Robin Hood Syndrome: 7 Ways Your Biz can Avoid It

Robin Hood and his Merry Men were victims both of bad strategy and bad management. They started with a great cause that eventually ran amok. When an organization’s life force is nearly tapped-out , it isn’t time to be asking “what went wrong?” Rather, a competent, knowledgeable manager who is backed by solid policies and procedures (rather than pure emotion) gets a company off the ground with confidence that they are ready to face all road that lay ahead. Here’s where Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men went wrong:
• First, there seemed to be no clear organizational policies and procedures besides taking from the rich and giving to the poor. The leaders of each group had their own way of doing things, so there was no consistency in how the most important functions were carried out on a day-to-day basis. Yes, Robin Hood may have thought that encouraging each leader would create a nice working morale, but no one had any direction. They didn’t know what they should be stealing or who they should be giving it to. They also were not directed on how to behave when conducting these activities.
• Secondly, although there were better-known achievers in the band, Robin Hood never used their actions as benchmarks with which to compare other actions or outcomes of the other groups. If they had examined and adopted some best practices, things may have been a bit easier for the group, and they would continue to reap the resources they need, instead of coming up empty.
• Third, using technology could have helped the Merry Men save lots of time and effort, essentially streamlining their processes. They could have used the internet to Google demographics, communicated with mobile phones, and used GPS to coordinate their plundering, increasing their gains from 30 to 50% due to cutting down on time spent wandering aimlessly around the forest and countryside. This is assuming that Robin Hood lived in the twenty-first century, of course.
• Fourth, implementing a Total Quality Management program might have assisted in improvement in all aspects of the band. Instead, Robin Hood took the easy way out, allowing his lieutenants to make their own rules, as discussed previously. This prevented taking the small steps, every day that would allow growth needed to be a successful organization.
• Fifth, lieutenants should have received instructions from above to record and organize information on the rich and the poor, daily operations, Merry Men information, location and value of booty to be stolen (perhaps noting the most prolific homes), and the value of goods in hand. A monthly statistical report would have been great, but with the help of a computer, a daily log could easily be kept!
• Sixth, Robin Hood did a poor job of limiting the empowerment of Lieutenants, to the point where they were acting unethically, and bruising the reputation of the band of Merry Men as a whole. If Robin didn’t have time, he could have the Lieutenants to peer-review each other’s’ actions, and even ask for input from band members, and establish guidelines for leaders based on that information. Yes, it’s a bit after-the-fact, but damage control is better late than never. The best bet is to put strategies in place for leaders long before they obtain control.
• Seventh, there should have been a system of rewards and punishments for all members of the band. Members who were high achievers could receive bonuses. To boost overall organizational satisfaction, I a nice health care plan could be offered. Organizational recognition days could be held with a party and public presentation of awards. Rewards should be offered soon after the achievement has been noted. Alternatively, punishment involving layoffs and firings of those who consistently break rules is sometimes necessary for the good of all.
What’s the moral of the story? Some say the legend of Robin Hood is about doing what’s right. When starting an organization, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and let that emotion guide the actions of the participants. But soon, without a clear set of directives, that emotion could lead an organization astray. Carrying out indiscriminate or even unethical acts, justified by the argument of “doing what’s right,” doesn’t mean it’s going to end well. In fact, it could endanger your business and even your life. There must be a road map, and management must be the first line of defense for that plan.
Thompson, Peteraf, Gamble, & Strickland. (2014). Crafting & Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage. McGraw-Hill, New York.

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Honest: SWOT’ing the Green Diaper Industry with Prezi

Honest: SWOT’ing the Green Diaper Industry with Prezi

An entrepreneur in the online marketing field, I have used “Prezi” to present new advertising ideas to companies for which I work (or hope to). Prezi is like a new, amped-up, interactive version of PowerPoint, and I was excited to … Continue reading

Google’s Competition is Creeping Up on Them

Google’s Competition is Creeping Up on Them

Google is, these days, a household name, and that’s not because they’ve taken a backseat in the competition. The “major driving force” of Google’s industry seems to combine innovation (Thompson, et. al., 2014, pp. 53), of new products and technologies, … Continue reading

Suggested Improvements for La Leche League International’s Website

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My analysis is of the well-known La Leche League International website, and suggestions for improvement.

