The Trials and Tribulations of Working in a Team

For my degree I have taken part in various team work experiences, but the biggest have been the GlobCom projects. GlobCom is basically a Global Communications Project, it’s where students from Universities across the world are put together in teams to pitch for a Global PR brief. I am currently in my second year of participating in the project and definitely have mixed feelings about it, however it does demonstrate the trials and tribulations of working in a team and more specifically a Global and virtual team very clearly.

Working within a team is standard for PR practitioners and there are very clear roles that people assume. There’s the natural born leaders, the people happy to do the donkey work and the coasters who basically do nothing. Belbin has his own rather more scientific descriptions  of the types of people in a team, from Implementers the people who turn ideas in to reality to the Plants who come up with the creative ideas. Of course there are several types in between and Belbin bases these roles on the personalities of certain people and the types roles they lend themselves to, there are the 3 types: Action, People and Thought orientated roles. These different types of people and roles provide a balanced working team, although sometimes an imbalance will occur and this is often the time that trouble will arise.

Working in a face to face team is considerably easier than a virtual one, but in this digital age virtual teams are becoming common practice especially within Global PR agencies and international organisations. This means that we need to get used to the workings of virtual and Global teams, the technology that is used and possibly most importantly the different cultures of our team mates. For English speaking countries such as the UK, America, Australia etc it is easier to overcome any hurdles as they have the benefit of a shared first language, but where English is a second language it can be harder. Patience is an essential for these situations, this is also a must when dealing with cultural differences that may arise and the minefield that is time zones.

Working in a virtual team will have all of the same traits of working in face to face team, however the problems that may occur will be heightened and often harder to rectify. In a survey created by RW3 Culture Wizard in 2010 some key points were uncovered including:

“The top five challenges faced during virtual team meetings were insufficient time to build relationships (90%), speed of decision making (80%), different leadership styles (77%), method of decision making (76%), and colleagues who do not participate (75%).”

These 5 points are all things that I have encountered in my experience participating in GlobCom. The first time I took part I was the Global Team Leader which meant being right in the thick of all of the problems and work load, it was difficult but a good and valuable experience. This year I have taken a step back and I’m enjoying working within the team and watching how it evolves and works. The use of social media has made building relationships quicker and easier but the speed of decision making, different leadership styles and methods of decision making are all issues that are beginning to emerge. These are things that aren’t going to go away, but with the right leadership, and patience from the team, they are issues that can be worked through.

Working in teams is something that everybody within the communications field needs to be able to do, whether you’re a worker or a leader. As virtual teams become more and more important to organisations, practitioners need to learn some key skills to aid their ability to work in these virtual Global teams. Practices like strong leadership and structure, clear rules and conduct for team members and importantly to be actively considerate and sensitive to cultural work practices are all essential. One of my favourite demonstrations of the latter are the HSBC adverts, they show the importance of being culturally sensitive when working in a Global context. There are texts on both working in within a Global teams and a virtual ones, but personally I believe the best way to learn how to work in these types of teams is to role up your sleeves and do it yourself.




Google+ vs Pinterest

The two social media new kids on the block of the last few months have undoubtedly been Google’s offering Google+ and the visual network that is Pinterest. Both of these social media channels have their own pros and cons, but in this virtual dog eat dog world which one will prove its worth to businesses and consumers alike?

Having both Google+ and Pinterest accounts I have my own opinion of which I believe is better for personal and business use but before I divulge that information, what exactly are Google+ and Pinterest?

Google+ is the much anticipated social media network from search engine giants Google. Set to be the first real rival to Facebook, there are similarities between the two. The constant stream of your ‘friends’ statuses, the chat facility and the ability set up pages for businesses. The are some more unique features of Google+, the ‘hangout’ allows a Skype type conference call where you can have a multi user conversation using video and audio. Google+ also allows users to create ‘circles’ so that statuses can be targeted to specific groups of people in ‘circles’ that you create. The social network has been adopted by some influential people like Richard Branson and President Obama as well as business. Its slow up take of users haven’t dampened Google’s spirits for the site’s future, but is it a real contender to Facebook especially for business use?

Pinterest is an image base social networking site where users can ‘pin’ images they find on the internet onto ‘boards’ like a digital pin board. A simple toolbar add on is installed so that whenever you are browsing the internet you are able to pin images to your boards. These boards can be themed around anything you like from the latest fashions to your favourite typography. Being a purely visual site lends itself extremely well as a business tool and early adopters of the site for business functions have be online fashion website ASOS and Hugh Hefner’s empire Playboy. Pinterest lends itself to fashion, which is why ASOS has had such success with their Pinterest presence. It is also a great platform for food, crafts, home ware and photography.

