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3 Ways Communicators Can Help Combat Cybercrime

Cybercrime goes beyond just losing money and compromised personal data. Organizations – whether a business, a non-profit or a government – have far more to lose. Industrial espionage, activist attacks, disrupting the enterprise, outright terrorism or beyond, and every company has probably been targeted or is a target right now. ??

It’s not just about technology
But cyber terrorism isn’t really just a technology problem, says Michael Zimet, a member of the Board of Governors of InfraGard, an FBI partnership with the private sector that focuses on information sharing and learning opportunities to promote cyber awareness and advance national security. It’s a people problem. Up to 90 percent of data breaches start with a person giving an attacker access to a computer network via a phishing attempt   

Malware can be embedded in almost every file type, and our world is already under what Zimet calls “cyberstress” – which can let defenses down. It’s a costly issue. With more than $5 million paid for ransomware, a compromise of business email costing $2.3 billion and the toll of economic espionage is up to $1 trillion. One 2017 estimate puts the cost of all cybercrime topping $2 trillion, with a projected bill of more than $6 trillion annually by 2021.

The role of internal communications
So how can communicators help? Helping build cyber awareness and sensitivity in an organization is where communications comes in, says Zimet. He shared three key priorities in his session with IABC New Jersey in October:

  1. Educate. Help employees know their role in protecting the organization and why cyber vigilance is needed, not only at work, but at home. ?
  2. Deliver. Use simulated exercises to test a person’s ability to detect attacks of social engineering and know the risks.?
  3. Communicate. Sustain awareness of security and provide tools to drive positive behavior.?

Partner with IT
The goal is to drive behavior change amid an ongoing environment of learning. This is where the partnership between IT and communications comes in. Zimet says to be sure to ask:

  • What problems have they seen/experienced? ?
  • What is their greatest concern, exposure? What are the risks? ?
  • What’s most important for employees to learn/do? ?

Elements of a good cybersecurity awareness program also include executive support, funding and the tone set from leaders; defined and understood audiences; a foundation to build upon and sustain cybersecurity awareness; and creativity.

IT provides the tools, while communications provides the mindset.

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Tell Me … What Do You Do?

Our guest blogger this month is IABC NJ member Laina Minervino, find her at https://lainaminervino.com/

My family and friends often ask me “what do you do all day”? Not that they question if I go to work but more so because they don’t understand what a business communicator does. Business communicators can be writers, strategists, content managers, public relations specialists, marketers or people with skills in each of these areas.

However, unlike, doctors or nurses or plumbers or teachers, there really is no clear definition of what communications professionals do. And television or movie characters don’t help because they just show glamourous people doing something in an office or running around town after a high-powered executive or someone that is just a “fixer” for corporate issues.

Here’s a quick look at how to answer the “What do you do?” question:

1. We are storytellers. Whether it’s for a customer, a reporter, an investor or an employee, we are the craftsman (and woman) building the message, framing the story. We’re the masters of engagement … and wordsmithing.

2. We see the big picture and help leaders see it too. In many situations, communicators have their fingers on the pulse of the organization, industry and community. We know what is working well and what isn’t. We guide the conversations to support the company and leadership mission.

3. We are idea generators and problem solvers. Doing the same things over and over is not only the definition of insanity; it is also boring. Communicators need to find the balance between traditional activities and breaking through the clutter that inundates the industry, the investors and employees. Innovation is critical but so is finding the solution to a multitude of things from bad press to unhappy customers to negative employee morale.

4. We are relationship builders, negotiators and peacemakers. A good healthy dose of emotional intelligence is a good personality characteristic for business communicators. We’re often in the position to influence – the media, the conversation, the direction of an employee program – but that means we must build relationships, understand a wide-range of personalities and how to mediate.

5. We are multitaskers. With more companies looking to do more with less, communications teams are often small which results in a great deal of work done by a few people. The work consists of planning, strategy, writing, editing, coordinating with vendors, reporting on what we’ve accomplished and even ordering food for meetings or making sure microphones work at events.

How do you describe what you do? Do you have insights or ideas about what business communicators do – or should do? Share your thoughts here.

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IABC NJ Spring Social Shows How Comedy Can Enable Standout Communications

Comedy can enable standout communications... it comes with risk, but can bring great rewards.

That’s how Chip Ambrogio characterizes the use of humor in strategic communications, both inside and outside an organization. The award-winning communicator, comedian and comedy writer provided insights on leveraging the power of the laugh to educate and inspire during IABC New Jersey’s recent Spring Social. The social brought together nearly 50 New Jersey communications professionals, both IABC members and beyond, May 17 at the Basking Ridge Country Club. ??Chip’s background as a stand-up comedian and comedy writer includes writing for the Friars Club Roast, TV and film, and many of today's top performers. He has successfully used that experience to add appropriate humor and fun to a diverse corporate communications. He showed how appealing to an audience’s funny bone can raise awareness, create a sense of community, enhance performance and align with an organization’s corporate mission.

