Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why Asking Other People Sometimes Beats Googling

In networking workshops I always tell people that networking is important not just for finding jobs. Among other things it is also a key part of any influencing effort and it is very helpful for obtaining information. With a strong network you will receive useful and timely information that you never thought of asking, and you will find it easier to get answers to your questions.

But both in workshops and in Q&A forums like Quora people often ask why anyone would ask questions to other people when there is Google? Can't you get the same information yourself by searching? Doesn't asking people annoy them? There are some simple factual questions where asking a connection would be overkill. Want to know which city is the capital of Finland? That's clearly a job for Google. But there are some compelling reasons for asking your network in plenty of other everyday cases. Here are the top five:

Google just gives the sources, not the answer. There are some trivial cases where Google actually pulls out an answer from a source like Wikipedia and presents it in a box next to the search results. But in many cases it just provides links to documents that might contain the answer but you have to read hundreds or thousands of words to find the thing that you are looking for. Sometimes it really is quicker to post a question on social media or send a quick message to someone in your network. Even some apparently simple "facts" like why an airplane wing generates lift turn out to be more complex than people think.

There is no simple answer.  There are many unambiguous questions where there is a single answer and any respectable search engine will find that answer very quickly. You would be unwise to trouble a connection with questions like this or they will start to ignore your messages and calls. But there are also many questions where there isn't a simple answer and you need an expert opinion. Even an apparently simple question like which is the best video editing software for my needs really requires an expert human analysis. Just Googling "best video editing software" will find many articles on the topic and you have to read them all to find the answer, which might also be out of date. Someone up to speed on video editing tools can probably ask a few questions then confidently give a useful answer in seconds.

Google has too many answers. In many other cases the problem is not that Google doesn't find anything but that it finds too many things, leaving you with the problem of identifying the best with imperfect information. What makes this so difficult is the level of noise in search engine results coming from aggressive search-engine manipulation. Try, for example, searching for a good hotel and you will be swamped with results. Ask the same question to your network and you will get accurate answers from sources that you can trust. Where's a good place to stay in Aix en Provence? Someone who has lived there can give an answer that factors in not just the quality of the hotel but also the location. Anyone familiar with the unusual anticlockwise traffic circulation around the center of town can quickly work out where is a good place to stay depending on where you want to go and taking into account the traffic.

Usually Google just answers the question. For most questions a Google search might find the answer to the question you asked, but a human will often do more than that, answering a question that perhaps you never thought of asking but which you would have if you had thought of it. In a recent conversation with a luthier about guitar design for a lecture I am preparing he answered my questions about guitars but also added an interesting parallel from violin design that I had never thought of. Another time I asked a museum about their policy on visitor photography for an article. One museum spokesperson answered all my questions but then volunteered another point I had not thought to ask -- evidence that in spite of all the bans many people take photos anyway.

Asking your network strengthens relationships. Assuming that you have a good reason for asking the question in the first place, asking your network also tends to strengthen relationships. First of all, just by asking you give people an opportunity to help you, so you are grateful to them. By accepting this help you actually make them happy, too. This might sound counterintuitive but accepting help is also a great way to strengthen bonds. At the same time by asking and accepting help from someone else you make it easier for them to ask for help, shifting your network more towards a collaborative community which benefits everyone. You might also discover some unexpected side effects. Ask about hotels in some place and people might ask why you are going there, leading to interesting conversations.

By all means use Google to answer simple, uncontroversial factual questions, but for other things consider asking your network. Someone you know maybe knows a better answer than you thought you wanted, or perhaps they know the person who can help.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking, influencing and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.





Friday, June 17, 2016

Why You Should Make Media Contact Info Easy to Find

Here's an interesting experiment to try. Ask someone not familiar with your company -- maybe the new intern or a friend -- to find the media contact information on your website. Did they find it? How long did it take?

If it seems to take a long time or -- the worst case outcome -- they can't find any useful media contact information then you have a problem. Yet this is a problem that is surprisingly common, even for businesses and organizations that should know better.

