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Responding to customer complaints on social media

Bridget B. No Comments

“Dear John, we are so sorry to hear you had a problem with our product. Could you please go to our website, click on this link and fill out this form so that our customer service department may have a better understanding of your problem and serve future customers better?”

Many big corporations have dedicated entire departments to Social Media. Social Media teams interact with consumers via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook everyday–responding to queries and addressing complaints. One common trend I have noticed with many companies, is asking consumers who have posted a complaint via Social Media to go to the company’s website and fill out a customer complaint form. Every time I see the company respond to the complaint and then proceed to provide the customer with a link to fill out more information, I cringe.

If a customer is so upset they took to Social Media, why would you think they want to help you in addressing the problem by spending additional time writing a detailed description of the issue?! Why give the customer additional work because of your mistake? This is a sure way to lose some of your best clientele.

Another way to respond to complaints via Social Media would be to:

  1. Publicly apologize for inconveniencing the consumer and make sure to publicly assure the customer that your company will take every step necessary to rectify the problem.
  2. Privately contact the consumer and ask them for their contact information (private email or phone number). Make it YOUR business to get the entire story and go out of YOUR way to ensure the customer feels as though their concerns have been addressed.

Making the customer feel as though they matter to your company is one of the best ways to ensure customer loyalty, despite any negative experiences they may have had with your brand.

Like human beings businesses make mistakes too. Forgiveness is possible if the response is appropriate.

 

Google dispels notion of brand consistency

Bridget B. 3 comments

It’s been a minute [Ok, maybe it’s been a month… or two] since my last blog post. Time lapse aside, I really wanted to share my thoughts on Google’s umpteenth transformation.

I am almost certain that many of us have not noticed the incremental changes Google has been making to its logo over the years; a smidgen here and a smidgen there. They’ve tried different colours, they’ve changed fonts, they’ve added things and subtracted things. Today, they have made yet another transformation.

 

The first thing I thought when I saw their post on Instagram was: “Google is certainly dispelling this notion of brand consistency”. Think about it.

Since the beginning of “branding”, we’ve seen the great pride organizations, companies, corporations and people on the whole, take in maintaining their brand identity. Marketers and brand managers invest enormous amounts of resources in ensuring that the company’s font or logo looks exactly the same every and anywhere it can be seen. It must always be consistent.

With the continuos changes Google makes to its brand, I have to ask: What really defines the brand?

I think Google has clearly shown that their brand is far more than the six colorful letters we’ve grown accustomed to. They’ve in fact shown us, their brand is their reputation. Think about it. [Yes I’m asking for a lot of thinking today :-)]

Google has never been one for much frill.The actual search page is quite frankly a blank sheet with a box for entering text. Look at all of their apps–simple. The thing that has given strength to the Google brand is their reliability, their consistency, their quality. Their strength comes from their reputation.

As small business owners, consultants and independent professionals, we have to think about the strength of our brand–not in terms of brand consistency–in terms of brand reputation.

What do your clients, business partners or investors think about you? What are their experiences with your brand? Do they associate you and your brand with reliability, consistency or quality?

Let’s take a page from Google’s book–let the strength of your brand be synonymous with the strength of your reputation.

Using Social Media to Enhance Your Organizational Reputation

Bridget B. 1 Comments

I recently did a research paper which focused on how–if at all–organizations use digital communication tools in reputation management. The results of my study showed that online communication between organizations and their publics is in fact being used as a means of managing corporate reputation. More importantly, I found that specific tactics such as active listening and engaged responses lay the foundation for reputation management via online communication.

Let’s just talk about social media –blogs, microblogging (e.g. Twitter), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), professional networks (e.g. LinkedIn), video sharing 9e.g. YouTube) and content driven communities (e.g. Wikipedia)– these mediums have all significantly altered the way that businesses provide services, interact with their stakeholders and manage their reputations.

Stakeholders now use social media to comment on a company’s actions in public forums. Customers Tweet to companies and expect immediate feedback, investors conduct their due diligence online and employees leave reviews about their experience at the workplace on Glassdoor.com. Recently someone posted a photograph –to Instagram and Facebook– of a store they had visited. This person was basically telling everyone on their friend list not to patronize this store because customer service was terrible. This is how your organization’s reputation can be tarnished online.

How can a business act in a situation such as the one above?

