Communicating Community

June 29, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Public Relations 

By Susan Long-Molnar, President

Why is the content from so many web sites canned from some industry source? Back in a day, we advised clients not to use canned newsletters, as the material sounded so impersonal and gave little credibility to building a brand. So why should people ignore this advice when it comes to web sites? This is just another distribution channel (although very influential today). Regardless of the media, the message is like perception…all there is.

Are businesses and their employees really not doing anything in the community because of the slow economy? Although they may be doing less, it is highly unlikely that all efforts to give back to the communities they serve have been squelched. No, more often, we find that there just isn’t enough imitative, time, or know how within companies to communicate what they are doing.

Whether you use a newsroom, press release or community page, your company should be sharing your events, pro bono activity, speaking engagements, sponsorships and fundraising activities, regularly. Don’t be afraid to start it because you don’t have something new to say all the time. We encourage, identify topics and prepare content for our clients. Create an internal survey monthly to gather your potential community news.

Do you have an employee with a particular interest, hobby, sport, or charity which could be a highlight on the web site?

Are you sponsoring a professional organization’s outing? Promote the event, share why you are sponsoring, and anything unique in your participation.

Is someone speaking at a community event soon? What is the topic? Share a description of the organization.

Conduct a survey of your employees on how they feel about the company’s contributions in the community? Share the results you feel are appropriate.

Who is on a community board or committee? Interview and share why this group is important and what are the individual’s goals.

Interview the leader of a charitable organization, share the article, and provide a link to the organization.

And the list goes on…There are more reasons to share than to not do so. Make sure you have a good mix of news and that most of what you are doing is truly helpful to the community. Go for it…as you will not only be helping communicate what is important to your company, but you just never know where you will influence others to support a charity or initiative.

Social Networking Groups: What’s the Value of Joining?

June 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Marketing Communications 

by Susan Long-Molnar, President

I have found over the past year that it is crazy not to join a few groups in Linked In. That’s the first step. The downside is that before you know it, you receive weekly (or more frequent) e-mails when someone has posted a new discussion or event. What is important is how you use the groups so that all of this is not a waste of time.

Selecting a good mix of groups will keep you from social networking insanity. I recommend a couple of national (largely populated) ones in your industry, to keep you sharp on issues and depending on your marketing targeted reach, they may open incredible business referral opportunities for you. Joining a few local ones or those in the geographical locations of your offices will give you the most value. One area which we have recommended to our clients is to spend more time joining groups outside their own industry—where their clients and prospects are members—will usually provide the most opportunities for some serious networking.

So what can you do to get your messages and brand part of the buzz? Here are just a few thoughts…

  • Check out the New Members column on the group’s site. Is there someone you would like to know? Go to their web site, send a message explaining that you would like to connect and mentioning that you are in the same group. Usually, they will review your profile, and probably connect.
  • Promote your events (whether you are attending or sponsoring) to a wider body of contacts
  • Create questions for discussion which either give you information about a particular topic or through the comments, offer opportunities to follow up with potential prospects or referral sources. If it is a question which is related to your expertise or discipline, you can use the material along with your own to craft responses, furthering showing your expertise.
  • Additionally, take the time to enter discussions with your own opinions and be sure to follow discussions. If a group is too large, you can start a discussion in most groups to recommend a subgroup to the manager of the group. This will further identify you as a leader in that subgroup.
  • Drive traffic to your website, by introducing one of your own articles or something you have read recently, with your own comments. This will give you an opportunity for new visitors from the group and hopefully, if there is valuable information on your site, keep them coming back.
  • Most groups are useful for identifying job openings you have with your company, recognizing others in the same group for their accomplishments, and promoting some specific aspect of your business. For example, if I relate a specific PR service on the American Marketing Association group site, our company may become a resource for agencies and consultants who provide strictly marketing services.
  • Don’t assume that you don’t fit a group. Stretching a bit is fine as long as there is some connection to the group. If you sell a product, from shoes to residential property, anyone could need your service at some point. Just be sure not to abuse the time you spend in the group. Often, you will make more relationships when you share your leadership, management style, knowledge about an important topic, then info on the specific products. Most relationships, whether online or face-to-face are first developed based on trust, respect, knowledge, and personality.
  • Be sure to recommend others to a group as this is helpful to them while giving you an opportunity, once again, to brand your own business.

Start paying attention to the groups others have joined, both within your network and beyond. You can also search the Group Directory easily on your site. If you have other successes in joining groups, please share.

MCC Pro: What does ASAP mean? Are we communicating it effectively to our employees?

June 27, 2010 by · 50 Comments
Filed under: Bits and Tips 

by Alisa Crider, PR Associate

ASAP – what does it really mean? According to Dilbert’s comic strip it means “A Stupid Acting Person,” but if you ask the Dr. Seuss’ character Horton, from Horton Hears a Who, it “probably” means “act swiftly, awesome pachyderm.” However, “As Soon As Practical”, “After September, April Possibly” and “As Slow As Possible” are some playful, yet slang, pop culture meanings of the acronym. To the rock and roll fans it is the abbreviation for “Adrian Smith and Project,” a progressive rock band created by guitarist and vocalist Adrian Smith of the English band Iron Maiden. Although that “rocks” for some, I think it’s OK to assume that most people in the business world think the acronym ASAP means “As Soon As Possible.”

Believe it or not, there are hundreds of non-slang definitions for ASAP from various categories including: Information Technology (IT), Military & Government, Science & Medicine, Organizations, Schools, etc., and Business & Finance. For example, to the Navy it means survival – “Advanced Survivability Assessment Program”, which is a naval ship design, but to the Army it means trouble – “Army Substance Abuse Program. It’s the Automated Standard Application for Payment to the US Treasury Department and Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel to NASA. In the UK, it’s the “Association of Social Alarms Providers” and in Slovakia it means “Aeronautical Services and Procedures”.

