Category Archives: Advocacy

I Want Less!

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Here’s what I want in 2017. For me. For the world. Less. Fewer.

I’m already using less hair gel and less laundry detergent. Working on less sugar and salt.

Planning on less Facebook, Twitter. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Fewer words. Shorter sentences and paragraphs. Judicious editing.

Let’s have less whining. Please. And less snark. Unless it’s really funny.

Less redundancy. Too much of what I read/hear is the same stuff posted, shared, spoken yesterday/last week/month/year.

Less regret. What’s past is past.

Less fear. Of people and ideas that are different.

Less arrogance. Be proud but don’t be obnoxious about it.

Less FOMO. If I miss something today, I’ll catch up later. Or maybe… I’ll just miss it!

Less coffee. Wha…? Interesting concept. Ain’t gonna happen.

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Keep It Simple

Simple

In our busy, complex personal and professional lives, filled with information coming from every imaginable source, simple things are appreciated. We all have a finite amount of time and attention to give each day.

Here’s how you can help…

  1. Write shorter paragraphs, using shorter sentences.
  2. Edit your email signature and dump all that legalese at the bottom (which no one ever reads anyway).
  3. If you own a restaurant, eliminate half of your menu items. You’ll make life easier for your diners, your staff and yourself.
  4. Include just one sales message in your marketing emails. (You don’t have to tell me everything about your organization.)
  5. Make sure images in your emails and on your website are as recognizable on a tiny phone screen as they are on your big desktop screen.
  6. Facebook and Instagram allow for long posts. Don’t do it! Most of us will just scroll on past the long ones. (Thanks, Twitter, for maintaining a maximum post length.)
  7. Place a time limit on videos you share. How long? Determine what your audience is comfortable with. (Consider that some of us may hesitate to watch a 7-minute video but will gladly watch 7 one-minute videos.)
  8. Be merciless when editing content. Three good paragraphs beats twelve mediocre paragraphs every time.
  9. Unless it’s your doctoral dissertation, don’t be afraid to use sentence fragments, when appropriate.

For a perfect example of the beauty and effectiveness of a simple approach, compare the layouts of Google.com with Bing.com and Yahoo.com. (Google has a 67.68% market share for searches; Bing, 13.27%; Yahoo, 8.14%.)

An almost infinite number of choices in many aspects of our life is wonderful. Unless we want the regular version, in the standard size, and it’s not in stock. Have you ever gone grocery shopping and found a dozen or more variations on the product you want, but not the particular version you want?

The great singer/songwriter Merle Haggard who died last week was once quoted as saying, “The most important thing in a song is simplicity.” Keep it simple.

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Open Your Mind

medium_616221600 Look, you have opinions and so do I. But I’ve learned over the years that there are generally two or more sides to every story.

Certain individuals and media outlets are going to present extreme views of situations. And that’s okay, even if you or I disagree completely with their takes.

Lately I’ve seen numerous comments on Facebook and Twitter talking about unfriending and unfollowing people whose views are different from their own. I think that’s a bad idea.

I’ve read about certain speakers being uninvited to speak at college campuses because many of the students disagreed with their ideas. Which is ironic, considering that colleges have a general reputation for supporting free speech.

(At the relatively conservative University of Alabama, when I was a student we had Jane Fonda, Ralph Nader, Andy Warhol and others present their “radical” agendas to students.)

I can understand the Post-Dispatch’s (stltoday.com) decision to ban comments on certain online content. I know I’ve seen some hateful, vile and disgusting comments posted there.

But I’m talking about choosing not to read or listen to dissenting points of view. Just consuming extreme takes from all sides of an issue will not harm you. And it may cause you to more clearly comprehend what a person or group believes, even if you can’t understand how certain conclusions are reached. A little bit of insight can be a good thing.

Take this test. If you’re an MSNBC fan, spend some time watching Fox News Channel. If you’re a Fox News viewer, check out the spin MSNBC provides. Can you handle it? Can you watch Bill O’Reilly and then follow it up with Rachel Maddow? Try it!

