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July 31, 2008

Failing the civility test in social media

The test is….Would you say to someone’s face what you typed online?

Twitter messages, Facebook messages

Blog comments, comments in chat pods

We live in a social media universe. It’s open to many long after we type in messages and comments. Often we don’t think about that. We’re in the moment thinking our writing is fleeting but it’s certainly not.

When social media was initially the realm of traditional college students, college placement staff advised students to clean up their Facebook pages and other social sites before applying for jobs.

Now companies and organizations need to remind employees
It’s a matter of civility to not write about internal problems online or unwittingly reveal confidential information.

Often it’s how the comment is phrased that alerts others there is internal dissension. “the misplaced photos” “hastily-made decisions”. If you leave off the adjectives, which are most-likely your perceptions, the message becomes neutral in tone.

What you write lives on….and on.

Read about social media espionage
How to Avoid Social Media Espionage
“Along with this openness, however, comes the danger of publishing too much information too publicly and unwittingly leading to the rise of social media espionage ... the act of obtaining information published on social networks or online presumed to be secret or confidential and using it for personal or business gain.”

July 30, 2008

Continuation: self-centered marketing … inside the creative camp

A post from last week relates a story of egos on the flip side…in a top creative advertising agency where practicing civility—respect for the end-users—is missing.

From Blog: Post-Click Marketing—
“At that point I learned what stands in the way of so many creatives — their egos.

“…doggedly defending landing pages that don't work. No tool is going to make them work. No act of God is going to compel consumers to buy when they are misunderstood and treated with disdain by egomaniacal creatives operating under the air cover of artistic expression.

“Hold up before all you creatives out there spam me into submission. I'm a creative. … 'great' must be in the eye of the target, not the creator.

“Wake up! What you like doesn't matter. It's much easier to defend results.”

Read the post—it’s short and interesting
Ego, Creative and Post-Click Marketing

July 29, 2008

The dilemma of self-centered marketing

“I want most of the money in billboards.”
“I don’t like these graphics.”
“I think this copy needs to be more focused on the company.”

These are typical comments from decision-makers who insist an advertising campaign or communications plan uses the media and message that works for them. Often “I” is not a member of the target audience.

Media strategies editor Jim Meskauskas names this ‘self-centered marketing’. While the term is new to me, the experience is not. Frequently I try to explain personal opinion should be trumped by research and best practices.

Why is this a challenge today?
We’ve moved away from mass media. Today people seek news, knowledge and entertainment in a myriad of ways. The variables are many and are often influenced by the person’s age or stage in life.
People live longer and differently. We’re told the new 60-year old is the old 40.

Methods of getting away from self-centered marketing
The media, the message and the look of the message need to be geared to the target audience. I suggest several methods to people I help with marketing.
• Use generational research that provides the preferences of Generation X, Baby Boomers, etc.
• Use personas that help keep the focus on the target audience. A persona is a make-believe person you’ve given a name, demographic data and a lifestyle. An example: Katie is a soccer mom who lives in suburbia and has a full-time job, two children in high school. What message will Katie read or listen to and where does the message need to be?

Practice civility in marketing
If you’re not a member of the target audience, you need to be neutral. Give up your personal opinions and put yourself in the position of the target audience. It takes research before making decisions. Use general research, focus groups. It takes evaluation after the project. What can you learn from this campaign to help in the next? It takes a commitment to learning, the realization that what worked five years ago is not what works today. We’re talking time and commitment but it’s far better than spending time and money on efforts that don’t accomplish the goals.

The era of self-centered marketing by Jim Meskauskas

Defining Markets, Defining Moments: America’s 7 Generational Cohorts, Their Shared Experiences and Why Businesses Should Care, a Booklocker.com excerpt

The Power of Personas

More on the Power of Persona

Jakob Nielsen
Known as the Web usability expert for years because he builds research and best practices.

July 22, 2008

Time for history or ignore it?

You get a project that a coworker has worked on…..you start a new job or a volunteer role…

Is there anything to be learned from history or what those preceding you did?

A parallel, perhaps more understandable question
Do you need training or education for a job or can you just do the work?

Consider volunteer roles
Positions are constantly filled by different people. How did the organization get to this policy or practice? I had such a question recently. I could have spent days researching. I could have decided I didn’t care, but that seemed arrogant to me. And then flipping through the binders of materials handed to me….there on one sheet was the summary answer to my question which helped me understand the policy.

Consider the workplace
More than a year ago I started coordinating and posting news releases on the national extension Web site, www.extension.org. I was the first person to have that job. How could I frame this new position if I didn’t understand how eXtension (pronounced e-extension) came to be, the goals, the vision?

Idiomatic metaphors come to mind---
• Reinventing the wheel
• Throwing the baby out with the bathwater
• Can’t see the forest for the trees

I believe it’s a dichotomy to declare one must have a specific level of education or experience to hold a job but ignore the history.

