Friday, August 31, 2018

The 12 most annoying workplace habits

Why can't we all just get along, particularly in the workplace?

Well, because we're human, and humans are mostly annoying. (Smiles.) Like the guy who sits in next cube and-you know-fiddles with his nose a bit too much. C'mon, no one has a cold 365 days a year, and no one's allergies are that bad. But I digress from the mostly annoying to the overwhelmingly gross. Back to annoying.

We've all had workmates who are annoying, so I took a quick poll to come up with the 12 most annoying workplace habits. It got a bit graphic, so this list has been edited somewhat, lest we offend anyone. Such is the risk of cataloging truly annoying behavior.

1. Loud talking

Maybe it's the boss bellowing on the interoffice intercom. Maybe it's the stage—whispered cell phone conversations with a recruiter. Maybe it's the clown who stands outside your office and talks about his cats. For a long time.

People who haven't figured out what "inside voice" means need to go back to kindergarten. Be kind and keep your voice down when you're in the office. And trust me: No one really wants to listen in on your sotto-voce conversations. They're too worried about their own lives.

[RELATED: Discover the secret to creating workplaces employees love]

2. Reheating last night's salmon in the microwave

Smelly food is tough enough to tolerate in a shared space, but leftovers—especially when heated to 300 degrees C in the malfunctioning microwave—are incredibly annoying. Have a heart; save the stinky food for your cats. (See No. 1.)

3. Whispering

There's not much behavior that's as subversive and damaging as whispering, especially when it's the boss talking to his or her pet employee. Act like an adult. If you have something to say, speak up (in an inside voice, of course). Otherwise, hold that thought-or send an email.

4. Bare feet

I know I swore off hygiene issues, but bare feet are at times annoying (unless a person is surfing). You're at work, not in the family room. Put on your shoes. Preferably with socks, preferably not white ones.

5. Saying "excuse me?" in response to every comment or question

Some people have so much noise in their heads or are so busy following along to the songbook of their own lives that they incessantly say "excuse me?" in response to the simplest comment or request. No, you are not excused. Pay attention. There will be no repetition of instructions.

6. Interrupting

This should really be in the No. 1 slot. Interrupting is annoying on every level. It's bad manners. What you have to say is not more important than what the other person has to say. It may be a struggle, you may have to write a list while others are speaking, but don't interrupt-unless the office is on fire.

7. Complaining

This is second only to interruption in the annals of annoying workplace behavior. Some people love to complain. Perhaps it makes them feel in control. Perhaps they're just that dissatisfied. Maybe they think they know best. It doesn't matter, really. If you need to complain incessantly, it's time to find a new job. No Debbie Downers allowed.

8. Correcting people; no one likes a know-it-all

No one likes to be corrected, especially in front of the boss. If someone makes a mistake, find a subtle way to alert them. If you find yourself correcting people a lot, reconsider your behavior—you may be feeling sensitive or vulnerable. Or maybe you're just an annoying soul. Don't be that person.

9. Micromanaging

This one is also a strong contender for the No. 1 slot. If you're a manager of people or projects, don't do this. Let your people learn, which means letting them figure stuff out, test assumptions, make mistakes, and correct. If you're so worried that you find yourself hounding people, take the task on yourself.

10. Chewing with your mouth open

Many workplaces think communal lunches build team spirit, but if you're a mouth breather or loud chewer, reconsider attending until you get your manners under control.

11. Taking cell phone calls in meetings

Another strong contender for most annoying workplace behavior. You and your cell phone are not that important. Rent a clue, and leave the phone on your desk—with the ringer off, please.

12. Intruding on personal space

We know you need something. Really we do. But please don't lurk. Send an email, call, leave a note. Just don't intrude on my personal space. We all need a little space of our own to be happy, or at least productive, employees. Don't intrude.

What behavior annoys you most in the workplace? You are safe here, really. Let's have some fun.

Meghan M. Biro, founder of TalentCulture, is a serial entrepreneur and globally recognized career expert in talent acquisition, creative personal, and corporate branding. A version of this story first appeared on The 12 most blog.

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How to Start a Travel Blog

a laptop on a desk
Updated: 8/31/2018 | August 31st, 2018

Whether as a hobby or profession, starting a travel blog is pretty easy. You can set it up in under 30 minutes. It’s gotten a lot easier than when I started my blog in 2008 when I didn’t know the first thing about making a website. Luckily, on my adventures around the world, I met Matt and Kat, a British couple who also happened to be web designers. When I came home and decided I wanted to start this travel blog, they agreed to help me set it up and teach me HTML. Back then, I hand-coded the website and used a funky tool called Dreamweaver to build it. It was painfully slow, and I wasn’t very good at it. (And my original website was really ugly!)

Luckily, you no longer have to build websites that way. They have gotten a lot easier and simpler thanks to WordPress, a simple out-of-the-box platform designed to make sites easier for those not technically savvy (like myself). It powers over 25% of the internet and is the best platform to start a blog on. It’s super flexible and can do whatever you want it to do — from a simple journal to a complex e-commerce website.

In our blogging course, we’ve had thousands of students start a website on WordPress without any technical skills. They got them up and running — and you can too!

A few months back, I talked about the ways you could succeed with a travel blog, but today, I want to give a quick tutorial on how to create a travel blog from scratch in seven easy steps.

Step 1: Pick your name

The first thing you need to do is pick a domain name (i.e., your website name). When doing so, there are no hard and fast rules. There’s no such thing as a “wrong domain name,” but there are a couple of rules I like to live by:

  • Make a name that can last – If you pick “JohnsAsiaAdeventure.com” and then you leave Asia, the domain name won’t make sense anymore. Make sure you pick a name that isn’t so focused that if you decide to shift gears, you can keep the same domain name.
  • Don’t date your blog – Don’t pick something related to your age either. “Twenty-Something Travel” becomes really irrelevant when you get older, which actually happened to a blogger I know. Pick a name that can be used no matter your age!
  • Try to avoid certain words like “nomad,” “vagabond,” “wanderlust,” and “adventure.” They have been done to death, and they will make you seem like you’re copying people, not being original.
  • Pick a name that describes what you do as much as possible – I was a nomad, so “Nomadic Matt” was the best pick for me. If you’re into luxury, put words in your domain name that convey that. You want people to see the name and go “I get what that website is about.”
  • Keep it short – Use 3-4 words maximum. You want the name that rolls off the tongue. Even Ramit Sethi from “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” abbreviates his site to “I Will Teach” or “IWT.” The shorter, the better.
  • Keep it simple – I’m not a fan of using jargon or slang in your domain name, as I think that makes things confusing for people who don’t know it. The last thing you want is someone saying, “What does that mean?” or being confused. If someone has to think hard about the meaning, then you’ve already lost them. So don’t try to be clever!

