RSS

An Eye on the Crowd: Using Surveys to Build PR (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who transitioned from a corporate HR career into freelance writing. This article is based upon her experience using surveys to grow public relations efforts.


An Eye on the Crowd: Using Surveys to Build PR

Survey form

In today’s world, publicity is everything. There is a fierce competition in just about every sector, and consumers are getting more and more skeptical of new brands, businesses, and services. As a PR professional, this means it can be increasingly difficult to break through to the noise and establish yourself as a credible business. So, how do we remedy this dilemma?

Well, whether you focus your PR efforts are on B2B or B2C relations, having reliable data is imperative. One of the most efficient and popular ways to collect data is through surveys. However, while this method can be quite effective, many PR practitioners fail to utilize this tool effectively. To help you in your PR endeavors, below are some ways that surveys can help boost your PR campaigns.

Why You Should Survey Your Customers

First, let’s dive a bit deeper into why you should survey. The data collected from your survey can provide real-time analysis of your specific brand/niche, as well as provide insight into the customer’s thoughts and feelings, which in return allows you to build trust with the public. The data and insight that surveys provide are important because they give you snippets into people’s thought processes which produce mini “stories” to an extent. Stories are the backbone of the consumer-brand relationship.

An Eye on the Competition

While surveys are a great way to gather customer feedback, the strength of their ability to gather information on competitors should not be missed. Create a competitor analysis survey by asking your customers which similar products and services they use. This simple survey will not only help you identify your competitors, but also help you find out why they are getting a customer’s business. Alternatively, you can ask your consumers what they think you need to do to have a competitive edge over your competitors. Don’t forget to ask them about your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

An Eye on the Culture

Social media is one of the most dynamic fields out there. New trends and cultural movements hit social media intensely and often. Spotting latest social media trends is instrumental in getting the most out of your PR campaigns. Whenever you spot a new trend hitting Twitter or Facebook (and you should be watching), use consumer surveys to find out which trends your customers find attractive. This shift may not last too long, but gathering information quickly can give your PR campaign a cutting edge over competition.

How does your business utilize the power of surveys? Or where could you stand to make improvements? Share your thoughts on this topics by leaving a comment below.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While there are many advantages to being your own boss, there are also certain things you may never experience again (for the most part). Depending upon how you look at it, this could be a win-win scenario. Either way, now six years into running my own business, I’ve realized that there are a few things I will likely never have as a business owner.

A Day Completely Free From Work

The upside to running my own business, I can work from anywhere. The downside, I can work from anywhere. For this reason, my work followers me anywhere I have internet access. And even without internet access, it’s still on my mind. I’m not likely to ever go completely “offline” for more than a day, but that’s because I prefer to stay on top of my work and grow my business. When you’re passionate about what you do, you’re not always craving that next vacation!

Limited Vacation Days

Speaking of vacation, I can time off whenever I feel like it and as often as I want to. It still holds true that my work will be something I carry with me, but I doubt anyone feels too sorry when I’m checking emails from the Bahamas. Being a business owner is about balance. I can take unlimited vacation days, but I’m still responsible for delivering what I promised to my clients. Time management is key.

A Tax Return

I gave up hope a long time ago that I would ever see a tax return. As a business owner, I pay not only at tax time, but I pay quarterly throughout the year leading up to it. It’s important to point out that my clients don’t withhold taxes in their payments, so it’s strictly on me to make sure I am paying the fair and appropriate amount of taxes based on my income. Similar to having unlimited vacation days, I don’t expect anyone to feel bad for my tax situation. After all, if I’m paying more it means I’m earning more. But I have to laugh at the commercials that suggest I use my tax return for this or that. It’s been nearly a decade since the IRS wrote me a check.

Normal Work Hours

For better – and worse – I don’t have set “normal” work hours. It works out for the most part that I’m in front of my computer between 9 and 4, but there will be times I’m taking a 8pm conference call or I’m online at 6am to clean up my inbox. On the upside, I can also go offline for a couple hours in the morning to get in a work out, or in the afternoon to catch a nap. I’m so far removed from the concept of a 9-5 job that I doubt I would last long in that work environment again.

A Fixed Income

As a business owner, my income is anything but fixed. I have a meager paycheck I receive each month from my business for tax purposes, but I also receive distributions throughout the year however I see fit. Every year and every month, my income is up to me. I have to constantly and consistently satisfy my current clients and keep my pipeline full of new clients. In a crazy scenario, every client could decide to discontinue their services and I would be left at square one. On the flip side (and the more common scenario), I take on additional clients each month and grow my income.

