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Tested and true annual report tips for wondrous results

Nonprofit organizations and some companies create annual reports to showcase their work with key stakeholders every year. And many come off sounding like a, well, report. Something nobody really wants to read. They’re just something to check a required box. But why waste an opportunity? When annual reports are well executed, people actually read them and act.

An effective annual report may inspire stakeholders of different backgrounds to take action. A reporter might pick up something from the report for a story. A donor might make another donation or buy tickets for an upcoming event. A customer may book a different service or try a different product than the one they’re familiar with. What do you want your audience to do when they read yours?

Influential annual reports

The topic of annual reports is on the brain here because ClearWing recently worked with the Cobb/Marietta Exhibit Hall Authority to create an inspiring 2018 Annual Report. The theme was “Influence” and included stories about how three organizations – The Cobb Galleria, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and ArtsBridge – make a significant impact on people and organizations across the community, the state and the southeast.

We considered all stakeholders and readers when planning and hunting for stories.  In all, we featured 7 short stories to show how companies benefited from sponsorships; how organizations and people benefited from events there; and how students benefited from arts education. One story was about a volunteer who overcame her grief at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, and formed a close relationship with a patron. Another story featured a school principal who shared how children’s eyes are opened to the possibilities when they are exposed to the arts. The report was picked up by local media and gave the organization another opportunity to tell their story to audiences beyond their own stakeholders.

This elementary school principal helped tell the story of the important work of ArtsBridge, an arts education foundation.

Another stunning annual report I had the privilege to help conceptualize and produce was the 2017 WellStar Annual Report. Authentic patient stories, stunning photography, custom paper artwork and infographics came together to create a story of how the health system was “Building momentum in pursuit of world-class healthcare.” It was inspiring to tell the story of the 72-year-old man who won a gold medal in shot-put halfway through his cancer treatment. The 16-year-old girl who survived a tragic bus crash taking a church group to the airport for a mission trip. And the woman who survived breast cancer so she could keep teaching elementary music students and living life to the fullest.  Several of these stories came to life in print and broadcast media.

This man helped illustrate the winning cancer care by WellStar radiologists.

9 Tips for tremendous annual reports

  1. CONSIDER YOUR READER: As always, consider who will be reading the annual report. What do you want them to know? What do they want to know? And how can you put the two together?
  2. KEEP IT SIMPLE: Additionally, remember who you’re writing for and in most cases, keep jargon out of it. Most annual reports cater to a variety of audiences.  
  3. TELL YOUR STORY: Tell authentic brand stories that take both your mission and your reader into consideration. Who does your organization serve? Who in your organization serves them? There are interesting stories. You just have to dig a little. Read how to tell your brand story to engage your audience here.
  4. CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: If your company isn’t a nonprofit but you do things to make the world a better place, talk about it! Corporate social responsibility (or CSR) is becoming increasingly important, especially for younger consumers. According to a 2017 study by Cone Communications, 87 percent of people will purchase a product because a company got behind an important issue.
  5. SHOWCASE: Use high-quality photography to accompany your stories. The photos don’t have to be of people using your product or service (but it’s a win if they do). They can reflect the life that’s possible because of your organization.
  6. VISUALIZE YOUR DATA: Annual reports usually divulge a lot of data in the spirit of openness. Unfortunately, they can be complete eye charts and cause people to close the report. Include only what’s really necessary. Use infographics, pull-quotes or other graphics to visualize the data and take people on a journey through information that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  7. APPRECIATE: It’s always good to appreciate people in an annual report. Gratitude can incentivize those who’ve given to or purchased from your organization a reason to stay engaged.
  8. ASK: Most people don’t usually act unless they’re invited. If there’s something you want from your readers, ask. Looking for funds? Have a new service? Give them a way to go after it. If you’ve told your story well, they will be more inspired than ever to take action.
  9. MAKE IT DIGITAL: Annual reports are changing to keep up with the digital age. Consider how to make your annual report interactive online with video, animation, extended stories and more. While this is the last item on this list, it shouldn’t be an afterthought.  Here’s an example of an amazing animated 2017 Annual Report by Girls Who Code.

If you’re ready to ace your next annual report with great storytelling, let’s talk.

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Why and how to be an outstanding podcast guest

What’s your favorite podcast? Podcasts mean numerous radio-style shows with a narrow focus on almost any topic. They offer great opportunities for business people to reach new audiences as podcast guest experts. There are podcasts dedicated to the Watergate scandal all these years later (Slow Burn = awesome).  Not to mention entrepreneurship, murder, marketing, business and beer. And a few other topics too.

While most don’t necessarily have the broad reach of a radio station, podcast interviews can be an incredible tool for you to market your business. Below are several reasons why you might consider serving as a guest on a podcast.

