Tag Archives: best practices

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Humility, Sweet Humility

Posted in Best Practices, Eric's Posts, Executive Insights, Morningstar Communications Updates

Especially now, humility is something all executives need – and an extra large helping at that.

Look at the news these days. So many stories focus on individuals who believe rules aren’t for them and they can do no wrong. Have they never heard of servant leadership?

At Morningstar Communications, we frequently help executives “craft and deliver” persuasive presentations. Some of these presentations are for sales opportunities, while others target internal or industry audiences.

These presentations share common ground by emphasizing that each leader has a story to tell. The goal of each presentation is to make sure recipients think what the leader wants them to think, and do what the leader wants them to do.

Each executive I have the pleasure of coaching is terrific. You don’t become a C-level executive without both the skill and will for excellence. However, very few top executives have received coaching on the fundamentals of how to create and deliver persuasive presentations. They know their stuff, but they don’t all know how to tell their story for maximum impact.

And even fewer embrace the power of humility.

Bob Marcusse, President and CEO at the Kansas City Area Development Council, gets it. Bob’s team at KCADC, one of our long-term clients, is responsible for the regional economic development activities for Kansas City. They build and promote its regional brand, as well as put a spotlight on talent recruitment and targeted industry clusters in order to help businesses move here or expand. Kansas City is characterized by the “aw shucks” Midwestern spirit. No one summarizes this sentiment better than Bob. He once said, “If Kansas City was on the shores of Lake Superior, we’d probably rebrand it as ‘Lake Pretty Good.’”

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I find the most confident C-level executives get this. Big time. They know they’ve got the goods and they’re self-confident enough not to let their ego get in their way.

These executives understand the “mirror vs. window” metaphor as it relates to praise or criticism and continuously incorporate it into their work.

Nobody likes an egomaniac. Nobody goes the extra mile for a person they don’t like or respect. Competency and leadership skills are now simply "entry fees" to become a great executive. In order to win the hearts and minds of the people who matter most, the very best executives incorporate authentic humility within their presentations. We all relate better to someone who is “like us” and humility helps bridge the chasm that often exists between top execs and the rest of the team.

There are proven presentation techniques to incorporate within persuasive presentations, including an appropriate use of self-effacing humor, acknowledging current events and particular body language and movements. As always, the key to effectively utilizing humility is authenticity: People will see right through a smokescreen, especially if it’s gratuitous or superficial.

But for those confident executives, embrace humility and you’ll get others to move mountains for you.

Onward and upward!

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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Many of the Truths We Cling to Depend Greatly on our Own Point-of-view

Posted in Best Practices, Eric's Posts, Integrated Marketing (IMC)


Obi-Wan explains the relationship between Luke and Darth Vader

“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.

  • Is the seven-year-old orphan boy who steals a loaf of bread to feed his hungry little sister truly a thief?
  • Can the same person be a freedom fighter to some but a terrorist to others?
  • Is she a hero or a hacker?
  • Did you simply give a hug or is that harassment?

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.

Recipient-oriented communications

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.

  • Did Darth Vader really kill Luke’s father, or did he (warning: plot reveal!) evolve and really still is Luke’s dad?

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?

  • When a beautiful, 50-yard pass streaks down the sidelines just out of reach of the receiver…yup, that’s called an incomplete pass.
  • And when the quarterback flips the ball to the fullback for a one-yard gain just as he’s being sacked…yup, that’s called a completed pass.

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.

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Comments Off Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Working the Twittersphere

Posted in Best Practices, Media Relations, Social Media, Susan's Posts

At a recent conference in Kansas City, I connected with a Forbes contributor about the value of reaching out to industry influencers via social media and the best ways to position your clients so you’re being strategic rather than pushy. With a genuine approach, the idea is that you’ll see a better return on your time and strategic investment. You’ll also build substantial relationships with key influencers and industry reporters, which is the goal we all strive for in public relations.

