Communication is the Pulse of Life!

Self Improvement

It’s 2017 – Make it Happen!

 

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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

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What Great Listeners Actually Do

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Chances are you think you’re a good listener.  People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average.

In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:

  • Not talking when others are speaking
  • Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
  • Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word

In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, let me make sure I understand. What you’re saying is…” However, recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills.

We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference. With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners.

We found some surprising conclusions, along with some qualities we expected to hear. We grouped them into four main findings:

  • Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to want additional information. Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialog, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.
  • Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening was characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences could be discussed openly.
  • Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation. In these interactions, feedback flowed smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners were seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.
  • Good listeners tended to make suggestions. Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)

While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.

Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skill. Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for:

Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.

Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact.  (This behavior not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings.  Acting the part changes how you feel inside. This in turn makes you a better listener.)

Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying. They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.

Level 4: The listener observes non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. It sounds strange to some, but you listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.

Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light. This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person.  However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.

Each of the levels builds on the others; thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, it may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated.

We suspect that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. Our hope is that this research will help by providing a new perspective on listening. We hope those who labor under an illusion of superiority about their listening skills will see where they really stand. We also hope the common perception that good listening is mainly about acting like an absorbent sponge will wane. Finally, we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.

This post by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman first appeared online in Harvard Business Review.


Start the Conversation and Get Going!

Social Media Are You Listening

People are talking about your brand. Are you listening?

Social media has taken over our lives!!!  That’s right, everyday millions of conversations take place over social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, forums, etc. These conversations are not just happening with friends and families but are also influencing companies. Social media interaction continues to rise as more people use it in both their personal and professional lives, and brands are responding by continually looking for new and innovative ways to engage with them.

All these conversations comprise pools of data, but “listening to the talk” can be challenging.  How can companies make sense of this endless data to determine how and where to listen, identify what consumers are talking about, classify the types of content they are posting, and understand the behaviours they are engaging in?

Brand loyalty, customer engagement, qualified traffic and backlinks are not easy to come by. To get more, you need to give more. When it comes to social media, success comes from listening to your consumers, and providing them with the content they need, at the right time, and at the right place.

Embrace Technology

Those who don’t or have yet to embrace digital technology risk falling behind the needs of their customers. They also risk falling behind in the international marketplace where brands are rapidly ramping up their digital spend. Today’s consumers are digital, mobile, and tech-savvy. They are empowering themselves instead of allowing brands to dictate to them. Leading digital brands like Facebook and Google are redefining the market by creating new benchmarks for customer experience and personalization – so much so that customers today expect personalized services that address their immediate needs.

In short, unless brands can integrate digitally across channels and services, i.e. website, marketing, IT, sales, etc., they will not meet the rising expectations around the customers’ experience. To drive the integration of channels and deliver a seamless, coherent experience at every touch point demands that senior executives (CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CMOs) get involved – to rally all the departments (marketing, IT, call centres, sales) to execute a digital strategy that reorients the whole business around the needs of the customer.

Mapping Strategy with Good Data

The next wave of marketing is all about providing a one-to-one customer journey for each customer – with highly contextual and personalized marketing messages.  It is important to understand the interconnectivity between various platforms and the roles that the different parts of the business play in the customers’ journey.  By tapping into data from a range of different touch points and systems, we can understand and shape the customers’ journey to achieve maximum engagement, conversions, and ultimately brand loyalty.  By capturing customer data at every touch point – from mobile phones and websites, to call centres and membership programs, we will be able to get a 360° view of our relationship with each customer.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Provoking real conversations between your brand and target consumer begins with an understanding of your audience’s desires, online behaviours and their perception of your brand.
  • Listening to what your audience and industry has to say allows us to craft and apply a unique, authoritative voice to content that establishes trust and invites consumer engagement with your brand.
  • Identifying trends, shared issues, and gaps in online coverage drives the creative process while ensuring you deliver content that adds and not distract from the conversation.
  • Social media moves at the speed of light. For brands that can keep up with sharing content, exchanging ideas, and actively engaging in real-time conversations, the rewards are tremendous.

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia


Making 2015 The Best Year Yet!

Happy New Year 2014

There’s something about a new year!  Doesn’t it get you excited?  New dreams, new goals, resolutions, plans, and new directions.

The start of a new year is always filled with optimism and excitement.  Many will see it as yet another opportunity to make significant improvements to their lives – losing weight and giving up smoking usually topping the list.

As we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome a new year, it’s time to reflect, assess and chart a new successful path. We’ve come up with a shortlist of important PR resolutions to start you off.

