5 Tips for Effective Client Communication

In the marketing industry, understanding how to deliver desired results for your clients is crucial to a successful business relationship, but a study shows that 46 percent of employees regularly leave meetings not understanding the next steps. Below are a few helpful communication tips that will ensure that both parties always leave a conversation knowing how to proceed, making discussions with clients more productive and effective.

Ask the right questions

In any communication setting, the person asking the questions is the one that steers the direction of the conversation and ultimately has control. The trick here is making sure that you are asking the questions that give you a better understanding of what your clients are feeling and what they want. Questions that prompt yes or no answers will not further a conversation, but rather put the client in a corner where they cannot fully explain what they are feeling. Deploy ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that require a more elaborate response than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “how can we improve the illustration?” will get you much further than “do you like the illustration?”, because it requires a more detailed explanation of why the client satisfied or unsatisfied. Knowing how to frame your questions will also help resolve any problems or conflicts between you and your client. You can gain a better understanding of how your client feels about the work and how you can improve and grow in the future. Here are some other great ways to stage questions that will help you get to the root of a problem: https://wavelength.asana.com/develop-effective-communication/

Set the tone from the start

Make sure your style of communication is professional, yet personable. You want to show your client that accomplishing their goals is paramount, while simultaneously establishing an air of trust among both parties. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use informal conversation as a way to build the relationship. Make it known that the relationship is conducive to constructive criticism and feedback and that both parties are free to openly share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Setting this tone will make collaboration easy and will keep the clients happy.

Be empathetic

 Show your client that you understand their concerns and recognize that they are human. If a client is upset about something, or seems like they are having a bad day and are taking it out on your work, refer to tip number one and start asking questions tailored to their concerns. Make it known that you are here to listen to their concerns and that you want to help them solve problems. You can also use “it seems” phrases to show the client what you’re understanding from their communication. By doing this, you are relaying your understanding of their problem, while also allowing the client to hear the tone that they are emitting. For example, if a client gets upset and says, “I cannot quite work out this illustration” and provides no other feedback, you can say “it seems like you want changes to be made to the illustration. How can we change the design to better suit your goals?”.

Do your homework

Preliminary research is not only useful for current clients, but also potential clients that you may be trying to court. Go into a weekly client meeting with new, potentially useful resources and a knowledge base of what your client has wanted in the past. Following the same idea, step into a potential client presentation with solid knowledge of their business and a strong idea of what their past work looks like. Be as prepared as possible. This shows the client that you truly care about their goals and are ready to help accomplish these. As a higher education marketing company, our public relations team leverages professors within our client’s degree programs in order to land media opportunities. We interview the professors before doing outreach on their behalf in order to get a better understanding of their passions and expertise, but before the interviews, we research the professor and tailor our interview questions to their individual work and interests. This establishes a rapport with them from the start, and they appreciate that we do not waste their time by going into the interview blind. Doing your homework upfront is a time-saver for everyone involved and shows the client that they are important to you.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

In the digital age, much of the communication that occurs in a business setting happens via email or through some other digital medium. While this is convenient and generally effective, studies show that face-to-face communication is much more productive in terms of accomplishing one’s goals. While face-to-face communication with clients is not always possible in a digital company like ours, a phone call is the next best thing. Having a spoken conversation can solve problems and demonstrate a sense of urgency on your part to resolve an issue. Additionally, It is much faster and a more direct way to get to the root of a problem or miscommunication, leaving less room for things to get misinterpreted in the midst of a client crisis. Good old-fashioned speaking often gets the job done better than an instant message ever could.

 

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon has been contributing to the growth of the Circa team for nearly two years and recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Communication Studies. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

What is Project Management? Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Started

Managing a project is no simple task. Generally, most business projects don’t attain goals they were initially set out to achieve. That’s because most companies are still guilty of outlining project plans and objectives that are not backed up with correct practices. Project management is something you can’t learn straight out of college–it’s a competency that can be acquired only through years of experience and practical knowledge. Typical project management courses are offered to students who already have experience managing projects and require prior hands-on experience. In the current global economy, it’s necessary to understand and continually explore project software that can lend itself to bringing resources together. Organizing remote resources efficiently not only makes management easier, it helps to decrease project timelines lower overall project costs.

What is Project Management?

Project management refers to the ritual of planning, organizing, safeguarding, leading, managing and handling resources to achieve particular objectives.

Projects are temporary endeavors that have a marked beginning and end. They are basically undertaken to add value or effect beneficial change. Managing a project can be quite challenging in the real world. Achieving all project goals while honoring pre-determined constraints – such as time, scope, budget and quality – can be difficult. This is why a lot of effort and planning should be put in before actually beginning real project work.

Get a Project Going and Keep it on Track

1. Defining the Project

Some project teams dive right into the work without clearly defining project goals and requirements. The time properly spent on project planning would lead to decreased duration and cost and enhanced quality over the course of the project. A project definition encompasses the planning work and elucidates all attributes of a project.

