What Your Email Says About Your Brand

A Case Study: Your Emails

Digital branding starts in your inbox.

It’s something you take for granted, something seemingly trivial, even mundane. When executed thoughtfully, however, it makes a splash. It says, “This guy is sharp—I want to work with him!”

What is this opportunity, obvious but overlooked? It’s the bookends of your emails: your address and signature block—often, the first and last thing your recipients will see. For better or worse, your email bookends are powerful purveyors of your brand. What are yours conveying about you?

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Message Development: Thinking Inside the Box

To start thinking about message development, consider the following questions:
• Your friend wants to try a new Italian restaurant for dinner. You’re craving sushi. How do you convince her to pick up the chopsticks?

• A CEO doesn’t see the value of starting a company’s twitter feed. What’s the best way for the marketing department to show him that tweeting can bolster the bottom line?

• A government agency wants to reduce the number of teenagers texting while driving. How do they convince “invincible” teens that this behavior is dangerous?
What do these questions have in common? The answer is the need for message development. Whether your goal to enjoy a sushi dinner or promote teen driver safety, the secret to success is developing messages that resonate with the audiences’ values and opinions.
How can you do that? Try using a message box. This tool offers communicators a framework for producing carefully-crafted messages that both respond to a particular audience’s needs and preferences while reinforcing how “the ask,” or desired action, relates to their values.

The messages produced can be used separately or together to achieve a desired outcome. Sometimes, several message boxes need to be created for a particular audience based on themes or ideas that resonate with them. For example, one message box for the CEO could be focused on the business case for twitter while another could focus on how participating in twitter would reinforce company’s commitment to customer service.

The Message Box in Action

Let’s go back to the question about the government agency and their education campaign about texting while driving. The following chart defines each element of the message box and shows messages that could be used for convincing teens that texting while driving as a dangerous activity.

Type of Message Definition Example
The Ask The desired action for the target audience to take. Stop texting while driving.  
The Barrier Message This message counters an audience’s key misconceptions about the particular topic. There should be a message to refute each barrier the target audience(s) may present. Statistics, analogies and quotes are powerful tools for overcoming barriers. Barrier:
I only look at my phone for a few seconds when I text. I can still see what is going on.  Message to Overcome It:
Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. That is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field at 55 miles an hour while blind. Is that a risk you’re willing to take?
The Value Message This message is used to connect with a value the audience has about a topic. Not texting while driving doesn’t just mean you will stay safe. It means you will keep your license and others on the road will be safer.
The Vision Message This message reinforces the value message point. It highlights the benefits audience members reap if they take the action in “the ask.”  If  you stop texting while driving, you can  enjoy the privilege of driving and staying safe at the same time.

Do you think that the message box could help you create compelling more messages for you and your clients? Let me know what you think.

Sarah Vogel is a Senior Account Executive at TMNcorp, a full-service communications company in Silver Spring, MD.  Follow her on Twitter @TMNcorp or connect with her on LinkedIn.

The Advantages of Hiring a Professional for Your Employee Survey

The advent of low-cost, easy-to-use measurement tools such as Zoomerang, Survey Monkey and Hosted Survey has opened the door to communicators eager to assess their employee communications efforts.  These tools offer templates, sample questions and instant reporting features, along with the ability to customize the look and feel of the survey to match the company’s branding.

I encourage my clients to take advantage of these types of online survey tools, and work with them to set up post-event surveys, as well as ongoing employee polls to gather information on employee issues and morale concerns.

But when it comes to a more complex survey, such as an annual employee opinion survey, I advise them to bring in the big guns and hire a professional research firm to conduct the assessment.

A professional survey provider brings to the table a number of advantages that communications generalists can’t offer, such as:

  • Knowledge of best practices – how to drive responses, how to report results effectively, and how your company stacks up against others of similar size and type
  • Understanding of the latest survey technology and knowledge of the best product for your circumstances
  • Survey design expertise – not just the look and feel of the survey, but also the development of the questions themselves
  • Assessment and analysis – advice on how to interpret the data and how to report it to senior management and back to the employees

Probably the biggest advantage that a professional survey provider offers is that of being an outsider.  They come to the table free of any internal bias that might slant the survey questions or even color the results.  That “outsider” status often results in more candid responses from employees, since they know their comments can’t be traced back to their user ID.  Plus, senior management will likely take less offense at critical verbatim comments when delivered by “the survey guys” instead of the employee communications manager.

Employee surveys are a valuable tool, and in the hands of an expert, can help identify the company’s core strengths, as well as areas of concern.

Susan C. Rink is principal of Rink Strategic Communications, which helps clients take their employee communications to the next level.  Email her at rinkcomms@verizon.net.

Communicators, It’s Time to Board the Twitter Train

Twitter LogoOne of the most frequently asked questions at PRSA and other professional networking events these days is, “Do you use Twitter?”

Granted, social media is a hot topic.  Companies are using social media to market products, manage their public image, and build customer loyalty via YouTube channels and Facebook pages. 

Local TV newsrooms urge viewers to become fans on Facebook and upload images of breaking news and current events to the station’s Flickr page. 

Celebrities and politicians alike have embraced Twitter as a way to manage their visibility and raise awareness of their activities.

But not everyone is on board.

In fact, when I answer that yes, I do use Twitter on a daily basis, most PR and HR professionals alike are quick to dismiss it as a fad and something that has little relevance to the “business” of communications.

I disagree.

Look, I know all the arguments against using Twitter as an employee communications tool:  

  • “It’s a time-waster.”
  • “My employees are on the shop floor/at the service counter and don’t sit at a computer all day.”
  • “What if someone Tweets a profanity?”
  • “Who cares what Ashton Kutcher is doing?”  (OK, that one is mine.)
  • “Where is the ROI?”

All of these are valid arguments against adopting Twitter as an employee communications tool.  Sure, I can cite you companies that are using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yammer and a myriad of other social media tools as part of their comprehensive employee communications tool kit.  But you’ve heard those arguments before and you still aren’t convinced.

So let me tell you how I use Twitter:  as a professional development and research tool. 

There are some great resources out there that Tweet the latest workplace statistics and communication research findings.  I follow them and scan their Tweets to see if there is anything I can use to help one of my clients or even prepare me for a pitch to a new client.

There are professional and educational organizations, as well as industry experts, who offer free training, either via informational blogs or webinars and live chats.  I participate in as many as I can and apply that knowledge to the projects I’m supporting.

And there are recruiters and professional organizations that Tweet job openings and tips for effective resume development and interviewing.  I share those leads with friends and clients who are actively (or passively!) looking for work.

Communicators, it’s time to stop dithering and board the Twitter Express, if for no other reason than to prepare you for the day when you are out on the job market again.  After all, when was the last time you saw a PR or communications job posting that didn’t require expertise in social media?

Susan C. Rink is principal of Rink Strategic Communications, which helps clients take their employee communications to the next level.  Email her at rinkcomms@verizon.net or follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RinkComms

How to Use Social Media for Employee Communications

Employee communications strategist Susan Rink explains how to use six social media innovations for employee communications in this informative video.

Her company, Rink Strategic Communications (www.RinkComms.com), specializes in taking employee communications to the next level for their clients.

Susan touches on
1. Blogs
2. Yammer
3. Microsoft SharePoint
4. Online chats
5. Online comments
6. Wikis

Communicating with Employees in an Emergency

Susan Rink, of Rink Strategic Communications, provides three important employee communications tips to help your business or organization prepare, should a crisis or emergency arise.

For more information about employee communications strategies, please visit http://www.rinkcomms.com

Five Tips for Leadership Communications

Susan Rink, of Rink Strategic Communications, explains why strategic employee communications is more important than ever in this challenging economic environment. Learn five ways internal communicators can use to build trust in their company’s or organization’s leadership.

To learn more, please visit http://www.RinkComms.com or email RinkComms@Verizon.net