Ready? Set. Concentrate!

 

Do you lack focus and concentration? There are times when I definitely lack focus. I will start a task, and before I even know it, I’m looking for something else to occupy my time and attention. Everything else looks more interesting that I’m what I’m currently working on. I check my email and all my social media accounts, just to see if something amazing happened since the last time I checked – ten minutes ago. Distractions are everywhere.

It is evident that it is not just me suffering from a lack of focus. For years we have been told by researchers and educators about a societal lack of focus and the challenges it presents marketers in getting messages read or viewed. So far, the industry’s response has been to shorten, simplify, and add bright lights to our important and sometimes complex information. But, as hard as we may try, not every message can be reduced to a soundbite, tweet, photo, or a Facebook entry with no need to “click to read more.”

So what is this strange phenomenon that compels us to go from task to task without really accomplishing anything at all? Surprisingly enough, it may not be the proliferation of social media or the ever-tempting Internet. According to current research, it seems that our brains are hard-wired to respond to the new, the shiny, and even the unpleasant. A survival mechanism that came about while we were avoiding lions and searching for low-hanging fruit on the African plains. Great for then, not so great for now with the chronic shortage of lions roaming our office halls.

While I may not be able to change the attention span of society, I am able to respond to the challenge of my own short attention span, so I am developing my own strategy to combat this chronic syndrome. After doing some research, it seems that most advice on increasing our ability to focus falls into two categories. The first is reducing environmental distractions, and the second is controlling our minds.

Reducing environmental distractions refers to all the usual advice about minimizing interruptions, having a clear workspace on both your physical and virtual desktops, turning off your phone, and so on. All worthwhile advice and a great place to start.

The second category of advice is a little more intriguing and involves actually training your mind to focus more clearly and for longer periods of time. The next time you are tempted to change tasks, try some of the techniques I’ve found below: 

  •  Ask yourself why you are changing tasks. This will cause you to evaluate your rationale and dismiss it if it’s not a priority.
  • Take deep breaths, close your eyes, and concentrate on not thinking and not feeling anything for a couple of minutes. When you open your eyes, reevaluate whether or not you need to switch tasks, or just continue your work.
  • Set time limits. Not too long to start, maybe 15 minutes, and then focus on your task until the time is up. After, take a short break before you begin your next 15 minute interval.
  • Try focusing on how you want your mind to feel while you work on a task. Perhaps you want to feel creative, or peaceful, or clear and lucid. You can tailor the feeling you desire to the task at hand. Spend a couple of minutes conjuring up the appropriate feeling before you start work.
  • Take a break from what you’re doing and work on something completely different for a while. This helps to work through creative blocks and we return to the task with a fresh perspective.

I hope these techniques will help you. I’ve tried all of them and am definitely finding it easier to concentrate and stay on task. Let me know if you have any techniques you’d like to share.

 

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Step 4 to Creating Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

Welcome to the last of four articles sharing with you the pr and marketing strategy planning process I’ve developed to be simple, scalable and useful for almost any situation. Let me know if you have any questions or other ideas, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you’d like further help, I am offering free one-hour consultations. Just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post to get started. Previous posts in this series are available here:
Introduction
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3

Step 4 to Creating Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

Now that  you have derived your goals and objectives from a thorough understanding of your current situation and your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you are ready to map out your implementation strategy.

For each of your objectives, apply the following process:

Objective 1: (Insert Your Objective Here)

