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Monthly Archives: October 2016

6 Pubic Relations Tips for Success

As a small business, you may not think you need to pay much attention to public relations. However, when it comes to branding, marketing and promoting your company, PR is one of the most important tools to help get you the right type of attention.

According to Landor Associates, 45 percent of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. Furthermore, 75 percent of consumers cite brand awareness as a major influencer in making their buying decision, and consistent brands are worth 20 percent more than those who aren’t consistent.

How you create and deliver your company’s message matters to consumers looking for your brand.

“Public relations can provide legitimacy for a business, and that’s especially important for an SMB that may not have a lot of brand awareness,” said Amy Bryson, the vice president at Airfoil Group, a marketing and public relations firm.

Bryson notes that if a media influencer or third party validates a company, product or service, it demonstrates credibility, which is great for brand building.

“A positive article, review, blog post or social media endorsement is a great asset to promote across a company’s own social channels so that business is searchable and findable,” she said.

As with any decision making in business, you need to consider how the task should be planned and executed. CEO and chief publicist at Three Girls Media, a boutique PR firm, Erika Montgomery, offers this insight before making any choices:

“It’s important to remember the PR is a slow and steady approach. Don’t expect to see results overnight,” Montgomery said. “Building brand awareness and name recognition takes time, but it provides a solid base for your business to build upon the future as you have a larger budget for marketing, advertising, etc.”

She suggests setting aside 10 percent of your annual budget for public relations. Use your PR resources to:

  • Establish clear, measurable goals for your business
  • Determine the best strategy to achieve these goals
  • Follow through on the strategy
  • Review your results and establish new goals/a new strategy

“Create a plan with small, manageable steps so you’ll be able to follow through,” she said.

To help make the most of your PR efforts, Business News Daily spoke to public relations experts about the best ways to handle your responsibilities.

Before doing any strategy work, figure out your ‘why’ – your ultimate goals for your PR campaigns.

“Choosing whether to handle PR in house, utilize freelancers or contractors, an agency or DIY will depend entirely on your budget, company size and unique set of needs,” said Molly Smith, a senior publicist. “If you can’t answer the question, ‘Why am I doing this?,’ implementing any PR strategy or tactic [or business model] is going to be an uphill battle.”

Smith notes your “why” is your story, not your product or your service. For example, say you are a launching a new restaurant. Instead of saying check out this new trendy place (your what,) you’ll need to answer why does it matter? Why should I eat there? Why did you decide to start this restaurant in the first place?

Suki Mulberg Altamirano, founder of Lexington Public Relations, suggests doing this by reading what journalists are covering and finding those that are talking about your industry and competitors.

“Before you pitch anything, really make sure that what you’re sending is relevant to what they write about, their publication and their interests,” she said.

When you do reach out to your media contacts, Mulberg Altamirano cautioned against creating a generic press release. Blasting this out is not going to get you coverage and it will simply annoy people. Instead work on highly personalized, short email pitches.

“Research your competitors and take note on how they are positioning their brand and how you can differentiate your own business,” added Alison Krawczyk, director of public relations at overit. “Also, look at the kinds of news and stories your competitors are sharing with media.”

If you don’t hear back right away, don’t take it personally, Mulberg Altamirano said. “Journalists are busy and sometimes it will take a few different tries before you get that first bite. If one pitch doesn’t work, be patient, wait and try a new angle when you have something truly newsworthy to share again.”

Building relationships takes time. Mulberg Altamirano notes to be fast to respond to requests from journalists, offer them timely and personalized information and don’t over pester them with follow-ups and you’ll be on the right track.

“It’s important to have an active social media presence, because it’s something that can be very efficient in getting PR results,” said Jon Gunnells, social and digital media manager at Airfoil Group.

He notes there are opportunities for organic and free reach and impressions, and it’s important to have a consistent brand and brand message.

“Make sure your creating the right content catered to your audience. Additionally, there are ways to put paid support behind it as well to reach a wider audience,” Gunnells said. “Social media is also a way to amplify content to reach people who may not be following the news.”

Another positive of social is you are privy to real-time and exact reporting. There are no estimates.