But, first, about those risks, which are office politics and egos, the chance of stepping on toes, navigating areas of diversity and inclusion, to name a few. Comedy is subjective, and some people are literal. Balance those with the rewards – using humor can stand out from traditional tactics. It can also create connection on multiple levels – whether it’s great writing, great performance or a strong emotional appeal. Great comedians – Robin Williams, Richard Pryor and George Carlin – mastered each of these, respectively, Chip shared.

Chip’s own comedic journey began nearly a quarter century ago when he was in a job he hated. An advertisement for a comedy class in the Village Voice caught his eye, and he entered the world of stand up. At the same time, he began a new job in communications.

“For the last 23 years, I’ve been dealing with difficult audiences, prima donnas and with hecklers, and then of course there was the stand-up,” Chip says. “But the more I did stand-up at night and communications during the day, the more I saw the connection – the cross-over skills – where comedy could help me with my day job.” Chip’s takeaways included:

  • Write for the stage, not for the page. Be conversational, be engaging and humanize the perspective.
  • Get to the point, and do it fast. Writing a great joke is about getting from the set-up to the punch line as fast as possible. The approach also applies to communications tactics.
  • Make the core message clear. Great communication and great comedy is stripping down to the connection … to what the audience can take home with them.
  • Comedy lets you create characters and tell a story. “By putting the characters in similar situation as the audience, we build empathy and understanding, and get them to laugh,” says Chip. “It’s less parental and more organic way to get the word out.”
  • Take risks, and enjoy success.
  • All you really need is that first one to work. You need someone to believe and then deliver on it.

According to Chip, learning to use humor appropriately in a corporate situation is an art, but if you're willing to take a chance the benefits are many. After all, comedy can elicit an emotional reaction much more than any email can. Seinfeld would say if an audience does not laugh at a joke, it means they do not like the joke. It does not mean they do not like me. Chip adds: “That fearlessness allows you to open doors, get buy-in on projects other people may be afraid to pitch, and open up new ways to connect with your audience.” Thank you to IABC New Jersey Spring Social cocktail opening hour sponsor Davis & Company, as well as IABC sponsors Spi Group, Monmouth University, Fairleigh Hickinson University, BMW Morristown and HomeAdvisor. Find out more about IABC New Jersey, join and get involved at the IABC New Jersey website.

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An inside look at Verizon’s Innovation Lab and how emerging technology can change how the world connects

by Malecia S. Walker

As the speed of communications becomes more crucial to business, busy professionals don’t have time to wait for their mobile devices to perform.

At April’s IABC New Jersey professional development event, business communicators got a look into how new technology might affect the way the world works. As part of “Future Tech and the Future of Communications,” Verizon offered a tour of its Innovation Lab in Bedminster, N.J., on April 26, which included a peek – and at times no pictures, please – at developments in mobile communications technology, such as 5G.

Howie Waterman, media relations lead for wireless networks and technology at Verizon, and Lutz Erhlich, director of device performance, offered some insight to attendees before the group split up for tours.

“We always try to be ahead of the curve,” Waterman said of Verizon’s efforts with 5G, which is being tested in 11 U.S. cities and is expected to bring faster speeds and shorter wait times to device users.

To highlight the evolution of mobile phones today, Erhlich asked the group to take out their phones, look at a slide of an old newspaper ad from RadioShack, then determine the relationship between the phones and the products in the ad.

“Everything except the microwave” is in the smartphone, he said.

Although the process is extensive, evaluations of new devices are done within a three-week time period, Erhlich added. A device’s path to consumers includes simulating locations with background noise and field testing in situations like driving (presumably hands-free).

If a manufacturer’s device fails on multiple fronts, Waterman said, Verizon will not allow it to reach its retail storefronts or retail website.

On the tour, communicators saw firsthand what devices go through. Tests are performed early (repeated as much as 20 times) to see how well batteries withstand shock if, for example, a user touches something that generates static electricity. Products are tumbled by a machine then visually inspected for damage. A second chamber drops devices six times on multiple sides onto a steel plate at the bottom. If those tests aren’t passed, they go back to the manufacturer.

But if they make it past that point, the devices are tested for other qualities like sound clarity -- in a soundproof room, of course -- using male and female voices in different languages. A room is also exclusively used to test various antennas.

What does all this mean for the future of the communications profession? Time and network speed will tell.

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Staying Social - Media Relevant in the New Year

By Erica Martell

I just bought myself a new pair of pants one size smaller for two reasons:  One, I hope to lose some weight and two, I’m told that they’ll stretch.  This is a little bit how we all start our New Year isn’t it?  We set goals for ourselves that are somewhat uncomfortable, hoping that we’ll also stretch and adjust to them.

