Mediabarn

The purpose of our blog is to provide our readers with a variety of posts that they are interested in. From our studio, research, and staffing agency, all branches of Mediabarn contribute to creating insightful and fun reads. We hope to educate, inform, and entertain with topics ranging from what's going on in our office to current industry trends worldwide.

Keeping Up With a Speeding Train

It’s hard enough to keep up with the latest buzzwords, fashion and nutrition trends in your personal life. Add to that keeping your professional online presence and brand fresh and it becomes a full time job. It’s important for your business’s success to stay up to date with new technologies and innovation; but how do you keep your website or mobile app consistently relevant when trends come and go faster than a speeding bullet?

There is no magic trick to this, and frankly, it’s almost impossible to stay ahead of the curve on ALL things technology and design. However, there are some suggestions that can help keep you in the mix.

- Read. Whether it’s an industry magazine, an online tech article or someone’s design blog – read something daily. Free time is rare for many, but if you have time to post on Facebook about cute puppies, you surely have time to read an article in Fast Company or Wired.

- Research your competitors. What are they doing on their blogs? On their website? Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…. The idea is not for you to duplicate their actions, but for you to use their ideas to inspire or motivate you.

- Talk to your users. What do they want? Is your site/app meeting their needs at this time? Anything missing – start there. Just because it’s new and shiny doesn’t mean your users want it, so having them as a checkpoint is an invaluable tool.

- Current events. If you have a blog, add to it often. Do you show news items on your site? Display the most up to date. When users come to your site and see an old blog post or article as the headline, they know it’s been a while since you have given your site attention, which implies you may not be up with the latest and greatest, or worse – you may not care to be.

- I have written about it before here, but belonging to industry associations is a great way to network and hear about the latest technology and trends.

Although it may be difficult to predict trends anywhere from 1-5 years from now, keeping up to date with what’s currently hot may help you become better aware with what’s to come. As more technologies evolve, it’s an even more necessary task in the digital realm to stay on top of your “A” game and demonstrate your knowledge through your professional online presence. Trust us, your users will thank you!

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Tips for Dealing with Office Conflict

As many of us know, the workplace can be a naturally stressful environment. Not only could your coworkers get on your last nerve, but pressure from work, stress at home, or just simple tension may lead to possible conflict in the work environment. “By understanding the issue and taking positive action, you can help solve the problem and make your office a place where you really want to be,” says Susan Lankton-Rivas, a practice leader at human resources consulting firm, Insight Performance Inc. Regardless of whom the conflict may be with, here are some tips to help effectively handle the situation and make peace rather than war.

1. Consider diversity and have an open mind

cloud-71366_1280It’s important to keep in mind that workplaces are a mixing bowl, where what is tolerable to one person may be offensive to another. It’s likely that everyone has different perspectives and perceptions, so be aware that you need to give and take in order to find common ground between you and the person you’re disagreeing with. If you consider their point of view and are respectful of the differences, you will be able to better understand them and where they’re coming from.

2. Reflect on what might have caused the conflict

Take a step back and consider what you said or did that led to the conflict you’re in. In doing so, you may be able to pinpoint the start of the issue and how circumstances could be handled differently in the future. By reflecting and communicating what upset you, you may be able to head off conflict in its early stages next time around.

3. Communicate

It’s hard not to jump to conclusions. Try to listen carefully to the person you’re in conflict with and understand the problem before reacting. Nodding your head and acknowledging their opinion and feelings will help get you one step closer to resolution. When you do respond, choose your words carefully and avoid assigning blame. Explain your position and feelings by using “I” statements, and be sure to calmly articulate your issue.

4. Reach out for help

Let’s say the conflict gets bigger and you aren’t able to find a middle ground. Ask for someone in the workplace to act as a mediator. This could be someone from HR or a manager from a different department that would be able to give you an unbiased and professional perspective on the situation.

5.  Create a Plan of Action

Communicate how you will both manage this in the future and set guidelines for how to handle a similar situation. If another issue arises, you will now have a set plan on how to deal with it.

Although avoiding conflict may be the easiest way to deal with issues at work, it can only be swept under the rug for so long before it comes up again – possibly bigger and messier. By resolving conflict when it happens, we can create a more positive and stress-free work environment!

