Archive for the ‘Trust’ Category

McKenzie Worldwide Joins PDX Cyber Camp Sponsor List

Monday, February 20th, 2017
Students in class working on desktop computer

PDX Cyber Camp helps prepare students for employment in the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity.

McKenzie Worldwide is proud to be a sponsor again of this year’s PDX Cyber Camp which is focused on providing motivated high school students with a hands-on, introductory experience to cybersecurity principles, including hands-on implementation of cybersecurity policies and practices in Windows and Ubuntu operating systems. We’re also particularly excited about the camp’s “Girls Only” session which hopes to inspire young women to pursue rewarding and high-paying technical careers in cybersecurity.

Lincoln High School’s Coding Club and EnergySec are a driving force behind the cybersecurity camp which is organized and managed by a team of high school students, educators and industry professionals. This year, Pacific Star Communications, Inc. (PacStar) is the Title Sponsor of the 2017 PDX Cyber Camp which is great news! PacStar provides specialized hardware and software solutions for military and commercial customers requiring reliable 24/7 advanced communications so cybersecurity is very important to them.

Cybersecurity is one of today’s hottest technical fields, with some experts forecasting a shortage of up to 1 million of trained professionals in the coming years. Careers in cybersecurity can be incredibly rewarding, high-paying, and are in demand worldwide in just about every industry.

Camp Details:
• Date: Monday July 17th through Friday July 21st, 2017
• Camp Times: Full day camp.
• Camp Reception: Thursday, July 20th
• Location #1, (Girls Only) Lincoln High School, 1600 SW Salmon St, Portland, OR 97205, Room #223
• Location #2, (Co-Ed), Center for Advanced Learning, 1484 NW Civic Dr., Gresham, OR 97030
• Location #3 (Co-Ed): Mentor Graphics, 8005 Boeckman Rd, Wilsonville, Oregon
• Cost: $150. Scholarships available based on financial need.
• Food: Lunches provided.
• The camp facility supports a maximum of 30 students, and will be limited to that size so each student will have a dedicated computer system.

Curriculum and Highlights:
• Introduction to cybersecurity and ethics
• Introduction to VMware Player
• Hands on security configuration of Windows and Ubuntu operating systems
• Mock cyber competition
• Guest speakers from leading cybersecurity companies
• Networking reception with security business professionals

Instruction will be provided by industry cyber security experts as well as advanced students, and/or instructors from educational organizations. Each student will have their own dedicated high-performance computer during the class, which includes extensive labs.

The program will include guest speakers with deep experience in cybersecurity technologies and careers. 2016 speakers included cyber incident responders, malware analysts and cybersecurity researchers from Lockheed Martin (Leidos), RSA, Intel Security, Galois and PacStar.

By participating in the camp, students will receive valuable experience that can help them qualify for cybersecurity internships at local companies. Three students on the 2016 organizing team of this camp landed internships at cyber and network security companies in Portland.

The PDX Cyber Camp is non-profit and volunteer driven. All proceeds and sponsorships go only towards direct expenses such as curriculum, supplies, and outreach expense.

Apply for the camp now by visiting this link:

http://bit.ly/pdxcyber

The impact that partnering can have on your brand

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

amazon-300x300On the surface the idea of having your company partner with a larger company sounds like a good idea. With any luck your company will increase sales and possibly be able to create joint marketing opportunities like presenting together at an industry trade show or by writing a byline article together. However, sometimes there is another side that must be considered when partnering with another company, especially if that company is an 800-pound gorilla such as Amazon. The main drawback is that the larger company might dominate sales and marketing activities and thereby position your company as a small fry that doesn’t merit much attention. What’s even more important is that the larger company can have a direct impact on your customers and your company’s brand.

For example, during Amazon Prime Day (APD), a number of smaller companies spoke about how they approach customer service and want to be responsible for the creating a positive customer experience. One company, underwear retailer Mack Weldon, decided to opt-out of APD in order “to keep its long-term customer experience intact.” Another company, BedBand, sells through Amazon but the founder has “lost all trust in Amazon” when she saw her revenue plummet by half because Chinese companies were undercutting BedBand’s prices by writing positive, albeit false, reviews that appeared on Amazon.

