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Consumers are the winners in the new paradigm of brand-and-blogger relationships

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As brands and influencers engage in relationships for their mutual survival, the public is the beneficiary

Every day you are probably reading content that is the result of a brand’s relationship with a blogger or influencer. The reality of today’s media landscape is that there is too much information for anyone to stay informed about all things all the time, and it would be impossible for bloggers, journalists and other media to be everywhere and to know everything that’s happening at any given time, and so these professionals have formed symbiotic relationships that serve themselves and ultimately serve their audience and the general public.

These relationships exist so that brands can educate consumers about their products and services, and media in turn benefit by obtaining content — which amounts to their product or service, whereby content consumers gain knowledge. While this arrangement may seem that it could lead to favoritism, there are inherent checks and balances in the system that prevent this from occurring. For instance, if a blogger or influencer consistently wrote positive, non-critical reviews for a particular brand, they would lose credibility and eventually lose their audience. As the currency for influencers is followers, this would be the death knell for their business. On the flipside, brands that only provide information and samples to those bloggers and influencers who promise positive reviews restrict their audience and thereby get less exposure; and as those bloggers and influencers are labeled biased ambassadors for those brands, they lose credibility, and their sphere of influence dwindles.

Savvy brands take the chance in distributing product samples and conducting wide-ranging media relations efforts to reach a broad spectrum of Bloggers and other media. While on occasion they may receive a bad review, the odds are that if they have a good product, the majority of reviews will accurately reflect that, and truth and fairness will reign. With many consumers, determining accuracy in reviews is a numbers game. If a product receives 200 positive reviews out of 230, chances are the overwhelming number of positive reviews is a reliable indicator for most would-be buyers that the product will meet expectations.

Likewise, sophisticated bloggers are aware that they must honestly review products or else risk the perception of being a paid spokesperson for a brand. While the media landscape has changed, whereas in the past journalists were not permitted to accept samples or otherwise experience a product given to them as a gift from a brand, it has become common practice now, even at established media outlets, due to shrinking operational budgets among traditional media.

Advertising dollars lost to online advertising has forced many newspapers to use freelancer’s and other contributors who are not bound by the same employment contracts that prohibit them from accepting gifts. Additionally, the reality is that most media can no longer afford to buy products or send their writers on trips, etc., in order to review products, services or destinations.

Many public relations professionals, like Nancy Berhman of Behrman Communications have embraced this new shift in how the public gets their information by forging programs that join together like-minded brands and bloggers who work together to achieve mutual goals.  Consumers in this new world of brand and influencer relationships can consider this new paradigm as a boon to objectivism.  This is how it works: As traditional media evolves to compete with digital media, the new wave of influencers recognize that their power comes from trust with their audience, and if they lose that trust by engaging in pay-for-play ethics, then they will also go the way of the newspapers, magazines and traditional media of yore, like a product with a one star, no one will buy them, or rather no one will buy anything they have to say.

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BusinessLifestyleMoneyThought

Choosing a winning lawyer

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The best legal advise you can get, is to get a good lawyer

There’s a joke in the legal profession that the person who represents himself or herself has a fool for a client. Indeed, the legal field is, to say the least, very complicated to navigate on one’s own. Lawyers have pretty much solidified their place in our lives, despite Shakespeare once prophesying that in order to achieve societal harmony, first we must, “Kill all the lawyers.” Once we have accepted this reality, of the necessity of having doctors of jurisprudence argue our disputes, there is the matter of finding a good lawyer to fight your fight.

Referrals 

For starters, heed this wisdom from experienced litigants, who concur that how you choose your lawyer is often a reliable predictor of your case’s success. The best referral is from a personal or professional acquaintance who has had a winning experience with a lawyer. In order to get a referral, it may be embarrassing to confide in others that you need legal help, but chances are they have been there themselves, and if you’re lucky, they may have someone good to recommend.

