3 Easy Ways to Give Your Employees A Voice

Hello Blue Gurus blog readers…It’s Mic here with something that’s been on my mind for…well…the last 20 years or so!

It’s a story I’ve referenced countless times to clients and it goes back to my junior year in college at The University of Kansas.

post it notesOur Organizational Communications professor was telling us how the company 3M had specific time set aside for employees to brainstorm on whatever they wanted to…improving processes, new product ideas, etc…and how the Post-It Note was invented by accident.

The thing the professor said that day that has stuck with me ever since (and I sometimes joke it’s the one thing I remember from college) is the following:

EMPLOYEES WANT A VOICE MORE THAN A VOTE. Click To Tweet

For those of you that know me, I’ve always had a voice and I have no problem expressing how I feel. It’s not because of my ego. It’s not because I want to draw attention to myself. It’s not because I think I’m smarter than everyone else. It’s because I want the best solution…and the only way to get there is to get input from people who have a vested interest in the problem or solution.

In my experience, too many organizations are top-down, with the owners, management team, etc. making decisions and then everything flowing down to the people who are actually doing the work, interacting with clients, etc. I’ve never thought this made sense.

Of course there needs to be higher level strategy and decision making among people in leadership positions, but why not include the people who are on “the front lines” who will be responsible for implementing the strategy?

With that in mind, here are…

#micdrop

#MicDrop

3 Easy Ways to Give Your Employees A Voice

1.Have Regular Meetings.
Depending on your situation, weekly, monthly or quarterly meetings where information is shared, employees are given a platform to ask questions and hear the direction of the company…should be standard practice.

If it’s not possible to get everyone together, utilize technology (conference calls, webinars, Skype, etc) to get as many employees engaged as possible. Or have team or department-specific meetings where two-way communication is encouraged.

2.CEO’s (and other C-Levels) MUST Make The Effort To Interact With Employees.  
I have a client whose CEO has quarterly coffee with select staff where they sit down and can ask her whatever they want. Not only does this give employees visibility to the CEO, but it also lets them know that she cares about their opinions and that she’s approachable. This type of informal and human interaction is good for the employees, good for the CEO and good for the company.

The worst thing a management team can do is to be seen as unapproachable. It’s not that hard to take a little time once a week or once a month to get out among employees and see how they’re doing, what’s working, what’s not, etc.

3.Encourage Employees To Write For The Company Blog.
Smart companies have a blog and share that information with their social networks (Yes, this is one of the services we provide for clients, so this is a bit of shameless promotion…but, ask yourself, doesn’t it just make sense?) Even smarter companies use their blog as a way to engage employees in sharing their stories about business and life.

I have one particular client who I told years ago “You never know…your employees may be blogging one day!” One of the senior leaders said, “Our employees will NEVER blog.” Today, the majority of the blog posts from that company are from, you guessed it….EMPLOYEES. This is an amazingly easy way to give your employees a voice and increase employee engagement.

These are just a few ways that employees can be given more of a voice within an organization. There are countless other ways to do it. If your company isn’t doing these things already, it’s easy to get started. In fact, why not pull a few employees together and ask them for their ideas on how they would like more of a voice in the organization?

I promise you this: Many of your unrealized, best ideas are sitting within the walls of your company right now. All you have to do is ask. It’s really not that hard.

To learn more about how we can help your employees get more engaged through the power of blogging and storytelling, call or email me at 913-645-6650 or mic@bluegurus.com

Blogging Success Stories and You Gotta Try CamelCamelCamel.com!

Hello friends! It’s Jason with this week’s blog post.

Real World Stories of Blogging Making Things Happen

One of our goals for our blog this year is to tell more real world stories about the work we do. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard some great stories from our clients about things that have happened because we are blogging together.

DurvetWe’ve been blogging with Durvet for a couple of months now and they are already seeing great results. One of Durvet’s challenges over the years has been that a lot of people in Kansas City don’t know who they are or what they do. (They supply animal healthcare products on a massive scale out of their warehouse in Blue Springs.) Mark Niblo wrote one of the articles in their first month of blogging and somebody from the Kansas City Star saw it on LinkedIn. They contacted Mark to ask more about Durvet and they’ve decided to write a piece about Durvet for the Star.

