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Author: maureen

Six Secrets to Trade Show Success

Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to get some face to face time with potential customers.  Recently our company attended a national conference and trade show in Las Vegas.  It was our fourth consecutive year exhibiting at this trade show and many of the same companies we see every year were in attendance.  Some of the exhibitors always do a fantastic job, while others are missing the potential to maximize their ROI.

Here are six best practices that that you can use when preparing for and attending your company’s next trade show:

  1. Start preparing well in advance. Getting a jump on your trade show prep is vital.  Send out a preconference email to the list of attendees, map out your show strategy with your exhibit team, create product/service sales sheets, take care of any printing needs for handouts and schedule equipment and promotional item shipping.
  2. Make sure your messages are clear and consistent. The most common question I get at trade shows is “So what do you guys do?”  Each member of your sales team should be able to give a 30 second response to this question.   Determine how you want to promote your company, create an elevator speech, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  3. Keep the messaging on your display and signage short and readable. Trade show participants move through the exhibit floor pretty quickly. All of your signage should be easily readable from the front of your booth.   One mistake that I often notice is when exhibitors cram too much information onto their signage or use fonts that are too small. Provide just enough information to make attendees stop and ask questions.
  4. Always provide giveaways. Who doesn’t like free stuff?  Providing a giveaway will draw more traffic to your booth and is a great conversation starter.  Always include your company logo or name on the product. It will remind potential customers of your interaction when they visited your booth after the conference.
  5. Stay active on social media. Most conferences will promote a hashtag to use throughout the event. Post photos, give updates, announce speaking sessions and promote your booth number using the conference hashtag.  This is a great way to drive engagement. Don’t forget to post a thank you to everyone who stopped by your booth after the conference.
  6. Schedule a post conference wrap up meeting.  It’s important to get feedback from your team while the conference is fresh on their minds.  What worked, what didn’t work? What questions did the attendees have?   What were your strongest leads and what are the next steps for contacting these potential customers?  All of this information will give you a head start when planning your next trade show.

Do you have any trade show tips? Share them with me: ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

Integrating Video into your Internal Communications Strategy

If you’re like us, you’re always looking for ways to get your message across in a new, unique, and interesting way.   One communication channel that you might not have considered is video.  Video is fast becoming the preferred channel for internal audiences because it’s the way we all consume information. Some news outlets have moved exclusively to video content and most include a video with any written content they publish.  Today’s workforce has become accustomed to learning and acquiring information through video content.

Many of your colleagues are visual learners and video content helps simplify complex information and drives engagement when you communicate your message.  Think about it. Which is more appealing– an email memo from the CEO or a quick 3-5 minute video where he or she speaks directly to your employees?

Research shows that people remember more of what they see and hear than what they read.  Video grabs your attention and is more engaging than plain text.  Seizing and retaining your audience’s attention is crucial.  When you have their attention, they’ll retain the message.

Here are some options to consider when implementing videos into your Internal Communications strategy:

  • Online training videos or tutorials
  • Monthly or quarterly updates from your leaders
  • Announcement videos for new programs or initiatives
  • Recognition videos for company milestones or exemplary achievements
  • Employee interviews and testimonials
  • Videos of companywide events, such a community service day or group activity

Now you might be thinking, “I’m not a technical person” or “That would be too difficult to implement,” but it really isn’t.  New technology has simplified video creation, editing and sharing to the point where anyone can do it.

Keep your videos short with a clear message.   There are really no limits or restrictions to how you incorporate video content into your company’s communication plan.  Think outside the box and see what ideas you can come up with.

Does your company use video content in its internal communications?  Share your experiences and ideas with me: ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

Answer this question to empower your business

Do you ever wonder why certain people in human history have been so influential? Why Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why the Wright brothers? MLK wasn’t the only African American that suffered racial persecution. The Wright brothers weren’t the only ones interested in flight (in fact, they were at a disadvantage when it comes to funding and education). So why are certain people, or companies, able to be so much more successful than others, who are fundamentally no different? It’s because they think, act and communicate differently than everyone else.

