Best Billboards

Here are two of the best Pittsburgh billboards I’ve seen lately. One’s silly and one’s clever.

This billboard for Fodi Jewelers cracks me up every time I drive by it.  It’s not the use of the word ‘chicks’ that got me, it’s the fact that they put baby chicks on the billboard.

Too many puns!

Yes, we get the pun that studs is either diamond studs or studly men. And both of those meanings of the word “stud” make sense in this context. I’m just glad they didn’t put some pieces of lumber on the billboard, too. I have to say the image of the baby chickens is just silly and makes me laugh every day.

 

Awesome play on words

This billboard created by Marcus Thomas for just the Pittsburgh market makes perfect wordplay sense. It’s the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and Pittsburghers will totally get this reference. Makes me wanna buy some chips right now!

Zagat Rates Pittsburgh Food?

Zagat will be rating Pittsburgh restaurants in 2013. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, “Currently, the only reviews for the Pittsburgh-area on Zagat.com are for chain restaurants that were taken from their recent National Chain Restaurant Survey.”

Why is Zagat so popular? I think it’s because people like to hear what others think is good, go try it themselves, and get in a big huff when they don’t agree.

People have a lot of opinions. And people have a lot of opinions about food.

A close friend of mine recently shared how he was having lunch at a popular new spot and the chef asked his group how they enjoyed a new menu item. Even though these people had no experience owning or running a restaurant, everyone felt they were qualified to give an opinion.

Restaurants are businesses that serve people and thrive on loyal customers. Want to build a loyal customer base that loves your services? Listen to the opinions of your customers, your audience. Show them you respect their input. You don’t have to promise to deliver everything they ask you for, but you have to at least give some time to listen.

That’s why I created My Food Notebook for my most important “business” – my family. I don’t run a restaurant, I’m not even that great in the kitchen, but I know how to build strong relationships! My Food Notebook lets my kids to give feedback on the food we prepare and serve. It helps me learn what they like so I can offer a variety of foods that are similar to their favorites. They get the comfort of familiarity and I help them learn how to tackle new things in life.

I’m launching My Food Notebook at Marty’s Market on December 8, 2012 at 12 Noon. All are welcome! We’ll be encouraging kids and adults to try some new foods and give their opinions. We’ll have some prizes, too!

Try it in your own life. No one like to have their opinions ignored. What might be easier in your life if you simply gave people a chance to express themselves?

 

Seriously? You still don’t have social media profiles?

 

Take your pick!

A client of mine wrote a book. Our publicity plan involved a virtual book tour and we hoped some talented,exciting bloggers in her field would review her book and visit her site.

It’s a great book – full of practical steps to take to achieve a goal. It’s not too expensive and really bolsters her position as an expert on her topic. It would get great reviews.

Problem: some of these bloggers we approached couldn’t access her site. I freaked out – what do you mean some people can’t access your site?

“Not the first time this has happened,” my client said. “My web team tells me there’s nothing to do.”

I am not a computer or internet security expert, so please don’t expect an explanation but if some settings are “too high” then many people can’t view her website and access her extensive knowledge.

I am the kind of person who likes things to work the way I want them to. I didn’t care that their settings were too high, but I did care that these excellent bloggers wouldn’t do a book review because they couldn’t check out my clients’ sweet site!

Thank goodness she had well-developed social media platforms.

Thank goodness this client had an active Facebook page! Thank goodness she had a lively Twitter stream! Thank goodness she curated interesting content on Pinterest and was frequently updating her YouTube channel! Woo! Way to go client!!

Do you seriously still not have profiles on at least one or two platforms? What are you waiting for?

 

 

Adults like stories, too

 

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road

Take your readers on a journey!

In 2012 I published my first children’s book, The Bumpy Grumpy Road. It’s a metaphor intended to help children understand that they are in charge of their emotions, actions and reactions.

As parents bought the book for their kids, I heard more than one time “This book helps me, too.”

And when you read the story behind the creation of this book, you’ll understand why I’m not surprised. The metaphor was easy for my preschooler to understand and to remind me when I was driving down my own bumpy, grumpy road.

Adult readers don’t need fancy multisyllabic words to engage them. Adults need a strong message with a compelling storyline that gives them something useful for their daily challenges. Next time you’re writing for your co-workers, your manager, your current customers and your potential customers, make sure you’ve told a good story.

Word Choice is Key

If you don't know what this means, better ask a local.

The language and words we choose show if we’re locals or tourists – and if we know what we’re talking about.

When you visit New York City, you want to go to “the Hi Line” not “Hi Line Park.” And if you’re looking for good Cuban food you ask the taxi driver to take you to Broadway and Houston- but you pronounce it “How-ston.” Then you’re speaking like a local.

When you visit Pittsburgh, don’t be offended if you someone mentions that you’re not a Yinzer but do be offended if someone in Cork, Ireland calls you a langer.

When you’re looking for someone to write your copy – whether it’s for the web, ads, brochures or a simple customer letter – make sure you’re using a writer who knows how to speak the vernacular. Give me a call and let’s talk about the language your customers will understand best.

Do You Need a Lemonade Stand Approach with Customers?

It’s never to early to learn how to talk to customers.

Lemonade Stand Proving Ground

My kids are learning to do this at ages 7, 5 and 2 thanks to their very first lemonade stand. We live near a park and have a relatively constant flow of potentially thirsty neighbors walking past our house. So my boys decided they could earn extra cash and my husband and I supported their entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the first things they had to master was not making lemonade (they are old hats at that) but building a relationship with their customers. Each of my children have different areas of skill here:

  • One is more articulate and can enunciate clearly.
  • One is more willing to engage strangers in their interests.
  • One is more aggressive about making the ask.

Working together, they are a flawless team. But when one loses interest or has to run inside to use the bathroom, their sales process slows.

As I oversee their efforts from my C-Suite (a lawn chair on the porch) I realize what a delicate dance it is to engage customers online and try to channel each of the three heads of Cerberus (not a bad name for their lemonade business…) equally.

Since our lemonade stand opened, I’ve become very aware of this when I’m writing sales copy, web copy, customer letters or social media content. I check to see if I’ve allowed one approach to dominate the others. When it does, I just call for a potty break.

Who is monitoring the balance in your content?

Should You Deliver Bad News in Person?

Showing Emotion via smiley faces

Emoji add some tone to written messages - but nothing replaces real face-to-face communication

Should you deliver bad news in person?

I would argue yes.

Experts say that 70% of our message is carried in non-verbal communication, that is how we convey meaning without words. The height of our eyebrows, the position of our arms, the volume of our voice, even the rate we blink all carry important information about our message to our listeners. People believe the messages they receive from non-verbal channels more than the words they hear. Purely written communication loses a huge amount of information and is so easily misinterpreted.

This spring, the Cellcom Green Bay marathon was called off due to heat and a lot of runners were angry.

This spring many cities experienced unseasonably warm weather. The well-known Boston Marathon reported that just under 2,000 runners received some kind of medical attention due to the heat. My local marathon, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, was at a red flag due to heat.

Unfortunately the organizers of the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon missed an opportunity to connect with their customers – the 51% of runners who didn’t get official results. Only a written statement appeared on their website, explaining their concern for runner safety.

If they were my client, I would have recommended creating and sharing a simple video from the race director, expressing regret for the fact that the weather was out of their control and that runner safety was, and is, their number one priority. And if the race director didn’t have the communication skills to express that perfect mix of regret, compassion and executive decision-making power, then find someone with authority who could.

It’s so easy to share videos today, thanks to smartphones and the variety of social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and via video sharing on LinkedIn)  all businesses should be thinking of ways to maximize the delivery of their messages to their customers – not just 30%.

 

How to Write Positively Without Sounding Fake

Star Award

Reinforce the Positive

One of my favorite aspects of LinkedIn, besides Answers, is Recommendations. I’m not shy about asking for Recommendations, and all the pundits will tell that waiting patiently for someone to take the initiative to recommend you is fruitless. You must make the request.

And if people are following that advice, chances are you’ll be asked to make recommendations for others at some point. I have! In “How to Write About Something Negative Without Negativity“, I discussed how to write a letter of recommendation that conveys when someone has done a terrible job without coming across like a complete troll.

When you’re asked to write a recommendation for someone you truly feel made a difference, providing high quality work, constantly offered creative and practical solutions and kept up a professional attitude all the while – how do you write a recommendation that person deserves without sounding cliche?

Give that person a STAR.

The STAR approach will help you be specific and really lay out the deserved kudos and endorsement.

  • Situation – Lay out the scene. What was the environment or time frame? Were there unusual factors involved like it new product bugs, supply chain failures, staff shortages? Be specific and show you know the facts.
  • Task – Talk about the job that needed to be done. Close a big deal with a customer? Implement a new process? Develop a new branding strategy? Again, be specific.
  • Action – Highlight what the person did to successfully complete each task and how they did it. Include powerful, positive verbs!
  • Result – Did the project come in under budget? Did the team seal the deal on a new account? Focus on the real outcomes and again, be as specific as possible. If you saw really great work, you don’t need fancy language. You just need to accurately and specifically

 

More advice on LinkedIn Recommendations from Mashable.com  

 

 

How do you handle negative comments?

Many businesses worry about having Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest pages or a blog that allows

Prepare for best & worst case!

people to post comments. They wonder, “If people complain about us on these platforms, it will make us look bad!”

What really looks bad is not receiving negative comments, but handling them poorly. Take a look at this negative review that one of my clients received:

Review of “The Business”
Posted by “Customer”
The Business advertises itself as place to help not only normally developing children, but one with disabilities. I was informed that their social butterflies program would be good for my son with autism as they have a “developmentalist” who leads the class. I was also told by my wrap around agency that the agency which head behavior services that I could not take my son’s TSS to the program because The Business has their own developmentist and in essence it would be like paying two people the (TSS and the developmentalist at The Business) to do the same job. So I went to The Business with my autistic son who is almost 3 to find that the developmentalist completely ignored him. She never prompted him once to do anything. She never gave me any instructions and expected me to figure it out on my own. And ontop she keep opening the door to class which allowed my son to keep running out. In fact the main doors to building were wide open to the street!!!! Completely irresponsibly and lacking in understanding of someone with autism!!! Clearly The Business is falsely advertising about their programs or their developmentalist is not qualified. I was disappointed and also do not understand how they are also allowed to provide services for the county.

Would you choose to respond to or ignore this comment?

I advised this client to respond and to respond in a positive, nonspecific way that encouraged the parent to speak directly to the service provider about the experience. Here’s what they wrote:

Business Response
Greetings “Customer”. Thank you for your feedback. It appears that there has been some miscommunication along the line, so please feel free to be in touch with us directly to further discuss. We value all children and their families, so we hope we can chat with you about your feedback and concerns.

It’s a great reply that shows this business watches it’s online reputation, that it seeks to assist customers who did not have a great experience, but also doesn’t air dirty laundry or get into battles online. It’s the best way to handle negative comments in this social age.

Have you ever received a negative review of your business? How did you handle it?

How to write about something negative without negativity

Take a look at this letter of recommendation below.

To Whom It May Concern:

C has been an intern at XX XXXX XXX Retirement Community since September of 2011.

C has a genuine interest in helping people. She has had an interest in the elder population since she was younger as her mother is a nurse and has worked with the XXX Communities for many years. C also shows an interest in social work and aspects related to social work.

C has been exposed to different aspects of elder social work including, but not limited to: interviewing skills, cognitive assessments, clinical documentation, and Medicare rules and regulations.

As part of her current responsibilities at XX XXX, she is working with the Assisted Living staff to create a weekly group for Residents to discuss topics/articles of her choosing. She is also currently working on Life Reviews for two Residents (one long term care Resident and an Assisted Living Resident).

I would recommend that C continue her social work training at the University Of XXX School Of Social Work and complete two full internships to continue her training in the field of social work.

In this letter, the most important things the writer is trying to say are left unsaid.

A colleague of mine submitted this letter to the university program directors for her intern. Her goal was to list the assignments and responsibilities of her intern without suggesting that the intern had any competency or skill. She hoped to convey, by leaving out any positive words, that the intern is awful.

When you manage staff or interns, performance reviews for poor performance can be a challenge. It’s important to be honest and clear without coming across like you have a personal grudge.

How do you handle these situations? Are you completely blunt about failures and shortcomings? Or do you strive  to avoid sounding like a big whiner even though you must write about something that’s going just terribly?