strategic communication

“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

Archive for the tag “brands”

How does Your Company Measure Up?

Strategic communication professionals must balance a large variety of tasks every day for their company or organization. Not only do internal communications need to be practiced through e-mail, staff meetings, and feedback options, they also must ensure their external communications are conveying the right message to their audience. This blog has talked about the use of social media, the importance of internal and external relationships, and advertising strategies to reach the most people. Now, after a communications professional has gone through the long checklist of disseminating messages, how does one know whether or not the communication plan is successful?

When thinking in terms of company success, there are many tangible and intangible factors with big roles. Success is partly the big numbers at the end of the year. Were product sale goals met/exceeded? Was a certain product acquisition a good investment in terms of revenue? Numbers and quantitative data are convenient measures of a company’s success. However, another important part of overall success is the audience’s perception of your company. Are your products being received positively or negatively? Does your company’s reputation fit well with the community? Does your company have a long, solid relationship with both the consumers and the community?

Intangible factors like feelings and perceptions can sometimes be most important, but are often not considered. As long as employees get their proper paycheck there is nothing to worry about. Think of what the media defines as successful companies: Apple, Microsoft, and Google. These big name brands are not just successful because their products are used every day—they also value internal and external relationships. These brands have had their share of struggles, but being able to withstand good internal and external relationships for so long has made them trusted names in the world. They prove their worth through their services.

When evaluating a campaign, it is important to go back to a company’s original objectives. Objectives can be those specific numbers in sales mentioned before, but they can also be intangible. Perhaps with the selling of a certain product, you company also wants to raise awareness on a topic. Every bottle of Dawn dish soap features a statement about how Dawn saves wildlife. Their website features the statement “Every time you use dishwashing liquid from Dawn, you help save wildlife.” Customers that frequently buy Dawn will expect a picture of an animal on the front of the bottle and understand that Dawn is used to clean wildlife in terms of environmental disasters. When evaluating Dawn, strategic communicators can look at how much Dawn sells, how many visits to their official webpage occurred as a result of inquiry on how it helps save animals, and how many new volunteers sign up.

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Sometimes internal employees can determine the success of a project within a company. The old idea about learning from failure definitely applies in the professional world. I can think of times when I was working on a project with a team and we were so confident that we were close to finishing when suddenly something else was thrown in that required us to start all over. Had we taken the time to fully understand the task, we could have prevented having to start over. However, when the next project came along, we were sure to hold a meeting to make sure everyone was on the same page about what needed to be done. What was so important during these tasks was that our leaders never faltered. No one had a negative attitude or wanted to quit. No one blamed anyone for mistakes. We just opened the floor for more suggestions and knew that we would complete the project if we continued to work hard and communicate with one another. Success of a company can be measured in terms of relationship commitment. Openness and assurance in all internal communications as well as emphasizing the human condition will show company success in terms of employee satisfaction. No matter the level of employee, all humans want to be treated as though they are a valued asset of a company. Employees with positive outlooks who continue to work hard are another factor to observe when evaluating success.

While this may not seem the most official way to measure a company’s success, what the public opinion says about a company speaks volumes. I have mentioned the Glassdoor app in previous posts, and how you can view rankings of companies based on a number of factors. However, when I chose to write my own review of a company, I was prompted with questions that will fill those rankings that can be viewed by anyone online. Review sites such as this one or Yelp can assist in evaluating a company as whole.

The first question is to define if you are a current or former employee, which could be the most important question to answer. Is your company satisfying to current employees? Do employees leave your company with positive comments about it? The next question is to list some Pros about working there as if “you are talking to a friend.” Glassdoor understands the impact of Word-of-mouth marketing, and gives current/former employees a chance to praise a company in a way that is comfortable to most people. The next section is to describe cons, or challenges, of working at the company. Finally, the last question is “Advice to Management.” This is where users can express their opinions on how the company is managed. Does upper management encourage growth? Do they accept employee feedback and promote two-way communication?

All of the reviews are anonymous, because Glassdoor wants users to give the full picture of a company. This benefits those looking for a job, but it also gives leaders of companies an opportunity to view how people feel about their work environment and services. Obviously, there are always the setbacks of scorned employees or current employees being asked to give positive reviews, so it is important to understand these reviews may not be 100% accurate. However, these feedback sites usually come up when Googling a specific company, and it would be beneficial for users to see a high rating.

