Category Archives: Communication

My Brain Trust Weekly: Practicing PR in a Digital World

Blog

freeimage-10531619

[title]

[date]

While I have broadened the scope of my experience over the years to marketing and communications, I came up practicing public relations. My education started in the late 80s under one of Seattle’s top PR practitioners, and I was lucky enough to work with her for 10 years and learn from a master. I moved on to manage the PR functions for two large organizations, became accredited in public relations (APR), and served as President of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America – and so I have a strong understanding of the profession.

Back then, it was all about getting to know the journalists covering the industry you worked in, wining and dining them, pitching them on your product or service, and getting the coverage. And while some of this still holds true today, much has changed with the advent of technology and social media.

Today, a PR professional’s job is still to strategically place stories, but given the changes (read: loss) in the print industry, coupled with the proliferation of blogs and online mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, etc, to whom and the way one pitches has changed. It’s now about more than just pushing out your message, it’s about content creation and engaging your audience (i.e. the reporter or blogger) in a two-way conversation.

In The Evolution of Public Relations, Beth Ann McDonald writes:

According to Jack Leslie, Chairman at Weber Shandwick, PR has moved from a broadcast model to an engagement model, meaning PR professionals are in a constant two-way conversation with the media. Now PR specialist are focusing less and less on traditional efforts and are trying to make outreach and engagement with the media more organic. By doing so, the messages that we are offering to editors seem more natural and specific to their interests, rather than a mass email that reads very generic and regulated.

The Brain Trust resources below delve into more detail about the transformation that is taking place. They outline the types of skills one must have to become a successful practitioner, and show what a great campaign looks like. From my perspective, I think the job has become much more interesting!

Public relations in 2018 (Stephen Waddington)
Here’s my analysis of the opportunities and challenges that I believe public relations faces in the next 12 months. They’re not so much predictions as a work in progress. This is an article and deck about the outlook for public relations and social media in 2018. It’s based on insight from my day job working at Ketchum and incorporates crowdsourced feedback to an initial draft.

The Biggest and Most Important Media and PR Trends for 2018 (Forbes)
Reaching out via the spiritual universe, I spoke to some of the best minds in PR today to find out what’s coming next.  Unlike other columns about the future with predictions based on 2016 giving us insights about trends that are already here – People are using social media? No way! – I asked these Seers of Spin to look towards 2018, and beyond.  Many of these PR pros responded directly to me, and others with unique expertise were found on the web.  From Artificial Intelligence to Fake News, content marketing to client communications, here’s what the futurists predict for the communications industry.

Evolving PR Practice: How Times Have Changed (Muckle Media)
As an alumni of Leeds Beckett who graduated 15 years ago, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on three of the biggest changes to PR practice I’ve witnessed throughout my career.

The Future of Public Relations: Trends, Skills, PR vs. Marketing (Study) (MarketingProfs)
Public relations professionals say digital storytelling and social listening are the trends that will most influence the future of the field, according to recent research from the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations and the Association of National AdvertisersThe report was based on data from a survey of 875 public relations professionals (63% work for an agency; 37% work in-house) as well as data from a survey of 101 in-house marketers.

10 Tips for Enhancing Your PR Metrics in 2018 (Ragan)
Another year, another demand for ROI. PR pros will face growing pressure in 2018 to prove how their activities contribute to the organization’s bottom line. Digital-savvy marketing teams could make substantial inroads into traditional public relations turf if PR does not offer relevant benchmarks. In essence, PR could soon become a subunit of marketing.

Are You Ready For PR in 2018? 5 Questions to Ask (KalvinPR)
We’ve all heard the saying that “Any PR is good PR,” but in the BtoB world, having a solid PR strategy can make the difference between just getting your name out vs. getting in front of the right audience with a great story and message. This type of success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While many believe in the power of earned media and how the resulting credibility helps establish image and reputation and ultimately, builds business, not every company is ready to commit the time, resources and thought to reap the most rewards. Here are 5 questions to ask before embarking on a plan.

Posted in:
PR, Public Relations
Tags:
PR, Public Relations

My Brain Trust Weekly: The Power of Blogging

Blog

blogging

[title]

[date]

Are you a business owner who wants more customers? Or an executive, lawyer, accountant, doctor, or [fill in the blank] who wants potential clients to view you as a thought leader or expert in your field? No? Then you can exit this post and good luck to you… you’ll need it.

