Thursday, April 3, 2014

Small Businesses Dealing with Aftermath of Disasters

Here are 8 tips for businesses who are dealing with the aftermath of a disaster or ensuring that they are prepared for them: 

1) Plan and test your social media strategy — Know how you will utilize social media if a disaster was to impact your organization and make a plan for it’s monitoring and it’s use. 

2) Keep information up to date — It is essential that information is regularly updated and updated quickly in disaster situations. Ensure that you have plans in place to get content up quickly and smoothly. 

3) Monitor your social media — Set up your means for monitoring social media. If you are working in a disaster area, set up searches to monitor discussion on the disaster. If the disaster is impacting a specific region, location based monitoring of a geographic area can be extremely useful in seeing the online chatter coming out of that area. 

4) Respond to issues, not matter how small they may seem — People who are not directly affected by a disaster versus those going through the trauma of a crisis are going to have different needs that have to be met. It is up to you to understand who your audience is and how you can help deliver their needs before the time arises. 

5) Be vigilant about the accuracy of information and correct mistakes — Mistakes in disaster situations can often be the meaning between life and death, make sure that mistakes are quickly corrected. 

6) Don’t assume that just because something is online, that everyone has seen it and understood it — Don’t just rely on social media, your communications plan must try to reach people using a number of different tools and tactics. In many cases, choosing to use just one social media platform is not enough. 

7) Remember that sometimes the best way to help someone is offline not online — Although this post has a focus on the importance of social media, we cannot forget that human contact is one of the best ways of helping someone. Taking things offline wherever possible will sometimes be necessary. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Social Media and their Role with Natural Disasters

Social media and their role with natural disasters

People use social mediums to get information as it’s happening — Mobile phones are often the major means of 2-way communication available to people in disaster situations. Read on to learn more: 

Incorrect information can spread like wildfire — Disaster info is one of the most highly forwarded or retweeted information in social media. Many users, who are often removed from the situation at hand, lend their support by forwarding info to ensure it reaches as wide of an audience as possible. This has it’s advantages, but also its dangers - read on below for more info regarding this.

Incorrect info can spread like wildfire — Info on social media is placed on good faith that the poster has the correct info at hand. However this good faith can sometimes be incorrect because emergency situations can often change faster than the speed of social media. Or the heightened state of pressure during a crisis can often lead to the misreading of a situation.

Online information and social media conversations needs to be a part of a multiple mix of tools for recovery — Often when you talk to anyone who works in recovery, they will tell you that one of the hardest things about communicating with those affected by disaster trauma is the low levels of retention of information. Essential info impacting victims of recovery needs to be given using multiple mediums and repeated a number of times to ensure that it has reached and been understood by your audience.Online plays an essential role in this, as the displacement of large numbers of people during disaster recovery, means that online info is the one central point of information. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Do You Know What to do in a Crisis?

Do You Know What to do in a Crisis? 

When a crisis hits your company you only get ONE chance to make things right and your time here is limited. Here are some tips to correctly handle a crisis: 

1) Get the facts: 
You want to be open and honest with your audience. Ensure you are giving out the correct information; once you’ve said something you can’t take it back. 

2) Sort your spokesperson: 
- This is going to be the person dealing directly with the media so ensure this person is properly trained and is able to answer tough questions in front of the camera.
- TIP: ABC — Answer, Bridge, Control: This is the best way to deal with tricky questions. Just listen to politicians to fully understand how this works: they answer with    one word and then bridge to their actual message BEFORE delivering it again and again.

3) Coordinate your team. 
- Ensure that your team is properly trained. Inform them that journalists will start calling an may come in disguise so they should be cautious with who they are giving information out to. Most reporters aren’t concerned with who gives them a quote, as long as they get some information. The people handling the calls should be well briefed and experienced. 

4) Stay calm and composed. 
- Whoever’s handling the calls will probably get difficult, leading questions, which can easily lead to inadvertent quotes appearing in print if you’re not careful. Get a statement read, get it approved and offer it to anyone who contacts you.
- TIP: Avoid saying “no comment.” This phrase becomes a dangerous one, making you and your company look unprepared and guilty. Always supply reporters and the public with open and honest information. 

5) Understand who your stakeholders are. 
- It’s not just the media you should communicate with in a crisis. Make sure you’re handling all your audiences, including staff and customers. Internal communication is as important as external in dealing with a crisis. 

