Why short words work best

There is no doubt. Short words have a power that long words do not. Phrases with short words stick in our heads. We repeat them back – they touch us because we know what they mean. It’s not just the stuff of the big speech – always best spoken simply: “New Deal”; “Peace in our Time”; “Don’t ask, Don’t tell”; and “Yes, we can” – but of the best ads too: – “Just do it”; “The King of Beers”; and “It’s the Real Thing.”

Too many of us hide behind long words. It gives us short-term power over others – and we assume that others admire us for “knowing” more than they do. They don’t. How can they if they don’t know what we’re trying to say?

My plea to you, when you write, blog, or speak today is to drop all long words for short ones, the sort used by most people. See if you can get through the day doing this. You won’t be able to, but you will learn a lot if you try. Look into the eyes of those you try to reach and you will know straight away that you need never use a long word again when a short one will do.

(PS Every word in this article has only 1 or 2 syllables. Except that last one…)

At The CIPD Learning & Development Show

I am heading off today to the CIPD Learning & Development Show at Olympia today. It reminded me of an excellent presentation recently from the CIPD’s Andy Lancaster for their Leaders in Learning network. Performance, he told us, is now the primary driver of Learning and Development. The challenge is how to move L&D from focus on learning to a focus on performance. The CIPD noted that there are now FIVE performance based roles in L&D. Three are with us already, while two are emerging.

Already here

1. Performance Detective – orange segment below – ascertains the performance challenge to be tackled

2. Performance Architect – designs a solution (and not necessarily a learning solution, if not relevant to the performance challenge)

3. Performance Master Builder – builds the solution to maximize performance and within resources and time constraints

Emerging roles

4. Performance Game Changer – makes sure that any solutions become embedded – there are two main sub roles here a. Project Manager and b. Communications – often these are not done by L&D in traditional organisations but need to be to embed success.

5. Performance Tracker – Effective measurement of performance – also not an easy role to fulfil.  The focus is solely on improving performance metrics.

Reminder: GDPR is a good thing

I want this blog to remind everyone of something important – GDPR is actually a “good thing”. There has been much moaning at the extra workload that the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has created. This is understandable, but misguided.

Look instead to the bigger picture. According to one Microsoft security report, more than 97% of emails sent online are unwanted. Spam has become commonplace – I doubt you know anyone who doesn’t get any. Thanks to GDPR, consent now has to “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.” Goodbye, confusing terms and conditions, unsolicited emails and pre-clicked check boxes. Hello, less time spent deleting and unsubscribing from emails you don’t want. The high tide of email misery is set to recede.

For those of you caught flaunting the law beyond May 25th, when the regulations take effect, you can expect fines of up to €20 Million or 4% of a brand’s total global annual turnover – whichever is the greater. Justice! Maybe though you do trust companies with your data. Maybe you shouldn’t. LinkedIn, Adobe, Dropbox, Myspace, Last.fm, Tumblr – all these companies either lost personal data or allowed email passwords to fall into the hands of online criminals. And in one recent case, Uber hid the fact that they had suffered a data breach of 57 Million users for over a year (under GDPR they would have had to disclose any breach within 72 hours). GDPR will allow you to access, object to, rectify and erase data companies hold on you.

While it might be today’s headache, GDPR comes from a good place. And soon, you will wonder why we didn’t have it sooner.

Clear messages and great stories shine through

Clear messages and great stories always shine through

There’s no world shortage of content – and yet quality content has never been scarcer. I have been, am and will always be unashamedly passionate about the value of great content for business. But you can – and must – pay lots of time and attention to it.

Why? It’s important because it sets the tone for everything that happens afterwards. The services that you sell are central to any successful business and the simple, clear and direct messages you send out about them is the way in which you let the world know.

Notice I wrote “messages” in that last sentence – not the “media” you use. The media we use to convey messages have changed greatly in recent years. They will change some more – media will come and media will go – but clear messages and great stories will outlast them all.

Do you know how to “stop” time?

Have you read “The Art of Stopping Time” by Pedram Shojai? I would encourage you to do so – I got it at Christmas and it’s been a revelation to me.

As we hurtle towards another weekend, thinking about the things we have or haven’t done, it’s easy to be too tired to think, too stressed to focus and less effective than we want to be. And if our work then encroaches into the weekend, we start to feel guilty about the time not spent with loved ones.

The book has a compelling premise – the need for a more positive perspective on the unforgiving flow of time. Without it we lack a real sense of enjoyable purpose, rather than a fear of deadlines and failure.”

Shojai’s goal, therefore, is to nudge us towards “time prosperity” – having the time to accomplish what you want without feeling compressed, stressed or hurried. If it sounds like mindfulness, then it is, except at the extreme practical end of that particular spectrum.

The book has 100 short essays which contain habits in which you literally learn to “stop” time. Some habits will stick, some won’t – and that’s OK. Just take the ones that mean something to you. I did and I feel it’s working well for me already. Have you read it – or do you have another book you swear by?

Optimism is a choice

A new week: Are you feeling optimistic – or pessimistic? How are you feeling right now, as you read this? It’s good to be aware of how you feel, but don’t become a slave to your view of the future. It creates the script for what will actually occur.

In truth we are all both optimists and pessimists several times a day, faced with different situations. Whenever something “happens to us” we have a choice to be one or the other. What is more interesting is the way we come to our perspectives. The brain invents a “counter fact” to events – an alternate scenario our brains create to help us evaluate and make sense of what happened. It could be “Well it could have been a lot worse” or “That’s pretty unlucky” – or anything in between.

