March 21, 2013
Like many public relations professionals I have a series of Google Alerts that help me know who’s saying what about my company or me. It’s an excellent way to stay abreast of what’s being said about different issues. Yesterday’s alerts that came in for “The Barber Group” not only caught my eye, they nearly made me fall out of my chair:
Needless to say, I knew it wasn’t about me, or my company. But I did have some questions:
- Could potential clients think it was me? Do I need to scream from the rooftops “It’s not me!”
- Should I share it with clients so they know it’s not me?
- If someone Googles my company name, will this show up on top of the search results?
- Do I need to change my company name?
- Will it affect my credit rating?
- Could there be identity theft issues?
In taking a little time to assess the situation, I decided not to make any drastic changes for a variety of reasons. When I chose my company name, I knew there were other organizations with the same name. After all, Barber isn’t exactly an uncommon name. I’ve been using The Barber Group as my company name for nearly 13 years. It will take more than a guy from northwest Arkansas who had a company of the same name that stopped being in business six years ago to cause me to lose the brand equity I have on my own name. As a solo consultant, most groups are looking to hire me by looking for my name, or they have a qualifier with the company name such as public relations. Finally, most of my clients come from referrals from another client or professional.
But, when you’re thinking about things like a company name, it’s likely a good idea to consider how you make it something a bit more unique. At the same time, it’s also important the name you choose is not so complicated your customer won’t remember what it is.
If you need to set up Google Alerts, it’s not hard. Just head to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the information requested. Remember to use quotation marks if you have multiple words in a search. You may need to adjust search criteria as well if you’re not getting what you thought you might receive. As an example, the alerts I have for my company and me:
- Mdbarber – my preferred social network handle
- “Mary Deming Barber” – my professional name
- “Mary Barber” – the name I also use. Note this alert results in a lot of information not pertinent to me because my name is common. However, it takes only seconds to scan the email for information I need.
- “The Barber Group” – my company name
I hope my followers are okay with the fact I’m not on my way to Riker’s Island! I’m happy to stay put right here, fulfilling the mission of The Barber Group by continuing to help clients with strategic public relations efforts.
Image: Matt Obee via Flickr, CC 2.0
March 19, 2013
Lately, I have been in situations where customer service representatives are amazed at the number of contacts in my address book. These conversations caused me to think about how and why I’ve done this.
I’m in the business of public RELATIONS so I’ve never thought it was all that odd.
On the other hand, I’ve also worked hard to maintain these relationships…some for more than 30 years. Here are four tips for maintaining and building relationships.
It’s just Natural
The first 15 years of my career were spent in food public relations. That means the people I met were all related in that they worked in one aspect or another of food – communications, product development, farming, etc. (there was also that sidebar to wool/fashion folks). Many of these people knew each other already, or I could pair them to create mutually beneficial programs. Over the years we made friends. I kept track of the relationships on my Rolodex, and in my address book.
Staying in Touch
My friend Bruce Pozzi, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an expert at maintaining relationships. He taught me to send interesting articles and tips to people I wanted to stay in touch with. I even have a little piece of paper with my logo on it. I can write a very short note, attach it to an article with a sticky dot and send it off to my client, prospect or friend. Today, I might also use email, but snail mail can have more impact.
I keep track of birthdays, anniversaries and such for many of the friends I’ve met over the years. This is easier today because of Facebook, but I have them in my online calendar. They’re set to “beep” enough ahead of the special day I can send a snail mail note or gift. It’s the little things that count so I try to be a bit unique in my remembrances.
I worked for a politician in the mid ‘80s who had a set of cards he used to remember people. This was before computers, so creating and maintaining the cards was time consuming. They were fairly detailed as each listed personal contact information, spouses and family, how they first met and each time they met thereafter (well, maybe not each but most). I’m not quite as detailed in my records but most of my contacts do say where/how I met the person and how they are connected.
As soon as you can after meeting someone, put their card into your computer along with a note about where you met them. Also, send an email – or even better a handwritten card – saying how great it was to meet them. It’ll make you stand out from the crowd.
Power of the Handwritten Note
Several of these tips involve handwritten notes. I can’t underestimate the power of a handwritten note today. Sending them after a small gather, a meeting or any occasion will help you stand out from the crowd. Keep a stash of birthday cards and thank you notes handy so you can send a variety of messages. I even made some cards from pictures of my flower garden. They come in handy, as do my personalized cards. If you’re looking for high quality but relatively inexpensive personalized cards, contact Beth at Bliss Folio.
Most of all, just start to keep better track and take a few minutes to remember folks. It will pay off in the end in so many different ways.
How do you keep track of relationships?
How do you build your networks?
Image: Cambelj45ca via Flickr, CC 2.0
March 13, 2013
Earlier today, Google announced it’s closing Google Reader on July 1. They say not enough of us were using it but it’s something I use every day. So, what are the alternatives?
My criteria include laptop and mobile capability, clean design and easy personalization. Living in Alaska, I need news that rarely makes it on a national news feed. I would also like to incorporate keywords into the reader.
I just started using Feedly as a way to read my Google Reader on my iPad so am really excited Cnet shows a way to move my Google Reader feed there. I’ve been enjoying their “share” feature onto Twitter, Facebook and others so think this seems like a viable option. Feedly is also integrated with Buffer, one of my favorite timesavers and it synchronizes with my mobile devices so my feed is up to date wherever I check.
