Colour-coded collaboration

Without a combination of colours, a rainbow becomes an arch; an artist’s pallet becomes a piece of wood; and a box of Smarties becomes just another box of chocolate. After the Sept. 10 team building colours workshop, I’ve learned that a team without a mix of four important colours will likely become a group of people facing a lot of chaos.

For those who haven’t participated in an iLearn2 colour workshop, this blog post probably hasn’t made much sense so far. To catch you up, the program uses a short test of adjectives and generalized personality descriptions to divide people’s teamwork and communication tendencies into four categories associated with a colour.

I know what you’re thinking at this point… I was also skeptical of the test’s accuracy until I sat through Doug Bolger’s “two-thumbs-up,” “five-star” presentation. You know the feeling of excitement you get when you read your horoscope and it applies perfectly to something going on in your life? Now imagine someone basically describing your personality to you, without ever having met you. The phrase, “That’s so me,” kept running through my mind as Doug used humourous and relatable anecdotes to describe the tendencies of the blue and gold traits (the two colours for which I scored the highest). His enthusiastic presentation style is definitely something I will try to bring forth for effective future presentations and client meetings.


My iLearn2 souvenirs: Being blue feels golden

As a “gold mine,” I’m the type of group member that plays a very supportive role. I’ll pick up any slack and go the extra mile to get to things done on time. A gold will meet you with incredible effort, but if a team member doesn’t follow through, that trust is forever broken. I have to admit, I do love my timelines and schedules. This comes right down to my colour coordinated highlighting and sticky-noting systems.


Exhibit A: A medley of colours to keep me focused

I’ve learned that this can be both a strength and a weakness in group situations. As a future public relations practitioner, I can rest assured that the planning process and production schedule will be of little issue for me. In public relations it’s undoubtedly important to meet deadlines for clients. Messages must get out to the public at the appropriate time for maximum effectiveness, especially in sensitive situations.

While working on our group assignments, I’ve learned that in future team settings I must remember that not all people approach tasks with the same level of organization as we “golds” do. Just because a task doesn’t get done according to my own schedule, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to hit panic mode quite yet.

At the same time, I scored equally high as a “blue ocean”. This means I take a very collaborative approach to group work. I’m the type of person who adapts to my environment and is very aware of the traits of those around me. I will “mirror and match” others’ tendencies to make people as comfortable as possible. During group work, I often play the role of mediator when other colours may go head to head. I find that I can be a calming influence in a tense situation, which is probably the main reason I was drawn to the PR professional’s role in crisis communication.

The only problem is that my receptiveness to others’ feelings can sometimes be overwhelming. I genuinely care to listen to others’ concerns and try doing all that I can to help. I’m the resident “Ask Jeeves” in my group of friends, whether I’m giving advice or playing devil’s advocate, but sometimes I find myself taking on too much. I’m a classic over-thinker who can overanalyze a situation to death. This is something I’ll have to work on in my future career. Scope is an important consideration in any project and trying to take care of too many aspects can lead to issues with both budgeting and scheduling. (This is certainly something the gold in me would not be happy to deal with.)

In a perfect world, it would be ideal to create a team made up of members from each of the four colour divisions; but I think it’s also important to consider that there’s a bit of each colour tendency in everyone. In future group projects, I hope that I’ll be able to use my heightened understanding of each colour to recognize what strengths can be brought to the table and what voids need to be filled. Maybe it’s the blue in me talking, but I think everyone is capable of tapping into their less dominant colours from time to time, to meet the best interests of the group. Colour categorizations are generalizations, not rules. Dipping into those recessive colour traits is a means to hone all the skills within our personal colour toolkits.


Reading between the (cruise) lines…

After only three short weeks in the CCPR program, I’m already viewing the news around me in a very different light. For my media relations class, I’ve chosen to investigate Carnival Cruise Line’s response to the recent accident involving the Costa Concordia.

While the exact cause of the tragedy remains undetermined, what is clear is that the company’s response to the incident was far from acceptable. A more effectively managed public relations response would have gone a long way in not only consoling the victims, but also in managing the cruise line’s image in the public eye.