This suggestion to open your mind goes beyond political and social realms. In business and marketing, when a new idea or technique emerges, some may be skeptical or resistant to change. But that new thing that made you shake your head a couple of years ago may be about to explode in 2015.

It’s okay to hold on to your core beliefs. (Be aware that they may change over time as you get older and your life circumstances change.) But shutting off other voices can limit your understanding of the big picture.

This is my last post here until January 5, 2015. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! You may contact me at david@davidcraigpr.com or at 636-346-3434.

(photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/_imax/616221600/, Max Nathan via http://photopin.com, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

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Answer The Damn Phone!

It is estimated that U.S. businesses lose between 8 and 9 million dollars in sales each day because of unanswered or misdirected phone calls from customers. If a company earns revenue by selling products or services, it must answer the phone. If it can’t answer, it must have an automated system that works properly.

Okay, I made up that number in the first sentence. Maybe it’s more than 8-9M. But in the “please visit our website” era, some companies seem to have forgotten that customers have questions that may not be answered on FAQ pages. They want specifics that can only come from a live person. They have non-standard orders that you may or may not be able to fill. New prospects can be turned off by a lack of personal communication.

As an independent PR and marketing consultant, I answer every call I receive. If Caller ID only gives me a number but no name, I answer anyway. It could be a prospect who was given my name and contact info. It could be a media person who wants a client to do an interview. It could be someone I gave a business card to years ago who wants to know how I can help his or her organization.

Yes, I miss some calls when I am in a meeting. But I make an effort to return calls in a timely manner.

I realize that cost-cutting owners cringe when a designated human phone operator is sitting idle. I also realize that some companies have efficient automated phone systems.

But when your business involves selling and someone calls who has cash and wants to buy, isn’t it in your best interest to embrace this caller and accommodate your customer’s needs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Control: Use It Wisely

Control. Some of us have it but misuse it. Some of us don’t have it but want it. Some of us have opportunities to control but choose to let someone else run the show.

How many times in your life have you failed to take control of situations you could have managed? Are there scenarios now in your career and your personal life that would allow you to take greater control? Are you willing to step up and take control and the responsibility that goes with it? Are you willing to risk collateral damage (hurt feelings, strained relationships, etc.) because you are the one who takes charge of a situation and makes tough decisions?

How many times have you sought control and not had it granted? Is there a situation now in your work or personal life that you would like to control but have not been able to gain control?

How many times have you retained control when you should have shared it? Do you tend to micromanage family members or those who work for you? Is it because your family members/workers are not competent enough to make decisions? Or is it because you just prefer to be the one in control?

Micromanagers, in my experience, negatively affect their own productivity as well as those they micromanage. By giving or sharing control, a micromanager frees up his/her own time and mental capacity to get other things done.

The pursuit of control and the effort to retain control determines many of the actions we take in our daily lives. Likewise, the failure to take control in those times we should step up can have long lasting effects.

Take a moment this week to evaluate your own opportunities to control your destiny. The choices you make now can impact your future.

When you are unable to control circumstances, this famous prayer may help: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

 

“What We’ve Got Here Is Failure to Communicate”

The headline is taken from words spoken by actor Strother Martin as Captain in the classic 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. These words echo in my head when I witness efforts to communicate that are lacking.

An electronic sign in front of a business is a good way to share a quick message. But when a business has five different messages that cycle through, a driver sees only two or three and may miss the most important one. (By the way, business owners, it’s no longer necessary to tell drivers the time and temperature.)

Fine print in newspaper ads is okay. We may need magnification to read the terms, qualifications and disclaimers that relate to auto lease rates touted in an ad. But when the same copy is flashed at the bottom of a TV ad for a few seconds, even a speed-reader with a 50-inch HDTV can’t take it all in. It’s even worse on radio when similar verbiage is sped up to the point of being incomprehensible. I understand that there are legal requirements involved here, but seriously, who’s fooling whom?

I like Twitter. Hashtags can be useful. An event hashtag should be recognizable to those who are not at the event, who wish to follow along. And those who are not insiders should be able to figure out what the hashtag refers to. (I’ve seen event hashtags in my Twitter timeline and, even after investigating, not been able to determine what was happening.)

