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Speaking and Training

The New Public Relations

listen - PR is changingWhen users of a consumer software vendor’s product took to the company website to complain about a recent update, they did something unique. They got the software developer to visit the forum for a question and answer session that lasted for an entire week, covering everything from why the UI had changed from previous versions, to why certain features were added or removed.

In the end, not everyone was satisfied, but a few product evangelists came out on social media to talk about the success of that question and answer session.

When critics of your brand can launch viral campaigns alleging misdoing by your company, you need effective reputation management that can respond quickly to pressure. Public relations has become more than just a one-way speaker; you must now formulate a comprehensive strategy that looks at how your brand interacts with its audience and ways to increase that engagement.

Generate Content

Studies from top ORM companies like Brand.com suggest that the content you write directly impacts your search engine standing. Longer content that cites published research from high quality sources tends to score higher in Google’s recent updates. Blog posts that are more than 1,000 words and contain references and links to obscure research data perform well and are considered “high quality” by search engines.

You should not write to the search engine, but include some cues for it to understand what you’re doing. Include keywords in the title, and feature a headline if it’s applicable to what you’re writing about.

Catch All Feedback

The most difficult aspect of reputation management is mastering the ability to actually find the feedback that is having the most impact on your business. For mega brands like Macy’s or Wal-Mart, the community feedback is immediately apparent. Of course, most businesses are managed by just a few people, with mid-sized businesses containing less than 250 employees. That’s why you need to automate as much of the information-gathering process as possible.

You can set alerts through Google or Mention (sweet iPhone/iPad app, just search for it) to have some of this information delivered to you, but it helps if you establish your brand in places where your customers hang out. Some nuts are tougher to crack than others, but giving customers a place like your Facebook page to convey feedback helps connect you with your customers AND do an easier job listening than if they have nowhere to post their thoughts.

Craft a Strong Message

Reflect on what you already know about your audience. Look closely at the metrics you have and plan ways to gather more information about them. Can you add a simple yes or no question to your email submission form that would tell you something useful about your customers? The smallest changes, requiring minimal effort from the user, can help you craft better messaging.

Asking simple questions like “Are you in debt,” or “Do You Own a Home” or “Are you married?” may tell you valuable information about the customers you are dealing with. It also doesn’t require them to do more than check a box.

Warning: Be sure to slowly collect feedback. Virtually nobody is going to fill out a 15 minute survey for you. One or two questions at a time is plenty.

Measure Your Efforts

You should be measuring every element of your marketing efforts. From the moment the customer enters your site, you should know where they came from, the kind of browsers they are using, and form a rough idea of their demographics. Google’s Analytics deliver some of this information to you, including real-time data about who is clicking which links. You can also create events to track more difficult to quantify actions, like clicking play on a video.

Public relations, by definition, also measures your interactions with the public via social media. Measure the rise and fall of your Twitter and Facebook followers to pinpoint specific types of content your audience responded to. Just having a Facebook page means nothing if you can’t measure or explain its impact on your business.

Five Tips for Better Videos

I am really excited about today’s guest post, especially since I am now involved in the #ShutUpShow with my very good friend, Berni and my friend, Noeleen, is fantastic and offers up some great tips for you!! Please let me know which ones you find most useful.

Noeleen McGrath is the President of McGrath Comm. Her firm specializes in executive media training and executive presentation skills coaching. She recently launched a podcast, “Eat The Lens,” where she offers bite-sized tips to help you improve your on-camera performance. You can also find her on twitter as @McGrathComm and on google+.

As an executive media trainer and executive presentation skills coach, I work with many people to improve their on-camera performance. While the executives I work with usually perform at a very high level, occasionally I work with people who are new to being on-camera. Some are even trying to produce their own videos to promote their practices and businesses. Typically I start my coaching sessions with these professionals by reviewing videos that they have already produced. Without fail, I see the same mistakes over and over again. But with a little coaching– and a better understanding of video production—they show great improvement.

Here are some tips to help you improve your on-camera performance and appearance.

FIVE TIPS FOR BETTER VIDEOS

#1 Get some light on your face. Good lighting makes a HUGE difference to your on-camera appearance. The inexpensive option is to go outside. The downside is that if you’re like me you’ll squint in the sunlight. That’s why I invested in a professional video light for my office. I just set it up about five feet from my face and I look like a million bucks.

#2 Keep your messaging tight. Figure out what you want to say and don’t repeat yourself. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see beginners make. They are trying to talk their way through what they want to say and they wind up babbling like a brook. Practice off-camera first. Then record yourself.

#3 Keep your videos short. If it’s just you on-camera, don’t go longer than a minute.  That’s a long time to watch someone, especially if they aren’t really charismatic. If you’ve got some video to cover when you’re on-camera, then you can probably go two minutes.

#4 Make sure your camera is level with or higher than your face. The fastest way to create double chins is to have your camera or laptop shooting up at you. My advice is to buy a tripod for your camera. Or if you need to raise up your laptop– stack some dictionaries or phone books underneath it until the chins disappear.

#5 Smile! Nothing will endear you more to an audience than a great smile. Make it real. Make it warm. You will find that people will forgive most of your mistakes while you’re learning how to perform on-camera if you flash those pearly whites.

Connecting the 5-Year Journey to Discovering You

Photo credit Lyssa Vang

Photo credit Lyssa Vang

[Today’s guest post is by my good friend and co-host of The Shut Up Show, Berni Xiong. As The Shin Kicking Life Spark, Berni helps solopreneurs spark people and spark movements.]

