Tag Archives: Corporate Culture

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Company holiday gatherings – a tradition soon becoming extinct?

Posted in Admin, Morningstar Communications Updates, Suchitra's Posts

Each year in the final quarter at work, the entire Morningstar Communications team come together for two important and fun events – our holiday card signing party and our holiday lunch get-together. It’s something most of us look forward to, not only because we are doing something fun, but because it also continues to strengthen our camaraderie as a team. A lot of planning goes into it well in advance because we care that everything should be just right. You could even call us perfectionists – that’s how important it is for us!

Isn’t it quite sad that many companies are giving up these traditions because of the state of our economy? Granted, holiday gatherings and greetings, especially for large companies and corporations, cost a grand sum of money. It’s highly likely the heads of these organizations deem this an unnecessary expense and would like to do without them. Or wonder of wonders, maybe the employees themselves feel it a waste of money too.

But where is it written that these traditions have to be exorbitantly expensive? Haven’t you heard of potlucks? There are so many different economical options. Granted everyone has to put in a little effort (and it’s not as nice as going to a restaurant or having the meal catered in) but it is not impossible and it’s not forever.

If you work at a company that has decided to do without these traditions, let me know what you think about it. Were you given a choice or were you told about the change without being able to share your input? Will it change the way you work next year, knowing there may not be a holiday gathering celebrating the year?

I, for one, am looking forward to our holiday lunch and card signing party. Yes, you got that right…we take pride in individually signing each and every card that we send. I did tell you we take it very seriously around here!

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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

Surprise! Surprise!

Posted in Best Practices, Internal Communications

Every Monday afternoon we have a staff meeting. It seems to be the only time that everyone is in the same place at the same time. We focus on our business. We have an agenda.

This week’s meeting contained a giant surprise. About ten minutes into the meeting, one of our ex-employees walked into the room. The looks on people’s faces were priceless. It was so great to see our old director of first impressions. She moved to Texas when her husband was transferred. We miss her everyday and her desk is still referred to as Suchitra’s desk.

It was great to catch up with her and she enjoyed hearing the latest happenings at Morningstar. We lunched with several other previous employees and it was great seeing everyone.

Re-connecting and keeping relationships going takes effort and time. The ROI is priceless. Our connections begin in many different ways. We have interns that become clients, clients that become employees and employees that come back after they have left. It is a very small world when it comes to connections. People you met ten years ago at a networking event serve on a Board that you present to. You just never know.

I cherish each and every relationship I have made in my 12+ years here. They are my friends, family, dog sitters, confidants, partners in crime and best friends. I don’t always keep close contact with everyone, but they are never far from my heart.

The best way for you to stay connected with us is through our Facebook page.

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

Spring Cleaning is not just for your house.

Posted in Admin, Best Practices

People have had it with the cold and snow. It’s been a crazy winter. Too many snow days for the kids and too many treacherous commutes to the office. Our cars are so dirty we don’t even remember what color they are. At least we know spring is coming and the sun will return.

Spring is a time for change; a time to clean your home and your life. Spring-cleaning even has its own Wiki page. You can find tips, tricks, lists and suggestions on how to make the most of your spring-cleaning on numerous websites. You may even have family traditions you follow every year.

I‘m going to try something new this year. I’m going to spring clean my mind and body.

Letting go of energy drains (baggage) and emotionally charged items can bring light into your life. Get rid of cards, letters, or things from the past that carry negative energy. Clean out numbers from your cell phone you don’t need or want anymore. Create a closure list by writing down anything you need to make yourself feel better. Find peace and move forward.

Try making new friends and new connections. Find people with shared values and interests. Don’t forget to make time to nourish your friendships. It takes effort to stay connected. Keep your relationships moving forward. Keep things light and fun.

Exercise is a great way to clear your mind and get your endorphins going. Use that time for yourself. An hour a day walking, working out or keeping active can help you both physically and emotionally.

Companies should review their websites. Allmedia, Scotland.com has a great perspective on sprucing up your website. Keep your site clean and fresh. It may be the first impression for a potential client.

Also, don’t forget to wash your car!

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

Capturing your Creativity

Posted in Best Practices, Creativity and Design

Photo credit: http://risingpyramid.org/

You know the funny YouTube videos your coworkers circulate throughout the office every now and then? Did you know that those can actually help boost your creativity? According to Time, if you are in a happy mood you are more likely to think creatively, even if that happy mood springs simply from watching a funny YouTube video.