I have long been a fan of the seamless ability of personal and professional worlds to collide in a rather unique fashion via social media, so I was intrigued when this topic came into discussion. The idea of gaining some insight on how a journalist himself wanted to engage with PR people via social media was exciting and encouraging! Having recently employed these tactics and successfully secured client coverage via Twitter, the following are best practices I’ve learned along the way and from those my new Forbes acquaintance shared with me:

  • Reporters and journalists are already on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook for both work and personal use – but they also search for news just like the rest of us via social media.
  • There is value in connecting with industry influencers and reporters via social media as you’re going directly to them in a space they’re already engaging.
  • Do not enter the social media world strictly to ask for favors or interviews. The rules here are similar to the real world, still follow your basic courtesies.
  • Specifically engage with reporters and industry influencers via social media for at least two weeks before making a request of them on your behalf or that of a client.
  • Retweet or share their articles, show a genuine interest, engage with them and then ask for PR opportunities when the moment is right.
  • Otherwise you’re making the statement, “I’m willing to talk to you and at you, but not to engage or listen to you.”
  • Remember to engage as a person. Don’t push a logo if you can help it. Refer back to your own subject matter experts and highlight their knowledge.
  • Remember that there is little value in following someone who pushes out the same message constantly and lacks engagement. Assert yourself on Twitter as someone who you would be interested in following. No one wants a canned experience.
  • Always remain relevant to the times and to the brand/client.
  • Look for opportunities to “newsjack”: find a piece of relevant news coverage to tie your client’s story/relevance into to give a unique angle on a story that your client can speak to as a thought leader.
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Comments Off Posted on by Susan Hinds

You Are Your Brand, Your Company’s Brand and Your Client’s Brand

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


You are a brand, and at all times, you are an extension of your brand. Not only are you a brand for yourself, but you also represent the brand reputation of your company and your clients. That’s a lot to take in, but as a professional in the always evolving and incredibly active world of PR, communications, marketing and advertising – we know this fact to be true. What you do, say, post, wear, etc., speaks for more than just you.

Heavy stuff, isn’t it? But, if we already know this, why blog on the topic? Because time-after-time I witness painful personal fails as people get a little too comfortable or have a little too much fun, seemingly not aware that they still represent their team, their company and their clients after 5:00 p.m.

We’re fortunate to work amongst exciting, innovative industries – industries that allow us to step away from our desks to attend networking events, client happy hours and trade shows and events in great locations. We work in a fun industry, so by no means should you eliminate fun from this job – it’s one of the best parts.  In fact, our clients often like working with us because we’re an enjoyable group.

It’s important to simply balance having fun and enjoying yourself with the knowledge that you’re representing your company and clients at all times. Remember: you are always on, and people associate multiple brand reputations with you as a person whether you’re at your desk or not.

So, what can we do to ensure we’re on top of our game as professionals while still enjoying the perks of the industry?

Act with tact: Just as your mother told you: be tactful, considerate, perceptive, polite and responsible. Easy enough, right? Keep in mind that your actions and your words both speak loudly. Keep simple courtesies in mind when networking, when engaging on social media sites and especially when sharing opinions or advice. Keep it clean and don’t be sloppy. Ensure your behavior matches the image your company and clients want portray.

Don’t get too comfortable: Whether you’re with colleagues, clients or other contacts, it’s typically a good move to leave the dire personal stories and experiences to yourself. In short, be friendly, but don’t be too friendly. It’s wonderful to love your clients and associates, but lines can be crossed. Don’t let what you intend to be a private joke or silly, personal story turn into a nightmare after the fact. Word gets around, and you want to come off as professional, even after hours. Don’t permit your actions one night to jeopardize the respect you’ve earned over time. Although you feel comfortable in good company, be careful not to release private information that was intended to be strictly between you and a client. Don’t give your associates and clients a reason to think you’re anything less than fabulous all around. A drink or two might be a great bonding experience, and silly stories can be fun for all – but just keep them clean and appropriate.

Prep as much as possible: It’s fair to say that in this industry, things come up. On any given day you might rush out of the office to assist a client with an interview or meet up with a journalist at an after hours event. So be prepared. Before you leave, take time to think about why you are going, and keep those goals in mind. Pack your business cards, brush up on recent articles, trends and general news that pertain to the industry and your client. Being perceptive and tactful comes in here once again – but so does being fun. You want people to want to work with you. So, before you run out the door in a hurry, take two minutes to think about with whom you’re going to spend time. Maybe you’ll find a funny meme on their Twitter account you can bond over. Who knows? Little things like this make you memorable and enjoyable. You’re more likely to get somewhere with a journalist or a business partner who knows you’re not only intelligent and poised, but also generally informed and fun to be around.

Attitude is everything:  For the most part, we’re a bunch of Type A people in this industry. Type A to a T. Don’t be a wallflower when there is fun and networking opportunities to be had. Ask questions; compliment someone on their fun shoe selection, whatever it takes to strike up a conversation. Smile, talk about your company, your agency, your client, the news, the latest autotuned news piece – establish relationships, that’s the kicker. You might be at a party, but you’re there for your company or client. Word will get around that you’re the person always sitting in the corner or that you’re the person everyone wants to talk to.