Step 2: Sign up for a host

After you’ve picked out your domain name, you’ll need to register it online and buy hosting (the little computer in the sky that’s going to power your website). There are a lot of basic hosting companies out there — and most of them are pretty terrible. However, the two biggest and best are HostGator and Bluehost. I would go with one of those two.

However, though they are owned by the same parent company, I lean toward HostGator, as I find its call center customer service quicker and friendlier, and HostGator is prone to fewer outages (no one wants their website to go down!). I’ve been using it since I’ve started; I still run my email through it. It’s also really improved its service recently and now offers free SSL certificates (that’s the thing that tells users your website is secure).

Here’s a walk-through of how to set up your host with HostGator (it won’t take long):

First, head over to the website’s sign-up page and get hosting for only $2.78 per month. That’s over 60% off the normal price!

Enter the domain name you picked and then choose the Hatchling Plan. This is the most basic plan, but it’s perfect for new blogs:




I wouldn’t recommend spending more money until you get a lot of traffic and decide you’re going to do this long-term! Additionally, the longer you buy your hosting for, the cheaper it is. If you select three years of hosting, your domain will only cost $127 USD, so I think you should do that. It’s a steal, cheaper than most other hosting packages. You don’t have to pick three years, but the marginal cost of adding additional years is small, and it means you don’t have to worry about renewing for a long time!

That’s it! All that takes about five minutes from start to finish!

Again, you can click here to go to HostGator to set it up.

Step 3: How to Install WordPress

After you’ve registered your domain name and chosen your hosting package, the next thing you’ll want to do is install WordPress. (WordPress is what will actually run the website. The host is simply the computer your site sits on.) WordPress is an open-source and free Web publishing application, content management system (CMS) and blogging tool built by a community of developers and contributors to make it easy for people to blog!

After you’ve paid, you’ll get an email telling your login details. After you click the link in the email and log in, you’ll see this screen. Click “Get Started with WordPress Today”:

You’ll be taken to this screen below. In the dropdown menu, select your domain name and hit “Next”:

Enter your user information. Under the blog title, enter the name of your blog. Create a strong username and then hit install.

Then presto! It’s done!

After your WordPress is installed, a screen will display the username you chose and a password generated for you. (You can change the password later.)

Now your website is up and running.

Step 4: Setting up your website

After you’ve installed WordPress, go to domainname.com/wp-admin and use the username and password you created to log in. You’ll see a screen like this after you log in:

Here’s a little overview of the menu on the left side of the screen:

  • Dashboard – The dashboard is the first thing you see when you log in to WordPress, and it’s the main administrative area for your blog.
  • Home – This will take you back to the main dashboard view.
  • Updates – This area will tell you if WordPress, your plugins, or your theme need to be updated.
  • Jetpack – Jetpack is a plugin that allows you to add a spell-checker, contact forms, extra widgets, etc.
  • Posts – You can view all your blog posts here, as well as set up new ones and add categories and tags.
  • Media – Here’s where you can view your media library and add new media content, like photos and videos.
  • Pages – Pages are the individual landing pages on your website (like your About page, Contact page, Resources page, etc.). You can add new pages here as well as review and edit existing ones.
  • Comments – Comments on your blog posts go here. You may want to check the spam folder periodically to make sure you’re not missing real comments.
  • WPForms – WordPress’s contact-form plugin.
  • Marketplace – Here you can create an online marketplace.
  • Appearance – This section lets you entirely customize your site’s appearance.
  • Plugins – Review, install, and update your plugins here.
  • Users – If there’s more than one person accessing your blog, you can create accounts and give them certain privileges here.
  • Tools – This section has certain tools to aid you with management tasks.
  • Settings – You can adjust all your site’s settings here, including things like your blog title and the size of thumbnails being used.
  • Insights – Insights provides traffic and user stats about those visiting your website. (Google Analytics is a better choice, though.)

Plugins are a great way to add additional functionality to a WordPress-powered site. And with over 56,000 (at last check) listed in the WordPress Repository and many more premium options available from developers, there are endless possibilities as to what you can do with your site. (I’ll list some examples below.)

Note: Jetpack, Mojo Marketplace, Insights, and WP Forms are pre-installed plugins.

From the main screen, click Plugins –> Add New on the left-hand column:

Now it’s time for you to install your own.

If you can think of a feature you’d like to have on your site, I can almost guarantee there is a plugin for it, but here are the essential ones for your travel blog:

  • Akismet – Just like getting junk mail in your mailbox, your website will get spammers looking to leave junk comments on your site. Akismet seeks to reduce the amount of this by automatically filtering it for you. This plugin comes installed with WordPress, and all you need do is activate it and sign up for an account at akismet.com.
  • Yoast SEO – The best SEO plugin out there. This combines the ability to create metatags and descriptions for your posts, optimize your titles, create a sitemap for search engines to read, customize how your posts appear across social media, and a whole lot more. It’s simple and easy to use and comes with foolproof instructions.
  • Relevanssi  – While WordPress does a lot of things well, what it fails at is adding search functionality to your site. Relevanssi seeks to fix this and give your readers the most accurate results when searching your site.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress – Adding analytic tracking to your website is an important way to find out who your readers are, where they are coming from, and what your most popular content is. When you sign up for Google Analytics, the site asks you to place a snippet of code into your website. For most people, that can be difficult, which is why there’s Google Analytics for WordPress. This adds a lovely graphical interface to your site where you can click a couple of buttons and set up your tracking without any hassle.
  • Sumo – Free tools to help you grow your site, including the best social sharing plugin on the web. Use this! It comes with great analytics and testing features.
  • Jetpack – Jetpack (pre-installed) is aimed at supercharging your website with a host of features from WordPress’s free hosting platform, giving you the best of both worlds. With this plugin, you can add a spell-checker, contact forms, extra widgets, and a whole slew of more features, all with just one plugin.
  • W3 Total Cache – This plugin works by creating saved copies of your site, saving WordPress from having to generate them for every new visitor. This, in turn, cuts down on the amount of work your hosting server has to do and makes loading your website much faster.

Step 5: Install your theme

One of the most important things a blog needs besides good content is a good design. People decide in seconds whether or not they trust your website and choose to stay. A visually unappealing website will turn off readers and reduce the number of return visits you get.

So to accomplish a good design, you will need an amazing WordPress theme (i.e., design templates and files).

Luckily, there are lots of out-of-the-box options for you where you can download a predesigned theme, upload it to your website, switch it on, change some settings, and presto! A new look for your website!

