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Business Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated?”

22 Mar

Good relationships require mutual trust and good communication.  The described “status,” of a relationship is a direct reflection of it’s quality in the view of the person describing it.

Great relationships can happen online and the parties involved can regularly communicate this way, but it is nearly impossible to actually cultivate and maintain a “great,” relationship exclusively online.  Relationships usually require some offline, personal interaction and face to face engagement to become or remain “great.”

Imagine spouses communicating with each other exclusively via email, text message, or on their social network profiles… It is hard to imagine a healthy relationship surviving exclusively in this sphere.  Most business relationships aren’t any different.  If you communicate with someone exclusively via email, text message, instant messenger, etc., what type of quality do you really have in the relationship?

In an increasingly hectic and demanding professional world, we can all benefit from using online means of interaction to improve our ability to communicate more frequently with our relationships.  However, we must also be careful not to forsake the value of offline interaction.

Quality in our customer, employee, and vendor relationships benefits from personal conversation, periodic face to face meetings, or a social activity where goodwill and trust are built and maintained.

Facebook users are given the option of describing and openly displaying their “relationship status,” to provide an outward indication of their:

1) Availability

2) Happiness/Satisfaction

3) Commitment/Loyalty

4) Intent

What if our customers, vendors, and employees had their business relationship status with us openly displayed for review?  What would it say?

What if we relied so heavily on online communication that this became our best chance of really understanding their perspective on the quality of our relationship?

Depending on your business or industry there may be some discrepancy, but the table below is an approximation of the business equivalents of  some common Facebook “Relationship Statuses.”

Business Relationship Status Equivalents

Don’t be so busy that you let the quality of your relationships suffer.

Pick up the phone and tell someone that you appreciate them or that they are doing a great job.  Better yet go see them in person and tell them face to face.  Invite someone you care about to do something fun or interesting with you.  Take some time to get to know somebody better and begin a great relationship.

These actions create memories for both of you.

View this as a communication strategy, or just consider it as “a way of doing business.”

For assistance with evaluating, managing or improving business relationships contact us:

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Reputation Management for Leaders: An Enigma

19 Jan

In a world of increasingly competitive social, personal and professional environments we are presented with a heightened challenge to measure and protect both our business and our personal reputations.

Can we ensure that we will not be accused of something that might damage our reputation?  No.

Can we monitor and protect ourselves from this type of risk? Yes.

Type “reputation management,” into a search engine and you will find results linking to articles, consultants, and technical services providing advice and assistance with protecting or repairing your “image,” on the internet.  It goes without saying that your internet presence is certainly important, but your reputation depends on more than its appearance on the internet.  Reputation management should be proactively oriented and addressed as part of your comprehensive business continuity plan.

When you are in a leadership position, you bear a significant responsibility for the decisions and actions that you make, but also for those made by people in your charge.  When you have been given the trust and responsibility that comes with leadership, you must be certain that you lead by example, and maintain a high level of awareness to the conduct of those who you lead.  One action or decision could mortgage or bankrupt your reputation as a leader, or even the reputation of your entire organization.

If misconduct on the part of a team member were to have legal consequences those might pertain only to that individual. However in the court of public opinion, blame and responsibility have a more common tendency to be attributed to entire groups, and even more so to the leader.

Reputation and word of mouth have always been important, with the rise of social media and hyper-communication, the stakes are even higher.  Word of mouth simply travels much farther, and much faster than it ever has before.

Prominent leaders who stand accused of wrongdoing often proclaim their innocence, or attempt to explain themselves only to have their words fall on deaf ears.  These stories spur discussions which are often hot topics in both traditional and social media channels.  In some cases allegations are proven to be legitimate, while in others even the most heinous of allegations are proven to be false.  The problem is that even when somebody is absolved of blame often the conversation or media focus has moved on to other matters, and the individual and/or organization is left to deal with significant residual damage to their reputation.

The Washington Post featured a story about Sue Scheff a consultant to parents of troubled teens.  In short, Sue Scheff lead a small business where her name was essential to the business brand. In 2003, a parent posted negative remarks on her organization’s website, which defamed her character and injured her reputation.  The injury to her reputation had serious personal, financial, and business consequences after negative remarks went “viral,” Sue had been Google Bombed.  It took years, but Sue was diligent in reclaiming her reputation, today her business appears to be alive and well, and she authored a highly acclaimed account of her ordeal titled Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That Changed the Way We Use The Internet. It would not be an understatement to say that most businesses or individuals would not have survived this type of ordeal nearly as well as Sue eventually did.

