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It’s more important than ever to be in-the-know about the latest digital tools, trends and networks to better serve our clients. Audiences are fractured and segmented, and there are multiple ways to tell a story using digital channels.

It’s also prudent to stay up-to-date on technology to be more productive at work. There are LOTS of apps, browser extensions and websites that can help you work smarter and more efficiently; following are three to know.

#1 LastPass is a lifesaver. It’s an online password manager and form filler. I’ve been using it as a Chrome browser extension for about six months and honestly couldn’t imagine life without it. I use LastPass for my logins for social networks, analytics tools, media databases, online news sites, intranets and event sites, to name a few. Off the clock I use it to save my banking and email information, travel sites, e-commerce platforms, iTunes and lots more.

A quick search shows I have more than 80 usernames and passwords saved in my LastPass vault. Seriously, how was I able to keep track of all those before? Here’s how it works. As soon as I visit a URL I have saved, LastPass fills in my login information for me, as in the example below.

Online-Tools-Be-More-Productive-At-Work-1 Perks:

  • It’s secure. You remember one master password, then LastPass encrypts everything you share with it.
  • You can share passwords among team members. If you have a company login for a site, you can share the password electronically without revealing exactly what it is.
  • Random passwords can be generated and saved on new sites so you don’t have to make one up.

Cost: Free with $1 a month Premium option. This gives me access on my iPhone so I’m connected to all my passwords everywhere I go.

Get LastPass browser extension for Chrome here.

#2 Evernote’s tagline is “Remember everything,” and that’s precisely what it does. I use it primarily for saving notable links I want to revisit later. Instead of just bookmarking them, I “clip” them using the Evernote Chrome extension, then categorize them with tags. The best part of Evernote is that your saved content is always completely searchable within your account.

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Evernote also allows you to save all kinds of info beyond links, from documents to photos to audio. Everything can be tagged and commented on for easy search later.

Cost: I’m using the free version. The Premium option, which offers access to notes offline and collaboration with a team, costs $45 a year.

Get Evernote here.

#3 Awesome Screenshot does exactly what it says. It easily grabs a whole screen or a selection, then allows you to edit the screenshot, annotate it (add circles or other callouts) and easily save.

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Screenshots are useful for so many things, from client presentations and memos with examples to grabbing a search result or headline you’re not sure will always be a live link. I’ve used various screenshot tools before and have found that Awesome Screenshot works the best.

Cost: Free Get Awesome Screenshot here.

Stay tuned next week for Part II of our productivity series where MP&F/d explores three more tools to help streamline media relations efforts.

What digital tools are your favorites?

Roger Shirley is a former editor of the Nashville Business Journal and longtime editorial director here at MP&F. He reads just about everything we write. And we write a lot. This is Roger’s column about writing.

RS Redundancy

From the Department of Redundancies Department

My first MP&F blog post extolled the virtues of concise writing (When you write, keep it tight, February 4, 2010). One of the bullet points was about eliminating redundancies. The other day I stumbled upon  an email  I sent to the staff on the topic back in ’07, inspired by a list I’d seen. It still holds up, so here is the email:

Many of you have heard me say that an effective way to develop tight writing skills is to go through your copy and eliminate unnecessary words. If you can edit a 25-word sentence down to 18 words and not lose any meaning or effect, the shorter sentence will be better. Words such as “currently” can be eliminated about 95 percent of the time. In some cases, not only are words unnecessary, they create redundancies. I remember an old city editor almost having a stroke when a reporter turned in a story about an “armed gunman.”

Here are a few examples of common redundancies. Eliminate the word or phrase in parentheses:

(advance) reservations

(advance) warning

(added) bonus

ATM (machine)

(basic) fundamentals

(brief) summary

bouquet (of flowers)

(close) proximity

(completely, entirely) eliminate

depreciate (in value)

(desirable) benefits

during (the course of)

each (and every)

evolve (over time)

(exact) replica

(final) conclusion

fly (through the air)

(free) gift

(frozen) ice

(future) plans

grow (in size)

introduced (a new)

(live) studio audience

look back (in retrospect)

look (ahead) to the future

(new) construction

(now) pending

(originally) created

(overused) cliché

(past) history

previously listed (above)

(still) remains

surrounded (on all sides)

(three-way) love triangle

(total) destruction

(two equal) halves

(underground) subway

(unexpected) surprise

(unintentional) mistake

vacillating (back and forth)

(very) unique

whether (or not)

(white) snow

write (down)

MP&F Partner Alice ChapmanBy Alice Pearson Chapman

When I was a kid, my mom had a rule about thank-you notes. Any gift my brother and I received had to be acknowledged with a hand-written note to the giver within a week. If that task went undone, we lost the privilege of
using the gift until the note was written.

This rule has stuck with me, and I now keep a stash of notes handy, both for myself and for my children.

