My coworkers are great. Not only did they allow me to take off work and jet-set to Thailand for ten days, but they also put up with my jet-lagged crazy self on my first day back. They even pretended to like the squid chips I brought back for them to try (nice acting skills, guys).
I left for Thailand on February 26th, bound for a ten day adventure to visit my boyfriend who teaches English there. The trip was amazing, and I came back to work feeling recharged and happy.
One thing I noticed about Thailand was that their customer service was incredible. The employees at the hotels we stayed at greeted us with big smiles and trays of juice to welcome us. The hotel employees were always very kind and helpful (and forgiving of my inability to say anything other than “hello” and “thank you” in Thai). I specifically remember one friendly hotel maid stopping to talk to us when we were out on our deck. Though we struggled through the language barrier, I was so glad she stopped to talk to us and ask us about our stay.
In America when you go to restaurants it oftentimes feels like you are being rushed out the door. This is not the case in Thailand. Instead, servers wait for you to ask for your check, as if to imply, “no rush—take your time, enjoy yourself.” It was refreshing.
Thailand is known as the land of smiles. People smile to greet you. They smile at our American accents sounding out Thai words. They smile when they bring you the food you ordered. The smiles were contagious, and the more smiles I saw, the happier I felt.
Simple, friendly, genuine interactions with a smile. I think we could all learn a customer service lesson from the Thais.Tagged Customer Service, customer service, Holly Eckold, Interns, Morningstar Communications, Thailand
Less than seven years ago, a Harvard dropout created a social media website that forever changed the way we communicate. Today, Mark Zuckerberg’s company is worth $50 billion.
As we look back at the past decade and at how many innovative companies have changed the way we do business and communicate, we can’t help but wonder – who will be the next Zuckerberg?
I recently read an article about 50 new student-found innovative companies that were honored this past weekend at the 2011 Kairos Global Summit. The companies cover a wide range of industries including social media, apparel design, entertainment production and bicycle manufacturing.
The article, titled “In Search of the Next Zuckerberg,” examined a few of the innovative companies that stood out from the rest. Here are few I found interesting:
To help with information clutter, two Harvard University students created Newsle, which tracks news stories about your Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts and select public figures.
Created by Syracuse University students, BrandYourself helps businesses and individuals control their image and how they appear in Google searches.
A student from Northeastern University created HelloParking, which rents open parking spaces for $15 to day parkers. The company’s tag line says it all: “Goodbye Hassel, Hello Parking.”
Which of these student-found innovative companies will have as much or more impact on the world as Facebook? Will the creators have as much name recognition as Facebook’s creator? The future is always an unknown, but one thing is certain, the world will continue to keep its eyes open for the next Mark Zuckerberg.Tagged Business Development, Interns, Marketing, Morningstar Communications, Sara Kiszka
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.Tagged Corporate Culture, Creativity, Creativity tips, Holly Eckold, Interns, Morningstar Communications
There seems to be a blog for everything these days—from educational blogs like National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel Blog to hilarious blogs like Cake Wrecks. There are even blogs about blogging. The show Arrested Development takes a funny jab at blogs–the attorney on the show blogs for “Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog” (read quickly and you’ll get the joke). With more than 175,000 blogs born each day, what is the benefit of joining the conversation and starting your own company blog?
Blogs foster open communication with your audience. They provide an outlet for your business to write about what you know best. If you’re considering launching a company blog, here are some tips:
Decide on your mission. According to Social Media Bible, this is an important first step. What is the point of your blog—to educate, provide entertainment, inform, open up communication or promote your bloggers as experts in their field?
Help your reader solve a problem. What does your audience want to know about? Put yourself in their shoes. For example, if you’re a travel agency, posts could include steps towards planning your perfect vacation, or key destination locations this year. If you use your expertise to provide helpful advice, it will engender trust with your audience.
Be yourself. As Social Media Bible puts it, “Don’t write like you’re writing for the Encyclopedia Britannica.” Use everyday language and let your personality shine.
Capture attention. Use catchy titles, pictures, and humor if appropriate. Make the post concise and easy to scan—we tend to have short attentions spans when it comes to websites.
Once your blog has been launched, you can promote your blog posts through communication channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters and e-mails. Strive for originality and helpful content! Happy blogging.Tagged blog tips, company blog, Holly Eckold, Interns, Messaging, Morningstar Communications, Social Media Bible
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, speak at a PRSSA event. He spoke about the importance of personal branding and strategic ways to market yourself. He outlined easy-to-accomplish ways to control your reputation and image to develop a personal brand.
Schawbel talked about the importance of putting together a “Personal Branding Toolkit.” Here are some elements Schawbel suggests including in your toolkit:
Everyone should have a business card. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, intern or CEO of a company. You’re more likely to be remembered by the people you meet. Tip: Bring them to interviews; they make a lasting impression.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are three (free!) great ways to brand yourself. When creating your profiles, remember you are in control.
