Monday, September 30, 2013

The Well-Crafted Holiday Greeting – Marketing Tool, Holiday Message or Both?

By Rose Strong

It’s that time of year again; the time when retailers start putting out holiday decorations and pushing us into the season faster than we may care to travel. If you have a difficult time looking at Halloween in one aisle and Christmas in the next when temperatures are still in the 80s, you are not alone.

However, just as in retail, the marketing and public relations world must plan ahead. The calendar may say "fall," but it's time to start thinking "Jingle Bells" and hot cocoa - and examining what your approach to the holidays can do for your business.

A holiday card can do much more for a business than simply convey the best wishes of the season. Proper preparation and planning can transform a business holiday greeting card into a subtle but effective marketing tool that will reap a return on the investment all year long.

A holiday greeting gives a company the opportunity to thank contacts for a year of good business and wish them a new year filled with prosperity. It is also a chance to reinforce company brand to clients, vendors, referral sources, friends or potential clients.

The first thing to consider is timing a campaign so cards arrive in contacts' mailboxes as soon as possible after Thanksgiving. You want your card to be the first one they receive - which is likely to create a stronger impression and allow for a longer display time.

That makes it even more important to choose a card design early. Drafting animated or custom holiday cards takes planning and coordination, but the results are well worth the time and effort.

A carefully designed greeting can convey a message of holiday cheer and support an overall corporate brand. An article by Angela Bright for explains this theory well and gives tips on how to craft a greeting that will set a company apart.

For some, the idea of a printed card is an environmental taboo. In that case, a digital greeting could be a good alternative. A article by Kate Freeman includes an infographic showing the effect of printed holiday cards on the environment and how switching to electronic delivery can be more environmentally friendly.

Here at Furia Rubel, we start planning for the holidays in late September, brainstorming card concepts, updating contact lists and discussing gift-giving ideas. We also work with our clients to help them plan their own holiday cards and gifts for their clients.

So when you walk into a store for office or home supplies and see the giant, light-up lawn decorations, ask yourself whether you've planned for your business holiday greetings. It’s really not too early to start.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tips for Managing a Social Media Crisis

By Kim Tarasiewicz

We've all heard it or seen it – a social media faux pas, a bad Tweet, an offensive picture on Facebook, a bad review on Yelp. But what happens when your business’s social media campaign hits a nerve and becomes a crisis? It can happen in an instant, and how you respond can affect your company’s image immediately.

Here are vital tips for keeping a social media meltdown from becoming an inferno:

Plan Ahead: Before a crisis occurs, assign a point person to deal with internal and external problems. Meeting with your team ahead of any situations can minimize damage done to your corporate image. Knowing who will handle all social media outlets (search engine optimizations, reviews, networks) will allow you to respond to negative criticism faster. Provide employees with guidelines and brand-approved messages and encourage them to share on their personal social media communities, if they are comfortable doing so.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor: Every business should be checking its social media networks often, as quick response can make all the difference in damage control. If a comment is made on social media about your business, it often can be taken offline and resolved without much commentary. By the time comments begin to elicit the responses and posts are dropping at lightning speed, it’s too late. All companies also should use a monitoring system such as Google alerts to see what people are saying about them.

Address it Immediately: All responses should come from a single point of contact. Alert employees to the problem but ask them not to respond on their own social media networks. Respond to each post and track back to the source to resolve what began the string of comments. This will show your business cares about the situation and would like to fix it.

Hold all Auto-posts: Companies often schedule automatic posts as part of their ongoing marketing, but during a crisis is not the time to be marketing. If the situation is serious enough, cancel or suspend all scheduled social media posts until you can assess and address the problem. You don’t want customers thinking you are not taking the situation seriously or sending something else out to compound the problem.

Remain Calm: Social media travels quickly, but the good news is, most of the time it ends quickly, too. Keeping a respectful, conversational tone and remaining calm will help you control the situation without getting pulled into a different argument. Do not get caught up in ugly remarks or argue with commenters. Begin new posts whenever possible so not to carry along the previous posts.

Assess the Damage: When the worst seems to be over, take a deep breath and determine how to move forward. Consider drafting a post to apologize but be sure to let readers know this will not happen again. Keep in mind, a few people may continue to post and you may never be able to please everyone, but the incident likely will die down.

Return to Social Media: Monitor all social media platforms to be sure negative posts have stopped. Begin new posts with a non-controversial, positive feel to them. Keep it light to create neutral response and determine if it is a good time to continue.

Evaluate and Adjust: After the crisis is over, determine what worked and what did not. You may be able to see a better way to alert the team of a crisis in the future. Look at what you learned and ask the team to evaluate the situation. A different perspective may help avoid similar mistakes in the future.