  1. New brooms sweep clean. If your PR strategy runs in line with the calendar year, it’s time to revisit this essential plan and freshen it up. Rethink your business objectives for the year ahead, and ensure your PR strategy aligns with these goals. Review the success of last year’s strategy, and look for ways to build on successes, strengthen any weak areas, and don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t have a strategy in place, now’s the perfect time to create one.  Don’t put if off any longer!
  1. Ring in the old, ring in the new. Yes we are talking about new media and technology. You know you can’t run away from it, so just EMBRACE!  Social media has and will continue to rise. It is plastered on our foreheads with a V as in Vital.  It is an effective communications tool for most businesses and organizations today. Find ways to use this medium to the max.  Explore the opportunities social media creates for businesses, and expand your online presence by embracing new platforms that support your business objectives. Once you’ve determined which platforms are best suited for your business, dedicate time to making them work.  But don’t turn your back on traditional media.
  1. Value your clients. Your clients and customers are the lifeblood of your business.  Make sure you look after them well – communicate, engage, reward!  Continue to engage them on issues that impact their business through the various communications channels.   For the new year, perhaps it may be wise to review the relationship – is there something you could provide to add value to the business?  Don’t wait to be asked.   And you may want to reward customers for their support and loyalty – gift baskets, concert tickets?  Acknowledge with gratitude!
  1. Amp up your image. Take a proactive approach to strengthening or raising your company’s profile. Keep an eye out for ways to improve your company’s image and reputation. Editorial opportunities can position you as a thought leader, and make you stand out in a crowd.  Make the necessary improvements to enhance your public image and keep striving to be the best while remaining competitive.  People will stand up and notice!

Last but not least, use the fresh optimism and energy that come with a brand new year to create a strong foundation for the year ahead. This will not only improve your chances of a successful 2015, it will put you in good stead for subsequent years of success.

Wishing you great success and happiness in 2015!

Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia.


Images in PR: 7 excuses and solutions

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We’ve found there are six main reasons why PR practitioners and businesses avoid using images as part of their communications.

We thought we’d suggest solutions to these problems so you can start creating more vibrantly eye-catching and interesting content.

“Our product is boring. I don’t think it would be a good subject for an interesting picture.”

All the more reason you should use creative images to enliven your communications. Think of Innocent Drinks. Their product is not unique, but their social media content is awash with images that are unrelated to their product but fit with the quirky image they’re trying to give their brand’s personality.

However, if you don’t think this would work for your brand then you should consider thinking about how you can create an emotive or humorous image in some way connected to your product. Look at this humorous example for Webroot Internet Security.

Another tip is to write down your headline. What first comes to your mind when you read it? Have you used a metaphor? It’s often easier to match a picture to a headline than the whole story.

“Professional photographers are too expensive; I can’t afford to pay for photographs to accompany every press release I send out.”

Professional photographers might not be as expensive as you think. If you plan wisely, you can get a lot for your money.

Rather than hiring a photographer on an individual campaign basis, consider making a list of all the campaign activities you will have in upcoming months so you can think about the images you might like to accompany your documents.

It is much cheaper to hire a photographer for a whole day and take a wide range of shots to build your photo library. This collection of photographs can then be shared with your whole team so they can have easy access to photographs when they’re creating documents and presentations.

“We’re a small company we can’t afford fancy digital cameras, never mind a photographer.”

Don’t underestimate the power of your smartphone or tablet. The number of megapixels on these devices is equivalent to the digital cameras people were investing in only a few years ago. Also the quality of apps, such as Instagram, is continually improving.

Though the images these devices produce might not be of high enough quality for printed materials, they can certainly be used across social media and in blog posts.

“I take terrible photographs; they really wouldn’t be publishable.”

There are two websites worth checking out if you would like to improve your photography.

Writer and designer Adam Dachis has put together a comprehensive guide on Lifehacker that includes a number of lessons for use with digital cameras.

Expert Photography provides a thorough Beginner’s Guide to Photography and more than 250 other articles to help you improve your skills whether you are shooting with a camera or a phone. It’s definitely worth a read.

“I can never get my photographs the way I like them. I would have to buy expensive and complicated editing software or pay someone to edit them for me.”

Photoshop is the undisputed king of photo editing. However, it’s notoriously complicated and expensive. If you don’t want to fork out a whole heap of cash there are great free alternatives.

The best options we’ve come across are getpaint.net and gimp.org.