Get on social media and respond. It’s important that business owners be present on social media, not just to market their brand or product, but to listen to what is being said. Use social media to interact with your customers, answer queries, apologize for bad customer service and build strong relationships. In a 2007 study conducted by S. U. Yang, it was found that favorable organizational reputation can be obtained by quality relationship management between an organization and its strategic publics. Put simply, building strong relationships can help you to develop positive perceptions of your organization which by extension influences your overall reputation.

Here are four (4) recommendations which can be implemented if you wish to use online messaging systems to support your reputation management processes:

  1. Utilize online messaging systems to hear and address your stakeholders concerns. These messaging systems facilitate convenient instant communication between your organization and your publics. External stakeholders will not be restricted by your business hours, which usually delays responses and sometimes results in matters remaining unresolved.
  2. Your online engagement team should be trained to actively listen to customer concerns to get an understanding of the underlying issue. Training personnel in active listening helps staff to be alert for cues, which in turn helps determine the root of the issue and can significantly reduce the number of instances where customers feel as though their concerns have not been addressed. Active listening also mitigates miscommunication between the employee and the customer.
  3. Dedicated personnel should be assigned to engage with stakeholders via online mediums. Dedicated team members assigned to social media and online communication will be better prepared for customer interactions. Familiarity of the online communication system can boost efficiency and accuracy of the information communicated to the customer.
  4. All internal departments and teams should share information and collaborate to find customer solutions. Including other departments when developing the guidelines and processes for customer interaction ensures that the correct information is always communicated to the customer, reduces the risk for internal conflict as all departments are on the same page, and mitigates litigation.

Strategic use of social media for communicating with customers can positively impact your organization’s reputation. Employing specific tactics such as active listening, engaged responses and internal collaboration, you can build strong relationships with customers and empower your employees to take the necessary steps to resolve issues.  Remember that strong relationships with your stakeholders can have a significant positive effect on your organization’s reputation.

Tips on how stand out as a professional

Bridget B. No Comments

Recently I had a conversation with some friends about the importance of networking. Now I am not referring to ‘social’ networking on Facebook and LinkedIn, but rather actual mingling with real people in a physical setting, exchanging business cards and such. Networking provides a great opportunity for us to form connections with others in our industry, form potential business partnerships or just get our name out there.

At this point I would like to make a disclaimer: I am horrible at networking. Something about walking up to complete strangers, and starting a random conversation, just does not happen naturally for me.  

Disclaimer aside, I do encourage you all to brush up on your networking skills, if you are not already good at it. The thing about networking though, it does not only take place at a fancy “Networking event”, it can happen ANYWHERE. Remember, it’s all about building relationships. It can happen in public transport, the grocery, the bank or whilst sitting at the hairdresser or barber. You can meet people everywhere!

Question is, do we start rambling on about ourselves or our businesses every time we meet a new person? You can, but that may come off a bit presumptuous. Here are a few tips on how you can make the most of those planned or unplanned networking opportunities and stand out as a professional.

1. Prepare your elevator speech

We’ve all heard about it (well at least I hope that we’ve all heard). They say (I really don’t know who “they” is) that you should have a prepared statement about yourself which you should be able to say in the time it takes to ride between floors in an elevator. How arbitrary right?

The point is that you need to be able to introduce yourself to someone, getting in all the salient points, in a very short time frame. You do not want to exhaust them with a long history about how you got into your line of work. This is what I came up with for myself:

Hello, I’m Bridget. I am currently a graduate student but I also offer independent services in Integrated Marketing Communication.

It’s not perfect, but it’s short, to the point and accurate. Your elevator speech is something that you can practice and tweak until you think you’ve got it right.

2. Get a business card and take it with you everywhere

If you meet someone whom you think will make a good connection, present them with your business card. How about giving it to them right after you deliver your elevator speech? Say something simple like “Let’s keep in touch” or “I’d like to chat with you some more”. Presenting someone with your card usually prompts them to also present you with theirs (once they have one).

Many people do not realize that it is quite simple to make your own business card. Before you go pulling out the arts and craft supplies, this is not a DIY project 🙂 . There are many online services that allow you to create a professional looking business card by simply entering your personal information onto a generalized template. Vistaprint is where I had mine done.

Make sure that your business card is representative of you or your business.

3. Dress the part

If you are self-employed or a small business owner, you are always on the job. Not literally, but you have to accept that you may meet a potential client or business partner in any setting. Therefore, it is important to always look your best. Of course “your best” is subjective, but the idea here is simply to present yourself in such a manner that will not detract from what you have to offer.

