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The Real Service I Provide to My Clients is Reliability

the-real-service-i-provide-to-my-clients-is-reliabilityA question I often receive is what type of services I provide. Well, literally speaking, that’s not a hard question to answer. It’s a blend of communications strategy, content creation, social media, media relations and event planning. But as I tend to do, I have gotten philosophical with my answer. The real service I provide to my clients is nothing more than reliability (okay, and some communications expertise).

Every single one of my clients needs me to be reliable in order for me to be successful with my work. I often deal with busy people who easily get buried under their own workload, so they don’t have the time or energy to micromanage the services I provide them. I prefer it this way. My personality type is built on the foundation of reliability. I can’t not see something through completion, to a fault. But in the case of my business, this has been a big point of success. Here’s why….

Responsiveness

A key part of being reliable is being responsive. During regular work hours (and admittedly, even during non-regular work hours), I give my clients quick responses. Sometimes the response is that I will look into this tomorrow or have the task completed by the end of the week, but it will warrants a response so they know the status of their question. It’s how I would want to be treated and so it’s how I treat my clients.

There’s no reason why I should close my laptop for the day without every email in my inbox receiving a response to the sender that it’s been received and will be handled in a timely manner. Even if I plan to be “out of the office” a day…or five, an auto-responder message accomplishes the same thing. I’ve found that my responsiveness to my clients results in their responsiveness to my invoices.

Consistency

Another big part of being reliable is being consistent. I have clear deliverables for each client that I accomplish for them on a monthly basis (most commonly). They know that if they are expecting a weekly blog and monthly newsletter to be created for them, it will be done just about the same time each and every month. It’s this consistency and reliability that they really pay me for. Often these are busy business owners who would never get to these tasks themselves, which is why they trust them to me.

Proactive Thinking

I strive to answer my clients’ questions before they have to ask them. For example, rather than making them come to me for my thoughts on what should be the topic for this month’s newsletter, I provide several options from which they can choose when I sent over the invoice. This kick starts the planning process and reinforces the value of the service I provide – a key time to do so when also giving them an invoice.

Follow-Up

Finally and most importantly, a lot of my job is follow-up. I’ve venture to say it’s the single thing I do that directly contributes to the success of my business. Some days I feel like all I do is follow-up with people who have fallen off the radar and breathe new life into a project that has gone stale. I’ve gotten pretty creative with the ways I follow-up with clients and leads, so as not to come across desperate or annoyed. By keeping clients engaged, I ensure the success of my work and the likelihood they will continue to contract my services.

Aside from the obvious, what service do you provide to your clients that makes you standout? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The 4 Most Powerful Words You Can Ask Someone

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!


The 4 Most Powerful Words You Can Ask Someone

Both in life and in business, we experience individual struggles that cause us stress, frustration, anger, embarrassment and overall contribute to one of those “really bad days.” What’s worse is that because these struggles are uniquely our own, we often feel like we are completely alone when it comes to overcoming them.

Feeling the need to internalize our bad days and the challenges they bring only feed the unhealthy cycle in which we forget to reach out to other people who appear to have hit a road bump. This brings me to the grand reveal of the four most powerful words we can ask someone today. And that is….

“How can I help?”

It’s deceptively simple and so obvious that it seems silly. When we see someone struggling or upset, we should ask how we can help. But, do we? I’ll be the first to admit I do not – at least not as often as I should. In 2015 I want that to change. I want to inspire you to also take the lead in transforming us back into a society who takes an interest in the health and well being of the people around us– not just an interest in their latest status update. Here is why this simple question is so powerful.

It forces us to let our guard down.

I know when I’m having a stressful day where I feel like my to-do list is a mile long and getting longer, I am too proud and too overwhelmed to stop and think of how someone else might help to lessen the load. From experience, when someone asks me “How can I help?” it’s such a welcome relief and feels just as good as a comforting hug.