Measuring a company’s success ultimately serves as a summary of each week’s topic these past eight weeks. Companies will find success if leaders are encouraging, open, innovative, and informative. Leaders who get a company excited about a product or cause will see the excitement transfer in both sales and general employee wellness. Reviews, word-of-mouth, and numbers all contribute to measuring success and will be useful in the overall evaluation of a company’s work.

Step into a Leader’s Shoes

Building on last week’s topic of the diffusion of innovations, this week’s topic is on interpersonal communication and opinion leaders.There are certain steps each new idea goes through before it reaches a wide audience. These steps involve interactions not only within an organization, but with outside consumers as well. Why do some products trend more than others? How do companies keep their customers interested? Communication is an extremely large factor in elevating public interest, and there is much behind the scenes work in getting the right information out there.

Word of mouth (WOM) communication is a powerful tool for in sales. In fact, Okazaki states in his study using the social influence model that as much as “67% of sales of consumer goods are based on personal information sources.” WOM was increased with the Internet sensation, but has now reached a new level through mobile devices. Consumers can take these mobile devices anywhere, so what better strategy than to have mobile advertisements and information readily available to anyone, anywhere?

Ford embraced mobile WOM by rewarded active social media users with a free Ford Fiesta. It is safe to say that receiving a free car will get a customer to talk about a company’s product. However, it is important for a company to do more than a one social media campaign. A company cannot just have one big social media event and think it will stay relevant in this fast-paced world. Starbucks has succeeded in the art of social media posts that continually impact the in-store experience. They have revamped their pages to invite customers to share their ideas, as well as to announce in-store promotions on each of these sites. The pages are thriving on the idea of a social culture and influence: friends will go to the coffee shop together; an individual will go to see live music or attend a special event knowing people will be there.

Today was my last day as an intern at the Shoe Carnival corporate office. To say the past five months have been a learning experience would be an understatement. Working in the corporate office allowed me to see how everything in each department comes together to ensure success in the stores. Shoe Carnival has mastered the art of interpersonal influence by supporting the community and participating in nationwide charities. The company is also run by opinion leaders, those who aren’t afraid to try out the next big thing, or those who have a strong influence on others.

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk discusses the attributes that make a great leader. Throughout the talk he repeats the idea that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Shoe Carnival’s leaders are more than willing to try something new to improve their stores and give families more opportunities for affordable merchandise. Their stores are expanding to states they have never inhibited before, and their advertisements have recently reached a national level. Their Instagram account is updated weekly along with fresh Facebook posts. They have also adopted better shipping techniques to ensure customers will get their products in a timely matter. The biggest change seen in the stores is the increased amount of higher quality brands over the past year. Many were concerned introducing higher-priced brands would take away from the affordable, family values, but they found a way to bring higher end brands to more affordable prices. The company is truly thinking from the inside out by focusing on the purpose of their shoe sales, and not just the fact that they have products.

An Instagram post showing off a variety of boot choices and inviting users to talk about what they like

An Instagram post showing off a variety of boot choices and inviting users to talk about what they like best. 

Shoe Carnival is known to be a family-friendly store, and the company takes pride in its family values. How do customers know about these values? When you enter a Shoe Carnival store you will see a basketball shooting game for children/teens to play. Each store features a person on a microphone that announces deals and a wheel for customers to spin to receive additional savings. This fun atmosphere is directed towards families and makes their shopping experience more enjoyable. I have friends who have never set foot in a store, and when I told them about the Mic Person and the spinning wheel, they said they had to see it. Even something as small as describing an atmosphere of a place allows interpersonal communication to influence someone’s decision to enter a store.

wheel

The company also engages in a variety of community events. Shoe Carnival supports charities that are centered on families and children. For example, in Evansville, IN, where the corporate office is located, there is an organization called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), which provides guardian ad litems for foster children. Each year Shoe Carnival hosts a Walk the Runway event where they have school aged children modeling the latest fashion trends in shoes. Shoe Carnival employees volunteer to run the show and handle the silent auction and donation tables. Their logo is posted on the volunteers’ t-shirts and on banners throughout the event.

This year an incredible thing happened. Once the show was over, an auctioneer came onto the runway to offer a testimony and ask for donations starting at $1,000 and counting down. A man in the crowd suddenly raised his hand to speak, so the auctioneer handed him the microphone. This man began to talk about how he’s been shopping at Shoe Carnival for years and felt they always had the best prices and deals. His story ended with the following sentence: “Over the years I’ve probably saved up $10,000 by shopping the deals at Shoe Carnival. If Shoe Carnival supports this organization, it must be good, so tonight I would like to donate $10,000 to CASA.”

