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Holtz Communications + Technology | Blog

blogging at the intersection of communication and technology

Published: 2016-10-14T20:25:00+00:00


Friday Wrap #189: Facebook’s Workplace, Wells Fargo’s crisis plan, consumers’ cross-platform habits


I extract items for the Friday Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing. News Facebook’s Workplace arrives—In tests it was called Facebook at Work, but now that it’s available to any organization that wants to pony up for it, Facebook has named its workplace messaging tool Workplace. Designed to take on popular tools like Slack, Hipchat, Yammer, and Chatter, Workplace brings a Facebook-like interface to the enterprise. The tool features groups, updates, the ability to tag people, share files, chat with multiple colleagues, and publish material. Options also include one-on-one video calls, group audio calls, and Facebook Live-like video broadcasts. The service is $3 per user per month for the first 1,000 users, $2 per user per month for the next group up to 10,000 users, then $1 per user per month for more than 10,000. A 3-month trial is available at no charge. The takeaway: Facebook will have to overcome corporate resistance to employees using Facebook, but built-in familiarity with the interface is a huge benefit. I’m not ready to predict success, but Workplace has all the makings of a blockbuster product—and the pricing is highly competitive. With hooks into other enterprise systems, it could be the future intranet in a lot of organizations. Read more Fake news persists on Facebook’s trending topics—It has been weeks since Facebook promised to address the flood of fake news its algorithms were injecting into its Trending feature after the company axed its human editors after allegations of bias. A Washington Post experiment found that the fake stories are still a problem. Between August 31 and September 22, the Post found five “indisputably fake” trending stories and three “profoundly inaccurate” items. The takeaway: Facebook insists it’s not a media company. They’re wrong. It’s one of the most powerful media companies in the world and this is a problem it must fix. In the meantime, do what I do: Ignore the trending items (or at least view them with a grain of salt) until they get this right. Read more Wells Fargo presents its crisis plan—On a conference call with 500 of its senior executives, Wells Fargo said business would decline more due to its scandal before things start to improve. Among the plans are “listening tours” undertaken by a new community bank executive, regular memos and videos to employees, and increased proactive communication with large investors. The company has also launched “Project Duel,” designed to “clarify roles and responsibilities and to improve oversight and controls and reduce duplication.” The bank will also investigate claims of retaliation from employees who called its ethics hotline. Wells Fargo has also bought more social media advertising than usual and plans more proactive customer outreach. The takeaway: It’s hard to deduce much from a report of a private conference call, but what’s missing here is a dedicated effort to rebuild public trust. The call was led by former CEO John Strumpf just before he resigned. Read more Google introduces fact-checking—A new Google feature tags and helps users find “fact-checking in large news stories. Tagged articles will show up in the new story box” on Google News, along with the News and Weather app for iOS and Android. Google will search for actual markup in the source code of the site reporting the news, then seek pages “that follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks.” The takeaway: The torrent of lies in the current “post-truth” election cycle is most likely the catalyst for this new feature, but its impact could be felt far beyond the world of politics. For example, spin-focused PR could be subjected to fact-checking that will be seen by any of Google’s massive audience of news readers. Read more Pinterest adds 50 million users in one year—Pint[...]

FIR Podcast #56: Strategy? What strategy?


