Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Holidays: 5 Ways To Make This Holiday Your Best Ever

5 WAYS TO MAKE THIS YEAR END HOLIDAY YOUR MOST
RELAXING AND STRESS FREE BREAK OF THE YEAR.

By Thomas Murrell, MBA CSP International Business Speaker
(549 words)

For many people the end of a year is a time of increased stress.

Instead of relaxing and unwinding from a busy year, the pressures of buying
gifts, travelling or spending time with long lost relatives makes it a
difficult time.

In our household last year for example, my 4 year-old daughter's excitement levels have been taken to new highs by performing in front of 800 people as a 'teddy bear' in her first ever ballet concert.

Loaded on top of this was her Kindergarten show, this time performing the
role of an 'angel' in a Nativity Play, and counting down the days to our
four-week trip to Tasmania.

Before the trip, she woke at 5.15 am and started packing her bags to go. I
smiled when she told me she had packed 8 videos for the trip!

Now I was really looking forward to our holiday and spending time at Freycinet
Lodge on the Island's east-coast, feeling the crunch of pristine white sand
under my feet at Wineglass Bay, watching the sun set over the pink granite
outcrops of 'The Hazards' and tasting the fresh salty tang of
locally grown pacific oysters.

But it wasn't easy getting ready, packing and then travelling for 12 hours
with full luggage and 2 children under 5 years old.

Add to this the fact we're staying with relatives. So what is the solution?

Here are my Top 5 Ways to make End of Year Holidays a relaxing and stress
free time.

1. CLARIFY AND SHARE EXPECTATIONS.

Be aware of the extra pressure on families at this time of the year. Clarify
with family members what each individual wants from the break. For me, it
may be reading all those business books I didn't get time for during the
year. I know for my wife, it is getting extra help looking after the
children and spending time together as a family. How can both these needs be
met? Use these three questions to clarify the needs and wants of others at
this busy time. What do you want? What do you dread? What will put a smile
on your face?

2. PLAN, MONITOR AND BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR BUDGET.

Money issues can be a big source of conflict at the end of the year. It is
meant to be a time for gift giving and sharing but it can get out of hand.
Set a budget for gifts, entertainment and food. Stick to the budget and
monitor it regularly so you don't overspend.

3. DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY AND SHARE TASKS.

You can't do everything all of the time. Many people strive for perfection
at the end of the year because of the many positive and festive images
portrayed by the media. Be realistic and work out what you can and can't
achieve. Ask for and get help. Be prepared to give up some control to share
the load.

4. COMMUNICATE YOUR FEELINGS.

The end of the year, and in Western cultures Christmas, is an emotional
time. Share your feelings of joy with others. If you're feeling stressed,
let others know how you feel and ask for support.

5. KEEP UP YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE.

Keep doing the things you have enjoyed doing during the year, like exercise
and eating well. Take time out for yourself and your family.

* Thomas Murrell, MBA is an international business speaker, marketing consultant and award-winning broadcaster. To receive your free online media, marketing and management newsletter Media Motivators sign up at www.8mmedia.com. Thomas can be contacted directly at (08) 9388 6888.

© 2004 8M Media & Communications Thomas Murrell. All rights reserved worldwide.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Another Great Headline Example

Still on writing great attention grabbing headlines ... Cory Rudl from the Internet Marketing Centre provides this great example:

"Tammie Bowser's site, sells
packages, tools, and lessons on how to make quilts from
photographs -- an unusual holiday gift! In the past, when
visitors first arrived at her site, they saw a headline
that read:

**********************SAMPLE*********************

What Is Quilted Photography?

*************************************************

While her visitors are likely to be interested in what
quilted photography is, this isn't a headline that really
grabs their attention.

In fact, it's not even really a headline -- it's more of a
sub-headline that would go inside the sales copy. We did a
detailed site review for Tammie, and one of the first
suggestions we made was that she use the following headline:

**********************SAMPLE*********************

"Learn How to Turn Your Favorite Photograph into a
Beautiful Handmade Quilt -- and Create a Family Heirloom
That Will Be Treasured for Generations!"


*************************************************

You'll notice that this headline clearly states a couple of
the main benefits of the product -- that people can use
their own photos to make a unique quilt, and that it's
something that will last for a long, long time.

Try jotting down a few key benefits that YOUR product or
service offers, and then working those benefits into an
eye-catching headline.

NOTE: A message placed at the top of your page that reads
something like "Welcome to Mysite.com" is NOT a headline.
Your headline MUST emphasize a clear benefit of your
product.

If you don't have a headline on your site, make this your
holiday gift to yourself! A well-written headline has the
power to literally double -- or even triple -- your sales
overnight!"

