Employee Travel: Preparing for Summer Travel

For Kimball Communications, summer is packed with conferences, workshops and events. Our employees attend conferences across the U.S., and since we cannot physically be together each day it’s important to have a plan before traveling. You, too, can keep everything running smoothly by following this simple, yet effective strategy.


Eelke de Blouw / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
  • Prepare ahead of time. Have an internal meeting to go over everyone’s travel plans. Be sure you know when and where everyone will be throughout the summer. Keep a calendar of employee’s travel arrangements and daily schedules.
  • Stay connected. Technology is key. Skype, voice call, text and email will keep everyone informed.
  • Be aware of time zones. Remember, there’s a good chance you will not be on the same time zone. Schedule calls with each other appropriately.
  • Delegate tasks. Make sure all your bases are covered. Assign timely tasks to colleagues. This will ensure deadlines are still met and will simplify things tremendously.
  • Reach out to clients. Ensure clients are aware when you’ll be out of the office. It’s important to let clients know there will always be someone they can reach out to if a problem or question arises.

How do you stay connected during travel? Follow #KPRontheroad to see where we’ve been, and where we’re going, this summer.

Photo credit: Eelke de Blouw / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Responding to Consumers on Social Media

It’s vital to respond to posts, tweets, questions, etc., on social media, but there’s a right way to handle responding. It’s important to be present for your customers. You certainly do not want to be a ghost on your social media accounts. Below, we explore the right versus wrong ways to respond.

ivanpw / Foter / CC BY
  1. Wrong: Do not acknowledge a mistake a customer brings to your attention via social media. Right: No matter how small the mistake, always acknowledge a mistake and apologize promptly.
  2. Wrong: Listen but don’t respond. Being a ghost and not responding to customers is not a good reflection on your company/brand. Right: It’s important to respond to both positive and negative posts.
  3. Wrong: Respond to everyone with a generic message so everything is consistent. Right: Craft responses that can be personalized to handle different types of comments.
  4. Wrong: If there’s an issue, don’t ask for personal information such as an email address or phone number when responding. Right: Ask the customer to email you (be sure to provide an email address that will go directly to you and not a generic email response center). This also ensures the conversation will be handled privately and not online.
  5. Wrong: Take your time to respond to followers. Right: Ensure someone at your company responds to posts in a timely manner and directs the posts to the appropriate person if there’s a question or issue.

Social media managers, do you have any additional tips to share? Comment below.

Photo credit: ivanpw / Foter / CC BY

Filling in the Blanks

If you learn anything in public relations, it’s that when you leave a communication vacuum, people fill it with their own information. And the information they are left to fill in is not often flattering. So, you would think the big airlines could apply that lesson to their customer service. Apparently not.

Edgar Barany / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I had settled in on my Delta flight back from New Orleans, connecting in Atlanta en route to Newark. Just before take off, the pilot tells us that because there was significant turbulence when the plan arrived at Louis Armstrong Airport, they needed to do a physical inspection. In just a few minutes we’d be on our way.

A few minutes later, he breaks the bad news. A mechanic has to perform the inspection and they do not have anyone in the Big Easy to do the job. They are flying in someone from Atlanta or Minneapolis to do the job, and it will be “a few hours.”

Once we begin to consider the implication of an airline not having a mechanic at an airport to do an inspection, we deplane en masse and head to the Sky Club, bar, ticket counter or wait at the gate to rebook our connections.

Fast forward to “a few hours” later and they announce we will be boarding at 1:55 p.m. At 1:55, a flight attendant strolls out of the gate, so I inquire. He sheepishly tells me they have been told nothing by Delta but their schedule says 4 p.m. I share my new information with my new airport friends and lead a line at the counter to rebook my rebooked connection.

My airport friends and I tried to laugh, but for those sitting and waiting with no information, it was anger, disgust and murmurs of “Delta sucks.” All the $25 food vouchers and apologies by the faultless flight crew could not help.

Delta left their worried, anxious customers in the dark for over an hour. Their crew and airport staff lacked both the information and authority to advise and mitigate the fallout among angry passengers. A few communications basics could have helped:

  • Know your audience is tired, worried and anxious, so communicate frequently.
  • Be forthright (we wouldn’t board at 1:55) and honest as circumstances developed (we might be leaving as late as 4 p.m., but hopefully sooner)
  • Acknowledge what we experienced (inconvenience, frustration) so we knew they cared.

People understand mistakes, but when left in the dark they fill in the blanks – and it’s not an image an airline or anyone else wants.

C’mon Delta, you have the resources to do better.

Photo credit: Edgar Barany / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

10 Steps to Being Presentable: Giving Great Presentations

I’m getting ready to train a client group on delivering effective presentations and thought I’d revisit this sometimes scary topic.

Gary and his trusty cheat sheet. Notice how big the font is? That makes it easier to read at a glance.

Gary and his trusty cheat sheet. Notice how big the font is? That makes it easier to read at a glance.

We’ve all been on the other end, in a room with someone standing rigidly at a podium next to a screen where a PowerPoint is about to bore us to tears. Slide after slide filled with data we can’t read and a monotone speaker who looks at the screen more than the audience. We gain nothing more than we could have gleaned from a report and just can’t wait for it to be over.