While social media crises require attention, they don't have to turn into catastrophes. When addressed properly, your front page posts will become yesterday’s news.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rein in Your Inbox: 7 Tools for Email Efficiency

By: Maggie Quinn

“There he goes again,” I think as my dad trudges into the basement to answer emails. “He’s never coming back. Well, at least for another few hours.”

Since its popularity skyrocketed in the early 1990s, email has transformed from a streamlined form of communication into a facilitator for distraction. The problem has worsened in recent years, now that email follows us through every daily activity on the mobile devices in our pockets. How can business professionals tackle what seems to be this overwhelming task?

Many experts advise tackling problems in “just 20 minutes a day.” Well, just 20 minutes of exercise, just 20 minutes of meditation, just 20 minutes to prep dinner – it all adds up to consume a large portion of a day. Given our busy lives, those 20 precious minutes do not need to be spent organizing your inbox each day.  Instead there are pragmatic approaches to keep your inbox nearly empty at all times, an approach known as “Inbox Zero.”

For many professionals, reaching Inbox Zero, seems like a fantasy that will never be achieved, and anyone who suggests the possibility is the Don Quixote of the office. A few nights ago, frustrated with various aspects of my life coinciding in my inbox, I decided to take a crack at Inbox Zero. The tools I came across in my quest are well worth sharing.

1) Boomerang

Why it is useful: With this application, you can schedule emails to be sent during a later time or date. For example, a message drafted at 2:00 a.m. may be set to send at 8:00 a.m. during normal business hours. Additionally this application can act as a “snooze” button for emails to reappear in your inbox. This feature is useful for night owls, companies that operate in different time zones and follow-up reminders.

Used on: Gmail

Cost: Free for 10 messages a month, $4.99/month unlimited, $14.99 for businesses

2) Unroll Me

Why it is useful: Think about the average amount of junk mail received each day. When it becomes second nature to delete certain messages, something must change. This site allows users to scan an email address for subscriptions. I was surprised as to how many listservs I had accumulated over the years, ranging from department store coupons to group newsletters. After the scan, the site gives the option to unsubscribe from lists or “add to roll.” Instead of separate emails for each subscription, you will receive one daily digest “roll” email with all of your subscriptions at once.

Used on: Most email addresses

Cost: Free

3) Pocket

Why it is useful: Have you ever had an email that sits in your inbox because it includes a lengthy article or interesting video that you want to enjoy later? This application allows users to forward such emails to a virtual “pocket” to be read when time allows. Commuters, anyone with future downtime or media junkies will find this valuable.

Used on: Any internet browser, smartphone or tablet

Cost: Free

4) Rapportive

Why it is useful:  This is a networker’s dream. An excellent client management tool, Rapportive displays a picture, Twitter feed, and social media links of your email contacts. Users even can add personal notes to each contact to remember for the next meeting or follow-up email.

Used on:  Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers

Cost: Free

5) Follow Up Then

Why it is useful:  Call it a senior moment or too much on our plates, the reality is that sometimes we forget things. Follow Up Then serves as a virtual secretary to send friendly follow-up reminders. Simply compose or forward an email to yourself to be read in the future such as events or client reminders. Send the email with when you want the email to appear to @followupthen (i.e.,

Used on: Any email provider

Cost: Free

6) Inbox Pause

Why it is useful: Sometimes emails have to wait, but the temptation to check your inbox is too great.  Inbox Pause halts messages from entering your inbox at work until you are ready to handle more emails. This is especially useful if you are working on a project, out to dinner, with a client or on vacation.

Used on: Gmail

Cost: Free

7) The Email Game

Why it is useful: Someone finally had a sense of humor regarding email and developed “The Email Game” to make the process more fun. A timer challenges users to beat the clock while reading and responding to messages in order to tidy up inboxes.

Used on: Gmail and Google Apps

Cost: Free

These tools – along with email basics such as creating proper folders to sort mail, using color-coded tabs, and defining reasonable goals – can help make Inbox Zero a reality. My father can attest to the fact that this process works. Together this past weekend, we trimmed his unruly 4,000-message inbox down to a mere 18 by switching to Gmail and employing some of the aforementioned techniques.

So invest in your inbox today and relieve your email angst.

Do you have any methods to successfully manage email influx? Share your Inbox Zero tips in the comments.

Monday, September 09, 2013

U Could be Liable 2

By Sarah Larson

After a pickup truck swerved across the center line of a roadway to strike their motorcycle, David and Linda Kubert sued Shannon Colonna for sending the text messages that caused the crash.

Their claim had one unusual aspect: Colonna wasn’t driving the pickup truck. Nor was she anywhere near the accident, which happened in New Jersey in 2009. Driver Kyle Best, then 18, later pleaded guilty to using a handheld device while driving; he settled a civil suit with the Kuberts out of court.

