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What’s Running Got to Do With It?

Posted in Executive Insights When I started training for the Waddell and Reed half-marathon this summer, I was surprised to find that some of the lessons I learned from running paralleled lessons I was learning from my internship here at Morningstar Communications. Here are a handful of my favorites: Make a plan. The most important part of training for any long-distance run is making sure you have a plan of action leading up to the race. Setting weekly goals makes the end result of 13 miles all at once seem less daunting and gives me a sense of accomplishment with every run. Sitting down each day and making a plan of attack allows me to manage my time more effectively and break down tasks into smaller bites. Talking to my supervisor in our weekly one-on-ones also helps me set reachable goals each week. Invest early. One of the most-shared pieces of advice I’ve heard about training for a marathon is to register early. Every time my alarm goes off on Saturday morning, that registration fee motivates me to get out of bed instead of hitting snooze. The same is true at my job. I’m more likely to do my best work or volunteer for tasks when I am genuinely invested in the client, my coworkers or the project. Don’t be afraid to look dumb. When I first started running, I couldn’t go a mile without stopping. I even had a treadmill fall or two. Every mistake I made though helped me learn something new. When I start a new job, class or project, one of my biggest worries is messing up. Once I get past that fear, I realize making a mistake is okay as long as I’m willing to fix it, learn from it and move on. Push the limits. On my really long runs, I’m often tempted to take shortcuts or go slower than my goal pace. It’s always easy to find ways to rationalize not going as hard as I am capable of. The problem is that not pushing myself during training means that on race day, I won’t be able to run my best race. Internships work the same way. It’s very tempting to take it easy when employment has a definite end-date. Challenging myself during internships allows me to learn more during this training period and become better prepared for a post-graduation job.
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Cell Phone Etiquette at Work

Posted in Suchitra's Posts, Tips and Tricks

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. The purpose is to encourage cell phone users to be extra courteous when using their phones. A great thought, however, something that is rarely practiced these days. Is it just me or don’t you wish we enjoyed cell phone courtesy every day?

Cell phones have invaded both our work and private space in a huge way. Don’t get me wrong, the cell phone is an amazing innovation and I cannot imagine how we lived not so long ago without this technology. However, I do believe there should be a line drawn on how much of your life – at both work and home – you are going to allow it to take over.

While at home, you are your own master and can deal with your phone as you please, however while at work, you should remember that it also affects your work, as well as the people you work with.

Following are some cellphone etiquette tidbits I have culled from various articles to put to practice to improve your quality of life at work.

1. Avoid checking your phone during a business meeting. If it is just a quick glance to keep track of time, make sure that’s all you limit yourself to. We all know how easily we get sucked into checking emails and text messages when that quick glance lingers.

2. Select a non-blaring ring tone and set the volume to low, or even better set it to vibrate. If you need to keep it on, please do notify your colleagues in advance you are expecting an urgent call so they understand if the session is interrupted. Also make sure to leave the room once the call comes in so everybody else does not have to stop for you to finish.

3. Do not update social networks during a business meeting, unless you have been designated to do so as part of your job description at the event.

4. Do not assume co-workers and clients like to communicate through text. Email or telephone is more professional and appropriate for office communications unless you know for sure texting is accepted as a method of choice.

5. If you need to use your cell phone while at work for a private call, make sure you go to a separate room with a closed door so everyone else is not forced to listen to your conversation. If it is a work related call, again, do maintain a 10-foot zone from anyone while talking on the phone. Trust me no one wants to hear your entire one-way conversation. Most businesses have meeting rooms – use them.

6. It is not a crime to send your phone to voicemail if you are not ready to take that call right that minute, especially if you are in a meeting. If it is extremely urgent, that person will call back again immediately at which time, you know you should pick up immediately.

7. Do not multitask by making calls while conducting other personal business. Yes, that includes taking your phone in to the bathroom with you. Cell phone speakers are way too sensitive these days and you don’t want the person at the other end listen to you doing your business in the bathroom.

