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Work Hard, Stress Less

Posted in Best Practices, Laura's Posts, Tips and Tricks

Work hard, stress less. The phrase sounds like an oxymoron, especially to those of us in the public relations and marketing industry. According to a recent international poll conducted by Monster.com, stress is prevalent in the workplace. Monster.com asked its site visitors, “Has stress from work has ever driven you to switch jobs?” According to the poll, 42 percent of U.S. respondents have purposely switched jobs due to a stressful work environment, while 35 percent said they thought about it. The same poll found that workplace stress has caused illness for 61 percent of U.S. respondents.


How would you answer this question? Before you switch jobs or consider it based on your current work stress level, try out some of these helpful tips:


1. Sit up straight. Our posture has an affect on our mood and stress level. If you sit in a confined position or are constantly hunched over your desk, chances are you will feel more stressed. Get up, walk around, and stretch every hour during your workday to ward off those stressful feelings.


2. Breathe in, and out! Make a conscious effort to take deep breaths on a regular basis throughout your day. Controlled breathing keeps the mind and body functioning at their best and it promotes calmness and relaxation. Check out these simple breathing techniques.


3. Prioritize your to-do list. This may seem like a no brainer, but constant additions of new projects and client emergencies often make it a difficult task. As PR and marketing professionals, we face many competing deadlines and our priorities change on a daily basis. Manage your daily to-do list by focusing on the projects that best align with your role and do not be afraid to ask for help. As Eric Morgenstern likes to say, “None of us are as smart as all of us.” This concept also applies to managing workloads!

By managing your stress in a healthy way, it is possible to work hard and stress less. What other tips do you have for combating workplace stress? Share them with us on our Facebook page!

bigstock Crossing Out Stress And Writin 5705302
Photo courtesy of www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com
 
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Leave a comment Posted on by Laura Jung

Rules of Office Kitchen Etiquette

Posted in Admin, Best Practices, Suchitra's Posts, Tips and Tricks

An office kitchen is a privilege and a responsibility, and we all need to do our part to ensure we treat it that way. 

Kitchen etiquette should be established with a set of easy, sharable rules to follow that can help eliminate any frustrating and unsanitary situations. Although every office is different, these basic kitchen rules should help keep the kitchen clean, neat and comfortable:

Label food: If the food in the fridge is yours, be sure to put your name on it. If you brought it to share, label it accordingly so everyone is aware.

Rinse and soak soiled dishes: Rinse the dishes you used shortly after using them. If the dish you used is heavily soiled, make sure to rinse it well and/or soak the dish with water to help remove stuck food before placing it in the dishwasher. Do not leave dishes to soak for more than a couple of hours. It is your responsibility to scrub and load the dish into the dishwasher after you left it for soaking.

Clean spills immediately: If you spill something on the floor or the countertop, it only takes a few seconds or minutes of your time to take a napkin and wipe it down. Don't leave it for later as floor spills can cause someone to slip and fall.

Respect lunch times: Many employees have a limited amount of time for lunch including prep and eating. Don't put food in the microwave and walk away. Wait for it to finish cooking and remove immediately so someone else can use it after you.

Cover up in the microwave: Use a cover when microwaving anything that could splatter. If you don't have a cover, use a paper towel or plastic wrap. If you find that food splattered despite your best attempts, please wipe it clean immediately before it hardens and makes it more difficult to scrub.

Replace Items: If you use up the last of something in the kitchen, either replace it immediately or notify the correct person so they can replace it on the next grocery trip.

Throw away rotten and moldy food: If you see something in the fridge that is rotten or moldy, throw it away even if it is not yours. Just let the person know what you have done or leave them a note.

No matter the office size, it is all of our responsibilities to respect kitchen rules and clean up after ourselves. If you have any additional office kitchen etiquette rules, please feel free to share via the comments section or let us know on Facebook.