You can get:

  • Free themes – Free themes are plentiful and for budding new bloggers looking to make their mark online. They seem like a great option, as they allow you to keep costs low. There are many great free themes online, but most of them are not amazing. If you plan on blogging for a long time, this might become a problem as your website grows. However, if you just need a simple design to blog for your friends and family, then go the free route. You can find some good free themes at wordpress.org.
  • Premium themes – The next step up from a free theme is a premium theme. Premium themes are paid themes that offer a bit more uniqueness, flexibility, and functionality. These cost $25 USD and up, depending on the developer and features.

I suggest getting a premium theme. Yes, it’s another cost — but here is why you should do it:

  • With a premium theme, you almost always get customer support from the developers. If you get in trouble, they are there for you. You don’t get that with a free theme.
  • With a premium theme, there are more controls and instructions so they are easier to change. Free themes don’t have that.
  • Premium themes tend to be a lot prettier.
  • Premium themes are faster and more SEO friendly.

The two best companies for premium themes are WooCommerce and StudioPress. My favorite is StudioPress as it is more SEO friendly, a bit sleeker, and cooler. WooCommerce is great for photographers and more “fun” personal blogs.

To install your theme, simply go to the left-hand column, click Appearance –> Themes –> Upload.

Whatever theme you picked will come as a .ZIP file for you to easily upload. From there, you just activate it, and it’s turned on! All themes come with a manual and help file so you can customize your design to your specific needs.

(If you want a custom logo, two sites to find freelancers are Upwork and 99designs.)

Step 6: Create your main pages

After you’ve uploaded your theme, you’re going to want to make a few basic pages on your website in addition to the blog posts. The difference between a page and a post is that a page is a static piece of content that lives separate from the blog. A post is a blog post that gets “buried” as you write more and more. For example, this post is a blog post. When I update again, another blog post will get put on top of it, and it will be pushed down in the archives, making it harder to find. But a page, like my About page, lives on the top of the website, right near the main URL, and does NOT get buried. It’s a lot easier to find.

To create these pages, go again to your left sidebar and click Pages —> Add New. (For blog posts, use Posts –> Add New.)

I recommend creating four basic pages to start:

  • About page – This where you tell people about yourself and your history, what your blog is about, and why it will help them. This is one of the most important pages on your website, so make it personable!
  • Contact page – People need a way to reach you! Be sure to be very clear on what emails you will and won’t respond to, so people don’t send you spam.
  • Privacy page – This is a standard user agreement page informing readers what the applicable laws on your site are, that you use cookies, etc. etc. You can find out-of-the-box examples throughout the internet.
  • Copyright page – This is a standard page letting people know you own this work and not to steal it. You can find out-of-the-box examples of these, too, throughout the internet.

(If you look in my footer, under the “About” section, you can see examples of all four of these pages!)

Step 7: Join our blogging course! (optional)

Superstar Blogging
If you’re looking for more in-depth advice, I have a very detailed and robust blogging course that uses my ten years of blogging knowledge to help you start, grow, and monetize your website. It gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how I run this website and features detailed analytics, tricks, tips, and secrets about what I do. You’ll learn everything I know about creating a successful blog.

I will help you come up with your domain name, sign up for hosting, create engaging content, go viral, network with bloggers, get media attention, master SEO, create products, grow a newsletter, and make money. I will give you the tools for success — and then show you how to use those tools!

Plus, you’ll get over 12 hours of expert interviews, edited feedback on your writing, monthly webinars and Q&As with me (ask me anything!), tech support and help setting up your blog, and a community of bloggers to help you succeed right out of the gate.

I’ll be there every step of the way. I’ll be your personal mentor.

If you’re interested, click here to learn more and get started!

***

That’s it! You’ve set up your basic website. Sure, there are social media buttons to add, blogs to write, images to upload, and things to tweak but all that comes later. Once you do the steps above, you have the framework needed to create and share your story with the world! To recap on how to start a travel blog:

By following these steps, you can start your travel blog and your stories and tips with the world! (That’s where the real fun begins!)

 

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, including the links for HostGator and Bluehost. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase using these links. If you have any questions about the companies or my status as an affiliate, please don’t hesitate to email me.

The post How to Start a Travel Blog appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.



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7 ways to get out a Labor Day message

Hang on—summer’s ending already?

While many of us have been distracted making barbecue plans or scrambling to get the kids off to school this week, a perfect communication opportunity has arrived with Labor Day weekend.

Have you prepared a tweet or a post thanking your hardworking staff, warning customers of closings or celebrating unions for the advances they brought to working-class lives?

In a tight job market, Labor Day can offer an easy communications win, showcasing your staff or positioning your organization as a generous employer for offering a day off on what is, after all, a federal holiday.

[RELATED: Discover the secret to creating workplaces employees love]

Here are a few ways to note the occasion:

1. Raid your archives for vintage ads or photos.

We working stiffs at Ragan Smelters & Boilermakers Inc. have noted before that old photos and advertisements are a great form of content. Several years back, Coca-Cola celebrated Labor Day by posting an ad from 1941, along with a few paragraphs of background. (“The first Labor Day was celebrated on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, and it was declared a national holiday in 1894.”)

The original ad strove to make a gal or a fella proud to be a working stiff and, by extension, to make a high-sugar beverage seem every bit as patriotic as a frosty mug of beer.

Johnnie Walker had a similar idea at the start of the summer, tweeting a vintage ad . This week an Ohio library turned to its archives for a photo and a glimpse of history.

2. Piggyback your message on Labor Day travel.

Seems like everybody in the U.S. and Canada plans to jump in the car to visit everybody else this weekend, meaning a lot of us will find nobody home when we knock. A firm called My Credit Focus links travel to the idea of fixing your lousy credit. (Did you really need that trip to Bermuda last winter?)

The company posts an article from Nerd Wallet warning that this will be the busiest travel weekend in history. Uh-oh. Message: Better stay home and pay off that credit card bill, I guess.

WAFF 48 in Huntsville, Alabama, warns about traffic deaths on Labor Day weekend. Mississippi and ’Bama top the list. Let’s be safe out there, guys.

3. Thank your working stiffs.

TaylorCraft, a cabinet maker, produced a tweet that artfully thanks its workers while visually conveying the quality of its woodwork.

4. Tout a nonprofit partner.

If you handle social media for the U.S. Labor Department, you’d better not forget Labor Day. A tweet Thursday touted Hope for Prisoners, a nonprofit that “facilitates reentry and reintegration services to men, women, and young adults who are exiting various segments of the judicial system.”

The department also got in an inartful plug for the president, but the tweet still highlights a serious obstacle that released prisoners face: How do you get a job when you’ve got a criminal record?

Labor also extolled a new website with information on federal laws, while touting health coverage through Association Health Plans.

5. Promote your cause.

The Labor Department can tweet about the holiday all it likes. Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group, found irony in President Donald Trump’s scrapping a planned pay raise for federal workers as the nation heads into Labor Day weekend.

