The Fetch Blog

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Interview: Melbourne local, Jennifer Frahm — November 9, 2012

Interview: Melbourne local, Jennifer Frahm

This week Jacqueline Shields chats with Jennifer Frahm – founder of Conversations of Change, change manager and communications pro, author, Bricoleur and eternal optimist.

Jennifer Frahm. Photo by The Itchy Eyes

Name: Jennifer Frahm
Twitter: @jenfrahm

You have decided to buck the trend, say no to negativity and focus on sharing stories of success in business and industry. What was the tipping point that motivated you create a forum [called Bright Spots] where we can hear first-hand from those who have overcome challenges?

Thank you! The tipping point? A partner in crime! It was a passionate conversation with Steve Vallas of Honey Bar. He was “over it”, (the negativity) – and I’m a firm believer in don’t complain, if you are not going to do anything about the subject of complaint. So we said “let’s do it!” Let’s turn it around! So we decided to create an opportunity to celebrate the positive and optimistic stories of business and industry in person and online by case studies.

At the Bright Spot meetups, we’ll have three people talk for 10 minutes on the challenges they have faced, how they countered the challenges and how they are smashing it in a time that the news headlines say they shouldn’t. And we’re particularly interested in the quiet achievers — those that don’t have a big PR machine behind them. There’ll also be facilitated networking. You’ll leave with more than just three great stories, you’ll have a whole handful to refer to and counter the negativity that you hear. It’s no cost to attend for those interested and initially, we’ll be holding the events at The Honey Bar in South Melbourne. We’ve had interest across the globe, so we’ll treat the first one in Melbourne as a pilot and then look at what it takes to roll it out further. We are busy identifying three speakers to get the ball rolling. So stay tuned for a date.

Through Conversations of Change you assist people deal with change on a micro level through coaching. Overall, what have you found are the main issues faced when introducing change to an organisation or overcoming resistance to change?

Change cynicism is the big one at the moment along with change overload. It’s fair to say we have a long way to go in building resilience within environments of continuous change.

Employees are increasingly cynical about the “next change” and that takes some work unpacking that. Often you hear “people don’t like change”. I would challenge that. People are often fine with change if it is introduced and managed well. When you have had people in the workforce who have been subject to poorly managed change over successive decades, you see a lot of cynicism about future change (“oh that again?, yeah we tried that”). Responding to change cynicism means having leaders who are prepared to offer acknowledgement of past transgressions, validate the negative experiences and demonstrate how the future change path will be different.

Your book The Transformation Treasure Trove offers insights into change management and communication. What are your top three and why?

OK, these are my top three because if you understand these ones, you’ll cope much better with introducing change and not get so frustrated.

  1. It’s not about you! Stakeholder engagement doesn’t start with getting armed with your key messages. It starts with an attitude of humility and a willingness to learn about your stakeholder.
  2. When you engage with resistance to change, you receive valuable feedback on how well your program is progressing. Be appreciative of the feedback – it’s the silence you need to be worried about.
  3. Patience and Persistence – the key to successful change? It’s pretty simple, patience and persistence. Be graceful, and determined. You’ll get there.

For those toying with the idea of becoming a change manager what pointers would you give for the uninitiated so that they reach for the Perrier instead of the Pinot Noir?

  • Be endlessly curious, accept nothing you are told, keep asking why.
  • Be proactive in professional development, seek out course, read books and articles.
  • Be prepared to have a lots of coffees. That’s how we do stakeholder engagement.

Being immediate past President of the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Victoria, how have you found the members managed the explosion of social media right across the business landscape?

There absolutely is a much greater appetite for social media today than three years ago when IABC first started really driving social media awareness and understanding among members globally. The questions and discussions being held amongst the members locally reflect a much greater maturity and more relaxed stance on the issue of “losing control”. IABC Victoria now has many member organisations that are doing really interesting work in this space. Corporate members like Telstra who have significantly resourced up on social media teams are seeing tangible benefits in customer service, and creating sales opportunities with their monitoring of conversations. Alcatel Lucent is doing very interesting stuff with employee engagement and Yammer.