In addition, as discussed in Investor Place, some brick-and-mortar stores, who also sell their products online, like to 2000px-TheHomeDepot.svgpromote the fact that customers can receive hands-on help by coming into the store. Home Depot said that its customers like to come into the store to get a feel for what they’re buying. Similarly, Ulta Salon, which is a cosmetics company, offers interactive experts in their stores for people who like to try different make-up styles and brands at the store.

When your company decides which partners to work with, do you take into account how that partnership will affect your brand? Immediate sales might look great in the short-term, but what about all of the effort you’ve put into building brand equity?

How important is your brand? Is it worth it to increase your sales simply to be associated with a larger partner even at the potential cost of hurting your customer’s experience? Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to put long-term brand recognition ahead of short-term sales, but building and maintaining your brand is a goal that every company should strive for.

How to communicate effectively when “you know too much”

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

presidential debateWatching the presidential debates, I have found the diversity of communication styles from candidate to candidate to be a fascinating study in spokesperson strategies and how they represent a brand. What traits make a spokesperson successful and what may not work in front of the camera or a journalist’s pen?

When you set aside the issues, what’s left are the basic elements of communication, or the strategies a spokesperson employs to convey their point of view and influence their audience while representing the company brand (or party image, in the case of presidential race).

Although public relations has evolved dramatically during the past 10 years, the basic guidelines for being a good media spokesperson have remained the same (with some tweaks). Below are some of the basics that you may already know but I hope they serve as a helpful reminder to anyone who plays the role of spokesperson, whether it’s a quick answer to a few questions or a longer, in-depth interview. As a spokesperson, you represent the company brand at all times, so how do you stick to the key tenants without going off track?

  • Remember, you know too much. You are an expert about your subject matter. So much so, that you likely have a level of understanding that is many levels deeper than the journalist. If you try giving them too much information, you will probably bore them and they may pick up a tangential point you may have mentioned instead of the topic you imagined would be the focus of the article. So keep the conversation simple and focused. This leads me to the next point…
  • Stay on message. There are many strategies for doing this, but in short: Say what you want to say, and then say it again. In other words, identify your core message and supportive key points before your presentation. Then, keep your core message simple and repeat it often so it sticks. You may give a lot of examples and scenarios to help explain your point, but always return to your core message. Another good way to wrap up your interview is to use numbered steps to outline your key points. For example, “ … the three main things I want to leave you with today are 1) …. 2) … 3) …” It may seem obvious, but reporters often appreciate the clear, concise recap.
  • Engage them in the conversation. This seems self-explanatory but when you have a lot to explain, it’s easy to start lecturing. If you feel this is happening, ask questions to make sure you’re not losing or boring them with too much detail.
  • Act as if you’re talking to your most important customer. Although you may be talking to one person, the end result may be an article describing your comments to a majority of your customers. You want it to sound respectful and concise.
  • Silence is golden. Don’t babble on uncomfortably if you get flustered when they stop asking questions. Just stop talking. This gives pause for questions and gives the journalist time to take notes. Also, remember that the questions the reporter asks reveal where he/she is going with their article and may flag areas of concern that you will need to address.
  • Set expectations accurately. No one likes to be let down or lied to, and it’s a real bummer when products you purchased don’t work as described. Be honest and deliver on your promises. Otherwise, you’ll start to sound like a presidential candidate and no one will trust you – OR your brand.

How do you represent your brand during media interviews? If you need help, give us a call! We have media training experts ready to help.

How to Practice Radical Honesty

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

FORSSA, FINLAND - MAY 17, 2014: Sign Volkswagen against blue sky. The Volkswagen Group delivered over 9 million vehicles in period from January to November for the first time ever in 2014.

The Volkswagen scandal serves as the most recent reminder that it is important to be honest with your customers. Once a company has been “outed” by the media—or anyone other than itself for that matter—they have a long and arduous uphill battle to regain brand trust.

Back in the days of the TV hit show, Mad Men, the corporate “spin machine” might have churned out a well-crafted response in a time of crisis and then the public may have given a collective sigh of relief, as trust in organizations was fairly high at the time. But as authors of the recent Harvard Business Review article, “Volkswagen and the end of corporate spin” point out, the public today, as a general rule, errs on the side of mistrusting organizations. Although people can be quite forgiving, organizations seem to be starting at ground zero on the trust barometer scale, and must earn their customers trust over time.

