Make a Great First Impression with a Homepage

What an excellent idea. In my spare time, I may have to change my wordpress to mirror this idea.

The WordPress.com Blog

Most bloggers display their latest posts first — reverse chronological order is the classic blog format, after all. Many WordPress.com users, however, choose to build a static front page — a homepage — that creates a website feel and brings your long-term content to the front.

A well-designed homepage has always been a staple of major websites, like The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation — a WordPress.com VIP partner. You don’t have to be a large company or non-profit organization to see the advantages of a homepage, though. Artists and other creative professionals enjoy the benefits of portfolio sites and personal pages to showcase their talents. Increasingly, so do personal bloggers across a wide variety of niches. To give you a taste of what a homepage can do for your blog, here are some sites that use this option in a smart, creative way.

Groovy Bow Sequence

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 1.43.54 AM
Claire, the Seoul-based kindergarten…

View original post 627 more words

Advertisements

The Nightmare of Success

20140221-221034.jpg

Some wouldn’t consider a stack of business cards and the lingering memories of conversations exciting. I see possibilities of creating meaningful, networking relationships. I have been told multiple times by professors and professionals that it’s all about who you know. I agree, but I would add that it’s also about who knows you and why.

There are a plethora of articles giving advice on networking and polite conduct. For example, author Mark Macias advised that interaction is important, but listening is even more important. He wisely warns to choose your words carefully and think about the consequences of what you say.

Over the past few months, I’ve attended several networking events. I’ve gone to everything from a Dallas Women’s Foundation event about gender in media to the recent Society of Professional Journalists career conference. I thought I had learned enough to keep from making mistakes, but I left each event having learned something new regarding what to and what not to do. Here are a few things I’ve discovered.

1. Having a drink of alcohol is appropriate, but can result in avoidable problems.

At the gender in media event, I ordered a glass of wine. The location provided drinks and most of the ladies were enjoying something alcoholic of their choice. However, the wine made me uncomfortably warm, and thus uncomfortable in the social situation. This advice will vary depending on the person, but for me, I won’t be drinking any more wine at networking events. I want to be paying attention to the people I’m conversing with, instead of thinking about how I’m uncomfortable.

2. Always have an extra pen.

I used to be a waitress and had to constantly restock on pens because people would take them home. It doesn’t matter if they did so on purpose, or forgot and did so on accident. I still had to buy new pens. At these networking events, I keep showing up with only one pen, and inevitably, it always goes missing. Having an extra is also helpful in the case that another person forgets one entirely.

3. As I said above, it may be about who knows you, but also why they know you.

At one of these recent events, there was a question and answer session with a microphone migrating around the room. They announced the last question, and as the microphone was noticeably being passed to someone, another person stood up from across the room and started loudly asking their question. All the attendees, including myself, were stunned. I don’t doubt that everyone will remember this person, but for the wrong reasons. Being aware of surroundings and aware of your own actions cannot be under emphasized. You want to leave people with something positive.

4. Networking isn’t just about events.

As Catapult Public and Investor Relations’ blog suggested, networking can also be done on social media. Using social media to engage and connect with people in the industry, from LinkedIn to Twitter, is also important. I agree with Kim Harrison of Cutting Edge PR when she wrote that networking should also occur internally. She may have been referring to a company, but I think it also applies to school. All my classmates and professors are all invaluable connections. I agree with PRSA that nothing can replace face-to-face communication when networking, but the other forms are useful as well.

I think networking and personal interaction will be a constant learning ground. If you’ve been out networking, what tips have you learned? What advice would you give new professionals?

The Harsh Reality of Brand Reputation

ReputationRecently, I had a curious experience involving a Mastiff and Alzheimer’s disease. Before I confuse you, let me explain. I am currently the communications intern at the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Dallas. One of the ladies involved in the nonprofit asked our permission to take a picture of her beautiful Mastiff, Campbell, with our Alzheimer’s Association logo in the background. She hopes that country artist Glenn Campbell will sign it and then she can auction it off, donating the proceeds to the nonprofit. Regardless of the outcome, this experience sparked a conversation between my boss and I about brand reputation.

Why is it important?

I think people and brands have a lot in common when it comes to reputation. In both cases, success is tied to a good reputation. In the same way, a bad reputation can cost everything. I would argue that reputation, whether for brands or for people, takes constant work. At the same time, I argue that reputation is something that, when tarnished, is almost impossible to repair. Blogger Cara Pring shared a quote from Benjamin Franklin that captures my thoughts exactly. He said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation and only one bad one to lose it.” She warned that it’s easier to protect than to repair a brand’s reputation. 

Why should you care that a brand is so difficult, if not impossible, to repair? In addition to the frustration of fixing a reputation, Author Sam Huleatt explained that a brand is increasingly becoming the most important part of a company. Huleatt says this is due to brands becoming more a means of personal identification. This makes sense. Just think about all the different ways we identify ourselves through brands and products. I am proud to drink Dr. Pepper. The organization even makes shirts with the saying “I’m a Pepper” across the front. In the same way, we also identify ourselves by what brands we don’t associate with.

