This Buzz of the Month was contributed by Anne Dudley, MA
For many small business owners, the company website is a bit neglected. But, the website remains an important part of small business success. For small business owners operating in target markets or selling products or services primarily to a local audience, word of mouth, networking and referrals may still be the “bread and butter” that drives business growth.
Still, the website is a critical channel for communication and engagement – whether due to referral or web search. Making it as easy as possible for people to find you, and addressing their needs while on your site will help you engage and keep that customer.
Here are some things to think about:
- Make the contact information easy to find on every page. Who is your audience and what are the top tasks that they need to complete on your website? Measuring Usability suggests conducting a Top Task Analysis to find out. For many, simply finding a clickable phone number, email address or street address is a key task. Include these in the header or footer of your website so that they appear on each page.
- Think about the way people search. – As search functionality changes, most of the key themes of optimization have stayed the same. Include keywords in the content, page descriptions and tags, link from one page or social platform to another and provide regular content updates. However, helping the user navigate through your website is key. Website users now expect your website to be easy to use. PR Daily suggests you avoid things like using pop-ups, skipping the footer links or using optimized content.
- Use calls to action – SmallBusinessTrends.com found that 70 percent of small business websites lacked a call to action (among other things mentioned above). A call to action gives your potential customer a reason to stay on the site. Think about the Staples Easy Button. How can you make the action you want your potential customers to take easier? Would adding a “Call us for a free consultation” or “Buy now” button help? According to the article, others might be an invitation to connect on social media, subscribe to a newsletter, view a product demo or take advantage of a special offer.
- What about a blog? Think about the option to add a blog with diverse topics that serve the user, especially if the product you offer is unique and requires an educational component, or the service you offer requires that you be recognized as an expert.
- Make one website edit every week. This may seem like a lofty goal, but once you’ve made it a habit, you’ll quickly see the benefits reflected in website function and customer response. This will keep your website fresh and help you work toward larger website development goals. Start by making sure all the information you want is on the website and easy to find. Then, you can update photos and calls to action, or remove outdated content.
- Get creative, but be authentic. Websites (and social media) are unique because they allow a business to showcase its personality, its services and its people (including customers and fans). Make it fun and authentic. For example, the recent Chipotle™ scarecrow advertisement and application has been called “the future of business communication” by PR Tips for Startups. Why? Because it’s engaging, tells a story and it makes a point in a fun and interesting way.
- Always keep your customer in mind. Make the end goal as easy as possible for your customer to complete by keeping it uncluttered.
“When considering the needs of your customer, consider the emotional need as well as the immediate need,” says Nathan Boyd, of InTheRound Design Group’s Radius Webtools team. “For example, the folks at Neo Now offer a connecting point for internship opportunities. The prospective intern has a need to find an internship, but this can often be an intimidating, time consuming and complicated process. So, Neo Now speaks to the benefits of their site by reassuring site visitors that their site makes this a simple, stress-free process.”
- Connect with social media. Integrate your website into your social platforms to drive people to it. This is incentive to update it as regularly as possible.
- Check it out on mobile. Make sure that your website functions on mobile as well as it functions on a desktop, laptop or tablet.
- Think like your visitor. To engage your visitors, provide content that is relevant, useful or entertaining to them, and do it often.
“When thinking about engaging visitors, remember that compelling images are vital to story telling and emotional connection,” continued Boyd. “Try to use your own high quality images when you can, but if you’re like most small business owners, you’ll need to use some stock images, too. Check out the stock image sites, but make sure they are royalty free and ready for your use. Some offer images for free, and some for a modest fee. Take your time and choose the images that help you tell your story well, rather than the first ones you see.”
Anne Dudley is Communications Manager at Health Sciences Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and is a graduate of Kent State University. Follow her at @AnneCDuds or connect on LinkedIn.
