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…And be polite!

Posted in Best Practices

In agency life, work can rain down on you in a torrent. I’m sure this is also the case with countless occupations. There are, of course, many ways to avoid being swept away by the flood and keep your head above water. Organization and careful planning lead the fight. One tactic that tends to get overlooked and underused is delegation.

We have all been guilty at one time or another of using delegation as a last minute fix for time sensitive jobs that we couldn’t get to. But, that is not a great time to delegate. What if the person you entrust with the task doesn’t have the time either? Delegation can and should be pre-planned and built into the life of the project.

Having been both a “delegator” and “delegatee,” I have found the key to effective delegation is clarity. Taking the time to clearly state what it is you expect from the person to whom you are delegating will ensure you don’t have to circle back and re-do the task, thus, rendering the delegation useless.

Sometimes, however, it’s ok for a delegated task to serve as a learning tool. Delegating to someone who may not have the qualifications, experience or familiarity with a project offers empowerment, confidence and, of course, gives them that qualification and experience. It is important not to be afraid to do this, as it will ultimately help the overall strength of your organization. If employees are not constantly being challenged, growth cannot occur.

Another delegation idea to keep in mind is what is referred to as “delegating up.” Some employers see delegating up – or above your position – as bad and some see it as good. Morningstar Communications sees it as good. We encourage and practice delegating up as a way of keeping everyone covered and engaged in projects. It also creates an even playing field in the process of working together to help grow our clients’ businesses. This concept of empowerment clears the channels of communication so that any and all great ideas can be brought forth and implemented by any one of us at any time.

What are some ways you and your fellow employees work together to keep everything flowing?

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Comments Off Posted on by Tyler Dustin

Drawing the corollary between employee engagement and effective communications

Posted in Best Practices, Internal Communications

I was honored to speak to a group of Kansas City business leaders as part of The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s “Business Brainfood” Series a few weeks ago. The topic was “Small investment & big return: Boosting employee engagement through effective internal communications.”

I shared some rather sobering research on the decline in employee engagement over the past two to three years. The stats on how willing employees are to go the extra mile and put forth discretionary effort paint a poor picture. The impact on overall performance in an environment where folks want to only do the bare minimum ultimately means lost revenue due to poor productivity. Fortunately, I absolutely believe effective internal communications can help improve morale and foster more motivated employees. Best practice companies are using both online and offline tools to communicate company direction as well as stimulate peer-to-peer conversation (which, by the way, is where some of the most exciting new internal communications strategies are directed).

Several other trends were discussed in the presentation, and attendees had a chance to weigh-in from their own perspectives about some of the challenges and opportunities in internal communications/internal marketing. The transient nature of today’s workforce and the stark differences in how employees view their relationship with their company today vs. prior generations made for a great discussion. As the recession graphs start to trend back upwards, our clients and organizations should (hopefully) begin to turn their attentions back toward motivating the workforce.

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1 Comment Posted on by Matt Tidwell

A full mailbox means it’s catalog season

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Online Marketing

It’s that time of year. The last couple of days my mail box has been stuffed with catalogs. Catalogs from retailers far and wide, many I’ve never heard of letting me know about the wide variety of merchandise I must need.

I’d much rather my mail box be filled with this propaganda than bills and I enjoy looking at these catalogs. As much as I get a kick out of the at home versions of merchandise normally only seen in Sky Mall, (Marshmallow Shooter, anyone?), I got to thinking how much business could catalogs do. Everything is online these days. Turns out, it’s really big business.

The Direct Marketing Association notes catalogs are a primary sales channel for 62 percent of its members with websites coming in at 20 percent and retail at 6 percent.

As a frequent online shopper, I would have guessed the statistics would show online being much more. I wonder how many people complete their transaction on the phone versus online? I couldn’t imagine picking up the phone to place an order but there is a definite audience of people who are still unsure about the safety of the Internet.

It goes to show you that for every stride we make in technology, there’s still something to be said for the more simple way of doing things. Not a bad message to remember as we move into the holiday season that starts with Halloween next week. Happy holidays everyone.

