Timing is Everything

I just received an e-blast from a major New York steakhouse with the subject line, “Need a drink?” Um, it’s 10:00 a.m., so the answer to that questions is “no.” hurricane

Obviously the steakhouse is advertising a new cocktail promotion but at this hour of the morning, people are still on their first or second cup of coffee. An email like that should not be distributed until late afternoon when most people’s work days are winding down. Messages need to be timed accordingly so audiences will read them at just the right moment. For my clients, I generally try to opt for 10 or 11 a.m. (when many are caught up and settled in at their desks), or after lunch.

I actually deleted the email from the steakhouse but decided to retrieve it to take a peek at the content….which brings me to my second point:

If you’re going to send an e-blast to customers, make it worth opening. Why not include a striking visual of the martini you’re promoting, or better yet, a happy couple sipping the martinis? When I opened this particular restaurant’s e-blast, it was simply a yellow banner with links to the restaurant’s social media pages. No imagery, no copy. Just lots of white space. That tells me that the steakhouse just threw the email out there; to send it just to send it. If you’re not going to make an effort to jazz up your content, how can customers be sure that you’re going to make an effort in the kitchen or at the bar? It’s just plain sloppy marketing.

My third and final point has to do with frequency. It drives me crazy when I receive too many e-blasts from one particular business or organization. In the case of the steakhouse, I get one a week, which in my opinion, is way too often for a restaurant. Eating and drinking establishments should save mass email distribution for special occasions, like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day menus, or Open Mike nights and poetry readings. In the case of nonprofits, you can get away with greater frequency (especially during end-of-year appeals, but even those emails should be spaced out accordingly). In each instance, messaging should target a different angle or program to vary the content and keep people reading.

Bonus point: Don’t forget about social media. Before drafting your e-blast, think about it: is this the right communication channel for this particular message? If you’re running a campaign, perhaps the information needs to go viral. In that case, social media is definitely the way to go. Using hashtags and tagging the appropriate contacts are surefire ways to drum up traffic and place you in the spotlight.

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Why Writing is Good for Your Health

When it comes to writing, you either have it or you don’t. Sometimes words and ideas flow better for some more than others. Whatever the level of your ability, you should never give up on the craft. Why? Put simply, writing is good for your health.

1. It’s a form of self-expression: You may try venting to friends and loved ones all you want, but with the short attention spans people seem to have these days, is your “audience” really listening? Perhaps there’s no better platform then a blank page – your very own space to express your innermost thoughts; to vent; to release the fears and toxins that eat away at you when others are too busy to notice. Whatever you write, you own it. With your thoughts now visible in black and white, people will listen (if you want them to). And if you don’t, your words can be a personal, therapeutic outlet for only you to see. keyboard

2. Writing leads to clarity: Whenever I’m completing multiple writing assignments, I tend to be sharper. I’m much more detail-oriented. Putting sentences and paragraphs together inspires organization and flow, allowing for greater focus. The more writing you do, the more your mind will always be working to come up with your next great accomplishment. Let writing be the fuel that your life runs on.

3. Writing keeps you connected: In the dead of winter (like now!), I often like to write to friends – whether it’s an email, tweet, or a Facebook message. And of course, with less people speaking on the phone these days, text messaging has more meaning than ever. We’re all guilty of longing to hear that wonderful ping alerting us to our replies. Thanks to smartphones, we have engagement at our fingertips, participating in conversations without physically uttering a word.

4. Finally, writing leads to action: By communicating your wants, your needs, your ideas, you’re giving yourself a voice; you’re making yourself heard, sharing information that leads to results. Writing is empowering and shouldn’t be dreaded. After all, that’s why spell-check was invented.

When smartphones aren’t so smart

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about digital distractions in social settings. While texting dinner partners is still a common sight, I can’t help but notice the same behaviors taking place in business settings.

Enter a clothing store, the sales help are on Facebook. I’m at the gym, and the trainer is perusing Twitter while not one, but three clients are running on treadmills. Suppose one of the women had fallen or had become short of breath while the trainer’s head was down? Not only is that bad business etiquette, it’s just not safe.

I was dining in a restaurant recently and my friend failed to get the waiter’s attention because he was staring at his phone, no doubt on Facebook, or checking his texts. The restaurant wasn’t even busy – all he had to do was remain attentive to our table. But he was more interested in the contents on his screen – a smart phone, but a dumb move on his part. He is working for tips after all. And we haven’t been back since.

This brings me to my point – if you’re running a business establishment – a clothing store, a gym, a restaurant – you’d better make darn sure your employees are doing their jobs. If patrons feels ignored, it will impact your business. They will not be rushing back to give you any business.

If you’re a business owner or manager, it is important to establish digital guidelines for your staff from the get-go. You don’t necessarily have to ban electronic devices during work hours, but it is good practice to limit smartphone use. If you work in retail, check your phone during your break. If you’re a personal trainer, wait till after your sessions to check your messages.

While staff may be annoyed by the restrictions initially, they have to understand the bigger picture. If customers see they’re engaged, then they will be engaged. It’s as simple as that. Satisfied customers come back; unhappy ones take their business elsewhere.

Going Up?

Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s the start of the work day, you have your coffee in hand, and you board the elevator. You’re tired, you just endured a long commute, and you know you have a busy day ahead. MadMenElevatorScene

When you’re confined to a small place with other human beings, it requires a special type of etiquette to keep the ride pleasant and moving.

