Why You Should Say “Thank You” to Employees this Thanksgiving

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3464578554_2abc8fefc0_o

This week we’ll gather with loved ones and give thanks for a multitude of gifts in life: great family, lifelong friends, delicious food, a warm place to sleep – But how often will we stop to say thanks to our boss, or great co-workers, or loyal and productive employees?

Our client Globoforce, a social recognition firm based in Southborough, Mass., has conducted extensive research into the benefits of thanks and recognition in the workplace and found that employees who feel recognized for their work are more motivated, more engaged, happier in their job, and more committed to stay with their company for the long run.

You see, when you express thanks and gratitude to employees for a job well done, you’re not only validating employees’ efforts and letting them know you appreciate their hard work, you’re providing employees with a sense of meaning in their work. That meaning, Globoforce has found, is a crucial component of having a happier and more loyal workforce, as employees expect to be treated as human beings in the office.

Like our friends at Globoforce, here at Greenough we focus on creating a “human” workplace by doing things such as: celebrating employee birthdays each month; acknowledging and rewarding employees for their work anniversaries; offering complimentary boot camp classes three times a week; hosting weekly happy hours on Fridays with different themes of employees’ choosing; organizing holiday and summer outings; and even letting employees bring pets to the office.

The job market is competitive and employees know that as the economy recovers they’ll have more and more options for work if they’re unhappy or unsatisfied in their jobs. So, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches, take a moment to walk around your office and thank employees and colleagues for their work and contributions to the company. Then take it a step further and think about creative and inexpensive ways that you can give back to your employees, not just during the holiday season but year-round. Giving thanks doesn’t take much effort, but the benefits to your company’s culture and overall success will be enormous.

Rachel Vaccari is an Account Director at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Vaccari

AMA Decision on Advertising – May Cause Sweats and Diarrhea

Yesterday, at its interim meeting in Atlanta, members of the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to support a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising. Big news considering that billions are spent each year industrywide (PhRMA, the pharma industry trade group, has already voiced its opposition). AMA membership cited the need to make prescription drugs more affordable as their motivation. Their argument is sound: promoting more expensive therapies diverts demand for perfectly suitable alternatives that cost much less.

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pills

Perhaps the hope is that prescription drugs will go the way of razor blades. Until Michael Dubin introduced us to Dollar Shave Club in a 2012 YouTube video, we just accepted that razor blades – and all that new blade technology – would/should command a perpetual price premium. Gillette has learned the hard way that disruption is a hard pill to swallow. All the advertising in the world couldn’t counteract the truth about blade technology – and today it’s cheaper to shave.

I know that drug discovery and commercialization is much more complex, with upfront investment necessary to bring critical therapies to market, especially those that target only subsets of the population. There’s more to that argument than this short piece can credibly address, but on that front I am more optimistic as I see advances in precision medicine and companion diagnostics and calls for patent reform in what can only be described as an environment of increasing transparency. For now, I’ll put certain drugs – such as novel therapies for rare cancers, in a different class: few ad dollars are spent here anyway.

So where will all the money now spent on ads go? Certainly traditional TV advertising would take a hit – bad timing as the industry continues to wrestle with cord-cutting. Some might hope that so-called digital spending can fill the void: eMarketer predicts “swift growth” for programmatic video ads over the next 24 months. But this is just a different side of the same coin. It’s still advertising.

The AMA vote doesn’t equal regulation, policy or, at least for now, even a guideline. But it is an important inflection point that should have all of us thinking ahead. How can drug companies help patients decide on the best therapies for them? Should hospitals receive “education funds” to communicate treatment options in a clear and unbiased manner? Should the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database be fashioned into something that’s readily accessible to patients? Should there be an app for that? There may even be some unassailable mechanism for pharma companies to fund independent patient advocacy groups – perhaps a logical next step in the transformation to patient-centric healthcare.

We’re ready for change. If the AMA vote is the proverbial straw, then I’m certain that we can and will find better ways to spend the billions. It’s the prescription for better healthcare, and even if it causes the industry some night sweats and diarrhea, these temporary side effects are well worth it.

Scott Bauman is Greenough’s Executive Vice President. Follow him on twitter: @sbauman

Say Goodbye to Annual Performance Reviews, and Hello to Daily Conversations

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constantexchange (1)

If you asked the general public for the most dreaded events in their lives, most would say illness, loss, colonoscopies, root canals, stepping on a Lego at 3 AM. For us working stiffs, add to the list the annual performance review process.

So, imagine my thrill at reading Vauhini Vara’s piece in this week’s New Yorker applauding Accenture and others for banishing the process. If 330,000 Accenture employees are taking a pass on formality and instead embracing more regular check-ins and feedback, I say, good for you.

