Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

My#FollowFriday favorites: Top 3 PR/Marketing/Comm bloggers   Leave a comment

This week I am doing you a favor. Rather than pour out my usual drivel I thought I would share with you some of my favorite bloggers/Twitter personalities. I admit, I don’t keep up with my blog reading as much as I should or want to, but when I do these are the people I go to.

These folks are brilliant, talented, and charming to boot. They are bona fide experts in communication particularly when it comes to public relations, social media and marketing. If you want to learn how to communicate well these are the people you need to know. Consider this one big #FollowFriday shout-out (in no particular order).

  1. Shonali Burke
    Sole proprietor (and sole employee) of Shonali Burke Consulting, Shonali hosts the popular #measurepr chat on Twitter and is the driving force behind the blog Waxing UnLyrical. I am also pleased to say I have met Shonali as she was the guest of honor at the very first Tweetup I attended, here in San Diego.
  2. Jay Baer
    A renowned social media consultant, Jay Baer is also an author and speaker (if I read books anymore I would definitely read “The NOW Revolution,” his book with Amber Naslund). His site/blog, www.ConvinceAndConvert.com has a ton of great info and tools you can use to plan your social media campaign.
  3. Gini Dietrich
    Founder and CEO of ArmentDietrich and author of the Spin Sucks blog, Gini Dietrich provides excellent tips and food for thought.

There you have it. There are MANY more talented folks out there, so I encourage you to scour the list of people I’m following on Twitter if you want to find more people I find influential and educational.

Who are your favorite bloggers and communicators?

Advertisements

The mighty QR code and its new rival: NFC   Leave a comment

The quick response (“QR”) code is just hitting its stride now. I admit that I was not an early adopter and had to be convinced of the value of these odd, square bar codes popping up everywhere in the U.S. (they’ve been in Japan for a while). You’ve probably seen one and wondered why on Earth anyone would put a weird thing like that on a sign or flyer. Well here’s why: a QR code provides a cheap and easy way to–among other things–get consumers to a specific webpage.

The Beauty of QR codes
So what? Isn’t that what the “www” address is for? Well, sure. But what if that www address isn’t so neat and tidy? For example, let’s say the local Islands* restaurant wants to send out a postcard that directs people to info on their specific location.

They could do it with this web address: http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/locations/info.aspx?l=5&r=26

Not so easy to remember or type into a computer, eh?

Or they could put one of these:

QR Code for info on local Islands restaurant

QR Code for info on local Islands restaurant

For those of us with a smartphone who have downloaded a QR code reader app, this code, once scanned, will take you directly to the address listed above (http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/locations/info.aspx?l=5&r=26). Aside from the initial download of the app (not a barrier for most of us) it’s a much easier way to get people to complicated and hard to remember (and therefore easy to forget) web addresses. But this is a very simple example. QR codes can do much more than access a website. Sending a text message or email or transferring someone’s contact info to your phone and downloading files are also possible . For a complete QR code primer check this out.

New Kid on the Block: NFC
Just when QR codes thought they had things locked up a younger, hotter model emerged. Near Field Communication (NFC) serves many of the same functions without the hassle of having to scan a code. If you come across a sign/business card/promo item embedded with a NFC chip AND your phone has an embedded NFC scanner then just wave one next to the other and voila! Information downloaded, webpage opened, bill paid, etc. But that’s a lot of ifs that only a handful of companies have control over. And that’s why QR codes will continue to serve an important function.

QR Codes are Egalitarian
I make two big assumptions for my next argument: you have a web-enabled smartphone and you have Internet access outside of your phone. If you don’t have these things then this blog post is entirely academic for you and you’re not my target audience anyway. Why are you here? (KIDDING! Hi, Dad!)

So given my aforementioned assumptions, QR codes are egalitarian because ANYONE can download a QR code reader to their phone and ANYONE can go online and create QR code for free (you don’t think I paid for that example from Kaywa above, do you?). Free is worth a lot. NFC on the other hand is dependent on getting your hands on the chips in some form and in having a phone that can read them. The former is likely to start getting a lot cheaper (but that still doesn’t beat free!). The latter, if you’re in the market for a new phone, is going to get a lot easier with most major phone manufacturers working to include NFC in their phones.

NFC and QR Codes Living in Harmony
It’s true that NFC can do much more than a QR code. Securely processing payments, transferring files between phones and other slick tricks go far beyond the reaches of a simple bar code scan. NFCs are definitely the future. After all Google is going all-in with NFC. Some excellent posts on the subject are here and here.

But don’t discount the (now) underdog. Whereas with NFC you have to obtain a chip and incorporate it into your marketing collateral and POP items, with QR codes you can instantly create as many as you want and have them on a flyer and out the door in minutes. Want to promote a new web link? No problem! Just type it in and get a new, free code in seconds. They are cheap, easy and effective which means they will continue to have their place in the marketing mix for some time to come. Some great discussion around this is happening here.

