Six Benefits of Written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

From training and hiring to work policies and procedures, Standard Operating Procedures — or SOPs — help companies stay organized, operate smoothly, and ensure that employees understand how to accomplish their assigned tasks.

But here’s one thing we’ve learned from more than a decade of working with companies of all sizes: Even though nearly all companies have some sort of SOPs in place, they don’t always have them written down.

Or if they do have them written down, it’s been years since they’ve reviewed or updated them.

In most cases, it comes down to time.

When day-to-day operations get hectic, internal projects are often the first to fall to the wayside.

And while it’s true that writing, reviewing, and updating your company’s SOPs can be time-consuming, we think it’s worth it in the long run.

Need a few reasons to make written SOPs a priority? Here are just a few benefits of having written SOPs:

1. Reduce employee training time.

Training-related SOPs help standardize orientation and training. A written set of guidelines helps ensure that all new hires get the same training, on the same topics and responsibilities, in the same amount of time. Not only will this help ensure that new employees settle in quickly, it will also help save time and money in the long term.

2. Maintain consistency across your brand.

You’ve worked hard to establish a very specific personality, look, feel, and tone for your brand. Protect that hard work by establishing a set of written branding standards. A few possible items to cover:
• Use of your company’s logo, colors, and tagline
• Policies for employee social media use
• A style guide to ensure uniformity in written communication
• Guidelines for email formatting and signatures
• Rules for speaking to the media
• Use of your company’s logo, colors, and tagline
• Policies for employee social media use
• A style guide to ensure uniformity in written communication
• Guidelines for email formatting and signatures
• Rules for speaking to the media

3. Reduce errors and enhance productivity.

Written SOPs can take the guesswork out of day-to-day operations and help ensure that all of your employees understand the processes, policies, and procedures associated with their jobs. And because they provide clear, written examples of what is expected from employees, SOPs are also helpful when developing employee review or development plans.

4. Meet legal requirements.

Depending on your industry, you may be required to have written SOPs that protect your employees and/or customers — and ensure that you won’t be held legally responsible if something goes wrong.

5. Establish a chain of command.

Everyone in your company should have a clear idea of your company’s leadership structure, and this is especially important in situations where work products go through multiple stages of review and approval.

6. Transfer work easily.

Most employees take a sick day here and there, but in the case of an extended absence, written SOPs make it easier to transfer work to another employee.

By outlining how a task or project should be done, you’re making sure that any employee can complete the work with a little direction.

Of course, these six benefits are only the tip of the SOP iceberg — but you can probably see where we’re going with this: Written SOPs are an indispensable part of any organization.

How to Prepare Your Content Before Migrating to a Digital Asset Management System: Part Two

Your files are inventoried and you know exactly which ones you’ll migrate to your DAM solution, but there is one more thing you need to do: optimize that all-important metadata so your system will function as you need it to.

Let’s start by defining what metadata is and talk about why it’s so important to the functionality of DAM.

What is Metadata?

Metadata is what allows users to find, retrieve, edit, and share content.

Kevin Gavin, CMO at sums it up nicely. “Metadata is information about the digital asset that makes it easy to search and filter in order to organize and manage large collections of digital assets,” he says. “Standard metadata for images, for example, include things like the date, time, and location that a photo is taken as well as the camera and resolution.”

Amy Chan, SR Product Marketing Manager at Extensis says “Metadata is the underpinning of an effective digital asset management system. Without a good process in place,” she says. “a DAM can fall short of its effectiveness.”

Most metadata fall into these 3 categories:

Administrative Metadata

This type of data helps manage your content and includes things like the date it was created, who created it, and who should have access to it.

Descriptive Metadata

Having the right descriptive metadata helps users find the content they’re looking for. Some of the descriptive data to include in this are the title of the content, the author, and keywords. A keyword is what an end user types into the system to find content. For example, by typing “DAM” into the system, the user would see content related to that subject. Gavin says a keyword list can include as few as a dozen or up to hundreds of keywords, depending on what the DAM administrator determines. Additional keywords can also be added as the system grows.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Rights Management Metadata

When you include metadata that shows the copyright status and licensing provisions of your content, it will identify how and where it can be used. Gavin says that digital rights management is built into DAMs and “can be tracked at the individual asset level.

What is a Metadata Schema?

A metadata schema, according to Chan, “is the framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information.

It is your structure and the list of fields (such as: date, author, name, subject, etc.) that you would like your catalogs to contain.

This helps define how people add, categorize, search, and understand assets.” In other words, a metadata schema is the structure you use to organize your metadata.

Chan recommends organizing information into 3 buckets:

  • Crucial information:Information you need to have about your assets. Make this a mandatory field for anyone cataloging your digital files. In an example workflow of a sports photographer for a university, crucial metadata could include: » Event » Subject » Photographer » EXIF metadata’]
  • Nice to have information: Data that you would prefer to have, but it’s not essential in your workflow.  Following our previous example, this could include: » Full description of photo » Opposing team
  • Negligible information: Information that you could live without, but it does not hurt to capture. Examples: » Final score of game » Relevant keywords’]

When and How to Add Metadata to Your Files

You will have the choice of uploading your metadata as is, or editing it before you migrate to your new DAM solution.

“Some metadata is added when an image is created such as the time, location, camera, and settings of photographs and they are tied to the file,” says Gavin. “Other metadata is custom and gets added along the way.”

He believes the more metadata that is added and the earlier it’s done, the better.

But he says that metadata should always be retrieved and migrated.

“It is a judgement call if it is worth the work to go back and add metadata to old files,” he says. “The more the files are used and needed, the more important it is to have metadata so that they are more easily found when conducting a search of the metadata.”

If you’re confidant that the existing metadata is good, your DAM solution probably has the capability to automatically import it when ingesting the files.

On the other hand, if you want to change or expand the metadata, you can choose to do that before migrating or afterwards.

Once you get a clear picture of the metadata that exists on your assets, you can determine whether or not you will need to edit or add to it.

There are some widely used open source tools that help edit and manage metadata such as EXIFTool and Python. Both of these tools can be used on Windows and Mac computers.

If you would rather add the metadata using the tools on your Windows PC before uploading to a DAM, you’ll have to create an Excel spreadsheet.

In this case, you would create a spreadsheet listing all of the files, and then create columns for each metadata field you want to create. You can create as many fields as you want.

Next, you can embed some of the metadata directly into the document, or use the spreadsheet as a guide while you’re migrating the content to the new DAM.

To embed the keyword metadata directly into the Word document, follow these steps:

  • Use the “Save As” function.

