Backstage Communications


Need a Moment.
August 10, 2010, 4:25 pm
Filed under: behind the scenes, my story | Tags: , , , , , ,

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

-Chinese Proverb

If you haven’t noticed, I’m taking some time away from the blog this month. I’m working on my to-do list before heading out of town for an end-of-summer vacation.

I got to thinking about taking time off. Why is it sometimes almost more stressful to take time away? You have to do more work before and after a vacation to “make up” for that time lost. But is that time really “lost?”

Taking some time to reflect and rejuvenate yourself (or your business) at least once a year shouldn’t be counted as “lost” time. It should be encouraged! Won’t we all think a little clearer, with a little more bounce in our step, and perhaps even come up with new and different ideas if we take the time and let our minds take a break?

It’s really the same story in business. Every business is in danger of becoming stagnant. When each day is the same as the last, maybe it’s time to step away for a few days, rest and come back to the table refreshed.

So, that’s what I’m going to do this month. I am going to try not to have an agenda other than just work hard and then rest hard. Keep my mind clear, which will inevitably lead to the questions – what am I doing, why am I doing it, and am I happy?

Have you asked yourself those questions lately?



Thought for the Day – Customer Appreciation

Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.

-Lionel Hampton

Today I passed a sign at a residential complex that said “Customer Appreciation Week,” and it got me thinking: why do we have to name specific weeks or days to express our gratitude for our customers, residents, clients or companies? Do you feel like a business really appreciates you if they give you a discount on Customer Appreciation Day?

I appreciate my clients. Business owners appreciate their customers. Why don’t we find more relevant, personal ways to show them that appreciate them? Work hard for them. Get to know them. Pay it forward. Let’s change the way we do customer appreciation.

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Fear is so 2009

The best antidote for fear is knowledge.

- Robin Sharma

At last week’s FreelanceCLT event, one theme stood out for me – freelancers, not surprisingly, are afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of running out of money. And I know it’s not just freelancers and solo entrepreneurs, but those fears seem louder when you don’t have a salary and a 401(k) to fall back on.

I have seen a similar fear overshadow the confidence of small business owners. It takes confidence to start a small business, to quit a corporate paycheck, to go out on your own and put your stamp on the world.

So, why not name that fear and then do something about it? Are you afraid to start a company Facebook fan page, because you don’t understand the inner workings of Facebook and don’t have time to read a dictionary-sized guidebook about it? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to track your time, your invoices or deal with the IRS?

My philosophy? Jump in, get your feet wet, and then change and grow as needed. The world will not stop to let you catch up.

I am not a blogging expert, but I started one. I am not an expert at naming a company, or putting together invoices, or going after new business – but I didn’t wait to become an expert first. I’m learning as I’m doing – isn’t that what the “real world” is all about?

None of us had a Twitter handbook when it first came out. But I didn’t want to wait for one – I wanted to find out for myself. I think many of us who are freelancers or small biz entrepreneurs have that itch within us. So why do we let fear take away that drive for knowledge?

So today I say to you – just do it. (thanks Nike). Just start that Facebook page, create a Twitter account, put together an invoice system – put pen to paper and just go. You will be amazed, once again, at what you can do. And when you need help, just ask.

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Freelancers: Is it time to give yourself a raise?

Are you a freelancer (any industry) in or near Charlotte, NC?

Tomorrow night, I’m serving on a panel of freelance specialists as part of the Freelance CLT meetup group. We will be discussing how much freelancers should charge for their work and other related issues. Some of us write, others communicate, others edit or shoot film, and others do it all as serial entrepreneurs.

Sometimes it’s hard to be “on your own.” This group of people will understand your gripes about invoicing, clients, work/life balance and other freelance-related issues. Do you know how much your time is worth? Is it time to give yourself a raise?  Join myself, Melissa Lamkin, Adam Hobbs, Brian Pace and Philip Dodds to explore these questions and more.

If you can’t be there in person, follow updates on Twitter.

Share your own tips, advice below and I’ll be sure to mention them tomorrow night.

Details:

Tuesday, June 29

6:00 p.m.

Lightbulb Coworking

1430 South Mint Street
Suite 103
Charlotte, NC

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Building business one tweet at a time…
June 22, 2010, 12:40 pm
Filed under: my story | Tags: , , , , ,

Check out this WBTV segment by Kristen Miranda…It’s about how to use Twitter to build professional relationships and boost business.  You may recognize someone in the segment!



Prepping and priming and painting, oh my!

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.

- Alexander Graham Bell

I really hate it when a blogger stops creating new content for awhile, then comes back and apologizes, offering excuses about why he or she has been offline. As a reader, that can be annoying. But, as a blogger, I understand – sometimes you need a breather. I haven’t even been blogging long enough to need a breather, but here’s my excuse for you – I was moving! Hubby and I bought our first home, and moved in this past weekend.

