Not everything can be done via email or social media tools. It’s important to know how to professionally conduct a phone interview. I thought this article, “7 tips for giving a better phone interview” by Brad Phillips for Ragan’s PR Daily, gave some great tips. Read the article and take the time to watch the video at the end. It will crack you up.

Cheers, and have a great holiday!

Flackchick

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There are reams of material available for communicators in print and online on developing, maintaining and controlling approval processes in organizations for materials such as newsletters (internal or external), press releases, fact sheets, etc. Lots of articles complaining about them too!

What I’ve yet to find is something solid on how to explain why an approval process is necessary and important.

Approval processes for materials aren’t for covering your a** (CYA) or even a professional courtesy, e.g., “We thought you’d like to know we are sending out a press release on our most important product launch in YEARS, take a glance at if you like.”

Approval processes are integral to many areas of an organization and how it is run. Approval processes maintains the professionalism, brand and message promoted internally and externally to various important stakeholders such as <gasp> CUSTOMERS! A couple of things to keep in mind when that approval email lands in your inbox, and why it is probably a good idea to open it up in a timely manner and answer it:

  1. Quality control: We are all beautifully human, and the most careful and professional communications executive, who writes materials every day for work and for pleasure and has had six other people look at the piece before sending it out, makes mistakes. Little, silly mistakes that he or she didn’t catch because they have stared at that press release for five days. After a while, you don’t see those small mistakes. The approval process helps catch those types of errors, which can negatively affect your organization’s…
  2. Professionalism: Despite the fact that we are beautifully human, we have standards and often pretty high ones, for the materials we read on websites, Facebook, Twitter and on Google. Even as a public relations professional who has committed more gaffes than I care to admit to (but will go ahead and do so, because it’s true and I depend on the approval process), if I see a press release or website content with typos, even one, I wonder, “Did anyone take a look at this?” I try to be understanding, but part of me is wondering what is going on behind the curtain and if the organization is on point.
  3. Branding and Messaging: I can write a release or a white paper or an op-ed and think I have hit all of the important messages, but there may be something emerging that I don’t know about that needs to be added to the piece for context. Or I may mention something in the piece that should be removed for legal, proprietary or other reasons. Perhaps the entire piece needs to be put on hold. How would I ever know if I didn’t send the piece for review and if no one opened it to read it and let me know the deal? Every piece that goes out, internally or externally, should reinforce correctly and clearly, the organization’s brand and key messaging. You have to check communication pieces just as carefully for message as you do typos and grammatical errors. Nothing should leave the communications/public relations, etc., department without strongly supporting the organization and its mission.

I’m not advocating not allowing a communications or public relations department to function and operate without being watched carefully – but approval processes are important. The importance transcends a department’s autonomy, what people perceive their job responsibilities to be, (i.e., I work in Finance, so I’m not sure I need to bother reading this), or assuming that everything is okay, (i.e., I’m pretty sure Bob read this…). Everyone in an organization, not just the communication department, is responsible for how it is perceived and what represents it. And it all starts with taking ownership and responsibility in the approval process.

 Flackchick wants to know: How does the approval process work in your organization? Or how doesn’t it? What would you like to change, and what do you like about it?

First things first…

“It’s been a long time since I left you, without dope beat to step to…”

“I Know You Got Soul,” Erik B. & Rakim

My little way of saying, I know, and I’m back! I love writing, and even in writing about what I do professionally; I take it seriously and personally. So when lots of things converge in my life, good and bad, which is what happened, it affects my writing and my urge to do it.

So having crossed some things off the life list, I am ready to get back in the saddle and hopefully won’t be away for so long…

Having said that…Leggo!

I read this article on NYTimes.com, Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s, an article based on Adam Bryant’s book, “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed,” and got inspired. Not so much to become a CEO – I can easily say that isn’t in my “five plan” – but to develop the attributes listed in the piece to become a better employee today and one day a better leader. I think a lot is changing in the business world, and for the better, but there are a lot of bad habits still floating around that are being taught by those who should know better and embraced by those who don’t.