 

www.llli.org

As a user of the LLLI.org site, and a breastfeeding veteran, I am a fan of the organization, the website, the LLL publications, and the public forum on the site.  Many long nights have been spent on the website and the advice and information obtained therein helped get me and my daughter through some very challenging nursing challenges.  Without this organization and the website, we would not have completed a year and 2 months of breastfeeding.  My daughter never had a drop of formula, and my family owes a debt of gratitude to La Leche League’s website for this great start to my little girl’s life.

It has been a pleasure to review La Leche League International’s website and I offer the following observations and suggestions for further improvement, so even more mothers and babies can benefit from a successful breastfeeding relationship.

About the Mission of the Site:

According to La Leche League’s “About Us” page (http://www.llli.org/ab.html?m=1): “Our Mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.”  

This statement is a very succinct and accurate measure of what the website offers at this time.  These goals encompass a large amount of information, so expansion is not really advised.  It is important to maintain a focused area of expertise while leaving the door open enough to include as much helpful information as possible.

The Home Page and Design Throughout the Site:

Because this is an international website, there are many navigation options available on the home page. La Leche website techies have done a great job keeping the home page simple and allowing the user various, easy-to-find language choices.  These links lead to the chosen version of the website appropriate for the user.  The main page actually looks a bit stark, though.  A few nice graphics play inter-changeably on the page, and there are some graphics and links located along the right-hand side.  Instead of cognitive overload, this page appears a little lacking on first visit, and could better showcase the information contained within.

Adding a more “current” color scheme (changed from peaches to bright greens) recently has helped, but I would suggest also condensing the material on the front page to avoid so much blank space. Perhaps a subtle yet colorful background would help make the home page a little more interesting.  Additionally,  a professional photographer would be a great investment, and could provide thematic, quality photos of “real “La Leche League mothers and babies in various settings and situations for which the website advocates, such as breastfeeding various ages of babies, consultation of a lactation consultant, proper latch images, pumping, various feeding positions, storing breast milk, public nursing, etc.  These would not only add to the beauty of the website throughout all pages, but could be used as supplements to instructional materials.

When choosing a language version of the site from the homepage, the visitor is taken to a text-based page with a list of resources and links.  This is great for someone looking for specific information, but it doesn’t draw the casual browser into the “guts” of the site.  Adding more color, graphics, and visual interest to these pages may be a key to increased site usage.

Mothers who are already sleep-deprived and in need of quick information may have a difficult time navigating the site.  Topics are numerous, and some things are not readily apparent to the searcher.  Re-organization of the material should be considered.

It is easy to see links at the top of the page referring to community links, such as forums and how to become a community leader (or a breastfeeding consultant).  But the home page may further improve this sense of community with a La Leche League social media feed such as Facebook or Twitter.  These are widely used platforms in which people of many cultures enjoy and participate.  On deeper pages of the site, LLLI may include links to other platforms such as Pinterest and YouTube, or appropriate social media platforms for the language of choice (ex., China has banned Facebook).

There is a donation button there on the home page, but it’s not very noticeable, as it’s so small and overshadowed by the graphics above.  The other problem is that the seasonal shopping guide is about six months behind.  It says “summer” and it is now winter (at least here in Ohio)!   

The Home page is also pretty good at identifying what’s available on the website, but I would not know to look for law information under resources.  This may be better listed separately.

The tone of the website is friendly and welcoming, yet serious, using a third-person perspective (with articles), and establishing a feeling of authenticity and authority.  Evidence-based information is presented with citations.  An exception to this would be in the forums and the Marketplace (affiliate ads), and store (LLL’s products).   It should be noted that “Marketplace” and “Store” may seem like the same thing to unfamiliar users of the site.  “Marketplace” would better be named “Sponsors,” because it’s misleading (or a marketing ploy?). 