Straub ConstructionWe’ve been blogging with Straub Construction for over a year. In last month’s blogging session, Ernie Straub mentioned that someone from the Kansas City Business Journal had recently given him a bunch of kudos for their blogging and social media efforts. Their impression was that Straub has really ramped up their presence on social media over the past few months and they’ve been seeing their stories on LinkedIn.

These are just two examples. Who knows what an article in the Star or visibility with the Business Journal might do for Durvet or Straub Construction. What I do know is that it makes conversations happens. It raises awareness. And it happens on a consistent basis.

CamelCamelCamel.com

CamelCamelCamel.comDo you love buying stuff from Amazon as much as I do? If you shop there often and haven’t heard of CamelCamelCamel.com, you’ve gotta check it out. Did you know that Amazon changes their price on items multiple times a day based on purchase volume, number of views, etc.? CamelCamelCamel.com can show you the price history for any item. You can see the highest price it ever sold for, the lowest price, and get a feel for what a good deal would be for an item. It’s amazing!

Our free Amazon.com price tracker monitors millions of products and alerts you when prices drop. Click To Tweet

I use the site in a couple of ways:

  • The easiest way is to click on the Popular Products tab. This will show you pages of products that are being bought the most by other shoppers. It also tells you if it’s a good deal or best price based on past pricing data. It’s a great way to browse current deals on Amazon.
  • The other way I use the site is to monitor the price of an item over time. For example, if I want to buy a 4K television, I find it on Amazon, copy the URL and paste it into CamelCamelCamel.com. I can then set up an alert to happen if the product drops below a price threshold (basically if it drops to a price I would be willing to pay for it.)

Try it out… you will love it.

Shameless Call to Action

We do three things really well:

If you or someone you know could use our help, I would love to talk to you about it!

iPhone User? You’re Going To Want GBoard

Post author: Mic Johnson

micanddougI recently received a tweet from my good friend Doug Seaberg with a link and the words…

“I installed it and it is terrific.”

When I clicked the link, it took me to an article with a video that talked about a sweet new keyboard called GBoard for iPhone users. In short, GBoard:

-Allows you to easily glide across the keyboard to type.

-Provides a Google Search bar right above the keyboard that lets you search for restaurants, pictures, GIFs and more. And you don’t have to leave whatever app you’re using to do it.

-Let’s you easily share your search results with people you’re texting or chatting with. This is particularly useful when you’re wanting to share an address, an article, video, etc.

Personally, I’m a big fan of sending GIFs and images when I’m communicating with others via text, social networks, etc. I think it’s just a fun way to humanize interactions…and this app makes it super simple to do.

Major kudos to Google for doing what they do best…finding a way to save people time and make something that already existed even more functional and easy to use, all while incorporating what they’re best known for (SEARCH). Now if I could just get them to abandon that darn Google+ experiment.

Watch this short and simple video to see how GBoard works and, if you’re an iPhone user, you can download it here.

{P.S. – This is a perfect example of what we talk to our clients about all the time…Thinking Like A Blogger. This was a simple scenario from my daily life that provided value for me. Doug took the time to help me by sharing the article with me on Twitter. Then I turned around and wrote a blog post about it because I thought it may help some of our readers. This is what social business is all about. Consistently providing value and HELPING PEOPLE. If you and your company are blogging, you should be thinking this way…ALWAYS. If your company isn’t blogging yet but thinking about it, this is the mindset you need. Finally, if you want an accountability partner to help you get your blog up and running like a machine, email me at mic@bluegurus.com.}

 

4 Things That Happen When We Engage A New Blogging Client

Post author: Mic Johnson

We’ve been helping companies execute their weekly blog strategy for the better part of the seven years we’ve been in business and four things generally happen when we engage a new client and their team in the process:

1. Initially, people have fear and anxiety about writing.

I certainly understand why the fear and anxiety is there. I had some of that too in the beginning. There are several reasons it exists. For a lot of people, they haven’t written anything of substance since college or maybe even high school, so it’s a muscle that hasn’t been flexed in awhile.

