SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

30 Sep 2014

A Newbie’s Guide to Working Remotely

Remote Office? Check.Working remotely is a reality of today’s workforce. There are arguments for (It’s better for business!) and against (In-office culture is what powers a business!), but there is no denying that telecommuting is a thing. And it’s not going anywhere. This is a topic I’ve become passionate about because, well, I’m a remote worker. I recently relocated to San Diego (goodbye Boston winters) and was fortunate enough to keep my position at SHIFT.

With the opportunity that was given to me, I set out determined to prove that being a remote worker can work without any loss of productivity or success. I’m still new to it all, but I’ve already begun to learn some important things that help me stay focused and on top of things each day.

Treat every day as if you’re going into the office. This means get up, get dressed, do your hair, make breakfast. Establish a morning routine that is similar to one you would have if you had to commute into work every day. As tempting as it is to stay in sweats all day, being dressed and freshened up in the AM will help get your mind focused on the day ahead.

Find your separate work area. Whether it’s in an office at home, a coffee shop or a coworking space, establish a designated area where you will live while you’re ‘at work.’ Sure, it’s easy to want to veg out on your couch or in bed and try and get some work done, but don’t do it. Why? Well for one thing, do you really want your bed and couch to be associated with where you do work? Save those spots for when you want to relax. Secondly, when you’re upright and at a desk your thoughts will be more ‘It’s time to get stuff done’ versus ‘It would be so easy just to take a quick nap right now …’

If staying at home in the solitude of your own company is enough to drive you crazy, check out coworking spaces available in your area. They are popping up everywhere, and for a cost, you can set up shop around others who are in the same situation you are. Not only will you feel more like you’re in an actual office, but you’ll get some networking in as well.

Take breaks. One of the nice things about working in an office is that you can easily be persuaded by coworkers to step outside for a walk around the block or a quick coffee. When you’re working solo, those distractions are eliminated, but you should still build in time throughout the day to take brief breaks. Step out to grab lunch. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Fast Company recently highlighted a study that showed that employees who made it a point to step away from their computers and phones for a few minutes at a time were some of the most productive. Take time to give your mind a mental break and refresh your focus.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. The key to your success as a remote worker will be clear, frequent communication with your team. Even though you’re physically apart from your team, it’s still important to be ‘a part’ of your team. It’s crucial to have daily check-ins not only with your manager, but others on your team as well. Be clear about what you’re working on, and be aware of what your team is working on. Thankfully, today’s technology has made remote working more possible than ever.

On my team, we have morning meetings everyday that I video conference into. Outside of that, I’m constantly IM’ing with them or emailing to collaborate on projects. We also use a project management system that serves as one central location to track progress. Letting them know I’m there and still a working member of the team is a priority for me. It should be for all remote workers.

Those are four major points I’ve learned thus far in my remote career.  What tips do you have?

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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29 Sep 2014

Negativity and the Competition

ruin-something-workplace-ecard-someecards

With all of the recent chatter and excitement about Ello, it’s been a great opportunity to pause and consider the business model.

As a review, Ello’s manifesto states that the site will not be ad-supported and will not share users’ data. Those are the two main points of its business strategy.

Many are welcoming this (although a number of people are skeptical about the likelihood of that business model being sustainable and even dismissive of the founders’ efforts), as the presence of brands on certain sites (most notably Facebook) has been of concern of late.

Whether or not Ello is here for the long term, we’ll have to see. It’s awfully difficult for an upstart to combat a well-established site with billions of users.

The Real Issue

The point is not to discuss the merits of this specific business model (whatever it may be), but rather to look at the business strategy – the reason it exists.

On its @wtf account, Ello states:

We built Ello because virtually all the other social networks were cluttered, ugly, and full of ads. We began to feel manipulated by the networks themselves — many of our posts were never seen by our friends at all, because ads had taken priority.

