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Author Archives: Stephanie Shirley

About Stephanie Shirley

Stephanie Shirley has a strategic and entrepreneurial mind combined with a strong talent for creative writing. She brings to the table experience in many different fields of communications including corporate, non-profit, government, political campaigns, media relations, event planning and copywriting. This diverse portfolio allows her to blend and pull from many different sets of skills to meet any client’s communications needs. As a graduate of Penn State University, she holds degrees in Public Relations/Advertising and Communications, Arts and Science. She began her consulting business at the age of 23 and her work has since impacted hundreds of clients across the U.S.

More Than Words: How Visual Content Improves Your Blog

How Visual Content Improves Your BlogBlog posts are one of the most popular and powerful ways to engage your audiences through online content. However it’s not enough to set up a blog, sit back and wait for your audience to flock to you. In order to grow a community of loyal readers, your blog needs more than just quality content. It also needs visual elements to grab attention, reinforce your brand and increase SEO.

Now, the Bennis Inc blog has room for improvement in this area as well! As we strive to do a better job of incorporating more visual content into our weekly posts, we thought we’d share with you five reasons why we know this to be so important. Take a look!

 

Visual content…

Grabs attention, especially when shared on social media

If you want to draw more readers to your blog, it’s important to make your posts look good when shared on social media. Without visual content, people will see a blank square and a snippet of content that may not be enough to stop them from scrolling on by. Set yourself up for social sharing success by always including at least one image per blog that clearly represents the theme of your post, so that when people see it as a thumbnail they know right away they want to read more!

Emphasizes your main points

Visual content is a powerful opportunity to highlight and emphasize the main points of your blog. Much like how we use subheadings to make content easily digested, images and graphics next to each main point help guide readers through your content. Visual content also makes your main points easy to remember and reference again in the future.

Visual content helps shine a spotlight on the main points you want to reader to takeaway.

Visual content helps shine a spotlight on the main points you want to reader to takeaway.

Reflects the style of your brand

Your blog is a direct reflection of your brand and therefore should use the same quality of images you would feel comfortable publishing on your website or social media. Everything needs to work together to reinforce the same message. Use visual content on your blog to create continuity for visitors who are likely to jump from your blog to your website and vice versa.

Captioning the photo with keywords gives search engines another way to find you

Most people know, but forget to fully utilize the fact that the photos you post on your blog are indexed by search engines. This makes visual content yet one more way you can improve your SEO. Make sure every photo you post is named and captioned with your most relevant keywords. Captions are also important for engaging readers and connecting each image back to your content.

Glowing Illuminated Love light photo lamp

We “love” this photo because we took it ourselves! It’s clean, simple and modern, much like the Bennis Inc brand. Plus, it represents something we get to see in daily life.

Provides an opportunity to insert a personal touch (by using your own photos)

Finally, visual content is a great way to let your personality and brand shine through your words. It’s a smart idea to build up your own stock image gallery of photos that share your story. Then, you will always have these available to use on future blogs. By using your own photos, you don’t have to worry about running into licensing issues, plus you’ll further engage your audience with visuals that are far more unique and captivating than those generic stock images.

How do you incorporate visual elements on your blog or website to attract visitors to your content? Share your ideas by commenting below!

 
 

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Delivering Happiness: How to Provide Clients with More Than Just Services

How to Provide Clients with More Than Just Services

Whether you are an entrepreneur growing a small business or a CEO of an established company, you likely understand the importance of “delivering happiness” to your clients. Your clients expect to receive quality service and products from you – that’s standard. But what really makes your business stand out is going one step further to provide them with unexpected, but much appreciated benefits. These benefits are the reason people will come back to you time and time again for more business.

So what can (and should) you do to provide more than just your basic goods and services, but to really deliver happiness? Take a look at these four tips.

Tip #1: Share your advice or expertise at no charge

No one likes to feel like they’re getting “nickel and dimed.” It usually takes one a few minutes of your time to share a little extra advice or expertise with your clients. For example, someone might ask for advice on getting more likes on their Facebook page. Rather than stick them with a costly proposal right off the bat, offer one or two simple tips to establish credibility and build trust. You shouldn’t invest too much time in free advice, but giving just a little at no charge will almost always come back to you ten-fold in future business.