8 benefits of serving as a podcast guest expert

  1. Introduction to a targeted and engaged audience. While the podcast audience may be small, these listeners seek out the program. They go online to listen. Or they download episodes through an app. They want to hear the host and learn from guest experts on the show. It’s a matter of quality over quantity. Often magazines with a specialized audience charge more money for their ads than those with a larger, general audience. This is because they know the value of niche marketing. The same concept applies here but with one major difference… 
  2. Free advertising. While magazines charge a premium for niche market ad space, a podcast interview is usually free. While you need to provide helpful information and shouldn’t be self-serving in an interview, a podcast is like an ad for your business. You get to talk about your background, what your business accomplishes for customers and any other important messages you may need to get out there. And it’s free.
  3. Third-party verification. The very best advertising is word-of-mouth from a third-party, whether that third-party is a friend, a stranger who left a review online or a beloved podcast host the audience thinks is worth “tuning in” for. Their verification of you being “guest-worthy” speaks volumes.
  4. Increased website traffic. When you offer helpful information to an audience that is a good match for what your business offers, they may choose to visit your site for more information. You can up the chances for a visit by offering a free download that’s useful. (See point #5 for more.)
  5. A bigger email list. You can grow your email list with the podcast’s audience by offering a free download. It could be something you already have created (like a free e-book) but they have to enter their email address to download it. Voila! Now you have a bigger email list with qualified prospects.
  6. Increased search engine optimization. The host of the podcast should create a backlink to your website and social media channels from their website. To Google and other search engines, a link from a trustworthy website back to yours is like a vote of confidence. The more backlinks from reputable sites you have, the higher the chances that your website will be returned for searches related to your business.
  7. Street cred. When you appear on a podcast, you position yourself as a thought leader, raising your street cred among your peers and prospects. You can use your appearance to boost your reputation with phrases like “As heard on ______________podcast” if it’s well-known. Other places to leverage your appearance are your bio or LinkedIn page.
  8. New content for your own audience. I’m a huge fan of leveraging content. Once you create content, don’t let the opportunity to use that content slip by! A podcast is another reason to share your expertise with your own audience. You can link to it in your blog, social media channels, website, emails, newsletters and your other communication channels. And make sure you share the love and link back and tag the podcast and/or podcast host.

While the benefits of being interviewed on a podcast are tangible, for some people it can be nerve-wracking. It may feel more comfortable than public speaking to some, but stage fright can still come into. But don’t let that stop you from benefitting from a podcast appearance. A little preparation goes a long way.

Even if you’re not nervous, you’ll get a lot more out of the podcast interview if you’re well-prepared.

When I was recently invited to be a guest on A Brighter Web podcast, I’ll admit I had stage fright. I know I know. You’d think someone who prepares others for interviews and has given many presentations would be fine. But I was nervous. I said yes anyway and followed the same rules I use to prepare clients for radio shows and speeches. Thanks to the host, Mickey Mellen, for putting me at ease and being well-prepared – it went great! Below are some tips to make sure your podcast or radio interview goes well too. 

7 helpful tips to be podcast-interview-ready

  1. Ask your host for information. Hosts are usually happy to share questions, the timing for answers and helpful guidelines. Find out if you’re allowed to share your website or offer a free download to listeners.
  2. Create speaking points for each of the questions. Remember– your answers should help others. You can’t be self-serving and just talk about your services or products. However, if the host allows, you may be able to offer a free download of something useful for listeners on your website. That’s a great way to offer value and collect email addresses for your email list.
  3. Submit your answers back to the podcast host ahead of time. Ask for feedback. You can even ask if any of your answers spark other questions so you can prepare for those too. Make sure the host knows you want to prepare well so that you can respect their time limits for the show.
  4. Practice out loud. Things that look good in ink don’t always sound good when you say them out loud. As with speech preparation, the more you practice out loud, the less tongue-tied you’ll be during the real deal.
  5. Time yourself. When you rehearse your speech, time yourself to ensure you’re staying within appropriate time limits. Your smartphone probably has a stopwatch built in so you don’t have to watch the clock.
  6. Practice ahead and often. Practice as you would for a speech. That is, over and over and over and over. You should know the speaking points so well that you don’t have to refer to your outline very much.
  7. Practice on camera. If there will be a video component for the podcast’s website, you may want to make a video of yourself practicing. This tip is really handy for giving speeches too. Recording yourself can help you recognize anything you do that you may want to change. For example, you may realize you look too serious (depending on the topic of the podcast) and can practice smiling more.
  8. Smile. Whether or not there’s a video component, one thing I learned when I did ad sales for a magazine is to smile. Whether you’re pitching a sale over the phone or recording a podcast, a genuine smile goes a long way. People can hear it in your voice. Smiles add energy and are contagious. This may sound crazy, but multiple research studies -including this one in Psychology Today – prove that smiling builds trust and confidence. So, smile during your podcast interview (even if they can’t see it).

Contact ClearWing to for help with public relations and communications strategy as well as interview prep and media training.

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ClearWing ‘latches on’ to Phoenix Award for innovative brand content

ClearWing ‘latches on’ to Phoenix Award for innovative brand content

It’s been a great first year in business at ClearWing Communications! We’ve had the honor to help clients’ brands fly through unique content creation. To cap it off, we took home a Phoenix Award from the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America for creating powerful branded content.

ClearWing’s shiny, blue glass award was for helping Christie Coursey of Breastfeed Atlanta share groundbreaking information. It positioned her as a thought leader and elevated her business as a preferred care partner. All in the name of healthy babies.

The problem & the solution 

Babies who quit mom’s milk too early suffer from poor health outcomes. But they’re often referred to lactation consultants too late. Breastfeed Atlanta worked with ClearWing Communications to create a position paper with two goals:

  1. To propose a new model of care for earlier intervention for breastfeeding babies and moms.
  2. To position Breastfeed Atlanta as a leading expert on lactation care for newborns so health providers will refer patients.

ClearWing Communications position paper

ClearWing ghostwrote the article for Coursey after a one-on-one interview. We captured information such as who we wanted to educate and action we wanted them to take. The audience included physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs) and other advance practice practitioners (APPs) who see breastfeeding patients.

The professionally-designed and printed branded content piece resembled an article in a medical magazine. The content theorized a gap in specialist care, citing reputable third-party data from organizations such as the World Health Organization. Supporting graphics included infographics (see below). These images helped health providers digest information quickly, even if they didn’t read the full article.