 

We came to realize that a social network that has ads is a social network created for advertisers, not for people. Every move we made was tracked and recorded, and every post we made was read and sold to other companies so they could show us more ads.

It’s pretty clear that they’re trying to be the anti-Facebook.

But let’s consider this question: is it wise to create something solely based on what a competitor is not? It seems rather foolhardy to state outright that you want to be the opposite of everything your competition is.

Now, before you say, “Well of course you should try to be what your competitor isn’t,” there’s a difference between owning a segment of the market – in this case, let’s say it’s simple, beautiful and transparent design – versus playing on an emotional disdain for the current favorite.

The reason we’re seeing so many people flock toward this upstart with a questionable long term plan is because there’s an emotional element to the positioning. You know how brands have been ruining your favorite social networks? And how the networks are running away with all of your data? (Set aside the fact that you voluntarily share your data.)

They’ve already set you up to hate the status quo. That raw emotion feeds into the desire to find something different, something better, something more pure. Which works until their site gets overcrowded and popular.

Not to mention the ultimate rub: if the competition decides that it wants to change course and be exactly what you accuse it of not being, there goes your business model.

Instead, why not focus on what you are, what you do and how you provide value?

It’s easy to put others down to make yourself look better. But in the end, you only make yourself look small.

Or, in the words of Henry Ford:

“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

Henry Ford - Competition

Image credit: someecards

Scott Monty
Executive Vice President of Strategy

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26 Sep 2014

Fix (or Establish) Your Brand Reputation

reputation-economy1

Brand reputations can make or break a company; a few bad reviews or questionable comments on social media could turn away customers instantly. Just look at the NFL these days. Especially in the era of social media and the instant gratification of the Internet, if there’s a single mistake your company has made, people will find it.

Of the many things that play into a brand’s reputation, there are a few that you have control over: customer service, your online presence, and corporate social responsibility. By fixing problems (or establishing high-quality practices to begin with) in these areas, you could be on your way to better online reputation faster than you can say “five-star review.”

Make your customers happy.

People trust online reviews and peer recommendations more than advertising and brand content. In fact, Nielsen found that a whopping 92 percent of consumers world-wide say they trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. What does this tell us? Happy customers and word of mouth referrals lead to an increase in sales, which are worth more in the long run than advertising.

Make your customers happy by revving up customer service and customer interactions. These efforts don’t need to be extreme; just making a customer smile can be the difference between a sale and a negative comment. Engage with customers on- and offline to rectify problems and work towards a solution. Communication with those who could potentially turn into your best advocates will go a long way.

Clean up your web presence.

Being on social media is a must for most brands today. This past June, Facebook announced that 30 million small businesses alone had active pages on the social networking site. If your customers are active on social media, your brand should be, too. Once your social networks and audiences are established, set a tone for the brand. Engage with customers and followers to show that there’s a human, and not a robot, behind the brand name. Tell a joke, share an inspirational story, give insights into an industry trend – provide value in some way to your followers and they will keep coming back for more.

A well-executed website is also an integral part of your brand’s online presence. When customers search for you or land on your website, what action do you want them to take? Is that call to action clear when you visit any page of your website? Experience your online presence with the mind of your potential customer, fix any issues that arise, acknowledge the issues and ask for suggestions.

Do good for your community.

Being socially responsible is something that every company and human should work toward. Having a public corporate social responsibility program (and following through with it) can improve not only your brand’s reputation, but also the bottom line. In a recent study, 55% of global consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a product or service if they knew the company was committed to positive social and environmental impact. Get creative and get involved!

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” and we agree. If your brand is in the dog house for one reason or another, start by addressing issues you can control, one day at a time to get that reputation in line once again.

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Coordinator

Photo Credit: Forbes

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25 Sep 2014

Multitasking (And Cake) is a Lie

I said FOCUS.

