Make Sure Employees Get the Right Message: A Q&A with Talley BaratkaRead More
In January, I became Rhudy & Co.’s first official intern. Even though it was only a month, I’ve spent time learning the ins and outs of strategic communication and have truly fallen in love.
From my first day I was given a position where people spent time valuing my input. The world of strategic communications is very hands on, and it often takes many minds working together to make our mission flourish. Creating innovative ways to go about business strategy, video production, content, and design work does not happen without the ability to listen and the intention to make a positive impact.
I believe that a large part of why Rhudy & Co. is successful is the relationship that we have with each other. When clients come to us with a challenge, it truly feels that we work together as a family to meet the challenge.
I chose communication as my major because it is broad, even though I’ve known specifically what I’ve wanted to pursue for 12 years. I promised myself that I would branch out and try something that would still provide me with graduating credits, but would be different from the field of Meteorology where I hope to land.
I believe that Rhudy & Co. has undergone some of that same process. When they opened their firm in 2003, they were the traditional public relations firm focusing on tactical execution with much less strategy than we use today.
In the business now, we have several meetings with different clients and amongst ourselves where we focus on strategy and the tactical execution comes later. In order to maintain a company of our kind, it was important to evolve along with the birth of social media platforms and the growing strength of technology.
This culture is comforting for a 20-year-old college student, and potentially for others, as many often fall into a rut of believing we must have all of the answers today. However just like Rhudy & Co., the world will change, we will move accordingly, and it will all work out for the best.
I’ve heard people say, “I’m majoring in communication because it’s easy.” For some time, I thought that it was a safe choice, because I knew I’d never be presented with tough mathematical problems and no one would ever look to me in desperation in the same way that one may look to a doctor.
I was wrong in my thinking. It turns out that we have fun, we’re easy going, our environment is beautiful, but our industry is in fact rich with hard work.
Sure, classes may feel straightforward, but in real-world application, I’ve seen some of the most brilliant minds work together on really tough projects. We may be presented with an issue where managers and employees miscommunicate, or we need a new way to inspire members of a company.
If you’ve ever tried to think of a new color or taste, that’s how difficult this work is. The most amazing part of it all is watching the company come together in high spirits and make the impossible possible.
Dominga Murray, a sophomore at Hollins University, is majoring in communication and hopes to one day be a meteorologist. The oldest of three children and the proud mother of two cats, Dominga’s greatest accomplishment is serving as the founder and director of a nonprofit called Helping Hands. This June, she’ll compete for Miss Virginia.
Unemployment is low, employees want advancement and qualified job-hunters have their pick of jobs. How can your organization stand out from others? It’s not enough to offer great products, great service and a great workplace if no one knows what an outstanding workplace you offer.
That’s why many organizations opt to apply for workplace awards. Being able to tell prospective employees that you’re a Best Place to Work – with the evidence to back it up – can go a long way.
Though the rewards are great, it can, admittedly, take considerable time and effort to apply for some of these honors. Often the applications require extensive data collection, employee surveys and several essays.
Each year, Rhudy & Co. helps our clients target, apply for – and win – prestigious awards, such as Working Mother’s Top 100 Companies, Diversity Inc. Top 50 and Gallup Great Workplace. We also help companies apply for smaller but important designations such as Virginia Values Veterans’ V3 award. We assemble the data, crunch the numbers and write the essays. We can even submit applications for our clients.
Here are some reasons that many employers feel awards are worth the investment:
- Retain employees. Winning a "stamp of approval" from an unbiased source improves employee morale and gives your staff bragging rights. It also allows you to show how you care for your employees.
- Attract new employees. Awards help attract top talent, because people want to work for a winner. And an honored company is likely to offer good job security.
- Show your customers and clients that you care. Organizations that take care of their employees or who are committed to being their best will attract customers who value that loyalty and hard work.
- Benchmark against the best. Most awards include a scorecard that gives you a chance to take an objective look at what you’re doing well – and what you can improve.
- Associate with other winners. In addition to positive media coverage (often national), winning an award proves that you've made it to the big time, alongside other top organizations.
Interested in how your company can be a winner, too? Rhudy & Co. has years of experience helping our clients garner prestigious awards. We can help you brainstorm and apply.
Lisa Crutchfield, a former Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter, loves to help our clients tell their stories, make sense of their data and win big!
My friend Rich Napier was just 66 when he died last week.
The Richmond native fought a short, but courageous battle against gastric cancer. Diagnosed in April 2017, Rich ultimately made the difficult decision to wind down his business at Napier Signature Homes, an award-winning custom home and remodeling company, to focus on his health and spend more time with his wife.
Over the past 12 years, Rhudy & Co. Strategic Communications had the opportunity to work with Rich on his marketing and public relations campaigns. I met Rich through a fellow communications consultant who said, “This guy is awesome, and he needs PR help.” She was so right.