Therefore, if a brand is not only the most important part of an organization but its reputation is nearly impossible to repair once damaged, it is imperative to protect it in all circumstances. Remember that reputation is in the mind. Reputation is all about perceptions. The crisis public relations agency, the Red Banyon Group, made an excellent point: “Perception is reality, especially when it comes to your company’s image.So, what can you do?

1. Protect

First, it is important to realize that everything your company produces and does, including the actions of employees and representatives, is a reflection of the brand. Therefore, it is important to protect your brand’s reputation in every area. One way you can protect brand reputation is by protecting the brand identity. Novagraaf, an international patent and trademark consultancy, recommends several legal avenues of protection such as trademark, copyright, design and logo protection.

2. Communicate

Another way to protect your brand reputation is by making sure that everyone in a company or representing a brand is aware of the desired image. Pring suggested that everyone, from the very top to the very bottom, needs to understand the policies and guidelines and abide by them at all times.

3. Be Prepared

The last recommendation I’d make is being prepared for the worst. This world is filled with unexpected moments and events outside of our control. Therefore, just like my brothers learned in Boy Scouts, it is always good to be prepared. Being prepared includes protecting in case of possibilities. This means asking the tough questions and coming up with a plan, typically called crisis communications plans. Think of these crisis plans as reputation insurance. Heather Rast gave an excellent reminder that planning prepares you to respond instead of simply react. Coming up with the solution to the problem before the problem occurs is the best way to protect a brand’s reputation.

In public relations, as representatives for companies and brands, this should be our MO. If a brand’s reputation crumbles, we are the ones who get to pick up the pieces.  Remember how I said that people and brands are a lot similar in this area? Take a moment and consider what you do to protect your reputation. What would you do to keep your reputation from falling apart? What would you do to repair it? Consider your answers and ask yourself if they’d be applicable to the brand or company you represent. Right there is a great start to a crisis communications plan.

Paper Made With Recycled Materials

The movie “13 Going on 30” may have warned you that redesign is a death sentence, but Facebook’s new app, Paper, is proving otherwise. A day before its 10th birthday, on Monday, Feb. 3,  Facebook launched its separate iPhone app in the United States. AJ Dellinger from Digital Trends called it “a complete re-imaging.” Facebook took a lot of its good features, recycled them, and gave them a new look.

Facebook Paper's LogoWhat’s Different?

First, the look of the app is different. Dellinger also pointed out that Facebook’s familiar logo is no longer prominent. It’s not the app’s logo, and it’s not obviously displayed anywhere in the app. There is a section titled “Facebook,” but we’ll get into sections later. Dellinger speculated that Paper is distancing itself from the company. TIME Magazine’s Harry McCrackent noted that Paper doesn’t have the common blue theme or vertical scrolling and tapping used to traverse posts and pages. Instead, Facebook took the common symbols, such as notifications and messages, and recycled them into a simple theme. McCrackent referred to the feel as “2014 aesthetics.”Scrolling

The second change is navigation. I think Facebook is taking a more visual route, making this new app fit with full screen images. To navigate the different sections or posts, you scroll horizontally. One review described the movements as “natural,” although it took me a while to adjust.  Traversing the app is largely based on this horizontal scrolling and swiping up and down, as if you are dragging things forward and pushing them back. If you haven’t seen the video at the top of this post, it’s easier to visualize what I’m talking about after seeing it. I think the app looks mature, especially with what Dellinger called, “seamless transitions.” In addition, when you’re opening an article, it transitions like you’re opening up a physical newspaper, although Dellinger described it as opening a card.

Third, Facebook added at least three new features, although I’m still exploring and discovering. Elyse Betters noted that Facebook went the route of news aggregator with its addition of sections. Sections are what Betters called a “classic way of retrieving news but with a fresh twist.” McCrackent explained that each section pulls information and stories from established companies and experts in that specified field. Currently, Paper offers 20 sections, including the already selected “Facebook” section with your own news feed from friends and Sectionspages you’ve followed. Roberto Baldwin of Wired revealed that Paper has a “Read Later” option that works with Pocket, Instapaper, Pinboard and Safari Reading List. I didn’t know about this feature until I read his article. Last, when posting a status in Paper, there is special drop down menu where you can select who does and doesn’t see the post.

What’s Lacking?

McCrackent observed that Paper doesn’t have all the features the old Facebook app offered, such as events, apps or lists. I’ve also noticed it doesn’t have a difference between pages or groups. It’s simply a long list of all the pages and groups you’re associated with. For those not regularly using these features, Paper is perfect. However, I regularly use most of them, and am therefore keeping the old Facebook app as well. At least until Paper adds in those features.

One issue I’ve dealt with is the swiping down motion. My iPhone 5 often mistakes this for the phone’s drop down menu, which can get frustrating. I have to ensure I’m not touching the very top of the screen when swiping down perform the operation inside the app.