If you answered yes, when was the last time you updated your blog? What? You don’t have a blog? Then you need to seriously rethink your marketing strategy because as the statistics below overwhelmingly show, blogging is one of the top ways to reach your targets. It is part of a strong inbound marketing strategy, and an expected form of your online presence. Without one, you are losing credible leads to your competitors.

According to Gary Dekmezian in Huffington Post’s Why Do People Blog? The Benefits of Blogging, “Businesses create blogs primarily to expand their online presence, connect with potential customers, promote their brand in a positive conversation, and even generate online revenue. Beyond the immediate results, businesses use content marketing to rank their posts in search engines, thereby generating residual leads and revenue.”

Further, Dekmezian says, “A blog can be utilized as a platform to showcase your knowledge and expertise. Publishing blog posts that are accurate, timely, relevant, and informative will eventually get the attention of industry insiders and earn you recognition as an authoritative source and thought-leader.”

Customers want to know what you or your company is about. It’s no longer just about the quality of a product or service, it’s about your or your company’s point of view. For a business, a huge percentage of those with a blog acquire more customers, says Hubspot. And for individuals in professional services, health care, and other sectors, blogging showcases their expertise, personality, and outlook.

But don’t just take my word for it; check out the Brain Trust resources below who provide powerful data on the subject and well as examples of those who do it well.

Beginners’ Guide to Blogging (Moz)
As web publishing has gotten easier, blogs have become more prevalent. Individuals with little to no technical experience can start up and run a blog using any number of different platforms. Consumers read blogs at greater rates now than ever before. Exact numbers are difficult to find, given how widely distributed blogs are, but there are more than 33 million new posts each month using WordPress alone.

15 Best Practices for an Awesome Company Blog (Volume Nine)
Whether your company has decided to start its first blog or you’ve been blogging for a while, you’re on the right track! A company blog, when done correctly, has the power to drive organic traffic to your site, increase your search rankings, position you as a thought leader in your industry, and, ultimately, boost your sales. However, these awesome results are dependent on whether your blog follows some key company blog best practices. If not, you may just be wasting your time with those occasional posts you write. To help you out, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to company blog best practices. It’s long, but your bottom line will thank you in the end.

9 B2B Blogging Myths That Are Still Alive in 2017 (The Whole Brain Group)
With all the plethora of best-practices listicles out there, you’d think most businesses would find blogging to be a cinch. But the fact is, there are plenty of blogging myths that are still alive and well in 2017. Are you buying into any of these common blogging myths?

How to Write a Blog Post (That Actually Gets Read) (Shopify)
Blogging lets you teach, inspire, and engage an audience—even drive traffic to your products—at scale. It gives individuals and brands an accessible way to share their voice. But that same ease also makes it hard to stand out, especially on an internet where it’s estimated that over 2.73 million blog posts are written every day and video seems to be the biggest crowd pleaser. But that doesn’t mean the blog post is dead. The fact that you’re reading one right now is proof. It just means you need to take a different approach if you hope to rise above the noise.

Blog Marketing: What Is It and How to Do It (The Balance)
Blog marketing is the process of reaching your home business’ target market through the use of a blog. Initially, business owners had a blog separate from their websites, but today, you can easily integrate the two to make it easier for you to manage, as well as easier for visitors to access. Many business owners use a blogging platform, such as WordPress, for both their site and blog. Further, as blogging has grown in ease and popularity, many people have created businesses from blogging all on its own (as opposed to having a business first and then blogging). For example, some food blogs are businesses in and of themselves.

Posted in:
marketing
business development
Tags:
content marketing
lead generation
thought leadership

What’s Your Marketing Strategy for Your Marketing Strategy?

Blog

marketing strategy

[title]

[date]

It’s that time of year when marketers are busy with strategic planning. In any organization it is important to involve top executives in the exercise and vet the plan to ensure consensus, but in a professional services environment (i.e. law firms) this is especially important – without a marketing strategy for your marketing strategy it will fail, no question about it.