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Leave a comment Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

Build Compelling Testimonials

Posted in Best Practices, Tips and Tricks, Tricia's Posts

 A recent survey on B2B content marketing trends found customer testimonials are one of the most effective content marketing tactics, with 89 percent of respondents affirming they lend to enhanced credibility, therefore, enticing customers and clients to buy or hire. So, how do you build compelling testimonials that provoke action?


Start with great work. It should be implied, but you can’t have a great testimonial without happy clients and real results. So, begin with an excellent product or service. This will make the cultivation of transparent and engaging testimonials a lot easier.


• Have a strategy in mind. What is the story or stories you are trying to tell with your testimonials? Do you want to showcase your company’s customer service and employees, highlight products or demonstrate innovations? Knowing your end-in-mind for testimonials will help you develop appropriate questions and target the right customers for consideration.


• Include the “so what.” Compelling testimonials include this important element. Think about what prospects need to hear in order to take action. Use testimonials to showcase your excellence, alleviate concerns, and paint a picture of how the product or relationship will benefit prospects.


• Build testimonials into the sales process. The process of identifying clients, gaining client buy-in, crafting the testimonial and working through approvals can be arduous. Make it easier for your team and the client by building testimonial gathering into the sales process. Consider asking clients for a testimonial as part of a follow-up survey, or at a predetermined time after product installation or service rendered.

By following these four steps and thinking strategically about your testimonial process you’ll be well on your way to increasing action and sales through testimonials.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

The Write Stuff

Posted in Best Practices, Online Marketing, Rachel's Posts, Tips and Tricks

There are seemingly endless “how-to” blogs on how to write, prioritize and potentially repurpose daily projects. I’ll sum all of these up in one post here. My previous professional experience and my current role as an intern at Morningstar Communications have taught me how to write for specific audiences and use my experiences to relate to readers, but I’ve also learned some everyday, common sense nuggets that are often overlooked:

1. Save, and save often – This is one of those things that may seem minor in the writers’ world, but it can potentially carry a heavy load. I remember in elementary school when we took our weekly keyboarding tests (no looking at your hands!) and the teacher would always stress the importance of regularly saving your work. This best practice prevents mentally and literally losing information.

Case in point, I was working on a company update for Eric recently and thought of a really good way to word a particular paragraph. It was brilliant! The quandary: I didn’t hit “save” quickly enough in WordPress and it only saved the previous copy I’d typed, minus my ingenious paragraph. In my head, I’d lost my exact wording and though I came up with something seemingly equal, I don’t believe it was as good as my first. So, save often.

2. Prioritize – I’ve used a small, dry erase board during my last two internships and it has served me well. Instead of wading through the dozens of emails I get and trying to remember what projects are on the docket for the day, I write them on my trusty little board. Every day. In order of importance. You can check them off or erase as you go for the ultimate feeling of accomplishment. The board is a much better organization tool than dozens of brightly colored Post-Its stuck all over the place, like Barbie and Rainbow Bright invaded your workspace, and, as a bonus, it saves paper.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose – If you are truly at a loss trying to figure out an idea for a blog or social media post, I feel your pain. Some days are oozing with creativity, while other days you may feel like your dog can write better copy than you. When in doubt, go for a piggyback ride. No, I’m not suggesting you harness Fido and make him cart you around the office. Repurposing or piggybacking blogs can be done by taking something timely, relevant and possibly viral, and writing about it by researching similar articles and putting your own spin on it. This can be especially helpful in a small business environment where employees are often asked to produce blog or social media content. Sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

These tips may seem commonplace, but they have certainly served me well.

What tips would you offer? Share them with us on Facebook.

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Peterson

Tips to Keep Your Email Inbox Neat and Organized

Posted in Admin, Best Practices, Suchitra's Posts, Tips and Tricks

Ever get overwhelmed when you open your email inbox in the morning? Do you have hundreds of unread messages staring you in the face? Have you missed out on an important client email because of the clutter in your inbox? 

An uncontrolled inbox can feel like a huge hole you will never dig yourself out of, but it doesn't have to stay that way. These few simple tips will help you organize your inbox, take control of your email and rein in that email anxiety.