For more tips on dealing with conflict in the workplace, check out these links:

5 Keys to Dealing with Workplace Conflict – via Forbes

Most Work Conflicts Aren’t Due to Personality – via Harvard Business Review

How to Diffuse a Workplace Conflict – via Inc.

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from your friends at the barn!

No matter what time of the year, the team at Mediabarn is always grateful for our family, friends, colleagues & clients. As we bring 2014 to a close, we just become a little more so :)
Whether you’re celebrating the holidays at home or traveling somewhere warm (or cold!) we wish you the brightest, cheeriest holiday season and a fantastic new year’s celebration.

We look forward to an amazing 2015 and hope you’ll be part of ours!

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Resume 101: What not to do

MessFrom the content, prioritization, layout and design, building your experience on a sheet of paper can be a daunting task. Since I’m in the “people” biz, I take it upon myself to help candidates through this pretty regularly. And having been in the staffing industry for nearly 15 years, I can confidently say that I’ve seen my fair share of resumes. One thing that has passed the test of time is resumes do make a difference to hiring managers. With that said, the number of mistakes I see on resumes (even from talented and creative people) on a daily/weekly basis is astonishing! So, if you have made some of these mistakes, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In a previous article, I focused more on how to improve your resume, but I thought it was also important to focus on things to not do!

  • Don’t lie! Enough said.
  • Don’t make spelling mistakes! Have someone else proofread your resume. Often times it’s difficult to pinpoint when you’re so close to it. Have someone go through with a fine tooth comb. I know many hiring managers who will immediately discount you. Right or wrong, it happens.
  • Don’t be disorganized. The 6 second rule for recruiters and hiring managers is real. Prioritize what you’re looking to highlight and bubble up your relevant experience for each position you’re applying to.
  • Don’t go crazy with color. However, color can be a good tool to help with drawing the attention of your potential employers. Just use it sparingly and be smart about it.
  • Don’t add your glamour shot! A resume is not the place for a selfie, people!
  • Don’t try and hide shortcomings. Feeling insecure about certain parts of your skills, qualifications or job history? A good way around that is to accentuate the positive. Focus on where you think you excel or perhaps are unique.
  • Don’t send it to the wrong person. Not too long ago, I received a resume and cover letter that was addressed to a different person and company. And although it sounded like they were a good fit for that other company, I was certain they weren’t fit for us! :)

Here’s a great list of things other things to definitely not do from Forbes: The Most Outlandish Resume Mistakes…

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Market Research: Code of Ethics

The spectrum of research topics we see in this industry is broad, covering all of the intricate niches of consumer products that fall in between the bookends. Clients work hard to determine what type of consumer best matches their brand profile, typically based on statistical data collected over time and evaluated prior to conducting research. So, when it comes time to test the market, it only makes sense that the strongest feedback will come from those participants with specifications that match the clients consumer base. Research firms are then given a set of criterion from which to draw against through the recruiting phase.

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We’ve seen it all, from the occasional request for participants without any specific limitations, to requests so specific that it seems nearly impossible to find even one person who might match what the clients need. Regardless of the level of difficulty, ethical values should always be followed or the integrity of the recruit could be severely compromised, resulting in thousands of dollars lost for all parties involved in the process.

In the world of market research, there are many ethical standards in place for the various phases each project surpasses. When it comes to participant recruiting, there are several main points that should be considered and closely followed, regardless of the level of difficulty a project may present.

1. Respecting Respondents: It’s important to remember that the individuals being considered for research participation have already given their valuable time and attention through the screening process. This could take anywhere from two to twenty minutes, and is time for which they are not being compensated. They are often times providing personal information, and confiding in the research firm representing the project. Research interviewers are the face of the firm, but also of the client for whom the work is being conducted. Respondents should be treated with respect and in a professional manner at all phases of every research project. Without them, there wouldn’t be market research!

2. Confidentiality: It isn’t one sided. Each client and respondent alike have a code of confidentiality that must be maintained indefinitely. Great care should always be taken to ensure that sensitive information which could potentially identify participants to third-party sources is kept secure and confidential. The same ethical boundaries should be extended to clients, as well, in order to protect the confidentiality of their studies and prevent bias feedback from respondents. In the event a client requests sensitive information on a participant (such as last name or contact information), permission should be sought from the respondents prior to the release, and if necessary, permissive documentation to keep on file.

3. Persuasive or suggestive recruiting methods: At no time during the screening interview should a recruiter ever attempt to influence or persuade a respondents answer or opinion by emphasizing words or responses, ad-libbing, changing the frame, order or response of questions. It’s extremely important to the integrity of each project that data is sourced and collected impartially so that the concluded research results are a true representation of reality.

4. Honesty: Applicable to recruiting, as well as during the analysis and presentation of findings, participant responses and feedback should be recorded and represented accurately and honestly. Adjusting responses during the screening phase in order to meet a quota or enable qualification is completely intolerable, and poorly positions the integrity of the project.

Additional information about market research ethics can be found on the MRA website at www.marketingresearch.org/code

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Mid-November can only mean one thing: the Holidays are rapidly approaching. With that comes feelings of happiness, joy, love, and self-giving, but it could also mean feeling a bit overwhelmed.

If you’re like me, your calendar is typically full. Between working, getting to the gym, completing your chores and errands, and making time for friends and family, your brain may be on the brink of overload. Now throw in all of those holiday parties, dinners, travels, and shopping, and they can surely add a bump to your routine.

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Here are some tips on how to manage your time and remain productive at work during the hustle and bustle of the season:

Organize: Organization is key. Come up with a to-do list in order to manage your thoughts and tasks, as this will help you mentally prepare and stay productive. “The psychological relief of clearing your mental clutter and then removing some burdens is immense. It makes your holidays more joyful and energizes you to accomplish your front burner tasks,” says The Productivity Coach, Casey Moore. You can also check out Real Simple for a great list of apps that can act as your own personal assistant and help simplify your life (even year round).

Plan ahead: “If you know the week before Christmas is especially busy on the personal front with school concerts, visiting relatives or even charity work you may be involved with, anticipate and communicate this early,” suggests international business speaker, Michael Kerr. Plan your calendar accordingly so that you won’t end up working overtime. And be sure to sync your calendars to the various devices you use to stay on track!

Separate work and play: It can often times be difficult (for some of us more than others) to remain focused on just work. At the office, don’t pick up the habit of online shopping or trying to cram buying all of your gifts during your break. Avoiding multitasking will help you excel in your work-related tasks, as well as helping keep you sane.

Exercise: If there’s one thing you shouldn’t compromise, it’s your health! Exercising will help keep your energy levels up and keep you on track both physically and mentally. Even taking that extra walk during your lunch break can help boost your productivity at work. Plus, you won’t feel too guilty when having an extra holiday treat or two!

Effectively dividing your time and finding the balance between work and play is important so that you don’t burn out or fall off track. Stay organized and keep your momentum up during this season, and you’ll find that you can start your new year off on the right foot!

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From focusing on Facebook status updates and tone, to using the right #hashtags and keeping your tweets under 140 characters, managing corporate social media can be challenging. There are many elements to keep in mind when strategizing your next update, but there’s a science to achieving higher engagement! All you need is some good content and proper planning.

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Consider these facts next time you’re posting something:

Twitter: Schedule your tweets around lunchtime. The Twitterverse is especially buzzing Monday through Thursday while you’re grabbing a bite, but once Friday afternoon rolls around, people have checked out for the weekend. Want more engagement? Add an image or video and you’re guaranteed to boost your numbers.

Facebook: Now’s your chance to use your audience’s mid-afternoon slump to your advantage. Since many people are getting back to their desks around this time, it’s likely they’re checking their Facebook too. According to Entrepreneur, the highest average click through rate is from 1pm to 4pm. Avoid posting on the weekends and between 8pm to 8am, as people are typically caught up with other things.

LinkedIn: We’re always stressing the importance of making connections on social media sites such as LinkedIn, but what good will that do if no-one is there to read it? Share your updates midweek around noon and 5pm in order to utilize it as an effective engagement tool.

Most importantly, ensure that your content is relevant, meaningful, and interesting – that’s when engagement increases. You could have mastered the science behind when users are likely to see what you’ve shared, but at the end of the day, content matters. Combine your quality content with appropriate scheduling, and your marketing efforts are sure to skyrocket.

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What is Wrong with Sandwiches?!!

The above title is what my 10 year old son yelled out of frustration as he watched his hamburger smothered in ketchup fall out of his hands, quickly landing on EVERYTHING. His blaming the burger, but not the hands that held it, made me chuckle. Obviously if the burger was designed differently this would not have happened, right? Or would he have dropped any kind of sandwich at that exact moment because his hands were not holding it correctly? A usability or user issue?

I describe this incident as a very loose parallel to UX issues that we often see during usability testing. How do we know if a usability issue is truly the fault of the interface? The debate has gone on for years, where many would argue that there is no such thing as “user error” –  that it’s always an issue with the product; while some may claim that no interface/design will have a 100% success rate for users.

  • Your participant didn’t see the search bar. Was it because it wasn’t where they expected it to be or was it because it truly was not in a clear or obvious place?
  • A participant doesn’t go to the “correct” link during a task. Did they not understand where to go because the task was not phrased in a way they would have expected, or is the interface really preventing completion?
  • The user didn’t notice the ad you wanted them to see. Was it because it was not prominent enough or did the messaging not resonate or make sense to them?

There are many other examples; those are just a few of the more common ones.

Regardless of what the task and results are – it is important to note during testing that people tend to blame themselves even when it’s not their fault, so be mindful and patient.

Generally, things will resolve to whether or not the interface works within standard expectations. It’s our role as experts to know what those standards are and how to make sure they constantly evolve while technology expands, without reinventing what already works.

With any UI design, if you deviate too far outside of what users generally expect, you run the risk of them missing features or not knowing how it would work. However, if we design for every person’s expectations could there be one perfect interface? Or, more importantly…one perfect spill-proof sandwich?

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For the purpose of this post, let’s assume you made it through a phone screen. This is important to note because it means the employer liked what they saw on your resume and you probably met most (if not all) of the requirements for the job. With that in mind, we’re going to focus on what happened during the next step, the in person interview and why you received the “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Let’s face it, interviews are tough. There are many variables that come into play. Whether you’re meeting with one person, a group of 7 or need to make it through staggered rounds of different teams, all it takes is one person to sink you. Let’s discuss some of the things that can go wrong so you can better prepare yourself and land that next interview.

· You were late – Don’t let this happen. Even if you have to sit in your car for 30 minutes before your interview, leave early to ensure you’re timely. There’s nothing worse than making a busy hiring manager wait for you.

· You weren’t a good fit - This is one I hear often and is typically reserved as a catchall. It usually means you rubbed someone the wrong way for one reason or another. Some common reasons are: simple personality mismatch, appearance, over confident, not enthusiastic enough, too demanding about what you need.

· Connections – It’s all about who you know. There’s a possibility that someone else had an in. With social networking becoming such a large part of our daily lives, this is something you should use to your advantage. By simply establishing a connection through these networks prior to your interview, it helps build a relationship and gets you one step closer to having your own “in”.

· Change of direction – Often times, clients think they know what they need until it’s right in front of them. Only then do they realize that’s not it at all. If this is the case, don’t sweat it – it was nothing you did or could have avoided. Don’t be shy in communicating your experiences and skills that could fit what they’re now looking for. If delivered properly, you’ve positioned yourself as a strong candidate for the new role.

· You weren’t prepared - I can’t stress this enough. Spend time getting to understand who you’ll be meeting with, and their role and responsibilities. If you have a solid background of the company and the individuals, you can tailor your questions to be relevant. Once they feel like you “get it”, you’ve elevated yourself above the competition. Make yourself look good: do your research and ask smart questions.

· Did you close the deal? - Interviews can often times end abruptly and awkwardly, but they don’t have to! As you see things starting to wind down, see if they have any other questions. Ask if they have any concerns about your background that you can address, and most importantly, be sure to close with why you feel like you’re a good match. Take some of your research combined with what you uncovered with your “smart” questions and leverage your background to show clear examples of why you’d be strong for it.