For others, it’s the fear of their thoughts being “out there” on the internet and on social sites for the world to see. And for most, it’s the fear that what they write won’t be good enough, that people won’t care about it, or that they just aren’t a very good writer.

Anxiety around things that are outside of our comfort zones is normal. But I’ve got good news for you…

writing2. Those same people quickly get over the fear and anxiety of writing.

What I’ve seen consistently is that once people write that first “rough draft” and I get a chance to review it, what they’ve written is actually pretty good!

I often say… “People think they’re a horrible writer or a great writer. The truth is usually somewhere in between.” And that has proven out time and again over the years.

People think they're a horrible writer or a great writer. The truth is usually somewhere in between. Click To Tweet

The good news is that we’re able to coach people along the way to become better writers, to realize that the magic happens when they get outside of their comfort zones, and we edit and proof their content so it flows better for readers.

It’s a partnership and we’re there for our clients every step of the way to help them become better, more confident writers.

3. Other people in the company want to write and the blog team expands. 

As people in the company start to see the content that the blog team is creating (and hearing about the success stories that have come out of those efforts), we typically see others in the company who would like to take a stab at writing. The “early adopters” on the blog teams we create help break down the fear and anxiety walls for others within the organization.

And there’s nothing better than when you get a group of energized, engaged and creative people together once a month during a blog meeting to brainstorm on ideas and topics, support one another, and help share the stories that happen every day within the company.

One of my favorite business quotes is one I heard when I was in an Organizational Communications class in college:

In organizations, people want a voice more than a vote. Click To Tweet

Blogging is a great way to give employees a platform to share their voices.

4.  Cool things start to happen for the company and for the people who are doing the writing.

Routinely we hear about our clients being surprised by how many people are reading their articles, about people who they haven’t talked to in years reaching out to them because they saw a blog post, about how many “LIKEs” or “COMMENTS” they got, about how clients, prospects and friends have mentioned that they read their posts.

We had one client who got a $27,000 opportunity after only blogging a couple of times a month. Now of course that doesn’t always happen so quickly (and for him it happened in only about 4 months of blogging), but it definitely wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t sharing his stories through blogging.

We have another client we’ve been working with for nearly 4 years, Alterra Bank, whose President and CEO Pam Berneking wrote about all of the benefits that blogging has brought to their organization. She talks about the benefits to the culture, to recruiting, to retention, to leadership and more.

Finally, sometimes we run into situations where people absolutely don’t want to, or can’t commit to, writing. We have a solution for that too if the process above doesn’t work for a particular client.

At the end of the day, we just want to give companies an accountability partner who will help them consistently share their stories. It’s better than the alternative, right?

To learn more about how we can help you get your blogging effort going, call or email me at 913-645-6650 or mic@bluegurus.com. I’d love to help you get your blogging strategy up and running!

Click here to see a video of me and Jason talking about our blogging effort!

How A Blog Post From 2011 Led Me To Someone Awesome In 2016

Brad and Barbara Douglas

Brad and Barbara Douglas

Post Author: Mic Johnson

I want to take a few minutes to share a personal story with you that absolutely blew my mind.

Not long ago, my wife Missy and I invited my good friend (and one of the most awesome people I know) Brad Douglas and his wife Barbara over for dinner.

We wanted to, in a personal and meaningful way, say “Thank You” for an introduction Brad made that led to a business opportunity for Missy’s meeting and event planning business, MJMeetings.

At one point in the night, Brad told me about someone he met named James Webb. Brad said James was a fascinating gentlemen who had been in the Navy, had been in the special forces, and who had some amazing experiences in his business life.

During their conversation, James told Brad about an article he carried with him that had dramatically impacted his life. James told him that he had shared the article with countless people over the years.

And then James pulled the article out of his briefcase and slid it across the table. Much to Brad’s surprise, it was an article I wrote nearly 5 years ago (and if you follow our blog or know us, you’ve probably heard about it)…

Yes, it was I’m Just Trying To Get Away From People That Suck.

