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Beginner Photography Tips to Make Your Brand Stand Out!

Meet the newest member of Bennis Inc and this week's blog author, Danielle! Click her photo to learn more about her passions and expertise related to photography.

Meet the newest member of Bennis Inc and this week’s blog author, Danielle! Click her photo to learn more about her passions and expertise related to photography.

All new business ventures, regardless of size or industry, grow from ideas and visual thinking. So essentially, a visual idea is the beginning of a startup company! It is imperative that you incorporate visual and photographic content when marketing a new business, especially in today’s growing world of technology. Having great photographs and images will be key in not only creating your visual brand, but making it stand out among your competitors!

Maybe you’re just getting started, or maybe you have a shoe string budget with which you feel like you can’t afford quality photography. It’s time to push these excuses aside and learn how to be your own photographer (fake it until you make it, right?) to ensure you begin creating a strong and professional brand from day one.

Take a look at these essential tips to get you started…

Build a stock image library of photos from areas around your business or hometown

Having access to quality, visual content when you’re trying to grow your business is key to creating a memorable and consistent brand. The first step is to start looking at your everyday surroundings as possible stock imagery. Get and capture photographs that will be visually beneficial for your business, over a long length of time. Create your image library by photographing landmarks and significant areas surrounding your business. You can also photograph objects that relate to your brand.

As a business owner you can choose to capture these images yourself or you can hire a freelance photographer to provide you with a stock image library. For a small investment of either your time or a professional’s skills, you can gain access to a ton of unique stock images that are both local and meaningful to your business. Best of all, you won’t have to worry about copyright issues like you do with images found online!

Take photos when you travel

Always have your camera handy with you when you are on the go. You never know when you will have a photographic opportunity. Even if you forget your camera one day and you see a terrific photo opportunity, remember to pull out your cell phone and take a quick snapshot. You never know when that photo might come in handy for a future blog post or Instagram update.

Capture photos of your usual workday

Another great way to continuously grow your visual content library is to take snapshots of moments and things throughout your typical work day. These photos can be as simple as a stack of pens or your laptop setup with your piping hot coffee. These types of photos are great for original content and will give your audience a real look into your daily life. After all, it all comes back to creating that “human element” as part of your brand.

Save time with minimal editing

A great tip to know when beginning to photograph for content is to always shoot with minimal editing in mind. A simple, but key factor when it comes to minimal editing is the less cropping the better, so try and be mindful of the “rule of thirds.” As you get more advanced, you can even begin to explore different types of lighting which can really help to cut down on the amount of editing needed to fix “bad” images. When it comes to lighting, there is a lot to understand but beginners can set the camera to an auto setting which should ensure proper lighting. More experienced photographers often prefer to carefully set their own lighting for each shot, but if you’re just getting started, use those auto settings until you learn the ropes!

Your photographs can be simple and still stand out

Believe it or not, you can take professional photographs with little to no fuss at all. Sometimes the simpler the image is, the bigger impact it will have. So don’t worry about making a big production out of finding the perfect background staged with a ton of props. Rather, take the time to plan some of your locations and pay attention to the smaller details, such as your shooting angle. The simplest things can be made to feel artistic and unique based upon how you photograph them. Dare to get a new view from up high or down low – you’ll be amazed as to how your world changes from this angle!

How do you use photography to build a unique brand and make it stand out? Share your ideas and experience by commenting below!

 
 

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How to Communicate a Consistent Message During a Crisis

How to Communicate a Consistent Message During a CrisisNo one ever wants a crisis to strike. In fact, simply talking about this devastating news can be enough for many business owners to change the conversation. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but talking about your crisis communication plan NOW can save you a lot of stress and damage in the future, should a bad situation actually occur.

Crisis communication is one of the key topics covered by the Public Relations umbrella. Fortunately my clients have only experienced a few inconveniences or setbacks, but no major crises. However, we still plan for them! Having a plan in place ensures that you stand ready to quickly and appropriately address such issues to minimize negative impact to your brand and business.

One of the most important elements to a good crisis communication plan is knowing how you will craft and share a consistent message. Without further ado, let’s jump right in with my top five, no-nonsense tips for achieving this in a crisis situation. Take a look!

Establish the facts.

In the event of a crisis, information and questions are likely to circulate quickly, both internally and externally. However, not everything being shared is going to be fact. Communicating a consistent message begins with separating what is true from what is false or speculated. Begin by working internally with your communications team to identify the facts you know at this time. Write them down in the form of bullet points and refer to them throughout these next steps.

