May 28, 2020
As we reopen or revise business operations in time for Pennsylvania’s yellow phase on June 5th, consider the chief concern for your clients and customers:
What can I expect when I visit your business?
Be sure to have a prominent message on your website’s home page that provides visitors with guidance and assurance of the precautions you have in place. Make timely updates, and do the same with professional window or in-house signage.
We recommend you brief your staff to provide those who call with yellow phase information. Or, record a friendly outgoing message that provides that information, before calls are transferred to a receptionist. Modify your on-hold, after hours and busy messages similarly.
Finally, add yellow phase info to the “About” section of your company’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages, along with timely postings.
Top tip: For industry-specific guidelines on how to reopen or revise your business, visit RestoreChesterCounty.org.
Suddenly on Camera
May 14, 2020
Have you noticed that some folks look like pros during virtual meetings and webinars? NouSoma has always provided training for on-camera media appearances and speeches. Now we support Zoom and other communications with these tips for becoming an on-camera rock star:
Eye contact – It’s natural to focus on your computer screen, but when you’re speaking, look directly into your camera, just as you would make eye contact in person.
Notes – If you’re using them, make sure they’re propped next to your screen or camera, as close as possible. Now your eyes won’t stray.
Center yourself – Center yourself and adjust the distance so that only your head and shoulders are visible. It’s okay to be slightly off center if you have a logo behind you and want to make sure it’s not popping out of your head.
Camera angle – To avoid unflattering angles, situate your screen so your eyes are at the same level as the camera.
Lighting – Ideally, natural or lamp lighting should come from behind your screen. Adjusting your screen brightness can also provide additional light. Avoid back lighting, which will darken your image.
Background – Uploading a virtual background is so 4 weeks ago :-). For more formal presentations, sit in front of a wall or shelves displaying your branding. For casual meetings, people know you’re at home but they don’t want to see a headboard or playroom behind you. The easiest option is to pick a wall in a solid color that complements your hair and skin.
Let’s Talk About Your Voice
May 6, 2020
Business is not operating as usual, so your voice mail message shouldn’t be “the usual” either.
If your personal cell phone is currently serving as your office phone, make sure you update it with a less casual voice that clearly states who you are, who you work for, and that you will respond ASAP.
For your main office’s company-wide voice mail, consider the following template for the first week back in your office space:
Thank you for calling XYZ Company. Our offices are now open for business Monday through Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm, with elevated precautions to provide a healthy environment. We’re sorry we missed your call while we are assisting other clients. Please hold and we will be with you as soon as possible. [Please leave a message along with your name and number, and we will return your call as soon as possible.]
Make sure the voice on your message provides a positive reflection of your brand. It should be friendly and credible, yet soothing in these times. For an example, check out NouSoma’s founder, Ellen Langas, as “the voice of QVC” when you call their order line. We routinely refresh phone system messages for clients.
Get Growing: Overcoming the Stages of COVID-19 Grief
April 30, 2020
As an entrepreneur or a leader of a small business, it’s understandable to have the urge to hunker down and weather the storm. But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: We are grieving. Our companies are our babies, and some of us spend more time with them than we do with our kids!
We’ve nurtured them, dropped enough cash to put them through college, and hope to pass the baton to the next generation. Covid-19 was a sucker punch that pulled the rug out from under our feet when we were at a full run.
While I’m an optimist at heart, I’ve always been a proponent of acknowledging grief and even wallowing in it — for a short while. It helps, especially when you’ve worked hard and done nothing wrong. Over the past weeks, I’ve become acquainted with every stage of grief, and not in any particular order.
For most of us, it started with shock and an abrupt decline in business. Denial allowed us that sliver of hope to think that the setback would be short-lived, until we learned that was not the case. Then we landed squarely into the bargaining phase. For business, that means perhaps trying to lower rent rates and negotiating with vendors. As leaders, some of us felt guilt, especially if forced to furlough valued employees. And the anger phase was not hard to miss. Will we ever see payroll protection dollars come our way? But after acknowledging these forms of grief, we must emerge ready to embrace the stages of acceptance and hope. After all, that’s what small business is all about. We will never forget, but we can come to grips with the situation, make a plan and move forward.
My company’s plan started by convening my anxious team via Zoom (our new best friend) to focus on the months ahead. After addressing our internal needs by reinforcing the team’s job security and creating a routine of internal communications that would keep us motivated and connected, we determined that the key to surviving the crisis came down to two key concepts: The ability to pivot and focusing outward.