Valuing history is a component of civility
It says humility; there is something to be learned from others, what they know and what they have recorded. It’s respect. It’s efficient because you have a logical direction. I want good results; history gives me a shortcut to get there.

It’s a timeless debate. Consider these quotes--

"The function of the historian is neither to love the past nor to emancipate himself from the past, but to master and understand it as the key to the understanding of the present." Edward Hallett Carr, British historian (1892-1982)

"History is more or less bunk." Henry Ford, U.S. automobile industrialist (1863-1947)

"What experience and history teach is this---that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher (1770-1831)

July 17, 2008

Civility changes with the culture—take Uganda

Guest post by Stephanie Nelson, Iowa State landscape architecture student

Photo: Stephanie at the end of training celebration in Bulayi

Maybe Americans are direct about our opinions, but Ugandans are direct about appearance. Because I have been entrenched in U.S. political correctness for so long, this directness has been hard to get used to.

The word that directly affects me is, of course, "muzungu," meaning white/Western person. I have to remind myself that Ugandans use Muzungu as a sort of title, not meaning to be derogatory or discriminatory but simply calling you what you are. When children see me they just shout "Muzungu bye!" over and over. It drives me nuts, and the worst part is they don't stop shouting until I react with a wave.

Ugandans use descriptions as names for many people.
One example is Ssenga, Luganda for aunt. Ssenga Teo came to stay with us for the weekend and she was called simply "Ssenga" the whole time by everyone in the family. Another description used as a title is old person. Some jobs essentially become someone's name, as with doctor and teacher. Otherwise if someone is describing someone else they will say "the fat one" or "the very black one," all descriptions we shy away from in the United States as being improper to point out.

I have a new set of eyes here.
I am improving the ability to see beyond "that person is black" to distinguishing people's different facial features. The different shades of black are now becoming visible. Ugandan's describe each other as "the brown one" or "the black one."

This phenomenon goes both ways of course. When we were introduced … as Krystal has brown hair, Stephanie's is blonde, etc, the Ugandans couldn't tell us apart. We looked the same until they spent time with us and we became individuals.

I encountered a more surprising iteration of this inability to see things one is not used to seeing. I showed my host brother my driver's license. The "eye color" category caught his attention; mine says green. I thought he disagreed that my eyes were green so I asked him what color he thought they were. His first answer was "white." It took me a second to realize what he meant – and he is absolutely right: eyes are primarily white! Next he answered "black," as in the pupil. So I said "ok what about between the white and the black?" Only then did he notice the color of the iris.

He said he had never heard of eye color being used as a description. When our friend Sharifa came in a few minutes later, I asked her what color my eyes are and she also said "white." In Uganda, eye color is a meaningless description because Ugandans' eye colors are shades of brown.
(End of Stephanie’s post.)

Global economy
As we work in relationships with other cultures, civility is very important. It’s not simply manners, but an understanding and respect for other cultures. It takes some humility to confess you don’t know about other cultures but if you learn and respect their ways, you’ll be in a much better position to develop trust and good working relationships.

Really…in a different dimension…couldn’t you say that about any new company or organization you work with?

July 15, 2008

Ego's purpose

Guest post by the Rev. Paul A. Johnson

We sometimes claim that we have difficulty working with someone because they have a big ego. What we mean by that is often unclear.

We seldom notice when our ego gets in the way of our conversations and relationships.

It is difficult to define what “ego” is; however, we can more easily speak about the purpose of our ego.

The purpose of our ego is to
• Be right and make others wrong.
• Win and not lose.
• Invalidate others and avoid being invalidated.
• Avoid intimacy.

When another person is displaying what we consider a big ego, we can choose to engage our own ego. That produces confrontation, conflict and fighting.

We can choose to avoid the person. That may invite resentment and often means that differences remain unresolved.

We can carefully monitor our own ego
and shift the context and conversation. We can decline the implicit invitation to fight. That will not be easy because, for many of us, engaging our ego has become a long-standing habit. But think about how our life and our community would be different if we made civility our habit instead.

Paul Johnson is the interim pastor at Ames United Church of Christ-Congregational.

July 10, 2008

Ethics in the Workplace

In June, the Society of Human Resources Management and the Ethics Resource Center released their latest survey of HR professionals.