How to address unknown details or private information you cannot share at this time.

Among the facts, you are likely to have sensitive information that should remain private to the media until a later date. This may include releasing the names of victims or sharing allegations before charges are made final. In such instances, it is acceptable to tell the media “Such details cannot be shared at this time.” You can maintain credibility by adding “We will keep you updated as soon as we have more information to share.”

If you only have partial information about a situation, set an internal deadline for how long you can afford to wait for the rest of the facts before speaking to the media. If this deadline passes without more information, use the phrases bolded above to communicate to the media that the information is not fully available to you at this time, but you plan to announce such details as soon as they become known.

Bring it all back to your core mission statement.

Communicating the details of a crisis situation is often unpleasant and uncomfortable. You can buffer the blow of this hard news by concluding your press release or public statement with the reiteration of your business’s core mission statement. If you do not have a preformatted mission statement, now is the time to prepare one.

Share the message internally, so all members of your staff can repeat the same message.

Now that you have identified that facts you can share publicly and have incorporated your core mission statement into your crisis messaging, it’s time to first share this internally with your staff. The goal of this step is to get everyone on the same page. People who may have been exposed to false information, or who may be completely unaware of the crisis, will be empowered with the facts. Your staff can help serve as your ambassadors during this difficult time. Involve them and equip them with the proper information to do so!

Get the message out on all communication channels available to you.

Finally, disseminate your crisis messaging across all channels available to you. Consider these ideas: website’s homepage, social media accounts, press release, email announcement or a printed letter mailed to all parents.

Have you ever had to deal with a crisis situation? Share your best practices for communicating a consistent message – and preserving your brand by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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A Changing Industry: Why Public Relations is Now Personal Relations

A Changing Industry Why Public Relations is Now Personal RelationsPublic Relations. When broken down it quite literally means relating (i.e. communicating) with the public. Yet, the term “public” is no longer as fitting as we move into an ever-increasingly personal society where we share intimate information with one another every day. Within our social circles, technology has granted us the ability to know what our neighbor had for dinner on Saturday, what our second cousin purchased at a sale on Sunday and the new job a fellow high school graduate accepted on Monday.

No matter how you slice it, we are personally connected and we have grown to appreciate and expect this personal communication. It’s only fitting that Public Relations has caught up with the trend and has moved into the realm of personal relations in order to be more effective and well received.

Let’s take a look at four main reasons why the Public Relations industry is shifting toward personal relations – and how you can utilize resources and opportunities to keep your business ahead of the curve.

There are more ways than ever to communicate with the masses on a personal level

I’ve written about how important it is to highlight the human element within your business and to build your personal brand. Thanks to technology, there are more ways than ever to achieve both of these PR goals easily and fairly inexpensively. Social media is an obvious (and very powerful) platform for connecting with your target audience on a personal level. Finally, us “regular folks” can address a concern or give a compliment to the biggest brands and get a direct – often real-time – response.

In addition to social media, technology has enabled businesses to make even direct marketing a more personalized experience. Mail and email messages not only address the recipient by name but can be crafted to reflect their very specific interests like what car they drive or what street they live on.

As surprising as it may be sometimes to receive an email from a business that knows I have a Russian Blue cat based upon a previous purchase, I love that the offers and coupons are directly relevant to my needs.

Social media encourages sharing the “human” side of your business

I don’t expect everyone to be willing to get extremely personal on social media, but I do encourage you to find a point on the spectrum that is comfortable for you. Whether you are sharing content on your personal profiles or your business’s profiles, you will increase the visibility of your posts by crafting genuine content that engages your viewers.

What this really means is skip the stock photos and use real photos of your staff or pictures from inside your office. Give a face to a name. Don’t just share a link; ask a question or offer an insightful thought that will inspire people.

Social media platforms are getting smarter at weeding out overly promotional content and spam. Avoid getting trapped in these filters by remaining genuine and personal with the content you share.

People don’t want to be sold something, they want to learn something

Think about the websites, blogs, emails and social media posts that catch your attention. Do they engage you because they are trying to sell you their product or service, or do they engage you because they offer information you deem to be valuable. I would imagine the vast majority of you responded with the second option.

Practice “personal relations” by first building trust with your potential customers. Give them useful information at no cost and with no obligations. As an expert in your field you should be grateful for any opportunity to share your knowledge.

Technology provides us with the ability to access information we need right at our fingertips which has evolved us into a society hungry for knowledge. Feed that hunger – and build trust in your brand – by offering useful information to your target audience.

