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.

One Big Step Towards Great PR

Relief and Support Services Canada member George Rands visits with Kenyan children during a trip to the impoverished Africa country.

Did you know that Transition Marketing Services supports Relief and Support Services Canada? R.S.S.C is a local Okanagan, not-for-profit agency dedicated to providing necessary change to the country of Kenya.

We are not bragging, although we could.

No, we are not sharing this to pat ourselves on the back, but to illustrate a significant means of generating great PR and Brand awareness.

Public Relations.

Public Relations is all about the influencing the public’s perception of a thing.

Public Relations (noun)

  1. The actions of a corporation, store, government, individual,etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
  2. The art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

You see it everywhere. Business publications, celebrity tabloids, political campaigns – everywhere.

Public Relations is literally the public’s perception of a thing (Image source: Pollackblog.com)

Regardless of your business size or style, PR affects you. It controls the way that the public perceives you, your business, your products and your services. Public Relations  is a foundational element to Marketing, Branding, Communications and Advertising. Good PR is a game changer for businesses.

Who you vote for, how you feel about a new production plant being built, whether you take Tom or Katie’s side on the divorce… it is all highly dependent on the PR.  There are many good PR agents out there, communications experts that can turn the most unfortunate of events around on a dime. PR has many sides and can both win consumers and disenchant them – that is where you have to be careful.

PR has changed drastically over the last 50 years. It was once enough to have an articulate, poignant press release explaining the who, what, when, where and why… however, decades of PR abuse has lead to a  jaded and un-trusting public.

Words are no longer enough to garner PR buy-in and it has become about more than just talking, it has become about doing. Brands need to demonstrate that, and they need to back their words with actions.

The fact of the matter is that  “if you want good, lasting PR, focus on action not words” – Miles Gunnar

Good Actions = Good PR.

Good Actions? What type of good actions?

How about backing a charitable organization?

Backing not-for-profits generates positive associations. We have briefly discussed this concept in prior posts and we felt it deserved its own mention. Getting on board with a local charity is one of the single best ways to market your brand and generate good publicity, while improving life around you.

By getting on board with a local goodwill organization, you are DEMONSTRATING brand-care and concern for matters outside company profits. You are showcasing a brand that is concerned about the world and the people in it. In doing so you are effectively humanizing your brand.

Glorious “Humanizing”. The Holy Grail of branding.

Hu·man·ize (verb)

  1. To portray or endow with human characteristics or attributes; make human: humanized the puppets with great skill.
  2. To imbue with humaneness or human kindness; civilize: acts of courtesy that humanize life in a big city.

This builds trust.

It gives you something positive to talk about as a brand and a means to indirectly broadcast your brand through direct engagement on behalf of the charity.

Example: We support RSSC. As such we will commonly communicate and advertise their efforts and mission statement. Already, simply by being the vehicle for these messages, we have attached our name to the efforts of this charitable organization. We are not leeching off of them, nor are we gaudily stating “this message brought to you by” – rather we are simply acting as an agent of goodwill, and consumers perceive this as such.

Avoid Public Relation faux pas’s. It takes one word to destroy years of hard work. (Image source repmanblog.com)

Avoid PR Faux Pas’s.

1. Choose an Organization Wisely.

When choosing a not-for-profit to sponsor, consider what they do and who they are doing it for.

  1. It should be a cause close to your heart, and also to your employees. Personal buy-in means meaningful, genuine communications.
  2. It is helpful if it fits somehow with your industry.
  3. If possible it should be a cause that matters to your target market

Keep in mind that you need to take care when choosing a not-for-profit to sponsor. Choosing the wrong organization can cause bad PR with specific customer groups. You can choose an organization based on the market you are targeting, however care should be taken not to alienate other demographics.

2. Consider Smaller Groups vs “Corporate Charities”.

Not long ago a member of our team was hired on to handle photography for an annual event, which plays host to 100,000+ people each year. The event is a big deal and every year it supports a different charity. On this particular year they supported breast cancer (the event coordinators even went so far as to paint a bull pink for the the national rodeo finals which they were hosting). They raised a large sum of money and contacted the Breast Cancer Society to put together a photo op and to hand over the giant check.