Do you think there’s still a place in the marketing mix for QR codes or will they be gone in 6 months? Leave your comments below!

*This is not an endorsement, I didn’t receive anything from them for this mention, etc., etc. They just provided an easy example to prove my point.

Posted August 5, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Branding, Business, Internet, Marketing

3 ways I cope with information overload   Leave a comment

I engage in combat every day. Combat against the onslaught of information that wages perpetual attempts to drown me. Also known as information overload, it’s an exhausting and necessary part of my existence. Whether it’s genuine CNN-style news, updates on my friends’ goings-on, or the latest blog post on the latest piece of fad technology, I feel compelled to keep up with all of it as best I can. However, some days I feel like I’m overboard without a life jacket. So what can you do?Technology

Here are three ways I attempt to maintain a shred of sanity in the overwhelming tide of information overload.

  1. Limit certain activities to certain devices. I rarely check Facebook anywhere except my smartphone. Just having it open on a computer invites me to check it more often than my email (which is a whole other mess I won’t get into right now). On my phone I check it less frequently, see the latest updates, then put it away to go back to what I’m doing. It helps me focus and helps prevent me from wandering off to other sites.
  2. Take breaks from your electronics. Seem counter-intuitive? I get that. But like all things, taking a break means we are more focused and efficient when we return. Instead of killing time looking for news, you give the news you actually want a chance to, well, happen. I’m not talking about a week-long, device-free island retreat (then again…). I’m talking about 15, 30 or 60 minutes here and there throughout the day. This is a tough one for me during the day. But at night the time between arriving home in the evening and putting my daughter to bed is a relaxing break that helps me focus and remember what’s important.
  3. Make peace with the fact that you’re not going to read EVERYTHING. Many times we try to keep up with all this news, particularly those of us in communication and social media, because we don’t want to be left out. But it’s ridiculous to think that if you work hard enough you won’t miss anything. You will, it’s a fact of life. But that’s the beauty of being part of an online community. If there was something really important, you’ll see it re-tweeted and talked about on Twitter, for example. For example, I rarely watch presidential addresses. I know if something remarkable happens I will hear all about it from friends, neighbors, or CNN.

These are just a few of the coping mechanisms I employ to help me manage information overload. What strategies do you use? I’m always in the market for new, practical tips!

Image credit: ÇP via Flickr

LinkedIn Networking: Selective or Open?   4 comments

If you’re on LinkedIn much at all it won’t be long before you come across a LION.

Lion lounging

“A lion?”

No, a LION–a LinkedIn Open Networker. These are a special breed, folks who have decided they will connect with anyone and everyone who wants to connect (even strangers!). LIONs are often in recruiting or sales, industries that benefit from having as many contacts as possible. And there are definite professional benefits to this approach. Who wouldn’t like to have thousands of people to reach out to with a question or request?

The decision to be a LION or to be a more strategic networker is a personal one. I have chosen the latter route. It really all depends on how you plan to use your network.

“‘Use’ my network? That sounds a bit selfish.”

Not at all. A network is there to be used. Whether it’s a network of friends for entertainment, a network of family for emotional support or a business network for advice, we all have these networks because they provide value to us–we are using them. It’s only selfish if you use your network more than you give back to it.

But I digress.

Let’s return to our use of a network. Most of us, myself included, are suited for targeted, selective networks. We want to know (at least to some degree) the people in our network. However, even though I am a selective networker I don’t set the bar very high. Mostly I want to feel like you contacted ME in particular for a specific reason. That it was purposeful and not simply a sales pitch or spam bot. This way if someone comes to me and is interested in connecting with one of my contacts I know enough to know how the two people will best connect.

Either option is completely acceptable, so it just depends on your approach. Are you using this tool to generate sales? Then being a LION may be the way for you to go. If you prefer a little more intimacy with your contacts I recommend keeping things selective.

Additional Useful Links

http://www.stacyzapar.com/2011/05/what-is-linkedin-lion.html
http://www.stacyzapar.com/2010/11/why-i-decided-to-be-open-networker.html

Image credit: cheetah100 via Flickr

First Thoughts on the Google+ Project   2 comments

Google bread manIntriguing.

That is my first impression after reviewing some of the features of the new Google+ project. I’m still willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt (even after the Wave, which I have yet to be given a compelling reason to understand or appreciate) and there is a lot of potential with the new toys. The concepts are simple, yet elegant. The design is friendly and usable. However, the adoption of Google+ will all depend on the usability of the final execution. Check out this article from Wired.com for a full write-up from people with far more insider knowledge than I have.

Circles
Similar to your Facebook friends, Circles allows you to group contacts into “Circles” that you name. Unlike Facebook, this appears to have a very user-friendly interface that allows you to easily drag and drop contacts into those circles. Early descriptions of this functionality seem like a cross between Facebook and Twitter: you can designate which circles receive certain updates, or you can make them public to the entire world like a tweet. Apparently you can even include contacts in groups who are not using the system, so family members can still receive your photos even if they haven’t “friended” you. While you can send non-Facebook using contacts links to photo albums it’s not an easy or convenient process which this has the potential to be.

