New clients, persistance & perfection

I just got a request for a new and exciting consulting assignment starting from autum 2019. (Fingers’ still crossed though, as we’ve of course yet to discuss and finalize the details prior to entering an agreement). However, as I was asked about this consulting assignment pretty much completely out of the blue and from a new connection of mine, I’ve thought a lot about this persistance vs perfection thing lately.

Aiming for perfection (which probably will never occur) or just swallow your pride, worries and questions some days and keep going. Being persistant. Believe that also tiny steps can create magic and gain the recognition you need. 

Plus: of course the 10,000 dollar question about how to invest your time most wisely as a business owner and consultant? 

I think it’s fair to say that my business really took off in desired direction this spring. Thus, I’ ve had to prioritize my time strictly the last few months. Rather than trying to come up with topics you might want to read about here, I’ve been out there starting things, solving issues and as a result learned new things.

Obviously, it’s the right thing to do – a happy and satisfied customer will always be the best marketing for you. As a single business owner though – you always have to think much, much further and reflect upon you current risk levels as well. For example: What happens if one of your biggest clients go through changes and your contract suddenly ends?

Will I then have invested enough time to maintain a healthy and relevant network that I can turn to? Also, will I have had the persistance to keep myself going, to create content and keep my own channels updated as well? Have I put myself out there enough? After all – results take time. They rarely show up exactly the moment you wish for them. 

I still abstain, or at least try to, from publishing things just for the sake of publishing updates. Thus, the updates so far 2019 have perhaps been more personal reflections upon business development, daily struggles or challenges that I’ve experienced along the way. Although my inner critic may have strong opinions about this, I’ve also continuously been getting so much positive and unexpected feedback about this. Turns out, quite many of us are tired of striving for perfection and reading about others trying to maintain a perfect image. 

One connection of mine whom I met at a dinner told me he indeed found my story very inspirational. Another connection booked a lunch with me as her ”inspirational person meeting of the month”. Very weird for me to get used to, as I don’t consider myself any role model whatsoever. I’ve just followed my intuition and started to change my life as I want to live it. That’s all. 

I’m not trying to preach a constant ”too much information” approach here. Obviously, it’s still wise to think through what you say before you say it but in the end – a little bit of honesty, personality and own ethics sure goes a long way. 

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This is btw my last working week this summer. After finishing a heavy load of translations this week I look forward to hanging out by the pool next week!

Hope you’re off to a good holiday too, wherever you choose to spend it. I’ll be back in business again on August 12th. Talk to you again then! 

/Malin 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photobomb/About a Saturday

Hi there! Saturday again. Time flies so fast these days. Maybe it’s just me growing old, but I can’t really understand how quickly spring just disappeared this year?

I have a complicated relationship with time, or more precisely, a constant fear of waking up in 10 or 15 years only to find out I’ve spent my days on building someone else’s dreams instead of my own. (Yes, I’m born in 1986 in case you wondered what generation I belong to, lol). 

Thus, even though time flew by rapidly this spring, I’ve tried to make it a priority to make my creativity a priority! I’ve tried to combine the best of several worlds: travelling, spending time with family, working out – all while keeping Evert (my Canon EOS1300D) in a steady grip. 

It’s Saturday, but today that means work for me. I’ve got a some catching up to do on ongoing project management, as well as a copywriting deadline coming up. However, before I jump into that, I just wanted to share couple of quick camera moments I’ve captured recently. 

My boyfriend and I went on a short road trip to Jönköping to get a little change of scenery. The weather was ideal for photography: cloudy, lovely and dramatic. 

An anonymous man made my day. Whoever you are: Thanks for crashing and completing this picture! 

 

I went to Finland in order to celebrate my sister’s birthday. We were just there for a few days, but we managed to squeeze in several long walks in the forests. Fresh air, sunlight +movement =win win! 

There was so many beautiful piles of wood that just popped up here and there when we were out walking. (No. Please don’t ask me what I’m going to do with 3,000  images of woodpiles and trees, but at least they are saved for future generations to look at now). 

The weather was on its best behavior during my travel to Finland. I’m no ferry fan whatsoever, but I have to say that taking the day trip with Viking Line this time was a very unexpected and paradox combination of relaxation and extreme productivity. I love that nowadays, there’s a work lounge/conference area where you can go and actually get stuff done and avoid drunk people. When you’re on a regular trip, drinking and partying is obviously not on the agenda – working is. I’ve complained a lot during the years to Viking Line and suggested they would create something like this, so kudos Viking Line for listening to your customers and improving your services!

 

May provided Stockholm with lots of heat. One of the evenings however included a magical, soft spring rain! I had to capture what was left of those refreshing water drops on our light bulbs on our balcony.

I’m currently in Strängnäs. Perhaps one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I know. Yesterday’s sunset got caught on camera and I played around with it a little bit, just to increase the more scenic elements of the composition. I really like working with dramatic and cineatic effects and the cloudy skies here certainly provided me with all the raw material needed.

Hope you liked this little photo bomb! Going forward, I’ll try to include more of my photography in this blog as well. 