I used to blow off this question because only I could perform many of my work related to-do’s, but I have since learned to think outside the box and find ways (like household chores, running an errand or offering a few hours of childcare) that people can help out regardless of their skill set or expertise.

It gives us a support system.

Asking this question is the most meaningful way in which you can express to someone that you’re there for them. It’s putting your money where your mouth is and actually offering to do something rather than simply saying “I’m here if you need something.”

No, take the initiative to ask someone what it is they need. By asking, not telling, you’re ready to assume the risk that they could need you to do something time consuming or undesirable. But it also makes us feel like we have a partner in all of this mess – and sometimes that is the only thing we really need.

It’s not condescending or judgmental.

The question “How can I help?” is simple, but perfectly phrased. Compare it to “Do you need help?” This variation can come across like a judgment that the person needs help for whatever it is they are going through. Give them the immediate acceptance of acknowledging it’s okay to need help and skip right to offering your hand. Especially if it’s an issue of pride, you won’t help the situation by first making them admit to needing help.

It eliminates our excuse to act like a martyr.

Most importantly, being asked “How can I help?” eliminates the temptation for us to feel sorry for ourselves and muddle in our own misery. Having someone standing in front of us with a hand to lift us up is the best way to make us grab a hold of our boot straps and pull them up high. Sometime we enjoy playing the martyr as a defense mechanism or because we want a reason to complain. This is neither healthy nor going to help us break the “bad day” cycle. Being asked “What can I do to help?” is a powerful way to make us stop feeling all alone and like no one cares – because someone does!

Who is someone you should ask “How can I help?” Reach out to them today and say these 4 simple words. Then share how the answer and the actions that resulted changed both of your lives!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The 5 Biggest Myths About Public Relations

the-5-biggest-myths-about-public-relations

Somewhere along the line, the Public Relations industry has been attached to some common myths that frame the way in which people value this service for growing their brand. Throughout my entire career spend working in Public Relations, I have found five reoccurring themes of PR myths that have challenged me to prove to clients they are simply not true.

Take a look at these myths and the real story behind them, and let me know if you agree or disagree!

  1. Myth: Public Relations can solve marketing and business development issues, too.

Truth: On several occasions a prospective client has contacted me to help them grow their business by adding Public Relations. After an initial meeting, I start to pull back the layers to discover some problems, far bigger than a lack of PR, exist. Things like a lack of focus, no business development plan and inability to scale are just a few of the common offenders. No amount of Public Relations, no matter how good, can fix these types of problems. In fact, PR that pushes customers to a “broken” business will only amplify these problems.

  1. Myth: Public Relations is a lot of twisting truths and calling in favors.

Truth: Thanks to Hollywood and TV shows like Sex and the City, people have somehow gotten the impression the successful PR professionals are those who rub elbows with the right people and lie or blackmail their way into getting good press for their clients. Ha! The truth is you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar and this applies to Public Relations. Building genuine relationships, delivering honest and accurate information and providing reporters with relevant tips and timely follow-up are the ways to really earn good press for a client.

  1. Myth: Public Relations delivers results almost immediately.

Truth: Especially for clients who are just beginning to implement a Public Relations strategy, they want to see results almost immediately. Not every press release, social media post or YouTube video is going to go viral, but that’s not a reason to not promote your news. You never know what the media is looking for that day, and your information could catch someone at the right moment and result in a really great pick-up. Also, every time you put yourself out there, you’re building brand recognition in the long-run.

  1. Myth: Public Relations results are easily quantifiable.

Truth: Just as Public Relations is not immediate, it is also not easy to quantify. Unlike paid advertising that can give you a pretty good estimate of the number of people it should each during your ad campaign, Public Relations is a lot more volatile. You’re trying to earn media instead of purchasing it, which means you don’t have control of the results. On the flip side, when you do earn that live interview or feature story, it’s worth far more than anything you could purchase – and it only costs you the time you or your PR professional put into it.