Know your limits: In this industry, you may find yourself at a good party from time to time. Alcohol is typically present, and often free flowing. At these events, you are often, “Mrs. Smith representing (insert fabulous client name here).” Mind your P’s and Q’s and know your limits. Don’t be the person your client mentions Monday morning while discussing people who went too far at the party, and certainly don’t be the person your associates have to carry out.

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1 Comment Posted on by Susan Hinds

Hurricane Sandy: Crisis Communications

Posted in Best Practices We know communication in times of crisis can be a struggle, especially with unforeseen occurrences such as Hurricane Sandy. Planning ahead is the key to solid crisis management. Your plan must involve not only what you will say – crisis communications – but what you will do – operationally and organizationally. By knowing in advance what your plan is, it is easy to modify and adjust as things arise. Con Edison, one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the United States, has had its crisis responsiveness tested many times and clearly has a crisis communication plan in place as it deals with the issues due to Hurricane Sandy. Con Edison is reporting the largest storm-related outage in their history with about 750,000 customers without electricity. A news release issued by Con Edison today, states “Safety for customers and Con Edison employees is the company's No. 1 priority.” The most challenging part of crisis communication management is reacting appropriately – with the right response – quickly. Con Edison is providing updates almost hourly on how the status of the storm is impacting its customers and its employees. John Miksad, Con Edison’s senior vice president for Electric Operations, shares updates on the Hurricane Sandy crisis and what his company is doing to keep safety the number one priority in today’s Wall Street Journal Q&A. Every company can learn from Con Edison by having a crisis communications in place. When developing a plan for your organization, start by looking at all potential consequences your company and operations may face and develop multiple scenarios and outcomes. Your plan is not intended to answer all questions, but it does ensure you present a consistent picture to your internal and external audiences, and you present a united, consistent, confident image to everyone. Your organization will be in the spotlight and how you handle it will shape your brand for years. How your organization manages in a time of crisis is what demonstrates the true character of a company. Tagged , , , , ,
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Book List: Social Media and PR Measurement

Posted in Best Practices, Online Marketing, Social Media, Tricia's Posts

One of the most important aspects of social media and public relations is measurement. Our business mindsets want to make direct correlations between our activities and a sale or change in behavior. However, there is not always a direct correlation with PR and social media. It’s rare a sale can be attributed directly to a like on a Facebook page. The value sometimes comes from choosing preferences, building awareness and seeing behavioral change over time, but less directly. There are many ways to directly impact change through these media, but direct measurement is sometimes a challenge.

In this age of social media, we’ve become increasingly savvy about measurement, finding new ways to quantify and show value. As someone who is accountable for my client’s growth, I’m always looking for the latest measurement methods and came across this book list by Katie Delahaye Paine. She lists many must-reads to help with your measurement activities. If you haven’t read them they’re worth making the book list. I know they’re now on mine.

What books or resources have you found to be helpful tools for measuring PR and social media programs in your organizations?


Summary: One of the most important aspects of social media and public relations is measurement. Some light reading can help broaden your measurement approach.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim

Five Business Lessons You Learn In Preschool

Posted in Best Practices One of my best friends, and roommates, is a preschool teacher. Admittedly, she is a saint. I’m constantly amazed at her patience when she gives me a recap of the day. While it may seem like we live in two entirely different worlds from eight to five, I’ve found more often than not her stories include lessons I encounter on a regular basis. Here are five business lessons you learn in preschool: Put on your listening ears. You can learn a lot by listening. Listen to your customers, clients, co-workers and prospects. Some of your insights will come from what they say, and some from what they don’t say. Don’t bite. Biting isn’t acceptable in preschool – or anywhere else for that matter. Think twice before you act on an impulse or do something malicious. The bite marks may fade, but the relationship could be damaged indefinitely. Say sorry. One of the hardest things for many people to do is not only admit a mistake, but apologize for it. Whether your mistake is something small and easy to fix or monumental, nothing can replace a sincere, in-person apology. Take naps. Okay, so we can’t all take a mid-day snooze – I wish! But it is important to find time to rejuvenate yourself – whether it be going on a vacation, leaving the office a little early one day a week, etc. Share. Share your passion, your talent, your learnings and your enthusiasm. Share with those around you and share often. Not only will this help you build and strengthen relationships, it will invite others to share with you as well.

Photo courtesy of www.metrokids.com

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First Impressions

Posted in Best Practices, Creativity and Design, Hannah's Posts, Online Marketing, Social Media, Tips and Tricks

It only takes a few seconds to form an opinion about someone or something. That’s why we’re often told that we need to present ourselves in the best way we know how – we never know who we’re going to run into. The same standard applies to social media usage. It’s all about that first impression.