Now, go have a great weekend, talk to you soon again! 

/Malin 

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Free advice for lousy sellers

One of my old classmates used to love it when I got mad. I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult, however, after a couple of really bad contact initiatives from lousy sellers, I got mad again. One thing led to another and after some consideration, I decided to turn my anger into something constructive again, hence this blog post.

 

Are you getting spammed too?

I would guess that you are.

I know I am.

Apparently, I’m in a lot of weird registers. Despite GDPR, if you’ve ever signed up anywhere with your email on the internet, it probably happens for you too. If you’re a business owner: congratulations! Then you already know that the amount of sellers spamming you with (mainly) completely irrelevant content and offerings will most likely increase with about 300 %.

Let’s stop here for a while and let me make one thing clear. I don’t hate sellers. On the contrary. There’s actually nothing I adore more than a great salesman or saleswoman who knows what he/she is doing. I’ve been in sales and customer service myself for several years and due to that, I’ll always have the deepest respect for professionals within this area.

Having cleared that one out, let’s move on.

 

So you say your  sales and marketing automation is working for you? I don’t think so.

Just during the past two weeks I’ve been getting some of the worst sales emails of my life. Out of respect for specific individuals, I will not share them here, but all these sales proposals did share some similar traits:

  • None of them had a clue of what kind of company Ambaurora Communications was when they got in touch with me
  • None of the sellers had bothered to check whether I actually have employees or whether I’m a single business owner
  • All of the sellers were too eager to cut to the chase
  • None of the sellers demonstrated any skills or knowledge whatsoever about the industry I’m working in
  • None of the sellers had ever been in touch with me before in order to try and build up a relationship, yet, they approach me the first time expecting us to immediately – wait for it!-  book a meeting
  • 50 % of these sellers were not able to proofread their own emails and offerings. I don’t know about ya’ll, but forgetting this when you’re also trying to sell something to someone working with writing on a daily basis…. Let me just quote Dr. Phil on this one and ask you: “How’s that working for you?”
  • Several of the sellers did not hesitate but actually lied straight to my face, stating that they had been trying to get in touch with me. Yet: there were no previous emails, calls or texts to me. Spoiler alert: when I asked when and through which channels they had tried to get in touch, they quickly disappeared and became silent…

 

5 tips for contacting your most critical prospects

I’m not in sales but as I do feel both angry and annoyed over these lousy contact initiatives, but also sad for all of the sellers out there, let me provide you with some free advice. It will not work for all of your prospects and I understand that there are probably lots of prospects out there that don’t give a shit whether you can spell or not (good for you!) but here’s a couple of tips you can start using ASAP in case you want to work on your most critical customers:

 

1)Don’t ever lie to us!
Seriously – if you dream about me opening my wallet for your products and services, don’t you ever start of by accusing ME of not answering when you haven’t even bothered to do your job. Did anyone say crisis of confidence?

 

2) Proofread and spellcheck

Yes, I know: there are people out there struggling with dyslexia and other challenges related to reading and writing. However, no matter how harsh it might sound: your customers and prospects will not be thinking “Oh, how sad, perhaps he/she has some issues he/she needs help with!” when they read your email. Instead they will judge you and your potential performance entirely based on that first impression.

If you know that you need help with these matters, please make sure to ask for it. Whether it’s from your boss, your coach or a teammate. Just swallow your pride and go ahead and do it.

 

3)Do your homework before you try to present it

So, here you are then: contacting single business owners and starting of by asking them if they are the ones that makes decisions in their own company, or should they perhaps talk to someone else? Eh. #epicfail

Yes, research may take time and sometimes it sucks (been there, done that myself) but how did you intend to ever get through that first contact phase if you don’t even know who you’re talking to?

Most of your prospects probably have their own website and if not, you can probably find them on LinkedIn. Do your research.

 

4) Find a functioning substitute for a meeting

I can’t stress this enough: no, we do not want to book meetings. Neither to we want to set up phone calls, Skypecalls or receive a link to a webcast. Ouch! I can hear how this sounds, but still: it’s painfully true. Most of us hate these meeting suggestions. We don’t want them. I’ve got limited hours in my day and I don’t wish to spend them on getting educated in systems and products I don’t have a need for.

I’ve yet to see a company or a seller coming up with a more innovative way to meet and greet and sell, so there should be plenty of room for innovations here. See what you can come up with that fits your unique niche!

 

5) The power of patience (and feedback)

Anyone who’s ever worked in PR already knows the power of patience. At some point on we’ve all been guilty of sending that lousy press release or spamming our own target groups with messages they did not know they weren’t interested in until we reminded them with our mismatched messages. Yup. It hurts for us too, don’t think anything else.

Good news: we can learn from it. Did you know that 50 % of all sales happens after the 5th contact? Most sales reps tend to give up after 2 contacts. Thus, instead we should go home, lick our wounds, analyze what went wrong, where it went wrong and hopefully read through some useful feedback – from some annoyed besserwisser like yours truly – and get back on the horse again.

