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Monthly Archives: October 2016

7 Public Relations Solutions for Small Businesses

A new business needs to get the word out that they not only exist, but offer services and products consumers need. Even established businesses need to continually market and attract new customers and clients. Some companies have marketing departments or outsource to marketing companies to accomplish this. But for businesses that may not have a large marketing budget, here are 7 do-it-yourself options that can drive your business to new heights.

You don’t need a full-fledged marketing team to launch a successful PR event. Check out Localist, an interactive online calendaring platform that aims to help small businesses with limited marketing resources manage promotional events.

After signing up for an account, you can input planned events, import your current calendar or upload events in bulk. Take advantage of time-saving features like recurring schedules, venue search and automatic event merging to avoid duplicates. To make your event even more successful, Localist also allows you to create an online community where attendees and target audiences can check-in to events, add comments, write reviews and upload photos. The platform is also Google Analytics-friendly, allowing you track conversations about your event, how many shares and follows events have and other valuable insights.

Share your expertise and get free publicity. Help A Reporter Out, commonly referred to as HARO by media folks, gives you direct access to reporters, bloggers and journalists from all types of publications and media properties who are looking for sources with your expertise.

Sign up as a source and HARO will send queries from journalists to your inbox in batches throughout the day.  If any of the queries is a good fit for your expertise and business, pitch your response and qualifications directly to the journalist by email for a possible interview or direct quote.

Find the right journalist and blogger to tell your story or become a source.MuckRack helps businesses search their database of more than 20,000 journalists and media contacts. Features include inbox alerts, direct email pitches to journalists, social sharing data and media list creation and organization.

Sign up as a PR pro or marketer by clicking on the “Find Journalists” button, then choose a subscription plan. Start searching for journalists by name, keywords and phrases, beats, outlets, Twitter accounts, hashtags, media properties and other categories.

Maximize your reach and attract new business online. PRWeb publishes press releases across the web on search engines, blogs, major news sites and websites — no tech or PR skills necessary. Write an effective and engaging press release for your business, announcement or event (PRWeb offers a library of resources to help you do this, including free tutorials and press release examples). Add video, keywords, extra distribution channels and other optional features. Plug your press release into PRWeb’s template and hit ‘Submit.’ PRWeb’s editors will then check your release and you’re good to go.

Reach highly targeted audiences by writing quality guest posts on major blogs. MyBlogGuest connects bloggers with brands and content creators to share their expertise, build links and cross-promote their offerings. Once you have a MyBlogGuest account, you can search for guest blogging opportunities or post an ad in the forums for free. You can also post content directly in the Articles Gallery for blog owners to find (requires a GO PRO account).

Find leads and discover your biggest social media influencers. HootSuite is a social media management tool that lets you manage multiple social media accounts in a single dashboard to help automate social media marketing, while increasing engagement. HootSuite can also help you monitor top content, likes and shares, traffic sources and other metrics with reporting modules like Facebook Insight and Google Analytics. Simply sign in with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or your email address, then set up “streams” for each social media account.

You don’t need fancy software to track your business’s media placements and mentions — Google Alerts lets you monitor your presence online and find out where you appear on the web, what people are saying about you and how your PR campaigns compare to that of your competitors.

Create an alert by entering a search query — such as the name of your business, competitors, industry and other related keywords — and setting up the frequency and types of alerts you wish to receive. These Google Alerts are then sent directly to your inbox.

5 Data Breach Threats Your Small Business

 Securing sensitive information has never been more difficult with new malware threats that seem to pop up every single year. Data breaches affect even the most renowned companies like Yahoo, LinkedIn and Dropbox, to name a few.

For small businesses, in particular, being ready for a data breach is essential to survival if — or more likely, when — one occurs.

“Preparing for a data breach has become much more complex over the last few years,” Michael Bruemmer, vice president at Experian Data Breach Resolution, said in a statement. “Organizations must keep an eye on the many new and constantly evolving threats and address these threats in their incident response plans.”

Based on Experian’s Data Breach Industry Forecast report, here’s some of the cyber threats businesses can expect:

Experian predicts that “aftershock” breaches — repeated unauthorized logins after usernames and passwords obtained in previous breaches are sold on the dark web — will continue to rise in 2017.

To mitigate this risk, companies can implement two-factor authentication to verify users, which helps solve the password reuse problem. Secondary authentication methods can be password alternatives such as tokens, SMS alerts, geolocation confirmation or biometrics.

President Trump stated during his election campaign that he would be in favor of using cyber weapons in retaliation against enemy states. Experian expects cyberattacks to continue against the United States, and with no international agreement governing engagements in cyberspace, the number of attacks will increase and could possibly escalate already existing tensions between countries.”

As health care institutions deploy new mobile apps, it’s anticipated that they will introduce new vulnerabilities that will be attractive targets to hackers. It is expected that ransomware will be the main type of malware used. The HHS Office of Civil Rights has classified ransomware attacks as requiring consumer notification; Experian suggests that preventing data breaches will become even more important. Consumers who have never been notified of breaches are likely to react strongly to news of their information being stolen.

Payment-related breaches will continue, since many small merchants still lag behind in their transition to EMV chip and PIN. There are legitimate barriers to adopting this technology, such as having to manage more infrastructures, the need for software updates to accept payments and the impact on the checkout process. However, the risk of not adopting the technology is high, as attackers have demonstrated the ability to exploit older technology.

New regulations in Canada, Australia and the EU require companies to notify customers whose data has been stolen. Even if your business doesn’t sell to international customers yet, it’s wise to start complying with these new rules to ensure you are prepared in the event of an incident.

To prevent breaches, Experian advises all organizations to train employees on how to spot phishing attacks, keep all security software fully patched and have contingency plans for responding to a ransomware attack.

Why Workplaces Need Some Compassion

 Having a company culture with a little love and compassion can go a long way toward making a better workplace, new research finds.

A study recently published in theAcademy of Management Journalsuggests that businesses need to strike a balance between a lighthearted and fun workplace and one that is compassionate and caring.

While the researchers looked specifically at the life of firefighters and the culture inside fire stations, the study’s authors believe their findings are also relevant to less male-dominated workplaces.

The study found two types of workplace cultures inside fire stations: joviality and companionate love. A jovial workplace is one where employees can have fun and take a joke, as well as participate in pranks and practical jokes.

Conversely, a workplace of companionate love is one in which compassion, affection and caring in times of need are deeply important to its culture. The researchers said they were surprised to find that this type of culture permeates fire stations, considering they are typically filled with men.

“This seeming paradox – the presence of a strong culture of companionate love … illustrates the importance of adopting a more nuanced, contextualized view of masculine organizational culture,” the study’s authors wrote.

The study found that the best workplaces strike a balance between these two types of cultures.

“The positive aspects of a culture of joviality and a culture of companionate love can work together to temper one another and allow individuals to flourish,” the study’s authors wrote.

The research found that in fire stations where both cultures were strong, workers were significantly less likely to engage in risky behaviors off the job than was the case at stations where one of the cultures wasn’t as strong.

The study also found that a compassionate culture aided the physical health of workers who experienced a great deal of work-family conflict and coped with it by bottling up the emotions at work. Specifically, a strong culture of companionate love significantly lowers the occurrences of many common ailments, including insomnia, headaches, indigestion and fatigue. A strictly jovial culture tends to make those health problems worse.

For the study, researchers conducted group interviews at 27 firehouses in a major metropolitan area in order to find both prominent and hidden aspects of emotions.

The researchers found that the cultures were both strong in about 37 percent of the fire stations surveyed and both weak in about 30 percent of the stations. In 19 percent of the stations, joviality was strong and companionate love weak, and in 15 percent the opposite was true.

Olivia Amanda O’Neill, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at George Mason University, said she was surprised to see the culture of compassion and love in such a male-dominated workplace.

“I had previously done research on emotional culture among the largely female staff of a long-term-care facility, where companionate love was very much in evidence, and a question this raised is whether something similar would be true in a largely male workplace,” O’Neill said in a statement. “That this culture emerged strongly, in combination with a strong culture of joviality, was something prior behavioral research on men had not led us to anticipate.”

Although this research looked specifically at firefighters and fire stations, the study’s authors believe leaders in all workplaces would be best served to implement rituals, practices and policies that make compassion normal and appealing.

“First recognize that workplace culture involves not just cognitive values, like the need for teamwork or innovation, but emotions as well,” O’Neill said. “Then pay attention to the emotions you express every day, modulating them as needed. For example, our study found joviality to be associated with good group coordination, so if lack of coordination is a problem, those in charge should try to lighten things up.”

However, if stress is a problem, warmth and kindness should be more of a focus, O’Neill said.

The researchers believe a balance between the two cultures is critical, because without a strong culture of compassion, a completely jovial culture may emerge, which could worsen some negative tendencies often associated with masculinity.

“In some corporate contexts, the types of jokes and pranks we observed that were associated with a strong culture of joviality might be considered harassment or bullying,” the study’s authors wrote. “This possibility underscores the importance of the tempering effect of companionate love for harnessing the positive aspects of an organization’s emotional culture.”

5 Common Leadership Mistakes

 Being a leader comes with a host of responsibilities, including being a good influence on those you work with and who work for you. Whether you’ve recently landed your first leadership role or you’ve been managing employees for years, there are always lessons to be learned and improvements to be made.

Because a leadership role is important, you owe it to yourself and your staff to always be sharp. This means being wise enough to recognize your weak points, and humble enough to work on correcting them.

Here are five common mistakes that leaders at all levels struggle with, and how you can fix them.

Holding any position of power can be good for your ego, but don’t let that position of power create a false sense of security. It’s important that your employees know you’re not above your shortcomings.

“Leaders must not be afraid to recognize their own failures,” said Joe Chiarello, owner of two Murphy Business & Financial Corporation franchises. “We all fall down at some point, but what really matters is the way we pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. This is what helps us grow and makes us stronger.”

Leading by example and having transparency with your team if you do something wrong or make a bad decision can go a long way.

It’s easy to let your feelings about a situation influence the choice, and sometimes it makes sense to do so. But in business, using emotions as your sole justification for any choice is a bad practice. Your team needs to see the facts and logic backing up your choices if you want them to trust you.

“(When you’re) making decisions based on emotion … the team may not truly understand the rationale behind the decision being made, and in many cases, rationale may not exist,” said Christopher Ayala, partner at manufacturing company Gardner & Co. “This can lead to confusion, uncertainty of future roadmap plans or the validity of the decisions over time, slowly chiseling away at the effectiveness of the leader.”

When it comes to making a decision, he suggests taking a deep breath, stepping back and holding your tongue, then thinking.

Making emotional moves can lead to authorizing decisions without a full understanding, too. You don’t want to make decisions because you feel you have to. As a leader, you may find yourself in a position to make choices about things outside your area of expertise.

As a leader, you should be sensible enough to not make a final decision without consulting the people in your company who do have experience in these areas.

One of the most difficult adjustments a new leader has to make is learning how to handle disagreements or problems that arise within the group. You may want to come off as fair and balanced but avoid calling people out for their negative behavior to avoid potential conflict. Doing so will hurt your whole staff more if you don’t nip an issue in the bud.

“Managers often veer away from confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. But when performance or personality issues go unaddressed, they fester and set an overall tone that minimizes the urgency of correcting mistakes,” said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Building Engines. “If there is (an) issue, it’s best to address it right away when the situation is fresh.”

Feldman notes managers incorrectly assume that a problem is the result of incompetence or poor performance when in actuality it’s often a result of a misunderstanding of expectations.

Leaders are typically hired or promoted to their positions because they know what needs to be done and how to do it. This may be accompanied by the mentality of “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” which can be a dangerous attitude to have when managing a team.

Completing or tweaking your employees’ work because it’s not to your liking — or, similarly, failing to delegate tasks — not only creates more work for you, but also hinders your team from reaching its full potential.

“When leaders take on the responsibility of completing a team member’s work, they are actually doing the team and themselves a disservice,” said Nancy Mellard, national leader of CBIZ Women’s Advantage. “(It) is breeding ground for disengagement.”

According to Mellard, by getting into this habit, a talented team member may bring a project to only 75 percent completion, assuming the leader will finish the rest. As a result, performance will move in the wrong direction, while the leader takes on more responsibility for the team’s overall project demands.

You’ve been entrusted with a leadership position because someone else trusts your judgment. Consistently second-guessing yourself can rub off on others, and before you know it, no one trusts you. Don’t be afraid to obey your gut instinct when it’s right.

“While it’s important to listen to others, employees and clients alike, sometimes this can be very dangerous to an innovative startup. If you truly believe in what you are doing, it’s OK to listen only to yourself sometimes. (Be) loyal to your internal compass,” said Moran Zur, CEO of SafeBeyond.