ClearWing-Communications-infographics
ClearWing worked with a talented graphic designer to ensure infographics helped tell the story in a fast, straightforward manner.

Public relations campaign

The position paper was part of a larger PR plan for Breastfeed Atlanta’s expansion into Marietta. The practice had no existing brand recognition in the area. The PR launch’s purpose was to garner awareness, brand recognition and referrals among the healthcare community, leaders and women. PR support included: A media alert, personal invitations to leaders, a ribbon-cutting/open house event, on-site photography, a press release, story pitching, a series of organic social media posts and the mini position paper.

The results

The four-page position paper was hand-delivered to physicians, NPs and APPs by members of the clinic’s staff. This branded content was the most powerful piece of the clinic’s collateral. It resulted in increased brand awareness, valuable new relationships and healthier babies. It will continue to educate health partners for healthier and happier moms and babies.

To read a blog post version of the article, visit the Breastfeed Atlanta website.

To position yourself and your company as a thought leader, contact ClearWing to chat today.

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How to get your brand identity in shape

ClearWing Communications - How to get your brand identity in shape: Craft strong key messaging & brand voice to stand out

In an earlier blog post, we discussed how to boost your business when you focus on brand identity. Essentially, how your “why” informs your brand identity and helps you accomplish business goals.

Here, we’ll talk about developing key messaging and voice to shape up your brand identity.

Shape your brand’s key messaging and repeat it

Your key messaging should incorporate the “why” and the “who” we discussed in our previous brand identity blog. Then you’ll repeat it in every communication. Your website, your social media channels, printed collateral, ads, speeches, videos and more.

Companies with strong brand identities like Coca-Cola repeat their messaging over and over and over. And over and over and over. And over. Even when it gets old. That’s why you recognize slogans like “Taste the feeling.”

Why is repetition important?

  1. In today’s digital landscape, media is more diverse than ever. People can get their information across different service providers and devices. That means audiences are more fragmented than ever. Even when a company repeats a message day in and day out, an individual customer only hears it sporadically so it must be repeated relentlessly.
  2. People are also exposed to more messages than ever before. According to Yankelovich, a market research firm, people living in cities were exposed to an average of 5,000 ads a day in 2007. More than a decade later, experts say it could be as high as 10,000. It’s no wonder many messages don’t stick. In a world where thousands of messages compete for attention on a daily basis, repetition is critical.

Once a company develops its key messaging, it will inform all future communications such as elevator pitches, speeches, ads and more.

Your word choices and brand voice should reflect your organization’s personality

But don’t stop yet. Take it a step further and make intentional choices about your brand voice. Your brand has a unique personality and your brand voice should reflect it. Specific word across your marketing collateral will help people understand how your brand relates to them better.

To start humanizing your brand, come up with a list of adjectives that represent your organization’s personality. You might describe it with words like tough, friendly, witty or funny. And for every personality trait, there’s a voice to match. Words can be gruff, humorous, peppy or clever.

Brand personality helped SPANX stand out

A great example of a Georgia-based company that created a unique brand voice is SPANX. Atlantan Sara Blakely, a.k.a. the “pantyhose mogul,” invented her body-shaping product to look svelte in white jeans (it works, ya’ll).

Though the billionaire has made a killing, she shared in a 2018 interview with Georgia Trend magazine that her brand never takes itself too seriously. That’s a direct reflection of its founder who isn’t afraid to say she was the company’s original “butt model.” The name in itself – SPANX – was risky, but funny, and its first slogan was, “Don’t worry, we’ve got your butt covered.” Product names have included “Her Thighness” and “Undi-tectable.” Her brand voice made it acceptable, even cool, for younger women to use shapewear. The first SPANX served a need no one else was serving and her approachable humor helped the company stand out.

Brand personalities, especially for small businesses, are often a reflection of their founders. Think about your own personality. How would you describe you?  It’s not a good idea to force a voice that’s far from natural. If your company voice is really humorous but you’re quiet and straightforward in person, it won’t feel authentic.

Exercise your brand identity

There’s a good chance you’ve gone through a similar process to create your brand logo and look with color, font and design choices. Combine that with brand messaging and voice and you’ll have everything you need to create a brand identity guideline document. Moving forward, you’ll want to share your guidelines with any marketing and communications professionals you work with, people on your team involved with marketing and companies you partner with to keep everything consistent.

For example, a sponsorship may include remarks, a company description in the program and a logo for a shirt or presentation. A quick consult with your brand identity document can guide your speaking points, program write-up and ensure the partner organization keeps the integrity of your logo intact.

For help creating a brand identity that really reflects your company, let’s talk.

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The truth about jargon and its startling effect

The truth about jargon and its startling effect

Which piece of advice would you be more likely to remember after a visit with your doctor: the sentence with or without jargon?

Dr. Jargon: Decrease your lipoproteins and glucose, increase intake of herbaceous plants with water-soluble vitamins, and increase your calisthenics to reduce your BMI and comorbidities.

-or-

Dr. ClearWing: Cut back on red meats and sugar, increase your intake of leafy greens and exercise to lose weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Did you glaze over when Dr. Jargon was talking? I hope none of that guy’s patients flatline…

The truth about jargon blog post by ClearWing Communications

But seriously, jargon and acronyms are popular no matter what industry you work in. We’re all guilty of using them.

Industry-speak has its place. It can help people learn detailed pieces of information and exchange it quickly amongst peers. But that’s where it should stay.

Have you ever met someone who made you feel like you needed a pocket dictionary just to follow the conversation? When it was over, you may have wondered what you actually talked about. All those words were forgotten and you may have decided NOT to engage further with that person or their business.