You can imagine the chills that ran throughout the building and the jaws that dropped! This man felt grateful to Shoe Carnival and passed his gratefulness onto a valued, non-for-profit organization. This also inspired even more people to donate, and CASA is proud to report they shot past their donation goals. CASA took time to post on their Facebook page to thank Shoe Carnival for being the title sponsor. All of this attention and WOM posting has made Shoe Carnival’s reputation stronger. Once again, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

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Shoe Carnival shows leadership in the world of family-friendly retail through the store environment, merchandise, marketing, and by WOM from community events. Businesses that aren’t afraid to try new strategies and participate in the community will consistently attract valuable customers.

Communicating New Ideas

Greetings bloggers!

I started this blog 10 weeks ago for my Emerging Media class as part of my Masters of Science in Strategic Communications program. My posts centered on new media platforms that strategic communicators must adopt in order to succeed in the professional world. Now it is time to look at the leaders who are pushing forward with new technologies. This week I have just begun a new class: Leadership and Media Strategies. Leaders know that hiding behind the “We’ve always done it this way” attitude will do more harm than good. 

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We are in a world that is constantly on the verge of adopting the next big thing! I will discuss how communication has changed and the benefits and challenges of these changes. I will be sure to include links to weekly readings discussed in class. As a reminder, if you wish to follow or bookmark my blog the address is:

http://www.rmscib.wordpress.com

We will begin discussion of leadership and media strategies with a frequently referenced theory: Diffusion of Innovations. Dr. Everett M. Rogers defines diffusion as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.” Basically how do ideas not only spread, but stay relevant? There are multiple moving parts to diffusion. First, knowledge of a new innovation must reach an audience. Then after being persuaded to use that innovation, a member of the audience decides to accept it, implement it into his or her own life, and evaluate its results. Sharing information and persuasive results is done through a number of communication channels such as commercials, social media postings, news stories, and peer-to-peer conversations. Think of the amount of trends that have made their way into our lives, and how certain products had to adapt or be forgotten? One example in the journalism world that I talked about in my first post was how newspapers are moving to online versions and apps. 

The way the audience becomes aware of an innovation and decides to use it happens in shifts. This article gives a great summary about each type of user: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. The titles of these groups are pretty self-explanatory. The innovators are those who are always thinking of the next big thing or next useful tool. Those who adopt this innovation first are the Early adopters, and the the early majority and late majority follow in line after them. Laggards have the traditional view and often see more risk of innovations than benefits. Strategic communicators should know how to reach out to each of these groups in order to for them to accept the innovation. Think about what each group needs and establish a plan to

diffusion

A business that holds this variety of people on their staff can succeed in releasing a new product or idea because it will go through the whole process internally before reaching the public audience. From the innovators, to those who are ready to accept it, to those who are supportive but may need a little more convincing, to those who want to discuss risks, these employees all help the company to stay grounded and efficient. 

When Amazon came out with their Kindle I was pretty much in the laggard category. As an English major and self-titled “biggest lover of books, of all time, ever,” I found the idea of reading a complete novel on a screen repulsive. Why was everyone so obsessed with technology that the value of holding a new book was lost?

My dad and I were Christmas shopping for my mom and I saw an advertisement for the Kindle. I quickly scoffed and said to my dad “I can’t believe that’s a thing. I would never replace a good book with a dumb screen!” My dad just nodded without comment. Well wouldn’t you know it, Christmas morning I open up my last gift and inside is a Kindle. My dad laughed a little bit and said, “Sorry.” My mom defended herself by saying phrases like “I thought it would be perfect because you love books!” and “All the commercials and reviews say it’s so good!” I felt like the worst person, and I was determined to give it a try for the sake of my parents.

Fast forward to today and I have 38 books and counting. I absolutely love it! As soon as I finish one book, I can immediately by another one! It’s especially perfect when reading a series—no mid-trilogy cliffhangers for me! It fits right in my purse, so it is especially perfect for traveling. I realized the benefits of the Kindle and now I recommend it to anyone. Currently, I am trying to convince one of my coworkers to get one because she says she likes reading but always forgets to buy books when she’s out shopping. Stay tuned to see if this peer-to-peer persuasion works.

My personal Kindle: the older version that prevents glare while you read. I love it.

