Another year rolls in, yet another opportunity to come up with new resolutions. But, let’s get serious – how many of us actually stick to our resolutions, right?
The start of a new year seems to be the perfect time to take stock of where we are in our lives and the things we’d like to improve upon. Often, though, our best intentions are no match for daily life and we slide back into old patterns. Resolutions are not confined to our personal lives. You can also create impactful resolutions for your business. A resolution, after all, is a decision to do something differently to bring about positive change.
So, if you are ready to make some powerful changes, here are some tips to help you reset your small business in 2017:
Time to Take Stock
Spend some time to look back and take stock of the previous year. As a CEO, you may want to look at the roles you took on within the company, and determine if you can delegate anything to your employees. This will help you keep your eye on the big picture – opportunities for further growth. At the same time, it will empower your employees, give them a sense of personal responsibility and therefore more commitment to achieving team goals.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Running a business takes all of your time and then some, but if you don’t build time in your day for yourself, to take a breather from the hectic pace, it’s easy to burn out and lose your passion. Even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes, be sure to carve out some time this year.
Rest Not on Your Laurels
Keeping your skills current is essential. Whether you’re a restaurant owner, retailer, or marketing manager, it’s important to try new things to enhance your own professional growth. Try a new menu selection, reposition the items on the shop floor, or offer a new service to keep your business up to date. Talk to your customers about what they want from your business and think seriously about how you can implement some of their suggestions to great success.
Face to Face
It’s time to stop relying on emails, social media and mobile apps as an exclusive way to communicate with customers. Deep and long-lasting business relationships are built in real time. Schedule time to pay a courtesy visit to your customers, even if it’s just to have coffee or lunch – let them know how much you value and care about them.
Clean Up Your Workspace
It’s hard to stay organized and on top of your most important tasks and priorities when your desk or office is a mess. Take an hour or two every week to organize the paperwork that is no doubt taking over every inch of surface area. File away the things you don’t need and take action on the things that require it. While a cluttered desk may not be the sign of a cluttered mind, it certainly won’t help you get and stay organized for success.
Tie Up Loose Ends
Set aside at least 20 minutes at the end of your business day to tie up loose ends. Go through your remaining work and make assignments to employees, forward information to co-workers as necessary, respond to email and voicemail messages, file away the things that you need to keep, and toss the rest. Finally, quickly review your appointments for the following day.
Have a Positive Outlook
Running a business can be stressful. It’s not easy, and cash flow is usually an issue. In 2017, try not to get bogged down with the negative – focus on the positives: Where you’ve come, where you’re going this year, and where you’ll be next year. It will help you focus on the big picture – your business goals. Once you’ve focused on what you want to accomplish, your business objectives for 2017 will become clear.
Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and profitable New Year!
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, Corporate Media
“You can’t have a business without having clients and unfortunately, where there are clients, there are also ‘difficult’ clients.”
You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Every business that provides a service, will no doubt, encounter a few disgruntled personalities along the way. As public relations professionals, we’ve all had that experience. Some clients are a breeze to work with. Others can be extremely difficult – the kind that makes you cringe every time their number lights up on your mobile. You know, the ones who drain your energy, criticize and complain incessantly about something you’ve worked on diligently (and see real value in), or an overly needy client who calls at least twice a day to find out why they aren’t in that society magazine yet!
PR is difficult at times. You’re in the middle of everyone, the diplomat between the client and the marketing spiel and between the journalist and the story. So suddenly having to deal with someone being nasty or unreasonable is just one thing that you don’t need. But how do you handle it, when the client is paying the bill?
Dealing with difficult people is essential to our success. When dealing with difficult people, specifically a client, it might seem that keeping peace and our sanity is a tough, if not impossible, task. So how do you find the right balance?
Bottom Line: You bend over backwards when appropriate but you also learn to put your foot down when needed. Even though you may be holding the phone on one end, biting your tongue and stabbing that notepad with your pen, you can turn this around! Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with difficult clients.
