What Do You Expect from Your PR?

August 7th, 2014

Before you launch a public relations campaign, consider your expectations of its role in increasing awareness – and possibly sales – for your business. “What are your goals for a PR program, and what do you regard as success?  PR offers potential in several areas, but you have to manage your expectations,” says David Brimm, president BrimmComm, Inc., a full- service public relations and marketing communications firm.  www.brimmcomm.com

So, before jumping into SEO and keywords, which are important, consider your business goals and the ever-evolving PR world.

Your Brand and Your Message

Start by establishing your brand and message. “What does your business or nonprofit stand for, or what do your consumers, clients and other “publics” trust you for?”  Create messages that reflect your brand concept and what you want them to remember. “This is what public relations is basically about – increasing awareness, clarifying perceptions and tracking messages and their impact,” David adds. “Everything you do is branding, so what will you do to support your brand?”

PR can be very effective in raising your awareness by developing newsworthy stories and identifying appropriate media to convey your message.  “But PR is not advertising, and you cannot control the content and result in the same way that you can with advertising.  PR does, however, complement advertising and is very effective in an integrated marketing communications plan. The advantage of PR is that since it appears on the editorial side, it carries an implied endorsement and added credibility.”

Brand Your Website

“Your website introduces your brand, and it’s a first impression visitors get. Never create a website until you think about the messages you are trying to convey, and then design a site that complements these messages,” suggests David.  This is where you want to introduce your services and staff, sell products or services on the site, present news, share videos, feature case studies.  “Your public relations image will start on your site, reinforcing your brand and creating outreach opportunities.”

Social and Traditional Media

Some people are confused about the term “social media,” but what it does is extend your messaging in a more personal way, with a greater reach than newspapers and magazines.

“Because social media is so interactive, leading to dialog with your customers or clients, it’s really about building relationships. But the flip side is that it provides a forum for customers unhappy about your organization to complain, so monitor the Internet so you can get an early warning and immediately head off  potential problems,” David  adds.

Features in traditional media – newspapers, radio or TV – offer unique credibility and longevity when presenting new news. Articles, videos or radio interviews, linked to social media, increase awareness. But then, David reminds us, “What are the results of those ‘likes’ and Google searches?  Do you have a social media and PR strategy or just hoping to flood the Internet?”

“Your bottom line and public relations goal is to establish relationships with customers.

Ready for a Website? Start with the Basics

July 7th, 2014

“If you want a website, start with the behind-the-scenes basics before you begin the actual design process,” advises Christopher Merrill, Christopher Merrill Web Design, www.christophermerrill.com.

Host, Domain Name and Registration

  • “Avoid choosing a cheap service. The best approach is to use the same service for both hosting and registration. And, check their support services.
  • Two services will be necessary for your website (and all websites for that matter):
  1. Domain Name Registration. This gives you ownership of your domain name (e.g., sallychapralis.com, christophermerrill.com).
  2. A Hosting Account. This is where your website files reside. All websites exist on a server somewhere (an actual machine that holds your files, photos, etc.). Your domain name is set to point to your server so that your site comes up when someone types in your name.
  • Make sure expiration dates for both of these are the same so that you will only have to keep track of one date when you need to renew these services.
  • If you have multiple websites, use the same service. Christopher recommends GoDaddy.
  • Check your credit card’s expiration date. Or, if you have changed your credit card, be sure to update your hosting and registration information.
  • Have you changed your email but did not change it with your hosting/registration services. If so, you will not receive notice when it’s time to renew.
  • Choose an auto-renew option to avoid lapses.
  • If your contact information is not current with your domain name and hosting accounts, you also might lose the right to your domain name. Or, it could be bought out from under you. Then it will cost you a considerable amount to buy it back. If nothing else, always make sure your domain name is up to date, since this will be the most difficult (if not impossible) thing to replace if you let it lapse.”

