Showing posts from 2015

Five Reasons Why Your Company Should Have a Quora Account

Since it was founded the social Q&A site Quora has mostly been restricted to individual users. This year a handful of companies were allowed to have company accounts for an experimental period. Now Quora has opened up company accounts to most businesses. According to the Quora announcement, to qualify for a company account "your company must have at least three employees and a mature and built-out website".

But why should a company have an account on Quora? Here are five good reasons:

Brand Protection. First of all if you don't create an account someone with the same of a similar name might occupy the space. Quora is ranked highly by Google so pages on the site appear quite high in search results. Even if you don't plan to apply much effort to the site it is still prudent to register an account early so that you get the username and URL you want.

Market Intelligence. People often wonder what people are thinking about their products and pay market research companie…

Not Dead Yet, Email Finds New Life Through Digital Assistants

People have been predicting the end of email for many years. Already in 2009 the Wall Street Journal was arguing that the reign of email was over in Why Email No Longer Rules...  But email has stubbornly resisted every attempt to replace it.

As a marketing tool it is still effective, even though there are better alternatives and spammy email universally despised, a topic I covered in 2013 in Why a 40 Year Old Marketing Tool is Still Relevant. As a business communication tool it has also proved to be more resilient than it's successors like the now defunct Google Wave, a theme I discussed in 2014 in Why Email Isn't Dead or Dying Anytime Soon. In this post I argued that email would persist because you can email anyone anywhere using anything, almost. Other apps might be more elegant, but while some people use messenger others use WhatsApp. And you can email from an iPhone6 to an old Windows desktop. You can't do that with Snapchat.

But now there another trend is giving emai…

Why You Need Social Media Crisis Monitoring

Whatever your business, you probably need social media crisis monitoring much more than you think. It doesn’t matter if your business is low risk, it makes no difference that you avoid wrongdoing and it can even be irrelevant that you don’t even use social media – it can still cause you a crisis.  Not convinced? Here are the reasons why for each of these scenarios.
WE HAVE A LOW-RISK BUSINESS.  Some companies operate in such risky businesses that they are – or at least should be – always braced for a crisis and recognize that their social coverage is going to be mostly negative.  Military contractors, oil companies and drug makers, for example, should know that what they are doing is bound to provoke some reactions. But what about the others? You might think that a soft toy maker or the Red Cross have nothing to fear but this is not true. There is no such thing as a low risk company because everyone can have rogue employees, everyone can have accidents, everyone can be caught doing so…

Speaking: Talk About the Story, Not the Slides

As a child I recall being taken to see public lectures by explorers, mountaineers and other enterprising people. After all these years my lasting memory of these talks is how some people can do amazing things but be astonishingly dull when describing it.

Part of the blame lies in the style that they used. Every single one of them used a technique where they simply presented a sequence of slides and then described each slide.

"This is me putting on my boots".

"This is me eating breakfast".

"This is me on the summit".

Which is almost inevitably dull and uninteresting.

Once you make a decision to describe slides you are forced to adapt to the images and this simply doesn't work very well. Good talks are based on good storytelling so it is much better to craft your story first, and then to illustrate it with images, words, videos, props and demos that support that story. A really good talk would work without any slides at all, which is an added benefit i…

Being Easy to Find; Why Checking Your Contact Info is Important

In an earlier post Five Things Every Startup Founder Needs to Know About Getting Media Coverage I mentioned that one way to get more media coverage for a startup is to make it easy for people to find contact information: every website should have some clearly marked contact details -- and not just a web form.
But it's not just websites. People sometimes forget to provide contact information on emails and even business cards. And sometimes it is there but it is wrong. Recently at a networking event someone gave me a business card. The next day I tried sending a message to the address on the card but it didn't work. I then went to the company website and that provided just the same address. It can happen to anyone. Adding a new email account to my phone recently I made a mistake in my own phone number, happily discovered and corrected very quickly.
But these episodes reminded me that sometimes you might miss opportunities simply because people have had trouble contacting you. Y…