In the midst of boxes, packing paper, paint cans and bleach, I started thinking about communications. Which can be a scary thing, especially when it’s late and I’m feeling a bit delirious.

The truth is, I’m getting sick of painting. I mean, you would think that being able to paint your own home would be fun! And it is…for the first room. But the catch is that I wanted to do it right. And to paint a room the right way requires a LOT of preparation. The painting itself is actually minimal compared to the amount of prep work. To do it right, one must:

  • Fill in cracks and holes with putty (let it dry)
  • Sand down any rough spots
  • Wipe down the entire room with soap and water (let it dry)
  • Tape every nook and cranny
  • Cover the flooring with drop cloths
  • Tape down drop cloths
  • Prime the walls (let it dry)
  • Paint the first coat (let it dry)
  • Paint the second coat
  • Pull off the tape
  • Let it dry
  • Tape again – this time for the trim
  • Paint the first coat (let it dry)
  • Paint the second coat
  • Remove the tape
  • Touch-up any mistakes

It’s a ton of work. But, at the end of the day, I can tell which rooms have been prepped, and which ones haven’t. And, those walls aren’t going to be painted again for a long time. So, any mistakes will be there, day after day, for me to look at and wish I had prepped them correctly.

Obviously, the tie-in here is pretty easy to spot. “Preparation is key” is a tired phrase, but I think in communications it’s especially important to consider. Like paint on your walls, what you say, write or communicate will have a lasting effect. You want that feeling to be a positive one, don’t you? When considering how you will communicate, remember to properly prepare.

A few examples:

Prepare for interviews – Communicating with the media can be a wonderful opportunity to spread word about your business or organization. Reporters frequently have short deadlines, so be proactive about media training or preparing ahead of time. Don’t get tongue-tied just because you are going to be on TV – make a lasting impression.

Prepare for disasters – businesses frequently end up spending a ton of money to clean up messes. I don’t have to name the most obvious example right now. Before a crisis hits, make sure you have communications plan and a team ready for anything. While no one can predict the future, the benefit of preparation certainly outweighs the cost.

Prepare for tomorrow - Twitter will not always be as popular as it is today. Each year will bring new technologies and new avenues for communication. Don’t get overwhelmed. If you prepare your messages ahead of time, you can spend more time keeping up with the latest trends and less time figuring out what to say!

And, after all that preparation, remember: sometimes, you just need to take a break.

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National Small Business Week, #CLTsmbiz
May 23, 2010, 4:00 am
Filed under: stories | Tags: , , , , ,

Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity, and are able to turn both to their advantage.

- Niccolò Machiavelli

If you think about it, every business in America started out as a “small business.” I remember growing up thinking that I wanted to work at a large, international company, because that meant more opportunities for me, right? In the past couple of years, I’ve started to understand more clearly the beauty of small business. To me, small business entrepreneurs exude drive, passion, responsibility and creativity.

Today kicks off a week of events celebrating National Small Business Week, designated by the U.S. Small Business Administration to honor the almost 28 million small businesses in America. Did you know that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business? Check out the link above to see the awards, forums and town hall meetings that will be happening this week in Washington, D.C. There are also some great resources for business owners – I was particularly glad to find some valuable resources through the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC).

Several other states and regions are celebrating National Small Business Week, but I haven’t seen anything related to the event in the Charlotte area. So, let’s recognize those deserving entrepreneurs! Please list some of your favorite Charlotte small businesses in the comments section, and why you support those businesses. I look forward to hearing about and celebrating some of our great local entrepreneurs.

I will Tweet your answers all week under the hashtag #CLTsmbiz. Let’s support our local community.

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Stop the Boring Writing!

“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”

- John Jakes

When my May issue of Inc. arrived last week, I turned immediately to Jason Fried’s article on business writing. So many of his points reflect my own thoughts about how businesses communicate, so I wanted to share.

He points out a few fun facts:

  • Full-service solutions provider – A quick search on Google finds at least 47,000 companies using this phrase
  • Cost effective end-to-end solutions – brings you about 95,000 results
  • Provider of value-added services – nets you more than 600,000 matches

Jason goes on to give several examples of companies that are doing it right – with business writing that is fun, personable and clear. My suggestion? Think about your approach – how do you go about the writing process when you are creating copy?

Step one – Stop thinking about yourself. Sounds counter-intuitive, right? Once you have given blood, sweat and tears to build your company, your products, or your brand, you must realize that at the end of the day, it is NOT about you. It’s about your customers. What do they want to read? What will draw them to your company, rather than your competitors?

I hate filler. Don’t say the same thing over and over. Each sentence, each word must be intentional.

Bottom line – the words you use to describe your business could ultimately affect sales. Words are important. Is it time to re-evaluate your own business writing? Try this: read your website. Go through it line by line, and ask yourself – what does this really say? What do my customers want?

Don’t be afraid to be real! For some good examples, see Jason’s article. What other business writing have you seen that you actually enjoyed reading? Feel free to share here!

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