Ratings

If no one you know can refer you to an attorney, utilize some of the online sites to locate and check ratings on lawyers, similar to Yelp – which can be a source in itself, though a low-credibility one due to their pay-to-play business model. One of the more popular rating sites is Avvo. While all review sites contain fraudulent reviews, generally they still can provide some insight if read with a discriminating eye. Usually you can spot a fake review by either its effusively enthusiastic narrative with no critical comments, or its overly nasty and negative invective that might have been written by a sore-loser litigant who was actually beaten by the lawyer they are reviewing; so check out the middle-of-the road reviews as well as the top and bottom reviews to get the fairest assessment of the lawyer.

Trust

When it comes to the in-person or phone interview part of the hiring process, it’s important that you have a positive rapport with your would-be attorney. Many attorney’s will offer a free consultation, so take advantage of this meeting to feel out the attorney’s manner and tone.

Trust will be a crucial part of your relationship with your attorney, so you must feel that this is a person you can trust on both a personal and professional level. If an attorney suggests ethically or legally questionable strategies, such as hiding money in a bankruptcy proceeding, then run don’t walk away from that attorney. If a lawyer has a shady modus operandi, you can bet he or she will be shady in business practices, including in client-attorney dealings.

Communication 

One of the biggest complaints clients express regarding attorneys is that attorneys do not return calls in a timely manner and are unresponsive to their emails; so ask an attorney candidate what his or her response time will be when you call or email, i.e. , calls are returned within 24 hours. Make sure your attorney has the bandwidth to give your case proper attention. If it was hard to get an appointment because their office was too busy, chances are they will be too busy to return calls and to give due attention to your matter.

Experience matters

Just as you would with a doctor how many times he or she has performed a procedure you must undergo, ask your attorney what his or her experience is in the pertinent area of law and how many cases they have handled like yours. You would not want a doctor to be doing his first surgery on you, just as you do not want to be an attorney’s first case in a particular area of law.

Make sure they have ample experience and a favorable win record in the proper field. While a family law attorney may have an excellent record in custody matters, they may never have tried a personal injury case, defended an DUI, or filed a bankruptcy, so search for a specialist, such as personal injury attorney tampa, for the best results.

Just because you have a trusted friend or acquaintance who is a lawyer, this does not mean he or she can handle your case.  Even if a lawyer friend offers you services pro bono, if that lawyer is a wrong fit, it is not worth any savings you might realize, if you lose your case because they did not give qualified advice.

Fees 

Often the deciding factor in hiring an attorney is price. Fees will vary widely depending on the experience of the attorney. You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 an hour to $650 an hour, depending on the expertise your case requires. Make sure in your retainer agreement with the attorney that there is an understanding of how they bill, such as in 10- or 20-minute increments. Many attorneys will require an upfront retainer that can be a couple thousand dollars or $20,000, depending on your type of case. If you are not able to reach a settlement, and as trial approaches, an attorney may require a retainer of over $100,000 if they expect your trial to last for several days or longer. Attorneys know that after trial is over, it is very difficult to collect fees – especially if they do not win the case – so that is why they collect payment upfront.

It is hardly ever the case that the hiring a lawyer is not an expensive endeavor. If worse comes to worse, and you have to use legal intervention to settle a dispute, the least you can do is choose your attorney wisely so that you have the best chances at a favorable outcome.

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BusinessShopping

It’s the season for customer success as new shopping rites change

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As the surge in cyber shopping and social media influence on buying decisions has proven to retailers, the landscape for those selling goods and services has altered dramatically in the past few years. No longer do companies have the opportunities interact face-to-face with their customers or even communicate with them on the phone.

To compete in the new paradigm, companies that understand the rapidly evolving manner in which consumers, influencers, and companies share information are quickly adopting subscription-based revenue models to measure customer experiences and predict business growth will be the ones that survive and thrive.

Those who utilize this type of customer success platform are developing and maintaining valuable loyal customer relations. Whatever business a company is involved in, relationships are key to success. To develop meaningful and loyal relationships, companies need to understand the user behavior of their customers and they need to engage them and anticipate their future needs.

