Posts about Communications

9 Media Interview Tips for Start-Ups

Start-ups have a lot going on.  Not only do they have very few resources doing development, looking for beta customers, seeking funding, but they are also trying to do marketing and get some media attention so they can get the customers and funding.  It can be a vicious cycle.  When a start-up gets good media, it can be a real godsend.  If you aren’t prepared however, if can turn out far from what you expected.  But not to worry, here are 9 Media Inteview Tips specifically for Start-Ups.

9 Media Interview Tips for Start-ups,

Image courtesy of

1. Know Your Audience

If you are seeking out media, or they have found you, before you do an interview, be sure to understand who it is that you will be talking to.  When speaking with the producer and/or scheduler, don’t be afraid to ask a few questions. If you are unfamiliar with the reporter, the show or column ask about the themes, the demographic of the audience, examples of who else has been interviewed before, if anyone else is being interviewed for this particular piece, when will it air/be published. If it is TV or radio, ask if it will be live or recorded.

It is also very important to speak the language of your audience. Remember to adjust your language accordingly and don’t use industry jargon, unless speaking to an industry publication.  You must be able to present your thoughts using terms and words that the public will understand.  If you are overly technical and can’t relate, people will not care or understand.

2.  Google Can Be Your Best Friend

Be sure to take a few minutes and research the reporter, show and/or column.  Get a feel for the person.

3.  Time

While time is always of the essence with news, try to get as much time as you can to prepare.  This is particularly important for the first few.  Once you have gone through this entire list several times, you will not need as much upfront time for each interview.

4. Develop Your Messages

Seriously think about three specific things that are important for the audience to know.  Write them down and have them in front of you if possible.  This is your guide to bring you back to the three most important messages that you need to deliver.

5.  Don’t Script Yourself

While you have your messages ready and well thought out, don’t script yourself.  If you are being interviewed over the phone for radio, it will be obvious that you are reading.  The same goes for an interview for print.  The reporter will know that you are reading.  This can signal that you are nervous, unprepared or not informed.  These are all things that you want to avoid.

Scripting can also result in confusion for the person being interviewed.  If you are nervous and get off track, you might have a difficult time getting back on script.  The best is advice is to avoid scripting all together.

6.  Think About What-if Questions

One of the most effective things I do for my own interviews as well as my clients, is develop a series of questions – what-ifs.  For each question, think about how you would answer it.  These questions and answers help prepare you for just about anything that can be asked of you and might potentially throw you off your game and/or lead the reporter on a whole different path.

Even if your interview topic is not expected to be contentious, it does not hurt to be prepared.  For example, years ago while heading up the marketing for a global IT company, I was doing an interview with a local newspaper about some specific company topic.  It was all really benign when all of a sudden the reporter asked for my opinion about another IT company that was laying off a significant number of people.  Thankfully I was prepared with an appropriate answer.

7. Review

Always listen, watch and/or read your interviews.  You will always learn something about how you did that you will want to change.  This is normal.  Remember to look for real tangible things to work on versus thinking about things out of your control. Also ask trusted confidants to critique you.  This is not about pointing out everything that you did wrong or right, but rather to look for things that you can learn from to do an even better job next time.

8.  Respect

Remember to respect your interviewer, even if the situation is difficult. Being calm and polite will only work in your favour.

9.  Don’t Ask to Review the Final Piece

A common mistake that rookies make with the media is asking and/or expecting that they will have the chance to review, comment and approve an interview. This is not how it works.  So, don’t even bother to ask.

These are 9 very high level tips to for doing media interviews.  Depending on your role, it could be a lot more involved. Want more information?  Feel free to sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

US Airways and #myNYPD Demonstrate Need for Professional Community Management

Let’s face it, even with a decade of social media under our belts, there are still examples of social gone wrong.  Two of the latest examples are of course the absolutely terrible tweet from US Airways of a naked lady and the #myNYPD’s campaign, which was supposed generate some love going horribly wrong.  There are many examples, but these two latest examples really demonstrate why you need professional community management. US Airways and the #myNYPD Demonstrate Need for Professional Community Management,

A few years back, community management was all the rage.  Companies of all sizes were wanted community teams to manage their listening and engaging programs.  This of course became the style du jour when companies like Radian6 made it so much easier to not only aggregate all the conversations about your brand into one easy to reference location, but to also be able to respond (a.k.a engage) and workflow the conversations.  This was a phenomenal break through and made the whole process so much easier to do.  Unfortunately, many companies went overboard with their Community Teams, hiring far too many Community Managers, had too few metrics and too few hard core roles and responsibilities.  Before long, Community Teams were viewed by many as people just having fun and playing on social media.   That is neither the role nor goal of having a Community.  When done properly Community Teams save you money, protect your reputation and even find you leads.  Here are 4 things to help you deliver solid results (and create a team with purpose that can protect your brand):

1.  Identity Roles and Responsibilities

Community Managers need to have defined job descriptions with expectations made very clear.  This helps both the Community Manager and Management know and understand what is expected.