An omitted word can sometimes be guessed based on context, but not always. I’ve recently noticed words omitted in emails, tweets, Facebook posts, media releases, newspaper articles and more. (Oh, I’ve been guilty myself.) It’s easy to do when your fingers are moving faster than your brain. It can also happen when you rewrite a sentence, adjusting number/tense/word order/etc. This is a good reason to have a second pair of eyes look over your most important work.

Speaking of movies and failure to communicate, dialogue that’s mumbled, buried under other sounds, in a foreign language or a strange dialect can be of little use to an audience that doesn’t get the meaning. This is why certain TV reality shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Moonshiners” use subtitles when the regional dialects of the shows’ participants may not be understood by a general American audience.

It’s my belief that, for successful communication, the greater onus is on the communicator, not the recipient of the message. Strive for clarity.

 

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Wi-Fi

It’s 2013. If you have a place where people gather, you should offer free Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi should have a strong signal that can handle numerous users. At sports arenas and convention centers, the W-Fi should be able to accommodate thousands of users. It should not have a lengthy “terms of service” contract to which users must agree (as if we have taken the time to read it).

With some wireless providers charging for data use above a certain amount, free, easily accessible Wi-Fi is a vital resource for many subscribers. With small merchants using Square to process payments at their convention vendor booths, access to Wi-Fi equals access to dollars. With online social networking continuing to grow, good Wi-Fi facilitates check-ins and photo sharing that can promote your business and/or event.

For organizations concerned that free Wi-Fi will encourage people to linger for hours over their connected laptops, tablets and smartphones, let me remind you that lingering is not a new thing. I hung out for hours over coffee at the Dobbs House and the Supe Store in Tuscaloosa (AL) during my college days, which preceded the internet/mobile era by decades.

For merchants concerned about “showrooming,” where shoppers compare the Amazon (or other online seller) price with the store price, let me remind you that comparison-shopping is not a new thing. As one who has walked from one end of a mall to the other to compare the Penney’s versus Sears prices on a kitchen appliance, I can assure you that price-conscious shoppers will shop around with or without your free Wi-Fi.

I recall hearing a radio spot several years ago for a funeral home that offered free Wi-Fi. I wondered at the time why Wi-Fi was a selling point for a funeral home. That was before I got my first smartphone. Now I know why.

People want to stay connected. They want to monitor and post to social networks. They want to settle arguments about football players or movie stars by looking up info online. They want to open email attachments while shopping. They want to watch Youtube videos between convention sessions.

Don’t be the place that turns people off by having spotty or non-existent Wi-Fi. Remember that connectivity is, as Martha Stewart might say, a good thing!

 

 

 

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Respect Your Customers

Everyone who deals with the public has stories to tell. The woman in line at Starbucks who complains that her drink takes five minutes to fix when there are ten people ahead of her. The person who sends in payment after deadline and thinks late fees only apply to others. The man who questions every charge on a service invoice. The person who thinks everybody is trying to screw him over in some way.

Those who work in the food and beverage industry may have the best stories. Many involve alcohol. Some involve people who say, “I’m a good friend of the owner” and expect deferential treatment. Some involve customers who make rude remarks about a server’s appearance. Some involve customers who are truly impossible to please.

Whatever business you are in, whether your customer base consists of a handful of clients or hundreds or thousands of patrons, all deserve your respect—unless they step over the line. Certainly customers who are abusive or whose behavior is disturbing to other customers should be asked to leave. (Or dropped from your client list.) But when a bar, restaurant, coffee shop, ice cream stand or food truck opens for business, there should be an expectation of and preparation for difficult customers.

In the much-discussed case of the sports bar server who identified a customer to the kitchen staff as a “f—ing needy kid,” an overall lack of respect for customers was demonstrated. Even if management did not promote this sort of culture, it should have made clear to staff that such lack of respect for customers is unacceptable.