To achieve customer success, companies must monitor customer health indicators and chart a course for correction so they can identify and drive new revenue opportunities. They also need to uncover customer needs to prevent user frustration, and they need to speak to customers when and where they are most likely to listen.

When a company follows these tenets, they can accelerate a customer’s journey from adoption to advocacy, thereby assuring their customer understands and appreciates their value proposition, which will optimize the company’s return on its investment.

Many technology platforms, such as Salesforce, Zendesk, #Slack and Gainsight have made the job of organizations and their sales associates easier, but to fully integrate these platforms and make them applicable to a business, there must be meaningful analysis and then action to enhance or correct where a company is succeeding or failing in meeting its customers’ needs.

B2B platforms, such as UserIQ, serve more than to provide messages and alerts to customers by empowering companies to foster growth. They aid with on boarding and retention and boost expansion and advocacy by combining user intelligence, targeted engagements, and customer health to give customers what they need to be successful at any stage of their business.

The most savvy and wisest of companies are adapting quickly and utilizing the latest technology that synthesizes and analyzes big data into usable information that can help them to keep their customers and encourage their customers to not only stay loyal but to spend more and become advocates and bring new leads to the company.

For any company that has looked for solutions to counter churn, these innovative technologies are helping companies to focus on excellent customer service, production and improvement of their lines of products and services, and a better bottom line without guesswork.

As entrepreneurs and consumers move into a new era of how we buy, we are transforming the ways that we decide what and from whom to buy, companies that are adopting technology platforms will lead the way to better products and services and a better buying experience for everyone.

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Education

How to Teach Children Financial Literacy

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Fiscal responsibility is not  taught in schools but essential for children to learn

Nearly one quarter of US states receive a failing grade when it comes to teaching kids personal finance in schools. Twelve states don’t attempt to teach it at all. This could be one of the reasons that only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance and pay off their bill every month, and that only 1 in 3 Americans is saving for retirement. We don’t expect kids to learn how to read, write or drive without instruction, but another essential life skill, money management is ignored for the most part.

As children come of age to receive allowance or earn money, parents should take the initiative to supplement their kids lacking personal finance education at school with lessons at home. Use these tips to determine how and where to start.

  1. Check Out Your Schools – Visit your school to see what (if anything) is being taught about personal finance or if personal finance is required to graduate high school. Once you have this information, you can determine your next moves to ensure your kids know how to manage money when the time comes. With a majority of U.S. high school students failing to learn about money, there’s a good chance your children won’t either.

 

  1. Leave Books To The Adults – There are thousands of books available on finance and managing money, but don’t waste your cash buying these for your kids. Kids learn best by doing, so sitting down with a book that explains percentage rates, credit, loans or budgeting won’t leave a long lasting impression. They would learn more from watching movies like “Moneyball” or “The Big Short”.

 

  1. Use Teachable Moments – Each we are faced with numerous financial decisions that you could use as a “teachable moment” for your children. The next time you are grocery shopping, show your child how to compare prices and brands. If you’re paying bills, let your child sit with you and see how you manage money.

 

  1. Look Differently at Chores & Allowance – While a majority of parents agree that kids should be doing chores and receiving an allowance, some parents feel money shouldn’t be the reason kids help around the house. It’s those parents who should look at chores and allowance differently. Think of it as a child’s first job and a parents first chance to teach them everything they need to know (work ethic, direct deposit, budgeting, opening bank account, taxes, etc) before they head off to get a real job someday.

 

  1. Learn As Family – Many parents don’t like to talk to their children about money because they believe they aren’t knowledgable enough. If you are one of these parents, jump in and learn with your children. You’re never too old to learn, erase bad habits or set good examples. Plus doing it with your children could be fun!

 

  1. Practice What You Preach – If you already practice good personal finance habits, congratulations! If not, this is a great time to start. In either case, practice what you preach to your children since the greatest influence on your child is you.

 

  1. Understand, No One Is Perfect! – Let’s face it, if everyone was great at managing money there would be little National Debt, no bankruptcy and everyone would have a savings account. So except these facts and do something to get better at it. I believe we are so afraid of what our children will think about our bad financial status that we forget how the current situation could be a great lesson. Don’t let your pride get in the way of teaching your children how NOT to make the same mistakes.

 

  1. Don’t Quit! – This might be the hardest thing of all. Being good at money management is a never-ending process. However your kids are going to be faced with hundreds of thousands of financial decisions in their lifetime, so you never get to the point where you can stop teaching, supporting or guiding. Quitting now only puts them on a path to be living back with you when they are older, full of student loans and moving from job to job.

 

Gregg Murset is CEO of BusyKid is the first online chore chart where children can earn, save, share, spend and invest real money wisely. Formerly known as My Job Chart, BusyKid is easy to use, revolutionary and allows kids to receive a real allowance from their parents each Friday. No more points or trying to convert imaginary money.

 

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BusinessThought

Three Traits all Successful Entrepreneurs Should Have

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How thought leaders live and work leads to success

 

As an entrepreneur myself and as a consultant to entrepreneurs, I have seen common characteristics in those who have excelled and succeeded in their industry space. No matter if their business is food or fossil fuel, successful founders and leaders all have these same three characteristics that help them to accomplish their goals.

Diversified interests – diversification is a term often heard in the financial world, when it comes to investing in the stock market. It is also a valuable strategy in investing in yourself. The most successful entrepreneurs are not all work and no play, and they are not single-minded. Not just in work, but in their personal lives, these individuals pursue varied interests that expose them to many different people, philosophies, and challenges. Hobbies often highlight analogies that can teach you skill sets and habits that you can apply on the job. For instance, an executive who takes up mountain biking will learn how to look ahead to see obstacles and avoid them and to know the right time to follow or pass those in front of them.

Mind and body wellness – Mindfulness has become the catchword of the psychology community, meaning an awareness of what you are doing and its impact on yourself and those around you; but it is also a philosophy that works in achieving professional objectives. Likewise, a fit and healthy body can enable an entrepreneur to have the stamina needed for the rigors of success, which can be equally physically taxing as mentally demanding. A mindful entrepreneur feels good about their work, without the drain of guilt and negativity; and giving back to others offers a fulfillment that bolsters mental energy. Integrity and honesty is the best policy not just in life but in business, because a clean conscience gives you more mental energy for creativity and free-flowing thought.

While sitting in front of a computer may seem to not take much energy, it can zap a body of valuable strength.  Ergonomists and the medical research community have declared, “Sitting is the new smoking,” with an excessive sedentary lifestyle leading to a host of diseases, from musculoskeletal problems to diabetes and heart disease. Successful entrepreneurs keep physical active and ensure themselves a healthy diet, and they get plenty of exercise and sleep to keep their physical body — the vessel of their creativity and productivity — in top shape.

Communication skills – language and self-expression comprise the building blocks of every entrepreneurial interaction. To express an idea, motivate employees, attract investors, network with other business leaders, or simply organize one’s day, communication skills are required, and the finer and more sophisticated the skills, the more precise and effective the results. The most respected and successful entrepreneurs are practiced communicators, in written and spoken word, and they invest the time to learn the best ways to reach their stakeholders and utilize the many varied channels of communication – including social media — at their disposal.

A polished LinkenIn profile for instance is not just an essential tool for entrepreneurs to offer a quick glimpse of their background and achievements to interested parties but also an illustration of their ability to communicate effectively in the digital world.  A well-managed online presence will pay off in many ways, such as when a potential client or investor conducts  online research as part of their due diligence before doing business with an individual or company.  For instance, when searching for the female entrepreneur trainer Grace Lever one would come upon a Grace Lever review via her online videos and professional profile, offering a curated first impression of the entrepreneur her training program, The Doing Academy.

While success is never guaranteed based on a single idea or company concept, the most successful entrepreneurs possesses the characteristics of diversified interests, a dedication to mind and body wellness, and expertise in communication which give them an edge on the competition and help them to stay strong, optimistic and primed until they in fact achieve the level success they seek.

 

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