Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lost in Tanslation

I couldn't help it but Judy Collins' song 'Both Sides Now' kept filtering through my head as I sat in Bat & Ball yesterday having lunch with IABC T&T incoming presidents Maria Mc Millan (2008) and Nicole Duke Westfield (2009) and advertising gurus James Smith, Patrick Johnston and Mark White. All three along with Astra Da Costa (of Ample) have accepted IABC's invitation to speak at its November meeting "Lost In Tanslation: Bridging the Gap between Advertising & Corporate."

As communicators we know that advertising is involved in our product development cycle, sometimes from very conceptualization of the brand. Still even as we engage with advertising fraternity in the shaping of our products, reputations and markets we know that there is need for improvement in the way we engage with each other, that both sides need to listen, understand each other's perspective and deliver more on the client agency promise so as to have really effective relationships.

James Smith asked an important question at the end of the lunch: " What will people walk away with?'My immediate response is,understanding.

I will be posting more on this topic this week.

Why should I do business with you?

A phone call I received this morning reminded me of a question I once read from William Taylor’s blog; he’s the founder of Fast Company, that great business and entrepreneurial magazine. The question: ‘Why should I do business with you?’ is perhaps hands down, the most thought provoking inquiry for which every entrepreneur should have a ready made, passionate answer.

This brings me back to the phone call I received this morning. As I sat crawling in a traffic jam that was longer than Rumpunzel’s hair I answered my phone and on the other line was an entrepreneur who said he wanted to sell his services as an art connoisseur to one of my clients, a new hotel who is just about to open for business. He would view the spaces the hotel offered, consult with my client to decide the themes for each room and of course connect us to the various artists who could interpret the theme visually. Alas that was my interpretation of what he was saying because during our conversation he was hardly that clear. The voice on the other end instead was rambling, inattentive (he asked me the same question over and over again) and couldn't get to his value proposition quickly enough. I told him we weren't interested and perhaps he could call me back early next year.

My mood as I disconnected my cell phone was somber. It’s not that I meant to be tough, or demanding but I figured if you can't tell me why I should be doing business with you in the fist 2 minutes our conversation then you’re wasting my time and yours. This brings me to back to where I started with William Taylor and what has to be my favourite entry on his blog.

Here, Blake relates a story of a consultant whose firm conducted thousands of "mystery shops" and interviews with front-line employees at retail banks. During those visits researchers always asked bank employees a simple question: "As a customer, why should I choose your bank over the competition?" And two-thirds of the time, he said, front-line employees had no answer to that question-they simply "made something up on the fly."

Amazing isn’t it? I am not sure how any business can expect to outperform the competition when their own employees can't explain-simply and convincingly-what makes them different from the competition? This question isn't just for bankers or even large businesses. It is applicable to small business owners too. Gary Hamel, the influential strategy guru at the London Business School, makes the case that most companies, in most industries, suffer from a kind of tunnel vision: They chase the same opportunities that everyone else chases; they miss the same opportunities that everyone else misses." The point is many entrepreneurs can't sell their idea or their products and services simply because they can’t answer the most thought provoking question they may ever be faced with.

The traffic in which I was tangled allowed me time to ponder on some of my favourite businesses, one that who I patronise time after time because they offer something unique and best of all they know it. They include the fishmonger in the Port of Spain market who sells not only the freshest tuna steaks but makes a spectacle of his fish cutting talent, or the people at Haggen Dazz in Maraval where scooping ice cream takes on new meaning, or Continental Airline whose staff are so apologetic and kind if flights are late that you forget how angry you are. Sure these goods and services are eclectic but with all of them, their value proposition is articulated clearly to me.

So ask yourself, as you think about growing your company, why should anyone buy from you? What makes you different? What do you have that you want other to see?
All those bank employees couldn't answer any of those questions very convincingly. Could you or your employees?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Unconferencing' in Tampa

IABC’s Southern regional Conference in Tampa was my fifth (international conference) for the year. For the past twelve months, I journeyed to Toronto (three times) San Diego, New Orleans, and New York. In between, I attended several workshops at home. By the time I reached Tampa, I was all ‘conferenced’ out.

It’s not that I hadn’t learned a lot, met great people and got booster shots of self esteem. (next year, I will speak at the Leadership Institute in San Antonio) I simply felt something was missing from these conference as I dashed from room to room, map in hand trying not to be late at my sesions (I learnt that my regular 5 inch heels don’t work well on the conference circuit)

I had no clue about what I didn’t quite like until another Heather Gem Ible, my friend and fellow communications entrepreneur from Trinidad commented that while she felt the learning was great in Tampa, the networking was lousy (her words were not quite as strong though) That was my aha moment. Gem was right if only because from the time you get your conference bag at the registration table, a real marathon begins. You check your schedule, keep looking at your watch, race around to find your right room and pace yourself so you’re not entirely exhausted juts trying to keep up. In al of that though conversations with fellow delegates are superficial at best, real networking is zero and coffee breaks allows you to cluster will people you already know.

With Gem’s comments swirling in my head I decided to ‘unconference’. On Friday, I checked my schedule felt I had a good grasp on the topics and invited a well known Bajan communicator, to the hotel lobby for a chat. We spent the entire 3 hours talking about our personal and professional lives. We were later joined by the immediate past president of IABC Jamaica, Cloreth Greene as well as a Stacy Wilson, President of Eloquor Consulting in Denver.

As we munched on free pretzels and olives in the lobby of the Rennaisance, , I couldn’t help but think how some of the best networking can happen unexpectedly and how sometimes the side show, is equally as important as what goes on centre stage. By early evening, I had gotten exactly what I had come for.

Those first sixty seconds. You first impression can have powerful implications for your career

Can you judge a book by its cover? Apparently you can, or so says body language communications expert Tonya Reiman. At a recent IABC southern regional board meeting in Tampa Florida, Reiman had us, a group of communications professionals, describe how we perceived each other within one hour of our meeting. For the most part, all of us were strangers but Reiman did an extraordinary activity that had me convinced that body language is perhaps the most influential way to communicate and navigate successfully toward a desired outcome.

Here’s what Reiman did. She asked the fifty or so board and chapter leaders gathered in the room to pin a white sheet of paper on our backs so that others could write their first impressions. So there we were, all 50 strangers scribbling adjectives on each others backs. Like Curious George, I was anxious to see what impressions I had created and dragged my paper off the second the exercise was over. Whew. What relief! My peers and I were on par. Many wrote that I was creative, innovative, ideas driven, fun. Yet no one got that I was also focused, persistent and business savvy.

What was the bottom line? I learned that the first few seconds you meet someone counts. And we are judged on everything including what we wear, how we speak, the way we fold our legs and even how we sit. It is imperative therefore to get those first impressions right. According to Reiman: “Each time we meet someone we take a small slice of their personality, a tiny sample of their entire life, and form interpretations. In essence, we assume it is a 100% portrayal of their personality. Once we form an attitude or belief about someone, it takes a lot to change it. In fact, it is almost impossible to reverse a first impression.”
The research bears her out. Studies show that if you make the wrong first impression just once you can counteract it, but it will take heaps of positive interactions to change those initial perceptions. The pain may be worth the gain. Positive first impressions will get Jane the job, Joe a deal on a car and Jasper a home away from the dog shelter. Reiman advises that upon walking into a room full of strangers you should think about if you are smiling the right way, walking the right way, standing in a confident position, shaking hands the right way, sitting in the right position, making enough eye contact, nodding your head at the appropriate times.

Sounds confusing? It really is not upon if you think about it more closely. We’ve all had those moments where we judged someone subconsciously and taken actions based on those first impressions. I fell in love with my husband the minute I met him. I judged my dear friend Nadine Johnson to be wise the minute she opened her mouth and I thought my new neighbour obnoxious the second he pulled into driveway in an SUV blaring loud music even though he knew we were having a family thanksgiving. Those first impressions have remained the same even today.

When I came back from Tampa, it’s not that I was self conscious but I figured if first impressions count so much I was going to be in control of shaping my own. One week later I clipped back one side of my Afro that I would normally allow to go free and wore a black business suit; I left “my work will always speaks for itself” attitude at the door and went after a big account; I was determined to look a particular part. I didn’t win, but I obviously scored some good points because my firm was called back to work on another great project.

All of this of course raises some important questions: What image are you projecting? Do you send a professional image to the business world? Your first impression is a statement of who you are. Become self aware. Self perception is a big part of communication. It's how we see ourselves and how we allow others to see us.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Everyone wants to be successful. How do you define success?

Everyone wants to be successful. But how would you define success? Judette Coward Puglisi

Bear with me as I recount my week. I have a point or two to make about success. Last Monday, an editor of a global communications magazine went on my blog saw a posting I had written about work life balance and asked me to submit an expanded piece on the same topic to the publication. On Tuesday, I opened my email and shining like a golden egg among 65 banal other emails in my Inbox was a request to speak at a leadership conference in the US. But it was on Wednesday that received a question, the most surprising of them all from a bright, young journalist, whose Facebook chronicles I have been following with some amusement and wonder.

