My husband and I closed on our new house last week. After several years of talk and a full year of active real estate shopping, we finally found “the one.” As we now work tenaciously to make it our own, I’m struck by the similarities between this project and the strategic communications programs I work on for new clients. Sounds like a long shot from the surface, I know, but as I was cutting in the walls last night so we could get up that first coat of paint, the pieces fell together.
Typically when we start working with a new client, there is a pent-up need for marketing and communications. Businesses turn to us when they have an opportunity or challenge, and our team is eager to help. As is the case with our new home, there are many ideas and projects bubbling on the surface. It’s natural to want to move full-steam ahead into execution when the paperwork is finally signed. But I’ve found in my work and home life that having a plan, and a little patience (which is truly the hardest thing!), pays off greatly in the end.
Morningstar Communications Future Visioning™ process is one of the best ways I’ve found to steer this initial communications plan. It guides where we’re going and what goals we will accomplish. At the end of the five-step process we have a comprehensive integrated marketing and communications program to serve as our playbook. While we haven’t gone into that detail on the house, having an end-in-mind for what the house will look and feel like when we move in has gone a long way in smoothing the decision making process. By understanding what changes will have the most impact while considering our timeline and budget, we’re on the path for a successful project. However, even with a plan in place, I still want to see action and so do our clients.
To satisfy the urge to get started and see results, we always look for quick wins. What low-hanging fruit can quickly and easily make an impact? In the house, we changed out a chandelier above the kitchen island. What a difference one light can make. For clients, there may be an upcoming presentation for which we can provide coaching, or a new product launch where media relations is appropriate. The key is finding those seemingly small wins that make big impacts as they propel us toward our end-goal.
The first three days in the house were all about laying the foundation for a great end result. We spent our time cleaning baseboards, patching walls and selecting materials. Foundational work is often tedious and can take some heavy lifting, but on the surface it doesn’t always look like much got done. However, this work is critical to the success of the project. Likewise, in a client engagement we first work to lay the foundation. We build media lists, create key messages, develop processes for reporting, etc., so that when it comes time to execute the building blocks are all in place. From there projects start rolling and results become visible.
I love working with our new and established clients to help them grow. This house is equally addicting. I’m looking forward to seeing great results both at home and at work in the days, weeks and years ahead.Tagged Future Visioning, Integrated Marketing Communications, Morningstar Communications, Tricia McKim
If you regularly read our blog, you are probably aware of the Lucky 7 Challenge my teammates and I have accepted and embarked upon. The challenge officially began on September 30 and is now in its seventh week of the seven-month duration.
Associates encourage each other to maintain enthusiasm and determination to achieve 10,000 steps per day, and even make it fun, but there are times away from the office we need that extra motivation. Here are seven tips to help you jumpstart and uphold your wellness journey long-term.
1. Set Mini Goals: Long-term goals are overwhelming. It’s hard to maintain motivation for a single goal for such a long time. By breaking it down into smaller goals along the way, we are not setting ourselves up for failure.
2. Make it Fun: Walking doesn’t have to be boring. Listen to music with an upbeat tempo. Try rhythm walking. (See how Eric does it here.) If you don’t like your current walking routine, change it to make it more exciting.
3. Set Reminders: Use a fitness app, your calendar or your smartphone to make your remember to get up and move. Take a brief walk around your home or your office every hour.
4. Up the Intensity: By increasing intensity, you can maximize walking and burn calories. To increase calorie burn, you can use weights that strap around your ankles or wrists, for example.
5. Don’t Take Too Many Off-Days: Never skip more than two days in a row. It’s as easy as that to fall into the routine of getting lazy. Just get up and get on the move again.
6. Find Your Rhythm: The characteristic of being a morning person or a night owl can significantly influence our exercise routines. Some people understand if they don’t do their walking in the morning, it will never happen. Then there are others who need that walk in the evenings to de-stress before bed time after a long day at work. Understand your personality in order to work out a time that’s best for you. Maybe you’re not lacking motivation – just timing.
7. Think About the Benefits: Thinking about how hard something is often creates a monster and unnecessary fears. Instead of thinking about that, think about what benefits you will be reaping because of that one decision you took to take control of your health. The benefits will help re-energize you.
