20 September 2009

The Advertising Game

Advertising is effective thats for sure. How many of us ask for a Kleenex rather than a tissue or call our MP3 player an iPod? We are bombarded with advertising at home and at work, but what works and what doesn't? Here is my list:


It is annoying to get telemarketing calls at home, but I have even had them call me at work. I recently met a telemarketer on a bus when I was in Atlanta. When I found out what she did for a living, the first question I asked her was how does she handle the rejection. She said that out of 100 calls she probably gets one or two sales. So why do companies continue to do it? What a great way to lose customers -- annoy them, but they must be making some money at it or they wouldn't continue to do it. Telemarketing is my number one annoyance in advertising and as soon as I answer the phone and get that few seconds of dead air, that is my queue to hang up.

Fax Blasts

I remember someone from my IAAP Chapter asked me to fax the notice of our Chapter dinner to a list of about 60 companies to promote it. I refused because I didn't see it as an effective way of reaching out to other assistants and/or businesses. I don't know about you, but when I get these "flyer" type faxes, they go immediately in the recycle bin. I don't like them because it is a waste of paper, it clutters up the fax tray and becomes another job I have to do to separate the legitimate faxes from the unsolicited faxes or they are addressed to someone who no longer works there or to nobody in particular. To me this shows me the company has not done their homework on updating their contacts and are not considering the environment.

E-Mail Blasts

I don't mind receiving e-mail updates from companies where I have subscribed to their website or blog. It is usually a business I am interested in and I want to know when new courses or products are offered. If I find my Inbox is getting too cluttered and I am not reading the e-mails from these companies, I simply unsubscribe.

I had an experience where I unsubscribed and then received an e-mail back from the website owner asking me why I was unsubscribing. It took me by surprise because normally I unsubscribe with no feedback from the website. I answered back that I just didn't have an interest in the e-mails at this time and received a further e-mail asking me if there was something they could do so I would subscribe again. This was starting to get annoying. After the third e-mail back and forth I finally just told the person I was not interested and to please stop e-mailing me. I understand a company would be interested in knowing why people unsubscribe so they can improve their business, but a quick voluntary survey back would have been more appropriate. On my blog if someone unsubscribes I am notified by e-mail that they have unsubscribed and they are given a few choices as to why. Nine times out of ten the reason is "Other or will not disclose," which is a perfectly legitimate reason and I think people should be respected and not bothered.

Television ads

I remember being in a grocery store and a young child said to their mother, "Mommy, I want the margarine where I get a crown on my head." I know I am dating myself with this ad, but advertising does influence our decisions on what we purchase. Although, nowadays we have the option to fast forward through the commercials so they are having to come up with more creative ads to keep our attention and you must admit, some are pretty funny.

Going, going, gone...

I still get some flyers by regular mail and I do still appreciate them when it is a menu from a fast-food restaurant, money-back coupons or notices of courses in my area, but otherwise I throw them in the recycle bin.

In anyone home?

When I e-mail a company I like to hear back right away so I know the website is still active. Normally I receive an automated message saying that someone will get back to me within one business day and that is acceptable. There are so many companies to choose from that you really need to hear back in a reasonable amount of time or you just move on to to next one. Once I have a company that I know I can rely on, I put them in my Favourites and then continue to use them.

Give me something and I will look further

In the past companies used to promise you the world, but when you would click on their ad, they didn't really tell you anything except to say, pay a certain amount of money and then you will get the answer. I want to know that I can trust the company first. If I read an article from a company with good tips and things that I can use and they have their weblink attached, I will normally check out what else they have to offer and will feel more comfortable buying their product or service because they have already proven to me that they have expertise in that area.

An offer of "free products" will interest me, especially if it is a new product because I want to try it out before buying it. I don't particularly like trial offers because then I normally have to do something after 30 days: either send it back or go on the website to decline the offer. Recently I was offered a free upgrade from my cable provider and it was easy, after 30 days if I didn't want it, it would automatically expire. If I did want it, then they sent me an e-mail reminder asking me if I wanted to sign up. It was easy and I got the benefit of trying the service before signing up.

Make it simple

I like things simple! Perhaps it is my age, but I like to go on a site, get what I want and then get off again. I think it is because there is just so much to do in a day that I don't want to spend too much time on a website. Many times I have ordered products and then have had to abandon my order because it just got too complicated and I wasn't sure how to get back to my order. If a company wanted to monitor anything, I would suggest monitoring when an order is abandoned. Is there something about the website that could be improved to make it easier to make a sale?

