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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.

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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.

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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. 

How to name a business in 17 steps

How to name a business in 17 steps

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Read on: inspiration for your new business name could pop up anywhere. So step away from your desk!

No doubt, you’ll get a rush from everything that comes with launching your business! There are so many things to do and think about other than the tasks of your trade. One of those tasks is to figure out how to name a business.

When I completed the month-long naming process for my freelance marketing business, I felt relieved and ecstatic to move forward. But I also felt like a Nova with an empty gas tank.

For about a month, I would wake up in the middle of the night shouting names. I kept a notepad and pen next to the bed for those 3 a.m.-ers. And I lost focus on conversations with everyone around me. Something mid-story might spark an idea and I’d run off to write it down. I share this so you don’t feel alone if you’re experiencing those highs and major lows.

Researching how to name a business and going through the process is a lot of work. And very personal. What one person praises, another will tear down. But if you follow the steps below, they might help your naming process fly and add a little pep back to your step.

  1. Lean on your village. You’re about to begin a difficult process. There will be ups. Many moments where light bulbs appear above your head. And downs when you realize that great idea you had is already taken or when you think you just can’t be creative anymore. It’s good to have trusted advisers and good friends who will lift you up when things get heavy.how-to-name-a-business-ideas-notebook
  2. Write it down. Get your hands inky and jot ideas on a notepad. There’s something about the old-fashioned way of writing that jogs a brain. A laptop works too. Or hey, maybe even a napkin.
  3. Include everything. The ideas might just start flowing at first. Stream-of-consciousness is good, so write down the crazy words even if they seem like a stretch.
  4. Start with what you know. You might start with things related to your business. What do you do? Why? What benefit does your audience get from you?
  5. Expand your list. Visit a thesaurus and find more words for the words that you’ve already written down. Scribble the ones you like on your notepad.
  6. Play with words. One tool I like is the idiom dictionary.Plug in words you like to see if they’re in any phrases in an idiom dictionary. Rhyming words are good too. Cross-reference rhyming words with the idioms dictionary. Then substitute your word of choice. Here’s a fun and slightly inappropriate example… Let’s say I’m selling pies. The thesaurus suggests the synonym tart. One word that rhymes with tart is heart. I use the idiom dictionary to come up with expressions, say, “Home is where the heart is.” Then substitute the word you really want to use. Now it reads: “Home is where the tart is.” Now that’s a fun ad headline!
  7. Look everywhere for inspiration. Your hobbies, favorite books, poems, movies, music. What was the street of your favorite author? The name of your favorite hiking trail? Numbers with meaning. I got my idea for a name from a garden creature called a clearwing hummingbird moth. I adopted the name and made it work for what I do. ClearWing tells a story in itself – clear & concise messaging that gives your brand a lift.
  8. Create a name list. Now look at your word lists and start playing. What words do you like? Can you combine them? Can you create new words by combining parts? By the end of the process, I examined around 700 words or name ideas on my list.
  9. Check availability. Once you create a name list, you’ll want to check availability. Look to see if there are already businesses with those names. Get ready – this is the worst part of the process. So many creative names are claimed. If a business in a similar industry to yours has the name you like, keep brainstorming.
    • Check to see if your idea is trademarked on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. If not, it’s still not an all-clear. Lots of businesses are active online without trademarking.
    • Check to see if the URL is available.
    • Google the name to see what comes up.
    • Look for the name in LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
    • If someone parked a URL you’re interested in, but no one trademarked or uses the business name, you can still consider the name. You’ll just have to get creative with the URL if you can’t buy it. You might consider adding “WeAre…” to the front of the name or a verb like “Creates” to the back that describes what you do.
  10. Step away. At this point in the process, you may feel stressed and less creative. Go for a run, take your kids to a movie or do whatever it is you love to do. Maybe that involves wine. You’ll be surprised how more ideas come your way when you’re trying NOT to think about it.
  11. Audio test. Once you’ve come up with an exhaustive list of names that are legally available, you’ll need to narrow it down. Before you start reaching out to people for opinions, do an audio test of your favorites. Listen to yourself saying it aloud. You’ll rule some out just because they’re awkward to say. It’s helpful to record yourself and listen to the playback. I used a voice recorder app on my phone. I “introduced myself” at a networking event and “recorded” a message on my phone. I was able to hear how my business sounded on a recording, which was quite different than how it sounded to myself in the moment I said it. I was able to rule some out this way too.
  12. Survey people. I kept track of the men and women because I wanted a name that would appeal to both groups. I tested people from different age groups in my industry, but also people in businesses that could be potential clients. Keep your audience in mind when you survey. You can use SurveyMonkey for a more formal survey process. I did the survey more informally by email, text and Facebook. I asked people to vote for as many as they liked.
  13. Tell somebody on the phone. When I narrowed the name down to the top votes, I mentioned it to a few people on the phone. I ruled out one of my favorite names because several people asked me to repeat it. Then they would ask me what it meant. Once they understood, they had a positive reaction to it. But the initial “come again?” reaction was a clear sign that the name would be a hassle when networking.
  14. Let go. You might need some time to think over your finalists, so if you can, give yourself time to just chew on it.
  15. Trust yourself. At some point, you might get opinion overload. During the voting process, opinions helped show which names sparked positive associations. But when you’re down to the final selection, very smart and successful business people may differ with each other on what makes the best name. So, if you invented the name, it’s available, you like it, and it got a lot of votes on your list, you have to trust yourself at some point and choose a name. You will never make everyone happy.
  16. Commit. For businesses that have a good amount of lead time before the launch, you’ll have time to create, think, survey and repeat if needed. But time is a luxury that many people don’t have. So go with your instincts and pick the name that you feel you can own with pride. And buy your URL as fast as possible.
  17. Thank your village. Luckily, I had guidance from a number of wonderful people throughout this process. And, my family who had to listen to my bright ideas and grumblings. My four-year-old son even got in on the action. He recommended I name the business “Cheese Boop.” It was a joke that went on for days and helped lighten the tension. One of my most emotionally supportive villagers was Chantelle Catania. She knows how to name a business. She renamed and re-branded her graphic design firm, Annatto after doing the same thing for many clients. My final name choice was far from her pick, but she pushed me to go with my gut and cheered me when I made a decision. She said if I owned it loud and proud, it would be a success.

So, thank you to everyone who helped me figure out how to name a business. You were patient through a grueling process. And, invaluable sounding boards. Together, we narrowed down a lot of good choices.

This process is not for the faint of heart! If you find yourself in the midst of a rebrand or a new business launch and would like professional help (as in the brainstorming/marketing kind), fill out this form to email me or call 404-409-7759.

And for more inspiration on how to brainstorm a business name, check out Annatto’s blog on naming a business here.