strategic communication

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

Archive for the tag “business”

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.

Crisis Communication: Prepare for the Worst

A company can be the most successful, most innovative, highest ranked company in the world, but even those attributes cannot protect it from crisis. Many times a crisis is caused by elements out of a company’s control while other times it is caused by the actions of an internal member. It is important for companies to realize potential warning signs of a crisis, prepare for the worst, and respond to it as soon as possible.

Many leaders are competent in their work, but have never had direct experience with a major work-related crisis. It is hard to have knowledge of what to do in certain situations if the situation has never happened. However, leaders should have the right qualities and understanding to keep the workplace productive. One key factor in managing a crisis is to recognize prodromes, or warning signs. If you are the manager of a popular hamburger joint and your competitor finds out their meat has been infected with E-coli, you should take precautions and test your meat to make sure the same crisis does not happen to you. In another example, managers of transportation services must keep a lookout on weather patterns, as car or bus services may not maneuver properly in heavy rainfall, sleet, or snow. Recognizing warning signs and making preparations for “what if” situations will allow an organization or company to gather useful resources in the event an incident should happen. Once a leader realizes the prodromal stage of a crisis, he or she must realize it may only get worse, and be prepared to face it.

Along with my Leadership class this term, I am also in a Public Relations class that requires us to create an original Crisis Communication Plan for a company. Over the past seven weeks I have read examples of real-world crises and how companies handled them. Ultimately, I have noticed it is those that have effective resources prepared that are able to clear up any confusing details. These companies also remain open with all audiences and media. Handling a crisis is so much more than saying “We have it under control” in a press conference. Consumers will have questions. They will be filled with fear and doubt about their use of the products and the negative outcomes as a result of the crisis. Strategic communicators must know how to communicate with all media channels in a timely manner and with the right messages. Part of the Crisis Communication Plan includes a list of all local television, newspaper, and radio stations. Having this list with a contact name for each one will keep communication open throughout the crisis cleanup.

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Not only do companies need a list of media contacts, they also need to assign those responsible for getting in touch with the media. In most cases the CEO is considered the first spokesperson, but in order to keep up with a timeline of events, employees need to be able to send messages to media outlets that will then post them to the public. Keeping a constant flow of information sharing shows that a company is not trying to hide anything, and is trying to maintain trust with its consumers. Perhaps one director will be in charge of contacting newspapers, while another employee is responsible for online postings. As a leader, think about how your company is organized and the best method of sending messages based on each person’s role.

Probably the largest evolution in managing a crisis is the use of social media. Depending on what your crisis entails, certain social media sites may be more useful to your company. Think about the possible crises that can occur in a company and make a list of potential social media posts addressing the issue. Anything about widespread health issues, such as the current Ebola scares, will benefit from videos that allow the faces behind the information to talk directly with viewers. Television news videos or even YouTube videos allow representatives to present information, as well as show specific examples of how to stay safe and healthy (i.e. how to effectively wash hands, a simulation of how germs spread, etc.) Companies should have these videos already made so they can post them faster.  For other crises, Facebook statuses or play-by-play tweets may suffice in getting the information to the public. It is helpful to have some statuses already on file for a crisis that is most likely to happen. Companies should update their social media in real time to show they are actively working to resolve a matter as it is happening. On top using social media to inform your audiences, you should also monitor comments and respond to those you deem appropriate based on information you available to share.

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During a crisis, audiences are quick to express their opinions online. Two-way communication, once again, is what will keep audiences informed of a company’s efforts. Communicating with the public allows leaders to show their empathy and apologize for whatever has happened. However, it is important to establish procedures for those commenting on your page to avoid a user just continually bashing your company for the sake of stirring up trouble. Company blogs are useful for announcing the acknowledgement of a crisis, and then posting all efforts and important information in detail. It would be beneficial to the company to have someone designated to update blog posts because that would keep all information to the public organized and timely. Posting from your own name may be more useful than the audience hearing it through a third party such as a news source. Audiences will know that a post on the company blog is coming directly from the company, and this will establish trust.

