strategic communication

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

Archive for the tag “customer satisfaction”

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.

dawn

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.

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

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.

xbox

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.

delta tweet

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.

how-companies-use-interns

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.

Using Social Media to Stay on Top

Social media has become more than a place to connect with friends, relatives, and strangers. It has become a habit–something to scroll through while passing the time. Whether individuals are waiting for a friend to arrive for lunch or taking a study break, social media is available on computers and a variety of mobile devices. A recent Business Insider report found that Americans are spending most of their Internet use on social networking sites. With so many people spending hours scrolling through newsfeeds, it only makes sense that businesses use social media to share information about both their products and their company. Businesses that post consistent, professional content will maintain strong relationships with customers.

Many online communities thrive on the concept of homophily, that is people wanting to engage with others similar to themselves. Someone who has just joined a sorority may feel compelled to “like” Total Sorority Move on Facebook. Perhaps a recent graduate wants follow @PostGradProblem on Twitter. While some content on these sites may irrelevant to the user, this target user finds comfort in knowing there are thousands of others in similar situations. It would be a business’s advantage to have relevant ads posted on these pages. Companies ranging from apparel, collegiate items, and even recruiting firms would be very attractive for users in these groups. These social sites also share links to other websites that will peak the interest of this age group. Individuals who are loyal to these groups and continually post comments can have enough influence to change how organizations look at advertising. Alexis Ohanian of Reddit explains in a TED Talk that an organization determined to stop the hunting of humpback whales achieved this goal because a group of Internet users got really involved with voting on the name of a whale. Content from businesses that is displayed on popular social media sites will get noticed, and people will respond if it sparks enough interest.

This morning I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and in the middle of all the GameDay tweets and hashtags, an advertisement from HomeGoods from August 29th appeared. I do not follow their twitter account, yet there was a tweet blending in with the rest of my newsfeed. This is an example of a Promoted Tweet, a tweet that can seamlessly appear in a home screen to all non-followers. Promoted tweets can be created based on location, interest, or device.

homegoods

As you can see, HomeGoods is advertising their app because I am looking at Twitter on my phone. The organization understands that a Saturday morning during college football season where Twitter hashtags become trending topics is the perfect time for advertising. The ad did not pop up or flash, but still caught my attention in my newsfeed because it was so different from the surrounding tweets.

Shoe Carnival’s Instagram has recently posted pictures of students in school hallways in honor of back-to-school specials. This morning they posted a picture of shoes with the caption “Where are you headed this weekend?” followed by hashtags. Many users will respond to the question simply because it is nice to feel that one can connect with a national company. Over Labor Day weekend they tweeted a picture of corn on the grill as if at a cookout. Although no shoes were present in the picture, the post was still connected to the company’s profile and showed they are aware of holidays and traditional practices of the public. This account has mastered the social media strategy of personality which is effective for a family-focused company.

Strategic communicators know that using social media is one of the most effective ways to reach a wide audience. Last week I mentioned DiGiorno Pizza participating in live tweeting and becoming a trending topic. It should be a goal for businesses to have popular hashtag trends related to the success of their product and customer satisfaction. If a company tweets information followed by a hashtag and that tweet gets favorites and retweets, it has potential to be shared with consumers outside of its inner circle. Furthermore, users can produce their own tweets using the organization’s hashtag and reach an even wider audience. Trending on twitter in a positive light will improve an organization’s reputation and allow millions to see their brand or product.

Having a positive reputation online is extremely important because of how fast information spreads on the web. One bad comment can be seen by thousands of users and ultimately destroy any credibility the organization holds. One of the backlashes of social media is the amount of deception and fraud behind accounts that anyone can make. Twitter has become a competitive news source but fake profiles are easily created and have the ability to spread false information. Fake profiles for celebrities or politicians can often skew the opinions of users who blindly follow them. Twitter attempts to solve these problems by providing a blue “verified” check mark next to legitimate profiles. The check mark certifies that tweets are from the user or the user’s team, and accurately represent that user’s views.

Many businesses are not only using social media to promote their brand, but to promote their company itself. LinkedIn has become increasingly popular for those looking for jobs, but many recent graduates don’t have enough information or experience to make their profiles stand out. Organizations are posting open job opportunities on Facebook and Twitter because it increases the chances of the job being seen or shared by users. For example, Phi Mu Fraternity was hiring a chapter consultant for the 2014-2015 year. Information about the job and how to apply was listed on their official Facebook page. Since it is a national organization, Facebook was an efficient way to reach as many members possible. Local organizations can also use social media for recruiting. Research Triangle Park, located in North Carolina, has a Twitter name @WorkTriangleNC. Every Tuesday they use the hashtag #TriangleTuesdays and post about 10 open positions for companies in the area. Once every job has been tweeted, the account will tweet a link to the complete list of jobs mentioned throughout the day. This makes it easy for job searchers to see what is available. Anyone interested in working in RTP can have access to this information just by following their account. The account is especially beneficial for those looking from out of town who do not benefit from local word-of-mouth information.

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Social media is a unique platform because everyone has access to post anything they want. Organizations, along with their members, must keep in mind that information posted on social media has the potential to be seen by millions in a matter of seconds, no matter the location. Those who establish a trusted reputation will retain a consistent following, ultimately keeping their products and their company on top.

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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