Key findings in the survey
Ethical misconduct most commonly identified by HR professionals
• Abusive or intimidating behavior toward fellow employees
• Abuse of e-mail or Internet privileges
• Employees calling in "sick" inappropriately
• People taking credit for someone else's work

Ethics program
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations (FSGO) define a comprehensive ethics and compliance program as one that includes six components
• Written standards of ethical workplace conduct
• Means for an employee to anonymously report violations of ethics standards
• Orientation or training on ethical workplace conduct
• A specific office, telephone line, e-mail address or Web site where employees can get advice about ethics-related issues
• Evaluation of ethical conduct as part of regular performance appraisals
• Discipline for employees who commit ethics violations

Ethics Resource Center June 12, 2008 news release

“Civility and ethics are intricately linked” The link between civility and ethics: an opinion from a college chair in ethics and moral values

July 08, 2008

Manners and knowledge of etiquette on display at conferences

Many believe civility means etiquette and manners. I consider them a small component. Stories from the eXtension conference last month--

Attentive and formal service
Setting: The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky is elegant. Doormen and women open the hotel doors each time you enter or leave. The housekeepers’ attire is women in dresses with aprons and men in vests.

Formal meals
At each table women are always served before men. Plates are served on your left side, removed on your right. Even if you don’t know all the etiquette, you can pick up quite a bit by observation. The number of utensils and placement give you clues if there will be dessert and number of courses. They also should signal if you use your one fork and knife during the first course that you should keep it for the entrée.

As I watched several at my table being asked to retain their forks from the first course plate, I thought how the servers understood etiquette better than those they were serving. How do you keep the servers from having to ask if you’ve finished?

The etiquette
Place your knife and fork with handles at the 4 o'clock position and the tines of the fork down to signal to the server that you are done.

Informal meals
One evening I went to The Bluegrass Brewing Company with six men ages probably 25 to 60. Current residences: three from North Carolina and one each from Arkansas, Virginia and California. The waitresses served everyone except me. Time passed and still my main-course salad was not in sight.

The etiquette
Do not start eating until every person is served or those who have not been served request that you begin without waiting.

I asked them to please begin eating. One of the youngest from North Carolina set the tone, “Our mothers didn’t teach us that way. We don’t eat until everyone is served.” A salute to mothers and all others who teach etiquette. And to those who learn on their own.

You are more comfortable in any setting when manners are second-nature.

Questions and answers about table manners from Manners International

The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky

Etiquette, one aspect of decorum, is a code that governs the expectations of social behavior, according to the contemporary conventional norm within a society, social class or group.

Manners are standards of conduct which show the person to be cultured, polite and refined.

July 03, 2008

What does a democratic workplace look like..and who benefits?

The workplace has meaningful work, conversations, decentralized networks, strategy, leadership, personal relationships, principles and more. See the chart at http://www.worldblu.com/orgdemo/whatis.php

Characteristics of a democratic organization
(These are really good.)
• You're paid for the value you bring to the organization, not your job title.
• Everyone knows to whom and for what they're accountable.
• The employee manual can be summed up in one sentence: "Use common sense!"
• You look forward to meetings where you can collaborate and share ideas.
• There's a spirit of ownership in every project in which you're involved.
• Communication is ever present, informative and responsible.
More at http://www.worldblu.com/orgdemo/characteristics.php

The benefits
Workers are empowered, involved, passionate, creative and productive. Not only do the workers benefit but obviously so does the company.

All inspired by WorldBlu, which I found while writing about fair trade coffee from Equal Exchange, one of 25 organizations on the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ 2008.

Command and control workplaces are left over from the industrial age.
Think about this not only in your workplace but in the organizations where you volunteer. Advocate and push for democratic work environments because they equal civility.

Happy Independence Day.

July 01, 2008

The link between civility and ethics: an opinion from a college chair in ethics and moral values

Michael Brannigan, the Pfaff Endowed Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. started a column in the Sunday Times Union in Albany.

Excerpts from Brannigan’s opinion used with his permission:
Civility represents the quality of our behavior with others in our collective household. This is serious business, for how we treat others signals who we are and what we value. Moreover, since the essence of ethics lies in how we are with others, civility and ethics are intricately linked.

Let us clear up some misconceptions. Civility is not peripheral to ethics, dealing merely with manners. True, civility does manifest itself in good manners, proper etiquette and politeness. But it also runs deeper and is more profound. Simply put, civility requires restraint, respect and responsibility in everyday life. Without these, we can never act ethically.

Ethics deals fundamentally with how we treat each other on a daily basis. Indeed, our small acts of civility and incivility constitute the heart of morality.

Sadly, countless displays of rudeness, unprofessional behavior, disrespect and anger litter corners of our lives: roads, airports, workplace, online, malls, restaurants, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, etc. In 2002, a Public Agenda Research Group reported that nearly 80 percent of respondents consider "lack of respect and courtesy a serious national problem."

Civility cultivates a civic code of decency. It requires us to discipline our impulses for the sake of others. It demands we free ourselves from self-absorption. By putting ethics into practice in our day-to-day encounters, civility is that moral glue without which our society would come apart.”

I put some sentences in bold because those are ones I think are superb. However, I’m not as convinced as he is that civility and ethics are so intricately linked. I’ve tried to answer two questions for more than a year----
Can you be civil and not entirely ethical?
Can you be ethical and not terribly civil?

The full opinion piece, Civility the basis of society, is at