2.  Clearly Define Metrics

One area that I personally experienced was that many companies didn’t have any metrics set for their Community Teams.  When they were implemented, the buy-in and acceptance was difficult.  Teams felt that suddenly they had to perform and be robots.  This was not the case, but  the individuals didn’t like the expectations, that should have laid out clearly at the beginning.  Metrics can and do change over time, but you need to be measured and measuring your team.

3.  Training

This is an extremely important component.  We all assume that people have common sense and that they will or won’t do certain things. I am not sure of the behind the scenes scenario with US Airways and the individual that thought it was appropriate to ReTweet the photo of a naked woman, but either it was a case of a disgruntled employee, someone with zero common sense or someone who wanted to get fired.  Either way, you need to train your employees with the understanding of what your brand is, what your voice is, what is and is not appropriate.  In addition, you need to ensure that you have a clear escalation process in place to address rogue employees, errors in judgement and/or community members.  You need to act fast in these circumstances.

4.  Have a Playbook

A Playbook helps everyone understand exactly what they are doing and what they need to do while monitoring and engaging on behalf of your brand.  It also helps Management to have the confidence that there are proper processes in place.

For more information on Playbooks, feel free to contact me through TaylorMade Solutions.  We can help!

10 Tips to Execute a Perfect Webinar

As a part of my day-to-day, I regularly participate in webinars both as a registrant, and on occasion, I also get to be a presenter.  A well thought out webinar can be an invaluable tool for participants.  It can provide insightful information that is immediately executable.  It is also a great tool for companies to build and maintain trust with their prospects and community.  So, to make a webinar memorable, here are 10 tips to execute a perfect webinar.10 Tips to Execute a Perfect Webinar

 1. Technology

Get your technology figured out first.  You might end up with the greatest line-up of speakers, but if your technology doesn’t work, you not only frustrate your speakers, you frustrate your audience. If you are delayed in starting or can’t loop in your speaker, you are effectively eroding the trust and creditability you have built.  Additionally, if your audio is so horrible that your participants can’t really hear what is being said, you will lose people and likely not get them back.

Be sure to have a testing process in place.  Even after you have your technology down pat, include a test time with each of your presenters.  Run through how it will work.  This is not for you, but for your presenter.  It will help that person or persons feel more comfortable with expectations and clarify any miscommunications.

From experience I can tell you that if you don’t have this perfect, you will lose people. I sat in on a webinar just this week and abandoned it only 3 minutes in.  The audio was so poor that it was painful to listen.

2.  Audience

Any good marketing person is going to speak to you about your audience.  Before you can do anything to communicate your brand, your offering, your value, you need to know and understand your audience.   If you don’t know who you are speaking to, how can you help?

3.  Content

You have likely heard this before, but it bears repeating.  Develop and have a content calendar.  Develop themes for your content and find different and interesting ways to deliver it to your audience.  A webinar should be only one aspect.

4.  A Plan

Jumping into webinars are not a good idea even if you have already executed 1-3.  You still need a plan.  Who will moderate?  Who will find your presenters?  Do you have guidelines for your presenters?  How will you communicate your webinar?  What is your follow-up plan?  What is your social plan?  These are just some things that you need to consider.

5.  Presenters

Be sure to select presenters that are not only experts in their field, but also comfortable speaking publicly as well as through a webinar format.  People that are usually good public speakers are usually very good at doing webinars too.  You want someone who uses his or her voice well – in other words has good inflection.   Your presenters should also be selected based on the ability to connect with others.  If you attended a session and a speaker only talked about himself or thought he was the funniest guy on the planet, chances are your audience will feel the same.

Also be certain that your presenters aren’t going to read from as script or from their presentation.  Aside from being absolutely boring, it is very obvious when someone is reading – even when you can’t see him or her.

That webinar I abandoned earlier this week had at least one person who was clearly reading a script.  Based on the caliber of the company hosting the webinar and all of the presenters, this was a let down.

6.  Promotion

Be sure to have a clear communications plan in place for your promotion of each webinar.  What channels will you use? When will you start to promote each webinar?  How easy is it for people to register?  What is the hashtag that will be used?  What is the headline to be used to entice people?  How will you share the bios of the presenters?  Will you record the webinar and share it afterwards? If so, where and when?

7.  Social Media Community Team

Always have your social media community team prepped and lined up for the event.  Ensure that they are able to listen to the channels and respond appropriately.  Someone should also be in charge of collecting questions and ensuring that the presenter gets them in a timely fashion.  As a part of the planning stages, it should be discussed with the presenter if questions will be held until the end or addressed as they come in?  Should some be grouped, etc.

There should also be one person dedicated to issues.

If you don’t have a social media community team, that is ok.  However, be sure to recruit people from your department, office or volunteers to assist in these tasks.  Regardless of who you use, run through the process, cover off expectations and address what-if scenarios.  

8.  The Main Event

Be sure to start your webinar on time.  Introduce your guests, topic and lay out the house keeping items like hashtags, how questions will be handled, etc.  

9.  Back-up Plan

Like my Girl Scout Leader always said:  Be Prepared.  Always expect the best, but plan and prepare for the worst.  Think about what could go wrong and have a Plan B to address it.  Hopefully you will never need to execute on Plan B, but if you do…you will have it covered.