I'm a people person

The first place I go on a website is the Contact Us link. I want to know that there will be a person I can speak to if I can't complete the order myself or if I have questions after the purchase. When I booked tickets on my recent trip to Birmingham, it was becoming evident that I would not receive my tickets before I left on holidays. Thankfully, there was a 1-877 number and I called and arranged to have the tickets delivered to my hotel instead. It was nice to have the immediate contact.

18 September 2009

Atlanta, Georgia: The City that Smiles

I recently arrived in Atlanta, Georgia to attend OfficeArrow's Lift Summit on Social Media. It was an amazing conference. If you have never heard of OfficeArrow I would recommend you check them out. They are a team of office professionals for office professionals. Whoever had the idea to put the templates on their site should pat themselves on the back. Once you log on click on the tab Productivity and you will see on the right Templates. Click on that and you will find a wealth of templates from a resume, cover letter, minutes, agenda and many others. I believe someone mentioned there were almost 500 to choose from.

I am now leaving Atlanta to travel to Birmingham and the impression I am left with is I have never been in a city that smiles so much. Everywhere I went people have been smiling and so helpful. From the young cadet who waited while I got my subway pass and directed me to the downtown core, to the man who recommended the High Museum and Atlanta Aquarium and gave me directions on how to get there.

I followed their advice and saw both and I must agree they were a delight to visit. I especially enjoyed the Renaissance Art exhibit at the High Museum. It was amazing to see paintings that were done in the 1600 hundreds with images of people so vibrant they looked like they could jump off the canvass. Quite remarkable.

The Aquarium that houses the whale sharks was spectacular with huge stingrays, sharks and scuba divers in the midst of it. Yes, I did say scuba divers! I was told that for a mere $250 you could have the privilege of swimming among these giants. Yikes! Better them than me, but it was very neat to watch.

Now I am off to Birmingham, Alabama home of Taylor Hicks. I am looking forward to his concert on the 25th, but until then I will be relaxing at my hotel beside the pool and taking one day to visit Nashville -- Hee Haw! I can hardly wait.

7 September 2009

We live in an Acronym Happy World...

Does anyone even know what CNN stands for? I don't! It has become such a common initialism that it is recognized immediately and everyone knows what it is. And who bothers writing out the words e-mail, TV, ASAP or FYI when everyone will know what you mean anyway?

I recently received an e-newsletter from Jane Watson regarding Acronyms and Initialisms, which I thought was timely and wanted to share with you. Each organization we work for will have their own acronyms that we have to get familiar with fairly quickly if you want to know what they are talking about. Depending on how acronym happy your office is, it can be like learning a new language. Just when I think I am starting to understand my new office's language they throw in a new one that I have never heard of before. Back to the drawing board...

Coming from a legal background, we were always taught if you are using an acronym or initialism in writing, on the first use you should spell it out and then put the acronym in brackets, which makes a lot of sense and saves a lot of head scratching and searching the document to figure out what the person is referring to. After the first use, then you can feel free to use the acronym throughout the document.

We do get used to our acronyms however and they become words to us and sometimes forget that others may not understand. Take for instance on my first day in my new job, these were the acronyms that were being tossed about in conversations at a meeting where I was taking minutes: DOCAS, DRE, LHINS, NAGWD, OCRI and DAC to name a few and these of course are all pronounced as words. I didn't have a clue what they were talking about and at first thought I had landed on another planet. Not to mention the initialisms such as CIHR, ORCC, OHRI and even in the news WHO, H1N1 and SARS. It can get confusing.

I appreciated Ms. Watson's distinction between acronyms and initialisms. It certainly made it clearer to me. Speaking of initialisms, have you noticed that in many offices, in the e-mail salutation, they refer to people either by their first initial or first and last initial, i.e. Hi P or Hi PR. I refuse to use it because it makes e-mail even more impersonal than it already is and as a new person, sometimes it is hard to figure out who C is if they are only referred to in a sentence. Ugh!

I suppose we better get used to it as it seems to be a trend and start to learn the language of acronyms and initialisms. In our own correspondence however, try to use the person's first name in an e-mail and in a letter consider your audience and spell out your shortforms on the first use. It will make life easier on the receiving end as the end goal of speaking and writing is still to be understood by our audience.