6. Remind your stakeholders.

Fairfax County Public Schools does not want you to drop off the kids outside the schoolyard and zoom off on Monday. ( Mom, Dad—wait! I think they’re closed!)

If your cow gets sick, don’t expect VMRD, a Washington state manufacturer of veterinary diagnostic test kits, to helicopter an emergency shipment to your barn. Sorry, Bossy. Gotta wait until Tuesday to sniff out the cause of those methane rumblings in the tummy. (Tummies, actually. Cows have four.)

Elsewhere in animal land, 1-800-PetMeds would like to ship a care package to a lucky dog out there.

Stunt cyclists, if you were looking forward to pedaling to Pittsburgh’s first bike park on Labor Day, don’t. Their employees are probably wheeling over to visit you.

7. Tout an event.

Planning (or sponsoring) a Labor Day Reggae Fest? A Facebook event page is a good way to do it.

If you’d like to switch from your humdrum communications job to a career of tackling runaway bank robbers and granny kidnappers, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department would like you to drop by its Labor Day weekend recruitment fair.

Chicago’s North Coast Festival has been stacking up tweets for days, touting music makers (Dancing Astronaut?), liver-assailing beverages , and exuberant youngsters in excessively colorful scarves. (Woodstock lives.)

And hey, that event you are sponsoring or hosting? Watch for posts by participants, and retweet them, as Philly’s Made in America festival did.

Now quick, get that tweet up, and go enjoy a hard beverage on a beach in Bermuda.



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Prove you’re a PR powerhouse and bring this iconic event to your organization

Every spring, we bring our PR & Media Relations Conference to NYC to show industry professionals the latest trends and best practices.

Could your organization’s headquarters be its next home?

You’ll be joining the ranks of such past hosts as KPMG and Con Edison, and you’ll get to tailor the content to the training needs of your team.

This conference is a chance to hear from professionals who will share tips for traditional and social media pitching, crisis communications, measurement, brand reputation campaigns and content marketing.

If you have an office in New York City, you can get free training for your team and establish your organization as a PR powerhouse by hosting this exciting event.

All you have to provide is two and a half days of access to a meeting space capable of accommodating up to 150 attendees and two tracks of sessions, ideally on March 3–5.

Get free training for your team without leaving the office—bring this conference to your organization next spring.

Contact Yolanda Maggi or visit our website to learn more today.

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Prove your content marketing expertise

 

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5 Instagram updates PR pros should know

Instagram has been special from the beginning.

Since first launching in 2010, the social networking app has seen unparalleled growth, rapidly expanding from one million users within the first two months on the market, to 800 million users by September 2017.

To better meet the needs of their diverse and bourgeoning user base, Instagram has employed a steady stream of updates since the app's inception, catering not only to consumers, but to brand managers too.

[RELATED: Overcome your biggest challenges in internal comms, PR and social media]

Businesses and independent contractors have a lot to gain from these updated features, as do the PR professionals who represent them.

Here's how to better connect with your audience, raise brand awareness and integrate Instagram's updated features into your communications strategy:

1. Tailored feeds

It's no secret that Instagram has an algorithm in place which helps them to better populate user feeds, but prior to this year this data was largely based on the kinds of things the site perceived users wanted to see based on past searches and likes.

This year has seen a major change in this process, allowing users to select the kind of content they want to see. In addition to the updated ability to follow hashtags, the site has recently unveiled the Instagram Explore page, which lets users browse content via categorical "channels" selected by the user themselves. Better yet, the contents of your Search and Explore pages are hardly set in stone.

The takeaway : The result is a more personalized and user-friendly experience, which will link users to relevant brand avenues more organically.

2. Clickable links

This past March, Instagram introduced functioning, clickable links and hashtags. This feature is ultimately simple in form and function: simply include “#” or “@” in your bio to prompt the applicable links, be it a partnering business or relevant hashtag. Then, as other users view your profile, they will have the option to follow your clickable links to your partnering avenues.

The takeaway : This feature is ideal for cross-promotion. Whether you're promoting a company, product or brand, clickable links provides the around-the-clock means to advocate for your clients. Beyond that, implementing clickable links can transition your professional profile into something of a live portfolio so you can actively self-promote while you're at it.

3. Automatic scheduling

Prior to this year, the only way to manage Instagram posts prior to posting them was by saving a draft or utilizing a push notification tool. Even then, the functionality was limited.

In response to the overwhelming number of users who have been gunning for an automatic scheduling system, Instagram announced a brand-new API in January, allowing for business profiles to schedule posts within the platform. According to TechCrunch, a feature like this for non-business profiles is in the works for an early 2019 release.

The takeaway : For PR pros who depend on Instagram for brand promotion, posting just got a lot less time consuming. For now, users can access on-platform native scheduling by working with one of their Facebook Marketing Partners or Instagram Partners, or by registering for approved subscription services, such as HootSuite, Sprout Social or SocialFlow.

4. Inbox simplification

The month of May saw several business-friendly updates on Instagram, inbox simplification being one of them.

If you use Instagram as a business platform, the inbox function can be invaluable. However, prior to this year, filtering story mention alerts and spam from actual inquiries was something of an arduous task. The new and improved Instagram inbox includes filtering, starring and a handy quick reply feature. Incoming messages will also be sent to “direct inbox” rather than “pending” so that users never miss a message.

The takeaway : As a PR pro, you should be utilizing your Instagram inbox as a means to be social, and inbox simplification makes it easier to do so. These new features promise to decrease inbox clutter, making the task of engaging with existing and potential clients much more efficient and effective.

5. Story updates

Every single month of this year has seen a new feature for Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories were inspired by Snapchat—but have since taken on a life of their own, and recent updates have included the introduction of Type Mode, new font styles, GIFs, mention stickers and the option to repost other users' stories. Even if some of these features seem to err on the side of fun, keep in mind that even the fun features can help you deliver a more effective message to your audience.

The takeaway: The Stories feature is an indispensable tool for those trying to invigorate their PR efforts. In addition to providing informal access to your audience, Stories employs highly engaging elements, such as multimedia, to lend staying power to your message. New Stories features have also made it possible for users to easily re-share the content you post, making it that much more important to deliver impactful content via this avenue.

Zakiya Kassam is a freelance writer and technical editor. You can find her on Twitter: @zakkassam. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

6 tips to optimize media coverage

This article originally ran on PR Daily in August of 2017.

The benefits of a media mention go far beyond SEO.

Here are tips on getting the most out of that coverage.

1. Look for the link.

If a media mention links to any page on your website, you’re having a great day for search engine optimization. Links to your website give you authority, and authority increases the likelihood that anything on your domain willrank.

This is why PR pros have so much power to affect search rankings. To capitalize, however, you must understand the value of links and capture the opportunities of press mentions.