Website Before Design

Before the website process begins, remember that “you want to reach your intended audience when they search (using Google, Bing, etc.) for services and products you provide. This means implementing keyword-rich word combinations throughout the site, in tags and in text. Look for two and three-word combinations that your intended audience would be likely to type into search engines when they are looking for what you do.”

After this, the design process begins.

►  A Logo. It’s your visual identity, but it’s not your “brand” (what we trust you for). It’s usually a graphic symbol that reminds us of your purpose. “Keep it simple,” Christopher says. “Ideally, the design process starts with your logo.”

►  Contact Information, on every page

  • “While one website page will be dedicated to Contact Information, contact information should be easy to find on all pages, usually in the upper right hand corner and at the bottom of each page. Redundancy is a good thing.
  • If possible and appropriate, include your business address and even a Google Place, Facebook Place or a relevant ‘app’.
  • Focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization).”

►  Create unique title tags and Meta descriptions on each page that will attract people who are looking for your services or products.

  • “A title tag is an HTML code that causes that title to appear in the title bar at the very top of each page you view in your web browser. If you have several tabs open, the title will appear in that tab. These words will not actually appear on your web page unless you have also included them in your text.
  • The Meta description is what shows up below your page title (or on each page of your site) when your site comes up after searches in search engines. See Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide for SEO parameters.”

 Website Design – Do’s and Don’ts

Christopher advises that you “avoid thinking too far outside the box. ‘I want my website to look like nothing anyone has ever seen,’ is something clients often say they want, but this is a dangerous trap. If users are not able to navigate your site easily on the first try, they will leave your site and go to another site where navigation is user-friendly.”  Your design should be simple and engaging with links to our social media. But, Christopher says, “Keep it simple.” For more information, see Christopher’s resources below for “What Makes Good Web Design,” as well as “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.”

Try to find pictures and images that can help you define who you are and that can be used in your site’s design.

Do update your site regularly for higher rankings. Updates can include news releases about your business or about your field. Regular blog posts also bring followers to your site. Make sure your blog resides on your server.

If you have a business, you must have a website.

Your website should look professional…whether you’re a sole entrepreneur or an organization employing dozens of employees. Remember, your website is an important part of your marketing strategy.

Above all, Christopher adds, “be patient. Invest time and energy into establishing your web presence. It will take many steps and a good deal of consideration to launch a website that will accurately reflect your products and services and bring in your audience. Do not rush the process.”

Note: For more information, see Christopher’s resources: “What Makes Good Web Design” as well as “Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.”

What Makes Good Web Design video:
http://youtu.be/UHpyES6Jbx0

Top Ten Web Design Mistakes:
http://www.christophermerrill.com/top_10_web_design_mistakes.htm

Whose Words Are They: Quotes, Copyrights & Testimonials

June 9th, 2014

PR pros, writers, bloggers or marketers frequently “quote” expert sources.  But depending on the context, how the quote is used, and given today’s social media opportunities and issues, it’s time for a legal refresher.

Quotes & Copyright

 “If, when quoting someone in a piece where the subject matter relates to the quote, and the quote is short, factual and attributed to the appropriate source, you should be O.K. because such quotes are usually not protected by Copyright Law or are considered Fair Use,” Andrew Goldstein explains. “If, however, someone is associated with that quote such as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream,’ then you would need permission to use the quote for commercial purposes under unfair competition laws.”  Andrew Goldstein is an attorney and partner in the law firm of Freeborn & Peters in Chicago.  He advises clients in virtually all aspects of intellectual property and information technology law, including trademark and copyright law and computer, Internet and multimedia law, as well as fair use entertainment, advertising and promotion law. www.freeborn.com

Copyright Law protects the original author or creator of a copyrightable work (literary, musical or artistic) from unauthorized use.  However, copyright does not protect facts or ideas, only the way in which the ideas have been expressed. And, if the text is in the “public domain” (e.g., older works or government documents), you do not have to consider Copyright issues.