8. Lastly, tell callers when you are talking or calling from a cell phone so they know to expect those unexpected call drops or disturbances.

I am sure there are many more ways in which we can be courteous in using our cell phones but these are a good way to start during National Cell Phone Courtesy Month.

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

The four levels of LinkedIn: Go beyond face value.

Posted in Best Practices, Online Marketing, Social Media, Tips and Tricks

Theologians say when biblical texts are analyzed, four levels of meaning are present. At the surface is face value, but as we dig deeper, implied and conceptual meanings appear. Those who understand the text at its deepest level find hidden or spiritual meaning.

In today’s business world, LinkedIn serves as a primary tool for building your professional brand, and, like evaluating ancient texts, to gain the most meaningful experience on LinkedIn we should appropriately engage on all four levels.

Most people begin at the surface level on LinkedIn, and don’t fully utilize this powerful tool. Understanding the four different levels of LinkedIn is vital to effectively leveraging and building your personal and professional brand and connections.

1. “Rolodex” – At face value, LinkedIn acts as a comprehensive database of all of your professional relationships. The advantage to this is two-fold. First, it automatically updates as your contacts make changes to their profiles, giving you the most up-to-date information about your network. At the same time, your network is able to keep track of you and your business as you make changes to your profile.

2. Endorsed Referrals –This function adds credibility to your profile, but it is frequently misused or overused. What people often don’t realize is that asking for a referral on LinkedIn is asking for a public reference letter. Before giving a recommendation, question whether you’d write a reference letter for this person. Being selective with referrals will ensure your endorsement is valued and genuine.

*Bonus tip: When asking for a referral, email the contact first with three things you’d like them to highlight in their recommendation. Planting this seed allows you a measure of control over what they say about you and they’ll appreciate some guidance on exactly what it is you want.  By stating the goal up front, you better your chances of getting your desired outcome.

3. Personal Brand Building – Your LinkedIn profile is your 24/7 resume, your personal billboard. It’s visible for everyone to see – customers, partners, prospects, etc. While you can’t control when they view your profile or for how long, you can control what they see when they get there. Make sure you keep your profile current by sharing at least two posts a week. This content should establish your position as a resource to people who are connected to you, building your personal brand. I suggest sharing links to interesting news articles that are relevant to multiple industries, and adding personal thought or comment to establish yourself as a great resource for your connections.

4. Engagement – Move from a monologue to a dialogue. This is the level of LinkedIn that people have the hardest time actuating. Participating in groups or with peers makes connections meaningful. It’s not enough just to have 100 connections; engaging them with comments and shared information makes it a valued relationship.

Let’s consider our theologians again – most will tell you it’s all right if you don’t understand the “why” of the biblical text at first. If you just keep reading, eventually the layers of meaning will reveal themselves.

The same is true for LinkedIn. In today’s digital world, we each have a personal brand, whether we want one or not. We have to manage our brand or it will be managed for us. Taking these steps to change how you use LinkedIn allows you to enhance your personal brand.

Onward and upward.

1 Comment Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Hitting a Home Run in PR: Tips & Tricks for Successful Media Relations

Posted in Best Practices, Media Relations, Tips and Tricks With all the buzz generated by the All-Star Game in Kansas City recently, it got me thinking about how we as PR professionals work to get our clients media coverage. Similar to baseball, gaining media presence often involves pitching. Thanks to one of our clients, I’ve been lucky enough to take part in components of All-Star Game media relations. It’s been an exciting venture, and it’s made me realize a few aspects of earning media coverage today: Persistence is key. Journalists are extremely busy, especially today when so many media outlets have cut down on staff. The likelihood of reporters seeing your email and getting back to you the first time around is pretty slim. You must follow up to get your pitch out of the dugout. Following up with phone calls and emails, and offering to resend media materials will make sure media receive the information necessary for covering your client’s story. Get to know the media. After all, you’ll be working with them as long as you stay in the industry. Get to know the types of stories outlets and reporters will cover. In PR, pitching to the wrong party is like hitting a foul ball—it really doesn’t get you anywhere. Also, pay attention to their preferences, such as how they like to be contacted and when. If unsure, these are great questions to ask while pitching. Be creative. Cut through the clutter by pitching interesting coverage. If your pitching doesn’t seem to be working, try mixing it up. Using a different subject line, changing the opening and emphasizing the story’s exclusive and creative elements are various ways to revamp a pitch. Personalize. If you spoke with a reporter who asked you to resend a pitch or media materials, add a line in the email about how it was nice speaking with them. With the myriad of emails they receive daily, adding a personal touch when possible might just be enough to seal the deal. If you really want to hit it out of the ballpark, here are more ways to engage with media and reach target audiences, courtesy of PR Newswire: Tagged , , , , ,
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Three Keys to a Successful Client-Agency Relationship