You see, to me that sounds like the makings of any good relationship. You can probably surmise from the list above that I’m 50+, and that means, among other things, that I’ve spent 20+ years working, leading, managing, self-assessing, and participating in performance review processes from 1-1 to 360, primarily with people in creative organizations. From my perch, creatives bristle at processes like the annual performance review, happening as it does like some kind of employee rite of passage.

Cue brief self-promotion: the performance reviews we conduct at my company consist of 2 short items, with credit to HBS for the inspiration: 1) What I like and 2) What can improve. This pretty much sums it up, and it dispenses with the additional busywork required. Yes, we do ask for a self-evaluation so it’s a give and take conversation. And, we do seek feedback from others. In general, it works.

But here’s where it falls down: the employee/manager relationship is really not unlike relationships you have outside the office. They are, whether we want to admit it or not, relationships. This is particularly true with creative organizations, which by definition rely on frequent communications, brainstorming, spitballing, call it what you want: they like to engage and engage frequently in search of the perfect solution, answer, brilliant idea. And relationships -- assuming, of course, you want to stay in them -- require frequent communication, feedback, correction, and “this is how what you did made me feel” moments.

Companies operate with many new rules these days – we’re remote workers working with 9-5ers in the office, channeling thoughts and ideas through email and text, rarely picking up the phone, even. So why do we promote an anachronistic model of performance reviews when all you really need to do is seize each moment of every work relationship to make you and your team better?

Like Accenture’s recent move, I’m equally smitten by what Globoforce (the self-described leader in employee recognition, and a Greenough client, I should add) proposes: you develop and retain employees by frequent acts of recognition, not just once a year, and not by checking boxes, but by having authentic conversations based on crowdsourced feedback.

You don’t wait a year to tell your friends, family or partners that they’ve either messed up or done something phenomenal. Why not apply the same thinking to your relationships at work?

Jamie Parker is president of Greenough Brand Storytellers

Twitter’s New “Buy Now” Button: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Twitter PR Image
Twitter PR Image

Earlier this month, Twitter began rolling out its new “Buy Now” button, which allows users to buy products from selected retailers without having to leave their Twitter feed. It should come as no surprise that Twitter is looking for ways to increase the revenue its platform generates post-IPO – and as far as social media monetization strategies go, this one does a great job providing value for both brands and individuals using the platform. Taking a cut of sales generated through the platform seems like a much better way to make money on social media than Facebook’s post-IPO strategy, which mostly consists of decimating organic reach in the hopes that brands will pay them to reach their own fans. That said, these are still early days for the initiative, and there are a lot of ways it can go right or wrong. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly ways that brands could end up using this new strategy.

The Good

Brands that live and die off impulse buys and sales have a lot to gain from this new system. In addition to their brand building efforts, companies that produce products that regularly go on sale (such as clothing companies, or even something like Groupon) will now have access to a new sales channel that requires an opt-in from the user. This means that they can offer exclusive deals, increasing the value users get from following them.

Customers love sales because they let them feel like they got the better end of the deal they just made with the company. This is why J.C. Penney’s honest pricing policy was such a bomb: consumers don’t want to feel like they just made a mutually beneficial exchange with a company, they want to feel like they just fleeced that company for all it’s worth (even if that feeling is completely fabricated). Everyone knows that almost all sale prices still make a healthy profit, but remember, it’s the feeling that counts.

The Twitter “Buy Now” button makes it easy for consumers to get that feeling, helps brands develop loyal customers by requiring them to subscribe to a branded channel, and helps Twitter satisfy investors by giving the platform a cut off the top. Everyone wins.

The Bad

Social media works best as a top-of-the-funnel sales tool: it exists to help people learn about and identify with your brand. Of course the ultimate goal is that your fans will eventually transition off the platform into an owned sales channel, but pushing that process too hard can actually do more harm than good. Almost no one likes to feel like they’re being sold to, and that’s especially true when they’re using social media.

For this reason, Twitter’s “Buy Now” button has enormous potential to be used incorrectly. Companies that use the new tool explicitly to drive conversions – especially if they’re not promoting something that lets the user feel like they won, such as a sale or promotion – will likely find that their followers resent being sold to in that channel. Companies that decide to use the “Buy Now” button will need to make sure that it’s done in a way that provides value to the user first and the bottom line second.

The Ugly

Just as drivers can’t help but gawk at a car accident, the internet is fascinated by corporate social media faux pas. The addition of a “Buy Now” button will make it possible for social media managers to take these awkward mistakes to new heights of insensitivity. Take, for example, DiGiorno’s attempt earlier this week to hijack #WhyIStayed (a hashtag meant to be used by survivors of domestic violence) and use it to sell frozen pizzas. When I try to imagine ways that that tweet could have been in even poorer taste, adding a massive “Buy Now” button to it pretty much takes the cake.