Fair Use and Transformative Purpose

If, when taking the words or text from another source, you “transformed” them, they may also be considered Fair Use.  For example, the Supreme Court held that 2-Live Crew’s rap version of Ray Orbison’s song “Pretty Woman” was a fair use and not copyright infringement because the rap song was transformative since it criticized the norms of what was pretty.

Book, article, speech, song, or blog post…what do “fair use” and “transformative” mean?

  • Fair Use. The Copyright Law generally relies on four guidelines or factors to determine fair use: the purpose and character of the use; nature of the copyrighted work; the amount used related to the total work; and the effect or value on the copyright work. As you might imagine, deciding fair use can be a tough decision.
  • Transformative.  The more “transformative” a work is, the more likely the above factors will favor fair use.  “If you have used a particular source, such as a paragraph from a study, but you are presenting it in a new way,” Andrew explains, “changing the nature of the original use (thus, transforming it by adding new meaning, information or approach), it could become fair use.”

Self-publishers & e-bookers

If you are self-publisher or produce e-books that you write, “you automatically have a copyright when you create the piece, although there are advantages to registering with the U.S. Copyright Office before publication. They include recovering legal fees.” Andrew says. “Do include proper copyright notices, namely:  the symbol © or word “copyright,” author’s name, year of first publication and ‘All rights reserved’.”

Testimonials & Endorsements

What about testimonials and endorsements for your book? “There’s a subtle difference between them,” Andrew says. “Endorsements are usually given by celebrities, well-known authorities on the subject or prominent authors in the field. Testimonials come from readers, consumers or others who have benefited from your book.”  Also, and this applies to testimonials and endorsements for your book or other PR pieces, under the rules of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you must disclose any material connection (i.e., payment, a sample, a prize, etc.) with the person offering the testimonial or endorsement. For more information about the FTC’s new guidelines read “PR Firm Held Liable for Product Reviews it Posted on iTunes”: http://www.freeborn.com/article/pr-firm-held-liable-product-reviews-it-posted-itunes-0

Bloggers & Copyrights

Your blog posts are automatically copyrighted (e.g., First Person Public Relations!). This includes a photo the blogger took or an image the bloggers created. “If, however, you want to sue a person for intellectual property infringement, then you must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office,” Andrew adds.

 Whose words are they? Let’s think before we write!

From Basement to Book

May 5th, 2014

So, you think you have an idea for a book? But how do you decide if it has an audience and publishing potential? Or, says Ann Kepler, Adams Press (adamspress.com), who has worked with many authors throughout her career, how can you “take it from basement to book?”

“For example, several years ago I considered writing a book about how to buy a house. I started collecting articles, taking notes, and putting them in a folder. After many months, my accumulation of material became overwhelming and I needed to make sense of it. I knew it was time to organize and evaluate the information.” Whether you’ve scattered your resources throughout your computer, parked them in the cloud or stuffed them into a box, get ready to take them out of the “basement.”

Develop Themes

Ann suggests that you start by developing themes or general categories. “My first themes for buying a house included home evaluation steps, neighborhoods and communities, financial issues, and selecting an agent.” She discovered that she had two to three possible chapters for each theme.

Ann then realized that she had to regroup for each theme and clearly identify the market and target readers. “Your first question to yourself should be ‘Who would buy this book?’. Ask yourself if there is a market for this topic. Are there other books like this available?” says Ann. Visit online and brick-and-mortar book stores to see what is selling.

This investigation will help you identify your target readers. What stage of home buying are they in, what then would be their reason for reading your book, and what themes respond to their interests and goals?

 “Once I decided who would want to buy this book, I went back and winnowed my information, regrouping on themes and chapters, putting them in a sequence that the target reader would need, and throwing out what wasn’t relevant. The process seems endless, but my pinpointing the target readers provides a ‘blueprint’ that defines the book.”

Research for Resources

Is your collection of notes, clippings and links still considered current information? To find out and discover more resources, do an online search to see if what you have is still applicable and usable and if there are other potential themes and chapters you had not considered. You might have to toss some chapters, add new ones, or switch their order.