4. Watch what you say on social media

I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone that I am interested in connecting with I head to the Internet. Sometimes I start with a simple Google search and then I click on every open social media account that comes up. If you don’t do it, you better believe that someone has done it to you.

People always want to know more. They want to see what you say online, they want to see what kind of photos you post, they even want to see who else you are connected with. Make sure that your online behavior can’t come back to haunt you.

This is all I have for now, but as I continue to navigate the waters of my professional life, I’ll be sure to update this post with any other tips that I think may come in handy.

Share some of your own tips in the comments section below.

Toodles! 🙂

Plot your PR

Bridget B. No Comments

Photo courtesy: Spectrum

If you are anything like me, Saturday is the day you use to do all of your “running around”. Whether you’re going to the grocery store, getting your hair done (at the barber or hairdresser 🙂 ), doing errands or just some pleasure shopping. By the time you get into your car, I am sure you already have a plan in your head; do my hair, head to the grocery store (list in hand), pick up the package at John’s, then run into the mall for a pair of shoes. I am also certain that you’ve also plotted your driving route before coming out of the driveway. You don’t sit in the car, start driving and then try to figure out what you’re doing and where you’re going!

Sometimes we find ourselves stumped in front of the keyboards of our computers, trying to think of a witty Facebook status, LinkedIn post or tweet for Twitter. We may even have to scroll back in time to make sure that we’re not repeating any posts. In much the same way we plan out our Saturday movements, we also need a plan for our business’s PR.

You want to make sure that your Public Relations activities are in line with the overall business goals. There should always be a point to each activity. Based on the business goals, you can then formulate your PR plan. What do you hope to achieve? Who do you want to target? What actions do you want to drive? Having a plan will help you to answer these questions.

Your PR plan should contain these four (4) elements goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. Some people are probably thinking Terminology! EEEK! So let’s talk about these elements using layman terms.

  • Goals – What do you want? What’s your golden trophy? A goal can be aligned to your company’s vision. An example of a goal: ‘Be the most sought after provider of gel ink pens’ (I once sold gel ink pens as a teenager to my school friends). The thing about goals is that they are hard to measure; how can we determine that we are the most sought after provider of gel ink pens?
  • Objectives – To be able to measure success or determine if we’re any closer to achieving our goal, we identify objectives. A measurable objective would be to sell twice as many gel ink pens by the end of the 2nd quarter. 
  • Strategies – We’ve gotten to the “What”. What will help us to achieve these objectives and in turn meet our goal? If more people were aware that we sold gel ink pens at a reduced cost, that can lead to more sales. The strategy can therefore be to increase awareness about our brand and product.
  • Tactics – Now we get to the heavy lifting. How do we increase awareness about our brand? Maybe we start an advertising campaign; get some stellar artwork designed, print and put up posters around the neighborhood, take out a couple newspaper ads,  give out free samples of our gel ink pens to passersby, hand out flyers, hit social media.

In the end we will be able to determine the success of our PR campaign based on the objectives we set for ourself. We know that we need to sell twice as many pens. And there we have it…. measurement!

I came across this awesome guide for setting measurable PR objectives on the website for the Institute for Public Relations (they have GREAT content by the way). Although the document is a bit long (14 pages), and quite black and white, it is informative and I believe, very helpful for PR practitioners.

Click here to check it out.

Go forth and plot your PR!

Product vs. Quality Service

Bridget B. No Comments
Image courtesy: http://cdn4.webable.com.bd/bable/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/1.png

Image courtesy: WebAble

I have worked in the event planning industry for some time, specifically I managed corporate events. The most important thing to an event planner is their “rolodex”. Of course I do not refer to the inanimate object that is placed on your desk, but, more specifically I refer to the contacts that you acquire over the years.