10. Next Event Promotion and Close Out

Phew, you are now at the end of your webinar and it went swimmingly!  Be sure to thank everyone for attending, including your guest.  If you planned a contest or draw associated with the webinar remember to take care of that.  Be sure to let people know where to find the recording of the webinar if one was made and if there will be a summary posted to your blog.  Finally be sure to promote the date, time, theme and presenter for your next webinar.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

How You Tell Your Prospects, Customers Stakeholders You Don’t Care About Them

Whether you work for a small business owner, a start-up, a not-for-profit or even a college or university, building and sustaining relationships is very important to your bottom line.  With government agencies, there is an expectation that you regularly communicate with your tax payers and stakeholders to keep them informed.  So, why is it is that so many of you continue to tell your prospects, customers, tax payers, etc. that you don’t care about them?  

What Not to Do

With one simple gesture you say a lot in terms of what you think about the people who are the most important to you and your sustainability. The worse part is that it is totally avoidable.  That simple gesture?  Start unfollowing them on Twitter.Unfollowing = no relationship

Case Study

I was recently working with a client, we will call them “M” and I was doing some follow-up training and training some new staff.  As I was preparing to start the session, there was a conversation going on about what one of the new staffers was doing “to fix their Twitter” account.  I listened with a lot of interest as I had not only originally helped them develop their strategy for using Twitter, but was now there to train the new staffers on how to use various management tools to make their lives easier when communicating via their social channels.  The fix?  Well, the fix was one of the worst things, in my opinion, that you can do.  The staffer was unfollowing every single one of their Twitter followers.  It was his opinion that there was no value having their Tweets come up in the organizations stream and it was a complete waste space and time.

My jaw dropped.  This client had worked very hard to build relationships with its stakeholders and actually create a community.  They had actually done a really good job.  All that good work was just about to go up in smoke.  The new staffers didn’t understand the nature of social media for business.  The new staffers didn’t consult with anyone and decided to treat their organization’s social media like it was their own personal channel.  I quickly considered  how I was going to address this.  Because I had worked with this client from the beginning and helped them develop their social strategy, policy and tactics, I knew how important it was for them.  Additionally, and this is very important, because of the nature of their business they had now exposed themselves to a great deal of public criticism.  Their community would not take kindly to this public dismissal.

I had to act quickly.  I asked them to stop what they were doing immediately and enquired how many people/brands they had already unfollowed – the answer:  296.  I then said, o.k. we are going to do our training a little differently than what was planned.

They of course didn’t realize the ramifications of what they were doing.  They assumed that once you use social media, its all the same.  They thought that how they do things with their own personal profiles and channels was the same in the business environment.  It is not of course the same.

The Fix

So, what are the easy ways to avoid this?  What are the ways to fix the situation?  Here are some easy tips:

1. Train Employees BEFORE Allowing them to be the Voice of Your Brand

This could have been easily avoided with up front training.  Not only do people need to understand social media and how to use it, but more importantly they need to understand your business, your brand value and how your brand operates.

Unfollowing is an easy mistake to make.  We all make assumptions. In this case, a potentially serious mistake.  It actually didn’t take long for some of their stakeholders to Tweet “Well, M just unfollowed me.  I guess they don’t need my support after all.”  We fixed this right away, by refollowing everyone and apologizing for the error.Say Yes to Social Media Relationships

2.  Understanding the Social Nature of Social Media

Despite social media being more than a decade old now, many companies continue to treat it as just another traditional tool and/or tactic with the very focus of push communications.  They fail to understand that there is a relationship that you need to build.  It is about building trust, having interest in each other and communicating with each other.  It is about sharing each other’s information. It is about being social.

3.  Remember Your Prospects and Customers Are Human Beings

This seems like a no brainer, but it is a conversation that I have with some clients more often than not.  In the case of M, the staffers weren’t thinking about the people on the other side of the Twitter handle.  They thought of them just as a handle.  They didn’t think about the message that was being sent.

In the training I delivered that day, we looked at real examples of brands that they were connected with and how they would feel if suddenly they were unfollowed.  Between that conversation and the Tweets that started to come in from stakeholders, they quickly realized that they needed to better understand social media for business and just how easy it is to send the wrong message.

Thankfully we caught and fixed this one right away.

Want to learn more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

Mitigate Business Risks: Implement a Social Media Council

Collaboration and cooperation are important components of a business ecosystem. They can help us mitigate risk. We all know this. Interestingly enough though, not enough people consider this when developing and implementing different components of their operational functions and some of the communications associated with the various operational aspects.  For example, not enough organizations are implementing social media councils.  These councils are an important component of your operations; and here are the top 5 reasons to start your social media council immediately.

