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Jun
17
2013
What's Your Content WAR? Maranda Gibson

I'm a big baseball fan and recently I’ve gotten interested in Sabremetrics. It's a lot of math but the interesting thing about it is how Sabremetrics is being used to determine a player's value in terms of their on-field contributions. Did you ever see Moneyball? Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s patched together a team using the values within Sabremetrics. One of the most interesting metric is that of WAR.

WAR stands for "wins above replacement" and is used to determine a player's value based on their total contributions. Let's say there is a player who never commits errors, hits doubles on a consistent basis, but doesn't hit a lot of homeruns – WAR is a statistic that helps the front office determine if that player contributes more than a replacement player (someone on the bench or in the minor leagues). There is much more to the WAR stat than that, but the important thing to remember is that WAR paints a clear picture of a player's ability based on all of their field abilities.

What is Your Content WAR?

Look at your content in terms of WAR. You want to see something that is providing an overall value. Content doesn’t need to hit a home run every time it comes up to the plate. You want consistent and shareable content.

Look beyond links to see the full picture of what your website is doing for you. A page that gets a lot of traffic but not a lot of conversions may not be ready to DFA (designate for assignment) when the traffic is going to another page. Use your analytic tools to see where that traffic goes next and then use all of the numbers to determine if that content still has value. Inbound links is not the only metric to determining what content performs well.

Follow your keywords to see if you could make slight adjustments to you page to gather more of that traffic. When a baseball player has been doing well offensively the manager might decide to move him up in the batting order because he’s getting on base more than someone else. By following the long-tail keywords that is getting people to your content, you can discover ways to move that page up in the batting order.

Remember that WAR is about value and not about one stat or another. When we evaluate the progress and the success of our content we often want to look at it with the question of "where are my links?" but I don’t believe content marketing is that black and white. I think it's more about the value created.

So play on, content marketers, and in the words of Babe Ruth, "Every strike brings me closer to the next home run."

Jun
12
2013
Keys to Being An Effective Listener Maranda Gibson

I have a bad habit of not looking up from my cell phone when someone is talking to me. I am listening, yes, but I am not giving that impression. When I keep my attention on my phone, I’m sending the non-verbal message that I am not listening.

In communication studies the person talking is called the “sender” and the person listening is called “the receiver”. When the receiver has their head down, looking at their phone, or doing something else, they are not as engaged in the conversation as the sender might like. I need to teach myself how to put down the phone and become a better receiver. Here are three keys to becoming an effective receiver.

  1. Take a moment to digest the sender’s body language. When a message is being delivered, a lot of it is going to be inferred through the non-verbal messages displayed by the speaker. Your job as the receiver is to make inferences to what is being said and how it is being displayed by the presenter. Your sender’s body language is going to tell you a lot of things that are "unsaid" in the presentation and it’s important to watch for those signals, and not just listen to the words with your head down in your laptop or your smartphone.
  2. Resist the urge to finish the sender’s thoughts or sentences. When listening, there is a temptation to try and think about how you are going to respond. The problem with this is that you develop preconceived notions of the message that is being sent and it’s not always an easy task to dismiss the assumptions you’ve made when you “think ahead” of the speaker. You don’t want to miss the message because you’re trying to figure it out. Bonus: One way to practice this is to wait 5 seconds after someone talks before you respond. We don’t recommend this as a permanent fix because it will feel awkward and you might look crazy.
  3. Give the sender some feedback. No, you don’t need to interrupt the sender to give them feedback. Much like how you will be watching their nonverbal movements to make sure you are also sending non-verbal signals. Make eye contact or nod along with your speaker to show you’re actively engaged.

In order to be an effective receiver, you need to focus on your active listening skills. Beyond these tips there are plenty more things you can do to be an active listener.

What other keys necessary to be an effective receiver?

