Monday, March 30, 2009

It's such an honor to be nominated ...

You hear celebrities say that all the time in the mad rush up to the Gold Globes/SAG/BAFTA/Academy Awards ceremonies, and you wonder if they really mean it. Well, I may never walk the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre, but I can tell you it's an honor for your work to be nominated for an award.

Two weeks ago, my agency downsized and I held one of the positions that was eliminated. The week after that, I learned the campaign I led was a finalist for the PRSA Silver Anvil awards. Even though I won't be going to the ceremony and may never get to actually touch the award, I can tell you the honor feels like an Oscar already on my mantle.

And just this morning, the same campaign was named one of five finalists for the Silver SABRE award. I'm really overwhelmed. There are judges in New York who are impressed with my work.

I won't turn this post into a Sally Field moment:

but I'm awfully pleased and excited. It'll be hard to wait for May 12 and June 4 to find out what happens at the awards ceremonies. But I don't think it will be as hard as finding a new job in one of the four states with the highest unemployment due to the economy.

But they say those big movie awards usually open doors for those who win and sometimes for those who are just nominated. I wonder what this will do for me in these uncertain times?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Social media for nonprofits

Here's a presentation I gave in Raleigh a month ago about how to sell social media to your board and staff. We had a great group -- about 100 nonprofits from across North Carolina.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How to get great customer service

As a rule, I generally get good customer service. It's not perfect all the time, but more often than not, I get the help I need. My friends have always asked how I do it, so I thought I'd share the information that has helped me. Here are my top 5 ways to get great customer service.

1. Be polite. Along the lines of "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar", being polite to the person taking your order, helping you with a return or explaining that it will take six tries to fix your home PC (this really happened to me!) will get you further. You may be caught in a frustrating situation, but raising your voice or cursing will only alienate the person who has the power to help you.

2. Ask for what you want. Do you want store credit or cash for that return? Do you think your PC should replaced under your extended warranty? Did your favorite restaurant change the menu, removing your favorite lunch dish? Ask them to help you out. Try these magic words "It would really help me if you could ..." or "What I'd really like to see is ...".

3. Know the rules. Sometimes you may think you're getting a bad deal because you don't know the terms of service. Even though the sign on the shelf says the razor blades are on sale, the circular actually says you need to buy two packages to get that deal. So berating the cashier won't help you here. Knowing the rules also will help you when you do have the right information, and the cashier or representative does not. Asking for a manager here can also help you out.

4. Take good notes. Especially if you are dealing with something over the phone. Write down the name of the person you are talking with, the date you talked (even the time!), and summarize the situation in a note. Write down any case numbers or incident numbers. If you have to call again, you can reference that call and the representative may be able to find that conversation in their computer system. Be prepared to recount your understanding of the call, and be sure to politely but firmly correct any misunderstandings on the other end. Their notes might be different than yours. If you reach an impasse, ask for a supervisor.

5. Turn your adversary into an ally. If you start a confrontation, you'll just reach the stone wall of "I can not help you with that at this time." (Which may have you wondering -- then at WHAT time can you help me???!! -- but don't say that out loud.) Take the position that you're both in this together and you both have the same goal: reaching an amicable solution to the problem, especially one that's in your favor. Use some humor. Listen when they explain the situation. Repeat back to them:

So you're saying that my extended warranty allows you to try to fix my PC three times? But I have had six visits from a technician.

Oh, I see -- you count the number of parts shipped to me and not tech visits. So if this last one doesn't work?

Oh, so what you're saying is that if this last part does not fix my problem, you will send me a replacement PC at no cost to me? I understand your system now.

Good luck. Do you have any tried and true customer service tips? Let's share them in the comments.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Personalizing your news

Through RSS feeds and good aggregators like Google Reader, you've long been able to send a variety of blogs, news sites and other web content to one place to read at your leisure. If you haven't done it yet, you're in for a treat. Unless you're not a news junkie like me.

But a favorite aggregator source of mine just took it one better. If you've never heard of Alltop, it's a place that aggregates blogs and RSS feeds under topics. I bookmarked Alltop PR, for example and even had a great shortcut on my desktop where I could scan dozens of blogs and other news about my industry.

Now there's My Alltop. You can see mine at And that's just one of the things that makes this service so timely. You can share your link with others. Alltop started the ball rolling by asking some of the well-known social media folks out there to create their My Alltop and share it. You can find your favorite guru and check out blogs and sources you might never have encountered otherwise.

As a former journalist, I find myself haunting news sites on the web the way I used to stand over the UPI and AP machines. (Oops, just dated myself!) We used to get the news by teletype, printed at certain times of the day. And if you missed a feed, you'd have to call the local AP office and ask for a refeed or just fill in your newscast with some other roundup. We called it "the wire" -- as in "Did you check the wire for the state roundup?" Later, we got the wires via computer in the newsroom. And when I left the newsroom, I called the Internet, the wires, for quite some time. Fully recovered now though.

So, how do you like to get your news? In a paper, delivered in the morning? On TV scattered throughout the day? Or on the internet -- where you search it out?