Public Relations & Communications

Communications Within The Workplace

Communication is a small yet enormously important aspect of running any business. The ability to communicate and understand tasks, goals and concerns within the business environment is crucial. Failure in communication is one of the root causes behind employee anxiety, work place conflicts, leadership failure and brand damage.

Communicating expectations to staff is step one to brand success

Communicating expectations to staff is step one to brand success

Employee Expectations.

Your staff need to clearly understand what is expected of them.

Two different corporate bodies that I worked for failed to provide proper verbal or written job descriptions either upon time of hiring or upon later request. One of the responses I received to my request was that “they didn’t trust an employee to go above expectation if they needed to know what their job entailed”. Another was far more succinct: “It is whatever the F*** I tell you to do”. Keep in mind that both of these responses occurred within professional corporate office environments. One was while working with one of the largest independently owned corporations in the world.

While job descriptions can be a double-edged swords to a few employers, they can be an excellent source of communication for most others. Whether you are hiring a Barista, a Graphic designer or Vice President, thoroughly outlining your expectations is step one to success.

There will always be an existing level of expectation from new hires. Nothing about that should change. As an employer, however, you should ensure that new hires will be clear on what is required long-term, to walk the road to success with your company.

This equips them to move forward and it equips you as an employer to terminate them if they are clearly not meeting the described expectations.

But My Business Is Evolving Constantly, Job Requirements Change.

Changes to jobs occur. That is a fact of life that we over at TMS are all too familiar with. Companies grow and shrink, new needs develop and old ones disappear. Having a job description in place does not mean that it cannot change. It simply means that you as an employer need to be accountable for those changes. Many businesses find it advantageous to set up an annual review of staff positions to determine whether they still meet a necessary criteria, or if they need to evolve. This is a highly effective practice and it benefits your business as a whole. It ensures that you are annually reviewing exactly what your business does, what it used to do and what it should be doing.

If an employees job has changed in nature, or needs to adjust, then set up a meeting with the employee to discuss the changes. This won’t necessarily be easy, especially if more will be required of the employee. However it creates a transparent and accountable work place and that is the type of workplace that the best employees flock to and grow.

Employees need honesty. Creating a transparent workplace, creates healthy employees.

Employees need honesty. Creating a transparent workplace, creates healthy employees.

I May Lose Employees If I Ask Too Much.

This is true. You may lose employees, or you may have trouble finding them if the job entails too much. It is a balance and it should help you as an employer to grow. You need to realize if you are asking too much. This should be readily apparent during prolonged staffing issues and should prompt change on your part. However do not be too hasty to reduce your expectations.

Several years ago I worked with one corporation that had massive staffing issues. However in this case it wasn’t that the job positions required too much, it was because of an ongoing building boom that had drained the available workforce. This particular business wound up having to temporarily add perks and reduce some of their requirements just to get the bodies to get them through the season. Just one year later, when the boom bubble burst, we had a flood of resumes and were considered one of the top job options in the area.

It is give and take depending on your business, your social and economic climate, and your desperation. At times you may find yourself forced to lower expectations temporarily due to situations beyond your control. However learn to recognize temporary hiring shortages and long-term ones. Staffing can be a tumultuous thing – as an employer you need to be fair to your employees, but also to yourself.

Outlining clear job expectations acts as an immediate sieve for potential employees. Some will decide of their own accord that what you need is not what they want to give. Gauge their response and make the educated decision. Having expectations is necessary to ensuring you hire the right candidate for the job.

Specifics About Tasks & Goals.

Healthy expectations are required and even desired by employees

Healthy expectations are required and even desired by employees

Specifics are imperative. How many employers expect their staff to stay busy during slow periods throughout the day? All of them. But what does “staying busy” entail? Sweeping the floor? Organizing the shelves? Cold calling?

Ensure that staff have a clear understanding of their job goals, what they are meant to achieve daily, weekly, monthly etc – and how best to do so.