The article points out that those feelings of mistrust, coupled with the landscape of social media along with other factors, has completely transformed the environment in which we must communicate today. The authors suggest that corporations take the notion of “corporate transparency” one step further, employing what they call “radical honesty,” whereby one is proactive about its transparency, making everything publicly available, and quickly.

While “radical honesty” may not seem like your cup of tea, we agree with the authors that, in today’s world, an organization’s truth not only will get out, but it probably already is out. In the spirit of this belief, the article provides some excellent general guidelines to communicate effectively in today’s brave new world:

  • Straight and soon. Get the story out honestly and quickly – always assume you have less time than you think.
  • Flood the zone. Use many channels – you need to connect with different kinds of stakeholders, different generations, genders, cultural backgrounds, with different communication habits.
  • Good, bad, and ugly. Encourage honest conversations about both hopes and fears. Remember that power relationships sanitize information that gets to the top. Ensure people can bring bad news, not just good.
  • Distill and simplify. Keep communication simple and relevant, don’t drown people in irrelevant data.
  • Repeat. Find ways to reiterate the message and build feedback loops. Remember that trust builds slowly and quickly fades once the message stops, or when people see or hear contrary data.

At McKenzie Worldwide, we help our clients communicate their authentic brand voice to customers, as well as guide them through this new world of communication—during day to day operations as well as in times of crisis.

What are you doing to help “keep it real” with your customers? If you need help, give us a call!

Social Media…The Customer’s Great Equalizer

Monday, April 29th, 2013

As I look through various publications and websites I continually see articles about the importance of companies being customer-centric, or that the customer is the center of the universe, or that your company needs to funnel activities towards customer needs. While I find these articles interesting, I’m still amazed to find that many companies simply don’t get it.  

Look at companies like Nordstrom or Amazon that focus a tremendous amount of effort on providing excellent customer service. They treat me well and I become a regular customer. As everyone knows repeat customers cost much less than having to go out and 2find new customers. There are many thoughts behind ways to build customer loyalty or to strengthen customer loyalty, but most of these should really be obvious—use common sense and your customer will usually be happy.

Here’s an example of two companies that just don’t get it.

Last week I had an issue between my bank and my mortgage company regarding an error with my mortgage payment. The long-and-short of it is that I was charged a $35 fee (twice!) for something that wasn’t my fault, yet neither institution would refund me the 3charge. In the grand scheme of things, $70 is nothing for these large financial institutions, but to me it’s a lot of money. More to the point is the principle of the issue—both companies pointed the finger at the other, neither company was willing to step up and admit error, and both companies now have an unhappy customer. It just goes to show you that many companies still don’t understand how to be customer-centric.

From a marketing or PR perspective, I guess these companies don’t care about annoying a single customer. But with the growth of social media, I can get my message out to the masses much easier than ever before. If either of these companies was smart, they’d realize that refunding me the money would go a long way to securing a happy customer.

It reinforces my thinking that customer service, marketing and PR folks need to keep a finger on the pulse of the social media comments about their company, 24×7, so they can gauge sentiment and react quickly as needed. Better yet, be preventative up front by offering amazing customer service at all times.

Do you have examples like this where you’ve taken to social media channels to let the masses know how you were treated?

 

Shareholders, stakeholders and Apple

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

There’s been a long, raging debate among business school types about whether a business should optimize for shareholders or think more broadly about all of its so-called stakeholders like employees and the local community.  The argument on the shareholder side goes something like whatever is good for boosting profit is ultimately good for the business.

While there’s no doubt truth in that statement over the long term, a short-term focus on optimizing shareholder value can have negative consequences. That’s not really shocking news, but unfortunately it’s still happening.

The most recent victim of myopic, shareholder-first thinking was – of all companies! – Apple. I’d submit that most people when they look at the cute Apple logo on their spiffy iPad or iPhone want to think of Apple as a happy company, sort of like the Disney of computing.  Sure they can cost an arm and leg, but there’s a lot of value in gadgets that look cool and work like a dream.

