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Be a Better Writer in 2016 – Part 2

For most people, writing is not easy. Converting one’s thoughts to writing is hard, in part, because we don’t speak the way we are supposed to write and we’re not always entirely clear about what we want to say or the best way to say it. That is true in any language.
Writing the English language has even more challenges. For every rule there are always exceptions. Words often have multiple meanings, spellings and sounds. Nevertheless, writing is a skill used daily by most people in their personal and professional lives. While no one expects the average person to be a master writer, it’s important to at least be a proficient one.
Thankfully, technology can help, to some extent. Correct spelling is the easiest part to get right. Spell check on most computers and devices automatically eliminates the most common spelling errors, but it doesn’t catch mistakes that involve homophones, homonyms, homographs or heteronyms. Those are words in the English language have the same sounds, spelling or meanings. These are the cause of many of the mistakes people make in writing. To make it a bit easier, here’s a little “cheat sheet” to keep at your desk for future reference. This can help avoid some of the most common mistakes. Continue reading

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Be a Better Writer in 2016 – Part 1

Despite the recurring diatribes about the decline of the written word, in truth, people write more now than ever. While few pen long letters on scented stationary anymore, people were pouring emails into the digital abyss at an estimated eye-popping rate of about 200 Billion per day in 2015. We also send text messages, tweets, and instant messages and write blog posts and comments, and otherwise fire off words at one another in a near-constant flow of communication. Written communication is a required skill for most any job or profession today. Whether it is composing a memo, preparing a letter, drafting a report, taking notes in a meeting, crafting a business plan, or just pounding out a quick text message, written communication is part and parcel of practically every occupation on a regular basis. People write PowerPoint presentations, business requirement documents, speeches, mission statements, position papers, standard operating procedures, manuals, brochures, package copy, press releases, and dozens of other specialized types of documents. Even salespeople and accountants – occupations often thought to be sans writing — must write reports and sales agreements.
Not everyone, however, is a good writer. The English language has many rules and just as many exceptions to those rules. It is a beautiful but challenging language to master. Nevertheless, business people in English-speaking countries are expected to write clearly, cohesively and concisely. Despite the growing use of slang, abbreviations and urban words, most professionals are still expected to be able to write in complete sentences. Spelling, grammar and punctuation do matter. Using the right words with their correct meanings is also important. Although there is an abundant supply of resources available online – such as dictionaries, thesauri, writing guides, blogs for writers, and the like – writing mistakes persist. Although anyone can make an occasional mistake, common or abundant errors can taint how a person is perceived. Poor grammar or spelling can even call into question a person’s professional expertise. To maintain a reputation as a professional, it’s important to write well. Here are some tips to improve one’s ability to write well in English. Continue reading

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The Art, Skill and Gift of Speaking

The ability to communicate verbally is an essential skill for most any occupation. And yet there are a lot of idioms and expressions about wasting time talking, saying the wrong things and talking too much. Chewing the fat. Talking up a storm. Talking out of both sides of one’s mouth. Shooting the breeze. Speaking the same language. Running of at the mouth. Spilling the beans. Big talk. Talking a blue streak. Talking one’s ear off. There are even knick names for people who talk too much or speak when they shouldn’t. Chatty Cathy. Chatterbox. Windbag. Blabbermouth. Perhaps it makes sense that society has so many ways to criticize talk because of the increased amount of babbling that bombards us from all directions including radio, cell phones, television, robocalls, YouTube videos, etc.? Perhaps.

Nevertheless, the ability to speak is one of the greatest skills — and one of the most complex — that a human being performs. Although many animals do make sounds that allow them to communicate with one another, only human beings can manage the complex process of complex talk. After all, fluent speech is based on the interaction of various processing components. We must retrieve appropriate words, generate syntactic structure, compute the phonological shape of syllables, words, phrases and whole utterances, and create and execute articulated thoughts. And, as in any complex skill, there is a self-monitoring mechanism that checks the output. For any professional or business person, being able to speak clearly — choosing the right words and articulating thoughts meaningfully – is a key to success. Are you a good talker? Continue reading

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The Changing Face of Search

Most people use search engines with little or no understanding of how they actually work – such as why one listing ranks higher than another or what cookies do or even how search engines are monetized. This is partly the fault of the search engines, who keep a lot of what they do a secret. But it is also partly because most people don’t really care how it works. As long as it provides a wealth of information easily, accurately and quickly, the functionality hasn’t really mattered much. However, business owners, managers and professionals should care, if they want their products or services to be ‘findable’ on the World Wide Web. Without understanding how search engines work, it is impossible to ensure that a company’s desired messaging will be found by potential clients or customers.