“You can know within five minutes after you run [a social] ad how your post will have performed and get any number of metrics,” he said.

Megan Carpenter, CEO and co-founder of FiComm Partners, notes to not go it alone. A consultant or PR firm can help you navigate around potential issues that they know exist because of their own experience and expertise.

“PR is more art than science,” Carpenter said. “Find a PR partner that you trust and that believes in you and your business. A great partner will help your voice be heard and then use the right PR tools to help you communicate with your audience.”

5 Key Customer Service Mistakes

 Given that customer service is so important, it is valuable to know some of the most common customer service mistakes. Customer service experts lent their expertise to Business News Daily and shared how to avoid them.

Just because it can be automated does not meant it should be, and it also does not mean the automation will automatically translate into cost savings.

Don’t automate just because you can. Avoid erasing all personalization and direct contact with the customer. When possible, provide a variety of different communication modes, as some customers prefer online chat while others want to talk to a person over the phone.

“Give them that option. Don’t force customers to use frustrating phone trees,” said Dana Brownlee, founder of consulting firm Professionalism Matters.

Assuming you know what the customer wants, instead of listening to the customer, is a big mistake.

“Teach listening skills throughout the organization, especially to (customer service representatives),” said Brownlee. “Develop processes that ‘force’ CSRs to really listen to customers – get rid of CSR scripts.”

Instead of thinking about how to delight customers on the front end and avoid getting the calls, many companies fall into the reactive approach of being satisfied with somewhat mediocre products or service and thinking of customer service as something that happens on the back end when there are complaints or problems. Take time to conduct process analysis, continuous process improvement and root cause analysis to truly improve your product service.

“Require every employee to take (five) customer service calls a month to maintain connection to the customer. Incorporate customer service goals into every employee’s compensation/bonus structure,” Brownlee said.

It’s a shame that very often the staff members who interact with customers the most are paid and valued the least. To avoid this mistake, Brownlee said, “Hire better staff, pay them more, and reward them for providing great service.”

According to Robert C. Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport, customers want accurate answers or quick, efficient and respectful solutions, and getting that to the customer is the most important thing, even if the answer or solution is not ideal.

“Make sure the employees (who interact) with customers have access to the right information and are listening to their concerns,” Johnson said. “Ensure communication is realistic – it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver on that promise than the other way around.”

Customer service is proving to be a vital part of a successful business. But where does it start? Employees may not know where to turn for advice on customer service, or how to get the right information.

“A culture of exceptional customer service must start at the top. It can’t be just a slide in a presentation or a cliche saying that employees are expected to follow,” Johnson said. The CEO needs to set the tone, invest in the right team members and technology, and lead by actions as well as words.

A survey conducted by Professionalism Matters also found that scripts are not the way to deal with customer service complaints. Customer service representatives need to be trained to work to resolve a customer’s specific situation, as opposed to the “if they say this, you say that” approach.

No one is perfect. Whether due to a lack of focus, understanding, guidance or diligence, mistakes will happen.

“Sometimes we move too fast, and sometimes things just happen. At the end of the day, it’s how you recover from these mistakes that’s important,” Johnson said. “Good companies own both the good and the bad things that happen.”

The key is knowing how to rectify the situation once it has happened and making sure that the customer still receives the best customer service, despite some bumps along the way to a resolution.

Johnson suggested reaching out to the customer and owning up to the problem with empathetic and sincere communication. Formulate a response strategy, such as a timeline for communication, and execute it quickly.

It’s also critical for customer service representatives to apologize on behalf of the company immediately if the company dropped the ball in any way, Brownlee said in the Professionalism Matters survey.

“There’s nothing wrong with simply expressing regret that the customer is experiencing anguish, even if they haven’t determined yet if the company was at fault,” Brownlee said.

Climbing the Career Ladder

 For the ninth month in a row, the national unemployment rate hasremained below 5 percent, a clear indication that the economic recovery in the U.S. continues to progress. The results of a recent workforce survey bySnagajob and LinkedIn recognizes this development, and paints a positive picture of the overall employment situation.

Snagajob CEO Peter Harrison says the company’s research highlights encouraging trends for hourly workers and managers.