First off, maintain a quiet tone. It’s early, people are tired. Speak softly and it’s bound to be appreciated by those around you.

Secondly, if you’re feeling chatty, stick to a topic that easy, breezy. To master the small talk, pick a topic that’s simple and appropriate during your ascent. You can’t go wrong with the weather. “Wow, can you believe how beautiful the weekend was? Did you get outdoors?”

No one wants to discuss work topics before they reach their desk. Be courteous and give colleagues a chance to settle in at their computers before jumping on them first thing in the morning.

Finally, take notice of your fellow riders. If they give one-word answers and don’t fully make contact, chances are they don’t wish to engage in friendly banter. A simple smile and “good morning” are plenty. And if things get a little crowded, always step aside to let people off.

The morning commute doesn’t end when you enter your office building; it ends when you step off the elevator.  

Three Quick Tips for a Successful Interview

As a writer and video producer, it’s essential to master the art of interviewing. Having many years under my belt both writing and producing, I’ve developed some helpful techniques to ensure I get a good story.

1. Make your subjects feel at ease – You’re not going to get any content if the person you’re interviewing feels uncomfortable. To get people talking, start by making a bit of small-talk: ask them about their weekend, if they’re enjoying the weather, or any topic which fosters a nice rapport. The more comfortable someone feels with you, the better their interview responses will be. As you draw them out, slowly ease into the topic you’ll be speaking about. I guarantee, they’ll have a lot more to say then.

2. Allow a few minutes for people to think about their answers – If someone feels put on the spot with a particular question, encourage them to think over their response. As they mull over what they’re going to say, take a short break to grab a cup of coffee or check a few emails (if there’s time). Your interview will benefit from it.

3. Practice non-verbal communication – A smile goes a long way with someone, especially during an interview. Smiling and nodding your head will help to encourage your subjects to keep talking, while letting them know that they’re doing a great job.  Image

If it’s a phone interview you need to conduct, odds are the person might be pressed for time, so make sure you keep the exchange tight and succinct to get the answers you need. Apply some of the rules in #1 and you’ll be good to go!

Has technology made us lazier communicators?

Remember when we used to wait by the phone to ring or when we checked our answering machines when we got home, in anticipation of a special phone call? We relished the communication and our hearts skipped a beat when we heard the person’s voice.

Now, it’s Facebook. Or Twitter. We get a ping. Or a poke. Or a Like.

HiRes

We don’t get a Happy Birthday phone call but there’s a post on our walls. Any recognition is nice, of course, but what’s missing is the personal aspect of communication. I won’t dwell on this too much because by now, there have been countless articles and blogs about this. But a newer trend I have been noticing is that blogs and Facebook/LinkedIn posts have been getting less comments. But they are getting Likes.

Similarly on Twitter, you tend to see a lot of re-tweets or favorites, but there are fewer conversations. And rather than personally messaging people to thank them for a follow, many tweeters are programming annoying auto-responses with a link to their websites. Boy, that’s personal.

My point: technology is resulting in less effort to communicate. It only takes a second to hit a Like button but to actually have to comment and participate in a back-and-forth conversation? Forget about it. People just don’t have the time these days. However, they do seem to have time to play Candy Crush or Pengle. Games win out over thinking and communicating any day.

Technology and social media are great, but through all our gadgets, texting, and tweeting, we mustn’t let our brains turn to mush. We need to remember to keep engaging, keep conversing, and keep building the relationships that we want to grow. We need to actually be SOCIAL.

How to take control of your platform when presenting

My apologies for the lack of posts in December but I spent most of the month completing my civic duty. I’m not allowed to disclose too much information about it but I can say that it kept me busy and it was an interesting experience. It also made me appreciate the art of presenting and what it takes to take command in a room full of listeners: poise, polish and posture.

A confident speaker controls his/her environment and maintains steady eye contact, rather than reading from a document. It is also essential to engage your audience and an effective presenter will do just that. By seeking information about an audience’s own views or experiences, you immediately can win them over and receive their full attention. If you’re simply a “business-as-usual” or “get the job done” kind of speaker, expect a lot of yawns and daydreaming.

Honesty and empathy will also go a long way. If you know you’ll be presenting a plethora of facts and information, a quick heads up or a lively quip about it will let your audience know what they’re in for. Being energetic and organized will help your listeners get through even the driest content.

So what if you’re the listener?

During these last three weeks, I was one of many “listeners” or “participants”. And I must admit, it wasn’t always easy sitting there till 8:30pm on some nights knowing I had a Christmas party to go to. What to do? Make the best of it.

This can apply to anyone required to sit in a drafty room for several hours at a time: a common situation that many conference attendees often find themselves in. Or employees forced to attend staff meeting after staff meeting.

A few helpful tips to make the meeting process easier:

1. Bring a snack. If you’re bored, odds are you’re going to get hungry. So bring some chips or Twizzlers. And if you have a few extras for your seatmates, even better. Sharing is caring. A sugar buzz is a plus since you’ll need the added energy. 

2. Bring props. In my case, it was Christmastime, so I thought up an amusing icebreaker which got some laughs: I wore reindeer antlers on two different occasions. It created a lighthearted atmosphere which helped get us through the day. I even brought in noisemakers on New Year’s Eve day.

3. Engage your speakers. If you strike up a conversation with your presenter, he or she will like you enough to want to get you out of there as quickly as possible. The speaker will also make more of an effort to be engaging to keep you interested.

A little give and take will take you far whether you’re presenting or listening. Just a little food for thought as we begin 2014…