As you research, remember that you will have to attribute or credit quoted content you use in your book, particularly if it is protected by copyright. Those that are copyrighted require permission to use or quote, whether it’s used in the basic content or in a sidebar within a chapter.

U.S. government sites, however, are in the public domain. This means that the intellectual property rights do not apply, and the information does not require permission from the government or payment of copyright royalties to be used. “Try to avoid sources that require permission unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Ann advises.

As you research take notes on possible resources, such as relevant URLs, books, magazines, government resources. Each of us has our own approach to organizing. “I prefer to start out ‘physical’ with accordion file folders and sticky notes that I can move around,” Ann says, “and then when I’m ready to move forward, I switch to electronic.”

After this initial research phase, step away from the project for a few days, and reconsider your vision for your book. Has this research reinforced your interest?  If so, read on.

From Basement to Book

Now that you have a framework for writing, it’s time to address the structure of the whole book. Start by developing an outline with a title and subheads for each chapter. These may change as you proceed, but as soon as you begin, the titles and heads will propel you forward.

This is a good time to talk to someone who can look at this with fresh eyes…whether another author, editor or an engaging person who can offer feedback and who asks questions. “Whether you want to build this from the outside in or the inside out, you need to hear things you might not have thought of before,” Ann says.

Then, based on your initial research and accordion files stuffed with new information, revisit the neighborhood (or your book’s subject) with fresh perspectives. What other issues in the book should you address (for example, suggest driving through a community during the day, and then again at night to check the street lighting and parking). Since you now know your reader better than you did before your research, revisit your book to develop headlines or chapters that your audience wants to or should know.

Double check your presumptions and facts, look for stories and stats that reflect each chapter’s focus, think of sidebars that complement the content, and consider aids such as checklists.

You have now brought your book out of the basement into broad daylight. You have done your homework, and researched the market, the potential reader, and the topic. You have constructed the framework of the book. You have determined that you should move forward. Your next step?

 Become the author.

Videos, Public Relations and the Media Mix

March 12th, 2014

“We now live in a vibrant, colorful multimedia world. Print, radio, TV, and online media have evolved into an integrated environment that offers sensory-rich PR opportunities such as those expressed in video.”

Reno Lovison, video producer and owner of Reno Lovison Marketing, explains that whether you “spontaneously capture video from your smart phone or digital camera, shoot it on a computer webcam, or use the services of a professional videographer, your video offers the potential to tell your PR story in ways you might never have imagined…and that journalists and consumers will appreciate.”

Think Video

Begin by thinking about video opportunities. “It can be professional or do-it-yourself, but something is better than nothing,” Reno says, “because there are ways to maximize your video’s potential regardless of the quality.”

Consider your video possibilities:

  • Look for people and things that are moving. After all, they are motion pictures.
  • Demonstrate or announce new products or services.
  • Talk eye-to-eye with viewers in a short, purposeful and engaging messages that can be dynamic and help to make a personal connection.
  • In case of emergency: an urgent message from an expert or organizational leader increases credibility and can get a message released quickly.
  • Videos attract business by featuring your product or service, sometimes in offbeat ways.
  • Testimonials offer first person user credibility. Remember to get written permission.
  • Thank donors after a fundraiser, and showcase the organization’s services.
  • Introduce your staff or offer a tour of your office or trade show exhibit.
  • Consider a video blog or v-log to announce tips and timely messages.

How long should your video be?

“Your video can run as long as it takes to succinctly deliver your story or information in a manner your viewers can quickly consume. Thus, depending on your goals and multiple uses of video, it could run from one to three or even ten minutes – if it is a complex message or story.” Always consider whether your objective should be accomplished as one video or multiple smaller videos.

“Open with the important information first…hooking viewers in the first 10 – 30 seconds maximum,” Reno says. “If you don’t immediately hook them, they may be gone before you get to the good stuff.”