We have a lot of things to do on a daily basis. Agency life demands that we divide our attention between multiple clients as well as internal projects that need to be completed. We’ve heard and read a lot about multitasking and there are a lot of folks who are prone to get through the day this way. It seems like an effective way to get through our work.

Even in agency life multitasking is lie, much like that cake. The human mind works best by processing one task, one puzzle at a time. That’s simply the way humans are built. There is a caveat to this and it’s tied to how quickly the human mind can switch tasks.

When people talk about multitasking effectively, what they really talking about is micro-tasking.

Not to be confused with multitasking, micro-tasking is the ability to switch contexts, to pay attention to a series of things in rapid, short bursts. Micro-tasking is an essential skill in any workplace where the amount of interruption is high during the workday, such as (you guessed it) agency life. During the course of your day, you may have lots of different people coming by your desk to ask for different things. You may have a noisy or a distracting work environment. You may just have lots of work that requires you to shift focus very quickly. Micro-tasking is the ability to do that, to shift your attention very quickly, and to accomplish work in shorter bursts very frequently. And to give each task the attention it deserves.

If you’ve ever said or felt like you only need an hour or two of uninterrupted time to focus on something, but struggle to find that hour, then micro-tasking is what you’re looking for. You can be productive in just a few minutes – as long as you work with your brain effectively, not against it.

What does mirco-tasking look like? You are still only really doing one thing at a time satisfying your brain’s need to focus, but you change what that one thing is on a more frequent basis. The key is to leverage the power of working memory. Micro-tasking effectively means being able to load things from long-term memory into active working memory efficiently and quickly.

The best way to do this is to have a lot of a little different things in memory almost all the time. That sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? This can be something as simple as a list of tasks and recipes on the notepad or in a binder. This can also be something as complex as the feigned memory palace/method of loci technique that Sherlock Holmes uses often on the BBC Sherlock series. (Side note: Did you know there’s a World Memory Championship?)

The key to micro-tasking (or practicing for that championship) is to use memory tags, the ability for your brain to recover information quickly.  In Dr. Oberauer’s research, working memory was powered by little markers, think of them as bookmarks or mental sticky notes, that the brain used to change attention quickly. However, memory tags are easily overwritten because active working memory is relatively small in the brain. This is why memory tags need to be explicitly defined in the physical world. A memory tag maybe something as simple as a keyword that tells you where you left off on any particular task. It could be a series of numbers or an image. It could be a screenshot or a browser tab left open. Whatever it is, it is the short-term association you need to retrieve that memory in that state from where you were.

The sensation you want to avoid or minimize is the feeling of asking yourself, what was I doing? What was I working on? That’s a sign that you are loading information from long-term memory and not using memory tags efficiently. That’s why the setting of memory tags is so important, so that you can instantly retrieve that information, that key to the mental state you’re in, as quickly as possible. If you find yourself asking, what was I doing, on more than a rare basis, that means that your memory text is not yet efficient. Perhaps your brain remembers things in a different way than you’re used to. Try different forms of media such as drawing, screenshots, maybe even humming or arranging items on your desk in a certain way.

By effectively using memory tags and bypassing the process where you need to recall what you were working on, you can shift focus more effectively and thus work more efficiently. You’ll be able to answer a co-worker’s question and then come back to whatever you were working on prior to the interruption without missing a beat. It’s a must learn skill in the agency setting and many more professions besides. If you can learn to micro-task AND learn to adapt to change, you will feel even more satisfied when change and multiple attention demands shake things up.

Do you practice micro-tasking already? Do you have a better process for focusing daily? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

24 Sep 2014

SHIFT Shares: Career Advice

We likeThumbs Up for Career Advice! to brag about all the smart people we have working at SHIFT, so I thought, who better to tap into for some motivation than my fellow coworkers? I admire all of them, and I wanted to know what advice they’ve been given that has pushed them to succeed day in and day out.

Here are some tidbits of the best career advice we’ve ever been given. Save ‘em for a day where you need a little extra push.

“I think one of the best pieces of advice is the old boxing adage, ‘Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the face. Then it all goes out the window.’ The world isn’t black and white, and your plans will never go exactly the way you write them out. From the moment of “contact” – ask yourself: Where can you be flexible? Where should you hold your ground? This is a long-winded way of saying: don’t get stuck in thinking there is only having “one way” to do something.”
Matt Trocchio, Vice President

“It’s more about the solution than the problem. Problems always come up; partnering with people to create solutions always is a better approach than complaining.”
Derek Lyons, Vice President

“The day you stop wanting to learn is the day your career is over.”
Chris Penn, Vice President

“Less is more. Keep it simple! Make it work!”
Peter Bayuk, Office Coordinator

“Don’t think of your career as a straight line. So much changes in the market around you that you should stay aware of, and pivot accordingly based on where you see trends that intersect with your interests. Use that to build to your strength and make yourself indispensable to your employer.”
Scott Monty, Executive Vice President

“This is PR, not ER. Nobody died today. So let’s get a drink.”
Cathy Summers, Vice President

“If you are excited about your job you will be good at it.”
Zach Nerland, Intern

“Hold yourself accountable to doing your best work always. No matter how mundane the task. Anything less than that is a waste of everyone’s time (including yours).”
Amanda Grinavich, Senior Marketing Analyst 

“Remember who you are and what you represent.”
Danielle Coe, Senior Account Executive

“Push yourself to be more productive than the day before. Assign yourself ONE “top priority” (that aligns with a long term goal and isn’t simply a task) to complete for the day and focus your time/energy on completing that one priority. Once you complete that task, your morale improves and you’ve completed work that’s geared toward a larger goal.”
Natalie Townsend, Senior Account Executive

“Work smarter, not harder.”
Julie Staadecker, Account Director

“Always make your boss look good”
Peter McCormack, Account Executive

“Do the things you’re most afraid of.”
Jennifer Hirsch, Senior Account Manager

“Accept change. If you can remain flexible to whatever may occur in your life you’ll be better able to adapt across the board – work and personally.”
Chel Wolverton, Account Manager

“Find the solution. Be discreet.”
Todd Defren, CEO

“Stay positive. Saying “No I can’t” isn’t a motivating phrase to hear.”
Emily Wienberg, Senior Account Executive

“Be solution oriented. No matter the problem, come to the table with some aspect of a solution. Also, similar to Cathy Summers’ advice – we’re not curing cancer over here. Life’s too short to take your job TOO seriously.”
Katelyn Davis, Senior Account Executive

“My mom told me this one and I really like the metaphor. When she was about 12 she went for a horseback ride with a friend who knew how to ride. They were crossing a ravine with rocks and water – my mom held on really tight to the reigns and tried to steer the horse where to go. Her friend said, just let go, the horse knows where to go.

Moral of the story – get on the horse and get going in the direction you want to go but don’t be forceful with the “little things”… you’ll get there!”
Sarah Salbu, Senior Account Executive

“It’s best to follow your own path and be yourself. Worry less about what the person next to you is doing or what their personal ambitions are. Do great work and let it speak for itself. Don’t get so wrapped up in your colleagues that you forget to focus on yourself.

Another saying I’ve always liked is “success is where opportunity and preparation meet.” Put in the work, be open to learning and embracing new things, and prepare yourself for when opportunity comes knocking.”
Tyler Achilles, Account Executive

“Be like a duck. Stay calm on the surface, but paddle like hell underneath.”
Alicia Cerasuolo, Account Manager

What is some of the best career advice you’ve ever received? Share with us in the comments!

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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23 Sep 2014

What’s inside your influence score?

Recursive ingredient list

In a recent conversation about social media influence, the topic of influence scores came up as a way of measuring how influential someone is. Various influence measures are available to us for identifying who we should do outreach to, including Klout, Kred, PeerIndex, Moz Influence Score, and many new entrants.

One of the key questions you need to ask is whether you know what goes into any influence score, what the ingredients are. If you don’t know what goes into an algorithm, you can’t know what results it’s delivering for you. Edison Research VP of Strategy Tom Webster pithily defines an algorithm as “data + assumptions”, and it’s the latter half, the assumptions, that cause influence score problems.

What assumptions went into the influence score of your choice? Does it rely on things like follower counts? Engagement of content? Reshares and retweets? Unless you know, you don’t have an understanding of what kind of influence you’re targeting. Influence scores based on audience size (followers, etc.) can mean a marketing program based heavily on reach, but not engagement. Influence scores based on sharing can mean distribution, but not necessarily audience size, so if your program goal is broad reach, that sort of influence score won’t work for you.

If you don’t know what goes into the influence score you’re using, you have two options. First, switch to one that does disclose its algorithm. This isn’t always a realistic choice, however, as many of them promote their “proprietary algorithm”. The second option is to do a blended index of influence scores, to smooth out the differences in individual algorithms. This is famously how Nate Silver called the 2012 elections, by averaging together many different polling data sets.

Whatever approach you take, know what kind of influence you’re measuring before you built a strategy and program on top of it!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Strategy

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22 Sep 2014

FutureM and INBOUND: The SHIFT Report

Two marketing conferences, 10,000+ attendees, one convention center. After a weekend of recovery, it’s high time to reflect back on FutureM and INBOUND, Boston’s two-in-one marketing innovation event. Like many of you, we spent last week speaking, listening, learning, discussing, debating, brainstorming, creating, networking, and celebrating.

Boston Convention Center
If we had to pick one word to describe the atmosphere – the one concept firing the most lively conversations — it would be: transformation. Rather appropriately, this was a major theme of Malcom Gladwell’s Thursday morning keynote, and the spirit of transformative change did indeed permeate the event.


To spare you what would surely become a lengthy essay, we’re not going to recap every session we went to (though many were awesome). Instead, we’re going to focus on something more valuable: what we learned.

Gladwell

From the keynotes:

  • Innovators who drive transformative change are: 1) open, creative; 2) conscientious; 3) disagreeable. The latter is the most rare – the ability to remain unaffected by opposition or disapproval. Because if your idea is truly transformative, most people will disagree with you. (Malcolm Gladwell)
  • Great leaders sacrifice their own interests for the sake of their people. Only from within a “circle of safety” can individuals band together to tackle outside challenges and bring about innovation and change. This is as true in business as it was in the tribes of early human civilization. (Simon Sinek)
  • The minute you stop delighting your customer, you’re done. (Martha Stewart)

About mobile:

  • Marketers must focus less on mobile technology and more on mobile behavior. Always ask the question, what are people doing while they are using their mobile devices? How can that experience be simplified or improved? (The Mobile Commerce Revolution, Tom Webster)
  • Visual content is crucial. Think Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr. (The Mobile Commerce Revolution, Tom Webster)
  • New behavior patterns emerging in the mobile age show us that the customer journey is not a linear path. The future of marketing is understanding the different mindsets through which consumers cycle as they interact with your brand. (After Omnichannel: Preparing for Digital Context, Martie Woods)

About data:

  • Analysis answers the question, “What happened?” Insight answers the question, “Why did it happen?” Strategy is then built by looking forward to, “What’s next?” (Turning Data Into Insights, Christopher Penn)

Chris Penn

About real-time marketing:

  • Real-time marketing isn’t a tactic or a strategy, it’s a mentality. It’s not about being creative in real-time, it’s about nurturing a mentality that enables creative responses at the drop of a hat. (Do’s and Don’ts of Real-Time Marketing, Ekaterina Walters)
  • With real-time marketing, brands can resonate with fans, provide them with utility, and entertain. It’s a chance to be authentic, raw, human, and memorable. (Do’s and Don’ts of Real-Time Marketing, Ekaterina Walters)
  • So many brands try to be the next viral sensation of real-time marketing every time a new crisis or pop culture event occurs. But the successful RTM campaigns that really take off aren’t usually a spur of the moment idea thrown together by one person and tweeted out. Brands have to practice RTM techniques.  (Do’s and Don’ts of Real-Time Marketing, Ekaterina Walters)
  • Go beyond “the big game” and find moments that truly matter. (TV’s Real-Time Social Soundtrack, David Grossman)

About communication:

  • To effectively communicate a message, ask yourself: What do I want people to do? What do they have to believe? What do they have to know? Only then will you reach your customers with the right content, the right sequence, and the right engagement. (What TED Talks Can Teach Us About the Future of Marketing, Tamsen Webster)

That’s only a small sampling of our favorites!

SHIFT represent!

Rest assured, attending sessions wasn’t all we were up to at the conference. We encountered plenty of interesting characters while manning the FutureM press room, roaming the hallways and exhibition areas, braving the lines at the food trucks, and of course, hitting up Club INBOUND Happy Hours. We even attended a surprise OK Go concert, complete with treadmills. And rumor has it that our resident ninja, podcaster and VP of Marketing Technology rigged a mobile TV studio and filmed a FutureM/INBOUND video interview series – but shhhh, that’s still classified info! 

Did you attend any killer sessions we didn’t mention in this post? Agree/disagree with any of our top takeaways? Share your take with us in the comments and let’s get some healthy dialogue started!

JJ Samp
Marketing Analyst

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19 Sep 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Networking Success

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Networking is an invaluable tool in the PR and marketing industries and beyond these days. Whether you’re job hunting, looking to generate new business leads or simply trying to assert yourself in your respective city or industry, networking is a key part of the process.

But let’s face it, while networking is no doubt important, often times we don’t take it as seriously as we probably should. I’ll admit it: this was totally me until a few years ago. I was your typical young professional pressed for time and would show up to events with little to no preparation or any idea of what I sought to gain from them. I figured I’d be set with a few business cards and a natural ability to “wing it”. Sound familiar?

It took a few years of networking to realize its value and buy into committing to it regularly. Especially after coming to SHIFT, where networking is a priority for young professionals and industry veterans alike, I’ve come to realize that networking is also a whole lot easier and more effective if you take the time to set yourself up for success.

Networking isn’t only about showing up to the event. That’s the obvious part. Networking is a process. You’ve got to have a game plan for before, during and after the event. Keep these 10 tips in mind in your personal approach to networking. Taking them seriously will go a long way personally and professionally.

Get your calendar in order. Does your company have a networking calendar? If so, take advantage of it. Regardless, start making a list of professional societies, industry organizations and local groups that sponsor events. Are you a member of your local college alumni chapter? They often organize events outside of game watches that you can benefit from professionally.

Register and round up the troops. After you’ve got your calendar set, register for your various events. Many companies will reimburse you for attending, so take advantage of this perk if it’s offered. Also make a point to ask around the office and your personal network to see who’ll be attending. There’s power in numbers, folks, and this helps motivate you to attend too. Outside of your coworkers, ask a friend or two to join. This could be a personal friend or an industry colleague who you’ve been meaning to meet up with but haven’t found the time. Some events also publish their registrants online, so doing some professional stalking never hurts either.

Set goals for yourself. This may be one of the most overlooked aspects of networking. After registering, think about what you’re looking to gain from the event. Is it seeking out new connections? Finding leads for a new job or potential “in” at the company hosting the event? Stepping out of your comfort zone and practicing that all-important elevator pitch? Whatever your end game, make sure you’ve established it because it will set the tone for your conversation and questions and also allow you to measure your progress when all’s said and done.