5.  Eliminate Functional/Communication Silos

Unless your organization is small and centrally located, then you have experienced the fact that different people in different departments could very well be duplicating efforts.  Some examples include communications with customers through such channels as Twitter for customer service. The last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers about what channel is the right one to reach you in the event of an issue. Approaching your social media as a collective can bring good ideas to the table sooner and ensure that everyone approaches it the same way.  A social media council will foster collaboration. Want tips on how to break down silos?  Check out Busting Silos: Workplace Design Offers a Smart Solution, Barbara T. Armstrong. Click to Tweet

 4.  Reduce costs

Silos not only increase confusion, they increase costs.  Creating a social media council can ensure that the right number of resources are identified and trained to monitor and engage on behalf of your company.  This will reduce costs.  Click to Tweet A social media council will also ensure that multiple resources are not carrying out the same function at the same time.

3.  Manage & Protect Reputation

Eisner  Amper’s 4th Annual Board of Directors’ Survey continues to show Reputation Risk at the top of the list, primarily due to the concerns around social media.  Developing and implementing a social media council is your first step in your defence. A social media council should be made up of people from different disciplines, including Human Resources, Legal, Public Relations, Marketing, Sales, etc.  Including Human Resources and Legal is absolutely essential.  Their approach will provide a different perspective that will make your overall effort more focused.  They will also learn about the issues of Sales, Public Relations and Marketing in a new context.  This will further foster collaboration and learning for all. Click to  Tweet

2.  Create an Informed and Educated Workforce

Creating a social media council, when done well, means that you are building a multidisciplinary   team.  This group of people should not only bring information, ideas and issues to the Council, they are also to bring information, ideas and issues back to their respective departments.  A successful, highly functioning Council gives and receives information.  It becomes a powerful communication channel for the entire enterprise – from the frontline workers all the way up to and including the C-suite.  Click to Tweet

1. Identify and Mitigate Risk

It all comes down to this.  If there is just one reason to implement a social media council, it is about identifying and mitigating risk.  When you look at each of the reasons above, it can all be boiled down to this.  I don’t know one organization that isn’t concerned about mitigating risk.

If you would like to learn more about social media councils and mitigating risk, let us know.  Check us out at TaylorMade Solutions.

50 Free or Low-Cost Apps for Small Businesses

For many small businesses, keeping up with all of the latest tools and apps can be tough. So, we’ll make it a bit easier for you.

Here are 50 low-cost tools and applications to check out today.

The best part is that many are completely free!