  1. Myth: Public Relations is overpriced.

Truth: I’ve personally experienced a few clients who will set a meager monthly budget for Public Relations, but blow 3 or 4 times that on their monthly advertising budget. People expect advertising and marketing to be expensive, but then want Public Relations to be cheap. It’s a mental block I haven’t quite figured out. What I do know is that a good PR strategy can easily return its investment each month with a single press pick-up. People are getting better and better at tuning out traditional advertising, but still perceive a news story as genuine, trustworthy and memorable.

What other myths have you debunked in the field of Public Relations? Share your personal experience by leaving a comment!

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2016

Best of... onlineHappy New Year! Hopefully you have recovered from your holiday celebrations and have started to think about how you plan to make 2017 your best year yet.

Before we completely move on from 2016, I wanted to take one final look back at some of the insight and inspiration we’ve shared on the Bennis Inc blog, specifically on topics related to life and entrepreneurship. As I read through the year’s worth of writing, I found myself particularly drawn to these 10 articles. I hope that they give you a renewed passion for pursuing your dreams in 2017!

Life Lesson: Are You Satisfied or Merely Distracted?

It’s easy to find things to distract us, but it’s not quite as easy to find true satisfaction in life. So often these two feelings are confused which causes us to life a “busy” life, but not a fulfilled life. This blog helps you to identify the difference and make changes in your life to achieve satisfaction.

Read the original blog here.

Best Practices for Internal Communication During a Crisis

We never want to imagine something bad happening to our business or personal reputation, which is why so often we don’t have a plan to deal with a crisis. This blog offers best practices for internal communication – that means your staff, family, etc – when life throws you a curve ball.

Read the original blog here.

Thanking Up: Sharing gratitude with your superiors

When you want to show your boss appreciation, it can be an awkward situation. How do you properly thank a superior without it appearing condescending? This blog offers tips for how to “thank up” and show gratitude for people above you in rank.

Read the original blog here.

Parenthood: Adjusting to the Ever-Changing “New Normal”

This is a personal post that focuses on the journey of parenthood combined with entrepreneurship. Spoiler alert…it most certainly has its challenges! How have I adjusted to the “new normal” of running a business while raising a growing family? Take a look!

Read the original blog here.

What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Motivating People to Say Yes

Just about every parent can agree that a toddler’s favorite word is “No.” Each day is a new challenge to motivate my children to comply with my requests. Here’s what the experience has also taught me about motivating clients to say “Yes.”

Read the original blog here.

Declutter Your Life by Asking These 5 Questions

Whether you’re a neat freak or someone who wishes they could keep their life a bit more organized, this blog post can help you declutter by asking yourself five simple questions.

Read the original blog here.

The Power of Picking Your Focus

Some of the most successful people are those who can intensely focus on one goal and see it through completion. With the start of the New Year, this is a great article to re-read to help you prioritize your resolutions.

Read the original blog here.

How Some of the Worst Jobs Have Made My Career Better

We’re all had less than favorable career experiences, but rather than chalking it up as a failure, we can choose to learn something valuable. In this blog I recap some of my worst job experiences but how they ultimately led me to a fulfilling career.

Read the original blog here.

Can an Introvert Thrive in a Career in Public Relations?

Knowing now how much of an introvert that I am, I may have never chosen to pursue a career in PR. But that would have been a mistake! Introverts can most certainly thrive in a career in Public Relations and this blog explains how.

Read the original blog here.

5 Ways You Are Spreading Negativity Without Knowing It

No one enjoys being around a negative person. However, sometimes we spread negativity without realizing we’re doing so. Start the New Year off on a positive note by reading about the five ways we spread negatively unintentionally.

Read the original blog here.

Want to explore most blog posts from Stephanie Shirley and Bennis Inc? Be our guest! Click here to browse business and success, here to browse life and here to explore all the rest.

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in Business & Success, Life, Wisdom

 

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Avoid Making These 6 Mistakes With Your Holiday Promotions!