1. Do not post anything that could be considered detrimental to the personal brand you’re building. Keep it clean, simple and professional.
2. It’s called social networking, so network! Friend and follow people and companies related in your field of interest or career.
3. Keep your profiles updated. This is especially important with LinkedIn. It is easy for employers to find information about you. Wouldn’t you want it to be up-to-date and accurate?
Today, people seek information by going online, so it’s important to have an online presence in order to stay top of mind. If you have a blog, you should be posting regularly.
It’s important not to overlook your email address. It poses a great opportunity for your brand because it is something people use everyday. Tip: For your address, use firstname.lastname@example.org. Refrain from using anything like email@example.com, it will no doubt destroy your brand.
So when I say brand yourself, I am certainly not referring to anything that includes a hot metal rod. Remember, you have the ability to control your brand. Stay up-to-date, consistent and most importantly, stay true to yourself.Tagged Branding, Dan Schawbel, Interns, Marketing, Morningstar Communications, Networking, Personal Branding, Sara Kiszka, social media
“In the old days, customer relationships were about sitting down together, drinking a cup of coffee, and having the opportunity to earn that trust. Now with technology, how do we build relationships with our clients when we can’t see them? Call me old fashioned, but I miss that.”
Recently I heard a client talk about how customer relationships have changed with the advent of social media and the Internet. I thought he brought up a fascinating point. While customers have more options than ever before in terms of communicating with companies, is the way customers communicate with businesses somewhat disconnected?
While we may think we have to choose one or the other, perhaps the real purpose of social media is to build those relationships. Olivier Blanchard of The Brand Builder blog recently wrote a fascinating post about social media and relationship building. (Coincidentally he brings up the old fashioned cup of coffee too). He argues that the purpose of social media is about engaging the customers, not simply marketing your brand. “Social media is not marketing media,” he says. “Social should feel like a handshake, not a marketing message.”
Gary Vaynerchuk, author and founder of the popular wine blog Wine Library TV also emphasizes the customer relationship aspect of social media. Interviewed in the book Social Media Bible, he argues that social media is “about really caring about your user base: listening to them, making them involved, letting them participate, caring about their thoughts, letting them have a say in molding the direction of what you do.”
In the midst of this fast paced world we live in–being bombarded by ads, engaging in social media, and going through the routine of everyday life–we are human, and we resonate with companies that can give us the feeling of a shared relationship. We all have our communication preferences, whether it’s social media, a phone call, an e-mail, or a conversation over a cup of joe. It’s important that however companies communicate with their customer base, the focus is always on building that personal relationship.Tagged customer relationships, engagement, Holly Eckold, IMC, Integrated Marketing Communications, Interns, Messaging, Morningstar Communications, social media
Every day Peggy Kirpatrick walked past homeless people on the way to work in Columbia, Missouri. She walked past homeless people eating out of dumpsters and sleeping in them for warmth. For seven years she walked by and averted her eyes. Someone should do something about this, she thought. Then, sometime around the seventh year she thought, “What about you Peggy? You’re someone.”
I remember sitting in my college marketing class listening to Peggy Kirpatrick, executive director of the Central Missouri Food Bank, recount her story of why she began working for the Food Bank. The second she started telling her story to the lecture hall filled with 300 people, I was engaged. Perhaps it was because I sympathized with Peggy’s story, or perhaps I was engaged simply because we are programmed to perk up our ears the second someone starts telling a story. Either way, her story captured me and she became immediately authentic. I gained a whole new respect for the Food Bank she represented.
We have a lifelong love affair with stories. As kids, we beg our parents to read the same books over and over again. As adults, we get sucked into the storylines of TV shows, books and news stories. We organize little details of our lives into stories that have a beginning and an end, complete with conflicts and funny details.
Likewise, we are drawn to businesses and organizations that tell a story. Consider Toms Shoes, a brand that owes its popularity to its founding story (for every pair of shoes purchased, a pair is donated to a child in need). Locally, consider the story of The Roasterie’s founder Danny O’Neill. His passion for coffee inspired him to start a coffee shop in the basement of his Kansas City home—a business that grew to be one of the most successful coffee roasters in the country.
These stories stick with us.
John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing, borrows a quote from our favorite sweater-wearing TV host Mister Rogers, who said, “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” Jantsch agrees. “People connect with stories that move them,” he says, “and most every business can and should tell a story that helps prospects and customers connect at a deeper level.”
Stories capture and connect us to businesses and organizations. They provide the authenticity and emotional connections we crave. To succeed, cut through the flashy advertisements that bombard us every day. Simply tell your story.Tagged Authenticity, Central Missouri Food Bank, Duct Tape Marketing, Holly Eckold, Interns, Marketing, Messaging, storytelling, The Roasterie, Toms Shoes
My first day at Morningstar Communications involved brightly colored streamers. Let me explain.