How do you determine what (or who) may be a legitimate risk factor?

It is certainly not productive to spend too much time or focus dwelling on every eventuality or possible risk since there is no way you can guarantee that allegations won’t be made against you.  While valid, this reasoning unfortunately is commonly used as an excuse for not asking pertinent questions; with answers that may require making difficult decisions.  Failing to ask such questions not only makes you more vulnerable to attacks on your reputation it can also have profound effects on your culture and performance.

10 questions to begin your thought process or to start a dialog with your leadership team.

  1. Are personal values consistent with organization values?
  2. Is it possible to maintain a separate identity in our personal and professional lives?
  3. Do we always do our best to promote morality both in concept and action as individuals and leaders?
  4. Which practices/policies might hurt, frustrate or anger customers/members, employees, partners, or vendors?
  5. Is poor conduct ever “accommodated,” because of an individual’s role in the organization?
  6. What steps can be taken to improve our current level of awareness to our individual and collective reputations?
  7. What (or who) are the greatest risk factors in improving or maintaining our reputation?
  8. What immediate steps can be taken to prepare for an attack to our reputation?
  9. What further measures should be considered to be protected.
  10. Are we properly prepared to effectively respond if faced with a serious challenge to our reputation?

For more information about reputation management for leaders contact us:

Will you pay for content in the future?

15 Jan

The media industry has distributed paid content to audiences since it’s beginning.  Very large media companies have been built around a model which relies on paid subscribers and advertising revenue to generate profit.  Simply put, through history those who have invested in publishing or producing content have almost always done so with a simple focus on seeing a direct (and large) financial return on that investment.

Media moguls made fortunes and acquired significant power and influence as they controlled the distribution of  information to the masses.  They were in a unique position as they shaped the beliefs on which people formed their opinions, and made their decisions .  Print, radio, and television all followed the same general business model and for these businesses all was well (very well).

Then the internet changed things…by providing businesses and consumers with an alternative means of finding the information they wanted.  Within a few short years, a nearly complete directional shift occurred (from push to pull) in the way that people found information they wanted prior to making decisions.  We were no longer confined to just seeing or hearing an editorial, or advertisement and then making our decisions based on very limited and media biased information.  With this shift, businesses flocked to invest much more of their marketing dollars online.  Why not?  They could now reach much more targeted audiences.  Not to mention, for the first time they could measure their advertising results in almost real time.  This however was just the beginning of a tremendous devaluation of  TV, Radio, and Print media.  Media enterprises moved their existing business models onto the web and began to earn even more profits.

Then Web 2.0 changed everything…blogs, podcasts, user generated video, internet radio, article directories, and social networking sites allow anyone and everyone to publish content.  An industry dominated by large companies who were comfortable with relatively little competition is a completely different landscape.  But once again many media enterprises have taken their same old business model and attempted to move it into this vastly different environment.  They are beginning to find that something different is happening.

A recent article by MarketingVox reports,  “After a splashy debut in the publishing world, magazines retooled for the iPad – such as Vanity Fair, Glamour and GQ – are not selling so well.  Digital sales of these pubs dropped toward the end of this year, Women’s Wear Daily reports, based on figures made available to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.”

“The internet is about to swallow the television. Soon hundreds of thousands, and eventually hundreds of millions of viewers around the world will be on a path back from being passive couch potatoes into actively engaged citizens again, the way we were before mass media radio and then television arrived in our homes in the 1920’s, nearly a century ago. Here in the early days of YouTube, BitTorrent, Boxee, Mac Mini media centers, Hulu, Google TV, and the iPad, we are on the edge of moving from Web 2.0, the Read/Write and Social Web, to Web 3.0, ” says futurist John Smart.

Companies who sell paid content are seeing profit declines amidst massive pressure from exponential increases in the quantity and quality of  free content available to viewers and readers.  Beyond that, social media has dramatically changed the way people are spending large amounts of their time.  Instead of simply “consuming,” content many people are now creating it.  Even more people are sharing it and discussing it.

Media companies are currently facing unprecedented challenges in retaining their audiences which is having a devastating effect on their advertising rates, and thereby their profits.  In effort to save themselves many of the old guard have turned to extreme cost cutting measures in a desperate attempt to keep their balance sheets in order. Layoffs, cancelled programs, eliminating print editions of newspapers and magazines are but a few of the signs that clearly point to the fact that a larger and more significant change is required.

Business models must be adapted to this completely new environment, failure to do so will prove costly or fatal.