Weihnachtsmann mit Daumen runter

We are in the thick of the holiday season which means we are being bombarded by sales and promotions from every angle. Mailed flyers and magazines, emails and social media advertisements all contribute to the noise and whirlwind of the holiday season.

If your business is planning to run a holiday sale, be sure to avoid these common mistakes which can cause your efforts to get lost in the shuffle – or worse yet – turnoff a potential customer. Take a look!

  1. Not giving customers enough time to take advantage of the sale

Nothing will frustrate your customers quite like a sale that gives them hardly any time to react. Don’t send out a coupon or promo code that is set to expire mere hours from the time it is received. Plan ahead so that your promotion lands in the hands of your customers with at least a week to react to it. The holidays are busy enough; your customers don’t want one more “urgent” to-do added to their list.

  1. After one promotion ends, running another one that’s event better

This is a personal pet-peeve of mine. I can’t stand when businesses run a promotion touted as “the best deal of the season” only to follow it up with an even better offer the next day or next week. The customers who took advantage of the first offer will likely feel taken advantage of themselves. This doesn’t mean you can’t run multiple promotions in a season, but be sure to structure them differently so it’s not literally the same offer with a better price tag.

  1. Using generic messaging

Your holiday promotions are yet another prime opportunity to establish your brand. Don’t resort to generic messaging like “Buy now!” or “Don’t delay!” Speak directly to your customers with a message that relates to their wants and needs. Remind them why they should want what you’re selling and most importantly, why they should do business with you over a competitor. If your brand is hip and fun, reflect that in your messaging. If your brand is high-end and exclusive, again…reflect that in your messaging!

  1. Focusing too heavily on acquiring new customers

Sure, every business hopes their holiday sales bring in some new customers. However, don’t forget to pay special attention to your loyal customers who will be the ones most likely to come to your business to buy gifts for their loved ones. Send them exclusive deals and discounts and make sure they know they are receiving this because of their loyalty. Bottom line: when your customers feel appreciated they are more likely to open their wallets.

  1. Bombarding your audience with too many promotions

If you plan to send out a holiday promotion every day between now and Christmas Eve…don’t. Not only will you see your email opens drastically decrease with every passing day, you may also turn off your customers to the point where they unsubscribe entirely. Carefully think through every email you plan to send and be sure the messaging is valuable enough that even if a few people fall off your list because of it, you’ll attract enough other customers that it’s still worth it.

  1. Using scare tactics or guilt

Finally, don’t use negative sales tactics to try and gain new customers over the holidays. This is a time when people want to feel happy! By scaring them with messaging like “You’ll be the only one without…” or “This is the last chance you’ll ever have to get…” they will associate these negative emotions with your brand. Equally as damaging is using guilt like “Don’t let your child be the only one without…” or “Don’t you want to give your loved one the best…?” Keep it positive and uplifting! Sell joy, happiness and fun.

What holiday promotion tactics do you find most frustrating? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

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!


Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

Technology is a help as much as it is a hindrance. While we have used countless forms of technology to fuel our efficiency, organization and communication with one another and the way we impact the world, we have also lost some essential and valuable skills along the way.

What skills have suffered? Mostly our people skills and soft skills, but also a few others you might not expect! Let’s take at a look at the 11 skills that technology is killing and see if they apply to you as well.

Handwriting

I certainly hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t recognize my own handwriting on the rare occasion I need to send a written letter or jot down some notes. There are really limited instances that don’t allow for a keyboard to make our thoughts legible. While technology certainly provides ease and efficiency of writing, quality penmanship has become a lost art.

Why does this matter? There will always be instances when a pen and pencil yield a more “personal” product, like a thank you note. There will also be times when we simply will run out of battery or WiFi and need to ask for some paper to capture important thoughts.

Eye contact

We have the ability to communicate with more people than ever on a daily basis. Yet, this has made these countless interactions feel less personal. Contributing your opinion to an online thread of thousands of comments is nowhere near as direct and meaningful as a face-to-face conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. I’ve found that people are so engrossed in their technology, catching up on email or social networks as they walk to and from their next destination, that they forget to look up and see the “real life” people standing around them.