The were quickly deflated when the Breast Cancer people replied, “no we don’t have time, just mail it to us”.

  1. Bigger not-for-profit organizations need less help and are often less grateful. They have so many groups already vying for sponsorship recognition, that they tend to take it for granted. Your efforts will be no more than a drop in the bucket as other, larger brands, clamor for recognition.
  2. By choosing smaller, grass roots organizations you are getting in on the ground level and supporting them “before it was cool”. You will be the first in, spreading NEW news. You won’t be just another “pink ribbon tag-along”.
  3. Smaller organizations are far more appreciative of assistance and sponsorship than their larger cohorts and will react and communicate as such. They are happy to have your help, and they make it known.
  4. There is less restriction on what communications can be issued, and they are far more willing to work with you on promotions and partnerships.

The Type Of Not-For-Profit To Look For:

A fine example of this small grass roots type of organization is the Children at Risk / Recycle For Life effort going on in Salmon Arm, BC. The entire operation is being run by young people (with a little support from their elders).

Children at Risk / Recycle for Life. They support food and education for third world orphans. This is done primarily through a steady and sustainable effort on their part, to collect donations of recyclable cans and bottles. This is another not-for-profit that TMS backs. More on them here or visit their Facebook page here

3. Consider Local VS Global.

There are a multitude of upstanding not-for-profits that you can support, both next door and across the ocean. Their are pro’s and con’s to sponsorship of either, but at the end of the day the choice should be based on what matters to you, your employees and your market.

Besides, no one said you could only support one. Double up and choose a global initiative and a local one.

More Than A Business Decision.

Yes this type of action can generate great PR and yes it is a wise marketing decision for any brand. However we at TMS don’t believe that sponsorship is based solely on what you can get out of it. We back not-for-profits not because of what we can gain, but what we can give. The world is about more than profits and we all would do well to make use of what opportunities are afforded us, to make things better.

Get on board and sponsor a charitable organization. Do it for brand recognition, do it for public relations, but most importantly do it because it is the right thing to do!

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is 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 were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

How You Benefit From Customer Comments You Were Pretty Sure You Didn’t Want

Recently came across a brilliant article that reiterates everything we have been saying about PR and Customer Service effecting your brand.

How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want. – By Bruce2B

Due to a misunderstanding, at the last minute before takeoff an airline refused to allow a pair of special-needs passengers to fly. This upset the passengers deeply and stranded them at an unfamiliar airport.

No one should have been surprised that intense criticism of the airline spread rapidly via social media, portraying them as bad-guys even though the incident was (arguably) a one-time mistake by an isolated group of employees.

This wound up being a good thing, because:

The airline discovered this issue, apologized to the would-be passengers and their families, refunded their money, offered them additional free flights, and came up with a new process to keep the problem from recurring. All-in-all, the airline—our hometown favorite here in Seattle, Alaska Airlines—took a regrettable mistake, and did everything possible (considering it was after the fact) to make it right with those affected. In this way Alaska Airlines also earned positive PR by showing they’re the kind of company that owns up to their mistakes and jumps on an opportunity to do the right thing when they can.

> Read more about the “special needs passengers stranded by Alaska Airlines” incident

> Another great PR turnaround story:  FedEx responds after delivery guy caught on video throwing computer equipment over a fence

MORE HERE:

Small Business: Why You Need To Be On Twitter

You Belong On Twitter.

Every small business does. It is a tool of engagement and brand development. It is the means to find and learn from your market targets and it is quickly becoming a linchpin to modern marketing.