 

Take a look at this chart. This is the Golden Circle, as inspired by business author Simon Sinek, and it explains how we act as businesses and leaders. Let’s define the terms: What: Every single company in the world knows what they do. Simple. How: Some of those companies know how they do it. Internal processes, etc. Why: What is your cause, your purpose, your belief? Why do you do what you do? Most companies act from the outside-in, because the What and the How are the easiest parts of the circle to define. For example:

  1. What: We make personal computers.
  2. How: They’re user friendly, affordable, and reliable.
  3. Why: To drive revenue, thus making the company successful.

Following the circle in this manner is a roadmap for… failure. It’s simply not inspiring, whether it’s to your employees or your customers. “We make great computers that you can afford, therefore you should buy one” is their sales pitch. I mean sure, it might work to an extent, but it’s not a sustainable business model. Profit or revenue can never be the Why of your business. Profit isn’t why you work, it’s a result of your work. The Why isn’t the end result, it’s your company’s heartbeat. It’s your true industry leaders, like Apple (in personal entertainment/technology), that see the circle from the inside-out:

  1. Why: In everything we do, we challenge the status quo and think differently.
  2. How: We’ll create beautiful products that are simple and effective, no matter the cost.
  3. What: We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

Customers buy the why. Customers want to buy products from a company that believes what they believe. And that’s why we won’t just buy computers from Apple. We’ll also buy their ipads, ipods, speakers, monitors, etc. The company communicates to the world in a way that inspires their customers. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not an entrepreneur or business owner, so this doesn’t really apply to me.” Wrong. We can all use this circle to help us communicate and act more genuinely with our colleagues. By doing so, we will produce a more motivated, engaged team of employees. But it starts with uniting everyone under the Why. Why are your colleagues getting out of bed and coming into work in the morning? Hopefully, it’s not just for the paycheck.   Martin Luther King, Jr. used the Golden Circle to great effect and he wasn’t selling a product. MLK attracted 250,000 people to show up at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It’s an astounding number, especially when you consider he didn’t have tools to spread the word like email and social media. But there’s a reason why so many people wanted to come hear him talk that day. It wasn’t to hear a plan on how to fix America’s racial divide. It was to hear him say “I believe.”

What’s at the core of your company? Are your core values entrenched in your team? We help with that! Let me know what we can do for you by reaching me at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

7 Weeks in 15 Sentences

Want to learn something during your internship? Add one employee handbook, five blog posts, one print check, two client meetings, and the launch of a start-up. That should do the trick.

Throughout my seven week internship with Insight Strategic Communications I had the opportunity to work on projects that ultimately gave me a better understanding of brands, employee ownership, and proofing with the audience in mind.

The word “brand” was not new to my vocabulary; however, throughout the course of my internship, I gained a better understanding of the definition. I had never realized how many factors went into creating and maintaining a brand and how many different types of rules and standards must be considered when developing products—things such as font, color, positioning, and tone. As a communications consulting firm, we have to be aware of a client’s brand as we write, proof, and create content for them.

I spent a bulk of my time writing and proofing content and materials for our new company Nest Egg Communications—a communications agency that provides communications toolkits for employee owned companies. At the start of my internship I had no idea what an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was, let alone what it meant in terms of business. I now know that ESOPs give employees a way to share in the wealth they create, no matter what job they hold.

I had the opportunity to refine and practice my writing and proofing skills while also learning to consider the audience and how the message might be perceived. Before I started reading something I would ask “who is the audience?” This was new for me, I had always edited content by determining if it was perceived well by me; but, what I gained from my experience is that the writing is ineffective if the intended audience can’t understand the message.

With this internship being my first real-world job, I was both nervous and excited; I was eager to learn but also afraid I didn’t know enough going in. However, through lots of questions and experiences I now know that not only can I meet expectations and do the work, but with some more practice I can thrive in the communications field and create great work.

 

Engaging Millennials: Three Ways to Do It

Generally when people describe me they say that I’m loud. As if that were somehow the word that completely defines and describes my entire personality. And sure, I am pretty loud, but I am also confident, collaborative, adaptive, and achievement-oriented. I’m many other great things too, but when people don’t know me, or how to talk to me, I come across as just loud when I have the potential to be so much more.

Now, you’re probably wondering what my personality has to do with your business. Well, I’m a Millennial.

