Archive for March 2011

Delivering Bad News Tactfully and Effectively


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In the study of communication a word that comes up often is 'Conflict'. It is uncomfortable but it happens, every day in fact. One place that conflict can really cause some serious issues is in the workplace. Below I was giving a scenario and asked how I felt is should be handled. I responded by explaining to conflict management techniques I learned. Personally my suggestions are pretty good, but you can be the judge of that.


“You are a department manager in a mid-sized company that provides technology support services.  You have ten employees who are required to maintain a high level of technical expertise and deliver excellent customer service.  One of your employees, who has been with the company for two years, is performing at a substandard level and you have received numerous complaints from customers and coworkers.  In addition, this employee has displayed confrontational behavior, which has created a hostile environment.  You must now meet with this employee and deliver an ultimatum regarding the need for immediate improvement or dismissal.”
            Any person who has worked in management position knows there will always be a member of their team that does not work well with others. It is essential to avoid procrastination, which tends to be “one of the biggest problems with delivering bad news” (Donnelly, 2011, ¶4). Rather than wait until a situation escalates, it is best to speak to an employee as soon as possible. A hostile work environment can be viewed as past the point of escalation. With the correct techniques, not only can the conflict be resolved, it is probable to save the employee’s position as well.
            In the above-mentioned scenario, it is the manager’s duty to bring the conflict caused by the employee to a resolution. When attempting to resolve any interpersonal conflict, a successful procedure to follow is the “confrontation ritual” (Cahn, 2007, pg 97).  This guideline consists of six steps:
1.            Preparation: Identify your problem/needs/issues.
2.            Tell the person “We need to talk.”
3.            Interpersonal confrontation: Talk to the other person about your problem.
4.            Consider your partner's point of view: Listen, empathize, and respond with               understanding.
5.            Resolve the problem: Make a mutually satisfying agreement.
6.            Follow up on the solution: Set a time limit for reevaluation (Cahn, 2007,                             pg 97).
            It is imperative to first, be very clear of what issues are connected to the individual in question. By indentifying the problem, it becomes an easier task to discuss. The next step is to not allow the problem to grow any worse, approach the employee and be upfront about the desire to speak to them.  When speaking to the person “keep the message brief, direct, and don't sugar-coat it” (Donnelly, 2011, ¶10). It is best to remain honest about the issue at hand. After speaking, it is important to listen to what the employee has to say. At this moment, it is time to resolve the issue. Finally, it is best to let the person know that there will be a follow up and a reevaluation of their performance.
            When using any theory that involves conflict management it must be remembered that people do not always respond as we would like them too. In using, the “confrontation ritual” there may be a point where another theory will be a handy tool to use. An example of a method that is helpful is referred to as the S-TLC system, an “acronym for Stop, Think, Listen, and Communicate” (Cahn, 2007, pg 41). An employee who has already caused a disruption with co-workers and offended customers, may cause management problems as well. If the process of discussing these issues becomes difficult, stopping to think while you listen will help make the decision on how you would like to communicate.
            A team member that has over two years of experience is difficult to replace. Time and money will have to be spent, training a new employee to fill that position. It is best to work on resolving a conflict with an experience team member then termination. By using the correct conflict resolution techniques, it is possible to save the individual from losing their job. The “confrontation ritual” and the S-TLC system are the necessary methods to make that possible.
References
Cahn, D.D., & Abigail, R.A. (2007). Managing conflict through communication. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Donnelly, T. (2011, January 14). How to Deliver Bad News to Employees. Retrieved March 27, 2011 from http://www.inc.com/guides/201101/how-to-deliver-bad-news-to-employees.html

Use Twitter for your Customer Service Needs


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This is an article I wrote a little over a year ago. I was recent to Twitter and I immediately saw the benefits for business owners to use the social network as a platform to perform customer service. You can read the original article here.


February 03, 2010 - There continues to be much discussions about the benefits of Twitter and the many reasons why an account on their is necessary.  What sets it apart from other social networking sites is the  real time post of its members every second of every day. Many companies are quickly becoming aware of this fact and have started twitter accounts. Where at one time commercials and other forms of advertising would post the web address for a company, i.e. www.honda.com or www.pepsi.com, it is increasingly common to see an organization's Twitter address. Diverse companies such as @Comcast@Dell, and @Southwest Airlines have been using the site to not only help build brand image, but to have a direct platform for their customers.