Do you speak Jargon?

While it’s easy to be critical of others with a robust vocabulary filled with industry-talk and acronyms, it can be hard to recognize you’re doing the same thing. Even worse, to your customers. (Or maybe you cringe when you use the word “synergy” with a prospective client…even Dr. ClearWing slips up sometimes.)

Business leaders are often entrenched in their industry and meetings with colleagues. It can be tough to realize or admit the need to change their language for different audiences.

Clear messaging for all

Speeches, elevator pitches and marketing content should be as devoid of acronyms and jargon as possible. You should keep your language simple with a general audience, but even with a highly educated audience. People with advanced degrees are still hard-pressed for time. The simpler the message, the easier to process. The quicker to understand, the higher the chance they’ll get your message.

This is something I’ve driven home with my content teams over the years. For general audiences, we shoot for writing on a seventh or eighth-grade level. We measure that with the Flesch Kincaid Readability test. It takes different things into account, like how many words are in a sentence and the length of each word.

It’s hard to grab attention and once you have it, it’s fleeting. The easier your content is to digest, the more likely you’ll be able to communicate your key messages, even if your ideal customer has an M.D.

At ClearWing, we work with our clients to reduce jargon and acronym-filled content so your messages are crisp, clear and easy to digest. So remember, clear messaging saves lives!

Jargon-ClearWing-Communications
We’re not the classiest wine drinkers here. Bought this one for the label, which inspired this blog post.

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Boost your business when you focus on brand identity

Boost your business when you focus on brand identity

We’re going to play a brand identity game and I’m not even going to tell you the rules. You’ll be fine. I say “Dress for Less.” Now you say, “_______.” Here are a few more. The Happiest Place on Earth. Taste the Feeling. Where Shopping is a Pleasure. Eat More Chicken. And my favorite, Do the Kind Thing.

ClearWing Communications strong brand identity boosts business growth

Just in case you need a memory boost….that’s Ross, Disney, Coca-Cola, Publix, Chik-fil-A and KIND. But you probably already knew that.

These powerhouses have strong brand identities. That’s not a result of being a powerhouse. It’s the other way around. When a company creates a strong brand identity and does a phenomenal job of delivering on its brand promise, people connect with it and even trust it.

It’s clear that Ross, Chick-fil-A and Coke invest a lot of THOUGHT, TIME and MONEY into their branding. And COMMITMENT. While the first three are obvious, you might scratch your head at that word “commitment.” It means that after putting careful thought into creating the brand identity, these companies didn’t tuck the document away and move on. They committed to it for years and even decades. They repeated and continue to repeat the message and use their iconic logos and symbols (like cows for Chik-fil-A) over and over and over.

ClearWing Communications helps companies shape their brand identity

Branding is important for businesses of all sizes

Because these mammoth corporations spend more money than we can imagine on their marketing, does that mean we let them have all the branding fun? Most certainly not. Branding isn’t just important for billion dollar companies.

Branding is a critical step in paving the path to your company’s success. The investment you put into it will affect your ride. So unless you’re Jeep, you probably want to accelerate down a paved road rather than struggle up a rocky mountain incline.

A strong brand identity helps define you so clearly that your dream customers find you. When you’re working with your ideal customers, you’re happier. You provide even more excellent service or the new products that they love. They talk. That attracts more ideal customers. And your business grows.

Is it hard to find the time to do this? Yes! You want to focus on your product or your service. Who has time for a brand identity?

Is it worth it? Yup. Adding something else to your to-do list might feel like a step backward when you’re gearing up for a launch or even just managing the day today.

If you’re ready to level up your brand identity for better connections and growth, read on.

Start with your why

In a nutshell, a brand identity is your brand promise to your customer. It’s your why. It’s what gives you a traction to connect with your customers in a meaningful way.

Some businesses launch because their owners are good at what they do. They are tired of working for someone else. And they work to make sure they’re paying the bills. Those are all real-world reasons to run a business. But they’re not good enough to be a company’s why. They’re selfish. (Ouch.)

The real reason a company exists is to serve a purpose. To serve someone, somewhere. The financial payoff is what allows the company to keep on trucking. And when profits are high, they’re a reward for doing a good job. But money shouldn’t be the primary reason a company exists (unless it’s a bank.)

In other cases, a company is started with a deeper purpose. But then the day-to-day gets in the way and brand identity gets set aside.

No matter where you are, it’s never too late to rethink or rev up your brand identity. And then to maintain it. The more attention you give it, the better the results.

When you take the time to get granular with your why, it will serve to guide many of the business decisions you make in the future. In a nutshell, your why needs to define:

  • What you do
  • How you’re different
  • Why customers choose you

More than ever, millennials and the generations that follow are looking for connection. They’re looking for authenticity. They want to support brands with purpose. As an example, think about KIND Snacks. KIND promotes a message of kindness to our bodies as well as other humans in the world. Check out the KIND site – you can actually nominate someone for doing something #kindaawesome and hit them with a KIND card and a KIND bar.

You can gift a KIND bar to someone for doing “the kind thing.” This is brand identity genius.

Who do you serve?

Just as important as our why is our who. It’s imperative to drill down to who exactly we want to serve. A clearly defined customer makes it easier to deliver your message to the right people.

If you keep your brand as generic as possible so you can serve everybody, no one really has any way to connect with you.

But if you define your dream customer and deliver on your brand promise, you will stand out from a crowd to the people who really matter to you.