If you get feedback: use it to your advantage! It will probably not be very nice to hear when you get it, but try to switch perspective instead and use it as a competitive edge. You just got firsthand feedback and got to hear what your potential customer thought about you/your company/your current sales process. No need for guessing anymore so now you can get started on changing what not longer works for you (and perhaps never did).

 

Last but not least: did you plan to sell a marketing/sales automation system to a single business owner? Please immediately rethink that decision. We’re probably your worst nightmare and also probably too busy writing blog posts like this about why we don’t need and want marketing automation.

 

Peace out and good luck with your sales efforts!

/Malin

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1st year in business

It’s soon been a year since Ambaurora Communications was registered and I completely changed the direction of my working life. From life crising chaos to some sort of clarity and direction – here’s why I did it (and what the transition has done for my life quality).

My friend P has lots of qualities.

Shutting her mouth isn’t one of them.

Thus, when I was about to start working in the same company that I had been consulting for (through the agency that was my employer back then), she said: ”You’re extremely good at what you do. Why don’t you just start consulting on your own instead?”.

The thought had crossed my mind several times, but I always managed to come up with excuses for myself: ”I don’t have enough money”, ”I’m not so fond of the people pleasing and oozing and smooshing that comes with it, I don’t know if I can deal with those parts of consulting”,  ”I’ve struggled so hard to achieve my current title, who would I even be if I started from scratch all over again?”. As you probably figured out, there was really no ending to my excuses.

So I continued on the path I was on. I changed from PR Consultant at the PR bureau to a role as Communications Manager at a listed company.

And it was fun!

Parts of the job really included everything that made me tick: tight deadlines, lots of adrenaline and pulse, a tight and fun team where I was fortunate to work closely with both management and the board of directors. It might perhaps not seem like such a big deal, so to understand it, you might have to add to the equation the small town, Jakobstad, where I grew up.

Things are changing over there now, but when I grew up, working within communications and large listed companies weren’t even on the map. It just wasn’t. f you were female and lived in Jakobstad, instead you were most likely to end up working as a cashier or customer advisor at your local bank, or perhaps work at a boutique or clothing store. This is of course not the truth about Ostrobothia and Jakobstad, but to the younger version of myself, back in the days: these seemed to be the only options if you stayed.

I still remember the day when I moved to Stockholm. It was a professional milestone for me.

For the first time in my life I was now able to conduct work and speak my own mother tongue! Had I kept living and working in Finland, I would have been forced to continue being someone else. (Or at least that’s what it feels like when you’re a Finnish Swede forced to speak Finnish at work). It’s just not the same thing and while working in Helsinki, I always felt as if half of my personality went missing everytime I tried to make myself understood in Finnish at work. That is: every day.

That was a little throwback. Now we’re going to jump back into 2017 again. So there I was then. Thriving at my new work, although 2013-2017 had been rough years for me. I had struggled to get my degree while still working 40 percent, I had broken up from a long relationship, moved into a new apartment, gotten the job at the PR bureau and so on. Quite a lot of changes. Positive changes, but still they take their toll on you.

More and more often, I found myself fantasizing about another kind of work life. Yet, I felt ashamed for doing it. I felt stupid. Why on earth had I been working so hard for what I had back then only to realize it no longer appealed to me? I didn’t know.

Then – very long story short as I’ve written about it before – things got really bad at work. I found myself in a situation I could no longer turn a blind eye to, got burnt out and whether I wanted or not, I realized I was actually sick.

I needed a break.

During this time not only was I forced to rest and start rebuilding my body and soul again, I also had to go through that soul searching hell that comes with that kind of crisis.

 

Who was I? No fucking clue anymore without my title. Outside of work – what did I like to do? No one knew, turned out that I had not been doing anything else lately.

What did I feel like doing? Nothing. Unless you count staring into the ceiling or watching old episodes of Melrose Place (they just don’t make great, crappy tv like that anymore!).

In order to make this post bearable for you, I will fast forward some processes for you here and get to the part where I decided to quit my job as communications manager.

And yup. I was crazy enough to do it while I was too sick to either think or work. Please note: I’m not writing this in order to include it as some pathetic ”strategic communication” part of the story. This just happened to be the way it turned out for me. I believe life does this for you. There’s signs and possibilities everywhere, but you must also act upon them. You must shut down all of those internal “what if” and “but wait a minute…” that you love to comfort yourself with. They are not going to get you anywhere.

Headhunters started to get in touch with me. I should have been flattered but all I felt was panic. All I knew was that I simply could not see myself going back to a corporate environment. At least not as an employee. I did not know how to dream anymore at this point of my life, but if I could have done it I guess I would have dreamed about freedom and some sort of balanced control in my life. I would have dreamed about bouncing back again and being able to feel happiness and professional fulfillment.

I didn’t know how to dream so I went for a more practical route instead. Took a course on how to get started with your own business, got the paperwork done. Then I panicked when I realized what I had just done. Then I panicked a bit more when I realized I was not well enough to get started as soon as I would have hoped.

Thus, even though I formally got my company started last spring, it would take until the end of the year until I started to be in shape to kick things off and get going as I wanted to. (Not that I did not work during the time i between, cause boy, has there been work to be done!).