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network We’re thinking of Cindy Crescenzo as she deals with a difficult time and had to bow out of this week’s episode, but David Grossman and Mark Story still joined me for a stimulating conversation about these topics… Another brand — this time, Tic Tac — that dealt in close to real time with an unwelcome cultural reference A survey that found nearly 70% of company staffs don’t know what the company strategy is (and bad communication is the top reason) As CCOs and CMOs face the shift to digital, a study from Pew Research Center finds that a lot of people in our audiences aren’t ready, especially to learn via digital channels A growing number of companies are applying sentiment analysis to internal communication. Is that good or is it to Big Brother-like for employees? Dan York’s Tech report covers the changes to iMessage (part of the iOS 10 update), Facebook’s introduction of the Marketplace (taking on CraigsList), and DuoLingo’s introduction of bots to help you learn a new language Another survey found 91% of executives believe their organizations’ change initiatives fail (largely due to failed communication) Google studied its teams to find out what made some work and others falter, lessons that could be applied if they decided to acquire Twitter (which they’re passing on but Bloomberg thinks they should pursue) Young adults prefer reading news to watching it on video. How does that affect your news strategy? Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @ThoughtPartner and @MarkStory_. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. About today’s panel: David Grossman is founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, an award-winning Chicago-based communications consultancy focusing on organizational consulting, strategic leadership development and internal communications. For nearly 30 years, David has counseled leaders on the importance of effective leadership communication to drive employee engagement and business results, and served as a thoughtpartner™ to top organizations including AOL, DuPont Pioneer, Eastman Chemical Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Hill-Rom, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, McDonald’s, Motel 6 and Tyco, among others. He also teaches Internal Engagement to graduate students as an adjunct professor at Columbia University in New York City. Mark Story is a one-time contributor to FIR. Mark currently works as communication counsel and social media lead for the National Cancer Institute, and he was director of International Corporate Affairs for the Alibaba Group in Hong Kong, and the first-ever director of New Media for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mark also put in time on the agency side as a senior VP for Fleishman-Hillard and a vice president at APCO Worldwide. Mark is also the author of the book, “Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager,” which was published in 2012. [...]

Friday Wrap #188: Young adults want news by text, Facebook wants everyone to have the Net, and more


I extract items for the Friday Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing. News Facebook wants to provide free Internet access—Facebook’s Free Basics app has already been deployed in some third-world regions—and killed off in India after being subjected to regulatory scrutiny. But the company is looking to roll it out in the U.S., and has been in talks with the White House and wireless carriers about making it happen. Free Basics “would target low-income and rural Americans who cannot afford reliable, high-speed Internet a home or on smartphones.” Opponents believe “exempting services from data caps creates a multitiered playing field that favors businesses with the expertise and budgets to participate in such programs.” The takeaway: It wouldn’t be an issue if we already had an initiative to get the poor and rural online, just as there are programs to make sure they have landlines. Free Basic would add millions of people to the online population. That’s good for society and (to some extent) business. I do worry about shady online enterprises targeting those who can least afford it. Read more You can link Periscope to your Twitter web profile—Despite the fact that Twitter wants to find a buyer before the end of October—and only Salesforce seems to be interested in acquiring it—the company keeps adding features in hopes of bolstering its user base. The latest: You an add “View on Periscope” to your Twitter web profile. When you start a Periscope broadcast, the text will change from “View on Periscope” to “LIVE on Periscope,” so users visiting your profile can go straight to your live stream. The takeaway: Useful but not a game-changer. The odds that I’d be visiting someone’s profile while they happened to be streaming aren’t huge. Read more Trends Social networks don’t want to be social—The big social platforms are looking to shed the “social” label because, while social media remains core to their identity, they have expanded well beyond being just social networks. Snapchat, for example, changed its corporate name to Snap and rolled out camera-glasses, calling itself a camera company. Twitter says it’s a news service (a claim that led to a surge of downloads of the app. And Facebook executives scoff at the idea that Facebook is a social network; it’s a media company. The takeaway: I remember when people wanted to drop “social” from social media 11 years ago. It made no sense then. It does now. Most media are social by default, but that doesn’t have to define them. Read more Personal nature of podcasts represent a brand opportunity—The effort required to find and listen to a podcast makes it “intentional listening,” a very personal activity. That makes sponsor/advertiser spots feel more like word-of-mouth than advertising, creating a halo effect for brands. The takeaway: That goes for more than just advertising. Brands that produce a podcast benefit from the same effect. I wrote a blog post on why brands are resisting this particular bandwagon. Read more Hacking attacks affect the way leaders write emails—The growing frequency of email hacks is leading to increasing wariness among executives in their emails. They’re sending fewer and being more cautious in what they write, many restricting content to a couple of lines. The takeaway: It wouldn’t hurt to educate our executives about both the risks of being doxed (having your emails made public) as well as alternatives to email that can be more secure (like messaging)—especially those messaging apps that feature end-to-end encryption, like WhatsApp and Telegram. In 20 years, all execs will be using these tools because they will have grown up using them. Read more Sentiment analysis software makes inroads i[...]

