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Team Building is a good thing

Posted in Best Practices

Yesterday we had a wonderful professional development session. Elise Mitchell from Mitchell Communications Group, Inc. led us in a six hour team building exercise. It was insightful and we all walked away with a little more respect for each other and enlightening tips on how to make our team even stronger.

In this economy you may wonder if spending six billable hours on professional development instead of client service or sales is a good idea.  I am here to tell you that your employees are your greatest investors. If you don’t take the time to help them grow professionally and personally, it will cost you more to replace them.

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

Well that was fun, but now what?

Posted in Admin, Best Practices, Executive Insights

The department retreat. A time-honored corporate tradition that lets the employees spend a day in jeans and helps management believe they are building a stronger, more united team.

But when the trust falls are done and the flip-chart pages are strewn about the room, what have you really accomplished?

Make the most of your team retreat with these 6 tips:

1.    Have a point. Don’t have a retreat just to have one. Think of at least three objectives you want to meet. At the end of the day, you want to… what? Have next year’s business plan mapped out? Energize the team to get behind the new corporate structure? Introduce the newbies to the long-timers and create more streamlined processes? Once you have your objectives, create specific group activities to accomplish them.
2.    Yes, icebreakers are cheesy. But they do serve a purpose. Don’t think your team knows each other so well that they don’t need it. Or that it’s a waste of time. One of your goals, after all, should be to create a more productive and enjoyable work environment. The cheesier it is, the more easily the laughs flow. It gets them in the mood to work together. Don’t underestimate the importance of that.
3.    Embrace the breakout session. As management, you don’t need to be involved in everything that happens at the retreat. Give your team the freedom to work in groups without you. Assign a task – to solve an issue, be creative, share ideas on how to make improvements – and let them go. The freedom will empower them. And the results will impress you.
4.    Use an impartial facilitator. Yes, you could do it yourself, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Having a third party will bring a fresh perspective, and someone else can help wrangle in an unwieldy group that isn’t playing nicely.
5.    Get out of Dodge. Do not – I repeat – do not have the retreat at your office. Get out. Go someplace fun. Just go some place. You can’t be truly free from your daily grind if you’re only 200 feet from your computer and voicemail. For that matter, consider collecting all the Crackberries at the beginning of the day and keep them in a basket out of reach, out of sight, out of mind.
6.    Follow up, follow up, follow up. Too often, the fun times end. And so does the enthusiasm for whatever you accomplished. Have a plan before the retreat for how you will follow up and how you’ll keep the energy going.

If at the end of the day, you didn’t make it through the entire agenda because there was too much participation or too much easily flowing conversation – hey, that’s OK. There are worse problems to have. Just rest assured that you did make a difference. You affected your team in a positive way. They feel closer, they believe there is a plan in place for success, and that they are a part of that plan. That’s the most important thing.

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Comments Off Posted on by admin

Blogger Relations

Posted in Social Media

In my last post, I blogged about Lee Oden’s tips on incorporating SEO into PR tactics. In the third blog post in his Digital PR and SEO Series, Lee digs a little deeper into blogger relations. Here are some key take-aways:

•    Optimize media relations training – Make sure the key messages spokespeople use are filled with SEO keywords. Online readers often remember the topic of an interview, but they won’t always remember the companies or spokespeople involved. Readers will search for the topic of the article using those keywords the spokesperson said during the interview. And, they’ll find the online story (which hopefully links back to your website).
•    Transparency and Personalization – When reaching out to bloggers, it’s extremely important to qualify them to ensure you are giving them a topic they will be interested in. It’s also essential to customize the pitch for every blogger. Mass email pitches simply don’t work with bloggers. And, be sure to be transparent in who you are working for.

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Some Gen Y Communication Methods Enhance Productivity

Posted in Internal Communications, Social Media

I came across this article from Computer World when I was reading Millennial Leaders Blog by Bea Fields.

While the article presents a balanced viewpoint on why employers should evaluate adding IT functions (instant messaging, social networking) to their infrastructure, the comments at the end were almost prehistoric. The authors advance the generalization that Gen Y is only here to make “demands” for “bleeding edge” technologies and not to contribute to a company’s productivity.

Instant messaging isn’t exactly bleeding edge any more. But the point they are missing is critical. Perhaps if more employers incorporated preferred Gen Y methods of communication, productivity would increase because more connections, discussion and innovation would occur. This is the case in our office where iChat facilitates conversations about work, no matter our physical location.