  1. Around Me – Search for the nearest restaurants, banks, gas stations, hotels, and more. Time is money and when travelling for business, this app will help.
  2. Award Wallet – Travel a lot for business and have too many reward programs to keep track of? Track it all and stay organized and in sync with your rewards.
  3. 1ShoppingCart  – Build, sell and grow your ecommerce storefront.  You can try out the tool for one month at no cost.
    1Shopping Cart
  4. Beesy – This low cost app enables you to take meeting notes and has automated To-Do lists as well as some nifty Task/Project Management
  5. Bizzabo – A mobile networking app for events and conferences to keep attendees, organizers and sponsors engaged. You can learn who will be attending in advance and make plans accordingly.
  6. Bump – This free app enables to smart phone users to actually bump their phones together to transfer contact information, photos, files, etc.
  7. Camera Awesome – The name alone is cool. This free app is touted as one of the best photo editors. Even the Wall Street Journal has endorsed it.
  8. Cloze – Overcome “inbox overload” and filter through the noise to get to those critical emails.
  9. Converter Plus – This free app not only helps you with currency conversion, but also comes with a mortgage calculator, fuel consumption tools, and more.
  10. Dashlane – Need a password manager and secure digital wallet for devices? This free app might be just what you are looking for.
  11. – Need a dictionary and thesaurus on the go? This free app is the way to go. A bonus, you don’t need internet while searching words!
  12. Doodle – This low cost app is a great tool if you are in the position of setting up meetings with people in different locations, businesses, etc. Doodle app enables you to poll invitees to determine which date and time best accommodates people.Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 7.24.30 PM
  13. Dropbox – Another great free app that lets you store your files, including photos in the Cloud.  Access them anywhere and share with anyone. You will never have to worry about forgetting a thumb drive again. Or, if you can’t make a meeting, your colleague can access that all-important presentation and deliver it for you.
  14. EasilyDo – Your free personal assistant that checks traffic before your commute, checks weather, tracks packages, lets you know when there is an important date you need to celebrate and more.
  15. Blogger – Create your own free blog in minutes and leverage your other Google products to help promote.
  16. Evernote – Another free app that enables you take notes, make lists, sync files across devices and stores everything in the Cloud.
  17. Facebook Pages – Want to engage with your customers, stakeholders and community in general?  Set up a Facebook page to share information and communicate real-time.
  18. Find My iPhone – Not just for your iPhone, but really any Mac Product, this free app is one that you want to have. If you have ever lost your phone, you know the feeling of fear.  Help mitigate loss with this app.
  19. FlipBoard – Curate the news the way you like it in one place with this free app.
  20. Gate Guru – The winner of numerous Best Travel or Airport Apps, this freebee let’s you view your Tripit and Kayak itineraries, view/post airport security waiting times, see a structured list of airport food, shops, etc.
  21. Gmail – Looking for free email, with real-time notifications, multiple account support and more? Check out Gmail.
  22. Google Docs – Want an easy way to share documents with colleagues and be able to edit together simultaneously? With free Google docs you can be in one part of the world while a colleague or client is in another sharing and updating the same document.
  23. Google Hangout – Can’t make the meeting? Use Google Hangout to meet with up to 10 different people while seeing them online at no cost. Share information, photos and more all from the convenience of your office, or even the airport.
  24. Google+ – Looking for a social channel that is different and offers you the flexibility of distribution lists (circles) magazine style viewing on your tablet? Check out Google+.
  25. Google Translate – What a free and easy way to translate messages, signs or social posts?  Google translate offers both text and audio translations.
  26. Instagram – This free app enables you to take photos and video and then apply filters to improve the product, which is perfect for blogs, websites, and more.
  27. Lemon Wallet – Store digital copies of your credit cards, ID, etc. all for free in this app.
  28. Mozy – Looking for an industry leader in online backup? Mozy is a free app that helps you securely access all your backed-up files
  29. ooVoo – Need to conduct video calls? Check out this free app and join ore than 70 million other video chatters.
  30. PCalc Lite – Looking for a calculator that has more capability than the standard one on your device. This free app gives you a scientific calculator.
  31. Perfect365 – Looking to make people picture perfect for your website, blog, etc.  Perfect365 is a free app that offers one-tap makeovers, photo editing and more.
  32. Photo Editor by Aviary – Another great free option to edit your online photos.  Supported by multiple languages and numerous devices, the reviews are good for this app.
  33. Pic Collage – Looking to dress up your photos for your website, blog, newsletter or other collateral? Check out this free app!
  34. Pic Stitch – Want a different photo editor? Pic Stitch is a free app that creates interesting visuals.
  35. Podcasts App – Want an easy way to access your favorite Podcasts to stay up-to-date on trends and news? Want to customize your own station with your favorite podcasts? Check the free Podcasts app!
  36. Skype – Need to connect with a client or colleague and want to talk face-to-face? Or perhaps SMS?  Check out Skype’s free tools. Upgrade to the paid version and get more options.
  37. Skyscanner – Looking for an easy way to compare flights and costs? Check out this free app!  More than 20 million people are using this app to get better and cheaper flights.
  38. Square – Need a quick and easy way to process credit cards? Why not use your smart phone with this free app. They will even give you the free card reader!
  39. Survey Monkey – Want to get the pulse of your market or a sample at least? Try Survey Monkey. Create you own surveys on your schedule. Their free version lets you create a survey with up to 10 questions. Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 7.23.12 PM
  40. Tripit – Need to keep all your travel plans in one place, plus share with key people? Check out Tripit’s free app.
  41. Tumblr – Looking for a place to host your blog?  Tumblr may be your spot. This free resource hosts more than 108.2 million blogs.
  42. Twitter – Want quick news bites and to share quick news bites about your company in 140 Characters or less? Set up your free Twitter account.
  43. Viber Media – Want to connect with people around the world by phone for free? Then check out this free app.
  44. Vine – If you are looking for an interesting way to showcase your company with six-second videos, Vine could be your free resource. Be sure to sign up for Twitter first, if you haven’t thought.
  45. Wave Accounting – Like many small businesses, you need accounting! Why not try this free accounting software with unlimited invoicing, collaboration options and more.
    Wave Accounting
  46. Waze Maps – Looking for free GPS navigation with turn by turn? Waze may be your app.
  47. Weave –  This free Project Management tool will keep your organized and in the know of what is happening with your business.
  48. Wikipedia – This free online encyclopedia is a great resource that is used by researchers and general information seekers. Create your own Wiki page to showcase your business’ history and expertise.
  49. WordPress – A great free resource to help you create great blogs. With a variety of plug-ins, this is a great tool for your blog.
  50. XE Currency – Have the need to convert currency quickly? Check out this free app.

Don’t overlook how technology can support small business growth. With the right tech, you can grow faster, scale more efficiently, and delight customers faster. For more tips on communication, marketing and collaboration for the small business, be sure to check us out at TaylorMade Solutions.


Don’t Feed the Trolls – Research Reveals Psychopathy

For any person managing a company blog, Facebook Page or other online asset, we all know and think about the trolls.  We advise, and are advised by, others to not feed the trolls.  Now new research out of Canada confirms what we all knew – online trolls have psychopathic tendencies.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Years ago I worked at a company that was pretty innovative in a number of areas.  In fact like many innovative environments, not everyone is pleased with the direction that the innovation is headed.  Some people who feel that they are losing control become embittered and look for ways to cause chaos.  While all this was bubbling under the surface and it was for the most part hidden, it would soon boil to the top when we launched our Facebook page for customer interactions.

Of course we trained and prepared our staff how to handle external discord.  We were prepared for that.  What we were less prepared for however, was that of the trolls who clearly surfaced from within the organization.  As someone who was very proud to work for the organization it was very disheartening and alarming to see very personal and abusive attacks being made against certain people.  I can’t articulate just how bad it was.  Eventually we had to take steps to ban the offender or offenders.  We finally found a solution, but it took awhile.