As mentioned previously, the site has two large distinctive portions:  The Resources section and the Forums.  While the Resources page is very focused on providing expert advice and evidence-based information that is updated infrequently, the Forums are more laid-back with mothers (and others such as lactation consultants) sharing stories, advice, asking questions, and supporting one another on their journeys, in a nearly real-time manner.  This does not discredit the site in any way.  In fact, it seems to be a popular gathering place for those looking for anecdotal information and real-life advice or support in addition to the scholarly information contained in the depths of the site.  It is a compliment to the “expert” nature of the site. 

The Audience:

The expected target audience is expectant mothers and those who are breastfeeding babies.  However, as a user of the site, I can say that there are some other types who make their way into the community forums.  Here are several “others” that I have witnessed there.

•             Healthcare and Birth Professionals:   More and more frequently, I see doulas, lactation consultants, and midwives participating in the forums.  Many of us have noticed the lack of traditional healthcare providers such as mainstream OB/GYN physicians and OB nurses.  (This is an area which could be cultivated with more informational links on the home page).

•             Friends and family (support people) of nursing mothers.  These are sometimes grandmothers of new babies, close friends, and even husbands or partners of new moms who wish to help a loved one sort out nursing issues. 

•             Lobbyists: Those trying to prevent or push breastfeeding legislation.

•             Media:  Anyone reporting positive or negative news about breastfeeding, on or off-line.

•             Children:  Curious children who stumble onto the site.

•             Attention-Seekers:  People with false identities posting disturbing stories or questions on the forums. 

•             Perverts:  People seeking pornographic material or wanting sexual encounters.

These unexpected participants are a concern and should not be ignored.  Administrators of the site should be on the lookout for anyone with undesirable or inappropriate participation, and ban them if necessary.  Publicly available information should continue to be well-supported and referenced with links to scholarly materials, to support the ideas espoused by La Leche League. 

It is concerning that LLLI’s “Abstracts” link is buried under a third-level of navigation.  I would suggest moving their evidence-based informational links to research studies to the very front page, so it’s easy to find and showcases LLLI’s commitment to providing accurate, evidence-based information.  This information is valuable to just about everyone who visits the site, and placing it “front-and-center” establishes LLLI’s reputation as a reliable source of accurate information.

Another concern is the media.  The site could include a Press Kit with basic information about LLLI, and links to information that would encourage media to cover LLLI and the breastfeeding movement in a positive light.  There is a Press Release area, but it is buried under the “help” section and would not be an apparent place for media to find this information.  Perhaps a “News” link on the homepage would take care of this issue.

About the Information Contained Within the Site:

This website is a commercial content website with hierarchical menus (Garrand, 2006, pp. 165-166, 183).

The writing style and presentation of the website varies with the information presented.  The “Answer Pages” are more formal presentations of resource material for nursing mothers.  The “Mother-to-Mother” forums are very casual and the content there is written by community members, categorized by category form boxes.  In the “Resources” area, there are links to scholarly research articles.

Answer Pages:

These pages contain a huge amount of information and are divided into categories down the page.  Clicking on one category takes you to a page where the following divisions of information may found:  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), PDF Tearsheets from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Articles from New Beginnings, (a bimonthly publication of LLL USA), articles from Leaven, (their publication for leaders), articles from Breastfeeding Abstracts, (their research-based publication), and podcasts (audio files).  Since all of this content comes from professional publications of the organization, it is well written.  The FAQ section is also easy to understand and well-written.  The only issue is that it is difficult to find information because there are so many topics and subtopics with the publication with which it is associated.  Perhaps a better way of organizing this material would be to only organize it by topic, regardless of the source, and just note the source somewhere in the article link.  