What about you? What are your tricks for keeping yourself motivated?Tagged Fitness, Morningstar Communications, Suchitra Kamath
The year is quickly coming to an end and 2014 planning is well underway for many PR and marketing professionals. WebDAM created an infographic, which contains 20 key trend predictions for marketers and PR pros to be on the lookout for next year. It comes as no surprise that digital marketing campaigns and tactics will continue to increase in 2014, but what are some less obvious trends?
Check out all 20 key trends predicted for 2014 on the infographic below. What key trends would you add to the list?Tagged 2014 Marketing Trends, Laura Jung, Morningstar Communications
On October 30, 2013, I attended the 2013 Manufacturing Summit: The Future of American Manufacturing, held by the KC Chamber in conjunction with presenting sponsor RubinBrown and sponsors Bank of Kansas City, Arvest Bank and KC Business Magazine. Here, I learned about a modern day crisis: “a crisis of leadership,” according to keynote speaker Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies, Inc.
According to Bob, more than 130 million people in our workforce or 7 out of 8 people go home everyday feeling they work for a company who doesn’t care about them. These people are our mothers, fathers, children, sisters, etc. These are precious people, Bob reminded us. As a workforce, instead of people, we’ve shifted our focus to products and objects; shareholder value and profits result in our success.
In a room full of focused business minds in a capitalist economy, Bob tied manufacturing and the essential lean principals into the importance of people-centric leadership. Not everyone intuitively connects these dots. Bob was quick to note this, starting his keynote saying as a country, “We’ve embraced process, but failed to embrace the human dimension.” Though Bob tied this specific statement into a result of the Industrial Revolution, it’s easy to name a series of companies and industries that have also fallen into this same trap, making the statement relevant to all of us. So, if we’ve all lost the focus on people and lean processes work in manufacturing, what does it mean for other industries?
Hearts and Minds… Not Just Hands
Bob said, “Lean calls us to listen. Listen to your people and they will tell you what they want and they will leave satisfied. This is a concept of allowing people to share their thoughts and feelings with you.” He reiterated that as a business, the focus should be people, purpose and performance,” in that exact order. “We can pay people fairly, treat people superbly and compete globally.” What a concept: companies can be successful by taking the time to listen to their employees.
Bob reiterated that we are paying people just for their work. “They would have given us their heads and hearts for free – but we didn’t’ know how to ask for them… we only asked for their hands.”
His words reminded me of a saying that has become part of the Morningstar Communications’ culture, “Do everything expected, and then 10 percent more.” Across multiple industries, if we’re doing only what is expected at the current status quo, what do we miss out on by ignoring the additional 10 percent? Is this where we lost the personal factors, the human interaction and listening? Is the status quo hindering us?
According to Bob, our current reality of broken families, broken relationships and broken lives is a result of sending our workers home each day with a sense that they work for an organization that doesn’t care about them. But we can be successful still – the answer to this crisis is success through our people. Our goal should be to create an environment where everybody matters. We have the power to do this, if we make the decision to engage our heads and our hearts in the leadership process that validates the worth of every individual then we can start creating a world where everybody matters.
This isn’t just a good approach; it’s also good business. If you aren’t connecting with the people, are you really reaching all of your employees?
Tagged 2013 Manufacturing Summit, Culture, Employees, Morningstar Communications, People-centric leadership, relationships, Susan's posts
“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point-of-view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
This statement has become a cornerstone of our approach to strategic integrated communications. Philosophers, theologians, and deep thinkers often believe there are absolute truths. I’m not so certain.
Over the years I’ve learned that the ”truth” often depends on your point-of-view. This is why Morningstar Communications is so insistent on creating customized recipient-oriented communications for our clients.
It comes down to one very simple fact: It’s not what you want to say. It’s what they need to hear. Always.
In most things in life, the idea that one-size fits all is rarely true. We all know this intuitively. One area this is painstakingly true is communications. If you’re talking about the ABC thing, how an employee, a customer, or an investor sees that same thing will color their unique point-of-view.
As you can see, what’s viewed as good news to some may be viewed as bad news by others. So, that ABC thing always remains the very same thing… or does it?
The key to crafting solid communications is really this simple: identify the best way for the recipient to receive the information, not the best way to send it.
