Monday, June 29, 2015

Using Technology to Enjoy a Little More Sunshine This Summer

By Kim Tarasiewicz

As we move into summer, everyone wants more free time to enjoy the wonderful weather and outdoors. And believe it or not, technology can help with that. While technology can keep us connected when we might wish to be off the grid, it also allows us time to work when we are able and not miss important calls, meetings or emails.

At Furia Rubel, we savor our vacation time as much as the next person and we have found some tech tools to save time and be more efficient – and in my case, provide more of my beloved beach time.

Here are some favorites:

IFTTT is an app that lets you combine all of your favorite online technologies. The acronym means “If this, then that” and it allows you to create your own recipes such as “If I post a picture to Instagram, then add it to my Dropbox.” Imagine the time you can save not having to log into each separate application. Even better, you can sign up for a free account and connect your services.

Workflow (for iPhones) and Llama (for Androids) both allow you to connect applications and then combine actions to create automatic tasks. For example, you can set your phone to automatically be on silent when your calendar has you scheduled in a meeting. Or on a personal level, every time you order pizza with an app, it automatically sets a reminder time to pick it up.

Gmail labs are special settings that add helpful features to your Gmail. By going into the “settings” icon at the top right of your Gmail and clicking on "labs," you can manage your email more efficiently. As Gmail states in the disclaimer at the top, these tweaks aren’t permanent, but they are fun to experiment with. "Canned responses" is a great tool for all those times you use the same wording in an email. You can create several and use when needed. And of course the “unsend” feature recently was introduced into the Gmail mix, so when you accidentally hit the send button before attaching your document, you don’t have to send another email with the apology and a big “Oops.”

Carrot is a task application that rewards you when you complete items on your list, but will chastise you when they are not finished on time. As Carrot says, “Greetings lazy human. Slackers make me upset.” It is a fun way to get things done during the day. And if you like an app that interacts with you, it has an alarm, fitness, weather and calorie counter version too.

So get out and enjoy summer this year and experiment with some new technologies and applications. You may find a few that can increase your productivity, making everyone happy. In what other ways do you save time and work and live more efficiently?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Does Your Headshot Make You Look Competent, Likeable or Influential?

By Megan Quinn

I recently tested out my professional headshot through a web service called “Photofeeler.” This photo comparison website has been gaining traction lately as a tool used by professionals - and even for Tinder or Facebook users - to see if their photos are attracting the right audiences for business, dating or social purposes.

This website allows users to upload profile photos for those three categories, and receive feedback on the effectiveness of each photo. Users can vote on the photos of other participants to gain virtual credits to use in turn for their own photo comparison analysis. A brilliant, endless feedback cycle!

I chose a headshot that is on our company’s website and my personal LinkedIn profile for the “business” section without hesitation (and when I had time) proceeded to vote and earn 40 credits. Votes are cast on a 0-3 scale of whether the photo communicates a sense that the person is “competent,” “likable,” and “influential.”

The rankings are a comparison between your photo's score and all the rest that have been tested on the Photofeeler site given as a percentile. So, for instance, a score of 71% means your photo did better than 71% of photos tested on their site.

I guess I can give the influential category some leeway since I am at the start of my career in public relations. Even though I may not have received the kind of numbers I was hoping for in that section, overall, the voting style is very classy.

After casting a vote, you may also submit constructive feedback on a user’s photo. There are no write-in comments, instead there are options to choose from such as “a little too blurry,” or “would like it better with a different background,” to say politely. Some users commented that my photo is great and for this I have Allure West Studios to thank!

The biggest takeaway from this experience has been realizing how much a person’s photo can count as a first impression. Since many of us probably have our photos online, it’s important to remember that our photos should be sending the right messages. For example, a professional traveler isn’t going to be wearing a suit in an office setting for their headshot. There really isn’t a cut and dry method!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Making Amends: Retaining Customers When You Have to Say You’re Sorry

By Rose Strong

Being in business, no matter what product or service you offer, you’re bound to make a mistake with a client or customer at some point. Whether you are a waitperson in a diner, a haberdasher selling top-of-the-line handmade suits, or a consultant offering professional services, there is a chance to make an error - and to have to fix it. When that happens, how you try to make amends makes a big difference.

Of course, each situation is unique, but here are a few recommendations:

  1. Tell your boss. If you’ve made a mistake that could be detrimental to a client relationship, the first person you should tell is your supervisor. It’s bound to come out and keeping the boss in the loop is probably very wise.
  2. Don’t blame others; don’t make excuses. Even if all the explanations are true or others were at fault, neither your boss nor your client cares. The focus should be on fixing the mistake, not explaining it away.
  3. Be transparent about the error. Admit it clearly and outright as soon as you know it has happened. Even if the client doesn’t know about it, call them and tell them – or work with your supervisor to tell them together. Honesty goes a long way to maintaining trust.
  4. Come up with a solution. When you come clean about the mistake, let your boss know you have a possible solution. It makes the sting a bit less painful knowing you’ve taken responsibility on managing the mistake and saving the client relationship. This article on explains that fixing isn’t always enough, but it’s a start.
  5. Apologize to the client and anyone else affected. Although this seems like a no-brainer, too many businesses never actually apologize for an error. When you do apologize, do so sincerely. A genuine expression of regret may be all your customer is seeking.

Part of life is to know that you’re going to make mistakes. Being prepared and having a game plan to handle tricky situations before they happen is part of crisis management, whether the crisis is huge or small. As this article from explains, delivering authenticity in your apology to your clients is the key to de-escalating the situation and keeping a mistake from becoming a full-blown crisis.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Pope is coming – and Ad Space Will Be at a Premium

By Kim Tarasiewicz

As a non-Catholic, I am still fascinated by Pope Francis and interested in his visit to the city of Philadelphia in September. The numbers are staggering, with 15,000 visitors attending the conference and 10,000 volunteer greeters and representatives expected in the city during the week-long World Meeting of Families. Even more incredible is that more than 1.5 million people are expected to stand on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Pope’s Sunday Mass.

Our media connections have alerted us that advertising space in and around the city will be at a premium during the Pope’s visit. Can you imagine your ad on a SEPTA bus tail or transit sign during that time? Or better yet, how about a digital billboard on one of the major routes into the city? But you also have to look at what you are selling – with visitors from 150 nations, are you really getting the most for the extra money you would be spending to advertise during that time period? If you are someone like Coke or Pepsi, probably, but local businesses might be better waiting until after the hoopla and spending their budgets to reach a more local audience.

In a way, this seems like a perfect example of old-fashioned advertising opportunities for local businesses. Shops and event planners are joining forces to name special food items for the Pope’s visit, such as the #PopeinPhilly milkshake the Potbelly Sandwich Shop created in partnership with Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia who recently visited the city to plan for the event. The city will be buzzing with souvenirs on street corners and in shops and local establishments running sales with some type of reference to the pontiff’s visit.

Area colleges and universities are asking students to volunteer and, of course, will use photos and stories about their students in their public relations and social media outreach during the month. But on the advertising side of business, those same schools will be competing for advertising space within the city and surrounding suburbs. Late summer and fall are busy recruiting times before enrollment applications are due, and the schools may end up paying premium prices this year. For larger schools in the area, the extra advertising money spent may attract “out-of-town” students that wouldn’t normally have seen those schools as an option.

Whether you are Catholic or not, you have to be impressed by the amount of planning and organization necessary to run this type of event. The media coverage, the advertising and the social media buzz around this is already massive, as the event planners are sending out press releases almost daily. So join in the fun, buy an “I love the Pope” mug and enjoy a history-making event for Philadelphia.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The $1.99 Way to Increase Concentration at Work

By Sarah Larson

Open-office floorplans have their pros and cons, and learning to function well within one is an important productivity factor for most businesses.

Introduced decades ago as an alternative to offices and, later, cubicles, open-office floorplans are now the norm in most workplaces. According to Forbes, nearly 7 out of 10 American employees now work in open-concept offices. While the economists and organizational psychologists debate the open-office's impact on attention span, productivity, and creative thinking, however, those of us who work in them every day have to figure out how to make the space work for them.

Which brings me to the Best iTunes Purchase of All-Time. Let me introduce you to White Noise.

Anyone with a brain that whirrs at a million miles an hour knows that that can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. Whether you have actual, diagnosable Attention Deficit Disorder or are just surrounded by distractions, finding ways to shut out the world so you can focus on the task at hand is crucial to increasing productivity and boosting creativity.

Different people and different office cultures develop their own coping mechanisms and routines. Quick daily meetings to set group priorities and keeping chatting to a minimum for at least a couple hours at a time can help, but when every phone conversation can be heard from every corner of a room, sometimes you need more.

White Noise offers "more" - and then some.

I actually downloaded White Noise at the suggestion of a friend when I was on a weekend trip away from home. Used to sleeping with a fan on in the background, I had spent a nearly sleepless night staring at the ceiling listening to the water from the shower in the room next door, people passing in the hallway, and the incessant tick tick ticking of my own heartbeat. Every "fan" app I tried failed miserably.

Then, I found White Noise. The next night, the heavens opened, and the angels sang me to sleep. Well, not exactly. But the uncannily realistic sound of ocean waves lapping through my earbuds did lull me into dreamland.

More than that, however, I found a variety of auditory adventures amongst the app's catalog of more than 40 "perfectly looped" sounds. "Amazon Jungle" includes twittering birds and insects, "Boat Swaying in Water" features the creaking of a sailboat, and flames crackle and spark in "Camp Fire." "Cat Purring," "Crickets Chirping" and "Frogs at Night" sound exactly as you would expect them to, while "Beach Waves Crashing" sounds different than "Ocean Waves Crashing," and there are no less than six variations of rain sounds.

My favorite to listen to at work when I need to focus, especially on writing, editing, or strategizing, is "Rain Storm." Something about the patter of the raindrops and the crack of the thunder just works for me.

So now, when I need to concentrate, I let my co-workers know "I will be listening to the rain for the next two hours because I need to get some work done." They know not to distract me unless it is urgent, and I am able to tune out nearly everything around me and just write, or edit, or craft media strategy - and that is well worth the $1.99.

Do you have any tips or tricks to increasing focus and concentration at work? We would love to hear them.