Telling your story is what breaks through the noise and gets you remembered

If you have visited my new website, you will know that my PR philosophy is “Every business has a story. What makes yours stand out is how well you communicate it.” I truly believe in the power of modern day storytelling and I also believe that every business has a unique story or angle that can be their point of differentiation.

As the Public Relations industry shifts toward “personal relations,” telling your unique story is even more important. As a potential customer, yes we need to know what you do and how you do it, but we also now want to know WHY you do it. What inspired you? Where did you gather your expertise? Are you carrying on a tradition or legacy?

The answers to these questions are what will break through the PR and marketing noise that we are inundated with daily and help us remember why we want to do business with YOU over anyone else.

Do you agree or disagree that Public Relations has a growing emphasis on personal relations that is reshaping the industry? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Get Comfortable with Getting Personal on Social Media

personal genuine real quote

If you’ve taken notice of how your personal social media accounts engage far more interactions than your business accounts – you’re not the only one. In particular, Facebook continues to make major changes to their algorithms that determine whether or not your content appears in people’s newsfeeds. The bottom line is that business pages are getting hit the hardest with the negative impact of these changes and personal accounts are becoming more and more valuable for reaching a broader audience.

Yes, social media is a vast unknown and a very public forum. It can be intimidating to think about how the content you put out on your social profile will live on for eternity. So while it’s more important than ever to be smart about what you post, it’s becoming equally important to be personal and genuine. This type of content is rewarded with far more views. Additionally, people feel more compelled to comment, like and share content that feels “human” – and not like a sales pitch.

If we want to better promote our personal brand, engage our core audience and grow our business, we need to shift our focus away from trying to “outsmart the system” with shady SEO tactics and tricky automated posting and toward quality, genuine content posted by us – a human. Moreover, we need to open up, get more personal and allow our fans and followers to connect with the person behind the business.

Let’s take a look at 9 ways to get comfortable with getting more personal on social media – in a safe and professional manner.

Speak to your core audience.

For the vast majority of us, we have far more connections on our social media profiles than we will ever have friends in real life. This is part of the beauty of social media, but also part of the downfall. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of your content reaching thousands upon thousands of people.

Who are these people, really? What do they think about me? Why do they even want to hear what I have to say? These doubt-filled questions can really do a number on your self-confidence and your willingness to share personal and genuine information about your life. Forget about these “unknown” followers and rather focus on your core audience – the people you know in real life or with whom you have built a meaningful relationship online. Talk to your supporters, your cheerleaders and ignore the opinions of all the rest. If they don’t like your content, they’ll weed themselves out.

Showcase more than just your “brag reel.”

Social media is fun because we can carefully frame all of our life events so that they appear far more fabulous and perfect than they really are. Not to mention how we are able to completely crop out the mistakes, bad days and blunders we don’t want people to know about.

But in order for people to get to know the real you, you have to share the good with the bad. This means letting people know when you’ve made a silly mistake, have a “case of the Monday’s” or are just in a bad mood. Not only does this make you more genuine, it helps people connect with you on a deeper level because, guess what, they’ve been there too! Best of all, you will find that your core audience will rally around you in support and help move you on to a more positive moment.

Be positive.

In sharing both the highs and the lows on your newsfeed, be sure to stay positive. Don’t rant or throw someone/some business under the bus. I have yet to see a scenario where this is ever justified – maybe between you and a close friend in a private conversation, but never on social media. Stay classy and stay positive. This will draw in other positive people and create a welcoming and uplifting environment in which you feel comfortable getting personal.

Mix in quotes with photos.

There are only so many selfies or photos of your food, pets and kids that you can share in a day without overdoing it. Mix up your social stream by sharing images that capture people’s attention and inspire them. Use quotes! Pinterest is a great source of quotes for any topic you can imagine that are already formatted into images. Build a small library as you have time so that the quotes are ready to go whenever you want to share them. Inspiring people is a powerful way to connect with them on a deeper level and build a loyal following.

Interact with your audience.

This one is so important! If you want to engage people on social media, you must give to receive. This means setting aside a finite period of time each day (and don’t go over!) when you browse your newsfeed and like, comment, share and follow content that interests you. Leave meaningful comments or ask questions. I can’t say enough about how important it is to be “social” on social media.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

No matter how you slice it, selfies are always going to feel a little awkward, cheesy and narcissistic. Just have fun with your social media content! Make a funny face, crack jokes, be sarcastic and make fun of yourself from time to time. All of these things will help to make you real and relatable to your audience.

