Brandy is the Product Designer for Common Ground at Convio. In her 6+ years with Convio, she's grown a passion both for non-profit organizations and for great user experiences. Fostering a somewhat compulsive RSS feed problem, Brandy writes and reads about content, design, and all things end-user. Other guilty pleasures include Ohio State football, celebrity gossip, and really corny jokes. She lives in Austin, Texas.
Posted by Brandy Reppy at Aug 15, 2012 09:37 AM CDT
Categories: Content Management, Social Media, Technology
Ok, I'll admit it. I really love the show The Newsroom on HBO. I recognize that it's got its flaws, but frankly, I like it. Time will tell how it all plays out (am I the only one who thinks it's rapidly getting closer to real time?), but I was particularly struck by an event that happened in the second episode. Without hopefully giving out any spoilers, a character accidentally sends an email out to the whole company that was only supposed to go to one person. Cringe-worthy, indeed, this is the stuff of nightmares of anyone with email access. But, from time to time, it's bound to happen - and sometimes a lot more publicly.
To err is human...
As it turns out, no one is immune. Particularly now, in the 24-hour-news-cycle-oh-yeah-and-twitter times we live in, a public gaffe can potentially lead to some pretty nasty backlash. I'm sure most of you can think of several cases in the last couple of weeks alone where an easily made mistake has led to some pretty loud public outcry, with some pretty widely varying results.
So, how does a person or organization recover from an error like this? Well, there are a few articles offering advice, and all of them say pretty much the same thing: own it, communicate it, fix it, and learn from it. Easier said than done, I know, but it turns out, they're right. Hiding from a problem, victimizing your organization, blaming others, and committing common mistakes more than once are really the worst ways to reassure the public that you know the landscape - even if you truly are being wrongfully presented.
Those who fail to plan...
Now, I'm not suggesting that you go rolling over every time the public doesn't like what you're organization is doing. Nor do I think you necessarily need to send out a retraction when your email blast has something that's poorly formatted. Only you and your organization can and should decide when to execute on a correction if and when you feel its necessary. But, given the evolution of communication, it's just good business sense for your organization to have some sort of contingency plan, just in case things go awry. Then, you can just cross your fingers and hope you never have to use it.
I'd love to hear more from our readers about who has either dealt with this sort of thing, is dealing with it now, or has started working on their plans. It's a new era of communication, and the learning curve is steep, so any information you can share would be great!
After a recent relocation, I'm learning a lot about working remotely from a home office. Well, I don't know if you can call my desk jammed into the corner of my bedroom a "home office", but we'll roll with it.
I've been fortunate that my team, which now covers three time zones and two coasts, has been so flexible and accommodating to the new arrangement. We've been tinkering around with a lot of different settings, options, software systems, and phone arrangements over the past few weeks. It's definitely easier now than ever to work remotely, but that doesn't mean it's easy.
It also got me thinking about organizations, maybe like some of yours, where remote working isn't a product of having people who just happen to live in different areas, but is more a product of a lack of office space. Let's face it, the overhead of having an office can be more than a lot of organizations and companies can justify.
So, I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about some of the options out there (and I'll let you know if we've tried them). If anyone else has ideas, especially ones you've tried, then let us know!
When it comes to conferencing software, we already have one that we use as a company. But, for my team, we have a quick, 15-minute meeting every day, and we wanted to use something a little more lightweight. We all gather in a Google Hangout (via Google +), and knock the meeting out with out a lot of software overhead. Also, they seem to be adding a lot of features, inluding screenshare and a few app integrations that we've really been digging.(I've used Skype for personal video calls, and I've always been pleased with their software as well. I can't say I've used it for group calls, but the preference for Google's option is that it just requires a browser window.)
Though not always the best way to keep everyone engaged, there's certainly something to just gathering everyone on the phone for meetings. It's not as personal as everyone being in the same room, but it certainly allows everyone to end up on the same page better than a slew of emails.