Tip #2: Form a friendship…get to know about them, personally!
Solid connections and meaningful relationships are at the heart of every successful business. Keep this in mind as you cultivate your client relationships into friendships. Really get to know your clients and customers. Remember their birthdays, the names of their children and their hobbies. Not only will this give you something to make small talk over at your next meeting, it will also demonstrate your listening skills and attention to detail. Clients who are friends are more likely to be satisfied with your service and stay loyal to doing business with you in the future.

Tip #3: Resolve any issues promptly and for free (as long as reasonable)

Solving a problem promptly and effectively is a great opportunity for your business to create happy clients. Use the “customer is always right” motto and resolve the issue without sticking your client with a bill for it (so long as it’s a reasonable request). Yes, you may lose a few bucks in billable hours, but you will more than make up for it in future business from a happy and loyal customer. (Note: if this proves to be a reoccurring theme with a client, it may be time to weight the cost-benefits of the relationship altogether).

Tip #4: Follow-up to see how they’re enjoying your product/service

Timely and friendly follow-up is key for delivering happiness to your clients. You don’t want to be intrusive or annoying (like that waiter that pops over 7+ times during a meal asking if everything is okay), but regular “check-ins” can help to nip any issues in the bud before they leave a lasting negative impression. Clients may not be inclined to bring up an issue thinking it’s too small to initiate a conversation about it. But if you present an easy opportunity for them to speak up by being the first to ask, you’d be surprised how some little adjustments early on will keep a client much happier in the long-run!

How do you go above and beyond to provide your clients and customers with more than just goods or services? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How Do You Really Define Success? (Guest Blog by Danielle Gouger)

This week’s blog is written by the newest member of Bennis Inc, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise related to PR and photography!


How Do You Really Define Success

I think it’s safe to say that one life goal we all share is to achieve “success.” I put this word in quotes, because success is a term that can have an extremely fluid definition from one person to another. The beauty is that there really is no right or wrong way to define your own success. It’s whatever brings happiness, fulfillment and meaning to your life.

So how do I define success? I would expect that it may differ from your own version of this word, but you never know; our individual interpretation may also align quite a bit. Here’s how I personally define success – and what I work to try and achieve each and every day.

Ending each day feeling satisfied, not stressed

Success to me is truly being happy and living each day to its fullest. My soul is the happiest when I am traveling and experiencing new things. However, real life responsibilities like raising a family and pursuing a career don’t always allow me to travel as much as I’d like. Rather, I find the potential in each day as it presents itself. My “adventure” may not be exploring a new country, but rather exploring a new walking trail near where I live. Little adventures exist all around us, every day, and I feel most satisfied and successful when I seize the opportunity to live in the moment.

Having a good balance between work and family time

Another way I define success in my life is by achieving a healthy balance between work and family time. In my early twenty’s, I defined my success by how much school and work I could jam into my schedule. It wasn’t until I became a mom at 25 that I started to view success in other ways. For example, motherhood is one of my greatest ongoing successes (and challenges). I strive to be the best mom I can be each day. I then began to realize the importance of being a good daughter and to value and cherish family time. Balancing work and family is something I’m still learning to do, but the better I get at it, the more successful I feel.

The opportunity to have my talents impact other people

As I mentioned previously, school and work used to define my success growing up. As I have matured, both in life and in my career, I’ve discover newfound confidence in my talents I have to share with the world. A successful career isn’t just about how much money you make or your job title, but rather how you are able to positively impact other people. Whether a picture I take is published and printed or simply cherished by a couple whose wedding I photographed, I feel successful to be able to contribute something that is meaningful to someone else.

Setting Goals and accomplishing them

Since grade school, I have always been a goal setter and a person who likes to write down my goals. I’m a visual person, so writing down my goals and being able to physically look at them makes them feel that much more real and attainable to me. I make it a point to write down yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals and to further break these down into specific tasks. I love the feeling of crossing something off my list! Getting things done and seeing how they are moving me toward achieving my larger, long-terms goals gives me a great feeling of success.