  1. Audience Description. Define in as much detail as possible your target audiences and list their characteristics. If you find that you are missing important audience information, don’t let that slow you down. Include in your plan strategies to obtain more or better information. In my opinion, it’s ok at this point to include assumptions, but make sure 1) you know and indicate that it is an assumption, and 2) you include in your plan a way to test those assumptions either prior to implementation or during the evaluation phase. In addition to describing demographic and geographic characteristics, include details such as:
    1. What media do they typically use and prefer? Examples here would include a preference for print or online information, specific publications (online or hardcopy) they commonly refer to, social media use, television use, etc.  
    2. What is their level of knowledge in general and specifically regarding your product/program? Are there other examples of your product/program they would be familiar with? Will you need to include an education component in your plan?
    3. What is their current perspective or opinion of your product/program? Are they supportive, indifferent, or negatively predisposed? Are they motivated to seek out information or will the information need to be pushed out to them?
    4. How much free time do they have? If your audience is very busy, they might not have time to read lengthy articles, for example.
    5. How and to what level will your product/program affect their lives? What are the benefits and possible disadvantages?
  2. Develop Positioning Statements and Key Messages. Using the information gathered above, develop a set of statements that describe how you would like your audience to perceive your product/program. For example, it is unique, it doesn’t take much time, it is affordable, it will solve a current problem, it will support something they value, it is reliable, it is authentic, etc. 
  3. Strategies & Tactics. Finally we come to the fun and creative part. Not that the rest of the planning process isn’t creative, it just may come with a bit of frustration and a headache. But now, using the information you now have about your audience and the messages that you wish to communicate, you are ready to map out the strategy and tactics you wish to employ to achieve your objective. It’s at this point that I usually set up a spreadsheet to keep track of my activities. Your spreadsheet should include the following categories: 
    1. Communication vehicle(s) – This refers to the communication device to be created such as brochure, poster, article, video, audio, speech, press release, advertisement, special offer,  etc.
    2. Communication Channel(s) – This refers to the method of distribution you wish to employ for your messages and communication vehicles such as mail, email, blog/webpage, newspaper, magazine, television, meeting, event, conference, etc.
    3. Action Items - Most important! Who does what? Make a list of what needs to be done and assign activities to the staff or vendors who will be involved the project.
    4. Budget and Resources - Now is the time to estimate both the dollars that will be required and hours it will take to complete the project. Be realistic, especially regarding the hours. If possible, obtain actual estimates even if you don’t expect to undertake the activity for several months. This may seem like a really important element that has been ignored, but I have three reasons for this:
      1. It is inappropriate to assign budget resources until this point. Now that you have decided on a course of action developed from solid information and analysis, you are in a better position to find accurate costs.
      2. For most communication projects, budgets can vary widely depending on the approach, and an idea shouldn’t be disregarded because it seems initially to be too expensive. There are ways to make almost anything affordable if you’re resourceful. For example, events can be sponsored, brochures can be printed cost-effective paper or in one-color, webpages can be developed using free applications, etc. Of course, the usual trade-off is the smaller the budget, the greater the number of hours you have to put in.
      3. By going through this planning process you should have developed a very solid rational for the project you’re planning. This can be very useful if you are presenting your ideas to management and negotiating budget dollars. 
    5. Timeline & Milestones - It is important to have a clear and concise record of the milestones for the performance assessment. Setting specific milestones will increase the likelihood that the solution will be completed in a timely manner. Consider creating a timeline to visually represent dates, milestones, and tasks associated with the performance assessment. Keep the timeline simple enough to be easily understood yet detailed enough to communicate milestones effectively. The actual milestones should be agreed upon by all stakeholders and reviewed regularly.
    6. Evaluation Method - Build in practical ways to evaluate success and follow through on them. This is crucial. If your strategies aren’t working, you are wasting time and money. Evaluation assists decision makers by:
      1. Determining the degree to which communication objectives are accomplished
      2. Assessing how well the communication strategies support larger organizational goals
      3. Justifies and shows accountability
      4. Compares the relative costs and benefits of one versus other or similar communication strategies
      5. Provides input for planning and development of future communication programs
      6. Educates management and other staff members as to costs, benefits, impacts, and problems
      7. Forces the organization to think in terms of outcomes… what are the outcomes of communication and are they what you want?

And there you are. The owner of a fully complete, practical, strategic plan for your 2013 pr and marketing strategy. Let me know if you  have any comments or questions and be sure to take advantage of my free consultation offer if you have anything that you would like to discuss.

