Building Relationships

March 31, 2015

This is another post I wrote a few years ago. I’ve been talking about this subject quite a bit recently, so I dug this up to re-post.

The Message Pub

Social networking. Social media. Online communities. The news is filled with these terms, and conversations with friends and colleagues are sprinkled liberally with references to online activities. Experts abound, with advice on how to navigate this new world, which has become oh-so important.

But what’s it really all about? As a public affairs professional I have heard and read numerous times that this is the new way – we need to obliterate all our old ways of doing things and embrace the new way.

To me, public affairs or public relations or communications is all about relationships, and it always has been. I’ve been a writer for 24 years, and a public affairs manager for 15 of those 24 years. If you want your company in the news or if you want to catch the attention of your customers, you need to build relationships. First I built relationships by phone…

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Junked Up Web Pages: Stop Screaming at Us, All I Want is a Cup of Coffee

February 25, 2015

I wrote this post a couple years ago, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s also still quite relevant, maybe even more so.

The Message Pub

Look here…and here…and here… and……..

I’ve built three web sites for companies myself, and I’ve written and directed the design of two web sites for other companies. So what is the deal with junked up splash pages everywhere else?

A web site is your 24-hour brochure. It is available for anyone to peruse at any time. It illustrates your company personality. You should be putting on your very best face.

My basic design principles have worked well through the years:

1) The most important element should “pop” out at the viewer. That can be either words or graphics.

2) Too many elements confuse the viewer. The eye won’t be able to settle on just one or two items.

3) Direct the viewer. The one (or two or three) main elements should lead the viewer to their next step.

When you design any type of collateral you need to keep your…

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Junked Up Web Pages or Not?

March 31, 2014

Are web sites becoming more succinct and less busy? Is web design trending away from cramming everything possible onto the home page? I can only hope that this nod towards simplicity I’ve noticed is indeed a trend and not just a coincidence.

When I built my first web site over a decade ago, things were simpler. At least the sites were simpler. We had a few pages, some graphics and some image maps. I convinced my boss we needed a web site by telling him it was like a 24-hour brochure.

Web sites are still 24-hour brochures, but as web technology advanced, many of these advancements landed on company home pages, oftentimes creating an incomprehensible mess. Countless businesses insisted (and continue to insist) upon using all the latest developments. I contend this does their business a disservice by distracting and frustrating potential customers. In fact, I wrote one of my very first blog posts on this a few years ago – See Junked Up Web Pages – Stop Screaming at Us.

Admittedly, some businesses offer myriad products and services, and a web site can and should showcase that. Some organizations are so complex and nuanced, their sites become very deep. Sometimes it is necessary; sometimes it is not. For the past 4 or 5 years, sites have become longer, broader and more confusing. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t find their contact information.”? Terrible, especially from a marketing perspective.

Crazy, busy web sites will always exist, but I have noticed more basic sites in the last year or so. Is this because so many people are building their own? Perhaps, but then again maybe the new web technology has become so mainstream that everyone no longer feels the need to use it ALL.

I hope so.


A Simple Social Media Strategy

January 24, 2013

What is your social media strategy? Do you have a social media strategy? And is it working?

My last post addressed the growing popularity of Twitter and the need to determine which social media applications may be right for your company. However, for those relatively unfamiliar with the social media landscape, the idea of online marketing can be somewhat daunting.

Perhaps you’ve started a blog and don’t have any comments. Or you have a Twitter handle but no one is following you. Most likely, you told your colleagues and friends about your online presence and asked them to follow you, so you do have a handful of followers. Now what?

Put yourself in the mindset of your customers. Why are they interested in your company/products/services? What will draw them in? What will retain their attention?

Blog. Post. Tweet.

Engage. Interact. Network. Join.

First, provide information in your area of expertise.  For example, if your business is home restoration, outline steps for consumers to take when a disaster occurs. A financial services company can provide tips for retirement planning. A massage business might focus on the benefits of drinking water.

Once you determine what type of information to present, think about your tone. Social media tends to be more informal than business writing, so you want to sound knowledgeable, yet friendly and helpful.

Ask questions, offer contests and deals, provide open-ended discussion points, ask your customers about their experience(s) with your organization and what you can do to improve — all in an attempt to ENGAGE your customers. The key is interaction. People become more engaged when they can voice their opinion or offer information in return – when they feel they are being heard. The days of presenting your information to customers in a vacuum are long gone.

Join groups, post comments on other blogs, participate in discussions, and become a part of your online industry community. Follow people on Twitter and FaceBook who may be interested in your products/services. They all won’t follow you back, but many of them will.