 

Shitty strategies and USP’s – lessons learned

How to find clients


I’m still a newbie in this game, so I’m not going to take on any role of a business coach here, but at least I’ve learned one thing for certain: my way of getting customers differs a lot from the ”traditional” kind of way.

Sure, just like anyone else, I’ve got this site you’re currently visiting so you can find further information (if that’s what makes you tick). I also keep several social media accounts and hold myself accountable for also posting on these on a regular basis. Not to mention that I want to interact with others in these channels too.  However, getting clients has typically happened through the most strange and spontaneous meetings in the most unexpected environments! Sure, I’ve done my share of email pitching as well – and actually gotten results – but one of the biggest lessons for me has undoubtedly been that I must relearn to trust myself. I must learn to have faith in the fact that my weird personality combined with my professional experience is actually my strongest USP. Not trying to produce lame, clean cut mainstream posts that fits into society’s norms.

Perhaps you’ve also always felt like you don’t fit in? Perhaps you’ve also always been told that you’re too much and that you want to much and that you should have lower ambitions?  Too driven and yada, yada, yada. Even though you might have a thick skin, hearing this all of the time – whether applicable or not or just coming from someone jealous – in the end it gets to you of course.

It got to me too. And so during my first year, I’ve done my share of trying out different strategies. Both IRL and online. Needless to say: trying to enter into some “neutral business version” of yourself is a shitty strategy. Don’t waste your time on it. My advice to both you and myself for that matter, would have to be to stop taking yourself so damn seriously.

Take your work seriously and make sure you deliver on time. Forget about trying to fit yourself into some well thought out business costume or persone. You already know the answer: you’re too much of a human for it. It won’t fit.

 

You will be too much for some of your friends and co-workers

Sadly, your first year in business will also have some people come clean. Even though you will be struggling and there won’t be so much for your peers to be jealous about in the beginning, jealousy will arise. Isn’t it funny how people these days love to like, love and comments famous entrepreneurs post and initiatives? In reality, your changed career path will be too much for some of the persons you might have considered friend or at least industry connections. The good ones will stay. The bad ones will find you embarrassing to deal with and try to pretend they don’t know you anymore. You can not count on their support.

But on the other hand…

 

The Law of Attraction effect

Changing my career while also working hard on changing and improving my own mindset has brought amazing people into my life this year. Daring to post uncomfortable texts, posts and updates has given me an even thicker skin and helped me sort out my own way forward. I know it sounds like the oldest cliché in the world, and you might not feel like it at all, but please try to give this “trust the process” thing a go.

 

Which leads me to the next lesson:

 

Keep going (especially when you feel silly)


I feel silly most of the time. I may be recovered physically from my burnout, but the emotional scars are still there. Ready to bleed at the most inconvenient times. This is however not a rational feeling.

The rational, professional part of myself already knows this. But I believe we have to tell ourselves to keep going at least maybe 100-150 times per week.

For example: I got my first paycheck as a writer when I was 13. I’m 32 now and every time I hit a “publish” button on the web, I still have to fight my urge to run into the closet and hide. This is not a rational behaviour, but who said humans are rational? I try to battle back.

So I keep going.

The good part? Every time you conquer yourself, there will be results. It may not look like you intended it too. That blog post you wrote may turn out completely different from that perfect image you had of it. Still: you wrote it. It might not be trending this instant, but perhaps within six months, your post might be exactly what someone else needed to read and provide you with an unexpected business opportunity.

In the end, it’s just like a workout. The ones that matter are the ones that get done. Simple as that.

 

 

 

 

 

Track your time

At some point on, you will of course feel the imposter syndrome creep up on you. You’ll feel lost as if you’re just pretending to “play business”, especially when working on the more creative parts of your business. Use Toggle to track your time!

Not only will you see that you’re not at all playing around, but you’ll also get a realistic grip on how much time certain tasks do require. This will give you an advantage when you prepare your tenders and you’re able to set your rates and calculate hours in a more business focused way.

Remember and repeat – it’s your business. Not a hobby project.

 

 

Life

What about that life quality I mentioned in the beginning then? Well, thank you for asking. I used to live in order to work. Nowadays, I actually have a life too. It’s worth mentioning here as I’m by no means the only one suffering and recovering from a burnout.

With regards to recovery and coping strategies, those are a chapter of themselves, but somehow I’ve slowly, slowly managed to experiment and find a work rhythm that works for me. Turns out, I do some of my best work on Saturdays or Sundays, which no longer needs to be an issue as I can plan my workload in accordance with my natural rhythm. Mondays are no longer anxiety for me as I’m not forced to sit through painful meetings and have no control over my work week. Instead, I prefer to start my week by having a slow Monday.

I find that this is what works best for me. Enough sleep, a sweaty workout at the gym or a long walk to get fresh air and circulate my creativity – these are typically the elements that I like to include on a Monday morning. It does not necessarily mean that I will be slow-tuning all day, on the contrary. But relieving my brain from all the unspoken and invisible requirements of how a Monday is ”supposed” to get started, that I used to have in a corporate environment, has truly worked wonders for my productivity and overall wellbeing.