If we are going to be assessed based on an initial impression, then we need to work on grooming ourselves. I’m not talking about the physical attributes in a profile picture (although that’s important too). I’m referring to the Twitter handle (@username). Here are a handful of suggestions on how to choose, or modify, your Twitter handle:

1. Be easy to find.

It is frustrating when you are trying to contact someone through Twitter and his or her Twitter handle doesn’t appear right away. Then you have to scroll through numerous accounts until you’re able to land on who you want to talk to. Use your first and last name when signing up for a Twitter account. If you’re worried about privacy settings, make your account private, or simply keep things you wouldn’t want the world to know to yourself.

2. Be unique.

I use the Twitter handle “@hannzbanans” because it is unique and easy to find. One night I responded to my university’s opinion section of the newspaper via Twitter, and my tweet was featured in the paper the following day. There I was: “@hannzbanans thinks fall is the best season of the year, thanks to football.” At first I was embarrassed that my Twitter handle was there for the student body to see. Then my dad told me he thought it was feminine and unique, and there was nothing I should be ashamed of. Why would I be? It’s memorable, therefore I’m likely to receive more mentions. When friends and family members see me, they yell and joke, “Hannzbanans!” It has stuck for good.

3. Be professional.

This may seem exclusive in some ways from tip #2. It depends on what message you’re trying to send. For example, when I graduated from college and started applying for jobs, I wondered if I should change my Twitter handle. I wondered if it didn’t come across as clean and professional. Okay, so it isn’t “@hbabcock” or something along those lines. “@hannzbanans” was the fun, creative twist to my name I came up with. “@hbabcock,” though? Yawn. My last name doesn’t particularly stand out.

@hannzbanans” may not be the most clean-cut username in the Twittersphere, but at least potential partners know that I have an edge. I know how to cut up, yet I can be serious too, which is portrayed through the variety in my tweets.

And this should go without saying: No profanity. Hopefully you’ll want to be taken seriously, even if you are trying to be a comedian.

4. Only use numbers if you have an attachment to one.

A lot of people tag numbers onto their Twitter handles when their desired username is already taken. Numbers take away from the unique aspect of a username, and can make it harder to find the exact account they’re looking for.

I looked up several professional athletes to see whether or not they used their jersey numbers. Nope, not @kingjames, @drewbrees or @PujolsFive, just to name a few. If you insist on including a number in your username, then aim to have just two digits. Otherwise you could look like a spammer.

5. Keep it short.

Who doesn’t enjoy getting retweeted? You could miss that aspect of Twitter if you have a long username. If other users can’t retweet you without going over 140 characters, there’s a good chance hash tags could get taken out. Or even worse, your username. Then you wouldn’t get the credit you may deserve. A good rule of thumb is to keep your Twitter handle at 15 characters or less.

Pick one or two words that describe you in a nutshell. Hello, Twitter handle. Hello, new followers. First impressions are everything.

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3 Comments Posted on by Hannah Babcock

The Long View

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC) Last week, I was one of the people who had a quick enough trigger finger to get tickets to attend TEDxKC. Four times as many people were interested in the conference than the Kauffman Center had seats. I am pretty sure I snagged the very last seat in the place and I took the stairs to get there - it was cool just to be in the house. Local and national speakers tackled the “The Long View,” which was described in the program as: Solving the planet’s intractable problems will require global cooperation and generational resolve, yet self-interest and politics are short-term games. We also see this in our personal lives when we reach for quick fixes, mindless consumption and instant gratification — knowing that more permanent solutions are prudent. "The Long View" explores issues of personal and global importance from an expanded perspective. One of my favorite speakers was The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Julian Zugagazoitia. It takes more than nine hours to see everything there is to see at The Nelson and that’s just seeing, not really taking it in. Fatigue sets in around the 40-minute mark. Zugagazoitia recommends visiting The Nelson more often but for shorter periods of time so you can really enjoy the art. Those of us in Kansas City are fortunate to have this opportunity right in our backyard. Something similar can be said of building a strategic communications program. We tend to try to fit everything in a tight timeframe, when taking a little time to do it correctly will almost always serve us better. The key is knowing what pieces to focus on and in what succession. Effective communication planning and development, done in intervals, is the smart way to go to avoid communication fatigue. So, what do you think? Would your communications plan be stronger if you focused on small areas over the long view?   Tagged , , , , , ,
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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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