Lastly, integrate your online efforts with your other marketing – publications, advertising, media outreach etc.

The bottom line is this: Your online interaction is directly proportional to the amount of success you will experience with online marketing efforts.

 


Public Speaking Part II: More Simple Tips for Success

October 22, 2011

I recently attended a public presentation that was sponsored by a Member of Congress. A facilitator welcomed everyone to the event and then introduced the young woman whom the Congressman had sent in his stead.

She walked to the podium and said something like: “Uh, hi everyone, um, I’m uh Jane Smith, and uh the Congressman, that is Congressman Jones, well, uh, he couldn’t be here tonight, but this is important, but he couldn’t be here, so, um…..(long pause)… anyway, he wants to welcome everyone, so welcome, and uh, this is, well, he thinks it’s important because, well, uh…..

You get the idea. I was literally cringing as I sat in the audience. Yet she had boldly strode up to that podium with all the confidence imaginable. Her mistake? I would guess it was lack of preparation. That is the number one mistake most people make.

Maybe you’ve done this yourself. You think, “oh, it’s only 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll just wing it.” Or, “I know this so well, I don’t need to prepare.”

It was clear to me that Jane Smith hadn’t even thought through what she was going to say. Imagine how different her remarks might have been if she had even thought “I’ll say that I represent the Congressman, I need to talk about why he thinks this is important, and then I need to welcome everyone.”

This illustrates a basic principle of public speaking. At the very least, you should organize your thoughts before you speak. Even if you don’t practice exactly what you’re going to say, you know that you need to talk about A, then B, then C – in that order.

If Jane had organized her thoughts, her speech might have sounded something like this: “Hi, I’m Jane Smith, and I represent Congressman Jones, who couldn’t be here tonight. This is an important issue to him because blah blah blah. On his behalf, I’d like to welcome you and thank you for attending tonight.

Not an um in sight.

For a longer presentation or speech, more extensive preparation is necessary. In my earlier blog post on public speaking, I addressed some of these points; I’ve expanded on them here.

      1. Organize your thoughts, as noted above. Think about what points you want to make, and the order in which to make them. Make an outline or talking points.
      2. Research your topic. For example, if you’re talking about your company, make sure you know all the latest initiatives and their status and goals. Gather more information than you think you’ll need.
      3. Write your speech. Revise and edit. Revise and edit again.
      4. Practice. This is by far the most important part of speech preparation, so I’ll say it again. Practice. Read your speech aloud to yourself or your staff. Tape record yourself talking or ask someone to videotape you. Rehearse the speech until you know all the main points by heart. Memorize the entire speech if that will make you more comfortable. Rehearse some more. And then some more after that.

One of the best speeches I ever gave was only 10 minutes long. I was welcoming everyone to a holiday luncheon and shopping bazaar. Of the 200 people in attendance, I probably knew 150. I was very comfortable with this group, and had run many events for them in the past. But for some reason, I decided to practice my short welcome speech. I went over it and over it. I tape recorded myself and watched myself speak in the mirror. I revised it and shortened it. And I practiced some more. When I stood up to speak, I knew the points I wanted to make, the order in which to make them, and I had memorized about 80 percent of the speech. More than 20 people complimented me on that speech. And it was “just” a short welcome speech.

The more public speaking you do, the more comfortable you will be, and the more you will improve. Although some personality types, such as certain extroverts, may be more comfortable in front of an audience than others, if you practice enough and give a lot of speeches, you will become better.

What’s the best compliment a speaker can receive? He/she is a natural! I suggest that most, if not all, of those people we consider to be natural public speakers have had years of practice. I’d like to think that people in the audience of that holiday bazaar I referred to earlier listened to my welcome speech and said, “she’s a natural.”

A few more tips:

      1. Wear comfortable clothes. Don that favorite suit or power tie or really classy shoes. When you feel that you look good, you will be more confident.
      2. If possible, scope out the area in which you’ll be speaking beforehand. Plan ahead if you’ll have a podium or be sitting at a table.
      3. Only use visual aids if they will ADD value to the presentation. How many presentations have you attended where the presenter literally reads the Power Point slides to the audience. Yawn. You don’t want your props to be a distraction. A compelling speaker doesn’t need visual aids.
      4. Pay attention to your body language. It’s best if you appear relaxed. See my earlier post on body language.
      5. Smile. Remember, you’re the star, even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes.
      6. Show your passion for the subject. A LinkedIn comment pointed this out on my last blog. My apologies to the woman who commented; I can’t find the post in LinkedIn. But, she’s right. Hopefully, you’re speaking about something in which you have a stake. Let your enthusiasm and passion come through.

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