Mother-to-Mother:

This is a traditional style forum with discussion topics listed on the main page and clickable interactive forum threads.  This portion of the website is well-used, but fails to offer a specific topic search tool, which can be quite annoying when searching through so much information for one particular discussion thread.

Since the site encourages “mother-to-mother support,” La Leche League must strive to maintain this focus and showcase it.  The site is interactive in the forum area, and is easy to find.  However, this particular feature could be showcased on the home page, not only to add a little visual appeal, but to draw mothers into the community immediately upon visiting the page.  Engagement and participation will keep visitors returning over and over.

We also must remember: breastfeeding remains a “controversial” issue; more in some places of the world than others.  Even when the website is used for its intended purposes, mothers can be quite judgmental and hard on one-another’s methods and choices.  Breastfeeding is a very personal experience, and no two nursing relationships are alike.  Therefore, rules and guidelines must be established and upheld in the LLLI forums.

Further, there are many acronyms used in forums.  When I was a new mother, not only did I have to learn to overcome my breastfeeding challenges, but I had to learn all the acronyms to understand the advice people were giving in the forums. 

Political-correctness is a huge issue in the breastfeeding world.  For example: One major hang-up is the “Breast is Best” motto.  While we do believe breast milk is, in most cases, the healthiest option for a newborn, saying this on any forum, despite good intentions, can bring a barrage of shaming.  It doesn’t sound so bad to the outsider, but nursing evangelists take issue with the phrase.  Attacking a newcomer for their unawareness of this hot-button isn’t attractive and doesn’t lend to the sense of community.

Resources Area:

This area of the site provides links to the above-mentioned sources, plus links to find lactation consultants, information and resources for care providers, legal information, and more miscellaneous links to other sites LLL feels may be helpful for those seeking information.  There is some redundancy on several of these pages, which both overwhelms, but also offers a second chance to find the information if the searcher was overwhelmed by a previous page (which is possible).

As stated previously, there are various forms of information provided on the website, and written by numerous contributors.  The presentation of the information in the forums community or in Frequently Asked Questions answers cannot always be controlled and may not lend to or detract from the organization’s reputation because most users realize that non-professionals are participating.

A further suggestion, which would a compliment to the site, would be a LLLI blog.  The initial blog would best be presented in English, as it’s such a widely spoken language, but other languages could be added over time.  The reason a blog is ideal is because this could be an alternative to the “News” section previously suggested as a link on the website.  Additionally, blogs have the benefit of increased engagement of users, who will share articles, and even comment on them.  This draws people into the LLI community.  Additionally, creating new content (instead of reproducing already-published content) adds to Google search rankings.  Anytime new, valuable content is added, with a link to the LLLI.org site, it boosts credibility in the eyes of the Google-bots.   This is something to keep in mind for the future, after implementing changes on the website.

In summary, the website could use a professional overhaul and redesign.  Scholarly articles and the community forum, as well as Facebook and Twitter links should be presented on the home page.  A more visually-appealing design with more interesting and colorful, family-friendly graphics would be a plus.  A more easily-searchable database would be a step in the right direction for desperate mothers. Making the website available to even more languages would benefit more users.  La Leche League International is a great organization with many members and supporters. Organizational leaders should not take this for granted, allowing the message and the means to grow even further throughout the world- reaching more mothers and more babies.

 

 

Resources consulted for this analysis:

http://www.llli.org

Garrand, T. (2006). Writing for multimedia and the web: a practical guide to content development for interactive media. Jordan Hill, Oxford, UK.

Rettberg, J.W. (2009). Blogging, digital media and society series. Polity Press, Malden, MA.

Living for naptime.

Yeah, right! I wish!  NO, I’m taking taking daily naps.  Life with a toddler is busy… Very busy. And this summer, although I am not currently taking an MBA class, has proved to be very busy with new biz clients and work deadlines.  I have been swimming once, in my mother’s backyard inflatable pool.  That’s about the extent of my “fun summer activities” of the season. 