Thank-you notes should always be sent for life-event gifts – graduation, a wedding, a baby, to acknowledge condolences, etc. But they are equally important in the business world. I was reminded of the importance of hand-written correspondence by two excellent blog posts on the subject, one by fellow PRSA Counselors Academy member Eric Morgenstern and the other by MP&F friend Cindy Wall.

Here are some business occasions that I think require a hand-written note:

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  • After a job interview – This is a must. Don’t get lazy and send an email instead.
  • Following a meeting with a prospective client – “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me last week. I look forward to discussing the needs of your company in more detail in the weeks to come.”
  • A networking meeting – “Thanks for meeting me for coffee. I enjoyed hearing about your plans for the cupcake/wine bar. Hope to see you again soon.”
  • After attending a conference where a meaningful connection was made – “It was a pleasure talking with you at the Counselors Academy meeting. Please call me if I can be of assistance as you transition to your new billing system.”
  • To your mentor – “Thanks for meeting with me last week. I value your guidance and advice, and I look forward to our next meeting. Coffee is on me next month.”

Your note doesn’t have to be a novel. Keep it short. Use clean, simple stationery (Target has a great selection that won’t break the bank) or your company’s notecards. Think of this as a good chance to practice your handwriting. While technology and digital communications are a boon for our industry and make it easier than ever to tweet, pin and more, going back to the basics may make more of an impression.

MP&F has received many awards and honors over the past 26 years, and we are proud of all of them. We’re especially proud of our most recent honor – being named one of The Tennessean’s “Top Workplaces” as voted on by our employees – because it means we are succeeding in maintaining one of our core values.

MP&F awardEarly on, the firm’s partners committed to creating the kind of workplace for their employees that each of them would want to work in – a place that rewarded creativity and perseverance, that balanced hard work with fun, that treated everyone as family.

We believe strongly that maintaining that kind of work environment translates directly into producing the best work possible for our clients, and that’s what our business is all about. That’s what determines our success.

Here’s a sampling of what MP&F staff members say about working here:

MP&F's Jessica DardenJessica Darden

Senior Account Executive

MP&F is a great place to work for hundreds of reasons – the great partners that lead the firm, the incredibly talented staff we have, our long list of diverse and wonderful clients; but my favorite thing about working at MP&F (and what has kept me here for nine years) is the team-oriented culture we have. Our “all-for-one and one-for-all” dedication to the firm, each other and our clients is irreplaceable. We work damn hard, we work together, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

MP&F's Mary Ruth RaphaelMary Ruth Raphael

Account Supervisor

A lot of companies pay lip service to being family-friendly; but here at MP&F, it is ingrained in the company culture. It’s not just that the partners have family-friendly policies – it’s that they truly care about people and understand that giving employees the flexibility to take care of their families is an asset, not a liability, for the company. For me personally, their willingness to allow me to work around family commitments makes me want to work that much harder for them. It makes me extremely dedicated and loyal to this firm, and it makes me feel appreciated as a person, not just as an employee.

MP&F's Pam SchmidtPam Schmidt

Administrative Assistant

I first walked into this office 20 years ago as a summer college intern. Since then I have been involved in amazingly important and meaningful work in Nashville and around the world, while surrounded by the smartest and most creative people in town. Over the years, my bosses became my friends and my friends have become my bosses. I feel very fortunate to have bosses and co-workers who truly care about my family and me, not to mention they are just fun to be around every day.

In short, we work hard and play hard around here. We take our work very seriously, but try not to take ourselves too seriously. We get the job done and have a good time while doing it. Did someone say “beer cart”?

MP&F's Roger ShirleyRoger Shirley

Editorial Director

There are so many things that make MP&F a great place to work, but a big one is the formal and informal benefits – they are tremendous. MP&F pays 100 percent of individual employee insurance, 100 percent of parking and offers a generous vacation package. Beyond that, the partners often give additional paid days off around Christmas. And this year, with July 4 on Thursday, they announced we would all get Friday off as well. Some of our younger staff may take those added benefits for granted; but as someone who knows this is not the norm, I sure don’t.

MP&F's Erin McDonoughErin McDonough

Staff Associate

When I interviewed with MP&F three months ago, I constantly heard about its “open-door policy.” I didn’t really know what that meant until I was able to experience it firsthand. From day one I have felt welcome to go to any staff member, from a fellow SA all the way to a partner, with any question I could possibly have. I feel challenged, supported and motivated on a daily basis. I am constantly learning something new or being exposed to a different scope of this crazy industry we call public relations. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that your supervisors want you to do well, not only for the company’s success, but because they genuinely want you to succeed individually as well.