I might just call P someday and tell her she was right.

/Malin

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Konsultrapporten H2 2018

Is there anything better than seeing the results of your efforts? I doubt it! During the past months, I’ve been heavily involved in my client Brainville’s reoccurring report ”Konsultrapporten”. Thus, it was very fun that we finally got to release it this week and start distributing it.

In case you’re not already familiar with Brainville, the short-short version is that Brainville is the leading marketplace for consultants and consulting assignments in the Nordic region. So if you’re a freelancer looking for interesting assignments – probably tired of trying to find decent clients on your own – just head to www.brainville.com to register your own profile and get started!

As I always have a love-hate-relationship with my work, I have to admit that I’ve historically been very bad at celebrating the results I’ve been contributing to. I haven’t really had it in me to do that sometimes necessary ”humble bragging”, which I think anyone ever involved in a well executed project should do.

Why? Well, that’s a good question. I guess it’s because I tend to get a little bit too involved in my work and loose the perspective. Combine that with a very critical mind and voilá: while I’m busy working and writing I typically can’t stand my own writing. In order to be able to appreciate it, there need to be some water under the bridge first. Except this time then. I decided to work on my own negative patterns and at least share a couple of snapshots from the report with you.

If you’ve read my blog for a while or followed my on any of my Instagram accounts, you might remember that I’ve mentioned my desire to write more as one of the reasons behind starting Ambaurora. Hence, I was very glad to get the chance to get my hands down and dirty with Konsultrapporten! In this edition of the report, we’ve heavily increased the editorial material. The report includes interviews with several freelancers as well as with interesting industry profiles. I’m no journalist, but working in an editorial role and setting is something I very much enjoy, so I look forward to continue deeper on that path going forward.

 

/M

 

Snapshots from Konsultrapporten H2 2018

Interview with Anna Möller, the impressive founder and CEO of PeopleProvide

 

Lacking motivation? Just catch up on Konsultrapporten and get some tips on how to quickly improve your freelancing skills!

 

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Real life business vs the business plan

Hi there! It’s certainly been a while since this blog got a proper update. Fear not though: the blog hasn’t been forgotten. The non existing updates have mainly been due to a combination of that so called work life and a heavy writer’s block (caused by no time for reflection). Writing for a living comes with its ups and downs. Up: it’s fantastic. It’s creative. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing and now I’m doing it. It’s very rewarding, developing and fulfilling to see one’s work come to live in front of you. On the downside: you put all of your heart and best efforts (obviously) into your client’s needs and desires and products. And then when you’re done with that, you notice everything else that’s been going on in the world while you were busy working. You look at your perfect business plan and all the actions you were supposed to take, such as for example keep your blog updated with relevant content. (After all, people might be looking at your website so it’s probably a great idea to also practice what you preach).

You look at all the crises you could have approached and written an in-depth and interesting analysis about, only to face the fact that still, you didn’t and besides, 50 thousand other people already commented on it so you realize that you just have to let that one go. On the other hand: once you’ve settled in that good old ”feeling the imposter syndrome again” and calmed down a bit, you’ll also realize that delivering value to your clients and focusing on your real life business obviously is exactly what you’re supposed to do and what you’ve done. And that once those new experiences and lessons learned during the projects have been processed properly by your brain, they will most likely be able to translate into something more valueable to share with the world. You know, more than just posting updates of your morning coffee in order to maintain some sort of content stream on Instagram.

Are you with me? Well. This is pretty much where I’m at right now. Working. While pondering, reflecting and processing all the things I’m not writing about. (Oh the irony!). I’m lucky to be working on a couple of really fun and challenging projects. I can feel that I’m growing and evolving almost every day, but yet at what I consider to be a managable level. Still not gonna lie to you though, not being able to maintain this blog updated will always be a guilty conscience for me. Plus, I don’t want to get caught up in ”only” writing for business. I need these tiny, personal updates every now and then as well. If nothing else, just to have a little check in with myself and see what’s going on.  

So here’s to this Thursday and one of these tiny updates 😉

I’ll be back.

/Malin

 

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“Stop acting as an accessible support function”

© Malin Strandvall

February put Sweden on the map again. And for positive reasons, as an important research study (conducted between 2014-2018) by the Department of Strategic Communication at Lund’s University was published: “The communicative organisation”. With over 8,000 respondents participating in a quantitative survey study as well as 170 individuals in the qualitative part of the study – the large amount of empirical material makes this study unique within the current field of communication research.

I’ll be honest with you: since I graduated and got my Bachelor in Swedish and Communications Management 2014, I haven’t exactly cared so much to stay in touch with the academic area or what’s been going on over there. However, when I noted this research report last week I figured that now would probably be an excellent timing to try and stay updated. Perhaps the same goes for you too?

If that’s the case, then just keep reading and you’ll find a recap of – what I thought – were the most interesting parts from the study, as well as some thought and reflections of my own.

First things first though. Yet another report? What’s the report about and what’s the rationale for investing so much time into researching communication? Shouldn’t there be more than plenty of material available already?

Apparently not.