Over the years since this “experience” I have shared the details with many social media thought-leaders and they were quite perplexed.  They found the circumstances extreme and were actually shocked when I shared some of the actual posts.  It was one of the worst attacks that they had heard about.

Needless to say the posts were vicious and unrelenting.  At the time I couldn’t help but wonder what was driving the person or persons to behave in this manner.  I worried about the mental state of someone who could act in this way.  Research released earlier this month by Canadian researchers Erin Buckels, a University of Manitoba psychology graduate student, and psych professors Paul Trapnell of the University of Winnipeg and Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia, found the trolls were “Machiavellian in their manipulation of others and their disregard for morality.”  Most disturbing however, is the finding that this is not an online phenomenon, but rather something that they like o do every day, whether on line or not.  If you think about this, the ramifications are quite serious.

How to handle trolls depends on the situation.  In my case, we probably should have just ignored them, but it was difficult when it was such a disturbing attack on members of the executive.  It was hard for employees to look at the posts when monitoring.  More recently however, Dominos did an excellent job at addressing a troll.  Here are some of the tweets:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.40.17 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.42.37 PM

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.47.31 PM

So, how did Domino’s do?  They did a great job.  They stuck to message and no doubt have a great Playbook that helped guide them through this.  They also kept the responses to a smaller audience.  The trolls made sure that everyone could see their posts by using a “.” at the beginning of their tweets.  When Domino’s responded however, they did not respond the same way. Instead, they just responded to the offender.  As a result, only the people following both the troll and the Domino’s could see the response.  By doing this they aren’t making a big deal of this.  In the end, they shut it down.

Want to learn more about marketing, communications and strategy?  Be sure to visit us at TaylorMade Solutions.

Good Leaders Don’t Preach, They Act

Over the years I have worked with some brilliant people.  I have also worked with some less than brilliant people.  Thankfully there were learning opportunities from both.  In fact, I have learned what to do and what not to do.  Perhaps the biggest lesson however, is that good leaders don’t preach, they act.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Here are the top 5 lessons I have learned from great leaders:

1.  They Listen

Really great leaders are able to listen to other people.  They actually hear what is being said.  They also listen to people regardless of where they might be in the hierarchy.

As one leader put it, “I see things from a certain vantage point.  My executive team sees it pretty much from my vantage point, but the manager on the floor or the employee on the front lines sees it from a much different way.  I can’t always seek their input in making decisions, but there are times when I need to hear about their issues to make an informed decision.”

2. They Praise in Public and Coach in Private

We have all been in situations when a manager or other senior leader in the organization has made a point to publicly acknowledge the contributions of a team member.  During those moments we really admire that individual who can take the time to recognize others.  And secretly, we want to be on the receiving end of the recognition.  Be honest with yourself…you know that you do.

We have also been either witness to, or worse yet, the subject of what could be a public flogging or at the very least a very embarrassing moment when the boss decides that he is going to put you in your place in front of your peers, his peers or customers.

In the former situation, individuals are showing leadership and acknowledging that it takes a team to succeed. It build trust. It builds team.  It build respect.  And, on top of it all, it creates an environment where people will follow that leader to the end of the earth.

In the latter situation, it is quite different.  This type of action is not about leadership.  It is about someone who has to exert  a sense of power or control over another.  Often times this is done to counteract the insecurity of the so-called leader.  In fact, I have witnessed this in cases where an individual is very good at what he or she does and is being recognized for success.  The leader has become threatened by the success of his or her underling and takes action to “show who is boss.”  The end result is not admiration or respect for the leader. In fact it is quite the opposite.

3. Know Leadership is More than Dolling Out Books

Don’t get me wrong.  I love reading.  I collect books and never want to dispose of books.  They become a part of my being.  When someone recommends a book to me I take that seriously.  Of course I want to explore what this person experienced in reading said book. This is particularly true of people I really admire and respect.

It has been my experience that really great leaders keep up to date with most, if not all, of the greatest books, but they are very judicious in terms of which books they recommend to others.  The reverse is also true for not so great leaders.  I can recall working with one individual who had a new book recommendation for his staff on nearly a weekly basis.  Not only did he order the book for us, which was nice, but he then told us how quickly he read it and would bring it out in meetings.  Of course, the book of choice changed nearly weekly.  Unfortunately so did his focus.  It didn’t take long for the books to collect on the shelves of those that reported to him.  There were some good ones in there, but unfortunately the build-up of dust was a telltale sign that his subordinates no longer took him seriously.

4.  Appreciate and Celebrate Differing Points of Views

When I look at the great leaders that I have had the pleasure of serving with, they are pretty comfortable in their own skin.  They are confident in their expertise and recognize that they need to build a team that is second to none.  Because they are confidant, they not only appreciate, but they seek out and celebrate differing points of views.  They know that hearing different ideas, they will make decisions with all scenarios in mind.

I worked with one CEO that would listen carefully to members of his executive team, his or her ideas, concerns and proposed solutions. He often already knew the course of action that he wanted to take, but through hearing out his team he did 3 things:

  • he tested this theory to ensure that he had all the information;
  • practiced how he might present/defend to the board and other stakeholders; and
  • brought his team along with him through discussion.