As The Buzz Maker!™ celebrates eight years and we move from the “fiscal cliff” to recovery and growth, I pause to reflect on the soul of entrepreneurship in a post-recession economy. I’m still around, and I’m thankful. There are some core principles, beliefs and habits that have really been at the heart of this little success story. Here are 10 worth sharing:
Practice super abundance – Always give more than is expected. Be super abundant. Treat each and every customer or client as if they are the most important person. Like Henry Ford used to say, “It is not the employer that pays the wages. The employer only handles the money. It is the customer that pays the wages.”
Stay out on that limb – As my friend and colleague Daniel Moneypenny, CCO of 25-year branding and ideation firm Emaginit says, “Being an entrepreneur is all about going out on a limb.” Being out on the limb means you’ve got to get used to the weather, and sometimes, there’s a lot of weather. The only people who truly fail are those who give up. Never give up. Be prepared to fail big and stick around, but think and behave as if it is impossible to fail. If you’re having a really challenging day, be like Elizabeth Taylor; “Pour yourself a drink, put some lipstick on and pull yourself together.”
Be a solution provider – In order to capture hearts, minds and, yes, budget, you’ve got to be ready to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question for your client or customer. If you’re a service provider like I am, your job is to help others prosper. Ask diagnostic questions, listen to the answers, and be ready to explain how you can help to resolve a challenge, solve a problem, save money, make money, and/or reduce stress for the customer. And, then set about doing exactly that.
Apply the Pareto Principle – Also known as the 80/20 rule, The Pareto Principle simply states that 80% of the effects result from 20% of the causes. Applied in business, this means that 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your customers or clients. So, spend 80% of your time and energy on the 20% of activities and relationships that will result 80% of your success. Time cannot be saved, but can only be spent. Your time is the most valuable thing you can give. When you spend it, you spend a piece of your life. So, spend it wisely. Eliminate or delegate the least important things.
Ask - As Brian Tracy says, “The future belongs to the askers.” So, ask for what you want. Ask for the work. Ask for the opportunity. Ask for the project. Keep asking.
Be authentic – There has never been anyone who is uniquely you. Be yourself. Bring your unique gifts, skills, talents, experience, perspective and personality to the table. Ditch the persona. This one thing makes you instantly magnetic. Business is still about relationships. To build meaningful relationships, you’ve got to show up to the party dressed as, well…YOU.
Say no – That seems counterintuitive, right? But, the reality is that saying no to the wrong opportunities is at least as important, perhaps more important, than saying yes to the right opportunities. Say yes to the opportunities that will allow you to be a true solution provider, that focus on your expertise, or that you’re downright passionate about, and say no to the rest.
Be confident in your worth – Resist the urge to do more for less or to significantly reduce your fees. This is a very common mistake that many entrepreneurs make, and I’ve made it, too. Yes, you’ve got to do your research and be competitive. But, know your value.
Tell the truth – Be truthful and ethical at all times. Resist the desire to make excuses or pass the buck. If you make a mistake (and you will), own it. Be gracious, and do your best to make it right, or make amends. Be someone worthy of trust.
Network, network, network – When times are tough, people in business generally experience a lot of fear. In that kind of climate, it has been my experience that people do business with two kinds of people – Someone they know and trust, or someone referred to them by someone they know and trust. So, make the time to network with others, including other entrepreneurs. Share with them. Listen to them. Support and encourage them. Learn from them. Brainstorm about creative ways you can help one another prosper.
And, always stay out on that limb. The weather is fine.
Tracy L. Teuscher, APR – Copyright 2013
Good writing is the heart of good PR.
I’ll always remember Mrs. White, the passionate, white-haired third grade teacher I was blessed with.
“Yeah is not a word,” Mrs. White would repeat as she forced us to use the proper reply of yes or no when asked a question. “We do not say ‘yeah’ and ‘nuh-uh’ in this classroom,” she would say with her hands neatly clasped one on top of the other, resting on the soft belly of her flowered cotton dress.
Through this small exercise she opened a life-changing door. She sought to instill in us a true love and respect for the language and knowledge of its proper use in both the spoken and written form. She was passionate about this, and as a result she unknowingly became my first mentor as a writer.
Practice, read and practice some more.