Jan
30
2013
Best Inspirational Speeches Maranda Gibson

In most colleges, some form of oral communication or speech class is a requirement for graduation. These basic communication classes teach you a couple of things but the most prevalent are the types of speeches. One of these is an inspirational speech and its purpose is to make an impact on the audience. Most of the time, the inspirational speech gets caught up and mixed in with the motivational speech, which usually brings across memories of Matt Foley and the fear of living in a van down by the river.

An inspirational speech is so much more than just trying to motivate and when properly delivered, it can change the world. Some of the best speeches of all time have been nothing more than an inspirational speech in their mechanics.

Martin Luther King – "I Have a Dream"

The MLK speech is one of the most highly recognized and historically significant speeches in the world. The speech was written to call to reform the legal system, but something amazing happened. Where the written words should have concluded, King improvised, in the moment, adding some of the most powerful words of the entire speech – "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Like any speech, this one was written and crafted for the moment, but King found himself inspired by the thousands that listened intently and hung to his every word. He connected to his audience and felt their common emotions and translated what they felt into words that he had the power to deliver. Truly great inspirational speeches do not just repeat words already on the page – they feel the emotions of the crowd and give a voice to the movement.

Abraham Lincoln – "Gettysburg Address"

When your country is torn apart in a vicious civil war and 51,000 men just lost their lives, the task of inspiring a nation to unite could be the most daunting of all. When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, less than half of the Union soldiers had been properly buried. It sounds like such a somber moment in history – so why is this one of the greatest inspirational speeches of all time?

Lincoln marked a tragic occasion with an address that honored the dead but challenged the living, and he delivered the speech in under three minutes. In many ways he placed the task of honoring the dead on the grounds into the hands of those that lived – asking and wanting to know what they would do now. "It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on."

John F. Kennedy – “Man on the Moon”

In the shadow of the Cold War, John F. Kennedy knew that the United States had to do something about keeping up with the Soviet Union. He announced in front of a special joint session of Congress that by the end of the decade, the United States would put a man on the surface of the moon.

Kennedy’s words set a direct and specific date for anyone who was listening. When a deadline is given for something, people are more likely to respond to the call to action – even for something as challenging as putting a man on the moon. Kennedy would later address Rice University on the same subject and utter the famous quote, "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Kennedy made his speech on May 25, 1961 and Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969.

Do something you’re never done before. Be a voice to someone who doesn’t have one. Turn a moment into an opportunity for strength. Challenge yourself to do something that may not even be possible.

That is what makes a great inspirational speech.

Image credit to Smithsonian online.

Jan
25
2013
Four Somewhat Forgotten but Beneficial Leadership Qualities Maranda Gibson

I've been lucky to experience leadership from a vast group of people who handle leadership in different ways. I've had the young and hip boss, the sales driven, goal-oriented, no-nonsense boss, and everything in between. When I was fresh out of college, I realized quickly what I would respond to and what wouldn't motivate me.

I've realized that some of the most important skills in leadership are some of the ones that you don’t see a lot of.

Communication Skills - The end goal of communicating with employees is to get a positive response. No matter if it’s a one-on-one situation where the employees behavior needs to change or it’s to a group in the hopes of brainstorming the next great thing, you want the talk to motivate employees to take action.

Representation - Our bosses would never ask us to do something that they wouldn't be willing to do themselves. This is why they will help with calls if we’re really busy or will pitch in to make things go smoother. You are the leader for a reason and showing your employees that you remember what it was like to be where they were, or be willing to pitch in goes a long way with a great office environment.

Approachability - I never feel like I have to hesitate if I see something that could be worded better or something that we can change to make the experience better for the customer. Since we deal with the customers all of the time, it works for us to be able to go to our bosses and explain what we see. For example, I just suggested to my boss we change one of our email templates, and now, I need to work on the text for it.

Sense of Humor - We have a great relationship with each other and our bosses and we laugh a lot together. We've been able to cultivate a positive team environment that leads to an open sharing of ideas and it just makes approachability easier to come by when we can work and laugh together.

My experience is that the best leaders will be the ones that can incorporate all of the things that make us better leaders.

What do you think are forgotten but important leadership qualities? What makes a great leader?