This has been my biggest issue with Facebook. With the privacy settings being so complicated,  how can I be sure that my colleagues won’t see my vacation photos? I do, after all, have multiple online personas for a reason! I generally refrain from typing anything that could be the list bit embarrassing onto any site, but I’m human and my personality shines through at times. I need a site that protects me from those moments! Perhaps Circles will be it.

Hangout
One of the most fascinating features is the new Hangout. This TechCrunch article gives an apt analogy: “If your neighbor is sitting there, you know that they’ll likely be interested in striking up a conversation. In fact, it would be rude for you to walk by and not say anything.” The idea is that if you’re online, surfing the Web, but none of your friends are on at the moment, you can tell them you’re ready and waiting to video chat should they hop online and feel interested. This would almost replace my need for Skype and my constant texting with my parents to figure out when we are both available.

Other Features
The other features of Google+ seem very interesting, but are less ground-breaking. Sparks simply reminds me of LinkedIn Today, but with more varied categories of information. Instant Upload and Huddle are cool, but I have other ways to accomplish the same things (though of course in other sites). This could be a good way to combine all these tasks in one.

My Early Assessment
I predict this product will be successful. Not Facebook successful, but better than Wave anyway. It is unique and user-friendly.I plan to try it out as soon as I can and I hope you’ll join me as I experiment with it as soon as I can get my hands on it it!

Image credit: DannySullivan via Flickr

Marketers are manipulative? Nope, think problem-solvers.   Leave a comment

Let me set the record straight: I love marketing. I have a marketing degree, I continue to study marketing in my free time and I genuinely enjoy the practice of it–when it’s done WELL. These facts do not make me a lying, manipulative attention-hog (though I admit to occasionally being a bit of a ham). What I hate is the reputation marketing gets because of people who do it poorly, or claim that it is something that it isn’t.

Marketing Does NOT Equal Sales
Pet peeve numero uno in my marketing book are sales people who call themselves marketers. Marketing is not sales any more than a logo is your brand. These are two different roles requiring very different skill sets. Typically extroverts make good salespeople, whereas I am most definitely an introvert (an outgoing one, but still an introvert). I prefer to focus on the why and how rather than the who, what, etc.

Pet peeve number two is when people think marketing is flyers. Or postcards. Or emails. Or any number of other tactics. These are tools used to implement marketing, but they themselves are not marketing.

So What IS Marketing?
My favorite class in college was “Consumer Behavior.” I enjoy studying the way people think and why they do the things they do. To me, marketing is the combination of psychology and business. The study of people and what makes them tick–and how to put that information to good use for your business. Some people see this as manipulative, but to us honest folks that’s not the goal.

The goal is find people who have a problem and solve it. Make people’s lives better through your product or service. Clearly I am rather idealistic in this sense and many companies are not like this. But the good ones are. Here’s a high-level overview of how this works.

How To Be A Problem-solver
Before you can do anything you must first know your product/service, your company, your industry, and your competition inside and out. That information, when analyzed properly, will tell you who your target audience is. The people who need what you have to offer (I’m assuming you’ve established that there is a need prior to launching  your company!).

Once you know that, you can start learning about that audience and how they work, where they get their information, what drives them. Ask “Why?” a lot. You then write copy that shows your target audience the benefits of what you have to offer in light of their needs (your audience wants to know “What’s In It For Me?” so be sure to tell them). You use the tactics (electronic, direct mail, flyers, etc.) that will most effectively get that message in front of that target audience. This entire process, among many other things, is marketing.

I’ve simplified this to a ridiculous degree. There so much more nuance to this than I can express here, but rest assured it will be addressed in future blog posts.

Photo: antwerpenr via Flickr

Posted June 22, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Business, Marketing

Conference attendance is critical for maintaining job focus   1 comment

For the past four days I have been immersed in all things communication. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) 2011 World Conference was held here in San Diego and I was thrilled to be able to attend–especially considering how it lived up to its international name.

The U.S. Was still the number one country by number of participants, but do you have any idea what the next two were? The 2nd most well-represented country at then conference was Canada, followed by Australia. There must be something good going on if people are flying from halfway around the globe to be here.

So what did we do? We talked shop and it was wonderful. I enjoyed learning how to write for. different media with the renowned Steve Crescenzo, I was a presentation guinea pig for All-Star Jim Endicott, I hosted dinner for six of my peers at the delightful BiCE Ristorante. One of my favorite activities was shaking the hands of people who were previously only known by their avatars.

Probably the most significant thing I got out of the conference was the reassurance that I am on the right track. You know you’re in the right place when you genuinely ENJOY talking shop with your peers. Many of them are going through similar challenges as I have and it’s great to have that validation.

So I return to work tomorrow re-energized, re-focused and ready to do what it takes to get the job done.

Posted June 16, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Career, Professional Development