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 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.
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.
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 bio, contact 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.
I am passionate about leadership. About being a leader and helping others be the best leader they can be. The Harvard Business Review recently posted an article entitled Three Leadership Traits that Never Go Out of Style. What most intrigued me about this article is that the author reflected on leadership traits he learned as a child.
I connect with this in so many ways—my family helped shape who I am today. My wife sees the good in everyone around her and genuinely wants to help people become better. She always has the energy to offer her support and empathy. My mom is a rare blend of being compassionate and strong-willed while maintaining a great sense of humor. My step dad focused his entire professional life on helping and mentoring young people who were in trouble; his commitment to service is quietly heroic. My sister has taught me to enjoy the moment, to avoid dreaming to such an extent that I miss out on what’s happening in front of me. My two adult children have shown me how to love and sacrifice and put others first while my infant son has shown me how big love can truly be. And my dad is a visionary; he teaches me to dream and to look at things from a different angle, always imagining possibilities and ways to innovate and having the courage to follow these unconventional paths no matter where they lead and no matter how silly they may seem to others.
I say this because the best leaders learn from the people they are surrounded by, whether it’s their family, coworkers, friends or mentors. Leadership is something that is always evolving and we can never stop learning how to be a better leader.
The HBR article pinpointed three leadership traits: trust, empathy and mentorship.
Does your team trust you? Trust makes people feel empowered.
Are you emotionally intelligent—did you notice the look of anxiety in your teammate’s eyes this morning?
Would you be where you are today if you weren’t mentored? “There was no great player who didn’t want to be coached.” – Pat Riley, NBA Coach
These are all traits I see in my family and every leader should grasp onto them. Be trustworthy, know how your team is feeling and mentor others.
There is one item I learned from my family and mentors that is not on the list – responsibility. Great leaders should take responsibility for their actions and take ownership of their mistakes. A leader isn’t supposed to know it all, we’re human and we need to be vulnerable.
No matter what situation you’re in, whether you’re the CEO of a fortune 500 company or the intern at a small non-profit, keep these traits in mind and always remember to be real.
Posted by Aaron Fulkerson, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Those who participate in community relations gain the benefit of giving back to their community, while those who are on the receiving end are better off from a company’s donation of time, talent or treasure.
Effective community relations begins with a commitment from the company or organization to support a cause that reflects the wishes and desires of the management team and employees within the company. The cooperation and interest of the internal audience of a company is vital in community relations. If you are unable to get your workforce on board with a cause, it won’t be nearly as effective as supporting a cause that your employees find worthwhile.
Like public relations, the first step in a winning community relations program should begin with research. Surveys and one-on-one interviews can help you discover the interests of those who work within the organization, as well as the interests of outside stakeholders. While having employees on board with the cause is instrumental to the effectiveness of the community relations program, having the support of outside stakeholders is vital.
An inclusive community relations program should encompass four primary areas: education, social services, arts, and business. It often includes, but is not limited to, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, mental health, food banks, Salvation Army, homeless shelters, hospital and school foundations and Chambers of Commerce.
Companies giving back to their community should do so for the right reason. Doing a good deed for publicity is a short-sighted and selfish motive.
A sage public relations professional once said, “Do the deeds first and then allow the words about the deeds to follow, hopefully from a third party.”
That’s good advice.
Steve Turnbo is our Chairman Emeritus and is an expert in all things public relations. He has more than 30 years of experience and has helped organizations, ranging from universities, to nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies. He is an expert in community relations, crisis response, media relations and strategic planning…to name a few.
Having the proper tools or tactics to measure the success of your company is just as important as achieving success itself. No matter your chosen field, business is a constantly evolving organism. Due to this constant change, the tactics and objectives used on your last project may or may not work on the next. One way to ensure you are being as efficient and profitable as possible is to implement a tangible system which measures your team’s overall success.
1. Take Away Evaluation – It is important to look at the big picture. By revisiting your initial goals and objectives from the beginning of the project, it will be obvious whether or not you achieved the desired outcome. Ask yourself and your team various questions:
Did you meet or exceed your goal?
Did you gain the outputs you wanted?
Were all of the goals realistic?
Did we set the bar high enough?
How did our goals evolve throughout the process?
Honestly answering these questions will allow you to gain insight and continually set and achieve lofty, yet attainable goals from client projects to internal development.
2. Team Evaluation – A team can never reach their full potential unless they are taken care of first. This may seem contradictory to the long-standing notion of putting the customer first; however, exceeding the customer’s expectations is directly correlated to providing your team with the necessities to excel. Ways you can continually evaluate your team culture is to ask if your team grew closer and stronger during the process.
Was your team built up in the process?
Do you feel a sense of accomplishment for your individual contribution?
By reaching this point of success, does your team have freshly fostered enthusiasm to attain new goals?
3. Efficiency Evaluation – Every organization would like to claim that they are efficient in every moment and with every dollar but like anything, there is always room for improvement. Look at all the small or large steps you took to reach the endpoint. Did all efforts contribute to the final outputs? Eliminating useless steps will free up time to complete fruitful tasks. For example, one of the most impractical endeavors is compiling data for the sake of compiling data. If you never use it, it hampers your efficiency and ultimately, your success. Be sure your efforts are always guiding you to the main goal.
These steps can be completed in any specific order but the completion of all of them is essential to obtaining an accurate measure of success. Even if you aren’t satisfied with your responses to some of the questions, you’re already ahead of the game by addressing the issues or areas to improve.
David Wagner is a Partner of STF and is responsible for managing the performance of the company, developing the firm regionally and leading client outreach.
To some, the thought of developing relationships with co-workers is a daunting idea. But it can lead to valuable partnerships which are mutually beneficial in business. And if that’s not enough, these relationships are sure to come in handy the next time you’re on a tight deadline or need some support.
Here are three quick tips for improving your relationship with co-workers.
1. Remember the rule of reciprocity. In simple terms, the more you help people, the more they help you. But there are a couple of caveats: First, it must be authentic. If your only motive is one of “you owe me one,” your co-workers will see right through it. Be sincere. Secondly, it must be an ongoing, everyday occurrence. Those who give, receive. Develop a true partnership of reciprocity and you’ll find that others are eager to help when they realize its value. For a deep dive on the subject, I recommend the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.
2. Get together, away. Go for a run with your co-worker. Play golf together. Go to a game, catch some live music, go to lunch. Get away from the work environment – and then, don’t talk about work. You might be surprised at the common ground you’ll find and you’ll discover a whole new way to connect.
3. Don’t shy away from conflict or disagreements. Wait. Conflict can IMPROVE your relationships with co-workers? Yes, IF they are handled properly. Healthy, productive conflicts can be good for a relationship. It demonstrates that you can civilly work through work issues together. This, in turn, builds trust and respect – two of the most vital aspects of a good business relationship.
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.