When someone just has to write about your company or whatever they have to try through other channels --  sometimes I have resorted to asking through Twitter or Facebook -- but very often they just need to talk to someone in your business. If your media contact information is missing or hidden they just ask someone else and you miss the opportunity.

It also matters how you provide contact information. What most journalists are looking for is an email address and a phone number for those urgent requests where only a phone call will be fast enough. And the email has to be an email address that someone is watching. Far too often messages are answered only when the article is already published and the request is moot.

Ideally what journalists would like to have is an immediate confirmation that someone has received the email and that they are working on it. This is also a good time to clarify the deadline. If there isn't going to be a response to the questions for some reason then it's useful to have a brief "Sorry, no." message. After you have promised to send a response make sure you do it on time. Better a poorer response on time than a perfect one that is too late.

Avoid using web forms because they are unreliable and very often people faced with no choice but a webform will just go elsewhere. The problem with webforms is that you don't know what is happening, where the messages go and if anyone will ever see your questions before it's too late. With an email address you at least know if it was delivered, even if the account is monitored by different people.

Sometime social media can also be a great way to get a fast response, but the problem with using social media is the uncertainty. There are companies that monitor their social media accounts very carefully and respond in minutes to a Twitter inquiry. But there are also some companies that seem to have a one-way approach to social media, posting scheduled content and ignoring responses. That's why people often prefer trying email first. Make sure it works and make sure that people can find it quickly!


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about communication topics you can contact the author Andrew Hennigan by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Influencing: Learning from the Everglades Airboat Case

Since the 1940's the characteristic airboats of the Florida Everglades have been carrying tourists and hunters through the grassy swamplands of the state's southern tip. But when the Everglades National Park was expanded by a new law in 1989 there was a provision calling for the use of airboats to be phased out to reduce damage to the park ecosystem.

Restricting any popular activity is complicated because many people will oppose the ban, and in any democratic regime opposition will at the very least delay plans if not actually derail them.

Dealing with opposition is the key problem in any influencing case and the Everglades Airboat Case is no exception. If the regulators simply ban the use of airboats in the expanded park area where people have been airboating for decades they can expect some vocal opposition. What they have chosen to do is instructive and an interesting lesson for students of influencing.

According to reports in the media, the way that the law will be implemented is to restrict airboat use to anyone who was over 16 and a regular user in 1989. Any of those airboat users who apply now will be given a lifetime permit that expires when they die and then no more permits will be issued. As nature takes its course the number of permits and thus the number of permits will gradually decline, achieving the gradual phase out included in the 1989 law.

This approach cleverly turns the only likely opponents into allies. When anyone is trying to sell an idea it is often the opponents that decide the day. Even if you have many people on your side just a few opponents -- sometimes just one -- is enough to block your plans. In theory airboat operators are likely to be opposed to the restrictions, but by giving them permits you turn them into allies -- in return for accepting that their descendants won't be riding airboats they obtain a lifetime permit.

Turning opponents into allies is one of the most effective influencing techniques available and it has been used in many cases. Stockholm's congestion charge, for example, was implemented partly thanks to the very clever move of exempting car rental and taxi companies -- two lobbies that would otherwise have opposed the scheme. Not only did that eliminate their opposition it also turned them into positive allies, since by reducing private traffic it benefited their businesses.

What we can learn from the Everglades Airboat Case is that at the heart of effective influencing there is the analysis of the landscape identifying the players and bringing opponents onto your own team, or at least to dial down their opposition. A little creativity in doing this will solve the most challenging influencing problems.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about Influencing and other topics you can contact the author Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 and by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com.





Thursday, June 9, 2016

Asking Help from Online Strangers? Better Fix Your Footprint

Like many people I have no problem with helping strangers who reach out through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and other social media provided that the request is reasonable and polite. But I realize that there is another factor people consider: your online footprint.