Now why is this important to you? 

These twitter address for companies can often be the easiest way to accomplish many of your customer service needs. The advantage of immediate conversation, with a company you use for products and services is amazing. In theory, the amount of time it takes to send a tweet out and receive a response will be quicker then making a phone call. 

I will give a great example of using Twitter for this very use. Sometime last year I ordered an AT&T LG VU phone from the cell phone website www.wirefly.com.  When the phone arrived to my home there were some problems with the device. I immediately called and of course was stuck listening to elevator music while being on hold. As I sat there waiting I got the idea to search for Wirefly on Twitter and came across their page.  I sent @Wirefly a tweet explaining my problem. Before a live person picked up the phone I was sent back a tweet and then a direct message explaining what I should do. This saved me an unimaginable amount of time. Now I will not get into what happened when the second LG VU phone came, lets just say I am the proud owner of a Black Berry Curve now.

Every experience with using Twitter for customer service may not work this perfect.  One should never discuss secure information online for starters. It is also wise to remember that you have no information about the company employee you are communicating with. With that said, it still can still be a great way for initial contact and get FAQ's answered. Also, large corporations are continuing to hire people to work strictly on their social media sites, and it is possible to build a rapport with these individuals.  This can be a great way to give immediate feed back about one's experience with a product.  

As the popularity of Twitter grows, businesses will continue to use the site for direct communication with customers. Discounts, product news & developments, marketing, and customer service will all be accessible on one page. It seems that 140 characters continues to be just enough, to say a whole lot. 

Social networking continues to be one of the most common tools we now use to communicate. The power of these websites for business purposes is still in the process of being discovered. I do believe that Twitter is on the forefront of this movement. 


Lets Discuss Media Technology


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            As we humans advance in technology, we have discovered new ways to communicate with each other. The goal has always been to make communication possible quickly and over long distance of land. From the smoke signal to the messenger pigeon, man’s quest from the beginning was to discover how to accomplish this goal. The invention of internet technology continues to give us new and exciting ways to send and receive messages from one another. Media technology is on the leading path towards the future of communication.

            The following are four examples of media technology used every day. I have deciphered a brief description of the technology and the general audience who would have a need for its functions:

·         BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) – is an instant messaging application available only to Blackberry users. The BlackBerry website (2011) explains that the program is “chat style layout and [has] unlimited characters” (¶1). The app is an enhanced version of texting with features that include real time confirmation of message delivery, status updates, the ability to share photos and videos, as well as a display picture for other users to view. The audience of this technology are owners of Blackberry devices who want too instantly communicate with others.

·         Twitter – is a micro blogging site that lets individuals post updates about what they are currently doing. The site “is a real-time information network” that all connects users topics they find interesting (Twitter, 2011, ¶1).  It only allows users 140 characters to say what is on their mind, allowing for a lot of creativity in self-expression.  Twitter’s audience includes both individuals and businesses that are looking to receive and give information to others

·         Wordpress - is a content management system that is used to create blogs and websites online. Volunteers who create “plug-ins” enhance the user-friendly platform. Similar to mobile applications, plug-ins allows those using Wordpress to create any site they can imagine (Wordpress, 2011, ¶4). Many of the sites that people visit everyday on the World Wide Web were created using Wordpress software. Its audience includes anyone who wants to create a website or blog on their own.
·         YouTube – is a video share site that allows users to upload, share, and view videos. Now one of the most popular sites in the world, YouTube has become a part of our culture. The site is also a social network in that many individuals use it to Vlog (video blog). With individuals sharing their vlogs, favorite TV and films, as well as homemade video, the audience for the site is every single person on the planet.

            While the majority of the above-mentioned technologies are web based, they all have usage on cellular phones. As we use the internet more to communicate, it becomes imperative that we have access to the same technology as we are on the goal. It is interesting to note that many of the websites we use on daily basis have applications for mobile phones. While BBM, for example, is something that only Blackberry users can have, a mobile version of YouTube or Twitter is available to all cell phone carriers. The future of media technology is how well can it be used on individuals computers as well as their mobile calling devices.