Podcasting is hot. What are organizational communicators waiting for?


Podcasting is not just red hot, it’s here to stay. Twenty percent of Americans are regular podcast listeners, which interestingly mirrors the 20% of spoken-word audio content that Americans consume. (Eighty percent of the audio Americans consume is music.) The growth of podcasting has been incremental and steady for over a decade and it shows no signs of abating. Money is pouring into podcasting in a number of ways. Mainstream media is investing in it. Advertising networks are popping up. Sponsor dollars are pouring in. (Podcast advertising commands higher fees than other forms of online advertising.) Despite this, few businesses are podcasting. A friend who does business presentations for communication audiences told me he has been asking for a show of hands: Who listens to podcasts? Nearly everyone in the room raises their hands. When he asks whose company is producing a podcast, nobody raises a hand. Why the reluctance for businesses to jump on the podcasting bandwagon? I suspect there are four reasons. Communicators don’t know how to do audio—Outside of radio advertising, most businesses have done little with audio as a communication medium. When planning communication, audio just doesn’t leap to mind. There’s a perception that it’s still just a hobby—For those who don’t listen to podcasts or follow the medium, podcasting is still perceived as a bunch of amateur shows produced by hobbyists in their homes. Nobody has conceived a use case—Podcasting may be interesting, but communicators and marketers haven’t figured out how they could use a podcast in pursuit of their objectives. Been there, done that—Several businesses, from Westinghouse to Speedo, tried podcasting in its early days, producing some great content that didn’t deliver the kinds of results they had hoped for. Bonus: Employee Communications—Two obstacles have prevented internal communicators from pursuing podcasting (in addition to those listed above). While content isn’t a problem—most internal communicators have good ideas for employee-focused podcasts—concerns about the time and cost of production, coupled with confusion over how to distribute an internal-only podcast—have held them back. The mainstreaming of podcasting should elevate it to the first tier of media available for communicating with stakeholders. In addition to the variety of benefits podcasting offers, it’s just as important to consider whether your competitors are beating you to the punch. As the means of distributing audio grow more sophisticated, the definition of podcasting is evolving. Ultimately, it’s best defined as a nothing more complicated than a spoken-word show. The only question, really, is whether you can produce a show that your audience wants to listen to. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> GE did. Its show, “The Signal,” is a science fiction series that incorporated elements of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math), part of an effort to inspire young people to pursue the subjects in order to fill the pipeline of future GE employees. It was a hit, downloaded more than 5 million times. GE isn’t alone. eBay is podcasting with “Open for Business,” a podcast about the various aspects of starting a business. Collaborate software company Slack podcasts in support of its employer brand. Prudential, Umpqua Bank, Netflix, and dozens of other companies are recognizing that the 46 million Americans who listen to an average of six podcasts a week (according to Edison Research) are worth reaching. They also understand that one of podcasting’s great strengths is its ability to attract a niche audience. Prudential’s podcast, for example, is “40/40 Vision,” exploring what it means to be 40 and older. Umpqua Bank’s “Open Accou[...]

