Rosemary Plorin

What Makes a Great Leader? It Starts With This Essential Trait

By Rosemary Plorin

Great corporate leaders have one thing in common. They are great communicators. Inc. Magazine has reported that poor communication costs large companies approximately $26,000 per employee. Even when corporations spend millions on leadership training, the results are often temporary. S what does it take to become a great corporate communicator? And, how can you improve your style and become more effective?

A New Way of Thinking

It’s easy to get caught up in the emotional and mental ups and down of developing a successful business. There is always an opportunity to pursue, a hurdle to manage or a problem to solve. Countless studies have shown that successful leaders refuse to think negatively, choosing instead to focus on positive outcomes. They believe they and their team can manage and grow from whatever comes up. Confidence and positive thinking trickles down through the organization, giving everyone a more focused and assured outlook.

If you find yourself feeling anxious, unsure or inadequate, try drawing on your mind’s capacity to deliver positive results. Learn to think and speak in affirming ways. For example, if someone asks how a project is coming along, begin with a positive statement. Opening with a positive statement, also known as a power lead, sets the tone for subsequent discussions.

Ask then listen_ Rosemary Plorin

Ask, Then Listen

Communication is not a monologue. It involves speaking, asking questions and actively listening to what others say. There is an art to the question/answer give-and-take that successful leaders use to not only gain valuable feedback, but also to impart a sense of engagement. People are motivated by leaders to whom they feel they have a relationship.

Leading questions, such as asking team members to share a recent success, also motivates, enhances morale and inspires team confidence. Asking a simple, open-ended questions of the old standard why, where, when and how variety typically results in the right answer.

Listening is often the more difficult part of the communication give-and-take. If you find yourself waiting to jump into a conversation, looking at your watch or otherwise zoning out when others are speaking, you have work to do. Actively listening is an often overlooked skill that most every successful leader knows how to do. Here are some tips to develop your listening skills:

  • -Maintain eye contact.
  • -Respond appropriately with gestures, nods, smiles.
  • -Sit forward and give the speaker your full attention.
  • -If something a speaker says is unclear, try paraphrasing back to indicate interest and make sure you understand what the speaker is saying.
  • -Think about what is not being said. Watch the speaker’s body language. Ask yourself if there are underlying emotions or difficulties the speaker is not conveying in words.
  • -Let others finish speaking before you take the floor.

The Way You Say It

The words and tone you use when you speak has an immediate impact on the listener. Effective communicators know how to get their point across without making a team member feel defensive, hurt, angry or inadequate. For example, instead of saying, “You haven’t finished this project,” try, “I understand there is still more to do.” Remember that people are motivated when they feel they are part of a team, so avoid using the word “you.” The listener feels singled out – even attacked – and automatically becomes defensive. Accusing, blaming and sarcasm are deadly practices that kill motivation.

More Than Words

We touched on it earlier, but effective communication is more than the spoken or written word. The best corporate communicators know how to create a working environment that encourages creativity, passion, innovation, motivation and a genuine desire to work toward the company’s success. Creating such an environment involves making team members feel like they belong and drives employee engagement. It means that corporate leaders and managers ensure a nurturing culture where members feel safe, without the fear of bullying or favoritism.

A recent Training Magazine study found that only a small portion of respondents reported receiving praise at work in a given month. Clearly, empty praise is just that – empty. Most people can tell a phony. But genuine appreciation and praise for a job well done builds confidence, loyalty and morale. Leading communicators publicly praise their employees’ work and share big and small successes often to keep teams motivated and strengthen bonds.

Pulling It All Together

Effective leadership starts and ends with purposeful and finely honed communication skills. Listening, foreseeing affirmative outcomes, being truthful, using the right tone and showing appreciation combine to create an environment in which team members feel valued. It’s never too late to refine your communication skills, motivate your team, influence customers and benefit your organization. Today’s great communicators weren’t born with communication skills, they’ve learned and prioritized them. You can, too.

It’s a Virtual Revolution: 5 Big Ways PR is Changing in 2016

By Rosemary Plorin

Looking back, it seems that PR was easier in the old days. Print, radio and television ads ruled.

The world changed at the end of the last century, and we all rushed to shop – and date and advertise – on the Web. And then just a few years later we went 2.0. Suddenly, our neighbor’s opinion of a product or service had as much (or more impact) on our shopping, dining and lifestyle decisions as a well-placed ad.

On top of the constantly changing current of the Internet, our access points to the web have also changed and diversified.  We access ads, news, reviews, reports and research on smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and computers – and don’t forget we still have print, radio and television. Change appears to be the constant.