Regardless of the social media platform, people (myself included) want customizable settings and personalization. In Paper, you can Postselect which of the additional 19 sections you want. However, you cannot specify what companies, people or news organizations from which to get information. Rather, Facebook already chose your sources from established, well-known companies or experts.  I think people will want more selection.

General Consensus

Most of the reviews and articles on Paper were positive, although many, myself included, had some areas in which Paper could improve. McCrackent said this was the future of Facebook, seeing is as a success compared to the recent failures of Messenger or Poke (Facebook’s Snapchat knockoff). Dellinger described this app as Facebook’s efforts to save itself from the impending death so many forecast, such as Dan Tynan’s post, “Is Facebook Dying?”

I my opinion, Paper is a wonderful restart. I agree with McCrackent when he suggested it was a way to avoid shocking people with change or forcing them into a new design. I agree this is the future of Facebook. I think the company is paying attention to the general desire for news via social media and the high importance placed on visuals. I think Paper can be an excellent tool for Public Relations professionals who’ve gotten tired of the old layout. I would suggest all PR people download the free app and get familiar.

Stuart Miles pointed out that the company is currently facing issues with the name, receiving an open letter from FiftyThree (the company behind the iPad drawing app, Paper). Overall, I do see Facebook listening to feedback. After an interview, Jake Smith reported that Facebook wouldn’t be making any changes until it’s gotten feedback from users.  I, for one, love the recycled features and new look. I’m excited to see what’s in store.

Clarity in Composition

Growing up, I went into battle with my parents on many issues. I took a sword to their asking me to clean the bathroom I shared with two little brothers. I put up a shield of excuses whenever they asked me to help with the dishes. I threw spears into many of their desires and wishes regarding my actions and choices. However, there was one wish I could not defeat, although I tried with all my might. My mother would not let me quit playing piano. There were many days that I’d fight, and others when I’d give up only to stare at the small piano in the corner of the dining room like it was killing my soul.

My mother would harken back to the story of her childhood piano lessons. She’d tell me how she’d givImage by Corrie Scaggsen up after a couple of years and recalled the regret of not sticking with it. “That’s why you have to keep going. I don’t want to you look back and regret giving up,” she’d say. I ended up taking piano lessons from 1998 until 2008. I’m glad my mother never let me stop. Being able to sit down on the piano bench and look at music written hundreds of years ago is nostalgic enough. Being able to express what the composer felt through my own fingertips, and for a moment to feel the emotion in the song, makes all those years of lessons and mind-bogglingly boring music theory worth it.

Currently, I don’t have a piano in my home now that I’ve moved away from my parents. Therefore, that’s one of my favorite reasons to visit their house. I can go upstairs into the library and play to my heart’s content. The last time I sat down to play I realized that music, specifically music composition, and public relations have a lot in common. That may seem like a far stretch, but let me explain. Music starts out as an idea, emotion or story inside the head of the composer. The challenge is taking that idea and putting it on paper in such a way that others can understand. 

I’ve discovered that boring music theory is actually the key to expressing exact emotions, ideas or stories through music. I read an article on music theory and it said theory is like a composer’s tool. On the page, classical music is made up of symbols, notes and words. These all communicate something to the musician. They are the tools. This allows musicians to read the music. If they read it right, and if the composer chose the correct symbols, notes and words, then it will sound how the composer intended. In order to clearly communicate the idea, emotion or story through music, the composer has to first understand what they want to communicate, and then communicate it clearly. One music theory website called these “expression marks.”

Much like music composition, public relations is about communicating the right message (the idea, emotion or story) clearly. The HB Agency of Massachusetts refers to this as finding the right “voice” for a company or brand. As public relations professionals, we need to understand the message we want to communicate, and then clearly and articulately communicate it. Clarity is vitally important to public relations, but also communication in general. If you aren’t clear, one article listed many damaging repercussions, such as lawsuits, confusion, upset customers, etc.

During my college career, I’ve learned a lot about senders (think composer) and receivers (think musician). In public relations, in most cases we are the sender and the audience is the receiver. One author explained that, “the meaning of the words and message should be the same to both the sender and the receiver.” Just as 15th century composers wanted people to play their music today, public relations professionals want the audience to understand the same message we’re working to communicate.

As I said before, clear communication is important in general. Take advertising, for example. Clarity in what advertisers communicate is essential. However, I’d argue that it is even more important to public relations professionals because we typically deal with earned instead of paid media. In Parry Headrick’s blog post, he explained that advertisers pay for their media space and thus have control over the message. In public relations, we send out the information or message to the media, and because it is earned, we no longer have control. If we haven’t been clear, the media may not communicate the same message we wanted and the audience will not hear what we wanted to communicate. 

That’s why I recommend a thorough knowledge of words, grammar, punctuation, spelling and writing styles. I may have thought these were boring at first, just like music theory, but they are the backbone of public relations. Without them, we cannot clearly communicate the idea, emotion or story of the brands and companies we represent.