According to PCMag.com: “Paint.net lives in an interesting space between very basic image manipulation applications like Microsoft Paint and robust big guys like Photoshop.”

Gimp.org is a credible competitor to Photoshop, and it’s free. You can combine it with Photoshop plug-ins should you feel the package is not extensive enough. Read Brighthub.com’s review for details.

If you’d still rather use Photoshop but don’t want to pay for the full package, try Photoshop Elements. It’s a basic version of the full package at a fraction of the price.

“I am unsure of copyright laws so I would rather avoid using other people’s images.”

The Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988 is notoriously complicated and extends to more than 300 sections. Therefore, you should avoid using other people’s photographs unless you are absolutely certain you are not infringing any copyrights.

When you need an image in a hurry, it’s tempting to jump onto Google Images, do a few searches, and see what catches your eye. Of course, many images will be copyrighted. To find images you can freely use, use the advanced search and tick the use rights option that says, “free to use or share, even commercially.” Even then, please credit the original photographer.

The same applies with Flickr, the world’s largest photo-sharing site. Go to the advanced search and select “Creative Commons: find content to use commercially.”

“I find the photographs on these online stock sites are often very cheesy.”

Generally, it’s worth paying for stock photography, although it’s true you have to look hard to find shots that aren’t bland, generic, or cheesy.

There’s a knack to searching on these sites. Try to think of conceptual search terms that go beyond the obvious. You might, for instance, look for metaphors from nature or perhaps the arts.

As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. Take a look at sites such as Alamy, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, and 123RF, and find the cost/quality ratio you are comfortable with. If you want to buy photos and use them without restrictions, make sure you search for “royalty free.”

So, these are just some solutions. What do you think? Perhaps you have some of your own tricks to add. Please let us know in the comments below.

By Adam Cranfield, CMO, Mynewsdesk. A version of this story first appeared on the company’s blog.


‘Tis the Season for Giving Back

The year is winding down, Christmas is around the corner, and everyone’s slowing down to catch their breath as the year comes to a close. With festivities buzzing, we tend to get lost in the excitement of the season. But as always, we ought to take time out to reflect on the year, acknowledge and appreciate the good things, little or big that have touched our lives.

Think of how great the entire year could have been if had we practised the appreciation spirit throughout while applying it to the working atmosphere instead of just accumulating everything in just one space in time. I am talking about a concept that is not new, though it definitely should be more widely practised – corporate social responsibility or CSR as it is commonly known as.

So exactly what it CSR and why is it an important component of our work life?

Defining CSR

“The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”

The definition of CSR is ironically never definite. This time though, the lack of definition could actually mean a good thing. The fact that it even falls under the guise of different names – ranging from corporate volunteerism to corporate philanthropy to corporate citizenship – goes to show just how broad a scope it encompasses. But ultimately, they all stand for the same thing and the common linking factor that ties them together is the intention.

The aim of most CSR programs is quite simply to collectively do good as a business unit. It is an initiative undertaken by a company to encourage a positive impact on external factors outside of the business, like the environment or community. Different companies have their own initiatives set in place which could have been formulated inhouse by a committee or by employing external consultants to draw up appropriate plans for them. Others may just nominate a cause or charity during the year without any long term plan.

If the noble cause hasn’t won you over yet, here are more reasons why CSR should be a mandatory part of any company. Not only would the benefactors of your CSR program gain, it would do wonders internally for your company too!

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The honeymoon may be over..

A recent survey conducted by Gallup showed over 70% of employees do not feel engaged in their current positions. According to the Economist, 84% of senior leaders reported that disengaged employees were one of the biggest threats to their business.

By doing meaningful work outside of the context of work, company pride would be developed and nurtured. Having employees who feel actively engaged would also, in turn, assure employee retention – which is invaluable in the long run. With an increased number of people realizing the importance and value of being socially responsible, implementing a CSR program makes more business sense that dollar signs.

.. but we have a new generation to tap

The millenial generation, otherwise regarded as the overly tolerate 20-35 year olds, tech-savvy, pop culture obsessed generation. They play by different rules – usually wanting to create their own. To many, they may be a frustrating bunch, especially in the workforce, but they are an untapped market with big potential. They are by far an extremely socially conscious generation and wil play an even bigger role in how companies handle CSR by being good corporate citizens.

So how can we engage them in our corporate giving efforts? Here are three simple tips:

Connecting: Millennials get most of their information about a charity or cause through a nonprofit’s website or social media channels. Whether you have an advanced software system that tracks employee giving and volunteerism or you have a smaller company that may email a volunteer or giving opportunity, make sure that appropriate links about the nonprofits are provided. This allows millenials to do their own research and feel connected with the cause the company is supporting.