Similar to communications professionals, event planners rely heavily on various vendors all working together for the successful execution of an event.
Now, there are hundreds of individuals providing services in photography, graphic design, catering, decorating, audio/ visual etcetera etcetera etcetera (have you seen ‘The King and I’? lol)  … but… who makes the cut?!
There are two types of providers:-
  1. Those who provide a product. The photographer who takes photographs and then delivers them to you on a CD. The caterer who cooks food. The graphic designer who designs your art work.
  2. Those who provide quality service. The photographer who sits with you to discuss the feel of your event and the types of shots that would be most important to you or your client. The caterer who presents you with various options for food and beverage depending on the type of event. The graphic designer who presents you with a ‘mock up’ of what the final product could look like before going to print.
The main difference here is that some providers provide a quality service. While the ones that provide just a product may be a cheaper option, price does not beat quality service.
Even as a professional providing a service ourselves, it is always important to provide quality service; don’t just “do your job”.
If we have friends in the industry who we wish to hire to provide services, we should encourage them to provide the best quality of service. Producing an event, an advertisement, a pr campaign or simply some sort of publishing, requires quality work.
We can add quality to our service by putting the needs of our client (or the company you work for) first. What decisions would best benefit the client; financially and otherwise? Which service provider would assist you in creating a positive lasting impression? Will the end result be something that you are proud to be associated with?
In this industry, it is important to provide more than just a “product”.
I always choose quality of service rather than just quality of product.
What about you?

PR Girl

Bridget B. No Comments

It’s official! I have my first “client”.

For the longest while I’ve been tiptoeing around the idea of offering PR consultancy services. It’s not like I’m unsure about a career path, it’s just that I feel as though, like every other industry, PR is a bit saturated.

However, I had been helping out a close friend with PR strategies for her small business. One night she said “B, you can do this as a business you know. You can help people with small businesses, I’m sure there are plenty people like me”. That’s when I started this website.

So let’s fast forward to today. I now have my first official client, whose website (designed by moi) went live yesterday.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 6.36.09 PM

In another post I’ll be sure to talk about how easy it is to take your great idea, skill or product from a Facebook page to a professional business.

The point of what I am doing is to provide small business, et al with the tools that will make them standout. Through this new client, I myself have come across a lot of inexpensive tools which can be utilized to do everything from creating a logo, building a website and even creating your own personalized email address (e.g. info@bridgetbeckles.com).

If you’re nervous about doing it on your own, feel free to give me a shout. I’m smack dab in the middle of building my portfolio and would love nothing better!

So, until I actually sit and write about the new tools that I’ve come across, here are a few things that you can either Google or ask around about:

1. Gimp – this is a photo editing tool much like Adobe Photoshop, except that it’s free (an absolute plus for a grad student). Similar to Photoshop, it isn’t the simplest application to use but There are many tutorials on YouTube as well as blog posts around the web.

2. PicMonkey – this is another photo editing tool but is web based and is much simpler to get the hang of. There is a wide variety of fonts, overlays, textures and shapes.

3. Weebly – I used Weebly to build this website. I find that it’s very much user friendly and the pricing is cheaper than other similar services.

So do some digging around and tell me what you think in the comments section of this post.

Well it’s Christmas Eve, so have a very Merry Christmas tomorrow and many blessings for the new year.

Toodles!

Imagery that speaks

Bridget B. No Comments
 

I have never thought much of Maytag as a brand, but I think that this particular advertising campaign is very strong. Maytag ran an advertising campaign titled “What’s Inside That Matters”. This campaign emphasizes the durability and dependability of their products by highlighting how the internal workings of their appliances support how much people rely on them.

Take a look at the commercial above. Similar to the All State commercials which used a human being to portray “mayhem”, Maytag has used a human being to illustrate how our appliances are used.

I think that the imagery is very powerful; stating that refrigerators work nonstop is one thing, but depicting it with a running man is another! Truthfully speaking, I have never really considered that the refrigerator is in use continuously, I think we just take it for granted. Possibly, the only time I realize its significance is when there is a blackout. It is then that we see its importance!

There is this feeling by consumers that advertisers and marketers will say anything to “land a sale”. How then do they convince their audiences that their claims are credible? How do they get their audiences to care about what they are saying?Advertising agencies, marketing departments, corporate communication departments and companies as a whole have been forced to push the creative limits to produce commercials that have lasting effects without appearing to gimmicky.

In the Maytag advertisement, the running man compares the use of a refrigerator with use of a television and blender, stating “the TV can spend hours relaxing, the blender spends most days snoozing, but there is no such thing as down time for a fridge”. This establishes a direct connection with the audience. We can associate with using our television and then turning it off, the same for the blender and other small appliances. I think we can all appreciate that the refrigerator is always turned on. This scenario is both credible and evokes emotional connection.

Commercials feel so tangible that television viewers feel a real sense of association with the products. Now, what I need to find out, is, the return on investment.

