Key Advice Blog

Archive for the ‘Key Tips’ Category

Plain Language on websites, apps, platforms is all about usability. The Plain Language movement – which has been active around the globe for some time now – traditionally focused on the print medium. But, over the last few years a number of resources have popped up that target online communications. Here are three articles and three links to help you successfully integrate plain language into your online projects.

The web technology has moved on from websites to apps and mobile platforms. ClickZ recently ran an article by Melinda Krueger – ‘Jakob Nielsen on Usability for Mobile Sites and Apps. Nielsen said the technology must be easy to touch and manipulate – as users are most often multi-tasking. And, short is not good enough – content must be ‘ultra-short’. Melinda’s article is a good overview, and a good place to build a plain language web assessment plan from.

If you are starting out on a website, or want to see if yours meets plain language guidelines, take a look at the PlainLanguage.gov site’s Planning a Plain Language Website section. They demonstrate what they recommend – so you can have a textual and a visual guide.

On the Results for Canadians blog, Laura’s recent article ‘Measuring plain language on the web’ highlights important aspects, and provides excellent links. Yes, it’s all about  users being able to ‘find, understand and act’ when on a website, but she recommends testing for ‘findability’ as well as usability.

A Google search for plain language on the Web turned up a few resources, with many published before 2,000. Let’s get website plain language back on the table. We need to move faster to keep up with technology.

Key Resources

Book: Plain Language Websites, Plain Language Wizardry.

LinkedIn Plain Language Advocates Group – discussing the creation of Plain Language Day.

PLAIN – Plain Language Association INternational

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After joining Iris Meck Communications Inc providing event media support and follow-up – print, video, podcast, web, e-news – and having organized a few events myself – there are some behind the scenes tips that can help you achieve success and have people talking positively about the service you provided.

1. Treat every attendee as a valued customer

The registration area is your front door. Welcome people in personally. Help them feel comfortable – find their name tag, the event room, the facilities. Make the registration area streamlined, facilitating flow through to the event itself. Direct people to any support or promotional tools you are handing out. The best way to achieve all this is to be organized: arrive well ahead of the opening time, have the area clean and staffed and have your own name tag on so people know who you are. Be at the registration area as the event ends. You can gain valuable event feedback directly and indirectly.

2. Speakers and hosts are your VIPs

VIPs should have one person assigned to them. Know their travel, meal and presentation technical needs. Ensure they receive information before the event, have all needs assessed well before their presentation and have post-event travel arrangements in place – like a ride or a taxi to the airport. Escort them to their presentation room, ensure they have the tech support they need and introduce them to key hosts and guests at the event. Always get their permission for quoting, filming or posting their information online. Ask if a copy of their presentation is available for the media. Follow up with a personal gift and thank-you after the event.

3.  Making the most of the media opportunities

Today’s media are busy, inundated with emails and have to feed info into a variety of platforms. Invite the media well ahead of time so they can put your event in their diary. Send them a newsworthy release ahead of the event – include links to social media sites, websites, videos and podcasts, and photos. In the pre-event reminder email provide the schedule of the whole event, and indicate clearly who they can contact to set up interviews and get at-event assistance. Have media-specific folders with key information at the registration desk. Provide all media with your prompt post event news release – and include or provide links to video, podcast and photographic resources. Follow up on the media coverage after the event to track for yourself and your client – in print, on websites, search Twitter and Facebook for mentions, set up a Google alert.

4. Expect the unexpected

No matter how many boxes you ticked, how many meetings you’ve had, something will always go wrong. Brainstorm with your team before the event things that might happen and how you will deal with them. Know your facility coordinator on a first name basis – and find out who’s supporting you each day of the event. Have key phone numbers in your cell phone. Check the tech support – are they on duty, accessible all day. Be prepared for delays in arrivals, last-minute schedule changes for key guests, food and drink issues, special needs. Have a trouble-shooter on the team who can track, deal with and make post event recommendations on all the challenges you faced.

5. Post Event Brainstorm

Within two days of the event, pull the whole team together – a representative of the client, your team, an attendee – and give the event organization a thorough evaluation. Don’t hang on to what went wrong – rather – brainstorm ideas on how to make the next one event even better. Document and implement.

A successful event is a feather in your hat. Wear it proudly. But remember, each event is unique and requires your full attention from start to finish.

Event Education.com

Everybody is doing it – blogging, tweeting, Facebook posting, LinkedIn updates – but not everyone is doing it well. Here are some great tips on top social media behaviour that will help you get top results.

The Japanese crises – earthquake, tsunami and nuclear problems – have attracted global attention. Some businesses sincerely want to use social media to show support, other efforts are thinly veiled attempts at self-promotion. Always remember social media users are knowledgeable – for the most pat – not gullible. ClickZ provides some clear guidelines for brands on ‘helping Japan’.

After having to fight with fans more interested in yelling into their mobile phone than cheering for their team recently, I am wondering if the result is going to be a please switch off your phone campaign. But, it’s not just individuals, many organisations are not using mobile technology in the best – and most strategic – way. Adobe Scene 7’s Mobile Best Practices white paper on ClickZ looks at how industry leaders are making the most of mobile technology – with excellent results. The focus is on targeting your strategy – not throwing everything in one pot.

But, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, and keep your fans happy, it’s all about ‘content’. Many organisations are more concerned about showing off, while their sophisticated social media clients are more interested in substance. Fresh, interesting content is what keeps some brands well out front. More Visibility has some great tips on how to create social media content that people will ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’. Even if you are well established, a quick refresher on the basics never hurts.

 

Summer is networking season. Yes, many people are on holidays, but not everyone. Marketing is something that needs to happen everyday when you are in business. So how do you get the most of your networking in the season of sun (for some) and sea?