As Millennials, we’re better known for our diverse population, relationship to technology, community-based social dynamics, and confident personalities. But, what you might not know about us is that our numbers are growing. The percentage of millennial employees in the workplace is increasing rapidly; by 2020 Millennials will be 46% of the U.S. workforce. What this means for you is that it’s time to figure out a way to better communicate with us so that we can work together to create business success.

Diane Speigel, CEO of The End Result, a corporate training and leadership development company, reports that these are three things Millennials want from their employers:

  • Coaching. We were raised in a society and an academic system that coached us through everything. Therefore, we seek the same kind of coaching and feedback in our careers. We enjoy being recognized for our successes and we are genuinely open to criticism; we want to do it right.
  • Collaboration. We work best in teams and believe in a flexible information flow. We’ll ask a lot of questions and take time to discuss before we begin a project because our groups work best when the purpose of our project is clear and understood by everyone.
  • Motivation. Meaningful work is what drives us; our biggest concerns regarding work is that it’s purposeful and provides us with a sense of accomplishment. We want the opportunity to learn and we need to understand why we’re performing a certain job; we need an explanation of how our contribution will affect the bigger picture.

Need more help communicating with your millennial employees? We can help you create ways to connect. Visit our website www.insight-communication.com or email us at Maureen.Clayton@insight-communication.com

There is no perfect newsletter, only perfect newsletters

You’ve probably never heard of a man named Howard Moskowitz, which is a shame considering he’s made more people happy than perhaps anyone over the last half-century. So who is he?

Howard Moskowitz is a psychophysicist, technically speaking. But that’s not what he calls himself. He prefers the term “optimizer,” because that’s what his clients hire him to do – make their products better. But what makes Moskowitz such a legendary figure is that we have physically ingested his work. Seriously. Moskowitz specializes in the food industry, working with some of the biggest companies (Campbell Soup, General Foods, Kraft, and Pepsico) to help tailor their products to fit our taste buds.

Moskowitz made his breakthrough while working for Pepsi. Aspartame, a chemical sweetener, had just hit the market, so Pepsi asked Moskowitz to help them make their new drink, Diet Pepsi. Moskowitz’s task was to find out how much Aspartame was needed so people would like how it tasted. Moskowitz considered this a very straightforward experiment.  He started making batches of Diet Pepsi various levels of Aspartame for people to taste to see which one was the most popular. The results weren’t so straightforward. Expecting a nice neat bell curve, Moskowitz’s data was anything but. It was a clustered mess, and this troubled Moskowitz for years. Why couldn’t they find the perfect Pepsi?

The answer randomly hit Moskowitz one day while sitting in a diner. He’d been asking himself the wrong question. He’d been looking for the perfect Pepsi, but what he should have been looking for was the perfect Pepsis. There is no perfect Pepsi, but there are perfect Pepsis.

Moskowitz later went to work for Campbell’s Prego tomato sauce products. They were getting killed by Ragu in the market, despite having a higher-quality product. Moskowitz refined his experimentation and testing. In the end, he didn’t come up with a new Prego sauce, he came up with three. Plain, spicy and extra chunky. Prego exploded and Moskowitz’s revelation netted the company hundreds of millions. Today, Ragu has 36 different sauces on the shelves. Moskowitz never worked for Ragu, yet he triggered that explosion of variety that we see on the grocery shelves today.

The question you’re probably asking yourself now is “What the heck do tomato sauce and Diet Pepsi have to do with my business’ communications?”Moskowitz provides the answer. There is no perfect newsletter, there are only perfect newsletters.

We have worked with many types of clients – big, small, private sector, government, corporate offices, and field teams. Clients have different needs, that much is obvious. But what is less obvious is that two employees in a company might look at an internal communications newsletter in a totally different way. This is why company-wide newsletters are very hard to get right, and very seldom contain information that is highly valued across the board.

Newsletters are tricky. It’s hard to get your employees to read through a newsletter, no matter the content, because they are understandably busy attending to deadlines, meetings, etc. The best way to reach your employees is to make sure the content in your communications is tailored specifically to them. How do you do this? Well, first you need to know what your team needs and wants. (I’ll go into detail about this in my next post.)

And you might be thinking, “Of course the guy from the communications agency is telling me I need more newsletters. That’s more money out of my pocket and into theirs.”

This isn’t always the case. Newsletters are cheaper to produce when there’s less time spent in the editorial process. And when the audience is clear and the content is a perfect match, you’re going to get more value for each dollar you use to invest in your people.

