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Doing What You Love

We’ve all heard the saying… “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

As much as I believe this saying to be true, there are components of EVERY job that will at some point become tedious or exhausting or downright boring.  For many people (be still, my heart), writing can often be one of these things.

So what to say about this… did you know that writing doesn’t have to be a dreaded part of your work?  There are a few ways to get around this:

  1. Hire someone who loves to write!  Ok, Amber, nice shameless plug there…  Of course, ARticulate loves to write, but that’s the ticket right there.  Not that you NEED ARticulate, but you NEED someone who loves to write.  The passion for the right words, the perfect expressions and phrasing – this passion is what you want to come through when someone reads your book, promotional material, info brochure, etc.
  2. Hire an editor.  Ideally, you won’t have to pay as much since you will have completed the tough work of coming up with all the relevant content.  But having a keen eye look over your material to tweak and finesse the finished product… well, can we really put a price on that?
  3. Set realistic writing goals.  As with any project, it’s good to keep your goal realistic and attainable for YOU.  If that means taking things pretty slowly, and committing yourself to writing one paragraph per day, than maybe that’s what you need to do.
  4. Recognize if writing is not your thing, and if your time and talent are better utilized elsewhere.  We all have different gifts, and that’s something to celebrate, not mourn.  If writing is not among your gifts or passions, then refer to numbers 1 and 2 above.

Hoping you can find passion in your next writing task – whether it’s writing passionately or passionately handing it over to someone who loves to write.

Internal Communication? What’s That?

As a self-proclaimed communications junky, it hurts a little when managers and other business people do not understand what I mean when I tell them, “I can help develop your internal communications strategy.”

So let me tell you what ‘internal communications’ means to ARticulate.  It means having an overall communications strategy that both enhances employee/inter-departmental communications and promotes efficiency in the workplace.

This strategy includes knowing what your specific goals of internal communications are and how you will measure if these goals are being met.  Tools of internal communications can be as straightforward as a standard fax cover sheet, e-mail signature, letterhead and logo use, or how your employees answer the phone when it rings.  These are the types of communication pieces that bring credibility and professionalism to your business and brand.

Other not-so-obvious internal tools may include communication audits or reviews, employee surveys, or intranet portals.  It’s important to regularly evaluate your communication tools to make sure they are still bridging a gap or filling a necessary role.  Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable time putting together communication pieces that no one is reading.

Your employees are your most valuable resource.  Make sure the internal lines of communication are open.

Forms of Convenience

When is the last time you went into a bank, utility company, recreation venue, or other place/service you frequently use to pay a bill or sign up for a class?  …  That’s what I thought.  In this day and age, it is all about how much we can accomplish from home/in front of the computer/our smartphones.  Don’t you love it??

So on the reverse, if you are a small business or service provider, what forms of convenience can you offer your clients and customers?  Do you provide them with the opportunities of paying or signing up online?  This can be as easy as setting up a PayPal account or creating an online or pdf fillable form.

Unsure as to whether or not you are providing your clients and customers with the best online service, or using your online presence to its greatest potential?  Need help creating a pdf fillable form?  ARticulate can help through either training existing staff on the process, or by completing the work for you.

Conveniently yours,
Amber

The Little Things

Ok, so today I’m cheating… here’s a link to a stellar article written by the Professor of Business Admin at Harvard Business School, called “What You Can Learn From The World

She says it so well, so why would I attempt to rephrase it?  Bottom line, it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference.  This goes for ‘loving your neighbour’ (i.e. bring supper to a sick friend), showing kindness to a stranger (i.e. hold the door open even if it means waiting three extra seconds for them), and, in the world of professional communications and public relations, paying attention to the so-called small details.  These are the types of things that will make/break your event.  They are the things that get people thinking, talking and doing.

Add some beauty to someone’s world today… and don’t let it go unnoticed!

Get The Facts

Have you ever been told a shocking piece of news, only to find out a few minutes/hours/days later that it was not true?  It is not only maddening to be caught believing misinformation, but can also be extremely embarrassing.

A recent personal incident reminded me how important it is that we, as communicators, get our facts straight.  And that is certainly easier said than done in today’s world of instant media.  Rumours, gossip, and misinformation can travel at breakneck speed around the world and, if we’re not careful, we can foster the problem by reposting, tweeting, or otherwise engaging with fictional material as though it were fact.

I think one of the reasons why this problem upsets me greatly is that it is a major waste of time and emotion.  Think about it… you read an interesting article or tidbit, become emotionally invested (excited, angry, elated, etc.), and pass it on to other friends, colleagues and coworkers that may also find it scintillating.  When you discover the article is false or sensationalized, you not only feel jipped or duped, but you also often feel guilty or naive about circulating the information to others.