According to the authors, so far, there have been few other research studies within areas such as strategic communications, corporate communications and organisational communication with the corresponding amount of empirical material (data).

Eleven Swedish corporations and organisations, among them furniture giant IKEA and construction company NCC, to name a few familiar names, have participated in the study. Thanks to the large amount of empirical data collected, the authors says it’s now possible to contribute with more ”nuanced knowledge about progress, shortcomings and challenges in the communication practices at our workplaces”. Also: It should be pointed out that the project has not only focused on communication managers and their view on things, it also included co-workers’ and managers’ perspectives.

The authors adds that a lot of studies within strategic communications tend to focus only on one group at a time.

The report is structured around seven ways of creating a “communicative organisation”. In this post however, I will not be including all of them. Rather I’m interested in continuing on some of the discussion topics raised in the report.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the most interesting findings!

 

Finding: Difficulties explaining and measuring the value of communication

© Malin Strandvall

If you’re working within communications, it probably doesn’t come as any surprise that communicators are struggling to explain the true value of their work and how it contributes to the organisation’s success to their co-workers. Still, only 10,4 percent of the respondents in the survey rated measuring and evaluating their efforts better as the most important improvement area, furthermore – only 0,6 percent of respondents said that they were also actively working on it.

Let’s pause here for a while. I have no reason to doubt the researchers, however, as I’ve got my own background mainly in listed companies I couldn’t help but wonder what these numbers would have look liked, had there been more listed companies involved in the study? Perhaps I would have been one among those 0,6 percent had I been in the study as well, as I don’t really recognize that lacking of measuring and following up on things.

On the contrary. I think this is instead something that we communicators tend to do a little bit too much sometimes. A lot of times there just too much focus on quantitative data instead of applying a quality focus. Obviously, this is just my personal opinion and experience of things. But going forward, I still hope we’ll see studies involving more listed companies as study objects, in order to gain further understanding.

One of the reasons I’m writing this is that already when I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis, I was annoyed by the large academic focus on researching municipalities rather than private companies. Obviously, it’s harder to gain access to private companies in order to conduct research, but in case we’re looking to find deeper knowledge and applicable models forward, I still believe we have to broaden the scope.

 

Finding: Future challenges

© Malin Strandvall

Which strategic areas are the most important from now on and until 2021? The following were listed:

1) Build and maintain trust

2) Link together the organisation’s strategy with its communication initiatives

3) Manage the digital development

Apart from the three topics mentioned above, the researchers also stresses the importance of these aspects:

  • new communicator roles and demands for increased competence
  • paradoxes and tensions
  • digitalization and artificial intelligence
  • reflection and further learning in order to reach excellence

 

My reflections on the findings in the report

 

Reflection: on roles and “mainstreaming” content….

© Malin Strandvall

As could be expected, several of the “normal” challenges we’ve already heard about a thousand times of course also popped up here: Managing digitalisation and AI. Time will have to tell what happens here, but one interesting aspect that I thought worth spending some time pondering about concerned several new communicator roles.

Obviously, for anyone working in or with communicators, that challenge is already here. Working on the inside can be frustrating. Especially if you work together with a counterpart (or parties) that does not understand the differences of different roles and responsibilities. Personally, I’ve thought a lot about how everything is talked about as content these days. Please read that the right way. Talking about content is of course nothing new to anyone of us anymore. That’s not what I’m getting at here.

However, the problems arise when we tend to start talking about EVERYTHING as content, regardless of the underlying communications discipline.

Let me give you an example of how this can be problematic. Let’s say organisation X has a problem. The root of the problem is not really a communications problem, but communication will still be an important part of that organization’s efforts to solve the problem. Organisation X gets to work and starts pumping out information. However, as they are lacking in certain important competences, the nature of the material that comes out may perhaps only be in the form of content marketing.

Nothing wrong with content marketing of course, that is, when that is included as one part of an integrated plan. A plan that also takes into consideration the challenges of working with complex targets groups, for example investor relations. You simply can’t provide a potential investor only visionary market plans and colorful press images, you will have to add much, much more substance, numbers, proof points and results.

I fear that by only talking about “content” as we tend to do these days, we are more and more missing the important and underlying knowledge areas. We’re more and more forgetting about the different roles and competences required, the ones that are absolutely crucial in order to actually create and produce the content later on.

 

Reflection: The draining power of “invisible” work

© Malin Strandvall

One of the findings discussed in the study was that as many as 60 percent of managers and 25 percent of communications themselves thought that too much resources were invested into communication, in relation to the actual results.

Considering that the study also found that managers and co-workers mostly thought of communicators and their competence from a technical perspective (communicators work with digital channels and media relations) perhaps these numbers are not so surprising.

A simple analysis from my perspective is that a contributing aspect here most likely must be the difficulties of measuring all of the invisible work that is put in during a normal day as a communicator. For example: continuously managing and coordinating projects and activities is a typical example of a task that nobody would ever expect to take so much time. Yet, it’s something that all communicators do. When its functioning, nobody thinks about things being ”managed or coordinated”. As soon as the project management fails however, that’s when the pure value of those invisible efforts are shown…

Supporting, educating and coaching managers, management and other co-workers is another invisible aspect. There are lots of “invisible” requirement put upon communicators in organisations. A problem here is that sometimes these working norms are so familiar to us that we don’t even realise our own behaviours. To this, I don’t have any solution to present, but as always, insight is the first step towards changing. 