PR Opportunities

If you are contacting the media, remember that they appreciate links (up front in your email letter or news release) to relevant, focused videos that tell your story. Even if it’s a radio station and the audience cannot see the video when listening, they can be directed to the station’s website to see it…and they do.

Reno offers an example of a recent PR approach. “A fine artist we worked with was featured in a two-week museum exhibit, so we shot a video to preserve the experience. On camera the artist explained a bit about the process and inspiration for each of her works. We submitted the 30 minute version to the local cable TV station that scheduled to air it four times in the upcoming month. It was also uploaded to YouTube to be indexed by Google and available in perpetuity. Then we edited the video into a number of smaller videos, which she includes on her website and also uses as part of PR activities and community outreach.”  You will see more at: http://renoweb.net/blog/art-exhibit-koehnline-museum-sandra-holubow-artist/

Another client, looking for public speaking opportunities, had a few hastily produced iPhone video examples of his presentations. We took excerpts of some of the least shaky parts and added some photos and graphics to craft a very nice video to promote him to clubs and organizations for speaking engagements.” http://renoweb.net/blog/professional-speaker-bio-video/

A condominium management company that Reno works with holds quarterly, two-hour education programs for condo board members. “We video the presentation and then break it into smaller segments. Each segment deals with a subtopic such as ‘pets in the hallways’ or ‘escrow accounts for capital improvements’. We then upload these multiple videos to YouTube in order to provide the company with a larger presence. Search ‘condo management Chicago” on YouTube, and you will discover the company and see that it has the largest number of videos under that search criteria.” The videos are also embedded on the company’s website as an ongoing educational service.  http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=condo%20management%20chicago&sm=3

Reno notes that QR codes are being used in magazines and other print media so that consumers who scan them may experience a video. If you do not have a scanner app on your smart phone, consider downloading one of the popular apps such as Redlaser, QRreader or ATTscanner. You will begin to see scanning opportunities all around you.

Speaking of apps, you can download Reno’s “Authors Broadcast” app for free at iTunes or Google Play to learn more and to see book video trailers he also produces. “This app is a great example of how you can create and distribute a collection of videos directed to a specific market or audience that you hope to engage on a regular basis.” he says.

Video, as Reno says, has finally found a home on the web where high speed internet access provides an opportunity for individuals to experience quality video via desk tops or mobile devices, making your message available whenever and wherever it is needed or will be most effective. Consider how it can enhance your next PR campaign.

For even more information on videos, apps and PR opportunities you might not be aware of, visit Reno Lovison Marketing — Chicago at http://RenoWeb.net.

 

 

Public Relations – New Roles, New Publics

February 11th, 2014

As public relations activities evolve and grow in response to the changing landscape, PR pros are assuming new responsibilities, interacting with unique publics, remaining newsworthy, and applying classic qualities.

Most people think of PR as media relations, working with journalists to increase awareness of an organization or yourself. You approach traditional media – newspapers, radio, TV, and others however they’re “delivered” – with targeted newsworthiness. While traditional media produces results, PR includes creating and managing social and mobile media channels and sites with content (blogs, video and other formats) that engage target publics.

Furthermore, PR pros work with other publics besides journalists. Remember, a public is a group (three or more) with something in common, and they can be very influential. Identifying and reaching publics presents new possibilities, challenges and venues (digital, online, video, etc.) and relationships that can reflect your 1st Person PR and success.

While media relations increases awareness of an organization’s services and products to potential consumers, PR pros are involved in other critical activities: reputation management, crisis communications, community relations and outreach, employee relations, investor and donor relations, researching relevant subjects and trends – all of which support marketing and advertising.

New Roles, Classic Qualities

To succeed in all of PR’s possibilities and new roles, a PR pro must apply classic qualities:

  • passion for the purpose
  • intellectual curiosity and research skills
  • understanding the bigger picture – whether local, national or global
  • sensitivity to each public’s interests and goals
  • appreciation and responsiveness to the journalist’s perspective
  • trustworthiness and dependability
  • resiliency and flexibility when facing “rejection”
  • importance of one-on-one customer service and “being there”

As you define your organization and its potential, take a new look at your publics. You can use this starter list of possibilities: “Who Are Your Publics?” http://www.sallychapralis.com/pr_publics.htm  Determine how you can reach them and what each wants and needs. You may be surprised.