What is interesting is that, while search engines may seem static and unchanging to users, the reality is that search engines and the world of search is constantly changing. Search engines adjust their algorithms (the step-by-step functions to be performed to find and deliver information) regularly to stay a step ahead of those who manipulate online information for their own needs or wants. Updates are rolled out periodically that alter how information is ranked. Moreover, the search engine market is constantly evolving to meet the needs and concerns of those using search engines. And the search engine market is growing exponentially. But how will all this affect business? Continue reading

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Converged Media: A Mix of Owned, Earned and Paid

It used to be so much simpler to market a company 25 years ago. That was before a computer programmer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web in 1991. In the days before the Internet, search engines and smart phones, marketing consisted primarily of campaigns to targeted audiences using a controlled number of channels and a controlled message. Practically all marketing efforts were paid for and directed by the company. That’s not to say that getting the message across or selling a customer on a product or service was easier. It wasn’t. But for companies trying to communicate a message to a customer, the approach was simpler and more direct. There was less messaging ‘noise’ to distract and confuse audiences.

Today, we are overwhelmed by sales and marketing messages coming at us from every direction. To be heard, companies must use a variety of approaches and a multitude of channels. This includes Paid Media, Owned Media and Earned Media efforts. Today’s marketing efforts must converge these to create a mixed approach. Each is a different way for potential clients or customers to learn about a business’ message. Each functions differently. And each has its pros and cons. In order to reach a target audience, a company has to understand and determine the right mix of its owned, earned and paid media efforts. Let’s look at how they work. Continue reading

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Top Sales and Marketing Terms of 2015 – Part 2

Last week, we explored some of the latest terms trending in sales and marketing in 2015. Some may have felt lost in lingo limbo, but most probably learned a thing or two about the emerging myriad of strategies and products available for businesses today to reach customers. Knowledge is power. But that doesn’t mean that a company should adopt every strategy, product and approach. Quite the contrary. When it comes to sales and marketing, it is different strokes for different folks. What works for one company may not have any value for another business. The goal is to be discerning. While early adopters embrace every trend, haphazardly trying each new thing, and late bloomers wait until a marketing strategy is thoroughly vetted and ubiquitous before even dipping a toe in the water, both extremes can be dangerous. The key is to be knowledgeable of all the approaches exist and determine what might work best for a particular business in a particular industry.

With that in mind, here are a few more 2015 trending terms to add to the sales and marketing vocab. Responsive web design. Adaptive web design. QR Codes. Click fraud. H2H. Nueromorphics. Media agnostic. Advertainment (not related to Advertorial, a much older but still useful marketing term referring to an article (instead of an ad) that is written to inform but with a slant/bias). Twinternship. mCommerce. Here’s what they mean. Continue reading

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Top Sales and Marketing Terms of 2015 – Part 1

Ever heard the term storyscaping? How about snackable content? Conversation marketing. Brand storytelling. Snaps. Promoted chats. Owned media. Content studio. Omnichannel. Native advertising. Programmatic Marketing. Culture of Content. Data-Driven Publishing. Growth hacking. Newsjacking. Big data. Millennials. Local. Responsive web design. Adaptive web design. QR Codes. Beacons. Click fraud. Customer-centric. Engagement. H2H. Deep Linking. Nueromorphics. Media agnostic. Immersive design. Advertainment (not related to Advertorial, a much older but still useful marketing term referring to an article (instead of an ad) that is written to inform but with a slant/bias). Phablet. Twinternship. Remarketing. Freemium. mCommerce. If it feels like you’re reading Chinese — in English – you’re not alone.

These are just some (not all) of the latest sales and marketing terms making the rounds this year. The typical business owner, manager or professional is probably not familiar with most (if any) of these terms. Even some marketers might not be familiar with all of the strategies and ideas behind this terminology. But anyone running a business must stay current because, in today’s business world, the fast eat the slow. These terms reflect the ever-evolving face of sales and marketing today, and he who understands the opportunities best is best able to maintain an edge over the competition. So here’s a quick ‘cheat sheet’ to bring you up-to-date fast. Continue reading

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Marketing and Selling to Specific Generations – Part 6

The demographers, business analysts, writers and sociologists are still toying with what to call the newest generation that is emerging after the Millennials. There are a few names being tossed around — Generation Z, plurals, Generation Wii and iGeneration. iGen seems to be leading the pack. The exact cutoff date between Millennials and iGens varies from 1997 to 2000. But, basically all infants, toddlers, adolescents and teenagers today are all iGens. Of course, some are concerned that this little “i” label does not describe properly the qualities and characteristics of this newest generation. First, what is the “i” supposed to mean? Is it Internet? Interactive? International? “i” as in I or me, implying a certain preoccupation with self? There really is no consensus yet among pundits.