FIR Podcast #55: Beating Back the Trolls


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Three PR agency thought leaders were on the panel: Gerry Corbett, Phil Gomes, and Joe Thornley. Our topics included… A couple brands — Ford and Skittles — had a chance to market themselves in real time when their names were invoked during the presidential campaign. Both declined, sticking strictly with public affairs messages. Is real-time marketing over? (And how did Ford and the UAW do when they responded to allegations claimed during the first debate?) Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, thinks the future of PR is integration with other disciplines, focused on digital and data. Is he a visionary or just catching up? And what’s the future of traditional PR? Who would want to be part of the communications team at Wells Fargo these days? The panel looks at everything that the bank has done wrong from a crisis communication perspective. Scientific American ran an expose into practices by the U.S. FDA and other government agencies and scientific organizations designed to control the press and prevent publication of interviews with people who might have opposing points of view. One practice, the “close-hold embargo,” was new to everyone on the panel. But would they advise clients to give it a try? Dan York reports on the expiration of the IANA contract and the politically-motivated opposition that demonstrated a remarkable lack of understanding of just what was really happening. Internet Society employees who supported their employer’s point of view were trolled. How can other companies prepare their employees for some truly vile backlash to their efforts to advocate on behalf of their employer? Moz’s founder wrote a post that was a model of transparency and detail in the wake of layoffs and a repositioning of its offerings. In the process, he shared some disdain for the idea of “inbound marketing.” Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @gerardcorbett, @philgomes, and @thornley. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. About today’s panel: Gerard Corbett is Chair and CEO of strategic communications consulting firm Redphlag LLC., Founder and Partner of Wise Counsel, and CMO of real estate tech startup Producers Forum, Inc. in Palo Alto. He also is an award-winning career coach, blogger and Past Chair & CEO of the 32,000 member Public Relations Society of America, having served as Chair and CEO in 2012. Gerry is a versatile branding, marketing, public relations and communications executive and coach having served four decades in senior marketing and communications roles at Global Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace engineering and information technology with Silicon Valley firms and NASA. Phil Gomes is senior vice president at Edelman, working in U.S. B2B Digital, advanced community engagement and special situations, a role he developed that focuses on preparing clients for advanced issues and special situations regarding online corporate reputation and emerging technologies. Phil has been with Edelman since 2005; before that he was with Dryden Marketing Group working as a media programs manager. Phil co-founded CREWE – Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, and he’s a founding fellow of the Society for New Communications Research. Phil was a recent FIR Interviews guest talking about blockchains and their potential role in communications, a topic that will come up again in today’s show. Joseph Thornley is CEO of Thornley Fallis Communications, which comprises several well-known brands: Thornley Fallis Communications, a digital engagement and communications consultancy, 76design, a digital design and software development studio 76engage, an online public participation platform, 76insights, an analytics tool focusing on the resonance of social objects and gestures, and 76BrandFilms, a video studio . Joe re[...]

Shrink-Wrap #12: A boozy glimpse into the post-app future


Johnnie Walker has introduced an Amazon Echo skill that demonstrates quite well why you won’t need an app—or even a phone—for most of what you’re accustomed to using an app for.

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Links from this episode:


Friday Wrap #187: Ford tweets debate, Twitter opens Moments, MS kills standalone Yammer, and more