Because change both comes from and leads to innovation, PR is changing – and in a revolutionary way in 2016. Here’s how.

PR trends_ Rosemary Plorin

Content Again?

It was 1996 when Bill Gates told us “Content is king.” It’s remained true for two decades, but this year’s content PR strategies take it to a whole new level. Great content – without great discovery – doesn’t bear value. Getting the message out in a variety of different ways and engaging viewers to get more eyes on it is crucial in 2016.

How do you engage viewers in today’s distracted world?  With interactive content and content amplification.

Just like before, you begin with high-quality content. No hard-sells or frivolous, keyword filled texts that don’t mean anything. Meaningful and value-added information remains the key to successful content.

Because today’s audiences expect content that’s more personal and immersive, the time for interactive multimedia content is now. Interactivity doesn’t mean simply adding a clickable link to your website (though you still want a clickable link to your site), viewers truly want to engage. Include an interactive infographics where viewers play a game or take a quiz. Bake in a relevant survey question and provide an instant aggregated tally. Give the audience a chance to have fun and fully experience what you have to say.

Done effectively, interactive content gives viewers an incentive to take action and increases audience interest and awareness of your brand. It also increases the likelihood of Facebook and Twitter sharing – add Images and video and increase the odds even more.

Content amplification is important this year. Adding new content to lead generation strategies, articles, white papers, marketing newsletters and emails are a few of the methods you can use to amplify your content in 2016.

Deal With It

Your online reputation is everything. Because it’s so easy for anyone with Internet access to post disparaging reviews or comments, it’s vital that business professionals take control of their company’s online reputation. It’s no longer possible to ignore the haters. When a potential customer searches for your company on Google and the first thing they see is negative, that’s it. They’re moving on to the next provider on the list.

Of course, the best way to avoid negative customer comments online is to prevent negative customer experiences. Leaders should empower team members to effectively handle customer concerns and develop procedures to deal with problems in a positive way.

But even spectacular customer service can’t completely preclude the negative comment. Someone somewhere for some reason (valid or not) will likely post something negative about your company. You can’t stop them. What you can do, however, is combat the negative by consistently creating and publishing high-quality content. Actively engage with customers on social media. Maintain a professional presence and prove your expertise.

Paid Promotions Pay Off

Not much in the online world of PR is argued over more than the use of paid promotions. Many argue they just aren’t that effective and a waste of money. Others disagree, saying paid promotions are an important part of an overall campaign to reach new audiences. The naysayers used to be right. They’re not anymore.

According to the Content Marketing Institute 2016 benchmark report, PR professionals’ use of paid promoted and social media ads to distribute content has increased and, in a switch from previous years, they’re seeing a higher return on their efforts. This is the year to start taking paid promotions and social ads seriously.

Influence and Thought Leadership

Thought leaders are the informed experts in their fields, the go-to people, the oft quoted movers and shakers. Thought leadership consists of building an online reputation as an expert and becoming an industry influencer. As a PR strategy, thought leadership has consistently gained traction in recent years and is a top priority in 2016.

Thought leaders frequently publish expert content on their own blogs, industry blogs, industry publications and in interaction with customers, colleagues and other industry professionals on social media. Thought leaders don’t just give out useful advice, however, they often voice their professional opinions, as in commentary on a relevant industry news site. Stated in a thoughtful and professionally relevant context, a strong opinion increases respect.

Realize, however, that not all thoughts and opinions will land in print. Thought leaders are known for their quotable quotes. For example, Colin Powell famously stated, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” While there’s no guarantee you’ll become as famous as Colin Powell, if you earn the reputation as an opinion leader and expert in your field, you gain trust.

Prepare for Emerging Technologies

Smartphones have already impacted PR. Content has to fit smaller screens and look good doing it. Wearable watches are a hit with consumers and other wearable Internet-connected devices are on the horizon. Device-tailored content is even more important in 2016. Increasingly, consumers expect instant information on all of their devices. Companies have to include plans for meeting those expectations.

Another PR trend beginning to take hold is virtual reality. (Don’t believe me, checkout Google’s VR shop – and don’t miss the cool new Mattel View-Master VR Starter Pack). Although it may not be right for small business yet, its time is coming. Big companies, like The North Face, use virtual tours to engage customers. Real estate professionals use virtual home tours to attract buyers. It’s just a matter of time before virtual reality makes its way into the mainstream.

2016 is going to be an exciting one in public relations and marketing. It’s time to get the creative juices flowing.