Be Open, Be Clear
When dealing with a client, it is better to be clear about expectations at the start of the new business relationship. This is your opportunity to share what type of reporting, results and communication your new client can expect from you. Have an honest conversation about the amount of communication that is most comfortable to your clients and what your agency can provide. However, even clients who appear pleasant, understanding and accepting in the beginning, can become challenging once the contract is signed. It is important to know that while you should aim to be a valued partner, not all requests are feasible. Don’t be afraid to tell your client no – but with good reason. Explain why their request is not realistic or possible. You cannot please everyone all of the time and that’s a fact.
Worth the Trouble
Some clients will send a rude email – out of the blue! Or you may get a harsh tone on your voice mail on a weekend. Then it’s time to ask yourself this question, “Is it me?” If not, it’s worth your while to check in on your client. Ask probing questions to find out what is really bothering him. It could be that he’s going through something that is affecting his personal life, or it could be a trickle down “telling off” from his boss that has nothing to do with you or your work. Be kind, lend your ears and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Sometimes it does have everything to do with you. If this is the case, have an honest conversation with your client, and with yourself. Perhaps, you need to assess and amplify your own efforts.
You are the Expert
For clients that call for constant updates or to give you their own PR ideas (ridiculous as they may seem), remember you are the expert, hired to do the job. Don’t be arrogant – you can either take the ideas into consideration (if worth exploring), or politely give your views as to why they cannot be executed, for e.g. it would end up in the editors’ trash. Explain why you were hired in the first place – because of your specific expertise. Perhaps, this is also a good time to share more information and updates on what you’ve been doing to assure your clients that you’re on top of things and have their best interests at heart. More importantly, assure them that you know what you’re doing.
Be Proactive and Supportive
It’s quite common for some of my clients to reach out to me for advice on matters not related to the work we’re doing. Don’t turn away. If you can help with some input to a web design or business question, become an ally and take the time to problem-solve with them. Or refer them to someone who’s in a better position to help. By offering a solution and assisting with other tasks, you show that you care about their business. This not only builds rapport but also trust and this goes a long way in building a good, long-lasting relationship with your client.
Time to Let Go!
Unfortunately, the client is not always right. If your client is consistently being difficult and your personalities just don’t mesh, then it may be time to take the “D” out and let difficult clients go. While it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep a client within reason, you, as the expert in your field, get to define what is or isn’t working. If your client is making your team miserable, taking up a lot of time better spent working on clients who do respect your work, it might be time to set you both free.
Whatever you decide, always be professional and polite. Be as honest as you can without getting too personal.
For the most part, PR pros love their clients and probably spend more time with them than they do their family. A PR agency should act as an extension of the client’s team. Your interactions with your client should build on one another – after all, you’re ultimately interested in a long-term relationship with your clients, and that is what you should strive for.
Posted by Irene Gomez, Corporate Media
2016: Time to Unwrap Your Potential
Another year has come and gone! Is it me or did 2015 just slipped us by? Again!
Now that 2016 has arrived, many of us are tentatively jotting down resolutions for the new year. Along with personal goals like doing more physical activity and watching less Reality TV (none hopefully in the near future!), I’m sure you’ve spent the final weeks of 2015 refining your business strategy, so much so that you’ve probably not had the chance to reflect.
Fret not, here are some resolutions any PR specialist (PRs) will need to make 2016 their year:
Dump the creativity
Thinking outside the box is so passé. While those so-called creative experts may try to convince us otherwise, we all know that the best ideas come when we’re alone, seconds to the deadline, wired with lots of caffeine. But, in an era where the process is everything, any PRs worth their salt needs to at least play along with the notion of collaboration. 2016 is the year to embrace the brainstorm for what it is – group therapy with a flipchart – and save your real critical thinking for your alone time.
Connect with your audience
PRs should live and breathe the organizations they represent. You may have tried a bit of client immersion in the past, but 2016 is the year to get your “Freak On” as the song goes. Starting on a new hip alcohol brand? Unleash your inner youth – listen to “Five Seconds to Summer” until you know all the words to their songs, watch the MTV Video awards again and again, go drinking in the millennial club. It probably won’t make your work any better nor your head, but it’ll definitely get you a step closer to “connecting with your audience.”
