eBusiness Blog

How to Build Your Corporate Brand Through Community Investment

How to Build Your Corporate Brand Through Community Investment

Think giving away your time and money is a bad idea? Think again.

Have you ever thought about building your small business profile by doing something big businesses are very good at?

I’m talking about corporate sponsorship.

We all know that the Pepsi and Coca-Cola’s of the world sponsor events and not-for-profit organizations in a big way, and then they ensure that we know they are doing just that. They have strategically aligned themselves with the reputation of an event or organization that may appear to have nothing to do with soft drinks, but Pepsi or Coca-Cola has decided that aligning themselves with said organization would benefit them in some way.

Newsflash: it’s not just a selfless act.

It’s actually very smart. Some corporations in Canada are required to give a certain amount of their profit back to charity, and the smart ones do this strategically. It’s not just the pet cause of the CEO (although it could be.) It’s also a conscious effort to do one of the following:
  1. Support a community event that benefits the company’s ideal clients or customers
  2. Aligns the company with a not-for-profit that showcases the company’s values in a bigger way
  3. Supports a cause that the company wants to visibly show support for
  4. Highlight the “giving back” desire of a company by saying “thank you” to their community through sponsoring a well-loved local event.
  5. Showcase their commitment to social enterprise and demonstrate they are an organization that can be trusted.
Edelman Public Relations is a company that conducts extensive research every year to understand how trustworthy a company might be. According to a past report by the Edelman Trust Barometer, 85 per cent of global citizens are counting on business to address societal challenges while pursuing their own interests. What’s more, some 55 per cent of global consumers say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. [i] Similarly, smart not-for-profits will seek out corporate sponsors in an equally strategic way. Which companies would they be proud to have represent them? Who would they be thrilled to have aligned with their organizational mission? And how can the not-for-profit say “thank you” to their corporate sponsors? As a sponsor, you can expect to be recognized in any number of ways. AND, as a sponsor, you are completely entitled to request certain kinds of recognition if you wish.  Here are some ideas of what you can expect from the not-for-profit you support:
  • Be recognized according to the level of gift you gave. Sponsored events often recognize their sponsors by categorizing their sponsors into levels. Eg: Naming rights, Major, Lead, Platinum, Founding, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Affiliate.
  • Sponsors can also be cultivated for various activities or sub-categories within an event – for different award categories at an awards ceremony, for example. Or table, dinner or program sponsor.
  • Sponsors can also expect to be recognized through:
    • Pre-event promotion
    • Invitations
    • Links to sponsor from your website and social media pages
    • Event signage
    • Verbal thank-you’s at the event
    • A gift
Now, what if you are a really small shop and you just want to help out in a more affordable way? Let’s get creative!
  1. Give a small donation to your charity of choice instead of giving client gifts during the holidays
  2. Donate your time to a local charity in an area that you normally get paid for
  3. Volunteer at the Board level or in other ways to align yourself with that organization
  4. Rally support for a cause and showcase your involvement (eg. Put a company team together in a charity race or community challenge event)
  5. Take your holiday time and go on a holiday “with a cause” in a country that could really use your help. And then let it be known that you did that.
The key to all of these options, is to ensure you are choosing to support an organization that is aligned with your company mission or brand; emulates your company or personal values, and will serve your business from a reputation and business-building agenda, in addition to supporting a charitable cause. Let’s make this “win-win” and build community while we’re building our business. [article_about_author author="susanelford"] [i] https://www.raconteur.net/business/the-win-win-with-giving

Is Your Business PR Ready?

Is Your Business PR Ready?

5 Ways to Build Public Relationships With Your Clients and Customers in the New Year

In the age of social media – which is here to stay if anyone was wondering – the traditional field of public relations has taken a shift online in many more ways than the PR gurus first predicted. In addition to simply being another “vehicle” to “get your message out” it has become a whole forum and place to build relationships. Public Relations has always been about relationships in one way or the other but never more than now. In fact one very well-respected company in Canada, formerly known as Argyle Public Relations, has recently renamed their company Argyle Public Relationships. It’s the sign of the times that differentiates Public Relations from being a traditional PR company to more of what the field is really all about – building relationships. And why is social media a gift to PR? Because now, more than ever, companies can build relationships with their clients and customers outside of lunches, client dinners and networking events. Relationships can be formed, fostered and nurtured online. When was the last time you met someone online outside of a dating chat room? I have many colleagues, clients and service providers who I have never actually met in person. We have developed relationships through online connections, social media conversations, and video meetings over Zoom and Skype. In many ways, I am in closer contact with my virtual partners and clients than those business connections with whom I typically only meet face-to-face. Virtual relationships are available at the flick of a button, the touch of a “thumbs up,” and the speed of a share. So, when I ask if your business is “PR Ready,” I am asking are you ready, in 2018, to build relationships with your clients and customers? Are you ready to build Public Relationships? Let’s take a look at 5 ways you can build public relationships with your clients and customers in 2018.
  1. Host an event

    This can be in-person or online. Holding regular client events for the people who keep your business, well, a business, is a good thing.   These can even be annual events, but having a way that you connect with your clients regularly in a way that is meaningful to them will keep your business going for years to come.   You could host an annual summer BBQ or holiday cocktail party, perhaps an event that’s tied to a local holiday (for us in Calgary, Calgary Stampede parties are de rigeuer for 10 days in July), or is there a speaker you could bring in who could elevate your company’s brand or serve your clients in some way?   Creating a way to connect with your clients – in person or online – in a way that brings them together will help build your public relationships.
  2. Make news

    If you have something to announce, a patent you can boast about, a new program you have developed, a milestone you have achieved – these are all things you can make your own news about.   News-making is also about building relationships.     Even though “announcing” news is “one-way” communications, which means your company is sending information out and not necessarily receiving it back, your clients and customers will relate to the news in some way.   With social media, you can encourage interaction with your announcement, thereby encouraging the Holy Grail of public relationships: “two-way” communications.
  3. Create conversation

    Do you have anything interesting to say? Does anyone you know or respect have anything interesting to say?   You don’t even have to be the one with the original thought, if you can create conversation, you are having a relationship with those with whom you engage in conversation.   Identify those topics of conversation that interest your ideal customer or client group, and have those conversations online. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linked In are all great places to have those conversations in a daily, real-time way.
  4. Host a Training

    Would your customers or clients benefit from free or low-cost trainings? Hosting a meet-up or short workshop can bring your clients great value in addition to giving your company exposure.   These meet-ups can be in-person or online with similar result – creating conversation, and building relationships with the people who matter most to you – your clients and your potential clients.
  5. Publish Content

    Publishing content is now as easy as a free WordPress template. And while in days gone by publishing content was a decidedly one-way activity, now when you hit “live” on your web content it’s instantly in the public domain and ready to invite conversation.   Encourage relating to your audience by posing questions and perhaps even sparking controversy. What gets your ideal customer hot under the collar, or inspires them to sit up and take notice? Write about those things and you will be adding to the relationship you have with your customers.
[article_about_author author="susanelford"]

Communicating to maintain effective client relationships

Communicating to maintain effective client relationships

How you communicate directly impacts your client relationships

How often do you get yourself in trouble because a situation has been misunderstood? How often do you have to tell people what you "really" meant or that you didn't like how you learned about a situation? How upset do your clients and customers get about a product being unavailable? How much do you dread letting them know that the product isn't available because of how they will react? All these scenarios often have nothing to do with what you need to communicate but rather with how you deliver the message. How you deliver the message plays out both in what I like to call big "C" communications – big corporate announcements and organizational strategy – and in little "c" communications – emails and difficult conversations for example. Believe it or not, much of the way we think and behave is unconscious. What we value, what we believe, our memory of a situation and past behaviours all feed into how we receive and deliver information. [clickToTweet tweet="When we become aware of how we come across we can take control of how we communicate with others." quote="When we become aware of how we come across we can take control of how we communicate with others." theme="style1"] And this isn't just the "soft stuff" of business. Neuroscientists have been studying human behaviour for decades. I turned to Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton to provide some scientific backing for what has been intuitive for me for a long time. Here are four ways neuroscience tells us we can help our audience be receptive to our message. To conclude, I'll give you five practical tips to put this science into use.
  • Mirror your audience's actions and behaviours

    Have you ever walked into a restaurant or bar and noticed how people are interacting with each other? Have you noticed groups of people who seem to dress similarly, or how married people seem to come to even look alike over time? Matching and mirroring is when you take on someone else's style of behaviour as well as their skills, values, or beliefs in order to create rapport. This will make your audience feel comfortable and more likely to listen to what you have to say. You can deliberately match and mirror someone by:
    • Body postures and gestures
    • How quickly you breathe
    • How quickly you speak or move
    • How your voice sounds
    CAUTION: You don't want to mimic people. There is a fine line between moving in rhythm with someone and fitting in, or mimicry. People will know if you are being insincere.
  • Listen so you know what people are looking for

    If you want to really have people buy into what you are saying, then you must truly be present and LISTEN. And that means making sure they know they have been heard. Acknowledge their point of view, understand where they are coming from and above all, be patient.
  • Build rapport when communicating virtually

    To build rapport in today's age of virtual offices, make sure you:
    • Speak more slowly to ensure people can hear you
    • Make sure you have people's attention before you make your point
    • Use people's names more often than you might in face-to-face meetings so they feel included and heard
    • Visualise the person at the end of the phone line as you listen to the conversation
    • If you are in a video-conference, look into the camera and appear to be visually present (no escaping to Facebook during teleconferences here!)
    • Summarise the meeting afterwards and confirm via email what was decided upon
  • Use multiple ways of communicating to make sure your message gets across:

    Find out who your audience is. If they are audio listeners, the words you use will be important. If your audience is more visual, then graphs, charts and pictures will help them remember information. Kinaesthetic audiences will focus on the tone of your voice and the feeling they experienced upon receiving the information.
So what does this mean for your daily interactions with your clients?
  1. Ensure you have their attention before sharing your message.
  2. Did they understand what you had to say? Ask questions to probe their response to your conversation.
  3. Use language and mannerisms your clients can relate to – use mirroring to deliver messages in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
  4. Follow-up with email after decisions are made to ensure you're both on the same page.
  5. Have you inspired them to act? Find out what they care about so you can better motivate them to participate in your desired outcome.
Following the tips included in this article will shape how you deliver your message and guarantee improved communications with your clients. Take some time to truly understand and internalize these techniques and you will be well on your way to avoiding difficult situations. [article_about_author author="susanelford"]

Top 10 Tips to Building a Balanced Business

Top 10 Tips to Building a Balanced Business I started my business to create more work/life balance. Honest. Ok. You can stop laughing now…. Anytime! If you are still laughing at the naiveté of my younger self, then you must be in business for yourself as well. You know all too well about the many long hours you put in; the constant drain on your time and your bank account; and the passion that comes from working day and night on either a) something that you love or b) something that you are now so far into that you can see no way out. What if I told you, you could build a business that was balanced from the get-go? Well, I guess that involves understanding what it means to be “in balance” in your business. Most people assume the definition of work/life balance involves spending less time at work and more time doing something other than work that you love. A quick online search brought up these definitions, all rooted in a similar thought: “Work-life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). This is related to the idea of “lifestyle choice.” – Wikipedia “Work-life balance is knowing what feeds your energy.” – Jacki Zehner, CEO of Women Moving Millions “Work-life balance is about getting more sleep.” – Amy Errett, cofounder of Madison Reed “My secret to having work-life balance is to schedule in my fun.” – Monif Clarke, CEO of Monif C. Plus Sizes And... “Work-life balance means making decisions around where, who and what you’re going to sacrifice, because you can’t do it all,” – Nike Taranto, Cofounder of Plated.com I also turned to Richard Branson for his tips on achieving a healthy work/life balance. That man seems to be always having a good time, and with his success, I figured he must have some “secrets” up his sleeve. Here are his:
  1. Rise Early
  2. Limit Screen Time
  3. Write lists
  4. Make time for sports
  5. Make time for loved ones
  6. Embrace something new (or do something new every day)
I like how Branson just ASSUMES you are going to love what you do every day. It didn’t even make his list! So what I’m hearing from the above is work-life balance involves prioritizing; doing things you enjoy; having fun; and sacrificing some things. I agree with all those statements – except for the word sacrifice. I believe in choosing what’s most important and prioritizing what will make you the MOST happy, fulfilled and successful in your business and in your life. Here is my definition of work/life balance:

“You are “in balance” when you are happy.”

Yikes, now that’s a new can of worms to open, not only am I asking you what it means to be balanced, now I’m also asking you what it means to be happy too? So, let’s translate that to starting up a business that you love to work in. What do you need to be happy (and consequently balanced) in your business?

Here are my top 10 tips to being balanced and happy in your business:

  • Start a business doing something you love
  • Hire out the pieces you don’t love doing yourself.
  • Honour your need for rest when you need it
  • Cultivate the important relationships in your life so you don’t replace all of them with work
  • Run your business from somewhere you love being, day in and day out
  • Set up your business so you, as a person, thrive in it
  • Decide up front what it means to be successful in your Balanced Business – and make sure you count more than money in your Success Variables – what does success mean to YOU and to your business?
  • Surround yourself with people you enjoy working with and who share your values in your business.
  • Do something just for you every day.
  • Know what YOU need to be happy.
Yes, when you are running your own business, it all starts with you. The more you know yourself, your limitations, your personal gifts and what fills your tank, the more you can create a life and a business that you love to be in and where you will feel balanced, no matter how much you work and no matter what other people may say. Because, if you are working most of the time and LOVING it, I would argue that you are balanced. All this because you get to define it and you get to create your own Personal Business Equation – which defines success on your terms. What do you need to feel in balance in your business or anywhere for that matter? The more you know that up front, the more you can be assured you will be enjoying the fruits of your labour for many, many years. [article_about_author author="susanelford"]

A ‘How-to’ Guide for Earning Small Business Media Exposure

A 'How-to' Guide for Earning Small Business Media Exposure You have dreams of being a guest on Oprah Winfrey. The Today Show is calling your name (they just don't know it yet!)... Even a short media appearance on the local breakfast show would be great. Ok. Can I just have a few lines in the business section of the city newspaper? Anyone?? What does it take to get that traditional media exposure you are coveting? If they only knew about you, you'd be busier than all get out! You just need one big break... right? Right? Wrong. (unfortunately) Building a media presence for your small business takes time, consistency and the know-how to get yourself noticed in front of media audiences who are interested in what you have to say. And notice I am using the word "earning" media exposure instead of "getting" or "securing" media exposure. Yes, you have to earn it. Unless you are paying for it (which is called advertising, by the way) it is not up to you if you will get covered, how much you will covered, or even what the media might say about you. That, my friend, is all up to the media outlet who is telling your story for you. That's not to say you can't exercise some influence, however. You can absolutely doll yourself up (meaning, your business) and make what you have to say attractive to the potential media outlet. It is important that you have something to say that people want to hear. Here are nine steps to earning traditional media exposure for your small business:
  1. Know What You're Selling

    This may seem obvious to you, but often this is the first stumbling block for my   clients. They know what they are selling, and what their services are, but can they explain it in a way that people will clearly understand?   If you were called for that appearance on The Today Show, for example, what would you say? What is your story? Is it compelling?   It is important to develop your key messages and be able to deliver them clearly, concisely, and with impact.
  2. Know Who You're Selling To

    Who is your key audience or ideal customer? Who do you think would most benefit from what you are selling?   Another way to think of it is why do you want people to know about you? What do you want them to do with the information?   Once you know your ideal customer, you can better tailor your message and marketing and communications strategy to reach them.
  3. Know Where Your Customers Hang Out

    Now that you know what you're selling and who you're selling it to, where do they hang out? What online media do they use? What traditional media do they use?   How can you reach them? What television shows do they watch? What do they read? Where do they consume their media?   All these factors must be considered as you are developing your media relations strategy.
  4. Make a Media Outlet List of Contacts

    Now that you know what media you would like to appear in, who do you need to reach to earn that appearance? Do you have a relationship with them already?   If not, depending on how big your media ambitions are, you would be wise to hire someone to help you who does know who to talk to and who has a relationship with the media, or you can introduce yourself and go from there.
  5. What Would Interest Them About Your Product/Business?

    Once you know who you want to reach, get familiar with their media outlet. What kind of stories do they like to tell? And how?   Do they do on-camera interviews? Do they do 30-second clips at the end of a new cast? Do they publish in-depth interviews?   How the message will appear can help you frame what and how you share your story with them.
  6. How Can You Tell An Effective Story?

    For example, if you are a sporting equipment company and you want to cover your new product line, there are a number of ways you could go about gaining interest in your product.   You can simply share the factors that make your product great. Or, you could promote the person behind the idea who created the product.   Another way could be to host an event that promotes your product and invite media to the event so they can see your product in action.   There are many different ways to tell the same story.
  7. Pitch Your Idea

    Now that you have your plan together, it's time to pitch your idea.   Most news outlets prefer email. Make sure your email subject line is to the point and attention-getting. And be sure to include information about your story idea in the body of the email.   You can attach it in a document as well, but the fewer "clicks" a media contact has to take to review what you have to say, the better the chance they will actually read it.   And that's the first step. You can follow up with another direct message or even a phone call to ensure they received your email, but it's best not to start there.
  8. Tell The Story

    Once you are successful in gaining the attention of your media contact, it's time for you to tell your story.   The story may have already been in the body of the email; however, you may also have the opportunity for a media interview or to meet your media contact at a live event that you are appearing at.   Be sure you are ready to answer those questions from the media and if you only have 30 seconds to tell your story, make sure those 30 seconds count!
  9. Repeat

    Whew! That was a lot of work. Great! You earned some media attention and scored a few interviews and some media coverage. Fantastic! Pat yourself on the back and be open for more opportunities to do that again.   Depending on your product, you may have opportunity to develop relationships with key media and pitch ideas monthly. Other businesses may just go out twice a year or even annually. Still others may not go out at all. It's up to you to decide what you can manage and how often media exposure would benefit your business.
[article_about_author author="susanelford"]

Why Solopreneurs Should Create a Communications Plan for Their Business

Why Solopreneurs Should Create a Communications Plan for Their Business Small business owners and solopreneurs often think communications planning is for big business. Yes, communications is the stuff of corporations, governments, and not-for-profit organizations, and it can benefit you, the small business owner or solopreneur as well. Large organizations who are keen on reputation management, media relations, rolling out annual reports and extensive internal communications programs rely on their communications team to craft the message, to write and create the material, to deliver the program and to keep the organization top of mind with their target audience. These are all things that you need to do as well, no matter how big or small your business is. Here is a quick quiz on whether or not you need to bring a communications expert onto your team:
  1. Can you answer what your business does in one, clean, sentence?
  2. Do you know what reputation your business has?
  3. Do your customers/target audiences know your name?
  4. Is your website current and does it accurately reflect you and your business?
  5. Are you clear on how much you need to talk to your customers/target audience and do you have a plan for that?
If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure” to any of the questions above, then you could definitely benefit from hiring a communications consultant to help you through some of these things. A good consultant will start by asking you about your business. Why did you start it? What do you love about it? What do you want people to know about your business? What call to action do you want your target audience to have once they hear your message? Once you can answer these questions, you can start creating a communications plan for your business. The funny thing is, many business owners think they know the answers to these questions; however, once they try to voice it, they stumble. Here’s an example of how these conversations often go: Consultant: So, you want people to know about your business. What do you want them to know? Business Owner: Well, that we’re awesome, of course! Consultant: Great! I know you’re awesome, and you know you’re awesome. Why are you awesome? Business Owner: Because we offer a great product. There’s nothing else out there like it on the market! Consultant: Great! So, what does your product do? This is where you start getting into what’s important. What do you do? What sets you apart from your competition? How will your customers find you? How often will you communicate with them and when? Do you have a feedback mechanism to hear from your customers? Do you even know what they really want? A good communications plan will contain the following components:
  1. Background on your Business
  2. Business Goals
  3. Communications Goals (big picture) & Objectives (smaller picture)
  4. Target Audience
  5. Key Messages (for each target audience)
  6. Communications Strategy
  7. Action Plan & Timeline
  8. Budget
  9. Evaluation methodology (how will you know you’ve been successful?)
Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. You can even take a stab at this yourself, regardless of your communications experience. And, the more you have pre-prepared when you meet with a consultant, if you decide to go that route, the more they will love you for it. Particularly the business goals. Nobody but you can tell you what your goals are. What does success look like for your business? Let’s start there. What are your goals for your business?  For three months, six months and one year from now. Once you have your business goals clearly defined, the rest will flow. And you’ll be well on your way to developing your first communications plan. [article_about_author author="susanelford"]

Why Speaking Engagements Don’t Have to Be Nail-Biting

Why Speaking Engagements Don’t Have to Be Nail-Biting So, you’ve finally launched your website. (check) You’ve got a decent social media campaign going – you figure. (check) You’ve got business coming in. (check?) And now you’re ready for the next big thing: THE STAGE. You know you need to add “speaking engagements” to your annual marketing calendar and you’re not sure where to start. Yes, nail-biting, isn’t it? Well, if you picture yourself on-stage “a la Oprah” and your knees start shaking, not to fear.... It doesn’t have to start that way. In fact, I can guarantee you it didn’t start that way for Oprah either. Speaking engagements can simply mean this: you speak one-to-many vs. one-to-one. What you may say to one person, you now say to more than one at the same time. You don’t even have to stand up. In fact, I did a speaking engagement recently where I got to sit down the whole time. It was a very casual presentation to a group of about a dozen female entrepreneurs in a pub. It was casual, it was fun, it definitely wasn’t intimidating, but it definitely was a speaking engagement. I had to write an intro about myself, they promoted me to their membership, and I spoke in front of people with my prepared text. That was a speaking engagement. So, if you are just starting out in your business and you do not yet have a line outside your door of people clamouring to hear you speak.

Here’s a “how-to-guide” to launching that line-up and securing that first speaking engagement:

  1. Write your signature talk

    Honestly, this is probably the hardest part. What are you going to say? I would recommend developing a relatively short, 20 – 30 minute presentation where you speak about the core of your business. The goal? To generate interest in you and your business. I definitely don’t recommend selling from the stage at this point, your whole goal will be to generate interest in you and your business by providing value in a 20-30 minute presentation. You want people to walk away feeling that talk was a good use of their time and for them to consider contacting you in the future for possible work opportunities. At the early stages of talk-giving, you are asking your audience for important collateral – their time -- in exchange for your time and knowledge. It’s important to make you worth their time.
  2. Know your target audience

    Who do you want to have hire you? Once you narrow down your target audience and your ideal customer, you can start sourcing where they hang out and what they might want to hear in a short, 20-30 minute snippet of information delivery. The better you understand your people, the more value you can deliver in a presentation you prepare.
  3. Identify where your target audience gathers.

    There are groups everywhere these days who gather in the name of networking, promoting their business and learning about topics related to their business or personal growth. Identify where these groups are and identify the best ones for you to connect with. Check out meet-ups, networking organizations in your area, and eventually conferences and gatherings where participants pay to hear a number of speakers talk. Aligning yourself with organizations who already have a following of your ideal customer, will provide endorsement of you and give you a leg-up before you’ve even hit the proverbial stage.
  4. Introduce yourself to the group organizer

    Arrange a coffee date or meeting with the lead of the organizations you identify. Find out what they’re all about to determine if there is a fit for you to either join the organization yourself and/or become someone they would have come speak to their regular meeting. Be ready with #5 (below) if they are interested.
  5. Prepare your “sell sheet” or promotional bio

    You will need this to both promote yourself to be invited to speak and as well to promote to the membership of the organization, so members are enticed to come out to hear you speak. It should include your photo, a brief bio about you and why you are someone with something they want to hear.
  6. Let your networks know you are speaking

    Now that you have secured your first speaking engagement, let your networks know you are speaking. You will undoubtedly get a “I didn’t know you gave presentations! Good for you! I know another group who you could really help.” And then the word-of-mouth promotional chain begins and lo and behold, speaking engagement #2 is right around the corner.
After you have gotten a taste for how your Signature Talk is received, you can tweak and amend it to ensure you reach your ideal client and serve them in a way that turns into new business for you. And, once the requests start rolling in for you to speak, and your time becomes more valuable, you can start charging for that talk. Look out Oprah! [article_about_author author="susanelford"]