When I worked as a free-lance Graphic Designer, I often worked with clients who didn’t know what they wanted, but were VERY CLEAR on what they didn’t want. It was in this business that I quickly learned the importance of “specifics”.

Early into my career I worked with one client who ran an organic pet food business. They wanted something that conveyed their love of nature, purity and pets. I designed what I thought was a lovely mock-up with a minimalist styled Beagle embedded into a single leaf. I ran it past a few friends and they immediately connected it to organic and animals. It was classy, in trend and frankly just awesome.

The client hated it. They wanted a specific type of dog (but not a Beagle) something larger like a Doberman, or maybe a cat. They didn’t like the green colour but thought that maybe an orange or a terracotta red would be nice. Also they wanted the font to look more “fun”. The mock-up was too cold and professional.

The point here is not whether they were wrong in hating it, after all they were the client. The point is that they had no specifics, no details, nothing to start off with. I spent hours working on something that they immediately dismissed. The time spent on the mock-up was wasted. This waste could have been avoided had they provided specifics at the outset (or had I known the need to ask for them). There was resulting frustration, more work and they wound up with a higher bill than they anticipated.

The same goes for any employee and any job. Ensure they have specifics so that they can do their jobs well. Communicate with them. As an employer you are the leader and this is your job.

  • Explain WHO needs to do what. Make it clear whose job it is and use specifics. Passive aggressive behavior and work place conflicts often arise as a result of employees thinking that a specific job or responsibility should belong to someone else.
  • Explain WHAT they need to do to accomplish the task. Don’t assume they know what the task entails.  Explain exactly what is required for this task to be completed. If you come in tomorrow what do you as the employer expect to see?
  • Explain HOW to do what they need to do. A common mistake is leaving employees to fend for themselves. Not every task is obvious to every worker. If you ask me to change a tire – sure I can do that! If you ask me to change the spark plugs… I may need some directions. Whatever task it may be, may seem simple to you – but don’t assume! Be redundant if you want it done right. 
  • Explain WHEN. Make it clear to them what the deadline is. Sure certain workers will have good time management skills, others however will not. Explain exactly when a project needs to be done and make it clear that there are no excuses. If you do not explain the required due date thoroughly, then you have less foundation to question their delays.
  • Explain WHY. Not enough emphasis is put on this. Good employees are invested in your business. If you take the time to explain why a task is important for the company and to them individually, you will see far greater effort on their part. It creates a sense of ownership and it brings them on as a part of a “team”. The more interest an employee shows in the “why”, the more engaged they are with the business.
Scott Adams presents a sarcastic (but frighteningly accurate) picture of many modern workplaces.

Scott Adams presents a sarcastic (but frighteningly accurate) picture of many modern workplaces.

Your Concerns.

As an employer your concerns are many. Some need to be addressed immediately, others can wait. Knowing how to designate and deal with concerns is key to successful leadership and management.

Specific concerns with staff should be prioritized properly according to severity, but all should be dealt with promptly. Delaying simply creates more difficulties down the line. If an employee is not performing properly or is doing something incorrectly, the longer you delay correcting it, the more damage is done and the harder it will be to correct later.

Communicate your concerns in a work-place proper manner. Be polite, be positive and be specific. Start off with what they are doing correct and then address the things they need to do differently. Every employee will respond differently to correction but the fundamental rules are:

  • Treat them respectfully.
  • Be clear on what is wrong.
  • Explain why.
  • Explain how to change it.

Every employee is going to react differently. Remember that, as an employer, you are entitled to have certain expectations for how a job is done, however you are also responsible for ensuring your staff understand and are equipped to do it. Take responsibility for your own short comings in equipping staff and learn how to do it better.

Don’t be a bully and do not nit-pick. Be respectful and choose your battles. But in all things COMMUNICATE. Be clear. Be thorough. Be a leader.