Rhea Simone Auguste posted a question on my wall that had me thinking about the two opportunities that came my way on Monday and Tuesday as much as it had me thinking about success, failure, opportunity and sacrifice.

“What” questioned Rhea, “was the secret to my success?” I confess. Questions seldom stump me trained as I am from my days as a journalism student on the firing line doing mock interviews, but this one did. And to be honest, I never replied to Rhea until four days later, marinating her question in my just so I could deliver a helpful nugget of information for which I felt she was searching. In her post, Rhea told me that she had opened a publishing company but that she never got the results she was expecting. She was also toying with the idea of doing an MBA but wasn’t 100 percent sure of that decision. So I knew my answer couldn’t be coy: “ Rhea I am not so successful, there are ‘soooo’ many people more successful than I am, have you checked them,” or cliched: “ Well Rhea, it’s all about the hard work, you know it’s the point where perspiration meets inspiration.”

Rhea’s question forced me to look back (at some of my mistakes) as much as it caused me to think about what I wanted from life. And my thoughts were stewed in some harsh realisations, like this Sunday will be the third Sunday in a row that I’m working; that I’ve persuaded my husband that we should try for baby next year and that I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars three years ago on a business venture that never really got off the ground. Success sometimes demands its own harsh price.

That being said, yes, I am successful. However, my appreciation of that fact is not because I’ve arrived at a particular ambition: to grow the best PR firm in the country, (and the fact that I can say that even blows my mind) but that the journey to get there thrills me. The fact that my personal and professional goals mostly parallel each other, that I enter my office every day and work with people who I truly enjoy being with and that my journey to evolving is strewn with a terrific spouse, good health, loved ones and great professional opportunities makes the Toyota that I drive seem like an Audi

To answer your question Rhea, like others I dream, sometimes impossible dreams. Unlike most, I spend some time thinking about how to constructively put the right resources ( both human and otherwise) together to make the impossible, possible. And then I leap. And perhaps this is my distinction I am better than most people in bouncing back after failure. If I fall (and believe me I’ve had some knocks) I pick myself up, look around and say: “Okay, next!” I prepare myself to go again. If there is any secret, it is just that.


Thoughts about success

Your idea of success may be quite different from that of another small business owner's. Your neighbor's personal and professional goals may not parallel your own.

How you define success today may be different from how you define it tomorrow. In the real world, life changes, businesses evolve, and the shooting "success star" you may be reaching for alters its course.

As a single person with no family obligations, your definition of success may be quite self-centered. You may be financially driven. The personal challenge of running a business may be your ultimate reward.

A married small business owner with a family may have the intention to make a substantial living, but his or her personal definition of success may revolve around the family. Finding a happy balance between all aspects of life is often the driving force.

Before you outline what would make your business a success, take a moment to think about your own definition of success — both personal and professional. Remember, you are on a journey. Your success may be found in that journey. Success is not simply an end point; once you reach one goal or benchmark, there will be others to pursue.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's okay to poke me? Why Facebook is the communications tool of our time.

Last week, I received a poke. No, not the kind you're thinking of but a virtual nudge from someone I've never met. Christal McIntosh is a PR practitioner in Barbados and she poked me because she wanted to share her good news, the Barbados Public Relations Association had just launched. Soon after accepting Christal's friendly nudge that I got another poke from another member of the same Association who saw that Christal and I had become friends. The same thing happened again and again by the end of the week I had four friendship requests from the island.

Why do I have all these new found friends? It's because of Facebook, a social media tool that's spreading like a case of malaria at a stadium. I am a newbie. I linked onto Facebook just 6 weeks ago and I instantly recognised that it permitted me to connect with my friends in ways I never could before. For the uninitiated (and is there anyone out there who is not on) Facebook allowed me to constantly chronicle my life and watch on like a voyeur on the fortunes and follies of my friends. Suddenly in my over stretched world I found the time to connect.

I wished my dear friend Happy Birthday on her message wall and sent her a little yellow potted plant and a glass of bubbles for $1. I like seeing my friend's updates on their grids and they know when I am having the week from hell, because I post it on my wall. It may seem artificial that I don't have to go out of my way to get in touch. But the ease of Facebook has been my saving grace. A long time ago my life had moved full scale into the digital fast lane but even as it has I have been forced to acknowledge that there is value in reaching out and within. When a best friend changed her dating status from "In a Relationship" to "Single," I took her out for drinks, I started with her favourite because it was listed on her Facebook as such.

Why would I be telling you so much about my private life in my business column? Here's what I've been thinking. If Facebook was able to transform my personal life, imagine what it could do in my business world. I am not positive that I have the answer right here and now but what I know for sure is that I am willing to explore the question. I've have a new member of staff who will devote most of her time to exploring how far Facebook can take us into creating conversations with communicators and PR practitioners from around the world. I am going to see how best we can turn it into a utility tool to facilitate the information flow among my professional connections. People that I know and those that I don't. And yes! I am going to do it one poke at a time.


You can check out or join Mango Media Caribbean's on Facebook at www.facebook.com. Search for Mango Media Caribbean.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Myanmar and my little world





Were you embarrassed as I was when you heard the junta were arresting monks in Myanmar. I mean, where the heck is Myanmar anyway!

Yet it took the images of peaceful monks, thousands of them, marching peacefully in the street juxtaposed with military personnel, thousands of them, jumping out their trucks with machine guns that had me glued to You Tube and made the situation happening in Myanmar (Burma) part of my daily consumption. By week's end there was tragedy.

The government started shooting the monks and loading them on trucks bound for God knows where. Not just monks. Journalists. Activists. Pretty much anyone out on the streets.This morning, the Wall Street Journal ran an optimistic front-page article on how citizen journalists with cellphones and blogs were getting around government restrictions on the media.

Later in the day I heard on NPR that the government had turned off the internet.

What's in a name? Plenty. Firstly I get tired of not knowing my world. That my life is a daily diet of things PNM, COP, UNC, kidnapping and crime and that my colleagues and friends don't care much for what happening outside that world as long their own is safe. Finally, I'm really ticked off at me, I mean angry at myself for not knowing that a junta run government imposed a systematic name change several years ago, decreeing that Burma was to be called Myanmar and the capital Rangoon was to be Yangon. The opposition had never accepted these changes; neither had the U.S. government nor much of the world.
And I never knew. Not until this week.

FYI:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1666044,00.html?cnn=yes

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/09/28/myanmar.dissidents/index.html

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/burmese-government-clamps-down-on-internet/index.html?hp

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/burmese-bloggers-get-the-word-out/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7018920.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7017162.stm

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The best employees have lives outside their work.

Just this week, one of my assistants admitted that she found her true calling, and it did not involve working long hours in a PR firm. What she really wanted was to go back to school and become a teacher in her Catholic mission. “I’ll have to quit.” she stated emphatically, and in one fell swoop I was faced with the prospect of losing an amazing employee. Naturally, I made a counter offer. “Are your classes in the afternoon or morning?” I asked. They were in the former and Laura and I worked out a compromise where she could still be employed at my consulting practice 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. before heading off to her classes.

The story ended well, but not all stories do. There are many entrepreneurs who hijack their employee’s other interests by encouraging a culture of overwork and stress. Employees are encouraged to put in 60 plus hours on the job per week and wear that as a badge of honour. One entrepreneur even sheepishly told me that she resented her employee taking vacation because she never did. In fact, she encouraged her staff to put in late nights and long weekends. She never quite saw that what she gained in exchange were not just workaholics but tired, depressed, mistake prone, resentful and burnt out members of staff.

The smarter way I’ve learned –albeit the hard way- is to make your firm adaptable enough to accommodate each employee’s situation, especially, the terrific ones. It is that realisation that allowed me to come up with a flexi-plan that would accommodate Laura and her dreams and hold on, at least for one more year, to an exceptional employee.
Don’t get me wrong though. When it is time to put one’s elbow to the grease and work overtime in order to meet a client’s deadline, I am the first to lead the charge but as a business owner I also know that it is important to place your employee’s contributions into context. The urge to equate long hours with commitment should not be a one size fits all employee template. At best, you should consider your employee’s relationship with work in the same terms as any other relationship and a candid conversation with them about work life balance and how they can recharge their batteries once it becomes depleted is necessary.