Numerous online commenters say that it was partly the fault of the customer for having brought a young child to a sports bar. Others have pointed out that it was an inside joke between the server and the kitchen and was not meant to appear on the bill handed to the customer. And some bar and restaurant patrons have said that in the giant scheme of things, this was not an overly egregious offense. In any case, it should not have happened and the bar owner, correctly, made a sincere apology to the customer.

Now that national attention has come to the incident—the Huffington Post item posted Tuesday has 1,570 comments as of Thursday morning—this is obviously a “teachable moment” for all who deal with the public. Respect for customers—even “difficult” customers—is a message that all managers should communicate and enforce.

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Speak Up. I Can’t Hear You!

You’re speaking to a group. It could be ten people around a conference room table. It could be fifty people at a luncheon. Maybe it’s 200 in an auditorium. Can they hear you clearly? As the communicator, the onus is on you to make sure what you are saying gets through to the recipients of your message.

Some tips:

  1. When amplification is available, use it. I’ve seen numerous speakers choose not to use a microphone (even a convenient wireless mike), presuming they can project well enough without one. Then, they proceed to talk in a normal volume. And they often look at and project their voices toward a SMART Board or other screen, not in the direction of the audience.
  2. When amplification is not available, speak louder. Realize that you may need to overcome other sounds. (A St. Louis radio group has its conference room located directly beneath the building’s heating/cooling system. When it kicks on, and the speaker does not raise her/his voice level, the message competes with a low range hum.)
  3. Remember that you need to be loud enough to be heard by those in the back of the room (or the back row). This is one of the basic guidelines of live theatre.
  4. If you and the venue A/V guy do a pre-event sound check in an empty hotel ballroom, remember that conditions will be different when 500 people are in the room, clanging tableware and chatting.
  5. Learn to use a microphone. I attended an event last year where every panelist was off-mike and barely audible. The moderator, a woman with speaking/media experience, was always on-mike and easily heard. She should’ve counseled her panelists about microphone use. As a general rule, the closer you are to a microphone, the better your chance of being heard clearly.

If what you have to say is important enough for people to want to hear you say it, make sure that they can hear it. Otherwise, just stay home.

Applebee’s and Its PR Nightmare

When larger groups eat at restaurants, there’s often a mandatory tip included in the tab. That’s to protect the servers from getting stiffed.

At an Applebee’s in St. Louis last month, a customer responded to such a fee by writing the words “I give God ten percent, why do you get 18?” on her credit card receipt. Her server showed it to a co-worker. The co-worker (also a server at the location) snapped a pic of the customer’s comment and posted it online at Reddit.com.

Initial negative response was directed at the woman who wrote the note. Later, after Applebee’s fired the co-worker for posting the message online, the negative vibe on the web has been pointed directly at Applebee’s—in a big way.

A few thoughts on the matter:

  1. Diners across America will not eat at Applebee’s today because of this incident (and its resulting actions) at one location. The company needs to take quick action to mitigate the blowback for other franchisees. The Papa John’s Pizza/Lebron James episode of 2008 is instructive.
  2. It is not completely clear whether the Applebee’s server who posted the receipt online did violate company rules. But even if she did, Applebee’s should rehire her. This would cause the firestorm to quiet down. (FYI, here is her version of the story.)
  3. All Facebook admins should read this blog post for guidance about how NOT to deal with angry comments. And, if you delete comments on your Facebook page for whatever reason, don’t deny it.
  4. If, as alleged, Applebee’s posted to Facebook a handwritten receipt note praising their food and service just weeks earlier, they should not have deleted that post. There are good reasons to delete posts on an organization’s Facebook page. But be honest if you do it.
  5. PR reps/teams should monitor all media for stories/posts about your organization. This seemingly minor incident has the potential to do serious damage to a chain that has enjoyed over two decades of relative success. When such an event takes a few days to reach its boiling point, PR folk need to anticipate worse case scenarios and be ready to act.
  6. Communications teams for national and world organizations need to be able to reach franchisees and managers at any time, including weekends and overnight. Maintaining a current list of cell and home phone numbers to supplement workplace numbers is vital.
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