So here is what I am planning my present and future career on, and what I’ll be reading more in-depth on soon!

Best Practices from the Best in Business

1. A Passionate Curiosity: Learning, questioning, pondering, researching, doesn’t stop for these folks once they get into the big comfy leather chair specially ordered for them. So many times we see people getting promoted and their quest to get better and learn more just STOPS. They don’t seek to learn more not just about their industry, but the world around them as a whole. I vow to not let my brain ever turn to mush as a result of a JOB TITLE.

2. Battle-Hardened Confidence: Who do you want solving problems for you? It’s not the person who has never won or LOST a battle at work, or had anything bad happen to them, whether it is being fired by a client, laid off from a job, had a media interview go awry or some other catastrophe they bounced back from. There is a difference between those with battle scars and those that are damaged. Damaged folks don’t learn from the challenges presented to them; those with battle scars have faced adversity and know how to heal, learn from it and turn it into a new opportunity.

3. Team Smarts: I can’t do what I do alone. I can’t. I need to learn how to work with others, have an understanding of what they do, what challenges they face and what their day-to-day looks like. There is nothing worse than mindlessly pushing paper in your office and when asked to work with others, you are completely oblivious to what they need and how to get what you need from them. Don’t you hate working with folks like that? I do.

4. A Simple Mind-Set: The book describes this as “mental jujitsu.” I need to learn this concept, particularly in my industry. A lot of people just don’t get public relations, marketing, integrated communications or why any of it is necessary. Discussing strategies and initiatives simply can go a long way in helping folks understand – and getting them to say YES!

5. Fearlessness: This is calculated, informed risk-taking – not running off willy-nilly on some project. I think I have some of this, but probably not enough to do something really big and wonderful. I think growing my confidence will help the wonderful thing I do come about.

If you have read “The Corner Office,” please post below how it has inspired your work or changed how you viewed and managed your career. Thanks!

Recently, I’ve discovered that several people were following me (@nlinton) on Twitter. Of course, I clicked on their profiles to find out more about them to possibly follow them and I found out that they protected their Tweets. This has happened three times in the last week.

I can understand why. Kind of.

There are a lot of spammers, scammers, porn bots, crazies and people looking for casual, anonymous and STD-laden Internet sex-hook-ups on Twitter. I have been Tweeting for a year and I’ve come across all of these issues. But I can’t say that it has happened enough to compel me to protect my Tweets. Minors probably need to. I would not want my kids being contacted by just anyone online through Twitter.

I am much more selective on Facebook and LinkedIn, where I only accept requests from people I know or have met personally. For instance the other day I received a LinkedIn request from a woman who worked at a company in Marietta that I wasn’t familiar with and isn’t in my industry. I racked my brain for more than an hour trying to figure out if I met her somewhere or knew her from a past position. I logged into LinkedIn to look at her profile. No picture. One job listed and it was only a company and title, no specifics. No past positions. No schools. No shared connections. No information about her whatsoever.

I didn’t feel one bit guilty about declining the connection. LinkedIn is a work in progress, and I am always tinkering with my profile, but it is foolish to run around sending invitations to people and you haven’t put in the basics on your profile.

I also don’t feel bad about blocking my Tweets from people who follow me, but protect their Tweets. So, I’m telling you upfront that if you choose to follow me and I go to follow you and find out you protect your Tweets, you won’t be hearing from me anymore.

It just seems strange to me to use Twitter to follow people Tweeting conversationally, reading the links they share, yet not wanting to fully engage yourself. If you want a more selective social media experience there are forums to do this. I don’t think this is what Twitter was designed to do. And it makes me think that maybe YOU are the spammer or a bot or crazy, and have nefarious reasons for hiding your Tweets – like you don’t want to make too many people mad doing what you are doing, report you to Twitter and risk getting your account suspended!

If it is a personal safety or privacy violation issue, I think Twitter is far safer in this respect – without having to protect one’s Tweets – than say LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace.  Tweeting conversationally and sharing links won’t open you up to serious issues.