It’s hard to believe I almost let myself whittle away to nothing nearly five years ago. Literally. Two weeks after I kicked my corporate sales job to the curb and started my first entrepreneurial venture in coaching, I got sick with a mystery diagnosis. I was hospitalized for seven days. Unable to work on building the new business. Uninsured. Unemployed. On top of that, I was forced into involuntary anorexia by four doctors who prodded and probed me every day conducting a multitude of tests to find out what the hell was going on inside me.

On day seven, I was discharged with no known cause for my illness, a new parasite in my colon I contracted from my hospital bed, and a $40,000 bill. I seriously just wanted to die.

There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about my 2008 hospitalization. The kind of inner chatter that was happening could have easily moved me to take my own life back then. There were many moments I wished I could die so my son could cash out my insurance policy and not have to see his good-for-nothing mother rotting in her bed with no job and no strength to build a new business.

How different would things be today had I surrendered to the beast?

Phil and I recently had an amazing conversation with Srini Rao of BlogcastFM on our new web show where we got to talking about connecting the dots of our past decisions. Srini said, “If I could push the reset button on my life, I would have done things differently. But if I did push the reset button, we might not be having this conversation right now.”

What Srini says is so profound for many reasons. If you could go back and take away all your mistakes and you only kept the good, you would miss out on a lot of invaluable experiences you’ve learned along the way. The connections you’ve made would no longer be there. Your story would not resonate with a lot of people as a result. And in the very literal sense, you would not be where you are right here, right now.

As I write this, last week I gave a kick ass workshop on selling. It was like magic. I achieved my objectives as the presenter. They got what they wanted as attendees. It was a win-win. It almost didn’t happen that way. I had originally built the curriculum to teach cold-calling and selling techniques the way I was taught over the last decade. After doing my first run-through with my material, I was extremely unexcited. I even gave myself the stink eye. There was no way I would subject anyone to that horror.

So the night before my workshop, I scrapped it all, cleaned my canvas and went to bed. The next day, I delivered my best workshop ever.

berni and phil margaritasPhil texted me after I finished my workshop asking me to meet him for lunch before I head back home two hours away. I said “Hell yeah!” with no hesitation. Two margaritas and one vine later, I realized why I got up from that hospital bed in 2008. Why I kept moving forward even in the darkest times. Days like last week delivering my best workshop ever and getting to hang out with Phil to conspire under the sun while making a difference in the world made every excruciating moment worth the journey to get here.

The shin kick here I’d like to impart on you?

As Phil says:

No regrets. But no repeats.

Berni Xiong (shUNG) is The Shin Kicking Life Spark for solopreneurs and Phil’s co-host on The Shut Up Show. When she’s not kicking shins, she writes about her journey from corporate to coaching at bernixiong.com.

5 Little Known Benefits to Training Your Staff

Hey small business owner: Just because you don’t have a large budget for training your staff doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train your staff. In fact, it’s even more important for you to train your staff, because every member of your team has more than 1 job function, and because 1 untrained employee can cause untold harm to your customers.

Rather than tell you every reason you need to train your staff, I’m going to focus on the top 5 little known benefits to training your staff.

5 little known benefits to training your staff

5 Little Known Benefits to Training Your Staff

Helps staff understand your expectations – Does your staff know that you expect them to greet customers within 60 seconds of walking in the door? Do they know you want the phone answered on 3 rings or less with a “Thank you for calling your business name, it’s a wonderful wine day, how can I help you?” Has this knowledge ever come from you, or has it just been passed from new employee to new employee, getting more watered down each time it got shared? Training is an easy way for you to explain all of these expectations with your team.

Helps staff become aware of (and learn) new tools and technology – Has your point of sale software changed even a little bit in the past 6 months? Is there a new handout you created to explain something many customers have asked about? Have you changed your company website at all? Added any social media to the mix? Has the maximum for requiring a signature for credit card transactions changed? Sure your staff could tell each other, or you could put together a 1 page overview that you give each employee when they start on the day the change is made. And for many, that’s enough. For some employees, they will have questions, have some comments and concerns (often from customers), offer ideas on how to improve things, or simply not understand exactly what has changed. A short training session with your employees can be just what you need to get everyone on the same page.

Helps staff understand the bigger picture – Your small business has rules and regulations. Do your employees understand why? Do they know the difference between something you want them to do (though very important) versus something the law requires they do (critically important and could put you out of business, and your employees out of a job)? A short training session can be used to very effectively explain new laws and any new standards you’re requiring of your employees – as well as the why behind them.

Helps develop shared vocabulary – If your small business uses any industry specific words, a short training session is perfect for teaching (and refreshing) the vocabulary of your team.

Helps reset expectations – Things change. And the longer time your staff is employed by you, the more things will change. Training allows you to say, “We used to do it this way, but now we do it this way.” It allows you to reset expectations and helps your staff focus on what’s most important to your small business.

And one more benefit to your small business training your staff:

It sets you apart from your competition – Many small businesses only train staff when they start, and then they never follow-up with the employee on any of this. If your competitors aren’t doing it, you should be doing it, to retain the best talent, and to stay ahead of your competition.

How can you develop a training plan for your small business staff?

For starters, check out this helpful article at Business on Main.

Also, stay tuned to this site. I’ll be sharing my insights into HOW you can train your staff on a shoestring budget later this week.

Does your small business train your staff? If you do, I’d love to hear about the benefits you’ve found from training. Please leave a comment on my site, and we can learn from each other.

Disclaimer: My blog is a part of an online influencer network for Business on Main. I receive incentives to share my views on a monthly basis.

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