In combination with a work sector that is not always aligned with reality. I think we also ought to talk more about roles. Roles and work processes will always be integrated to some extent of course – but if you are hiring someone to write, but in reality the conditions at work are such that this person instead ends up coordinating things non stop, then that is of course where part of the desired results end up too.

Conclusion

How are we supposed to solve these issues then? The authors does not claim to have all the answers of course, but at least leave us communicators with a good piece of advice: Be in charge of the communications development and stop acting like an accessible support function!”.

Have you read the report? If so, what did you think about it? Did you agree with the findings or do you have completely different experiences? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts!

 

/Malin

PS. In case you want to read the study and learn more, you can find all of the material (in Swedish) on the Swedish Communication Association’s website: https://sverigeskommunikatorer.se/fakta-och-verktyg/forskning/kommunikativa-organisationer/

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Don’t underestimate the power of your ”invisible” channels

Customer events are an often forgotten, almost invisible communication channel. In the digital era we’re all living in and navigating through right now, it’s easy to forget the most powerful tool and channel of them all – the personal meeting.

Last week I had some interesting discussions with a prospect and we ended up talking about the impact of events. It’s not the first time, neither will it be the last time I’m talking about this topic, because it seems it’s a never ending discussion. Or to be more to the point: what the actual value of hosting an event is.

Good example of a successfull customer event: American Express inviting their customers to Stockholm Fashion Week. Photo: Johan Sjöberg

It’s understandable though, as hosting events won’t always get you those immediate results you and your team might be dreaming about. Most likely – you’ll receive lots of soft values, while the digit version you’re longing for might be delayed for quite some time. In my experience, a lot of times this is what makes people, also us communication professionals, forget about the importance of including the personal meeting into the calculation as well. In case you’re in the middle of finalizing your communications plan for 2019 right now, don’t forget to include customer events and personal meetings with your stakeholders in it!

Lacking inspiration? Tired of trying to come up with practical ideas?
Search no more! Here’s three ideas for your meetings this year:

  • Arrange a tour or a road show – this might of course sound a little bit cringe, but please keep reading. A lot of time, your audience might very well like the quality of your products or the level of service your company provides. However, the reason that they still don’t give a damn about your various ”professional” initiatives is just that. It is too professional, and not personal enough. In case you are in a spokesperson role in business today, you’ll need to shift your perspective on things and be prepared to be available not only 9-5, but also during evenings and weekends. You also need to be prepared to share at least something about yourself that will make people relate to you somehow!  Arranging a tour or a road show is not only a great way to gain experience, get lots of opportunities to gather valuable content for your continuous updates but most of all: you will get the opportunity to meet and greet with the people. You know, the audience you think you know. As you will understand as soon as you meet them though: No, you don’t and that’s why you need to get out of the office every now and then.

 

  • Provide actual value in conjunction with your event – on a low budget? See what kind of games or mingle activities you could try to squeeze in before or after your event. Remember: most of your customers/visitors/audience are obviously not coming to your event just for the pure fun of it. They want to leave and feel smarter in some way, whether it would be by connecting to someone new, learning something useful or perhaps just receiving a useful giveaway. Today, I visited Stockholm Fashion Week. At the moment, I have no connections whatsoever to that event, but one of my business contacts had gotten tickets through his American Express membership. I thought this was a very nice and inspiring perk that they arranged for their customers. Including not only the fashion show, but also drinks and mingle opportunities with lots of interesting people, this was also a great example of an event that really provided value in several ways for us guests. Way to go American Express!

 

  • Engage and include your audience as co-creators – nowadays, there’s lots of great apps that you can use in order to quickly create collective, graphic material, such as Menti for example. If possible, try to engage with your audience already a couple of days before your next event in order to prepare relevant (and good looking!) infographics, data charts that you can use in your presentation. By including your audience as co-creators, they too are more likely to share what they created with their network.Also: do engage with them while they are visiting you! Put away Instagram and focus on the human in front of you instead. Encourage your audience to tag you in their updates and make sure you do stop by their accounts to leave a like and a kind comment if they do. (You would think that this is common sense already these days, but unfortunately, for a lot of corporations it’s just not). Practice what you preach and do remember that you just never know whom you migh end up working for or together with in the future. Remember that in order to receive, you have to give as well.

PS. These are just a couple of examples of what might be good to do or bear in mind when you’re planning your trust building activities. Feel like brainstorming more about what could be done to improve your activities this year? Please feel free to get in touch.

/Malin

 

 

 
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”You’re never gonna feel like it”

I’m no huge fan of inspirational speeches. The cynic in me often find them either too general or just extremely naive. However, for whatever the reason: I tend to make some weird exception for Mel Robbins. In case you’ve missed it and are in a state of January procastination right now, watch Mel’s talk on ”How to stop screwing yourself over”! Even though I’ve already watched it, I like to get back to this session and remind myself of the fact that motivation only takes us so far.