Source: "Get Your Site Ready for the Holiday Rush Using These 10
Easy-to-Implement Profit Boosting Tips!", Marketing Tips Newsletter, December 13, 2004 -- Issue 102

Improve Click Through Rates With Great Headlines

As we're all being bombarded with more and more information in less and less time, some experts are now calling this state an "attention-deficit economy".

So how can you cut through the noise with well written headlines - for a media release, email or sales letter.

Here's some tips from Robert Bly:

"The "4 U's" copywriting formula -- which stands for urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful -- can help.

Originally developed by my colleague Michael Masterson for writing more powerful headlines, the 4 U's formula works especially well with e-mail subject lines. I'll share it with you now.

According to this formula, strong subject lines are:

Urgent. Urgency gives the reader a reason to act now instead of later. You can create a sense of urgency in your subject line by incorporating a time element. For instance, "Make $100,000 working from home this year" has a greater sense of urgency than "Make $100,000 working from home." A sense of urgency can also be created with a time-limited special offer, such as a discount or premium if you order by a certain date.

Unique. The powerful subject line either says something new, or if it says something the reader has heard before, says it in a new and fresh way. For example, "Why Japanese women have beautiful skin" was the subject line in an e-mail promoting a Japanese bath kit. This is different than the typical "Save 10% on Japanese Bath Kits."

Ultra-specific. Boardroom is the absolute master of ultra-specific bullets, known as "fascinations," that tease the reader into reading further and ordering the product. Examples: "What never to eat on an airplane," "Bill's it's okay to pay late," and "Best time to file for a tax refund." They use such fascinations in direct mail as envelope teasers and in e-mail as subject lines.

Useful. The strong subject line appeals to the reader's self-interest by offering a benefit. In the subject line "An Invitation to Ski & Save," the benefit is saving money.

When you have written your subject line, ask yourself how strong it is in each of these 4 U's. Use a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = weak, 4 = strong) to rank it in each category."

Source: "How to Write Subject Lines That Get Your Email Opened" by Robert Bly in Copywriting TNTs, Dec 13, 2004 Vol 2, Issue 22.

Reflection Reaps Rewards

Time spent on reflection is time wisely invested. Here are 3 questions to consider when reviewing any project:

1. What's working?
2. What's not working?
3. What can I improve?

Here's some other questions to consider, especially when reviewing your marketing plan:

4. Do you have a well defined marketing strategy that helps you achieve the three phases of marketing; Getting Attention, Positioning, and Selling?

5. How often have you reviewed your marketing plan?

Getting Attention

6. Does your marketing message prompt prospects to contact you?

7. Do your ads, letters, and web site motivate prospects to contact you?

8. What are your conversion rates?

9. What steps can you take to improve them?

Positioning


10. What are you doing to establish your credibility with prospects, to help them know and trust you?

11. Is it working as well as you'd like?

12. What could you improve?

13. Is the value of your products and services clear to your prospects or do they qu√ęstion you about merits and price?

14. Want to learn how to ensure that your prospects understand the value of your products and services?

Selling

15. How successful are you in selling, that is, in getting commitments for everything from appointments to orders?

16. What's your conversion rate of prospects contacted to clients and customers?

17. Do initial s/ales generate repeat s/ales and referrals for years to come?

18. What is your strategy to generate more s/ales from each client?

Source: Adapted from More Business Ezine: 'More Business from Charlie Cook - Cleaning Up Your Marketing': Tuesday, 14 December 2004.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Writing Tips for People in a Hurry

If you spend a lot of time writing eZines, articles, speeches, press releases or brochures here's some tips:

"Describe appearance of product

Identify Features (look for complementary and contrasting qualities)

Single Out Main Benefit

Create your Benefit Statement or Summary

Let your imagination go. This is only an exercise. If it were a real product, of course you'd do your research. But our goal isn't to actually sell this copy to a client. It's designed to open up and free your mind.

THE RULES:

You don't have to write down your observations. Just practice doing them. You'll be amazed at how quickly your writing improves.

Limit yourself to five minutes on each "product."

Brainstorm. Do NOT edit yourself until you're done.

Stop on time." (Source: Red Hot Copy Nov 29, 2004 Vol 2, Issue 20)

Monday, December 06, 2004

IS YOUR ORGANISATION PREPARED FOR A CRISIS THIS CHRISTMAS?

IS YOUR ORGANISATION PREPARED FOR A CRISIS THIS CHRISTMAS?
By Thomas Murrell, MBA CSP, International Business Speaker

A crisis, emergency or disaster can happen at anytime and anywhere.

Just ask the residents of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory.

Imagine a late afternoon on Christmas Eve thirty years ago, and looking outside to see your street cloaked by heavy low cloud and your windows being rattled by ever stronger rain squalls and wind gusts.