Since I don’t know you all I have to go on is your online reputation, and most of the time I am not going to Google someone just to see who they are. The first place I will look is the profile on the site where they tried to contact me. Quite often people contact me on Twitter, Facebook or Quora who have no biographical information, no links to other profiles and sometimes even no photo. This is a deal breaker. Why should I make an effort to help someone I don’t know if that person doesn’t even identify themselves? This is the digital equivalent to approaching me in real life with a paper bag over your head, asking for a favor without revealing who you are. Not many people feel the urge to help in these circumstances.

What this means is that if you want to approach people you don’t know and you want these people to take time to help you it is vitally important to make sure that your online profile is well defined. You will also need to formulate the request in the right way – that’s probably a good topic for a future post – but your online footprint is equally important. There are some spaces online where people use pseudonyms and anonymity, but in the professional space this doesn’t work. Nobody hires anons, nobody works with anonymous freelancers. At least not in legit business.

To maximize your chances of getting help your first priority is to make sure that you have a helpful profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora and so on. For Facebook you might find it useful to have a public profile with your real name with real biographical information. At the very least people want to know who you are, what you do and where you are. Ideally there should be a link to your landing page where there is more information and it helps to link together your social profiles so that people can find easily the others if they want to.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about communication contact Andrew Hennigan at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Three Ways Social Media Helps Recruiting

Why should a company use social media as part of the recruiting process? There are at least three good reasons that are valid both for small businesses and large organizations.

Probably the most common way that companies use social media is simply to raise awareness of job opportunities. Since social media has, in theory, global coverage by posting to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter you reach a much greater population than traditional job advertising. If you craft the post so that it is very appealing random people will also share it to their network, making it even more visible. That's the reason why a job ad should never be boring. But there are two obstacles to this: there are no truly global social media -- you might need to use multiple channels to reach your target demographics -- and some people spend very little time reading content, they just post their links then move on.

Where social media really helps companies to find better talent is in social network data mining. Back in the day you would advertise a job, some people would apply, you would sort through hundreds of CVs, interview the most promising candidate and then make the choice. Today you can get a premium LinkedIn account and simply search for all the people with the qualities you are looking for then reach out to the ones that look most interesting. The advantages of this approach are that you reach even people who maybe are not thinking of a new job and that the whole process is much simpler, faster and cheaper. You don't reach everyone this way, though, because there are still a few people who refuse to use LinkedIn, but maybe you don't want someone unfamiliar with the business tools of our century anyway.

But there is also another reason for using social media in your recruiting, A well-managed, professional looking social media campaign can foster a favorable climate for the recruiting by creating a favorable image of your company.  Most young people and many older people would be deterred from applying for a job at a company that appears to be clueless about social media. This is sometimes viewed as an alarm system that the workplace still has a 1990s feel or worse. By demonstrating an understanding of social media practice the company will look much more attractive, even if the position is actually filled in some other way.

Managing social media effectively is neither difficult nor expensive. Anyone can learn to manage the process and to operate the social media machinery with simple workshops and courses. But since the technology is continually evolving you also need to keep up with new developments to be effective.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about social media and digital marketing you can contact the author Andrew Hennigan by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or by phone at 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Preparing for a Presentation Begins Earlier Than You Think

In popular forums like the Q&A site Quora one question that appears regularly is How do you prepare for a presentation?

Quite what they are looking for I am not always certain, but when people write that they need help preparing for a presentation coming up in a day or two I realize that many people are leaving the preparation until it is too late. But while it might be late for this time it's probably a good idea to start sooner the next time you need to create a presentation.

Assuming that you do have enough time, how exactly can you prepare more effectively for a presentation if you have the basic speaking skills mastered already? There are two key areas where many people could usefully apply more effort -- and they need to start earlier to be most effective.