It’s football season and my KC Chiefs are off to an amazing start. So, it’s time for a gridiron analogy: Are your communication passes complete or incomplete?
The best way to assess the effectiveness of your communications: did the recipient catch the message. Your message was received or it wasn’t – incomplete or complete, the prettiness of the pass really doesn’t matter. Customize your communications based on the receiver / recipients EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Whether you believe in the force or not, Obi-Wan is spot on regarding recipient-oriented communications. Embrace this concept or accept that a lot of your passes will fall incomplete.
Onward and upward. Oh, and may the force be with you.Tagged best practices, Eric Morgenstern, Morningstar Communications, recipient-oriented messages
Do you find yourself often saying you have too much to do and too little time? Or maybe on Monday at 10 a.m. you were wishing it was Friday afternoon instead? If you are, take control of your situation and start being productive while enjoying your work day.
Here are a few tips I believe are really helpful in avoiding becoming overloaded at work:
Be organized enough to know your load: I know I have blogged about to-do lists before, however, I cannot stress the importance of making one so you know exactly what is on your plate for the day, week or month. It is also extremely important to have your to-dos all in one place instead of post-it notes stuck in between pages of a planner or a wall calendar or in several places. If you don’t know how much is on your plate, how can you hope to efficiently handle them? Google Calendar is a great one-stop tool that can help you list all your projects and tasks in one place.
Knowing when to say no: Saying “no” is hard for a lot of people. However, it is important to say it if you want to stay on top of your priorities and prevent overtaxing yourself, which can sometimes result in substandard work. Read this article, “Nine Practices to Help You Say No”, to learn several helpful ways to say “no” – relevant to any work environment.
Give yourself flexibility: Let people know where their activities will lie on your priority list before you accept their tasks. This way you’re not making promises you can’t keep and have flexibility to back out if you can’t follow-up later.
Don’t attempt to do everything yourself: Many people often try to do everything themselves. They don’t delegate either because they are too busy to take the time to explain what they need doing to someone else, or because they think that someone else may not do it as well as if they did it themselves. Delegation is a key skill to productivity.
Set clear expectations: Setting clear expectations are essential to efficiency. It should be clearly understood “who” is expected to do “what” and “when” it is expected to be completed. This ensures there are not several people working on the same task.
As collegians transition from school to the workplace, they will begin to encounter a new set of unwritten rules and expectations. Welcome to the real world my friends. The last 16 years of snoozing alarms, rolling out of bed and brushing our teeth just in the nick of time for class are now distant memories.
We have spent the majority of our life preparing for one thing – school. And many college students went to school full-time, held down an internship and then a part-time job to top it all off – all of which served their purposes as means to expand knowledge and skills. However, with all this schooling, where were we taught about making the effortless transition from the lecture hall to the office desk? As a recent graduate, I find myself asking, “Was I emotionally prepped to face the big bad world of work?”
So here is my advice to help you make the transition from recent graduate to workplace rock star a little bit easier:
Don’t be a robot. Just be you, easier said than done for some. Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts and ask questions, this is what you are paid to do! Your employer doesn’t expect you to regurgitate the answers to everything.
Show some humility and own it. Remember you are the newbie. Mistakes will happen, and mistakes need to be made in order to grow. We are all human, and this is how we learn.
Teamwork is a skill. Make friends; don’t pride yourself on being a loner. Remember all those group projects you dreaded in school? Well guess what? They don’t go away. Talk to people to learn their institutional knowledge. Getting to know your colleagues will make your day go by quicker and more importantly, you’ll learn a thing or two.
Be excellent. This is a no brainer, right? Do excellent work, and you won’t have to worry about proving yourself to your employer. At Morningstar Communications we strive for excellence, not perfection.
What tips do you have for recent graduates entering the working world?Tagged Caitlin O'Malley, College Grad, Morningstar Communications, Real World, Transitions
I recently read an article on PR Daily about the importance of body language. We use it everyday to consciously connect to one another or emphasize a point. And on a subconscious level, our body language displays our feelings. Body language is a powerful tool from both a personal and professional standpoint. Using it correctly to our advantage in the public relations and marketing realm is of the utmost importance.