Regardless of the issue, story, media forum, audience, we need to be committed to the facts – finding them, learning them, circulating them, and responsibly communicating them.  For many of us, this is our job.  Plain and simple.

The Social Media Bandwagon

Whether you’re tweeting and posting regularly, just barely LinkedIn, or considering the realm of blogging, you can’t deny the ever-growing and evolving presence of social media in the business world.  It has been referred to as a ‘time-suck’ and as ‘relationship-building’; as a ‘time-waster’ and a ‘money-maker’. 

So what does this mean for you?

Does your business NEED a presence on all social media forums to be successful and do well?  I’d actually advocate for ‘not.’  Unless you are a large corporation that has specific staff working on your social media strategy, it’s better to do one or two things really well than five or six things not well.

So what does this mean for a small business or home-based business owner?  You need to do some research on the different social media sites out there (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.), what can these sites offer your business in terms of audience capture and return on investment, and even more importantly, where is the majority of your target audience spending their time online so you can maximize your audience reach.  These are helpful questions that will help you, as a business owner, determine if and where you need to be in the social media realm.

Feel free to post your social media success stories or lessons learned below.  Have a great day!

Media Relations & Relationships

Media relations don’t have to be daunting or scary, especially for the small or home-based business owner. 

Unfortunately, media outlets and, more specifically, reporters have gotten a bad reputation for ‘spinning a story’ just to sell headlines or hike readership stats.  The reality is most reporters are not devious monsters seeking to put words into your mouth, deliberately making you appear foolish or inadequate in your job.  Most reporters are genuinely interested in doing their best to cover a story and provide accurate news coverage to the public.  So unless you are foolish or inadequate in your job (tongue-in-cheek), you should have nothing to fear.

Here are a few key points to remember when speaking to the media:

  • Take a proactive stance in the media, rather than reactive. Establish key messages that you want to communicate in the interview and get out to the public.  Make sure you or your spokesperson practice/memorize these key messages and find ways to work them into your answer if the reporter asks a pointed or difficult question.
  • Determine which subject you are going to be an expert on and then focus on researching and speaking to those issues.  If the interview strays from those issues, steer it back to the topics you know and can speak to.  Don’t pretend to be an expert on everything.  Nobody is and pretending to be never turns out well for anybody.
  • As often as possible, conduct your interviews face-to-face.  It is said that body language accounts for over 50% of our overall communication.  You will be much more effective in communicating your key messages if the reporter can see your facial expressions and the emphasis you’re putting on different elements of your topic.
  • The only way to ensure your message is the exact message communicated to the public is to pay for it.  Although they can provide excellent promotion and coverage, media interviews do not replace advertising.  Don’t be surprised if and when the media focus on the ‘wrong’ part of your interview or take the story in a different direction.  They’re focused on printing/airing/reporting the info that they believe will be most interesting to their readers or listeners.

What not to do:

  • Don’t say “no comment.”  Despite what you mean by those words, anyone else who hears them hears guilt or denial.  Even if you’re not hiding something, these two words cause media mayhem and public distrust.
  • Don’t say “off the record.”  There’s no such thing.  Think about it.  Even if you say these words to a friend or relative, they now have ‘record’ of it in their minds which could at any time accidentally be repeated or purposefully used against you.  If you truly feel the reporter is a close, trustworthy friend in whom you can confide upcoming projects or events, use your own discretion. 
  • Reporters typically don’t want to burn bridges and aren’t as likely to publish ‘off the record’ or mispoken comments as people think they will.  After all, if they have established a reputable relationship with you, why would they deliberately destroy that?  But if they do, you have every right to refuse an interview with them in the future.  This hurts them more than it will hurt you or your business.
  • Don’t send out media notices and press releases for every little event, program or issue.  Depending on the media outlet, they may receive hundreds of releases and notices every day.  If your business or organization has been bombarding them with releases on every small issue, they may deliberately skip over yours without even reading it and move on to something from a more discerning business or organization.  Make sure it’s newsworthy – don’t waste their time just as you don’t want your time wasted.

Other ways to establish positive media relations:

  • It has been said there is no great value in getting friendly with the media.  They are there only to be used to get your message across and your advertising out.  I disagree with this.  While I don’t necessarily advocate for being extra chummy with your media reps, there is certainly value in developing a relationship with them.  If you can, take your media reps out for lunch every once in awhile to connect in a non-business environment.  Again, this will make it much more unlikely that they would ‘burn any bridges’ with you as an interview source or subject expert.
  • Media love to be contacted and fed information about news in the community, so they tend to treat their reputable sources well.  Be good to them and they will be good to you, typically.
  • Pay attention to the particular needs of your media outlets.  Know when their deadlines are and whether or not they’ll want a photo to go with the story, etc.  Give them as much heads-up as possible before upcoming events or releases.