It is important to know that there is no one way to manage a crisis; there is not a strict set of procedures you have to follow step-by-step to achieve success. What works for one company may not work for another. Eddie Obeng explains how rules change as the time changes. Companies simply are not managed the same way they were decades ago. In the event of a crisis, remind the audience why your company is needed. Create messages that show your company cares about its audience. How does your audience benefit from you being around? What makes your product or service unique from others?

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Think about how BP, Sandy Hook Elementary, and Johnson&Johnson have all recovered from a crisis. It may have taken a large amount of time, but the leaders and spokespeople behind each organization cared about their audiences. They had to work hard to gain the trust of the public by keeping communication open and sharing inside information.

As long as leaders of a company know their audience, understands what information needs to be shared, and knows the best way to disseminate that information, a company has an advantage of steering itself back to normal routine.

The Power of a Leader’s Vision

Job seekers are finding that the culture of a workplace is extremely important. I am not just talking about employee relations and fun events, rather I am stressing the importance of how the company views leaders. Glassdoor is a website and app that provides reviews for companies nationwide. I downloaded the app and am able to search jobs and companies in any city. Once I find a company, I am taken to a Glassdoor page that gives it an overall rating out of 5 stars. The rating is compiled of anonymous reviews that share experiences. Each review includes a rating on recommendation, positive/negative outlook, and opinion of CEO.

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The highest ranking companies have consistent positive outlooks of the CEO. Review titles are usually “Great place to work!” “Great Executives!” “Opportunity for growth!” The places where employees are encouraged to work hard and grow into new opportunities are the most appealing. The upward mobility is a result of a productive environment instilled by leaders upholding the company’s values. The leaders of the company have a vision for their purpose, and they know how to motivate all employees to continue working hard. A leader’s vision that is shared by all employees makes all the difference when evaluating a workplace.

Leadership is an interesting concept in that anyone can have the qualities of a leader. Sure, there are some who seem to be “born to lead” with natural confidence and enthusiasm for success. However, there is not some cookie-cutter mold that every leader must follow. While it is important to have skill sets with management qualities (organization, planning, working with budgets), a leader should have behavioral qualities that encourage a company to constantly grow and improve.  For example, leaders in communications understand that technology and social media have changed the way companies share information to their audiences. Those who are hesitant to adopt a social media platform or use mobile media are falling behind. Leaders look to the future with confidence, and reassure the team that it is worth it to make changes for the better of the company.

One of the most admirable traits of a leader’s vision is the fact that it is driven by motivation. Leaders do not give up and do not distract themselves from the ultimate goal. In a world where many people are instructed to make “safe” decisions or choose a “stable lifestyle” instead of taking a chance, it is easy to give up on a dream. A leader never loses sight of the final destination, rather, he/she reroutes the direction to get there. Wendy Kopp founded one of the most well-known, valuable organizations, Teach for America, during a time when no one would have dreamed successful college graduates would want to work in lower income level parts of the country. Her perseverance lead to the success of the organization, and it inspired associates to work to make a difference in the lives of others.

Actions matter

Actions matter

Benjamin Zander announced that when he finished his TED Talk, everyone in the building would have a better understanding and love for classical music. He made it a point to express he had no doubt in his mind it would work, claiming that visions can be realized if the leader and team both believe it. His example: “What if Martin Luther King, Jr. said ‘I have a dream! Although I’m not sure they’ll be up to it…” really stood out because MLK Jr. was out to do the impossible. There were so many odds against him, yet he never faltered in front of the crowd. He knew that if he wanted his dream realized, he had to believe it would be realized and he would take every chance he got to achieve it. The support from the crowds helped his cause because they trusted him and admired his vision. It didn’t matter how hard the road was as long as they had something to hope for.

Everyone has a passion for something. Some people are passionate about writing or theatre, and want to share their stories with the world. Others want to do a good job in their work, perhaps because they really enjoy the purpose their work or because they really enjoy taking care of their loved ones. Those who follow their passions without failure are the leaders. How they handle negative outcomes or intense pressure makes all the difference in the quality of leadership. What I am figuring out as I continue life after undergrad is that the field you work in is so important.  Working in a field that you are interested in, that excites you, and ignites a passion in you will make you work harder. You will find that every action you make will ultimately work toward reaching success, and you will want others to succeed alongside you.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Now that we are all feeling inspired, let’s put this leadership vision in a work setting. Think about the goal of the organization and how each work task gets the team one step closer to that goal. Ensure each employee is properly trained in their position. Encourage everyone to keep putting all of their efforts into their work by reminding them of their purpose. Customer satisfaction cannot happen if the right kind and number of products are not available, if a customer service representative is rude, or if public information isn’t updated. Be someone who thinks strategically about what each department of an organization brings to the company as a whole. Open the floor to new ideas from everyone. What is working well and what can be improved?