Two-hours after an eerie tropical sunset another check shows the winds are picking up sheets of corrugated iron and hurling them around like autumn leaves in a light breeze.

By midnight, as Santa was meant to bring the children of Darwin their presents, the damage is becoming serious. Over the next six hours Cyclone Tracy substantially destroys Darwin killing 65 people - 49 on land, and 16 at sea.

As dawn breaks on Christmas Day 1974, the early light reveals the devastating damage - 145 serious injuries, more than 500 with minor incidents, 70 per cent of houses are destroyed costing the community over $800 million dollars.

Wind gusts of 217 km/h were recorded before the anemometer was blown off its base and ceased functioning

The point is a disaster can strike when you least expect it.

And the media is far more demanding now than 30 years ago in 1974.

By preparing for such an event and having in place a crisis communications or emergency media plan, much of the added drama of having to deal with the media can be avoided.

The media plays a vital role in informing people what is happening during a crisis.

I remember as a fresh-faced, acting ABC Executive Producer at the tender age of 26-years old having to co-ordinate the emergency broadcasts for Australia's most powerful cyclone.

I'll never forget that day on the 23rd of April 1989 as a category 5 cyclone (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 is the most powerful) crossed the North West Coast of Western Australia.

Known-as 'awesome' Orson, the cyclone caused the strongest wind gusts ever recorded at over 280 km/hour.

I remember that confused feeling of fear and excitement when your leadership is really tested. I had to ask one of the 'old hands' what I should do because I was so concerned, inexperienced, and frankly terrified of doing the wrong thing.

We organised an around the clock roster, breaking into regular programs and broadcasting updated warnings and information every 15 minutes for four days straight.

We may have been in Perth in a safe radio studio with walls covered in 1970s shag-pile brown carpet thousands of miles-away, but the 100 personnel on the production oil and gas platform North Rankin 'A' operated by Woodside Energy Limited, located 130 km off the coast near Dampier, hung on every word.

The barometric pressure bottomed out at 905 hPa as the huge storm passed over the rig in the dead of night with winds blasting up to 250 km/hr and waves more than 20 m high crashing over the massive steel structure.

In my whole 12-years with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, this moment in time is etched in my memory as the one where my role as a professional communicator was having the most impact with an audience. One where people's lives depended on your ability to convey a message in a calm, clear and measured way.

Accuracy of information in a situation like this is vital.

And when it is not handled well it can be more than just a PR disaster.

In times like these it is better to work with the media rather than against them.

Relieved and tired when Orson finally turned into a tropical low somewhere over the red spinifex plains of the Pilbara and lost the power of its damaging winds, this experience taught me that there is no room for error in situations like these.

On the opposite end of the scale, the handling of the power crisis in Western Australia in February of this year is a classic case study of what can go wrong when an organisation fails to communicate with the community.

While executives enjoyed the comfort of their corporate offices and trappings of power, Perth residents and businesses were asked to swelter out forty-plus degree heat without their air conditioners and fridges or risk fines of up to $10,000.

All because the power utility couldn't cope with the electricity demands associated with a typical Perth summer. It doesn't take Einstein to work out that Perth gets hot in February and that this puts pressure on the power grid.

Engineers are not renowned for their public relations skills, and this was highlighted with Western Power's inability to communicate with the public and inform people just what was going on.

Western Power has since apologised for its "inadequate and incomplete communication" over what is now known as the "Black Friday" power crisis but it will take a long time to rebuild its reputation, trust and goodwill with the community of Perth.

Even now Western Power is spending over a million dollars on an expensive TV advertising campaign just to win back that trust.

They could have spent about $5,000 on media training and saved themselves $995,000.

How do you stay ahead of potential disaster in circumstances like this?

Simple, have a plan, road test and refine the plan with a hypothetical scenario, and then execute the strategy when the real crisis occurs.

The least Western Power could have done was to pre-warn the public of an impeding situation and put in a process of ongoing, two way communication with the people who matter most, the residents of Perth.

Here are 5 lessons all organisations should be aware of when dealing with the community over a public issue these coming Christmas holidays:

1. Plan for a crisis in advance.

2. Clarify your communication objectives.

3. Determine your spokesperson and road test their skills prior to a crisis.

4. Stick to the facts. Show empathy with those affected.


5. Develop an open and honest relationship with the media, avoid "No Comment" and be proactive.

My plea is please do all this prior to your regular management team going on holiday's and leaving it to a poorly trained, inexperienced and nervous skeleton crew to deal with.

I should know, 'awesome' Orson taught me that an emergency doesn't wait for the boss to come back.

Everything you need to know about dealing with the media in a crisis is in our "Winning the Media Game" course on Thursday, December 9th in Perth. Last chance for 2004 with only 5 places left. Don't delay book now