Wiser Blog: Ideas and Tips to Be Smarter at Work

Company blog from Wiser, the New York-based startup on a mission to help you and your team get more insight out of less information at work. Ideas, tips & more.

How to Align Your Team or Company for Incredible Results

How to Align Your Team or Company for Incredible Results

At Wiser, we’re constantly trying to improve. As we continuously build our product, attract new users, and win clients, it’s important that we measure where we are against where we want to go.

We’ve tried a few different frameworks for doing this in the past, but the system we like best is setting Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs. When used properly, we think OKRs can be used by any person, team or company that wants to get better and achieve great results.

The Basic Concept

OKRs were invented at Intel under Andy Grove and popularized by the venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins. Companies like Google, LinkedIn and Zynga are now well-known for using OKRs to set and achieve goals.

The idea behind OKRs is to determine where the organization wants to go (the objective) and then set clear metrics that will help confirm when that destination has been reached (the key results).

The objective should typically be a single, inspirational, qualitative goal that will require everyone to align around a common purpose. It could be anything from “set the industry standard for value with our new line of toaster ovens” to “become the trusted, go-to resource for our clients on all of their legal needs.”

The key results should generally be empirical metrics to help ground the mission in reality with numbers that can be measured. When choosing your metrics, ask if they will help confirm if your objective has been achieved, or are merely tangential. If you’re just getting started, pick three to five key results for each company, team and individual objective to keep things focused and to minimize the burden of tracking.

How to Use OKRs

Company-wide OKRs should be set first to provide the overall direction, which then allows teams to set their own specific OKRs that will help achieve the broader mission. Finally, individual OKRs help each person on the team tie their work to the success of the team and the overall objective. Think of a cascading effect, where all team-wide and individual OKRs flow from the same source. As Swipely CEO Angus Davis explained in First Round Review,

When personal objectives are directly and clearly connected to the broader goals of the company, they’re suddenly more inspiring, less myopic. Make them public so everyone can see what’s on their co-workers’ plates and employees no longer feel like they’re toiling in a vacuum, or for their manager’s approval. That way, OKRs become a built-in way for people to ask for resources, or easily spot where they can come to their colleagues’ aid.

Making OKRs Work

While this all sounds straightforward, making OKRs actually work in practice is more complex. Here are some things to keep in mind to make them stick.

  • Keep Them Front and Center. It’s one thing to set OKRs at the beginning of a quarter only to dust them off three months later to assess. In order to be effective, OKRs need to be top of mind on a daily basis, and referred to at every relevant meeting or decision point. To help us stay focused on them, we print out our team- and company-wide OKRs and post them around the office. Having regular check-in meetings at the team and company levels that address status on OKRs is a best practice, though piggy-backing on existing meetings should help streamline adoption. For individual OKRs, team leaders should check in with private one-on-one meetings.

  • Pick Stretch Goals. When setting both objectives and key results, it’s important not to undershoot. While easy achievements may feel good in the short run, OKRs should help your company grow in ways that won’t always be comfortable. Achieving truly great results and building a culture of success relies on having each person and team push themselves to do work at the margin of what was considered possible. Christian Brucculeri, Vice President at K2 Media Labs, suggests setting key results that are only 60-70% achievable on a consistent basis.

  • Don’t Pick Too Many. As noted by Christina Wodtke, consultant and advisor on the subject of OKRs, choosing too many OKRs can dilute their purpose of unifying your organization around a clear objective. While a large organization like Google may need to set different OKRs for separate business lines or divisions, a smaller company will benefit from choosing one OKR to focus and rally effort.

 

For more tips and discussion on OKRs, we highly recommend Wodtke’s blog and these articles at First Round Review:

For more useful concepts on improving your team or company’s workflow, check out our blog post on 4 Easy Concepts to Make Your Team Smarter.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the social newsreader for business teams, companies and organizations.

Using Google Alerts and Other Tools to Get a Better View of Your Job, Industry and Ecosystem

© Austin Ban, austinban.com

In our last post, we discussed a number of tools for receiving email alerts about different keywords.

The most well-known of these is probably Google Alerts, which recently underwent a nice new redesign. Whether you’re using Google Alerts or an another tool, this post describes some smart ways that alerts tools can be helpful in getting you important news and information at work.

(For more on this topic, check out our post on getting the best industry news digests.)

Monitoring Your Name

This one may seem obvious, but using alerts to track mentions of your name online can help you in several ways.

First, if you’re a public figure who can be cited or quoted in the media, this helps you stay on top of mentions.

Second, if your name is being used somewhere without your knowledge, it’s a safety measure to make sure this is being done appropriately.

Third, setting a web alert (instead of a news alert) can help you track if any apps or tools you’ve registered for have created a public profile page without your knowledge.

Since many employers and potential employers track these things, staying aware of your online persona is an important professional task.

Monitoring Your Brand/Company Name

Nowadays, the ease of accessing relevant information makes it mandatory to have a solid sense of the major stories and events impacting your brand or company.

