OUR MUSINGS

Digital Learning Lunch: Team Collaboration With Google Apps

In an effort to stay on top of changes in technology for both external and internal purposes, we recently created what we like to call “Digital Learning Lunches.” These monthly lunches are designed to inform and educate all dgs team members on the latest digital tools and trends that are available for use. Every lunch handles its own unique topic, and takes place over our noon lunch hour (with food provided, of course).

For our first Digital Learning Lunch, our Digital Communication Associates, Chris and Austin, introduced us to the world of Google Apps, and how they can be utilized to achieve digital collaboration on certain projects that benefit from it . Demonstrating a few key apps, such as Google Docs and Google+ Hangouts, the DCAs took us through a step-by-step process of how to set up and use these tools, followed by a discussion of how they could be used internally to boost productivity.

Here’s what the two have to say:

Austin: “Google Docs is a cloud-based document builder (similar to Microsoft Word) that allows users to create documents, collaborate with others on those documents in real-time, and, because all documents are saved in Google Drive (Google’s free Cloud-based storage), access those documents on any device, anywhere. Google+ Hangout is a conferencing tool that includes one-on-one or group (up to 10 people) conversations, including video conference calls. Both services are free for anyone to use; all you need is a Google account.”

Chris: “Used as a set of collaboration tools, Google apps can be used to make it possible to work with people around the world without leaving your desk. Austin and I love to use Google Docs to work on projects at the same time without having to send multiple versions over email. It also allows us to see the revision history of a document and revert back to an older version if needed. If we have to take work home, we are able to start a Google Hangout video conference as we finish up the project.”

Austin: “Real-time collaboration can be a necessity in the fast-paced environment of an agency. To meet the demands of the industry, using these tools on projects that require collaboration between one or more team members can enhance efficiency. For instance, these tools assist with the weekly social media work we do with clients. Our weekly content calendars are developed on Sheets, Google’s version of Excel, which are then shared with each client. Because the spreadsheet is a living document, the client is able to make real-time edits to the content, without the need to send multiple emails back and forth, saving us time on the editing process and allowing us to post up to date, relevant content each week.”

If our first lunch is any indication, these lunches are sure to be fantastic learning opportunities for our team. Check back with us soon for recaps of future lunches – which are sure to be just any interesting as this one!

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Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

spam

What does Canada’s new anti-spam legislation mean for your business?

Spam and other electronic threats are a real concern to individual Canadians and businesses. The federal government passed a new anti-spam law in December 2010 that goes in effect on July 1, 2014. Once in force, the new law will apply to any business that sends commercial messages using electronic channels to sell or promote products or services.

If you send commercial messages to individuals in Canada, visit www.fightspam.gc.ca to find out what the new law will mean for you. This website has been set up by the Canadian federal government and includes answers to frequently asked questions about the law.

 

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Brands That the Best MBA Programs Can’t Save: Examples of Mistakes and Missteps

Branding tends to be a mysterious practice that, in recent years, has grown and become tangled with social media platforms in unique ways. Today’s post by guest blogger Juliana Davies highlights some of the mistakes that major brands like T.G.I. Friday’s have made on sites like Facebook, in a way that limits the new need for well-educated and clever “Internet” brand strategists in today’s business ecosystem. Juliana was involved in crafting this year’s best-ranked MBA programs, where more than sixty schools were assessed on the viability of their virtual academic programs to, among other things, create graduates with skills to tackle problems in an Internet-based branding environment.

Brands That the Best MBA Programs Can’t Save:  Examples of Mistakes and Missteps (by Juliana Davies)
In today’s business climate, the concept of ‘branding’ – creating and preserving a company image that is attractive to prospective customers – is highly important. While some branding strategies have earned companies widespread acclaim, other measures have been significantly less popular with customers and investors.

In the age of online business and social media marketing, industry analysts recognize several branding ‘missteps’ that can greatly hurt companies. Two Harvard Business Journal contributors recently noted that companies should not “expect people to stick around for nothing”; in order to implement an engaging online experience, the brand should use social media to reach out to customers and facilitate networking opportunities between site visitors. However, online technology can also harm a company’s image. For example, Business Insider reports that restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday’s recently offered a promotion, whereby the first 500,000 Facebook users to ‘like’ the eatery’s mascot, Woody, were entitled to a free burger. However, the company was not properly equipped to handle the overwhelming response; Woody reached his quota more than two weeks before the promotion ended, and T.G.I. Friday’s extended the offer to 1 million fans. Ultimately, the restaurant failed to deliver on its promise to any of the entitled individuals – and Facebook became “a forum for angry fans to vent their frustration with no moderation.”