Creativity is incredibly important in the workplace, but it’s not always easy to harness. We all have times when we feel on our game at work, and the creative juices are flowing.  We also have times when it feels like our creativity wells have been sucked dry.  Some of us are the most creative at the beginning of the work day. (I write best in the morning—post coffee of course).  Others are stellar employees post-lunch.  Is it possible to capture creativity on cue?

I was interested in finding out how to harness creativity. I researched a bunch of creativity tips and tricks, many of which suggested moving around, doodling, and listening to music. However, in the midst of all of these tips, I came across a very simple one: slow down.

Our jobs are fast paced, and it oftentimes feels like a race to the finish to keep up with all of the incoming e-mails and our massive to-do lists.  However, Steve Prentice, author of Cool Down: Getting Further by Going Slower, argues that our “addiction to immediacy” leaves little room for creativity. He challenges us to (gasp!) not look at an e-mail right as it comes into our inbox.  Instead, he encourages us to concentrate on our current task at hand with a mindset of quality and creativity.  The “get it out the door as quick as I can” mentality does not give ourselves time to brainstorm creative ideas. Prentice advises scheduling in some free time at work to allow ourselves time for imagination and new ideas.

So slow it down, turn off the electronic distractions for just a little bit, and let your mind wander to new ideas. Also, to see how creativity and success coincide, check out Fast Company’s list of the most innovative companies of 2011.

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Comments Off Posted on by Holly Eckold

Start the New Year on a positive note

Posted in Best Practices

As I look ahead to next year, I am also looking back. What could I have done differently? How could I have been more productive? How do I keep our expenses low and still have a positive culture? Where do I look for new ideas to keep things fresh? I decided to Google and see what I could find.

While researching this topic, I came across an article entitled: Checklist: Planning and Preparing for the New Year. There are some great business tips for a positive start to 2011. Let’s learn from our mistakes and keep looking ahead.

In With the New gives us an idea of new trends and what to watch for in the New Year. My particular questions were not answered, but I hope you find this information helpful and entertaining. There are a few conversation starters in this article.

Create A Culture Of Commitment And Accountability For Success In 2011 gives us goals for honing success. Take a step back and see if your company has an accountability process in place. Communication is key in any business, internally and externally.

I hope this helps make 2011 a great year for everyone!

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Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

The Impact of Connectivity

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights

Note:  This is the third blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses connectivity.

Think back to the days of landline phones, typewriters and paper maps.  The days before Google, before e-mails, before phones were smart.  It’s getting hard to remember, isn’t it?  In the past several years, we have gone through tremendous change with regard to new technologies. The result is that humans are connecting like never before.

According to cNet news, by the end of 2010, 6.1 trillion text messages will be sent—200,000 texts sent worldwide every single second.  The International Telecommunication Union reported that by the end of 2010 two billion people will have access to the Internet, and mobile networks will be available to 90 percent of the world’s population.  Cell phone coverage is expanding everywhere from remote villages in Africa to the tip-top of Mount Everest.

Available 24 x 7

Digital wireless connectivity means we are no longer tethered to any one place or time.  We can respond to work e-mails after dinner with the family or before Sunday brunch.  Before the cell phone era, if we left the office we relied on voicemail or a secretary to collect our messages.  Now, we are reachable anytime, anywhere through our mobile devices.  We take the office around with us in our pockets.  Google has even predicted that more searches will be done on smart phones than desktop computers in the near future.

Our phones have now evolved to become our own personal digital assistants.  It’s a fast-paced world out there, and our digital assistants help us gain some control over the chaos.  Most people keep their cell phones within hearing distance at all times.  We feel lost if we leave our cell phones at home.  These devices bring both control and comfort to our busy lives.

Waves of change

The increase in connectivity has several implications for businesses.

  • Customer service is more immediate.  People are able to contact businesses right away if they have a question, concern or compliment.
  • We can do business faster and in more places than ever before.
  • Customers want to communicate with businesses in new ways—through social media, for example.  As businesses, we must open these new channels and allow customers to communicate with us through their chosen method.
  • Technology, which lets us complete some tasks in record time, also tends to be a time sucker and can draw our attention away from other things.