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Understanding Successful Advertising.

We continue our look at “advertising for dummies” by taking a look at how quickly careless advertising can backfire.

Argentina VS Brazil… Fails To Perform.

Anyone who follows World Cup Football (Soccer) knows that tensions run high and rivalries are deeply ingrained. These rivalries almost always spill over and out of the arena and are often reflected in the various advertising campaigns.

Past rivalries have seen some very “interesting” ad campaigns between rivals. Consider this little exchange between Argentina and Brazil. The top ad was Argentina’s opening shot, the bottom was Brazil’s response after Argentina “failed to perform” in such a way as to “stick it to” Brazil.

Oops, looks like Brazil had some performance issues.

Oops, looks like Brazil had some performance issues.

France Throws A Few Stones At Ukraine, Forget They Live In A Glass House…

For the upcoming Ukraine VS France Football match French fans were creating various posters of their chicken mascot showing dominance over other teams (in France the Rooster is one of France’s national animals… yes we know the irony and humour in France being represented by a chicken). Needless to say the campaign chucked a few stones towards the Ukraine who responded quite quickly with their own little ad.

The left is one of the French ad’s the right was the Ukraine’s response.

France VS Ukraine... Oh and they are playing a football match also!

France VS Ukraine… Oh and they are playing a football match also!

We have one word: “Owned”.

Consider The Backfire.

When advertising, one needs to always consider the various angles and possibilities of a backfire.

Consider it like this. When a parent is choosing names for their newborn, they often consider the many nicknames that can go along with it. “Ben” for example will 99% of the time result in such nicknames as: “Bendover, Benjamin Franklin, Bent, Bender, Bendy etc” (no none are very original). Guarding against nasty nicknames is a very common thought process for new parents.

Any instance of communication with the public (advertising, PR etc) must ponder things in much the same way. Angles need to be considered, public perception of events and materials need to be understood and the overall message being communicated must be honed appropriately. What could go wrong? What leverage may it provide your rivals?

History is riddled with ad campaigns that have backfired violently, damaging the brand they are meant to build up. This is only amplified by the wide-spread use of Social Media to share and spread the failure.

A campaign can start with good intentions but spiral quickly out of control if not properly researched and planned. Try as we may however, we cannot always plan for every possible outcome. To illustrate this, let’s return back to the metaphor of naming your child. I knew a young man whose parents named him Michael Hawk. Not so bad right? Until you start calling him Mike…. and then say his full name out loud, Mike Hawk. Go ahead and say that (quietly) to yourself.

Not exactly the name you want called out when stepping out onto the field for the first time or during role-call in a small high school. Let’s just say the rest of his first year was very good for “character development”.

The point we are trying to make is that one can only do their very best to plan for every possible outcome of an advertising / marketing campaign. You can only do your very best but YOU MUST DO your very best. Careless advertising can quickly backfire (as we see in the Football ad’s above). Consider your audience, consider what is appropriate and what is taboo, consider your wording and then polish your message.

Then fire away.

Just don’t use a chicken as your mascot.

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Avoid Sneaky Marketing Tactics

Bad-Marketing-Advertising

Always read the fine print. If an ad seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Does anyone else find it odd, that the fine print more or less contradicts the large print above it?

What is worse is that this ad targets consumers with eye sight issues.

That seems a little dirty Vision Express. If someone NEEDS an eye exam, are they even going to be able to read that fine print? We would love to presume that in the example above that this is part of the joke, but frankly it seems more like a bad ad execution.

“Always read the fine print. If an ad seems to good to be true, it probably is. This type of marketing is one to be avoided. It will tarnish your brand image.”

This is on par with the big box stores that proclaim an item to be just “$0.99” but then have a little font size 6 statement at the bottom that says “when purchasing six or more”.