In the end his team understood the issue thoroughly and because they had the opportunity to share their thoughts, they felt tied to the decision.

I think it is important to note that this same CEO did not rule by consensus.  Don’t get me wrong.  He had no issue making his own decisions and he often did make decisions without a group discussion. When he did however, his team respected him and more importantly “trusted” that it was the right thing to do.

5.  They Care

This might seem obvious, but I don’t believe it to be the case.  Working with people who care does make a difference.  For those that think it is a weakness to care, I would suggest that you might be a leader in name, but you won’t have the minds, hearts and dedication of those that work beside you and for you.  When a person genuinely cares for another person it is obvious.  When a person is only focused on his or her own interests, that is also transparent.

Want to learn more about leadership, marketing and developing your business?  Visit us at TaylorMade Solutions

How You Tell Your Customers (on a daily basis) That Your Brand Sucks

First off, a brand is not a logo.  A brand is about the emotional reaction that your product and/or service causes.  For example, how do you feel when you think:  Apple, Range Rover or Canada Goose? What you thought and felt is the brand – good or bad!  More importantly, ask yourself how do you want people to react to your brand?  What do they think when they hear your name?  So, repeat after me:  a brand is not a logo.   And people who continue to think that a brand is a logo are likely the same people that don’t understand why they are having customer retention issues.  These same people are telling their customers and prospects that their own brand sucks in these three ways:

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

1.  Unknown Company Values

If you haven’t really thought about what your company values are, your employees will be left to make them up. Needless to say, consistency might be an issue at best.  Worst case scenario?  Your customers won’t like what they see and bail.

It is not enough to say that you strive for excellence for example, you need to ensure your entire team knows and understands what this means.  What excellence looks like and what it does not.  In December I wrote of an experience with Keurig Canada that demonstrated that they weren’t operating on that premise of  excellence.  Thankfully they were listening on social and called me to rectify the situation.  You can read about that experience here.

2.  Not Responding to Customers

This is no doubt the best way to tell your customers or prospects that they don’t matter.  First and foremost you have to be present in the channels where your customers and prospects are.  So, that means telephone, email and in some cases social media. (I differ from most marketers with respect to social.  I believe you have to be realistic about your business and who your customers are and make an informed decision, but this deserves its own separate blog post.)

Here is the critical piece, however:  be sure that you properly staff these channels and respond.  Seems logical right?  Unfortunately not.  Would you sit next to a ringing phone and not answer it?  Probably not. At least I hope not.  So, why then do some brands ask people to email them and then never respond?  The same goes for social media?  You are sending the wrong message.

Not responding to customers happens all the time.  Not responding to prospects happens all of the time.  These results in lost business.

Here are two recent examples:

  • Robert Burns Day got me thinking about Haggis.  So, I wanted to buy some.  I googled and found Stahly Quality Foods. Great!  However, not so great!  When I tried to order a notice came up for North Americans.  Not to worry, I could reach out to a regional distributor via email.  I sent that email more than two weeks ago and have not received an acknowledgement or answer.  So, I put a message on Stahly Quality Foods Facebook page…and you guessed it…nothing.  In fact the last time they actually posted on their Facebook page was October 2013.  So, exactly why do they have a Facebook page?  Why do they list their distributors with their contact information?  Frankly I have formed an opinion of this brand.  It is not a good one.  I now can’t imagine buying food from them.Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.04.12 AM
  • I was helping a student with his cover letter and resume for a specific job.  The company doing the hiring requests that applicants send their information via email or snail mail.  They are a large company with a full HR department.  They had approximately four jobs listed on their website at the time this student applied.  The issue that he faced is that he could not get anyone to respond to his request to confirm receipt of the email.  He even tried a delivery receipt, but received a notification that their system was set up so that a delivery acknowledgement was not possible.

Many HR departments that do this often claim that because of volume of applications and only successful candidates will be notified of an interview.  I say “B.S” to that.  First and foremost you can have an automatic response that acknowledges receipt of the email.  Secondly, you can set rules to sort applications by job number.  So, saying that you get too many email is really and truly B.S.

What you are doing is setting the tone for candidates.  Some may decide that this is not the type of organization that they want to work for.  This could certainly be the case in markets where there are more jobs than candidates.  Or, you can be setting the tone for how, if successful, they should act towards their colleagues, prospects and customers.  After all, mediocrity begets mediocrity (tweet this).

3.  Lacking of Training and Management

We all need training.  Sometimes it is training rooted in the technology we need for the job, some times it is in safety, working hours, etc.  What many brands forget to train their employees in, is customer interaction.

Have you ever gone into a store and saw a number of employees clustered together laughing and carrying on?  There are many things that could be going in here.  The first thought might be, wow, this is a great place to work. These people are happy.  This is great.  However, as you are in the store longer you see that these same employees continue to stay together and are completely oblivious to the customers around them.  They don’t see the customers who need help.  They deliberately avoid eye contact.  This is often systematic of a lack of training and management.  It can be a very easy fix.  Train your employees on the importance of the customer. Ensure that your managers are always focused on the customer and lead by example.  There is nothing wrong with a team huddle and good camaraderie.  Actually it is great.  It only becomes an issue when your comrades don’t focus on the customer and the customer walks out.