So when it’s your turn to give a presentation, how do you make it a good one? Here are a few tips based on more extensive advice (and video training) I’ll be sharing with my client:

  1. Know your audience. This helps in so many ways. Make sure your material is geared toward their needs, not yours. If necessary, find out what they want to know in advance.
  2. Get over your nerves. How? Practice so you know your material. The more you know your stuff, the more at ease you will be. But don’t practice in front of a mirror. That just makes you feel weird.  Videotaping yourself, on the other hand, works. Also, don’t worry about perfection. That’s putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Just try to be engaging and interesting. If so, you’ll be better than most.
  3. Nail the open. But how? Unless you are absolutely certain your joke will work, don’t do it. Instead, ask your audience a question. That engages them and is an easy way to get moving in the right direction. And please, don’t try to memorize your opening. Again, that’s too much pressure to be perfect.
  4. Make sure your technology is fool proof. If not, don’t use it. A funny video from a popular movie or television show can be a great icebreaker. But show it to others first to make sure it works. And if the video, PowerPoint or audio is not tested in the facility where you are speaking, just skip it.
  5. Speaking of PowerPoint, it’s not necessary, too often boring and takes away from what the focus should be – your words. If you have important data to share, send it in advance or use it as a hand out. Just hit the high points in your speech.
  6. Make it interesting. That means you don’t read from a script or use big words or jargon. Instead, use stories, case studies, examples your audience can connect with. And tell your audience why they should care about what you’re saying. That is why they’re there.
  7. Don’t get hung up on verbal tics, like uh and um. Many people do it and you should learn to avoid them. But that’s a daily self-training (I heard one trainer recommend putting “uh” in a circle with a line through it and leave it on your desk. That way, as you are talking all day, you are conscious of it). But when you’re presenting, just let it go and keep talking.
  8. Create a presence. We’re not all gifted speakers who can walk the crowd and feel comfortable. But you should use your hands, use your voice so it’s not monotone and at least move a few steps and shake that icy grip you have on the lectern. Try it, it feels good.
  9. Prepare for problems. You go blank? Keep a one-page cheat sheet in front of you so you can quickly glance and find out where you are. You have technical difficulties? Go in with a back up and just move on. If you don’t dwell on the technical problem, neither will your audience. You’re audience does not seem interested? Then ask them questions.
  10. Speaking of questions. Many people ask the audience to hold questions until the end. Why? Because they don’t want to get sidetracked and lose their place. But if you have a cheat sheet, you have no worries.

The 2013 Communications Intern

While we recently posted on the current meaning of social media, we’ve also got a new perspective on the 2013 intern. In the coming year, interns – from public relations to social media and graphic design positions – should look at their internship search and their experience in a new light.

1. Change your way of thinking.

After completing two communications internships, one of which turned into my current public relations assistant position at Kimball Communications, I suggest a new way of looking at internships.

Think of an internship as a highly important class in college or as the new “grad school.” Communications majors do not often go to grad school after college – they go to work. But, first, you have to pay your dues. If you think of completing an internship as taking an educational course that will help your career, and you plan for the investment accordingly, it won’t seem like just an extra “thing” that you have to do on top of your undergraduate classes. Internships are unfortunately added expenses, but they are necessary in today’s job market.

And, don’t just think of internships as resume builders; they give you an opportunity to start building the skills to break into the communications industry. It’s up to you to take advantage of this. Ragan’s PR Daily suggests ways to do so in these 50 tips.

2. Understand what you’re searching for.

When I was pursuing internships in undergraduate school, I discovered two types of internships: 1) Those that offer a-part-of-the-team experience and 2) Those that hire interns to work from the bottom up – which isn’t necessarily negative.

If you know your top goal is to work in a highly competitive corporation or industry, then running errands or faxing media alerts is sometimes just a stepping stone in that particular job. You have to start somewhere if that you want to go into a specific field.

However, if you have no preference for an industry and are looking for a general communications internship, then search for one in which you will gain quality experience. Don’t settle for an internship where all you do is get coffee if you don’t want to be sitting at the receiving end one day.

Simply put, decide where you want to end up and search for the appropriate internships, with the right people, to lead you to that goal. Also – be prepared to change your end goal on the way. As many have said, internships are sometimes more about what you don’t want to do than what you want to do. For specifics on landing an internship, Ron Culp, PR expert and professional director of the graduate PR and advertising program at DePaul University, offers advice in his blog.

3. Prepare to be well-rounded.

While some communications internships may have a title, not all internships are specific to that title. Interns today can specialize in a certain area, but are still asked and expected to fulfill other projects. So, be prepared to schedule social media posts as an event planner or edit a video in between drafting an article.

Also, get used to the idea that PR agencies are going partially or fully virtual, and so are internships. The renowned Internship Queen Lauren Berger gives the positives of virtual internships in this article.

More importantly than the work itself – students or post-grads need to absorb their overall time in the office. These experiences introduce the language used in the field and the different types of office atmospheres (we prefer a casual environment here.) This understanding of office cultures is all a part of being a communications professional, and it will help prepare you for any type of job you go after post-internship in the 2013 PR and social media world.

Here at Kimball Communications, we’re looking for our 2013 graphic design intern and we look forward to your applications.