Seeking balance

Increased connectivity is not a good thing or a bad thing.  It is simply a thing. In my experience, I have found that it is nice to take a break from connectivity at least once a week.  On Friday nights and Saturday, I put down the phone and log out of e-mail.  Instead of focusing on digital connections, I focus on human connections.  While these tools are providing us with fantastic new capabilities, we have control and it is up to us to find the right balance.

We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011. Click here to read the first post about transparency. Click here to read the second post about disappearing privacy.

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2 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

Through the Looking Glass: The Transparency Trend

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Integrated Marketing (IMC)

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/gXPFJv

Note:  This is the first blog post in a three-part series where Eric Morgenstern, CEO of Morningstar Communications, examines three macro trends transforming society: transparency, privacy and connectivity.  In this post, Eric discusses the increasing demand for transparency.

Before the Google era, if I was interested in looking up information about a company, I ordered a hard copy of a Dun & Bradstreet or Hoovers report.  These lengthy business information reports listed sales volume, growth, industry information, and a wealth of other business statistics.

Today, gathering information about a company doesn’t require sifting through lengthy paper reports.  Instead, information is only a few mouse clicks and keystrokes away.  We can Google the company, check out their website, look up recent news involving the company, and check social media sites including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for quick updates.

    Consumers today expect information that is up-to-date, easily accessible, honest and authentic.  Anything less makes us think either the company is lagging behind the times, or worse, hiding something.

    Beyond the walls

    Just as we can look through a transparent piece of glass, consumers want to feel as if they can look beyond the walls of the organization and understand its inner workings.   Consumers expect companies to be upfront about their values, practices, products & services they offer consumers, company news, and even mistakes if they have an effect on consumers.  Obviously we don’t expect the company to share trade secrets.  However, we do expect open communication so we can both receive information from the company and provide feedback.

    While companies may express fear about pulling back the curtain, customers will reward transparency. Being up front and honest with customers will foster trust, respect and loyalty.

    Honesty is the best policy

    Being transparent isn’t just sharing the good – it is about being honest.  Companies must be honest when they make a mistake.  BusinessWeek recently examined a new program the University of Michigan Health System started  to increase transparency.  If doctors made a medical error, the new program required that they admit the error to the patient and their family, offer an apology and compensation, and explain how the error will be avoided in the future.  A study of the program found that when doctors were transparent and apologetic about errors, their chance of getting sued for malpractice was much less. People understood that they were human, and they appreciated the honesty.

    A transparent world is a better world

    Transparency is better for both the consumer and the company.  Consumers benefit from having a wealth of information at their disposal so they can pick and choose which company meets their needs and matches their values.

    Companies will make better decisions, because they know they will get caught if they don’t!   Companies that are open with their customers and respond to their feedback will also be able to adapt better to their customers’ needs.  As Josh Bersin of Bersin & Associates states,  “Only when people feel free to disclose customer feedback, talk about problems in an open way, deal with issues quickly, and share best-practices, can an organization truly respond and innovate with world-class speed.”

    The Public Affairs Council offers some great tips for organizations ready to increase their transparency.  The council says that “openness creates opportunities for dialog with customers, shareholders, employees, local communities and government officials.  If you make the effort to engage your critics – and those who may become your critics- you can correct problems before they get out of hand.  You also will have developed a long term ‘feedback loop’…”

    Business people should invite customers to peek around in their house, as if to say, “Come in, take a look—I have nothing to hide!” The mantra for good public relations can no longer just be “get caught doing good.”  In this transparent world, you can get caught doing nearly anything.  Make sure that being good is completely ingrained in your company mentality.  Then you can easily open up and foster trust with those who matter the most to your business.

    We hope that this three part blog series will provide you with insight into how to best approach your marketing and communication programs in 2011.

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    4 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

    …And be polite!

    Posted in Best Practices

    In agency life, work can rain down on you in a torrent. I’m sure this is also the case with countless occupations. There are, of course, many ways to avoid being swept away by the flood and keep your head above water. Organization and careful planning lead the fight. One tactic that tends to get overlooked and underused is delegation.

    We have all been guilty at one time or another of using delegation as a last minute fix for time sensitive jobs that we couldn’t get to. But, that is not a great time to delegate. What if the person you entrust with the task doesn’t have the time either? Delegation can and should be pre-planned and built into the life of the project.