6) Stay consistent. 
- If you’re working for a large organization, there will be lots of people whom journalists will try to approach for a quote or background information. Staff should be briefed with your contact details when the journalists come knocking. 

7) Have everything in place in advance 
- All of the above should be part of a crisis communications plan that’s drafted and finalized long before it’s actually implemented. Trying to pull something together when you’ve got your boss in one ear asking what to do next and journalists in the other demanding a response as the crisis unfolds, is nearly impossible. Even if you do manage it, you will look unprepared and will run the risk of missing important details. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Crisis Communication Plan

‘A crisis is unpredictable but not unexpected.‘ — Timothy Combs 

When an emergency occurs, the need to communicate should be immediate. If business operations are disrupted, customers will want to know how they will be impacted. An important component to any business is having a crisis communications/disaster plan ready for when a disaster happens. A business must be able to respond promptly, accurately and confidently during an emergency. Without an immediate response your audience will be left in the dark with what they should be doing. Potential rumors and false information may also result. The image of the business can be positively or negatively impacted by public perceptions of the handling of the incident. 

First and foremost, understanding who your audiences is and their specific needs becomes crucial. The challenge is to identify potential audiences, determine their need for information and then identify who within the business is best able to communicate with that audience. After all, customers are the life of a business, so contact with them should be top priority. They’ll require accurate, timely and apologetic communications. Be sure to include: 
  • What products or services you won’t be able to provide at the usual times
  • What alternate accommodations they can make
  • Any compensation you plan to make
Always present communications that demonstrates your business's empathy for the disruption of services. However don't be tempted to extend promises that later you won't be able to fulfill. 

Company’s Number One Asset: 

They say organizations are only as good as their employees. Therefore your staff also needs to promptly be communicated with. In some cases employees may be the only voice to the public — making them become the face of the organization. Proper in-advance training should be implemented. In times of crisis only those employees who are being communicated with in an open, timely and truthful way are both able and willing to represent their company and actively support it’s goals inside and outside the organization. 

Develop, implement and continuously improve a crisis communication strategy and matching crisis communication plan tailored to the company’s needs. Assign responsibilities and thoroughly train the designated employees. Once your employees know the chain of command, there’s one big piece of the puzzle left: What are they supposed to communicate? 

The following questions should be addressed when a crisis occurs:
  • What is the desired outcome of the communication? This is your objective. 
  • What will be communicated?
  • Who will initiate the communication?
  • How and/or where is the communication going to happen?
  • When will the communication take place?

The following questions must be addressed both during the crisis and as part of the post-crisis evaluation and crisis preparedness planning: 
  • Was the communication objective met?
  • How can we do better?

If you do have power during a disaster, use each communication method to its full advantage: 
  • Phone — Many businesses set up and have a prepared automated system with recorded updates to reduce the number of calls you or your employees will take. It may be beneficial to set up a special number for disasters only.
  • Website — Post relevant and timely updates about your disaster-recovery progress.
  • Email — For a sample email and what to include click here.
  • Social Media — Utilize sites such as Facebook and Twitter to provide status updates about the emergency.  Turning to social media may be the best outlet to use. In many cases, especially in form of natural disasters, this may be the only means your audience has to receive updates. 

With a solid plan and informed staff, your business can spend more time recovering from the disaster and less time worrying about the communication. Keeping open communication with your consumers, media and staff will help keep things running smoothly when all else may be chaotic. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

25 Ways of Gaining More Social Media Followers 
So you’ve done all the right steps in creating the perfect blog or social media profile site but you only have 12 followers. What’s the next step in getting more exposure and followers? Here are 25 great tips to gain more followers: 

1. Enable Social Sharing 
• Add buttons to your blog and other website pages that allow visitors to share your content on social sites. 

2. Share Quality Content
• If you have interesting content on your profile you’re chances of having more followers becomes higher. If your tweeting self-promoting posts, no one wants to read that. 

3. Get Employees To Follow
• People are more likely to follow pages that already have some sort of following, so your employees will help build those initial numbers.

4. Invite Partners, Vendors, Clients, and Customers
• Send a friendly, personalized, email to anyone you have a business relationship with. 

5. Email Signature 
• Add links to your company’s social media profiles in your company email signature. Create a signature template that includes these links and encourages your coworkers to use this signature as well.

6. Blog Comment Signature 
• When you make a comment on a blog post, link to your most active social media profile in a signature-like style. 

7. Include Links on Offers and Assets
• Link to your social media profiles on your whitepaper cover page, webinar thank you page, one-page guide footer, etc. 