Because of the unique organizational structure of a law firm, where there are multiple “owners,” implementation of a firm-wide marketing strategy it is not as simple as it is in other organizations where vetting through a handful of top executives is all that is needed. Rather, you need to ensure that all of the firm’s top partners are on board, and consider how their diverse agendas and perspectives will impact the plan and its success.

Consider a commercial law firm that has practices in a couple of dozen areas – each practice group and that group’s attorneys believe that their practice is the most important and they are all focused on growing that business. But realistically, a firm’s marketing department simply cannot serve them all. To try to do so, without a plan that focuses efforts based on financial, profitability and client data, results in a department that scrambles every day simply to react to the myriad of requests that oftentimes do nothing to support the firm’s bottom line. This renders the firm’s marketing resources ineffective. In a firm that understands the importance of strategy, however, and that has leadership with the wherewithal to back up a firm’s marketing director, there are significant opportunities to build business in key areas. But again, there is legwork to be done in any case, to ensure consensus by the firm’s key lawyers who drive the business.

I can attest to the importance of taking the extra time (and it will take lots of it) to ensure the plan’s ultimate success. Here are some proactive ways to facilitate it:

  1. Annual Firm Retreat: If a firm truly understands and supports the notion of strategic planning, marketing and business development will be at the top of its annual retreat agenda. This is the best opportunity for a marketing director to lead a fruitful discussion with key players to ensure data is shared, digested and understood as it relates to current firm performance and future goals.
  2. Marketing Partner and Committee: No matter what the firm size, at the very least a law firm marketing director needs a credible senior lawyer with whom to partner who “gets” the concept of marketing. This person will be invaluable in helping drive consensus. At a larger firm, a marketing committee comprised of a diverse group of lawyers (in key practices and those identified as future leaders) will not only help drive consensus but will serve as a valuable brainstorming group.
  3. One-on-One Meetings: Once the plan is solidified, identify any groups or attorneys who may be sensitive to a perceived lack of value and who need care and feeding to get to yes. Meet with them to carefully outline how the plan was developed. This step is crucial..not doing so will result in naysayers undermining your efforts throughout the firm.
  4. Broad Communication: Don’t forget to also share the plan broadly with all attorneys and staff as they all have a role in strategic marketing, and to the extent the plan includes a branding component, are the voices of the firm’s brand. They must all understand and agree upon the direction if the plan is to ultimately succeed.

In all cases be prepared to back up all portions of the plan with specific data that supports the plan’s objectives (i.e., why have certain practices been identified as having the greatest growth potential?) and be clear that departmental resources will be focused on those objectives and will not support new activities unless they directly support the plan. This is the toughest part… it may require difficult conversations with lawyers who have always had support for whatever marketing activity they have decided to undertake.

While time-intensive, and sometimes frustrating, in the end this extra attention to detail will bear fruit. In Strategic Planning in Law Firms: Essential Steps for Success, Eilene Spear said, “Law firms doing the ‘same old thing’ isn’t going to work anymore. Despite all the legal industry changes discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, 66% of Managing Partners report that their law firm’s strategy has not changed. It is imperative for today’s law firms to have a strategic plan that evolves with the firm and changes in the market; however, only 24% of law firms report having strategic plans, even though 71% of Managing Partners report that having a strategic plan improved their firm’s performance.”

The numbers say it all and it’s up to marketing and business development leaders to argue the point in their firms.

Posted in:
marketing strategy
legal marketing
Tags:
marketing strategy
legal marketing

That Awkward Moment When You Can’t Read Your Boss’s Cursive Handwriting

Blog

18689340_s

[title]

[date]

“Help! I feel like I should tell people that I work with that I can’t read cursive, but I can’t really think of a way to do this without sounding like an idiot. But, really…I cannot read cursive, at all! 2nd grade was a long time ago and those skills are gone forever…What to do?”

This Facebook post by a 20-something bright young professional whom I mentor really resonated with me recently – as a parent of a teenager in the public school system, I know there are literally millions who are not being taught how to read or write cursive handwriting. I had thought about it in the context of how she would sign her name or write hand-written thank you notes, but never until this had I considered how it would affect her generation’s ability to work effectively with others who, like me, were taught cursive handwriting as a matter of course, and are still using it in the business setting.

