Do you have the context

January 4, 2012

Who are you talking to and what do they already know, feel or fear? As corporate communicators, it is our job to know the answers to these questions before even lifting a pen or typing the first letter of a comms plan. Even when you get the answers to these questions, without organizational history, understanding and, having worked within the company for more than a few months….your communicating without context is groundwork for project failure.

When starting at a company the best CEOs spend months simply listening and then work with teams to lay out 5 year plans in one year bite sized pieces. Your job is to chew on those pieces and create strategies with fellow employees to make these plans come to life. Don’t make the mistake to ignore historic views as, even the most disgruntled, über busy or apparently apathetic team member likely holds the key to the success of comms plans. Why? Communication without context is like giving a speech on the US national mall to Abe Lincoln’s statue – you’ll be do muni acting for communications sake. You need an audience to be engaged for your project to be successful and that takes time, understanding and a whole lot of time. So the next time you get a bright idea, ask yourself if you have the history, the pulse of a company and the support of those already communicating (or thinking they are) to ensure you have not just objectives and activities, but the context necessary for your comms plan to be a success.

Hugs. (read other posts for that context).

Tech addiction.

January 3, 2012

So you got that device you wanted this holiday season. So did your mother, brother, cousin, aunts and scarily enough your children, nieces, nephews and cousins new burns all seem to have as well. The result? Tech addiction. What are the symptoms?

1. Long periods of silence when two or more are gathered for alleged social activity (offline socializing)

2. Being asked to “hold on one sec” while your companion checks their device – more than three times in an hour.

3. Said device, or worse devices, become your new alarm clock/ sleeping buddy/ last thing you check at night/ note book/ main communication tool. If you find yourself using said device in the bathroom…you may have an advanced case of tech addiction.

Tech addiction can have pronounced negative impacts on life. Indeed a diagnosis for tech addition is usually swiftly accompanied by:

1. The afflicted individual having few healthy off line activities. Activities such as hiking, biking, skiing or…worse…swimming have all ceased to even be considered.

2. Real life relationships have been diminished. Afflicted person blames the world’s lack of understanding of the importance of these tech devices as the reason.

3. Multiple device syndrome…person has more than 3 devices always connected to the web and always within 2 feet of individual. Person may also have financial trouble due to incessant app purchases…

Save yourself now! Pick up a hobby for every device you own…and make it an offline one. Have an offline conversation with those showing signs as soon as possible…sending them a message online may not be as effective as an offline hug…

Save yourselves!

*closes ipad…heads to bathroom to get ready for day…turns on Ihome to accompany getting ready…ensures mobile is charged…*

Don’t Make LinkedIn another Facebook

January 2, 2012

Happy New Year. I’ve bitten the bullet and begun to dig deep into my new year’s resolutions. High on the list was updating my LinkedIn profile – a task I highly recommend to all but rarely get the time to do myself. As I sorted through well over 300 connection requests, I realized how many people miss the importance of LinkedIn. They confuse it with Facebook. They mistake connecting for “friending” and thus potentially derail their professional online presence. Thus, my decision to blog today came naturally. Facebook is about friends. LinkedIn is about work and connections – don’t mix the two.

My inbox was riddled with great requests from colleagues in my field and in fields I interact with. Co-workers with whom I have met and worked with and even the odd consultant with whom I have done business. The decision to connect there was easy. Their networks will likely have future business leads for my consultancy and, chances are, we may have tips and advice we can swap digitally should we never be able to make it to the next “networking” meet up. But to the sad few that sent messages about appearance, who admitted to wanting to connect to get access to my contacts to “promote their business” or “link up for drinks”. Alas, with a furrowed brow, I clicked ignore.

In a world where lines are constantly blurred, the decision to keep your online life “professional” is hard enough. Why dilute the one site that can really help with that (LinkedIn) with watery connections? If you are connected on LinkedIn, see it as a professional link. Not all these folks may be drinking buddies, but chances are, your LinkedIn connections are people you may want to work with again.

Just my two cents. Happy New Year. Look out for more frequent blogs – that too is on the new year’s resolutions list (along with drinking more water and finding a way to be successful without working as hard…wish me luck on that last one!).

Hugs! (Professional ones).

