Friday, October 26, 2018

Writing a Better, Optimized LinkedIn Profile Summary

How's your LinkedIn profile? When is the last time you visited it or updated it?

The platform went through some changes over the past or so and with 2018 coming to a close, it's a great time to update your LinkedIn profile for the upcoming new year and optimize it for search.

After all, as a leading B2B social network, LinkedIn is where your potential clients, users, buyers, customers, and referral sources will find you. So just like a website, optimizing your profile content is important.

1 - Update your headline (and feel free to do so periodically). This is the bold descriptive line below your name that broadcasts what you do. When I write LinkedIn profile summaries, I like to include a "what's in it for them" element, a value proposition element so people can see right away why they should contact you. You have up to 120 characters (including spaces) to do this so be judicious, but include a relevant search term here.

2 - Your summary is where you can tell your story. Gone are the days of stiff third-person descriptions (unless that's your style). Draw the visitor in, tell them why you love what you do, share a significant win, talk about specialty areas. Bring out your unique selling proposition (USP); why should someone contact you over your competition? This section gives you up to 2000 characters with spaces so it's fairly generous in terms of room to sell yourself. Be sure to include search terms related to your area of expertise, your industry, and the clientele you serve.

3 - Other areas are available for your job experience (current and prior), education, certifications and professional designations, areas of interest, accomplishments, and other resume elements that don't need to be in your summary.

4 - Ask for recommendations from quality sources: colleagues, vendors, partners, clients. These should be authentic testimonials and are an excellent way to enhance your LinkedIn profile.

5 - Endorsements - these are nice if people are truly endorsing you for skills they know you possess and at which you excel. That might not always be the case; that's why I prefer recommendations.

6 - Add files tho showcase your deliverables - presentations and white papers are excellent additions.

7- Publish on LinkedIn. Remember LinkedIn Pulse? That's gone but you have the ability to publish articles; it's a great way to give your blog additional breadth (consider doing a slight edit so it's not duplicate content) or to amplify your weekly posts by mixing in longer-form content.

Now that your profile is stellar, be sure to post with some consistency; a couple of times a week is ample. The posts can be fairly long, 1300 characters, but that figure is reduced if you are adding an image or a link.

What to post? Glad you asked! You can share third-party news and articles by others with your commentary (which shows your insights and expertise in the field) as well as your own original content that drives traffic to your website or a specific landing page. There's plenty of information out there to share and comment on to mix in with your content about your field. But that's a post for another day.

Need help with your LinkedIn and other social media profiles or posts? A professional copywriter can help. You know what to do: or 201-791-4694.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Age of Incivility: the Loss of Civil Communication on Social Media

The hashtag #civility has been popping up on Facebook and I'm sure, on other social media platforms, and for good reason. The divisive political climate (and equally divisive rhetoric), coupled with the incessant social media chatter around us, has given rise to increasingly gross, distasteful, and hateful attacks across the digital space.

Why all the hate? Can't we all just agree to disagree?

Social media provides a veil behind which people can hide. It enables users to go after people they don't even know, whose views run counter to their own. But it's often not a matter of, "I respectfully disagree." It is very often vehemently hostile, crude language flung at complete strangers, often about topics that might not even direct affect the flinger's life. Even in matters that many of us care about deeply, and may or may not impact our daily lives, why is there no civility in the responses? Why all the knee-jerk ugly reactions that are cluttering up our feeds?

Humans are attached to the need to be right, often at great cost. As is often seen on social networks, that cost is one's personal dignity and social civility.

There is ample digital real estate for civil discourse, a sharing and an exchange of views in a respectful manner. There are people with whom I am connected, and some with whom I work, that do not share my politics, religion, ethnic or cultural background, or views on societal matters but we find the common ground upon which we can converse with civility. We respect each other as fellow citizens and colleagues. As a former boss used to tell me, "Be tough on the issues but easy on the people." Would that more of us would heed that advice.