I'm Just Trying To Get Away From People That Suck Click To Tweet

Wait, an article I wrote nearly FIVE years ago is something that dramatically impacted the life of someone I don’t even know? And to this day he carries it with him in his briefcase and shares it with other people?

James Webb

James Webb

MIND. OFFICIALLY. BLOWN.

I’m happy to report that James and I recently met at the Factory Cafe at The Roasterie and had a great conversation. Oh, and guess what? HE’S AWESOME.

James asked me more than once what he could do to help Blue Gurus and MJMeetings and he shared some of his experiences about his upbringing on a farm in Tennessee, his time in the special forces, and his time in business.

Here are a few lessons for you, your company and anyone else who blogs or who’s been thinking about blogging:

  1. You will never know how many people read what you write.
  2. You may never know how what you write may impact someone’s life in a profound way.
  3. Spend enough time with awesome people…and you’ll continue to meet even more awesome people.
  4. There is way more ROI to blogging than just money.
  5. Our world is about CONNECTING with other people in real and meaningful ways. Writing is an amazing way to do that.
  6. Forget about 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. We’re all a lot closer than you realize.
  7. Be patient. Even if you have to wait 5 years to meet someone whose life your writing impacted in a positive way….take it from me….it’s worth it.

Have you experienced anything like this, either as a writer or as someone who reached out to a writer who impacted your life in a positive way? We’d love to hear about it. Post a comment below and share it with us and our readers!

We do it because we love you. And we need your feedback!

Written by Jason Terry

LoveI’m writing this on a Monday, the day after Valentine’s day. And I was thinking about you. Yes you. You’re my friend, or my client, or a family member, or my wife. You’re someone who cares about Mic and me and you want to see us succeed. I can’t thank you enough for being an active part of our world.

And that’s exactly why we spend time every week writing passionately on our blog, just for you. We try to create a story that will make you think. Laugh. Maybe even cry. Or teach you something new. It’s the best way to let you know what’s going on in our world and what we care about at the moment. And the hope is, because we care about it so much, you will too.

We need your feedback!

It would really help us to know where we should continue focusing our stories. Do you want LinkedIn and blogging tips? Do you like the motivational life stories we tell like trying to get away from people that suck and that you’ve got to keep watering? Do you like the technical tips and how-to instructions? Do you want to hear more stories about our clients and how we’ve helped them succeed? What about the not-for-profits we adopt, donate consulting time to and organize toilet paper drives for?

And I’m sure there are things we haven’t talked about or don’t talk about as often. Social media etiquette? Business 101: Things to avoid so you don’t screw up your reputation and brand? Business recommendations?

If you have a minute, please get back to me about what you would like to see from us so that we can make what we share even more relevant for you this year.

And be honest. Like our friend Mike Kelly was about the format of our email newsletter. If you noticed some changes there recently, it was because Mike had the courage to point out some things he thought we might want to fix. And he was right. So we fixed them.

Now, on to some quick hits to make good on the promise of the content of our blogging!

Gotta Give Back

Gina Stuelke and Jim Stuelke invited us to the Spay & Neuter fundraiser called the Spay-ghetti and No Balls Gala on Friday night, February 19th. My wife and I love animals. And we love the Stuelke’s so we’ll be there. Let me know if you’re going too!

Technical Tip

If you haven’t figured out a way to manage all your passwords, we still recommend RoboForm to people all the time. I’ve also heard that LastPass is good. Sure, it will take you an hour or so to set things up, and you have to pay something for it, but it’s amazing when you don’t have to worry about passwords any more.

Something to Make you Think

I read a quote sent to me by a millennial friend named Jacob Wayman this morning. Loved it. Hope it hits you in just the right way.
Don't downgrade your dream to match your reality, upgrade your faith to match your destiny. Click To Tweet

Business Recommendation

I met Phillip Howe, owner of Renew Crew, through my friends at Home Rental Services. I liked Phillip immediately and had him come to our house to look at doing work on our deck and concrete driveway. The process made sense, the pricing was reasonable and we hired him. The results were great! If you need to breath new life into your deck, or need to protect your driveway, definitely give Phillip a call.