This brings me to my New Year’s topic:  How do we, as communicators, stay relevant with regard to our social media outreach?

I've noticed that when some approach a social media campaign they toss out all that they know about communications. I'm not sure why, but it's a mistake. The rules are the same: Keep the basics in mind.

  1. Know your audience:  Are they female or male?  Are they millennials or boomers?  What career level does your demographic fall into? 

  2. Do your research:  Look at where your groups live and breathe on social media, maybe this means doing a survey to a segmented group of your prospective list to find out.

  3. Pick a platform:  Start with a platform that you’re comfortable in and suits your audience.

  4. Video is the language of social according to Anna Gonzalez, Head of Social Media & Video, at Nasdaq.  Brands are becoming media companies which yields higher engagement and makes them more monetizable. Video also helps sell anything from products to services.

  5. Share or curate content that is relevant to your industry.  Comment or join a conversation in online discussion groups that are timely.

  6. Measure the ROI of social media for your brand.  Key performance indicators such as Google Analytics or open rates are often not given enough credit.  Knowing what worked or failed in your social media campaign will help you adjust your efforts going forward.

“Taking each of these points and making it a whole strategy will be key to your social media success,” claims Becky Livingston, CEO of Penheel Marketing. “Social media is not a set-it-and-forget-it deal. You have to monitor, measure, and adjust your strategy along the way—just as you would with any resolution or goal.”


Social media is a practice of regimen:  you must be consistent. Unless you represent a well- known and beloved brand, to have impact, you cannot dive in once in a while and expect people to follow you any more than you will fit into those new pants by dieting once a month.  Take it at your own pace.  As you get feedback from your followers, you’ll be encouraged to expand your social media initiatives.

Erica A. Martell is a marketer, content and business development writer and social media professional.  She generates leads and grows revenue for clients by working smart, even with the most challenging of budgets. She is also recognized for her traditional integrated marketing campaigns which include direct mail, e-mail and online. Skilled in the strategy and execution of key messaging and social media for B-to-B events, programs and services, she tells clients’ stories in a clear and compelling way to drive engagement and profits. 

As a consultant for EAM Marketing, she represents a range of companies in education, professional development and media services. Erica is a member of New York Women in Communications, (NYWICI), from which she received a Membership Empowerment Grant and holds a BA from Allegheny College.  She is an active participant in IABC and Toastmasters and an avid movie, culture and theater enthusiast.

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Getting Through the Resume Black Hole

By Debra Capua, Davis & Company

Going through the job search process is no easy task as recruiting continues to become more impersonal. But with persistence and know-how, you can stand out from the crowd. IABC NJ’s expert panel recently shared tips for landing the job of your dreams.  

1) Put your accomplishments front and center
Sandra Ille, Human Resources Business Partner for Bayer Corporation, an expert in talent acquisition, stresses the importance of having accomplishments related to the job you’re applying for at the top of your resume. That means that in addition to tailoring your key words to each job description, your accomplishments should clearly relate to the position you aspire to.

And have no fear if you’re looking to transition to a new career, have been out of the job market or are starting your career. You do have accomplishments to highlight. Think about what you’ve achieved and how it related to the job you are seeking.

If you’ve been taking care of an elderly parent, for example, highlight your financial acumen, negotiation skills (necessary for navigating through the home healthcare maze) and flexibility.  

In college? You have transferable skills from internships and part-time jobs.

2) Meet your audience’s needs
Recruiters are busy and have stacks of resumes to review. That means you have just 6 seconds to get the recruiter’s attention.

Sandy Charet, President of Charet & Associates, a Senior Recruiter for PR, Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, Employee Communications and related fields, says it’s crucial to make the resume easy to read. No one wants to go through pages of dense text, so keep it short, scannable and remember white space.

Knowing about those precious 6 seconds is another reason to focus on getting your accomplishments to stand out at the top of the resume.

3) Network, network, network
Ilene Kahn, Project Specialist at Davis & Company, is a savvy networker who recently joined this internal communication consulting firm after a career in publishing. She encourages job seekers to make the most of LinkedIn to find people who can introduce you to those who work at companies you’re targeting in your search. Ilene is also a firm believer in being creative and adding a personal touch, as long as you stay authentic.

All of our experts agreed on the importance of networking and building relationships, particularly before a job is posted. Do your research, target the companies you’d like to work for and forge relationships. Most people are happy to help.

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8 Things to Include in a Branding RFP By Lou Leonardis, Partner and Branding Creative Director at Trillion

Searching for a company to create or redesign your organization’s brand can be daunting. A good first step for finding the right resource is to generate a request for proposal, or RFP.