Talk the talk
Touch base, flag up, check-in, sell-in, reach out….. You’ve tried long enough to avoid using PR-speake, but my friend, you know deep down you’re fighting a lost battle. Sure, these phrases don’t really mean anything, but hamming up the industry lingo is guaranteed to boost your clients’ trust in you and make your senior management team take notice. Use it enough, and you may start to believe in yourself too.
Don’t shy away
If there’s one thing we can guarantee in 2016, it’s that another viral craze will come along demanding we stick ourselves to one digital platform or another – probably in the name of some charity. As a professional bandwagon jumper, it’s important for you to be one of the first to get involved – just make sure you’re not the last.
In the same way a pencil makes no noise as it drops unless you’re there to hear it, your hard work means nothing without a steady stream of online updates. The trick to curating a strong professional feed is a lot easier than you think. You don’t need to read articles before you share them, just make sure your post is snappy and includes a personal comment, e.g. “Interesting read … ” or “Great piece from HBR blog… ” Looking like you enjoy your job is also key – jokes and group photos will help build your online brand.
Update your LinkedIn
With top companies trawling the site for talent and ideas, it’s time to embrace the cringe. Add pictures, join groups, and list skills – both abstract (creativity, team work) and specific (blogs) – then watch as the business roll in.
Rise above the norm
2016 is the year of big picture. Avoid getting bogged down in too much of the nitty-gritty by becoming an expert in delegation. The key here is in packaging it up as empowerment. Empower your juniors to take more ownership of administrative details. Empower your seniors to use their specialist knowledge. In no time at all, you’ll have empowered your way to a clear plate and have more time to focus on improving your own skillset.
Happy New Year! May the Force Awaken in Each and Every One of Us!
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
You’ve spent months or even years developing this product – you’re obviously going to be euphoric. But how are you going to build excitement around its release?
Anyone who has been working for months getting ready for a product launch knows the stress and the fear that can run rampant. Much of this is caused by the unknown, the fear that you’re missing something that could go wrong, and completely tank your product launch.
A successful product launch can garner valuable publicity, bring in new customers and help you expand your business presence into new markets.
Your startup or product launch is the first day you will show your “baby” to the world and let the public have a hand at your stuff. A good launch can do great things to your brand and build enough momentum to cut marketing and sales expenditure drastically. Remember the lines on the day before iPhone launch? You might not get that far for your product, but you could still generate a lot of buzz without spending too much.
Product teams have the best product launches when they work according to clear goals, deliver goods on time, and understand what makes their product lovable.
There is no doubt that the product launch phase is complex and critical. But there is little more rewarding than watching a product that you’ve worked on since inception come to life in users’ hands. But achieving this result involves enormous work from cross-functional teams.
Product launches are most successful when you plan ahead for them from the start — well before your product goes to market. The trick is to get the ball rolling in the months leading up to and following the release of your new product.
Every launch should ideally have a pre-launch, launch and post-launch checklist. Here’s how to avoid the common pitfalls in introducing your product to the public.
Pre-Launch: 3 months before the event
- Set your goals, objectives, strategies and tactics and identify tools to measure pre-launch objectives.
- Develop a content calendar that highlights deliverables, themes, topics, timing, and marketing channels you will use to promote the launch and share this with your creative and content team.
- Prepare marketing material such as ads, product information and instructions, infographics, videos, testimonials, announcements, teasers, and entries for various social media platforms.
- Create a pre-launch buzz: search for and engage with key influencers such as bloggers, journalists, leaders in the business/commercial world, volunteers, activists or expert in the field.
- Update your website, social media and offline portals regularly to ensure the latest news reaches your target audience.
- Inform your launch team of key events and activities and clearly assign roles and responsibilities.
- Create, maintain and share a logistics checklist and double check a few days before the launch to ensure everything is in place.
- Create excitement through offering demos, samples, special offers, contests, or coupons. Create your own hashtag too, to create social engagement.
- Send out announcements via different channels.
- Employ extra staff and ensure they are fully informed about the new product; extra hands could be a bonus.
