Posts Tagged ‘communications’

9 ways to stay focused in an ADD industry

While I once prided myself on my ability to multitask, I realize now that the “art” of multitasking is an exhilarating whirlwind (Nerd Alert: I actually love being busy – with work I enjoy, anyway) that can quickly sweep up and spit out its victims, leaving them stuck in a tree, jostled, fractured, staring down at a pile of debris and wondering where on Earth to start.

The fact is, in the communications industry, things happen very quickly. There are a lot of Imageprojects going on at once, and, just because YOU plan to devote time to ONE project, it doesn’t mean the people you need to talk to about it will be available that time, or that you won’t get an urgent phone call that interrupts your whole day.

**I’d also like to point out that a lot of us marketing/advertising/writing folks are creative thinkers, and often roll from one great idea to the next before we have time to write them down, and so they are lost and gone forever – or that spreadsheet you were working on when you abandoned it to develop your big, awesome idea – is forgotten about and neglected until you accidentally stumble upon it in your project folder six months later…whoops! Some people call it ADD. I call it super-thinking.**

My point is, I’ve learned that it is crucial to have a strong organization system so that you don’t let things fall between the cracks in your day, week, month, and year. So when your boss (or your client, depending on your work situation) asks you about what time the trade show three months from now starts or when the newsletter is supposed to go out or what the status of a report is, you can answer quickly and definitely, rather than sitting there with the deer-in-headlights stare, filing through all the volumes of information you keep in your head, jumbling the facts, getting frustrated, and appearing unprofessional.

Here are a few unconventional and traditional that I use to stay on top of things:

1. Get a synchronized mobile calendar – and USE it. Most professionals I know have smartphones and computers that use iCal or Gmail or Outlook calendars – which automatically sync up together when you add a new event – but seldom actually take advantage of these features. When you schedule a meeting with someone, put it on your calendar. Invite anyone else who needs to know about it. When you schedule a doctor’s appointment, instead of just taking an appointment reminder card, add it to your mobile calendar. It’s all done with the click of a button, and it’s so easy. Just do it. It will save you tons of worry, headaches, and missed appointments down the line.

2. Print out a six month calendar. Sometimes it’s just easier to see things from a broader perspective. In addition to keeping a tight digital calendar, I keep a six month calendar of only big events, such as our trade show dates, awards entry dates and other important deadlines. I downloaded a blank calendar from the Internet and printed it in landscape mode on legal size paper. That maximizes my viewing so I can now see that two of our biggest events are just four small weeks away, and I don’t get blindsided by big events I’d forgotten about.

3. Use a physical filing system. I prefer a tiered wire manila folder holder so I can see all by big project folders at once, and I have 3-ring binders for those big, hairy projects with lots of sections and subfolders. Everything is within quick reach and organized alphabeticaly for easy access. **This came in particularly handy one night when my boss texted me, urgently asking where he could find the RFP we had received a few days earlier via fax. I did not get his message, so that might have created a small crisis for him – but luckily, by just walking over to my desk and looking at my file organizer, he quickly found the one labeled “RFPs” and found what he was looking for. Crisis averted.

4. Use a digital filing system. Outlook, gmail, and Apple mail all have decent systems for subfolders. I recommend using as many top-level subfolders as possible. No one wants to hunt through 50 subfolders to find where to put one email, but it’s easy to drag it over to one area and drop it. Also, creating and USING folders and subfolders within your computer’s document storage can help you easily find what you’re looking for, which helps when you’re crunched for time – which, let’s face it, is often the case in this industry.

5. Post it. Facebook consumes so much of our lives because it’s a constant stream of information. Often, on my newsfeed, I’ll see an update that reads something like “So-and-so read this article about such-and-such.” So I click on the article and decide I should read it too, but I don’t have time right now. So what do I do? I “share” the post with myself, via direct message or even on my wall under the “Only Me” privacy setting, and come back to it later.