Of course, this makes sense since iGens have yet to come of age and are still being molded and shaped by the social, economic and political events unfolding now and in the decades to come. How can one define what is still being molded? Yes, this newest generation is certainly an Internet-savvy, technology-driven generation. It is also a social-media connected generation that is experiencing human interaction in an entirely different way than any generation before it. They are redefining what it means to be ‘connected’. As for what else their label may come to mean is still to be defined. Here is what is known so far about this youngest generation.
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Nepotism, Part 2

Nepotism can be found in practically every industry in the world, even in the highly competitive fields of construction, real estate and finance. Billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump has always given his adult children special employment opportunities. His son, Donald, Jr., age 35, is Executive Vice President of the privately-held Trump Organization. His daughter, Ivanka, age 31, also works in her father’s organization. His son Eric, age 29, is Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions. It is doubtful that even the most exceptionally brilliant, well-educated and hard-working 29-year-old could land an EVP position at a billion dollar organization unless he was related to the owner. In fact, Trump’s children openly admit that nepotism got them in the door, but also assert they’ve had to pull their weight after landing the job.

If nepotism is that widespread and prevalent in businesses big and small, it stands to reason that there must be some benefits to nepotism. Certainly, it could be argued that the children of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are likely to have attended the finest schools and have a keener understanding of the family business than any outsider. Yet, many human resource experts have come to regard nepotism as ultimately damaging to business. That is because it often interferes with a company’s operations and possibly creates an environment that is demoralizing to employees. Even though widespread, nepotism as a strategy to fill the best jobs has some serious drawbacks.
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Nepotism, Part 1

It was recently announced that 84-year-old media mogul Rupert Murdoch will be handing the leadership reigns of the 21st Century Fox / News Corp. media conglomerate to his son, James Murdoch. As part of the reorganization, Fox COO Chase Carey will step down from his role. James Murdoch got the appointment despite the 2011 revelation that News Corp’s News of the World reporters were hacking phones to get the scoop on stories. At that time, News of the World, a U.K.-based newspaper, was managed by James Murdoch, who was called before British Parliament to answer questions about the matter. News of the World closed shortly after the scandal. The debacle did not affect James Murdoch’s selection to take over leadership of the media conglomerate from his father.

For as long as businesses have existed, so has nepotism. Nepotism is the practice among those with power or influence to favor relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. It stems from the Latin word for nephew, which kind of goes to the heart of the practice. The most familiar forms of nepotism have been passing down the leadership of a family business from father to son and giving key positions in a family business to children, grandchildren, nieces, and of course, nephews. It’s a practice that has been around — and accepted — since ancient times. With small family businesses in olden times, it was only natural that a son apprenticed with his father, learned the family business, and eventually took over when the father passed or was too old to work. Back before there were colleges, technical programs and other paths to learn a trade, an apprenticeship in the family-business was the primary way to pass skills from generation to generation. It was not only a good thing, but also a necessary one. It was also natural for a parent to want his family to continue to benefit from a business he built from scratch. But nepotism hasn’t been restricted to just mom-n-pop shops. Like Century 21 Fox / News Corp., conglomerates have been handed down from parent to child. Indeed, sons have even inherited kingdoms from their fathers since time immemorial.

The world has changed a lot since ancient times. Almost everything about how businesses operate has changed, evolving to accommodate new technology, systems for teaching trades and occupations, and methods for recruiting and managing staff. There is no longer a need for nepotism. Yet, nepotism still exists; alive and well in the 21st century in organizations large and small. What has changed is how nepotism is viewed by many. Not only do some complain about the unfairness of nepotism, but business pundits question if nepotism is bad for business. That begs the question: is nepotism a good thing or a bad thing? Is it an invaluable pipeline of highly-qualified talent that business owners and leaders can tap inexpensively to fill key vacancies? Or is it a human resources scourge that, when allowed to spread unchecked, contaminates and kills businesses?
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