Apple stores boom — employees not so much

But the reality of Apple is much different. Underneath that shiny veneer lurks a shareholder-centric greedy beast. This was exposed with a NY Times report that Apple works it retail employee hard while paying moderate wages at best (but reaping enormous profits from each store).  Similarly, Apple squeezes its suppliers in China so hard that factory workers face the type of conditions that have been outlawed in the US since the ’20s and ’30s. 

 What Apple is doing, of course, is perfectly legal. It might even be good business for a normal company. But this is Apple. It’s possibly the most successful and profitable company to date.  It’s also the happy company we all want to love.  It’s bad PR not to spread the wealth and fail to make the world a better place.  Especially when it could be so easy. Ironically, the shareholders might not even have noticed.

The shareholders will notice when people start thinking twice about buying Apple products, however.  After hearing a story about Apple factory workers on NPR’s This American Life, my wife was disinclined to purchase Apple products in the future, although I’m not sure workers at Samsung or Dell factories are much better off than those at Apple plants.  Most consumers probably don’t care in any case about a rotten core if the fruit is ok.

From a PR perspective – and here’s where you want to listen to outside counsel – perhaps the biggest loss for Apple was the missed opportunity.  By giving lowly store workers nice salaries and making life better for Chinese factory workers, Apple could have created a massive perception boost – one far greater than the comparatively minor incremental cost of doing the right thing. Apple isn’t completely tone deaf, and recent reports indicate that nice pay raises are due to store workers.  It’s a step in the right direction, but it never should have come to this in the first place.  We expect better Apple.

Filtering The Real News From Garbage

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The technological advances we’ve seen in our lifetime is amazing. The Internet has changed the way the world works, cell phones have altered the communications landscape, and many life-threatening illnesses are now curable, just to name a few. While I always marvel at what my kids can do with their smartphones – they laugh at me when I tell them there was no such thing as a PC when I was their age – I sometimes wonder if we’ve gone too far. Yes, it can be a good thing to have a lot of information on a subject, other times too much information, especially when working with editors, can be a negative.

Since President Obama took office we’ve seen a dramatic change in the importance placed on transparency. Being accountable to your constituents is one of the many great things about our democracy. But how much information should we have at our fingertips? How much is too much when it comes to fighting off “Big Brother?” In many ways the act of governing is like sausage — you may like the taste, but you don’t want to see how it’s made.

Knowing how our government representatives vote is fine, but knowing all of the details about how everything is planned and developed “will inspire not reform, but disgust.” In a recent article in CNN, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey talked about the negative side of transparency with regard to government. “Too many politicians aren’t voting their conscience, they’re voting to placate blog commenters, and that’s no way to run government.”

For those of us in the communications field it’s important to ask ourselves if our company is sharing too much information, not enough, or is somewhere in the middle. More important is the question of “what is newsworthy?” Sharing information through multiple channels is fine as long as the news is important. Spamming the world with news of little interest does nothing except get others to tune your news out.

When developing an announcement plan, corporate social media strategy, or building a relationship with an influential editor or blogger, PR folks need to use their internal “garbage meter” to determine how valuable and relevant the news is. Instead of getting people to tune you out, it’s important to make the news compelling enough so that they want to follow your news regularly.

A PR plan or social media strategy needs to take into account what your overall goals are and how newsworthy your announcement is, not “how are we going to blanket the world with our news.” This kind of thinking can also get you in trouble with the media. I know one editor who said that some PR folks upload a release to this editor’s website, Tweet about the news, update Facebook, e-mail the editor directly, and then link back to the editor’s blog with the news. That’s fine as long as the news is of value.

The next time you outline an announcement strategy or PR plan, think carefully about what your goals are. Living in the age of increased transparency, in many ways, is a great thing. But beware of information overload. Or as philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once stated, “In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

What Can We Learn From RIM?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

By now just about everyone knows about RIM’s little mishap last week with Blackberry email. Outages like these can hurt the reputation of any company, but for a tech company I think it’s much worse, especially for a company like RIM that is all about connectivity. Just to pile on a little more, it’s even more problematic for a company like RIM that has been losing market share for a long time.