 

Time to Benefit from Media’s Long Legs & Clips

January 13th, 2014

When your public relations pursuits have led to features on radio or TV, then you understand “how valuable broadcast time is and what long legs it can have,” says David H Lasker, CEO, media monkeybiz, which monitors TV, radio and the Internet for businesses and PR agencies after a broadcast.

In fact, depending on your goals and media coverage, “a feature’s ROI (return on investment) will likely always be greater than the value of an ad.”

While editorial coverage (PR) coverage is “free,” its value depends on quality of the news and media interest; you cannot control the final feature. Because you pay for advertising, you can control the content and timing. Each has its role.

A media story, however, offers editorial [third party] credibility, which means your company’s PR pro knows how to objectively approach the radio, TV or newspaper reporter with a newsworthy subject that fits the medium’s programming and audience interests. “While many people watch or listen to both news content and commercials, others tune out during ads, which could reduce their viewership,” David says.

“We all know examples of broadcast segments or articles that created awareness of a brand and grew a company’s business. Afterwards, you (or the reporter) can give it legs by following up with TV or radio clips to use in other ways to maintain ongoing interest.” This means that before approaching another journalist or producer, you do your research.  The original reporter might even pursue different news hooks that include your business.

Measurement Potential

Measurement is usually discussed in numerical terms and figures, which is important for your marketing, PR and advertising goals and strategies. “But,” notes David, “the results of some efforts happen over time and the future benefits can’t be immediately measured or factored into results. Furthermore, the metrics may not include analysis of the segment/feature and its current or potential value.”

PR features such as satellite media tours (SMT) or radio media tours (RMT), for example, can offer ongoing post-feature possibilities. And, “because editorial is considered more objective, the impact is always greater than a paid ad.”

“PR pros and authors (particularly nonfiction authors solving a problem) can also use segment clips after a broadcast to illustrate the author’s comfort and expertise when being interviewed on TV or radio. Book stores and other venues also appreciate the segments for book signings,” David says.

Your PR pro can also approach different media – local, national, online – with news hooks targeted to diverse audiences. “We cover all U.S. TV markets and the majority of radio markets, and there are lots of possibilities,” David says. When contacting other media, include your clips (“as seen on…”) to reinforce continuing awareness.

Get ready to benefit from media clips and long legs!!

Job Interviews, Fixable Regrets and Work Distractions

December 16th, 2013

After he advises you not to be a “dimwit at holiday parties,” Rex W. Huppke, “I Just Work Here” columnist for the Chicago Tribune, discusses a reader’s question about job interviews.

“When she interviews with prospective employers, human resource officials always ask about her current salary.” How should she handle this situation when she doesn’t want to reveal what she earns?

Many of us feel we are underpaid in our current positions and don’t want to undercut our salary potential. We also wonder if the question is appropriate or legal, and what should we say. Well, Huppke notes, the question is O.K., and if you know how to respond, you can “convince the interviewer that you’re the most qualified candidate and that you’re a good, likable person who will fit in well with the company’s culture.”

To handle interview challenges and salary questions, and avoid acting like a dim-wit at company holiday parties, read Huppke’s column: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/careers/ct-biz-1209-work-advice-huppke-20131209,0,7837871.column?

Fixable Regret about Changing Jobs

“It’s a potential career nightmare: You switch jobs, only to realize days or weeks later that it was all a huge mistake,” says Sue Shellenbarger, reporter for the Wall Street Journal. While it may seem inconceivable, it is possible to make the dreaded employment U-turn.”

“Most U-turns occur to people in design, tech, media agencies and consulting firms.” And, “some job-changers boomerang back because they miss a workplace culture or respected boss. Others, who initially quit to join an entrepreneurial venture, return after the opportunity fizzles.”

