Friday, January 5, 2018

Planning Your Next Project

Happy New Year!  It's a great time to kick off the new year with a solid plan that will drive your next project towards success. Planning is a key tool to include in all of your activities to reach your goals in a timely fashion. I hope that these ideas and tips will be beneficial in your next project planning effort.

The key to every successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is essential in developing your project or community event. Quite often, project planning is often ignored by most event planners and community organizers in order to focus on the work that may seem more important. In my early years of community engagement, planning was often the last thing considered. Most people often fail to realize the great value of having a project plan. A great plan can be beneficial for saving time, money and possibly many challenges that may be faced. There are several steps to planning a successful project that may be helpful:

Project Goals
  • A project is successful when it has met the needs of the stakeholders or community gatekeepers. Stakeholders can be anyone who is directly, or indirectly impacted by the project. To begin, it's important to identify the stakeholders or gatekeepers in your project. Surprisingly, it's not always easy to distinguish stakeholders of a project that are indirectly impacted. Examples of stakeholders may include:
    • The project sponsor or financial supporter
    • The client or customer who receives the deliverable
    • Users of the project output
    • Project Manager or Project Team
    • Board or Advisory group member
    • Community leaders
After identifying your stakeholders, the next step will be to ascertain their needs. One way to identify their needs is by conducing key informant interviews with them.  During the interview process, it's key to discover the requirements that  create real benefits. Beware, sometimes stakeholders may discuss needs that aren't relevant and may not deliver benefits. From experience I have found that it's good to listen and hear what is being said by your audience.

Once all interviews have been completed, develop a prioritized list of needs. The next step would be to create a group of measurable goals that can be reviewed against the SMART principle. Once a clear set of goals have been established they should be  placed in the project plan. It's also helpful to include the needs and expectations of the stakeholders. This is the most challenging part of the  planning process. Here are the elements of the SMART principle:

Project Deliverables
  • Once the goals are created, develop a list of items that the project will need to deliver in order to reach its goals. Remember to add all deliverables to the project plan with approximate deliverable dates. Try not to stress if the dates are not accurate. Every good plan should be flexible and adjustable in order to reach the overall goals of the project.
Project Schedule:

Now the fun begins - develop a list of tasks that need to applied for each potential deliverable or objective. For each task, make note of the following key items: 
  • Amount of time required for completing the tasks
  • Note who on your team will be responsible for each task and their role
This task will help to establish the amount of effort for each deliverable leading to a more precise delivery date. In developing your plan there are a number of project planning tools that may be used. Many of the tools are free. It's a great idea to check them out to see what feels right for you. There are a couple of tools that are more compatible for me that I will highlight, but please check them all or create your own tool. Here are some potential (free) project management tools for your review:
  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • Orangescrum
  • Meistertask
  • Wrike
  • Smartsheet
  • Slack
  • Zoho
  • 2-Plan
  • Freedcamp
Other Resources:

There are a variety of plans that may be created as part of the planning process that can be included in the overall plan.

Human Resource Plan:
  • Identify by name the team members and organizations that may have a leading role in your project. For each, describe their roles and responsibilities. Remember to identify the number of people needed for the project and if possible the amount of time to complete each task.
Communications Plan:
  • Develop a document that reveals who should be kept informed about the activities of the project and how information will be distributed to them. Often, monthly or quarterly status reports are provided that describe how the project is performing, accomplishments and future work.
Risk Management Plan:
  • Risk management is essential to the success of project management. It's imperative and highly recommended to identify as many risks as possible to your project. Planning ahead helps the project manager to be prepared and ready to deal with potential or unexpected challenges. Here are a few examples of common, everyday project risks:
    • Lack of stakeholder input
    • Poor communication leading to misunderstandings
    • Stakeholders adding new ideas or activities after the project has began
    • Not understanding the needs of stakeholders
    • Unclear or misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities
    • Unexpected budget cuts or budget delays
    • Not enough time estimated in order to complete projects
    • Disagreements between team members and/or stakeholders
Once you start working on your project, you and your team will identify other potential risks that may or may not occur.  It's a great idea to make a list of those potential risks and jot down notes of how each would be handled if it should happen during the project. You are now ready to get started in what will be a GREAT project.