While I haven’t followed every aspect of this story nor read every blog post that is available, it’s clear that RIM made some mistakes in handling this crisis. And believe me…it is a crisis. Years ago this issue might have gone unnoticed but in today’s world, where social media rules, how come RIM wasn’t better prepared to handle the crisis?

Just like the Boy Scouts say, you need to “be prepared.” Most companies I’ve worked with have policies and procedures in place in the event of a crisis, and I’m sure RIM does at some level. Considering that RIM has experienced outages before, you’d think they would have been better prepared. And I’m not talking about being better prepared to address the technical issues but being better prepared in getting their message out to customers in a more timely way.

Why did it take three days for the CEO to post a YouTube message concerning the problems? Did RIM monitor customer reaction on Twitter or Facebook? Did the company proactively address the issue or reactively reach out to customers? I’m not sure about the answer but from an outside observer’s standpoint they didn’t seem to be prepared at all.

A few thoughts about getting your crisis management plan mapped out.

  • Be prepared. Have a crisis communications plan in place and update it each quarter.
  • Make sure that you now have plans in place that address social media outlets.
  • Investigate the issue and get your facts straight. Guessing doesn’t make the situation any better.
  • “No comment” won’t cut it. And I’ve heard that RIM takes a “we don’t want to talk to the media about anything” stand which makes the situation even worse.
  • Have a chain of command of spokespeople ready. You don’t want the wrong person sharing the wrong message with the public.
  • Empower your communications team to move quickly and cut through the layers of opinion and second guessing so the response doesn’t take days to materialize.

In this day and age I find it highly unusual that companies still can get caught off-guard when a crisis hits. So how should companies like RIM approach these types of very public problems? Do you think that RIM addressed the issue effectively enough to minimize the damage to their reputation?

Trust and Google’s Brand Rep: Is Net Neutrality a Tipping Point?

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The recent debate over net neutrality is a heated one (to say the least). Since Google and Verizon’s talks made the news a few weeks ago, the media has been peppered with headlines discussing the issue. Big questions at the heart of the debate include who should get priority on the Web, how this will impact innovation and small business, whether the government can police this effectively, if this is just a play for big business to benefit, and the overall implications for consumers.

Given the tremendous amount of ink already given to these questions, I’ll save my opinions for another day when the dust settles a bit more. Instead, let’s take a look at the impact to Google’s brand: will net neutrality be the tipping point for trust in Google, transforming them from the company with the “don’t be evil” motto into a “corporate behemoth”?

Based on discussions brewing on the Web, it appears trust could be on the line. Consumers are noting they are moving to new search engines, that the company has lost its connection with its start-up roots and that they are moving away from their entrepreneurial positions to ones that benefit them as a large business. Even comedian Jon Stewart has joined the discussion, documenting the variance in Google’s message from 2006 to present (in his unique way of course).

Jon Stewart on Net Neutrality

The change in their position alone could have huge implications for the company and Google will have to carefully navigate how they reconcile their former “free Internet for everyone” stance with what is a very complicated issue. Consumers could see this as creating a hierarchy for Internet access, with big business looking to line their pockets at their expense. This story isn’t new, and the headlines could increasingly take a turn for the worse from Google’s perspective (insert “evil empire”).

The imperatives for Google: show how net neutrality still aligns to their original position and be clear on the benefits to consumers and small business. If it doesn’t line up, it will be interesting to see how Google is discussed going forward.  One thing for certain, the Google brand is rapidly moving from warm fuzzy search company, to tech titan.

The Swagger Wagon

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Well, despite the fact that Toyota is a case study for how not to handle a crisis situation…they’ve sure come up with a catchy new YouTube campaign for their new minivan. I’ve seen this video posted all over Facebook and sent numerous times over email. It seems to be a YouTube sensation with 3,347,969 views, you can also find the commercials featuring this same couple, the “Meet the Parents” commercial has 774,232 views!

This campaign has definitely taken on a life of its own, even in light of Toyota’s recent troubles. With safety obviously being one of the number one concerns with their cars, you can bet it’s even more of a factor in marketing their minivan. Instead of focusing on the safety, however, they’ve been able to capture a “coolness” factor which personalizes this car to their target market and perhaps is helping people to forget about the whole sticky gas pedal issue.

I guess laughter really is the best medicine…well played Toyota!


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