Social Media Case Study: A Hairy Success Story

November 11, 2011

Entrepreneurial Headaches Can be Eased by Social Media (photo: Mindsoup)

Digital media is the foundation of entrepreneurial success. The onset of digital media has allowed young professionals the opportunity to dabble in the “side business” without deviating from their day to day career. In essence, the access to niche markets, ease of market research and ability to measure success once could only be accessed by those few business folks with deep pockets for start up marketing costs. Now, digital media (the combination of mobile and social media) can bring business dreams alive.

Enter the personal case study.
A year ago my family invested in a small retail business. In a far fetched and little supported idea I had based on a Miss Universe observation, thousands of dollars in clip in hair extensions were purchased. We were going into the hair business. Me – a woman who could barely style her own hair despite hours of pageant training had been convinced she could be the face of a well researched, high quality hair brand. Money wired. Shipping costs paid. Web connection enabled and boom! The shipment was delayed. I tracked it everyday and I vented on my Facebook page about the delays.
Scared we would lose out on the Halloween hair buying rush (this does not exist by the way), I started the business’

A sample of the pictures posted.

Facebook page and posted information on hair care, hair extensions, photos of women with good hair styles – just in an attempt to keep my friends and family who would be supporting the store engaged in what I was planning to offer – a shopping experience that was based on educated and informed choices.  The page grew to 194 in a week. The shipment was not closer. I prayed. I posted on the business page.
A cousin saw the page. She liked it and recommended it to a friend. My cousin and her friend had curly hair. They shared with me how hard it was to find products that worked for them. They suggested I get a product for “curly cuties.” I listed. I did the research online. I found the supplier. I ordered the products and thanked my cousin for the suggestion.
I kept posting. My screen kept showing me my products were crawling from the supplier. The page grew to around 249. The growth was the only good news. Marketing funds were drying up. My investors worried. I posted some more.
A friend and famous beauty blogger, Afrobella, saw my posts. She inspired me to consider products for natural haired ladies. I did the research. I found the supplier. I ordered the products. I thanked my blogger friend.
Money done. Patience running thin. Halloween passed. I kept posting information on hair care, the products I would bring in and photos. Did I mention money was D O N E?
The page grew to just shy of 300. Shipment reach! Opening planned…of the doors. Money for fancy grand opening spent on the products suggested by the friends. Investors vex.
A local fashion blogger saw the post that we were opening. She came on opening day to do a “feature”. She bought a product. Other customers also read about the opening and shopped. But she wrote about the experience. Others read the blog. We had customers the next day.
Enter the meeting of traditional and new media. A “product launch” was done in San Fernando – in a drug store in the mall. I featured the date and time on the Facebook page. A Facebook friend was the feature’s editor for a paper. I invited her online. She came. She wrote for the paper AND on her blog that was about…HAIR!

A Photo from the ENV Clip In Extension Product Launch

Another friend saw the planned launch. She suggested I film it. She knew a friend who had a film business and could do good work for a small fee. I paid it (account in minus now). Two weeks later an informercial was posted on the Facebook page. People shared it. They liked the fact that a percentage of all profits (whenever they came) would be donated to cancer charities. My family liked that the concept was inspired by my mom. They pressed the like button. Their friends saw the posts = more awareness = more customers.

Via an email, I asked the most followed blogger in T&T, Saucy Trini, to consider sharing a media release I wrote about the store. She did. She shared a link to the store’s Facebook page. The page following spiked. I thanked her.
Customers were encouraged to share their mobile numbers. When sales ebbed, I sent broad cast messages from the mobile phone I bought for the store. To keep costs down a blackberry group was started. Customers shared their “hairy” stories on the Facebook page. I started a blog. We tried Facbeook ads. 300 friends grew to 200 shy of 9,000 fans and customers. The foundation of success was laid. Thank you digital media. Thank you Mr. Zukerberg. Thank you RIM.
The above story is 100% true. It is shared to inspire other start up businesses (not hair please 🙂 ). It is a case study that highlighting that social media helped a small business survive nearly crippling delays by creating an opportunity to build brand engagement even before the business opened the doors. The “Hair It Is” story shows that LISTENING to customers is key to business success and super easy due to social media.
This blog is about Communication Questions. So, having read those 843 words, Why aren’t you using social media for your business again? Social Media works. Try it.
This commercial for Hair It Is and Social media brought to you by, Danielle A. Jones – upcoming speaker at Caribbean Digital expo. Ha! Another commercial! WHOOP! Hair It Is!