Consider the influencing context. One very common mistake is to focus simply on making slides and practicing what to say, without considering the context of the presentation. The classic Hollywood-style business presentation is always something that comes as a surprise to the audience but miraculously convinces everyone the moment they see it. Reality is very different and to influence people the presentation is just a small part of the process. What works better is to talk to stakeholders about your ideas in advance of the presentation. This prepares people to accept your ideas -- people usually don't like an idea the first time they see it -- and it also lets you test your content. Talk to others about the ideas you plan to put in the presentation and you will soon identify weaknesses, mistakes and flaws. With the benefit of this information you can refine your presentation to make it more effective. After the presentation you also need to followup with stakeholders to make sure that they understood your message and to address any doubts that they might still have.

Focusing on the message. But to do this you need to have a clearly defined message and this is the other part of the preparation that people often skip over. Most people spend too much of their preparation time creating a slide deck, looking for images or even -- very unwisely -- tacky animations. They should instead be dedicating more time to deciding what the overall message is and the points to be covered. In an ideal world you should be able to create, learn and deliver a spoken version of your presentation that contains this information. Later you can illustrate it with slides, which should support rather than replace the talk. This approach makes the presentation stronger because it clarifies the key ideas. It is also very useful for helping to remember what to say and helps when you get lost.
While speaking and presenting are essential tools for influencing other people the presentation alone is not enough to convince people. To be an effective speaker you need to be a good speaker, but at the same time you need to have a well-filled influencing toolbox.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about speaking, presenting and influencing skills you can contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or through email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why Ignoring Social Media Completely Isn't a Good Idea

Every so often I meet someone who doesn't like social media. There is nothing wrong with that. But then sometimes people go further than that and decide that they will not use social media at all. For most people this is a bad idea for several reasons, mostly related to search engines. Any presence on a web site will show up on a Google search eventually, but for most people the highest ranking sites that they will be on are usually social media sites, making these critically important.

Until about ten years ago a private person -- then the norm -- could have no presence on the world wide web and this would not be a problem. People using search engines would not be specially surprised if they searched for a person and found nothing. But today this doesn't happen. Having a digital footprint has become more common than not so a lack of presence is interpreted differently. Even worse: the rise of content scrapers and fake profiles have undermined the option of opting out of the world wide web and social media. And the shift towards online presence being the norm means that a missing presence creates uncertainty.

Content Scraper Profiles: At one time if you didn't create any online profiles yourself then a Google search would not find any. This no longer happens because of the rise of bottom feeding content scraper sites that gather information from publicly available data, email lists and other sources to generate profiles in your name. Most people never see these profiles because Google ranks them at the very bottom, beyond the last search page you would normally look at. When someone has created no genuine profiles these scraped profiles rise to the top. What this means is that like it or not you will have some sort of online profile, but if you didn't make it yourself the ones that appear will be out of date, inaccurate and irrelevant. For example, just from the email address robert.pickles@acme.com a content scraper could recover first name, last name, name of employer, their contact details from the domain records and much more.

Fake Profiles for Scams/jokes:  Another risk of not having a real profile online is that scammers and jokers might fill the void with their own fake profiles. If I search for someone and see two profiles I will try to find out which is real. If I find just one I am more likely to believe it. Scammers sometimes set up fake LinkedIn profiles for people who don't have one. They use these profiles to get the trust of others and gain access to private information. Jokers might also be tempted to fill the gap with a joke profile. In the absence of a real profile it is harder to tell which are real and which not.

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: The other reason why not having an online presence is a bad idea is that it creates fear, uncertainty and doubt. If a potential employer discovers that someone has no online presence this could mean that they are a very private person. But it could also mean that they have poor computer skills or are out of touch. This absence of any information creates some doubt in the mind of other people and means that people with no presence will always have a disadvantage when compared with people who do have a presence.

There is one simple and certain countermeasure for all of these risks and that is to create at least a basic profile on LinkedIn and Facebook. You don't need to be an active user but at least keep your basic profile information and photo up to date. Creating a few other profiles on top social sites helps to protect your reputation in other ways but this is at least a good start.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about reputation management, digital marketing, social media and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com