We have a chat room that we are all logged into for the majority of the day. Sometimes it's silent, sometimes it's chatty, but it's always there as a way to communicate to a lot of people in a quick way.
Basecamp and Campfire
I can't speak for Highrise or Backpack, but as far as web-based collaboration tools go, the suite from 37Signals is some of the best out there. It's been a long time since I've used Basecamp as an actual project management tool, but it's been an ongoing repository for document sharing for a while in my group of colleagues. The pricing is pretty approachable, and certainly allows for collaboration and visibility into ongoing projects.
I'm giving this a shot for the first time next week, but a new crop of businesses out there designed specifically for people who don't have offices. These spaces typically provide some work space, internet connection, outlets, and small kitchen-like areas. They are often open spaces, and basically allow for those people like me, who don't work from an office, to have someplace to work. (If you've ever looked for a coffee shop to work from, you know that that can be hit-or-miss.)
If you're an organization or a person who is dealing with the remote office in a different way, or you want to just talk about one of the options I've already mentioned, then leave a comment and let us know. In the meantime, I'll be in my room...I mean, my office.
Sometimes it just happens. You hit a lull. You're totally uninspired to be doing what you're doing, and it's completely frustrating. Whether sparked by some internal fit of lethargy, organizational change, wintery days, or who knows what, we've all had those spans of time when the last thing we want to be doing is working. Bigger than an afternoon without the second cup of coffee, I'm talking about those times when the thrill is gone. And if you're anything like me, then in those moments you know you aren't producing work that you can be proud of.
Powering through moments like this can be tricky, and everyone has their own little strategies for getting by when you really just want to get gone. I've compiled a little list of what's helped me in the past, in hopes that maybe it will help others out there (and spark a conversation of what you in reader-land do to wake yourself back up).
The best way I’ve learned to combat lethargy is to force myself to stay busy. Checklists, to-do lists, and calendar appointments keep me focus. Ok, fair enough that I’m a bit of a checklist kind of gal anyway, but it gets me through. I learned a long time ago that it’s better to be busy than bored, and that’s just what works for me.
Staying Tuned In
I don’t like to talk about every thought I’ve ever had- after all, that’s what twitter is for. But when something is stifling me, it’s nice to talk to people who have gone through what I’m going through and can relate. The good stories make me feel better, the bad stories at least quiet my fears. Talk too much, and I'm instantly hit with analysis paralysis, but for me, keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s going on when I'm worried helps me feel more in control.
I am a podcast junky, and my RSS feed doesn’t exactly qualify as small. When I start to feel myself drifting away mentally from what I’m working on, I grant myself a little leeway in watching TED talks, reading pertinent blogs, or listening to podcasts from things that remind me that I’m doing a job I really like in a company I really like, and that there are a lot of opportunities out there.**
If push really comes to shove, and I can't fake it until I make it any more, there's really only one thing left to do: I make concerted changes. Whether personal or professional, sometimes it's been the tiniest change that has made the biggest difference. (And, admittedly, sometimes it's taken a belly smacker in the deep end off the high dive to really get re-inspired.) Only you can know for sure what will work for you, but allowing yourself a little bit of leeway to make the changes you need to to accomplish what you want can be a big step in rectifying the problem.
So now I’ll open up the floor for more insights. What habits do you have when you need to jumpstart yourself and reignite the flame?
** Try to combat the urge to watch unrelated-yet-hilarious YouTube videos, but if you must, might I recommend this awesome dance action – it’s a favorite around here.
We love our clients at Convio, and we love to hear their success stories. This year, we're happy to congratulate one of our (HQ local) clients, Austin Pets Alive!, for winning the ASPCA's nationally run $100K Challenge!
For those of you unfamiliar with the challenge which is now in its second year, it's not for the faint of heart. Participating organizations are tasked with saving at least 300 more cats and dogs between August and October 2011 than they did during the same period last year. It doesn't take a lot to know that this challenge meant really mobilizing in the community to get awareness and adoption up!
