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By Graham Jones on 2nd March 2015

Emails after work make for an unhappy workforce

Man checking email in bedOne of the benefits of email is that it is 24/7. You can send out a message to your team knowing that many of them will get it immediately and that everyone else will see it within hours. Gone are the days of having to print something and send it via some mail system meaning that it takes days for anything to happen. Email has speeded up communications providing businesses with considerable productivity benefits.

That, of course, is what we think. But what we think is not always true.

The 24/7 nature of email means that the people we work with, our customers and our potential clients are always available. There is almost never any “downtime” when they can be separated from us. Millions of people check their emails before going to bed each night – just to see if there are any last messages from the boss or from their customers. We are never disconnected from them.

That situation could have psychological consequences. Recent research from Texas shows that the 24/7 nature of work-related emails is not good at all. In a study of 341 employees the researchers found that the constant checking of “out-of-hours” emails led to increases in conflict and anger amongst workers.

The study found that there was a particular kind of person – the “segmentor” – which was particularly badly affected by out-of-hours emails. The segmentors are the people who want to see a clear divide between home and work, yet the constant battering of emails reduces this desired division. As a result these people have an increase in anger and conflict.

It may seem a good idea to have the instant ability to send out a message at any time of the day or night, but are we aware enough of the impact we are having? It seems that we are potentially affecting the personal lives of the people we communicate with, as well as increasing problems at work.

If people have increased conflict and anger in their life, their work performance suffers. So, far from email improving communication and productivity it could be the root of difficulties in the office, leading to several unforeseen impacts.

What is the answer? Easy. Treat email as a 9-to-5 system. Simply ban out-of-hours emails. Your productivity will increase and you will have a happier workforce, leading to other beneficial impacts in the office.

Believing that the 24/7 nature of email is the saviour of your business productivity could be the foundation for a wide array of office problems.


By Graham Jones on 27th February 2015

Traditional public relations is better than online activity

A 3D newspaper with headline reading We're in the News to show that you have been featured in an article to give you great public relations attention and exposureThe last two days have seen two entirely different stories emerging about banks part-owned by the British taxpayers. Yesterday, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced whopping great losses and promised more to come. Meanwhile, today, Lloyds Bank posted significant profits, confirming the taxpayers will be getting share dividends.

Both banks, however, went into PR overdrive. The CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland was on TV, radio and looks like he spent the day being interviewed, trying to get his message across that they were on the road to recovery, but it was a long road. Today, the CEO of Lloyds Bank has been saying how pleased he is that at last the company is paying dividends again after a long break.

But who do you believe in all the coverage of these divergent banking stories?

  • Do you believe the banks themselves? Are you sure that the CEOs have given you a balanced and fair assessment of the situation?
  • Or do you believe what you have read online in places like Google New, which is awash with material about these banking results?
  • Alternatively, have you bought a printed newspaper today and read the coverage of the banks, putting more faith in this media?

What is the most trusted source of information on these banking stories – the banks themselves, online media or printed media?

Hold on to your hat if you are an online PR practitioner… turns out that PRINT is the most trusted source of information about a company.

Well – at least it is amongst the PR industry. A study published in the Public Relations Journal from the Public Relations Society of America has found that people in the PR industry value traditional media much more highly than they do new media.

But before you say this is all rather biased, consider some of the most famous companies on the interweb. Think about Google, Facebook and Amazon and wonder how did they get to be so big. Students of corporate history will know that all of these companies began with relatively small budgets and turned to low-cost public relations, getting articles about their businesses published in newspapers, magazines and journals. In “The Google Story“, author David A. Vise points out that a chance inclusion of Google in a listing in PC Magazine in 1998 led to the fledgling company understanding the benefit of free publicity in mainstream media – something the company continues to benefit from. Similarly, in “The Facebook Effect“, David Kirkpatrick reveals the intense media interest in the early days of Facebook and how this stimulated the growth in the use of the social network.

People flocked to Facebook and Google, for instance, because they trusted the independent coverage these technology firms were getting in the print media.

Even though much of what we do these days is digital, the degree of trust we give to things in printed form is still very high. Indeed, this taps into our psychological need to touch and feel things to establish their reality.

The Public Relations Journal article might be biased because of who it studied, but it does help make us think. In these digital and virtual days should we concentrate on online activity, or is there still a place for real world, print-based public relations?

On the basis of this study and on fundamental psychological principles, if you want people to trust your business you need to get yourself into printed newspapers and magazines.

If the banks had realised that seven years ago – when they often would ignore the media – perhaps they wouldn’t in the state they are in now.

Internet Marketing

By Graham Jones on 19th February 2015

What words do you put on your pages?

The Word "You"Your words are important. We might be visually stimulated when we look at web pages, but you are really important. In fact the words “you” and “yours” are amongst the most significant and important words to use online if you want engagement and if you want your content to go viral.

New research on the wording of headlines in popular blog posts and viral content shows that short words are the best – and if you exclude words like “the” or “it” you end up with “you”, “yours” and “people” being of significant importance.

The fact of the matter is that from a psychological perspective there are just two things we are interested in – ourselves and other people (preferably people like us). Is it any wonder that words such as “you” and “people” become important to engaging us online?

Yet when you look at blog posts on a variety of websites, these words are rarely used. There are plenty of headlines with company names, product names and random wordings, clearly gleaned from so-called keyword research. Yet, the data is clear – the most relevant and most important keywords are “you” and “your”.

So why don’t website owners use these words more often?

The answer to that is rather simple. Most website content is not written for a person. Instead, much website content is content for content’s sake. The writers do not envisage an individual reading their material.

A similar situation arises in videos. The popular online videos tend to be the ones that feel as though you are being spoken to as an individual.