I extract items for the Friday Wrap from my link blog, which you’re welcome to follow. To make sure you never miss an issue, subscribe to my weekly email briefing. WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENT: EMPLOYEES AND CRISIS COMMUNICATION One of the items I share this week reveals the marketers aren’t taking advantage of employees, a huge majority of whom use social media during their work days. During a crisis, tapping into employees could improve transparency and authenticity. It could also increase the odds of ongoing problems. I’m hosting a webinar next Friday, October 7, to help you plan to get the best results from engaging employees during a crisis, as well as the best means of keeping them informed. It’s a mere $89 to participate. You’ll have access to the video replay and you’ll be able to ask questions during the session. Register News Nobody’s talking about blockbuster report on FDA media manipulation—One of the world’s most respected scientific journals, Scientific American, released a stunning report on techniques used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to manipulate journalists, including the use of “close-hold embargoes”. The report notes that the success of the FDA’s strong-arm techniques is leading other organizations to adopt similar tactics. The takeaway: Read the report and make sure your organization is not employing these techniques. It’s the opposite of transparency. Why this report isn’t getting broader attention is a mystery to me. Read more Twitter record set at first presidential debate—The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was the most-tweeted debate in Twitter’s history. Nielsen’s Social Content Ratings reported 17.1 million interactions, about 7 million more than the Denver-based debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney produced in 2012. Those numbers were dwarfed by Facebook interactions, which numbered nearly 66 million. The top moment: Trump’s assertion that he has a good temperament (also the biggest moment on Facebook). The biggest retweet was of Trump’s 2012 tweet claiming the Chinese had fabricated global warming, which Trump denied having said during the debate. The takeaway: Clearly, social media has emerged into a forum for discussion during key political (among other) events. See the next item for an idea of how companies can participate without appearing opportunistic or irrelevant. Read more Ford’s and UAW’s Twitter engagement during debate was brilliant—During the first presidential debate this past Monday, Republican nominee Donald Trump once again used Ford as an example of jobs fleeing the country, a central issue in his campaign. Ford and the United Auto Workers responded via Twitter in real time, rebutting Trump’s assertions. “Ford has more hourly employees and produces more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker,” the company tweeted, adding a graphic showing it had added 28,000 American jobs in the last five years. A more direct tweet from the UAW said, “Ford is not moving jobs out of Michigan. our agreement secures future product commitments for affected plants.”  The takeaway: The key to the effectiveness of this effort was being prepared. Both Ford and the UAW knew it was likely Trump would mention Ford during the debate, and they were standing by with information. It’s not real-time marketing, which is losing its sheen. It’s real-time PR and any company should be prepared to execute it. Read more Lowe’s opens an “Open House” newsroom website—Lowes has debuted “Open House,” a news-focused website designed to provide a behind-the-brand look at the company from four perspectives: serving communities, inspiring people, fresh thinking, and inside Lowe’s. The site, where the[...]

“Words on the Wall” are worse than no values statements at all


The current state of employee engagement isn’t pretty. According to Gallup, only 33% of employees are engaged with their jobs (that is, poised to deliver discretionary effort to help the company succeed). Engagement isn’t everything, of course; other employee-related factors drive business results, from job satisfaction to a sense of purpose. But there’s a problem there, too. Gallup’s research indicates that “just four in 10 employees worldwide strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. And less than half of workers in any industry feel strongly connected to their company’s mission.” The mission (or purpose) statement expresses the reason a company exists. (It’s not, by the way, to make a profit or deliver a return on shareholder investment, which is a byproduct of achieving the mission.) For employees, it’s a reason to get excited about doing the job and contributing to the fulfillment of that purpose. Some great mission/purposeT statements include eBay (“Provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything”), Facebook (“Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”), and Starbucks (“To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”). Closely aligned to companies’ missions are its values, which articulate what the company stands for. According to the UK’s Engage for Success initiative, organizational integrity is one of the four enablers of engagement. “The values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviors,” Engage for Success proclaims. “There is no ‘say–do’ gap. Promises made are promises kept, or an explanation given as to why not.” There’s trouble here, too, despite the framing of values for conference room walls and printing them on the backs of employee security badges. Another Gallup study found that only 27% of U.S. employees believe in their organizations’ values. An even lower 23% said they can apply their organizations’ values to their daily work. In its report, Gallup said: In many companies, gaps exist between the desired culture—the one leaders envision and strive to realize—and the culture that employees experience. These gaps create inconsistency and confusion for employees and customers. The most successful companies identify these gaps and implement strategies, systems and processes that reduce them, taking actions that incrementally move the company closer to its aspired culture. Culture can be a formidable driver of performance. But when a company struggles with gaps between the desired culture and the actual culture, this hinders it from achieving performance goals and meeting customers’ needs. A case study Let’s take a look at one company’s values: People as a competitive advantage Ethics What’s right for customers Diversity and inclusion Leadership The details behind each values statement are found on the web page on which these values are enshrined. In the introduction to the section on Ethics, for example, the company says it “strives to be recognized by our stakeholders as setting the standard among the world’s great companies for integrity and principled performance. This is more than just doing the right thing. We also have to do it in the right way.” As for What’s right for customers, the company declares, “We value what’s right for our customers in everything we do.” One more: Leadership. “We all have the responsibility to be the link between the vision of Wells Fargo and our customers.” You read that right. These are the proclaimed va[...]