Here’s another example: in a CNBC article on the subject published a few days ago, it was suggested that Home Depot (a company involved in the button’s pilot program) could use hurricanes and other natural disasters as an opportunity to tweet “Buy Now” messages for hurricane supplies. While this might help the company sell a few pallets of sandbags, it’s hard to imagine that the profit they gain from those sales would outweigh the value their brand loses by posting such an insensitive message. A better strategy would be to post tweets that direct people to a blog post or landing page with a helpful list of items for protecting their home during the storm. It's still an attempt to make sales, sure, but by going with a softer sell they reduce the chance that potential customers will interpret the campaign as an effort to profit off disaster.

Twitter’s “Buy Now” button is one of the best ideas for generating revenue on a social media platform I’ve ever seen – when done right, it's a win-win-win scenario for brands, followers and the platform itself. However, like most great ideas, it has the potential to go very wrong when used incorrectly. As with most inbound marketing programs, the “Buy Now” button will work best when it’s providing value to the potential customer first and driving sales second.

Zach Pearson is an Account Executive - Content at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson

Public Relations and Patent Lawsuits: Bose v. Beats

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bosebeats

Over the past year or so, an argument that used to be confined to law offices and R&D labs has spilled over into the mainstream media: namely, whether or not the U.S. patent system encourages or discourages innovation in today’s economy. In the past 60 days, the issue has been covered by The Economist’s Free Exchange blog, Tesla Motors turned it into great PR with their “All Our Patent Are Belong to You” blog post (odd grammar explained here) and the Supreme Court made its first software patentability decision since 2010. For companies, especially those in patent-rich fields like software, electronics, or pharmaceuticals, this means patent disputes now have the potential to play out on two fronts: the courtroom and the newsroom. As a result, companies involved in patent lawsuits now have to succeed in battles on both fronts to decisively win the war. For a company that places any value on its public appearance – i.e., almost all of them – winning in the court of law but losing in the court of public opinion can actually be the worst outcome for their business. Being forced to pay damages or losing an important piece of IP is damaging, but ultimately finite; a tarnished brand, on the other hand, can follow a company indefinitely.

The recent suit filed by Bose against Apple for allegedly infringing on some of their noise-cancellation patents is a perfect example of the PR dangers of a patent dispute. While a legal win here would be great for Bose, a PR loss has the potential to be very damaging. Beats and Apple are two brand-driven companies that are beloved by a large percentage of the world’s consumers.

Bose makes great products, and their first-class noise cancelling technology is an important differentiator for them. However, as Beats has proven, people don’t buy headphones solely for their sound; the brand matters just as much (if not more). Ask any hardcore audiophile to choose between headphones by Beats and Bose and nearly all will choose the latter. The average consumer, though, will give significant consideration to the brand while making their choice – and for better or worse, Apple and Beats have a definite advantage there.

At the end of the day, Bose succeeds when it sells headphones, and favorable patent rulings are only useful inasmuch as they serve that goal. For that reason, success in this case will have to mean winning both the legal dispute and the PR battle: if the latter goes against them, it’s possible that consumers will see their win not as an important victory for IP rights but an unjust  ruling that stifles two of their favorite brands. Fair or not, the Bose brand is David to Apple and Beats’ Goliath; if Bose isn’t careful, the enormous weight of the Apple logo could turn their legal win into a Pyrrhic victory.

To prevent this from happening, Bose needs to have a proactive communications plan ready for the Beats demographic - specifically, 17- to 35-year-olds, where Beats is the top selling brand. Bose may have a great reputation with older business travelers who rely on their noise-cancelling tech for flights, but they’re much weaker in Beats’ demographic.

If Beats loses the case, it wouldn't be hard for them to position themselves as a scrappy underdog whose innovation is being stifled by Bose’s patent enforcement. Since Bose doesn't want young people to perceive them as an industry bully that’s picking on a brand they like, Bose needs to be ready to win this fight as well. Remember, Bose doesn't actually have to be a bully to be perceived as one; as with most PR battles, the facts of the story end up being less important than the way they’re told.

On Monday of this week Beats fired its first salvo in this conflict, telling the ITC that a ruling against them in this case would strongly harm consumer choice. In this new age of highly publicized patent lawsuits, Bose’s success will depend as much on their PR team’s ability to debunk that claim as it does on their counsel’s ability to argue the case. Companies in patent-rich industries should take heed.

Jennifer Hrycyszyn is the Vice President of Business Development at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @hrycyszyn