Involving: Often, companies focus too much on putting their senior executives on boards and don’t engage other employees to represent the company in the community. Millennials usually want to get involved and feel utilized.  To maximize their time, work with your charity partners to determine what type of individuals they are looking for to serve on their boards or committees. Are they looking for individuals with leadership traits or volunteers who can help with events?

Giving: When millennials give, it’s important for them to know that their contribution is making a difference and they can see tangible results. When deciding to get your employees involved in a giving campaign, be selective in the project you are funding. Make sure you are able to tie back the giving to tangible results that resonate with the millennials and share those results with them.

 

Millennials can be great ambassadors if your company’s giving includes and caters to them.  Focus on these three areas and you’ll have a millennial workforce who is engaged in your company’s philanthropic efforts.

To all you folks out there, let this be the season for a little more giving back.  Here’s wishing one and all every success in the brand new year!

By Yasmin Md Basir, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services


The more we get together!

The popularity of establishing a collaborative work culture has been spreading like wildfire. So just what exactly does a collaborative work culture entail?

The notion behind a collaborative work culture is to add an element of openness to business. Contrary to common belief, it goes beyond just having a physical office setting with an open concept. It is the act of coming together and working collectively towards achieving a common goal or goals; it is built on the premise of effectively interacting to create something beyond the ability of any person to produce individually.

Gone are the days of adhering to a strict hierarchy within a company. By having a collaborative work culture, everyone is on an equal playing field, thus facilitating decision making processes which are expected to be more efficient because ideas and thoughts can be exchanged spontaneously across all levels.

Aside from the efficiency and creativity that a more open work space promises, here are some benefits of encouraging a collaborative work culture.

The pinball effect

While working in an environment that encourages and facilitates interaction and collaboration, it is possible to bounce off each others’ thoughts to come up with something that could otherwise be overlooked should the work environment be more closed or “compartmentalised”. This means more dynamic brainstorming sessions which could result in a wider plethora of creative ideas and solutions – and higher productivity as a result!

Putting it out there

Some people are guilty of getting so carried away by work that the people they work with tend to get forgotten or marginalized. With regular collaboration and an open office culture, closer relations and camaraderie more likely to established over time. A tightly knit team would bode well for overall office dynamics, job satisfaction and in the long run, employee retention.

Service above self

On an individual level, a collaborative work culture can train a person to be more respectful, tactful and explicitly conscious of the self and others. By being exposed to different personalities, people learn to overlook individual preferences and reach compromises to benefit the team. Likewise, through understanding how the thought processes of others work, it would be easier to negotiate and find ways to communicate to overcome differences.

Agreeing to disagree

As with any idea that challenges the norm, collaborative work culture has sparked several areas of debate. One issue that is a cause of concern would be the occurrences of disagreements. However, bear in mind that disagreements would naturally arise from time to time anyway, and this applies to companies anywhere or in any office setting. Given that collaborative office culture embraces interactions on a perpetual basis, it is therefore expected that disagreements would occur more frequently.

But every cloud has a silver lining – effective collaborators would see that tension in disagreements can be used as a bridge to come up with something different or with better solutions. People become more aware and learn the working styles, quirks and habits of other members of the company. With that said, the tendency for disagreements to arise would dissipate over time as people learn to respect and accommodate one another.

The key is to realise that it is all about the bigger picture. Attaining glory, so to speak, is no longer about the individual, but rather to tackle the work or task at hand.

A collaborative work culture does not necessarily imply the need to be personal but it does encourage a free flow of communication and thinking between the persons involved with the company. In return, a more enjoyable, productive and engaged work environment would be created.

By Yasmin Md Basir, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services


PR Essentials: Telephone Etiquette!

PR may have made its way to social and digital media, but one of the most important tools to garner publicity is still the good ole’ telephone. We send out press releases when we have news, we email our contacts, but most of our stories are confirmed over a phone conversation with the journalist. Though conversing over the phone plays a key role in enhancing communication with the other person, the importance of telephone etiquette is often overlooked. So before you pick up that phone to call an editor or a media contact, you may want to read the following tips:

Ready first, then get set!