Dec
13
2012
International Conference Call Options Maranda Gibson

Not too long ago one of my favorite customers sent me an email inquiring about international conference calls. If you need to provide a way for participants outside of the United States or Canada to join your conference call we have three different options for international dialing.

Option One: Participant Pays Long Distance / International Fees. This option requires no changes on how you use or are billed for your services. Anywhere in the world, a participant can call into a direct access number and be joined to the conference. You’re billed whatever is standard for your account and they are billed on their phone bill what their provider will charge. This option is best for those who rarely have a need for international conferences or are one of our flat rate customers.

Option Two: International Toll Free. From Argentina to Venezuela on this list of rates these countries can be provided their own toll free access into our conference bridges. You rates for domestic callers (US / Canada) stay the same and the rate for international depends on the country that connects. There is usually no charge to participants in these countries and requires a new conference line on your account.

Option Three: Most countries can be dialed to from within in our system and brought into the conference line without any additional charges to them. For many of the countries there is little to no change in your per minute per person rate. Some countries are not available for outdial and we can either add a new conference line or activate this option on a conference existing on your account.

Depending on what option you choose or how your account is set up, we might ask for you for an additional form to be sent back to us. International can be activated for specific users of your account in order to limit cost and availability for the services. If you need international conferencing added to your account or have any questions about how it works or the pricing for outdial rates, just give us a call and we can help.

Dec
10
2012
Better Writing Lessons from NaNoWriMo Maranda Gibson

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you know that I spent a lot of November talking about NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it has a very simple goal – write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Such a challenge written on paper may not seem like much but when you try to do it, you realize that it becomes a feat of writing at least 1,667 words a day. The standard blog post is about 350 – 600 words.

For four years, I have begun November by saying this is the year and I will complete this challenge and every year, it seems like something happens to derail my progress. This year, though, it’s different and I am proud to announce that I am a 2012 NaNoWriMo Winner.

Winning felt great and completing something that seemed like such a beast over the last few years was even more of an accomplishment. It honestly feels like I can do anything. I wanted to think about how I could translate that feeling into the creative energy I spend at work so that feeling of accomplishment will be in all of my work.

Outline. Before NaNo began, I had the idea, plot, and characters for my novel all lined out. I took each scene and moment step by step so that I didn’t get lost or forget the important points. I’d never done that before and I think that using outlines in blogging will help me to write more content that has a true outcome, instead of just mashing ideas together and hoping to end up with a great post.

It’s easier to get ahead than it is to fall behind. One of the things that always prevented me from completing NaNo was that I always seem to have family obligations in November. If you look at my progress chart below, I was 8,000 words ahead by day five which was a huge help for those days when I was out of town or during the holiday.

Turn off Your Inner Editor. Part of the goal of NaNoWriMo is to encourage writers to just write. In a lot of ways there is no rhyme or reason to the plot of a participant’s story. It’s about encouraging writers to turn off the need to “edit as they go” and instead just put the words down. You can always go back and correct the things that are wrong later.

Find Someone to Battle With. It was a big help to do “word wars” with a friend who was also trying to reach the 50,000 word goal and it was great to have someone that I could battle with. We would pick a time and then write as quickly as we could to see who could get the most words in a 20 or 30 minute period. Even if you battle with yourself you can set a timer to see how many words you can put down in a specific amount of time. On the next post, try to beat your personal best.

The best thing about completing something like this is feeling that pressure off. There really feels like there is nothing to stop me from taking on the world – okay, maybe not, but I did write 50,000 words in 30 days, and that’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.

What will you accomplish today?

Nov
15
2012
Preparing for Communications Failures Maranda Gibson

Superstorm Sandy has come and gone but the effect of the storm on communication remains. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the FCC reported that 25% of the operating cell towers were damaged during the storm and the ability to make calls, send, and receive messages would be temporarily affected.

When you know there’s an event that could interrupt your ability to communicate with your friends and family, prepare in advance for what could be a long time without your cell phone.