My personal Kindle: the older version that prevents glare while you read. I love it.

The other point worth mentioning in this story is the fact that age was not the main factor with sticking to tradition here. My parents, who were not born in a technology-centered world, actually accepted this innovation before I did.

Social media is also a key communication channel to spread new ideas. One of my friends posted a picture of herself on Instagram saying she used the “Serena filter” on the Social Light app. Never hearing of this photo editor before, I went to the App Store and typed in the name and sure enough the first version was released October 5th. It only has 41 reviews and all of them are positive. This app has come at the right time because high society city life (re: Gossip Girl) has become a popular online trend. The app is also designed for those who are constantly on-the-go which is also relevant to the fast-paced lifestyle of the new generation. My friend is the first person in my “social circle” to use this app, and based on the amount of comments she already has, she has most likely set the trend. I have no doubt her followers will start downloading the app. How many photo editing apps can one possibly have, you ask? In a world where photography, selfies, and Instagram are dominating hobbies, people will try any new app at least once and see how they like it.

Strategic communicators and leaders must come up with fresh ideas that are relevant and useful to a wide audience. Innovators are constantly reshaping the ways of the world, and some of them that may have seemed so out of the box are regularly used today. Communication through mass media and interpersonal ties is crucial with spreading new innovations.

The Future Starts Today

Attention all smartphone users: Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a flip phone.

Attention all FaceTime users: Raise your hand if you remember when a phone call was the only option to talk over distance.

Attention all bloggers: Raise your hand if you’ve ever kept a written journal.

Attention all Pandora Radio/iPod users: Raise your hand if you remember your first boom box/portable CD player.

Attention all Facebook users: Raise your hand if you used to log on AIM every day.

Attention everyone: Raise your hand if you are ready for what is next with communicative technology and emerging media.

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There should be a lot of hands raised. The future of technology is limitless and exciting. Think of the technology that seems so normal to you now, and then think of a time when you did not have it. It is so easy to take smartphones or the GPS for granted today because they seem like normal, everyday items to own. However, they are not normal devices. They are advanced- an evolution from an earlier product. Soon the world will be filled with other “normal” devices that will do things we cannot imagine. I can barely wrap my head around products like Google Glass. There are products that are ready to let us dive into virtual realities. There are products that allow us to share our information more than ever, and connect with our friends, family, and loved ones.

We can now say a short phrase to our phone and instantly get turn-by-turn directions to anywhere. Directors can film movies in a single studio that take place all over the world thanks to green screens and CGI. A job seeker can post an online resume and gain access to jobs anywhere around the globe. Everything is instant and convenient. The Internet and the World Wide Web have opened up doors for everyone.

Strategic communicators cannot fall behind on all of the effective tools for human connection. There are so many tools out there that will increase productivity. Check out sites such as Wired, Businesses Insider, CNN Tech, and more. There will always be technology innovations that will improve conversation.

Businesses have so many new options to connect with their customers. They can post on social media, offer e-commerce options, create apps, and anything else to get names and brands out there. Businesses can inform customers of their brand in a variety of ways: participating in live tweeting, creating a company hashtag, and sharing employee experiences through a company blog. The amount of time people are spending on their phones and tablets is only increasing, so there is an advantage to having a strong online presence.

I am finishing my first term in my graduate program and I cannot believe how much I have learned in just nine weeks. I am excited to continue learning throughout the program, and sharing information on this blog. There is so much out there for us to discover now, and so much more to come later. Stay tuned, strategic communicators. If you think it’s crazy to picture a world of holograms and advanced artificial intelligence, take a look at what AT&T predicted in the early 90’s and see what they got right.

Hype up the Crowd

A common theme throughout these blog posts is the power of a crowd. Businesses either thrive or suffer based on strong public opinions. Social media, blogs, and mobile phones allow people to not only have access to breaking stories, but to contribute information to the stories as well. Crowds can actually be used as valuable resources of both information and product promotion.

In its basic definition, crowdsourcing is pulling a wide amount of information from a large group of people. In many instances, this is conducted from the Internet. A Wired article describes an example of crowdsourcing by describing an instance where a project director, Claudia Menashe, was able to go to iStockPhoto and search through thousands of photos uploaded by users. Menashe then chose as many photos as she liked, each one only costing a small fee. Instead of relying on finding a professional photographer, she went to a place where thousands of users willingly posted their work. This process was easy, inexpensive, and productive. With more sites thriving on communities and allowing users to upload original content, there is a good chance anyone can find useful information. Photographers are motivated to keep posting their work because of the idea of being chosen. This enthusiasm means unlimited resources for those searching for the perfect stock photo.