· Follow up - This is something that’s often overlooked. Get their business cards and send a thoughtful thank you email or handwritten note. Don’t overdo it, keep it short, sweet and gracious. Any fluff will immediately be transparent.

And no matter what, don’t take it personally – interviews are hard. From a limp handshake, to too much perfume/cologne, many things can go wrong. In my opinion, focus on being the right fit. This is one you can work on prior, during and even after the interview. Since managers are more likely to hire candidates they relate to, this should be a point of emphasis for you to nail that next job!

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7 Tips for Successful Screeners

When it comes to market research, the group of participants taking part are a crucial component to the success of the project. Comprising a faction of high quality, qualified respondents is a process that comes with its own set of challenges, but creating a great group starts with a well built screening questionnaire. Not only does a well written screener aide in the success of the project, but it can also save a lot of time and money on the client end!

So, what makes an effective screening questionnaire? There are several points that should be closely reviewed before stamping a draft with the seal of final approval for fielding.

1. Before you begin wiring your questionnaire, be sure you have a clear outline of what you’re aiming to achieve from this research study. Ensure you have a solid understanding of the intent and purpose, what types of participants would provide the most useful data, and how you will utilize the collected data after the study concludes. All of these factors weigh in on the pertinency of the questions you choose to include for screening.

2. Limit the questions to those that really have the most impact on the scope of the study. By putting in too many questions, you run the risk of turning off a potentially great respondent because the time commitment up front is too long and monotonous, and may also relay a message of a disorganized study. You also run the risk of redundant questions that may inadvertently disqualify participants who are the right fit for the research. Contradictory questions create a lot of confusion for the interviewers and respondents, alike.

3. Be mindful of skip patterns and recruiters notes. While most recruiting firms will pick up on errors, it’s not always clear what direction your skip pattern should take an interviewer as opposed to the direction it is taking them. Also, leaving off notes that give instructions for disqualification can create confusion if there aren’t clear cut guides to quotas. If these errors aren’t caught early, the entire recruiting process may be compromised.

4. When you can, limit excessive quotas. There are certainly instances where an abundance of parameters are absolutely necessary in order to collect the best possible data. But most times, this isn’t the case. Excessive specifications create more obstacles for the recruiting firm to find the multiple needles in the haystack, and also put your project at rick of losing valuable respondents who may be screened out over an insignificant detail. Some quotas are always expected, but be careful about adding quotas to the quotas (and so forth).

5. Keep the wording of the questions limited and easy to follow. Remember, most recruiting firms interview potential candidates over the phone by reading from the script you provide. If the questions are too wordy or complicated, a respondent may lose focus, or misunderstand the question, which may inadvertently lead to a false or inaccurate response. This could compromise the quality of the recruit, but can be avoided by keeping questions simple, short and direct.

6. Review the order of your questions, and ensure it has the correct flow. When possible, include all qualifying questions at the front end of the screener. This will save time on the recruiting end, and also reduce the number of candidates who spend excessive time answering questions only to be turned away at the end. Demographic and other sensitive questions are typically best suited for the back end of the screener, and folks who don’t have to answer these right out of the gate are more inclined to answer. Make sure the questions are aligned in an order that makes logical sense and doesn’t disrupt the flow.

7. Finally, before you send your screening questionnaire out into the field, ask someone to read it out loud to you. Role play, as if you are the candidate and the other person is the interviewer. This will give you first opportunity to hear how the screener reads, and pick up on any potential issues. Also ask that person to look over any skip patterns you may have included to be sure they make sense and don’t elicit confusion. Give your document one last look over to make sure nothing obvious needs correcting before sending it along.

Once the recruiting firm has the screener in hand, ask them to review it and provide any feedback they may have. If there are issues, they will be sure to let you know! It is also important to keep in mind that when the recruit has been fielding and not producing after extensive efforts, it is usually an indication that there is a significant issue with the screener: either the questionnaire or the specifications. If you make the process near impossible, it will be near impossible to fill with quality respondents. Remember, the success of the project starts with a sound screener!

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