It is legal and it is common for big businesses to use these type of tactics to sucker customers in. Legal it may be, however that doesn’t make it right,

We would mark this little piece of marketing as a fail. It comes off as underhanded and sneaky (and in fact the original poster of the image above, posted it to make this very point). It may sucker a few consumers, however it is morally questionable and savvy consumers will quickly learn not to trust you or your brand.

Those are our thoughts, what do you think?

Two Takeaways From JC Penney’s “Hitler” Kettle

Early last week this article appeared on several prominent websites.

20130605-075833.jpg

The “Hitler Kettle”. A rather unique kettle that through unusual circumstances shared a similar appearance to one of histories most loathsome individuals.

The rather unusual similarity was documents by The Telegraph, Mighty Optic Illusions and the New York Daily to name a few.

Just one glance at the image above is enough. The similarity between the infamous Austrian born dictator and this little kettle are indeed there.

Each of the articles we read on the matter indicated that JC Penney had indeed made an error and there would likely be fallout as a result. The amount of brand damage that was expected ranged in estimate.

However, we must remember the world we live in and the latest report is that this model of kettle sold out within days of the article first appearing online. As TIME documents well in their online article from May 29, the teakettle sold out in quick fashion.

Most recently one of these “Hitler Kettle’s” showed up on Ebay at a price of $199.00 (up from around $45 retail) others also appeared at prices ranging from $175 – $190 SOURCE

The mass online spread of the image above (and subsequently the novelty) is attributed of course to social media, including such sites as Reddit.

The conspiracy theorist in all of us is left wondering whether this was all just a bizarre series of events? Did JC Penney’s marketing team really not notice the similarities? Likely yes, unless you know to look for it, it is not necessarily apparent.

Or was this all a clever ruse & ploy that was executed in a rather bold fashion? We say… probably (and hopefully) not.

Two immediate takeaways from this rather unusual story are:

a. If there is a novelty, even perhaps an offensive one, it will likely have a market.

b. Online exposure clearly works wonders and social media again has proven its weight in the world of advertising and consumerism

Brand Expansion, Diversified Marketing & Business Growth

20130509-105832.jpg

Angry Birds Are Everywhere!

It seems like everywhere you look “Angry Birds” is popping up as another product. Two years ago we saw plushies and various children’s toys enter the market, then shortly afterwards gummy candies begin popping up on super market shelves. Now we are finding their own brand of cola cropping up.

This begs the question, is this smart marketing?

One can argue that if they are selling and turning profit, then yes indeed it is. Yet one has to be careful, diversifying and attempting to place your brand into new market regions can be a risky proposition with long-lasting repercussions.

Take these “Angry Birds” for instance. Is the same demographic that the games, plush toys, candies and t-shirts appeal to, the same that would look at drinking this cola?

Probably yes and this could be a safe and smart choice.  However that is not always the case.

If one intends on entering a new market region with their brand, products or services, then they MUST do their research. History is full of examples of brands that tried – and failed – at creating new sources of profit. One needs to be aware of all of the variables that can affect their success and sometimes those variables are just about impossible to prep for.

There is always a certain level of risk when seeking new target markets to aim for. By doing the homework and paying attention, that risk can be greatly reduced. Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, seeking new markets is a key to growth. Searching out people who can benefit from your products & services, or adapting existing products & services to meet a new markets needs always merits investigation.

But remember doing it haphazardly could cost you big.

We will leave you with few examples of diversified marketing failures from the giants who should have known better:

  • Turner Broadcasting. Their attempt at Guerrilla Marketing quickly became a fiasco when their novelty glowing signs were mistaken for terrorist threats.
  • Coca-Cola. Everyone in the industry is familiar with the 1980’s “New Coke” failure.
  • Gap. Had a quick two day stint with a new logo before realizing it just wasn’t cool.
  • Netflix. Tried to hit two rival markets at once… oops!

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Customer Experience: The “NEW” Branding

Branding 2.0

Branding has changed over the past twenty years.