6. Post-it post it. Although technology has taken us strides in information gathering and Imagemanagement, nothing will ever be as effective for me as a good old-fashioned post-it note. Prioritizing my top 5 or 10 action items on a sticky note and slapping it to my desk puts the laundry list right in my face, every day, in person, and I cross off the items as I accomplish them. So that 15 minutes at the beginning of every work day wondering, “Where should I start?” is no longer necessary. It’s all written right there in front of you. And if you have an awesome, creative idea in the middle of another project, scribble it on a sticky, slap it to your computer monitor, and come back to it later. Twenty minutes later or 4 days later – it will still be there until you can follow up with that thought.

7. Take a picture. The other day, I was at a stop light next to a commercial truck that read “Junkman” for a junk collecting service. I happen to have some old broken household items I’ve been looking to get rid of, and I didn’t have time to write down the website, so I snapped a photo with my smartphone. Now, I have the phone number, website, and company name that was on the side of the truck saved on my phone. This works for marketing materials you see while you’re out on the town that you want to remember for inspiration at work, or any other kind of information you want to remember.

8. Project management software. If you are working with a group, staying up to date with what everyone is doing helps projects move forward and tasks get accomplished. There are lots of options available – most have a free trial option – to set up your team on a system where they can communicate their progress with each other and even delegate new tasks. Check out Podio, Zoho, and Basecamp.

9. Client/sales management software. When you meet someone relevant to your business, it helps to have a place to record their information and schedule to follow up with them. I use Salesforce, and I love it! When you talk to someone who is a potential lead, you can record notes on the conversation you had with them, add their contact information, and even store emails you’ve sent back and forth – all in their online file. Salesforce also allows you to set up follow-up reminders, so when a contact asks you to call them back in two months, you have a reminder set up and can easily go in and see exactly what that last conversation was like, so you can pick up where you left off.

As you can see, all these items revolve around one common rule: write everything down. Moreover, write it down where it is easily accessible, where you can see it, where you can find it quickly.

I hope these tips help you be more organized and effective. And please, if you have any tips for me on how to improve my systems, let me know! I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient.

What organizational tools do you prefer? 

Client-based marketing: What’s in it for them?

Sometimes we all get stuck in a creative rut. With the small stresses each new day brings, it’s easy to get wrapped up in tasks and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s why every now and then, I like to refer to the “old greats” for inspiration.

stress-management-technique

Lately I’ve been revisiting How to Win Friends and Influence People, and one principle that’s really struck a chord with me  is “Arouse in the other person an eager want.”

Hmm. That’s obviously what most marketers are aiming to do when they reach out to clients or prospects, but how many of us are actually achieving that goal?

As you may know, in January I started working as Director of Communications at an architecture firm.  I recently received an e-newletter from a vendor that went something like this:

<Vendor Name>

Check out our website!

Hello!

We have an updated website!

Our workers are very experienced and take great pride in their work. We will be happy to give you a free estimate, so feel free to call us at <phone number> to schedule a time for us to bid.

<Pricing list>

We provide our customers with innovative materials…we offer quality installations…We are committed to enhancing your ability to achieve the goal of your building project through our desire to excel…

We would love for you to stop by our showroom. <Address and hours>

Sincerely,

<Respresentative>

My first reaction was to delete this email. They were asking me to visit their website, but why would I want to take the time to do that? I am too busy trying to figure out how to drive people to my own company’s website! And what will they have to offer that others don’t?megaphone

Lots of people say they have high quality products and good customer service. These things just look like empty brags.

Finally, in the last paragraph, they mention my needs, the “ability to achieve the goal of your building project” but even that is vague and they start right back into talking about their own desires for us to come visit their showroom.

So I started thinking, what does our newsletter look like? What do our proposals communicate? What messages are we sending our clients? While I am glad to say I think our messaging focuses on answering concerns of the client, I was able to think of ways that we could be even more client-centered.

Take a step back and look at your marketing message – your e-newsletter, your flyer, your website. What message are you sending? Is it focused on your company’s desires, or your clients’ needs?

After all, as humans, we are all focused on our own needs. No one is going to use my services or go to my website just because I tell them that I want them to. What value am I really offering? How can my business make things easier or more efficient or higher quality for them?

In an effort to keep this question at the front of my mind, I printed off this label and stuck it to the top of my work laptop (sorry boss!) 😉

Have a great weekend everybody!

BlogPhoto

You Only Get What You GIVE

“I suspect that many corporations have begun to understand that they have an important role to play in the lives of their communities, and that allocating funds to support local groups helps them discharge that function and also burnish their image.” — David Rockefeller

During the holidays, we are constantly reminded of nonprofit organizations in our communities that need assistance. On a nationwide and global scale, we see big companies such as Pepsi giving good to causes.

Corporate giving is an old idea, but an important one.  Most of us will agree that it is “good” to be charitable, to donate, to do something philanthropic. However, many small businesses fall into the narrow mindset of thinking of giving as parting with their hard earned money for no ROI.

It is important when thinking about corporate giving to remember your end objectives. You may not see a spike in sales, but you could be creating an opportunity to:

  • Get people talking about your company
  • Cultivate prospects and nurture major client relationships
  • Talk about a new product or service

When you’ve decided that corporate giving is right for your business, here are the next steps:

1. Pick a cause you care about. What are your company values? What are your personal values? Pick something about which you can be passionate.

2. Pick something your target market cares about. Get them involved. Working together builds your relationship and makes them feel confident that your company shares their values.

3. Stick with it. Just writing a check is bland and expected. Once you have an organization that aligns with your values and mission and the values of your consumers, be dedicated to that group. Get creative. Run campaigns. Partner with your nonprofit on something. Give repeatedly. Nourish the relationship you have created with that group and let them and the public know you are serious about getting involved.

4. Integrate.  By combining your charitable donations with things like events, corporate sponsorships, employee volunteerism, marketing, advertising, and public relations dollars, your business will get a much bigger bang for its buck.

There are lots of fun, effective, and creative ways small businesses can give back. Helping a cause your customers and employees care about -– and one that is also relevant to your business -– can reap tangible and intangible benefits for your public image, your shareholders, and your community (via e-releases.com.)

This post was originally created for Consumer Pulse Marketing.

Generation Telephonophobic?

“Allison,” my supervisor said, “can you please call this list of organizations, and see if they’d like to be involved in our event? See if you can schedule a time for us to meet with them next week.”

“Of course!” I’d reply. But I dreaded the terrifying task. I would go over and over in my mind what I might say to these unsuspecting strangers. What if I forgot what company they were with, or why I was calling? What if they were rude? My young hands shaking, I’d reach for the receiver and dial, holding my breath, staring at a script I’d made for myself for just about any scenario. And then – I’d get a voicemail. Oh no! I had not prepared for this! What should I say? What information should I give? What if the machine cuts me off? Beeeeeep. Show time. 

These mini panic attacks over simple phone calls were common to me when I first began my internships, despite my college experience as a telephone interviewer. And so, it’s bittersweet for me now to see my interns, who may have even less experience, try to mask their terror when I ask them to make calls.

Is it just me, or does no one know how to use a telephone anymore? Sure, we can use a cell phone to text, email, play games, find information, and so on – but can we still use it to actually call someone? Is my generation so used to zapping information back and forth at the speed of satellite that we are unable have real conversations?

In this information age I am finding myself at a loss. As a PR professional, I pride myself on my ability to communicate both efficiently and politely; however, I am finding myself questioning those skills.

Holding telephone conversations is becoming a lost art, and it is  a skill that young professionals must develop in order to be in the communications business. Check out these phone strategy tips, courtesy of Regina M. Robo. 

Phone strategy

  • Treat the call as if it were a meeting – have a purpose, and an agenda.
  • Decide what you’ll do if someone answers other than the person you’re calling. Would you prefer to leave a message, go to voice mail, or call back later?
  • If you’re on a scheduled call, be at your desk at the appointed time.
  • Learn the names of the people who answer the phones at the numbers you call most frequently. Speak pleasantly to them, and if you talk to them very frequently, send them a card or gift on their birthday or over the holidays.

What do you think? Do you know anyone who is afraid of the phone? What  bad or awkward habits have you experienced during phone conversations? What advice do you have for young communicators?