This goes on to influence far more than one’s attitude to an individual event. Those who pick positive counter facts open their minds up to a whole range of subsequent perceived benefits to spur their motivation further. Research shows that people with positive counter facts have more successful careers, relationships and even live longer. For this reason alone my usual sense of optimism is deliberate and pragmatic, rather than wishful.

Better Collaboration = Greater Business Value. It’s an Equation, not a Coincidence.

Are your collaborative efforts with workplace colleagues all show and no substance? How good are you really at collaborating in the workplace? And what stops you from collaborating more? I’ve not met anyone who will tell me that collaboration is a “bad thing”, but they also tell me they and the businesses they work in struggle in going “further” with collaboration – or even understand why they should.

Humans have been collaborating with one another for many thousands of years – but in a very, very limited way. Now, technology – the key driver behind most of major recent changes in our daily lives – has become the reason “why” this will soon change. Technology’s march means that we miss many opportunities every single day to collaborate more closely in the way we work and learn from one another.

Everyone instinctively “gets” collaboration – but very few know how to talk about it or develop it in a workplace context. That’s also now changing – because it has become clear to me recently that those that do have enjoyed a rapid increase in extra business value. I know this, because I’ve been worked with highly collaborative teams that go on to do more, earn more – and enjoy themselves more.

Better Collaboration = Greater BusinessValue. It’s an Equation, not a Coincidence.

Are you missing the obvious?

This weekend, ask yourself this: Am I missing something really obvious? It can be really good to stop and think about this. Three things occurred to me the other day:-

  1. How little we stop and look at the things right in front of us. With the exception of our phones, how often do we stop and look twice at everyday objects, the buildings we pass every day – or even those we claim to hold dear?
  2. When we do something routinely, how often do we think about doing it in a different way? We are so often told we can’t do things well if we do it “that way”, but how can we know if we don’t allow ourselves the time to find out?
  3. And how often do we actually do things differently on an everyday basis? Whenever we do, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that we discover so many new and beneficial outcomes that we hadn’t previously even thought about.

So whether you take a different route in the car today, try out that new restaurant or stop and look around you – I urge you to go and do something – anything – differently today. And every day from now on. Time to take the blinkers off.

3 questions to get social media clarity

Have you ever felt bewildered by the number of social media and online community options you have? I have, though I now have 3 questions I can use to cut through the fluff.

Where are your buyers – or others you want to influence? If they really don’t use online communities, then don’t use them. It’s simple. Don’t though make it an excuse for inaction – there are few business or leisure interests for which this is still true. Concentrate on one main channel through which your community prefers to operate.

What do they want? Your community could be the quickest and most comprehensive resource you will ever have ever have for understanding all sorts of trends affecting the way your community thinks and acts. So ask them for their views to find out more.

Why should they want to engage with you? You want him or her to share their views and their questions. To do this though, they need to know that the content you are sharing is about the issues that directly affect them. What can you do to make them feel comfortable?

Ask yourself these questions and clarity will come.

The new European Spam Law: What does it mean for your business?

You may have already heard about a new law coming to the EU governing mass emailing and email marketing. It has created concern among many companies scrambling to get their subscribers to “properly” opt-in. You may well have, ironically, received an email to that effect. So what does this mean for the people sending the emails – should you panic?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation coming into force for all EU member states on 25th May 2018. If you send any emails to businesses or individuals within the EU after the deadline then you will need to work within the new regulations or you could face fines of up to €20 Million or 4% of a brand’s total global annual turnover – whichever is the greater. By the way, UK’s decision to leave the EU does not affect this, the Government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.

What are the challenges?

No “Soft Opt-In”

“Soft Opt-In” is when you have a list of email addresses which you have obtained through channels not specifically related to the marketing of your services, yet is reasonable to assume the people receiving the emails know who you are and might expect emails from you. They may be, for example, previous customers or part of your close business network. These lists are marketed to without first asking specific permission and expecting the recipient to “Opt-Out” if they do not want to receive any more – though a way to do so is made available on every email sent.

‘Soft Opt-in’ is seen as quite a grey area concerning current email laws. After all, what does “people who might expect to hear from you” mean? Previous customers? Your LinkedIn contacts? Some companies push it as far as paid-for lists where the recipient agreed to be contacted by “Third Parties”.

Opt-in must be specific

The GDPR takes a hard line against this practice. Consent will now have to be “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous”. In order for recipients to receive your email, they must have specifically nominated themselves to receive it. The burden now falls on the sender to obtain consent before mailing, rather than with the recipient.

Another common tactic to bolster subscription rates is to use pre-filled checkboxes or clever wording to count as consent when offering something unrelated such as a free white paper or competition. The GDPR again outlaws this specifically. While giving consent may still include checking a box on a form, ‘choosing technical settings for information society services,’ or ‘other statement or conduct’ it goes further to say ‘silence, pre-ticked boxes, or inactivity,’ does not count as consent.

So what do you do now?

The time to act is now. If you have used any of these tactics in the past – or have lists in which addresses have been gathered outside of the new guidelines then they could become useless to you once the law comes into force. Business should pro-actively contact their soft opt-in subscribers with a request to sign up properly, also known as a “Double Opt-In”. This is seen as the best approach after the law comes into effect. There are no allowances for any lists created before the act and so any list compiled in any way that does not adhere to the new legislation is unlawful.

If you need any help getting your business ready for GDPR, contact Merriborn Media. Email our Managing Director, Trevor Merriden on trevor.merriden@merribornmedia.co.uk or 07771 926197. We are proud to have practised what we now preach. We have always believed in the privacy and integrity of subscribers to our free weekly newsletters and, as such, have had to make no changes to be up to date with GDRP and now advise existing clients in the same way.