As far as the spammers, bots and other crazies are concerned, regular pruning of the people following you can prevent a lot of issues. I do it at least once a month. Of course, people who come out of the gate being obnoxious (follow me!, retweeting the same crap over and over, obvious spam and other foolishness) get the boot immediately.

I’m still learning about this Twitter thing. If someone can provide me with a good reason for hiding Tweets, let me know, I am open to other’s opinions, etc. I just don’t see the point.

By the way, follow me on Twitter @nlinton. LOL! And have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

When I was looking for a job, I was drawn (like a moth or maybe a looky-loo who comes upon a car wreck) to news stories and blog posts on alternative job search methods. I was discouraged, I was depressed, I was tired of watching Judge Judy (and I like her). I just wanted a job and it seemed as if everything I was doing, such as studying potential interview questions and preparing great answers for them, researching the company, developing a stellar resume and applying to appropriate positions while at the same time networking and following up on all leads given to me, weren’t getting me anywhere. I also wasn’t having much luck on the freelance side of public relations.

I ignored the stories about the people who printed their resumes on t-shirts and walked around in them, bought billboards advertising their skills and work experience, and those who delivered homemade pies and designer shoes to hiring managers (!). I didn’t judge them, because I understood their pain. I just knew I didn’t want to fall off into that, because I feared that some unscrupulous hiring manager would take advantage of some poor soul so desperate to land something they would try almost anything.

I did take a closer look at the Video Resume. According to news reports, unemployed professionals were paying thousands of dollars to develop Video Resumes of themselves discussing their qualifications, there were companies popping up all over the place offering these services at various price points, and many were just setting up a camera and posting their Video Resume on YouTube on the off-chance some recruiter or hiring manager might see it.

I was immediately suspicious. I didn’t put this in the same category, as say, the pie/resume delivery, but it seemed fraught with the potential to go utterly and horribly wrong.

  • There are lots of crazies on You Tube. How do you separate yourself from those people?
  • How do you come across natural, relaxed and prepared on camera when you have never given interviews or done work in front of the camera? This is NOT as easy as folks think it is!
  • Since this is so new, how do you know how long the video should be?
  • Do you read your resume, or speak conversationally? How do you tailor it to jobs you want?
  • What the hell do you wear for something like this?
  • How do you avoid the creepy factor with something like this?

And I just didn’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to give anyone to video tape me interviewing, but not really interviewing. So I found my job the old-fashioned way.

Just as I suspected, a recent article in Smart Money Magazine by Anne Kadet, discussed this new trend and the potential problems associated with doing Video Resumes. In the article, “Video Résumés Reveal Too Much, Too Soon,” Kadet suggests readers visit You Tube to watch these Video Resumes not for potential new hires, but as entertainment on a boring, lonely Saturday evening or during a lull in your work day. She writes, “It’s a chance to flaunt engaging qualities that a paper CV can’t capture. But more often, the effort goes horribly wrong.”

Ouch.

Kadet also goes on to state, beyond the obvious reasons why Video Resumes are an awful idea, that recruiters avoid them for legal reasons (federal antidiscrimination guidelines) and that it is hard to use the Video Resume in the application tracking process of most companies.

Read here for more information. This is a job-seeking DON’T. I know it is hard, and that jobs are scarce and you always want to find a way to stand out from other really like good applicants. But this…just…isn’t…it.

Good luck!

In the U.S., we are still exploring the possibilities of Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, but in Asia and South America, everyone is Bubbly.

Bubbly is a five-year-old mobile and social app developed by firm Bubble Motion, which is based in Silicon Valley and Singapore. Simply put, Bubbly is a voice-based Twitter. Its tagline is, “It’s like Twitter with a Voice.”

According to Bubble Motion’s CEO Tom Clayton, Bubble Motion explored a variety of mobile voice-messaging services when social media networks such as MySpace and Facebook launched. This led to the media of audio messages targeting a much larger audience of followers.

Launched in February 2010, with no marketing dollars used to push the service and early adoption by Bollywood stars to promote their careers and new projects, Bubbly currently has a total of two million users, 1.2 million of which are paid subscribers.