    Having been both a “delegator” and “delegatee,” I have found the key to effective delegation is clarity. Taking the time to clearly state what it is you expect from the person to whom you are delegating will ensure you don’t have to circle back and re-do the task, thus, rendering the delegation useless.

    Sometimes, however, it’s ok for a delegated task to serve as a learning tool. Delegating to someone who may not have the qualifications, experience or familiarity with a project offers empowerment, confidence and, of course, gives them that qualification and experience. It is important not to be afraid to do this, as it will ultimately help the overall strength of your organization. If employees are not constantly being challenged, growth cannot occur.

    Another delegation idea to keep in mind is what is referred to as “delegating up.” Some employers see delegating up – or above your position – as bad and some see it as good. Morningstar Communications sees it as good. We encourage and practice delegating up as a way of keeping everyone covered and engaged in projects. It also creates an even playing field in the process of working together to help grow our clients’ businesses. This concept of empowerment clears the channels of communication so that any and all great ideas can be brought forth and implemented by any one of us at any time.

    What are some ways you and your fellow employees work together to keep everything flowing?

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    Comments Off Posted on by Tyler Dustin

    Calendar reminders: friend or foe?

    Posted in Best Practices

    I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of Post-it® notes. They are bright, colorful friendly reminders of things to be done. I put them on the door leading to my garage so I don’t forget to take something to the office in the morning. I have put them on my steering wheel so I would not forget something important. They don’t stick to the wheel very well, just an FYI. I have left them on the mirror in the bathroom reminding someone to take their medicine. Be sure to place these notes strategically so the excuse of “I did not see it there. It should have been where my towel is” doesn’t get thrown your way.

    Today, I have had an electronic “Office Notification” reminding me to blog since this morning. I have snoozed it about 50 times due to the fact that I could not come up with a worthy topic. So I decided that the electronic reminder has pro’s and con’s.

    Pro’s:
    The notification to:

    • remember to make sure your boss’s schedule is correct
    • pay rent – a definite plus
    • pay the credit card bill – VERY important
    • attend a meeting
    • eat lunch
    • go to an appointment
    • wake me up if I am dozing every 15 minutes
    • finally hitting dismiss instead of snooze when you complete your task

    Con’s:

    • the beeping scares the heck out of me when I am concentrating
    • the notifications are on my phone as well, but for some reason they repeat about 62 times and freak out my device.
    • a constant reminder that you have failed to get something done or are too old to remember it in the first place
    • shows up right where my iTunes song list is
    • thinking it is laughing at you after every beep

    Now that I see it in print, I am a proud fan of my office notifications. Here’s to DISMISS!

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    Comments Off Posted on by Andy Woodward

    So long, farewell. Suchitra heads to Dallas.

    Posted in Admin

    It has been a week now. For one week we have survived without Suchitra.

    In late November our team was saddened to hear the news that our executive assistant, Suchitra Kamath, would be leaving the team. Her husband was relocated to Dallas and they are scheduled to move in January.

    Suchitra has been a truly valuable member of the Morningstar Communications team for three years. As “Director of First Impressions” she was a pleasant face as people walked into our office (some of them clients, some looking for the dentist’s office next door). Her cheerful phone voice made her a favorite among our client contacts and her thoughtful personality made her a favorite with everyone here at Morningstar.

    Suchitra always remembered to bring us little gifts from her travels to see family in Canada and India. She remembered to make birthday and anniversary signs so everyone felt appreciated. She remembered to keep the chocolate cabinet full and to have patience with our never-ending need for Diet Coke.

    Beyond her amazing knowledge of how to use FileMaker to print mailing labels and her wonderful way with fixing the printer, Suchitra made all of our lives easier. She was always willing to help us set up long lists of conference calls for audience research interviews, or to help us bind books at the last minute. She served as a mentor to our interns (and from personal experience I thank her for her patience), and as a resource to employees.

    When we heard she was leaving we all wondered how we would survive without Suchitra. She had become someone to rely on and an integral member of our team. Even many of our clients expressed how sad they were that she was leaving us. Suchitra made a lasting impression on everyone she reached.

    Well, we will continue to survive without her one week at a time, missing her along the way. Each of us wishes Suchitra the best of luck in Dallas… and she better have 15 bedrooms available for that group trip we’ve decided to plan in her honor  ;-)

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    Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath
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