Don't be afraid to delete
Use your inbox only for what its meant for - new email. Imagine you were still stuck in the snail mail era. If you dump every single piece of mail or package on your desk without throwing away anything, you will have a mess on your hands. Similarly, your inbox works most efficiently if you clear it up. That means should take a few minutes and delete items. Start by deleting emails you don't need to see again that day (daily deals, notifications, etc.) or don't need to save.

Unsubscribe
Although you may have had good intentions when subscribing to a newsletter or other e-mail lists, these are often the biggest inbox clogger.  This is also true for notifications from social network sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Unsubscribe from any newsletter or e-mail lists you haven't been reading or using for a while. Disable all notifications about posts made on your wall, new friends and followers, etc. 

Make your inbox do the work for you
If you use Gmail, you likely have seen or used the auto-filters. You can train your Gmail inbox to automatically send your mail to the folder it belongs in and how to label them. Family emails coming in to the office inbox gets auto-moved in to the Personal folder, client emails go to the Client folder, etc. That way, they're easy to find at a later time when you need them. You can have particular emails skip your inbox altogether. 

It's your inbox, not your calendar
Many times someone's inbox is full because they are treating it as a calendar of things they need to do . Do not use your e-mail for this. There's an effective calendar program to keep track of your to-dos and tasks. If you still prefer to keep your to-dos in your inbox, then create a folder and move your "to-do" emails there to tackle at your leisure.

Are you ready to get started? Reserve some of your time this week to clear out your inbox.  It may take you a couple of hours, but every minute spent will be worth it.

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

Perfect Presentation Prep

Posted in Best Practices, Hannah's Posts

We've all been there. We're put in situations where we need to conduct our best work. Then technology fails us. Technology is the greatest when it works, right? Otherwise... It's all its fault!

The last thing we need to happen in a high-pressure situation like a presentation (sales or otherwise) is a technology glitch. We can avoid these situations. Yes, there will be moments when it's beyond your control and your adaptor decides to die on the spot. However, there are a number of precautions you can take to succeed. 

At least three weeks prior to the presentations...

  • Touch base with the organization's contact person or your own support team to verify: AV/equipment requirements, including any necessary screens, projectors, adaptors, USB or HDMI cables, microphones, etc. 

    Iron out space details as well on this touch base call or email. Do you need a podium? A flip chart?
     
  • If you're bringing your own adaptors or cables, make sure they're working! You won't want to run all over town to track down what seems like a simple technology tool the night before a big presentation.

Day before...

  • Ensure any relevant equipment is 100 percent charged - including laptop computers, camcorders, etc. Keep it on the charger through the night.
     
  • Practice using the technology, even if you're an expert who has put it together several times before. Make sure that adaptor I mentioned earlier didn't die. 
     
  • Upload the presentation deck to your desktop in case you won't have Internet access at the venue. And make sure it's the absolute final deck incorporating all edits!

Day of...

  • Consult your checklist three times or more to make sure you've packed everything you need for the presentation, including back-up technology!
     
  • Arrive at least 45 minutes before the start of the presentation to help set up and make sure technology is working properly. You should be good to go with your back-up and consistent practice.
     
  • Don't forget to pack up all important items you brought to the venue so you won't be missing anything come time for the next presentation. This might require exchanges with your contact to be certain you aren't confusing any of his/her equipment with your own.

Make a checklist like the one above, and you're rockin' and rollin' to a logistically sound presentation. It's the first crucial step to connecting to and/or persuading your audience.

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Comments Off Posted on by Hannah Babcock

Conversation Killers

Posted in Best Practices, Susan's Posts, Tips and Tricks

In high school, one of my teachers slapped his hands down onto his desk with incredible force each time a student muttered the word, “UM.” You can imagine how quickly this simple, yet loud, action broke his students’ habit of using “UM” as a filler word. Within weeks, several of the students picked up the habit and began slapping our desks each time we heard the phrase. The next week, even more students picked it up. It was fun, and the habit stuck.