As the year unfolded with Mrs. White, we learned the basics of grammar and sentence structure, easy tricks to remember confusing spellings, the importance of pronunciation, the proper use of to, too and two; their, there and they’re; your and you’re and the rest.
We experienced the joy of hearing a passage come alive by selecting the right descriptive words. Through the simple exercises of writing for each other and reading aloud, she instilled the joy of reading and writing, respect for the importance of punctuation and the thrill of becoming part of the story. As we grew in our clever new skills, she integrated more difficult lessons through story telling by sharing her life-long love of birds, and through creative writing using various forms of poetry.
Mid year, she gave us an assignment to write a poem. The rules were that it had to adhere to a certain poetic form and it had to be about something that was meaningful to us. I wrote about my love of the forest and the sights, sounds, smells, creatures and adventures that were part of my childhood forest world. I’ll always remember her beaming, cherubic face as she selected my poem as her favorite and posted it on the bulletin board. In that moment I knew I wanted to write forever.
What does all this have to do with PR, you say? Everything, I say.
What is public relations? The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently unveiled its modern definition: Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Yes, but public relations is more than that. I think PR is also the art and science of message design and delivery to inform, educate, and develop or change public opinion, impact behavior, enhance or protect reputation, and prevent or address crisis in an open, honest and ethical manner.
Can we help organizations achieve specific and strategic communications
goals and objectives without skill in the area of creating messages that are uniquely created for each receiving public and each communications channel? The ability to craft the message is one of the keys to success. And, that is why good writing still matters and will always matter. Content, as they say, is still king.
A final thought
Now a contributing journalist, published poet and occasional blogger, I still correct myself often and say yes rather than yeah. I still toil over sentence structure, punctuation, word selection and grammar with delight. I still ask myself, what do we want people to know? What do we want them to do? How can I write this in a way that will engage, excite, educate, enlighten, entertain, inspire or awe the receiver? I still pour over the AP Stylebook. And, I’m still thrilled by every opportunity to read and read some more, as I am to write and write some more. I’m still learning every day.
Someday I hope to be fairly good at this writing thing. In the meantime, just like Mrs. White taught me so many years ago, I practice and read and practice some more. If research, audience evaluation, strategic planning, measurable objectives, strategy, tactics, implementation and evaluation are the head of good PR, then good writing is the heart. Think about it!
Copyright 2012, Tracy L. Teuscher, APR
Really Chick-fil-A? Exploring the Chick-fil-A trademark suit, public relations and reputation management.
Company Value and Reputation
In a recent Businessweek article, research from The Economist Intelligence Unit has found that 75 percent of a company’s value is tied up in its reputation. If more than 90 percent of consumers use the Web to research companies and products before buying, and 80 percent make decisions based on that research, I’m asking the following question: Did Chick-fil-A have a public relations specialist at the discussion table along with the company attorney when they decided to file a recent trademark law suit against a T-shirt making, small business owner in Vermont?
The Chick-fil-A Trademark Suit and Corporate Bully Brand Perception
If you haven’t heard about this, Chick-fil-A has, in my opinion, earned a corporate bully brand perception by filing a trademark suit against a T-shirt maker in Vermont for making shirts that say “Eat More Kale”. According to the latest news from a variety of sources, Bo Muller-Moore began making T-shirts with the slogan “Eat More Kale” more than 10 years ago in support of a friend who grows kale, and to support the “grow local, buy local” philosophy. Really Chick-fil-A?
According to an article in The Huffington Post, in a letter, a lawyer for Chick-fil-A said, “ Muller-Moore’s effort to expand the use of his ‘eat more kale” message is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property and diminishes its value.” Really, Chick-fil-A?
What Does This Suit Really Mean?
I wanted to explore this example from both a reputation management perspective as well as from a legal perspective, so I consulted with my good friend Andrew Spriegel, trademark, patent and intellectual property attorney, and owner of Spriegel & Associates LLC, to get some insight.