Do you need help tailoring your content to your target audience? Email me at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Best practices: How an NFL team is embracing millenials

Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you’ve probably already investigated how to engage millenials in the workplace. When we think about engaging millenials, we usually illicit mental images of young folks looking bored or struggling in a corporate conference room. What we definitely don’t think of is football players. In this case, we’ll look at the San Francisco 49ers, the franchise who is making a huge commitment toward its most important personnel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Not only is the NFL big business, but there might not be another industry that’s more dependent on millenials to drive the success of the company. The playing staffs of NFL team are comprised almost solely by millenials — broadly defined as those aged 18-34. The Smart Phone Age.

What’s eye-catching here aren’t just the techniques the 49ers are using to accommodate this new generation of players, but the open-mindedness and courage the front office and coaching staff has in breaking down historically successful protocols in its business. After all, the 49ers are one of the winningest teams in the NFL, colleting five Super Bowl titles from 1981 to 1994. Regardless, Head Coach Jim Tomsula has changed the team’s meeting schedules to adapt to millenial’s shorter attention spans and propensities to multi-task.

49ers Head Coach Jim Tomsula isn't afraid to break from tradition to reach out to his more youthful players.

“The [experts] are telling me about attention spans and optimal learning,” Tomulsa told the WSJ. “I’m thinking, ‘My gosh, we sit in two-hour meetings. You are telling me after 27 minutes no one’s getting anything?’ ”

But as opposed to some business leaders, inside the NFL and out, the 49ers felt it was prudent for their coaching and support staff to adapt to the player’s habits, not the other way around. In this effort, they’ve stopped handing out paper schedules, and now all meetings are sent straight to a player’s online calendar. Instead of the old two-hour meetings, they’re now segmented into 30-minute blocks, with 10 minutes in between for free time.

Some business leaders feel it’s important for millenials to adapt to the working environment of their generation, one that didn’t grow up with smartphones and advanced computing. But at what cost? The goal of any business leader should be to create a working environment in which employees can produce to their maximum potential. And not only that, but great leaders understand that the most important employees to cater to aren’t the ones with corner offices — they’re the ones who are on the front line of the business. Sadly, it’s these employees who are often the lowest paid, and thus the most neglected.

Everyone from psychologists to elementary school teachers can tell you that the impact technology has made on the human race is real. It’s not a far-flung theory, and it’s not a simple case of young people being lazy. Not only are attention spans getting shorter, but higher rates of ambidexterity are occurring, which is thought to be caused by children now typing, texting, and playing games with both hands on touch screens.

“Our whole lives, we’ve gone with a paper and pad,” Tomsula said in the WSJ. “Next week, a young person’s phone will be outdated. We decided we have to be on top of that.”

What are some other best practices when it comes to engaging millenials? Let me know at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Save Time by Updating Job Descriptions

Anyone who has ever been on a job hunt is familiar with sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of job descriptions looking for the perfect match. Every day, job applicants around the world go into an interview thinking they are a perfect fit for a role, only to find that the position isn’t exactly what was described. From the hiring employer’s perspective, it’s a waste of time to use years-old job description sheets for positions that are new or have had a recent change in role or scope. It’s a waste of time and energy for both parties, but for the employer there’s also a financial cost, which twists the knife. Yet this continues to happen. Why?

The answer is simple. It’s boring! It’s a tedious exercise that needs to be given careful consideration and planning. Taking these steps on the front end will reduce the length of the hiring process and increase the retention rate of new employees. But it’s understandably difficult to afford so much time to a task so dull and time consuming.

I’ve talked to some managers about this, and while they understand it makes sense to revise and update job descriptions, they say it’s not totally necessary because “I have more pressing matters to focus on, and I can use interviews to make sure I hire the right candidates.” There’s no doubt that interviewing job candidates is a skill that will help you select the best option — the manager is right about that. But this rationale doesn’t account for the possibility that the manager will probably have to block off more time for more interviews. Using inaccurate job descriptions increases the chances of you bringing in the wrong candidates, costing you time and money.