ClearWing Communications helps companies shape brand identity

One way to develop a clear idea about who you serve is to create an avatar. That’s just another name for your audience or target market. An avatar typically includes a stock photo to represent your customer and a name to humanize him or her. It’s a lot more friendly than referring to your audience as a “target.” And before you get too concerned, yes,  you can have more than one avatar. Many businesses reach more than one group and help alleviate more than one pain point.

When you’re creating your avatar, get specific. Male or female? Is she 25 or 35? Is she married? Does she have kids? Did she go to college? Does she drink Starbucks or Red Bull? Is she in a BMW or a Jeep? Would she prefer to get a manicure or go hiking next Saturday? Is she motivated by being a super mom, a super businesswoman or staying in great shape? 

When your company has a clear sense of who your customer is, to know what they live for and what they care about, you’ll show them that you “get” them. Connect with who you want to serve and your ideal customer will seek you out. And as you deliver on your brand promise, you will grow.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level with a strong brand identity, I’m thrilled for you! If you’re looking for support, tell me all about your why and your who so ClearWing can help your brand fly.

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Read our follow up brand identity post with tips on developing key messaging and brand voice. If you’re interested in receiving ClearWing’s future tips on brand storytelling and how to let your brand fly, sign up for the occasional e-blast here:

How to go from bad to badass for remarkable growth

How to go from BAD to BADASS for remarkable growth

Are you about to launch a new business? Or maybe you’re in an opposite place: you feel stuck in your career, humming along without purpose. Either way, you may want to consider exchanging some bad ideas for badass beliefs. A little attitude adjustment transformed my life and I know it can do the same for you.

New business owners can replace bad ideas for remarkable growth

About six months ago, I went from one extreme (stuck) to the other (launch). I was working a job I liked. Comfortable, but not quite content. Then I launched my new business.

As someone who wants to gain the trust of future clients, the last thing I want to do is wear my flaws on my sleeve. As a PR person, I’m tempted to show you Curated Christy. All the right angles. All the right messages. But I’m about to go off script.

I hope by sharing some of my screwy ideas, anyone who’s stuck in a rut or about to launch a new business will be inspired and renewed. Here goes nothing.

#1

Bad idea: You DIY a little too much.

I’ll admit it. I’m a do-it-yourselfer. When I was cold after moving to Georgia (I know, I know…but I moved here from southwest Florida), I learned to knit. I laid sod when I was pregnant. I grouted 800 square feet of flooring. For some crazy reason, I tried making my own shampoo (that was a bomb).

When I launched my business earlier this year, I was my own attorney and CPA. I repurposed an old LLC and EIN with a new DBA. And, my husband is about to launch a business, which we planned to roll up under the same LLC.

Badass idea: Consult with experts.

After a few red flags, I hired a corporate lawyer who helped me understand why setting up the business that way was a bad idea. He then helped me navigate out of the murky waters. He also gave me some advice on another issue (trademarking) that I was able to cross off my long to-do list.

With expert help outside of my own expertise, I cleared my uncertain path and put my mind at ease. I had more time and energy to focus on my clients in areas where I’m strong and can make a difference.

Bottom line: don’t try to fill every position in your business, especially when it’s outside your industry. Ask for help where you’re weak to allow you to be a badass _____________(fill-in-the-blank with your specialty).

#2

Bad Idea: You’re “too busy” to spend time with people.

Okay, this is one of the more embarrassing things on the list. I used to consider myself a people person but in recent years, I’ve been shrinking away from human interaction. When I (finally) read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey last year, I learned an ugly truth about myself. The amount of work I could crank out was where I found my value as a person. Colleagues invited me to lunches. Organizations invited me to events. And I skipped everything unless I was absolutely forced to attend. I had some tension with some colleagues because they wanted to socialize with me and I wanted to focus on my work. My brain said the problem was them.

The book made it clear that I put accomplishments before people. While work is good, and too much chit-chat in the office can distract, I had to find balance. And I did for a while.

But old habits die hard. I returned to my old ways when I launched ClearWing Communications. People would say “we should grab lunch!” and I’d scream inside. Out loud, I’d say something asinine like, “Sounds great! Let’s touch base in a few months when things settle down a bit.”

Meanwhile, I was missing out on opportunities and friendship.

Badass idea: Reconnect with who you know and meet new people.

Thank goodness so many good people already had this human stuff figured out, shared their secrets and loved me despite my flaws. I had a successful launch because of people who were willing to spend time sharing a coffee.

I’m so thankful that once I figured out the magic of connecting or reconnecting, people welcomed me with open arms to whichever coffee shop is nearby. (I’m looking at you, Rev Coffee Roasters, The Daily Grind, Chattahoochee Coffee Company, Cool Beans…)

Looking back at my numbers, my prospects to help people grow their businesses grew as I met more people for coffee. More importantly, my quality of life improved because I learned to enjoy the moment and relish time spent learning about someone else.

The takeaway here is “reach out and touch someone.”  Shake their hand or even hug (this is the south). Say “yes” to meeting people face-to-face.

Business magic happens when you meet people for coffee. This is a shot from Chattahoochee Coffee Company in Atlanta/Cobb.
Business magic happens when you meet people for coffee. This is a shot from Chattahoochee Coffee Company in Atlanta/Cobb.

#3

Bad Idea: You think maybe you should give up caffeine.

Don’t ever quit the caffeine. Because, you just read through point #2, right?

Badass Idea: Drink caffeine.

Seriously, if coffee’s not your jam, meet people for coffee anyway. I’m not a coffee person myself but magic happens in coffee shops. Learn something new about someone new over a smoothie or a blueberry muffin.