Leaders should trust that their leadership is effective enough to continue without their presence. If employees are trained on what they need to do and educated on why they need to do it, a leader won’t have to breathe over each person’s shoulder to ensure everything is working. Jerry Porras discusses visionary companies: those that are high performing and have endured over the years. Visionary companies are known to make an impact on human culture. He brings up the fact that leaders make companies great while they are present and this greatness last even when they are gone. The leader that builds an organization on all things it needs to be successful is ultimately the most effective leader.

Leaders work for a cause greater than themselves. It is not all about glory and self-fulfillment. Having a vision is a powerful tool for a leader because it encourages hard work and dedication. Leaders that encourage their team with motivation, open discussions, and a positive work environment will drive organizations to lasting success.

“The worst leader is one who is despised.
Next, one who is feared.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
When the best leader works, people are hardly
aware he/she exists.
When the work is done, people say,
‘Amazing. We did it all by ourselves!’”
-Lao Tse; Tao te Ching

Working from the Inside Out

When thinking of a company organizational chart, it is similar to this:

organization-chart

All positions ultimately lead up to an executive member. The executive is considered the leader of the company because that role is in charge of most of the important decisions that affect the good of the company. However, a leader is not simply someone who is in charge of making decisions. A leader cannot lead without a team, and to maintain a team, a leader must know how to communicate with every individual. A leader must work well with colleagues, subordinates, and those outside of the organization. Leaders in all organizations, whether it be business, nonprofit, or a government agency, need to know how to communicate internally in order to communicate their messages externally. Employees who have experience with efficient communication in the office will be able to use these strategies when working with outside clients to ensure satisfactory customer service. Outside relations are a reflection of inside environments.

When managing a company or organization, it is crucial that associates are satisfied with their work. Obviously there will always be some sort of issue or complaint depending on the day, but employees should be content with coming to work each day. If there is an ongoing issue that prohibits work, and no one feels they can turn to anyone for help, the problem only increases in its burden. Leaders need to be attainable and willing to step in when necessary. Dr. John Klein discusses types of work cultures in his essay. A “dehumanizing culture” is one where employees are considered lazy and ineffective in the workplace. Their feedback to their superiors is either ignored or never brought up for fear of punishment. How productive can that culture actually be?

Possible solutions of fixing a dehumanizing cultures include opening the door to any and all employee feedback. No leader is so great that he or she does not need advice every once in a while, and good leaders will understand that. It is the leader’s responsibility that the office runs smoothly, and part of that responsibility is to take in account all employee viewpoints. Department meetings should be more than just “any questions or concerns?” Instead, a department could try out new methods of conducting meetings each week. Perhaps one member of the team will lead the meetings each week. This would give each associate a chance to discuss any feedback in a supportive setting. This method would give each employee more experience with leading, and would allow everyone to see what works well and what could be improved.

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Leanne Glenny observes that in terms of government communications, “communication is no longer recognized as an act performed by one entity upon another. Participants are not considered as passive bystanders as their interpretations lead to the creation of meaning.” The idea of two-way communication is applied to all groups and is especially key in internal communications. A constant dialogue should be active in all workplaces to ensure all employees are on the same page.

Consider the following scenario:

A team in a company conducts an audit to see if each hired employee has all important paperwork completed and on file. The audit shows that there are key documents missing from a number of employees in both the main office and offices in the field, including some executives. These employees must be notified they have to complete these documents in a timely manner, but it is important for identities to be discreet in terms of privacy. The resolution is to send out an e-mail explaining the procedure to complete the paperwork, but to blind copy (Bcc) each employee on it so no one can see who else has received it. The e-mail is proofed, approved, and sent to the select employees. It only takes a minute for people to respond. Responses include “Was this meant to be sent to me?” “Was I supposed to be bcc’d on this?” “What was wrong with my paperwork in the first place?” “Can you explain further?”