  • After you’ve typed in the file name, click on “Add a tag” underneath it.

  • Add tags or keywords related to the file. These tags will become part of the metadata associated with the file.

If you’re adding metadata to images on a PC, use Adobe’s Bridge to help embed the data directly into the photo.

If you decide that your metadata needs editing, once it’s complete you should export all of the newly revised metadata to a .CSV file so you’ll be able to ingest the entire batch to your DAM.

Keep in mind that if you add metadata to your files on a Windows Machine, you will need to update the files one by one.

On the other hand, it’s possible to embed metadata to your files in batches if you do it while migrating to a DAM.

Once you get a clear picture of the metadata that exists on your assets, you can determine whether or not you will need to edit or add to it.

Bringing it All Together: How Preliminary Work Will help you Choose the Right DAM Solution

Doing the preliminary work will give you a better idea of what you need from a DAM solution, and that will help in the selection process.

Chan stresses that “The long-term success and adoption of a DAM starts with the foundation you put in place in the early stages.”

In other words when you take the time to define your workflow, structure, and metadata practices, you’ll ensure your DAM is set up for success.

But she says success also requires best practices be put into place after the migration as well.

“Ensuring the guidelines are clear to all users is imperative for maintaining the effectiveness of the system,” she says. “Some companies will hire a digital asset librarian to manage this foundation. At a minimum, having a person to champion this infrastructure is key.”

How to Prepare Your Content Before Migrating to a Digital Asset Management System: Part One

If you’re thinking about migrating to a digital asset management (DAM) system, you likely have one key goal: to centralize your content so that it’s more easily retrieved, edited, and shared. And DAM is the ideal solution for many organizations.

But before you migrate, it pays to do some preliminary work so that your content is ready to be transferred.

We’ll talk about how to do that in this 2-part series, but first, let’s address some basic issues.

What is a Digital Asset Management System?

You likely use a primitive form of DAM right now, even in your personal life.

For instance if you organize your files into folders, you are centralizing them in a way that makes sense to you.

That way, when you need to find a document, you have a hierarchy of file folders that you can sift through to retrieve the desired file.

A DAM works much the same way, but instead of the system making sense to only the creator, it works across an entire organization.

Its core competency is to centralize all digital assets, and then make it easy for employees, partners, or other authorized users to find, edit, use and share the content.

Some types of content stored on a DAM system are:

  • Digital documents
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Audio files
  • PDFs
  • Removable media on flash drives, CDs and DVDs
  • Digitized analog media such as slides, prints, and negatives

What are the Benefits of DAM?

To make the best use of digital assets, they must be properly structured in order to increase organizational efficiency.

A DAM system does that in 4 main ways:

  • By organizing documents into pre-defined classifications, millions of pages can be corralled into a system that makes sense to everyone who uses it.
  • User governance. Not all content is meant to be public, and DAM can help restrict access to sensitive assets.
  • Audits. It helps to know when a document was last updated, edited, or used and DAM systems keep detailed records.
  • Through the use of unique metadata, which we cover in-depth in part 2 of this series, end users can easily retrieve the assets they need.

How to Find Your Existing Data

The first step in preparing your data is to locate all of the assets you currently own.

According to Kevin Gavin, CMO at, it’s common for digital assets to be scattered across a lot of storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, SharePoint, and other file storage systems.

“Our customers usually start with the content owners who already know where they are storing various assets and ask them to provide an inventory of digital assets to be centralized in the DAM,” he says.

Amy Chan, SR Product Marketing Manager at Extensis agrees that identifying the key stakeholders and asking them to deliver the assets that need to be cataloged is the best way to accomplish the task, but she doesn’t believe it needs to be done in one step.

“This can happen in multiple stages,” she says, “with the first focused on the primary assets the organization wants to include in the DAM.” She notes that with Portfolio, her company’s DAM solution, additional assets can be identified and added at a later time.

Some of the types of stakeholders that may own content in your organization are:

  • Marketing team leaders
  • Creative team leaders
  • Visual and audio specialists
  • Content creators
  • Customers
  • Distributors
  • Vendors
  • Customer service representatives
  • Social media campaign managers
  • Sales representatives
  • IT department members

Deciding Which Content to Migrate and What to Leave Behind

Once you have an inventory of all the digital assets, it’s time to determine what you will migrate and which files you will delete or archive.

For example, some content will be outdated, no longer used, or duplicated.

Gavin says the best approach to deciding what should stay and what should go is: “If in doubt, centralize it in the DAM.” He says that the cost of storing the files is relatively small unless you’re storing high-resolution video files, so best practice is to centralize the storage of all digital assets in the DAM.

“Once they are centralized, then you can run reports and see which assets are being used and which ones are not. Those that are not being used are candidates for deletion or for transfer to archive storage.”

Chan has a different approach.

She suggests first defining the goals of the DAM, and then having all stakeholders agree to them.

“This can be based on the greatest challenges the organization is facing with their digital assets,” she says.

For example, if out-of-date or unapproved assets are being used, identifying those assets and archiving them should be the driving factor in deciding which content to migrate.

The Next Step: Adding Metadata

Now that you’ve located your content, organized it, and deleted any duplicates, it’s time to add metadata to it so end users will be able to find it easily.

This is a big topic so we’ll cover it in part two of this series.

RFP Software: Breaking Down the Options

Several of our RFP clients have asked us if there’s any good proposal software out there. Software that can help them make the proposal writing process a bit easier. Software that can help them keep track of deadlines, rules, forms, and updates. Software that makes it easier to manage feedback from multiple reviewers and balance several time-sensitive moving parts.

That’s a tall order. But we thought it was a great idea for a blog.

We haven’t used a lot of proposal-specific software, so we decided to embark on a little research to learn more about the proposal management software available today.

We reached out to several RFP software companies that were all kind enough to provide us with details of their programs and walk us through their best features.

1. Expedience Software

Expedience Software’s RFP response package functions as an add-on to Microsoft Office. It allows users to access features directly through Word, via an additional set of menus that appear within the word-processing program itself.

This approach has clear advantages.

It takes advantage of Word’s status as the most widely used word-processing software in the world, thereby allowing users who are already familiar with the platform to remain in a comfortable environment.

Additionally, it piggybacks on Word’s ability to co-operate with other programs in the Office suite, particularly Excel.

In short, it requires users to learn a limited set of new menu options and commands rather than an entirely new program, with a different location on the home screen, a different interface, and different internal logic.

As Jason Anderson, vice president for sales at Expedience Software, explained: “Being in Word brings us lots of advantages, mainly that it’s known.” Sticking to this familiar platform helps users save time, reduce the learning curve and make fewer mistakes along the way, he said.

Expedience Software adds new tabs to the Word menu at the top of the screen – namely, Style Palette and Content Portfolio.

The latter is likely to be the first destination when generating a new response to RFP, as it allows users to open proposals and access relevant company information and data through the selection of a content portfolio (i.e., a library of stored content from completed proposals and related documents). It lets them search the content portfolio and use the results of the search to add boilerplate text to documents.

Additionally, it gives users the ability to add metadata tags to items within the portfolio to facilitate future searches.

Style Palette allows users to format proposal documents, using familiar Word features such as style settings, tables and text boxes. It can apply previously used formatting and styles, so that new documents don’t have to be built from scratch.

The newest version of Expedience Software’s package also features an Excel Connect tab (not shown in the images above).

This tab allows users to move easily back and forth between Word and Excel, a handy feature when responding to RFPs that require bidders to submit their responses in spreadsheet format.

One drawback of the tie-in with MS Office is that Expedience Software does not have built-in scheduling or calendar capabilities, so it doesn’t give users the ability to set target dates and arrange for automatic reminders of upcoming deadlines. And, since it focuses primarily on document creation and editing, Expedience Software doesn’t offer as many project management as other software.

But Expedience Software does feature an intriguing approach to security and user access. Most of the providers we spoke with used a full licensing system that required each user within a company to have an individual license to access the program.

But Anderson explained that Expedience Software issues licenses only to users who need to access every part of the content portfolio. License holders can then grant outside experts and consultants limited access to basic viewing and editing functions without the need to acquire additional licenses, he explained. “Most other software won’t let you control access to content in this way, but we do,” he said.

Anderson also stressed that license holders had the ability to prevent unlicensed users from accessing every part of the company’s library. “You can restrict authorship,” he said, explaining that this option preserved the security of company records while ensuring that lower-level employees and outside consultants could still view and edit proposal documents as necessary.

He further noted that these security provisions allowed managers to protect confidential information without setting up additional storage infrastructure. License holders can restrict authorship to documents on existing company servers or any other storage solution, he said. “If there’s a firewall, it can be behind that. It can be on a network drive [or] in the cloud,” he said.

The bottom line: Expedience Software provides advanced document-management options in a setting that is both familiar and easy to access.

Main pros:

  • Based on familiar Word platform and has a low learning curve
  • Ties directly into Excel

Main cons:

  • No scheduling or calendar features
  • Few project management features

2. Qwilr

Qwilr is quite different from Expedience Software. This is not just because it is a stand-alone program with no explicit link to existing platforms, but also because it aims to turn out a different type of product.

Responses to RFPs typically follow one of two formats:

  • Word-type documents that describe a given company’s ability to provide goods and/or services, as well as its compliance with requirements
  • Spreadsheets that contain the same type of data and information in a pre-formatted, Excel-type format

By contrast, Qwilr allows users to generate a dynamic response that bears more resemblance to a web page than to a stack of paper.

Finished Qwilr products are web-based and have website-like elements such as hyperlinks, video content and online quote acceptance. Additionally, they can be built, edited and viewed on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

The software appears to be easy to navigate, with a straightforward, point-and-click interface. “In terms of ease of use, we’re up there. The software is even pleasant to use,” said Jomar Gomez, a sales and customer success representative for Qwilr. Moreover, he said, the end product is easy to navigate, “as it’s more like a web page with design elements.”

Qwilr’s main focus is on this type of dynamic presentation. But users can also generate RFP responses in several formats, including text, and can save files as PDFs.

Additionally, Qwilr makes plenty of design and graphic elements available to users seeking to craft dynamic responses. It includes multiple pre-set templates, each with a different look and feel, and also lets users access a library of stock photos.

The software also offers a built-in quote acceptance tool that allows for a rapid response from contracting organizations. This easy-to-use tool features sliders that can be activated with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger.

Another handy tool is the Analytics feature, which helps users keep track of the progress of a project, from the creation of the initial document to responses from contracting organizations.

Despite its forward-looking features, Qwilr does not lose sight of the fact that users need more than attractive graphics and design. It gives users the ability to create and access a library of boilerplate texts, and its Clone feature streamlines the process of using previous documents as a model for new responses.

Qwilr uses a standard licensing model, with each individual user required to obtain a license. It also includes security features such as Block, which restricts access to and editing capabilities, making it a good fit for companies that bring in outside consultants or experts when drafting proposals.

There are some downsides to this software, however: Qwilr does not tie directly into Excel, so it offers no advantages to users responding to RFPs in spreadsheet format. It does not appear to have a calendar function, though it does have an audit trail that lays out the timeline for each project.

The bottom line: Qwilr allows users to craft proposals that will stand out from the crowd.

Main pros: delivers visually striking content, includes useful tools

Main cons: doesn’t help with spreadsheet RFPs, no scheduling or calendar features, more suited to smaller companies that can present proposals in person

3. Loopio and RFPio

Both Loopio and RFPio allow companies to compile and draw on examples of past work, thereby simplifying tasks such as retrieving standard boilerplate text or duplicating existing formats. But they each offer unique takes on RFP response software. 

Loopio and RFPio do not piggyback on MS Office like Expedience Software; and they don’t emphasize web-style, graphics-focused content like Qwilr. Instead, these stand-alone packages bear a strong resemblance to project management systems, as both have dashboards and group projects into folders. Their folders and menus help companies to build on previous proposals and to compile boilerplate text, as both employ templates and metadata tags, as well as document and answer libraries.

Additionally, both are cloud-based platforms that use a standard licensing model. Both can be used on mobile devices as well as PCs.

There are differences between the two, though. The most noticeable of these is that RFPio appears to have a wider range of capabilities than Loopio.

For example, RFPio does not require users to work from templates, although it does offer them that option. It allows users to fill out a form with the relevant information (or with a command to retrieve specific information from the content library) and then generates a proposal on its own.

RFPio also offers a predictive text function based on artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. This reduces the time needed to search for and retrieve relevant information, said Chris Pulley, an account executive at RFPio. “There’s not even a need to cut and paste. That’s a huge component of the software,” he said. “RFPio automatically saves answers to questions. It will also suggest answers for you using key words, without any prompting. [This feature] is a key way to save time.”

Additionally, the program allows users to import questionnaires and MS Office files with only one click of the mouse. As such, it facilitates replies to spreadsheet-based RFPs while also streamlining the process of drawing on document files in Word or Excel format.

Both types of software allow companies to customize access levels for multiple users in order to guard confidentiality. However, Loopio only grants access to license holders, which means that companies using outside experts or consultants must obtain an additional license, explained Allison Russell, a sales development representative for the company. “The software is designed to serve a group of people collaborating and working on the same response toward a common goal, but it keeps confidential information secure,” she said. “We have different settings for that, and they’re up to the discretion of the user. The settings can be made different for each license user.”

RFPio, by contrast, gives users the option of granting outside consultants and experts access to content portfolios without additional licenses.

It also lets users set custom security levels to ensure that these contributors can access the information they need and no more. “There are different levels of access – administrator, member, and guest,” Pulley said. “The guest feature lets any employee be set up as a member of the team working on the response.”

RFPio and Loopio also differ significantly with respect to scheduling oversight. On this front, RFPio clearly comes out ahead, as it includes a calendar function that allows users to set specific deadlines and arrange for automatic reminders. And as Pulley emphasized, these notices and reminders are not just for major projects involving an entire team, but also for sub-tasks, assignments and questions directed to individuals, smaller groups and outside contributors.

Loopio, by contrast, follows Expedience Software and Qwilr in offering few options for scheduling. Russell did note, though, that the package included useful features for users seeking to comply with deadlines. “Project managers can have control over notifications,” she said. “They can send prompts and reminders to team members, using Loopio to send out emails with their message.”

The bottom line: RFPio and Loopio provide users the ability to generate and manage proposals in a project-management setting.

RFPio pros: calendar feature, tracks project progress in a manner similar to Qwilr’s Analytics tool, easy integration with MS Office files

RFPio cons: smaller companies may not need or use all features

Loopio pros: offers consistent branding through easy formatting options, builds strong library of boilerplate text and answers to previous questions

Loopio cons: no scheduling or calendar features, does not have same level of integration with MS Office files

Making the decision

Of the two cloud-based software packages reviewed here, RFPio appears to be a better option than Loopio. While the two systems are similar in visual presentation and basic functionality, the former gives users more options for managing content and access.

Among the other two, there is no obvious winner.

Expedience Software offers the lowest learning curve and the best integration with MS Office, but it is not an ideal platform for project management or scheduling. One online review also indicates that it works best for users who are already familiar with Word’s most advanced options.

For its part, Qwilr delivers the most attractive responses for companies seeking to stand out from their text-focused competitors, but its finished products will not satisfy all potential customers – especially large contracting organizations that require proposals to be submitted in the form of a spreadsheet. Instead, its web-based proposals probably pack the biggest visual punch in small, face-to-face settings.

The choice of RFP response package would seem to hinge, then, on the individual needs of potential buyers. Companies seeking to simplify and improve the RFP response process should, therefore, strive for a match between their resources and the software’s capabilities.

Even more options…

In our research for this blog, we chose to focus primarily on four software packages — but
there are, of course, many more options out there, each with its own unique pros, cons, and
capabilities. While we didn’t have time to do a deep dive into every piece of software, we can
offer a few high-level takeaways as a starting point.  

NiftyQuoter. This software boasts user-friendly features like drag-and-drop editing, a
customizable text block library, auto-reminders, and a visually appealing dashboard.
NiftyQuoter integrates with a variety of systems, including PayPal, Xero, FreshBooks,
Pipedrive, and more. Check out NiftyQuoter’s library of templates and view a sample proposal.

Nusii. This tool makes it simple to store, access, combine and customize frequently
used blocks of copy — which can be a huge time-saver if you write a lot of proposals.
The website also offers helpful downloadables such as a proposal checklist and an
eBook on client interviews.

Octiv. A productivity-focused option, Octiv is a document storage, sharing, and management
system that allows easy collaboration, editing, It is also designed to work with nearly any
device and integrate with commonly used systems like Box, Salesforce, Oracle, DocuSign,
and more.

PandaDoc. This cloud-based document management software offers free, downloadable
templates for a variety of documents, from proposals and quotes to HR documentation and
contracts. PandaDoc also allows real-time collaboration and keeps track of document views. 

Proposal Software. This appropriately named option helps companies prepare, organize,
and optimize RFP and RFI responses. One of the most appealing features of Proposal Software is its
PMAPS Content Manager tool, which gives users the ability to store, update, search, and access
commonly used information.

Proposify. This coffee-themed option offers a range of templates and a robust editing function that
allows you to change fonts, add videos and images, and modify page layout. It also offers
helpful extras like the ability to set permissions, track changes, and receive notifications every
time your proposal is opened or reviewed.


You and your company have already made the decision. This is your intranet vision: a dynamic, collaborative experience that is

Possible? One-hundred percent. It’s been successfully achieved by countless organizations. But one thing they all agree on—whether you’re a big company with thousands of employees worldwide, or a small company with a few offices scattered across the state—is that embarking on Project Intranet is not to be done lightly.  So, let’s get started.

Strategic Planning for an Intranet


1. Decide: Go or No Go

On the Plus Side for Project Intranet

Is an intranet a foregone conclusion?  Maybe not, but connecting with employees is. The Deloitte University Press in its 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends listed employee experience as a central theme and a primary challenge for human resources departments across the country. And for companies eager to help employees engage with company culture, intranets are the obvious channel.

  • TIP: Millennials in particular are looking for ways to connect as employees. Values matter and they report wanting to have a sense of purpose in the workplace and greater insight into company goals.


More Pluses: Standard but Sooo So Satisfying

When basic information, standard to every company, becomes easily available with a minimum of hassle, everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

  • HR materials
  • Benefits forms
  • Training manuals
  • Insurance forms


Even More Pluses

  • Cost savings (if the new intranet solution is cheaper than old communication hardware and software)
  • Higher productivity from employees who feel more engaged
  • Higher earnings as a result of higher productivity
  • Better knowledge management
  • Better corporate security


On the Minus Side for Project Intranet

But before you become too accustomed to those rose-colored glasses, take a hard look at the less pleasant realities.

1. Cost of software and hardware

2. Cost of labor at outset and ongoing

  • Teams from each department must be trained to contribute content and staff must understand all the technical aspects of the intranet. Without effective training, implementation can actually hinder the employees’ ability to perform well.
  • Routine maintenance is a must and is another aspect that consumes time.
  • There must be intranet overseers who are constantly on guard for the uploading of excessive information that causes confusion. If navigation and organization of the intranet is affected, productivity can be impacted.
  • Even out-of-the-box software solutions are never truly complete and will need some customizing.

And as an extra incentive to do things right, take a squint at Blogger Deb Lavoy’s little survey called, “Why I Hate my Intranet”. Most answers circled around lack of usability and irrelevance but there were others:

Some responses were more colorful, one referencing the movie, Independence Day. “The president asks the captured alien, ‘What is it that you want us to do?’ The alien answers, ‘Die!’ That’s how I feel about Intranets. And I’d be willing to wage intergalactic warfare for the cause.”

Rose-colored glasses off but still ready for Project Intranet?  We thought so! On to the all-important human element: your team.


2. Assemble Team

Corporate entities that will probably be involved in the team include:

  • IT
  • Communications
  • HR
  • Training
  • End-users
  • System administrators
  • Intranet champions
  • Departments that will have content represented

If at all possible, schedule a day to go through the project goals and timelines.  To help people understand their individual roles, consider using a RACI responsibility assignment matrix, which assigns each team member to being Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed for each task.


It will be important for potential team members to have a clear idea of what the commitment means in terms of time and labor.


3. Identify Audiences

 ‘Know thy audience’ is the cornerstone of every good communications campaign. And lest we forget, an intranet is just another communications channel.

Companies often do employee surveys prior to setting up a major communications channel such as an intranet; others feel they have a good grip on end-user wants and needs. It’s important to have team members – such as end-users – who can represent those wants and needs truthfully in order to create an intranet that will be widely used.

What you find my surprise you.

In his article, “The Design Process: How to Redesign Your Intranet”, Toby Ward noted that “Not all of your intranet users will have the same needs. This means that the employee from Santa Monica will look for different resources than the one in Atlanta. Similarly, the associate from Communications will need different information, tools, and forms than the one from Sales. Also, not to be overlooked are the ways these different user audience types may wish to interact with content, and with one another. It is highly unlikely that your Millennials will wish to consume and communicate information in the same ways that some of your more seasoned employees do. So, analyzing your people becomes a fantastic place to begin your redesign journey.”

By knowing your audience well, you can be specific about your objectives and how to prioritize them.

Intranet Meets Culture

Knowing your audience also enables you to create a user experience that matches your company culture. To the left are examples of two prize-winning intranets that couldn’t be more different, but were equally effective in representing their organizations.

The Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand, a non-profit devoted to treating and preventing blindness, focused on gorgeous, moving photographs and an easy-to-use format that would inspire its workers throughout the world.

The Hulu Intranet, its users fondly dubbed Hulugans, was built with Igloo software and has a rowdy feel that invites its users in and celebrates its entertainment roots. It was voted one of the year’s best in 2016 by Intranet authority Neilson Norman Group.

4. Set Objectives

There are several different players with skin in this game so there are going to be diverse objectives to meet. They might go something like this:

  • Corporate Objectives: insight into corporate values and goals
  • Departmental Objectives: dissemination of essential materials
  • Management Objectives: motivational tools
  • Employee Objectives: social and interactive features
  • C-level Objectives: announcements/information

Or it might go nothing like that. It’s your intranet reflecting your priorities.


5. Create Action Plan and Timetable

Now that specific objectives are in place for Project Intranet, your team will create an action plan, consisting of ‘tactics’ to bring your goals to fruition. At the same time, you will begin to think about your timetable.


The action plan for every intranet project differs according to objectives and priorities, but the basics might go something like this:

  • complete decisions about and design of key content features
  • create features drafts and submit for end-user review
  • acquire hardware and software as required
  • migrate content
  • develop a training manual
  • plan for performance measurement
  • plan for launch
  • training for content providers end end-users
  • implement login for employees
  • execute internal marketing plan
  • launch

Some of these decisions, will be made departmentally. Other decisions will be made as a team.


According to the Nielsen Norman Group in January of 2018, Intranet development timelines are getting shorter. “This year’s average of 14 months (or 1.2 years) is the shortest yet for our Intranet Design Annual winners,” said authors Kara Pernice, Amy Schade, and Patty Caya in The 10 Best Intranets of 2018.

Even though better Website development tools and out-of-the-box solutions are making the process faster, as with every major project, time is money. Every contributor to Project Intranet will depend on every other contributor to bring in his or her portion on time. So, a solid timeline, constantly updated, is a tool to live by.


5. Measuring Success

Yea! Launch day with all its festivities has come and gone and colleagues in the hall (and digitally of course) are high-fiving you all over the place. Your ‘likes’ are off the chart. But that doesn’t let you off the hook for constantly measuring the success of your creation.

Stakeholders in Project Intranet will be eager to celebrate with you but they will also be waiting for the kind of metrics that show you have met your objectives. Remember that showing how things have improved is only possible if you can show how they were before you began. So be sure you have the before statistics as well as the after statistics.

Knowing the right mix of metrics and anecdotal information to give an accurate picture of your success is tricky, according to the experts. But it’s not one you can afford to ignore. Future investment in Project Intranet and/or the inevitable improvements depend on accurate feedback. So a strong and very complete plan for what works and what doesn’t work is essential. As well as built-in strategies for how to act on new information. In that way, measuring gives real value, not just useless statistics.


In Conclusion

Building an intranet for your company is an undeniable challenge, but the rewards loom large. Done right, your intranet can demonstrate some of today’s best ways to communicate. Mr. Gates said it all:

“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.   Bill Gates

A Delta Case Study


The Proposal Team Kick-Off

Before your team meets, distribute the RFP to all members. Instruct them to read it from cover to cover and come to the meeting with questions. After all, you’re not the only one who should be preparing.

2. Choose the proposal management software

If the proposal is extensive and/or requires many different hands, you’ll want to consider software to help you manage the process.

Your company may already use a certain project management program.

But be aware that there are software applications designed specifically for answering RFPs.

Capterra, a website with the byline “The Smart Way to Find Business Software” has compiled a list called Top Proposal Management Software Products. It includes the names, reviews (when available), and links to the websites for 95 web-based and installed applications.

The list offers the capability filter your choices and select and compare products.

You will likely not have the time to weigh all these choices before your kickoff, but keep in mind that there are many tools available to help you.

It would be well worth your time to research these options before an RFP crosses your desk if your company is considering bidding on any proposals in the future

3. Decide how the various sections and related documents will be reviewed

Will you simply email drafts and versions to your team?

If the proposal is small enough, this might be sufficient.

But for complex projects, consider document management software such as SharePoint® or a repository such as Google Docs where contributors can add and review content.

Of the 95 proposal management software products listed on Capterra, 42 include a content repository and document management.

4. Go through the RFP again

Make a list of every project deliverable.

Outline the terms used in the RFP that may need clarification with your team.

The RFP may have a glossary of terms, but there may be other jargon in the RFP that is unique to its issuer.

5. Create a spreadsheet that lists every deliverable in the RFP

Even if you have RFP project management software, the experts we consulted still recommend a good old-fashioned master spreadsheet.

A spreadsheet offers an at-a-glance overview of what you’ll need to produce and shows team members the status of each action item.

Plus, even the most tech-averse on your team will usually be comfortable with spreadsheets.

“Include columns where a name or names will be placed beside every deliverable,” says Carey Miller, a professional writer who has project managed dozens of RFPs. “Add column heads for project milestones, due dates, and reviewers for the initial drafts as well as reviewers for the final package.”

Please feel free to use our spreadsheet template to get you started.

Conducting the Kick-Off Meeting

Your team members must be absolutely clear about their roles, deliverables, and deadlines when they leave the first meeting.

It’s also critical that you cover certain rules of the game, so they’ll understand the company’s RFP process and some best practices in proposal writing.

Cover the topics that follow for a successful meeting.

1. Address the team members' questions about the RFP

When you circulated the RFP, you asked that team members come prepared with their questions about the RFP.

Address those questions up front so that they’re not interfering with people’s concentration during the other meeting topics.

2. Assign team members their roles

As each team member is assigned a role, clarify the responsibilities associated with that role.

3. Place a name or names in the column besides each deliverable

Go over the spreadsheet, one deliverable at a time. Determine whether the Subject Matter Expert (SME) will write it or if someone else will write the section using information provided by the SME.

Miller notes that the writer should be clear about the point person for information: “With an unusually complex proposal, there may be several point persons for various sections.”

4. Establish the reviewer for each section

The reviewer’s name may appear in multiple rows, depending on how many deliverables are in a section and how many sections that reviewer is qualified to review.

Hewitt stresses, “Designate reviewer(s) for the various sections and the reviewers for the packaged proposal.

The drafts can be reviewed by multiple SMEs; the finished package should be reviewed by only a small set of key players.”

5. Establish a timeline

In Winning Library Grants, A Game Plan, Herbert B. Landau writes, “To ensure that the deadline will be met, I start with the proposal delivery date and work backwards to the present.” \

Build in a pad in case something unexpected results in a project slowdown.

Landau also suggests, “To allow for all contingencies, set the date to have the complete proposal, including all forms, the narrative, the budget, and all attachments, at least four days before the day the proposal must be submitted.”

Include each of the following milestones in your timeline:

  • The completion date for the initial draft of each section or part thereof (according to the list of deliverables)
  • The completion date for the initial review by one or more SMEs
  • The completion date for incorporating the requested changes into the initial draft
  • The completion dates for any additional review cycles
  • The required submission date for the budget numbers and any attachments
  • The completion date of the draft of the packaged proposal
  • The completion date of the package review
  • The completion date for incorporating review revisions
  • The completion date of the final proofreading (ideally set at four or more days before proposal delivery)

Tip: Build in as much time as possible for the proposal writer to organize and format the information, write the executive summary and conclusion, ensure that everything in the RFP has been addressed, incorporate the required dollar amounts, and ensure that the proposal reads as though one person wrote it. If there is a particularly tight deadline for proposal submission, consider insisting on very tight deadlines for reviews.

6. Distribute and discuss your list of terms in the RFP and their definitions as they apply to the contract

This will ensure that, in echoing the lingo of the RFP, the terms will be accurately and consistently applied by your team.

7. Explain how documents will be reviewed and progress tracked

As the leader of this meeting you should have a clear idea from your pre-meeting planning as to how these processes will flow.

8. Discuss lessons learned

Consider including a brief review of lessons learned by previous proposal teams.

You may have conducted lessons-learned reviews following other proposals, but, depending on how long it’s been or whether there are members who didn’t participate on those teams, it may be helpful to review a few of them now.


You have successfully put the proposal process in motion.

You have scrutinized and absorbed the RFP, captured the requirements, consulted various key players, anticipated and worked through potential roadblocks, made critical project management decisions, initiated a team, and put the team in motion.

COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMERS IS NO LONGER NOT AN OPTION- Tips for Navigating the Online Customer Experience

Gone are the days when a customer walked away from a less-than-stellar dining, shopping, or service-related experience with head held low and disappointment weighing heavy on her shoulders.

Now, an unhappy customer can spread word of a business blunder in the blink of an eye by posting a bad review on Yelp, a scathing video testimonial on YouTube, or an unflattering post on Facebook.

Depending on the day and time, that post/video can go viral, causing pain and suffering for the business that did not seize the opportunity to right the wrong.

It takes insight, patience and a whole lot of customer communication to stay on top of the game these days.

Consider this scenario (names have been changed to protect the innocent):

Jim buys a coupon online for national brand carpet cleaning service.

Prior to the fast-approaching coupon expiration date, Jim calls to set up an appointment to have his carpets cleaned. Customer service representative claims not to know about the availability of online coupons and states she will have someone get back to Jim.

Three days go by – expiration date looms – Jim is sweating. Jim calls back, slightly irritated that the customer service representative did not follow through on her promise. This time, the customer service representative states that the coupon will not be honored.

Jim fumes, then contacts the online customer service department for the coupon company. He considers posting a scathing review of national carpet cleaning service on Yelp, as well as his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, before he has time to type up the review, the coupon company contacts the carpet cleaning company about the situation and follows up with Jim. Less than an hour later, a local franchise owner with said national brand contacts Jim, apologizes, clears the coupon with national, and sets up an appointment to clean Jim’s carpets that very week.

Carpets are cleaned and Jim is happy – coffee stains are gone.

Jim writes a great review for carpeting cleaning service on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter…and posts a picture of his spotless living room carpet on Instagram.

Scenarios like this happen millions of times each day, but they don’t always end with happy customers, clean carpets, and positive Yelp reviews.

Even though it seems simple enough to turn the situation around, companies often miss the opportunity to convert an unhappy customer into one that, at the very least, does not write a bad review on social media.

Putting the “Us” in Customer Experience

Evolving digital tools and technologies are strong drivers for changing consumer habits and expectations.

With access to what seems like an infinite amount of information available at the touch of a screen, it’s not surprising that customers expect an efficient purchase process and immediate solutions when problems arise.

But it’s important to note that, while customers’ use of technology may have changed, their expectations for customer service have remained the same: they want to be treated with respect, and they want to feel connected to the brand, the company, the product they are buying.

In their September 2015 article, “Building a design-driven culture” authors Jennifer Kilian, Hugo Sarrazin, and Hyo Yeon state that, in many cases, customers prioritize the experience of buying and using a product over the performance of the product itself.

It’s not enough to just sell a product or service—companies must truly engage with their customers.-Jennifer Kilian, Hugo Sarrazin, and Hyo Yeon

For retailers and service providers, this means it’s critical to know how your customer experience stacks up against the competition.

You’re likely not the only company offering your product or service, after all.

What makes you stand out? Why do your customers choose you? Why do some of them choose to leave? Why did they choose your competitor when your offerings are so similar?

Though not a new concept, the idea of assessing “customer experience,” is a valiant attempt at understanding what, in a nutshell, a business needs to focus on to retain customers and remain in business.

In his October 2010 article, “Understanding the Customer Experience,” Adam Richardson states that, whether it’s on online, through email, on the phone or in person, customer experience is “…the sum of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.”

Social Media Marketing is the new Direct Mail

So how does today’s retailer stand out from the competition and build positive customer relationships?

In the past, relationship-building took place face-to-face or door-to-door: Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA used to work the cash registers in his stores to better understand his customers and their concerns.

Today, IKEA uses several digital platforms to connect with customers, such as Share Space, a site that encourages customers to share photos of spaces created using the brand’s self-assembled furniture, and “How to Build” videos that show customers how to assemble the furniture.

Even the company’s more traditional printed catalogue is available in an interactive, online version and an accompanying app with a “Place in Your Room” feature that allows users to try out furniture pieces in a virtual sense.

These advanced marketing techniques enhance and expand the customer experience, but never stray from the IKEA mantra: The customer comes first.

Billy Robinett, Vice President of Houston Pizza Venture, LLC – the company that owns the Papa John’s pizza franchise – says that, before the Internet, Papa John’s connected with customers through hand-delivered flyers and direct mail pieces, as well as through sponsorship of school and community events and sports teams.

Those tactics may have worked very well in the pre-Internet era, but today’s tech-savvy customers are less likely to shop at storefronts or pay attention to “snail mail.”

Connecting with customers now means manning the virtual cash registers (i.e., customer support chat lines) or reaching out through viral videos, Facebook posts, or targeted email campaigns.

Robinett says Papa John’s still maintains its strong connections with schools and organizations, but the company has also shifted some of its focus to online ordering and sales to accommodate its customers’ increasing use of web and mobile technologies.

Papa John’s is also embracing social media as a way to create and strengthen its relationships with pizza lovers.

For example, Papa John’s uses Twitter’s customer service tools to scan content on that platform for certain phrases, such as “I am hungry” or words to the effect that someone had a bad experience at any fast food restaurant.

When those phrases are detected, a message is sent directly to the sender, such as, “Hungry? Why not try one of our pizzas – get 10% off with this code,” or “We are sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Have a pizza on us with the code.”

“Technology just opened another door for us to reach our customers,” Robinett said. “We still do a lot of things to create emotional connections with customers, such as showcasing our partnerships with local sports icons like JJ Watt and James Harden, and talking directly to our customers on social media.”

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

In other words, if you want to get a high customer experience score, all it takes is a shift in thinking and some virtual elbow grease.

It’s not that much different than working the cash register or hanging flyers on door handles.

The common denominator between the “old” and the “newer” is communications. Without communications tools, your efforts may fall flat.

Position Your Business for Success

Here are five communications concepts – and tools for implementation – to proactively position your business and connect with current and potential customers in the virtual world:

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

1. Catch your customer’s eye

If you’re not hanging out where your potential customers are hanging out, the potential for getting their attention is slim to none.

Various methods of advertising, media and public outreach, and one-on-one interaction are parts of the equation; but more and more a strong online presence and strategy is an essential element of a business’ marketing plan.

A clean, clear and user-friendly website is a must; as well as informative and engaging content on social media platforms.

Here are a few tips for creating eye-catching, engaging websites and landing pages:

  • Make sure your landing page(s) is crystal clear about what product(s) or service(s) you offer. Attention spans have grown short, and customers are likely to leave a website immediately if the value proposition isn’t clear. Try UsabilityHub to test the efficacy of your landing page headline.
  • Don’t forget a user-friendly mobile website. A growing share of web traffic is from mobile devices. You don’t want to drive away potential business because on-the-go customers are concerned that they won’t be able to shop or reach you on their smartphones.
  • Utilize tools like Qualaroo to get feedback about what’s working and what’s not on your website, and the reasons for both.
  • Make it easy and fun for customers to engage with you on social media. Provide direct connections to your social channels through your website, and monitor them closely with Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Keep this in mind –social media is another way for people to interact in a one-on-one format, so if you go days without replying to a customer’s question, comment or request, it is on par with not returning a message on your answering machine from the days of yore.

2. Be human, not machine

Put yourself out there, be bold and engage with your customers, particularly when they are not satisfied. Don’t use acronyms or industry-speak. Be relaxed, yet professional. Demonstrate that you care and that you’re improving their life in some way.

Communications tools that help humanize your digital presence include:

  • Use live chat on your website so that you can talk directly to potential customers who have questions or are shopping around and want to get a feel for what you do and how you do it. For many people, Live chat is a first step toward building a relationship with a company. Based on that experience, they may be willing to take the next step.
  • Although many cyber shoppers prefer live chat or email, some want to speak directly to a company representative by phone, so ensure that you have a contact phone number on your website and other marketing materials.
  • Provide training so that your employees are well versed on personalizing a customer’s experience. There are several customer relation management software platforms available that allow you to keep track of customer contact details, time and date of interactions, and many have email and website interface capabilities so that you can interact in a variety of ways.
  • Make sure that your communications products – digital or paper – have content and graphics that are brimming with personality. People trust brands they know. If the voice of your website copy is bland or cold, you are missing a valuable opportunity to build a connection.
  • Experiment with email marketing using tools like , which make it easy to create subscriber forms and send email to your web subscribers. Again, engaging content is key in all communications, including those sent to customers through email.

3. Build their confidence

A business owner knows what his or her company does best.

Don’t be afraid to focus on what you are good at, WHY you do it, and perhaps most importantly, why it will help customers have a happier, simpler, fuller, more informed life.

Customers want and need to know WHY you’re better than all the rest – so tell them. Tweet this

And, telling them why you do it is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Your story sets you apart from the rest, gives you a human face and can set the stage for a long, loyal relationship.