This millennial had received edits to her work from a senior executive and couldn’t implement them. Of course it’s not her fault, but she still didn’t want to chance losing credibility by articulating that she couldn’t read cursive. So, what to do? When meeting with her recently, another colleague and I discussed it and counseled her to just say “I’m having difficulty reading your handwriting” or better yet, work with the executive’s assistant to decipher the edits. She was able to do this effectively, but the issue has larger implications.

According to Cursive a Puzzle for Many Young Students, Melissa Nix writes:

The digital age has pushed to the periphery a penmanship skill used for generations. The world of personal computers, email and texting has rendered the handwritten note an anomaly, something that many of today’s students get only from grandparents. Some parents complain that their middle schoolers can’t sign their names.

Linda Spencer delves into the national trend away from cursive handwriting in her excellent article Does Cursive Handwriting Need to be Taught in a High Tech World outlining how the Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards for education lists keyboarding as a required skill, but excludes cursive altogether.

Today the Common Core State Standards allow each state to decide whether to include cursive handwriting in their curriculum. Given the choice more and more states have been choosing to eliminate cursive handwriting instruction from their schools.

So aside from the obvious difficulties in communicating effectively between generations, what other impacts does eliminating cursive have on those not learning it? Serious ones, according to the research outlined in Spencer’s article.

An Educational Summit titled “Handwriting in the 21st Century” held in Washington, D.C. included the attendance of professors, neuroscientists, teachers and interested citizens. Presenters shared cross-disciplinary handwriting research and attendees voiced their opinions about whether—and how—this skill should be taught. Several neuroscientists presented findings ranging from handwriting and occupational therapy to neuroscience research that documents the impact of handwriting on kids’ learning. One of the most remarkable findings came from Karin Harman-James at Indiana University. She presented research she conducted using MRI scans of children’s brains. Her research showed that writing by hand activated parts of the brain associated with language development, while keyboarding did not.

And then there are the historical impacts.

“Who, when several generations have chosen the keyboard over cursive, will be able to read handwritten love letters or historical documents?” asked Dennis Williams, the national product manager for Zaner-Bloser, an education publisher that produces popular cursive instruction curriculum. Certainly Zaner-Bloser has a bias, but he makes a valid point.

“If students can’t read or write cursive, there will be parts of the world they will not be able to access,” stated Patrick O’Neill, an assistant principal in Sacramento, CA. “They have to be able to access the forms of communication available today.”

It will be interesting to see if the art of cursive handwriting can be saved, or if we will become a society where thank you notes are only received via text, Facebook or email, or if in hard copy form, with chicken scratch signatures.

Call me old fashioned, but as I type this post (and am admittedly grateful that I don’t have to do so in long-hand or cursive), I’m somehow still rooting for cursive.

Posted in:
communication
Tags:
communication, cursive handwriting

Recovering the Lost Art of Human Communication

Blog

10113307_s

[title]

[date]

A business trade organization is recognizing Board member contributions during a recent breakfast meeting. Hundreds are in attendance, but there are so many awards that the audience is losing interest and starting to chat with others at their tables. But then the speaker introduces one Board member by saying “when she needs to talk to you, she does it in person…. which is SO POWERFUL.”

The inflection of awe in the speaker’s voice is so strong that it gets the room’s attention and speaks volumes on how as a society we have lost the art of human communication. It seems that every day there are more articles and blogs posts on the subject of technology and how it is impeding our ability to communicate, rather than enhancing it. There are even medical opinions that show a real cost to the human race in the form of a lack of emotional maturity of our young.

In “Technology and Work Relationships: Knock, knock, who’s there?” Marie-Noelle Morency discusses how organizations are being impacted:

No-one can argue that technology has impacted the workplace in positive ways. It simplifies processes and how work gets done. It improves working conditions, increases security, and simplifies communication and the flow and exchange of information. Workers around the world can work on the same document, at the same time, in real time. Technology increases worker mobility, freeing them from their desks, allowing them to work from home, their car or anywhere in the world they have Internet access. Technology supporters claim that technology improves work relationships because it promotes sharing and collaboration.