The best employees I have found do not find work to be their only source of self esteem, they set boundaries, have lives outside work and are connetced to their families and friends. They are the ones I am interested in as employees. They are the ones who often step up to the plate when needed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wikify your workpalce

I love all the new future communication tools that have quickly changed the way we communicate, but while it's easy to jump on the Facebook, Twitter or Blogspot bandwagon, it's much harder to pick a path of your own – one that forces you to look past the rhetoric and hype and consider these tools as what they ultimately are.
Six months ago I challenged one ..... (Read more)

http://www.nationnews.com/story/326180192798933.php

Monday, September 10, 2007

Social Media and IABC T&T

IABC T&T is on facebook. Search facebook (www.facebook.com) and log in IABC Trinidad and Tobago Chapter or type in http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=4861671796. Thank you Maria, IABC T&T's VP of Social Media.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Building Team Spirit

Leadership is a privilege

September 1st 2007 goes down as a special day in IABC T&T's short history. That's the date facilitator Garth Thomas led IABC T&T through its first team building session. It wasn't immediately obvious why this workshop was necessary, after all most of us had already served together for the 2006-2007 year. We knew each other socially, through other networks and within the profession. Heck, we had a hell of a terrific year in the trenches (2006-2007) and nothing bonds people better than when they succeed together.

Still we were growing. A doubling of our membership meant we had to increase the workload of our board as well as its size. Plus, Eureka! We had new blood, with the addition of three new members, two of which included males; there was a general feeling that in moving forward our first steps had to be as one unit.

Maria Mc Millan suggested Garth and he didn't disappoint, with a combination of indoor experiential learning exercises and the wisdom "not of a sage on a stage but a guide on a side" Garth got deep into the emotional forces that comprise a team.

I was completing rejuvenated by the session, so was everyone else judging by the 100 % positive feedback at day's end.

Here are my key learning points from Saturday:

1) Leadership is a privilege

2) A team is an emotional force

3) Camaraderie is critical for success

4) Operate at optimum, together

5) Lean on each other

To all other volunteer leaders of the IABC T&T 2007-2008 board. You are a super terrific bunch and I am honoured to lead and serve alongside you.

Here are some pictures taken at our board retreat on Saturday 1st September 2007.


The team is all smiles in t-shirts bearing the IABC theme "Be
Heard".





Board members engage in a fun team-building exercise.







Garth Thomas, the retreat's facilitator, leads the session with IABCTT board members.











Tuesday, September 04, 2007

IABC Connections - Salvo Shoots People

The great thing about being part of the Southern Caribbean region is that we get to access resources and expertise, I knew this of course when questions were asked about whether we'd want to move to the Southern Chapter.

But having the chance to meet Chris and Suzanne Salvo, global trotters and award winning photographers, well, that was the whip cream on top the hot chocolate. A total delight.

Suzanne is a highly rated speaker at IABC International and District Conferences. She has won the Chairman's award this year and she is a past president of IABC/Houston, which named her Volunteer of the Year in 2002.

Both she and her husband/partner Chris are co-owners of Salvo Photography, an international award-winning studio based in Houston, Texas that specialises in corporate and industrial location photography. That's what their web site states but it is ability to capture inner spirits of people that fascinates me.

In San Diego, when I met them for the first time at the Leadership Institute, Suzanne positioned me in this zany, full of life shot that totally captured my spirit. In Trinidad, last July, at the Kapok Hotel, some of our local board members also had the opportunity to get their pictures taken. Take a look. Chris and Suzanne captures Maria's quiet essence, Giselle's natural beauty and Wendy's glamour.

"Salvo shoots people," that's on their web site also, and that's phrase I find most appropriate.


This Salvo shot captures Wendy's glamour perfectly.









Even her own hands can't hide Giselle's natural beauty.








Maria's natural essence shines through.









The team is all smiles as they pose with Suzanne Salvo.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Important dates for IABC T&T board leaders to note

Fellow Board Leaders:

Please note the following dates as was discussed or emailed over the past few weeks. Those meetings not scheduled have already taken place.



Monday 13th. August 2007, 5:30 p.m.

Who: VPs' Meeting: PD, Branding& Visual Communication & Sponsorship& Advertising

Where: Brainstorm Room, Mango Media Caribbean, Hotel Normandie, St. Ann's

Why: Preparation of our board retreat, how do teams intersect, IABC T&T communication summit

What: Please bring your information packages

---------

Tuesday 14th. August 2007, 8:30 a.m.

Who: VP Membership

Where: Brainstorm Room, Mango Media Caribbean, Hotel Normandie, St. Ann's

Why: To how to add value to members. Membership Months and increasing membership from the oil & gas sector, the intersection between Membership and Communication

What: Please bring your information packages

------


Tuesday 14th. August 2007, Noon

Who: VP Social Media

Where: Boardroom, Mango Media Caribbean, Hotel Normandie, St. Ann's

Why: To discuss our first podcast in September,logo, as well as the year ahead

What: Please bring your information
---------

Tuesday 21st. August 2007. 1 p.m.

Who: VP Communication

Where: Boardroom, Mango Media Caribbean, Hotel Normandie, St. Ann's

Why: the year ahead, increasing media coverage, how the VP roles of membership, visual communication intersect with the portfolio
retreat
What: Please bring your information packages

IABC T&T leaders, please note that even as I meet with individual members and teams, executive Vice President Maria Mc McMillan will be planning our first board . VP of Professional Development, Wynell Gregorio is also busy. She is gearing up for our first professional programme in September for this 2007-2008 term.

Thanks very much for your commitment. Please call me if there are any concerns.


Best
Judette

Judette Coward-Puglisi
President IABC T&T

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Catching fish by learning the hard way.

I have a picture of my friend Brian fishing on the lakes of New Hampshire in New England, and each time I have to write a business proposal I take it out of my photo album, pinch out the creases and place it on my desk. It serves as inspiration. I remember the summer of my contentment when the photograph was taken, and my amazement at how Brian could rake in fish after fish while my line remained inert and lifeless. "It's all in the attitude," he laughed rolling in another whopper of a salmon. That was that digitized moment I captured with my camera. And it is the moment I have framed on my desk. I defer to that picture because I think that attitude is also the secret of writing a winning business proposal. Like fishing, I suppose it requires a bit of hope and a whole lot of unyielding faith in the enterprise; that the proposal you spend hours hammering out will be as enticing for the client as any good bait.

That's not always the case and I learnt this lesson the hard way. In the early days, I used to chase every piece of business that came my way. I was selective-how do I say this tactfully- like a dog in heat. For days after I sent out a proposal I would stew in anticipation. Hopeful, I would wait for the call back sometimes even jumping the broom and calling the client myself but that was until two earthquakes hit my psyche all within the same month.

In one instance a prospective client called requesting a proposal for a PR strategy. It was a large company with a successful product and a stale image. I was overjoyed at the prospect of winning this potentially lucrative contract. Naively -okay I confess stupidly,- I responded by writing a detailed account of my ideas. 15 hours and 4 boxes of mixed Chinese vegetables later, I had conceptualized what I instinctively knew was an exciting and market targeted PR proposal. The client called the following 2 weeks later , and I was told that the proposal they had wanted ASAP was being placed on hold. "The budget is tight now, but we'll give you a call when we're ready." Three weeks after that the very same company started a campaign that bore a horrific twin-like resemblance to my own and I knew I had been taken for the worst kind of ride. The incident shattered the last bastion of my innocence.

It is never easy to take the long view of things, especially in a culture of 10 second sound-bites and MSN instant messaging service. But in a process that was slow and complex as growing my own business was, I know that the ability to learn from my mistakes would always have to be my anchor. Writing winning proposals will forever be an important part of acquiring new business and retaining old clients. A good proposal sets apart from your competition, it increases your hit rate on getting the business you want and it allows the name of your business to get out there, positioning your firm as the one of choice.

But listen. I no longer believe that the proposals I write should be a detailed blueprint that contains all my ideas, but something more like an artist's sketch, a document that is sufficient to sell the idea -the concept of what I am proposing. Before I start writing, I try to gather information about the clients needs, expectations and problems. Then I write briefly the project's objective statement, developing in turn the project's concept, time line, evaluation plan, and budget. Most importantly in all my proposals I let my client know that I understand what they are trying to achieve. Armed with the proposal I develop the attitude-or maybe it is in writing the proposal that the attitude comes-, and this is my favourite 'go get 'em' line; "we have the solution to your problems, our proposal demonstrates this, now can we do business?"

Thankfully, now, that answer is invariably yes and finally I can keep up with my friend Brian.

Judette Coward Puglisi has been catching many fish over the last 8 years. Catch her net on her firm’s website www. mangomediacaribbean.com.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The 5 persons every entrepreneur should know

When the last time you checked who’s in your corner?

Top 5 lists are the buzz these days. There are 5 ways to lose your dreaded love handles. 5 ways to make your baby happy. And my favourite, the 5 things to do to become a better manager. Just when you thought that the list was a killjoy here comes another list, this one from the guru of self help, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, whose web site published an article entitled: “Five friends every woman should have.” In it the writer states that here are 5 kinds of pals she counts on for completely different things. Each friend brings a different element to the friendship; in total she says they make her life that much better.

I stumbled across that article on the same day I got an email from a reader in Barbados asking if I could become his mentor. He was starting his own marketing and PR firm, was going to do his MBA and thought that one key to success was having someone with whom he could bounce around ideas.

Both the story and that email got me thinking, are there special friends that entrepreneurs should have in the corner? And if I had to advise a budding entrepreneur about the 5 qualities they should look for in 5 separate people what would I tell them to look for?