Both of these social networks have positives and negatives that affect their useability for organisations, some of which are below:

Having profiles with both Google+ and Pinterest I have formed my own opinion of the social networking sites. Although I joined Google+ first I find that it’s just too similar to Facebook. Why would a business with an established Facebook page attempt to transfer this on to Google+ that has less users? A lot of businesses are setting up Google+ pages because it’s the next social media fad, this is a huge bug bear. DON’T set up a social media presence unless you are going to spend time and effort maintaining it and certainly don’t do it just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Pinterest on the other hand I have to admit is becoming a firm favourite for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a visual person, but I find the uniqueness of the site (even though its not the first of its kind –  Wists) refreshing. For business Pinterest can be hugely beneficial. On one level it can become a virtual store with the ability to create boards based on the latest seasons or stories and on the other hand it is a place where consumers share their favourite things opening up free influential promotion. Of course as any new social media channel does, Pinterest has some issues it needs to iron out, not least its copyright and terms of use. I do however think that Pinterest offers more to organisations and consumers than Google+ does. That’s not to say that Google+ won’t prosper, Facebook is quickly loosing its appeal especially with its constant interface changes and the extremely unpopular Timeline, so there is room for Google+ to poach some of Facebook’s users. However I think Google+ has a good while longer before they reach the sort of numbers that will make it a truly useful tool. Pinterest on the other hand is the social media site of the moment and a tool that I think organisations would do well to adopt.

Direct Marketing for the Digital Age

We are all familiar with the pizza menus posted through our doors or the leaflets showcasing offers for new windows and doors tangled up with our post, but like with many other marketing and promotional methods, direct marketing has gone digital!

The best definition of direct marketing comes from Stone and Jacobs book ‘ Successful Direct Marketing Methods’ and cites direct marketing as:

“the interactive use of advertising media to stimulate an (immediate) behavior modification in such a way that this behavior can be tracked, recorded, analyzed for future retrieval and use.”

Although this is a very ‘marketing’ definition, the method of direct marketing can also be successfully implemented in a public relations strategy.

Direct marketing in the physical form isn’t all junk mail, and can be an extremely effective way to get your message out there. Ad Age estimated that in the US 25% of a marketers budget is spent of direct marketing. With studies, entire texts written on the marketing method and its own association, done correctly direct marketing is not something to be sniffed at and can be very powerful. Physical forms of direct mail are still used today and although in some cases it is junk mail, in other cases it is specifically targeted mail outs to an organisation’s target audience. These mail outs can contain special offers, vouchers or even just reminders of the organisation’s products or services. For example Nectar the loyalty scheme, sends out coupons for ways that their consumers can earn extra Nectar points. The more innovative the direct mail the more effective it usually, an Israeli charity wanted to raise awareness of babies being abandoned and so created this directing marketing campaign, leaving a picture of a baby on people’s doorsteps:

As today we spend more and more time on the internet, one of the best ways to target audiences is online. Direct marketing has followed the trend and gone digital. Cheaper and possibly more effective than the traditional method, digital direct marketing is gaining in popularity. Just like the traditional form, digital direct marketing can be used to target audiences with anything from vouchers, special offers and company news. You’ll more often than not see a link on a website to join a mailing list this is just one of the ways that companies can discover potential consumers online.

There are few tips that I would advise using when creating a digital direct marketing campaign and most of them are also transferable to traditional approaches as well:

1. Be Relevant or be deleted

With junk mail and spam filters becoming increasingly effective, make sure that your message is relevant to the target audience, or your message will be deleted before they even get to open it let alone read it.

2. Innovation

We see thousands of advertising messages every day, so to avoid your message being swallowed up in the mass, make it interesting. Some of the best direct marketing campaigns are innovative and make the recipient sit up and take notice of the message and in turn the organisation behind it.

3. Less is more

One of my own personal bug bears is a company that bombards you with emails. Make your newsletters monthly and do the same with your mail shots. If you’ve followed step 2’s advice then you don’t need to be sending out more than 2 or 3 of emails a month.

4. Have a plan and stick to it

Direct marketing isn’t something you should be throwing together in a day and sending out the next. Take time to plan the campaign, invest in a creative to design the graphic elements and a press officer to write the content. A well thought out message is going to be entirely more effective than an ad hoc one.

Although these tips aren’t extensive and don’t cover every aspect of digital direct marketing they do form a basis for a successful campaign. The one of the most important aspects of all forms of direct marketing is the call for action. However consumers won’t follow this call for action unless they relate to the brand and its message. This needs to be done with accurate audience targeting and innovative communication.

Digital direct marketing has the scope to be so much more innovative and effective than the traditional form. With new technology being invented daily (this may be a slight over exaggeration) incorporating things like augmented reality into direct marketing could be closer than you think. Laziness in digital directing marketing won’t cut the mustard, so to make sure your messages are communicated effectively pull your socks up and get creative!