It’s not common that many people can increase their monthly “salary” by a couple thousand dollars in a month by providing the same services they’re already providing to others. For this reason and many others, I love owning a business, and owning my income.

Someone Else Controlling My Schedule

Because no single client owns 100% of my time, they do not have control of my schedule. I remember my life prior to entrepreneurship where I would have someone slap a meeting or conference call on my schedule and so long as it was during normal work hours I had no leverage to push back. I had to stop whatever I was doing to be there. Now, when a client requests a meeting, they provide me with several options and I have the ability to select what works best for me. If I can’t make a meeting, my clients don’t know if it’s because of a work conflict or a hair appointment (or more commonly it doesn’t work with my toddler’s nap schedule). I control my own schedule and strategically plan my days to be efficient and convenient.

A Boring Day

As a business owner, there is no such thing as a boring day. Often the excitement comes from exceeding a client’s expectation or receiving a great lead for new business. Other times, “excitement” is the rush of an emergency or crisis that you have to resolve. Even if I carve a free afternoon to go offline from work, I’m not strapped to my office. I can run errands, do something relaxing or spend time with my kids. Every day and every email is different. The hours fly by and I wouldn’t ever want to return to the days of watching the clock!

Are you a business owner? Can you relate to some of the things I’ve mentioned or do you have an idea of your own to add? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 11, 2017 in Business & Success, Entrepreneurship, Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Having worked with many, many different clients over the years, I’ve had the benefit of learning how they each run their business and how they quantify success.

As you might expect, this is as unique as a fingerprint. However, one thing I did find to be common among the happiest and healthiest businesses was that they did not focus their measure of success on any of the following nine metrics I will soon discuss. To say the least, these metrics are false and misleading. They also create an imbalanced company culture which can snow ball into bigger problems down the road.

Take a look at the nine metrics for success that we all need to stop using right now!

How long you spend completing a task

Imagine how long it would take most of us to change the oil in our car. Just because we devoted hours of (frustrating) labor to this task, doesn’t mean we were any more successful than a skilled mechanic who can complete this same job in a fraction of the time. How long someone spends completing a task is not an indicator of success.

How early or late you’re accessible by phone or email

Our culture tells us that the longer we work, the more important we must be. Checking emails and answering phone calls from sunrise to sunset makes us feel like we are more successful than our peers who cut out at (gasp!) 6pm and let emails wait until normal office hours resume the next day. How early or late we allow ourselves to be accessible for work tasks is not correlated to success, but it is most certainly correlated to a work-life imbalance.

The size of your office

One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses make is investing in a large office space they simply don’t need. There’s no denying my support of a virtual work environment for its efficiency and cost-savings. Yet, so often new entrepreneurs feel that their success must be validated with a commercial office space that is one more thing to manage and one more bill to pay. The size of your office is not an indicator of success. Many high-profile business owners and CEOs throughout history have worked from their home, out of a basement or garage or voluntarily took the smallest office space in their building.

The size of your staff

Similar to the size of your office, the size of your staff doesn’t indicate success any more than the size of an SUV indicates the stature of the person driving it. All of these items can be obtained by people who are barely able to pay the bills each month – all for the perception of looking “bigger” than what they are. Work to keep your overhead as low as possible and instead focus on the size of your profit margins.

Fancy stationary

One of my biggest pet peeves is working with a client who claims to have a shoestring marketing budget, but who then pays an invoice with a slew of unnecessary collateral materials that were certainly not cheap. Custom-printed checks, stationary, envelopes and embossed business cards will not be what (solely) seals the deal with your client – a good communications strategy will. Don’t mistakenly use this as a metric for success and instead smartly invest your marketing dollars elsewhere.

The number of business cards you hand out

Speaking of business cards, loading up on thousands of these paper rectangles and then tossing them out like confetti at a networking function will not build meaningful relationships with fellow professionals and may actually make a bad first impression. Handing out hundreds of business cards a day (without any strategy or follow-up) is not a useful metric for success. Anyone can do that – including small children and robots.

The clutter in your inbox

Busyness does not equate to productivity and a cluttered inbox does not equate to success. Hundreds of unread emails may look impressive at first glance, but when the majority of these messages are spam, promotions and auto-responses, you are merely trying to convince yourself you’re important. I tend to treat my inbox like my to-do list. The few messages I leave there require my attention and usually receive it within a day. All other messages are read, discarded or filed into their appropriate sub folder. To someone else looking at my inbox, I may look like I’ve had a pretty easy day. But I’m okay with that because I know that this is not an indicator of success.