Here’s an analogy. On your way home from work, your significant other asks you to stop by the store to pick up some bread. You pick up a loaf and bring it home. As it turns out, your SO failed to be clear that dinner rolls would have been ideal. The loaf of bread will work, but it’s not the best choice. If you need dinner rolls again tomorrow, you’re going to go back to the store to pick them up instead of using slices of bread again. The slices of bread will be…. reassigned, as they say, to lunch duty.

The best solution for updating job descriptions might be hiring outside consultants like us here at Insight to help you take it off your plate. We have experience creating and amending job descriptions for publically traded companies. If you feel you could use some help, email me at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Survey Says: Invest in your Employees

When looking for a job what considerations do you take into account? Compensation is a key factor.  For some, a position with the right work/life balance is most important.  One thing that you need to take into account when choosing a company is their work place culture.  In my personal experience I’ve had jobs that I’ve enjoyed and others where I’ve dreaded coming to work each day.  When I look back at why I enjoyed some jobs and disliked others it usually came down to their work place culture.

Recently the Atlanta Journal Constitution released their list of “Best Places to Work in Atlanta 2015.”     Over 1,400 companies were nominated by their employees.  The results were determined based on employee surveys.   A number of common themes emerge among the companies that scored near the top.  These companies invested in their employees not only in the form of compensation and benefits but also in their well-being.  Employees at these companies felt respected, empowered, motivated, and appreciated by their employers.

“This makes perfect sense from a most basic human standpoint. People want to feel like they are a valuable part of something good,” said Jim Minnick, CEO and co-founder of the financial services firm eVestment. “It would be more surprising if the opposite were true.”

Tom Beaty, CEO and founder of the management consultant Insight Sourcing Group stated, “Everyone wants to be appreciated and feel like they matter. The loyalty of my team members is humbling and creates an obligation for me to ensure that they have a great experience, are able to continue to grow and learn.”

Some companies are so focused on performance and the bottom line that they forget to invest in their people.  Employees at top scoring companies said they believe in their company because their leaders believe in them.

When you invest in your employees, they will see the benefits to their well-being, and your company will in turn see the benefits to its culture and performance.

Need to work on employee engagement in your business?  Contact us and let’s get started.

Say what you mean—Tips for effective writing

There’s also the story about how Faulkner walked into the writing class he was supposed to be teaching at the University of Mississippi and asked everyone who wanted to learn to write to raise their hands. He said, “Go home and write,” then turned around and walked out the door.

Maybe that attitude works for geniuses like Faulkner, but for the rest of us, generating leads through content marketing or explaining a new incentive or benefit plan to employees, some guidelines for keeping writing simple, clear and effective would be helpful.

The good news: there’s a lot of information out there about how to write well. The bad news: see the previous sentence. So whom do you trust for writing advice? People who know.  For the brief list of “rules” below, I’ve combined overlapping advice from Hemingway, Orwell, and Strunk and White from their The Elements of Style (remember that from college English?)

It seems to me that the basics of good writing are as applicable to an employee benefits brochure as they are to a novel or short story. Great writers connect with their audiences and convey their meaning as simply as possible.

So here goes:

1)      Use the simplest language possible:

  • Leave out unnecessary words.
  • When common, ordinary words will do the job, don’t use fancy ones. (That includes  jargon.)
  • When possible, keep sentences and paragraphs short.

2)      Write vigorously:

  • Use active instead of passive voice when possible.
  • Choose powerful verbs over weak ones like forms of “to be.”
  • Let nouns and verbs carry your meaning. Avoid decorating your prose with adverbs and adjectives unless they add depth and weight to your message.

3)      Be positive, not negative: say what something is, not what it is not. For example, say, “The procedure will be relatively comfortable,” instead of “pain-free.” Your audience will unconsciously focus on the most potent word in the sentence, which is “pain” and the rest will lose power.

4)      Have a design for what you’re going to say. Most of the time for business communications, that’s an outline or a communications plan. Know your audience, your purpose, and the value of what you have to say for that audience before outlining your key points.

5)      Revise, revise, revise.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t required to write even one page of masterpiece, but the writing we do is no less important. Effective writing can impact employee morale and the company’s bottom line. At Insight Strategic Communications, we offer deep experience in internal communications and can help you with everything from your communications planning to execution. Call us and let’s talk about how we can help you.  Contact Maureen at maureen.clayton@insight-communication.com or Ben at ben.clayton@insight-communication.com.