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What seemed like a simple solution actually created a whirlwind of confusion. There were good intentions behind the method of the e-mail, but the message was not correctly conveyed. The team must get together to work out how to better explain not only the content of the e-mail, but why they chose to blind copy everyone on it. A brief meeting results in a to-the-point explanation that is e-mailed to the employees, using bcc again to protect identity. The reason that new paperwork was required was explained as well as how the blind copy e-mail was the most efficient and discreet way to reach everyone. Again, people respond, but this time with varying forms of “Thank you for the clarification.” The team had to work through two solutions in order to solve the initial problem, but the result showed that everyone had a mutual understanding on what needed to be done. This process will also require a number of follow-up e-mails until each employee has completed the paperwork. Communication takes work!

During my internship there were times when e-mails or phone calls were sufficient for certain tasks, and other times when it was best to physically go to another employee’s office. Interpersonal communication is a great strategy to connect with employees, if done correctly. Advantages of interpersonal communications include being able to fully explain instructions and providing immediate clarification if needed. Many times e-mails may unintentionally convey the wrong message or tone. It is important to remember that when communicating face-to-face with others, vulnerabilities such as facial expressions or body language may hinder the meaning. The best way to have effective interpersonal communication is for both parties to share a mutual respect for each other and the organization. A relaxed environment in which employees are listening with intent to understand by maintaining eye contact and having a pleasant attitude will promote effective communication. Offices are busy, but when working with people it is important to create opportunities to treat them like people.

Imagine if every conversation could be this pleasant

Imagine if every conversation could be this pleasant

Communication makes all the difference in completing tasks, and the more communication that takes place, the more a company will improve as a whole.

A quote to leave you with that was sent to me from an expert communicator and leader:

“Make a careful list of the things done to you that you absolutely hated, that demotivated you. never do those to others…ever. Now, make a careful list of the things that motivated and inspired you. Do those with others…always…without fail.”  -Dee Hock.

Strategic Social Media

Happy Halloween! Are you celebrating offline and online? There are tons of companies taking advantage of posting Halloween themed messages on social media!

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Social media has made it easier for companies and organizations to connect with their consumers. One would think a public relations professional would have it easy, too, right? When you look closer at different company Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, you will see that most of the popular pages feature the company responding back to fans even in the latest hours of the day. Successful social media pages are those that are made up of strategic daily posts. Public relations professionals, as well as professional communicators, must constantly have access to all media sites to ensure customer satisfaction.

A story on Walmart costumes went viral this week when online users posted screenshots of Walmart’s official website that listed the category of “Fat Girl Costumes.” Post after post shared the image along with disdain from customers. The category has since been taken down, but the screenshots will live on the Internet forever. When Walmart was off of the cyber world for even a minute, this story spread before they could do anything to stop it. Walmart issued an official apology, and has been busy apologizing to individual users on its Twitter account. This issue was a result of negligence, and it was enough to make a wide audience angry. Someone representing Walmart is constantly updating the Twitter page and responding to each user’s tweets.

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Walmart’s Facebook page features select products that customers can comment on or share. I noticed that even a customer simply stating “I love this product!” will get a reply from an official Walmart representative. These representatives are trying to ignite conversations with customers in order to build that relationship between company and consumer. However, on each product picture, there are users who choose to post negative feedback. Sometimes the feedback has nothing to do with the picture posted, but Walmart still tries to respond by giving a link to their feedback site.

An article titled “Corporate Facebook Pages: When “fans” attack” states that “negative complaints, personal insults or incriminating gossip make far bigger impacts on us than do positive comments.” If a company is under fire for a negative post, product, or error, there will always be those who choose to hold on to it. It is important for strategic communicators to develop and sincere apologies, as well as make genuine connections with customers. Customers do not want to feel their complaints go unnoticed, and especially do not want to support a company who claims nothing bad ever happened. Listening comes into play on the Internet, even if it is a conversation through typing. If a customer has a complaint, it is the responsibility of a representative to completely read the complaint, interpret exactly what the issue is, think progressively on how to fix the issue and ensure it does not happen in the future, and then respond fully to the customer.