Avoid $1,000 fines for copyrighted images on your website with these three alternatives.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a significant increase in companies receiving legal nastygrams for using copyrighted images on their websites. These notices have been requests for payment anywhere from $800 to $1,200 for a single image. So what should you do to avoid copyright infringement?

We ask our clients to use photos that they’ve taken themselves for most stories to avoid this issue entirely. I also believe photos that you take yourself work better when trying to convey the emotion of a situation. But that’s not always possible, and sometimes you just forget to take pictures during the moment.

If you have to find something on the internet, I wanted to point you in a couple of directions for finding images that are royalty free for use on your website or in your blog posts. (Royalty-free refers to the right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales.)

Pixabay

PixabayPixabay is a site full of royalty free images. The only trick is that search results begin with a row of sponsored images that you actually have to pay for. Just skip this row by scrolling down and get to the real results that you can use for free. Visit pixabay.com to try it out.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia commons is a database of almost 30 million media files that can be used freely. Visit commons.wikimedia.org to see if you can find something useful.

Google Image Search with License Type Filter

I bet you’ve used Google Image Search before to find pictures for your website.

Did you know that the results that come back by default include copyrighted images? Probably.

Did you know that you can filter the results easily to include only images that are free to use however you want? Probably not.

All you have to do is go to images.google.com and search. For this example, let’s use “social media” as the search term. Type in “social media” and click the search icon. On the resulting screen, you will see a toolbar at the top of the page before all of the search results. It’s always been there, you just might have missed it. Click the “search tools” menu.

Google Image Search

The “search tools” menu has a bunch of options in it like size, color, type, time, etc. Crazy, right? What we’re looking for is the “usage rights” menu. Click that and you will get a dropdown of options shown below. Click the “labeled for reuse with modification” and your search results will be filtered appropriately.

Google Image Search

I’m not your lawyer.

Grabbing images from the internet has some risk associated with it. But these free options seem to be great ways to avoid problems with copyrighted images.

Personal versus Professional Stories. What’s Your Comfort Zone?

Post author: Jason Terry

Your Comfort ZoneAs you tell stories through blogging, you’ll find yourself thinking about the topics or types of stories you should be sharing. I like to call these topics content buckets.

These buckets might include staff profiles, client success stories, community involvement, project updates, company awards and more. You can use these buckets in a rotation every month, and it will help you answer the question, “What should I write about this week?” by giving you topics to focus on.

The next thing you should think about is how comfortable you are sharing personal stories versus keeping things entirely professional.

If you’re creating a personal blog, whatever you decide is the right answer. If your company is blogging, it can turn into a passionate discussion. Some people are comfortable sharing everything. Others don’t want to see anything too personal being shared.

In most situations, we recommend being as personal as you can, because personal stories typically have the most impact.

People are connected to you or your company for many reasons. They like you. They like your products. Your service takes something off their plate that lets them focus on more important things. The list goes on and on as to why, but many times those reasons boil down to relationships between people.

I believe that our success depends on the relationships we have with people and our investment in those people. It’s true whether you’re a sole proprietor or part of a company with hundreds of employees.

Don’t believe me?

If you aren’t convinced yet, it’s time for some real world research. What are your friends, peers, and competitors talking about? Go to their websites and look at their blog posts.

Here are a couple of recent examples from my network:

I’m not saying all of your stories need to be deeply personal and intimate. All I ask is that you take a look at the last five to ten blog posts you’ve shared. If none of them are personal, you’re missing a great opportunity to move people and help them remember their great relationship with you!

Why You Absolutely Positively Need To #ThinkLikeABlogger

Post author: Mic Johnson

Jason wrote a great post recently about what we’ve learned by helping companies create blogging teams. I wanted to piggyback on that with a concept I’ve shared with every single one of my clients over the years. I call it…

#ThinkLikeABlogger

Let me explain…

Every month we meet with our clients to brainstorm on ideas and topics for their blog. At first glance, you wouldn’t think it would be hard to come up with ideas and stories to share with their clients and prospects. But if you haven’t ever been in a situation where you’re systematically and consistently creating content, then you don’t know how challenging it can be sometimes.