Most commonly in our business communications, the acronym is used to express the importance of some act. It has higher priority than anything else and will be done in a short period of time. If this act is not done, it typically results in bad consequences that every employee wants to avoid if they like their job.

Besides working for Managing Communications Consulting, I also work at a law firm and as one should know, you can’t mess with the law! I was given an assignment that had to be done ASAP. I had not been working there long and had never been given an assignment with such apparent urgency. A check needed to be signed by the lawyer who wasn’t in the office. After obtaining his signature at a restaurant nearby, I then had a 30-minute drive to the court house to make the crucial deadline. If I drove really fast and didn’t catch any lights, I may have made it to my scheduled dentist appointment. Well, I had to reschedule. It’s funny how priorities can change when you are told something has to be done ASAP. It’s an acronym that brings stress and anxiety to me yet at the same time its exuberating because you know you have an important challenge ahead.

I think ASAP should be used sparingly. When bosses overuse the acronym it tends to lose its urgency. A boss that uses the term sparingly is more likely to get the desired result in a timely fashion.

Anyway, I seem to like the other definitions better. Remember… Always Say A Prayer…or is it Always Stop and Pray?

MCC Pro: Video Impacts Social Media: Here’s how to make the most of it

June 25, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Marketing Communications 

by Rebecca Freeman, PR Associate

While browsing through a website, ask yourself: Would you rather read an article or watch a video? If you sided with the latter, you aren’t alone.

On any given day, YouTube garners millions of hits everyday. Created in 2005 by a few PayPal employees, YouTube is the number one visited social media website by a long shot and continues to grow everyday.

Video allows the mind to relax a little more, thus allowing whatever is on screen to entertain or inform, with little effort on the viewer’s part. This is critical as society is in a time where the public wants their news immediately, and if it is not supplied in a quick, entertaining, and informative fashion, they will find another outlet.

Using video is a great tool for getting your message to the public, however, like any written article, you must grab the viewer’s attention within the first eight seconds. A video is useless if no one sticks around to watch it.

Remember that earlier bit about the public wanting their news as quickly as possible? Keep the video below two minutes at all costs, especially if it is educational. If the video is too long the viewer will probably lose interest.

Make sure you have a story worth telling. Although it may seem obvious, your message will not be heard if no one is concerned with the subject matter.

We have morphed into a “click and drag” society where nothing moves as fast as we want it to. Video allows the viewer an entertaining option to gather information with minimal effort on their part. Take advantage of it.

Anyone Can Be a Consultant

June 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Management Coaching 

by Susan Long-Molnar, President

The recession resulted in an interesting bandwagon for the consulting industry. Although the consulting industry’s roots probably date back to the prophets who were often slain for unacceptable advice to their kings, over the years the need to consult and the need for advice have matured into an industry which I find perplexing.

Understand you are reading this blog from someone who named her business Managing Communications Consulting seven years ago without really having any idea what that last word would mean to my clients or for that matter, to my livelihood. I was just tired of corporate meetings, downsizing, centralizing, decentralizing, and rationalizing the need for effective communications. I just wanted to help business owners and management teams communicate their brand to all of their audiences, engage their employees, and grow their businesses.

Assuming that if you have experience and knowledge you can easily transition from corporate nine to five to the role of consultant by printing the business cards and networking is probably not based on very sophisticated thought processes. Yet, it happens. I have met dozens of newly created sole proprietors identified as consultants, from business to facilities to training and even hired guns for departments which don’t exist. As a professional communicator (notice I didn’t say consultant), when I strike up a conversation, I often find business owners, six months to a year since start up, struggling to communicate anything positive about their status or revenue growth. Instead, for many, the elevator speech shifts with the latest trend or newest potential partner or even worse, leaves the other party totally confused and asking half way through the conversation, “Now what do you do?”

The word “consult” implies that you already know how to do something. If you have experience in identifying issues, analyzing data, implementing strategy, or finding solutions, you might then be in a position to consult. It’s not just about having work experience and skills in an industry. Ironically, what I found was that I was pursued for what I knew how to do, and then, realized when a client relationship developed, my opinion became just as important as the doing or implementing for marketing, PR, or communications. It has taken me several years to realize that clients may not expect me to do anything except evaluate and guide them toward results.

Most of what I know about consulting has come from my clients. The service of consulting often becomes the means for differentiating businesses. The architects and engineers want to do more than design and plan. They want to be viewed as consultants who can offer solutions. Even auto repair shops and spas want to be viewed as more than the provider of very tangible services.

Even if you have the know-how and ability to establish relationships, you may not necessarily be the right person to consult others. Ask yourself or others considering a new business in consulting…

  1. Do you like working alone most of the time?
  2. Have you thought how you will reinvent and rejuvenate yourself?
  3. Is consulting just something to do until you find another position with a company? If so, how are you communicating your goals and interests to others?
  4. Are you realistic in your pricing, marketing, production capabilities, and client expectations?
  5. Have you developed clear boundaries you will accept for your business, from the services you will or will not provide to the compensation you will accept to “get in the door”?
  6. Do you have a communications plan for your business with key messages, a clear value proposition for your services, and the resources to successfully tell your story?
  7. How well have you researched your target markets and have you selected them for the right reasons or simply because they represent an industry for which you have some experience?
  8. How long can you maintain a level of income which may be far below what you have acquired in the past?

And…be sure you understand that you are the bottle washer. You probably will carry out your own trash. Get used to making your own appointments. All the while, don’t lose sight that you are probably the source for the only communications which your potential client will have with your consulting business. Be on…all the time.