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Step 3 to Creating Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

Welcome to the third of four articles sharing with you the pr and marketing strategy planning process I’ve developed to be simple, scalable and useful for almost any situation. Let me know if you have any questions or other ideas, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you’d like further help, I am offering free one-hour consultations. Just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post to get started. Previous posts in this series are available here:
Introduction
Step 1
Step 2

Step 3 to Creating Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

Once you have a SWOT analysis completed from step 2, you have everything you need to create strategic goals designed to accomplish the following:

  1. Take advantage of the external opportunities
  2. Minimize external threats
  3. Build on internal strengths
  4. Address internal weaknesses

Creating Goals and Objectives; Identifying Issues

  1. Define goals or desired outcomes – There is so much literature on how to develop goals. And what is a goal and what is an objective. To me, it’s simple. A goal describes the desired outcome. Look beyond the action to the effect. A goal is not “Complete awareness campaign,” it is “Favorable awareness increased among young adults in this city regarding this program/product.” In order to achieve a goal, you need to know what it looks like – describe your high level accomplishments and general intentions as specifically as possible. Use the information from your  SWOT analysis. Use your imagination. Prioritize and don’t overburden yourself. Allow time and resources to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities that always present themselves during the course of a year.
  2. Develop communication objectives that will support the overarching goals. Now it’s time to come back to earth and examine how you can achieve the lofty goals you have developed. This is where the “Complete awareness campaign” comes into play and where I subject my objectives to the SMART litmus test.
      • Specific (concrete, detailed, well-defined)
      • Measurable (numbers, quantity, comparison)
      • Achievable (feasible, actionable)
      • Realistic (considering resources)
      • Time-Bound (a defined time line)

Let’s take the goal example listed above: 

Favorable awareness increased (by x%) among young adults in this (defined target area) city regarding this (specific) program/product.

Your objective to achieve this goal may look like this:

Objective 1: Design and implement awareness campaign:

    1. Target young adults ages 13 – 17
    2. Target immediate geographic area
    3. Focus on the new program/product benefits and low-cost
    4. Increase baseline awareness by 20%
    5. Focus on media relations and other free marketing options to minimize costs
    6. Run campaign from April through June to reach young adults before summer vacation.

The last part of creating your objectives involves the defining issues that need resolution to realize goals. For example, following from above, an issue that may need addressing is the current level of program/product awareness among the target audience. It would be hard to say favorable awareness increased by 20% (or indeed increased at all) if you have no idea what the current level of favorable awareness is.

In this instance, you could not set a percentage goal. Run the campaign, and measure after through surveys when and how the young adult became aware of the program/product and how it affected their perceptions. Or, you could conduct baseline research prior to running the campaign. Conducting research prior to the campaign would be the best option as the information obtained can inform the campaign design, however, we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes have to make do with what we can (this is where the realistic part of the SMART equation comes in). The most important thing is to make sure that an evaluation component is built into the objective.

Now that you have outcome oriented goals and specific, measurable objectives, it’s time for step 4 of creating your 2013 pr and marketing strategy – developing tactics and implementation plans. Check back next Monday for the final post in the series!

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Step 2 to Planning Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

Welcome to the second of four articles sharing with you the planning process I’ve developed to be simple, scalable and useful for virtually any situation. Let me know if you have any questions or other ideas, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you’d like further help, I am offering free one-hour consultations. Just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post to get started. Previous posts in this series can be viewed here:
Introduction
Step 1

Step 2 of Planning Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

“If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” – Albert Einstein

I agree with Albert Einstein. I also think this quote applies equally to the defining of opportunities. Following Einstein’s advice will result in working smart, not necessarily working hard. And who doesn’t want that?

So, sorry to say it, but step 2 of planning your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy is the dreaded SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. But, if you completed step 1 and have your situation analysis at hand, with all relevant information organized into themes, then you’re half-way there already. After the SWOT analysis, you’re ready to develop goals and objectives.