People who work remotely love the flexibility and work/life balance it supports. On the flip side, the loss of physical proximity to colleagues affects a person’s ability to refine their interpersonal skills, and therefore their ability to build relationships in important ways. Instead of a co-worker break at the water cooler, they’re folding laundry. They can become isolated and lose their face-to-face interpersonal skills, which negatively impacts the workplace relationships they do have. They may be part of a virtual team, but there’s not a lot of space or time for small talk – the way people relate to the work they do that helps build interpersonal relationships in the workplace.

Being in the presence of someone allows us to not only hear what they’re saying, but also to read and assess body language, non-verbal and emotional cues, and determine appropriate responses. Fewer misunderstandings and more opportunities for clarification come along with this kind of communication. This doesn’t even take into account the assumption technology makes of us that we be available 24/7 because, thanks to technology, we are.

So while the benefits that technology provides in the forms of cost and time efficiencies cannot be disputed, we still have to recognize that human beings are built for personal relationships and that a true connection cannot be duplicated any other way but in person.

It’s important for organizations to coach and train their younger employees on the value of taking the time to connect with colleagues and prospects without the use of a smartphone or computer. In “How Millennials Can Best Communicate Face-to-Face,”:

It’s alarming how many clients share with me how often Millennials miss opportunities for promotions or closing the sale due to their lack of face-to-face communication skills.

The article goes on to discuss how a blended communication skill set of high-tech and high-touch would serve any generation well today. However, the biggest communication gap seems to be Millennials communicating face-to-face with previous generations that value such an interaction. For Millennials who want to maximize their influence, they must become double threats and connect with others effectively online as well as genuinely offline.

Whether it’s a meeting, presentation, or group discussion, every face-to-face communication is a ripe opportunity to make an impression and solidify a connection. In order to elevate their influence, Millennials should apply these five rules when engaged in face-to-face communication.

  1. Be prepared. Face-to-face communication deserves forethought. You’ll waste your time and other’s if you schedule a meeting and don’t know the direction or purpose of the communication. Before the face-to-face communication, gather your thoughts and establish the purpose and desired outcome.
  2. Be present. Face-to-face communication deserves full attention. Much like driving a car, if you allow your mobile device to distract you, the likelihood of veering off course increases dramatically. Stay focused on the conversation at hand. Preparedness and intentional note taking will help you stay present. Diffuse the urge to multi-task by getting caught up on email, texts, and social media prior to the face-to-face communication. Do not check your phone unless you are expecting an urgent message at which point communicate the urgent need up front before conversing.
  3. Be attentive. Face-to-face communication deserves full participation. Great conversation is like a tennis match. One person serves up their thoughts and the other reciprocates, back and forth, back and forth. To successfully hit the ball over the net, you must pay close attention to the communicator’s words, body language, and tone of voice. Resist the urge to hijack the conversation with personal stories or anecdotes. Instead add to the dialogue with strong eye contact, clarifying questions, head nods, and a smile.
  4. Be concise. Face-to-face communication deserves brevity. Building rapport with small talk can be helpful but limit it to less than a few minutes. Put a time limit on the conversations so you both can stay on point. Preparation will enable confident and clear communication, and those whom you communicate with will appreciate your focus and clarity.
  5. Be respectful. Face-to-face communication deserves appreciation. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” Great advice. No matter who you come face-to-face with, know that they can teach you something. Respect their perspective and appreciate their experience and learn from it.

Yes, it’s more time consuming at the front end, but you will avoid misperceptions that communicating via technology invariably creates, leading to your success long-term. And, you may just make some new friends along the way.

Posted in:
business, communication
Tags:
business, communication
Saying No to Client

Saying No to a Client and When You Should

Blog

Saying No to Client

[title]

[date]

Now with nearly five years of marketing consulting under my belt, I have experienced the inevitable pitfalls that come with various business development efforts, believe me. Having learned a great amount from these experiences, I now get a very good sense during conversations and meetings with potential new clients on whether or not I should work with them. Although counterintuitive, I’ve learned that saying no is sometimes the better alternative.

When starting out it’s understandable to go for anything that is even remotely in your realm of expertise… even if that means spending hours putting together responses to RFPs. However, after doing so with no results, and then evaluating the types of work I do that I enjoy the most and am best at, I know now that being more selective about the type of client and work I take on is the most profitable approach.  The lessons I’ve learned are applicable to other types of professional service providers, and so I thought sharing them would be useful.