Consider the following points in regards to Twitter:

1. Twitter shrinks the world. Your brand instantly becomes apparent to both, the customer down the street and across the globe. “Twitter is a place where one person can help another person anywhere in the world” – Dave Larson, @TweetSmarter

2. It is budget friendly, easy to learn and easier to use. Here are a couple of quick Twitter references you should know:

  • Tweet: A message of 140 characters or less.
  • Retweet (RT): A reposting or sharing of someones else’s tweet.
  • @johndoe: The means by which you directly address another Twitter user within your tweet.
  • #Hashtag: Placing the hashtag (#) in front of any word or sentence turns it into a search reference for the Twitter search engine. It can also be used to accentuate the point behind your tweet.
  • “Via”: Source or author of the content being shared.
  • OH: Overheard. The means by which you share a rumour or story.
  • #FF: The Hashtag (search reference) for Follow Friday. The means by which you share people you follow with your followers, “paying it forward” if you will.

Bu utilizing simple tags like this, you literally have the world at your fingertips (whether they listen to you is another story).

3. It is here, it is now, it is real time. Ask a question, expect an answer. The power behind this as a market research tool is enormous. Not only do you have the tool to find your targets, you have the means to speak with them. If you doubt the power Twitter possesses to consolidate an effort – then consider the recent political uprisings that have begun to change the middle east.

4. There is no limit to what you can do with Twitter. Advertise, research, dialogue. build goodwill or address issues.

5.Twitter is a research tool – monitor competitors and other industry relevant parties to see what the latest buzz is from your consumers. This is a great way to see where your brand may be succeeding or failing, but it also works the same way for monitoring your competition.

5. You can spot trends and hop on board. You can spot fails and move out of the way. Twitter hosts communications on everything that is going in the world. You can monitor issues, big and small, relevant or not, and speak to them as you need to.

Twitter can act as a megaphone for your brand successes

6. It is flexible.The speed at which it moves, the nature of limited 140 character posts, and the speed on replies make Twitter the perfect medium to test the waters. Change message types and communications as needed based on real time feedback from sources that matter.

7. Twitter is a great way to spread goodwill. Position your brand on Twitter as an expert and proprietor of helpful industry tips and info. Be helpful and enrich others – the efforts are appreciated and can quickly build brand reputation.

8. Customer Service. Twitter efforts can play a huge role in partnering with your Customer Service and After Sales Service efforts. The speed with which you can address concerns, comments or questions is incredible. Use Twitter to address customer comments and build your brand at the same time (or use it to move them to a less “public” avenue such as email, in order to address more volatile concerns).

9. Immediate information spread. Why does this matter? If you have a sudden issue, crisis or concern – Twitter possesses the speed and wide range communication capabilities to get your message out asap.

10. Connecting. I have been thrilled time and again, with how useful Twitter is for searching out new and relevant contacts. By city, by industry, by name – no matter the parameters, I can seek out those I need to network with.

11. It builds your small business future. Your tweets are entirely public, they are being seen by not just your current customers, but potential ones as well. This positioning of your brand within the eyes of the consumer base, can translate into future sales.

12. Use Twitter as a megaphone for your successes. Don’t brag, but if you get a compliment, favorite, Re-tweet it, and/or reply to it. Doing so spreads the word that, “hey! someone thought you were pretty great!”

Going Viral: Twitter spreads information widely and quickly.

13. Build your brand. We have already addresses this briefly, but Twitter is an ideal medium for establish your brands philosophies, morals and standards within your consumer base. Use Twitter to reinforce your brand message, stay consistent and you will see positive brand growth.

14. Twitter provides a tool to humanize your brand. It is B2B and more. It is B2C (business to customer). You can dialogue directly with the people purchasing your products and services. You can avoid the cold corporate image and show your small business is human just like them.

All that being said, there are pros and cons to all things. Likewise their are correct ways to go about it. Some businesses and Social Media Specialists would purchase follows, but the best and most appropriate use of Twitter is to develop your audience through organic relationships – communicate, speak to them, ask questions and monitor results. Go to your customers and build your brand B2B and B2C.

If you do find yourself on Twitter – drop by and tweet “Hi” – @MarketingTMS

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.