These are possibly the most dreaded two words in a communications professional’s vernacular.  In the past, I have avoided even uttering the phrase in fear that some sort of Beetlejuice-like magic would cause a client’s event to appear on my calendar.

But, why do we feel like pulling our hair out when it comes to event planning?

The simple answer – because they are a lot of work.  The logistics can be difficult, the details can be overwhelming, and planning can be time consuming.

But events are also vitally important.  A successfully executed event can attract media attention to your cause, help build meaningful relationships with your organization’s stakeholders AND distribute your company’s message in a direct and powerful way.  From grand openings to client appreciation events to press conferences, events give you the opportunity to position your company in exactly the right manner.

Remember three tips on how to make your event a success AND eliminate hair loss.

1.   Know your purpose.  This seems obvious but… Take the time to ask “why?”  Why are we having this event?  What is the message we want to convey?  What’s the purpose?  Then make sure that the proposed event (and its details) will actually serve this purpose.  Because sometimes you just don’t need a $10,000 fireworks display to announce the grand opening of your scrapbook store.

2.   Get organized.  Sometimes the details of planning a fundraising gala or awards banquet can make you feel like you are sinking in the swamp of sadness.  You want to know how to get out of that swamp?  Get organized.  Create timelines, to-do lists, contact sheets, calendars and budgets.  The more outlets you have to arrange the details – the better.

3. Stay organized. Oh, you created a budget but never looked at it again?   You developed a strategic timeline and then decided you’ll just get everything done the week before?  You just fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” but only slightly less well-known is this:  DON’T DEVELOP A PLAN AND NOT STICK TO IT.  Stay organized.

Events should not be feared, communications professionals.  They should be celebrated.

Erika Huffman is a well-rounded strategic communications professional. With experience in industries including construction, law and the arts, she provides excellent council to a variety of clients. Erika is an expert in helping clients with social media strategy, event coordination and community relations. 

Schnake Turnbo Frank, a strategic communications and management consulting firm with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, announced it was a 5-Star Recipient of Mosaic’s 2017 Inclusive Workplace Culture.

Mosaic’s annual Inclusive Workplace Cultures survey provides benchmark data for companies and organizations to gauge their strengths, opportunities and challenges. For those with exceptional diversity and inclusion practices, Mosaic awards the Top Inclusive Workplace Culture recognition. The five key metrics provide a general rubric for scoring survey responses, with recognition given at the three, four and five star level. Organizations demonstrating commitment to diversity and inclusion but in need of additional work in certain areas receive the distinction of Rising Star.

“Our firm is committed to promoting inclusive practices internally with our employees, and sharing best practices externally with our clients and the public,” said Becky J. Frank, chairman, CEO and managing partner of STF. “I am proud of the intentional steps our firm is taking to ensure everyone feels valued and accepted in our workplace and in our community.”

Schnake Turnbo Frank held an inaugural Inclusion & Diversity Summit in Oklahoma City in April 2017 and has continued the conversation statewide with the development of the I&D Consortium. Consortium meetings are free and available to the public, and meetings are an opportunity to network with  professionals and share best practices, resources and ideas with other leaders committed to making our state more inclusive and diverse. If you are interested in learning more about the Consortium, call 918-582-9151.

STF’s services also include an Inclusion & Diversity Audit to help organization’s understand their current I&D standing, as well as practical recommendations to advance your organization’s inclusion initiatives. Learn more about this audit.

I’m often asked why someone needs an executive coach. In my experience, it’s often a gravity event that leads someone to benefit from a coaching relationship. It could be a big presentation to the board, or having to terminate a long-term employee, or a problem with a peer, or even a big promotion with additional responsibilities. A coaching arrangement typically follows two parallel tracks:

  1. Having a thought partner or sounding board to help you think through your career and
  2. Skill building to help you grow as a leader

An executive coach provides you with someone who doesn’t have any political skin in the game and doesn’t benefit from the decisions made at the office. By having a coach who is outside of your environment, you have a neutral third-party to discuss highly confidential matters. This helps you navigate those sticky events throughout your career and helps put a strategy in place to think through the outcomes to success. After the event, it’s helpful to do a postmortem. We like to think through what landed well and what didn’t. It’s invaluable to have someone along the way to help navigate these major career events.

Executive coaching is also there to help you realize or become the best leader possible. To identify your leadership style, and prioritize where you’re strong and where you need to get better. This part of the process involves skill building. This could involve working on delegation, or time management, or team building, or presentation skills or planning/strategy. As coaches, we meet each client where they are. Every assignment is unique and each is different.

I often see the textbook situation where a technically gifted individual has been promoted to leading a function or department. Technical skills have little to do with leading a team. The best accountant isn’t always the best leader of accountants. The other example includes an individual who performs at a high level, but is wrecking ball in the department or within the team. They are often difficult to work with, hurt the feelings of their fellow team members and need to smooth out some of their rough edges. By having an executive coach, we are able to help these individuals navigate their careers and grow as leader.