“With a low unemployment rate, and a dramatic spike in the amount of open hourly positions and jobs, it’s a job seeker’s market right now,” he stated. “As the competition between employers increase, this data helps hourly employers understand what workers want out of a job to help improve recruitment, improve engagement and reduce turnover.”

Based on Snagajob’s research and engagement with 75 million hourly workers and nearly a half a million employers, one of the issues that came to the forefront was “a real need for resources to guide hourly workers through their employment journey,” Harrison noted.

The workforce survey analyzed 16 business sectors and examined issues like employee engagement and how long it takes to get hired and promoted. It also provided insights on career growth opportunities and the advantages of having a well-rounded skillset.

Among the skills that help workers advance in restaurant and retail careers are a basic understanding of finance, management and new store development skills. The restaurant industry tends to provide a faster path to managerial roles than retail, although, statistically, hourly workers in beverage, crafts and furniture businesses get promoted to managerial jobs the fastest.

Some specialized knowledge is necessary to advance in management positions, but a business education can help applicants gain a foundation and competitive edge for moving on to higher-level jobs.

The ability to recruit and retain staff is the most universally valuable skillset in the restaurant and retail sector. The survey results also suggest that management candidates and trainees who show initiative in learning skills like recruiting, hiring, employee scheduling, staff development, and employee relations boost their chances for promotions. Other strengths that lead to career advancement and management opportunities include financial forecasting ability, operations management potential, and a proactive attitude toward improving bottom-line profits.

Since financial need is often a primary motivator among hourly workers seeking employment, one of the metrics Snagajob focused on is hiring speed. As the report states, “For many hourly workers, getting a job quickly is the difference between being able to pay the bills or not.”

On the average, the turnaround time for restaurant hiring is several days less than that of retail businesses. Restaurants average 15 to 27 days between the date of an application and the resulting job offer. The average lead time for retail stores is 33 days. One of the key takeaways in the report is that faster results can sometimes be produced by targeting certain types of businesses.

“If you’re looking to get hired quickly, the data shows sandwich shops, sports stores and casual dining restaurants are your best bets – they hire the fastest among the 16 sectors we analyzed,” said the report.

5 Skills IT Professionals Need to Land a Job

 Information technology is a rapidly growing and changing industry, and the qualifications for those who work in this field can change just as quickly. If you’re looking for work in this field, it’s in your best interest to stay up to date on the workforce trends.

“For IT candidates to stand out in a sea of emails and resumes, they should be aware of the latest technology trends,” said Dino Grigorakakis, vice president of recruiting at Randstad Technologies, a technology talent and solutions provider. “Based on our experience with midmarket and large enterprises, the line between cybersecurity specialists and IT specialists is beginning to blur. The most attractive IT professionals are those who have at least some expertise in cybersecurity (and) . . . mobile development skills.”

Based on its research, Randstad offered a closer look at essential skills and requirements IT professionals need to land tech jobs in today’s market.

The distinction between cybersecurity professionals and IT specialists will become blurred, as all IT professionals will be expected to have some expertise in cybersecurity. This is to ensure that security is built into networks and other IT components rather than trying to add it on after implementation.

Mobile technology has become an integral part of most people’s lives with the normalization of the smartphone. As a result, many businesses are looking to deploy mobile apps. For them to do this, skilled mobile developers will be necessary hires.

Companies want greater flexibility and efficiency from their workforce investments because of the agile, project-oriented nature of technology work, as well as to fill the technical talent shortage in the industry. Randstad expects temporary workers to make up as much as 50 percent of the workforce by 2019. It is important for IT professionals to consider making the transition from employee to freelancer or contractor to make the most of this opportunity.

Aided by big data and analytics, some companies will begin automating certain low-level IT functions in areas such as cybersecurity and network monitoring. This poses a threat to IT professionals’ jobs. To avoid this pitfall, IT professionals should focus on developing skills in higher-level analysis and decision-making in IT environments.

Emerging technologies such as virtual reality and the internet of things will mean more demand for workers with these specialties. By becoming familiar with these technologies, workers can make themselves much more attractive to companies.