To find out how you can fix your regrettable job change, read Shellenbarger’s article, “The New Job Was a Mistake, But You Can Get a Mulligan”: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB20001424052702304355104579236003135253082

Work Distractions

“Every office has (at least) one – the colleague who is always walking fast, finishing other people’s sentences and racing from meeting to meeting while fielding email, texts and voice mail on multiple devices. That person can appear very important, “says Sue Shellenbarger. However, she adds, “They may not know it, but they’re usually causing secondhand stress” for the rest of us, aren’t accomplishing as much as they could, prevent us from teamwork and achieving company goals.

Are you a work distracter or distracted by one? Read another Shellenbarger article: “The Problem with Busy Colleagues: Secondhand Stress:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303497804579242203005473122

Final distraction

“Workplace Distractions – Here’s Why You Won’t Finish this Article,” by Rachel Ellen Silverman, Wall Street Journal:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324339204578173252223022388

Happy Holidays…if you’re not distracted or linked out?!

Achieve Business Goals and Success through Mentoring

November 21st, 2013

Mentoring continues to prove its benefits in any economy, reinforcing personal and professional growth for both mentee and mentor. “The demand for mentoring has increased because there is a strong business imperative for investing in it,” says Dr. Lois J. Zachary, Director of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, a division of Leadership Development Services. http://www.centerformentoringexcellence.com

Zachary cites many ways that mentoring helps organizations and employees establish common ground and work together to develop and achieve their goals, and here are a few of them.

 “Mentoring drives recruitment of future talent.  While Boomers are exiting the workforce, another door has opened and almost 80 million Millennials are in or entering the workforce. Having a mentor is a fundamental element to leadership success.

“Mentoring contributes to increased retention rate of talent. Almost all successful professionals attribute their success, in whole or in part, to the mentors who have supported their growth and development. When you feel that someone has a vested interest in your success, you are more likely to tough out the hard times and work through difficult issues.  And in tough times, that safety net that mentoring offers becomes even more valuable.

“Mentoring builds and strengthens the company’s talent pipeline.  There is more pressure than ever to encourage everyone to accelerate their results, especially in times of significant change and uncertainty and even more urgency to get high performers in gear as quickly as possible.  Mentors provide road maps and models for fast tracking learning and avoiding missteps that often short circuit results.

“Without mentoring, knowledge is unevenly distributed. Some information is known by some people. Other information is known “in pockets.” Knowledge silos contribute to lack of alignment and make it difficult for leaders to make effective decisions. Mentoring can break down silos and expand the knowledge base.

 “Mentoring promotes diversity and inclusion by giving everyone an opportunity to learn and benefit from the diversity within an organization. Diverse perspectives and opinions get heard, are better understood and are more widely valued.  While differences can spark mistrust, mentoring builds trust in relationships, in teams, across departments, and business units.  Boundaries and borders, and territorialism diminish where mentoring flourishes.

“When someone is moving to a new position, assigned a new set of responsibilities, or takes on a new leadership role, a mentor can help them make a smoother transition, and avoid common pitfalls -  ensuring continuity of competence in times of changing roles.

‘One of the most powerful benefits of mentoring is its contribution to promoting a more connected, engaged, aligned and productive workplace. Mentors can help mentees better understand and commit to organizational goals, rather than work on personal agendas.  An organization’s investment in mentoring builds loyalty.  When you know your organization cares about you, your work, your contribution and your career, you pay back the investment with conscientiousness, commitment and extra effort. Mentoring strengthens teams and encourages employees to contribute new ideas that will help the organization and themselves grow.”

The definition of mentoring varies among cultures and individual relationships. “The word mentor might be related to a teacher, supervisor, or expert in another cultural context.  “I think what surprises so many people is that there are so many (almost 500) definitions of mentoring currently at play.”

Zachary adds that “the biggest surprise is that mentoring takes work for both the mentor and mentee to get it right and that the relationship is a reciprocal partnership. Both partners gain expanded perspectives and insights, not just the mentee.”