Always remember:

For more information about project planning or planning your next community engagement or event, please feel free to email us at

    Friday, November 10, 2017

    Effectively Reaching Priority Populations

    For the past 15 years, Promotions West has been working to engage agencies in understanding how to reach priority populations or as what it use to be called, communities of color.  A lot of jazzy words have emerged instead of just using the old term, outreach.  Today outreach workers are called navigators or community ambassadors.  Regardless, the message is the same.

    When working with specific populations one of the most important keys is to develop and build trust. Over the years, communities of color have been raped by outsiders entering, offering gift cards and sandwiches for an invaluable amount of information on how they could make the community a better place to live and be healthy. In reality, many never returned once information was gathered and used, but not to benefit the audience answering all the questions and sharing great ideas. Why? Well, if you are a person of color you will understand that this has been the norm for years, the old bait and switch game. Soon, those needing that information became wiser and started hiring people who looked like someone from the community they are trying to reach.

    What were the results? Same results, no one ever returned or helped to improve anything at all. Today, community members and stake holders are much smarter and aware of the games to rob them of their brilliant ideas. As a result, it's much harder to get into communities, regardless of what you look like or sound like. The secret is to be genuine when you go into any community. If not, you will be seen as a fake. Stakeholders and community members can smell fakes a mile away, trust me. The first few times you visit a community practice active listening to hear and to listen to what community members desire.

    We put together a guide to help organizations reach African Americans or Black populations. We are in the process of updating that guide to include reaching the Latinx communities. The guide is free and can be downloaded from the Promotions West website. We also created a guide to help in the planning of successful focus groups with community members.

    At Promotions West we are in the process of creating public relations and marketing workshops designed to equip organizations with the tools to strategically develop their communications and project plans in reaching communities of color. Remember, ethnic media is an essential partner to engage when reaching out to your audience.

    As our audiences change, many engage in obtaining information through social media networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snap Chat and YouTube. A good way to organize your social media activities is by using Hootsuite, an all-encompassing app to promote your messages easier. We facilitate sessions with small to medium-sized organizations about social media and how to get started. Usually Promotions West will create social marketing pages, develop social media templates for key stories and events, and develop a timeline with clear dates. After 3 to 6 months, agencies or organizations will feel comfortable taking the lead. It's our goal to educate, demonstrate and provide the tools for the agency to take the reigns.

    Here are some helpful tips to reaching your audience:

    Getting Started:
    • After discussion with team members, identify who you are trying to reach and why
    • Define the project 
    • List the goals and objectives
    • Brainstorm on ways to reach your audience
    • Develop a clear message that you want to deliver to your audience
    • Identify the amount of money that you are able to spend on this project
    • List any ideas on ways to promote the message (WOM-Word of Mouth, Advertising, Radio, Television, Print, Outdoor Advertising, promotional items, community events, or via community outreach workers)
    • Evaluation - Decide how you will know that your project or campaign is successful (Do you just want numbers of people reached or are you interested in the impact on a community?)

    If you are unfamiliar with your audience, it may be helpful to conduct a community assessment or an ethnographic study of the audience that you are interested in reaching.  You may: 

    • Search for the meaning of social and cultural norms and views
    • Find reasons for the use of certain behaviors or practices
    • Examine social trends and instances like divorce, illnesses, etc.
    • Examine social interactions and encounters
    • Better understand the roles of families, relationships, and organizations
    • Outline the areas where your audience living
    • What is the make up of the various communities? (Ages, Education, Countries people may be from or Regions of the country)
    • Acknowledge the similarities and differences
    • Ascertain how your audience get their information or receive news
    • List community cultural events, fairs or potential community engagement events
    • Include staff and board members in all discussions
    Goals and Objectives:

    Before creating an event you should develop a list of goals and objectives. Responding to the following questions will assist you in focusing on your event:
    • What is the purpose of your event or campaign?
    • What are the benefits for the community?
    • What results or outcomes do you expect or desire?
    • Is media coverage needed and why?
    • How will the event be evaluated?
    Active listening is extremely important to remember when working with communities. Often we tend to not ask the people that we are trying to reach what they want and what are the best ways to reach them. Then we are disappointed when no one shows up or likes the services that are being provided to them. 

    Remember that communities, especially those of color come together around food and family activities and share information with other community members. Don't make the mistake of thinking that communities don't engage with other communities. Everyone connects or intermarry with other groups of people and share information with each other. Trust me it's beneficial in promoting your efforts.