There are many red flags that I now recognize and actually look for before I will consider proposing for new work, and you can get straight to them by asking the right questions in your initial consultation. Of course, listening is key:

1. If they already have their mind made up about what they need. Many times when having an initial consultation with a potential client, they will tell me what they need (i.e. article placement, ad buy, new blog, etc.) And while they may be correct, I am a strict advocate of stepping back and taking a strategic approach. More often than not, the activity that they think they must have right away is not the most important activity to start with and a foundation needs to be built to support other tactics to maximize the investment. Not all potential clients want to hear this because it takes additional time and expense, but not doing so is guaranteed to waste their money.

2. If they are not the decision-maker. I have learned the hard way that you must be meeting with the decision-maker for the project or work to realistically expect a successful partnership. If you’re contacted by a staff member, insist that the decision-maker or senior executive is present for the consultation and that you are confident they are on board or your proposal will go nowhere.

3. If they refuse to give budget parameters or attempt to negotiate your rate. If you are confident like I am that your rates are competitive in the market for similar experience and services, don’t negotiate your rates or the project budget. Your reputation is built upon value for the investment, and lowballing or taking on a project for a reduced rate lowers your brand in the potential client’s eyes and devalues your expertise. Additionally, if there is a refusal to provide any kind of budget parameter for a common project, you should also know that they probably will have sticker shock when receiving your proposal and it may go nowhere. 

4. If they have unrealistic expectations regarding deadlines and/or deliverables. Many times potential clients don’t understand the time it takes to develop and launch a new website, for example, or that a PR professional may not be able to get a cover story in The New York Times. If there are demands for timelines you know may be unreasonable, or expectations for media coverage, this is a problem. You need to be absolutely clear on these points and if this makes or breaks the potential partnership, so be it. Better this than not delivering on your promises while charging them money.

5. If they’ve worked with another consultant on the same project but were unsuccessful. On occasion a potential client will mention that they’ve worked with someone else and it didn’t go well. Do your due diligence on the other consultant’s expertise, and ask questions about what didn’t work. This could be a huge clue into what you might be dealing with.

6. If the project conflicts with your values. One of the best things about having your own practice is that you get to choose the type of work you do and the companies with whom you work. If the company has hiring or operational practices that conflict with your values, or the project is unsavory for some reason, just say no.

So, how do you politely decline prospective work if one or more of these issues arise and do so in a way that protects your reputation? According to Phillip Smith, a digital consultant, you can do so by using the following language, and thus leave the door open to possible future partnerships:

“This project requires more attention that I am able to commit to it at the moment. If you have a project in the future where X, Y, and Z (factors from the list above that are red flags), I’d be happy to have another conversation.”

Or, the more direct, “Based on our conversation and the information that you have provided about the project, the timing, the context, the budget and so on, I don’t believe that there’s a fit here right now.”

In Why ‘No’ is The Most Important Word You’ll Ever Say, Jacqueline Whitmore puts it this way, “Saying ‘no’ will make you a better entrepreneur. It requires some gumption to turn down opportunities. Especially in the beginning, a lot of new business owners worry that they’ll never get another client or close another deal. But don’t be afraid to let one opportunity go if it doesn’t feel right. If you keep a positive outlook, you’ll find that another one will come around and take its place in due time.”

In the end, it’s about trusting your gut and recognizing the signs. Don’t let excess capacity push you into making a decision you will regret later. Taking the time to find the ideal client will always result in a better outcome for everyone involved.

Posted in:
marketing
business development
Tags:
communication

Event Follow-Up is Best Done Under the Glow

Blog

event follow up

[title]

[date]

So you have spent tens, if not hundreds, of hours strategizing and planning your client event… let’s face it, events are HARD. When done well, they require attention to detail that would make a mere mortal blush. From guest list, to invitation design, to venue selection, to catering, to program planning, the amount of resources spent from a time and money standpoint are much higher than many other marketing activities.

Reports vary as to the number, but at the high end data shows as many as 75% of companies fail to effectively follow-up with their guests after a company event. Why? Perhaps because the work involved has been so strenuous and time-consuming, it’s easy to just think, “They had a great time, and so my job is done.”