Radio presenters know this of old. They know, for instance, when they say something like “our listeners” or “all the people out there” the listeners actually mentally switch off. But when the presenter says “you”, the listeners feel as though they are being addressed individually. No longer do they feel they are one of millions of listeners, instead they feel as though they are in a one-on-one with the presenter.

This applies online in text too. As I write this I am imagining that I am writing this for one person; I feel as though I am talking directly to you. Hopefully, you feel the same way – almost as though we are in conversation, having a chat about the words you and I use online.

When we make our website visitors feel like this, as though we are talking directly to them as individuals, that’s when we get true engagement.

It is also when we get most sharing. The research data on words used in headlines is clear – the most shared items are those which engage us as individuals.

So, how can you improve your website? Stop aiming it at millions of people. Instead focus on just one person and call them “you” a lot.


By Graham Jones on 18th February 2015

Businesses fail the business test

There is one test for a business and one test only. Do you provide what your customers want in such a way that you can make a profit from it? That, in a nutshell is business.

Yet, many businesses – even substantial ones who you think ought to know better – fail this test. Either they are not making a profit. Derrrr…! Or they are not providing what their customers really want.

You can see examples of this all around you. Tesco is struggling to find out what its customers really want. Google thought it knew that customers would want its “Glass” product, but they’ve canned that project because, frankly, other than for some geeks it was a non-starter. Meanwhile, Sony and Qantas, for instance, have reported sizeable financial losses. Don’t they know that being in business means making a profit? Goodness me…!

At the smaller end of the business arena you find one-person-bands struggling to survive. Indeed, most start-ups are closed down within three years. There is a never-ending cycle of new businesses starting up, failing, to be replaced by new businesses, that then fail and so on. Many small businesses are built out of a passion for an idea or enjoyment of an activity. Great cooks, for instance, start a catering business and spend hours creating recipes because that is what they love. But the greatest catering businesses spend more of their time on the boring business stuff, like finance and marketing – the kind of things great cooks are not interested in and hence their business fails.

Now, new research shows why this kind of thing is happening. According to a study of 500 businesses, only around a quarter of them have marketing which is focused on the customer. An amazing one-third of the companies in the study have marketing which is entirely – yes completely – self-focused.

Chart showing marketing focus

The fact of the matter is, you cannot possible hope to pass the business test unless you focus on your customers. Having marketing that is either partially or completely focused on yourself is off-putting to your potential buyers. All you are doing is showing them that you like yourself more than you like them. Demonstrating likeability of your customers is a key component in the “CLICK” system of gaining online business.

The example of Tesco is clear. Thirty years ago, Tesco was an “also-ran” in the supermarket business, dwarfed by the giants of its time such as Sainsbury’s. Ten years later, Tesco became the biggest supermarket in the UK after several years of focusing on what customers wanted instead of worrying about the competition. Until five years or so ago, Tesco relentlessly focused on the customer, taking the company to dizzying heights which could not have been predicted all those years ago when it was a comparative minnow. But what has happened with Tesco in recent years? It seems to have focused less on what customers want and more on other aspects of business. It has become inward looking. The new CEO wrote to staff when he took over the job saying that he was intent on restoring the company’s focus on customers.

It really is very simple to run a successful business. Provide what your customers want at a price that makes you a profit. But the key words there are “what your customers want”. This new research suggests that the bulk of businesses still have to learn that simple notion.

Online Business

By Graham Jones on 3rd February 2015

Twitter predicts heart disease better than doctors

Psychological study also reveals business benefit of Twitter

follow word inside heart cloud  blue sky background onlyThe medical profession has a complex way of predicting levels of heart disease. It includes analysis of demographics, socioeconomic data, smoking levels and the weather patterns – all of which influence the likelihood of having a heart attack. But recent research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that Twitter is better than those traditional methods of analysis. Indeed, in the words of the researchers Twitter was “significantly better”.

The study analysed the kind of words used on Twitter and found a strong link between words used in times of stress and the likelihood of heart disease. For years, doctors have realised that stress is probably the most crucial factor in many diseases. Although smoking is one of the most important elements contributing to the physical changes in heart disease, many smokers use the habit to relieve stress. So even smoking is related to stress. Get rid of the stress and the smoking can be eliminated more easily. Yet giving up smoking is itself stressful.

When we are stressed we use different words than when we are relaxed. As a result, Twitter with its millions of words each day is a useful barometer of stress. Anger too, is linked with heart disease and once again Twitter reveals the extent of our anger. It was the levels of anger-related words which was the most significant finding in this study.

Apart from telling us that we should avoid anger and stress, becoming more placid in our lifestyle, this study also reveals something more fundamental. It shows that the volume of data on Twitter is enough to provide significant and dramatic measures of how people are thinking.

That means for anyone in business Twitter is a means of analysing the mood of the market. It can clearly produce enough data to sense what people are thinking and how they are behaving. Collecting data from Twitter and analysing the words used is likely to help you be able to predict market requirements. Indeed, rather like the heart disease study showing that Twitter is better than traditional methods, we may well find that the social network is also greater than traditional market research.

That’s because Twitter represents what people are thinking. It is their instant outpouring of what is on their mind, there and then. It is rarely the carefully considered answers you might give to a market researcher. Equally it is not hampered by the impact of people answering questions on surveys in particular ways to “please” the researchers. Instead, Twitter is largely honest, immediate feelings. As a result the mass of data it provides is clearly valuable.

If you are not using Twitter to analyse the words your customers and potential clients use, you are missing out. And if you miss out too much that will stress you out and you’ll start using words that will help predict the likelihood of your own heart trouble…!


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