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1 Comment Posted on by Rachel Spear

Calendar reminders: friend or foe?

Posted in Best Practices

I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of Post-it® notes. They are bright, colorful friendly reminders of things to be done. I put them on the door leading to my garage so I don’t forget to take something to the office in the morning. I have put them on my steering wheel so I would not forget something important. They don’t stick to the wheel very well, just an FYI. I have left them on the mirror in the bathroom reminding someone to take their medicine. Be sure to place these notes strategically so the excuse of “I did not see it there. It should have been where my towel is” doesn’t get thrown your way.

Today, I have had an electronic “Office Notification” reminding me to blog since this morning. I have snoozed it about 50 times due to the fact that I could not come up with a worthy topic. So I decided that the electronic reminder has pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s:
The notification to:

  • remember to make sure your boss’s schedule is correct
  • pay rent – a definite plus
  • pay the credit card bill – VERY important
  • attend a meeting
  • eat lunch
  • go to an appointment
  • wake me up if I am dozing every 15 minutes
  • finally hitting dismiss instead of snooze when you complete your task

Con’s:

  • the beeping scares the heck out of me when I am concentrating
  • the notifications are on my phone as well, but for some reason they repeat about 62 times and freak out my device.
  • a constant reminder that you have failed to get something done or are too old to remember it in the first place
  • shows up right where my iTunes song list is
  • thinking it is laughing at you after every beep

Now that I see it in print, I am a proud fan of my office notifications. Here’s to DISMISS!

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

The evolution of conversation

Posted in Social Media

Earlier this week, Brian Solis released the Conversation Prism 3.0, his (along with JESS3) visualization of the social Web. I’m a big fan of Brian’s views on social media and how it applies to current marketing practices. With version 3.0 of the Prism, we can take a look back at how the design has evolved as the public embraces social media as a communications channel.

Darren Barefoot and Robert Scoble created the Social Media Starfish in November 2007.

Image Credit: Robert Scoble and Darren Barefoot

In August 2008, Solis released the Conversation Prism 1.0, attempting to help marketers visualize where conversations were taking place in the social Web.

Image Credit: Brian Solis and JESS3

Just under a year later, Solis released the Conversation Prism 2.0. This time, he focused on the social Web as a CRM channel.

Image Credit: Brian Solis and JESS3

Now, take a look at the Conversation Prism 3.0.

Image Credit: Brian Solis and JESS3

Where do you see the social Web going in the next year? What will change and what will stay the same?

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1 Comment Posted on by Matt Dunn

First impressions

Posted in Best Practices

My first day at Morningstar Communications involved brightly colored streamers.  Let me explain.

On my first day as an intern, I walked into the office a bundle of nerves.  Dressed up in my best business attire, I was determined to make a good first impression. I received a friendly greeting from my supervisor Rachel, and was led to my desk.  To my surprise and amusement, there was a big “WELCOME HOLLY!” sign on the wall.  My cubicle was draped in bright green streamers, and even my office chair had a big green bow on it.  It was the most festive cubicle I’d ever seen!

My nerves calmed and I laughed. In that simple display of welcome, I felt comfortable and accepted.  It’s been two months since that first day, and I still remember how Morningstar Communications made a fabulous first impression on me.

One of my favorite books is Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book is all about first impressions– those moments where we are first introduced to someone or something and make a snap judgment.  As humans we’re wired to make snap judgments.  Gladwell argues that many times, we should trust those first impressions.

First impressions are essential for businesses that aim to win over potential customers.  A customer can get an impression of your business many ways:  seeing a business advertisement, visiting the company website, or meeting an employee face-to-face or on the phone. It is important to put an extra bit of effort into making that first impression a good one.  If the first impression is disappointing, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to re-engage the customer.

5 tips to make good face-to-face first impressions:

  1. Learn the person’s name, then use it in the conversation.
  2. Non-verbals are critical:  smile, keep eye contact, be open.
  3. Focus 100 percent on listening and engaging with the other person–no multi-tasking!
  4. Preparation helps–what do you know about the other person that could be a possible conversation topic?
  5. Simple, thoughtful things go far.