Austin Pets Alive! rose to the challenge though - and at the end of the contest, they didn't just meet their goals, they blew them out of the water. Overall, the organization saved the lives of an additional 850 pets in that three-month window.
Overall, the $100K Challenge was also wildly successful, saving 52,484 dogs and cats nationally - an increase of 8,977 lives saved over the same three months last year.
Austin Pets Alive! attests that creative events and promotions really added to the success of the organization. But also, check out how creative they are online. If you look to adopt a pet, they not only have a write up about the animals, but also pictures and my favorite feature - video. And that goes for dogs AND cats. It's such a creative use of the medium, and really allows visitors to connect not only with the mission, but also with the pets and the people who benefit.
Check out this video from the ASPCA's site to see more about the mission of the challenge and learn about the organizations that participated. And once again, congratulations to Austin Pets Alive!
For years, the bane of every email marketer's existence has been staying off of the dreaded spam filter and staying in good graces with readers. But now, it seems there is another challenge facing email marketers, and it's worth your time to keep it in mind. Call it bacn, bacon, or graymail, it's that "other" kind of email - not personal, not spam - that's making it harder and harder to get noticed in an overflowing inbox.
Microsoft has recently announced that they are increasing their efforts to help filter out the cacophony in Hotmail. Not too long ago, Google also introduced a feature in Gmail called Priority Inbox, which has automatic classification of the importance of an email based on their criteria, but also allows users of the service to train the Gmail filter what is and is not "important", and higher prioritized, email. From Apple Mail to a half a dozen inbox monitoring services, there are all kinds of hurdles out there for email marketers to jump in order to stay not only off of the spam list but also on the radar.
The Only Constant is Change
There's not much any of us can do to stop the filtering systems and bacn overload that plagues email inboxes. Unlike spam filters, which seemed to have more specific rules to protect against malicious behavior, this is really about helping readers from being overloaded by the noise and missing the signals. Usable, consumable emails are more important now than ever. So what is an email marketer to do - especially one who is busy and stretched too thin already? To help facilitate the conversation about what you can do to get your email noticed, I've compiled a short list here of suggestions we offer all of our clients (with a few brief explanations of each), but would love to hear from you what you've found to be successful for your organization.
In the U.S alone, it's estimated that 35% of American adults use a smartphone. And, 87% of them are accessing the internet and email with these phones. If you look at your email on a smart phone, and there is any moment that you need to pinch, zoom, re-orient, or squint, it'd be wise to do a little tweaking to make it more consumable on the go.
It's not polite to categorize people based on just a little information that you know about them in person. But when it comes to email, there's nothing wrong with boxing people up. Segmenting your audience by using data you already have (or data that they likely will volunteer to you) is a great way to make sure you're sending the right information to the right people. You would never solicit major gifts from the $15 donor. Yet with email, it seems there's often a lack of clarity on the audience that results in blanket emails. This can be a turn-off to the over-emailed masses who don't want to guess whether the content in your email will have anything to do with their interests.
Increase your subscription options
Obfuscating unsubscribe opportunities won't get you in anyone's good graces. But, adding options for contact frequency can be a great way to help get readers to stay on your list and get the information that they want. Not everyone wants every alert that you send out, but giving readers an option to only receive one email a month, or only receive important action alerts, helps to encourage subscribers that you're listening, and you want to do something that's convenient for both of you.
Cut to the chase
The time users spend looking at email is getting shorter all of the time. Studies show that users are spending less than a minute on average glancing at newsletters, and that's assuming they open them to begin with. I don't expect everyone to pour through the 586 page study on email newsletter usability, but understanding a very small time frame for capturing a reader's attention is worth a thought. If you have an action you want users to take, make it clear. If you want to inform your constituency about an event, a disaster, or an injustice, it's best to get to it, and quickly. Sometimes you only have the 3 minutes before the waitress gets to the table.
These are a just a few things to consider. What else are you doing to help ensure that your email gets seen?
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