“The term ‘confusingly similar’ or ‘likelihood of confusion’ are used in assessing the legal standard that is required to prove infringement of a trademark,” said Spriegel. “In other words, if Chick-fil-A took this suit to court, they would have to be able to show that when people hear or see ‘eat more kale’, they tend to confuse it with the trademarked phrase ‘eat more chikin’ used by Chick-fil-A and in this example, I don’t think Chick-fil-A can effectively make that case. Based upon the research I’ve done, I think they are doing more harm than good for their company with this suit.”
Chick-fil-A Has More Than Kale on its Face
Well, that’s interesting. That’s exactly what I thought. This is an example of a corporate decision that results in harm to the company reputation. Did Chick-fil-A think they could move forward with this without some major consumer backlash, significant negative impact to company reputation, and a pile of kale on its face?
Reputation and the Role of Public Relations
We all know that a company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. In an age where companies now buy reputation insurance, a PR specialist can, as Rosanna Fiske from PRSA states, “help a company understand the potential consequences of its actions better or provide counsel to mitigate the impact of a business’ actions before they are set into motion. It requires a public relations team that provides strategic communications counsel to, and is a part of, a company’s C-suite.”
It seems that in this case, either the public relations specialist was not invited to the discussion table, or recommendations regarding this legal action were ignored resulting in a suit that is not only potentially devastating for the Muller-Moore family, but for Chick-fil-A’s brand and company reputation. Think about it!
Buzz of the Month – March 2011
Why is PR on the payroll, and who cares?
Ah, the third of March. It’s a special day as it’s the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth. A grand Irish dame she was, and since the month of March brings with it the remembrance of the Irish, it always seems a perfect day to remember some of grandma’s good advice. She always used to say, and later I realized it was taken from a bible verse, “Darling, don’t cast your pearls before swine lest they be trampled…and you, my darling, are a pearl.”
What does that have to do with PR you say?
Everything, I say. Public relations is the pearl in the marketing and communications crown. Nothing achieves the organizational messaging goals and establishes and protects company reputation better, stronger, or faster or with a better return on investment. Like Super Woman, public relations soars through the stream of inaccurate and incomplete information in the marketplace to educate, inform, and raise awareness and looks good doing it. Public relations has the power to engage all major publics including key influencers, thought leaders, and early adopters. From current and prospective customers, to community leaders and the media, public relations immediately goes to work to create or enhance awareness, differentiate your company from the competition, set the record straight, and define the reasons why people should care.
Who really cares, and why should they?
When considering your services or your client, ask yourself this question in two ways. First, ask this question as it relates to the public relations service that is being provided. Why is PR on the payroll? Who cares, and why should they? If you are a PR professional, ask this question all the time, and make sure you can answer it confidently as it relates to the services you provide, the results that you deliver, and the unique set of both personal and professional attributes you bring to the table that are of value to your client. Then, ask this question as it relates to your client.
Why are you, the public relations pearl, working with this particular client or company? Who cares?
Does your boss or your client care about the fact that you are providing them with a superior service that assists them in accomplishing a variety of organizational goals with an incredible ROI? If they don’t, go back to the first time we asked this question and make sure you’re doing your job to educate and inform folks about the value of what you do. It’s a formidable job, but it comes with the territory. Take a hard honest look at areas where you might be able to improve here, and develop a plan to do just that. Look at ways you can provide additional information, schedule opportunities to review progress, or engage other influential voices within the organization to help you tell this important story. As public relations professionals, we are often so busy doing the job that we fall down a bit here.
Okay, so you’ve asked the questions. Now what?
If you ask these questions and find that what you’re really dealing with is an exhausting, impossible, and unprofitable client, then you should consider firing them. That’s right, I said it. When a client is costing you excessive time and energy, or if they are impossible to please and will never truly understand the value of what you do, then firing this client and replacing them with another can actually boost your company’s revenue, not to mention lower your blood pressure and improve your quality of life.
This exercise can effectively be applied to a variety of business scenarios with equally revealing results, so give it a try. And, as my grand Irish grandmother always used to say, “Darling, don’t cast your pearls before swine lest they be trampled…and you, my darling, are a pearl.”
Copyright 2011, Tracy L. Teuscher, The Buzz Maker! LLC.