Dress for success. Check your invite to get a feel for the dress code. Not listed? Ask around to see what others are wearing. If worse comes to worse, trust your gut and error on the side of wearing whatever makes you feel professionally comfortable. I was at a recent event where a guy in a suit stood out among a crowd of jean-clad professionals. In talking with him, he noted, “I just like to look nice.” So do you and own it… as long as “doing you” doesn’t involve rocking cutoffs or a mini skirt.

Divide and conquer. We often find ourselves in the company of friends and colleagues at networking events, but remember the whole point of networking is to network. This is one occasion where it’s cool to ditch your friends. At another recent event I attended, the hosts actively encouraged (if not forced) us to mingle with people we didn’t know and would literally break up any conversations in which you were doing otherwise. This made everyone feel all the more free to strike up conversations with strangers, which is how we should approach every event.

Keep the conversation natural, authentic and balanced. You’ve practiced your elevator pitch, so remember to deliver it naturally and not like a memorized script. What you’ve mentioned about your background and current role will spark other questions, so readily answer them and do so truthfully — failing to be yourself will catch up with you quickly in today’s digital world. Don’t forget to remain interested and ask questions that keep the conversation balanced and flowing. If you’re concerned with how to begin or continue a conversation, try this helpful list of networking conversation starters.

Don’t overdo it. This should go without saying, but don’t lose sight of the need to be professional at these events. At the end of the day, you’re representing your company, which is almost always conveniently located right there on your name tag. If there’s alcohol served at the event, pace yourself. The same is true for food. You don’t want to make it look like the only reason you’re there is for the free food and booze. Professionalism also involves being positive and honorable, so avoid complaining about your current company and throwing your boss or colleagues under the bus. You’re looking to leave a good impression, folks!

Hand out those business cards. You’ve (hopefully) remembered your business cards, so don’t end a conversation without handing them out. I’ve been in a few situations where I’ve exchanged contact information over cell phone, but a business card is indispensable in that it’s a tangible reminder of you and the need to follow up afterwards. This reminds me: unless you’re exchanging contact information, stay off your phone during events!

Follow up. Congrats! You’ve come home with a pile of business cards. You’re welcome to admire them, but don’t let them just sit there. In the day or two after the event, follow up with these new connections over email, LinkedIn and Twitter. You’ve put all the time and effort into getting those business cards, so why let them go to waste? You never know when you’ll need to leverage these connections down the road.

Reflect. In the same light as actively setting goals for each networking event, take the time to reflect back on your experiences. Ask yourself important questions like: What did I learn? Who did I meet? Did I accomplish my goals? If so, in what ways? Is it worth attending an event by this group in the future? Answering these questions will help you continue crafting your approach to networking moving forward.

Keeping these tips top of mind will help you find the success you desire when it comes to networking. They will also help make networking less daunting, more effective and a far more beneficial experience for you overall.

Furthermore, you’ll never know who you’ll meet at these events. You might land that perfect professional contact or find a new best friend. And if you’re like me, maybe you’ll even score some free guitar lessons.

Do you have a tip to add to the list? Share them with us here!

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

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18 Sep 2014

The Working Mom: Balancing a PR Career & Being a New Mom

Being a parent, not to mention a new parent, is hard. Things like colic, teething and your child’s first broken bone, can leave you feeling exhausted and helpless – and that is all before you step foot in the office.

I recently read Arik Hanson’s blog post that questions whether or not PR agencies are setting new parents up to fail. It’s a great question, and seeing as I have a 14-month-old at home, I felt I was in a good position to respond.

How could you leave this cute face?!

Jena and her adorable son, Luke

After a beautiful, crazy, whirlwind of a maternity leave, I returned back to my role as a senior account manager at SHIFT. It was extremely bittersweet. For three months, I was my son’s everything – morning, noon and night – and as much as I knew I would miss him like crazy (and napping during his naptime), I was ready to grow in the career I had worked so hard to create.

The stress of a working parent is real. The client demands never go away and you frequently feel stretched in ways you never thought possible. Adding a baby to the mix that you want to rush home to at the end of the day doesn’t help. But there is one thing I can confidently say:

SHIFT Communications welcomed me back with open arms, and has given me the flexibility to feel like I can make it all work and be a pretty great, working mom. Here is how I did it, and what you should consider to make the transition smooth:

Both before and after having your child, evaluate the role you want to play at your workplace.

It is hard to determine a game plan before your bundle of joy arrives, but it’s important to start thinking about ways to successfully transition back into the working world and strike the best work-life balance. Are you a night owl? Is your morning commute over an hour, even before factoring in a daycare drop off? Once you’ve taken into account your routine, and the routine of your baby (or lack thereof), it might make sense to discuss a schedule that allows you to come in to work early and leave early, to better meet the needs of your family.

Work with your Agency to further define that role and set up flex hours and/or work from home days in order to make it happen.

Having open and honest conversations about your dedication to the Agency while still maintaining a strong presence at home will pay off in the long run. If you are able to, make reasonable requests about how your role pre-baby can be altered to make everyone happy (both in the office and at home) and what that plan of attack looks like. It is important to create a strategy that outlines how your team can prepare for your new role and responsibilities and what that means for others to ensure clients are happy and work is completed.

Work with your team to ensure you’re able to fulfill your duties both to them and to your family. 

Some options that PR agencies should evaluate for working parents include flexible schedules (7am-4pm), work-from-home days and 4-day work weeks. Technology like Microsoft’s Yammer and video conferencing capabilities also make it possible for employees to work virtually anywhere. Offering the right tools and being open to a non-traditional work week makes it possible for parents to eat dinner with their kids or make it to a little league game while covering all client deliverables.

There are always going to be the days or weeks that you feel like you can’t make everyone happy and that one side of the pendulum isn’t getting the love it should. You are not a superhero. You are a parent, and a PR practitioner, and agencies like SHIFT are changing with the times and are making it easier for individuals to grow and excel in both roles.

Jena Rossi
Senior Account Manager

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17 Sep 2014

How to Build An Audience for Your New Blog

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“If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?”

The same could be asked about a blog: If a blog is written but has no readers, does it exist at all? Without readers, no one is listening and nothing will come as a result – no leads, no traffic.

Don’t let your blog fall into the cobwebs of your website. Give the following a little TLC to help encourage people to read.

Content

Content creation can be one of the hardest things to plan when you first begin blogging. If you want readers, and you want those readers to keep coming back to your blog as a trusted resource, it can’t be all about you. It’s all too easy to write about yourself and your company in a favorable light– it’s your blog after all. But the key to keep readers coming back for more is to provide value.

Provide value to your readers and keep the sales pitches to a minimum. Your readers are already on your website to read the blog. Let them explore and they’ll come to you when they’re ready. (Of course, there are strategies to give them a gentle nudge every now and then, but we’ll cover that further down in the post.)

SEO

You can no longer stuff your blog content with keywords and phrases and magically watch your website fly to the top of Google’s rankings. The search giant has done a pretty solid job of weeding out spam content for the betterment of everyone involved. Good content now gets the bump it deserves. So what does that mean for your new blog? Implement SEO best practices (start here) and avoid tactics that will get your site on Google’s bad side.

Sharing

Once your content is established and SEO is in check, the next step is to share. Get your blog in front of the right audience. Not sure who your audience is? Check your social networks and Google Analytics. Facebook and Twitter have great audience insight and analytics tools that can show you which fans are engaging with your brand in addition to a post-level analysis of impressions and engagements. Google Analytics can provide demographic and location data about your site visitors. Use this information to cater your posts and content to your audience.

If you’re still struggling to gain readership, consider syndication and amplification opportunities. By using paid advertising, you can target a specific audience to boost readership and gain followers.

Starting a blog is the first step, but getting readers is just as important. Start with these tactics, and you’ll be on your way to increased readership in no time!

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Coordinator

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