[RELATED: Join us for our 10th anniversary of the Employee Communications, PR & Social Media Summit at Microsoft]

To measure the value of a link (or a potential link), enter the URL of the publication’s website into Open Site Explorer. This will show you its “domain authority.”

domain-authority

Every link matters, but links to your site from authoritative sites matter much more. Try to win mentions (and links) from any site with higher domain authority than your own website.

Actively seek mentions and links to your website on a regular basis. When you understand the value of external links and their impact on search rankings, you look at media coverage differently. Eventually, you look at your PR differently, and you strategically create content that is worthy of press and links.

If you’ve been mentioned by the press and that mention didn’t include a link, politely ask that the publication link back to you. If they do, celebrate. If not, move on.

2. Add an annotation.

Months or years from now, it will be hard to remember what caused a traffic increase. Perhaps even days from now, someone on your team might ask about that spike in traffic. Adding a note into Google Analytics will help.

Annotations are tiny notes that appear under the timeline in Analytics reports. Add them by clicking the tiny, gray triangle below the timeline on any report.

annotation

You can type in a note associated with any day. When you do, start the note with “press” to differentiate it from annotations about other things, such as newsletters or website changes.

3. Add an “as seen in” logo on your home page.

The “halo effect” is a bias we all have built into our brains. When you see the logo of a credible brand on a website, the site looks more credible.

If the publication that mentioned you is a well-known brand, take a minute to add the logo to your home page. It doesn’t have to link to the article. It’s better if it doesn’t; you don’t want visitors to leave your website.

quill-engage

If you reference the coverage in your news section, you can link to the piece there.

4. Put an excerpt in your news section.

Linking to a story is fine, but to keep your visitors from leaving, write a summary of the article and include excerpts. If you sketch the gist, readers won’t feel the need to click away.

You can also pull out the piece’s best quotes and add those to your top page or your marketing materials. Quotes from a respected source convey trust and credibility; they can seem like a testimonial or an endorsement.

5. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Add a short list of all the places you’ve been mentioned in your social media profiles—especially LinkedIn. These can appear as text, or you can create a small graphic that shows the name of the publication and the title of the article. This can be added as “media” to your summary. The dimensions are 280 pixels by 135 pixels.

Here’s what I whipped up for my LinkedIn page:

andy-forbes

You can also add links in the “Publications” section of your LinkedIn profile.

6. Order a mounted plaque.

If you have a physical space with a lobby area, hanging a plaque that features positive coverage can build trust in your brand with anyone who walks through the door.

The warm glow of coverage can be fleeting, so it’s nice to have something a bit more tangible. If you follow the tips above, however, your good fortune might not be so fleeting after all.

Andy Crestodina is strategic director of Orbit Media. A version of this post first ran on the Orbit Media blog.

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CityBldr Moves Closer to Becoming a Built World Powerhouse, and a Founding Member Interview

There’s a real estate tech company based in my hometown Seattle that I’m a longtime fan of.

No, I’m not referring to that industry tech titan I formerly worked for. Nor am I referring to a certain billion dollar tech-enabled brokerage, with a red logo.

I’m specifically referring to CityBldr.

They figure out the highest and best use of any property or parcel of land. They operate as a commercial real estate brokerage, and broker land deals.

On the consumer side, their product is pretty simple. Fill out your address, and receive an estimate for what your home would be worth to a developer. They generate a lot of home seller leads, and refer them to other agents.

Peel back the curtain, and there is some incredible software and AI behind the scenes. Their software can tell you that a parking garage and an adjacent dilapidated warehouse could be worth 75% more if they were sold together rather than individually, as an example.

More recently, they announced their plans to be a (differentiated) iBuyer. They aren’t competing with Opendoor, Zillow, and Offerpad directly, because they are targeting homes that can be converted into multi-family. A home may be worth $750,000 to a buyer, but $1,100,000 to a real estate developer. CityBldr is the way sellers will find that out.

It’s not surprise cities are not well optimized. There’s a long term play to be made to help urban planners improve their respective cities all over the globe. Hence, their tag line of “We build smart cities”.

The latest news from the company is that they’ve successfully raised $4.3 million of a $4.5 million round (GeekWire story here), on top of the $2.9 million raised last year.

My prediction: CityBldr is one of the next home runs we’ll see in the built world sector. I could not be more excited to watch their growth over the next few years, and am thrilled that I’ll have somewhat of a front row seat given their HQ are here in Seattle.

I’ve known their co-founder and CEO, Bryan Copley, for a number of years. He’s a bold entrepreneur with a massive vision, and huge ambition. We’re fortunate to have him as a founding member of the Geek Estate Mastermind. In fact, he was literally the very first member to setup his recurring Paypal payment profile, so I’m eternally grateful for his support. I had the pleasure to ask him a few questions to dig more into their recent work and where he sees the industry heading.

What is CityBldr, and why did you start it?

CityBldr connects buyers and sellers of underutilized property. We started when we realized that the market was commonly mispricing underutilized real estate.

What real estate technology trends or products are you most excited about?

Smart cities and construction tech. Both hold immense potential to make cities more functional, sustainable and affordable.

What was the fundraising process like?

Formal speed dating followed by thorough diligence. It’s an intense but necessary process that requires focus and stamina.

What are two of CityBldr’s business goals for 2019?

Close $500M of deals (brokerage and acquisition) and build a pipeline of 10,000 new homes.

What do you like about being a Geek Estate Mastermind member?

The deep dives into complex industry questions and challenges and the curated community. There’s not another real estate-focused community like it.

Interested in joining a community of the world’s most innovative and diverse real estate creatives, doers, and pioneers?

Apply for Membership

The post CityBldr Moves Closer to Becoming a Built World Powerhouse, and a Founding Member Interview appeared first on GeekEstate Blog.



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3 frustrating challenges communicators in highly regulated industries face

If you’re a communicator in a highly regulated industry, you’ve probably felt a little jealous of big consumer brands that pull off creative, spur-of-the-moment campaigns and content.

You’d love to push the envelope like that—but you’re faced with the following:

  1. Lengthy approval processes that make it hard to put out timely, relevant content
  2. Confusing and vague rules about what you can and can’t say
  3. A conservative leadership team that doesn’t want to take any risks

ConEd, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Marathon Petroleum and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory overcame these same obstacles—and they want to show you how.

Join them at the Best Practices for Communicators in Highly Regulated Industries Conference on Nov. 8–9 in New York City.

This conference will give communicators in utilities, health care, finance, insurance and government the chance to learn from and network with peers in similar industries.

You’ll leave with smart strategies to craft more creative content, work more efficiently with your legal team and gain buy-in from senior leaders.

Push the envelope with your communications while still playing by the rules—register today.