Here are my choices.

The Cheerleader
Every entrepreneur needs someone who’ll tell them they’re great, that their new idea will succeed, that they’re doing just fine. Starting a business can often be a lonely and often tough undertaking; someone who sets wind beneath your sail is best gift you can give yourself, especially when you’re now starting out. Whenever I found myself getting down in the doldrums, I turned to my cheerleader, a former professor, who along with his wife told me: “Entrepreneurship would allow me dance to the beat of my own drum.” I haven’t stopped spinning since.

The Mentor
Now that I being continuously asked to mentor ‘newbies’ I think back to my early years when I turned to the voice of experience i.e. another entrepreneur who was years ahead of me. Growing a business is hard, real hard but sometimes you don’t have to re-invent the wheel or even suffer the unnecessary hardship of not knowing. Somewhere there is a person who did what you’re doing. Chances are you stand a lot to learn from him or her.

The Networker
Sure you have a right to be shy, after all you’re new in the game, your idea haven’t flown off the shelf yet and you never did like rattling off about yourself. All that is okay because that where your networking friend comes in. She’ll introduce you to people, pick up the phone and get the door open to someone you’d been trying to sell to for months. Stick with her; soon you’ll see that networking is not only easy, it is crucial if you are going to succeed.

The Naysayer
Your tell-it-like-it-is friend will let you know that no one will buy your idea and give you a million sound reasons why. Listen to him! Your naysayer friend will give a fresh and different perspective from the cheerleader who always thinks your ideas are just great. Somewhere in the middle you’ll find your own reality.

The tech guru
Technology is crucial to every business’ growth these days. In the early days you probably won’t be able to buy each new gadget but it couldn’t hurt to know what’s out there. Moreover your tech buddy will save you a lot of time and money in the early days of your venture. She’ll become a life saver if only because your server is sure to go down.

Visit the writer’s website at www.mangomediacaribbean.com. Judette is the Managing Director of Mango Media Caribbean, a Trinidad based strategic communications and PR firm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Small teams can engage with a large vision

Ask any member of my 6 member, all female team what’s our corporate mission is and they’ll tell you it is to be the best PR firm in the country within the next five years. Ask them how we are going to get there and they’ll spout off the 6 defining principles which they helped draft. Finally, ask them how they, as employees, connect to our overarching mission to be the best, and they’ll share the company motivators, the pay scale factor and our employee ladder. They can say these things with confidence because they are fully engaged with the objectives of the business.

I am not sure when it happened. How as a small firm I built a cadre of engaged employees. It certainly did not happen overnight but over long conversations and meeting about the change in our direction (we always wanted to remain small) and what it would take for us to get there. What I know for sure is that my firm offers them a belief in a possibility. A working towards a common goal. A promise that we will get there and that when we do the reward will be there for everyone. What I offer is engagement.

Employee engagement is not an esoteric thing. There are always tangible ways to do a temperature check. La Toya, our projects co-coordinator stays late every day for one month to work on a big project. Jamila, an assistant does not complete any task without asking the core questions that are at the heart of our company’s growth. Alicia, our accountant, volunteers on our PR projects when we are in a crunch, without being asked.

My senior consultants and I know that there is a wide gap between compliance and commitment. The subtle difference is that even though the job gets done with compliance, creativity and passion are missing, so too is the enthusiasm. And the consequence is often devastating:

Employee disengagement signifies:
• Poor understanding about how an individual’s work connects to
the purposes of the company.
• Poor, limited communication with team members about the purpose
of the organization, its strategies, challenges, strengths, weaknesses,
etc.
• Expectations aren’t properly set in the minds of all staff members,
resulting in disappointment, frustration or resentment.
• There’s an imbalanced focus on short-term achievement, instead
of long-term thinking.

A key building block for engagement is to have your employee’s execution be tied to something tangible like a reward. But even more important there is need for your staff to have clarity on why they are doing what they are doing. Research shows that less than 5% of the typical workforce understands their organization’s strategy. For instance, I found that when I explained our company’s 5 year objective and linked it back to our mission and identified everyday tactics that employees could do to help us achieve it, staff productivity shot up by 15%.

As a small sized business flexibility is perhaps our greatest strength it is easy enough for us to get in at the “ground level” and build the kind of understanding that really unleashes the innovative potential of our team. Yes, the mission is important but sharing that mission and cultivating understanding is perhaps even more critical when it comes to building an engaged team.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

IABC T&T AGM's speech

Editor of the Express Newspapers, Allan Geere

Fellow Board Leaders of the International Association of Business Communicators, Trinidad and Tobago Chapter

Members of IABC T&T

Friends and Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Thanks so much for being here at our Association’s first annual general meeting.

Two weeks ago I returned from IABC’s international conference in New Orleans and a funny thing kept happening…..

A strange thing kept occurring each time I introduced myself as the president of IABC Trinidad and Tobago. You see each time I said the name of our country the person to whom I was introducing myself would say something like: Oh so you’re from Trinidad and Tobago, I hear your chapter is doing some wonderful things, and in other cases I would be offered congratulations for some of the specific projects we had completed.

Of course, praise, especially when you do volunteer work is a wonderful thing to receive. I am certainly am not immune to it. But what struck me as I received congratulations for our work was that our voice, the voice of IABC Trinidad and Tobago was being heard globally.

And that as a Chapter, one of the newest on the block, our voices, well… our voices matter. This is no small accomplishment in light of the fact that there are 100 IABC chapters located in every corner of the globe.

My trip to New Orleans served as real affirmation of our work. Let me get straight to the questions that often bubble at a meeting such as this..

Has IABC T&T first board been active? You bet.
Have we surpassed the expectations and objectives that were set forth in our 2006 strategic document? You bet.
Have we given members the content, credibility and connections to succeed in their career? You bet
Has our work been noticed in the global network that comprises some 14000 members from every continent in the planet. The answer is an unequivocal yes. And I can prove it.

In New Orleans I was told by IABC’s incoming chair that our Chapter is eligible to take part in the Chapter of the Year Awards in 2008 … a huge honour considering that our Chapter is just 12 months old ..

IABC T&T is also being considered for full fledged Chapter status 12 months earlier than when it is customary to bestow such an honour. This is based just on our accomplishments…let me list just some of them …I get a real kick tooting IABC T&T’s horn

• Earlier this year the IABC T&T board met President George Maxwell Richard and presented our vision for our Association
• Our membership has increased by 150 % with the membership renewal rate being steady at 100%. Within the past ten days alone we had seven new members join us and our membership currently stands at close to sixty.
• Our professional development programmes have an 89% positive rating
• Our accounts are healthy and show promising signs of future positive growth
• Our student Chapter is about to be initiated with 5 members joining us at the end of July
• We use the wisdom of the web to communicate including a web site, a President’s blog and a soon to be released podcast. Our material is archived on an fttp site allowing for easy succession planning

It has not been all smooth sailing. Just this week I was talking to one of members in Advertising and she was saying to me that she had to consciously carve the time in her schedule in order to connect with both the Association and its members.

And therein lies the challenge the most obvious being how do we as a Board continue to keep you, our members engaged in the face of increasing work loads, family commitments knowing full well that we are, all of us, trying to find the magic bullet that will somehow miraculously balance our work and life commitments.

The fact is even as the strength of IABC T&T continues to be centered within the core of its various committees there is recognition that our volunteerism habits are mirroring the general pace of our lifestyles and that there is need for another type of volunteer i.e. Individuals who are seeking out drive-by volunteer opportunities, these members usually want responsibilities and commitments that are fast and that can be quickly executed within a specific time frame

As we flesh out the various needs of the committees in the next 6 weeks in preparation for our year ahead, I can tell you that IABC will have room for both… the enduring volunteer who want to make great impact in moving our profession forward and the drive by volunteer who has a lot to give but in a shorter time frame. For us to continue to grow I believe that the two types must comfortably co-exist within IABC T&T



And now, Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve arrived at what is my absolutely favourite part of the evening… the part where I get to say thanks to several persons and I will begin with the founding members of IABC T&T by asking them to stand as I call their names, Executive VP Maria Mc Mc Millan, VP of Administration Maria Mohammed, VP of Professional Development Wynelle Gregorio, VP of Membership Giselle La Ronde West, VP of Finance Alicia Lewis and VP of Communication Dawn- Marie Gill … ….

On behalf of the members of the International Association of Business Communicators thanks you so much….Ladies and Gentlemen please join me in saying thank you for their selfless acts of quiet purpose and dedication which often follow their strong convictions and passion for the communication, marketing profession..

I am going to ask that remain standing and I am going to ask those of you who have assumed leadership positions at committee level to join them by standing … if you have volunteered at our events, planned our meetings, worked at the committee level, Please stand. Ladies and gentlemen , once again, please join me in saying thanks to them. The people before you make IABC T&T such a special Chapter. Without them, our association of communication marketing and advertising professionals could not exist.

