Archive | March, 2010

What Should I Do Today?

8 Mar

I’m reading Amber Naslund’s post on how to do ‘hard work‘ as I try to decide how to start two quite distinct proposals while it’s still morning.  Worth reading if you need a little inspiration and a reminder to get focused, get to work and push the results beyond simply what’s expected (incidentally, it’s also worth a click for the photo of Spider-Man ambling along the sidewalk with his duffel).

This has me thinking once again about one of my favorite client questions on managing communications in a world where there are just too many ways to reach customers — how do I find the time to do social media when I barely have the resources to get the basics done?  The answer, of course, is to rethink “the basics.” But how do you do that?

One of my maxims for clients thinking about establishing their social media and online presence is to re-cast their thinking from “what I have to get done today” — the newsletter, the brochure, the article, the trade show booth, the website redesign — to “what’s going on out there today, what do I have to say about it, and how can I help?”  These questions are likely to lead you toward your audience via communications media and tools that are much more immediate and direct.

For example, the corporate communications to-do list might include:

* Each week, review company news, topics and themes with corporate, marketing, sales and service: what do you want to say today?  Where should we say it?

* Scan industry news, blogs and social chatter — how can we be relevant? What can we learn from customers and influencers today?

* Determine whether and how to respond to social chatter, blog posts, news articles. Respond or elevate where needed.

* Post your news on your website or blog, and on networks where customers and influencers can find and follow.

* Meet with internal stakeholders to ensure in-depth awareness and understanding of what’s happening inside the business. Adjust the message. Take time to review the strategy. What are the tools, media and materials you need to make the message work?

Do all this along with creating corporate presentations, participating in meetings, handling ad hoc high-priority executive requests, communicating across the team, juggling deadlines and actually writing and producing the stories your organization has to tell.

(Are there enough hours in the day?)

If we keep asking questions, the answers should become clear — what works? what doesn’t? what does the customer need? what moves the needle? what are we doing because we’ve always done it?

If you could start over, what would you keep? What would you drop?

Five Communications and Marketing Lessons I Learned on My Vacation

1 Mar

Last week, the kids were on a school break, so we took them out to California for 10 days of fun and family. I’m back now, shifting once again into the world of deadlines and commitments (what to leave in, what to leave out…).  But since my mind keeps drifting back to vacation, and they say that you should learn from any experience, I thought share a few vacation memories, and what we as communicators and marketers (or I, at least) can take away from the experience.

  1. Crying over spilled milk. On our first day, we ate breakfast at San Diego’s famous Hash House A-Go-Go.  Amid the giant plates of griddled, fried and scrambled food, my 5-year-old reached stretched his arm for another chomp of pancake and doing so elbowed a glass of milk onto the table. It was refilled; he did it again.  A second refill, another elbow and another spilled milk.  Finally, my wife and I started laughing, at which point our son began to cry, thinking we were laughing at him.  We gently explained that we weren’t laughing at him
    Lesson for communicators: When confronted, remember to take customer issues as seriously as they do.

  2. Ah, Legoland. Our kids love Legos. I mean, they really love Legos. So the main reason for our trip to San Diego was to see the legendary Legoland theme park (the theme being Legos, of course).  Lego had told us about thepark many times, sent us coupons and generally made us feel wanted. We arrived 15 minutes before the park opened and stayed about 30 minutes after it closed.  A good time was had by all.  Since apparently our break doesn’t coincide with anyone else’s break, the crowds were small and the lines were short.
    Lesson for communicators: Embrace and encourage the passion of your biggest fans.  And, instead of the big event or trade show, choose the odd time to make your news. You’ll stand out more.
  3. Getting help. Before  our trip, we forced friends to recount their So-Cal journeys, did loads of online research and scoured the ‘Net for coupons…and quickly found ourselves in a state of information overload.  As my wife notes, we might never have gone on the trip if she didn’t call a travel agent to help us figure out where to stay and how to get safely from Southern California to the North. Yes, we could have figured it out ourselves, but sometimes, finding a real expert can make for a much happier experience.
    Lesson for communicators: Be a real expert, one that helps get customers and influencers where they want to go, and your reputation will grow.
  4. Plan for the unplanned. Some parts of our vacation that we’ll remember best weren’t planned at all: Driving toward the ocean and spotting the USS Midway — then spending hours touring the old ship.  The little donut shop in Leucadia. The twisted trees of Torrey Pines. The Italian Bistro in La Jolla. Stumbling upon an odd little memorial to Bob Hope’s USO tours. Taking an early morning stroll after an evening rain and discovering a sidewalk strewn with snails.
    Lesson for marketers:  Be open and ready to take advantage of serendipity.  It’s the good stories you don’t arrange that stick longest in people’s minds.

  5. The inevitable crises. Over the 10 days we were away, I count it a blessing that only three of them involved someone throwing up. The first time was in a Mexican restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town. In an impressive feat of self control, the afflicted boy, hand clamped over mouth, scooted to the restroom before creating a scene. The second was on my parents’ couch, where, while too late to completely spare the couch and the carpet, a quick-thinking grandma reduced the damage by a) providing a large pot and b) urging us to get the dog away from the mess. The third time was in the lobby of the Foster City Red Robin restaurant, and there was no hiding any of it. The staff smiled and smoothly moved in to help, while we smiled and calmly headed for the parking lot, where a jacket conveniently left in the car allowed me to replace my shirt.
    Lesson for communicators: No matter what the crisis, stay cool and use your best judgment. Also, when traveling with children, keep an extra set of clothes handy.

Next time, back to our regularly scheduled communications and marketing wisdom.

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