8. CTAs onThank You Pages
• After a new lead fills out a form on your site, it’s a good idea to include links or calls-to-action on the subsequent thank you page encouraging these leads to follow you via social media. 

9. CTAs on Thank You Emails 
• Just like you’d add calls-to-action to your thank you pages, add them them to your emails. 

10. Cross Promote
•Add your social media links on each other’s pages. Example: add your twitter link to your Facebook page, etc. 

11. Contact or About Us Pages 
• Include links to your social media profiles on your contact us/about us page. The more visible you make your social media pages, the more exposure you’ll receive.

12. Business Cards
• Include links to your most active social media profiles on each of your employees’ business cards.

13. Newsletters & Lead Nurturing 
•Include links to social media profiles in the footer of any company emails. 

14. Direct Mail Assets. 
• Still using direct mail as part of your marketing strategy? If you can’t let go, include links to your social media profiles on any direct mail pieces you send, including catalogs, coupons, or any other direct mail asset. 

15. Facebook: Like Box on Website
• Install a Facebook Like Box (previously known as Facebook Fan Box) on your website, blog page, homepage, or any other high-trafficked page sidebars. 

16. Facebook: Hide Content From 'Non-Likers'
• Create a default tab on your Facebook business page that contains hidden from anyone who has not yet liked your page. This creates a great incentive for someone to like your page.

17. Facebook: Suggest to Friends
• Facebook gives the option to encourage users to ‘suggest to friends’ to share any Facebook business page with any of their friends who would be interested. 

18. Facebook: Invite Friends Tab 
• Add an ‘invite friends’ tab and periodically encourage your fans to head over to invite their friends who might be interested in reading your updates as well. 

19. Twitter: Twitter Directories
• Add your company’s Twitter profile to Twitter directories under categories that are relevant to your business. This will make it easier for prospects to find you based on their interests. WeFollow, Twellow, and Listorious are a few Twitter directories available.

20. Twitter: Add a Twitter Badge or Module
• Promote your Twitter profile on your website by finding a Twitter badge that fits your site’s design, or add an official Twitter widget to your site. Your blog page, homepage, and other high-trafficked page sidebars are good places to install a Twitter widget. 

21. Twitter: Talk to People Who Mention You
• Track your brand in social media using HubSpot’s social media monitoring tool or Google Alerts so that you receive notifications whenever someone mentions your name or brand. When they do, follow them and/or reply to their tweet. This is your opportunity to publicly show you are friendly and willing to talk with your customers about any questions/concerns they may have. 

22. LinkedIn: Add Links to LinkedIn Business Page 
• Add links to your most active social media profiles on your LinkedIn business page. You can add these links in the ‘about’ section. 

23. LinkedIn: Add Links to LinkedIn Profile
• Add a link to your most active social media profile in your links. You can optimize these links by clicking ‘other’ and write “Follow (Company Name) on Twitter” when adding your link to Twitter, for example. 

24. LinkedIn: LinkedIn Answers Signature 
• When you make a post or comment on LinkedIn Answers, link to your most active social media profile in a signature-link style or as one of the web resources. 

25.Youtbue: Embed Your Videos
• If a picture is worth a thousand words then how about a moving picture? Video blogging (sometimes called vlogging) is an established alternative to the written word, and it’s as accessible as it has ever been. There’s something about seeing a person on screen rather than just reading their words that creates a connection. If you have any videos to share, add them to your YouTube profile and then embed those videos on your site. That way people can discover your YouTube page, and you have potential to benefit from YouTube’s viral nature. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Small Business Owners are Wrecking Their Own Chances at Success

Early last week I was in a rush to get indoors and escape the bitter weather. By the time I had realized I was running on black ice, it was too late. I had fallen on the pavement and instantly was in pain from the hard fall. I was desperately in need of a doctor that was close by. The fastest option I could think of was to look online. After using a search engine for a mere 5 minutes I was able to get all the information I needed. I was able to see which doctors were in close proximity, read reviews from previous patients and was able to book my appointment. It doesn’t get much more convenient than this. With today’s technology we are given boundless opportunities allowing us to live in a fast-paced world that connects us all.

Small business owners may struggle in keeping up with all the demands of their company;  for many, if working alone, integrated marketing becomes neglected. There are endless advantages for businesses with the technology available today.  So why are so many of us fighting this when we should be embracing it! By making the decision to steer clear of taking your business online, you are missing out on many opportunities. 