Oct. 7 Webinar: Employees, Crises, and Social Media



Most crisis communication plans miss a critical element: Employees. Ignored, they can innocently (or maliciously) make your existing problem even bigger. After all, their online friends most likely know where they work and if employees aren’t volunteering information, people in their social networks are soliciting it.

When engaged, employees can become powerful advocates and expand the reach of your messages. In an eye-opening webinar on October 7 (noon ET), I will offer solutions for keeping employees up to date, maintaining the highest possible levels of engagement as the organization endures its crisis. But that’s just the beginning. I will also introduce ways for employees to support the company in their own online communities.

If you work in employee communications, PR, corporate communication, HR, or crisis management, you won’t want to miss this highly informative hour-long session. You’ll take away ideas you can apply to your workplace immediately.



FIR #54: Our most engaging episode ever


Cross-posted from the FIR Podcast Network Employee engagement was a constant theme in this week’s conversation with iCology founder Chuck Gose, internal communication measurement thought leader Angela Sinickas, and BBVA’s global head of employee communication, Peter Vogt. (Don’t worry; if you’re not involved with employee communication, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into in this episode for you, too.) Our topics included… A Harvard Business Review article suggests there’s a dark side to engagement. Internal communication departments are not adopting mobile solutions. There’s your corporate brand, your product brand, and your employer brand. Is that enough, or do you also need a talent brand? Can employer branding improve your internal communications? The best places to work seem to get engagement right. Millennials increasingly drive employee culture, particularly as they move into management. Company missions aren’t resonating with employees, according to Gallup. Starbucks’ “Upstanders” program was suggested by an employee during a town hall meeting. Dan York’s tech report focuses on messaging. Connect with our panelists on Twitter at @chuckgose, @sinickasa, and @plvchicago. Links to the source material for this episode are on Contentle. Special thanks to Jay Moonah for the opening and closing music. About today’s panel: Chuck Gose is the founder of ICology, a resource dedicated to “interesting people doing interesting things in the world of internal communications.” As part of iCology, Chuck hosts the ICology podcast, which features practitioners and experts sharing their advice and insights. As the Corporate Communication Practice Leader and Sales Director at BroadSign, Chuck knows software isn’t the end-all solution and takes a very hands-on approach with clients to ensure they develop a solid digital internal communication strategy. Chuck works directly with clients to ensure any new technology maximizes its impact through consultation and a solid strategy. Angela Sinickas is the founder of Sinickas Communications, which has worked with companies, organizations and governments in 32 countries on six continents. Her clients include 25% of the Forbes Top 100 largest global companies. Before starting her own consulting firm, she held positions from editor to vice president in for-profit and government organizations, and worked as a senior consultant and practice leader at Hewitt and Mercer. She is author of a manual, How to Measure Your Communication Programs (now in its third edition),and chapters in several books. Her 50+ articles in professional journals can be found on her website, Her work has been recognized with 20 international-level Gold Quill Awards from IABC, plus her firm was named IABC Boutique Agency of the Year in 2015. She holds a BS degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MS in Leadership from Northeastern University. Peter Vogt is helping drive BBVA’s cultural transformation through the creation of its Employee Value Proposition, defining an end to end employee experience, and driving an exceptional conversation with our people everywhere. There’s nothing better than creating a company of 138,000 brand advocates who truly believe in the power of the company’s purpose. Before joining BBVA (and moving to Madrid), Vogt was CEO of Keystone Richmond Communications, based in San Francisco. He was also vice president of Employment Brand for Visa and senior director of Employee Brand Strategy for eBay (where he progressed through several employee-focused positions). Peter was Internal Communications Director at Microsoft and the Asia Pacific Communication Practice Leader for Watson Wyatt. [...]