    The Promotions West guide will provide you with a number of ideas to be successful in reaching communities of color. If you are interested in being a part of a communications workshop on reaching your priority audience, please drop us at line at Stay tuned, we are working on finalizing details for our workshops in 2018. 

    Thursday, September 7, 2017

    Training Gone Bad

    How many of you have had the pleasure of attending a well-planned training session that inspired you to share the information with others?  Quite often most people take it for granted when a training is simply amazing and don’t think much about the work that actually goes into it.  Last week, I had the experience of attending one of the worse trainings in my entire life.

    As a trainer/facilitator for over 15 years, I have learned from many of the best professionals in the field.  It’s also true that trainers can be the most difficult participants in any training because a good presenter knows from the start if the training is going to be fantastic or horrific.

    Last week, after getting over the initial feeling of horror and wondering why the fire alarm hadn’t gone off so that we could escape the building and not return. If the windows had opened I would have pretended to commit suicide to save my colleagues and myself. Once returning to some state of sanity, I struggled to consider why I was mandated to attend this training from hell.  After a wave of depression, I realized what a great opportunity to watch the worse trainer ever for the next 4 days and to remember to learn what not to do as a facilitator. You are probably thinking that someone facilitating a training for 4 days should be able to get back on track after hearing the feedback from participants after Day 1, but it didn’t happen at all. 

    Here are a few things that caught my attention that a good trainer should NEVER  do:

    Lack of Planning:
    • Failing to Plan is a Plan to Fail. We have all heard this before, but believe me, it’s true. It was clear that our trainer was unprepared and presented poorly and continued to get worse each day. It was later discovered that the trainer had missed every planning session and/or conference call with key staff that would have ensured a successful training that enabled participants to learn more about the topic.  It’s normal for a good facilitator or trainer to schedule planning meetings with the client and work out clear details of the scope of the training and how each day will be created and completed successfully.
    Bad Attitude
    • When a facilitator or trainer lacks the ability to be humble, the audience will feel disrespected and may lose interest in the entire training. When entering a room as the leader or trainer, all attitudes and big egos should be left in the car or outside of the door. After all, those negative characteristics were not invited or engaged to participate. Arrogance is not a positive trait to possess as a trainer.
    No Icebreaker:
    • Most training sessions usually begin with an icebreaker or an activity to create a fun and friendly atmosphere, especially when people don’t know each other well.  There are many great icebreakers or fun games to get people talking, laughing and sharing information that can help the trainer to make subtle changes in the presentation. There was no effort to create a warm atmosphere in this horrible training, and each day continued to be more miserable than the one before.
    Expectations Exercise
    • In an effort to ascertain the needs and desires of training participants, presenters often conduct an activity where participants can introduce themselves and give an expectation of what they would like to take away from the training. Often if the group is too large, they can be placed into smaller groups and share that information within their groups. Once coming back together as a full group, one member of the team will introduce its members and a couple of expectations. Notes are made on an easel and are reviewed by the trainer. Do I have to say it?  Well nothing similar happened at the training I attended. I watched many people who struggled in working with strangers, preferring to work with one of their co-workers instead.
    Poor Introduction:

    • Try to remember that the training is not for the benefit of the trainer but for the participants. Our imposter trainer was not concerned about finding out who was in the audience, nor why people had given up 4 days of work to be there. This trainer kicked off the training by giving a very dull self-centered presentation for 20 minutes or more. Everyone was totally turned off almost immediately and confused whether or not the topic was about the trainer’s life or about a family member being ill.
    Inappropriate Language:

    • Try to not use inappropriate language with speaking to training participants, especially when the relationship or trust has not been created with the team. Humor is always good in training if you are a humorous person with a bubbly personality. Without creating trust and a positive rapport, Trainers should avoid odd comments. My target trainer spent some time taking about the constipation of a relative when looking at the words To Do as part of the PDSA presentation on a slide and decided to explain in detail why the personal information was being shared. The PDSA cycle is shorthand for testing a change – by planning it, doing it, observing the results, and acting on what is learned.  This is a scientific method used for action-oriented learning.
    Work Plan:
    • Once the trainer got into the power point presentation, it was clear that they were unfamiliar with any of the information and started to make things up. I can’t repeat often enough that the trainer must be extremely well prepared and familiar with their slides. Not the case in this session. Lack of being prepared caused complete confusion among participants starting on the first day. The situation did not improve or correct itself over the next few days. Hard to imagine that it could have gotten worse, but it was on a downward path.
    • It can be disrespectful to argue with participants or try to shut them down from asking questions. The role of the trainer is and has always been is to support workshop participants and to make sure they leave the training more knowledgeable since they have taken many days from work for the purpose of attending a training to gain more information or skills to increase their job skills. A good trainer uses active listening when dealing with participants. When most people are speaking, those listening busy are thinking of their response. Active listening is listening 100% to what is being said or asked of you so that you can respond appropriately, correctly and respectfully.
    Follow Through:
    • As a trainer, facilitator, presenter or teacher, it’s important to always follow thru on what you promised to do for participants. It may help to put items on a parking lot – which can be on large white Post-it paper or a white board that will remind the trainer of things that need to be addressed. Quite often a good trainer will place white paper around the room so that participants can make comments throughout the training. Parking lot items may be reviewed several times during the training. Trust me, you will not see this at a bad training session.
    • My biggest gripe of all is when a trainer or facilitator share untrue information with participants or those in Leadership positions who are doing the hiring.  It’s a problem that could be eliminated if the leadership of any organization, large or small, would check in with staff or participants during or following a training to check to see if everyone was happy and to get feedback.  It’s important to do so because a bad trainer can do harm to participants and risk damaging staff morale while creating negative feelings and poor morale.
    These are key reasons why everyone should all take a stand and voice when you are being exposed to a poorly presented training. Any leadership needs to know how their staff felt and were treated.  Firms that hire trainers or facilitators also need to find out how their presenter was received. Remember, evaluation is key to providing feedback that may make a difference in your next training session. Let us know what makes a training GREAT for you.

    For over 15 years, Mikael Wagner has been a professional trainer, social marketing/media practitioner and project manager with Promotions West.

    Saturday, June 17, 2017

    Winning Tips on Starting a Small Business

    Starting a small business can be a scary time for most people. The smartest people that I have ever met feel intimidated about taking that first step to being independent and fear reaching out to potential businesses that could use their services. There is something secure and comforting of staying in a job with a company that you hate instead of taking a risk and putting yourself out front. The biggest issue that potential new small business owners have shared with me is what if I can't find any clients who want to take a chance on me or do I have to quit my job and lose my salary and health benefits.

    What seems like a lifetime now, 16 years ago I started Promotions West, a boutique public relations and marketing firm in San Francisco where I work as a consultant and mentor to businesses. It was a bit scary for me too. I was so frightening that I kept my full time job and started doing the business at off times, little by little. One of my mentors said to me over lunch, "When are you going to put both feet in the same place and take a chance on you." I wanted to run and hide in a dark cave. I couldn't think of anything worse than going rogue and being my own boss. After shaking in my boots for a year, yep a year, I finally made the leap to trust myself like I have trusted so many others when getting hired to work a 40 hour shift. I quickly learned that failing is and have never been an option. To help me to provide realistic tips, I reached out to loyal colleagues in the field of public relations, marketing, promotions and social media for their advice. Here is some of the knowledge that they shared with me.
    "To thine own self be true Don't try to deliver services that are not in alignment with your expertise or mission. Work from the inside-out building your market base from folks nearest you, beginning with employees, shared Jackie Wright, award winning journalist, producer, publicist, filmmaker and founder of Wright Enterprises.

    Beverly Lancaster-Jones, a Washington DC public relations and marketing guru and a great colleague said, "Don't neglect your loves ones while building your business. It's never worth it." "Drink lots of wine, preferably with me" is what Kami Griffiths, owner of Community Technology Network suggested. FYI, Kami is simply brilliant and I have had the opportunity to work with her and watch her build the business from the ground up and never stop, except for a glass of wine and to gain more energy to keep pushing. She is about to relocate to Austin, Texas so get ready Austin for a tornado of wonderfulness. Garry Curtis, CEO of GRC Strategies and one of my mentors added, "Hire smart people and get out of their way.

    Roberta Silverstein, Owner of Brain to Fingers in Novato, CA and a longtime colleague and friend had a lot of tips to share. Silverstein recommends the following tips:
    • Have a game plan (business plan) yet be open to change and new ideas. You never know who you are going to meet who can help you, give you new ideas or network you to a client.
    • Be kind and considerate when networking. While you may be super hungry for customers/clients, if you cal a meeting, be aware of your contact's time.
    • Stay in contact - find out how your contacts want to be connected - occasional text, email or phone call.
    • Build up your own area of expertise or tap into an existing body of knowledge with your additions. You may have a contrary point of view or are looking for additional input. Ask. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and your own contacts.
    • Pick up the phone! Although there are many nonverbal ways to contact people - using a phone to call your contacts is still the best way to maintain a relationship, even it it is a quick hello.
    • Let your friends know what you are doing to start a business. They may have ideas and tips or know someone who might help or need your services.
    • Contact the Small Business Administration in your area. They are folks with a lot of knowledge. To reach Roberta:
    According to Ray Mar, Product Marketing Manager at Pure Storage in Mountainview, CA, he recommends having a:
    • Business plan - to outline your overall strategy, goals, business / revenue projections so you know where you are starting out and where you want to go as a business. Helps set your vision and road map. 
    • Marketing plan - to understand your target market (who you want to sell to); understand their pain points and how you are going to solve it. Develop a go to market strategy to includes how you are going to generate awareness (social media strategy, print advertising, web presence, etc); once your get leads for your pipeline how are you going to follow-up (email nurture, sales call)
    • Should understand your competition - How is your product or service differentiated so you can position yourself from the competition (could be related to pricing, unique product/service)
    • Location - to sell product/service, encourage to conduct feasibility study to determine in whether location is easily accessible, it is easy to find, is there high traffic. 
    • Financing - If you need cash to fund your venture, banks will want your business plan to review. Alternative funding sources could be through crowd-funding (e.g. Go Fund Me); family/friends (though not highly advisable unless you have clearly written agreement, payment terms, exit strategy).

    Also remember to: 
    1. Dream Big
    Successful small business owners are dreamers. They wholeheartedly believe they can turn those dreams into reality. If you can dream it, you can create it.
    2. Identify Opportunities
    Today’s most popular products and companies seemed like rather unlikely or even bizarre concepts when they were first introduced. But successful entrepreneurs are willing and able to think outside the box and see potential in ideas where other people don’t.
    3. ExecuteLots of people have ideas. Taking an idea and figuring out how to bring it to market – and then getting people to actually buy it – is a completely different thing. It is this ability to execute that separates successful entrepreneurs from mere dreamers.
    4. Take Baby StepsEven if their ideas are big, business owners know they aren’t able to achieve everything at once. Remember how difficult it can be for a one year old trying to walk or run? Ever notice how they fall down many times but continue to rise and try again.  It's the same principle. It takes time and lots of planning before, during and after you accomplish your goal. There is never enough money. Never enough people. Never enough time in the day. Prioritizing and taking baby steps is a sure way to gain success.  
    5. Ask for HelpThe circle of true friends and colleagues can play a major role in helping to make decisions. I encourage people to create a circle but consider the type of people you want in your circle. Circles can be comprised of friends who love you, those that won't agree with everything you say, those with experience in the area that you are hoping to enter. It's important to fill your circle with people who have experience in their industry and find business partners that complement - not duplicate your skills.
    6. Be FlexibleLike everyone, successful business owners make lots of mistakes. The difference, however, is that they are willing to learn from and accept those mistakes and change course – sometimes quickly. No one is going to care about stumbles along the way if the venture was a success at the end of the day. Remember, most successful people and businesses failed many times, but they kept getting up and trying again.
    7. Be Confident. It's important to not let self-doubt or naysayers get in their way. All your persistence and strength to keep you focused and shove you forward, even when things get a bit difficult and full of challenges. Remember, you can do it.
    8. Not be Afraid to FailFear of failure prevents many people from starting a business, going on a first date, leaving a bad job, or trying new things. Successful entrepreneurs understand the risks and try to mitigate them. Remember to not let perceived risks drive you into a mental roadblock. 
    9. Build a Strong TeamAs companies start to grow and hire more people, owners know they can’t take that too lightly. Their employees and managers are the backbone of the business. During your adventure, take the time to figure out what traits, values and skills you want in your consultants or employees. Great staff makes a world of difference in being successful. At Promotions West, we also look for fun people with a strong drive to succeed. Laughter is good for the soul.
    10. Ask for HelpIt’s often hard for business owners to let go. They built their companies from the ground up, after all. But the most successful ones know that the work must be shared as no one can do everything. The best advice I was ever given was to hire the best people and allow them to to do their jobs well. It allows the business owner to focus and prioritize. 
    A huge THANK YOU to my contributors who spent time providing me with great tips throughout my entire career. Good luck in following your dream and organizing your circle. And remember...