We see the hostile comments everywhere. Twitter threads devolve into acidic stews of vitriol. Facebook comments turn ugly in a tap of a key. Internet trolls throw major shade, convolute stories, bully total strangers. I've even seen it occasionally on LinkedIn of all places (speaking of, please keep your posts related to business there). Sniping and cursing at people unknown to the user, a friend of a friend perhaps, is commonplace. It's also offensive and unnecessary. Remember what the teacher said: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything. Or take it offline and keep it away from the rest of us who just want to enjoy each other's company.

The real news/fake news battle is not helping matters. Before you post that incendiary story or react to the WTF-worthy headline (and perpetuate the hate, intentionally or unintentionally), read the actual article. Find out the source; is it an actual news organization? Check or if you must, if the story seems too crazy to believe. Likewise, don't believe every meme you see; remember that someone created it and the quote might not be true, the story not factual, the attribution incorrect or out of context. We can all help cut down on the vitriol if we take a few minutes to check something out before spreading rumors and ill will. (Image: Nick Youngson Photography)

By the way, one positive feature about scrolling through your feed to see what your connections are talking about is that you can keep on scrolling. Don't stop. Don't react. Just keep on going if you don't like the conversation. Or, take a deep breath and type a considered, considerate response. It's easy to do if you are not attached to proving a point but to sharing a viewpoint instead.

I encourage you to take many deep breaths as you scroll through your feeds, consider writing responses rather than reactions, respect each other's right to opinions and world views, pass over the posts you don't like, and help bring back #civility to the social media discourse. It was once there and this is entirely possible.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Video Content Enhances Employee Training in a Social World

Imagine a large and diverse workforce across age, race and gender—even locations. Then imagine having to get all those employees trained in various corporate initiatives and make sure they are getting it—and sharing what they’ve learned with their employers and co-workers. In today’s on-demand, highly visual world, video content can make “onboarding” and training happen more easily and efficiently.

Companies can create online content libraries for employees that include streaming videos, interactive e-learning courses, reference materials, e-books—all the materials needed to get a workforce up and running and on the same training page. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) estimates that nearly one-third of learning content made available is some form of e-learning; online employee training (web-based training) is part of that. 

Virtual learning via shared content allows new employees to watch and read orientation materials and training packets in formats that younger workers are accustomed to (images, video). Employers can engage employees online and develop better internal communication through interactive video/online content. Companies will also save money by offering standardized video content to employees anywhere, anytime as opposed to in-person training sessions across locations or departments.

Among employees, having a team watch videos for learning, and then having them discuss the content in the training room/classroom, is a valuable way to enhance their learning and gauge a training program’s success. Acceptable lengths of these videos are anywhere from 5-15 minutes—short and to the point. (NOTE: If you are posting tutorials online for other users, or something more promotional about your services or products, go much shorter, maybe 2-3 minutes max.) states that companies that use video content report achieving organizational goals more and have higher levels of employee engagement.  

There are some very salient reasons for why adult learning via short-form video works so well in the workplace, particularly around adult learners and their particular attributes. Remember, adults come to the workplace and to learning from a variety of backgrounds and with a broad range of experiences and knowledge. Therefore, a department of diverse employees will participate in learning differently but they do share some common characteristics that make online content a valuable training tool.

·         Adults are likely to be more self-directed and autonomous; they might also be juggling family needs with work or other issues. Therefore, they like the as-needed, when-needed access of online content in the training mix. 

·         They appreciate being able to control the pace and timing of their learning within the company structure, giving them more independence—and enabling them to focus on the content when they are most able to do so. They learn best when they are ready to learn.
·         Adults also come to the training room with a host of learning differences, so providing content they can access at their own pace allows them to soak it in more effectively. 

·         Adult learners are practical. On-demand video is convenient and does not have to disrupt the work day. It makes sense for shift workers who are clocking in at different times. Aside from being a practical consideration many employees will appreciate, they’ll also like that their time is being respected (and who doesn’t like that?).

  •   Adult learners are motivated by relevancy. Those short bursts of relevant content are more engaging for them. 
  •  They are also goal- and task-oriented so relevant content, available when they want it, makes it easy (and satisfying) to check off employee training tasks on that company to-do list.
  •    Targeted videos that are relevant to the task at hand (or training module) will appeal to adult learners, who are relevancy oriented.
  •   Learning online can curb any inhibitions older adult learners may have in a mixed classroom with millennials.
  •     BYOD (bring your own device) and the mobile applications being developed daily make video content a must-have training tool for contemporary companies.
Then there’s the millennial learner, those employees in their 20s and late 30s who’ve grown up in a video-and-image environment. They are accustomed to digesting countless hours of video, they have been served visual online content for years—and so incorporating video content into a training program will engage them more powerfully than having them sit and be lectured to.

In a social context, once the team has accomplished the e-learning tasks, they can interact with their co-workers and share their particular knowledge, experiences and perspectives about the content. Therefore, it’s important to provide a social component to the video/online training. Polls, quizzes, and surveys that employees can complete and share with each other boosts their engagement in the workplace, among each other and with their supervisors.

From interpersonal skills to sales and marketing techniques, employee onboarding to training on industry-specific compliance issues, video content as a training tool has limitless possibilities. When paired with social sharing—of ideas, feedback, knowledge—video content can be a powerful tool in a company’s content arsenal. 

Need scripts for your training videos? Contact StarrGates Business Communications: 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

When Bad Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar Happen to Good People

 I'm delighted for these students but to paraphrase the words of Inigo Montoya, "This headline does not mean what they think it means."

For heaven's sake, where was the copy editor? Managing editor? Reporter? Anyone?

What ever happened to reading your work before hitting "send" or going to print?

It seems that more and more, people are making grammar and spelling errors that are funny to many, cringe-worthy to multitudes, but also embarrassing for the perpetrators; in many cases, they show an ignorance to rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation that should have been mastered throughout 12 years of school, not to mention college or grad school after that. It's getting so bad that HubSpot ran a blog article about this back in June. In fact, there are a lot of web pages dedicated to these writing snafus and I just found this Pinterest page devoted to these bloopers.

This need not be. Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of sites to use for doing a quick check on spelling (American vs. British English, online dictionaries) as well as grammar. Journalists and public relations/news release writers use the AP Style manual (I just looked to make sure it was in there, and yes, firsthand as an adverb or adjective is indeed one word!). Publications have editors and proofreaders (well, they should have them) as do ad agencies.

Have you read the wonderful book, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation" by Lynne Truss? Please do. Do you check Go ahead, I dare ya. Or have a friend or trusted colleague read over your work before it's published. Please. There are plenty of resources available if you're not sure, folks—but if you are a writer, please, in the name of all things sacred, learn to spell and punctuate correctly, and check your work before it's printed, published or recorded.

Here's another goody for you, from a local restaurant:

Now, I know the owners meant that the place was "formerly" Giovanni's, since they changed the name (the tip-off). They did not mean that it is "formally" known as Giovanni's as in, "officially" and then misspelled "formally." I'm sorry, but the Grammar/Spelling bitch inside me says this is simply not acceptable. A friend of mine who is a printer said that printers may sometimes bring up suspected errors to clients if they have the time to do so (if they actually recognize the error, right?) but often they assume it's how the client wants it. I sure wish this restaurant owner's sign printer had noticed the error and corrected it.(I have fingers crossed that "cappuccino" is spelled correctly on the menu and that, here in New Jersey, the restaurant does not serve "expresso" but that's for another day.)

I believe we can partially blame spell checking programs for this social ill. I mean, why bother to learn how to spell when the computer will (not always) correct your mistakes? I also blame the societal meme about how no one has time to read anything, everyone is skimming, blah blah blah de blah ... I don't believe it and it shouldn't matter. That said, I would like to know who was able to read and decipher this nugget:asdf.jpg

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Note to Techno Dinos: Don't Worry, You Can't Break Social Media

To all you late adopters who somehow managed to get through decades in advertising and public relations without tackling social media, here's a comforting thought: you won't break it, so go ahead and try it.

Recently, I had a tutoring session with a colleague, a PR pro, who is not using social media in any way. Knowing that I manage various social media accounts for clients, she hired me to create pages on two platforms for one of her accounts, and post there on behalf of the client. After a few days, we decided the time was ripe for getting her acclimated to the world of Facebook and Twitter, where the client's pages now reside.

Word of caution to younger readers: Please remember that not all of us grew up as "digital natives" and even navigating a computer or making the most of certain software can be a challenge for some ... so don't judge.

However, if you categorize yourself as a techno dino who only uses what you need when you need it, have difficulty learning computer skills, or shudder at the thought of rising to the challenge of logging into multiple accounts and platforms and engaging there, relax. Remember, you can't break social media.

My friend and I sat down at her computer and began at the primordial ooze tank of understanding where to go online and then signing up for an account. Interestingly, we discovered there were phantom accounts in her name or under her email address already there (on both networks) from several years ago. We got around that, set up new accounts and got rolling.

First, I explained the difference between profiles and pages. Then on to the images; profile pictures ("yes, those always stay that small") and cover images ("they're like billboards") were explained and we uploaded a Facebook profile pic (nothing yet on Twitter).

Account names got done and the descriptions were easy, since she works in public relations and is a good communicator.

I could see that my colleague was overwhelmed by all the tabs, cards, text and images on the screen. All the while, I told her to take a deep breath and take it slow. Take the time to read what's on the screen -- the platform will tell you what it wants you to fill out if you just relax. I encouraged her to click, explore, check out other accounts ... because you can't break social media. Nothing will happen but you might learn something! Deep breaths! Go line by line ... it will get done and you'll have mastered another step. And don't forget, there's always the HELP tab.

We discussed posting in general, various types of content, and how to get other pages and people to engage. This led into a discussion about privacy settings. Lots of concern about who sees what. We set Facebook to very private, only friends can see posts. However, as we users know, it's all about getting more people to see, like and share those posts so if you have a professional page, don't be shy! But also don't be lax. Be sure to monitor the activity and address any negative activity happening on your feed. Remember, you're the boss (to a certain extent, at least).

Of course, it's also a good practice to retweet other users' posts when it's relevant, quoting the original tweet as well for additional commentary or context related to your field. On Facebook, helpful to share other people's content and tag, tag, tag (but not be annoying).

Ratings and reviews -- tricky -- depends on how open you want to be and perhaps what industry your business is in. The client's business is in a highly regulated field so for her client's page, we did not allow ratings and reviews (enabling ratings and reviews requires the admin to attention tp activity and the notifications on a daily basis and to address any review issues right away). I explained that we can open up the privacy settings later for her client and for herself when she is more comfortable. At least now, she can see how her client's posts look on Facebook and Twitter and check out interactions with the pages, which was the goal of the session.

We looked at other accounts, zoomed around to see other users' profiles, checked on some posts and got her comfortable. Her confidence rose a little bit with every click. She emailed me later to say that she felt encouraged enough to put up a cover image by herself on Facebook (bold step!). You see, you can't break social media ... but you can break into it at any age at any stage.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What to Do When that Reporter Calls

Communication is written, spoken and in many cases, unspoken (body language). There are ample opportunities to communicate well or poorly, to cast yourself and your business in a positive light or leave the other person wondering "what the hell?"

The one person you don't want scratching a head and wondering what's just happened is a member of the press.

Although I am far from an expert on crisis communications, I do know a thing or two about communicating with members of the press and how to handle a call from a reporter. That call may be in search of your perspective or information about your company (or client, if you are in PR) as it relates to a particular issue in your field or in your community. Or, it could be in response to a negative matter your business was embroiled in for one reason or another. Either way, keep your head on straight, keep your cool, and like the stalwart Joe Friday of "Dragnet" fame, deliver just the facts.