How to Network Effectively When You Are Unemployed

Many of these blog posts are inspired by questions that people ask me in lectures and workshops, some by questions sent to me by email and some from questions people ask on the popular Q&A site Quora. Most of the time if one person asks a question thousands more have the same problem so I put an answer here, too, where everyone can read it.
Just this week an anonymous user on Quora asked "Long term job seekers are advised to build a network but who would want to network with them?".  This is a very interesting question because it highlights two misunderstandings about networking and there is actually a fairly straightforward way to solve this problem.
First of all, you are not supposed to wait until you are long-term unemployed to start building a network. It can take years to build a solid network -- though much less to get started -- so you should be doing it long before you are unemployed. Network while you have a job, and even network while you are still in school. …

How a Media Relations Hack can Improve Your Emails

When you are preparing replies to questions from journalists your media training person will teach you to reply in complete statements. So if the question is "Do you think that social media is just a fad?" an answer like "No" might be technically accurate but is unusable for the journalist. You will get much better results if you reply "I do not think that social media is a fad". This is easier to quote in video and much easier to use in a written piece.

This same technique can also be used in email threads to make communication more effective. When someone sends a message like "Will you be able to help with the pitch coaching at the next startup event?" you could just reply "Yes". This has two disadvantages. First, the sender has to re-read their message to see what you replied to. Second, restating it as a complete statement means that the other person can see if you understood correctly. For this to work it is best to use your own …

How to Share Content on Twitter Effectively

Every day millions of twitter users share links to articles. Probably about as many bots do the same    But many of the humans do it so clumsily that they barely outperform the bots.

What I see way too often are tweets that just give the title and the link. Even worse is when people post a clickbait tweet like "you won't believe this!"  This might have worked in 2010 but today most people are smart enough to see through that.
So how should you share an article to be respectful to your audience and actually add value to the Twitter community? Here are three best practices.
Summarize key points. Rather than  just writing "awesome article" you should try to extract some useful learning. Describing a recent article in Fast Company I could have written "Interesting article in Fast Company", which isn't terribly helpful. I could have written "Article about phones in Fast Company", which again is very uninformative. In the end I chose to twee…

Five Ways to Avoid Speaking Disasters

Writing in the Guardian, Athene Donald describes Eight Common Conference Disasters. Some of these, like the time a swimming pool leaked into the auditorium below, are hard to guard against. But for most of the others careful speakers can at least mitigate the impacts, and sometimes avoid the consequences altogether.

Here are five ways that speakers can and should prepare to minimize the risk of catastrophe.

Check Your Own Laptop. If you plan to use your own laptop at an event make sure that you test it at least the day before. Don't wait until you are on stage to discover there is a problem. Run through the entire presentation to make sure that everything works as you expected. Make sure, too, that you also know how to connect your laptop to the projector. Practice this operation with a projector at least once and stick a note on your laptop to remind you which key you need to press to send the video to the projector. Be especially careful to test that animations and videos run co…

Five Ways You Can Prepare for a Panel Discussion

When you are invited to speak at an event you can prepare and memorize a suitable talk. Panel discussions and round tables are more difficult because they are not scripted, but this doesn't mean that cannot prepare in advance. You can and you should. Here are five practical ways you can do this:

1. RESEARCH THE EVENT. First of  all read the invitation carefully and make sure that you understand the brief. Ask the organizers to clarify any details that are missing or ambiguous. Then check out all the other speakers; see who they are and the kind of messages they usually give. A few minutes googling will usually give you all the information you need because the kind of person invited to participate in a panel discussion tends to have a clear online footprint.

2. LISTEN TO THE UNDERTALK. Listen to the social media "undertalk", the general discussion of this topic on social sites.What are the current issues? What are people talking about? What questions are they asking? Other…

Why Connections Sometimes Count More Than Skills

Is it better to develop your skills or your network? I've heard arguments from some people that only skills count today, while others believe that only your connections count. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

You need both skills and connections to succeed in your career. But the best news is that at the start of your career when your skills are less developed you can compensate by working very hard on your networking.

So why are connections so important? In theory everyone always chooses the best person for the job. Except that they don't. They can't. It's impossible because of our imperfect knowledge -- somewhere out there is the person we need but we don't know who it is. It's also impossible because if everyone went to the best person that person would be very busy and unavailable.

