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Start the New Year on a positive note

Posted in Best Practices

As I look ahead to next year, I am also looking back. What could I have done differently? How could I have been more productive? How do I keep our expenses low and still have a positive culture? Where do I look for new ideas to keep things fresh? I decided to Google and see what I could find.

While researching this topic, I came across an article entitled: Checklist: Planning and Preparing for the New Year. There are some great business tips for a positive start to 2011. Let’s learn from our mistakes and keep looking ahead.

In With the New gives us an idea of new trends and what to watch for in the New Year. My particular questions were not answered, but I hope you find this information helpful and entertaining. There are a few conversation starters in this article.

Create A Culture Of Commitment And Accountability For Success In 2011 gives us goals for honing success. Take a step back and see if your company has an accountability process in place. Communication is key in any business, internally and externally.

I hope this helps make 2011 a great year for everyone!

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

Auld Lang Syne

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Internal Communications, Media Relations

The flipping of the calendar from 2010 to 2011 fills me with hope and promise. It’s nice to have that fresh start that comes with the beginning of a new year. While I like to focus on what’s to come, the end of the year gives us reason to look back. I’m taking this opportunity to share some of my favorite 2010 blog posts from here at Morningstar Communications. It’s pretty cool that I get to work with some really intelligent and thoughtful bloggers.

Early last year, Eric Morgenstern wrote about how Social media is here to stay. In a year when so much has happened in the social media space, it’s really interesting to see what the social media sentiment was in early 2010.

My colleague, Tricia Jaworski, dedicated some of her blog space to talking about the backbone of PR – media relations. She takes it to 11 by talking about national media relations and how luck and strategy plays in to each opportunity.

This post about filler words by Tyler Dustin has stuck with me since I read it. I was guilty of adding a “just” when it wasn’t necessary. Not so much anymore.

Morningstar Communications always has outstanding interns, who know their stuff. This post from Holly Eckold nailed how to tell your story to capture and connect audiences.

Employee communication has always been near and dear, so Matt Tidwell’s post talking about employee engagement and communications really drove the message home.

And of course, it never hurts to give another nod to the boss. Eric’s three-part series on macro-trends is worthy of another look. The first post is on transparency, the second is on privacy and the third is on connectivity.

There were so many other great posts in 2010 so look through our archives if you get a chance. You’ll quickly see what I already knew – I get to work with smart people who will keep on blogging in 2011. Happy New Year!

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear

Preparing for the WikiLeaks-style crisis

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

Most of us in corporate communications have been able to view the recent WikiLeaks pain being suffered by our colleagues in government at arm’s length – it’s like the car wreck that happens in the opposite lanes that we drive by slowly and observe from afar.  Apparently that is changing.

Comments from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that he will begin dolling out secret memos, emails and pirated sensitive documents – this time from corporations – are enough to make us take more notice and add a new scenario to our crisis communications plans.  The possibilities for damage – reputational and financial –  are endless once documents that were supposed to be kept in a few hands get leaked publicly.  Sensitive discussions around product development, compliance, succession planning, M&A … those of us who’ve been in boardrooms for those conversations understand the apprehension surrounding the need for company privacy.

Clearly there is some blocking and tackling we can do to prepare for and respond to what may come from WikiLeaks or the surely-to-follow copycat online detective in a town near you.  The Hartford Business Journal published a great overview written by crisis communications expert Andrea Obston, about how communicators and their companies/clients should be thinking about the implications of WikiLeaks.

It also got me thinking about the interesting series our own Eric Morgenstern has tackled on the “three macro trends transforming society” and specifically his view on corporate transparency.  While it might not be a magic bullet for a company who finds itself “WikiLeaked”, an orientation toward and a culture of transparency would certainly help.  If our customers, employees, regulators, etc. see us as a company that embraces transparency, we should be able to fall back on that reputation in times of need.  Eric’s points about transparency being good for business are well taken.  But we are living in an age where, as he points out, customers now expect companies and organizations to be transparent.  If you’re viewed as secretive right out of the gate, you can expect a tough road when leaks happen.

There are lots of considerations here including finding the obvious need for balance between protecting trade secrets and being transparent, proper employee relations in the era of citizen (read “employee”) journalists, etc. etc.  But I believe a big part of the answer is to continue to bang the drum for building a culture of transparency over time as the first line of defense to weather a WikiLeaks-style storm.

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Comments Off Posted on by Matt Tidwell

The Impact of Connectivity

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

Note:  This is the third blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses connectivity.

Think back to the days of landline phones, typewriters and paper maps.  The days before Google, before e-mails, before phones were smart.  It’s getting hard to remember, isn’t it?  In the past several years, we have gone through tremendous change with regard to new technologies. The result is that humans are connecting like never before.

According to cNet news, by the end of 2010, 6.1 trillion text messages will be sent—200,000 texts sent worldwide every single second.  The International Telecommunication Union reported that by the end of 2010 two billion people will have access to the Internet, and mobile networks will be available to 90 percent of the world’s population.  Cell phone coverage is expanding everywhere from remote villages in Africa to the tip-top of Mount Everest.

Available 24 x 7

Digital wireless connectivity means we are no longer tethered to any one place or time.  We can respond to work e-mails after dinner with the family or before Sunday brunch.  Before the cell phone era, if we left the office we relied on voicemail or a secretary to collect our messages.  Now, we are reachable anytime, anywhere through our mobile devices.  We take the office around with us in our pockets.  Google has even predicted that more searches will be done on smart phones than desktop computers in the near future.

Our phones have now evolved to become our own personal digital assistants.  It’s a fast-paced world out there, and our digital assistants help us gain some control over the chaos.  Most people keep their cell phones within hearing distance at all times.  We feel lost if we leave our cell phones at home.  These devices bring both control and comfort to our busy lives.

Waves of change

The increase in connectivity has several implications for businesses.

  • Customer service is more immediate.  People are able to contact businesses right away if they have a question, concern or compliment.
  • We can do business faster and in more places than ever before.
  • Customers want to communicate with businesses in new ways—through social media, for example.  As businesses, we must open these new channels and allow customers to communicate with us through their chosen method.
  • Technology, which lets us complete some tasks in record time, also tends to be a time sucker and can draw our attention away from other things.

Seeking balance

Increased connectivity is not a good thing or a bad thing.  It is simply a thing. In my experience, I have found that it is nice to take a break from connectivity at least once a week.  On Friday nights and Saturday, I put down the phone and log out of e-mail.  Instead of focusing on digital connections, I focus on human connections.  While these tools are providing us with fantastic new capabilities, we have control and it is up to us to find the right balance.

We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011. Click here to read the first post about transparency. Click here to read the second post about disappearing privacy.

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2 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Twitter vs. Coffee

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC), Social Media

“In the old days, customer relationships were about sitting down together, drinking a cup of coffee, and having the opportunity to earn that trust. Now with technology, how do we build relationships with our clients when we can’t see them?  Call me old fashioned, but I miss that.”

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Recently I heard a client talk about how customer relationships have changed with the advent of social media and the Internet.  I thought he brought up a fascinating point.  While customers have more options than ever before in terms of communicating with companies, is the way customers communicate with businesses somewhat disconnected?

While we may think we have to choose one or the other, perhaps the real purpose of social media is to build those relationships.  Olivier Blanchard of The Brand Builder blog recently wrote a fascinating post about social media and relationship building. (Coincidentally he brings up the old fashioned cup of coffee too).  He argues that the purpose of social media is about engaging the customers, not simply marketing your brand.  “Social media is not marketing media,” he says. “Social should feel like a handshake, not a marketing message.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, author and founder of the popular wine blog Wine Library TV also emphasizes the customer relationship aspect of social media.  Interviewed in the book Social Media Bible, he argues that social media is “about really caring about your user base: listening to them, making them involved, letting them participate, caring about their thoughts, letting them have a say in molding the direction of what you do.”

In the midst of this fast paced world we live in–being bombarded by ads, engaging in social media, and going through the routine of everyday life–we are human, and we resonate with companies that can give us the feeling of a shared relationship.  We all have our communication preferences, whether it’s social media, a phone call, an e-mail, or a conversation over a cup of joe.  It’s important that however companies communicate with their customer base, the focus is always on building that personal relationship.

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Comments Off Posted on by Holly Eckold

Engaged employees result in greater innovation

Posted in Best Practices

A recent article from the GALLUP Management Journal, titled Creating a Culture of Innovation shared the key ingredient to an innovative and creative culture: engaged employees.

I found this article interesting since this fall, Morningstar Communications hosted an Illumination Session about engaging employees. In this article the author, Jason Krieger, states that “Engaged employees share their ideas more often, generate more ideas, and generate better ideas.”

To achieve a culture of innovations Jason recommends organizations:

  • Hire people who bring “innovation talent” to the team
  • Understand what innovation role each employee plays on his or her work team and teach managers how to use their team members most effectively
  • Know how your company compares to others in terms of innovation
  • Gain feedback from best and worst customers
  • Build an employee engagement program
  • Track and measure innovation success

Read Jason’s full article for further insights.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

Coping with Surveillance Society

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

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Note:  This is the second blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses the disappearance of privacy.

300.  That is the number frequently cited for how many times a Londoner is caught on camera on average each day.  In the U.S., surveillance cameras are also rapidly expanding today with the purpose of fighting crime.  The Huffington Post reports more than 10,000 cameras in Chicago alone.  Cameras may be filming you while you are at the grocery store, bank or simply walking down the street.  While the purpose of the cameras for our safety, many worry that surveillance cameras—like other devices in our technological society—are too invasive and encroaching on our privacy.

The Internet is another constant source of privacy concern. Google recently got hammered by the press for Google Buzz, a program that made g-mail user’s e-mail contacts public without asking first. The Google Maps street view feature also received complaints about being too invasive for showing up close images of houses and even people on the street.  Google responded by blurring the faces of people present in the images.  New technology is not only bringing  widespread capabilities, it is also bringing widespread privacy concerns.

Living in the last generation of privacy

You know the drill:  when you post pictures on Facebook, you put the attractive pictures in and leave out the unflattering pictures.  If someone else posts an unattractive picture of you, there is the untag button.  However, there is no “untagging” most of the records that may exist on the Internet.

If I wanted to find my dental records from when I was a kid, it would be very difficult to track down.  However, children born in the Internet Age will likely be able to look up their electronic medical records from the day they were born.  Records are no longer just sitting in dusty file folders, they are digitally archived and easily retrieved.

George Orwell’s 1984 warned of a big brother watching our every move.  Have we come to that point? The ACLU is fighting back against what it terms our “surveillance society.”  The ACLU “fights the trend toward a surveillance society and works to guarantee that individuals, not governments or corporations, determine how and when others gain access to their personal information.”  While there is some resistance to the current trend, there is likely no backpedaling to more privacy controls.

Taking control of our privacy

In terms of social networking, we can make the personal choice whether or not to have a blog, Twitter account, Facebook account, etc.  We can choose whether or not to divulge details about our love lives, our families and our trials and tribulations on social networking sites.  These choices are up to us.  However, we have less of a say when it comes to whether or not our medical records are digitally archived, our faces are caught on cameras, or how our internet searches are archived.

You can run, but you can’t hide

What does this mean for businesses?  It means that there is never any hiding.  Records aren’t easily expunged, and they are easier to retrieve.  Every bit of information is fair game.  Therefore, companies should strive to always make ethical decisions. Once a mistake is made, it is now easier for the public to find out and harder to expunge from the record. The solution should be to embrace a company culture of doing good.  Be good so that you don’t have to hide records, because records are getting harder to hide.

Privacy is disappearing.  That is the way of the world today and we can’t stop it.  However, as one of my favorite quotes by Khalil Gibran states, “You can’t control the waves but you can learn how to surf.”  We can’t change the way society is shifting, but we can ride the waves.  The best way for businesses to adapt to “surveillance society” is to strive to make ethical decisions each and every day.

We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011. Click here to read the first post in the series.

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2 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Trends for 2011

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Online Marketing, Shanny's Posts

As 2010 comes to a close, smart marketers are adapting their companies to respond to upcoming market changes.

According to JWTIntelligence there are ten trends that will shape the world in 2011.

  1. All the World’s a Game – brands will extend online gaming strategies to non-gaming spaces to deepen engagement with consumers.
  2. The Urgency Economy – more and more brands will offer discounts and special benefits for consumers who act now. also called this trend Pricing Pandemonium.
  3. Non-Commitment Culture – consumers are still resistant to making big ticket purchases. Successful brands will offer opportunities to rent or share items. According to many industries are already addressing the trend for being Owner-Less including textbooks, jewelry, video games and automobiles.
  4. Eat, Pray, Tech – people are becoming more and more dependent on technology and they are willing to invest in it.
  5. De-Teching – people want to turn off their technology, at least temporarily, and brands will facilitate creating more human interaction.
  6. Retail as the Third Space – retailers will emphasize face-to-face interactions, strengthening the experience of buying.
  7. Creative Urban Renewal – according to Intuit, close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year. As more people move into urban environments, brands will become partners in improving local environments, adding beauty and strengthening communities.
  8. Worlds Colliding – the digital and physical worlds will become more intertwined.
  9. Hyper-Personalization – digital devices will offer customized suggestions based on past purchases and behavior.
  10. Outsourcing Self-Control – people will count on their technology to prevent them from succumbing to the temptation to overspend.

How have your buying habits changed? How is your company responding to these trends?

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Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Through the Looking Glass: The Transparency Trend

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

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Note:  This is the first blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses the increasing demand for transparency.

Before the Google era, if I was interested in looking up information about a company, I ordered a hard copy of a Dun & Bradstreet or Hoovers report.  These lengthy business information reports listed sales volume, growth, industry information, and a wealth of other business statistics.

Today, gathering information about a company doesn’t require sifting through lengthy paper reports.  Instead, information is only a few mouse clicks and keystrokes away.  We can Google the company, check out their website, look up recent news involving the company, and check social media sites including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for quick updates.

    Consumers today expect information that is up-to-date, easily accessible, honest and authentic.  Anything less makes us think either the company is lagging behind the times, or worse, hiding something.

    Beyond the walls

    Just as we can look through a transparent piece of glass, consumers want to feel as if they can look beyond the walls of the organization and understand its inner workings.   Consumers expect companies to be upfront about their values, practices, products & services they offer consumers, company news, and even mistakes if they have an effect on consumers.  Obviously we don’t expect the company to share trade secrets.  However, we do expect open communication so we can both receive information from the company and provide feedback.

    While companies may express fear about pulling back the curtain, customers will reward transparency. Being up front and honest with customers will foster trust, respect and loyalty.

    Honesty is the best policy

    Being transparent isn’t just sharing the good – it is about being honest.  Companies must be honest when they make a mistake.  BusinessWeek recently examined a new program the University of Michigan Health System started  to increase transparency.  If doctors made a medical error, the new program required that they admit the error to the patient and their family, offer an apology and compensation, and explain how the error will be avoided in the future.  A study of the program found that when doctors were transparent and apologetic about errors, their chance of getting sued for malpractice was much less. People understood that they were human, and they appreciated the honesty.

    A transparent world is a better world

    Transparency is better for both the consumer and the company.  Consumers benefit from having a wealth of information at their disposal so they can pick and choose which company meets their needs and matches their values.

    Companies will make better decisions, because they know they will get caught if they don’t!   Companies that are open with their customers and respond to their feedback will also be able to adapt better to their customers’ needs.  As Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates states,  “Only when people feel free to disclose customer feedback, talk about problems in an open way, deal with issues quickly, and share best-practices, can an organization truly respond and innovate with world-class speed.”

    The Public Affairs Council offers some great tips for organizations ready to increase their transparency.  The council says that “openness creates opportunities for dialog with customers, shareholders, employees, local communities and government officials.  If you make the effort to engage your critics – and those who may become your critics- you can correct problems before they get out of hand.  You also will have developed a long term ‘feedback loop’…”

    Business people should invite customers to peek around in their house, as if to say, “Come in, take a look—I have nothing to hide!” The mantra for good public relations can no longer just be “get caught doing good.”  In this transparent world, you can get caught doing nearly anything.  Make sure that being good is completely ingrained in your company mentality.  Then you can easily open up and foster trust with those who matter the most to your business.

    We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011.

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    4 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

    Go forth, brave chameleon!

    Posted in Best Practices, Community Leadership

    I recently had the opportunity to sit on a panel at “Wild On PRSSA Day” at the Kansas City Zoo. PRSSA is PRSA’s student organization for aspiring PR professionals. “Wild On” was a daylong conference for students to receive insight on the industry, get resume feedback and tips on marketing themselves as they launch their careers.

    This was a great opportunity presented to the students and I was happy to be a part of it. I was also proud to represent Morningstar Communications to talk about “A Day in the Life of a PR Pro” from an agency prospective.

    We talked about everything from maintaining a healthy work-life balance to professional organizations to the increase of social media in integrated marketing programs.

    One of the recurring themes of the discussion was adaptability. The group seemed surprised to learn about the different hats we must wear and how nimble we must be as PR professionals. After listening to the other two panelists’ examples of the need to be adaptable and quick on your feet and comparing them to my own, I was a little surprised as well. Until that discussion, I never realized how much adapting I did in a given day. The more thoughtful questions they asked, the more I thought about the importance of adapting. The ability to adapt is important because it allows for excellent service. Being forced to adapt is important because it demands creativity.

    It was a great group to interact with and we learned a lot from each other. I’m interested to hear how others find themselves adapting or switching direction on a daily basis. How do you react? Do you embrace it? Refuse it? What are some positive outcomes that have occurred as a result of your adaptability?

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    Comments Off Posted on by Tyler Dustin