Appoint the right spokesperson
This should (must) be someone who is very articulate, fluid with public speaking, and who thinks on his or her feet. It's important that this person have a nimble mind and stay a step ahead of anticipated conversation or be able to respond quickly (and well) to a question or comment. If the CEO, COO or president is not a great speaker or not necessarily the person the journalist is trying to reach, your marketing manager, community liaison coordinator, or public relations officer is the one to take the call. It needs to be someone who can ...

Stay calm
That's not to say you should be robotic, but communicating with a journalist is not the time to get emotional. This person is writing a story and is requesting your input, not your hysteria or gloominess. Journalists are seeking facts for their stories and dispassionate discourse is a great way to get your point across. You can be friendly and conversational but stay on guard as well. This speaks to the importance of ...

Know your talking points

Be like a Scout and be very prepared in advance with your talking points. Write them down, rehearse them if you need to. Whether you are discussing the positives about your company or organization or the organization's viewpoint about a particular issue, be very clear, concise, and on message. Know your mission statement, think about the "About Us" page on your website and what it says about your company or agency, and know the stance on the issue at hand. If your organization was involved in some way and it was a positive participation, be proud of it and state why. If there was a misstep of any kind, acknowledge it, apologize, and move on with positive points because ...

This is your chance to get free press
And you don't want to blow it! This is an opportunity to show your organization in a good light with the public, stakeholders, or employees. Even one positive quote in a long story is a good thing ... and many times better than one negative quote anywhere! This is also an opportunity to start developing a relationship with the reporter or writer, who might tap you in the future for comments about a news story, which can position you as an expert in your field (more good press). Being truly helpful to the journalist--by staying calm, delivering your talking points well (in a manner that moves the story along a positive path), and engaging the caller in a way that shows you are a partner and not an adversary, you'll drive good media relations for your brand.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How Content for Home Appliance Brands Can Put the Spin on Engaging Users

Content is the platform by which manufacturers can tell their stories, answer consumer questions, and demonstrate their products to potential buyers. It presents multiple opportunities across media for companies to interact with consumers (and potential customers) and can provide a space for customers to interact with each other in the social space. This collaboration in turn expands a company’s online presence, polishes its reputation, and boosts sales. All the better when content is part of an integrated marketing mix, as with home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool.

Home appliance manufacturers have ample opportunities and formats to engage target consumers through content. For example, rather than just talk about machine features, Whirlpool has used storytelling to convey the benefits of its products. This content (through TV spots, website content and print advertising) draws in consumers with stories that relate to their concerns.

Print ads and television commercials can drive users to social media and websites, where niche marketing messages can live. Online videos that tell relatable stories easily demonstrate product uses and features (and are easy to share with other users). In the case of home appliances, these can be about dishwashers, washers and dryers, ovens and cooking ranges. This video content can be written to address specific niche markets (home chefs who want to know how the cooktop will help them look like Food Network stars, teenagers concerned about how their jeans will wash). Microsites on the brand’s parent website can continue the conversation with more videos, FAQs, and case studies.

Touting product benefits without overtly promoting product is a vital part of a successful content marketing effort. This makes social media an excellent place to talk directly to consumers via targeted informational posts that create an open online community. For example, consumers can tweet questions about how to use a product or post something to a company’s Facebook page, giving the brand an opportunity to “talk” to potential customers and become a trusted resource for them.

Engaging case studies/product usage stories can make for great social media fodder, along with links to the product website and its additional content. In Whirlpool’s case, its Institute of Fabric Science enables consumers to ask for help with issues related to the company’s appliances but not necessarily about the actual products. Questions about how to wash or dry something—unrelated to Whirlpool’s products—are answered by corporate representatives and this content in turn positions the company as a trusted brand.

If you market home appliance brands, think about how content can be used to engage your target audience. Videos for product demos, FAQ sheets, online forums for product discussions, social sharing of appliance “wins” from happy consumers are all ways that content puts a positive spin on customer engagement. 

Images courtesy of WikiMedia Commons