Anyone can sign up for Bubbly to follow a friend, family member or favorite celebrity or brand. Posting messages and following is free, and once a new message has been recorded and sent out, users get an alert. If they choose to listen, they pay for the airtime.

Most messages are less than 30 seconds long, and there is currently a cap of one minute.

To post on Bubbly, a user dials a short code, like *7, records a message and hangs up. To listen, tap in another code, like *2. It works on any handheld device, and messages can be posted to Bubbly while still withholding phone numbers for privacy.

Bubble Motion skipped launching Bubbly in North America and Europe to focus its efforts in Asia and South America, particularly India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil. People in these countries typically have access to cell phones, but far fewer have access to the web, which makes this type of mobile blogging service an easy sell. India has the fastest-growing population of mobile phone users in the world, as cell phone operators add millions of new customers each month. By 2012, it’s estimated that India alone will have 650 million cell phone users.

No, it’s not coming here anytime soon, but I think it is important for communicators to keep up on what is going on in the industry no matter where in the world it is happening. These new innovative services and applications not only tell us where we are currently with social media and how we use it, but where we are going.

For more information on Bubbly, visit http://www.bubblemotion.com.

Everyone makes it sound so simple. “Draft your content and put it on Wikipedia.” “Everyone who is anyone has a presence on Facebook.” And I guess it is simple…if you don’t care what the end result looks like. But to use either tool – or any social media tool to build your web presence – the right way takes planning, time, an infinite amount of patience, and a little HTML knowledge (or some good sites to go to for help), as well as a bit of willingness to give up some flexibility in how you are presented online and how you can use these tools.

I just finished both, a little roughed up by the processes, but I will be okay after a weekend of relaxing, not looking at either site, not even to look up new information on Tudor history or chatting with my favorite friends, and a couple of glasses of wine.  This piece discusses some issues I came across working on both, and hopefully it will provide you with pointers and information to make the process a bit easier for you as you embark on these tasks.

Facebook

You know that Facebook was not built for business use, right? Right. It was built for people to connect on a personal level and communicate with each other. But companies and organizations all over the world are using Facebook for this exact purpose. Facebook’s 500 million users seem not to mind; Facebook has even created “Business Pages” for companies to use. “Business Pages” allow you to set up a local business page, a page for a brand, product or organization, as well as an artist, band or public figure page. You also have the option of setting up a “Community Page” or a “Facebook Group Page.”

Again, it seems easy enough. But you need to keep a couple of things in mind:

  • If you don’t want your “Business Page” to be connected to your personal Facebook account, you will need to set up a dummy account. Facebook doesn’t really like people doing this. Facebook also doesn’t want you to set up multiple “Business Pages” under various accounts, or having a number of accounts connected to one e-mail. But it really doesn’t give you much of a choice. Dummy accounts may create confusion among people who try to look you up to send you a friend request.
  • You have some tough choices to make in choosing which type of page you want to create and with each choice you are giving up something in terms of the kind of information you want to convey. Each page is set up differently and has different functionality. For example, the “Facebook Group Page” allows you to communicate directly to your “fans,” but the others don’t. However, the “Facebook Group Page” probably isn’t the best choice for more traditional companies. They will want to post business hours, website links, press releases, etc., and you can do that with the Facebook Group Page, but you may need to build some FBML pages and kind of Jerry-rig it to make it work for you. I don’t think it gives you the clean professional, corporate feel you may need. If that is not your organization’s goal, that’s fine, but if it isn’t, you may have to give up communicating with fans beyond the wall postings.
  • Once you choose the kind of page you want and set it up, it gives you set tabs to use for inputting information, but you also have the option of creating custom FBML pages. I found these immensely helpful, but it did take some playing around with them to get it to work for me. You will also need some understanding – or have someone around who has some understanding – of HTML. Facebook Markup Language (FBML) enables you to build full Facebook Platform applications. You can make changes to the profile, profile actions, Facebook canvas, News Feed and Mini-Feed options. FBML is an evolved subset of HTML with some elements removed, and others that are specific to Facebook. I found that using straight HTML worked for me. But I understand it and how it works, and I sleep with a web developer, so I had free help to do the things I couldn’t do on my own.
  • You can delete Tabs on Facebook, according to what you will need and use on a regular basis.
  • You can create protection settings to prevent people from posting links, pictures, etc., which is good. They can still comment but they can’t post jokes or something to the page and you don’t get their updates.
  • Oh, and if your company changes their name – and this does happen – you will have to delete the old page and create a new one. Facebook doesn’t allow major edits to business pages. Crazy, isn’t it? Oh, and they don’t have tool to help you migrate fans either. You will just have to keep posting and reminding people on the old page to go and become a fan of the new one.
  • Here are some sites I used to pull a “Business Page” together:

Facebook needs to do better. It seems pretty shady to me to rake in ka-zillions of dollars from companies using the tool, but not allowing them the flexibility to do what they need to do. I am not advocating allowing companies to spam people. I also know I should have limited expectations from something I am using for free. But why not have a tool to migrate fans seamlessly? Why not allow edits to pages without creating a new one?

Wikipedia

The online encyclopedia. Again, it seems like the perfect place to increase your online presence and simple enough – type up some marketing and communications-division-speak, allow your c-level employees to add their spin, give it a good scrubbing by your legal department and post it to the site, right?

And you later discover that the article was deleted.

Or you write an article and post it, only to have some anonymous person post information – along with a news article, a PDF with legal documents connected with the situation, and photos – of a PR nightmare the company endured five years ago that you thought the world have forgotten about. You try to delete it, and you are contacted by the Wikipedia folks because deleting that information is a big no-no, since there are solid sources on the topic and not a total lie. In fact, it is completely true.

Wikipedia is for posting bare-bones information and facts, with plenty of sources such as news articles, web links and links to other Wikipedia articles. It is not a forum for marketing-speak, and it is not a free advertising or public relations tool.

There is plenty of information on how to write a good Wikipedia article and avoid trouble. Before writing anything, or even presenting the idea to a client or manager, I would thoroughly do my research and present them with the facts on Wikipedia. Yes, this includes admitting the negative aspects of being on the site, as well as the positive. It is also a good idea to have a plan in place for how to handle negative information posted to the article, and edits made by some well-meaning person with nothing to do. You can go in and make changes to obvious grammar and spelling errors or things that are flat out lies. Vandalism is usually caught quickly and taken care of by the fine folks at Wikipedia. But anything else may land you in hot water. You can post information to counter or refute negative items written into the article, but here you tread a fine line as well.

I have more of an understanding and appreciate for the strict rules Wikipedia has in place, than the ridiculous hoops you have to jump through to get a Facebook page to work for your company. I love Wikipedia and I can spend hours reading articles on the site. I go there for information, with a healthy dose of skepticism because I know anyone can go in and make an edit, but if I wanted spin, I would go to an organization’s website or news outlets that favor them. I don’t expect to drink corporate kool-aid on Wikipedia.

Some helpful tips for posting an article to Wikipedia:

  • Have some understanding, or someone close by with some understanding or thorough knowledge, of HTML. Wikipedia uses its own version of HTML, but it works the same way.
  • Search for organizations like yours, sort through the good and the bad articles, and if you see something you like, click on the edit box to grab code to use for your own article.
  • The code you grab from another page may not be completely flexible for your needs. Again, it helps to have someone close by who knows HTML, or to have some understanding of it yourself.
  • Copy and paste isn’t always your friend. It can be your absolute worst enemy.
  • If you have quite a bit of information to post, and lots of links, have them on hand in a Notepad page. DON’T USE WORD. This helps a BIT with the cut and paste issue. But be careful.
  • Take your time. Don’t rush this. It is not as quick and easy as you think.

I’m glad I did both. I learned a lot and I am proud of the results. But it wasn’t easy. Luckily, both sites provide a lot of information on how to set up these pages and Wikipedia’s information is far superior to Facebook. T here is also a wealth of information online.

Good luck!