In reality when people say that they are choosing the best they often mean that they are choosing the best person from the pool of people that they know, or that their frie…

Networking Yourself into a New Career

One question that often comes up in networking workshops is "How do I network myself into a new career?". This question is mostly asked by people who would like to move to a new field where the prospect of finding work seems better, or simply people who are tired of what they are doing and want to move into something different. The problem they face is that they have no experience and no contacts in the new field.

At least the contacts part is actually straightforward to fix once you have decided to do it. There are many ways to approach the problem and here are just six:

TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR PLANS. You are much more likely to get helpful advice, hear about opportunities and make new connections if you are open about your plan. Keeping your goal secret just means that you will not be in the loop and not taken seriously. Tell your network, tell your friends, tell your family, tell the people you meet. Sooner or later you will meet someone who is either in the business or ha…

Dealing with LinkedIn Connection Requests from Strangers

In my networking workshops and lectures one of the questions that often comes up is "What do I do with random connection requests from strangers?". On the one hand LinkedIn's official policy is that you should only connect with people you know. On the other hand someone you reject could turn out to be a valuable connection.

The nuanced reply is that you should be cautious but not too hasty to reject an unexpected request. 

What would help immensely would be to have a personalized message with each connection request explaining why the person wants to connect, but the in the current version of LinkedIn this is quite difficult (How to Personalize LinkedIn Requests), so we have to learn to live without it.

Just accepting any request has some disadvantages. Some unsolicitated requests might be genuine but others might be spammers, scammers, fakes or people who are just collecting connections as a pointless game. Connecting blindly with these people hurts you in several ways. 


Why No Answer is an Ineffective Answer

One of the questions that sometimes comes up in my workshops about effective email is "Is it ok to not answer an email when the answer is no?". I am tempted to ignore the question and walk away, leaving them to wonder if I heard or if the answer is no.

But I am not certain that this would work and, following my own advice, I give an explicit response. No, not answering is definitely not a good idea because it causes confusion, misunderstandings, frustration and anger. Clearing just the confusion usually takes more time than answering the message would have. Sometimes the consequences of the frustration and anger are never resolved.

Let's suppose that Anne asks Brian if he is available for a meeting on a certain date.The next day there is no response from Brian. What does this mean? Does it mean "no"? Or does it mean that Brian never received the message? Or does it mean that he replied but the message went to the spam folder? Or does it mean that he is not sur…

How the Doorway Effect Makes Business Cards Still Relevant

You might think that when practically everyone you meet has a smartphone that electronic exchange of contact information would have superseded business cards. But it hasn't.

Primarily this is because there isn't a convenient standard. You could try to connect on social networking sites, but that doesn't always work because maybe you use LinkedIn and the other person uses Viadeo. There have also been many attempts to make business-card-killer apps, like Bump. Back in 2011 Bump was going to make business cards a thing of the past; today it is no longer available. Many others have tried the same thing but it won't replace paper cards until there is a more or less universal standard, like email.

But there are other reasons for continuing to use paper business cards. First of all there is the ritual aspect. Rituals are actually very important for social interactions and the exchange of business cards is a key ritual in business relationships, marking the point where we eff…

Five Mistakes to Avoid in Your Professional Profile Photos

Scrolling through the People You Might Know section of LinkedIn I can't help noticing that some people have profile pictures that could damage their credibility.

Some are clearly out of focus, underexposed, taken from too far away, badly cropped, squashed out of proportion or with other issues that are easily avoidable today. Back in the day when LinkedIn was first created in 2003 there were no iPhones and not everyone had a digital camera, but today there are not really any excuses. And if someone really doesn't have access to any sort of digital camera they must have a friend or colleague who could take a quick photo and send it to them by email for upload

Your professional profile photo on LinkedIn doesn't need to be perfect or even great, but at least you should avoid the most obvious mistakes starting with these top five problems I see scrolling through the images in People You Might Know:

UNDEREXPOSED PHOTO. How people achieve this in the 2010s I do not know, but a s…