Counting on the Bench

Business travel. It’s a personal and professional test of character, stamina and flexibility – and willingness to call on the home team and bench to keep things moving forward.

During a recent three-week barrage of travel to Missouri, Michigan and Oregon, I opted to maintain an office presence while not actually being there. It turned out to be more challenging than I anticipated.

Should I set an away message in Outlook? I didn’t. I can keep up with emails, I decided. What about changing my voicemail message? No. I’ll check in often enough that I’ll return calls on my routine pace. Do I ask our receptionist to advise clients I’m not actually in the office, and their patience is appreciated? Again, I decided I could respond quickly enough to all communications. No need to mention my physical whereabouts.

Those of you who travel routinely are no doubt chuckling by now. You know I was able to honor my communication objectives about 50 percent of the time – the time when I had access to Wi-Fi, the time when I had phone battery, the time when I had time.

The other 50 percent of the time? I quickly figured out I had only one viable option – call  or send an emergency email or text to the home team and request an immediate pinch hitter. Whether it was returning a client’s message, taking a next step on a project or following-up on a conversation or task I would have managed had I been in the office, the Bottom Line team covered every gap and responded to every need.

I ended up sharing my situation with a few clients, as a way to buy a bit more time on a few items. It seemed only fair they should know. In the main, however, work continued without a hitch. The biggest stressor was my own anxiety level as I typed out long emails on my phone, waited for an opportunity to open my iPad to view an email attachment and hoped I could make a quick call while trying to catch a connecting flight. Remarkably, it all worked out.KC Fountain Group

I can’t say how I’ll manage my next business trip, but thanks to our rock solid team, my approach succeeded this time.

- Beth Fredrickson, Senior PR Counselor

Value from the Customer’s Perspective

Since 2004, we’ve been surveying our customers to define value from the customer’s perspective, gaining valuable insight for improvement, along with confirmation of what we’re doing well. 

Our process for gathering customers’ feedback is simple. We send an online questionnaire via Survey Monkey to our clients with questions using a seven-point ranking scale for quantitative metrics, as well as open-ended questions to gather qualitative information. Our goal for each year is that at least 75 percent of all clients responses are in the “virtually always” and “almost always” categories. In the infographic below, you will see in 2014 we were well over this goal.

We ask our customers what they think our strengths are and where we can improve (see infographic) and use their responses to revise our processes, close any gaps, and accommodate our time and resources. Then, we share the results with our clients and post the trend line on our website.

We think it’s important to share our yearly results with not only our clients, but you, too, to encourage you to consider how you can gather your customers’ feedback and use it to learn and improve. Check out the infographic below to see some of the key results from our 2014 customer survey.

2014 Customer Survey

Now, find out what your customers have to say! You’ll be a better organization because of it.

Storytelling that Matters

When you break PR down to its basics, it’s all about sharing a story in a way that compels people to action. Whether we’re telling the story of a company, a community or an individual, our job as communicators is to make it shine. Easier said than done, right?

For a precious few stories, all the elements seem to come together in a way that was made to shout from the hills! For the rest, here are some tips to find the heart of a great story in nearly any topic:

Make it relevant
In the daily media world, this means it must be newsworthy via a tie—however small—to what’s happening in current news and culture. What trends does your topic help support or contradict? What impact does the story have on its industry, on other business, on society at large? Get creative!

By demonstrating these connections in your story, you’ll likely catch the eye of more reporters and readers. Remember, if your focus is trade media, they have a much deeper but narrower view of what’s relevant to their audience. You can use this to your advantage. While new training formats aren’t national news, for example, a trade magazine will definitely be interested in industry changes like that.

Make it personal
A relevant story tells people why they should read it; making it personal reminds them why they should care. It gets them invested. The best stories revolve around an individual—it’s worth the time to do your research and find a captivating subject for your story. This can be a patient who’s successfully walked the long-road of stroke recovery, a family who’s just bought their first home thanks to a unique loan program, or even an employee who gives back to the community outside of work. People love reading about people! Not only will you hold their interest, you’ll bring them one step closer to taking action as a result.

Make it vibrant
Nothing makes readers flip the page or click a different link faster than dry storytelling. Avoid rote sentences or monotone fact-listing. Instead, spice up your story with a strong, intriguing lead and direct quotes. Subheads also help mix things up, especially for tricky transitions in what might normally be a less-than-interesting article.

This is where your efforts to make it personal pay off yet again. Even if your story is about nothing more than drain tiles, putting a face to it introduces a twist that can help maintain interest.

And don’t forget a call to action
The point of great storytelling is to make readers feel something, do something. It can be as simple as chatting about the article the next time they’re with friends, or it could be a larger ask, like encouraging them to make a personal contribution to a cause. You want to write your story in a way that the call to action is implied, even if it’s not stated outright. How do you do that? By making it relevant, personal and vibrant.

So, next time you’re ready to share a new story, make it great!