The caveat for Gen Y to take to heart is recognize not everyone likes to be communicated with in the same way. There are many communication methods available to us; we must decide which is best for each situation we encounter. Don’t forget about face-to-face meetings or phone conversations if they will be more effective.

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Comments Off Posted on by clara

Find us on Facebook

Posted in Morningstar Communications Updates, Social Media

One more way to keep track of Morningstar Communications and all the great things we’re up to: Find us on Facebook.

Read our blog posts, see pictures of the team at work and at play and tell us what you think. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Comments Off Posted on by lauren

Why I Digg Social Media

Posted in Social Media

One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan for those of you on Twitter), recently posed a question about social media to his readers.  He wants to hear thoughts on why social media has become so popular and why we care so much.  Here is my personal take on social media, coming from the perspective of a younger PR pro.

First, I believe social media to be an excellent conduit for professional development.  As I begin to make my way in the PR world, I’ve learned so much from reading blogs of industry experts.  Reading material from the likes of Chris, Shel Holtz (@shel), Brian Solis (@briansolis), Todd Defren (@TDefren) and Kevin Dugan and Richard Laermer (@prblog, @laermer) has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the industry in which I work, as well as helped me to serve my clients more effectively.  And did I mention it was FREE?

Second, as a new PR pro not yet set in my ways, I’m eager to investigate new trends and movements in the industry as I attempt to carve out a niche for myself.  Social media is something I get excited about because I believe it is the next big trend in PR.  I can’t say that I got in on the ground floor, or even the first few stories, but I don’t mind riding the wave.  And dragging as many people as I can with me.

What are your thoughts on the popularity of social media?  Post your comments below or send me a message on Twitter @mdd044.

Comments Off Posted on by Matt Dunn

Election Coverage Overload

As we all anticipated, election coverage dominates the news these days. The media cover everything from the real issues, to the candidate’s families, friends, backgrounds, religious beliefs…even what they eat! No section of the news lacks some sort of election spin.

And, if we aren’t reading about the candidates, we’re reading about the trouble with voting machines, the voter registration process and the anticipated election turnout.  Staying abreast of it can be all-encompassing.

So, if like me, you are looking for something a little lighter in election-related coverage, check out this quiz on Mental Floss. It may not delve into the issues, but it’s a nice break from the whirlwind.

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Comments Off Posted on by Sheri Johnson

Four generations in the workplace at one time

Posted in Internal Communications

It’s not news that getting your message across is challenging. In the process of pushing forward our ideas, we encounter divergent perspectives.

But as communicators, we should be more adept at getting everyone on the same page. We know in reality it’s not always easy.

Generational differences is one dynamic adding complexity to our role as communicators. I recently read an article in PRWeek’s 2008 Career Guide that points out “this is the first time we have four generations present in the workplace” at one time. I hadn’t really considered that angle before.

As we contemplate day-to-day interactions and broader internal communications programs, we should identify ways to ensure our messages resonate with each generation.

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Comments Off Posted on by clara

The Relationship Between PR and SEO

Posted in Admin, Social Media

One of my favorite bloggers is Lee Oden of TopRank Online Marketing – he recently wrote a series of posts on the relationship between PR and SEO (search engine optimization).

In his first post, he outlines why SEO is important to PR professionals. I know here at Morningstar Communications, we are doing all we can to learn how to incorporate SEO techniques into our PR tactics, and Lee outlines them in his second blog post. Here are a few of his points:

•    Start with the Fundamentals – Whether you produce RSS content or a blog, or you have a presence in social networks and microblogging (like Twitter), using one or more of these channels to disseminate company news is a good first step to incorporating SEO into PR.
•    Optimize the Right Content – A 2007 study by Bulldog Reporter/TEKgroup International reported 64% of journalists research stories through Google News and Yahoo News. 70% of them read at least one blog regularly and 44% visit a social media site at least monthly. Optimize content in these channels to increase the opportunity for media to find and use your content for a story.
•    Relationships Still Count – Despite living in a Web 2.0 world, there’s still nothing that replaces forming relationships with reporters and bloggers. They are still looking for reputable story ideas, so don’t be afraid to send a personalized email or make a phone call.

Read the full blog post here.

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