2. Planning the Work

Once a project has been defined, you must create a work plan, which entails the instructions to produce project deliverables. If you need some inspiration, ideal to use resources available to you and seek out any prior work plans from similar projects that may be available. The work plan should throw sufficient light on assigning resources and work estimation, taking as many uncertainties into consideration. For each uncertainty or risk, you must determine the likely effect on the project. Certain activities cannot be clearly defined right at the onset. You should therefore revisit your work plan time and again to alter certain aspects as you make progress.

3. Start Executing

Once you have planned the project sufficiently, you may start executing it. Remember, almost no project would proceed completely as per estimation and plans. To ensure things are kept on track through project management fundamentals:

  • Review your work plan regularly
  • Check on your progress in terms of budget and schedule frequently
  • Update your work plan with completed activities
  • Share agile project management updates and provide a fair estimation of whether the project would be completed within the original cost, duration and effort.

4. Resolve Issues

When managing a business project, problems are likely to surface. Make sure you confront the issues and do not let them hibernate and metamorphose into a larger one. Even the smallest of problems should be solved diligently if they warrant your attention.

Basic Project Management Software and Tools

Email and communication tools are great ways to interact with team members, but additional tools help to organize people and team tasks. Dedicated project management software can assist in the fundamentals of project management. These tools help to track ideas, plot deadlines, share documents, and overall deliver more. Some of the more popular tools are free and can greatly increase a team’s overall efficientcy

Wrike

Wrike ScreenshotWrike is one the easiest to use project management tools for large groups repeating the same task or project frequently. It is a web-based program that can automate and organize your tasks and projects, enhance your firm’s productivity and increase efficiency. It lets you share data with your team quickly and collaborate on both tasks and project levels. Wrike’s email collaboration feature helps centralize management. The tool can be used for free or pay to upgrade based on your requirements. If your team has no more than five members, Wrike’s free plan should effectively meet your requirements.

Wrike.com

Asana

Asana ScreenshotAsana is another management tool where teams are provided workspaces made of individual projects. These projects are broken down into tasks that could be presented with comments, tags and notes. Basically, Asana breaks down the work into granular components in an easy to use Kanban board. The program works easily on both web browsers and mobile devices. The tool’s flexibility, short learning curve and simplicity makes it ideal for small businesses and freelancers.

Asana.com

Zoho Projects

Zoho ProjectsZoho Projects is a great choice if you’re already into Google apps for business (such as Gmail, Google Drive and Google Calendar) and require bug-tracking and timesheets built-in. It’s powerful and efficient and easily covers task lists, file sharing, project schedules, reporting and communication, etc. On-platform communication is quite potent with the option to chat with all team members at a time, individually or create subgroups.

Zoho.com/projects

Synergist

SynergistSynergist gets the job done by providing you tremendous visibility and control of tasks, resourcing, financials and schedules, in addition to all project communications and files. It’s a full-fledged project costing and management tool for big teams. Initially developed to serve digital and creative agencies, Synergist is now also used by several project-based companies.

Synergist.co.uk

Slack

Slack ScreenshotSlack is a group communication tool that is perfect for siloed businesses. With some organization, it can be used by larger teams to assist in meeting deliverables and moving tasks quickly. Slack integrates seamlessly with third-party applications that makes it easy to transport information from different platforms to Slack. The third-party apps include Twitter, MailChimp, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. With Trello or Asana integration, you can create to-do lists that can be shared among team members.

Slack.com


Successfully Managing Your Remote Teams

How can I use any of this to my benefit? As a manager handling and coordinating remote projects, it’s essential to consider work hour differences, time zone differences, and likely language barriers make using tools frequently with open lines of communication a highly important component. Regular check-ins, status updates, conference calls, etc. make up the drill. It’s important that remote workers are kept busy so that they don’t lose momentum and don’t look for work elsewhere.

Ensure Accessibility to Necessary Technology and Tools

There are several tools that help manage projects remotely such as Asana, JIRA Agile, OpenProject, Basecamp, etc. Basecamp is essentially a chat room space. The chat room daily connects people living in different time zones so that they could catch up on interactions that took place when they weren’t around. OpenProject features project-tracking, wikis, cost reporting and code management, and provides a robust, open-source option for project management.

Having the essential software tools and technology to all project team members makes sure the project stays on budget and schedule. It is easy for a project to derail if the team members are unable to access the information they require on time. Organizations and projects could also be impacted negatively by security violations that could put the company’s or a client’s sensitive data at risk.

Maintain Contact with Your Virtual Employees

Managing remote employees is not just about inundating them with work whenever possible. It’s also equally important to keep them in the loop about company affairs, recent performance, fresh hires, etc. You may accomplish this by sending remote workers recurring emails like a newsletter. Sending photos of a redone conference room, office setups, project teams, etc. can make things a bit more engaging. Video-calling can help reinstate remote employees’ faith in your company or project.