Thank you…..

The IABC T&T begins planning for its term later this month and joining us will be 3 new Vice Presidents… our new VP of Branding and Visual Communication is Brevard Nelson of Guardian Holdings Limited, our VP of Administration is Wendy Bishop the Sponsorship and Advertising manager at UTC and Dexter Charles Group Communication Manager of First Citizens will join us as our Sponsorship and Advertising Vice President …Maria Mohammed, our former VP of Administration will serve as our new VP of Future Communication and Social Media

Welcome to the team…
So we are on our way… our year 2007-2008 which will culminate in our 2008 Communication Summit. As I anticipate my year ahead...

I encourage you to log on to use the international web site to your own advantage
I encourage you to read the book that IABC read the books that IABC publishes
I encourage you to get familiar with your local chapter mission, vision
I encourage to volunteer your time and become invloved.

We're all very busy people. But we need you to invest some time if we're going to make this a better profession and a better business for ourselves and the people behind us. It has to be done collaboratively – whether you are a drive-by volunteer or of the enduring kind.

I look forward to the year ahead.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Schmooze or Lose?

Schmoozing works. And I can prove it. When my friend Sue, a communication student, was just about to leave university she sent out applications to just about every media house, twenty-five in all. She did everything right, her impressive credentials, recommendation letters were laid out on some very expensive paper. Plus her CV was chock-a-block with student activities demonstrating her star qualities. Yet for nine months after graduation, she heard nothing.


Then an opportunity arose. The local communication association was hosting an event on campus. She volunteered her time to help organise the event and this put her in contact with several senior communicators. She was assigned to one in particular just to make sure their booth was set up and that the representatives from the company were comfortable. At the fair she chatted with the VP of Communication and later kept in contact via email and phone. Two( 2) months after the VP sent her an email. Her company had an opening for an intern. She wanted to know if Sue would join the firm. Sue never had to send her a CV until months after she started her job. Sue landed her job without a formal interview.



Fast forward to Sue's career in TV. She once wrote several letters to a producer showing ways a lifestyle programme could be improved. Sue also sent the producer complimentary emails when she noted that it had. She was hired by the firm six months later. Sue also applied the same technique to acquiring her first home. She sent the developers flowers as a thank-you for taking the time to show her around the area. The result? Sue's name moved to the top of the list, ahead of 300 others.



You would have guessed by now that my friend is well-networked. She has the personality of a schmoozer. A good one at that. She is lively and fun, great with communication and always ready to be at the centre of the action.



Does that win her more business now that she is an entrepreneur? Sure it does, but I often wonder what happens if you're the opposite of Sue? Would it have been easy for her to forge ahead if she wasn't so fun or popular and clued in to other people.



As a contrast, I look at my friend Jenny. Not one for small talk or light conversation, Jenny was not known as a "people person" and even though she was brilliant she often got passed over for promotion in her recruitment based job. Later she started her own business. Again schmoozing wasn't her thing and even though her ideas were fantastic, none of her would-be clients bought into them. She closed business eighteen months after she started.



The cases of my two friends illustrate a challenging mindset. Too much time is spent overlooking the deep thinkers. We are persuaded in interviews and meetings to listen the ones who are the great communicators, who have the gift of gab, but the folks with deep insight and analysis, who perhaps take longer than the rest to say what's on their mind are often looked over.



I see cases of this all the time. You perhaps see it too, there are many schmoozers employed in inappropriate positions in corporations and they stick out like square pegs in ill fitting round holes. They don't add much value with the depth of their thinking.



I think that to be successful, really successful in your career requires you to be a bit of both even if it takes you outside of your comfort zone. I encourage my project assistant La Toya to stop being so reclusive (she prefers the computer to people, although she has a wonderful way with other staff members and clients) I tell her to use all opportunities to form relationships, whether they are deep and meaningful or superficial. All will serve her well in life, no matter how long or short. Ultimately though, a successful business should find a place for both the thinker and the schmoozer. In my PR and communications firm I find that it is the schmoozers who often provide the energy and the referrals, the deep thinkers create the ideas and come up with creative of solutions to some of our more pressing problems. Your best bet is to embrace them both.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

MEASURING PR

It was the question of the week among global communicators at IABC’s 2007 conference: Can PR be measured?

7 days before I left for New Orleans I was asked a similar question by a group of 10 practitioners at one of the Caribbean’s top financial service firms.

It’ s not that our industry is devoid of measurement and several firms are on the right track counting their new clippings, looking at prominence scoring, examining newspaper tiers, conducting qualitative and quantitative research.

The difficulty for most however is the requirement to link PR to the bottom line. At IABC’s conference presenter Louis William said that the problem occurs when communicators are asked to determine the impact of a communication effort especially on organisational objectives especaily when those efforts require interfacing with other departments and functions to get the job done.

The answer lies in knowing what is possible, what can be measured and which communication variables can be isolated to demonstrate PRs return on the investment.
I guess that was my biggest learning here in New Orleans and as I set to change conventional thinking about the value of PR and business communication in Trinidad and Tobago I was happy to know that the week’s big question had a very simplistic answer: Yes! PR contributes to the bottom line and yes, it can be measured.

Monday, June 25, 2007

IABC's perfect backdrop

Post Katrina New Orleans is a really sad city to see. I came to here to attend IABC's international conference but I also came as a cultural tourist. I wanted to see old men in fedoras blowing trumpets under the balustrade of the French quarters. My quintessential southern dream had always been to eat hunky ribs that were barbequed and then smothered in Cajun sauce and after feel the pulse of town by strolling through busy city
streets with the sound of jazz everywhere. Of course I knew Katrina had happened, but news of the city's recovery had fallen off the headlines. No news is sometimes good news but in this case it wasn’t.


Recovery from 2005s devastating storm remains slow and painful. On Sunday evening by 7:00 pm most of the jazz bars are closed, their padlocked doors a concrete reminder that half of the city's employees had to go elsewhere in search of jobs and a new life. Cab drivers report a devastating effect on the city’s convention business and tourism. A Sarajevo cabbie said his business was down by 75%. The number of city employees has also decreased, going from 6,000 to 3, 000 since Katrina. While Southern life always had its own particular slow crawl, in New Orleans the tempo has slowed to a slug.

Nadine Johnson, TDC's marketing specialist, a frequent visitor to New Orleans in the past and part of the TDC’s team at the conference said that the city which she loved visiting so much now made her feel depressed. Yet IABC never wavered in its commitment to host its annual conference here. I think that decision is to be applauded.

The session’s opening guest speaker Ton Sancton who recently returned to New Orleans from France to accept a position at Tulane University told IABC attendees that New Orleans was grateful to IABC. He was particularly happy that IABC attendees spent the better part of two days helping to rebuild some homes under the Habitat for Humanity programme. He was grateful for IABC’s business in a town that is so much in need of it.

But it thinks it the hundreds of IABC attendees who are here in New Orleans who should be grateful because this stark backdrop provides real opportunity. It provides us with exceptional examples of life’s continuity in the face of disaster. It provides us with real examples of leadership and teamwork both which will still be needed if this city is to be returned to its former self. It also reminds us that communication is a process and for the city to rise creative solutions must be thought of implemented and that US Government must still be held accountable if only to ensure that news of the city’s recovery never falls too far from the radar.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Communicators press ahead with social media

Less than a third of professional communicators surveyed feel confident about using social media as part of an integrated communication strategy, according to Melcrum's new report How to use social media to engage employees. Yet despite the lack of strategy understanding revealed by the global study, many are going ahead with setting up tools inside their organizations - some 60% of organizations will have some form of social media in place by the end of 2007.

The new report combines key findings from a global study into social media and corporate communication, with case-study examples and expert advice on how to develop a social media strategy, launch new tools - such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and social networks - and monitor their progress.


Potential pitfalls

The potential pitfalls of launching social media tools without an understanding of the best way to use them is covered in the "Strategy" chapter of the new report. Ross Chestney, head of communication services at BT - where he has overseen the introduction of blogs, wikis, podcasts and social networking - comments that: "There are an awful lot of people who are very excited about this technology, but still have no real idea what it's about."

In the same chapter, Philippe Borremans, IBM's new media lead in Europe, talks about the strategic mission for social media at IBM and urges practitioners to develop a different mindset and strategy when it comes to introducing new tools: "Your social media strategy must look unlike a traditional communication strategy. It's not an enforced strategy - full of campaigns and 'push' models.

"The first step in building a social media strategy is to recognize that it's not for every company or every employee," says Borremans, "I can't claim this is a natural fit for every company. It all stems from understanding what kind of company and culture you're working in. But for us, it's the right way to go."


Strategy issues to consider

Based on the experiences of organizations such as BT, IBM, American Electric Power (AEP) and Nortel, the report identifies 10 issues that communicators should consider when developing a social media strategy, including:

- Assess your organization's cultural readiness.
- Think about the business purpose of the tools.
- Be experimental and involve employees.
- Clarify what employees can and can't do.
- Take a hands-off approach to marketing the tools.


Key findings from global survey

In addition to advice on strategy, the report shares key findings that shed light on what communicators expect to gain from using social media inside the organization, and which tools they feel are most relevant to them.

According to the 2,100 corporate communicators who responded to the global survey, the top perceived benefits for implementing social media tools are:

1. Improved employee engagement (71%).
2. Improved internal collaboration (59%).
3. Improved internal community development (51%).
4. Improved two-way dialogue with senior executives (42%).


Engaging employees

A chapter is devoted to each of the tools considered most relevant to internal communicators: blogs, podcasts, RSS, online video, wikis, social networking and virtual worlds and the 3-D web.

Each chapter shares key findings from the global survey together with advice on how to introduce the tools and case-study examples of how they're being put to use to engage employees in organizations such as BT, IBM, Unilever, The World Bank, Scottish & Newcastle, Microsoft and Nortel.

The report ends with a chapter on measurement, which shares advice from practitioners and experts on how to monitor the progress and outcomes of social media tools.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On the road to New Orleans

On Saturday I will be in New Orleans for my first IABC international conference. I have three goals in mind: to discover new approaches that will influence the further growth of my business and invigorate my team, to encourage RBTT's communicators to join the local chapter and scout for speakers for our Chapter's first Communication Summit in 2008.

I will be blogging from my New Orleans Hotel room for the entire week. Look out for my daily musings from jazz city.

Friday, June 08, 2007

What you wear. How you work.

In my office the suit is dead! I tell those who walk through the door that we are all professionals but our professionalism does not always manifest itself in high-powered suits. Perhaps it is because our field is creative that allows me to get away with pink circle skirts and a black tucked in T-shirt.

But research just published confirms my thoughts about dressing down at work. Globally, 23% of firms have a dress down policy for at least one day of the week compared with 5% in 1997. This seems to be far cry from the uniformed conformity of 1980's power dressing or the “let’s totter on our high-heels look” in the early 1990s.

Some call the new Friday style the 'Third Wardrobe'. In London, Arthur Andersen told its 7,000 UK employees that they no longer had to wear a suit. Like many other big firms in that city, they had been operating "dress down Fridays" for some time and decided this year to give their staff the option to dress down permanently. No to be outdone, other big global firms such as Credit Suisse First Boston, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have since followed this lead. Notice that they are all in the traditionally conservative financial world.

But why dress down, especially when the right label on a suit can indicate one’s status in a firm? My guess is that in many firms, when employees come dressed in the way that matches their sense of who they are, they feel more expressive. For instance, I get the best work from my graphic designer when he wears relaxed clothing; my assistant is also happier. And I’ve found that employees work longer hours when they feel relaxed, “When I am allowed to wear smart designer jeans and ballet shoes. I'm more comfortable," said one associate. But I like this comment best from Colin McLatchie Chief Operating Officer of an equitable asset management firm who said, "if you cannot trust your employees to dress themselves what can you trust them to do?"

Of course, it is unlikely that the business suit will become entirely extinct any time soon. It has its own special place in civilization. It is a signifier that business is taking place and that life is essentially compartmentalised into commercial and private spaces.

But what a surprise it was for me when from the minute I announced a dress down policy and saw one of my assistants, who is extremely conservative and very much I thought like a drone, show up to work in smart orange skirt and red blouse with a orange mid-heeled shoe. Thereafter, I thought that there is value in this thing called self expression, this is after I cursed myself for ever having called her a drone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Top five things learnt from attending a Canada East IABC regional meeting

Observations form the Canada East regional conference

1. Sometime listening is the best form of communication
2. Strategise. Decide outcomes. Engage members. Measure = a successful chapter
3. Not all communicators communicate well
4. Reserve judgement until you have the full picture ; you just might end up with egg in your face
5. The Caribbean needs its own region

Does the suit make the woman

Sitting in the lobby of Angostura after long after IABC T&T's Wine and Cheese had finished, my colleagues Wynelle Gregorio of Clico, Carlon Kirton of CIB and I were shooting the breeze. We were talking about everything and nothing, all at the same time. It was the kind of conversation I like best though, there's no agenda, dialogue about the personal as well as the professional and what seems like all the time in the world.

During what seemed like an endless chat we stumbled across the topic of conforming and the perception that you are a professional if you dressed a certain way and looked a particular way. Think suits, high-heeled pumps and dark stockings. Somehow that irked me. I was none of the above and it got me thinking was I unprofessional because I wear my hair afro-styled? Is the label applicable, because although I have numerous suits in my closet I tend to shun them as I would the plague.

I must end all this by declaring that I run a very successful PR firm, have pioneered several large scale national projects and have a slew of clients that are not only the best in the region but the best in the world. And I got here sans the trappings of ‘the right look’.

What do you think? How much do you have to conform in order to do well in the professions you hold? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Energy. Persistence. Optimism

What a week! My lead project assistant La Toya always says there is never a dull moment at the firm. Coming to think of it, she may very well be echoing my own sentiments, which I often share out loud. But this week she was spot on.

We moved our marketing communications arm to an out-of-town location but retained the corporate communications and consulting arm of the business at the city office. We signed on to handle the reputation management and crisis communications of a major multi-national firm and also decided who would be our fifth new employee. All this of course amidst a non - functioning air condition unit, a low water supply at our new office and a moody wireless high speed connection that kept shutting down every 45 minutes or so.

And if that was not enough excitement I travel to Toronto to attend a regional IABC meeting. I keep telling La Toya that forget all the talk she's heard about genius and business smarts, it really takes three key ingredients to be a successful entrepreneur: energy, persistence and optimism.

Combatting Leadership fatigue

Follow the thread of a conversation I posted on the IABC Member's Speak section just one week ago. You can view it on line at
http://www.iabc.com/forums/messageview.cfm catid=3&threadid=1673&STARTPAGE=1&CFID=460702&CFTOKEN=73206572

The postings are below with the first comment being mine.


Mon May 14, 2007 12:21 AM

After a whirlwind 10 months of leading a new Chapter and accomplishing many of our original goals I am sensing that some of my board members are suffering from volunteer leader's fatigue. How can I rejuvenate them? What motivators should I, as a chapter president, use. I feel that is is important that we end on the same strong note as we started.

Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit Delete


Eleanor Curtis
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2003
Tue May 15, 2007 1:11 PM

Firstly, congratulations on what must have been a busy and challenging year - I hope it's been a lot of fun! A couple of thoughts for what they're worth - ideas we've adopted in the UK chapter. Firstly, remind everyone of what you've achieved! What did you set out to do and what have you done? If you have your AGM coming up, that would be the natural forum. And your newsletter if you have one. Recognition and explicit thanks goes a long way too. Depending on the funds you have available, this could range from giving everyone a certificate recognising the role they played. Design something and print it yourself. Doesn't cost much at all but if it looks smart, something for people to frame and display in their office. Or perhaps subsidising an evening out. I don't think any less active member would begrudge you rewarding active volunteers in this way. Perhaps you could purchase a webinar or teleseminar which the volunteers could take part in at no charge. We've been lucky in being able to offer scholarships to Leadership Institutes for our leaders - you might be able to ask your region to help with this. These sort of rewards are a good way to encourage future volunteers to step forward as well.

Anyway, hope there's some useful food for thought in there.

Eleanor
Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit

Wilma Mathews, ABC
Senior Contributor

Posts: 95
Joined: Jun 2003
Thu May 17, 2007 6:50 PM



What a great problem to have!
You've got a new, and successful, chapter. Your volunteer board members have worked hard to achieve that success.
It's natural that they would have leader fatigue. Eleanor has given you some excellent ideas for recognizing and honoring your leaders. I'll add one more: write to their supervisors, extolling the wonderful work that individual did. Good words to the boss are always a boost!

Congratulations to you and your team!
Wilma Mathews, ABC
Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit





Martha Retallick
Contributor
Posts: 13
Joined: Jun 2006
Thu May 17, 2007 7:08 PM

Speaking as someone who is a longtime resident of Free Agent Nation, I hear a lot of advice to get involved with various organizations. And not just to go to meetings, but to help run the organization. Reason: This is considered to be a good way to showcase one's skills to those who might be needing my services.

But, as one local designer once told me after she spent several years with a group (not IABC), "They got free newsletter out of me, but I didn't get any business from them."

So, tip to those of you who are recruiting or retaining volunteers for chapters: Business referrals and leads are a wonderful thing. Especially for your self-employed member/volunteers.

*********************************************
Martha Retallick
Western Sky Communications
Design & Consulting

Dressing your business for success.
On the Internet. And in print

Web: http://www.WesternSkyCommunications.com
E-mail: Retallick@Cox.net
Phone: 520-690-1888
*********************************************



Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit





JUDETTE Coward Puglisi
Posts: 9
Joined: Oct 2005 Mon May 21, 2007 5:11 AM
Great tips. Thank you. I particularly like the certificate idea. I tend to write short thank you notes but I will consider a longer letter to the board members themselves; most of the IABC T&T board members are senior communicators or entrepreneurs so letters to their bosses may not work.

Martha, I hear what you're saying but I disagree about the "what's in it for me perspective," of your friend. I am somewhat of a professional volunteer (having a father who is a life long Rotarian and who devoted most of his free time teaching sports of underprivileged kids - I can't help but be) but I was taught that volunteerism is a honour and the call to serve, a privilege.

Now don't get me wrong, I have my own communications consulting firm and so leads and business referrals are welcomed and they certainly come my way because of my volunteer efforts, but it is never the focus of my service.

I find that effective networking occurs naturally once you take focus off of getting as opposed to giving. It helps of course to make sure that your volunteer work is of the same high standards as your paid-for work. Another helpful tip for your friend is if she articulated her business needs clearly to influencers within the Association.
......


Report this to a Moderato

Combatting Leadership fatigue

Mon May 14, 2007 12:21 AM

After a whirlwind 10 months of leading a new Chapter and accomplishing many of our original goals I am sensing that some of my board members are suffering from volunteer leader's fatigue. How can I rejuvenate them? What motivators should I, as a chapter president, use. I feel that is is important that we end on the same strong note as we started.

Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit Delete


Eleanor Curtis
Posts: 4
Joined: Sep 2003
Tue May 15, 2007 1:11 PM

Firstly, congratulations on what must have been a busy and challenging year - I hope it's been a lot of fun! A couple of thoughts for what they're worth - ideas we've adopted in the UK chapter. Firstly, remind everyone of what you've achieved! What did you set out to do and what have you done? If you have your AGM coming up, that would be the natural forum. And your newsletter if you have one. Recognition and explicit thanks goes a long way too. Depending on the funds you have available, this could range from giving everyone a certificate recognising the role they played. Design something and print it yourself. Doesn't cost much at all but if it looks smart, something for people to frame and display in their office. Or perhaps subsidising an evening out. I don't think any less active member would begrudge you rewarding active volunteers in this way. Perhaps you could purchase a webinar or teleseminar which the volunteers could take part in at no charge. We've been lucky in being able to offer scholarships to Leadership Institutes for our leaders - you might be able to ask your region to help with this. These sort of rewards are a good way to encourage future volunteers to step forward as well.

Anyway, hope there's some useful food for thought in there.

Eleanor
Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit

Wilma Mathews, ABC
Senior Contributor

Posts: 95
Joined: Jun 2003
Thu May 17, 2007 6:50 PM



What a great problem to have!
You've got a new, and successful, chapter. Your volunteer board members have worked hard to achieve that success.
It's natural that they would have leader fatigue. Eleanor has given you some excellent ideas for recognizing and honoring your leaders. I'll add one more: write to their supervisors, extolling the wonderful work that individual did. Good words to the boss are always a boost!

Congratulations to you and your team!
Wilma Mathews, ABC
Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit





Martha Retallick
Contributor
Posts: 13
Joined: Jun 2006
Thu May 17, 2007 7:08 PM

Speaking as someone who is a longtime resident of Free Agent Nation, I hear a lot of advice to get involved with various organizations. And not just to go to meetings, but to help run the organization. Reason: This is considered to be a good way to showcase one's skills to those who might be needing my services.

But, as one local designer once told me after she spent several years with a group (not IABC), "They got free newsletter out of me, but I didn't get any business from them."

So, tip to those of you who are recruiting or retaining volunteers for chapters: Business referrals and leads are a wonderful thing. Especially for your self-employed member/volunteers.

*********************************************
Martha Retallick
Western Sky Communications
Design & Consulting

Dressing your business for success.
On the Internet. And in print

Web: http://www.WesternSkyCommunications.com
E-mail: Retallick@Cox.net
Phone: 520-690-1888
*********************************************



Report this to a Moderator
Reply Quote Top Bottom Edit





JUDETTE Coward Puglisi
Posts: 9
Joined: Oct 2005 Mon May 21, 2007 5:11 AM
Great tips. Thank you. I particularly like the certificate idea. I tend to write short thank you notes but I will consider a longer letter to the board members themselves; most of the IABC T&T board members are senior communicators or entrepreneurs so letters to their bosses may not work.

Martha, I hear what you're saying but I disagree about the "what's in it for me perspective," of your friend. I am somewhat of a professional volunteer (having a father who is a life long Rotarian and who devoted most of his free time teaching sports of underprivileged kids - I can't help but be) but I was taught that volunteerism is a honour and the call to serve, a privilege.

Now don't get me wrong, I have my own communications consulting firm and so leads and business referrals are welcomed and they certainly come my way because of my volunteer efforts, but it is never the focus of my service.

I find that effective networking occurs naturally once you take focus off of getting as opposed to giving. It helps of course to make sure that your volunteer work is of the same high standards as your paid-for work. Another helpful tip for your friend is if she articulated her business needs clearly to influencers within the Association.
......


Report this to a Moderato

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Getting more bang for your small business advertising buck. Judette Coward-Puglisi

This week I got a congratulatory call from the CEO of Stechers, Sheena Thorpe. My company produced a series of ads for her luxury stores’ bridal registry and she was happy to report an excellent consumer response. The success of the Stechers campaign had to do with a couple of factors. The design was clean. The product was hero. The message was simple. But there was another success factor; working with an exceptional media planner we determined which audience would receive the messages and what mediums would be most appropriate to them.

Not all businesses strike the right advertising note. In fact, I was having lunch 2 months ago with my friend, an advertising manager of a large service company and she were commiserating how her advertising strategy had failed – in her post campaign research only one in four of those surveyed remembered the messages in her ads.
Her dismay was a striking reminder that the advertising/marketing mix is difficult if you don’t understand the framework necessary for analysis.

1. Share of Voice
Whenever clients have an advertising dilemma, the first question I ask is do they understand their share of voice. Most of them don’t but it is a fundamental starting point. To arrive at the percentage of the total exposure for all business in their category, I ask them how much of the total signage is theirs. I also ask for the details about their TV, radio and print advertising. I also like to get the below the line details like their web traffic or the number of mentions their brand had in a news story as opposed to a competitor. Understanding the numbers makes them aware of their total share of voice and if they need to ramp it up simply because they are not visible in the market place.
In Stechers case, while her share of voice was not high it wasn’t important that it should be. After all, how many customers can afford an $8, 0000 crystal owl as a decorative piece. Not many. So be effective Thorpe was advised to buy more repetition for her ads but get it from fewer suppliers in the media chain i.e. increase her share of voice to the prospective buyers with targeted media buying.

2. Impact Quotient
Advertising fails for only two reasons. The ads are either reaching too many people with too little repetition or delivering a message that no one cares about. Let me give you an example. At Mango Media Caribbean, we provide a myriad of services under the umbrella of strategic communications and brand development. Last year, we wanted to increase the quantity of editorial projects we were executing so we came up with a message that addressed the fact that many smart business people who are not gifted writers have i.e. they get stuck writing the first sentence of their report, proposal etc.. Our ad began with the question: “Stuck for words?” and was supported by graphic design of someone doodling as they were trying to write. The impact of that ad was great. Our audience could relate to it easily and quickly and because they did our editorial work rose by 80%. So the question is how impressive is your advertising message? Does your audience care about what you’re saying. Does your audience understand what you’re saying? To generate sales your ad must look good and reach the right target message but first of all it must first be believable and it must deliver on what it promises, which brings me to my next point of your brand promise and the personal experience factor.

3. Personal Experience Factor
Have you ever seen a really good ad for a clothing sale, one that touted the store’s high quality designer wear but in fact sold designer knock offs. Chances are if you went to the store because of the ad and were disappointed because of its false promises, you probably wouldn’t return. In essence unimpressive products or services nullify impressive ads, especially in an era of word of mouth selling. A strong ad will only temporarily prop up a business that delivers a weak personal experience factor. Remember: your ad must create genuine impressions of what you’re selling.
If you haven’t been as successful as you’d like try examining your advertising through the lenses of share of voice, impact quotient and personal experience factor, that way you can get back your campaigns back on track quickly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Better communication in the workplace

Consider the case of a letter an employee once wrote. After having been told that an executive position had opened up in her organisation and that the CEO already had a listing of talented people to interview, she sent a letter saying that she knew of the list and thought she was the right person for the job. Many employees resented her action. “It was too forward, too fresh,” they said and criticised her for it months later.

And therein lies the explanation in what is wrong with many of today’s organisations. The woman’s action generated considerable heat but no light on why an employee should not be forthright with an opinion. The real reason may be that in many of today’s organisation we dare not say what’s on our mind.

In many corporations employees lack not only words. They lack courage. Take for instance a corporate meeting where the chairperson babbles on and on. Meanwhile you are lost in the drone thinking all the while of piles of work on your desk. You know that what you should really be saying is “Enough already, let’s get back to work.” But you know your words may have consequences and you wade through another 2 hours of an unproductive meeting. Silent.

Employees often fail to use candour in the workplace and then wonder why nothing is ever resolved. "Most people," writes executive coach Susan Scott "would really like to have meaningful conversations at work but aren't really sure how to do that. They may have seen someone do it before and saw what happened to them, so they don't do it themselves."
Conversation is at the heart of business relationships. Yet, without talking about the issues in the workplace directly, there is little chance of finding a solution, according to Scott.
In the case of the woman with the letter, when she heard that her name was not on the list she thought she’d address the situation directly, hence the letter to her CEO. She later learnt that she would be promoted.

Analysts say that reluctance to speak candidly may have deep roots. We are given stern directions early in life in proper behavior. Girls are told not to speak until spoken to, most parents tell children to shut up unless they have something good to say. When we start jobs, the landscape may change but not the rules. Colleagues brief us on the lay of the land and we observe what is deemed the correct corporate behaviour. For instance you may notice after a few days on the job that no one talks to the boss before breakfast or that there is a list of important work issues that are just not ever discussed or that in meetings whatever one particular person says goes despite the discontent of work colleagues. "People tend to accept that these are rules through which they must navigate," Scott explains. "That means they won't ever be able to have the honest conversations needed to change things." The status quo is accepted.

The key to a successful conversation is to find ways to candidly discuss topics in a diplomatic way, without threats or accusations. This is mostly done in peer-to-peer relationships but when it comes to peer to supervisor relationships, the success of the conversations is often thwarted.

Supervisors, naturally because of the power issues involved, sometimes undermine any opportunity for a successful conversation. They may respond immediately to a worker's statement, suggesting why an idea won't work or dismissing it with a "I hear what you are saying, but ... "

Replacing “but” with “and” is a great technique for inviting discussion and building listening skills. So too is if every supervisor asks employees the most important thing on their mind and give them time to think about it. A well thought out answer means opening a door to the words an employee wants to say and not necessarily what the supervisor wants to hear.

And that’s the start.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

IABC fosters the opportunity to connect

Last week Thursday, Executive VP of IABC T&T, Maria Rivas Mc Millan, and VP of Membership, Giselle La Ronde West and I shared a wonderful Thai lunch with the incoming chair of IABC Canada East Region, Rawle Borrel and his wife Abiola. Both are of T&T parentage but spent the majority of their lives in Canada.

We spent some time talking about IABC but most of it was spent chatting about our families, spouses, and our homes, what I like the call the real life stuff. Directly after our lunch, I told Maria that I felt as if I just had lunch with some old friends.

One of the real strong bonus points for me as a Chapter leader is the quality of global relationships I have struck up through IABC. When my husband and I vacation in Canada later this month we will be staying at the charming apartment of an IABC friend who is out of town for that very same week.

I met my friend Katherine Shelley from Toronto through IABC. Katherine, who comes to Trinidad every year for our world famous Carnival emailed me two years ago because she wanted to connect with other local IABC members. We hit it off immediately.

When I journey to New Orleans for the international conference in June, I am looking forward to attending the majority of the seminars on measurement & ROI but I am equally excited about connecting with the friends and colleagues I met earlier this year at IABC’s Leadership Institute in San Diego

When people ask me what drives me to continuously work at leading such a wonderful chapter, my answer is very simple...it really is all about the opportunity to connect.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

BOOTSTRAPPING A NEW IDEA. Judette Coward-Puglisi

Selling our new software that measures the ROI on communication and PR campaigns has not been as hard as I expected. This week my company, Mango Media Caribbean tied up some loose sales ends with a public sector organisation and a multinational firm working in the oil and gas sector. We also expect a financial services company to sign up for a 12 month contract in the next four weeks. We made these crucial sales after three months of client prospecting and some long hours of doing our homework. In these months we looked at some of the best practices in some of the large corporations.

You see large companies that sell to other businesses have a massive advantage, an entire team that takes a pulse rate of the market sometimes by posing a singular question: "What do you want?" Once the need has been ascertained, another department takes over to make the deal happen.

At Mango Media Caribbean we are small but no less ambitious. Having determined what the corporate communications market was missing in Trinidad and Tobago, we spent months researching and analysing the new software acquisition. We developed a survey to make sure that we were not investing in something that no one wanted to buy. We took pains with the selection of our software developer and we decided who would be the clients most likely to buy into our new suite of services. Once we discovered who they were we then pre-sold them on the idea.

Why would a company be willing to buy into an idea? Our research indicated that while our clients- corporate communicators - were very interested in or PR measurement services, they didn't necessarily want to add this function to their already overtaxed list of things to do. If we could meet a need that no one else could, they were willing to fund the development of our new ROI communication services.

Be warned though, this is a very difficult strategy. It isn't easy to find scenarios where a big client has an unmet need that they a)realize is a need and b)haven't found a solution for. If you do find one, then you have the challenge of convincing the company that you have the expertise to develop and deliver a working product/service.. It helped that some of these clients were existing customers with whom we had a history and credibility.

Please don't get me wrong, if I am enjoying success with this it is only because I failed at it several times before. Like any entrepreneurial endeavor bootstrapping a business is incredibly hard work. But if you want a strategy that makes money from the beginning, this is one to look at.

The lesson here is that once you sell the idea/prototype, you have revenue that is somewhat guaranteed. Finding new customers thereafter becomes less painstaking.

Judette Coward Puglisi is the founder and managing director of a strategic comunications, brand development firm in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Visit her corporate website at www.mangomediacaribbean.com.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Brand building without deep pockets…A retailer’s experience

If you take as a given –and I do- that in today’s new economy a company can only remain competitive if it engages in strong brand building, then the next staggering question you might ask is: How? With the high cost of advertising, an increasingly fragmented media market and the advent of social media which allows consumers to talk directly to each other and bypass the traditional methods of getting information, many small business owners are forced to come up with increasingly creative ways to build their brand. While this has its challenges, it also presents a great opportunity to think creatively as one Caribbean based luxury goods store found out after its brand was re-energised without a massive dent in its pocket.

This company had long enjoyed a sterling reputation for its branded luxury goods from Europe and the United States. Its niche market were the high-end users of luxury items. But within the last decade the store had lagging sales. The brand had become diluted, poor management, poor merchandising and a lack of customer relationship management drove many of the store’s clients’ away and the company found itself in the black.

A new CEO was hired and as she examined the company and her role, she knew that one of the cornerstones to move the company into a position of profitability was to focus on the company’s linkage to its client base. From the outset three things were clear: 1) the new CEO had to make brand building part of the strategic plan, 2) the company had no money and could not rely heavily on mass media to promote their brand and 3) all the alternative approaches to brand building had to be integrated into an overall concept of the stores’ identity.

These were daunting tasks. But the 42-year-old female executive-who had arrived fresh from a top-level merchandising job in New York was not the faint-hearted type. Her first task was to get rid of her ad agency. Although the agency had served them moderately well, the directors of the luxury good store were not satisfied with the alternatives they presented for their media strategies.
“ I didn’t want to spend large sums of money on ads that reached no one. Clearly we had lost focus, we needed to recreate our lost luster, reach out to clients who had no longer identified with us. We had to start from scratch with only a name that had some residual good will.”

Clearly this was a woman who knew her stuff and instead of an agency she decided she would work closely with a brand consultant.. When they met the consultant was struck by the CEOs glamour, sense of style and knowledge of the high end market. “You are the epitomy of your brand,” she declared. The brand expert decided to increase the director’s visibility and suggested a series of personality profiles in the press (free publicity), a weekly lifestyle column and a radio ad where the CEO talked about lifestyles.

The executive was becoming her brand’s champion because the consultant felt she possessed the authority and the ability to ensure that her company’s brand identity was being delivered in a way that rang true.

The strategy worked; former customers like what they read and heard. They identified with the new CEO and because they wanted the lifestyle she eschewed they came in to the stores in droves. The stores were starting to become relevant to its audience once again.

There were other strategies employed, additional approaches to fuel word of mouth communications included placement of the store’s personal care line of products at elite and selective fitness centers. The company also started sponsoring women friendly events. Under much media hype, they launched a Fund to assist women with the cost of their cervical cancer operations. They also co- sponsored a large commercial bank’s 5k Breast Cancer Awareness Run. Sponsorship was viewed as a way of bolstering the brand’s image among concentrated groups of potential customers.
“Our aim was not to create visibility for visibility’s sake; without exception our efforts were directed at supporting the client’s brand identity,” says the consultant.

With sales on the rise and brand awareness increased, the CEO, who was now into her second year, felt that the time had come to involve her customers more intimately in the brand . She created events that would create a personal experience between the brand and the client. And therein was born free sampling days, customer appreciation nights, customer loyalty programmes. And once again sales soared.

The CEO inherited many liabilities when she joined her new firm but the liabilities forced her to think creatively. It didn’t happen in a New York minute. Developing alternative approaches to brand building is never easy but with dedication and commitment from those at the top, finding alternatives to mass media advertising can be worth the time and personal investment.