Fast forward a year and I’m sitting in my very first lecture hall as a freshman at The University of Kansas, watching my right hand fly up and slap my desk, making a startlingly loud noise in an otherwise calm and quiet room. The professor muttered that awful, one-syllable word and my knee-jerk reaction was far beyond my control. I wasn’t the only student who did it, so at least I wasn’t alone in my embarrassment.

“UM”: A word used to express doubt or uncertainty or to fill a pause when hesitating in speaking. Often used to indicate hesitation, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. It’s also a four-point word in Scrabble, according to AnaGrammer.com.

English language aficionados and Scrabble devotees, is there anything worse than hearing that word? Who among you would happily join me in smacking their hands upon the closest flat surface upon hearing an “UM?” Most of us find it difficult to listen to anyone stumbling over their words and inserting an awkward “UM.” But, if you aren’t high-scoring Scrabble enthusiast or an English professor, why should you care?  

                          woody
                                     Image Credit: www.youthareawesome.com

According to a recent article from Inc., which currently boasts more than 3.7k shares, “People judge your intelligence and credibility based upon what comes out of your mouth.” Yikes, that deserves a desk slap! Lucky for us, the Inc. article not only spells out the eight conversational habits that kill credibility but it also provides hope for all, stating we can be more believable and command even more respect by acknowledging and avoiding the following eight errors:

1. Jargon
2. Clichés
3. Prolixity
4. Hiccups
5. Upticks
6. Weasel words
7. Fake apologies
8. Spray and pray

As we head into the Lenten season, what better time to break a bad habit? Visit the link above to gather more insight from the article and review the real-time fixes to correct each bad habit. Then join the conversation on Facebook.com/MorningstarCommunications and tell me which habit you’re trying to break.
 

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Comments Off Posted on by Susan Hinds

The Best Advice

Posted in Best Practices, Tips and Tricks, Tricia's Posts

An interesting round-up email came through my inbox this week. LinkedIn’s compilation of “The Best Advice I Ever Got” shared by LinkedIn Influencers, including Deepak Chopra and Suze Orman.

I find these lessons fascinating and beneficial. Below are three lessons from LinkedIn’s series that resonate with me.

Advice: Enjoy the Journey
Chester Elton, Author of "All In"

“So often we forget to take a step back and enjoy the day we’re having, the conversation we are engaged in, the moment we are enjoying with our family or friends. Are we always so busy checking our phones for texts and emails that we forget to appreciate the good things that are happening right in front of us?”

Advice: People Come First, Results Second
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO at Consumer Electronics Association

“Care about the people and the results will follow. This means figuring out people's passions, desires, concerns and fears, and then addressing these needs accordingly. Some people thrive on recognition, others want clear rules, others need incentives, others attention. I tried this. It works.”

Advice: Make a Habit of Something Everyday
Gretchen Rubin, Bestselling author; blogger www.gretchenrubin.com

“If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; does today "count," etc. And that’s exhausting. If I do something every day, I fall into a habit.”

The best advice I’ve gotten – Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes you’re not pushing yourself, taking risks and learning.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

Improving Your Persuasive Powers

Posted in Best Practices, Company Updates, Eric's Posts, Tips and Tricks

In Daniel Pink's new book, "To Sell is Human," he explains what he calls "Non-sales selling: persuading, convincing and influencing others to give up something they've got in exchange for what we've got." The role of today's executive has shifted from order-giver to "mover." Pink explains, "Moving other people to part with resources, whether something tangible like cash or intangible like effort or attention -- so that both get what they want."

I've spent a lifetime helping leaders present information in the most persuasive way. Whether we're developing a strategic messaging platform, orchestrating a four-channel content distribution approach or coaching executives one-on-one...the end-in-mind is almost always to get others to agree with your point-of-view.

After all, isn't that what leaders really do: get others to go along with them? Willingly and enthusiastically, whenever possible!