If you’re in public relations, business development or marketing, having a clear sense of how your company is being talked about online is crucial to your day-to-day. But even if your role isn’t primarily focused on such things, having some solid awareness of what’s happening with your company publicly can position you as a savvier professional in your role or team.

Monitoring Your Team

For those working at more senior levels, it’s very important to have your finger on the pulse of your company, especially within your department.

Not knowing when and what is being said by or about those you work with can be a professional liability. I’ve held roles in which multiple people on my team were being quoted in the press on any given day. 

Creating alerts with the names of your public-facing team-mates is an easy way to make sure you’re aware of any key media mentions.

Monitoring Key Executives

As with your team, it’s important to be aware of what leaders at your employer are saying and doing publicly, especially if you work for a large, fast-moving company.

Stories abound of people learning about new product launches, business plans, hires, departures, and other important company news in the press before they hear about it internally. While this isn’t a best practice in internal communication, having news alerts set up can help you know what’s happening. And as you seek to grow professionally and advance your career, knowing what’s important to key executives can help you by having the right frame on your own priorities, or just to make relevant conversation when the opportunity arises.

Monitoring Competitors

It’s not enough to simply know your own company’s product or service these days. Knowing what’s happening with your key competitors, and their own products or services, is important for understanding the broader market and how your company exists within it.

Having insights about what’s being said about your competitors can help inform discussions about business strategy, product development, marketing, customer support, or sales. In fact, virtually any role can benefit by having competitive intelligence alerts set up.

You may even want to include key executives at competitors among your alerts, since they are most often the public voices of their companies and will hint at new products or initiatives to be aware of.

Monitoring Key Vocabulary, Ideas, and Trends

If you work in a fast-moving industry like technology, private equity/venture capital, or consulting, it’s often important to keep tabs on popular nomenclature or new ideas and trends that are shaping your field.

For example, companies in your ecosystem might be known by broader names, like the “Big 4” accounting firms or “Sand Hill Road” venture capital firms. Technology trends like the shift to cloud computing, “enterprise social” or “last mile delivery” can help pinpoint the specific things you’re working on in a more relevant context.

Thinking broadly about the buzzwords and trends impacting your role or company and setting up alerts around them can help you easily create a steady stream of helpful coverage.

Monitoring Your Industry

At an even broader level, it’s often important to think of your industry as a whole and the key people, events, trade groups, institutions and laws that help shape it.

Do you work in a heavily regulated industry like financial services? Keeping alerts for the names of the commissioners or chairs of your relevant regulators can help you stay better informed about new developments.

Do you work in a technology driven sector, like e-commerce? Think about the key things that happen periodically that are good to know about in advance, like the impending release of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report.

Perhaps there are a few major conferences that are must-attend events, trade associations that your company is active with, or professional organizations that you belong to. Whatever the case, creating alerts about these terms can help you keep better tabs on them.

Monitoring Your Mentors and Role Models

As our careers progress, we sometimes lose touch with key bosses or mentors that helped coach or guide us to the next level.

Keeping in contact with these people can be a great way to foster your professional network, keep abreast of new opportunities, or just continue learning from someone with more experience.

If they are people who periodically appear in the press, creating a news alert for their names is a great way to remind yourself to keep in touch.

Similarly, many of us follow industry leaders on social media, subscribe to their blogs, or have read their books. As we forge our careers, we often look to them as sources of inspiration. Creating alerts with the names of these professional role models can help surface new content about them or even opportunities to connect.

Either way, keeping a regular stream of professional inspiration in your inbox can be a helpful motivator.

Do you have any other suggestions for using alerts to get useful information for your job? I’d love to hear from you: nat@getwiser.com.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the social newsreader for business teams, companies and organizations.

The Best News Alerts Tools for Your Business

The Best News Alerts Tools for Your Business

Most companies need to track their market, clients or competitors to grow revenue and expand or improve on their offerings. Having the right industry data or market insight at the right time can often make or break your chances of winning new business. If you’re in a competitive market, it’s also crucial to understand trends that are happening so you have time to adapt.

We’ve written before about some of our favorite places to find email news digests, but in this post we’ll discuss a different aspect of getting relevant content at work: email alerts. While news digests push information to you based on your industry, preferences, or recommendations from colleagues, news alerts won’t trigger until something relevant appears on the web. They can be dormant for weeks or months until a relevant term pops up. That said, poorly designed alerts can inundate you with irrelevant information based on overly broad keywords or phrases. This makes it important to test your alerts using Boolean operators, which any reliable alerts tool should have available.

This post outlines some of the best tools for creating news, blog and web alerts to help you stay on top of relevant developments at work. Note: since this list is focused on your professional life, just a few of the services are free. 

Free Tools

Google Alerts. This is probably the most widely known alerts tool. It’s free to use as long as you have a Google account. Google has updated the service over the years to the frustration of many users, and others have raised questions about its comprehensiveness and reliability. Still, Google Alerts remain a mainstay for many professionals who want to keep abreast of developments involving their company, key executives, trends in their field, and other news. One of the nice features of Google Alerts is the ability to create an RSS feed for your alerts, which allow you to track your alerts in an RSS feedreader or newsreader.