Overcoming your fears

The hard truth is that sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to achieving great success. We allow our fears to talk us out of even attempting something that might be well within our reach. Our insecurities, that voice in our heads saying “You can’t do it,” can paralyze us into a mediocre life. I have enjoyed some of my most fulfilling and successful moments after I silence this voice and take on a task that normally I would be too scared to try. What I have learned is the bigger the fear I overcome, the greater my feeling of success in the end!

Do you agree or have additional points to add about how I define true success? I’d love to hear your comments!

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Clearing Out the Mental Clutter

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!


Clearing Out the Mental ClutterSimply put, clutter is stuck energy. It’s a clog in our mental piping that prevents us from working, communicating and acting as effectively as we could. There are more than enough mental-clearing techniques to help us relax and refocus, but these don’t address the ways in which we rebuild the same cluttered mind every day. Here are just a few instances where mental clutter may be messing with your psyche and some easily implemented fixes to help you start moving forward.

Clean out your email inbox…every single day – Take a moment and click over to your email. What does your inbox look like right now? If this is the beginning or middle of the work day for you, chances are you’ve accumulated quite a few messages. That’s normal. But how many of these messages were rolled over from the last work day? Some of these messages may even be from several days or weeks ago. If so, you’ve unknowingly been creating your own landfill of emails which might be making for a pretty unpleasant work environment. The fix? Clear the inbox clutter by treating it like a to-do list. Any email that comes in should be read and prioritized before the day’s end. Some emails are a quick response and easily taken care of. Others will require some time or further action before it can be considered ready to archive. For these types of message – utilize folders! I’m always surprised by the number of people who don’t take advantage of the folder organization Outlook and Gmail provides. Label them with titles most applicable for the messages you commonly deal with and the actions they require. With these messages organized, you’ll never risk them “disappearing” under the heap of emails that build up over a week’s or month’s time. Since starting this practice myself, I’ve been much more aware of the messages requiring my response at any given time, know where to find them when I need them and have all but eliminated the dreaded “I don’t think I ever saw that email” moment.

Remove mental clutter by removing physical clutter – I’m not sure when this began for me, but to this day if I’m in a messy environment, I can’t work as effectively. I need to have a clear space which translates to a clear mind. In the midst of a project or a busy day, it’s completely acceptable to have some small mountains of paper fill your desk, but by the day’s end be sure these mountains aren’t left for you to climb over the next morning. If you tackle your physical clutter every day, each new day will begin with a clear desk and a clear mind.

Capture your thoughts in writing – In a world surrounded by cutting-edge technology, you may be surprised to know that we’re still allowed to be human. By this I mean we aren’t expected to commit every task, appointment, phone conversation or change in plans to memory. The times in which I have a lot of mental notes to remember are among the times when my mind feels the most cluttered and least productive. So write it down! Whether this is a pen and paper to-do list, phone app, word document or calendar reminder, capture your thoughts however best fits your lifestyle. It’s simple…the more you put in writing, the less that’s on your mind.

Eliminate unnecessary noise – When I first began running Bennis Inc I would often keep a television set or music on for “background noise.” It’s not so much that I would become distracted by the show on TV or the artist singing the song, but I would become distracted (and irritated) simply by the noise. It was competing with my inner thoughts and making me work harder to concentrate on the task at hand. The silliest part is that I was self-inflicting this irritation and audio clutter. I now recognize that I prefer to work in as close to a silent environment as possible. Some days this can even be setting the phone to vibrate and turning off email alerts. I don’t doubt that some people may work better with a little bit of background noise, but I urge you to try at least one day “working silent” to be sure you’ve given this option a fair shot. It’s not boring when your thoughts really get on a roll!

