Mum’s the word

The rise of social networking has led to an explosion of people sharing details from what they had for dinner to grievances at work to spats with lovers.

I cringe when I read some of the postings from my social networking contacts. I have mixed feelings about social networking sites — they are a necessary tool for someone in the news, marketing and other publicity industries because so many people use them. It’s like an arms race to keep up with what the competition is doing online. But I’m a reserved person by nature, and sharing details of my life goes against my inclination.

Sharing certain information on the Internet is not only unsafe but bad professionally. You’re upset over some issue at work? I understand how you feel. I’ve faced my share of frustrating situations at work. But I would urge you to think twice before sharing that information. It’s unprofessional to air your workplace grievances to those outside the company. You can harm both your current job and your ability to find a job in the future. Businesses scan such sites to learn what people are saying about them and to study people who apply for a job. Perhaps restricting who can view your profile will help against a basic search, but what about the people already on your friend list? They can and possibly will talk to other people. It’s like keeping a secret — once you tell one person, it’s no longer a secret.

Venting can be good for a person’s emotional health. If you’re unable to share your frustrations with a friend, I urge you to write your thoughts in a journal (the old-fashion way, in a book) or in a private blog that you allow no one else to view, not even your close friends.

Social networking is a good tool for business promotion and keeping up with the general happenings in your friends’ and relatives’ lives. There are plenty of personal observations that a person can safely share with others. But some issues should be kept to a private discussion with a select group of confidants. Doing this shows you have good emotional intelligence.


Does your company raise up new leaders?

Is your company providing opportunities for younger workers to learn leadership and management skills? If not, you may want to consider creating a mentorship program. Allow the potential leader to experience all facets of the company’s operations.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management says a succession plan should include: identification of needed leadership positions; identification of key leadership competencies; potential sources of talent, whether internal or external; recruitment or development strategies; and assessments of leadership policies to make sure goals are being met.

Sometimes hiring leaders from outside is the best option — or the only option. I would argue that it’s preferable to promote from within whenever possible because long-term employees are more likely to have ingrained the firm’s culture and values.

How would Jesus lead? Michael Hyatt, the head of Thomas Nelson Publishers, recently posted a thought-provoking blog on the topic (click here to read the blog). Hyatt points out that Jesus built a deep relationship with His disciples, especially a core group of disciples. Few modern leaders, Hyatt says, train a small group of disciples, much less build deep relationships with confidants, thus hurting their ability to leave a lasting legacy. Jesus’ disciples carried on His work, which has lasted for two millennia.

Great leaders are created, not born. Succession planning can help you develop your firm’s next group of great leaders.

A fast ride and hot brand (extension)

Are you achieving all you can with your brand? You may think there’s nowhere left to go with your brand, but that may not be the case. You may be able to extend your brand.

Think of Ferrari. What comes to mind when you think of that brand? Luxurious, expensive, ultimate-quality sports cars? That’s the traditional image the automaker has created with its brand. It would not make sense to create entry-level cars named Ferrari in a bid to extend the brand.

But what about a roller coaster ride?

One of the world’s premiere car brands is extending its brand to the amusement park world, according to Ferrari is opening Ferrari World later this year in Abu Dhabi. The park will have two roller coasters based on Ferrari’s cars. One of the coasters, the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi GT roller coaster, will send two carriages on a race against one another. Each car is a replica of Ferrari’s F430 Spider.

Ferrari will have other attractions, including an exclusive driving school.

So again, are you doing all you can with your brand? Have you thought of extending your brand into another category? Doing so can you achieve maximum ROI.

Be an effective leader or follower

Does your personality get in the way of leading, or following your leaders? Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, a leader or a follower, you can rise above your natural inclination to relate to others more effectively.

Extroverts: Make yourself hold back on occasion and listen to others. Don’t dominate the conversation. Try to build a collaborative effort. Ask others to give their opinions, and try to follow through on their advice – otherwise, they may perceive you’re only giving lip service to collaboration.