A court dismissed the Kuberts’ claim against Colonna, and in August, a three-judge appeals court panel upheld that ruling, with one important caveat that affects us all: if it could have been proven that Colonna had known Best was driving during the text message exchange, she, too, would have been liable for the Kuberts’ injuries. The couple each lost a leg in the crash.

“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” Superior Court Appellate Division Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote, The Star-Ledger reports.

The ruling opens a new front in the battle against distracted driving, a range of behind-the-wheel behaviors that has long included such activities as eating, applying makeup, or fiddling with the radio. Those distractions, though, typically have affected only a vehicle’s driver.

The New Jersey court’s new standard may place a measure of responsibility on the other party in a driver’s dangerous texting conversation.

A survey released last week revealed that 6 out of 10 young drivers - those aged 17 to 25 - acknowledged that they had sent text messages while driving. More than 7 out of 10 said they had seen a friend do so. Attorney Joel Feldman, however, thinks these statistics ignore an even larger problem.

“It’s not just young people,” Feldman tells an auditorium full of New Jersey high school students. “I know that. It’s your parents, too. How many of your parents text while they’re driving?”

Hands shoot up all over the room. Feldman nods knowingly. He already knew what the New Jersey study showed: among the same group of 1,000 young drivers, one quarter of them had seen a parent texting behind the wheel.

“You guys have to help me with your parents,” he says. “We have to work on (distracted driving) together.”

Feldman readily admits to his young audience that he, too, often had been guilty of distracted driving. But not anymore.

“The reason I don’t drive distracted anymore is because my daughter, Casey, was killed by a distracted driver,” Feldman tells the students, holding up an enlarged headshot of a pretty young woman with blond hair.

Casey Feldman died hours after a distracted driver ran a stop sign and struck her in an Ocean City, NJ crosswalk in the summer of 2009. She was 21.

Since Casey’s death, Joel Feldman has worked to raise awareness of the perils of distracted driving through EndDD, an anti-distracted driving website sponsored by The Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, which Feldman founded in his daughter’s memory.

If the recent ruling in New Jersey establishes a legal precedent for liability in distracted driving cases, Feldman may not be fighting to educate only would-be distracted drivers, but also the people who want to ask them, “where r u?”

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Beginner’s Guide to LinkedIn for Business

By Rose Strong

When I first set up my LinkedIn account, I had no idea what it was about and for more than a year, LinkedIn nagged that my profile was less than 100 percent complete.  According to  a definition of LinkedIn provided in a MindTools article, there are ways to use LinkedIn to enhance your career growth and organize your professional network.

It took my being laid off from a job in 2011, to force me sit down and carefully review the site and see it has value. After months of viewing my incomplete profile every time I visited LinkedIn, it finally was time to set myself up with an expanded resume online. Getting the most out of LinkedIn is important for individuals and businesses alike. The Small Business Playbook includes a nice list of how to make the most of your LinkedIn profile.

One of the perks of using LinkedIn is that it is an online portfolio where you can add those little bits and pieces of your professional life that will help you demonstrate your corporate capabilities and potentially build business.

LinkedIn also gives you the chance to showcase your pro bono and volunteer work to demonstrate corporate responsibility and giving back to the community. Very often we forget that skills used in our out-of-the-office activities often can convert to those used in business, i.e., leadership, volunteer management, initiative and problem-solving, among others.

Now remember, if you’re setting up your profile, it should be in tip-top shape. Capitalize the first letters of your first and last name. Write in full sentences or clear bullet points. Use concise statements and by all means, proofread, proofread, proofread! This could be the first time someone sees your profile, and, just like client work product, it should be free of errors, fragments and boring prose. LinkedIn is a marketing tool helping you to market yourself and your business!

So you’ve set up your account, filled in your profile and even posted your professional head poshot to finish your profile. Now what?

LinkedIn has both free and premium (paid) accounts. I used the free account and I seemed to fare well in my professional networking. From my research, the benefits of a premium account would not be a value to me in my role as an office administrator. However, the CEO of our company, Furia Rubel, maintains a premium account as she is very data driven.

Do you have colleagues who will write you a recommendation? Ask them to do so and post it on your page. Caveat: Lawyers beware – in some states, recommendations and endorsements are considered a violation of professional conduct rules and can get you into hot ethical waters. There also is a section for skill endorsements for those who don’t wish to write a formal recommendation. Although neither of these are letters of reference, they provide objective third-party feedback.

A recent addition to LinkedIn profiles is the ability to post work achievements such as videos, presentations and other creative materials. My colleague, Kim Tarasiewicz posted the blog, “LinkedIn Portfolios for Business,” for The PR Lawyer last week.

If you’re seeking more info on how you can benefit from this professional networking platform for free, HubSpot has an extensive list of tips for making the most of LinkedIn. With more than 200 million people on the site, LinkedIn is well worth the time and effort to use as a marketing tool and one to take full advantage of in our digital world.