SWOT Analysis

  1. Internal Strengths – The definition of internal will vary by circumstance, but generally speaking, I define it as anything that affects the inputs of your PR and marketing strategy. For example, budget, managers, work processes and equipment, and human resources. Strengths involves evaluating what resources you currently have available. Here list anything (use your situation analysis) that answers the question: What internal strengths do we have to build on? For example:
      1. Human resources include one full-time marketing manager and half-time assistant.
      2. Management is open to increasing budget for awareness campaign.
      3. Secured use of large format color printer.
      4. New survey software provides opportunities to obtain customer input.
  2. Internal Weaknesses – Now, using the definition of internal above, list anything (again, refer to your situation analysis) that could cause your PR and marketing strategy to be less than optimal. What internal weaknesses do we need to take into account? For example:
      1. Management does not want to allocate more human resources for awareness campaign.
      2. Staff do not see value in PR and marketing activities.
      3. Need more information about customer media habits.
  3. External Opportunities – External in this context refers to the audiences that you are communicating with and their circumstances. Using your situation analysis, list the opportunities can be identified in the external environment that will support your PR and marketing efforts? Some examples may include:
      1. Consumer reports indicate spending is up for X.
      2. New program/product being launched is receiving favorable media attention.
      3. Email newsletter is generating increased website traffic.
  4. External Threats – Using the definition of external above and your situation analysis, what issues may arise externally that could cause problems in 2013?
      1. Company Y is launching similar program/product in April.
      2. Customer complaints are being viewed on social media.
      3. Industry reports indicate a declining demand for Z.
      4. Lack of customer spending information.
  5. SWOT Action Plan – Now we take everything we learned above, and spend a few minutes outlining how the above points can be addressed to minimize or maximize their impact. Using the examples above, you might put the following:
      1. Make a case to management that some of the extra money for the awareness campaign should be used to hire extra help.
      2. Make sure to post positive media stories to website and write about in email newsletter.
      3. Find sources of reliable customer spending information.

Hopefully by this point, you have used most of the information you gathered and included in your situation analysis. If you haven’t, it probably wasn’t as relevant as you thought. The information in the SWOT analysis and action plan can now be incorporated into your goals, objectives and issues. This will be step 3 of planning your PR and marketing strategy. Stay tuned for the next installment in my planning series on Monday, January 21st.

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Step 1 to Planning Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy

In this series of four articles that will run every Monday during the month of January, I will share with you the planning process I’ve developed to be simple, scalable and useful for virtually any situation. I didn’t invent any of this, but through trial and error have adopted and modified what I learned in school and through practical experience. Let me know if you have any questions or other ideas, I would love to hear from you.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years developing PR and Marketing Strategy and I can’t tell you how important it is to go through a planning process. Most people just want to dive in and get to the “we need a brochure” part. Too often this approach will miss the communication mark, resulting in wasted time, money and effort.

Also, if you’d like further help, I am offering free one-hour consultations. Just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post to get started.

Step 1: Situation Analysis or What Exactly Is Going On Here?

Once you complete this step, you will have a much clearer idea about the communication challenges you face in 2013 and therefore, what you need the plan for.

  1. First, research and review information and resources that describe the environment your organization is operating in. This is often called “environmental scanning” and should be done on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The information should be both internal and external, and should also be a mixture of objective and subjective. Don’t spend too much time on this as you will never have perfect information and this is an easy step to get stuck on. If you find that you are missing information, include that observation in your plan and move on! Some examples of information resources include:
        1. Organizational strategic plan (very important)
        2. Previous PR and Marketing plans
        3. Organizational newsletters, listservs
        4. Management/staff input
        5. Trade magazines
        6. Industry reports
        7. Current headlines
        8. New legislation
        9. Census data
  2. Now, take a blank sheet of paper and write down everything that you/your planning group think is relevent and important to your PR/Marketing efforts in 2013 based on your knowledge, experience and research conducted. It’s important to be honest here. If you are writing a plan to submit to management, you can adjust the wording later. Turn off the inner censor and put down everything. The negative as well as the positive. Use short factual sentences. For example:
        1. Communication projects must support X, Y, Z organizational strategic goals.
        2. Projects must align with X, Y, Z customer service objectives.
        3. New legislation expected in August that may affect operations.
        4. Historically, most new members join in April.
        5. Still have 4,000 brochures left over from last year.
  3. Next, take a blank sheet of paper and write down everything that you think your audiences find relevent to 2013 and your PR/marketing. This is the part of the plan where you challenge your assumptions and try to look at things from different perspectives. Your audiences will include groups such as your customers, donors, and staff. Include management as an audience as appropriate. Any group that has the potential to affect the PR/Marketing plan should be considered. For example:
        1. Management wants to develop new awareness campaign but doesn’t want to increase PR/Marketing budget or human resource allocation.
        2. Donors have suggested they would like to be more involved with the organization.
        3. Staff members disagree with new customer service policies.
        4. Some customers have indicated they would like to save time when ordering.
  4. Lastly, look over the two sheets of paper and reorganize into themes based on commonality and find areas of potential confusion or misunderstanding. Using the above examples, you might identify and group the following points as an area of potential confusion that needs to be addressed:
        1. Staff members disagree with new customer service policies.
        2. Projects must align with X, Y, Z customer service objectives.