Have a great week and happy communicating!

Too Busy Communicating…

We all have those ‘times of the month’… you know what I’m talking about… the times when you’re too busy to send that follow-up email, much less see if your socks match.

So what happens when you find yourself at the tail end of one of those periods?  How do you recover, follow-up, apologize, and reconnect with dignity?  Seriously… I’m asking.  Have you seen the date of my last post?  DON’T LOOK!

In my five years in professional communications, here are some key things I’ve learned about people and communicating:

  1. People are understanding (for the most part) – We’ve all been there and had those times.  We make allowances for others faults, just as others make allowances for ours.  Trust in the kindness of others.
  2. It’s ok to say ‘I’m sorry’ – Apologize if you dropped the ball, missed the deadline, or took the project in the wrong direction.  Don’t grovel or start listing all your excuses, even if they are valid or legit!  Just apologize.  Period.
  3. People don’t want to hear the list of excuses – Don’t rattle off all the things you’ve been busy with or projects you’ve worked on.  Just take ownership of the fact that you did not respond or act in a timely fashion as you would have liked.
  4. Make amends – Ask if there’s any other upcoming projects you could provide assistance with and then ‘wow’ them with your efficiency this time.  Or offer them a free product/service or discounted rate.  It’s hard to pass up a good deal!
  5. Set realistic goals – Going forward, set realistic goals for yourself and your business, and make those goals known to your client.  I’m not saying to set the bar low, but be realistic in your expectations of what you and your employees can accomplish.

Between work, family, and other commitments, life gets busy.  Learn to forgive yourself and forgive others when one of the many proverbial balls is dropped.

As these gentlemen so elegantly put it:

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.  – George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.  – Steve Jobs

Empowering Others

What is the attraction to doing communications work for people?  The communicating, of course!

I get to meet incredible people through my work – people like the Hornans who operate Philip’s Magical Paradise in Giroux, Manitoba.
These people stole my heart from the moment I met them – such a humble, kindhearted couple who developed a magic museum to honour and preserve the memory of their brave son, who lost his battle to cancer at the tender age of fifteen.

I had the privilege of developing a website for Philip’s Magical Paradise and, during my time working on this project, re-discovered one of the greatest pleasures in my work… the honour of communicating and empowering others with a new knowledge and ability.  I LOVE teaching people and helping them discover something new that will make their business and, hopefully, life better.

Sadly, many people shy away from new tasks or challenges because they DON’T KNOW HOW or they’ve NEVER DONE IT BEFORE.  I don’t need to launch into a huge explanation of where we would be as a civilization if people like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela had shied away from trying something new and pushing the envelope.

This next week, how about trying something new and challenging yourself to attain another level in your business communications?  The rewards will surely be worth it.

 

Mentorship Inspiration

There are certainly some benefits to working by or for yourself… you call the shots, you set the goals, and you work at achieving those goals through your own determined methods.

But the entrepreneur in me will be the first to admit that even the ‘go-it-aloner’ needs support in the form of a mentor.

A mentor is someone who provides you with honest feedback; willingly discusses projects or goals with you; and challenges and excites you to improve and succeed.

Most of us, even if we work alone, have people who inspire us to be better at what we do and provide us with that honest voice of reason.  These are our ‘go-to’ people who allow us the freedom to bounce ideas back and forth without fear.  And then when we have a winning idea, they cheer us on to success.

I was recently partnered with a mentor through the Canadian Women in Communication’s Shaw Media Mentorship Program.  My mentor is the incredibly talented and hard-working RoseAnna Schick of RAS Creative and, although I have only met with her once so far, I am already blessed for knowing her.  She’s a no-nonsense, hard-working, creative type who loves what she does and does it well.  These are the traits that I admire in her and hope to emulate through ARticulate.

So now that I’ve got you excited about mentor relationships, here’s an event for you – whether you’d like to become a mentor or would just like to find a like-minded mentor.  The Manitoba Canadian Women in Communications Chapter is hosting its season finale, “Solo’s a No-No: Achieving Success through Mentorship,” at The Manitoba Club in Winnipeg this Thursday, April 12th.

The stellar panel features Doug Brown, formerly of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers; Elaine Ali, former VP of Stations with CTV / Bell Media; Lesley McFarlane, Director of the Network Services Project Management Office with MTS Allstream; Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, National Practice Leader, Total Compensation at People First HR Services; and Michelle Sawatzky, Olympian and Morning Show co-host with Golden West Radio.

Come out for an incredibly inspiring event!  Who knows?  You may even find your mentor.