At Morningstar Communications, we know all too well the impact body language has on making or breaking an interview with the media. Through our media training sessions, clients learn the best way to stand, sit and stress their key points without coming across as closed off, pushy or lacking in energy.
Here are a few of what I thought were the most important takeaways from the PR Daily article. Keep these at the top of your mind next time you are working with the media, whether it’s conducting an interview to holding a media training session.
Use your hands. This one is easy for me. I talk with my hands – in a BIG way. While hand gestures draw the audience in and help them feel involved, they should be kept to a minimum. Choose the amount of hand movements based on the size of the venue and audience. For example, in a one-on-one interview, there is no need to use large arm movements. Small hand gestures are the best way to connect in that situation. But, at a well-attended press conference held in a sizeable room larger arm movements are not only appropriate, they help visually demonstrate your key points.
Make eye contact. Reporters sometimes fire questions one after another leaving little time to think through a response. It feels natural to look down or away when thinking through a reporter’s question, but the problem with this is that the reporter may assume you are fabricating a reply if you aren’t looking at them. Practice making constant eye contact when responding to a reporter to display sincerity and confidence.
Grab an energy drink. We’ve seen it before, the company spokesperson who is practically falling asleep in the middle of their monotone public statement. Many people believe their energy level is higher than it actually is. When speaking with a reporter or addressing a crowd, maintaining a high level of energy is crucial. Energy brings excitement to a key message. If you naturally lack energy, gulp down a Redbull or cup of coffee to give you that necessary oomph.
What do you think are the most valuable body language tips?
Tagged Body Language, Laura Jung, Media Training, Morningstar Communications
Every business leader yearns to have everyone on their team row in the same direction. Alignment is a holy grail for executives.
The answer, quite simply, is The Three Clarities.
I had the privilege of providing strategic communications for Marion Laboratories throughout the 1980s and early ’90s. Its success and subsequent sale ultimately led to Mr. K and his family buying the KC Royals, establishing the Kauffman Foundation, and building the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. They also spun off dozens of successful businesses, and planted seeds (the Uncommon company was their credo) with hundreds more. It was a great ride, and I learned a lot.
They experienced tremendous growth. They were a Wall Street darling. And they never stopped growing right through their acquisition by Merrill Dow in 1989.
Fred Lyons, its CEO, was often asked how he kept such a dynamic and growing organization aligned. Ensuring everyone is working together is a continual challenge for all leaders. Fred often referenced the “Three Clarities” as his key. I’ve always kept them in mind, and am happy to share his simple and brilliant approach with you now.
The three key clarities are the answers to these profound questions:
• Where are we going?
• What is my responsibility, specifically?
• How is score kept?
Yes, it’s really that simple. For example, lets say your team is taking a road trip. Here’s how it would work: We’re going to Minneapolis (direction). You are in charge of lunches on the road (responsibility). If we arrive with full stomachs, that’s success (score). This approach applies to all people, in all organizations.
As we all know where we are going, what’s our specific role and how will my success be judged — with those three key questions answered — I’ve seen teams accomplish amazing things.
If you’re the leader, be sure your team knows all three. If you’re working for someone, ask. With those three clarities fully understood, alignment and manageable growth are sure to follow.
Onward and upward.Tagged company success, Eric Morgenstern, Fred Lyons, Leadership, Marion Laboratories, Morningstar Communications, team alignment, Three Clarities
Morningstar Communications’ weekly Facebook analysis shows an organic reach of 1,346 with 13 people talking about us and an increased like total of +6.
Okay, great, what does that mean?
At this point we can assume that most businesses out there have some sort of social media presence, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or one of the hundreds of up-and-coming platforms in existence. However, the measurement of its effectiveness can seem a bit on the arbitrary side.
“More is better” is the guiding principle behind measurement of social media’s effectiveness. 1,300 reach this week? Next week let’s shoot for 1,500. While that line of thought isn’t necessarily without merit, it’s a bit one-sided. Pictures of babies and kittens will probably increase your Facebook reach, but does that help your muffler shop sell more mufflers? Before you post on social media on behalf of your company, ask yourself a few questions:
Social media is a constantly changing field so it’s important not to simply accept the status quo regarding measurement. How does your business measure its social media ROI?