Address what’s really fogging your mind – If you’ve made your best effort to eliminate all of the mental clutter by following the steps listed above, but you’re still feeling fuzzy and unfocused, there’s a good chance there’s something else in play. What’s really fogging your mind? Mental blocks can come from feelings we’re harboring about a relationship problem, financial stress, or recent negative experience. These aren’t just clutter; these are actual issues that should be dealt with fully. If a personal situation has you distracted in other areas of life, you can’t bury it deeper and hope it will go away. The best thing to do to resolve this completely is to talk it out, go for a run to clear your head or seek a solution if one is possible. Once this major mental plug is removed, you can return to addressing the rest of the minor clutter rolling around.

Whether your mind is cluttered or organized right now, share with us some of your struggles or secrets to achieving a clear mind!

 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

This week’s blog shares the personal perspective of Bennis Inc employee, Danielle Gouger. Danielle is our PR assistant and photographer and balances the unique challenges of life as a working mother. Learn more about Danielle here!


A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

A Working Mom’s Guide for Achieving Work-Life Balance

As a newly single mom of a four-year-old spunky little girl, I began working from home in January of this year, and I am still learning each and every day how to achieve work-life balance.

Transitioning from my former position as a photography studio manager where I worked almost every weekend, many late evenings, and was always on call to support to my team, I find working from home and setting my hours has enabled me to re-prioritize and find a better work-life balance.

I was afraid, after leaving my photography position, that I would not be able to find a career that I was passionate about that would still allow me to be the mother I wanted to be. I am so thankful and grateful at this time in my life to have landed a job with a local Public Relations company that is led by a working mom now of two little ones, who understands and has worked hard to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship.

This new position offers me the creativity I need to thrive in my career and also the flexibility to work from home so that I can spend more time with my daughter. But it’s important to note it takes organization and time management to make it all work! Here is my guide for achieving work-life balance as a working mom, based upon my personal experience thus far.

Get Focused

Balancing work life and personal life means being effective with the time you have to work. Simply put, I don’t allow for distractions! Concentrating while working from home can sometimes be challenging with all the distractions of wanting to do other things, so it’s important to treat work time as sacred.

After I drop my daughter off at her daycare down the street, I come home, turn my laptop on, pour a second cup of coffee, and get started with my work day with checking my email. Now is the best time for me to get focused and dive right into my workday tasks. Having a great work environment is proven to facilitate productivity, so when working from home, it is important to create and maintain whatever type of environment helps you focus. I have personally found that having a designated office area in my home has helped me to be more focused and separate my work and personal life.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!

I’ve always been a planner, but once you have children it is so much more important to plan and keep a schedule, not only for yourself but kids need a routine, too! The most beneficial tool I use in my everyday life, besides my cell phone, is my calendar. Penciling in appointments, meetings and activities, really gives me a realistic view of my time. It’s important to factor in driving distance between places!

Also, you need to allow enough time to settle into an activity. For instance, when I take my daughter to daycare in the morning, it takes us some time to say our goodbyes to make sure we are both comfortable with her acclimating to her day. One final element I like schedule in my day or week is catch up time. This allows for life’s unexpected moments that, even with planning, can and do happen with work and especially when raising a four-year-old!

Prioritize

Watch for patterns in your day. Are you more productive in the morning or the afternoon? This is an important question to ask yourself when prioritizing your day and week.

I personally get more accomplished in the morning. So in my case, I try and tackle harder tasks in the morning as that is when I get my best work done. I also try to maximize my time by breaking down my day into smaller, bite-size tasks. Doing this allows me to get a lot more accomplished and to stay focused on the task at hand.

When it comes to household chores and errands (yes, they’re a necessary evil), I try and write a list for the week and pick two things to accomplish off my list each day. This prevents these responsibilities from piling up over the week and overflowing into my previous “family time” over the weekend.

Finally, as a single mom trying to balance work and life, you can sometimes forget to prioritize yourself. It’s important to take even 20 minutes for yourself each day, whether that’s catching up on a favorite TV show, going for a walk, or simply sitting in peace. Taking that little time for yourself allows you to be more available and present to do everything else you need to do as a working mom.

Close Down for the Night

There is a saying “every day has a new beginning,” so I believe there should be an end to every night. It is important to try and accomplish as much as you can off your daily to-do list to prevent these tasks from flowing into the next day and making tomorrow more overwhelming than it needs to be.