The number of meetings you attend

During my time spent working in government, I experienced just how much time can be wasted in meetings. People loved to schedule meetings and conference calls to basically fill their entire work day. This would then give them the need to stay late to actually accomplish anything, perpetuating this false measurement of success. The number of meetings you attend does not equate to a successful day or your level of importance within a company. In fact, the people who often have important work to do find any excuse to get out of these meetings and get back to their computers.

Social media likes, followers and interactions

Finally, and this one may shock you, the number of interactions you receive on social media is not an indicator of success. You may say, “Well then why are we told to spend so much time and money on establishing a social media presence to build our business?” I’m not discounting the effectiveness of a strategic social media plan as part of a larger marketing effort, but I am offering a friendly reminder that you and your business are worth far more than the number of likes you have on your fan page.

Likes can be easily bought and interactions can be skewed to the point where it’s hard to tell what, if any part of your sales are a direct result of someone following you on social media. Stop making this the focus of every sales and marketing meeting!

What should be our metrics for success?

…Quality and productivity!

There is one philosophy all businesses would benefit from embracing, and that’s simply to “Get it done…right!” Quality and productivity are the two metrics that we should use to measure the success of our day and the overall success of our business. Did we deliver quality work in a productive manner? The businesses that embody this philosophy and promote this culture to its employees are the ones that are thriving.

Did you knock everything off your to-do list by 3pm? Great, see you tomorrow! Do you need to spend a few extra hours perfecting a project you know your client will love? Maybe you work a little late tonight, but you know it will pay off in the end. Stop comparing hours, square-footage, email count and boxes of business cards. Instead, “Work hard in silence and let success make the noise.”

Which of these metrics do you most commonly see misused to measure success? Share the outcomes by commenting below!

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Make Your Startup Business More Efficient Now (Guest Blog by Kiley Martin)

The following post comes to us from Kiley Martin, a Philadelphia-based freelance writer, editor and blogger.


TimeIncreasing the efficiency of operations should be a primary goal of all business owners . However, enhancing business productivity often falls by the wayside when workload increases. People push things off and get stuck in the same old routines.

You might be worried about the need to spend money in order to make your business more streamlined. Especially in the startup world, it’s unavoidable. You’re introducing things for the first time and it will cost time and even perhaps a new position. You’re building something that wasn’t there before.

But spending money doesn’t mean inefficiency. In fact it often means the opposite, especially if you’re investing in the future of the business. If you spend $5,000 to save $5 every time you do a repetitive process, you’ll make your money back in no time.

With that in mind, here are some ways you can make your startup business more efficient.

Invest strategically to reduce costs

When a startup is founded, business owners choose not to invest in a lot of technology or equipment because it may initially increase costs. For instance, you may choose to use a manual fax machine instead of buying an electronic one with Bluetooth access.

However, if sending and receiving faxes are a critical part of your daily operations, using an electronic fax machine would save you time, paper costs, and the hassle of manning the machine when waiting on an important document. So, even though you may have to spend some money and invest in a good machine initially, it will make things easier later on by increasing your time and cost efficiency.

Cost benefit analyses like this are very useful for when you’re setting up your business as they can help you in the long run. Focus on strategic investments that impact your most important operations.

Automate your tasks. Focus on your specialties

As an entrepreneur, you will quickly become aware that just because you own a business, this doesn’t mean you are equally good at managing all aspects of it. You could be well versed in the nuances of how to sell an app, but you might not be familiar with the specifics of app development or coding. This paves the way for task delegation.

Foremost, you need to learn to identify which tasks you can do best and which need to be delegated to other employees so they can do it best.

This concept also applies to menial tasks. Even though you are a business owner looking to cut down costs, taking a full burden of responsibilities will not help your situation. If you spend three hours manually sending invoices to clients, you are spending way less time overlooking the state of affairs for your business.

It would be prudent to get software that takes care of your invoicing so you can pay attention to other tasks that demand your attention.

In the same way, menial jobs like sending receipts or overseeing the delivery of documents could take up mental space, time and energy. Hiring an employee to take care of these tasks or using a computer program can not only make things easier for you, but also streamline your business processes in the long run.

It will also free up most of your work hours so you can focus on other tasks that require your attention.

Furthermore, if you have a website, which you should, don’t spend too much time running it if you’re a website amateur. Allow a hosting service to take the reigns. You’re running a business, not a website or an AP department. You need to invest in these processes so they don’t eat away all your time.