That’s Step 1 of your 2013 PR and Marketing strategy complete! Easy, right? Ok, maybe not, but completing this step will ensure that you take into account all relevent information when developing your PR and marketing strategy, will prevent you from making false assumptions, and provides the basis for developing goals that will meet the communication needs and challenges of your organization.

Stay tuned for step 2 next Monday, January 14th when we’ll build on the situation analysis to further refine the challenges and opportunities and develop strategic goals and objectives.

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Ready to Plan Your 2013 PR and Marketing Strategy? Help is here!

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful time over the holidays. But now, the parties are over and family has departed. Back at work, the new year heralds a fresh opportunity to develop or refine your PR and marketing strategy. This year, make it your goal to develop an amazing plan. One that will raise awareness, build trust, and drive sales or donations or membership or whatever you need.

Developing or revising your PR and marketing strategy yearly is essential to the success of any organization. For those of you who do not think this is a fun and exciting project (I know you’re out there), this month I will be posting a series of articles to help you on your way. Taking you step-by-step through the planning process to create a strategic, comprehensive and easy-to-implement public relations and marketing plan. All you have to do is follow along!

Step 1 – posted 1/7/13
Step 2 – posted 1/14/13
Step 3 – posted 1/24/13
Step 4 – posted 1/31/13

Also during the month of January, I am offering free one-hour consultations, followed-up with written recommendations, for those that still need a little more help. You can ask questions about planning, about strategy and tactics, about projects or ideas for projects – whatever you need, with no strings attached! Just fill out the contact form below to get started.

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3 Easy Holiday-Ways to Build Organizational Goodwill

holiday spiritNo Grinches allowed! The holidays are a wonderful and appropriate time to build goodwill for your organization. With shrinking budgets, parties and gifts may not be possible, but there are still cost-effective ways to show your organization’s holiday spirit. Below are three easy ways to make a big impact.

1. Don’t forget to send holiday cards! Yes, I mean an actual card sent via snail mail. While sending out cards may seem to be an antiquated thing to do, the fact is most people like to receive them. Receiving a card makes people feel valued and important. However, make sure you take the time to personalize the cards as much as possible. If your card comes across as too impersonal, the gesture may backfire.

2. Decorate. Adding festive decorations to your offices, waiting, and meeting spaces makes them warm and inviting – making your organization seem warm and inviting to customers, vendors and employees. Consider dressing up your online presence as well. Add holiday messages, colors, and images to your websites or blogs (sparingly).

3. Give to a good cause. Partner with a non profit and come up with a holiday-themed fundraiser. Find a way to allow everyone to take part and feel a part of the process. This can be as easy as wrapping a box with colorful paper for food bank donations. You can incorporate fundraising activities into your online presence as well by highlighting your holiday cause and adding donation buttons. Make sure to include a communication plan with your fundraising efforts to publicize your actions and keep people up-to-date on your progress.

These are just a few ways any size organization can bring the holidays into your public relations planning. Let me know what you think and I’d love to hear other ideas.

 

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