Introverts: Get away from your desk and interact with others. Make an effort to talk to people who work outside of your department. Remember to smile and tell people hello when you walk by. Develop talking points for both work-related issues (the effectiveness of new equipment) and personal topics (from the weather to a person’s children). Volunteer to work on special projects.

The key is to recognize your personality style and determine that you will overcome it. Once you do that, you can be a more effective leader or follower.

Editors do not want your dirty hubcaps

What do dirty hubcaps, carved rocks, popup books and moving boxes have in common?

They are some of the press kits and annual reports I have seen in my career. Creativity does not always equal good impressions when you’re trying to capture the media’s attention.

My editor recently received a dirty hubcap in a pizza box. He didn’t know the hubcap was dirty – it had grimy brake fluid on the back, and when he picked it up, he got the black goo all over his clothes. To top it off, the “kit” did not have much information about its purpose – it had a piece of paper with a Web address. Needless to say, my boss was not impressed.

The hubcap incident got me to thinking about other publicity efforts I’ve witnessed.

An aquarium added a penguin exhibit titled “Penguin Rocks” and sent the newspaper small rocks carved with the exhibit’s logo. I thought it was creative. And my pragmatic side appreciated that the rocks could be re-used – I gave mine to my mother to use in her yard’s landscaping.

A local utility I have dealt with will get two mentions in this blog. The utility moved its office several years ago and its marketing director sent media outlets a large moving box. This box was so large it required foam and lumber supports inside. An ordinary press release was the only other content. My colleagues greeted this initiative with incredulity. Later, when I covered this utility, it released its annual report in a book format using full color, quality paper and popups. The books cost $32,000 to print, not counting postage. While such projects take months to plan, the timing was horrible since ratepayers were upset that the wholesale electric rate was increasing 20 percent. To be fair, the utility didn’t set the wholesale rate. But I wrote a story because the utility is city-owned, which is an important distinction to a reporter. The utility’s marketing department is very creative, but the use of expensive popups in a report by a public utility generated negative attention.

What lessons can a publicist learn from these episodes? Journalists love clever ideas, but we are cynical. We take our roles seriously as public watchdogs, so if perceive someone is misusing resources we may decide the situation warrants a story.

Here are a few tips for communicating to the media:

  • Provide plenty of information about what you’re trying to communicate. Journalists deal in facts, not teasers or hype.
  • Timing is important. A fancy or otherwise lavish project may be acceptable when things are fine, but can draw bad publicity with the wrong timing.
  • Try to use something that’s practical as well as cute. This should be better received by cynical journalists.
  • Be aware of much money you spend to create a marketing campaign or annual report. It may become the story instead of what you are trying to publicize.

How profitable are your customers?

You may be worried about how many customers you have, but perhaps even more important is the question: How profitable are your customers?

How often does each customer buy your product or service? How expensive is the purchase: is it your least profitable product/service, or the offering that you have the highest margin on? How price-sensitive are your customers? Will they run for the competition if you have to raise prices to cope with higher expenses?

Small segments of customers can be very profitable if you identify and meet their needs. They will care about quality more than finding the lowest price. And that will bring in more cash than chasing every potential customer.

Stop to give praise

Today at work, I took the time to do something that’s not done often enough in the news industry: I gave praise.

Some editors are good at giving praise. But oftentimes, a newspaper staff gets caught up in the daily grind of producing stories and other content. They get so caught up in the moment or working on the next goal they forget to look back at what worked well. Journalists tend to be cynical and look first to what was done wrong. Sometimes management does the same thing.
Recently at work, we were asked to improve our efforts and improve our performance. No mention was made of what we do correctly. So, I took a moment at the end of a staff meeting to tell several co-workers that I thought they did a good job on a couple of special projects, projects that were done in addition to the daily grind.

Dealing with the daily grind can be hard enough without hearing only what needs to be improved. Take the time to tell someone you work with that you appreciate his or her hard work.

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