Not everyone has to be shared in real time.

Some days lend themselves to countless opportunities to share updates on social media. Vacations, holidays, weekends, birthday parties and other celebrations provide far more content than what our audience likely wants to see in a day (or an hour). Enjoy the moment, take those snap shots, but save some for later. Thanks to #ThrowBackThursday and #FlashBackFriday (or any day of the week, if you’re feeling bold), you can use these photos as content for another day. Whether or not your audience connects with your content really comes down to the caption, so make it clever and relevant!

Don’t tolerate trolls.

Even if you post genuine, uplifting content that shows your personal side, you will inevitably run into social media “trolls” who have no problem leaving biting comments while hiding behind their social media mask. This is my advice on how to handle such situations. If a comment contains a personal attack, profanity or untruthful information, you have every right to delete it and black the user. Just as you wouldn’t put up with being bullied in real life, don’t tolerate hateful and hurtful comments that are unsolicited.

Be personal while still being appropriate.

Finally, and most importantly, carefully walk the fine line of being personal while still being appropriate. It’s possible (and we’ve likely all seen it) to get too comfortable with sharing personal updates on social media. I’ve had everything from family feuds to detailed medical information voluntarily shared by members of my network. The best rule of thumb is to assume your grandma can and is reading everything you post. Make her proud by building a strong personal brand that is engaging and professional!

Do you choose to share personal photos and updates on social media? What are some of the reasons behind your decision? Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Social Media, Technology

 

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How to Rebrand Your Business: Part 5

Welcome back to the fifth and final week of our 5-part series on how to rebrand your business. Each week we will cover a unique and important aspect of the rebranding process. Be sure and catch up on the previous weeks’ posts if you’re just joining us! And now for this week’s critical question…

What is my action plan for rebranding?

What is my action plan for rebrandingYou’ve now reached the point in the rebranding process where you need to outline your plan for implementation. You’ve made the decision to rebrand, identified your current customers, revisited your mission and tied it all into your unique story. This is the exciting part where all these pieces come together to unveil your new brand and begin the process of introducing it to the world.

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet or big red button that will allow to you seamlessly insert your new brand where the old once was and have everyone recognize it, relate to it and build a positive relationship with it. That will take time – and most importantly – consistency. I emphasize consistency because time alone will not get the job done. You cannot sit on your hands and wait for your new brand to start driving sales. Rather, you need to take action immediately to build a strategic plan and follow through with that plan day after day.

So let’s talk more about this strategic plan of action and what you need to consider when laying it all out. While every part of the rebranding process we talked about leading up to this week is indeed important, your plan for implementation can be the make-it-or-break-it moment. Even the best brand will have little impact if it’s not strategically and consistently implemented. To help you confidently craft your own plan of action, here are 5 tips you should keep in mind.

  1. Think beyond the logo

Just as there is a lot more to a person than hair and clothes, there is a lot more to your business than its logo. Updating your website, social media profiles and email newsletter template with a new logo is only the surface of rebranding.

Remember to dig deeper when creating your plan of action. For example, change the content on your website to reflect your new mission, story and overall “vibe” that you want to create with your new brand. If you’re moving toward a modern and fresh brand, do away with that long and stale messaging that no longer resonates with your target audience. Another example is to apply your new brand to the voice you use on social media. Share content that will interest this newly identified target audience and spark discussion with things they care about.

  1. Include tactics across multiple platforms

In the point above, I mentioned some tactics pertaining to your website, email newsletter and social media. Don’t stop there! Identify all the ways in which you communicate with your customer base and be sure to apply this rebranding to each platform. Some examples include your automated emails (such as when a customer purchases a product or fills out a contact form), blog post topics and direct mail pieces.

Additionally, the rebranding process doesn’t end with your visual or written content. Depending on the situation, this may call for some media relations. Issue a press release emphasizing the newsworthiness of your new brand, host a party at your place of business or hold a press conference. The more reason you give your audience to celebrate with you, the more memorable you make your rebranding process.

  1. Emphasize in your communications why this is a positive and exciting change

Have you ever seen a business with a sign saying “Under new management!” hung in their window? I have and I always read this as “Sorry we failed. We fired the screw-up, so give us another chance!” You customers may question your motive behind rebranding; make it clear that this was a strategic decision and a positive change that has made your already successful business stronger than ever. You can communicate this in any way you choose to announce your new brand. Whether it’s on social media, on your website, in your newsletters or through a press release, take control of the speculation behind your new brand and align it with a sign of positive change and exciting things to come.

