Building reputation, trust through employee engagement

How important is trust to your business?

Brian Moriarty says it’s just about everything, and that trust protects you from risk.

Moriarty, who is the director of Darden’s Institute of Business in Society, told a PRSA Richmond audience that employee engagement can help build reputation and trust.

This happens, he says, because we are social creatures. We like to share things we value. As a result, trust becomes the engine of advocacy.

Among the dimensions of trust are good will, integrity, confidentiality and transparency. Moriarty pointed out that when some element of trust exists, things run more smoothly. Trust impacts employee performance, innovation and customer acquisition, for example.

He cited USAA, an insurance agency that is consistently rated first in customer service and loyalty. USAA is known for valuing its members.

Capture_USAAAs it happens, I am a member, and right after I tweeted about it, they replied by tweet. Not only did they thank me for the tweet, they thanked me for my membership.

That level of engagement only increases my trust and makes me a stronger advocate for the company.

Accuracy in the digital age

Maybe it’s time to pause and think before you share.

The same holds true for journalists and aid responders, who need to have the skills and knowledge to rapidly and reliably verify information in the wake of a disaster.

book.cover.mediumThat’s the premise of the “Verification Handbook,” which is freely available to anyone.

Available for more than a year, it is an initiative by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) in the Netherlands, and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, as well as the African Media Initiative (AMI).

The project is supported by various international partners including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

According to the website, “The handbook provides actionable advice to facilitate disaster preparedness in newsrooms, and best practices for how to verify and use information, photos and videos provided by the crowd.”

If you want to know more about verifying information in a digital age, check out the  Poynter Institute’s self-directed course, “Getting it Right: Accuracy and Verification in the Digital Age.” You will learn how to use facts to support your story and which tools to use for verification.

The advice is invaluable not only for journalists, but also for bloggers, citizen reporters, journalism students and those regularly sharing on social media.

Promoting your webinar

If you own your own business or want to talk about how to publish a book or any other topic on which you are an expert, you may want to consider a webinar. If you do, keep in mind another key to a successful webinar is getting the word out about the seminar.

Part of the content is knowing who your target audience is and why the webinar would appeal to them. This information also will help you decide what platforms to use to promote the webinar.

Here are four platforms for promoting the webinar:

Blog: If you have a blog, promote the webinar and include the details about the webinar and relevant details about the speaker’s background. Also, describe the benefits of attending and include the link to sign-up. Hubspot wrote a great blog about writing content that has impact with examples. It then included details about a webinar.

Website: Promote on your website. If you don’t have one, you may want to create one so you can share relevant content with your audience.

Email: If you own a business or have a mailing list, notify everyone by email. I also would encourage you to send a follow-up email because people need to hear the message more than once. As you do more webinars be sure to include testimonials so that people will understand the benefit.

Social networks: Promote your event on the social networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You can post a few times but do it at different times or days to reach different audiences. And invite them to share with their networks.

What does embargoed mean?

I followed an interesting exchange on social media where an editor voiced his frustration because a news release that had been embargoed was posted online by one news outlet many hours in advance of the embargo being lifted.

The editor was frustrated – and rightly so.

As a former newspaper reporter and now PR person, I try to be cognizant of print publications — the daily paper and the weeklies because they can’t push a story out the way TV and radio can. It’s a bit easier today with the online sites, but it’s nice when a print publication can publish timely news within its news cycle.

I’ve actually distributed two news releases recently where I embargoed the story until the morning. My goal was to give print reporters time to conduct interviews and still have a story in the morning edition. TV and radio would still be able to cover it, too, and this way, everyone had it at the same time.

Turns out the PR person in the situation described above had an ongoing relationship with one reporter and had granted that reporter permission to publish early.

That changes everything. It’s no longer an embargoed release. It’s a story that is given to one reporter and then shared with other reporters after it has initially appeared.

As a PR person, I don’t have a problem with that, but you should be upfront that you are doing so, and you probably only want to do that sparingly.

What troubles me about this situation is that a frustrated editor or reporter in the future may not adhere to the terms of an embargo, hurting all reporters and PR practitioners.

Here are some lessons to glean from this situation:

  1. As a PR person if you don’t need to embargo the story, don’t.
  2. If you want a particular reporter to have the story first (in old-school journalism this was known as a scoop, and the reporter usually unearthed it on her own), give it to that reporter and no one else.
  3. Report your own news through your organization’s website. This way you don’t have to work with reporters. (If you follow this approach, though, you’ll miss out on the next tip, which could be helpful in a crises.)
  4. Develop relationships with reporters at a variety of media outlets. Know when their deadlines are, how they would best like to receive information and how you can contact them.

Writing a novel draft by draft

Tweet: Writing a novel, draft by draft, will help you write better. Each draft focuses on one area of writing.

You can fix garbage but you can’t fix a blank page.

That was the advice of Mary Burton at a recent writing workshop sponsored by the Virginia Romance Writers with Sisters in Crime.

She should know given that this year she will write four novels. Burton is a USA Today bestselling author, who has written 23 novels.

When Burton first began writing, she would share a chapter with a critique group, but she quickly discovered for her that the stopping and starting process wasn’t conducive because she would lose the thread.

Now she simply plows through and writes a complete first draft, which she refers to as “sloppy copy.”

To ensure that she gets through the first draft, she writes daily goals on her calendar. Some days it might be to write 10 pages, other days 15. The point was that having goals made it real.

“There is nothing better than an external deadline,” she said.

During the sloppy copy phase she doesn’t edit. She does in subsequent drafts. Once the first draft is written, a subsequent draft will focus on structure, another on pacing, until she gets to what she calls “The Big Read.”

It’s at this point that she prints her novel on three-hole paper and puts it in a binder to read away from the computer. “Your job is not to be nice,” she said. “You have to be the editor.”

Each draft will lead to a rewrite and ultimately should lead to a novel that is published.

How to successfully place an op-ed

“I’m going to write and op-ed, and I’d like you to place it for me. Ideally, I’d like to be in The New York Times. Or, if that doesn’t work, I’m good with The Washington Post or the LA Times.”

I have heard that throughout my career in public relations, working for several different organizations.

It’s easier said than done.

Recently, a group of communicators I work with met to discuss placing op-eds, and what it takes to be successful.

Ideally the piece should be tied to current events or newsworthy topics. Readers want to read about issues dominating the news, which means op-ed editors want to publish about them.

Additional tips include:

State your main point at the top. You have a few seconds to hook a busy reader and convince him to continue. Use the rest of the piece to support your case. It’s persuasive writing at its best.

Be brief and concise. Most op-eds are 750 words long. Opinion editors are not going to take your 1,200 word piece and edit it for you. Submitting a lengthy piece is a sure way to earn a rejection.

Short is best. The sentences of most op-eds are short. They rely on simple declarative sentences written in the active voice. If you have long paragraphs, cut them into two or more shorter ones, even a one-sentence paragraph is acceptable.

Make a single point. While you may have several points you want to share, readers won’t be interested in wading through so much information. Focus tightly on one point and you will be more persuasive.

Avoid jargon. You work in the industry so the jargon you use makes sense. The readers of a newspaper don’t work with you, and they are your audience. That being said, if you are submitting your piece to a trade publication, your readers may be more familiar with the concepts and you may not have to explain them.

This is your opinion. It’s acceptable to mention someone else’s work, but it should be a mention, not a recitation of the work. The more unique the piece is, the more likely it is to be published.

Follow submission guidelines. Most newspapers and websites post guidelines about how they prefer to receive submissions. If you follow the guidelines, you are more likely to be published. Always include your contact details and a photo of yourself.

Don’t let buzzwords harm your brand

During a training I offer on personal branding, I ask everyone in the audience to stand up and think about their resumes.

Then I ask everyone who touts themselves as creative to sit down.

Anyone who writes on their resume that they are motivated also is asked to sit down.

This continues with a few more words that communicators usually use to describe themselves.

As you might expect, in short order no one is standing (sometimes a few individuals remain standing).

The problem is that many of us rely on buzzwords, which keeps us from standing out and properly branding ourselves. Tweet: Many of us rely on buzzwords, which keeps us from standing out and properly branding ourselves @PriceCynthia in

According to Linkedin, the top 10 global buzzwords are

  1. Motivated
  2. Passionate
  3. Creative
  4. Driven
  5. Extensive Experience
  6. Responsible
  7. Strategic
  8. Track record
  9. Organizational
  10. Expert

How can you strengthen your brand?

Start by reviewing your resume (and Linkedin profile) and highlighting any of these buzzwords. (Highlighting will keep you honest!)

To eliminate the words, use concrete examples to describe your skills and achievements. (Don’t simply use a thesaurus!).

Once you do this, you will have strengthened your brand.