A Brand used to exert far more control over their image than they do now. Their image was dictated by their marketing team and it was presented via one-way communication channels such as Print, Radio and Television. There was no means for the consumer to talk back and no sharing “en-mass” of experiences. The worst a Brand had to fear was negative word-of-mouth referrals amongst their consumer’s family and friends. This of course was minimal and easy to drown out.

This type of “one-way” marketing communications made it easy for brands to position themselves with nothing more than a large budget and a savvy marketing team.

That has all changed. With the advent of the internet, the world became a great deal smaller. This is a truth that has been compounded even further by “Social Media”.

“Social Media has made every customer a “mystery shopper”. It has enabled every last consumer to weigh in on a Brand’s performance.”

Social Media has enabled anyone and everyone to share their thoughts on anything at anytime. Is this a good thing? Perhaps not in all cases, yet it is the truth we live with. Everyone’s hearts are now on their sleeves and now just about anyone across the world can view it.

This is a cold hard fact for Brands.

The Brand Image is no longer dictated solely by slick marketing, it is dictated by customer’s sharing their experiences with the world. Take for example this recent post to social media giant, Reddit:

This UPS employee deserves a raise for the good he has done for their brand.

This UPS employee deserves a raise for the good he has done for their brand.

A customer, or quite possibly no more than the NEIGHBOUR of a customer, witnessed a diligent UPS employee and shared it on Reddit. The post was instantly shared with millions of consumers all around the world.

Congratulations to UPS!  Thanks to this employee and the consumer who noticed it, they got excellent brand recognition and advertising without spending a dime.

Now as a point of comparison, have a look at this short video posted to YouTube. The video shows a FedEx employee casually tossing a package (containing a computer) over a fence. This is a video that went viral only months ago:

Ask yourself, which of these two elite carriers are consumers more likely going to use? Based solely off of these two consumer-shared posts I know who my choice would be.

Of course this isn’t to lambaste FedEx or endorse UPS, but to demonstrate the principles behind the new era of Branding. Simply put Brands must now exercise a new level of responsibility and engagement with customers. Any Brand seeking success in the 21st century must now focus less on shiny advertising and image and more on “Customer Experiences”.

A customer with a mouthful asked for a "Mapkin". This is what the clever employee provided. As a result it got great, positive exposure to 60 million users on a social networking site. Good employees are worth investing in.

A customer with a mouthful asked for a “Mapkin”. This is what the clever employee provided. As a result it got great, positive exposure to 60 million users on a social networking site. Good employees are worth investing in.

Customer Experiences.

Customer Experience (Definition): Is literally any part of the entire experience a consumer (or consumers) has during the process of making a purchase. This includes preemptive researching, sourcing, pricing, purchasing, taking possession of, installing and using, as well as any and all customer service related activities following. This may include warranty, returns, questions or comments.

Twenty or more years ago a customers experience with a brand was shared with only their immediate social circles. Feedback, bad or good, was restricted. These days customer experiences can (and are) immediately shared with hundreds, thousands or even millions of other consumers. For this reason Brands have begun to put more effort into their daily transactions with customers.

There are billions of customer transactions and experiences occurring daily around the world. They take the form of phone calls, emails, discussions with sales associates, deliveries, installations, warranty requests etc. Every instance of participation between you and a consumer, every interaction that your business has with a customer, is a “Customer Experience” and EVERY SINGLE ONE of these interactions could make or break your brand.

We as businesses have no control over which consumers will share what with others. That one negative experience we provide to a consumer could quickly be seen by anyone and everyone. Likewise that incredible effort on the part of your staff, could reach thousands on your behalf. This “unknown” is why EVERY interaction is crucial.

Social Media has made every customer a “mystery shopper“. It has enabled every last consumer to weigh in on a Brand’s performance.

The key point being made here is that EVERY business big or small, needs to invest in improving their day-to-day interactions with consumers.

Improving Brand to Customer Interactions.