This is a site I hadn’t heard of before I started looking for a Google Reader alternative but I like what I see. NewsBlur has a mobile sync and looks very clean. Unfortunately they’re having some capacity issues this afternoon that they explain as a result of people leaving Google Reader. Do check them out, though, before you make a change. I plan to do so.
Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t see how I can put my personal feeds (local paper, etc) into Taptu. I have some pretty targeted items in my Google Reader. And, its busy look isn’t something I really care for but you may. It seems easy to read and understand.
One of the things I like about Feedly is its clean layout. For me, Pulse is too cluttered but it may work for you. I really like the interface and easily personalization.
Flipboard is one of the most popular RSS feeds for iPad and iPhone but it doesn’t have a web component so it just won’t work for me. I do love flipping through it on my iPad and have some searches there that aren’t part of my daily reading.
I really like the look of Netvibes and it is more than a reader. However, there are no mobile applications and that is important to me. Maybe they’ll add them soon?
Moving Google Reader Feeds
Google provided a page telling readers how to move their feeds that seems pretty straightforward so that’s good. Lifehackers also provides a tutorial at the bottom of their post reviewing readers.
What options are you considering?
If you’re not a Google Reader devotee, what RSS reader do you recommend?
Image: Andrew Stawarz via Flickr, CC 2.0
March 13, 2013
Over the past week or so I have heard this common refrain about social media…It’s not hard. Just get an account and do it.
I have been naïve to think we were beyond where businesses think social media is the easy road to increased profits and takes no planning or skill. For businesses to be successful socially, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Having a presence in social media should be part of the communications or marketing planning. Social media is one of the new tools communicators and marketers have in their toolbox along with traditional tools. Begin by asking a series of questions such as:
- What is it we want to do?
- What do we want to say?
- Who do we want to hear us?
- How will we know we’ve been successful?
- What are people saying about us now?
Once these questions are answered, it’s time to take a look at the tools to see which combination might be best. Traditional tools like press releases, signage, brochures and newsletters are likely still important. But businesses should look at adding a couple social networks as well, depending on the plan.
Each social network has different characteristics so one size doesn’t fit all. Demographic information is available for most social networks through the good folks at Pew Research.
Choose One or Two
Social media is about listening, responding, posting and engaging. If you’re not doing all of those things, you’re missing an important part of the picture. And that’s where starting small comes in. Don’t try to be everywhere but instead start with a plan to be social on one or two networks. Then grow as success comes, and the comfort level grows.
Even if you’re not engaging on more than one network, listen in to what’s being said about your company and your competition on other networks. Set up key word searches and Google Alerts to make sure you’re listening, even if you’re not ready to engage.
There’s an expectation in the social realm that you’ll respond, and fairly quickly. That’s where the social part comes in. It’s not about shouting & talking. It’s about chatting and having a conversation. It’s about solving problems. It’s about sharing news that the person wants to hear using the language that’s been crafted for the tool.
Probably need a Policy
Not wanting to gum up the works, but businesses that have employees handling their social media likely need to draft some simple guidelines and rules. These guide the employee and protect both the company and the employee. It’s also a good check to make sure you’re really ready.
What else do you wish organizations understood?
If you’re an organization getting started, what else do you like to know?
Image: 8 Eyes Photography via Flickr, CC 2.0
March 4, 2013
Last week, a colleague and I gave a presentation at Whitman College to help students transition to alumni and especially to take advantage of Whitman’s alumni network. As part of the presentation we talked about reputation and what it means for the job search.
“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
In today’s world of 24 hour access to the Internet and searches that can find anything, there’s really no place for double speak/standards. You are what you do, say and act. And…there’s nowhere to hide. Realizing that employers and others you want to impress review personal blogs and social networks means it’s time to focus on where you want to go in life.
So, how do you figure out who you are and who you want to be in 10 years? I almost always start solving problems by answering some questions.
- Who are you?
- What makes you unique?
- What do you believe in?
- Who do you want to be?
- What do you most like doing?
- What do people say you’re good at doing?
- Do you like doing those things?
- What about you can help you achieve those?
- What do you need to learn/do to get there?
- What can’t you live without doing?
These and other questions you add might help you get a framework started. What else would you ask?
Once you’ve answered these questions and built a framework, take a look back and see if there are things you might need to change in your life or things you might wish had ended differently. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and change.
Google yourself to make sure there aren’t things out there you wish were hidden. Knowing you can only go forward, consider what you can do to make sure those don’t happen again.
Going forward always test your decisions against the answers you gave to the questions above. Always be true to who you want to be. Consistency and persistence are important. If you’re making choices not in keeping with your decisions, you’ll stray from the path you took so much effort to set.
Patience is a virtue.
This is often the hardest step of all. We want to get to the finish line hours – or years – before we really need to get there. We don’t always realize how much we can learn along the way and how the journey might be different as we make choices from what we learn along the way.
And remember today’s world means there is an increasingly blurred line between your professional and your personal one. Have fun with social networking but post thoughtfully. Think about how your post would look in headlines.
How did you figure out your path in life? What advice do you have for new graduates?