To Add or Not To Add? That is the Question!

October 19, 2011

You’ve faced it. A co-worker or person you met casually at a social event attempting to add you as a Friend on Facebook

The Definition of Friend Has Changed Since They Made the top TV Sitcom

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Worse. You are AT the event and a Blackberry is whipped out along with the question: What’s your BB pin – I’ll add you.

Five years ago there were close friends and best friends. Now there appears to be a conundrum caused by the question: To Add or Not To Add. What is a friend and how close do we have to be to add you to my social media world or (gasp) my smart phone messaging list.

Should you add this new person to become their friend?

Are they already a friend because you met them once?

My answer to both? Set rules for yourself and stick to them. The definition of friend has changed a lot since Jennifer Anniston and crew made it seem all fun and games on TV! Digital friends have more potential for ruining your reputation that genuine ones. With the click of a button you can begin digital assassination. With a mobile phone you can misconstrue text messages and take BBM/What’s App etc posts out of context to the detriment of the sender. So you need to set some ground rules and share them so people respect them.

If faced with the Facebook question of adding a person you barely know, consider sending a direct message (inbox message) saying: So great meeting you, I prefer to get to know people a little better before we become Facebook friends. Look forward to meeting up again soon! When next will you be hanging out?

Rude? No.

You acknowledged the friend request, stated your own personal policy and indicated you hoped to meet up again soon. Clear? Yes.

Will some be offended? Yes.

Should you care? No.

Why? If a person really wants to become your friend, they should respect your values. Being clear and upfront about your personal policy is a way of protecting your privacy and digital image. In the world of tomorrow, that image will be priceless. Don’t let fear of being honest cheat you of your future.

What about the add me to your BBM/ Smart phone question? Depends on how you operate your smart phone. In reality you shouldn’t be doing anything on your smartphone (especially Black Berry Messenger) you would not want your grandparents, boss or religious leader to see. If you don’t that’s a whole other risk. However, if you simply prefer a closer link consider saying:

Let’s exchange numbers. I prefer voice calls and texts. My number is…

Direct? Yes.

Opens up to further conversation? No.

What if they ask…? Say. Sorry, I really prefer just to exchange numbers.

Will they decline? No.

By offering your number first you take control of the conversation and show your being open to stay in touch. You also state two ways they can use the technology to stay in touch. Don’t be afraid to say no.

You don’t have to use these phrases verbatim. Just have a personal policy. Maybe you don’t want to be Facebook buddies with your boss or coworkers. I once had a team member that said “I don’t add co-workers to my Facebook”. I asked why. They explained. I had no choice but to respect it…It is after all – social media.

Don’t wait for the question to have a policy people – have your answer ready and don’t be afraid to use honesty to protect your digital integrity.

Who are you talking to?

April 6, 2011

Effective Presentations Are About the Audience - NOT The Presenter

We’ve all been there. Presentations FILLED with information that is probably important. The presentation seems so boring though you can’t focus beyond the introduction and spend most of the time checking out the presenter’s clothes, teeth, eyes, underwear etc rather than focusing on the content of the presentation. To those presenters who have suffered the audience XRAY (where the audience literally looks at you with more detail than even an x ray scanner), I suggest you ask yourself just ONE question before you prepare your next presentation – WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO? Oh and one more question – WHY SHOULD THEY CARE?

Far too often presentations are developed focused solely on the importance of the content to be conveyed. While this approach may seem prudent, and YES much detail should be focused on accuracy and presentation style, such an approach is less the effective. Why? Today, tomorrow and forever audience really care about the W.I.I.F.M. – What’s In It For Me. Thus, unless you take significant time to to analyze your audience considering who they are, what they care about and why they should care about they content your are presenting and THEN tweak your presentation to suit that audience, chances are they’ll just be focused on YOU and miss all the important stuff you over populated those power point slides with.