Go ahead, put in the extra bit of effort to make a stellar first impression.  My first moments at Morningstar Communications made me excited for the months ahead.  As for the streamers around my cubicle…they’re not coming down anytime soon.

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Comments Off Posted on by Holly Eckold

It’s amazing, but it’s not magic

Posted in Social Media

Earlier this week a client expressed concern over a recent executive meeting at which the subject of social media was discussed. Her concern was not that they were discussing finally utilizing social media; it was that some of the executives rejected the idea that a real strategy was needed for a legitimate program to be implemented. This is, in essence, recognizing the importance of something while simultaneously discounting it. It is either a large part of what you are looking to accomplish or it isn’t worth your time. It cannot be both.

Social media has moved away from being something novel and has become a standard part of any marketing and communications program. Therefore, it takes just as much strategy and thoughtful care as any other piece. Simply tweeting because your company has decided it needs a presence on Twitter is not likely to get the outcome you’re hoping for. Your organization needs to explore many questions before embarking on the campaign.

Who owns social media at your organization, marketing, corporate communications, HR? Who will be in charge of the updates, tweets, posts, etc? What will our messages be? For whom will they be crafted? Do we have the resources to effectively keep up a steady stream of information? Which platform is best for B2B? B2C? What do we expect to accomplish? What do we want to avoid?

Carefully planning your social media strategy with the end in mind will help ensure that you meet your goals and that your message is getting to the appropriate people in the appropriate ways.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tyler Dustin

Socialnomics: Book Review

Posted in Social Media

There is no doubt that social media has transformed the way in which we do business. This past week I read Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. Through colorful examples and thought-provoking insights, the book takes a deep dive into social media’s effect on our lives and business practices.

Qualman takes a conversational tone in his book, which makes sense … social media is all about the conversation. People no longer want to be talked at, or lectured to, they want to be talked with. As you can imagine, making someone feel a part of the conversation through a non-social medium, such as a hardbound book, is not an easy task. But somehow Qualman manages to do so. Or maybe I’m just too used to talking to myself! If you’re not a self-talker, you can engage on Qualman’s website instead.

I judge a book’s value on the number of points I end up pondering, and the number of ideas I take with me. This book left me pondering several thoughts and I have at least three solid ideas that will directly impact work I’m doing for clients.

On a scale of one-to-five, I’d rate it a four and would recommend it to anyone interested in social media. I found Qualman’s examples interesting and on-point, his key constructs valid and his writing style engaging.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

Loop, dip, dot and cross

Posted in Executive Insights

I like to read magazines when I am on the elliptical at the gym. It makes the time go faster when I have something to do while working on my cardiovascular fitness.

Sometimes the magazine rack is stocked with perfect gym reading materials – People, Glamour or even Parents. Other times, it’s a vast wasteland of three-year old Time magazines or Golf Digest. The other day, the best bet was a copy of the Costco Connection. I love Costco, but didn’t have much knowledge of the magazine. I have to say, it was well done.

In every issue, a question is raised and two differing opinions are offered. In this copy, the question was “should students still be taught cursive writing.” Although it’s been a few years, I remember learning cursive was a major milestone in elementary school. I know I couldn’t wait to learn the more grown up way of writing.

Part of the fun from learning cursive was making it my own. I felt my own sense of pride when I figured out how I wanted to form the letters. I mean really, who among us makes the capital Q that kind of looks like a fancy two the way we were taught in third grade.

However, it seems cursive writing is losing favor. We’re communicating more and more electronically, removing all need to write anything by hand, other than the occasional signature on important documents.

School should still teach cursive. Not only is it something that is part of growing up, but the hand-written word will always be an acceptable method of communication. Sure, most of the time we text or email or Facebook but how thoughtful is it when we receive a note in the mail, the old fashioned way? Good communication never goes out of style.

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1 Comment Posted on by Rachel Spear