We discussed the situation of each of our clients, considered their specific pain points and generated ideas about how we could best support them. Then we reached out to them to discuss those same questions and provide a pro bono brainstorming session specific to their current needs. During those conversations, we uncovered five key opportunities to embrace during challenging times. These industry-spanning ideas are ones you might utilize to interact with your own clients or incorporate into your company. They aren’t product or service specific; they are people specific. And while you tend to your business at hand, these are simple steps to help keep your company top of mind with clients, boost morale and stay connected.
- Pick up the phone (yes, the phone), call clients and ask how they are doing personally and professionally. Determine if you can provide support.
- Send an email or handwritten note to stay in touch. Real mail makes a big impact in a virtual society.
- Send periodic (and short!) industry updates via personal e-mail or formatted e-blast including relevant tips, news and info about products and services.
- Schedule a webinar regarding your latest technology, product or service.
- This is a pivotal period in your company’s lifespan, and it’s critical to set the tone inside and out.
- Support those in need either as a group, or by highlighting individual employee efforts. For example, designate a day for team members and/or neighbors to leave non-perishable goods outside, and have one person pick them up and deliver them to a local food bank or pantry.
- Take photos to share on social media and in your e-blasts.
- So much has changed in just a few weeks and your social media profile should reflect those changes. Now is the ideal time for team members to refresh their LinkedIn profiles with the updated services they are providing to adapt to the times.
- Prepare a byline article on your expertise. Submit it for publication, post it to the company blog and share via social platforms.
Internal Connection and Morale Boosters
- Host a weekly online lunch ‘n learn via Zoom with your staff. Everyone shares what they’re eating at their kitchen tables, then get down to work.
- Boost proficiency in technology or industry knowledge by encouraging continuing ed if team members have down time. (Employees can share what they learn at the lunch ‘n learn sessions.)
- Show appreciation. Send greeting cards or small care packages to employees, and highlight accomplishments with some fanfare.
- Review marketing materials and the company website to confirm they reflect branding that is accurate, consistent and up to date. (A lot has changed in just a few weeks!)
- Update e-blast and snail mail contact lists.
- Purge outdated physical and electronic files.
These ideas can help you maintain momentum and help your team relieve the angst that comes with navigating uncharted territory—all while staying connected with clients and community. Just like grieving, business recovery is a process that takes time. Wishing you health, perseverance, and hope as we strive to get back to business.
Ramping Up to Reopen
April 23, 2020
Now is the time to consider communications for reopening your physical office space. Start by identifying your preferred platforms (e-blast, website, social media, snail mail). Then write a rough draft for each, focusing on the messages that will reconnect you with your audience, as well as the basic info you want to convey. You can fill in the details closer to game time.
While you’re at it, plan to have staff on deck in case you receive extra phone calls your first week back, and record a customized “on hold” message, just in case, that announces your staff is in the office and outlines the safety precautions you’re taking. (We’ll have more tips on this next week!)
Finally, why not prepare an upbeat “welcome back” video for social media? Have employees record brief messages on their cell phones, then string them together.
Hiding from Zoom?
April 15, 2020
When we could interact in person, it was okay to occasionally turn off your webcam & stick to audio during a Zoom meeting.
Now that we rely on virtual meetings, the ability to skillfully use Zoom shows you’ve been able to adapt during a crisis.
If you’re not feeling comfortable and want to practice, try setting up a 20-minute lunch & learn Zoom session with your team. Everyone can receive at-home feedback on their webcam positioning, lighting, mic check, screen sharing, use of slides, muting, gallery view and chat. You can even put everyone in gallery view (grid of faces) to encourage feedback without the pressure of being “close up.” It’s an unexpectedly fun way to overcome any fears, in just a few minutes of time spent together.
Quick tip: Position webcams at eye level or slightly raised, with natural light hitting the front of your face.
Effective Communication During COVID-19
March 31, 2020
As we’ve all learned (sometimes painfully) over the last week or two, communications must be nimble during a crisis. The team at NouSoma has been supporting clients with website news feeds that can be easily updated, day-to-day or hour-by-hour. This creates a valuable resource for your audience, as well as a way to continually drive followers from your social media posts to your website. Click here to see a sample. And be sure to brand it!
NouSoma has been a great fit and find for us. Under the team’s strategic guidance, we have increased brand awareness for our organization and for a number of our initiatives, including gender diversity in the executive suite. We value their team’s attention to detail, follow-up and positive energy.