I try to get my workday accomplished by 5 o’clock now, so that once I pick my daughter up for the day I can focus the evening on her. Right before leaving the house, I will once again go through my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything and then close down for the day. Once I pick her up, we will occasionally run a small errand or I will complete a household chore before supper. Except for Tuesdays; this is a night fully dedicated to her as she goes to her gymnastics class that evening and I love to be there and watch her in her element!

I now make it a priority to sit down with my daughter for dinner, and the rest of the evening we spend quality time together before bath and bedtime. Once my little one is sound asleep, I will give myself some time to read a book or catch up on a favorite show, as I have learned you deserve some “you” time the close the day. We work too hard not to reward ourselves with this! Finally, as important as it is to close down for the night, on Friday’s after I wrap my day up, I try to close down from work for the weekend, and leave what can wait to Monday.

How do you achieve balance as a working mom? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Instagram

This week we continue our 4-week series in which we cover the top 5 mistakes business make on the most popular social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. We invite you to subscribe and follow along each Monday for quick and valuable tips on how you can avoid making these mistakes and immediately improve your business’s social media presence. Enjoy!


5 Mistakes New Businesses Make on Instagram

Instagram is an important social media platform that some businesses mistakenly overlook. But the visual storytelling power of Instagram in today’s marketing world is undeniable! Once you create an Instagram account for your business, it is critical that you understand the platform’s basic etiquette to get the most out of the time you devote to building your brand through its use. Let’s take a look at five mistakes to avoid as a new business on Instagram.

Not establishing a unique hashtag and not using it consistently on all posts

First things first, when creating an Instagram account think about your brand and create a unique hashtag to represent you and your business.  After you have your business hashtag it is important to consistently use that tag when posting.  Don’t let one post go live without using your brands hashtag, as doing so is a missed opportunity to market your business.

Posting photos that lack quality or creativity
The last thing you want to do when posting to any social media site is to look unprofessional, so make sure the photos you choose to represent your brand are high quality and high resolution.  Equally as important as a photo’s quality is its creativity. Look for unique angels and interesting visuals that tell a story. This is your best bet that your followers, and potential customers, will stop scrolling long enough to learn more about your business. A good gallery of photos will also help to set you apart from your competitors and further enhance your brand value.

Not following other accounts related to your industry, product or service

Only posting to your account, aka the “hit and run” strategy, would be a vital mistake when using Instagram to grow your business. You need to also interact with other users and reciprocate some of the love! Search and follow other accounts that are related to your industry (it never hurts to keep your eyes on what competitors are doing) and accounts you simply find interesting. Surf relevant hashtags as a way to find people who are talking about topics related to your business. These other accounts will begin to build a network of followers in return and help you keep a pulse on emerging trends.

Ignoring comments and interactions you receive

As with any social media platform, it is important to stay up to date with your interactions on Instagram. Ignoring comments or not responding in timely manner will do nothing to help you build a following of happy customers. And for people just stumbling upon your account, a lack of feedback to your comments will make you appear inactive or disinterested. Commit to being just as present on Instagram as you are on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Check in at least daily, not only to post content but to respond to interactions as well.

Missing a call to action – how can people learn more or buy your product or service?

If you use Instagram merely to post pretty pictures, you’re missing the real value it can add to your business. Every marketing tactic needs to have a purpose and a call to action; Instagram is no exception. Utilize your profile to include a link to your website or blog. Better yet, make it a link to a specific landing page that will take a customer directly to your most popular products or services. Because links are not “live” in the comments section on Instagram, it’s a real missed opportunity to not include a link in your profile. Also, be consistent with the call to action in your posts. Tell people to click on the link in your profile to learn more or to buy. Every post should relate back to your business or brand in some way. This doesn’t mean every post needs to focus on a hard sell, but your followers should be able to get a sense of what you represent by looking at just a few of your most recent photos!

How have you broken into social media marketing on Instagram for your business or brand? Have you made any of these mistakes? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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