References

BlackBerry. (2011). BlackBerry Messenger. Retrieved March 17, 2011       from http://us.blackberry.com/apps-software/blackberrymessenger/
Twitter. (2011). About Twitter. Retrieved March 17, 2011 from http://twitter.com/about
Wordpress. (2011). About Wordpress. Retrieved March 17, 2011     from http://wordpress.org/about/

 

My first Press Release


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This is a copy of the first press release I was hired to complete. When the company that owns this particular site contacted me I was currently enrolled in a course entitled "Public Relations Practices & Promotional Writing" at Ashford University. Our text had all the information I needed to create this type of document, so I was excited to put my education to use. 


With a press release it is important to communicate the 5 W's and the H: who, what, when, where, why, and how. A quotation from an individual in the organization should always be included. Another name for press release is news release, so make sure it is something important about the company or individual that you are writing about. Always remember that the goal of any release is for a journalist to pick it up and put together and article. They are busy people, so the less work they have to do the better. 


Give it a read and let me know what you think. 


Tweetmysong.com Develops Easier to use Interface for Listeners and Musicians






Tweetmysong.com recently developed a new design and updated many profile features for its users. Easy to navigate interface, along with a new member profiles, where they can upload videos, flyers and much more.


(Press Release) – Mar 15, 2010 – Tweetmysong.com recently developed a new design and updated many profile features for its users. 

Known as the place to promote music on Twitter, Tweetmysong.com is an external site that helps to make Twitter a full interactive experience for musicians and fans alike. Many changes have been added to give the site its own social network appeal. The most important new feature is users now have their own profile page. With their profile, artists have a billboard where promotional tools like flyers, images, and even YouTube videos can be added to the site, in addition to the ability to leave and reply to comments. 

The original version of the site was limited in allowing visitors to find new music in particular genres. This has been revamped with each genre of music having its very own tab to click on. Listeners can also browse for musicians by name and filter genres to make the search easier. From the artist’s tweetmysong page, fans can easily follow members on Twitter, retweet links to the artist’s music, and even download the music to their computer. 

Other updates include an almost effortless interface for artists to upload songs and album covers, as well as upload entire mixtapes as well as single songs. The home page now offers the most unique mixtape and song listens, displaying what music is the most popular. 

“From the beginning we were focused on developing the most user friendly layout for our users.” said Web designer William Rodriguez. “With our recent modifications, we feel we have achieved the best possible design for people to promote their music on Twitter, and allow the listener to find the music they are looking for.” 

Musicians, especially independent artists, have been using TweetMySong.com to promote their music through Twitter’s viral system. The site tracks unique listens, total listens and downloads. By using their twitter account and password, artists can easily begin using the site to upload and distribute music on Twitter. 

The site remains ad-supported and is free to all users.  Visit http://www.tweetmysong.com to view all the exciting changes.









For the record this organization found me on Twitter. I actually was tweeting that I was looking for freelance writing work and I was a creative writer. They must have been searching for that topic because they contacted me and I have been writing for them every since. Never underestimate the power of social networking. 

The First Step to Understanding the Process of Communicating


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Image by P Shanks


The definition of communication is shared in the Webster's Dictionary as "sending, giving, or exchanging information and ideas." This can be expressed in many ways; verbal, nonverbal, written word, and through images. 

Even though we find ourselves communicating constantly with others, the experience of doing so still must be studied to fully grasp. 

A great start in understanding this social interaction is to learn two basic concepts: 

First, when we are communicating with others we play the role of source and of receiver. Author Pamela S. Shockley-Zalabak (2009) defines this as: "Individuals send messages as sources and receive messages as receivers. The process is often so rapid as to appear simultaneous" (pg. 9).

Second, we are encoding and decoding messages as this process is occurring. This is defined as: "Message encoding is the process of formulating messages, choosing content and symbols to convey meaning. Message decoding is the process of assigning meaning in the role of receiver to message symbols generated by the message source" (Shockley-Zalabak, 2009, pg 10). 

These concepts do not change with the written word. In this case, we just play only one of the two roles, source or receiver, and we just encode or decode. The author of the news article encodes and then sends a message. The viewer and the reader receive and decode the message. (The exception to this is the modern text message or instant message, in which we are using the written word to communicate in real time, just as fast as we can verbally). 

As we study the human communication process, it is important to remember these basic concepts. As communication theories become more complex, it is helpful to know that the foundation begins here. 

Ask your self after reading this post, what roles in this process did I play as the writer? What roles did you play as the reader? 

Reference
Shockley-Zalabak, P. S. (2009). Fundamentals of Organizational Communication: Knowledge, Sensitivity, Skills, Values (7th ed). New York: Pearson

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