Prepare yourself before you decide to dial that number. By this I mean, be ready with your pitch. Ask yourself – what are you pitching for and why? Why should the journalist give you the time of day? What you say should instantly interest the journalist, so how you start the conversation is important. It’s crucial to have some newsworthy information to talk about. If you’re nervous about talking to journalists, you’ll do better by practising by yourself or with a friend before hitting that dial. Remember those days in school when we had poetry recitals and we spent hours practising to deliver the perfect pitch right? Well, that’s how you go about it. Besides practising what you’re going to say, work towards getting your message across in a clear professional and confident tone. Speaking with enthusiasm adds vivacity to your voice.

Keep the ball rolling!

Giving them enough information when speaking gets your pitch heard. By being quick and concise in your delivery, you up your chances. Always remember, every word you say counts!

Timeliness is vital

Never call an editor when they have a deadline. Avoid Mondays and early mornings. Usually, newspapers have deadlines in the afternoon, and someone who works for a magazine may have a deadline that extends for days. Instead of pondering over when is the best time to call, a better alternative is to introduce yourself and ask “Is this a good time for you? Or if they are too busy and stop after listening to a few lines of your pitch, ask them when you should call them back and call back on time!

Courtesy matters, a lot.

It’s important to be courteous on the phone, no matter who you’re talking to. Do respect the time the editor is giving you, and give full attention to the call. Turn off all other notifications making no room for distractions. You may want to turn off your mobile phone as well. Even the slightest attention lapse will be recognized in your voice when you converse. Speak politely and don’t interrupt when the other party is talking.

Make it clear

Ok, so the editor has listened to your pitch. What next? Do you want them to cover an event? Send a reporter or interviewer over? Make it clear as to what you want. Another important thing to take note is to make sure they know how to contact you if they have any questions. And if you ever think they’ll hunt you down, they won’t, simply because there is a lot of competition for press coverage, so make sure you get back to them asap!

Be persistent, not a pest

It’s good to call back and follow-up on agreements, but make sure you don’t overdo it. If you have already emailed them a press release, give them time to get back, instead of pestering them with phone calls within a week. If you don’t receive a response after a few calls, just let it be. If a journalist or editor is interested in your story, they will definitely respond to your call, so don’t waste time and energy on people who don’t bother.

Empathy helps!

Finally, a formula that always works, talk to your journalist the way you want them to talk to you. Visualize yourself in their position and the way you would want to be treated. The journalist can only interpret your body language from your tone of voice and speaking skills. A pleasant and cheerful speaker will always have his/her way through getting things done successfully.

Developing good phone etiquette will support your PR efforts to establish a good rapport with your journalist. Being a basic part of customer service, this tool should never be underestimated.


Power Up Your Presentation!

Presentations don’t just communicate an idea, but also help start conversations and build relationships. To deliver a good presentation, you need to realize that presentation skills are as important as the information being presented. And remember, it’s not always the facts that sell; it’s more likely the presentation.

Below are some useful tips to power up your presentation and gear up that presenter persona in you!

Be well prepared. 

Good presentations come from good preparation. Great presenters not only prepare, but practice a lot. Plan ahead and prepare your information with the visuals to go along with it. Researching on your audience will help you present in ways that target their interests. So what makes a presentation work? It’s simple – you have to make sure it never gets boring. So try to make the best use of your time and space. In your notes, only write down key points that you wish to elaborate while presenting. Unless you want your audience to sleep, don’t read from the paper or notes, it’ll only make you sound monotone and boring. Be entertaining and informative, instead of reciting facts. Practise makes perfect is the mantra here, practice out vocally and loud as much as you can, but don’t memorize. Rehearsing and memorizing are two different things.

Get closer

People love to listen to presenters who are engaging and interesting. Hooking the listeners with an effective opening that creates an emotional relationship will increase your chances of success in giving a great presentation. A good idea is to start your presentation with something light-hearted, like a funny story. During my days in design school, there was this one lecturer who made self-deprecating jokes while presenting, but believe it or not, we loved attending his lectures! No, we’re not suggesting you to do the same (though it works!) but being an entertaining speaker is an added advantage. Another way to gain the attention of your listeners is to outline what you are going to talk about, why and what are your aims and objectives.

Extend yourself

In presentations, the tone of voice matters. Project your voice to all corners of the room with confidence. Be loud and clear. Don’t use words like ‘’um’’, ‘’ah’’ or ‘’you know’’. In addition, speak slower than you normally do – this makes it audible and easier for listeners to digest what you are saying and also gives them time to think and reflect! Studies show that chances of attitude change are higher when the presenter is emotionally aroused and enthusiastic about the material they deliver. Here’s a tip for that, try to practise talking like your favourite entertainment personality.