Register here.

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Infographic: How businesses can use Instagram Stories

Savvy marketers and communicators know Instagram Stories are wildly popular.

Around 300 million users look at Instagram Stories every day—and with an average of 28 minutes spent per day, there’s a significant opportunity for brand managers to grab new audiences on the platform.

[RELATED: Craft engaging stories that inspire audiences, build brand loyalty and more.]

However, brands are not a social media user’s best friend. Your organization should approach social media in a different way—and the kinds of stories you tell must meet a higher standard.

This infographic from 99 Firms looks at how businesses are using Instagram Stories to talk about their products.

Major takeaways include these:

  • Most stories (59 percent) link users to a shopping page.
  • Posts with a geotagged location get 79 percent more engagement.
  • Most mobile users hold their phone vertically, so Instagram Stories should be shot accordingly.

To learn how high-profile companies such as Mercedes Benz, Cover Girl and Lego have used Instagram Stories to reach their customers, see the full infographic below.



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Papa John’s slams its founder in open letter

Papa John’s is looking for distance from founder John Schnatter—and is doing so in a highly public way.

The controversial principal stakeholder and former CEO made headlines when he blamed poor sales on NFL protests against police-violence during thenational anthem—and when it was leaked he had used the n-word.

He was forced to resign, and now the company he built into a national chain is trying to move on. However, Schnatter has been fighting his ouster.

As PR Daily previously reported:

Papa John’s also has to contend with Schnatter, who recently published a website and accompanying ads taking on the company’s leaders. He also lashed out at the chain’s recent apology.

CNBC reported:

Schnatter's spokesman Terry Fahn said the ad was misleading.

"The video produced by the company represents another example of the company attempting to hide the true facts," said Fahn, a strategic communications and crisis management executive for Sitrick. "It omits the avalanche of comments made by customers, employees and others who support John Schnatter and feel that the company is wrong."

Fahn said Schnatter supports diversity, equity and inclusion within Papa John's but remains concerned that the company is acting "improperly."

Now the board of directors is attacking Schnatter in unvarnished language.

In an open letter, the board wrote:

John Schnatter is promoting his self-interest at the expense of all others in an attempt to regain control. John Schnatter is harming the Company, not helping it, as evidenced by the negative impact his comments and actions have had on our business and that of our franchisees. We have tried to meet directly with John Schnatter to discuss how we can move forward in the best interest of all stakeholders. However, John Schnatter had not responded to our requests until last week when his attorney conveyed his conditions for a meeting, stating John Schnatter would agree to meet only if we cancelled the annual Operators Conference (OpCon) and allowed John Schnatter alone to reschedule it to a date, time and location of his choosing. OpCon, which is being held this week, is a critical annual meeting that brings together approximately 1,500 team members and franchisees from all around the world. John Schnatter’s demand that it be cancelled just one week in advance was unreasonable and does not support his purported concern for the future success of Papa John’s franchisees, employees and team members.
[FREE GUIDE: 3 helpful tips for your crisis comms prep]

The board is preparing for Schnatter to attempt a hostile bid to retake the company.

USA Today wrote:

Throwing down a gauntlet to Schnatter, [the board] said “we will defend the company against his actions and continue to do what is right for Papa John’s and our stakeholders.”

The board members said they have received “outspoken support from customers, employees, franchisees, partners and shareholders for the actions we are taking.”

The company last week hired two investment banking firms, which experts said may signal it expects Schnatter to make a hostile bid to buy the company outright.

Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s in 1984, owns 31 percent of its shares, a stake that is worth about $400 million.

Schnatter declined to respond to reporting about the open letter, in which the board laid out specific grievances with Schnatter, detailing his ignoring its advice and behaviors that led to several PR crises.

It listed:

  • The Board specifically directed John Schnatter not to talk about the NFL controversy related to the National Anthem on the 2017 third quarter earnings call. In direct defiance of these instructions, John Schnatter made unscripted comments about the NFL controversy.
  • When independent market research showed that a change in spokesperson and advertising strategy was warranted, John Schnatter commissioned his own research and produced separate commercials that starred himself.
  • It is simply not true that the Board asked John Schnatter to become Executive Chairman, as he has recently asserted. Rather, John Schnatter suggested to individual Board members that he should become Executive Chairman and even directed a member of management to make unauthorized contact with the Compensation Committee’s independent consultant in July 2018 to ask for peer compensation data.
  • John Schnatter misinformed the Board about the circumstances surrounding the termination of the Company’s relationship with Laundry Service.

On Twitter, some have remarked on the tone of the letter as well as the content:

The letter from the independent directors comes after Schnatter accused the current Papa John’s CEO and his team of misconduct.

Reuters reported:

Papa John’s International Inc (PZZA.O) founder John Schnatter, who is trying to regain control of the pizza chain after resigning as chairman in July, accused Chief Executive Officer Steve Ritchie’s “inner circle” of sexual misconduct, an allegation the company denied on Tuesday.

[…] “The company’s HR department has detailed evidence of sexual misconduct, harassment and intimidation by virtually everyone in Steve’s inner circle, and relating to board members as well,” Schnatter’s letter said.

What do you think of the high-profile nature of these moves and counter-moves, PR Daily readers?

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This Non-Nomadic Life (Part Duex)

Matt in NYC
Posted: 8/30/2018 | August 30th, 2018

Years ago, when I tried to slow down and travel less, I wrote a post on my new “non-nomadic” life.

It didn’t stick — and I was quickly back on the road.

It was a pattern that lasted for years.

I’d come home, proclaim to my friends was I’m going to settle down for real this time only to leave again a few months later.

It became sort of a running joke between my friends and me.

(And I think here too, with all my “no, for real!” blog posts.)

But, after many false starts, I finally became truly non-nomadic last year.

This year, I’ve only spent a combined two and half months on the road. While that’s a lot by “real world” standards, it’s not a lot for a guy who spent a decade moving every few days/weeks/months and named his blog after his being a nomad.

I don’t even have another trip planned until October — and, right now, it’s only 50/50 that it will happen.

This is the least I’ve ever traveled since I went on the road in 2006.

My friends had grown accustomed to me popping in and out of their lives. Now they are getting used to the weirdness of having me around. It’s been nice to get texts asking what I’m doing and if I’m free again.

And you know what?

I love my non-nomadic life.

I think settling down has stuck this time around because I’m ready to finally do so. As I said in a blog post earlier this year, I finally became OK with the fact that life changes, situations change, and your desires change.

Moving on doesn’t mean abandoning who you were.

I kept traveling as a way to hold on to the past. I couldn’t let go of the image I had in my head of life on the road and all it symbolized: freedom, adventure, meeting new people, and a lack of responsibilities.