Previously, I was working while the elf napped, and in the afternoon while a babysitter was here to entertain.  That left me ample free time to do housework and what would have been “fun time” to enjoy the warm weather.

About a month ago, my fantastic sitter asked for hiatus.  I didn’t sweat it too much, because we have family around who are able to come over and help.  I thought I could get by just fine while I searched for a new sitter.   Ugh… I was mistaken.  We were lucky to have help from various and very generous family members from time-to-time, but it has been really tricky balancing work and toddler-corralling. 

While I feel very blessed and lucky to have work that I love, it is piling up very quickly!  And my house is dirty/messy.

There is a meme going around that says something like “cleaning house with kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”  Yep, that sums it up nicely.  This includes my work-at-home stuff, too.  There must be some sort of sensor installed on my computer, because every time I lift the laptop monitor and press the “on” button, the elf begins her Tazmanian Devil routine. 

This morning, the epic display of disapproval involved eating and throwing crayons (my weak attempt to distract her while I caught up on some correspondence), and then opening the pantry door, scooping leftover contents of breakfast out of the garbage, and trying to eat it.  Yes, she’s only 17 months, but she knows she is not allowed there.  It was a quest for attention, clearly.  My mommy-heartstrings were plucked, and I stopped working to admonish, and then play with her.  Full email inbox, be darned.  Attachment parenting wins again.  They’re only this little once, right? 

Let’s go read a book about Oscar the Grouch, little elfkin.  Work can wait.Image

My Formula for Success!

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Over the past seven weeks, I have processed so much information, and really learned a lot about branding and digital marketing!  I have analyzed and applied my newly-discovered insights and applied them to how the Hypnobirthing Institute might utilize these strategies to grow their business online. 

   After so much detail, it helps to streamline these ideas.  Here is my suggested formula for the Hypnobirthing Institute’s continued and growing success in the digital marketing world.

  First, they must move away from email for most types of advertising.  Do away with email newsletters. They are not appealing to this generation of moms.   Instead, work on establishing more of a presence where moms hang out  on the internet, in places like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and various other traditional and progressive pregnancy and parenting social-sites such as Birth Center, Baby and Bump, and Mothering.  Posting regularly and both asking questions and replying to all comments, questions, and complaints will show that the H.I. is engaged with their followers and interested in what they have to say. 

  Google yourself!  This should be done both by the H.I. proper, and its practitioners.  Knowing how your pages are ranked, and what people are saying about you on the ‘net tells you where you need to concentrate on putting out fires and polishing your reputation.  Respond to complaints with sympathy and understanding.  Offer assistance when needed.  Always reiterate that hypnobirthing is just one tool in mom’s labor-day arsenal, and encourage learning about other tools as well.  Remind moms it’s not their fault if they were unable to achieve their desired births due to unexpected circumstances, and mourn their disappointments with them. 

Googling regularly can help monitor online chat about the H.I. and using other tools such as Tweetbeep can also help employees understand what people are saying about hypnobirthing on the web, and where attention needs focus.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) shouldn’t be overlooked.  At this time, The Hypnobirthing Institute’s official website is listed at the #1 mark on Google.  However, this can change at any time.  Using Google AdWords and AuthorRank can help keep the H.I. ahead of the competition when it comes to SEO.

The Twitter presence is well-established already, but more followers are always desirable.  Using a tool such as Commun.it can help build a larger following.

Topical discussion sites such as Quora can be a great place to show the H.I. is an expert in their field. This is where the big-whigs of their professions hang out to discuss many topics, and the H.I. could really benefit from being a part of this community.

Using AIDA marketing strategies could come in handy when it’s time to boost sales on the H.I.’s office website store.  To do this: Make sure all presence on the web is eye-catching and attractive.  Make sure that the store’s address is available at all of these platforms, and blurbs are included about how great the items are in the store.  Ensure links are easy to find and directly-clickable to the store.