- Appoint several employees as media persons to answer any queries and listen and respond immediately to minimize negative feedback or consumer unhappiness.
- Employees should mingle with everyone to ensure that no outliers are left alone through engaging in meaningful conversation.
Post-Launch (3+ months)
- Use metrics to monitor launch performance and compare with initial objectives.
- Gather feedback and testimonials from customers and channel partners; analyse and develop case studies if possible.
- Track sales and monitor inventory.
- Keep the momentum going with added promotions, enhancements or more advertising.
- Update your audience by telling them how the launch went and create social proof.
- Review what you learnt from the launch and how you can improve in time for the next one.
Product launches are stressful – that’s just the nature of it. But by preparing yourself with the key areas to pay attention to, you can give your customers that magical moment when they find the thing that they didn’t know they were waiting for. And that’s when it gets exciting.
Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia
Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies have changed so much in the decade that the industry is starting to cross over into another popular industry – public relations (PR). Traditional PR agencies, on the other hand, are finding that they’ll have to adapt and work closely with social media to gain that competitive edge.
Historically, PR and SEO have worked in parallel as two separate practices. Now, the walls are coming down and each serves as one important piece of a larger digital marketing puzzle. With the common goal of reaching targeted audiences in a highly relevant way, SEO and PR professionals are learning the value of working together, implementing new tools and practices to exceed previous goals and expectations.
Content is the common denominator between SEO and PR, and the reality is that SEO is no longer a technical skill. In a world where dependence on technology is rapidly growing, PR and SEO can no longer exist on separate teams. Instead, it’s time for them to collaborate.
When PR practitioners use SEO appropriately, they’re more likely to draw their target audiences to their relevant and quality content. SEO is the most underutilized skill and strategy by the PR industry. This is actually a huge opportunity because PR pros aren’t using SEO the way they could be, so there’s really less competition out there, even from some Fortune 500 companies that have yet to jump on board. Small businesses tend to benefit from this merger as well.
What is becoming clearer is that SEO and PR need to work hand-in-hand to take on the largest search engine – Google. Google after all dictates SEO rules! A brand’s PR team should be aware of these trends and work with the media outlets they want coverage from so that they can help fill in the gaps and make reporters’ lives easier. The majority of, if not all journalists, start off a story by doing a Google search.
What approach can PR agencies take to ensure that they make the most of the modern digital marketing space? Well, for starters, throwing keywords at social media tactics isn’t quite the same thing as developing and implementing a plan to reach specific goals. Dropping links to news being promoted on social networks can have an impact but is difficult to sustain. You’ll need to consider the long-term value with SEO and social media to get the most of out of your public relations.
Here are ways you can integrate the two practices to create maximum boost for you/your client’s business:
- Identify your target audience. What are their behaviors and preferences for content, sharing, and media types? What keywords are used in a social and search context? Empathize with their content preferences and the context in which they consume and share. A blogger may have different preferences than say, a newspaper journalist.
- Set specific goals and measurable objectives. These include the number of mentions, comments, links, rankings, traffic, media coverage or other “engagement” metrics. Leverage tools from search engine optimization and social media marketing to track Web-based metrics.
- Determine your mix. For example, blogs, social networks, media sharing, and micro-blogging, to support and execute the strategy. Original content is great but often not practical or sustainable, so consider content curation mixed with original content for better results.
- Identify specific social tools to use. If social networks are the right channel, then determine which network works best – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram? If you add video to the mix, is distribution limited to YouTube or does it make sense to syndicate to Vimeo or other channels?
- Set measurement tools in place. Web analytics and social media monitoring services are essential for collecting useful and reportable outcomes from news SEO and social promotion.
- Identify key individuals and resources to implement. Forecast time, internal reporting, and feedback mechanisms. The most effective social media SEO efforts for PR involve the agency or PR professionals working together with content creators, SEOs, marketers and others in a position to publish and promote content online.
Final thought: The word “optimization” can be defined differently from the early days to now, but one thing remains constant: SEO is essential to any digital marketing plan, and therefore, to any PR strategy. Without optimization, a website would inevitably fall further down search engine results pages and ultimately be ignored.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia