Why your LinkedIn Pulse post should be more basic

Writers are people who write. Therefore, “pulsers” are people who pulse. It sounds so simple, but it’s not so easy.

If you’re wondering why so many people are hot for content, the answer is easy: Consumers are wary of brands; they’re deaf to sales pitches; and they desire authenticity. This is the three-course meal that content serves up on your behalf.

Content in all its forms, including writing LinkedIn Pulse posts, is a daily commitment that is slow to show results. It can be difficult to see the return on your upfront time investment. I’m not going to talk about topics, sourcing ideas or creating an editorial calendar. I’m just going to mention the very, very basics of a post.

If you’re looking for a deeper level of help, check out this guideline by Hubspot.

1. Write a headline that’s on and poppin’

Opinions are divided on the use of click-bait headlines. I personally love to read them. “The 10 Foods to Avoid to Reduce Belly Bloat” << yup, I’ll click on it. “The Secret Ramen Spots You Won’t Want to Miss,” “Millennials: Push Back on Those Older Managers,” “Hamptons Rose Shortage Anticipated for Summer ’16,” click. click. click.

As a writer, I hate to write click-bait headlines because I’m soooooo above that cheap way of grabbing attention. Well, I need to get over myself because I don’t write for the Wall Street Journal; I’m a Content Director at an events planning company and need to be as poppin’ as possible. My general rules of thumb are:

  1. Use odd numbers when writing a headline for a list (5,7,9 or 16, since we’re in the year 2016)
  2. The headline should be no more than 8 words
  3. Use the active voice (ex., no “-ing” words)

2. Use keywords and SEO terms judiciously

Perhaps your reader isn’t hyper-aware of what you’re doing when you repeat your SEO terms/keywords four times in one sentence. What they are aware of is that the voice you’re using when you do so is not a genuine voice. Not to mention, it’s also burdensome to read. No one wants to read the same phrases and keywords over and over again. It’s annoying and it messes up the flow.

There was recently a flurry of posts remarking on a high schoolers essay that helped secure her admission into several top universities. When asked what was so stellar about it, the admissions officers complimented her ability to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds based on a common experience, which was visiting Costco in this case.

What stuck out to me was their one piece of constructive criticism. They remarked on her heavy hand with adjectives and adverbs. This is a piece of advice that I believe should stand as a lesson to marketers and writers who are double her age:

“Personally, I would advise [her] to use less adjectives and adverbs for purposes of word economy and ease of reading, but it isn’t a huge deal in this case,” Nelson Ureña, co-founder of Mentorverse noted to Business Insider.

Point being: Keep it simple, stupid.

3. Does your pulse post look pretty?

Like I said at the beginning, this is a very basic post, but there is a need for it because people who are trying to write and use LinkedIn to gain more business are unaware of the foundational tools to get them there. Keep these things in mind:

  1. Use an eye-catching header photo
  2. Make sure your own LinkedIn photo is pretty and professional, and more importantly to me, that it shows your personality
  3. Use Subheds, lists and numbers – people scan an entire post before deciding whether or not they want to read it. If all they see are blocks of text, then you’ve got a problem. A paragraph should be no “thicker” than five lines. Your post should have hyperlinks throughout and have bolded words and phrases for emphasis.

Words on a page are like notes in sheet music. If one beat is off – the whole piece sounds terrible. Remember that.

How to write a press release

Trying to sell your product or service, but at a loss as to how to elbow your way through to the front of the media stage?

Journalist stage fright is very real. ‘Journos’ are scary. I know this because I was one. I was trained to be a human-stone wall who hid her opinion while casting a skeptical eye. I never took any fact or truth at face value until I substantiated it myself. The good news is journalists are people too, and with a little preparation and self-deprecation, these walls will chip away.

Let’s start with the basics of a press release.

1. The Five W’s

Raise your hand if you remember the five W’s from English class? It seems obvious, but many business owners, and even public relations professionals, forget to include these equally important aspects in their press release. Who are you; What do you do/sell; Where are your headquarters (this is especially important to local media)/Where is your product or service distributed; Whendid you open/expand/relocate; and Why are you contacting me?

2. Define yourself clearly

You should be able to state the reason why you’re writing the press release in one sentence. This sentence goes in the first paragraph (Google: the inverted pyramid). I know, I’m mean. But consider this – you have about 15 seconds to explain — simply — what you want them to know before they move on to the hundreds of other emails in their inbox. Not much different than a marketing email, is it? Don’t worry, you can further expand on your company’s background at the end of the press release in the “about us” paragraph.

Tip: Be careful not to use industry jargon. The media doesn’t use industry speak because of the depth and breadth of its audience.

3. What’s the benefit to the public?

This should be a part of your business plan and behind everything that you do, so if it’s stumping you, it is time to take a look at your business model.

4. Highlight the hook

Journalists are as attracted to small businesses as they are to large Fortune 500 companies. They’re itching to break a story and loathe having to write up something that’s already been covered a million times before. We write about corporations because they’re sexy and increase our SEO, but we report on small businesses because we want to beat our competitors to the next new thing.

Mid-sized businesses tend to get lost in the fold because they don’t have the resources to market themselves but they also don’t need us as much “love.” You can pick up the slack by pointing out exactly what it is that makes you different from your competitors. You know how you’re better and different, so show the facts without selling yourself.

5. Include contact information

Always let the journalist know who they can contact if they’re interested in more information. Sorry PR folks, we want to hear directly from the horse’s mouth, be it the product developer, engineer or the C-suite exec. Finally, always, always include your website URL.

**I first wrote this in 2012, but it’s still applicable today. What do you think?

Just how “effortless” is CX when served on a silver platter?

One would think that the more you’re in contact with a customer, the deeper your relationship will grow. The opposite is true.

If a customer comes into contact with you directly, the likelihood of you retaining their business decreases fourfold, according to research by the Corporate Executive Board and presented by Matt Dixon, the best-selling author of “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.”

This is because a whopping 84 percent of customers value ease of use and low effort over channel choice. Dixon’s research has left him with the overwhelming conclusion that excellent service is not delightful. In fact, it’s a key driver behind disloyalty.

Reducing the customer’s effort increases loyalty and reduces attrition. Low-effort means that they shouldn’t be hearing scripted agents or having to repeat themselves. They shouldn’t have to jump channels or endure countless transfers.

The CEB conducted a series of surveys that found that 88 percent of low-effort customers increased their spending and 94 percent who had  low-effort experiences were more likely to repurchase later on, Dixon says. So, how do you reduce customer effort?

The Three Pillars of Effortless Experience

1.) Channel Stickiness. Self-service is where it’s at. Customers don’t really want to talk. Agents are aware of this fact that holds true across ages and  demographics. But because customers are still picking up the phone, senior executives are reluctant to acknowledge this shift in channel preference.

It’s true that telephony wields the lion’s share of first contacts, but this is unfortunately due to the lack of other viable options. Most callers (58 percent) first attempted resolution through self-service options and another 25 percent were online while also on the phone with the agent in an effort to learn how to resolve the issue themselves in the future. The customers want fast resolutions without having to jump channels.

2. Next Issue Avoidance. The worst question you can ask a customer is also one of the most common closers, “Have I fully resolved your issue today?” Dixon says this question sends two bad messages to the customer – that they are being rushed off the phone, or that the agent may be missing the deeper issue at hand.

Think of it this way – if you were measured by first-contact resolutions wouldn’t you avoid asking other issues exist? When asked in the study whether a first-contact resolution had been achieved, 77 percent of companies believed that it had. Their customers didn’t agree — only 40 percent felt their issue was entirely resolved.

Callbacks for repeated issues are a byproduct of both explicit and implicit issue failures. Fifty-four percent of explicit failures are because the agent failed to resolve the issue in the first place. Implicit failures arise because the agents failed to see the adjacent issues at hand, or the problem behind the problem. Ask your tenured customer service professionals to help identify the chain of “problem events,” so that you can think ahead of the customer, not alongside of them.

3. Mismatched perception of effort. Consider the behavioral economics of your organization. If the agents are advocating on behalf of the customers, then they are also empathetic to their upsets. One hotel chain told its front-desk workers to move out from behind the service counter to physically stand next to the upset client. This nonverbal communication led to a decrease of 77 percent in customer effort for the hotel. 

The same goes for the spoken word. We’re all aware that words hold weight, Dixon says, but are you aware of what you’re saying? Delivering bad news in a positive way is at the cornerstone of customer effort perception. This is where Disney is exemplary. For example, when a park visitor asks a Disney employee when the park closes, they respond, “We’re open until 9 p.m.,” instead of “It closes at 9 p.m.” This simple shift to positive language led to a decrease in customer effort by 73 percent.

How to emote authority – a quick reminder

“When I first met you, I thought you were kind of a b*tch.” Am I allowed to say that on LinkedIn? Regardless, friends and coworkers say that to me. This reminder of my inability to make a good first impression shows I have a lot to learn.

My “softer” side is something I need to address, but we’re not here to talk about me. We’re here to talk about the benefits behind asserting authority. The ability to command a room – be it at a party or in a boardroom – is not innate and can be  learned.

This morning, I overheard a conversation between the deputy divisional director and a sales guy at my company. He told the newbie, “I can tell who will be successful by the way they walk around the office.”

Here’s what he meant; and here’s what I do.

Make your body big by having your shoulders back. When  you sit down at a meeting, place your elbows on the armchair and spread out your materials to make sure they cover a large area.

Make your body high by sitting up straight – in meetings and while at your desk. Shoulders back and chin parallel to the ground. This little shift makes youlook authoritative even if you don’t feel authoritative. Fake it ’til you make it.

Take the dominant seat – I always sit at the head of the table in meetings. It’s important to be able to have a line of direct eyesight to everyone in the room. It shows them that their opinions are valued. Conversely, if I’m not leading the meeting, if I’ve made a mistake and need to apologize, or if I just need to show respect in general, I will sit next to or beside that person. This shows that I know my place in the hierarchy, am willing to learn and respect them.

Don’t move out of the way of others. There are obvious exceptions to this rule (i.e., you’re the one ‘merging into the lane’ or if you’re a man confronting a woman or if you’re a human being at a crossroads with a pregnant, elderly or disabled person.) These exceptions notwithstanding, don’t let someone take you off your path. In America, we walk on the right and pass on the left. I don’t scurry, so if someone is confused by this I will simply slow my pace or stand there until they figure it out. When walking around the office, walk with a purpose. Ask yourself, “where am I going?” I don’t mean literally to your desk or a conference room. I mean where are you going in life? That will determine how you walk and no one should stand in that path.

Get up. If an email conversation goes beyond three volleys of responses, then don’t respond. Get up and go talk to that person. It’s all too easy nowadays to not have a face-to-face conversation, which actually makes it easier for you to stand out and assert your authority. By getting up and looking someone in the eye you are more likely to temper misunderstanding. This also shows that you aren’t afraid to tackle issues head-on, which is very powerful behavior.

Stop wearing headphones unless you’re writing or researching. There is no reason for it. And do not, for the love of all things beautiful, walk around the office with your headphones in your ears. We’re too old to be carrying around an adult version of a blankie.

Timeliness. Sh*t happens (again, am I allowed to curse on LinkedIn, I am new to this), but if you wake up earlier and arrive at the office before 9 a.m., it sets the tone for your entire day. You will feel in control of what happens to you. Instead of feeling flustered and agitated, this time will allow you to mentally plan out the course of your day. Start by making your bed. Even if everything else goes wrong you will still feel that you’ve accomplished at least one thing. General McRavengave this advice in an excellent anecdote:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

That’s some powerful sh*t.

St. Patrick’s Day cookies, anyone?

How cute is this St. Patrick’s Day greeting from my former co-journalist, Liz Coe, and me? Six years ago we were working at the Loudoun Times as the education and business reporters. I miss those days. (I baked green cookies today, in case you were wondering). Happy Luck of the Irish to you all!

Liz and Hannah
Six years ago, I was the Business Reporter and Liz was the Education Reporter at the LoudounTimes.com

Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe*:

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Ingredients for the topping:

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat the over to 350 F, and butter and line a 9 inch springform pan.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter — in spoons or slices — and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner’s sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsifted confectioners’ sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.

Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Makes about 12 slices

*From “Feast” by Nigella Lawson.

Tips to avoid the #Millennial meltdown

Oh, Millennials, what are we going to do with you? Everyone wants to #reach you, to #engage you and to get you to spend your #money. Why, oh why, won’t you just tell us what we can do for you? Oh, what’s that you say? You mean you have been telling us this whole time? Huh ….

Tips to avoid the Millennial meltdown

Open your ears, the Millennials are talking, says Melvin Greer, Senior Fellow at Lockheed Martin and author of “21st Century Leadership.” A majority of Millennials — 59 percent — turn to their trusted network of friends and family as the primary influencers when making a purchase.

Millennials don’t just use products and services; they are the products and services they use. The generation associates a part of themselves with thCCW Millennials THUMBNAILeir preferred brands and is hyperaware of how a brand not only meets their service needs, but also their personal needs. Because they have such
high expectations for hyper-personalization, they therefore require mass-customized experiences.

Millennials are digital natives accustomed to having any kind of information available to them at any time. Instead of worrying about meeting these high expectations, consider using their knowledge and ideas: ask them what they want and they’ll give you the exact products and service ideas they want to buy
from you. It could be as easy as that.

If you’re wondering why you should jump through hoops for the youngest purchasing generation it’s because once you’ve got ‘em, they’ll be yours
forever.

Tips to avoid the Millennial meltdown

Trust in brands and institutions are waning across the generation. They are well-trained in sniffing out inauthenticity and need to believe that a company has integrity to follow through with what they say. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s important to be aware that Millennials are at the top of this reciprocal ecosystem. They will represent almost half of the U.S. workforce by 2020. They will also represent about $1.4 trillion in spend – about one third of all retail sales projected for that year.

You may see them as one small fish, but collectively, they are all sharks in a large network that wields the power to create or kill your company, Greer says.

Millennials are a viral group that can lead to large-scale changes in the future of consumer behavior. You’ll be taking the reigns alongside them if you find the sweet spot at the center of mass customization, authenticity and technology.

Retail’s much-needed secret weapon …

In a crowded, competitive market, predictive analytics is emerging as a secret weapon to gain insight from data.

If you’re looking to become an indispensable partner in driving profit through world-class insights and analytics, you must harness the data to identify and understand market trends. Only then can the strategy to monitor the risk landscape be defined. That’s when you’ll be able to reduce losses and remain competitive.

The yellow brickPredictive Analytics The Secret Weapon Infographic road to the Gold Standard.

Data within retail is still not being fully leveraged as a determination of real behavior. Instead, it’s stuck in the days of providing summations of customer preferences. You can find new ways to engage your customers by bringing insights and analytics in-house.

This is a case study of the route taken by ConAgra, as presented by Chris Ciccarello, Senior Director of Customer Analytics at the previous Shopping Experience Transformation event.

Start with building data capabilities.

ConAgra put its minds to identifying the analytical possibilities by:

  • Identifying affinities for cross-promotion and shelving
  • Evaluating store layout and assortment
  • Reviewing store and customer segmentation
  • Predicting shopping behavior
  • Collecting shopper dynamics for testing
  • Segmenting and targeting shopper offers

Gather the community.

Hire the people with existing expertise. They should ideally possess:

  • A mix of IT and business knowledge
  • Business analyst experience
  • Experience with transaction-level data
  • Ability to create data visualizations
  • Are an enthusiast of data and technology

Key questions for IT:

  • Does IT have a strategy to handle Big Data?
  • Are they a partner or a profit center?
  • Are they flexible with different approaches?

Key questions to answer for IT:

  • How big are the datasets?
  • How long do they need to be stored?
  • What are the query speed requirements?
  • What tools are needed to analyze the data?
  • What security is required?

Cluster stores for layouts/assortments.

Geography should not play a role in store clustering because store proximity doesn’t necessarily equate to the similar shopper behavior. Tips:

  1. Group stores together that have similar shopper buying patterns
  2. Create assortments, space and flow to match the products that are most important to the store’s shoppers
  3. Allows the stores to have a common feel but also be tailored to the community
  4. Reduce Out of Stocks and excess inventory
  5. Customize Signage and messaging to capture the shopper’s needs

Press the launch, then sit back and watch the analytical platforms.

Finding the pot of gold.

  • Returned distribution after delist
  • Kept private brand business despite lower comp bids
  • Won new private brand category bid
  • Saved items from getting downsized
  • New insights on trade promotion behavior
  • Understanding coupon redemption

New big data sets + the right people and systems + analytical execution = retailers’ boosted volume and profit + more satisfied shoppers.

Listen. Learn. Write. Repeat.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,030 other followers