Companies do best when they have a unique branding strategy on social media. YouTube has become a popular site where videos go viral and are seen by millions of people around the world. These videos go viral because they are interesting, unique, entertaining, or attract the attention of taste-makers that will share it. Strategic communicators should want the best possible image for their organization on such a powerful platform. The possibilities for a viral video are endless. For example, Tom Dickson, the CEO of Blendtec, used YouTube to create a series called “Will it Blend?” where he places a variety of objects (including an iPhone) in his blenders, turns the blenders on, and watches what happens to the objects. There are enough people in this world willing to witness the destruction of valuable objects at their own amusement, and Dickson successfully got his name and his product out to the masses.

Will it blend?

Will it blend?

Strategic communicators must think about their products when posting on social media. What does their product do or what is it used for? Who is using it? Understanding their audience is key on social media because the audience varies. The audience could consist of consumers, clients, employers, and job seekers. It is important to be able to create content that appeals to the masses, and that is concise enough to post quickly and daily. Sometimes an elaborate story gets looked over if someone is seeking out specific information, which is why Twitter’s character limit can be used to an organization’s advantage. There are also third party apps such as Google Alerts that allow businesses to search within social media sites and receive alerts when their content is viewed. Businesses can use this data to figure out what types of posts get the most views, and adjust their communication plan accordingly.

While looking at companies during a job search, I notice that most company Facebook and Twitter pages include group shots of the staff working together. The staff is bunched together at conferences or even community service events. This shows me that the company culture is important to them because they spend time at events together, and look like they are enjoying it. Social media is not only effective for promoting a product, but for promoting the business as a whole. There is so much talent out there, and companies know that the more information about they can share out in the open, the more enticing their company looks to job seekers. Company blogs are excellent tools to show off all accomplishments. Reading a post that a company just received an award or was featured on a “Best Places to Work” list increases my interest in learning more about the company.

I was viewing a twitter account that is dedicated to posting jobs North Carolina and found that the account was live tweeting an awards ceremony. With each announcement of a winner, the twitter handle also included a link to the official website and stated whether or not they were hiring. I was able to access so many different companies in the area because of this event. The twitter account helped get business names out there I never would have heard of otherwise.

There is a lot to keep up with when using social media as a PR tool for an organization, but leaders with a strong online presence will reap the benefits of online connectivity. As long as posts are informative, professional, and sincere, customers will continue their interest and support for a company.

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.

Bring Your Brand to Life

A successful business or organization owes much of its accomplishments to good branding. Brands are how people find out about services. One may have a great organization, but without a strong brand and clean reputation, the organization will never be seen. What are some ways brands can be used to promote a product or organization?

By definition, a brand is used to “evoke…a certain personality, presence, and product or service performance.” A Business Insider article instructs that the meaning behind a brand must “fulfill a specific unmet need in a well-defined target audience, AND be perceived as special and valuable.”  These two sources stress the importance of not only establishing what you want your brand to be, but to prove to the audience the importance of your brand and how it is relevant to them. Unique brands that take time to reach out to customers are working toward establishing trustworthiness.

One of the most important factors for companies to add value to their brands is to develop a strong social media presence. As I have previously mentioned, avoiding where technology is harmful. The more digital, mobile, and social the world is becoming, the more important it is for brands to adapt to these platforms. Individuals will avoid waiting in line for customer service, or dialing multiple extensions for help if they can. Social media has made brands seem that much closer to customers. The concept of i-Branding features four pillars that all companies should keep in mind:

  1. Understanding the Customer
  2. Marketing Communications
  3. Interactivity
  4. Content

PRNewser posted an article titled “10 Brands That Do Customer Service Right on Twitter.” Each brand mentioned in the article provides examples of responding to customer complaints, questions, and compliments on Twitter. These brands have succeeded in using the four pillars of i-Branding. The fact that someone from any part of the world can communicate with a brand is amazing. Brands that actively participate in conversations with customers show that they really do care what the customer thinks of them, and will work to fix any problems that arise. In 2013, @XboxSupport claimed to hold the “Guinness World Record for ‘most responsive Twitter feed’” and account holders reply to tweets from customers every minute.