Give feedback and encourage employees

Your responsibility does not end at hiring personnel. The reason why most startups fail is because they are unsuccessful at retaining talent. The employees may feel useless in terms of contribution to the overall venture if they are not encouraged regularly.

Sometimes business owners will stick to brief comments and words of appreciation that mean nothing to the employee. Without proper feedback, they can stagnate their progress.

Therefore, it is important that as a business owner, you develop a keen eye for the work of your subordinates, providing ample constructive feedback where necessary. This will develop your rapport with the staff and provide work fulfillment so they can keep working with you.

Plan your schedule and focus on one thing at a time

Most startup owners work long hours and sacrifice sleep for work. Yet, they always have tasks on their to-do list that still need to be considered. For them, the work never ends.

This does not mean that other startup owners have it considerably easier than you do. It just means that other business owners have learned to manage their time and their tasks.

But how do you end up going about that ridiculous pile of work on your desk? Well, the first thing is to list everything you need to do. Then, list the time you have in a day that you will dedicate to the tasks, and plan accordingly. Do not attempt to take on more work than you know you can do.

The same goes for your employees. Encourage them to direct their focus on single tasks, rather than multitasking. Intense concentration will produce better results and take less of a mental toll, resulting in quality and efficiency.

Do you have a tip for helping a business to run more efficiently? Share your advice by leaving a comment!

Kiley MartinKiley Martin is a freelance writer, editor and blogger from Philadelphia, PA. She has worked with several popular blogs and magazines. She recently graduated from Drexel University. She also enjoys mentoring and connecting with others on new technologies in web development and programming. Feel free to contact her at KileyAMartin@gmail.com

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What No One Tells You About a Career in Public Relations

Businesswoman sitting in boardroom with laptop looking frustrate

Beyond earning a degree in Public Relations and pursuing a few internships along the way, the best thing to prepare you for a career in PR is real life experience. Unfortunately, this also means there will be a lot of learning and adjusting as you go. As I approach my seventh year working in the industry, I may still be “green” in many ways, but I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and know-how that simply can’t be gained by sitting in a classroom.

Here’s what I’ve learned about a career in Public Relations that no teacher or text book will tell you. Take a look!

You will have to explain to people, often, what exactly it is you do

The TV show Sex and the City may be to blame for the myths and false assumptions about Public Relations. I promise, we don’t schmooze at publicity events and drink all day. I think everyone would pursue a career in PR if that were the case. Again and again you will find yourself having to define and defend what it is you do and the value it provides. The good news is you’ll establish a solid pitch that will serve to win over your clients.

You will be referred to as “marketing” again and again

I make it very clear that the services I provide are Public Relations, yet I’m often referred to by clients as their “marketing person.” While marketing and PR serve to very different purposes within a business, I can see why they’re often lumped into one broad category. At the end of the day, I really don’t care if someone refers to my role as marketing, publicity or business development. So long as we are on the same page with our strategy and deliverables, we’ll get along just fine!

People will expect guaranteed media placement for everything you pitch

In this industry, you will find that some clients are “press release happy” where they think everything the business does deserves media placement. Even when something newsworthy does come up, issuing a press release is by no means a guarantee that it will be picked up by the media. We know that, but we often need to manage client expectations. At the end of the day, the media will determine the fate of your news. Which brings me to…

The success of your strategy will be at the mercy of a lot of other people

The reality of Public Relations is that there will be many elements of your strategy which simply aren’t in your control. You will need to do everything within your control to set yourself up for the best possible outcomes, but at the end of the day you are at the mercy of the media, the community, your clients timely responses and approval, the weather (I’m not kidding) and a variety of other elements you can’t even predict until they hit you over the head unexpectedly.

You will get to see your work impacting the world

Finally, and most encouraging, is the truth that a career in PR allows you to see your work changing the world. Piece by piece, your PR strategy will cause a ripple effect that will change public perception, grow businesses, help the community and much more. When Public Relations does what it’s intended to do, it’s a powerful and beautiful thing!

Do you work in Public Relations? What “truth” of the industry did you find most surprising? Leave a comment!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Contractors and Freelancers: Tips for Crafting a Fair and Appealing Proposal

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Tips for Crafting a Fair and Appealing Proposal

When you take the entrepreneurial leap and venture out on your own as a contractor or freelancer, one of the biggest challenges is creating a competitive and consistent pricing model you can stick to. It’s a real test of self-confidence to put a rate on your hours and truly believe you are worth this much. But it’s imperative to running a successful and sustainable business!