Drastic changes to a company’s image can also lead to negative feedback, as Accenture recently learned. In 2000, Andersen Consulting parted ways with the Andersen accounting group and decided to adopt a different brand name to reflect the split. A Norwegian management consultant suggested Accenture, a portmanteau that symbolized “accent on the future”, and company executives embraced the idea. However, as TIME reports, the new name was instantly reviled as nonsensical corporate jargon. The negative buzz eventually led to a $100 million loss for the company. Radio Shack committed a similar blunder in 2009 when it dropped ‘Radio’ from its name and simply became, ‘The Shack’. While company marketers were probably striving for simplicity, many customers felt the new name ran counter to the brand’s high-tech image. Harry McCracken of Technologizer argued that the original name was “one of the company’s greatest assets”, while he characterized ‘The Shack’ as simply a “lousy name.”

One final branding mistake that companies make is to prioritize saved revenue ahead of customer interests. In response to the economic recession, many well-known businesses were forced to increase their prices; customers bemoaned the hikes, but appreciated the transparency. Popular DVD retailer Netflix, on the other hand, abruptly announced a 60 percent price increase for customers who received DVDs in the mail and had access to streaming online content (the company’s two core offerings). A significant number of customers found this strategy to be somewhat underhanded on the company’s part; more than 12,000 left negative comments on the site, while thousands cancelled their subscriptions. According to The Huffington Post, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings later conceded that the announcement was poorly handled.

Branding strategies do not always succeed – and sometimes, they downright fail. However, companies that emphasize customer engagement and cultivate a public-friendly brand image are much likelier to benefit in the long-term.

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A labor shortage? In this economy?

by Jim May

CNBC is running a story today that features several of our clients talking about their experiences butting up against the skilled labor shortage in the US. (Here, if you’re interested.) With unemployment where it’s been for the past 3 years, you’d think this topic would have gained a lot of traction by now, but it seems most people haven’t even heard about it, hence the title of this entry. Even among those who have, a fair number refuse to believe it. I participate in several online forums from time to time and got sucked into a discussion thread on the economy after a story similar to today’s ran on the national news several months ago. The relevant exchange, which was among a typically sharp group of individuals with diverse backgrounds, education levels and political persuasions, went something like this:

General Consensus: We can’t believe the news has the nerve to run stories about a labor shortage when unemployment’s so high. It’s obviously just spin from the government and companies that are offshoring jobs.

Me: My job puts me in close contact with a lot of American manufacturers and the skilled labor shortage is quite real and was discussed for years prior to the recession.

General Consensus: Nonsense. Maybe there’s a shortage of people willing to try to support their family on minimum wage and work for the peanuts people are paid in other countries.

Me: Actually, skilled manufacturing jobs pay quite well and people who excel in them can demand a premium right now.

General Consensus: You’re full of it. We all know people who were in manufacturing and had their jobs outsourced by employers who gave uneducated foreign workers an afternoon’s worth of training and pay them $1 an hour.

And there’s part of the problem with the public’s perception. When companies talk about skilled labor, they’re not referring to skills that can be picked up in an afternoon, or even a week or month of training. There are plenty of jobs for CNC programmers and operators, welders and other similar or related roles. When people bemoan the loss of manufacturing jobs, they’re often talking about unskilled jobs that anyone can do with little to no knowledge. And they’re right when they think that most of those jobs are gone for good. Their mistake is in not differentiating that type of work from the reality of what manufacturing in the US currently entails.

Of course, a large part of the issue also stems from decades of parents wanting their children to do ‘better’ than ending up with a manufacturing job. How many writers for TV shows and movies use shop class as lazy shorthand for a kid being dumber than his or her peers? And what parent would want their son or daughter to take such a path? In reality, though, today’s manufacturing jobs usually feature clean workplaces and require math and computer expertise that far surpasses what most of us are walking around with. And they do pay quite well.

So if you’re a parent, grandparent, high school teacher or in another position of influence over a high school kid, do them a favor and help them make an informed choice for their career instead of reinforcing outdated biases. I’m sure a local shop would be glad to have you bring them in to see what US manufacturing is like today. Taking advantage of such an opportunity might just spur an interest that leads them to a long and profitable career in an industry with high workforce demand.

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