#4

Bad Idea: You think networking events are for getting business.

Do you enjoy hearing blind pitches from salespeople? Me neither.

But when I started networking, there was this pressure to walk into a room, identify someone and sell my services to them. Essentially, I wanted to propose marriage in a speed-dating session.

Frankly, a lot of other people see networking events the same way, which is another reason so many of us dread going to networking events. I’ve been approached by so many people and I’m just not in the market for their services.

Badass Idea: Connect, relate and help others at networking events.

Real networking is about getting to know people and helping them. We all have room to grow. Share your challenges and ask whomever you’re talking with about what they’re facing. Chances are, you might know someone to connect them with and they might have some good advice for you too. Overcoming obstacles together is the basis for a lasting relationship that could bless you and your network for years to come.

I guess you probably realize that to get to know people like this, you have to show up more than once. I’ve heard the frustration of many others with a new business. They attend one event and think it’s a waste of time. But when all of us attend weekly or monthly, we recognize people, help them, form relationships and actually enjoy it.

#5

Bad Idea: You feel like you need to be everything to everyone.

Fifteen years of marketing seems like a good amount of experience. But I still didn’t feel like I was enough. I felt like my new business needed to be a full-service agency. By myself. I felt inadequate. I had a desire. No, that word is not strong enough. I had a sickness that kept me up at night learning every possible thing I thought I needed to know that moment to sell myself.

Badass Idea: Have confidence in what you know.

I woke up and realized clients wanted to work with me because I’m really good at what I know.

This isn’t to say learning new things is bad. But embrace who you already are and what you already know. Let that lead. Learn as you go and as it makes sense rather than pressuring yourself to be everything to everyone.

The truth is, the more specific your niche, the more attractive you are to your ideal client.

#6

Bad Idea: You think you know enough.

Here’s another really embarrassing one. I got too comfortable in my career. I allowed myself to believe that when I wasn’t at work, I should clock out on my personal growth. Work/life balance is so important! But that doesn’t mean I should stop learning.

Badass Idea: Be a sponge.

I was a member of Public Relations Society of America for a number of years, but it was only when I launched my communications firm that I really appreciated the incredible benefits provided to me. Now I’m a sopping wet sponge. I soak in information and best practices from PRSA’s magazine, message boards, panels, seminars and webinars. It adds interest to my life and makes me better at what I do for my clients.

Never stop learning. It makes life more exciting and fulfilling. And, it helps you serve your audience better.

Revive yourself with better ideas

As my ideas went from bad to badass, my new business grew. In my third month, the things I measure to know I’m on track came close to where I wanted to be by month 12. More importantly, I liked myself and my life inside and outside of work more. Pardon the poetics, but the sun is rising on a whole new horizon.

Whether you’re looking to add new energy to your career or you’re about to launch a new business, I hope I inspired you to ditch some bad ideas that are holding you back. Instead, take time for people, learn new things and have faith that you’re enough. When you open yourself to the new, you may just find yourself heading down an unexpected, beautiful path.

Please share any “bad ideas” you’ve transformed over the years for smarter and happier business. I love to learn from others.

ClearWing plug: If you’re launching something new and need communications, marketing or content support, let’s meet for coffee! While I don’t design, develop sites, coach small businesses or offer legal advice, I have an amazing network. (See #4.) So tell me what you’re up to and I’ll see who I know that might be of service to you as you launch. Call 470-240-1861 or email me

Tech will change your business: Are you prepared?

Technology will change your business: Are you prepared?

Has your life been disrupted or improved by technology? What about your business? Probably yes and yes. And you can expect more change in the near future. As the rate of innovation picks up its pace, so does change across many industries. Are you ready to lead effective change management in your organization? Read on for a look at how technology is creeping into every aspect of our lives and for tips on how to be change-adept for the future.

technology-change-management-business

You’re probably using AI, even if you don’t know it

How has tech disrupted your life? Or made it better? This may surprise you, but according to a March 2018 Gallup poll, 85 percent of Americans already use at least one of six products with artificial intelligence (AI).

The hottest tech buzzword now: Internet of Things (IoT)       

I personally use AI and another emerging tech known as the Internet of Things (IoT) every day. IoT connects devices (other than computers, tablets and smartphones) to the internet. Cars or kitchen appliances for example. For a fuller explanation, click here to visit Business Insider.

Auto command center

Are you a Wazer? I use AI & IOT in my car with Waze to drive smart. The smartphone app offers real-time help of road warriors driving in the same geography as me. If you don’t already use it, try it! It’s amazing.

headset-close-up-safer-driving-change-management-technology-business
This Bluetooth headset makes driving and doing business on the phone just a little safer (and more legal).

Do you use a headset yet? My Bluetooth headset allows me to talk hands-free in the car for a safer driving experience. With the new Georgia driving laws, any Georgian could get into hot water for holding their phone up to their ear, scrolling through contacts and touching the dial button.

So, I’m combining the use of my headset with AI in the car with use of Google Assistant and commands like, “Ok Google, call Eduin Rosell.”

AI while I “cook”       

Alexa, a personal assistant in my bedroom and kitchen provided by Amazon, helps me to play music, check the weather, build shopping lists and embarrassingly, boil an egg since I can never remember exactly how to do it.

I’ve lost count of how many times in a day I start a sentence with, “Alexa,” or “Ok Google.” And how many times I mix up their names. It would be nice to have a boss bot to command all the other bots so I can keep them straight. I’m sure it’s in the works…

AI on the job

While most of the examples I gave above are personal, I use AI in my job too. When I launched my business, I needed a better editor than the one we all use in Word. That’s where Grammarly comes in. Not only can it edit at a higher level, it can do it in different types of English. So when I’m writing a thought leadership piece to publish in Europe, I turn on the “British English” language preference. These tools don’t catch a lot of the nuances of our language, but they do help avoid dumb grammar or structural mistakes. I highly recommend it, no matter what type of business you’re in.