The Fix

These are three ways that you and your employees tell your customers, on a daily basis, that your brand sucks.  Thankfully there are easy fixes:

  • communicate your values to all employees
  • consistently enforce your brand values and acknowledge your employees when they live the brand values
  • make brand training a regular operational practice
  • ensure that your customers are prospects are at the forefront of your communications and expectations
  • communicate your expectations
  • test your employees – secret shoppers help identify issues for improvement
  • remember to focus on issues and not individuals – praise publicly and coach privately

What would you add to the list? Want more information or help? Feel free to connect with us.

10 Ways to Avoid Looking Like a Jerk When Using Email

We all know people who would rather email than pick up the phone or even walk down the hall to talk to someone.  Heck, if I am being honest, I have even done that.  Sometimes it is done through laziness other times it could be to CYA.  C’est la vie, right?  For the most part, yes; however, there are times that the answer is no.  So, here are 10 ways to avoid looking like a complete jerk when using email:

Image courtesy of -

Image courtesy of –

10.  Use “Reply All” Judiciously

Not every email needs to have everyone on the distribution list or even an entire string.  It is good etiquette to acknowledge that some information is for information only.  On top of that, it is good practice to acknowledge that email is moving to a smaller distribution list who can and will and act on the issue(s).  When more information is ready, the entire group will be added back to the email distribution.   Being up front and transparent about actions is important.

9.   Understand the “To” and “CC” Fields

Think about who needs what information and when.  For example, many people don’t realize that when sending an email and using the “To” section, you are actually looking for feedback or input from that person or persons.  Using the “CC” section is to ensure that you are providing information to people so that they are in the know, but not necessarily for response.

If you are CC’ed on a message you do not need to respond if you don’t have something to add or contribute.  People often feel that they need to respond to all email even when  CC’ed.  The fact is,  you don’t.

8.   Double Check Spelling and Grammar

To err is human and everyone makes mistakes from time to time in what they write and heck even in speech.  Despite this, mitigate the damage and do good proof read.

7.  Work to Keep Email Short

Ever receive an email and see paragraph after paragraph and think…”Do I really have to read all of this?”  Sure you have.  If you feel this way, think about others and avoid having your audience dread your email.  If you are about to recite War and Peace, it might be better to call a meeting.

6.  Format Email

Make it easy for readers.  Don’t blend all content in one long paragraph.  Break it up with spaces, bullets, etc.

5.  Have a Large Attachment to Send?  Ask first

Some organizations restrict the size of incoming email.  It is best to ask in advance if there could be an issue and/or if they would prefer to receive the information via another medium.

4.  Know When Not to Use Email

If your email could be perceived as alarming, punishing or angry, it would be best to pursue other communication channels.  For example, ask yourself if it would be better to meet in person to help put the issue in context and to be able to answer questions/concerns immediately.

3.  Avoid Using All Caps

I am surprised that some people still don’t know that using all caps is the equivalent to yelling at someone, but it would appear that this is the case.  In a few instances when people have sent me an email with sentences written entirely in caps, I called to ask what I had done to cause the person to yell.  The person who sent the email was completely surprised that I took it that way and was only intending to draw more attention to a particular sentence.

2.  Know When to BCC Others and Use Caution

When sending out a mass email to people it is best to BCC the entire distribution list.  This helps  protect people from unwanted return emails or in some cases, protects privacy.

Where it becomes really tricky is when a person responds to someone and BCCs others in order to make the another person look back or to CYA.  It only takes one “Respond to All” by the person who was BCCed or a conversation to realize that there is a trust issue at hand.

1. Respect People

It goes without saying that you should not put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want a third-party to read.  That being said there are some expectations by the sender  that the receiver will not respond and include others in the email, except in certain circumstances:

Some acceptable times to include others in an email distribution that they were not originally cc’ed on include:

  • You have changed jobs and the person sending the email is looking for assistance based on your old role
  • A person is looking for help or advice in a particular area and as a result sent an email asking if you know of someone who could assist
  • The originator of the email is looking for contact information for another party.

These are three examples where cc’ing another party is completely acceptable.  In each case, the person responding would include the third-party and offer an explanation and/or introduction.

Some examples of when it is not acceptable and makes you look kinda like a jerk include:

  • A person in authority sends an email looking for information and you respond sending the information, but include others.  In this case you should let the person in authority determine if and when another will get the information.  There could be a very good reason that the person was not included in the original email.
  • A colleague sends an email and either has inaccurate information or missing information and you respond correcting the person and cc their boss.
  • The sender of the email has or is looking for information from you and in your response you cc the entire department and/or management.

In all these cases, the person who responds and adds others to the email really comes across as trying to make the other person look bad.

What has been your experience with email?  Have any items to add to this list?  Disagree with any?  We would love to hear from you.