Photo credit: The Telegraph, September 25, 2013

Italy Ship Aground

Photo credit: The Huffington Post, September 25, 2013

When I read Carnival Cruise Line CEO, Micky Arison’s first statement after the Costa Concordia capsized, I didn’t know how I felt about the response. His message seemed to express genuine sympathy for the victims and to prioritize the safety of Carnival’s customers and employees.  At the same time, the key word is that I read his statement. After any injury or loss of life at the hands of corporate error, proper PR protocol dictates that the CEO stand up on behalf of the company to take responsibility for the situation.

The world would have to wait another 11 days for Micky Arison to give his first interview on the subject and when he did, his comments were less than reassuring.  Arison trivialized the matter by saying things like, “When you have 100 ships out there, sometimes unfortunate things happen…” He explicitly commented that he didn’t feel the need to get in front of the cameras and stated that he stayed in Miami to manage his brand’s image after the incident.

These few remarks alone make it very clear that Arison was certainly concerned about risk. Only it was the wrong kind.  He was more worried about the toll this accident would take on Carnival stock prices than toll that would be taken on the environment or the victims.

To make matters worse, during his period of silence on the subject, Arison was not entirely out of the public eye. He had enough time to stop by the Miami arena to watch his NBA basketball team shoot some hoops. Arison’s first tweet after the Concordia sank wasn’t a pledge to investigate the accident or to ensure that it never happens again. No, his first tweet read, “Let’s Go Heat.”

Just months before the September 17, 2013 efforts to raise the capsized Costa Concordia, Carnival announced its decision to have board member Arnold Donald take over as CEO of the company.

Then just weeks before, the new CEO released this video/interview with CBS about his intentions to repair Carnival Cruise Line’s image.

While these strategic moves on the part of Carnival do appear to be the more effective public relations tools required to put this plagued past behind the company, I’m still skeptical about the future of the cruise line.  As we learned nearly a year ago when Micky Arison released his initial written statement to the world, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

Diving headfirst into my future career

From a public pool to public relations, I’ve come to realize that I was (for the most part unknowingly) always headed in this direction. Where’s the connection you ask? A quick dip into my past and you’ll be up to speed in no time.

I think I was first introduced to the idea of public relations as a profession back in 2008.  All of the media coverage surrounding the Listeriosis outbreak in Maple Leaf meat products left me fascinated with what I now understand as “crisis communication”. Only a short year later, my interest turned into an aspiration. I got a more extensive peek into corporate communications through my summer job as a promotional brand representative. Although I would say that was probably the point in my life that I decided PR was the perfect career, if I really think back, the reasons for that decision flow much deeper.


My first exposure to the world of marketing and public relations. 

While it may seem a bit unconventional to link your future career to your athletic activities, I think that my eight years as a competitive swimmer have prepared me with an arsenal of tools that I am ready to bring to the profession.


2006, Etobicoke Swim Team. My big second place finish!

As a swimmer you live by the clock- every millisecond counts. I’ve learned the best of time management and organizational skills. Judging by the sea of red ink flagging important due dates in my agenda, I’m hoping these skills will come in handy over the next eight months and beyond!

Competitive swimming is also unique because it’s both an individual and team sport. As an individual, you’re racing the clock and your peers to touch that wall first. At the same time, you’re a contributing member of a larger team. Beyond the obvious necessity for good teamwork skills in a career that centres on communicating with others, this outlook has also helped me relate to key concepts introduced in our media relations class. Vivienne emphasizes that as a PR professional, even though you may be representing an overarching brand or company, it’s always important to dig beneath the “big picture” to find the human element in any story. Individuals are what make the brand. They provide the crucial “so what,” that’s necessary to bring your pitch to life.

Social media also helps bring the stories we tell to life. The opportunity for instantaneous two-way communication with people from around the world is an undeniable asset to public relations experts. I’ve learned it’s not just the ability to spread a message so far or so fast; it’s the abundance of quantifiable information you can receive as a PR pro. Knowing your audience and what’s important to them allows you to deliver a quality message.

But like anything in life, too much of anything is never good. I’m still a firm believer that no click of a mouse can replace the power of good ole face-to-face communication. My goal as a future public relations professional is never to rely on social media alone to make a difference. I want to actively interact with those I’m working with, from contacts and clients to my audience at large.

With the help of the CCPR support system, I hope to one day live up to that very goal.  This program is exactly the warm up I need to build the confidence and skills required to dive headfirst into what the future may hold.