Have at least $5.00 in quarters in your first aid / emergency kit. I know that a lot of people under the age of eighteen have probably never seen a payphone, nor would they fully grasp the idea of calling collect. Gather some quarters before the weather event so that if you do lose service you can find a payphone and make a call.

Notify who you can when you can. A friend of mine was in a hard hit area of New Jersey and it was touch and go to get a hold of her for the first week. She asked me to be responsible for updating our mutual friends, as she could get one text message out much easier than she could twenty. She would text me how she was, and I would use social networks to update our friends.

Update Social Networks via text message instead of using an application. In my hometown in Arkansas, the cell phone service is pretty spotty, and most of the time is spent on the Edge network. This makes things like updating my Facebook and Twitter difficult because it can take so long for the application to load. Most social networks have a way to update your status by sending a text message and it’s a great way to update your friends and family.

Find Your Local Red Cross. Before a disaster strikes, find your local Red Cross and see if you can find out where they will be setting up emergency stations in the event of a serious event. You can view a list of Red Cross centers by your zip code and then you’ll have a good idea of where to start if you need help. You can even check in to Safe & Well to list yourself as OK or check on friends and family.

It’s hard when you lose your cell phone because it’s the way we connect with the world. In the event of a disaster, you have to stay connected in any way you can. Sometimes, that means that old technology might be the most reliable.

Image credit to NOAA.

Sep
25
2012
Transcription Services Maranda Gibson

Transcription services may be at an extra cost but there are unique benefits to using them that you might not think about. Usually, we think about transcriptions we think about them for medical purposes or legal documentations of conversations and while these are great uses of a transcription there are many more reasons that adding this service to your conferencing routine can benefit your business in a number of ways.

Here’s a couple of other ways that AccuConference customers are making transcriptions a part of their usual conference calls routine.

  1. Any conversation that is “on the record” should be transcribed so that there is no deviation from what was said. Recording your conference calls is one way to get extra posterity for conversations, but a transcription can be sent out to those who want to keep written documentation.
  2. For videos not only are you making the content within in the video able to be crawled by search engines, you’re also providing an easy way to mark sections for editing. If you’re reviewing a video and need to send a few more notes over to the editor, you can transcribe the text with a timestamp feature and highlight the times that require additional review. This makes it easier for the editor to go into your video and make quick changes. The process speeds up when the editor doesn’t have to go searching for phrases and gestures to remove.
  3. Under Regulation Fair Disclosure mandated by the SEC in 2000, requires that any information released to investors or analysis must be made public. The purpose of the regulation was to even the playing field between all kinds of stock holders and prevent the large investment companies from getting a “heads up” on information that could affect stock prices. Regulation FD requires broad dissemination to the public of stock information and is usually done by conference call playback or by a transcription.
  4. News stories are optimized for mobile devices when you include the transcription of the video together. I check my news applications constantly and I am more likely to “read” a story than to stop and watch the accompanying video on my phone. It will also make your news stories accessible to people who do not have the latest smartphone technology or have access to cool tablet computers.
  5. Did I mention that the content of your conference call suddenly becomes searchable? Imagine that you get an opportunity to host an incredible interview with someone and you upload it to your website and hope that people are able to find it. If you can post the text on your website somewhere your interview content can be returned as a result in Google search.

What useful things can you think of for having conversations transcribed?

Sep
03
2012
James Spann on Social Media Maranda Gibson

For all the weather geeks out there, James Spann is a man that everyone turns to when it comes to all things related to Alabama weather.  Over a career that spans nearly 40 years, Spann has solidified himself as the model study for meteorologists. He’s an Emmy winner, the recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award, and has been voted best meteorologist in the country numerous times by the Associated Press.

On top of all this, James Spann is a social media advocate. He is the most followed meteorologists on Twitter and Facebook and on the day of April 26, 2011 as tornadoes roared through Alabama, thousands of people were posting on his social media outlets to report damage and even ask for help. Even if you don’t know who James Spann is or you’re not a weather nerd like me, you’ll find the video below as interesting as I did.  At the Alabama Social Media Association conference earlier this year, James addressed the Alabama media about the use of social media in a weather situation.