Learn more about our in-person and virtual coaching services.

Posted by Aaron Fulkerson, Partner and Chief Development Officer 

Schnake Turnbo Frank, a strategic communications and leadership development firm with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, announced it has promoted Erika Huffman to vice president of its Oklahoma City office.

Huffman has been with STF since 2011, serving as both an account executive and senior account executive.  She has more than 11 years of experience in strategic communications and her experience covers many industries including agriculture, entertainment, education and the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining STF, Erika worked in marketing and communications for a professional musical theatre nonprofit, an orthodontic group and a construction company.

“Erika is an outstanding performer and team member,” said Russ Florence, partner, president and COO of STF. “Her attention to detail, follow-through, commitment and pace are all outstanding. She is clearly a leader in the firm, and it’s fitting that she has the title to reflect it.”

Huffman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County and is a member of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

from Jim Morgan, Senior Vice President of Communications, Tulsa Regional Chamber
LRA Tulsa Class 3 (Fall 2016)

As a regular attendee of professional development seminars and workshops, I found the Schnake Turnbo Frank Leadership & Reputation Academy to be a truly superior learning experience. Both its curriculum and its environment were outstanding.

From a curriculum perspective, the topics covered during the eight sessions were well chosen for working professionals seeking to advance their careers. I found particular value in the discussions around generational work styles, inclusive workplaces and work-life balance. The interactive dialogues were engaging, and the practical applications of skills such as public speaking and crisis communications were extremely beneficial.

Regarding the environment created, I especially enjoyed the chance to get to know my fellow classmates on breaks and at additional mixers. And, just as the instructors predicted we would, many of us have stayed in touch in the months since graduation. The importance of building a strong peer support network is undeniable, and I found this part of the experience as valuable as the curriculum.

I highly recommend the STF Leadership & Reputation Academy to all who are interested in advancing their careers and building their network. It is well worth the investment.

Schnake Turnbo Frank, a strategic communications and management consulting firm with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, announced it has promoted David Wagner to partner and chief financial officer.

Wagner has been with STF since 2010 and most recently served as Tulsa region president and chief administration officer for the firm. In his new role, Wagner will be responsible for the overall financial operations of the firm in addition to his work with client services and business development. He has served more than 30 years in leadership roles in public relations, community relations, development and education.

“David is a community leader, a strategic counselor and  tremendous asset to our firm,” said Becky J. Frank, chairman, CEO and managing partner of STF. “His years of experience in education, nonprofit and corporate communication have given him great insight into the needs and goals of our clients.”

Wagner previously worked at Oral Roberts University where he held several positions, including vice president of university relations and development. Earlier in his career, he lived in Wisconsin and worked many years in the education field.

Wagner graduated with a bachelor’s degree from ORU and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served on boards with Junior Achievement of Oklahoma, Leadership Oklahoma and the International Christian Accrediting Association, along with his involvement with the Tulsa Area United Way.

It’s bad communication (not to mention, bad business) to over-promise and under-deliver. But what happens when the reverse is true? What happens when a company is doing exceptional work, but inconsistent or unfocused communication leaves potential customers in the dark about their products or services?

In our line of work, we meet tons of companies with stellar service, steady profits, and happy customers, but their leadership wonders if the company is effectively communicating its true value to current and prospective customers. And they’re right to worry. Brand messaging may as well be an organization’s DNA.

No matter the end solution we recommend to these companies, we always begin with the same first step: clearly defining the company’s purpose to help them develop a base on which they can build targeted goals and communication.

Here are three ways to see if your brand promise is clear throughout your organization:

  • Ask your customers. Companies are often surprised when they start this process and learn while they’ve been trying to use price as their primary selling point for years, their current customers will provide feedback that the speed of service was what attracted them to do business with them. Your customers are your best source for learning how what you’re promising is lining up with the actual service they’re receiving. And they’re usually happy to hear from you and tell you their thoughts over coffee.
  • Look at your collateral. Consistent messaging and branding helps instill confidence and trust at every touch point. Does the logo on your website match the logo on your promotional materials? Do you have expired offers on your website? Is your tagline the same in your direct mail and on your business cards? These inconsistencies hurt your messaging from the perspective of your customer and your employees.
  • Talk to your people. A great place to start re-evaluating current brand messaging is by talking to your employees and board members. Ask them what they think is the company’s primary mission. If you’re getting consistent answers, that’s perfect. If not, you may want to go back to the drawing board to determine the disconnect between what you want to communicate and what employees think you’re communicating.

Inconsistent brand messaging is a complicated topic, and the ideal solutions vary. Regardless, a strong brand message and promise gives customers, prospects, employees, leadership and other stakeholders confidence in your organization.