When I first launched my PR business, I was asked if I “do tech.” I wasn’t sure how to respond. I made a crazy assumption that I wasn’t already, well, “doing tech.”

But once I thought about it, my work in the past few years has included PR strategy about electronic medical records, robotic surgery and a digital driving test for stroke patients.

That’s just the start. Right now I’m working on communications spanning industries about their new tech applications like:

  • Advertising software that automates media buying and selling
  • Blockchain, bots and augmented reality for travel business management
  • An app that helps hospitalists make tough decisions fast about complex drug delivery
  • An interactive digital classroom for music pedagogy students

How do we stay relevant?

If talk about AI infiltrating your business world makes you squirm, you’re not alone. While many of us say we’re open to change, the majority of us are not early adopters. As our world is increasingly connected, changes won’t slow. Tech is making its way into every realm of our lives, including the office.

So how do we stay relevant? We keep learning. We stay open to change. We try new things. Even if it takes nine tries to call my husband with Ok Google the first time.  It’s a learning process to adopt new technology, but it gets easier with repetition. I can hear my old piano teacher now…”Practice, practice, practice…”

How leaders can lead effective change management

Time after time has shown that change management efforts fall flat too often. But they don’t have to. As technology makes its way into your industry, leaders need to embrace and encourage change for personal and organizational success. Your approach will help your company succeed in the tech-saturated future.

  1. LEARN: The first step to becoming change-adept is as simple as reading the news and trade publications. Subscribe to digital publications like AtlantaInno (or any of its sister sites across the country) to see the cutting-edge ideas incubating in your own backyard. And if there’s something you don’t understand, seek to understand.
  2. IMAGINE: Harvard Business Review suggests imagining the future and creating a culture of calculated risk-taking. Look for things that could be improved around you and make connections with the emerging technology you hear about. Look at what others are doing to solve problems. How could what another industry is doing with AI be applied to fix your business challenges? Invite your team to do the same. Instead of asking “why?” when an employee offers a solution, ask “why not?”
  3. TEST: Before going full throttle, create a safe pilot environment. Keep old systems in place while testing new systems. Test with a small group rather than enterprise-wide. This will help decide if it’s worth moving forward and if so, work out some of the kinks in advance.
  4. COMMUNICATE: When your company adopts a new technology, you must launch effective change management communications at the beginning and continue throughout the process. Your communications team or consultants can help you develop and implement change management communications that lead to success, such as:
  • Share the “why” so employees are less likely to fight the change.
  • Put together a cross-functional team to help the organization adopt. Include leaders, front-line users, techies, influencers, people who have access to other people and skeptics. (By getting people who tend to fight change involved, they will be more likely to help change the minds of other naysayers.)
  • Give people a platform to ask questions and express concerns. Ask for input and respond quickly throughout the process.
  • Publish success stories to create momentum for new tech adoption.
  • Change can’t happen without everyone’s support. When you turn off the old systems and turn on the new because change adoption was a success, be sure to thank everyone in your organization.

We live in a world of innovation. It’s already changed your organization and it’s only a matter of time until it changes again. You can choose to create positive change with an attitude of learning, imagination, experimentation and communication.

How has technology already affected your business? Comment below with your story and tips for successful change management when adopting new tech. 

Does your feedback get good results?

Does your feedback get results?

Work with creatives to hit your brand bull’s eye

Give good feedback for great creative results that will hit the target!
Give good feedback for creative results that will hit your brand’s target. Icon made by Freepik from  www.flaticon.com.

My creative partners and I love constructive criticism. Yes, really. When you give us good feedback, it helps us create something great to support your business goals. With the right feedback, we’ll all get the best possible outcome. But when your feedback leaves us in the dark, there’s a chance your message will miss the target.

How do you give creative feedback that gets you the best creative to achieve your goals?

In a nutshell, avoid general statements and be clear about what you don’t like and what you like. Invite people close to your brand identity to critique with you, but be choosy who you ask. Too many opinions can slow down the process and add confusion.

Good feedback helps get great results. Avoid general comments like "This isn't what I was going for..."
Good feedback helps get great results. Avoid general comments like this one.

Screenshot what you love

Chantelle Catania of graphic design firm Annatto said designers are visual people and love examples, especially when getting started on a new project. (This can apply to writing styles too.)

“If there’s something that you’ve seen that you love, take a photo or screenshot of it and share it with us. Let us know why you love it. It doesn’t need to be a long explanation. A simple, ‘these colors rock’ or ‘it’s easy to follow’ will offer so much insight into the look you are aiming for.”

Generally speaking

When a client says “this isn’t working,” creatives have nothing to go on. But rewriting or redesigning with that kind of feedback is like shooting darts at a target in the dark. We might hit, we might miss. That’s not great when we all want a bull’s eye.

Details, details, details

Specific feedback, like "Could you soften this language" can help a creative understand how their creative will best fit your brand.
Specific feedback, like “Could you soften this language?” can help a creative understand how their creative will best fit your brand.

I recently helped a consultant launch his first website after a number of years in business. He had been so focused on his clients, he had no existing branding. For him, I wasn’t just writing website copy. I was shaping his company’s voice.

