6 Things To Do Now So January Is Smooth(er)

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Ah, the holiday season. It’s either a time of scrambling to complete projects before the end of the year or it’s completely dead. Not dead-dead. Just quiet and filled with emails and messages that deliver the (hoped-for?) message “let’s hold off until January.”

But is this something to wish for? Come January 2, your to-do list could be a mile longer than usual. Besides projects to complete and the renewed energy a new year brings, landing new business is often at the top of the list. Below are things to do in December to make your January less crazy.

  1. Have coffee or lunch with new vendors, partner organizations and other key stakeholders. The environment is generally more relaxed and you’re giving these new potential partners time to think about how they might help you before you need them. This ensures when you do need them, they can be better prepared.
  2. Clean your office. Everyone has something that is sitting around on their desk (or under it), in the corner or tucked in a closet that either should be filed, sent to someone else or be pitched. See how clean you can get your desk top. Then revel in the extra space you never knew you had.
  3. Empty your email inbox. Are you laughing? Of course, you are. Try it anyway. It may take an entire day, but file or delete anything that you can. At least get that inbox down to one screen. If you can’t, perhaps some delegating is in order? If you can, imagine the relief an empty email inbox can bring. (I do this once a month at minimum.) If you haven’t already done so, set up rules for certain emails so they file themselves in folders.
  4. Write down your goals for 2017 — both for your career and your work. With December’s more relaxed business environment, your brain now has a chance to stew and simmer on these ideas. Don’t do anything on them–unless you really, really want to. Just identify them. When January rolls around, you may find you’ve had a few subconscious brainstorms that will make tackling these goals easier.
  5. Celebrate your successes in 2016. Given the pace of life, letting your victories go by unnoticed is common. Think of all the things that went well in the last year. Pat yourself on the back and throw a little party, even if it is just internally. In fact, do this several times in December. You deserve it, and acknowledging what went well will provide a little extra bit of energy needed to tackle a new year.
  6. Take the time to thank someone who contributed to your success. ‘Tis the season of gratitude after all. Remember the simplest of compliments can pack a wallop. Send a handwritten note, email or text with a simple sentiment, such as “Before the year ends, I want you to know your work on XYZ made all the difference.”

These are simple activities and can help you ease into January. You don’t have to do them all. But definitely clean out your email inbox. Trust me on that one.

Five Steps to Audit Your Communications Today

When is the last time you took a hard look at your communication efforts? Your public relations, advertising, marketing communications, social media outreach, community relations, materials, web site, marketing collateral and more are all part of your overall communications mix. Here are five steps to reviewing your communications work to better their effectiveness.

  1. Take inventory. List all the vehicles and channels you actively use to engage customers. No, that doesn’t mean everything. To make this process manageable, focus only on the things that directly and specifically fall under your marketing and/or communications team.
  2. Identify patterns. Do you see any common language used? Common visuals? At the same time, identify counter messaging, where you say one thing one place, but say another in another place. Why is that? Does this mean your team on the same page? You’ll want to reconcile any differences.
  3. Match up each communications activity against who you’re trying to attract. Are they having the impact you desire? You measure these activities, right? List everything that works well, what doesn’t, and what requires further measurement.
  4. Identify what is missing. There’s always something missing. Can you introduce a new strategy or tactic and eliminate what isn’t working? (Say yes.)
  5. Recalibrate your communications plan with this intelligence.

While you should be monitoring regularly, a full communications audit is warranted at least once a year.

Three Mistakes To Avoid in Storytelling

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Storytelling is not all fun and games. Avoid these mistakes we see far too often in business communications–and how to avoid them.

  1. Don’t confuse a message with a story. In its simplest terms, a message is a conclusion you wish people to reach. A story is the journey that gets you to that conclusion with a beginning, middle and end. A message is the end.
  2. Don’t make your story all about you. Make it about your customer. People like to read about other people–unless that person is a narcissist. Don’t be that person Don’t only talk about how great you are. Share how great you are through the eyes of someone you pleased.
  3. Don’t confuse your fancy terms with clarity and understanding. The term, XYZ Company Advantage, may sound like a terrific name for a loyalty program, but would your customer automatically equate that term with such a thing? Label things for what they are: XYZ Customer Loyalty Program. (Okay, it’s oversimplified, but you get what I’m saying, right?)