Want some help evaluating your messaging and branding for consistency? Let’s chat.

Writing is a dying art.

We hear that all the time, but it’s not true.

The written word is still a very critical part of everyday communication. We send emails, we post Facebook updates and we answer text messages. We also draft blogs, produce annual reports and create “catchy” language for billboards.

That’s writing. It’s not a dying art; it’s an evolving one. We must be versatile writers – all of us. We must also learn to communicate for our intended audiences.

We have a saying we like to share with our clients: Everyone always told you to dress for the job you want. We believe you should also write for the job you want.

This means we need to:

  • Keep it simple and get rid of the clutter – No one has time to filter through your message to figure out what you mean.
  • Give your reader something to do – If you give them no “call to action,” what’s the point of what you’re trying to say? If there’s no call to action, perhaps you should reconsider sending that email….
  • Lead with the lead – This is a basic writing tenet taught to every journalism student. People have a short attention span, so tell them what they need to know at the beginning.
  • Take out the jargon – Write like you speak. People don’t want to hear from a robot.
  • Don’t try to sound smart – Just don’t. Instead, be your authentic self. That’s a much more effective way to communicate.
  • Edit yourself – Read through everything before you send it. Even a text. Ever hear of autocorrect? It’s not always your friend.

There are a lot of books out there about writing. One of our favorites is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. We don’t agree with everything he says, but that’s the point. We all have our own styles, and that’s what keeps writing – and reading – interesting.

It’s not what you know but who you know.

We’ve all heard it before but I believe the old adage – especially in the business-to-business world – should say, “It’s what you know and who you know.”

Boosting your networking efforts can lead to new business, but networking must be combined with informative and constructive conversation centered around what your business can offer. Choosing the most efficient and professional way to network with others can often pose a challenge. Here are three simple steps to networking and business development in the B2B world.

1. Be curious –  Ask open-ended questions, be open to meeting anyone.

Curiosity is key to power networking. Being genuinely curious will make your time at events easier, especially for those who are more introverted. Ask questions, and let the answers be your guide.

2. Be helpful –  Follow up with the people that you meet; connect them with others.

While we are all continually trying to make lasting connections, it’s important to make your brief conversations relevant. Connect them with others. Send along interesting and pertinent items of interest, such as news articles, white papers or websites.

3. Be genuine – Approach each conversation with the idea that you don’t need to gain anything.

Crossing the finish line is important. But don’t get so caught up in your own success that you forget the value and importance of having a genuine conversation with someone. When networking, focus on relationships first; not the sale.

Russ Florence is the president and chief operating officer of STF  and an expert in all things strategic communications.  He brings a broad range of expertise to clients, including strategic planning, media relations, crisis communications and reputation management. If you’d like to learn a more about Russ, please visit his biocontact us at our Oklahoma City office or connect with him on LinkedIn

Posted by David Wagner, Region President and Chief Administration Officer

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you try to get involved in your community? Do you feel like there are so many worthy causes to support that you couldn’t possibly choose just one? Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” It is easy to get caught up in day-to-day obligations and forget we have a vast number of opportunities all around us to lend a hand to someone or something in need. Often times, it is hard to decide where to dig in and begin helping your community due to the wide expanse of need and for most people, a limited amount of time and resources. Community involvement can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are three important guidelines to follow when you are deciding on an organization in which to be involved.

1. Choose your passion. There are endless well-intentioned causes and it can be hard to decide how to direct your time. The easiest way to narrow down your options is to think about where your personal interests lie. Are you interested in politics, veterans, children, animals, education, energy, environment, or the homeless? Ask yourself, what hits home for me? Once you have identified your passion, narrow down the non-profits that fit your passion and have the mission you believe best supports your personal values.

2. Use your expertise. Once you have decided what non-profit you are interested in helping out, explore how you can apply your expertise and skill set. Channeling your skill set into an organization will allow you to give the most you can in your own way.  Using your expertise will double as an enjoyable experience for you and a benefit to the organization. For example, a chef could volunteer once a week or month at a local soup kitchen to help cook and feed the hungry. If you are applying your talents to something you are genuinely interested in, it will feel more extracurricular than an additional obligation.

3. Budget your time. If you are unable to make a commitment for a significant amount of time (e.g. board involvement), get involved in community-wide programs or events such as your business’ participation the United Way’s Day of Caring or Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure. Being realistic about the amount of time you can offer to a non-profit is essential because overcommitting can be detrimental to any non-profit. If time is an issue, consider the option of making a financial donation. Non-profit organizations can always use monetary donations or donations of supplies. Why not pass along those gently used clothes your kids grew out of?

David Wagner is the region president and chief administration officer of STF  and is responsible for managing the performance of the company, developing the firm regionally and leading client outreach. If you’d like to learn a more about David please visit his bio or contact us at our Tulsa office or connect with him on LinkedIn