As we look forward to a new year and new opportunities, consider the potential rewards – for yourself and your organization – of mentoring.

Note: January is National Mentoring Month in the U.S.  For resources on mentoring: http://www.leadservs.com/toolkits.php

Is Self-Employment For You…Or Not?

November 6th, 2013

“I last trudged off to work for a full-time employer on the Monday after Thanksgiving, 1989. I was fired from my job that day, my third firing or layoff in less than four years. In at least two of those axings, the boss intimated I was about as valuable to the company as a dish of paper clips.

“That did it. I’d had enough of working for people I didn’t respect but who had control over how much I earned, when I woke, when I lunched, what I wore, when I went on vacation and more. So I struck out on my own. I didn’t really believe I’d succeed. In fact, I was almost certain I would fail. But the idea of being my own boss for at least a while was far less abhorrent than shambling through a skein of interviews for jobs I was sure to detest,” Jeffrey Steele, independent writer, explains in his article, “Ain’t-Trepreneurs.”

You may be perfectly happy and rewarded at your job (and you have a job!), working for a great boss. Or, you may be in transition, have an entrepreneurial spirit and are considering establishing your own business. As you evaluate your options Jeffrey offers some interesting perspectives.

“It’s almost 22 years later, and I can say with near 100% surety I will never again take a nine-to-five job. Since launching my own gig, I’ve earned much more money, enjoyed infinitely more prestige and savored far more autonomy than I ever did working for someone else. I truly believe hanging my own shingle saved me from a life of misery. It may have kept me from a steady diet of anti-depressants or even a fortnight in a rubber room.

“As I built my business, I had opportunities galore to meet and size up other people starting their own businesses. That brings me to the message of this opus. There are some folks who should never, ever be in business for themselves. If you see yourself in one of the following types, question the wisdom of going it alone. If you see yourself in two, think long and hard before scheduling a launch party. And if you see yourself in three or more, save the cost of a start-up, and don’t ever let the word “entrepreneur” ever pass your lips.”

Ready for a few of Jeffrey’s “Ain’t-Trepreneurial” tips?

“Ms. Style-Over-Substance. Some individuals have always wanted to open their own business, but for reasons of form rather than function. When I started, they had the coolest holographic business cards and best stationery. Today, they’d own the most up-to-the-minute phone and the greatest looking Facebook page. Regrettably, their attention to customer needs is far less keen, leading to an early exit from the ranks of the self-employed.

“Mr. Nine-to-Five. Spend a long time as an employee, and you can get used to eight-hour workdays. But you better get unaccustomed to them quickly if you want to make a go of your own business. Some weeks, you’ll have nothing to do but prospect. Others, you’ll be working night and day. If you must knock off each afternoon at five, you’d better keep your day job. There’s no such thing as succeeding at business without really trying.

“Ms. They-Don’t-Respect-Me! Don’t open a business with the intent of gaining respect or winning arguments with a client. The client didn’t hire you to duke it out in debates, or to commission a statue in your likeness, but rather to solve some pressing problem. When you do solve that problem, you may or may not win respect, but you will win repeat business.

I have a friend who started her own concern, and often checks in to say she had to argue with a client about a fee or her work’s quality. I tell her to recall retail pioneer Marshall Field’s adage that the lady is always right. When you’ve built a thriving enterprise and don’t have to go work for someone else, you’ve earned the most important respect: Your own.”

Jeffrey adds that “self-employment is a process of self-discovery. I realized that I was far more disciplined and motivated than I had ever imagined. I also had more ability and creativity than I had given myself credit for.”

If, however, you tried self-employment but decided that it was not for you, you will approach your next career move and position with more experience, insights and opportunities.

If you’re looking for self-employment inspiration visit Jeffrey Steele at www.linkedin.com/pub/jeffrey-steele/3/93b/56b

We also invite you to share your experiences – working for yourself or working for others – with First Person Public Relations.