It was all very fun — and I didn’t want to grow up. I had made a life around traveling and, in a case of irony, I couldn’t leave my comfort zone.

To me, doing so would negate all the hard work I had done. It would be admitting defeat. It would be like death.

But trees don’t grow because they blow in the wind; they grow because they have roots.

And accepting that if I really wanted to lead the life I wanted — one of routine and presence — that I would need roots was a huge shift in my mindset.

I love my routine: the daily writing, working on this website, sleeping in my own bed, cooking breakfast, going to the gym, seeing friends regularly, dating, and just being in one place and not tired all the time.

Don’t get me wrong: I love travel and still want to see countless places around the world. I roam the guidebook aisle in my bookstore, dreaming of where I might go next. I search flight deals each day. I imagine myself in far-off tropical lands and picture the people I’d meet there.

Yet I’m OK with “going tomorrow.”

After so many years on the road, these last few months at home have taught me that my nomadic ways are truly over.

As I sip tea at a cafĂ© where the barista knows what I want when I walk in the door, I’m perfectly content where I am.

I’ve seen a lot of the world.

I’ve had incredible experiences.

But, right now, it’s time to just enjoy the simplicity and pleasure that comes with staying in one place for more than a few days.

The rest of the world can wait a bit longer.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines. Start with Momondo.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates. (Here’s the proof.)

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.

Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!

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5 lessons from a Hurricane Harvey crisis response

A good crisis message can reverberate days or months afterward.

A year ago, as cities in southeast Texas flooded, so too was the world flooded with messages related to Hurricane Harvey: response and relief efforts, advice to residents and news bulletins.

As a communications professional in Texas, I watched the disaster unfold as the hurricane hit close to home, giving me an intimate glimpse of the heroism in the Houston area with agencies, first responders and fellow Texans helping their neighbors in need.

Crisis communicators also rose to the challenge. However, one particularly poignant statement holds a lesson all PR professionals can learn from. In advance of the storm, Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios (in the absence of Mayor CJ Wax) of Rockport, Texas, advised residents to evacuate.

[FREE GUIDE: 3 things you (probably) didn't know about crisis communications]

He said in a press conference: “We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and social security number. We hate to talk about things like that. It's not something we like to do but it’s the reality; people don’t listen.”

The message resonated widely, was retweeted thousands of times, and the message itself became headlines in major news channels worldwide.

PR pros understand that messages must be crafted quickly and vetted by that organization’s chain of command, plus emergency management and legal entities. Often, the more people who review and approve a message, the weaker the message becomes. Mr. Rios’ message was strong. While being a responsible leader, Rios and the communicators who created the message showed the world a thing or two about powerful messaging.

1. Keep it simple.

The message was a single sentence that delivered an instruction a child could understand. By scrubbing the message of all ambiguity and euphemisms, Rios left residents with a simple message that was nearly impossible to misinterpret. Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb also demonstrated this beautifully with the simple message of, “Get Out of Dodge.”

2. Be specific.

Getting specific often counteracts efforts to simplify, as the two are often at odds with each other. The beauty of Rios’ message is that it did both. One simple sentence created a powerful image that had deep resonance for his audience.

3. Make it vivid.

Storytelling, examples and anecdotes are more effective than generalizations and statistics. If you paint a picture with your words, you’re much more likely to imprint a memorable message in your audience’s minds. The image of first responders checking the identification of deceased victims made a bigger impact than boilerplate precautionary statements ever could have. At a time when audiences are oversaturated with media, the Sharpie comment cut through the noise to get people to look up from their phones and listen.

Another instance of vivid messaging was when, in an interview with NPR, meteorologist Matthew Cappucci explained the magnitude of the rainfall Hurricane Harvey brought. Cappucci said that 9 trillion gallons of water in a 36-hour-period was equivalent to 33,000 Empire State Buildings (from basement to penthouse) or fourteen million Olympic-size swimming pools.

Most people wouldn’t know what 9 trillion gallons of water would look like—until they heard these vivid comparisons.

4. Find the narrative.

Good stories have a beginning, middle and end. Recipients of the message could easily slot the powerful Sharpie message into the “end” of this Hurricane story, and know exactly how this terrible narrative would end if they didn’t heed the advice of the mayor. The mayor told that narrative with no uncertain ending.

5. Appeal to emotions.

Emotions were already running high as thousands of people face a catastrophe that will change their lives for years to come. However, to get his message across, the mayor triggered a particular emotion (fear) in his target audience: those reluctant to evacuate.

Crisis communicators know all too well that there are often nuances that prevent bold and simple messages from being shared. PR professionals and crisis communicators must do their best to craft clear, useful messages in the hopes to limit the scope of tragedies.

As a Texan—and as a communicator—I was proud to see shining examples of excellent communications that ultimately saved lives.

Leila Lewis is a Corporate Communications professional in Austin, TX.

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7 ways a knowledge bank improves content creation

A lot of work, much of it collaborative, goes into content marketing.

Maybe you help your CEO or CMO write articles for outside publications, or you work with your sales team to create infographics or produce explainer videos to facilitate the sales process. Perhaps you byline your own content on your company blog.

When you work with an array of people on multiple content projects, two things are certain: You're going to need their expertise to create exceptional content, and you're going to have to work around busy schedules to get it.

[RELATED: Join us at Intel HQ for the Brand Storytelling & Content Marketing Conference.]

Using a knowledge bank (a.k.a. knowledge management template) to collect those insights and create content can enhance your efforts and improve efficiency throughout the process, especially when things get busy for you and your colleagues.

Using the company knowledge bank

This is a customizable tool for storing important information about your company, its key leaders and their industry insights. From sharing your company’s origins to addressing customers’ problems, this template can help you organize every detail necessary to save time when creating internal content as well as guest posts for external publications.

Your company, its leaders and your key employees probably have a ton of valuable information to fuel your content creation. That doesn't do your content team much good if it's not accessible in a central location—and that's what makes a knowledge bank so useful.

By establishing a hub for company knowledge, you’re providing a resource library for employees to equip themselves with the materials they need to simplify the content creation process and avoid major headaches.

Benefits and crucial steps

The knowledge you supply is the key to increasing productivity, employee engagement, and the quality (and effectiveness) of your content. Here’s a step-by-step guide to building your own company knowledge bank to streamline content creation:

1. Customize your template. Familiarize yourself with the template's tabs, and add any custom tabs that would be unique to your company. Consider how you and your team members might sort through a bank of information, and add tabs or filters to simplify navigation. Customize it in whatever way works best for your team.

2. Stay consistent with the small details. As you begin to input information, be sure regularly to add dates, relevant links, topics and content to each tab. This will make it much easier to navigate and organize content as you build your template.