A fast friendship
In the spring of 2006, Rich and I met, talked and immediately laughed like we would later do many times over the coming years. He always had a smile. We quickly realized that he actually built our house for another family just five years earlier. Months earlier before Rich even knew us, he delivered a set of floor plans to our Realtor as my wife and I contemplated buying his brick Georgian.
Rich initially worked with Rhudy & Co. on a PR campaign for the 2006 Richmond Symphony Designer House that he built as the first-ever brand-new house for the longtime fundraiser. The 7,600-square-feet showplace in Midlothian was arguably Rich’s greatest construction. He was a master builder.
Living the golden rule
When I met Rich in 2006, Rhudy & Co. was working with Ukrop’s Super Markets as its public relations firm. As I learned about Rich’s family business and how his father, Oscar, opened a real estate firm in 1958, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between the two family-run businesses that also included two brothers. Oscar even owned two grocery stores before getting into real estate.
Both the Ukrop and the Napier families treated others how they’d personally like to be treated. As a family business, we’ve strived to do the same at Rhudy & Co.
In Rich’s own words
In a 2001 news article, Rich said, “I’ve sold some homes that didn’t make money but made people happy. It’s part of the business. It goes back to the work ethic ingrained in us by our father. There’s a lot personal satisfaction in building a home, watching it come out of the ground and serving customers. We’re helping people all the time … changing families and lives.”
Rich demonstrated the golden rule throughout his life: He was honest. He was straightforward. He thought of others first. He always did the right thing. He gave back. He delivered more than promised.
I saw this time and again as I interviewed dozens of Rich’s clients. His customers raved about his integrity and his attention to even the smallest of details. Rich took the time to do things right.
He sweated about where to put electrical outlets to highlight beautiful millwork and why drywall corners should be rounded. As a result, Rich’s home building legacy lives on in some 130 Richmond-area homes, identified with a small marker our firm made for the coat closet. Thanks to Rich's younger brother Jim and Jim's daughter Megan, the family real estate firm continues through Napier Realtors ERA.
As passionate as Rich was about his custom homes and remodels, he was equally as committed to giving back to his industry via volunteer leadership roles and to the Richmond community.
In his late 50s and early 60s, when many people typically dial back in their careers and community, Rich ramped it up. In recent years, he served as president of the Powhatan Rotary Club, where he supported dozens of charities, and helped found Backpacks of Love, a community feeding program for kids in Powhatan, Cumberland and Buckingham Counties. His legacy will live on.
Back in 2001 Rich said, “There are a lot of people that want to take shortcuts. I don’t do it that way. All you can take with you from this world is your reputation.”
And Rich did just that.
Social media isn’t a billboard, it’s a coffee shop. Unfortunately, too many organizations use their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to announce what it has going on, rather than invite people into a conversation.
Coffron spoke as part of a conference I attended last fall that shone light on the current state of social media and how to use it more effectively, especially for nonprofits and churches.
“The number one reason people unfollow: too many promotions,” said Coffron.
So how do you make your social media more engaging and conversational?
- Ask questions. “Questions marks are greater than periods.”
- Do polls, but be creative. For example show several images of coffee. Ask members which they’d prefer. Members can comment and say what cup they like and why. It helps them enter into more of a conversation, rather than clicking a button.
- Use social media as a telephone, not a megaphone. Again, try to reduce the number of “announcement” posts and increase the number of posts that ask for engagement. For every one promotional post, do three that are not promos.
The world of social media is always changing. A few other trending tips to consider:
- Mobile is everything. In whatever you create think, “How will this look on my smartphone?” Create shareable content for small screens.
- Go for video. Facebook, especially, is investing heavily in video. But keep it short. Grab the viewer’s attention in the first three seconds.
- Experiment with vertical videos. These days some social media platforms give more real estate to vertical, rather than horizontal images. Additionally, 94 percent of people say they prefer to view video vertically on their mobile devices.
- Facebook prefers native files. Vimeo and YouTube are now seen as competitors and will not receive as much play.
- Write it out. When you do create videos, be sure to include subtitles. Think about watching a video in line at the grocery store. You’re probably going to have the sound off. So if you watch a video without subtitles, you’ll likely skip to the next thing. Including subtitles means you’ll have more viewers. There are a number of services who can transcribe videos digitally so you don’t have to do this manually.
- Content is still king. Make sure you have a communications plan that provides consistent, interesting, innovative videos, images and stories. If your plan isn’t sustainable, you’re likely not to keep the followers you’ve worked so hard to reach.
Donna Dunn uses Instagram and Twitter, but prefers keeping up with friends on the platform that she’s used for nearly a decade: Facebook.