MP&F's Leigh LindseyLeigh Lindsey

Account Executive

It’s hard to put into words what makes MP&F so special. To me, MP&F is a really great team that’s a lot like a family. I’ve always believed that when the MP&F team works together we can accomplish anything for our clients. That feeling of family and team comes from working with and for people who always are willing to jump in and help, whether it’s with planning a client event or developing a new idea. It’s a special place, and I feel really fortunate to be a small part of it.

MP&F's Dan SchlacterDan Schlacter

Senior Account Executive

MP&F is not the best place to work for everyone. I don’t get to wear jeans every day, I don’t have a business card with a made-up title on it, and there’s only free beer in the break room, like, once a month. But, from the day I was hired I was encouraged to have ideas, share them and put them into action. My colleagues and I work in an environment where staff members at all levels – from interns to partners – are empowered to have a hand on the agency’s steering wheel. We like coming to work every day because we made this office the way it is.

MP&F's Mara NaylorMara Naylor

Associate Account Executive

MP&F is one of the best places to work because I work with some of the most talented, smartest and hardworking people I’ve ever met. When I step off the elevator each morning, I know that the day ahead will include a lot of work, but I’m comforted in knowing that I’m a part of a great team. MP&F is my first  “real job” since graduating from college, but I wouldn’t want to start my public relations career anywhere else because I’ve grown a lot and I’m learning more and more about the industry each day.

By Annakate Tefft Ross

Have you heard of Wannado yet? It’s a hyperlocal event curation app that helps users find out what they “wanna do” in Nashville. The startup is a client of ours and officially launched the app today. Read the Nashville Business Journal story on the launch here.

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We love seeing the Nashville technology and startup communities grow, plus we love finding out about awesome activities in our fair city, so we’re thrilled to help spread the word about Wannado.

According to CEO Steven Buhrman, the app was designed to help Nashvillians spend less time figuring out what they want to do and more time doing what they love. Here’s a video the company put together.

Not only does the app use your tastes and preferences to point you in the direction of events you might be interested in, but it actually learns its users’ preferences and makes personalized event suggestions. The idea was to create the Spotify (a digital music streaming service) of local events. Pretty cool, we’d say.

So, what can you do with Wannado?

  • Keep a pulse on your favorite live music and entertainment options
  • Get tickets and add events to calendars directly from the app
  • See what your friends and other locals are doing
  • Discover service opportunities based on the causes you care about
  • Find out where professionals are meeting up
  • Follow your favorite venues and organizations
  • Find nearby drink specials and invite your friends to join

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you “tune” or specify your interests.

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After that I can get “Suggestions” for upcoming events by date, based on my criteria as selected above. I’ll also receive daily suggestions from Wannado.

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From there, you can “Explore” anything under the sun, from over 60 categories. So if your mother-in-law is in town, you can browse museums or wine tasting events, regardless of whether or not you like these kinds of events. You can also search for events by keyword.

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Lastly, I can use the “Community” function to see what my friends have “Wannado’d” or starred as an event they’re interested in. The app integrates with Facebook so my “friends” are based on existing Facebook friends.

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Wannado curates its events in part by allowing anyone to post an event (you can submit one directly through the app) and by leveraging partnerships with prominent local organizations and cultural curators, including:

In a nutshell, we’re pumped. Help us spread the word about Wannado! Get the app, then check them out on FacebookTwitterInstagram and the blog.

By Annakate Tefft Ross

There are certain steps that must be in place before trying to create a successful social media campaign. Once you’ve come up with a good idea, gotten the necessary approvals to move forward, and developed any graphics or other assets, it can be tempting to want to storm right in and begin. However, establishing a strong foundation will set you up for success.

It’s officially summer, so we got cute with our infographic with a play on physical fitness. Learn how to build your strength by starting with a strong foundation!

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Announcing MP&F/d

June 24, 2013

Drum roll, please… Today MP&F is announcing the creation of a new digital services operation, MP&F/d. Our goal is to provide integrated digital media strategies for both public relations and marketing clients. MP&F is already providing many social media and digital services; MP&F/d seeks to elevate and amplify our offerings with a fresh perspective. I’m Annakate Tefft Ross, and I’ll be leading the new division along with Partner Keith Miles.

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I started my career in PR, conducting more traditional communications and marketing campaigns. Over the last several years, I’ve specialized in social media and digital communications in the startup and technology worlds. With this background, I am very excited to join MP&F in this role.

Social media and digital outreach present amazing opportunities for corporations and brands to connect with customers, influencers and stakeholders in a way that wasn’t possible in the analog world. I am passionate about using technology to facilitate these relationships. My philosophy is to stay on top of current trends and tools while remaining grounded with solid strategy, account management and measurement practices.

We think the best social media campaigns are part of a larger integrated communications plan, a holistic approach to digital outreach. However, we also offer social media management solutions, team trainings on the latest tools and trends, competitive audits, blogger outreach, and more.

We can’t wait to start the conversation!

Contact: digital@mpf.com
Twitter: @mpf_d