However, this is a huge mistake and a lost opportunity… a good time had by all is nice, but it doesn’t increase your bottom line. You should be thinking about how to get additional business from attendees to maximize the return of the time, effort and expense your event required.

The suggestions for effective follow-up below assume that you are first and foremost strategic in developing the guest list, and take steps to ensure that your company attendees do the proper homework beforehand as a basis for their conversations during the event. This includes knowledge of what’s going on with the guests’ businesses, industries and competitors; ideas for ways your company can provide new or expanded services; and introductions they can facilitate to other guests.

1. Social Events – Many companies host annual events to entertain clients as a way of thanking them for their business. Some do it so well that clients look forward to them and actually hold the date each year. This is great, but what about afterward? There is only so much value to be gained in showing appreciation, so you should capitalize on the opportunity by reaching out quickly.

A call or email thanking them for attending and specifically mentioning points of your conversation is a great way to personalize the interaction and sincerely reflect your attention. You should reiterate the new opportunities you discussed, mention the other attendees you introduced them to, and suggest concrete actions in moving these conversations forward.

2. Seminars/Webinars – The best use of resources hands-down. Showcasing your area of expertise in front of current clients and prospects is a call-to-action in and of itself, and by virtue of their attendance you have an insight into their needs related to the program and questions they may ask.

Make sure to follow-up with additional data or resources related to the subject matter, and continue to update them on the subject consistently. Direct them to a blog (preferably yours) with current information, and let them know about new developments in the arena via future communications.

3. Trade Shows – Hosting a booth at an industry trade show that is attended by your targets can be an effective way to reach new prospects. Ensure careful tracking of the conversations you have that includes the collection of contact information, and separate hot leads from those that seemed lukewarm or ambivalent. If your company has a salesperson, communicate the leads immediately; and you yourself should also follow-up within a week via phone to thank them for stopping by the booth and propose a call-to-action based on your conversation. Also consider sending a personalized LinkedIn invitation to connect with you… it can give you additional information about their business dealings.

Finally, don’t forget to follow up with those clients who couldn’t attend your social event or seminar…. you have an opportunity to tell them they were missed and provide information on what they missed.

Given what statistics show is a poor lack of follow-up by a majority of businesses, you not only can bring in new or additional business, but differentiate yourself from the pack simply by following-up. And if you do it after a great event or interaction, you’ll have the added benefit of doing so while basking in the glow.

Posted in:
B2B, marketing
Tags:
special event, business development
email marketing

My Brain Trust Weekly: The Continuing Case for Email Marketing

Blog

email marketing

[title]

[date]

With the advent of social media, there has been continuing speculation that it is overtaking email marketing in engaging and converting customers. However, a recent survey conducted by MarketingSherpa shows that this is simply not the case: “Americans actually prefer companies to communicate with them through email more than any other means. More than seven in 10 (72 percent) U.S. adults indicate a preference for companies to communicate with them via email followed by postal mail (48 percent), TV ads (34 percent), print media (e.g., newspapers, magazines) (31 percent), text message (19 percent), social media and in-person conversation/consultation (both at 17 percent).”

Granted, the way to increase effectiveness has changed, according to AWeber, in Common Email Marketing Mistakes“Whether your open rates are suffering or you’re not getting enough click-throughs, there are lots of common email marketing mistakes that even experienced marketers make. The good news is that they can be easily fixed to increase engagement.”

The Brain Trust Resources below outline the benefits and common mistakes in more detail and share best practices for current strategy and usage.

Email Marketing Most Invested B2B Channel in 2016 (B2B Marketing)
When asked which marketing and advertising channels would receive the highest level of investment this year, 82 per cent of respondents cited email marketing as their top priority.

5 Tips to Revamp Your 2016 Email Marketing Strategy (Hinge Marketing)
Email marketing consistently has one of the highest ROIs and when done properly, is a powerful lead nurturing tool. Here are 5 tips to take to help revamp your email strategy in the coming year.

The Future of Email Marketing 2016 Edition (Email Monday)
What will be the most interesting developments and trends in the coming years? Industry experts share their views on the future of Email Marketing & Marketing Automation.