It’s not just the large organisations though. Many of the independents and smaller agencies are much more adept at using social media for community engagement, social recruiting, and online marketing. Once questions at IABC Victoria events would have reflected “what is [insert platform] and how do you use it?”. Now they are prefaced with an example of direct experience and questions on alternative perspectives on how to manage the outcome.

Do you believe change is as good as a holiday?

Hmm. Perhaps not. I guess it depends on if you are the thrill seeking bungy jumping kinda holiday seeker, or whether you want to be lying on a beach with a beautiful buttery chardonnay. I guess the difference is that the holiday yields immediate benefits, change often takes some time to see the benefits.

Where is your favourite stakeholder engagement location (café)?

Locally, I frequent Lava on Carlisle St, Balacalava. In the CBD, you can’t go past MOAT under the Wheeler Centre.

And finally, what is a Bricoleur for those readers who may not have googled the word as yet?

A bricoleur is some-one who uses what ever is at hand to make stuff. Part creative, part innovator, and part experimenter.

I tend to think of myself as having a very broad knowledge base (psychology, sociology, management, communication, change, sales, gleaned from multiple industries). When someone comes to me with a problem, I take a bricoleur approach, I draw from a number of experiences and give it a crack. I don’t tend to focus in one area or one methodology. It’s representative of my twitter experience too – I follow a wide variety of conversations, and tweeps from really varied backgrounds. It keeps me from being stale!

About our Ambassador // Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.

Event Review: Who Owns Social Media? — October 1, 2012

Event Review: Who Owns Social Media?

Socrates never wrote a single word. He dismissed the (at the time) revolutionary concept of writing in favor of the spoken word.

Similarly, many companies today are dismissing the new-fangled concept of social media in favor of the ordinary forms of communication with which we are so comfortable and familiar. Recent research by IBM found that only 16% of CEO’s are participating in social media.

However, as the panel at the IABC-hosted event ‘Who Owns Social Media’ was quick to point out, social media is here to stay. The uses of social media within a company are diverse, from digital storytelling to the handling of customer service complaints, and will continue to evolve as social media platforms improve. It is therefore crucial for organizations to embrace social media and recognize the benefits it can bring to a business.

The panelists included:

  • Margaret Zabel: CEO of the Communications Counsel and former National Director of Marketing for Lion Nathan.
  • Tracey Sen (@TraceySen): Director Corporate Communication, Dept. of Education.
  • John Kerrison (@jkerrison): Senior media advisor, NSW Government and former presenter, Sky News Business. John is also a former reporter for the ABC, Nine and Sky News teams.
  • Patrick Southam (@GSGCounsel): Partner GellSoutham Group, former Head of Corporate Affairs ING and VISA.

The panel agreed that we are currently in the ‘beta’ phase, working to understand how to capitalize on social media, and, importantly, decide who within an organization is best placed to have ownership of, and responsibility for, social media. Should it be the management, marketing, communications, customer affairs or legal team that steps up to the social media plate?

This point was hotly debated, with some panelists suggesting that ownership of social media should be shared within an organization, while others believed that social media should be the sole responsibility of a dedicated team, such as the communications team.

Regardless of who ‘owns’ social media, the panel generally agreed that organizations would inevitably face a social media crisis at some point. However, the benefits of social media outweigh the challenges it presents, and there are mechanisms that companies can put in place to minimize the impact of a crisis. The panel suggested that companies:

  • formulate internal social media policies and crisis management strategies that build on existing risk management protocols;
  • decide on their social media model before they engage;
  • establish quality control mechanisms;
  • provide social media training to their employees, particularly to ensure that there is collaboration and accountability; and
  • experiment with social media and learn from their experiences.

The panel’s message was clear – don’t be afraid to embrace social media, because what is now new and mysterious will be second nature in the future.

About Ambassador // Ally is a lawyer with a passion for media, advertising and social media law. You can follow her at @allyeveleigh

photo: @NancyGeorges

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