At the end of the day – discipline is truly what matters. Being a highly sensitive person is often an advantage to me. Except when it comes to discipline on those difficult, unfocused days that I go through too. I’m constantly working on learning to close down my feelings when it comes to pure execution. Constantly working on that old Nike thing and just ‘doing it.

Don’t get me wrong: I get a lot of things done. I am doer, without a doubt. It’s just that my own internal working process is probably so much harder than it would need to be sometimes, due to all of the introspection and analyzing my brain loves to dive into if not restricted!

Today has however been a splendid Saturday. I got up early to deliver on a deadline without any overanalyzing whatsoever and all of a sudden I found myself in that fantastic state of mind when both productivity and creativity flows! I love those days. I was done with my articles rather quickly, then enjoyed some time to summarize  thoughts from a meeting earlier this week and circle back to a contact as promised. I’ve also had time to tick of both a meeting and a webinar from my to do-list, thus I have to say it’s been a great working day.

I have yet to get back to my promised blog post about goals for 2019, but in case you wonder about this pretty random blog post: writing and updating more spontaneously this year will definitely be among my goals!

Initially when I started to blog again, I was very much influenced by my previous working position and sort of lost in my old way of ”corporate thinking”. I had some grand idea that this would indeed be an extremely professional blog – just pure communication topics and professional matters. I guess it’s easy for all of us to fall into that trap, however, having had some time to reflect and evaluate, I realised that I will indeed be making some changes here! I will still strive for writing posts on interesting matters within media, communications and writing. But in order to keep up my own spirit and drive to do that, I can’t be deadly serious/on professional call 24/7. It’s just not who I am or how I typically behave.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a collection of anonymous articles and updates without a soul. Thus, this year I’ll also allow myself creative times to just post spontaneously about a bit broader scope. Hope you’ll still like it here and whether it’s big or small ideas: do let me know if you’ve got any wishes or suggestions for future blog topics. Just drop me a note: malin@ambaurora.se and I’ll see what I can do!

 

/Malin

 

 

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Breakfast seminar: Digital trends 2019

Constantly learning new things is something I continuously strive to do. Luckily, here in Stockholm there’s always numerous events and breakfast seminars you can sign up for. This morning I visited a breakfast seminar at digital bureau Cloud Nine which focused on the the digital trends that will affect us in 2019.

Cloud Nine’s David Aler took us through a very interesting and fun seminar. Without further delays, let’s dive straight into some of the trends mentioned and the key takeaways to bare in mind this year!

 

Trends – key takeaways

Trend – Subscription on demand
This trend should of course not come as a surprise to anyone, but our behavior of paying monthly for the subscriptions we like to have (Netflix, Spotify et cetera) still remain strong. This is mainly driven by our need for convenience. There’s also an increasing number of personalized subscription services, here in Sweden services as Linas matkasse or Glossybox are typical examples of this trend.

Also: it looks like we’ve got some good news for the newspaper industry as well, as David mentioned that between 2017-2018, the number of digital newspapersubscriptions almost trippled.

 

Trend – IoT and GDPR

I know – I’m tired of hearing IoT and GDPR too! However, we’ll just have to get used to it, as there are still lots of practical (not to mention ethical!) questions popping up as the IoT trend continues to evolve. All the data sharing – Google and Mastercard anyone? – that takes place can of course be scary as we as users and individuals loose control of a lot of integrity aspects, but it should also be pointed out that IoT also brings us useful products.

Did you for example know that nowadays there’s such a thing as smart diapers as well? Let’s not get into more details about diapers in this blog than we need to (!) but in short: this diaper senses when the diaper is done with its mission and then gives an indication so that the parents know what they need to do…

Previously, we’ve spoken about IoT as in ”Internet of things”. In the future, a more realistic scenario is that we’ll use ”The intelligence of things” instead, as AI is integrated into the calculation as well.

 

How to handle….

So how do you handle these trends then? Especially as some of them might indeed be tricky to keep up with, given the rapid technological development. David shared some tips on this too:

Trend: Data

– Be transparent with how you’re handling your customer data. An interesting case here is H&M and how they’re currently adapting their stores locally by using big data
– Show the customer that the customer gains more on his/her data than your company does
– Cut down – don’t collect more data than you actually need
– Fix your forms now (GDPR is coming for ya….)

 

Trend: Voice search is increasing

Whether or not you have started to use voice search, you’ll have to be prepared as your stakeholders soon will be using it. Here’s some practical things to think about when you write for your web or app:

-Write your preambles as if they were ”featured snippets” (position zero)
-29 words or less are common answers to voice searches
-Bullet lists and structured content = exceptionally good
-Think about the difference between spoken and written language

Last but not least, some candy for all you fellow aesthetic nerds out there – Pantone 16-1546 TCX! Yup. This is the color of 2019 according to Pantone. Google it and let this beautiful coral red tone seduce your senses for a while before you head back to work 😉

 

/Malin

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