As outlined above, there are countless interactions between customers and Brands every day. Whether making an actual purchase or simply looking for product information, it is imperative that every customer experience be as smooth, efficient and positive as possible.

“Always keep this one direction in mind: “How can I make this better for the customer?”

The sheer number of interactions and instances of “Customer Experiences” can be overwhelming. In this excellent post by Dr. Brian Monger. He outlines a far more thorough list of the various interactions that may take place between you and your consumers. To read through it, one can feel quickly discouraged! But take hope. This list provides the impetus for you to BUILD YOUR BRAND!

Instead of getting discouraged, go through the list and pick two or three interactions that you KNOW you have with customers and look at ways to improve them. For example, does your business frequently have to deliver to customers? How can that be improved? Can you offer it for free? Can it be sped up? Is your delivery guy providing them with a smile and a handshake?

The improvements don’t need to always be complicated and it is often the little things that matter most to customers.

Always keep this one direction in mind: “How can I make this better for the customer?”

Getting Social.

Improving customer experiences is a crucial step for the new era of Brand Image because customers are continually sharing their experiences via social media. Since this is the case, it only makes sense for Brands to also be involved on social media channels.

In past posts we have outlined some of the many social media sites available, what they do and how they work. The two primary reasons for a Brand to “get social” are as follows:

1. Engaging Customers: The purpose of social media is quite literally in its name: “SOCIAL media”. Many Brands have yet to truly see that success on Twitter, Facebook or any of the many sites out there, boils down to the ability to connect with customers. Using “one-way advertising” tactics and simply shouting your message without listening or replying to the customer base is a faux pas and it is one of the things killing Brands on social media.

Instead, make your time on social media, all about talking WITH your target market. Share insider info on tips, deals and sales, reply to their comments and start conversations. This builds your brands integrity and gives them reason to participate with you online.

2. Being Available To Listen: If a customer has an issue with your business and decides to share it via social media. How will you know?

There are a couple of different ways. The first is just BEING on social media. There is a good chance that if a customer has an issue with a recent experience and is going to share it online, they will seek out the Brand responsible (Tweet at them, visit their Facebook page etc). It gives them a chance to address it with you, which ideally results in dealing with the situation and improving their opinion of you.

“If a customer has an issue with your business and decides to share it via social media. How will you know?”

On the flip side, positive experiences may also be shared and should be highlighted and shared with your social media followers.

A Brand can also watch for  “mentions”. Platforms like Twitter allow for an extremely easy search of various words and terms. Simply plug-in your brand name, or specific terms that are associated with your business and hit “search” to see what people are saying. There are programs available to allow you to do this with just about any site and they can be customized to fit your business.

Closing.

We chose not to get into the details regarding many of the topics at hand above. The sole purpose behind this post was to educate small businesses on the growing importance of customer experiences. What they are, how they work and why they matter. We value feedback, did something in this post standout? Do you have an opinion, question or criticism? Share it with us and let’s get social!

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.

Employees Engaging Customers – A Look At Customer Service

When Employees Can Be Themselves.

Here is a question. How well do you inspire your employees? Are they happy? Are they comfortable? Are they permitted to be human or to engage on your businesses behalf?

Many brands spend a fortune attempting to “humanize” their brands, but spend little money on developing the front lines of their brand – their service employees.

Customer accidentally asked for a "Mapkin" and this is what he got.

Customer accidentally asked for a “Mapkin” and this is what he got.

The story behind this photo: A customer accidentally asked for a “Mapkin” (probably had a mouthful of food). The waiter brought this back.

Almost every customer appreciates this type of extra effort from their service providers.

It’s humourous, engaging and human. In fact this customer enjoyed this so much it made it to one of the largest online content sites available!

Free exposure and advertising simply because the minimum wage worker took the time to enjoy their job.

What can we all learn from this?

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. At Transition Marketing, we have made it our priority to know specialized marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.