The site was for a male business owner who offers professional services. He wanted his brand identity to reflect his hobby as an outdoorsman. I started with his About page – it’s one of the trickiest website pages to write. Even though it’s “about” the company, it really needs to be about the customer/audience and how they’ll benefit from working with the company. I knew if I got the tone there right, the rest of the site would follow.

His initial feedback: “It feels too much like a Mountain Dew commercial.”

Essentially, he told me to de-steroid. You may be thinking, “Ouch!” But this is good feedback. Paired with comments on what he liked, it helped me get the tone right.

Praise can guide (and energize)

Just as important as establishing what you don’t like is what you like. Not only will it make your creative team feel great and want to do more great work for you, it will also help guide future content.

It’s as simple as writing comments as you edit or proof to let them know they hit the target.

After I submitted a concept for a recent project to the client for review, she gave good feedback, “The tone is perfect, and the concept is fun without being overbearingly clichéd or ‘cute.’ Excited to see how this progresses!”

Not only did I know I was on track and to keep going, I was excited to do my best for this client.

Pick your team carefully

Chantelle (lead graphic designer) said critiquing shouldn’t be a team sport for everyone around you. If you plan to ask for opinions, she recommends selecting your team carefully.

“Yes, you want everyone to love your brand but asking your neighbor, your mail carrier or even your coffee barista isn’t necessarily going to make your brand better,” she said. “It’s more than likely going to delay the process. Keep relevant minds on the project – select a few people who know your company’s messaging and goals to consult with when making decisions.”

At the end of the day, your creative team is here to support you. We want to make you look and sound good. And most importantly, achieve your business goals. The better your feedback, the better chance we’ll help you do what you do best. A confident creative will appreciate your constructive criticism and will use it to make something you’ll both feel good about.

Do you have a target you’re ready to hit? Give me the details!

How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

Storytelling can be a powerful way for an organization to connect with its audience and inspire action. I’ll give you some ideas on how to tell a brand story through the story about a boy we’ll call William.

How a story about a boy caused urgent audience action

Photo of a piggy bank and change lying on the floor.
A story about a boy with a heart problem inspired my 6-year-old daughter to donate her own money.

When my daughter was in first grade, she came home from school one day and shot up the stairs to her room. You could cut the intense determination in the air with a butter knife. Wadded ones, quarters and pennies spilled from her money jar onto the bedroom carpet. She stacked and lined up the coins, flattened the ones and counted out how much she could donate to the American Heart Association (AHA). It was close to $10. Then she asked me to pony up.

Picture of Shopkins toys.
For the curious, these are Shopkins. They’re a bit bigger than a quarter. My daughter – and many girls in elementary school – have hundreds.

I was proud that she wanted to give her own money to a good cause. She earned that money. She brought in groceries, cleaned bathroom vanities and did general housework. Instead of buying Shopkins, she wanted to GIVE HER MONEY AWAY.

As businesspeople, we want to capture the hearts of our audiences like this, don’t we?

So what made her rush upstairs that afternoon when she could have been on the swing in the backyard? What made a 6-year-old donate money instead of cashing it in for toys?

I was sure I knew the answer. She wanted to win one of those silly plastic duck prizes they give students for hitting fundraising benchmarks. And I said as much as I pulled some cash from my wallet.

She looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity.

“No mom. I want to help this boy.”

She held out a brochure. A little boy with big blue eyes stared back at me while my daughter’s own brown eyes gazed at me from the other side of the brochure.

“He has a heart problem,” she said. “The American Heart people can help him.”

This money wasn’t about the AHA. For my daughter, it was about the boy we’ll call William.

How companies can tell stories

Companies exist to serve a purpose; to resolve a pain point for someone else. Whether it’s an educational institution, an arts organization or a business-to-business tech company, there’s a human behind it.

If you want to tell your organization’s story, where do you even start? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to find and tell your brand story:

  1. Start with goals and people. State what you need to accomplish. Do you need to get people to download a new app? Then think about the people involved. Who came up with the idea for the app, and why? Who beta tested it? How did it help them and what did they say?
  2. Find your Williams. People connect with others like themselves. My daughter wanted to help the AHA when she heard the story of a boy she could picture swinging on the monkey bars at recess. It’s good to have multiple stories to represent one goal. Why?
    • Most media outlets want unique content, and may not agree to do a story if another station or newspaper is doing the same human interest story.
    • If you have two (or more) people representing the same story, you can take the story to more outlets.
  3. Make your brand the hero. A strong brand story should include a person with a problem, a solution (your brand/employees) and a great resolution/positive outcome.
  4. Show the story. Remember William’s blue eyes? Storytelling is as much about visuals as words. If the story will appear in written format, it needs to include eye-catching visuals like photos and infographics. Don’t wait until last minute to ask for photos or set up a photo shoot. You will reach a higher percentage of people through visuals and the key messaging you place in captions than you will through the story itself.
  5. Leverage your story. Will you pitch the story to the media? Or will you self-publish and share it through your own channels like your website/blog, social media, newsletter or annual report? Remember, multiple human interest stories for one goal help the story go further.
  6. Use high-quality storytelling techniques. Should you choose to publish the content yourself, make sure it’s strong writing or high-quality video production. A great story goes nowhere fast with bad grammar, industry jargon, bad lighting and poor sound. Work with a strong storyteller who can make use of the senses to give a sense of place, create emotional impact and knows when to keep and delete details to keep the story moving.

When you connect with your audience on an emotional level, you’ll discover one of the most powerful ways to inspire someone to act.

Every company has a William. You just have to do some work to find him. When you do, share his story in a way that truly inspires your audience.

Interested in telling your brand story? Let’s talk.