Paul Lewis explains in his TED Talk instances in which crowdsourcing helped The Guardian obtain necessary details on two different stories involving causes of death: Ian Tomlinson and Jimmy Mubenga. Both deaths were the result of something happening in font of witnesses, and in both instances the whole truth was being withheld from the public. Lewis and his team went to Twitter and received first-hand accounts of both causes of death. One bystander actually had video proof of police brutality causing the death of Tomlinson. These situations show that professional journalists have struggled with not having all of the resources for their stories. Their knowledge can be limited to time and space if they do not know how to effectively seek out information. Luckily, the Internet has created global communities and offers sites where people can share information quicker than ever. Lewis and his team were able to find first-hand accounts just from inquiring on social media.

Sometimes it may seem that crowdsourcing is too good to be true. There are instances where crowds are responsible for misinformation, such as the spread of hoax stories. The article “Who the Hell Writes Wikipedia, Anyway?” shows that experts take time to write majority of the content on its pages. Professionals who work for the site simply edit links and conduct minor tweaks, but the bulk of information we read was written by someone from the crowd. Chances are if someone is taking enough time to write an encyclopedia article on the subject, one must have a strong background in the matter. Many may take comfort in the statistics that show most people who take time to post online are highly educated professionals. However, it is up to the person seeking out information to always double check any sources.

One of my friends wanted to see what happens when one attempts to update Wikipedia. He found an article on a public figure and made a change on the whereabouts of this person. Immediately, he received an e-mail regarding his change. The e-mail asked for more information on why he made the change, and if he had any sources or proof. My friend realized that the posts are constantly monitored for accuracy. He chose not to respond to the e-mail, and his edit was removed. While Wikipedia is frequently debated on its basis of a credibility, it is using crowdsourcing to obtain information just like major news sources will do.

Because there is no limit to the possibilities that can come from a large group of people with freedom and a voice, it is important to implement crowdsourcing in an appropriate strategy based on achievable goals. Businesses looking to promote their product and keep up with current trends would be best advised to use an open call strategy inviting everyone to participate in the gathering of information. Using the Internet for an open call would be the best way to attract a large crowd. One study specifically mentions the concept of Co-creation along with open call crowdsourcing. Co-creation not only asks customers for their opinions on products, it actually involves them in the process and makes them feel like they are part of something with a purpose.

American Idol owes its long-run success to crowdsourcing. There was a time when it was the most popular, high-rated show on television. They premised their show on the fact that anyone could audition to be the next big pop star. Those uninterested in the spotlight still had the opportunity to choose the winner by casting their votes each week. The producers behind the show went to the crowd for resources: participants, voters, commentators. So many shows took this idea and created their own reality show with voting such as The Voice and Dancing with the Stars.

Last year, American Idol took the concept of crowdsourcing and co-creation even further. Relying on its own popularity as well as the fan bases of Coca-Cola and singer Carly Rae Jepsen, the ultimate user experience was created with the Perfect Harmony Project. Each week leading up to the American Idol finale, viewers were able to use Facebook to vote on song lyrics for Jepsen’s new single. Not only was this project a goal for increasing viewership, but it also served as a productive way to create something new: a song. Their strategy was also smart in that they relied on the motivation of the crowd, but did not give the crowd complete control. Voting on pre-made lyrics was a much more organized approach than having thousands of users attempt to come up with their own words.

Perfect-Harmony

Notice how the ads enhance crowd enthusiasm by reiterating that they helped create a new song! The countdown for the poll also pushes for voters to participate quickly to ensure their vote is submitted.

Businesses can adapt similar strategies by having their consumers vote on new products. Some can even try holding contests in which customers create their own product to be sold by the brand, similar to Lays chips and TOMS Shoes. Customer excitement is valuable when using crowdsourcing, because the enthusiastic individuals will be willing to do their best to achieve the company’s goal.

It is important to promote organizations in a way that will get crowds excited. Businesses should focus on how their product can be used in everyday life. Does their product work well in social settings? Does it work for the greater good of the world? Does it make people feel better about themselves? One way to find out answers to these questions is to ask the crowd. Once a community is established about a certain product, the organization can then involve that crowd in a variety of promotional activities. If a crowd is passionate, their own motivation will go a long way for the success of an organization.

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