• All about the humanity of communication.

    All about the humanity of communication.

The simple answer is this: hire a professional technical communicator. And now, with the advent of the “Online Buyers Guide & Consultant Directory” published just this week by the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the process has become infinitely easier.

stc-online-buyers-guideThe Buyers Guide section lists companies that provide a specific product or service; it’s organized into several helpful sections. The Consultant Directory lists over 600 professional technical communicators, all of whom are just an email or a phone call away; many are just a Web site click away. (We are listed on page 53.)

Research has demonstrated that clear technical communication created by professionals who understand the needs of their audiences — your customers among them — return solid benefits: greater customer satisfaction, less technical support calls, increased sales, and fewer returns.

Do you want to know how a technical communicator differs from a technical writer? Go to page 7. Then go to page 9 to learn about the value that technical communication can bring your company. The return-on-investment (ROI) is clear.

The best part of all: the Directory is free! Just go to http://www.stc.org/ and click the link on STC’s home page.

–Rich Maggiani

Read more

The quality, authenticity, and benefits of Twitter communication are at stake.

The use of Twitter has simply exploded over the past year. As your list of followers grows, so do the amount of tweets, retweets, and direct messages you receive. Most of these tweets are well intended, but how useful are they?

italian-alley-whiteAn increasing percentage of the tweets you receive are spam. Twitter is especially vulnerable, given its inherent automation. Anyone can easily follow tens of thousands of people, and then gain a large percentage of followers in return. An easy, ready market for spam from lurid “marketers”.

What does Twitter spam look like? Twitter spam can take many forms. Legitimate companies spam when they endlessly promote their products through dummy Twitter accounts. These accounts often bear no resemblance to the products they pitch. Con artists attempt to shift your money and to gain your identity through a series of shady financial transactions. You are probably wary of these: “Help me access my dead uncle’s $20 million from a backward third-world country and receive a 15% fee.” Still, a small percent click through.

Many times, spam tweets are sent by members with few followers yet following as many as possible. This should be your first tip-off when someone starts to follow you. These people send tweets with blind tiny URLs linked to those click-here-if-you-are-18-years-or-older sites — except that requirement is frequently omitted. These can easily be identified by the busty, cleavage-popping, young lady’s photo on the account.

Then there are the “See how I got 3,000 followers in one afternoon” spammers. Another come-on: “I can show you how to make $1,000,000 by tomorrow afternoon by following this simple method. No, really I can!” Hair removal treatment for women garners a good share of spam tweets. You get the idea.

Continue reading How Useful Is Your Twitter Stream?

Read more

United Airlines broke the guitar of Dave Carroll of the band Sons of Maxwell, and he wasn’t happy. For a couple of reasons. First, while changing planes in Chicago, he and his band mates watched United’s baggage handlers throwing his guitar. And second, this was a $3,500 Taylor guitar, quite an expensive musical instrument.

And, as suspected, when Dave arrived in Nebraska, he found the guitar’s neck broken. So Dave complained and asked for compensation. Enter the airline albatross of denial, as any of you know if you’ve ever had to file a claim for damaged or lost baggage. You probably can conclude the results: claim denied. And that was the beginning of United’s nightmare…  justifiably.

A number of events occurred after that, the most caustic and influential being a song written by Dave in United’s “honor” and performed by the band.

This video already has had almost 5 million (!) viewings. Subsequently, articles about Dave’s plight appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Independent (British). That’s viral social media at work. The power is tremendous!

So what has come of all this. Well, United donated $3,000 to the Thelonius Institute, a charity that supports jazz. Then, Bob Taylor, the guitar’s maker, gave Dave two free Taylor guitars.The video and resulting publicity has put the Sons of Maxwell on the musical map. So Dave came away fairly well.

How did United fare? Apparently, not so well. Within days of this video being published together with a flurry of related articles, United”s stock dropped 10%, costing shareholders about $180 million.

Social Media: a force for the rest of us.

–Rich Maggiani

Read more

Effective listening means you get the message clear and complete, without bias

Effective listening is one of the most challenging activities you can engage in, and yet one of the most rewarding and beneficial – both to the person talking and especially to you, the listener. You have effectively listened when you can clearly articulate what the other person has said and understand it from their point of view. How do you get there? By concentrating, putting their message first (and yours second), and considering their background, perspective, and situation.

tantalus-rocky-streamConcentrate. What you might suspect is true. Concentrating while listening is far more difficult than during any other form of communication. Why? Simply put, we think much faster than we talk.

People say, on average, about 125 words a minute. But words can speed through our mind at the rate of 1,200 a minute and often much faster. Thus, speech happens at about 10% of your mind’s capacity. When listening, it’s virtually impossible to slow your thoughts to that pace – you continue to think at high speed. What you do with that other 90% of processing power is the essence of effective listening.

Concentration increases when you engage in a few mental activities focused on what you hear. First, think ahead: where is this going; what conclusions could you draw? Second, evaluate the talker’s points: are they complete, clear, sensible, overly emotional? And third, review all that has been said and think about it in its entirety.

Continue reading How to Be an Effective Listener

Read more

Your community controls your brand, not you. Human engagement is your best course.

With your social media goals set, measure your progress to ensure you are on the correct path. To continue with our travel analogy, after being on your journey for awhile, check your map, gauge your progress, consider a different route, a better route, or perhaps even test an intriguing path that appeals to you.

white-wall-with-plantWhat most matters are the people you meet along the way — you must engage them and influence them to believe in you, to travel with you, to support you. In other words, you want to influence this audience to embrace your brand, embrace your products and services, and ultimately become your customers.

Traditional corporate communication is dead. You cannot do this with traditional corporate speak, the whitewashed prose and polished text that you have traditionally been written for your web site, marketing materials, press releases, and other corporate communiqué. You must engage your audience, entertain them, invite them in, and ask them to participate. It’s then, and only then, that you gain a community that supports and promotes your brand, with its resulting positive effect on sales, profitability, market share, and valuation.

You no longer control your brand. You must fully realize that you are no longer in charge of your brand.

Continue reading Influence Your Community by Engaging Them

Read more

The question is not whether you should engage in social media, but rather how to do it intelligently, effectively, and profitably by implementing our four-step plan

Engaging social media to promote your company is similar to taking a long trip in your car. You must take these four steps:

road-to-kansas1. The vehicle you are taking: one you know how to drive.

2. Where you are going: your destination or goal.

3. How you are going to get to your destination; what are the means or objectives, for attaining your goals: the roads to take.

4. Checkpoints along the way: to assess your trip and possibly to make adjustments.

One thing is certain: a long trip does not happen overnight. It simply takes time.

All of these factors about taking a long trip are true about engaging social media, except there are multiple vehicles, goals, objectives, and checkpoints. Let’s look at them individually.

1. Vehicles. When taking a long trip, it’s best to choose a reliable vehicle. In social media, there are many reliable vehicles. Chief among these are blogs (posted from your web site), microblogs (through Twitter), social networks (Facebook being the most popular), and professional networks (LinkedIn by far the largest). There are others, of course, but these vehicles represent a firm foundation for your social media efforts.

Continue reading Four Steps for Engaging in Social Media

Read more

Your character has much to do with your ability to listen and people’s willingness to talk to you

Would you like to know more about what is going on in your company; about your staff; about your prospects and clients? Then all you have to do is listen.

statue-of-libertyAh, but listening is not easy. If it were, more people would do it with verve. But it is just that difficulty that sets those who truly listen apart, and elevates them in the mind of others. People will seek you out because they know you will take the time to truly listen to them. Given that place of honor in their circle of colleagues means that you discover more information faster, are more of a confidant, and gain a deeper association with those around you.

Listening is good for business. How? People feel free to tell you what is really going on in the company, and do not feel they have to gloss over it. And it’s just this kind of in-depth truth that helps you solve problems when they are still small.

There are a number of characteristics to becoming an exceptional listener that are easily within your reach: humility, patience, respect, sincerity, and empathy. You have varying levels of these traits in your character; it just takes a bit of focus to bring them out.

Continue reading Personality Traits of an Exceptional Listener

Read more

There are many reasons to use social media to promote your company, from which you gain just as many benefits. Here are my top five:3-taos-mountains

  • Build awareness of your brand.
  • Enhance your reputation.
  • Convert prospects into customers and clients.
  • Create loyalty in your customers.
  • Increase the morale of your employees.

So that’s what you get, the benefits. How do you get it?

  • Through a Facebook fan page for a celebrity, band, or business.
  • Through a Twitter account for your business.
  • Through LinkedIn pages for key employees (executives, managers, employees, whoever best represents your company).
  • Through a blog with one or more authors (or multiple blogs) on your web site.

Those are the tools. But they are only tools; you must know how to use them to enjoy the five benefits.

Continue reading Promoting Your Company Through Social Media

Read more

Cultivate your community of customers, prospects, and advocates through blogging

Trust has shifted. Target markets shun official messages and the corporate leaders who make them, replacing these messages with conversations among peers. Marketing materials, advertisements, and press releases increasingly find fallow audiences. Target markets, instead, covet dialogues and multi-dimensional conversations among their chosen communities.

broken-green-shuttersRevising your communication strategy becomes vital — one that contributes to the conversation; one that collaborates and connects with a community you create and cultivate. One of the best methods for engaging your community is through blogging and microblogging.

Blogging (the macro kind). If you don’t already, write a blog. Post an entry at least once a week, aiming for the same day and time so that your readers get used to the expectation. Why? Two-thirds of people on the Internet have positive thoughts about companies with blogs. They trust what they read in blogs, even about your product and service because, surprisingly, they perceive blog writers as peers (not as the top-down corporate speak they’ve already turned off).

What to blog about. Start writing about what you sell, your product and service. Integrate customer resource management into your blog posts. For instance, blog about a particular aspect of what you offer and review the results you reap.

Continue reading Embrace Social Media: Blogging and Tweeting

Read more

Listening well is a profitable and worthwhile activity

People who truly listen understand that effective listening provides solid, reliable benefits. Listening expands your knowledge, helps best solve problems, aids in negotiations, reduces mistakes and misunderstandings, and enables that nirvana of all business situations: enhanced relationships with prospects and clients. And where do all these benefits ultimately lead? More recognition, greater income, increased market share, and higher profitability.

solari-kidsExpand your knowledge. No one knows everything. You can certainly learn from reading, but when you listen to someone, you get consolidated information that goes to the heart of the matter. The talker has already discarded the useless and minimized the peripheral. You get the true nuggets of what’s most important. As you react, this talker can tailor what they are saying, explain something in greater detail. You can ask questions to gain more insight and depth. You can also learn things that have not yet been written down.

Everyone has something to say… if you just listen long enough. My teenage daughter, Alita, once had a piano teacher, Mrs Regis (not her real name, of course). While brilliant on a piano, what Mrs Regis said during a conversation could be quite incomprehensible. Picking up Alita after practice often meant enduring more of Mrs Regis’s flighty thoughts. Alita and I tried listening, but we always seemed to come away wide-eyed and baffled. I often questioned the value of listening to her, until one enlightening moment that completely changed my perspective.

Continue reading The Many Benefits of Listening

Read more