Social media sites play a big role in today’s marketing mix. They are a great way to connect – can be done from anywhere, anytime. So don’t abandon them just because it’s summer time.

Go back to Mashable’s 2010 kick off article 7 Lessons for Better Networking to re-focus and refresh your networking activities.

Be  original. Twitchhiker just travelled around the world on his Twitter connections – getting support from so many people in so many ways. Boredom and a desire to travel inspired him to use Twitter and tweeters backed him up. Watch for his book about his global travel experience. This story has it all: social networking, global angle and nice people. As ‘Twitchhiker’ himself says – it’s newsworthy because it’s the news news agencies don’t cover traditionally.

But, nothing replaces face-to-face networking. As more people become self-employed, social co-working, or ‘Jelly’ meet-ups, are taking networking to the next level. Entrepreneurs plan a Jelly, meeting up for a day of work related activities at one location. It puts ‘soul mates’ into being a sole proprietor. It gives home workers an office for a day. I just participated in my first e_nation Twitter live web Water Cooler Moment. It was a fun way to meet new people and network.  The support of like-minded entrepreneurs can be so valuable. If there isn’t one in your area, why not start one?

Look for business groups in your area – and think outside the box. With online support like Ning, it’s worth checking out who’s networking online in your area.

But, don’t forget the ‘social’ aspect. Be a community correspondent for your local newspaper. Join a class or volunteer. No matter what tool you use, it’s still people telling other people about you that opens doors. Let me know if you have an interesting social networking example.

There is nothing like a trip abroad to experience the vast range of customer service in the travel industry – and draw comparisons. You can get everything from the brilliant to the beastly all within a few metres of each other. My trips to Canada usually involve a connection in Toronto with everything from several hours to minutes between flights! There is one thing that stands out – those companies and employees willing to go the extra mile delivering customer service.

Recently, faced with a 8 hour delay between flights, I booked (online) a spa time-out at the Sheraton Toronto Airport. When I arrived, after a delicious lunch service, I was met by a quizzical look from the check in staff saying the spa, which rented space from them was under new ownership and rennovations. I explained I had booked it via a link on their website, had received a confirmation and was disappointed. The young lady on staff quickly started calling neighbouring hotels, booked me into another (Delta) hotel’s spa and arranged free limo service for me. Now that’s above and beyond. 

Meanwhile, back in the airport, Thomas Cook staff showed me the other end of the customer service spectrum. I was refused the option to change my seat at check in, after being told that that is where I’d have to do it, when I asked upon departure. Staff told me I’d have to ask at the desk in the departures lounge. That woman rudely told me no. So after being bounced from one desk to another, even though I paid for my seat alocation, not only was I refused the option to change, I refused in a rude manner.

Perhaps they Thomas Cook ground staff need to walk across the road to the Sheraton check-in desk and see how it can be done. In the same amount of time, with the same amount of energy. And, now the Sheraton have a postive review on TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and here.

It’s only a short trip from customer complaint to customer cudos – and it’s worth it.

Relationship Marketing

10 Customer Service Tips

Learning is a life long event – and there’s no better way to learn than in a classroom of new students. I mean learn from the students. Collaborative learning is so inspiring – and nothing lends itself more to it than a topic like web design. Here is what I learned from the students in my Web Design for Business class at Kendal College‘s Creative Arts Centre.

Passion

The students arrived at the first class nine weeks ago with limited exposure to websites and design. But, they had a passion for a topic. Whether it was a business, a service for a client group, a past time, or a promoting themselves to find work – they all embraced the task with passion. It showed in the final results.

Panache

Despite a steep learning curve – image creation, HTML, SEO, and an unknown template, social media sites – they were confident that this was the right media for their message. They tried new things, shared ideas with each other, and when it came to evaluating each other’s sites, they provided helpful ideas – most which were acted upon immediately. It takes a confident person to critique another’s work, and a confident person to receive and accept it.

Perseverance

But, most impressive was their perseverance. They stuck with it. Overcame technical difficulties. Tried different ways until they found the best one for them – and their audience.

Have you got the 3 P’s to build your own website? Of course you do. But, it’s always more fun in a group. If there isn’t a class available, ask your local college to put one on. Or, form a Jelly and work together in your own group. There’s nothing that can make you feel prouder than having your own website – and with all the free platforms out there – WordPress, Blogspot, Weebly – there’s no need to delay any longer. A little passion, panache and perseverance and you’ll be live in no time!

Many of today’s newly unemployed are choosing to start-up their own businesses. Their biggest fear isn’t failure, it’s working at home alone. After just leaving university, or being made redundant from a job, they are now faced with being at home – alone. But, there is no need to be afraid or alone; there are many ways to have a virtual office environment. Here are three great ones.

Jelly – This brilliant idea is happening on a semi-weekly basis in a space near you. Jelly promotes casual working events. So a Jelly host sets up a place and time – could even be their home – and entrepreneurs get together to work for the day. Ideas are shared. It’s all casual, fun and motivating. Watch their video. Follow them on Twitter.

Enterprise Nation – This fantastic, free service for helping home business owners, is led by Emma Jones, author of Working 5 – 9. My favourite service is their Twitter (@e_nation) #watercoolermoment. It happens daily at 11 am and people tweet together, usually about a specific topic. It’s a nice virtual, online coffee break. And, if you really want to go virtual, try their Friday video watercooler live chat! Brilliant.

If face-to-face is important, ask people to Skype with you. It saves on time, travel and gives you a great connected feeling.  And, it’s free.

With video becoming the next best way of promoting yourself online, using these three options will help you boost your confidence and stay connected to real people whilst you work away in your home office! See you online.


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