The result? We forgot to look into someone’s eyes when we are talking to them. Do you greet your cashier by looking him in the eye and asking “How are you?” Do you keep eye contact with someone as they answer your question? If not, these are all areas we should strive to improve by unplugging from technology and plugging into one another.

The art of small talk

For most career-minded individuals, networking and meeting new people is essential for growing your business. This often means making a lot of small talk. But quality small talk requires more than just asking someone the obligatory “How are you today?” or commenting on the weather. It requires attention to the situation and nonverbal cues that tell us what will engage that person.

Technology has distracted and disconnected us from the living, breathing world around us so much that we have lost the valuable skill of being able to have an off-the-cuff conversation with a complete stranger.

Basic math

I am not too proud (though embarrassed) to admit that my basic math skills are severely lacking. Funny enough, I do still know my times tables and have not forgotten how to add or subtract. What I’ve lost is my confidence and patience to do the work mentally. Why? Because of technology. Why spend twice the time coming up with an answer I am only 50% sure is correct when I can just whip out my phone, punch in some numbers and have full confidence in the right answer?

This, of course, is a dangerous mindset and one that will continue to spread from generation to generation as technology only becomes increasingly convenient and ever-present. The solution is not easy, but it can start with each of us personally. We should take pride in keeping our basic math skills sharp and utilize them even if it means taking a few extra minutes and double-checking our answers.

Social awareness

Social awareness is the modern day way to say common courtesy. As the result of our obsession with and reliance upon technology, we forget there are other humans around us. The most common examples I’ve come across are people forgetting to hold the door, stepping in front of a line of waiting customers and cutting people off with a grocery cart.

While these are simple scenarios, they do indicate a larger social problem. We are so consumed in our own (online) lives that we ignore the need to courtesy coexist with one another.

Committing things to memory

If you were without your cell phone and needed to call your closest friends and family, would you know their phone numbers by memory? Probably not! I know I have exactly two phone numbers memorized aside from my own, my childhood home phone and my husband’s cell. This means I couldn’t even call my own parents’ cell phones without referencing my contact list.

Technology is a great tool for storing important information and phone numbers are just one of countless examples. But think about how we also Google everything imaginable – even common things like the meaning of an acronym or the year WWII began. If we lost access to all technology, would we, as adults, be “smarter than a 5th grader?” I’m not so sure.

Appreciating silence

This skill is one I really see the importance of as an introvert, yet I don’t always practice it. Think of your work environment. Do you always need some sort of background noise like a radio or TV? When walking from one place to another, do you feel the desire to talk to someone on the phone or pop in your headphones? When is the last time you did anything (aside from sleeping) in complete silence for more than an hour?

Appreciating silence is an important skill because it forces us to clear out the mental clutter, listen to our thoughts and address issues that might be bugging us. All of these things are easily masked by technology and noise – but will cause stress and distraction if not given proper attention.

Feeling comfortable without “props”

Similarly to feeling uncomfortable in complete silence, how do you react to waiting for someone or something without any technology to distract you? I know if I am waiting for a client, a food order or to be called back for an appointment, I feel the need to read emails, check in on social media or catch up on texts.

There’s a level of efficiency with this, but that is soon fulfilled within a few minutes. The issue is when we aimlessly browse our phones or tablets as a distraction from the world around us. The next time you’re waiting for someone to meet you in a coffee shop, enjoy sipping your coffee and watching the real world unfold. It’s amazing what you’ll see that you would have missed otherwise!

Making plans and sticking to them

When making social plans on the weekend, I’ve often wondered what people did before cell phones when it came to changing plans or running late. From asking enough of my “older peers,” I’ve come to the conclusion that people simply did a better job of sticking to their original plans!

Thanks to technology we have the ability to endlessly change where we’re going, at what time and with whom. If you’re on the receiving end of all of these changes it’s frustrating to say the least. Back before cell phones and social media, once people left the house, they were expected to be where they said they were going – and they really made a better effort of honoring that.