Shockingly, a Yodle survey found — only 1 in 10 small businesses have taken advantage of social media or online advertising to market their product. 

• For more information on this survey click here.
So what are you waiting for? There are limitless chances awaiting your success online. All in which, helping you engage with not only your current customers but any potential customers as well. Remember — I became a new customer to a near by chiropractor after searching online. The doctor had appropriately promoted their business on a search engine site, showing the company’s legitimacy and contact information, making it effortless for me to book an appointment. 

  • Side note: The demographic of who your customers are, determines which online base you should be using. The most popular social media sites that can help get you started in the right direction are: 
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Putting your business on LinkedIn
    • Getting a Yelp presence started
    • Angie's List (this site is specifically for publishing customer reviews) 
    • WordPress (this is a blog site that allows you to get started on creating a website for your company) 
These are just a few of the infinite options available. All are painless to sign up for and the best part of all, free!  
For more information regarding this subject, contact Kutztown's Small Business Center. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Small Business Gets Serious: Digital Trends for Small Business in 2014

With each new year, we all have hopes and aspirations for what the new year will bring us. With small businesses it becomes essential to address these new goals. One of the most important steps towards success is evaluation. With this, we want to look back on the last year and make a list of what worked and what didn’t quite work out as planned. Make this list as in-depth as possible. 

One reason businesses remain unsuccessful is because they skip this crucial step. It is here that you decide how to stay on top of the trends and find fresh ways to bring in new customers. Otherwise, any mistakes you had made in the past are just being recycled into the new year.  Understanding potential opportunities that will present themselves in the coming year is something that can make or break any business. David Brown, CEO of has generated a list of tips to help maximize any business.  By acknowledging the following areas your company will surely prosper: 

Going digital: This is crucial for any business. In a recent study conducted by, it was found that only 4 out of 10 businesses utilize and maintain an online website. Living in era that is dedicated to the internet, it seems silly not to indulge in this area. In doing so, you are given a FREE opportunity to connect and engage with potential customers. More and more companies are picking up on this trend and at last recognizing the strong demand for online interaction. In 2014, expect to see an increase in small business internet presences. 
    • Tip: Now more than ever, customers want to know that their voices are being heard. Respond to them by utilizing social media channels and responding to their comments and concerns. 
Local is where it’s at: The percentage of online search queries focused on local businesses continues to accelerate, with an even greater growth in local search via mobile devices. Small businesses should stake their claim on basic local channels such as Google Places, and populate those sites with information your consumers most likely would want to know. Products and services, hours of operation, contact information, physical address, etc., are just a few examples of what a majority of customers search for. With the right search engine optimization (SEO) in place, information for a small business can easily appear highly ranked on local search results.          
It’s time to partner up: As a small business owner, focus should be on the business — not on IT and online marketing. To better increase business results this year, small business owners should look for a partner, whether that be a nephew or neighbor down the street, that fully understands the digital demands of the company. This will help save time and aide in achieving online success. With the help of an experienced online marketing partner, owners can focus on what should be their primary goal — making the business successful. 

•Mobile use on the increase: Did you know that nearly 30% of all web traffic is generated via mobile devices? As this technology popularity begins to expand, this percentage is only going to rise. If you have a smart phone and regularly utilize the web on it, you know the frustration with web pages that give limited content and clunky navigation. Make sure your company web page is mobile user friendly. 

•E-commerce will boom: As we begin to move towards a digital era, we should continue to recognize the growing demand for businesses to deliver online services such as online shopping and electronic billing. Begin to make a more digital transition with your 
business and you will be sure to see happier customers.

Paid marketing and social networking to generate awareness and drive sales: 2014 will see small businesses increase paid marketing efforts for both advertising and social networks. Facebook has recently moved towards a more ‘pay-to-play’ model with their advertisements, meaning a paid campaign will get posts and pages more visibility. According to a Pew Research Center study, one-third of U.S. adults are now receiving their news from social media channels; some of which include Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This research reinforces the need to create and maintain a personal and interactive relationship with consumers. 

Talk about TLDs: New Top Level Domains (TLDs), have created more choices for companies when registering domain names. The benefits to this include: added visibility and increased search results online. TLDs are the very last section of an internet domain name, located after the last dot: .com, .net, .gov.  

Understanding these trends for the 2014 year will help establish personal relationships with consumers and help to keep your company’s image fresh and up-to-date. Keeping up with these ever changing demands is what separates your company from the next. Make 2014 a year to establish your online presence and success! 

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