Early 1990â€™s, it was a big snowstorm. In my cul de sac, a dozen townhouses were isolated. No business was conducted. Even those with computers at home were hampered by broadband and Internet limitations. So we had a three-day party. Chili and beer. Pot roast and wine. Afternoon poker.
Fast forward to 2003 in Young & Associates’ expansive offices. It was an unusual morning. Two of the staff, unbeknownst to the other, announced they were moving from the area. To keep a successful team with a remarkable success record together, we decided to â€śgo virtualâ€ť.
The â€śgoâ€ť needed a lot of planning as our technology and work habits were geared to brick and mortar. An in-house committee reviewed and tested options to seamlessly connect remote offices, enhance intra- and inter- communication and ensure security.
Three years later, others moved and virtual became our way of life, both professionally and personally.Â Although we still are exploring, here are some of the lessons we learned:
Take baby steps â€“ If you have employees who request working at home or you want to explore virtual options, do a test. Measure results.
Upgrade your technology for mobility â€“ Even if you donâ€™t go virtual, todayâ€™s world requires the best in wireless and mobile capabilities for anyplace-anytime work environments.
Deal with the human issues â€“ Working in pajamas in a corner of your bedroom is not going to make it. Feeling isolated, yes, it is real. To ensure a team spirit we meet bi-annually.
Review, challenge & change â€“ What is and isnâ€™t working? Formally review personal and professional issues. Something as simple as staff in different time zones impacts office hours. Make adjustments when needed.
I would like to hear your stories about working virtually, good and bad. And, do I miss the snow parties, you bet.
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Crisis communications has had its hands full over the last few weeks. Â From the terrible tragedy at SeaWorld to continuing product issues at Toyota to the Tiger Woods’ scandal, crisis communications 101 has been in high demand.
When all is said and done, the first rule of crisis communications is simple and something your parents and teachers probably taught you at an early age – tell the truth. Â Yes, I said it: the truth is a very powerful thing. Â Public relations – in my opinion – shouldn’t be used to spin or cover up an issue that could damage the reputation of a theme park, an automaker or an athlete. Â Instead, it should be used to tell the truth, explain to the public in a straightforward way the reason for the problem and focus on positive steps and actions that will take place in the future to prevent any further wrongdoing.
Of course, it is a challenge when your key spokespeople misspeak or crack under pressure during a press conference, but our role as PR professionals should be to coach them through tough times and give them a strong set of talking points to stick to when the media comes a calling.Â Donâ€™t get me wrong, rebuilding reputations is very tough work and takes time, but it can be done with a strategic communications plan that is built around the truth.
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In an effort to tighten the proverbial Y&A belt, we decided to forego conference attendance in favor of webinars, etc in 2009. This year, as things are on the upswing, I have been fortunate to get out of my lair and attend a few client trade conferences and seminars. For the larger events, I am amazed that conference organizers are still allowing presenters to so boldly pitch their own wares. Not to steal Judge Judy’s shtick, but “Donâ€™t pee on me and tell me itâ€™s raining.”
For the last few years, I have heard countless conference planners and owners bemoan decreasing attendance sponsorship and attendance numbers. No kidding. Why would I attend a conference and pay 1,000 bucks or moreâ€”plus travel expensesâ€”only to hear a sales preso when I expected to come and learn something. If thatâ€™s the case, next time Iâ€™ll buy the $150 conference expo pass and go from booth to booth asking for my own tailored sales pitch. Conferences are always great for networking and exposing your organization, but there needs to be a safe haven for pure and simple learning.
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With Valentineâ€™s Day fresh on the brain, I was thinking about how many of the same tenets for personal friendships or romantic relationships also apply to professional relationships with reporters or bloggers. The dance of communication (or miscommunication at times) plays a major role, and there must be interest on both sides for it to work. With the â€ťHallmark holidayâ€ť in mind, I offer five ways to a reporterâ€™s or bloggerâ€™s heartâ€¦Please drop a comment on whether these work for you or if you have others to add.
1)Â Â Â Show a Common Interest â€“ Do your research and demonstrate your familiarity with their work by reading their articles/posts before you contact them. This is a simple, but often overlooked, way to earn bonus points and to show them that youâ€™ve tailored your story idea for them rather than a mass reporter e-mail.
2)Â Â Â Know Their Communication Preferences â€“ Is a particular reporter always on Twitter but you canâ€™t get them on the phone or to respond to e-mail? Iâ€™ve recently had success with this one by sending a Twitter Direct Message to a hard-to-reach tech reporter (after we reciprocated follows) and got interest within minutes.
3)Â Â Â Stay in Touch â€“ After the correspondence for a particular story has wrapped it may seem unnecessary to continue the dialogue, but staying on the radar requires a little TLC. Donâ€™t be afraid to check in again in a month or two if you have another valuable market perspective to share or to see what the reporter or blogger is working on now.
4)Â Â Â Offer Interesting Stories â€“ Reporters and bloggers are always looking for a unique perspective to capture readersâ€™ attention, so up your chances of being included by giving them a spice of controversy (enough to pique attention without being reckless) or presenting a new or different angle for a relevant topic.
5)Â Â Â Follow Through â€“ Media contacts remember which marketing and PR professionals make their jobs easier by facilitating interviews around deadlines and providing requested follow-up material in a timely manner. They also remember the ones who donâ€™t, so deliver on your promises before closing out an interview or story.
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Finally! Young & Associates has its own blog. Welcome to The Matchbox. We are very excited to have a new channel to share with readers an inside view of how we work and think. Our goal is to offer our PR and marketing insights, best practices and challenges, with a conversational style that helps everyone get to know us better and hopefully offers some valuable tips along the way. The whole gang will be contributing â€“ both Jennifers (MacLeid Qotb and Mirabile), Eve, Jean and me â€“ and we invite you to comment and share as well. We donâ€™t expect everyone to always agree and hope for some lively discussions.
In arriving late to the blog party (can we even call it fashionably late at this point?), weâ€™d like to offer a few insights weâ€™ve dealt with along the way:
Donâ€™t over think it: A blog is not meant to be the be all and end all on any topic. Use blog posts as conversation starters.
Donâ€™t be everything to everyone: Our expertise is our PR and marketing counsel and that is what we intend to focus on, so while you will probably hear about some of our client pursuits this will not be a client industry forum and will not be a breaking news source.
Do be yourself: Young & Associates is a tenacious and aggressive agency with real insight to real business issues â€“ this is what we plan to share.
Do plan: While a blog should offer timely insight, have some back up or planned editorial content to fill in the holes when life â€“ or work in our case â€“ gets too busy.
Talk again soon.
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