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A company’s brand can also use Twitter to promote their new product in a humorous way. The key to these brands having successful Twitter accounts is that they are creating personable and unique characters that relate to customers. People love positive energy, so bringing a brand to life with an enthusiastic personality is great for promotions.

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Oreo tweeted this during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout and immediately became an Internet sensation

Oreo tweeted this during the Super Bowl XLVII blackout and immediately became an Internet sensation.

Sometimes a little bit goes a long way on Twitter. Tim Leberecht mentions that a brand is what people are saying about you when you are not in the room. He continues by stating the importance of simply helping customers and employees to establish a positive reputation. For example, someone was having a bad day and venting on Twitter, and a flower company offered to send that person a free bouquet. Imagine how that person must have felt, and how positive that person’s perception of that company is now! Even if a company cannot offer a concrete product, a simply acknowledgment will suffice. One humorous example is my friend tweeting at the official account for Moe’s Southwest Grill. She tweeted that the Moe’s she went into did not give her the traditional “Welcome to Moe’s!” greeting as she entered the store. Shortly after she tweeted, they replied a personal apology on behalf of that store. She laughed at how serious Moe’s takes their welcome greeting and retweeted it so all of her followers could see the reply. Brands like those of fast food places benefit from reaching out to their customers because it is not always expected, but can be enjoyable.

The Shorty Awards honor the best brands on social media. The 2014 Shorty Award for Best Brand on Twitter is American Express. Reasons for this win ranged from business propositions to personal connections with their customers and followers. Not only did American Express offer specialty prices for those who connected their cards with hashtags, they also hosted a Twitter party for its 163rd birthday. This party showed personalized birthday images from users who wished them a happy birthday. American Express successfully used Twitter to promote new ideas, and establish a strong sense of community with its users. American Express clearly used the four pillars I previously mentioned: they understand customers want convenience and rewards when shopping, they advertise promotions on Twitter, they interact with customers in celebration of a birthday party, and their content is both informing and engaging. The Shorty Awards feature many more nominees of brands that are excelling on social media. It is worth it to take a look and take note of their success!

There is clear evidence how social media helps promote brands, but establishing a social media presence can be difficult. The American Red Cross uses social media to engage in customer relationships and recruit young volunteers. Social media strengthened their relationship with customers and kept them informed by posting information on upcoming events. It clearly improved its brand by being able to reach all of its customers through its Twitter and Facebook pages. However, they reported the struggle with limited time and staff available for keeping up with their pages. A Midwest participant said their region struggles with keeping social media a priority because of lack of staff. Other participants say they simply forget about bookmarked pages.

My recommendation for companies that are trying to establish their brand on social media is to reach out to young volunteers. Most college Communication programs require students to complete an internship. A company would truly benefit from offering a position such as a social media intern because they would be hiring someone who has studied current trends and will work for school credit. Free work along with ideas from someone who knows the best strategies sounds like a win-win for any company. Furthermore, there are recent graduates who are looking work to help them gain experience. These graduates will most likely be interested in an internship so they showcase their talents. A company can hire an intern and if there are clear benefits from the intern’s work, then the company may find value in offering the intern a full time position. Internships prevent staff from being spread too thin and offer learning opportunities for both students and employers.

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Branding and digital advertising go hand in hand today. To show that your brand has personality and value, you must promote it in a way to reach the highest volume of customers. Businesses should make their brands accessible on social media and show customers they are reading and willing to provide the best products and services.

Disconnecting from the Wall

Greetings from 30,000 feet in the air! I’m currently on an airplane and this is my first time blogging strictly from a mobile device: my iPad. Before now, I used it only for entertainment purposes such as social media, Netflix, and games. I told myself I would use it for my undergraduate classes, but it has served other purposes. This week I am attempting to keep up with emerging trends by completing my blog post as if my iPad were my primary device. I downloaded the WordPress app and so far it’s the same as the website. The fact that I can access my blog on multiple devices, from anywhere, is what emerging media is all about. It is amazing how WiFi is available on airplanes. Clearly mobile influences have a lot of pull on what assets should be available to customers. As of the beginning of this year, 90% of American adults have a mobile phone and 58% use smartphones. Chances are a person will have his or her phone with her at all times, and 67% frequently check their phones for messages even if they do not hear an alert.