3. Update it regularly. Make sure your examples and insights are fresh and timely; stay consistent, and update it regularly. Depending on your team's editorial calendar, monthly or quarterly reviews of your knowledge bank should keep it up to date.

4. Set guidelines for multiple users. If others use the template, guidelines are vital for consistency. Who will manage the Q&A process? Who will supplement answers with industry research? Who's taking the lead on creating content with those insights? Each person will probably use your bank differently, so set guidelines to keep it organized.

5. Add context where possible. Confusion is bound to arise if the content doesn't come with any context. Consider how other people on your team will be using the content. To avoid confusion or having content taken out of context, add relevant notes and follow-up questions.

6. Crowdsource knowledge across your team. Encourage your staff to answer questions about their roles and experiences. Using your team members’ ideas can be immensely helpful in strengthening articles; just make sure to quote and give credit where it’s due.

7. Make it accessible. If other people don’t know where to find your extensive bank of information, it won’t be helpful. You might not want every person in your company to input information each day—that could get a little confusing, not to mention cluttered—but everyone should be able to access it.

Don’t let great information and guidance go to waste. Open your knowledge bank, and keep adding new articles and insights to make your content creation more efficient and effective.

Nickie Bartels is the marketing editor of Influence & Co. A version of this article originally appeared on the Influence & Co. blog.

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4 myths about great workplaces

Many have felt that surge of envy when friends and peers describe their seemingly cushy work situations—whether it’s unlimited time off, luxurious office amenities or free gourmet snacks.

All that glitters is not gold, though—and those perks don’t necessarily translate into a fulfilling work environment.

Are you falling for the following myths about great workplaces?

1. Myth: Ping-Pong tables and happy hours are all you need for a great culture

Fact: A few fun touches might satisfy employees in the short run, but honest communication, inclusivity and strong values are what build a lasting culture.

2. Myth: Millennial employees want the same things as their older colleagues

Fact: Younger employees have different lifestyles and work preferences—and good HR communicators must take note of them.

3. Myth: Investing in talent development is a waste of time and money

Fact: Your employees want to grow their skills and responsibilities, and if you don’t give them that opportunity, another organization will.

4. Myth: If you pay employees well, they won’t leave your organization

Fact: It takes much more than a high salary to keep employees engaged and productive—something the experts at Zappos, Facebook, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Google understand.

Join experts from these top organizations for The Role of Communications in Creating Best Places to Work Conference Oct. 16–18 at Zappos’ Las Vegas headquarters.

They’ll share the tested communications strategies and HR practices you need to make your organization a top workplace and attract talented employees.

Save your spot today—the first 100 people to register for this event will be entered to win a $500 Zappos gift card.

Register here.

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4 ways to tell video stories about difficult topics

Editor's note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications' distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

Teresa Mahoney, a video journalist at The Oregonian newspaper, faced a challenge: how to tell the story of threats to steelhead habitats in Columbia River tributaries.

Solution? She selected a small set of representative data—the story of three fish tagged and tracked by scientists via radio transmitters.

Mahoney even named the fish to tell the story of their migration from the sea up the Columbia to a river whose water levels had dropped drastically because of agricultural irrigation.

“Humanize it with characters,” she says.

The story—part of a Ragan Training presentation “Visual journalism: Simple tricks for telling human stories in visually appealing ways”—exemplifies how she solved a problem that is also common in the numbers-heavy world of corporate storytelling.

Her work encompasses everything from animated investigative explainers to social media-friendly breaking news and feature videos.

Here are tips, issues and problems that can make or break video storytelling:

1. Use motion—and emotion.

Mahoney produced an amusing and inspiring video about a strongman Santa Claus—a corrections officer named Albie Mushaney who was once more than 100 pounds overweight and suffering from diabetes. After a warning from his doctor, he started lifting weights and was competing for the title of the world’s strongest man.

The videographer’s approach might seem obvious: Head to the gym with merry Kris Kringle and shoot him deadlifting 655 pounds.

[FREE GUIDE: The 7 questions you should be asking about brand journalism]

Yes, Mahoney got the workout shots, but she wanted a deeper story. “Big Bad Santa” Mushaney was a human beer barrel. What foods did he devour to fuel his mighty feats? (Twelve eggs a day, for starters.) How did he groom that groovy beard? (It’s called beard oil.)

“We spent a day in his life, basically,” Mahoney says. “We filmed him making breakfast and eating breakfast on camera. He was like, ‘This is a little weird.’ I was like, ‘No, don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine.’”

There was also deep emotion, as when Mushaney wept as he recalled his father, who had died recently.The first posting of the video got 300,000 views, 2,400 shares and 2,300 reactions, Mahoney says.

Here’s another video she was planning; it’s about a Portlander who raps about his cats.

2. If you lack current visuals, find alternative approaches.

Some dramatic stories are hard to tell, because the action is all in the past. This happens to Mahoney all the time.

As Mahoney retells it, the reporter tends to say something like: “I’ve got this great subject. This person had cancer, and they overcame it. And it was the result of Oregon’s air pollution.”

She replies, “That’s a really compelling story. I’d love to tell that. What are we going to see, though?”

“Oh, well, they already went through the chemo.”

“We don’t really have a whole lot to show there,” she says.

Yet there are ways to tell such stories. One story detailed a woman’s allegations that, years before, she had been sexually harassed by her high school teacher, Mahoney says.

Mahoney offers several solutions for such cases:

  • Use animation and graphics to set the mood and tone of the story.
  • Shoot a powerful interview that describes what happened, capturing the woman’s emotion.
  • Artifacts (such as documents or newspaper clippings) can help tell the story. In the school video, Mahoney got the former student read on camera a letter she had written to school officials at the time of the alleged harassment.

Also, when you can, vet your subjects in advance.

“If you have 20 people to choose from, call all of them, if you have to, and find out who’s going through that thing right now,” Mahoney says.

3. To communicate sprawling topics, narrow your focus.

Sometimes stories are highly complicated, with too much information or data to cram into a few minutes. Mahoney faced this when she was assigned to do a video to accompany reporting on salmonella.

In such cases, don’t cover the entire sprawling topic. “Focus on one thing,” she says. She also seeks to create evergreen content that can be recycled next time the topic is covered.

4. Get creative to overcome lack of access.

The Oregonian conducted a watchdog investigation into how National Guard armories became toxic: The firing of guns in indoor shooting ranges spread tiny particles of lead.

Mahoney couldn’t get access to an armory, yet she had to come up with a video. She produced two.

She went to a shooting range and shot a super slow-motion video of bullets leaving a handgun. This footage was released on its own and as part of the video about the investigative report.

How long should a video be? One tends to hear that they should run between 30 and 60 seconds. Mahoney, however, says a compelling story could run up to 10 minutes.

She says, “I think a video can just be as long as it’s supposed to be.”

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