Posted in Best Practices, Tricia's Posts

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with many great organizations. While each client engagement is somewhat unique, the most successful relationships are always the result of true partnerships.

Here are the three key components I have found lead to a successful client-agency relationship. By following these, you’ll see a positive impact on your communication initiatives and nurture a mutually beneficial and enjoyable client-agency relationship.

Inclusion from planning to execution. Most of us work better and smarter when we know and understand the big picture. Including your agency in the entire process, allows it to not only provide counsel throughout planning, but to gain an inside look and provide a fresh perspective. Understanding what’s happening on all levels of the business, as opposed to simply one communications initiative, is helpful. It allows the agency to provide better recommendations, keeping high-level business goals in sight while taking a strategic view of the entire business.

Mutual trust and respect – As partners, trust is a key component to success. When each party trusts and respects the other party’s work, be it recommendations, providing content, sharing the big picture, etc., the relationship thrives.

Regular communication – I can’t stress the importance of communication enough. Regular communication keeps all parties focused and moving in the same direction. Whether you hold weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings, the key is keeping in regular communication through a mix of calls, in-person meetings and emails.

When I look at client relationships where we’ve made the most impact, it’s in those relationships where we serve as an extension of the internal team and have fun along the way. By working together we transcend a traditional client-agency relationship and achieve great things.


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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

The Social Media Bandwagon: Why now is the time to join.

Posted in Social Media One of the (many) fun perks of my job is working with clients to establish and/or grow their social media presence. More and more companies are not only engaging on social media, but also discovering the true value social media can add to their bottom line. If you aren’t a believer yet, here are some stats you may find interesting:
  • Thirty percent of Twitter users have an annual income of more than $100,000
  • Pinterest generates more referral traffic than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined
  • Facebook has more than 850 million active monthly users
  • Two new members join LinkedIn every second
  • One million accounts are added to Twitter each day
  • More than 100 million smartphone users in the U.S. and Europe access social networks and blogs from their phones
  • YouTube is the 3rd most visited site, behind Facebook (#2) and Google (#1)
Here are more neat facts and stats about social media in 2012, courtesy of PR Daily.

Photo courtesy of

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Cut jargon and keep it simple

Posted in Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Sheri's Posts, Tips and Tricks

In a recent conversation with my brother-in-law, a police officer, who writes lots and lots of reports every night, we started talking about words and our pet peeves on their use. He abhors when people use that instead of who when referring to a person. I detest the widespread use of anxious when the speaker really means eager. (As an aside, for great tips on proper grammar use, visit one of my favorite sites, Grammar Girl.)

The exchange made me think about how we regularly advise our clients to avoid industry jargon, and to simplify their messaging to make it easy to understand and share. In business many people erroneously believe that bigger, more impressive words add a sense of importance and weightiness to communications. We throw in adjectives like unique and unparalleled to explain new products. Or even ourselves, apparently, as this recent Inc. article claims.

What people – whether they are employees, customers, prospects or others important to you or your organization – want to know is what does it mean for them. Explain the benefits for them simply and clearly, and you’ll gain better understanding and buy-in from everyone.

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Comments Off Posted on by Sheri Johnson