Articles Tagged with businesses

Keep on marketing when school’s out with our #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge

Schools are breaking up for the long summer holidays and so will our MPs – is that a coincidence? – and I know from my role as business editor that it’s a time when the flow of press releases dries up as more people go away on holiday and businesses stop their marketing.

That’s crazy when newspapers still have pages to fill and web sites need news stories to pull in readers. There’s lots of opportunity to get coverage for your business.

Traditionally, there can be a lack of news at this time of year – the silly season – so why not drop a good story into journalists’ hands when the field is clear?

We’ve created the #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge to help you brush up on your PR and take advantage of the opportunities.

SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge | pressme

Over the next six weeks, we’ll be adding practical hints and tips on how to use PR to promote your business every weekday.

As soon as the schools start back in September, the phones start ringing and emails start arriving again. The the backlog of press releases rushes through and everyone competes to get space on newspaper pages.

The #SillySeasonPR school holiday challenge aims to get your news out there before this rush begins.

Visit daily for the latest tips and suggest any you would like to share.

Have a good summer, enjoy your holiday and make your PR sizzle.

Come back tomorrow for the first tip.

Make it easy for readers to find and understand messages

Running a business is a complex challenge. Whatever the size of organisation, many processes need to run smoothly, while a number of statutory bodies require tax, accounting, health and safety and many more regulations to be observed.

How do you get your people to know this and recognise the importance of compliance?

Many organisations create manuals and intranets outlining important procedures, but do people read them?

Making information accessible is important if employees are to use materials in the course of their work. People need to know they can find the information they need fast.

Easy-to-use indexes and navigation

Readers will find a manual more useful if it is structured so that they can find what they need fast in contents or index pages or flick through the main body and see what they want in a heading.

An easy-to-navigate intranet or web site will also be more useful if viewers can find what they’re looking for fast.

Clear explanations

Once a reader has found the information they want, they have to be able to understand it. People tend to consult reference material when they don’t understand something and need an explanation. To provide what they want, manuals and web sites need to provide clear explanations without using jargon and without waffle.

If people can’t find what they’re looking for once or twice, they probably won’t bother trying a third time. And if they can’t understand explanations when they do find the right section, they’ll think the material is a waste of their time.

More importantly, if staff cannot understand important processes or regulations, what impact will it have on your business? Could it reduce productivity or, worse, prevent the business from meeting legal requirements?

Useful resources improve business

If you are going to the expense of creating reference material for employees, you’ll get the best value if they find it easy to use and it helps them do their jobs. It’ll also help maintain productivity and ensure your business meets any legal obligations.

Print or digital?

If we live in the digital age, why do I recycle so much printed marketing material?

Just like the myth of the paperless office, printed words and graphics still play a powerful part in marketing and communications. While the digital world offers very many useful advantages, it complements, rather than supersedes, print.

Bearing this in mind, should we still print business cards and brochures or depend totally on our online presence? The answer is: it depends.

Some businesses can quite easily forego printed material and just refer to their web presence, while others are likely to find a web site almost irrelevant. I know of one business that posts leaflets through doors before following up with a personal visit: they are achieving a good response rate without any online presence whatsoever. However, I believe that a web site would help them.

Personally, I get annoyed by printed catalogues I receive through the post, as I recycle these immediately without looking at them. I used to believe that these were a complete waste of money until recently I began leafing through a catalogue just as it was about to hit the recycling pile and spotted a very good offer for a product that I needed. I ordered the product and enjoyed a hefty discount, which I wouldn’t have been aware of if I hadn’t received the catalogue. So it did work for this supplier.

I think the best course is to review your material regularly and consider what your target audience wants. Do they want to find information and interact through a web site or do they want hard copy to read at their leisure? And what responses do you receive from online and printed materials? The answers will help you to decide whether to produce one or the other or both.

Print is still useful and should not be dismissed without serious consideration, even though digital media can often offer speed and cost advantages.

After our last blog, how are you measuring your success?

z2zine tomorrow: the difference a single letter can make

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Starting conversations

So much can start with a conversation. In fact, no business can survive without conversations to communicate with its suppliers, employees and customers.

Communication is the basis of all business.

Whatever your business does, you have to communicate with banks or lenders to obtain finance, with staff to enable your business processes to operate smoothly and with customers so that they buy your product. A conversation ensures communication is two-way, enabling you to receive feedback from the other person, which can help you to improve what you do. One-way communication, when you tell people whatever you want, can risk deterring supporters and suppliers, upsetting staff and driving customers away.

z2zine today looks at a different aspect of communication every day to see what businesses can do to converse more effectively. Better communications can lead to better business, so there’s a big incentive for us all to develop and improve our conversations.

But where do we start?

Take André Preneur, an imaginary business owner, whose company is stagnating. He’s got a stationery cupboard full of brochures designed and printed six months ago, a web site that was launched two years ago and an order book that’s not very full. What can André do instead of sitting in his office with his door closed, worrying about how to get new orders to pay his suppliers’ invoice and his employees’ wages? He doesn’t have much of a marketing budget and he’s already placed adverts in local directories. What else is there?

The answer is: a lot.

And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Just updating the web site is a start. Is the information current? Are prices correct? And what about those brochures? Do they promote products or services new to customers? When was the last time customers were contacted? Could they be sent a brochure to jog their memories, excite their interest and continue the customer conversation?

Simple examples, perhaps, but there are many things that every business can do to keep conversations flowing.

And it’s not just with customers. Conversations with employees need to continue as well. When markets are challenging, businesses depend on their people more than ever before, so treating them well is important, especially if additional flexibility and co-operation are needed.

What can I do today?

Conversations require effort to develop over the long term, but there are also quick, easy actions we can take every day. One thing we can do straight away is to make sure everything is up to date. So how about looking over your web site, deleting expired offers and old events, checking prices and current offers? And how about your printed material and stationary? Are addresses, prices, offers all current? Do you have new products you’re not promoting, but need to promote? And if you have boxes of brochures doing nothing, how about distributing them, either by mail or by your sales people or customer service staff?

All these actions are a start. Once begun, it’s much easier to continue conversing.

 

Confusion down, productivity up with clear communication

Once again, a news item focuses on how gobbledegook used by local government confuses people or, at worst, conceals the truth. Yet it’s not only councils that use jargon: businesses are often just as guilty.

It can be easy, when sitting in a room with colleagues or industry peers, to throw jargon and acronyms around. It saves time and can make us look good; it can also alienate people, make us look arrogant and block progress when others haven’t a clue what we mean.

It doesn’t take much to communicate clearly, using plain English instead of jargon, but the difference can be significant. If we rattle off an email that no one can understand, readers will either ignore it because they don’t know what we’re on about and don’t want to look stupid themselves or respond by seeking clarification from us. So that’s two unnecessary emails we’ll have generated. Confusion up, productivity down.

Acronyms and abbreviations do have their uses. Spelling out or saying ‘methylene diphenyl diisocyanate’ every time does get tedious, so following its first use with the initials MDI (so everyone knows what we’re talking about) can be useful, but inserting them into every document or conversation regardless of the intended audience should be avoided.

The answer, as usual, is in achieving balance through ensuring that our audience understands any technical or specialist terms we use. That’s how to keep both understanding and productivity up.

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