I often tell people that we’re the most consistent marketing effort that our clients have ever had. And, until one of them tells me otherwise, I’m standing by that statement.thinklikeablogger

We will always do what we’ve been hired to do…coach them on blogging, give them confidence and feedback on their writing, edit/proof/publish and send their content out to their social media sites.

But we can’t do our job if they don’t do theirs.

We need their help coming up with ideas and topics because they’re the experts in their industry, live and work in the company culture, solve client problems, etc.

Alas, there have been PLENTY of times where we show up for a monthly blogging meeting and ask “Ok, so what ideas do you have? What’s been going on over the last month? What’s coming up in the next month or two? What have you been doing in the community?”

The response we sometimes get? BLANK STARES.

This is how the #ThinkLikeABlogger concept came to life. When you’re walking around your office, when you’re helping a client, when you’re doing something in the community, when you experience something cool in your personal or professional life…if you’re responsible for writing content for your company…you should ALWAYS be thinking like a blogger and sharing those stories.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thinking about what I might write for the Blue Gurus blog and then I’ll say something to a client, see something that inspires me, help solve a problem, etc. and then that situation becomes my next blog post. In fact, THIS VERY BLOG POST was inspired by what I tell my clients all the time.

And now I’m telling you.

If you and your company blog, you should always #ThinkLikeABlogger. If you and your company aren’t blogging, I have one question for you: Why not? (I still have yet to hear a good answer to this question in the 6 years I’ve been asking it.)

If you’re ready. I’m ready. Email me. Let’s get started.

What We’ve Learned By Helping Companies Create Blogging Teams

Post Author: Jason Terry

TeamMany of you know that we help companies tell their stories through blogging (and social media updates and email newsletters.) We started doing this back in 2009 before anybody had really heard much about it… before it was “cool”.

We knew early on that sharing stories with trusted relationships strengthens your brand, keeps you top of mind and helps you grow your bottom line. We’ve experienced it personally and love helping our clients experience that same rush.

2015 is the year of mainstream company blogging.

We’ve had more opportunities this year than ever before and we see more and more companies (finally) sharing their stories through blogging. Some people are acting like its common sense to do blogging as part of their sales and marketing efforts. We don’t have to explain the concept nearly as much as we used to.

As companies mature in their efforts to tell their stories, the natural progression would be to create a blogging team. There are lots of good reasons to do this. You get perspectives from different areas of your organization. It’s a team building activity. It’s a great way to share the burden of creating useful, interesting content on a weekly basis. It fosters better internal communication. And the list goes on and on…

Here are a just a few of the things we’ve learned helping companies form their blogging teams:

  1. Start small, but be open to the fact that the team could eventually incorporate anyone in your organization. A smaller team will have a better chance of figuring out your voice and learning the ropes of blogging.
  2. It sounds obvious, but take the time to carefully pick the people that get to be involved. Don’t choose based on the fact that they have extra time on their hands. If you allow their names and faces to go along with the blog posts, they will be true representatives of your company and your brand.
  3. Start with Why We Are Doing This, not What We Are Going To Do. Get everyone on the same page about the goals you are trying to accomplish. The people you are trying to reach. The kinds of things you want to talk about. We’ve seen companies tell their staff that they are going to write blog posts without getting initial buy-in. It doesn’t work long term. Getting everyone on the same page and coming up with the plan together will really help during execution.
  4. Hold them accountable. The first couple of months are easy because there are so many stories to tell. As the months go by, you will see people make excuses for why their blog post didn’t get written even though they had an entire month to get it done. Either they are committed to the process or they aren’t.
  5. Don’t keep it a secret. One of our most successful blogging clients sends a staff-wide email with the blogs that will be going out. You want everyone in the company to see what’s going on. It’s hard to quantify how giving the employees a voice helps company cultures thrive.

Does your company have a blogging team? Would you like to hear more from Mic and I on this topic in the form of real world stories? Let me know!