Basic pre-presentation questions (beyond the alleged one I said presenters should ask themselves):

  • Who is in the audience?
  • What are their main concerns/ interests/ hobbies?
  • Why should they care about what I am going to say?
  • What examples of interest to THEM can I draw upon to help make my points more clear?
  • What doubts are they likely to have about y subject matter?
  • What about me/ in the room is likely to distract the audience?
  • What statements will be most interesting to them?
  • What should I NOT say as it is likely to offend them?

These are just a few. Master presenters cater their ENTIRE presentation to the needs/wants/ desires to their audience. Be a master presenter. Start by just answering – WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?

Go be better communicators

HUGS!

Does time matter?

March 31, 2011

Time Matters when it comes to Social Media Updates

When it comes to social media usage, does time matter? This question dawns on me at 1.15am after crossing 2 time zones and one amazing vacation has left my body in a in time purgatory so to speak. Not having any clue what time it is made me wonder….does time matter when you are speaking to a potentially global audience.

Yes it does. While Facebook and Twitter have given the independent business person/ entrepreneur the opportunity to potentially avoid the cost of PR/ Marketing firms, those who know even basic PR will tell you, failure to understand the social media behavior and consumption patterns of your target audience can without question undermine the success of even the most shrewd social media campaign.

Here are the basic questions to ask when you are about to launch a new social media campaign/ update your business’ profile or seek to get even an iota of attention:

  • Who do I want to see this information?: If you are targeting people under 18 years old…you can’t post at 11am – they may be in school. Targeting the working population? Will posting at 3pm be effective? Probably not. Design your social media updates an actions to match the times your audience is most likely to be consuming the media. Remember, while your audience may love themselves some Facebook, any won’t have access 24/7.
  • What do I want them to do with this information?: Posting an image is great…but posting images that engage your audience is better. “Tag yourself in this product promo and get 10% off your purchases today”. The impact? Your image seen by every “friend” who tags themselves in the photo. Similarly for those who “Retweet”.
  • Is my information interesting enough to generate “buzz” beyond 30 minutes if my sharing it? Be honest and be customer focused. If your information is not exciting to your audience, it will be  a bust. Great you have new products but what if you highlight reviews by customers instead of just saying “hey we have new products”. Social media is about engagement. Fail to engage your audience and you basically have a print ad in a new medium and…that really won’t “cut the mustard” as the ‘Brits’ say.
  • How will I know my social media actions are successful?: If you don’t measure the impact of your social media efforts, you may as well ot use social media. Ask customers where they get information on your products/ services. Run campaigns JUST for your Facebook/ Twitter fans and measure how many people access your services as a result. If you don’t measure, you won’t know if social media is the best channel for your business.

SO timing is important but its not everything. Ask yourselves these questions before you launch you next social media effort. And if you need advice or assistance…ASK nah! Geez!

Hugs!

Communicating In Times of Transition?

February 21, 2011

Want change - take some time to listen

Change communication is a specific area of expertise for Communication professionals. While there are numerous training courses on the subject, I dare say that experts in this field are developed as professionals  go through periods of organizational change and express a willingness to also listen and act on the advise of those who never have.

Confused?

Change happens. So does crap. They trick is to try to make sure when your company goes through organizational change, it is not a period of lots of organizational CRAP! Simple way to do this is to have those who experienced changes before, sit and talk with those who never have. Listening and sharing concerns, and views before the “change campaign” evolves.

Far too often, companies develop the strategies that will drive their organizations through periods of uncertainty/ new management/ new products etc without ever taking significant time to listen to the concerns of the actual employees that will actually work in to move the company forward.

Think of it this way. A car’s engine can be top notch. If you keep focusing on the engine and ignore the tires, at some point the car just won’t be able to move.

My suggestion for an equation to help with communication in times of transition?

30% listening to staff + 30% listening to external stakeholders  + 20% planning +15% execution +5% measurement

I’m not a math person, but that equation can be a great step in helping your organization move through periods of transition. Once communication is two way, open and honest, most companies can survive even  the most challenging of periods!

My mother used to say – listen twice as much as you speak and you’ll notice people will likely consider you more intelligent.

Denise’s loud mouth, opinionated daughter…over and out!