Visuals aid

Visuals are important if you wish to create an impact in your presentation. They illustrate and emphasize your ideas. They help focus attention and make your presentation livelier. Besides visual aids, colour, balance, contrast and use of repetition can make your presentation more interesting. This won’t go wrong, we all love pictures!

Beat the anxiety

Some of the world’s famous presenters have freely admitted to nervousness and stage fright. Mark Twain said ‘’There are two types of speakers; those that are nervous and those that are liars’. Even experienced speakers tend to have presentation anxiety. While it’s normal to feel nervous before presenting, this can be disruptive to your continuity. The best way to combat nervousness is practice, practice and more practice. Mike Aguilera, a communication expert suggests changing the word ‘presentation’ to ‘conversation’ to ease off things. Turn that nervousness into positive energy. Consider your presentation to be a normal conversation than a ‘formal’ speech. And don’t worry, with experience, you build confidence, and with time, your levels of anxiety will decrease. Be patient and don’t let go of any presentation opportunities that come your way.

And finally, it’s important to enjoy your presentation. Presenting with passion will motivate your audience to learn and listen, and ask questions.

Here’s wishing you a killer presentation!!


Creativity – Fake it ‘til you make it!

Creativity may have been given the stink eye in the past, dismissed as the ugly sibling of the favoured child that is an impressive resume boasting solid qualifications and credentials. This is especially true when it comes to evaluating an individual’s suitability for a particular job role or position. However, as we move forward with much vigour into the ever competitive work market, more attention and credit are given to creativity and deservingly so! And here’s why!

The world is becoming flat

With international boundaries getting blurred, thanks to globalization, we are all on an equal playing field. While this has proven beneficial in some aspects, it also makes it harder for people to carve a distinct identity for themselves.

Rising of the mass/mess

Opportunities for self improvement and education are becoming more attainable. We now have to rely on more than just book smarts and formal qualifications to ensure we stand out among equally smart, bright and talented individuals.

This is where creativity comes in. Though the definition of creativity can be debated, with different perspectives stemming from varying philosophies, it is most commonly associated with innovativeness, fresh ideas and the ability to think laterally. Some even accredit creativity to be the highest level of mental development!

As such, even industries that do not typically value creativity are now realising how lucrative it can be. Naturally, in traditionally more creative industries, such as communications or advertising or public relations, even more is expected now.

So how do we cultivate creativity, especially if we don’t necessarily see ourselves that way? You can start by seeing your tasks as diamonds in the rough. Learn to be mentally flexible and engage yourself more fully. And then…

Give yourself some credit!

You have to realise that, more often than not, you engage in creative thinking – stuck in a jam and trying to figure a way out of it and how to recoup the time you’ve lost? That can be considered thinking creatively because you are actively engaging your mind to get around the problem at hand.

Once you get over the hurdle of acknowledging that you are actually more creative than you realise, you’d be more liable to trust your instincts. Internalize your accomplishments, no matter how tiny they may be.

 

Be curious & don’t be afraid to look stupid!

Tap on your inner child and be curious – forget your inhibitions, learn to let go! Ask questions, diversify your experiences and explore things that have piqued your interest even if they fall outside your job scope, even if you never thought it would be something you are capable of.

Many of us forget our child-like curiosity. Having gotten so comfortable, or preoccupied, with our jobs, we don’t make it a point to learn new things. Succumbing to this allows our minds to slacken which is a way of hampering the development of creativity. It is important to remember to balance things out.

Set aside time each week to allow yourself to broaden your wealth of knowledge and experiences. It could be a one off activity, like building a model airplane, or something that you would want to pursue for a longer period of time, like learning a new language or sport.

Or you could even do both! Since these activities are meant to be purely recreational in nature, it is more than okay to dabble in a variety of activities as opposed to focus on a particular field of interest.

Use your eyes … and your nose, mouth, ears, hands!

While on the job, most of us are not fully able to engage all our senses because focus tends to be placed on getting the task at hand done in the most efficient way possible. Hobbies allow us to engage the senses that may be dormant while we are at work.

By having activities outside of work, you are building up your repertoire of experiences and sensations. From this, you can draw on more sensorial triggers, and in turn emotional triggers. This facilitates your creative thinking process by giving you more to build your ideas around.

Thankfully, as you can see, inculcating creativity is easier than most people realise. Hone your creative vision and do not get intimidated by learning to see what you cannot see – great opportunities sometimes come disguised.

By Yasmin Md Basir, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services