On my first day as an intern, I walked into the office a bundle of nerves. Dressed up in my best business attire, I was determined to make a good first impression. I received a friendly greeting from my supervisor Rachel, and was led to my desk. To my surprise and amusement, there was a big “WELCOME HOLLY!” sign on the wall. My cubicle was draped in bright green streamers, and even my office chair had a big green bow on it. It was the most festive cubicle I’d ever seen!
My nerves calmed and I laughed. In that simple display of welcome, I felt comfortable and accepted. It’s been two months since that first day, and I still remember how Morningstar Communications made a fabulous first impression on me.
One of my favorite books is Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is all about first impressions– those moments where we are first introduced to someone or something and make a snap judgment. As humans we’re wired to make snap judgments. Gladwell argues that many times, we should trust those first impressions.
First impressions are essential for businesses that aim to win over potential customers. A customer can get an impression of your business many ways: seeing a business advertisement, visiting the company website, or meeting an employee face-to-face or on the phone. It is important to put an extra bit of effort into making that first impression a good one. If the first impression is disappointing, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to re-engage the customer.
5 tips to make good face-to-face first impressions:
Go ahead, put in the extra bit of effort to make a stellar first impression. My first moments at Morningstar Communications made me excited for the months ahead. As for the streamers around my cubicle…they’re not coming down anytime soon.Tagged Blink, first impressions, Gladwell, Holly Eckold, Interns, Morningstar Communications
Media lists. Recycling. Future Visioning. Distribution. Media relations. Blogging. Proofing. News releases. Clips. What do all of these have in common? My life the past 10 weeks as an intern at Morningstar Communications.
As an intern at Morningstar Communications we get asked often “What did you learn?” Gaining experience is always at the forefront of everything we get to do as an intern. It is bittersweet to say I only get to answer that question one last time since my internship is ending this week and I head back to my senior year at the University of Iowa. It’s a challenge to answer the question, not because I didn’t learn anything but because I learned so much.
My final answer to the question is integrated marketing.
Before this internship I felt I had a good handle on integrated marketing. And, I think I had an excellent knowledge base from what I was taught. Using a mixture of all forms of marketing will, in turn, provide the best results for communication programs. It’s something I knew all along, but this summer I got to see it in action.
There have been numerous accounts that I’ve worked on this summer that used integrated marketing but there is one project that stands out. A Future VisioningTM session I was a part of truly encompassed integrated marketing strategies. Future Visioning is the process of working with a client to figure out where they want to be in the next few years and providing the plan to get there. Using as many different marketing tactics helped create a strategically sound communications plan. Social media, tradeshows, white papers and blogs were just some of the different marketing strategies recommended for the client.
For me, I got a chance to see integrated marketing be properly implemented – that’s better than any classroom lecture.
With integrated marketing we unify methods to create the best possible communications map for our clients using traditional and new media. Paying attention to details and the big picture are key to a successful integrated marketing strategy and are things we sometimes overlook. We often get excited with new communication tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn but it is important to remember that combining marketing approaches includes both the tried-and true and new tactics.Whether an intern or a seasoned professional, going back to the basics and remembering the keys to integrated marketing will prove succesfful for your next communications project.
I’m taking with me this valuable knowledge and I hope everyday to ask and answer the question “What did I learn?” I know I will be putting this information to good use in the school year and beyond.Tagged Interns
We are all publishers. This is the era of WordPress and Twitter. If you have something to say, you can find somewhere to say it and probably people to listen. This is empowering and exciting. You don’t have to be a full-time journalist to share news.
With this fundamental shift, the obvious next question is what does this mean for journalism? This is not a new question, but in light of devices such as smartphones and iPads that accelerate the death of newspapers, these thoughts cannot take a backseat. As an industry that works closely with the media, public relations professionals must be on the forefront of this question. While I am no expert, I have noticed and read about a few trends in journalism. By familiarizing ourselves with these trends we will better understand the media’s perspective and purpose.
Niche Journalism: People are tired of multiple outlets telling the same story over and over again. We are interested in more expertise in anything, whether it be topical, regional or ideological. Two of my favorite examples of niche journalism are Wired and Ars Technica. They are both thriving in their respective spaces. This shift will not completely eliminate the big national media, but they will have to spend some time considering how to survive in this world of new media. We will need to think more creatively beyond traditional outlets to smaller, specialized outlets.
Dynamic Journalism: The traditional static news story is a thing of the past. Consumers are interested in real-time journalism. If someone asked me my favorite news outlet, I would say Twitter. It is in real time from real people. The after-the-fact story that used to monopolize the news wire, will not cut it anymore. In the PR world we have to adapt and understand this. We always knew that journalists moved quickly, but they are even under more pressure to deliver as-it-happens news.
Journalism is here to stay, but the vehicle that makes it move forward no longer needs a stone building and large printing presses. As long as we understand what and who powers the vehicle, we can keep up.Tagged Interns