Remember that no marketing strategy is a magic bullet. It takes time, and going viral is not likely.  But there are ways to help encourage engagement (comments, likes, shares, and clicks) by users.  Some of these include: posting things that create an emotional reaction in the user, posting items that are unique or unusual, and staying away from any media that reeks of “this is an advertisement.” 

Image or reputation on the internet can make or break an online campaign.  People relate to real people.  The H.I. has a treasure in their practitioners because they ARE real people!  Many of these people have not only used the hypnobirthing technique themselves, but they help other “real people” use it everyday! These practitioners have a very authentic enthusiasm for hypnobirthing, and this will translate well to social media venues.  Each practitioner should be trained (if not already familiar) with how to use the big social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and to establish a profile and regular use of these items as ways to promote their Hypnobirthing practices.  Creative practitioners can create all kinds of buzz on their pages using pictures and video of real-life scenarios. And, if technology-savvy, might benefit from making a video of client testimonials to post all over their social media pages.

An opportunity that seems to be overlooked by the H.I. is in the area of mobile applications.  How about creating an app with the relaxation exercises offered in the paper handouts or CD’s?  And how about a geolocation service that can find a practitioner near the customer’s home? 

When all of the preceding i’s have been dotted and t’s have been crossed, there is always more opportunity to create buzz about the H.I.  Instagram is gaining in popularity everyday and many brands are taking advantage of opportunities on that front.  A fun and popular utilization of Pinterest is for photo contests.  Winners are offered prizes and services from the companies.  Social media raffles are also gaining popularity on blogs. This is something individual practictioners could offer on their own blogs, using an application such as Rafflecopter. 

We must not forget that whenever we are posting ANYTHING on the internet, we must be careful about how we say things, and the language used.  We do not want to drive people away be being exclusive of any gender, race, religion, or any other type of stereotype.  The hypnobirthing movement is a progressive, inclusive movement, and anyone representing the H.I. anywhere on the ‘net should be reminded of this. 

In conclusion, these are just several of hundreds of thousands of opportunities for marketing on the internet.  I have tried to streamline and suggest the strategies I feel would be the most beneficial to the Hypnobirthing Institute as we move forward in the next year or two.  Since technology and social media changes so quickly, we have to keep in mind that this strategy is limited and must be implemented in the near future before it is outdated! 

Politically-Correct Marketing for Haters

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So, we know that “knowing your audience” is important, because it helps us know how to speak to them, to get their attention, and to market to them.  But what about the skeletons in your clients’ closets?  You know, those little non-politically-correct tendencies that we all probably carry around in our (hopefully) apologetic heads?  Yeah, those things matter, too! 

So, should we advertise to those tendencies?  Here are 50 old and new racist ads.  What do you think about these?  (Again, WordPress is not allowing me to insert a link):  http://owni.eu/2011/03/12/racism-in-advertising-50-shocking-examples/

OK, so maybe advertising TO those ideas is a bit messed-up.  It just isn’t “right.” It doesn’t sit well with me, and it probably struck you as a little “wrong,” too.  So why do we need to be aware of peoples’ beliefs? 

Well, it’s simply because we want to avoid categorizing people, putting people “off” and steering them away!  Here is an article about just this idea: inclusion (and a cute commercial for Cheerios showing this idea): 

http://jamiedunham.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/marketing-to-women-cheerios-win-rascists-lose/

Yeah, I agree it’s a bit sad that we even have to consider racism… or gender equality, or any type of discrimination in this day and age. But that fact is that it exists, and we as marketing professionals need to steer our ships clear of these iceburgs and appeal to the largest audience possible.  And, in my opinion, modeling kindness goes right along with the job. 

Hypnobirthing practitioners especially need to be aware and sensitive to these issues.  They will be working with more and more mixed-race expectant parents, same-sex couples, and other types of “alternative” family arrangements.

Here’s a very disturbing Twitter map of Hate speech in this country.  Look out.  It’s everywhere.   http://users.humboldt.edu/mstephens/hate/hate_map.html#

Let’s do something to take the color off of this map.