Do these types of commercials and campaigns really drive sales? I wish I could speak to the Maytag sales team directly!

What’s your PR style?

Bridget B. No Comments

PR

In my last blog post Proof Before You Post, I mentioned that your organization’s stakeholders (clients, potential customers, investors, partners) will have most of their interaction with you or your brand via published words. By “published words” I mean; your website or blog, your business card, your Facebook page or even your Tweets. Have you considered what you have been portraying about your brand through these mediums?

Is your website cluttered? Or is it minimalistic? Do you post multiple times a day on your Facebook page or do you post one vague status per week? Is your Twiitter language passive or aggressive? What kind of colours do you use for your brand? Did you print your business card on rigid board or a floppy type of paper?

I’m currently working with a baby & kids boutique, one of the first things I noted was that the business did not have any clear “trademark”; no brand colour, font style, or even consistent language. If you were to Google a big brand like Coca Cola, you will notice that their branding (colour and language) is consistent across platforms. That is, if you are looking at their Facebook Page, Instagram or Twitter accounts, you will always know which company’s profile you’re on.

So if you haven’t quite figured out your ‘Style’, do some research on different brands or businesses that are in your industry. Pay close attention to how they have positioned themselves. As you look at more websites, blogs and social media profiles, you will eventually come up with your own way of doing things.

Keep in mind that your personal style may not be the best fit for your business. As you determine your business’s PR Style, you will create a footprint that is uniquely yours. Don’t be afraid to try varied styles until you find what suits you best.

Proof Before You Post

Bridget B. 1 Comments

I often share articles and posts by other individuals and organizations, that I think would be of value to individuals in the PR & Communication industry as well as those who who need to learn about it.  This morning I saw a tweet with a link to an article with some PR tips. While I instinctively wanted to re-tweeet and then read the article a little later, I had somehow decided that I would click on the link and read the article just to make sure that the content actually addressed the article’s title in the tweet.

Much to my dismay, the article had many spelling and grammatical errors. Now this was posted by an organization that offers PR/ communications services. While I am not writing this post to highlight the grammatical misfortunes of the organization or the author of the article, I do wish to emphasize the significance of proof reading any sort of written work before making it public; Proof Before You Post.

Now, I do not claim to be a master of the english language, as a matter of fact, spelling has been and continues to be a sore thumb for me. However, my spelling inadequacies is no reason for me to publish a blogpost with incorrectly spelt words.

DISCLAIMER: I am a Trinidadian graduate student who was taught the “Queen’s English” and now studies in the US. Put simply, I am in the process of changing my spelling from British English to American English. Why there is even British and American spelling? I don’t know. People say the American’s like to do things their own way! Who knows! *shrugs*

We must always be aware of our writing; some people may be great at coming up with content, but their writing may not be the best. The situation can also be reversed, know how to use your skills.

Poor writing can actually reduce confidence in your brand, service or product. It can put doubt in the mind of the reader. It prompts the questions: If they cannot even spell, then how will they properly service me? How do they do business? Are these people professionals?

It is important to recognize that the content in any document, article, post or website that bears your company’s name or logo, is a direct representation of your business. Your stakeholders will have more interaction with your organization via published words rather than a spoken conversation.

So, how do you avoid this public embarrassment? You proof read. It is a simple process that many take for granted. Re reading your writing before it goes public, is one of the best ways to mitigate publishing errors.

  • It is also a good idea to have someone else read the article; a fresh pair of eyes may pick up on things that the writer may have overlooked. A second reader will also give you the opportunity to ensure that your writing effectively conveys your desired message.
  • Another good habit to develop is reading over the article or post even after it is published. Sometimes, as you read your post through the eyes of a random visitor to your website or blog, you pick up on little things that can be changed to make the article easier to read and digest. Pay special attention to punctuation; specifically the use of commas and periods.
  • Make sure that you use words in context by checking words in a dictionary or thesaurus.

Remember that there is no one way to  write, write the way that you like to write. Just make sure that when your’e done, what you’ve written is creating the impression that you intended to create and conveys the message that you want to convey.

Here are a couple helpful tips I found at PR Daily:
15 tips to make the writing process less hellish

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About Blog

I blog about communication and marketing strategies for small businesses, consultants and non-profits. I am specifically interested in how digital communication can be used to improve organizational reputation and growth of the business.

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