Use the Phone

Image-1 (4)In our high-tech world of instant connections, email has maintained is status as the go-to business communication method, thanks to its immediacy, remoteness and professionalism. Plus, it leaves a paper trail—never a bad thing in business. When you send an email, there’s no risk of turning a short question into a 20-minute conversation, allowing the sender to quickly move from one task to the next. But is that always a good thing?

The resulting paper trail is the proverbial double-edged sword—nothing sent via email can really go away. This can protect you, but there are also more than a few emails I wish I could take back, or at least edit.

Its immediacy also comes with an asterisk. It immediately gets checked off the sender’s to-do list, but it doesn’t always provide an immediate answer—the recipient may not be sitting with their email open waiting with a ready reply. They may be working on a project and not check their email for hours—or they may check their email and not remember to (or be in the mood to) respond right away.

And sometimes a 20-minute phone conversation with an associate or client is a good thing; even a great thing. You may find out something important for your business, create a new opportunity or not only get the answer you need (right away), but understand the reason why and, in the process, get to know the person a bit better. You may even find out about an important life event that helps deepen your relationship beyond that of pure business. And in the service industry, that can make all the difference.

When you pick up the phone, there is less chance of a remark going sour; and if it does, it can be fixed before anything becomes really broken. Sarcasm doesn’t always translate well in writing, and some emails come across just cold—not the professional tone you were striving for.

I’m on the ancient side of our staff. The other side of 50. I grew up in a business world that was primarily conducted on the phone. I even wore a headset since 90 percent of my day was spent making and answering phone calls. I still believe it’s often the best way to get an answer I need quickly. And if I spend some extra time I didn’t plan, so be it. I have actually “met” some life-long friends on the phone, who now understand my personality and my occasional sarcastic tendencies—even through email.

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Scott Harris Joins Conejo Valley Chamber Board of Directors

Mustang is excited to announce that our president, Scott Harris, was selected to serve on the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, starting Jan. 1, 2015. We look forward to the new opportunities Scott’s participation on the board will provide for us and our clients!

To add to the excitement, one of our awesome clients, Ventura County Credit Union, will also be represented on the board of directors by their community development manager, Natalie Bradley.

Oh, yeah, and if that wasn’t exciting enough, Scott’s and Natalie’s new positions for the board earned them both appearances in The Acorn:

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Mustang Participates in First Meeting of New PRSA Chapter

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently launched a new California Gold Coast Chapter serving the Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Mustang’s public relations manager, Jenny Guy, attended the very first meeting on Nov. 7, 2014!

PRSA offers learning and development opportunities for public relations professionals, as well as generating understanding and appreciation of public relations services. It also establishes ethical standards and promotes excellence in the industry.

And the luncheon Jenny attended is just the beginning–the California Gold Coast Chapter plans to hold monthly events for PR professionals. We are thrilled to have this new chapter available in our area, and look forward to passing the benefits of our involvement on to our clients.

Take a look at these photos from the event:

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Ventura County Star editor, John Moore, delivering keynote address at the meeting

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Jenny and some fellow attendees, along with founding chapter president, Jean Kelso Sandlin

For more information about the luncheon on Nov. 7, click here.

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Simplify Your Organization

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This past week I went shopping for groceries. It was a big trip since my pantry was nearly empty, except for a few straggling items that ultimately made their way to the trash. When I got back—and my empty pantry had been replaced by a counter full of grocery bags—I started attempting to put things away in some kind of order. Similar items were placed next to each other, while random items were placed into any empty space I could find. But, about half way through this process, I noticed the shelves were starting to become a mess. The system I was using was not working and it was time for a different approach.

I paused for a moment to think through how I could do this and I realized that, for me, taking each item and trying to find the perfect place for it was a mistake. Everything didn’t need to be in the perfect spot, it just needed to be somewhere I could find it. I decided to think in terms of groups, instead. I have four shelves in my pantry. Dedicating one shelf to each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and reserving the last shelf for spices, sauces and anything else multipurpose, I went to work. I finished quickly and noticed my pantry was much less messy than it had been after my first attempt.

As a result, it’s now easier to find food based on what I want to eat. In the morning, I go straight to the breakfast shelf. I do the same for lunch and dinner. Opening the pantry is no longer a “Where’s Waldo” puzzle in which I can’t even remember what I bought and as a result, my life has improved.

All of this illustrates a very important web design principle—one that is worth the somewhat lengthy anecdote. Simplifying and organizing are not the same thing. They work together to create an efficient system. In the case of websites, a menu system.

The most important decision to make when building a website is determining what information will be provided and what topics will be covered. A homepage can’t have everything. It takes a menu to direct traffic. Often, I find that clients try to fit too much into the top level of the site’s navigation. They have too much organization and not enough simplification.

When deciding how to lay out a website’s menu, I try to look at it from the user’s point of view. Coming to the site for the first time, users are generally looking for something specific. But, this does not mean you should split everything into extremely exact, precise groups. Those kinds of specific groups will leave your menu with good organization, but it won’t be simple.

The solution is to find a way to organize content that is also easy to understand. Start by breaking down what your demographic might want to do on your website. For example, categories like “shop,” “learn” and “contact” make it very easy for a user to know where to start. While these may seem vague, in reality they give users very simple paths to follow. If you make things easy for your website’s visitors from the beginning, they will continue to be visitors.

The bottom line? Simplify your organization. It works for website menus and for when you need to put away the groceries.

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