Mention. Another near real-time media monitoring app, Mention is a Paris-based service directed mainly at providing brands with “filtered, organized and prioritized information from the web and social networks.” Mention supports dozens of languages and allows you to customize your alerts and reports to a high degree. For example, if you’re interested only in specific social networks in certain languages, you can quickly adjust those settings. This makes Mention particularly useful for larger companies looking to track news and social discussion across regions, languages and preferred networks. Free accounts are available, though only a certain number of mentions can be tracked per month without upgrading.

SocialMention. If you’re looking for instances of specific keywords being used on social media, Social Mention might be the right tool for you. It’s a social media search and analysis platform that combines social content from different sites into a single newsfeed. According to its website, the service monitors more than 100 social media services directly. Social Mention is well known for their daily social media alerts, though this appears temporarily disabled as of this writing.

Talkwalker. Billing itself as “the best free and easy alternative to Google Alerts,” Talkwaker monitors the web for relevant news and other content in a similar way. Creating alerts are very familiar to the Google process, with the ability to customize result type, language, frequency, and relevance. Unlike Google Alerts, however, Talkwalker’s free service doesn’t include real-time, as-it-happens alerts — only once-a-day or once-a-week monitoring. Talkwalker appears geared toward social media monitoring as its primary use-case and claims many notable brands as its clients.

Financial Professionals

Bloomberg Professional. A juggernaut in the world of financial information, Bloomberg Professional is well known for their robust alerts functionality. The platform allows email alerts to be created for virtually any financial event, including changes in the trading of individual instruments in the commodities, derivatives, equities, fixed income and FX markets. Other events, like corporate announcements, earnings releases, capital raises and the like are also easily tracked with custom alerts.  

StreetAccount. Designed to track market-moving information in real-time, StreetAccount is targeted at institutional investors, equity analysts and other financial services professionals. For that reason, the service is focused mainly on tracking different types of company news. In addition to serving as a corporate newsreader, StreetAccount pulls from sources as diverse as court rulings, FTC antitrust decisions, analyst presentations, earnings transcripts and the like. StreetAccount also helps manage its flow of email alerts by allowing users to create filters for specific items like stocks, indices, keywords and keyphrases.

Public Relations, Media Relations & Marketing Professionals

Cision. This alerts tool is offered by a giant of the PR monitoring landscape, Sweden-based Cision, as part of their full software suite. Primarily focused on tracking the media landscape, distributing press releases and managing publicity campaigns, Cision also offers robust media monitoring tools. Alerts can be set to track the social web, print media sources, broadcast outlets, and blogs in either near real-time or daily reports.

Meltwater. One of the established players in the PR media monitoring field, Meltwater alerts are designed for PR professionals to easily monitor breaking news and updates about key client accounts, competitors and industries of focus. The service tracks thousands of news publications along with the major social media networks. Meltwater puts a focus on Boolean logic to allow for more quality in their search results, along with translation and archive features. As part of their broader PR-oriented offering, Meltwater’s alerts are integrated to allow easy social sharing of the content it uncovers.

Vocus. Another stalwart of the PR- and marketing-focused monitoring space, Vocus’s software tracks and scans thousands of news sources, including television and radio stations in both the U.S. and internationally. Not surprisingly, Vocus also tracks blog mentions and the social web. If you’re a public relations professional or work in marketing for a major brand, chances are you’ve encountered Vocus at some point. The company offers a range of other PR and marketing-automation services. 

Sales & Marketing Professionals

Colabo. Founded in 2010, Colabo is designed for sales and marketing professionals. It gathers data from any web source and sends alerts when changes occur in the pages you track. According to its website, Colabo is used primarily for sales prospecting, lead qualification, lead generation, and named account tracking. Other interesting use-cases include simplifying market and industry research by gathering many different sources into a single dashboard, and enabling alerts.

ContentGems. Closer to marketing than sales, ContentGems provides a platform to help marketers discover, organize and share relevant content to help build their brand leadership and inbound web traffic. To help track relevant ideas, trends, products and industries, ContentGems provides advanced Boolean syntax, a common feature for most alerts services but something particularly useful for analyzing text for content marketing. The service boasts the ability to track thousands of news sources, blogs and social media accounts, as well as any website with an RSS feed. You can also configure ContentGems to send a single daily email digest with your results.

GageIn. This list wouldn’t be complete without GageIn, a company that calls itself “Google Alerts on steroids.” Aimed primarily at sales and marketing professionals looking for events, trends and triggers to facilitate introductions to potential leads, GageIn offers a SalesForce integration to begin recommending news about your specific companies and people of interest. The service also lets you zero in on different types of sales triggers, from executive moves, product launches, capital raises and other events. GageIn also uses machine-learning algorithms to help suggest alerts based on the ones you previously found most relevant.

Did we miss any? Let us know: nat [AT] getwiser.com.

Nathaniel Emodi heads up business development at Wiser, the private social newsreader for business teams, companies and organizations.