Fully focusing on one thing

Using multitasking to be more efficient with your time is a huge myth. Why? We’re not machines. We cannot quickly or easily switch from one task to another without losing momentum in the process. When we multitask and try to do too many things at once, we don’t fully accomplish anything.

Technology has created an environment where it’s easy to multitask and pile on distraction upon distraction. One time I caught myself watching TV while surfing my iPad. I couldn’t remember what show I was watching and I had minimal recollection of what I was looking at on social media. Trying to multitask my leisure time was a moment of reckoning for me. We need to get back to applying our sole focus to one thing at a time, doing it well and moving on to the next task with a clear mind.

Feeling content

Finally and most importantly, our reliance upon technology has messed with our ability to feel content. This is a bold claim, but one I strongly believe is true. How do you feel when you surf social media? In seeing other people’s lives (which are inevitably a carefully framed highlight reel of the truth), how do you feel about your own? Recently there have been more and more times that I have felt worse after browsing social media – not relaxed or entertained, like I had hoped.

Technology provides us a big, open window into each other’s’ lives. As we peer through, we can’t help but compare what we see to our own reality. Using technology for this purpose fuels jealously, discontent and stress. The skill we really need to strengthen is our ability to be happy for one another while being equally happy for ourselves. We are all blessed in different ways!

Has the overuse of technology hindered some of these valuable skills for you personally? Or does this apply to someone you know? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Life, Technology

 

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How Public Relations is Different than Marketing

how-public-relations-is-different-than-marketing

If you use public relations tactics and hope to get results that really only marketing can produce, you’re going to be frustrated and likely begin to doubt the effectiveness of using PR to grow your business. The same is true if you mistakenly use marketing tactics and hope to get results that are more PR-related.

So what do you need to know? Let’s cut to the chase and set the record straight on the biggest and most important differences between public relations and marketing. This is not to say there won’t be exceptions to the rule. There always are. But for the sake of drawing a clear line, take these statements with a grain of salt.

Marketing is proactive. Public relations is reactive.

Marketing is almost always planned and purchased well in advance. Whether that’s a direct mail piece or promotional materials. When needed, public relations can be reactive in an effort to solve a problem, address a concern or announce something newsworthy. As a PR professional, I would certainly advocate to not make your PR efforts solely reactive. That’s as silly as it is dangerous. Public relations can and should be both proactive and reactive; however, marketing is rarely if ever reactive.

Marketing is business. Public relations is communications.

Here me out on this one. At Penn State (and likely at many other colleges across the world), my major of public relations was housed in the College of Communications, along with other majors like advertising and journalism. Marketing, however, was in the College of Business. This may seem trivial, but really it can help you understand just how closely marketing is linked to business and public relations is linked to communications. From the time someone begins to formally study one of these industries, they are placed on one of two very different paths.

Marketing changes your bottom line. Public relations changes public perception.

If you want to know if you marketing tactics are working, look at your bottom line. How have they impacted sales? On the other hand, quantifying your public relations efforts isn’t so straightforward. A good PR strategy will help to positively change the public’s perception of your brand. This can be tracked in various ways including focus groups and customer surveys, but the data tends to be harder and more expensive to obtain than simply pulling last quarter’s sales numbers.

Marketing is focused on sales. Public relations is focused on relationships.

If you remember nothing else, remember that marketing is growing sales and public relations is growing relationships. By growing relationships, this often leads to greater sales – which is why marketing and PR work well to support one another – but this is not the main focus. This understanding is critical because all too often I run into clients who are disappointed that PR isn’t producing higher sales, when that’s not its number one objective! If your focus is sales, look to marketing and if your focus is increasing good will with your customers, look to PR. Both will work together to grow your brand, but in their own unique way.

Still struggling to differentiate when to use Public Relations and when to use Marketing to grow your business and brand? Ask a question and let us help you answer it!

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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