I'm honored to speak from 4:30 to 6 on Tuesday, February 25, to the Atrium group at the Downtown KC Central Exchange. I'll share a dozen proven strategies to enrich your power of persuasion.

Connecting on philosophical, strategic and tactical levels, these pearls range from How to Harness the Power of Three, the Macro / Micro technique, and my favorite suggestion to demonstrate team alignment when making team presentations -- "Steal the Punchline."

Here is a sneak peak at a couple of persuasive strategies you can begin using today.

Leveraging the Macro / Micro Approach

Macro / Micro is the most persuasive way (from the recipient's point-of-view, always!) to get someone to agree with you. Use this construct to frame your argument at the (macro) 30,000-foot level, then immediately provide one (micro) three-foot level example to ground your suggestion. Restate the macro, followed with, don't you agree?

micro macro 1
Credit: fixingtheeconomists.wordpress.com
 

So, here's how Macro / Micro plays out in the real world. Let's say you and a few other parents are responsible for finding the end-of-season place to celebrate your kid's soccer team season, and thank the coaches. You want to go to Red Robin. You would say something like, "I suggest we go to a place that doesn't mind if we have a bunch of crazy teenagers, with both alcoholic and fun non-alcoholic drinks for the kids, and that's nearby our final game. How about Red Robin...it has all three. Sound good?"

Some people need the philosophical framing. Some need the specifics. Kind of like the Myers-Briggs test: some are sensors; some are intuition-based. Do both. To get our way, we need to connect with everyone.

Just like sports, improving your persuasive skills requires both practice and patience. But when your plan and your delivery come together, you're going to get your way more often!

Do a Run-Through Before All Major Presentations

Another tip is one that we all already know, but often skip: perform a complete run-through in front of somebody who intimidates you before giving your actual presentation. I find most executives do what I call a "walk-through." They say, I'll start with the story about the three buckets, then I'll do an intro, ask for questions, and then review each slide." Nope. It's imperative that your confidence and enthusiasm be sky-high. Present a full run-through as a practice, complete with the constructive critique from a person whose opinion you greatly respect. This will help you polish your delivery and verify if you have any communication / connection glitches. And importantly, you'll have a feeling of confidence that will exude through your remarks. We all benefit from actually articulating all of the words -- at least one time -- before "showtime."

I have yet to see an executive do a worse job after a full run-through, but I've sure seen my share of stumbles and gaffes for those who just "wing it."

I've been told -- more than once -- that many of these suggestions are just "applied common sense." While that may be true, they work just the same.

Wanna get your way more often? Apply these techniques and the line forms right behind you!

Onward and upward!

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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Climbing the Ladder

Posted in Best Practices

As I'm writing this, I have that butterfly feeling of writing my first public blog in a brand new place. It's an exciting feeling for an intern, knowing that you now get to flex your creative and strategic thinking muscles all in the same day.  

You see, I definitely don't fit the profile of a traditional intern. I finished my degree a little more than a year ago, and I'd worked full-time in a corporate administrative role before Miley Cyrus became a household name. 

Now, I happily embrace my new surroundings, because I know that this is where I was meant to land. Being in college while I worked in the insurance industry gave me a lot of time to think about where I would like the road to take me after earning the diploma I'd worked so hard for. I knew I had to make a change. 

It's up to all of us to take a step back and re-evaluate our professional lives if we aren't where we imagined ourselves. I received some great inspiration from a blog I read last fall about a woman who had spent 20 years of her career in magazine publishing and desperately craved a change. She took an internship in radio that barely paid for her transportation to and from work and landed a job doing something she loves. I was not this far along in my career path when I decided to make a similar change, but her story gave me hope that an internship in a whole new industry was the right step for me, too. 

I think the best way to describe this particular professional challenge is in a quote from an episode of BBC's "The Office": 

"It is better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb then halfway up one you don't." 

What challenges have you faced in finding your way in the professional world? 

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Peterson
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