Smartphones and tablets have changed everything about how we access information. When it all boils down, a tablet is like a large smartphone while a smartphone is like a small computer. It all comes full circle. Yet tablets are increasingly the most popular device. Tablets are just large enough to offer a desktop-like feel, but mobile enough to take anywhere like a phone. I remember when the smaller the phone, the more popular it was. Today, smartphone screens are getting bigger, almost competing with some of the mini-sized tablets. Phone carries are realizing that more people are spending time staring at the screens of their mobile devices.

The following picture is one that shows just how much mobile media has consumed its users.

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TV is not enough. Individuals are consuming so much information from both television shows/news stories, as well as news/social media on their phones. Organizations should consider this information when promoting their products. If a nationwide event such as an awards show or sporting event is happening, companies should know that people will use their mobile devices post about it. “Live tweeting” has become a popular pastime for those who wish to share their opinions about such events on Twitter. Most live tweeting is posted using the Twitter app on a smartphone or tablet. During the live performance of The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood, DiGiorno Pizza brilliantly joined the conversation on Twitter. Throughout the show, the brand took song lyrics and quotes made popular by the movie and replaced them with words that relate to their product.

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Not only was this hilarious, but it made DiGiorno Pizza a trending topic on Twitter with users across the country tweeting at them. Some may think these silly tweets were a risk of not looking professional, but they succeeded in participating with their customers. They understand their target customers’ interests by checking the trends on Twitter and making their product noticed. The younger generations are actually the future of how business will be conducted through mobile, so it is important to get their attention now.

Retail companies are increasing their e-commerce sales. Buying departments are hiring individuals specifically for e-commerce merchandising and sales. Most e-commerce purchasing is from consumers using a PC. Even though it appears everything is becoming more mobile-only, we cannot deny the importance of current PC users. The PC is still used in offices and homes, and people use it for more than just browsing-they are viewing products and shopping. Marketing teams can send e-mail blasts or display ads on their site to ensure PC users are getting the deals. However, to increase traffic to their sites it is important for businesses to have a mobile presence.

Last week I discussed the benefits of media convergence, and converging to mobile is an excellent business strategy. Companies are becoming more efficient in using mobile as a marketing tool. This article describes the benefits of businesses using mobile apps to personalize an experience for their consumers. When a consumer downloads and opens an app, the app enables marketing teams to pinpoint the location, purchase history, and shopping patterns of the customer. This information allows direct targeting for what the customer is looking for from the store.

One of the most fascinating market trends is the feature of geofencing. Geofencing is a location-based service and can be used by businesses to not only promote themselves, but keep customers away from competitors.

Here is a scenario to give you the full effect of strategic geofencing:

Let’s say Company A is an established business with great customer satisfaction. It is connected to customers through an online store, social media, and it’s own app, Suddenly, Company B builds more stores in the same locations as Company A’s stores, and it’s their biggest competitor. How can Company A stay on top?

Geofencing allows certain alerts to be triggered based on location. If a customer enters a certain barrier around the store, that customer will receive an alert (in form of an app notification, e-mail, or an ad display on another app) with a coupon. Instant coupons? Why not go into the store and take a look around? However, it is important to not overdo the alerts and annoy the customer. Integrating coupons and sales information seamlessly, such as providing rewards for checking into the store location, is very effective with mobile-savvy consumers.

Alerts are a great way to get sales information to the customer as long as they are not spamming their phones. Again, understanding purchase history can increase customer satisfaction. If there is a sale for a certain product, alerts should go to everyone who has previously bought that product in that location. Relevancy with specific, personalized ads makes all the difference in whether or not a consumer will read an alert.

To take geofencing a step further, Company A could create a barrier near their competitor’s location so when customers are somewhere near Company B they will receive sales information about Company A. Location services are powerful and should be used strategically for promotions.

Mobile technology is absolutely necessary for future success of businesses. It does not have to be the only used technology just yet, but businesses must understand that mobile technology is changing everything about consumer interest.

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