I have previously written on topics related to pricing services (like how to price for efficiency or tips for being smart and fair). However, even if “the price is right,” a subpar proposal can jeopardize your chances of getting a signed contract. How you package your proposal gives businesses a sense of your professionalism. It’s also an important opportunity to properly scope your work and protect your pricing.

As you might anticipate, I have passionate advice to share on this topic. This has come from my own trial and (sometimes critical) error, so take note! Here are six components that help to make up a fair and appealing proposal.

Account for any task that will require your time

When you create your proposal, you want to be as specific and all-inclusive as you can be with the services you will perform. My rule of thumb is to include any task that will require a reasonable amount of your time.

So often as contractors, we forget about the time and effort we put into things like doing research, attending meetings, answering emails and jumping on phone calls for clients. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to charge more for these “expected” tasks, but it’s worth showcasing everything that goes into your relationship with your client so they understand the full value of the work you perform.

Quantify your deliverables

Simply saying “…will post to social media accounts” doesn’t put into perspective the tangible work that will be performed. Your client may worry about what they will actually get for the money. Be overly clear – there’s no reason to be vague with your efforts! A better version is, “…will post 6 times per week to Facebook, 3 times per day to Twitter and 4 times per week to Linkedin.”

I also prefer to use language like “up to 3 rounds of edits” because this protects you from getting stuck with a difficult client who requests that you redo your work from scratch 8+ time while still providing you with the flexibility to not have to deliver 3 rounds of edits, if they are not needed.

If you don’t define it, you can’t defend it. Should a project exceed its scope, you want to reserve the right to say that it is outside the terms of the proposal and is subject to an additional cost.

Organize services by goals

Showing your client you are an organized and detail-oriented professional begins with your proposal. Help them quickly grasp the value of what they will receive by organizing your services by the goal they aim to achieve. This will help to paint the bigger picture of how each service is strategically designed to work together and will also make your deliverables clear and direct. For clients who came to you without really knowing their goals, this added feature of your proposal will help them to feel secure under your direction (i.e. you’ll look like you have your stuff together).

Include an hourly rate for miscellaneous services

It’s natural for a project to exceed its scope once you’re signed into a contract and dig into the tasks. For example, your client may want five more web pages designed or would now like to add a weekly blog. These items will require more of your time and you need to get paid for this.

So long as you properly quantified your deliverables (see previous section we just discussed), you should have no problem responding to your client with “That sounds like a great idea! Let me get you a quote for that additional work.”

In an effort to appear both professional and transparent, I often include a line item in my proposals that note that miscellaneous writing and communication services can be completed at the rate of $X per hour. This gives clients a heads up for your normal hourly rate and reminds them that work outside the scope of this proposal is subject to additional cost.

Offer a discount for long-term commitments

For contracts that intend to be on a reoccurring basis (i.e. they have the same repeated deliverables each month with no obvious end date), I structure the pricing of my proposal to encourage clients to sign into a long-term commitment in exchange for a price break. Why? Contractors and freelancers love residual paychecks and clients love to feel like they’re getting a deal!

I suggest having three different price points. The most expensive is month-to-month. The added value here is the client’s complete flexibility to get out of a contract with minimal commitment. The next tier is per quarter. Finally, there is the annual contract pricing which is the best deal. I allow clients to still pay the breakdown each month (for cash flow sake), but they are committed to the length of the contract.

Bonus tip: I also include wording in the contract to allow for the client to adjust or increase services at any time, so long as the minimum contract price remains the same. This gives the client flexibility to add and remove services should their goals change over the course of a long-term contract, or should they wish to increase services (always a welcome change).

Set an expiration date

Finally, I have learned to include an “expiration date” on my proposals (usually 30 days from the date issued) to protect my pricing. I’ve experienced some clients go completely radio silent after receiving a proposal and then come back 4+ months later ready to engage. I can’t anticipate what other clients I may take on in the future and how my pricing may need to change to accommodate my bandwidth. The proposal expiration date allows me the right to issue a new proposal after 30 days has passed and change my pricing as I see fit. Every business must be mindful of supply and demand and how this impacts pricing; for contractors and freelancers, this is your hourly rate.

Additionally, an expiration date should give clients a nudge of encouragement to make a decision within 30 days and lock in your pricing and services while they are favorable and available. I’ve preached about how “a no is as good as a yes.” You want to receive a response to your proposal, even if it’s a no, so you can move forward….or move on.

What other questions do you have for crafting a fair and appealing proposal? Ask and I’ll answer!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: