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Social Business and Giraffe Bread

Posted in Best Practices, Social Media

As I was reading an article on Sainsbury’s Tiger Bread (turned Giraffe Bread), I started to wonder what it truly means to be a social business. Many businesses grapple with this concept. Some believe simply setting up and maintaining social media accounts is enough, but it’s much more than that. Creating a social business starts with your employees and your company culture. Watch this Coffman Organization video on company culture to get a better feel for what I mean.

Take a step back for a second. Realize that social businesses are part of the social revolution. Granted, social networks like Myspace, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter helped spawn the movement, but those networks are just tools. The movement is centered around widespread human-to-human interaction. Humans are connecting with each other all over the world more than ever before, and they are building relationships with the people who matter most to them.

Wikipedia says, “[Social] always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.” The social revolution is a voluntary movement to reinforce the positive interaction of humans with other humans and to their collective co-existence.

IBM’s Sandy Carter phrases it this way, “A Social Business is a business that embeds ‘social’ in all of its processes, connecting people to people, people to information, and data to insight.” I agree. I also believe a social business creates two-way dialogue with those who matter most using social tools, creating transparency and “sharing expertise beyond [a businesses'] four walls.”

How do you create a social business? Social starts with human-to-human interaction. Your employees are what make you a social business. Their culture and your company culture are what shape and define that interaction. Create a positive company culture and empower your employees to embrace and act on the values of your company culture.

When Morningstar Communication hosted “Sharing a Century of Knowledge,” all six century-old businesses agreed that the secret to their success is company culture. CEO of Saint Luke’s Hospital Julie Quirin said, “We believe culture eats strategy for lunch.”  Senior V.P. of Public Affairs & Communications at Hallmark Steve Doyal said, “In any company, it’s about the people and the passion that they bring to their work.” In a Fast Company article, Shawn Parr wrote about the important role company culture plays in a business’s success.

A social business has employees that are in line with the company culture and who act on its behalf, creating real human-to-human interaction between the company and those who matter most. Chris King, of Sainsbury’s customer service team, and his interaction with three-and-a-half-year-old Lily Robinson is a great example of what it means to be a social business. It’s not strategy. It’s not marketing. It’s not simply using social tools. It’s having an amazing company culture and employees that build relationships. The basis of social business is positive human interaction. It’s not about a product – it’s about connecting with people.

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Comments Off Posted on by Matthew Barnett

A PR Pro’s Guide to Smart Phone Apps

Posted in Social Media, Tricia's Posts

Late last year I purchased my first iPhone and my world was forever changed.  Ok that may be a little dramatic, but seriously the iPhone 4s has allowed me to do more than ever before. I’m always on the look out for new apps to increase my user experience.

My colleague, Michelle Boyd, sent me a post listing 23 of the most loved apps by PR pros.  While I already use several, there are many unfamiliar apps on the list. For those of you also on a quest for the best in apps, I thought I’d share Ronnie Manning’s post.

Apps I’ll be trying, Teuxdeux and Springpad.

What apps do you plan to check out?

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

The Butterfly Effect

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

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place can result in large differences someplace far away later. Edward Lorenz claimed that a butterfly flapping it’s wings in one part of the world could determine if a hurricane happens in another part of the world.

In my case the butterfly effect started with an earthquake and ended with exceptional customer service.

Last Fall I ordered my dream car – a 2012 Mini Cooper S from Baron Mini Cooper. (His name is Pepi because he has a lot of spice and pep.) Since my car was manufactured to my specifications in England, Tom Seling, my salesperson told me that it would take about eight weeks for my car to arrive. I tracked Pepi’s progress and was pleasantly surprised when he arrived after only four weeks.

I eagerly drove to the dealer to pick up Pepi; went through some basic how-to training and started to drive home. Before I left the parking lot, an error message appeared saying that I needed to drive carefully to the nearest Mini dealer to have my anti-lock braking system (ABS) repaired. At first I figured it was just something the car dealer forgot to reset when they were prepping the car for me, however it actually was defective. Not only that, but the dealership needed to order the part from England and they told me it would be a few days before they could repair my car.

Baron prides itself on their customer service and everyone from my sales person, to the mechanic to the manager were mortified. Apparently this particular problem hasn’t happened to Baron since Baron started selling Mini Coopers in 1999. I was truly disappointed, but they gave me another 2012 Mini Cooper S as a loaner and told me that they would let me know when my car would be repaired.

Here’s where the butterfly effect comes in. There was a world-wide shortage of ABS parts.  The manufacturer that Mini Cooper had been using for the ABS was located in Japan and because of the tsunami in March, they were temporarily unable to deliver the parts to Mini Cooper. Mini Cooper found another supplier, but it was inferior quality and many systems failed and needed to be replaced.

In the meantime, Tom kept in contact with me and told me that it might be another six weeks before my car could be fixed – and of course, I could continue to drive the loaner until then.

When my car arrived, only three weeks later, Tom drove Pepi to my house so that we could switch cars. He gave me some Mini gifts AND a check for three months of my lease payments.

The earthquake near Japan, was completely out of Mini Cooper’s control – however what they could control is how they handled it. They turned what could have been an opportunity to lose a customer into a positive experience.

In the end, I am even more impressed with Baron Mini Cooper and I LOVE my car.

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1 Comment Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Making the Most of LinkedIn

Posted in Social Media

LinkedIn is an excellent business tool. It may not get as much of our attention as some other social media platforms (yes, I’m looking at you Facebook and Twitter), but it definitely is a valuable resource, especially in the workplace.

According to a Forbes article from last summer, the top activity on LinkedIn is industry networking. Being able to network in new ways is an amazing benefit to the social media revolution.

Photo courtesy of

Here are a few tips on how to keep your LinkedIn presence in tip-top shape so your virtual networking experience is as valuable as your in-person networking.

Don’t cut and paste your resume

LinkedIn hooks you into a network. You wouldn’t hand out your resume before introducing yourself, so don’t do it here. Instead, describe your experience and abilities as you would to someone you just met.

Write a personal tagline

That line of text under your name is the first thing people see in your Profile. It follows your name in search hit lists. It’s your brand. (Note: your email address is not a brand!) You might need to refine your professional personality into a more eye-catching phrase that describes who you are at a glance.

Put your elevator pitch to work

That 30-second description, the essence of who you are and what you do, is a personal elevator pitch. Use it in the ‘Summary’ section to engage readers. You’ve got 5-10 seconds to capture their attention. The more meaningful your summary is, the more time you’ll get from readers.

Point out your skills

Think of the ‘Specialties’ field as your personal search engine optimizer. This searchable section is where that list of industry buzzwords from your resume belongs (but don’t use jargon or over-used business phrases). This is also the place to display particular abilities and interests, the personal values you bring to your professional performance, or even a note of humor or passion.

Distinguish yourself from the crowd

Use the ‘Additional Information’ section to round out your Profile with a few key interests. Add websites that showcase your abilities or passions. Then edit the default ‘My Website’ label to encourage click-throughs (you get Google page rankings for those, raising your visibility). Maybe you belong to a trade association or an interest group; help other members find you by naming those groups. If you’re an award winner recognized by peers, customers or employers, add prestige without bragging by listing them here.

Taking a few minutes to develop your LinkedIn profile and revisiting it regularly will be time well spent. It’s a valued resource in the business community and has a very real place in social media alongside Facebook and Twitter.

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear

“So, what exactly do you do?”

Posted in Integrated Marketing (IMC)

A week before my college graduation, my dad turned to me and said, “So what exactly do you want to do?” It turns out he was just the first in a long line of people who have since asked me what public relations “actually means.”

I’m a newcomer to the public relations and communications industry. I fell into this field by playing to my strengths (which kept me far away from mathematical equations and physics) and I feel fortunate to be in an industry I both enjoy and find interesting. However, I have to admit sometimes I avoid questions about what I do. Not because I wouldn’t love to talk about Morningstar Communications, my awesome co-workers, or how every day my job entails new, exciting things, but rather because of the reoccurring response I get when I tell people I work for a public relations and communications agency. I’m usually met with an inquisitive expression followed by, “Really? That’s interesting… So, what exactly do you do?”

It appears a lot of people are unclear on the definition of PR. In fact, as an industry we are somewhat undecided on how to define what we do, hence the Public Relations Society of America’s recent initiative, “Public Relations Defined.”

Photo courtesy of

So what does public relations mean in 2012? In an attempt to answer this question, I searched for definitions of PR and here are a few of my favorites:

“Public relations is a highly strategic discipline that’s integrated with marketing to achieve business goals. It positions companies and spokespeople with key audiences, whether internal or external. Public relations complements an integrated marketing campaign with measurable results garnered through media relations, social media, thought leadership, industry analyst relations, investor relations and/or special events,” Jayme Soulati – Soulati Media Inc.

“Creating mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the groups upon which their success or failure depend upon,” Julie Heidelberg – Heidelberg PR.

Public relations is communicating your organization’s messages at the right time and in the right place to the right audience. With the proliferation of tools and technologies, we can measure the value of those efforts and how they align with a business’ overall mission,” Marla Aaron – MRM Worldwide.

Perhaps it is so difficult to define PR because it varies by industry, client, audience, etc. But there is one unifying theme: PR is about forming genuine, mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its key audiences. And that is, in a nutshell, what we do.

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Comments Off Posted on by Michelle Boyd

Tips for Engaging E-communications

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Morningstar Communications Updates

Do you receive an e-newsletter that you consistently open and read? What is it about the e-newsletter that draws you in? If you’re anything like me, my favorite e-newsletters are written in a relatable, casual tone and include fascinating content that fits my interests.

One of the best ways for organizations to connect with their audience today is through e-communications. E-mail is easy to target, measure and adapt, and it also provides an excellent return on investment- $40 for every $1 invested according to the Direct Marketing Association.

While e-mails have the potential for success, they require strategy and planning to really connect with subscribers.

Here are some tips on forming connections with your audience through e-communications:

· Keep the information educational, not promotional. Craft the e-communication with the audience front and center, emphasizing what’s in it for them.

· Use short sentences, personality and humor when appropriate. My favorite e-newsletters feel casual and real, like an e-mail from a friend.

· Ask the audience to connect with the company on social media, and give them a reason. Oftentimes a simple reminder and a link is all it takes for someone to “like” an organization they support.

· Make it scannable, with interesting headlines and short stories. John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing likens it to serving your audience “snacks.”

· Include pictures and links to outside articles to make the content more engaging.

· Play with different formats and content and see how subscribers respond. Set a goal for the metrics (click rate, maximum number of unsubscribers, etc.) you want to achieve with each e-communication and track progress towards your goal.

· Look with a critical eye at other e-communications you receive. What do you like and not like about them? What are some possible ideas you could borrow? Sometimes simply observing can get your creative juices flowing.

· Prominently display a link to subscribe to e-communications on your website to keep your list growing. Include a reason to subscribe.

While e-mail does have some drawbacks (including fatigue from subscribers with overflowing inboxes) it is one of the most effective communication tools today. Keeping your e-communication distribution consistent but not overwhelming, engaging but not promotional, will build trust over time with your audience.

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Comments Off Posted on by Holly Eckold

It’s all about the people. Always.

Posted in Executive Insights

When someone asks me, “What’s the secret to building a successful strategic communications firm?” I answer, in hushed, reverent tones… “Surround yourself with people smarter than you and work for smart, successful companies.”

Last fall we created, hosted and facilitated a panel discussion with six CEOs of organizations that have lasted more than 100 years. We have ongoing, sustaining relationships with all of them: Hallmark Cards, Tension, Saint Luke’s Health System, The City of Kansas City, Stinson Morrison Hecker and Alphapointe Association for the Blind. When asked how each of their businesses has stood the test of time, there was one, unifying theme: it’s all about the people. The single most important variable for long-term success is how well you attract, retain and connect with the right people.

When I think about the people that matter most to me, my head spins. I start with my family, and then roll to my colleagues at Morningstar Communications, my clients, industry contacts, alumni, civic contacts, and our extensive business networks and suppliers / partners. Then come all of my Jewish relationships, other business owners, fellow entrepreneurs in HEMP, old college buddies, neighbors, and my list goes on and on. The common ground is they are all people who matter to me.

However, this is not a numbers game. It’s not how many friends you have on Facebook, connections on LinkedIn, or followers on Twitter. Those are just pathways – opportunities to build and strengthen personal associations. It’s how you activate those relationships.

I recently gave a presentation at The Kauffman Foundation as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week on Intentional Networking. Effective networking is all about creating and fostering two-way relationships that benefit both people. This approach works for people you already know, and those you have yet to meet.

I often cite quotes from a wide array of proven leaders. This one, however, you can attribute directly to me: “The only thing you ever own is your reputation and your relationships … everything else is transitory.”

We may switch jerseys and play for a new team, clients become colleagues, employees become competitors. But one thing is absolutely certain … you truly own your ability to keep and foster great relationships.

Who matters to you? How do you build and strengthen those relationships? How do you express your appreciation and respect to them? Do you perform a random act of kindness … give an authentic compliment … comment on a post … send a hand-written thank-you note?

The most important key to long-term success is simply how well you connect with the people who matter most to you.

And that, my friends, will always be true.

Onward and upward.

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3 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Organizing yourself for a brand new work year: Some tips to get you started

Posted in Admin, Suchitra's Posts

Another year gone by and a whole new year looming straight ahead! Are you ready for it?

I always considered myself a pretty organized person although my husband would beg to differ. I am a Gemini and am allowed to have at least two personalities – I use the nicer one at work, don’t worry my colleagues. After having ample help and a guiding hand during my first innings at Morningstar Communications (thanks Andy!), I know an administrative personnel can never be too organized, especially when beginning a new work year.

Getting organized at work never goes away but it is especially important the first week of the year. By starting a good system today, it will be easier throughout 2012 and all the years that follow.

Here are a few tips to make work life better in general:

1. De-clutter your desk and drawers. Recycle all those loose papers that you no longer need. Put back those reference books or files you borrowed that you didn’t have the time to return to its original place. Go through your desk drawers and, make sure all the pens you are hoarding actually have ink in them, trash the ones that no longer write. You get the idea.

2. If you follow a filing system, go through the files and check to see which ones you need to have a current year file for. Create new folders with appropriate labels that clearly mark them as for 2012. Store the non-required files in a storage box and keep it out of the way but close by so you can get at them when you need to.

3. Use color-coordinated file folders for daily tasks. Maintain one for each task, for example one for Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Vendors etc. Or if you work in an ecologically friendly organization like ours, maintain color-coordinated e-folders on the server so as to eliminate all that paper.

4. Keep a clearly labeled designated tray on your desk for daily to-dos and one for completed tasks so you can keep track of items. At the start of each workday, make a list of all the to-dos, on a notepad, planner or on your computer. Divide the list on the basis of priority so anything that needs to be completed immediately gets your full attention compared to the ones on the lower end of the priority scale. At the end of each day, strike off (this is the best part) the completed tasks and make notes against the incomplete ones so you know if you need additional information to complete them. And importantly, remember to add them on to tomorrow’s to-dos.

5. Keep a positive attitude, smile often and try not to get stressed. We all know it can get a little frenzied sometimes and things don’t go as per the neat little lists we make, but an open and relaxed mind helps a lot toward getting things accomplished.

If you have any tips you’d like to share on how you keep yourself organized, share here in the comments section. We learn so much from those who read our blog.

Happy organizing!

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath