Setting up email newsletter

Happy New Year! I love trying new things and here I go again. I’m trying a new way to stay in touch with people: an email newsletter. Check out the upper right area of my website and you’ll see this little green form:

Now I Have a Newsletter!

Now I Have a Newsletter!

I’m not going to send out emails every day or even every week. I have one email scheduled a month, highlighting different fun activities, books and events I’m offering to kids and families. I’ve sent out a few so far in the end of 2015 and had a nice response, including book sales and inquiries from local schools about my workshops. That’s success!

I’m looking forward to learning more about what families want to hear about from a local author, about healthy eating and encouraging their kids to read.

I use social media effectively to stay in touch with readers but an email newsletter is an easy way to reach readers when social media channels change their rules. We now that not everyone reads every social media channel and it’s better to come to your readers where they are and not wait for them to come find you. It’s also a good way to catch readers when they are not skimming through their feed for entertainment.

If you’re an author or small business looking to use email newsletters to reach your audience, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m available to work with you to set up your email newsletter, write content and schedule emails.

So sign up to get my newsletter and stay in touch!

How to Thank Volunteers

It seems very simple to thank volunteers, but as I learned today, “every ‘thank you’ is your next ask.”

I’m working on the annual report for a Pittsburgh-area non-profit and the design team is exploring the role of the annual report. Is it just to thank last year’s donors? Or can it somehow mobilize the people who read it into action?

As we prepare to thank volunteers who contributed to the non-profit during the season of giving, the holiday season, this agency is eager to encourage donors to get involved in a second season of giving during the spring when their donations and support wane.

So can we thank volunteers and encourage them to take action more than once a year? Can one little annual report really do all that?

I’m an idealist so I think it can. During the brainstorming meeting I was tossing out ideas left and right.

  • QR codes so people can scan and donate! (Shot down because QR codes are ‘out.’ Ok, so what’s in?)
  • Tear out calendar.
  • Pages that people can write on and take notes about their volunteer ideas.
  • Tear-out action cards.
  • Tear-out thank you notes so people can thank volunteers they work with.
  • Tear-out thank you cards that people can send to motivate new volunteers!
thank volunteers

Don’t Forget to Thank Volunteers

I think some of those ideas might get used. The team was interested in a lot of them. We’ll see what the budget can hold. In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways to thank volunteers, consider picking up a copy of my e-book Thanks! 100 Wonderful ways to Appreciate Volunteers. It’s the season of gratitude and maybe it’s time some volunteers in your life could use some thanks!

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?

 

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.

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?

Does Your Business Need a Social Media Coach?

I work out a lot – for fun, for stress relief, and because it’s in my nature to set and strive to achieve goals. To help

Work Hard for the Results You Want

me reach these fitness goals, I hired a coach. Having a coach gives me accountability and someone to help me overcome obstacles and celebrate my successes.

For my clients, I’m their social media coach. I don’t always write all their content – many times I’m just laying out their editorial calendar (training schedule) and teaching them how and when to use new platforms (workouts).

But my own training hit a bump in the road when my coach accepted a new job in another state. Now I am meeting her replacement and I have to bring her up to speed on my goals, my philosophy, my strengths, weaknesses, what I’m afraid to try and what motivates me. The good part is – I know what I want her to know.

I try to help my customers with the same thing. One thing I offer my customers is the creation of a social media policy or guidelines. I know there will come a time when I need to move on or they decide to take over these tasks in-house. By working with my customers to build a social media policy, my goal is to make the transition and education of their new social media manager as simple as possible. I can’t make it seamless, but I can give them a sense of history of what customers have hated and what they’ve loved, what we’ve tried (and where we’ve failed) and the overall goals all of this creative work!

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  

 

 

Are Grumpy Kids Driving You Crazy?

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road, available in paperback & e-book

Mine was, and sometimes still does. But as a mom, I am always looking for the solution that fits the personality of each child (much the same way I work with clients). And as a writer, I know a well-told story can really convince a potential customer to become a satisfied client. So I combined both perspectives and wrote my first children’s book for my grumpy son. It’s called The Bumpy, Grumpy Road.

It tells the story of a boy named Dylan who drives a car. As he makes bad choices (angry words and behavior) his road gets very bumpy and unpleasant to drive. As he makes better choices, the road gets easier. I used this story to illustrate to my son that our actions and attitudes are choices. We can choose the easy road, or the hard. He really got it.

And after FamilyFun magazine printed my essay about the story, other parents wrote to me that their children understood the concept, too.

Never underestimate the power of a well-told tale!

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?