A carefully crafted RFP will create interest in your project, while clearly expressing your problems and goals. On the other hand, an RFP that is not well prepared could be disregarded and ignored by reputable creative teams. 

It is important to consider that the process of responding to an RFP is time consuming for branding companies; they will need to determine whether it is worth the effort to respond.

Some considerations include:

  • Whether they feel they have a good chance of winning,
  • If the project requirements clearly reflect their capabilities, portfolio and organizational set-up, and
  • The availability of a contact person to discuss the project with them.

The following tips define a proposal format that will reflect your organization's professionalism, provide the best information for your possible resopndents and make it easier to compare their responses when you receive them.  

1) Provide Your Company Background

Providing a high-level overview of your company and its history is important to help the branding companies understand more about your business. Include information about your “perceived” mission, vision and value proposition statements. I say “perceived” because you may need these defined or redefined by your branding company; they might not exist or may no longer be relevant. Either way, try to be as descriptive as possible in saying who you are, what you do, who you help, and how you help.

2) Define Your Problem or Challenge

Sometimes a brand can have internal or external issues — or both. Clearly define the challenges and issues your company is having. An example could be inconsistent messaging from business unit to business unit, or the fact that your brand is perceived as dated or irrelevant in the current marketplace. Explain the immediate problems as well as potential long-term problems that you foresee. Frequently, the branding and rebranding process reveals unknown issues that will need to be solved by the branding team.

3) Define the Scope of the Project

Clearly list specific deliverables or tasks you require, such as:

  • Conducting research (such as interviews, focus groups, surveys)
  • Auditing existing brand and marketing materials
  • Defining user personas
  • Creating an online brand guideline
  • Designing specific marketing collateral

You will want to identify the volume of content, number of applications, quantity of interviews or any other specifics the branding company should consider. Another option is to ask the branding company to define the scope as they see it as part of the RFP.

If you are unclear about the project scope, or need help defining it, specify your expectations by requesting a discovery phase with minimum requirements noted, such as the number of meetings or research that will be shared. Then list what you expect to learn from the discovery phase.

4) Define Your Ideal Candidate

Stating that you want to work with a team that is based within a specific geographic location or is of a certain size is helpful. You may want to require that all team members be employees of the branding company and not consultants or freelancers. You can also list your preferences for experience.

5) Define Your Selection Criteria

Defining how and when you will select finalists and determine the eventual winner of the bid is critical. Are you most interested in a branding studio’s portfolio? Relevant work samples? Or is price the most important deciding factor? Defining the key factors will help ensure that your expectations are met. To be fair to the branding companies responding, stay committed to your dates and keep them informed of any delays.

Additionally, I recommend requiring relevant samples of branding projects the branding company has completed. This basic request will show you the caliber of work of each of your respondents, as well as provide an opportunity to hear and see their process, as well as their success stories.

6) List Your RFP Process and Timeline

In order to compare branding proposals more effectively, it’s important to define how you want their proposals submitted to you, including due dates. Is email accepted? Does the file format need to be a PDF? Do you have file size limitations? Do you have a maximum number of pages? You may also require a specific outline format in addition to any naming conventions that are to follow.

It goes without saying that there will be questions. You should have specific protocols for incoming questions and the deadline for receiving them. In order to prevent you from answering the same questions over and over, it is a good idea to include a web link where applicant questions and your answers can be posted. Your website or Google Docs are great places for this.

7) Discuss Your Branding or Rebranding Budget

If you are able to clearly define the scope of the project, deliverables, timeline and requirements, you may be in a good place to define budgetary range. This range can help prevent wide pricing variations.

8) Pose Questions for the Branding Company to Answer

Presenting questions you may ask of your prospective branding company partner will help you gain insights into their thinking and culture and how it can relate back to your business. How the questions are answered can be helpful in the selection process.

The following are questions you should have your branding agency answer, in addition to having them provide a company overview and their accreditations:

  • What is your branding/rebranding process?
  • Why do you think you are the best branding company for the project?
  • Tell us about your leadership and creative team members.
  • What makes you different from your competitors?
  • Which of your team members will be doing the work?

THese tips help you avoid making RFP Mistakes

Omitting key information can lead to dramatically different proposals with tremendously wide variety of cost, resources and timeline. It could waste a lot of time for you and for the branding companies responding to your RFP. Including the right elements will help generate branding proposals that are similar enough for you to be comparing apples to apples.

About the author: Lou Leonardis is Partner and Branding Creative Director at Trillion, a creative studio that specializes in graphic design and web design with a focus on branding. He is a lifelong resident of New Jersey and brings nearly 20 years of design know-how to Trillion. His branding and graphic design work is published internationally and has been recognized with many awards and honors. Lou’s design education was at duCret School of Art as well as School of Visual Arts. You can find Lou and Trillion on Facebook and Twitter @trillioncreates.

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