Have all necessary contact information about your remote workers handy. The contact details should comprise more than a phone number and work email address. You should have their emergency and backup phone numbers, personal or backup email addresses. It’s also important to stay updated on things happening in the remote employee’s region. For instance, if there’s a rough weather alert and power lines are expected go down in the area, you then know why the particular employee is being unresponsive.

Seek Remote Employees with an Entrepreneurial Outlook

Try to create virtual project teams whose members are not just technically proficient but also have an entrepreneurial approach and outlook to their work. Such people are naturally inclined to be passionate about things they do, are resourceful, results-oriented, independent, dedicated, highly adaptable and innovative.

The tools and resources are only meant to assist you in your project endeavors. Remember, they are not supposed to replace effort and time that you have to invest to start and lead a successful project. If you are clear about your role as a project manager, you are almost certain to derive tremendous value from these software programs.

 

Man-Thumbs-Up-River-Male-Speed-Boat-Cartoon-Boy-1298924Bill Timpe, PMP is a digital project management and resource management specialist. With over 10 years of project management experience, a background in development, and history, Bill brings a unique understanding of project lifecycles. Working for both large corporations and small companies, he has developed top of the class resource process strategies.

How to Reduce and Manage Workplace Stress

We’ve all had the feeling of being tired, stressed and burned out from work. The physical and emotional repercussions of work-related stress can be detrimental to productivity and overall well-being, and it doesn’t seem to be improving for most workers. In fact, 70% of calls made to phone counseling lines at Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs, were related to stress and anxiety. Even more troubling, the same provider found that there was an 18% increase in calls made from 2016. With this trend clearly not slowing down, here are some tangible tips that can help you regain control over workplace stress and anxiety while becoming more productive and efficient.

Create time for mindfulness and deep breathing

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, employees and employers alike are becoming more aware of the benefits of applying mindfulness in the workplace. With studies showing that mindfulness is associated with reduced stress and positive brain changes, it’s no wonder that these exercises have become so popular in business settings. There are a number of apps to choose from that will guide you through meditative practices, and you can even integrate some of them into your office communication platforms so that the reminder is more top of mind. Here at Circa, we’ve integrated the Stop, Breathe, and Think app into our messaging platform, Slack.

Allow for focused work, free of distractions and multitasking

Multitasking has been shown to inhibit productivity and efficiency. For those who feel like they have a million things being thrown their way, it can be easy to fall into the deep pit of multitasking. Not only does this add to stress and anxiety, but it undermines the ability to get tasks completed as thoroughly and efficiently when compared to more focused, singular work methods. Some effective ways to combat the temptation to multitask include:

  • Removing yourself from an environment of distractions, if applicable. We have an open office floor plan, as many millennial-dominated offices do today, and having a separate and secluded room that we can retreat to in order focus on more demanding or challenging tasks has proven to be a great addition.
  • Using time management tools like the Pomodoro timer. While these are fairly simple, straightforward tools (essentially fancy timers), they can be incredibly helpful in allocating dedicated time to each task while also preventing you from spending an excessive amount of time on any single one. This can help with workflow and make a heavy workload feel much more manageable.
  • Using noise-canceling headphones when you require heavy focus. Research has even found that music can have a calming effect when in high-stress situations.
  • Turning off notifications for messages that impede your ability to concentrate and focus. For example, we use the communication tool Slack almost constantly throughout our workday. In order to lessen the temptation to check Slack, email, etc., I have found that it is helpful to turn off any notifications and/or alter the settings to “do not disturb” mode (which is available for most messaging apps).

Take a walk

Studies have found that taking a brief walk (15-30 minutes) can result in calming effects. To capitalize on the benefits even more, apply meditative practices during your walk. Need to chat or brainstorm with coworkers and want to kill two birds with one stone? Merge walks and meetings into one. This can even help to jumpstart creative thinking for a more productive (not to mention healthy) meeting.

Be strategic about your notification settings 

It’s important to set boundaries between home and the office in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you constantly have notifications alerting you of new work messages or emails, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for failure (unless you have spectacular self-control). Most people feel tempted or obligated to respond to an email if they see it, so dedicate a period of time outside of work where you don’t receive messages or make a point to only respond to urgent inquiries if you’re in a situation where you still need to monitor them. With our communication tool, Slack, there are options to set notifications to “do not disturb” mode, which is a simple and effective solution to this problem.

Find a project management tool that works for you

There is nothing more overwhelming and stressful than having more tasks than you feel like you can keep track of or keep up with. This is why pinpointing a project management tool that helps you to stay organized can be a huge stress reliever. I personally use Trello to manage my tasks and have created a system where I can prioritize them accordingly, as well as add notes, due dates, etc. Some of my colleagues rely on other tools and apps like Evernote, Wrike and even Google Calendar. Whatever your system is, find something that makes you feel organized and brings you greater peace of mind.

 

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.