. Yet many companies aren’t willing to put in the time to localize the storytelling for each target country.

The more effort a company puts into shaping the content to the characteristics of a particular market, the stronger the story becomes. There’s a reason McDonald’s sells a burger with a squid-ink-dyed bun in China.

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