9 Reasons Your Email Marketing Isn’t Getting Results (Hersh PR & Marketing)
Email campaigns are an important step in the inbound marketing process. Individuals who visit your website and express interest in your products or services may not be ready to make a purchase. That’s why you need to follow-up with useful information, continuing to contact them as they move through the buyer’s journey. If you’re not seeing results from your email marketing campaigns, consider if you’re making the mistakes listed below.

16 Examples of Awesome Email Marketing Campaigns (Hubspot)
While email has managed to stand the test of time, many marketers have failed to update their strategies since its inception. So to ensure you’re sending modern emails that warrant some of your recipients’ precious time and attention, we’ve compiled a list of effective email examples to inspire your next campaign.

Posted in:
marketing
B2B
Tags:
email marketing
lead generation

Moving From Internal Communications to Employee Engagement

Blog

Employee Engagement

[title]

[date]

I started my marketing communications career handling internal communications for an international hotel company. Although my position was part of the Marketing Division’s Communications department, I often worked closely with the company’s Human Resources personnel when communicating organizational changes and other related news. And while of course it’s critical for a company to keep its employees apprised of news and take the temperature of employee satisfaction, this is a static, one-way process. Creating a two-way conversation offers an opportunity to more actively engage employees in your company’s business goals so they become your brand ambassadors.

In Internal Communications: Everybody’s Doing It (or Should Be), author Erin Sabo says, “Engaging with employees at all levels of an organization is a critical leadership function. Employees who are informed about the direction of the company and organizational goals will be more engaged in their daily activities. Understanding that business leaders are working together toward a targeted, strategic goal(s) — and that each employee’s position is an important part of fulfilling identified objectives — will lead to a more dedicated, productive workforce. A sense of purpose in the corporate ‘big picture’ will go a long way.”

Research shows four out of 10 workers are disengaged globally. In the U.S., the situation is worse. According to the State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of U.S. workers don’t like their job, creating an environment where many workers are emotionally disconnected from their workplace and less productive than engaged counterparts. (Source: BlessingWhite’s 2013 Employee Engagement Report).

And in How the Best Places to Work are Nailing Employee Engagement, Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith says, “HR leaders bang the employee engagement drum with good reason; employees engaged in their work are likely to be motivated, to remain committed to their employer and to stay focused on achieving business goals and driving the organization’s future. Disengaged employees can drag down others and impact everything from customer service to sales, quality, productivity, retention and other critical business areas.”

Vorhauser-Smith cites programs by companies named as Best Places to Work in Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards as examples of how engagement is impacting their bottom line. Companies including Google, F5 Networks (shoutout to my husband’s employer), Mayo Clinic, Proctor & Gamble, Facebook, and Southwest Airlines are innovating the once static practice.

How are they doing it? By following the following seven steps:

  • They understand what employees are thinking.
  • They create an intentional culture.
  • They demonstrate appreciation for contributions great and small.
  • They commit to open, honest communication.
  • They support career path development.
  • They engage in social interactions outside work.
  • They know how to communicate the organization’s stories.

But this type of cultural shift must come from the top. Mary Knight said it well in her article, Three Strategies for Making Employee Engagement Stick, “The ultimate goal of any engagement effort must be to transform the culture, so the primary goal of a company’s engagement efforts should not be creating an impact plan. An impact plan is a starting point, not a destination. It should serve as an instrument that documents best intentions that team members will act on to boost their engagement. Leaders, managers, and team members who integrate engagement into how they think, speak, and act will successfully boost and sustain engagement.”

Instead of a hierarchical culture where information is pushed out (and down) on a need-to-know basis, companies that trust their employees and openly share company values, show sincere appreciation and encourage questions, feedback, and ideas, are the ones who will enjoy the greatest success.

Posted in:
employee engagement
communication
Tags:
employee engagement
communication

The Brain Trust Weekly – 2014 Marketing Trends and Predictions

Blog

23333216_s

[title]

[date]

‘Tis the season for marketers to develop their strategic plans for 2014. To do so effectively, you must be aware of marketing trends – what’s working, what’s not, and how you can use this information for your business. Here are some great Brain Trust resources covering a variety of disciplines to assist you as you review your current activities and determine where to focus resources in the coming year. Go forth and conquer!

Continue reading