  • "If you put others first, that’s when life gets good." As a meteorologist, James often has to field questions from those who do not know much about weather, how storms form, or how they track. Rather than ignore the “stupid question” James answers them because that’s what he is there for. When a question is posed to him it’s because someone respects and needs his answer, so he answers.
  • This is how the world communicates. We often wonder if automation is good or bad in social media and James has found that his determination is based on the expectations of his audience. In high stress situations where response is critical to life and person (like EF-4 tornadoes bearing down on metropolitan areas) automation doesn’t work. People can tell when a message is automated and the expectation on a network like Twitter is that the updates are "real-time". The opposite has proven true for Facebook as the network, at least in his business, is more about sharing the information than looking for up to date information.
  • Let’s be honest. James Spann is, in fact, James Spann and people are going to follow him, they are going to send him information, and he will have questions to answer and a huge network of people that will help him do good. We don’t all have that and our experience on Twitter or Facebook might be different, but no matter what, these are basic foundations to any successful social media plan.

I’ve shared the video because I find it to be an interesting commentary on social media from someone who is, technically, “not in it to make money.” Social media is simply a tool for James and the rest of the ABC 33/40 staff to provide weather updates and, as you’ll see, much more. The length is 45 minutes but the information is great and James is such a great communicator that he’s very easy to listen to.

Tell me what you think – do you feel that social media is a good platform for a meteorologist to embrace to warn the public? Is it a good place for someone in marketing or business development? James certainly feels like his updates and social media activities saved lives on the day of a historic tornado outbreak. Do you think it’s possible for Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels to make that much of an impact, or are James’ situations the exception to the rule?

That super sweet image of James telling you to obey the polygon is credit to his Google + account

Aug
21
2012
How to Better Manage Your Mandatory Meetings Maranda Gibson

Can you believe it’s almost September? Where has this month gone? Here in Texas, we’re looking forward to getting rid of the heat and bringing in the best season ever - fall. As exciting as the fall season is, one thing that is also on the way is your beginning and end of the month responsibilities. It could be something as simple as updating spreadsheets or it’s time for your monthly conference calls again.

Consider a registration page for your weekly and monthly status meetings. Registration pages do a lot more than simply creating a link for signing up. If you’ve found that your weekly or monthly meetings have been a bit out of control from people not attending or unwanted participants, a registration page adds the security and tracking abilities for your mandatory meetings.

Check attendance for those calls that can’t be missed. When company policy changes, it often requires a company-wide sign off and understanding from the employees affected by the changes, and using a registration page is a great way to keep track of compliance. When someone registers for a call, the host will be able to keep track of registrants along the way and be able to go back and see who dialed into the conference, and who didn’t.

Send reminders to your participants. Human beings are naturally forgetful and when it comes to important can’t be missed meetings you can set up registration pages to automatically send participants reminders to attend these compliance calls. This way even if they forget to put a call reminder on their own calendar, our system will send them an email up to one hour before the start of the call to remind them to attend.

Manually approve or deny registrations. In our March newsletter, we talked to the author of the Modern Meeting Standard and one of the suggestions in the book is to make sure that you are only inviting the people who have to attend the meeting. If there is no need for the CEO / VP / Marketing Manager to be on the call, then they shouldn’t attend and with a manual process you can deny their participation. It will also help to make sure that only employees are able to attend your conference and keep press or competitors off conferences with sensitive information.

Conference code security options. When using a registration page to boost security and check attendance, our recommendation is that you set up the conferences codes to fall under what’s called “one code at a time” so that the conference codes cannot be handed out to others to use. The first person to call into the conference will be the one that can use the code. While it’s not a perfect system of being able to validate who the person is when they join, it will help the conference from having lots of unexpected guests dialing in on one conference code.

These are just some things that can be done to increase security and hold participants accountable when it comes to attending mandatory meetings.

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