Starting a Business? Don’t Make These 10 Rookie Mistakes

By Rosemary Plorin

By some measures, there’s never been a better time to start a business. Whether you’re starting a business in the hottest industries around or taking an incremental approach to your lifelong passion, there are plenty of tailwinds working in your favor.

Interest rates are still low, so capital is cheap. Though the labor market has tightened somewhat, wage growth is subdued, so labor costs – particularly for non-executive salaries, are fairly manageable. Smart cities and states are falling over each other to offer tax breaks and fiscal incentives to new or relocating businesses. And consumers are reaping the financial rewards of the lowest gas prices in more than a decade, meaning they have more cash to spend.

In short, it’s a favorable environment for many budding entrepreneurs. (Well, it feels that way, at least. Things can always be better.)

A favorable entrepreneurial climate doesn’t mean all pain and no gain for entrepreneurs themselves, though. On the contrary: Starting a business is a major challenge in any economic environment. The first few years of any company’s existence are a veritable minefield, replete with pitfalls that can spell disaster (or at least a serious setback) for business fortunes. If you’d like to traverse this “danger zone” and escape with your company (and life savings) intact, make sure to avoid these 10 common rookie mistakes.


Starting a business_ Rosemary Plorin

1. Trying Too Hard to Sell Yourself, Not Your Product

Reality check: Investors, customers, and even prospective employees don’t necessarily care about you. They care about your product or service — and your ability to deliver and improve it. Many entrepreneurs find it hard to suppress their egos and admit this. The sooner you turn your focus to selling your product, not yourself, the sooner you’ll find the traction you always knew was right around the corner.

2. Trading Time for Money

What’s more valuable: time or money? Most people assume the latter. But, for entrepreneurs, time is very much the prime variable. Whenever you’re presented with (or create) an opportunity to save time without compromising quality, take it. Saved time is scaled time — and that’s great for your bottom line.

3. Making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good

Whether it’s actually true that Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before his first success, the moral here is clear: If you don’t try, you won’t succeed — no matter how many attempts it takes. If you tinker with an idea until it’s absolutely perfect, someone else may beat you to market with a good facsimile.

4. Skipping Market-Testing

This is a walk-before-you-run type deal. If you don’t do your due diligence on your target audience, you could set yourself up for a huge belly flop when it comes time to release your product or service. That’s not just humiliating. It’s also very, very costly.

5. Playing the Waiting Game

Successful entrepreneurs know they can’t expect opportunity to fall into their laps. They need to create opportunity. They also know how to be opportunistic and seize the day – even if that day comes unexpectedly. Put another way: if you sit around waiting for the “right moment,” whatever that means, you’re likely to be disappointed.

6. Failing to Secure Your IP

Whether your business is built on a black-box process or a simple product, it’s ultimately dependent on intellectual property. Before you take your idea to market or even real its details to investors, do a thorough patent search and, if you’re not stepping on anyone else’s toes, apply for a patent of your own.

7. Trying to Do It All Yourself

When you’re in startup mode, it’s entirely possible that “you” and “your company” will be one and the same. But as soon as conditions allow, you need to delegate and scale — even if that means working with a rotating cast of contractors or tapping the internship markets for some free labor.  Remember that you’re the CEO: try to focus on strategic matters and business growth (not buying supplies and going to the post office every day – if you can avoid it.

8. Going to Market Before You’re Properly Capitalized

You might not have a rich uncle, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding the funding you need. If your idea is compelling, pull out all the stops: crowdfunding, angels, traditional banks, credit cards, you name it. Just don’t go to market before you’ve got enough dough to make a real go of it.

9. Straying from Your Wheelhouse

If you’re not comfortable with the rules, you probably shouldn’t play the game. Translation: stick to what you’re good at, and if you’re not good at whatever your company is supposed to do, hire someone who is.

10. Suppressing Your Sense of Urgency

There’s no better time like the present. Strike while the iron’s hot. Make the most of today.

Whichever metaphor you prefer, the point is obvious: Urgency beats complacency any day of the week. Successful business owners aren’t satisfied when things are going “good” or “fine.” They want things to go great — and get better.

And One Important “Do”

A long list of “do nots” can seem a bit preachy. We all make mistakes, after all. Surely one or two rookie errors from a first time entrepreneur won’t upend a lifetime of ambition?

That’s probably true. Ultimately, the most important rule that any business owner can follow — far more important than any single “don’t” on this list — is an uplifting, affirmative one: Believe in yourself. You may not have all the answers — but, if you have belief, you’ll go farther than you ever thought possible.

Any do’s or don’ts to share from your own experience?

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