  1. Empower your employees to be advocates for the change

Your employees are a valuable part of the rebranding process, so be sure to empower them with the ability to share the word and get excited about it. Make them feel like they are on the “inside” and let them be among the first to know about your decision to rebrand before you go public with it. This is their company too, so make them feel a part of it! With the support of your employees, the unveiling of your new brand will be a much more powerful and positive experience for everyone.

  1. Scour every corner of your business for remains of the old brand

This final step is one that many companies fall short of completing. It’s taking the time to search every nook and cranny for remnants of your former brand. This could be anything from old letter head, coffee mugs, t-shirts, business cards and even email signatures for all your employees. All of this needs to be changed, pitched or donated to make room for your new brand. The danger of allowing these items to stay is that people within your company will inevitably use them and although it may be subconscious, it will send the message that the old brand is not really gone.

Just as you should clear the clutter of a past relationship before moving on to a new one, you should also clear the clutter of your old brand to set the tone that the new one is the only one that matters now!

And remember…rebranding alone won’t fix a poorly run business or a broken process any more than a bandage will fix a gaping wound. When venturing down the road to rebranding, be sure to reevaluate all aspects of your business to identify weak spots!

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the previous posts from this 5-part series:

Part 1: Do I need to rebrand?

Part 2: Who are my customers?

Part 3: What is my mission?

Part 4: What is my unique story?

Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Rebrand Your Business: Part 4

Welcome back to the fourth week of our 5-part series on how to rebrand your business. Each week we will cover a unique and important aspect of the rebranding process. Be sure and catch up on the previous weeks’ posts if you’re just joining us! And now for this week’s critical question…

What is my unique story?

What is my unique storyLast week, I talked about the importance of establishing your current mission as part of the rebranding process. This week, I want to share with you how to take that “standard” mission statement and really make it stand out by strengthening it with a story.

When you took that fresh look at your mission statement, you may not have needed to change much. A few tweaks and word substitutions may have done the trick to bring it up to date with your business’s current brand and future goals. But making your mission relevant isn’t enough – you must also make it resonate. Simply stating “We strive to offer the highest quality of service at the best rates possible…” will quickly blend into the noise of every other company saying the same thing – unless you include a personal story to make it uniquely memorable.

I emphasize the power of storytelling frequently on both my blog and in my consulting business. I have always been captivated by stories, but I became an advocate for this art as I continued to see the impact it had on helping a message resonate with its audience.

Your own rebranding process is the perfect time to identify that story that best tells your customers about your passion, your innovative ideas and why you’re in it for so much more than just a paycheck. This is your chance to humanize your business in a way no competitor can completely replicate – by telling your personal story.

In a past blog post, I talked about how to incorporate this story into your branding efforts, but I want to take it back one step and give you some starting advice on how to first identify the perfect personal story to highlight. Let’s take a look:

  1. It doesn’t have to be about you.

Make it about your customers instead. A story can still be personal to your business even if it isn’t about you. Instead, tell a story about how you solve customers’ problems, make their lives more enjoyable or inspire them to do great things through your products and services. Use real life examples with which your audience can relate. Make them feel like you’re telling “their” story.

  1. Highlight a point of differentiation.

Tell a story no one else can. To really stand out from your competition, you want to highlight what makes you unique and unable to be replicated. This might be the relationships you’ve built or challenges you’ve overcome. Or maybe it’s about your level of education and experience that is more than what’s expected in your industry. All of these angles will showcase what makes you different and will attract customers to work with you.

  1. Let your customers tell the story.

A testimonial from your customer is a very powerful and compelling story. Let them be your megaphone. I love when a customer’s story takes you on a journey, relaying their struggles and positioning a company as the answer – so long as it feels genuine. This should be more in-depth than a traditional once sentence testimonial and should have a beginning, middle and end, just like any good story does.

  1. Recount your “Aha” moment.

Rather than telling the story about how you’re changing people’s lives with your business, talk about how your business is changing your life. Was there a definitive moment when you remember being inspired to start your business? Tell the story of the time you realized your calling to do what you’re doing now – and why you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Sharing this passion with your customers will make you feel human, trustworthy and likable.

And remember…rebranding alone won’t fix a poorly run business or a broken process any more than a bandage will fix a gaping wound. When venturing down the road to rebranding, be sure to reevaluate all aspects of your business to identify weak spots!

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the previous posts from this 5-part series:

Part 1: Do I need to rebrand?

Part 2: Who are my customers?

Part 3: What is my mission?

Join in the conversation by commenting below!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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