  • Post blogs on your website that provide information about trends in your product line or industry, or that offer useful information to your customers and potential customers. Focus on positive messages – readers on your website want to be encouraged and shown the benefit of what you provide instead of focusing on negativity.
  • Give your customers the floor! Provide them with an easy avenue to write and post a review on your website. The benefits are two-fold: You are one of the first to see the review and can respond to negative feedback quickly, which may result in the customer taking down the review or at least modifying the content. Secondly, many shoppers trust reviews and recommendations from their peers, so a good review may go a long way toward selling your product for you. Be sure to include the reviewer’s name and company, if they allow.
  • Make sure your web copy is current and clean. More is not always better. Consider hiring an experienced consultant to assist in this process – they are good at what they do and bring a fresh eye to the process.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

4. Put a face to your name

As any good reality show illustrates, people like to know what other people are all about and what makes them tick. The same can be said for the businesses they choose to patronize.

If a company keeps customers at arm’s length, then the customer never establishes a bond with the products or services, and can be easily swayed to the competition.

There are myriad ways that you can involve your customers, from videos to events to a fun contest that you advertise on your website and social media accounts.

  • Post personalized videos on your website. Start with your business’ “birth” story and take it from there. Remember the customer as you are producing and editing these videos – few people are willing or able to watch a 30-minute documentary on any one subject, but will engage in shorter, personal videos about your employees, how you source your product, and what community organizations you support.
  • Use colorful photographs and graphics to communicate your brand to shoppers. Don’t be afraid to try unique and even quirky methods, but always remain true to your brand image. In other words, don’t try to be something you’re not!
  • Create a newsletter that provides content on your latest and greatest products and company news.
  • Create an online customer community where your customers can gather in a web-based environment to discuss problems, post reviews, brainstorm new product ideas and engage with one another about your company’s products, services and brand. offers an online customer community platform that allows you to monitor it from social media so that you can provide input when needed, and gather valuable customer insights.
  • Participate as a sponsor or volunteer in community events. Serve as a mentor at your local elementary, middle or high school. The more you get your face out there, the more customers you may draw to your company because many enjoy aligning themselves with businesses that are dedicated to making a difference in their community.

5. Avoid “turtle syndrome”

Don’t pull your head in and hide when you hear – or see – the words, “I never got…” or “This is not what I ordered…” or even the more general “I am not happy with…”

View these situations as problems to be solved so that a) you improve your product and service; and b) you gain a customer for life.

  • Pick up the phone, or respond to the email, text message or social media post that outlines the customer’s concern, and immediately jump in with both feet and work with your customer to find a solution to the problem.
  • Scan social media platforms for company reviews of all types – good, indifferent or bad, and respond immediately and directly to the reviewer in a positive way. That proactive stance can go a long way toward winning back a customer, and gaining additional customers who witnessed the interaction on social media.
  • Be proactive and ask your customers for feedback. This can be accomplished in many ways – through online surveys ( Monkey is a good source), during live chat or customer service calls, through social media channels or in person. This allows you to draw information from customers who have not provided feedback on their own, but who may have good suggestions from a user’s point of view.

Today’s business climate demands more of business owners and their employees, but the interaction with customers has its benefits: repeat sales, rising profits, and hopefully, long-lasting relationships.

When you feel the responsibilities of the customer experience process weighing heavy on your shoulders, recall the famous words of Sam Walton, founder of the mega-giant retail chain Wal-Mart:

“There’s only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”


We’re Going Forward. What Next?

The Go/No-Go meeting was held, and the decision’s been made: Your company is going forward with the proposal.

Now the ball is back in your court. You’ve managed a proposal team before, but the contract was simple and called for far fewer resources. This one will require input from several divisions, and somehow, they all need to coordinate on a single 100-page document in just a few short weeks.

You know the first step is setting up your team, but you’re not sure who should be on it. What resources do you need, and what should they do?

Choosing the Right Team

We asked a series of experts on proposal writing for some tips and best practices on setting up proposal teams. Meet our experts:

  • Stephanie Hashagen – Professional writer who frequently works on clients’ proposal teams
  • Dan Hewitt – Process safety specialist who participates on well-orchestrated proposal teams using a proven approach at a major engineering firm
  • Marion Winsett – Career sales manager in oilfield equipment who has negotiated contracts and written countless proposals

They gave us some time-tested advice, starting with a very important key concept:

Be realistic.

It’s easy to put together a team based on a best-case scenario.  It’s much safer to put together a team based on a real-life scenario.

That is, assume the RFP will take more time than you think, and your team will have less time than they think.

“It’s imperative you choose individuals who are capable of responding quickly to the proposal time constraints,” Hashagen says. “Be sure they don’t have too much on their plate, and consider whether their other responsibilities might require them to address something unexpected that is time critical for another client.”

The size of your team will likely depend on the size of your company and the complexity of the proposal. However, for most proposals, eight key roles must be filled.

  • Proposal manager
  • Sales team representative
  • Contract manager
  • Subject matter experts
  • Estimator
  • Writer
  • Graphic artist (optional)
  • Editor

A few of your team members may wear more than one hat, but Hashagen advises, “Remember to be realistic and be sure there are enough people on the team to meet the deadline.”

Proposal Team Roles

A. Proposal Manager

Who is in charge of getting this proposal to the finish line?

Since you brought the proposal this far, you might be the assumed leader for this proposal project. But keep in mind that you may not be the best choice for the role of proposal manager.

To be fair to yourself and your team, you must consider your strengths and the demands on your time:

1) Are you extremely detail-oriented, comfortable with pestering people, and used to juggling tight schedules on a day-to-day basis?

2) Are you managing other proposal teams, or are there significant demands on your time outside the proposal process such as managing other projects or generating sales?

You must be able to answer yes to the first question and no to the second before you should consider yourself for the role of proposal manager. Failure to consider these questions honestly can result in a proposal that looks and reads like it was hastily put together.

Hashagen goes on to outline the proposal manager’s responsibilities:

  • Managing the schedule to make sure all deadlines are met
  • Tracking the progress of each part of the proposal package
  • Maintaining close communication with everyone, including subcontractors, who will provide information for (or write sections of) the proposal
  • Collecting the information and the draft documents and distributing them to the right parties, or, if documents are to be routed and tracked in a document management system, ensuring that the information is relayed by the deadline and tracked in the system
  • Providing the reviewed and revised input to those who will produce the final version of the proposal
  • Distributing the package to the final review team
  • Ensuring that the final review comments are provided to the proposal writers, the final proposal package undergoes a rigorous proofreading process, and the proposal is delivered on time.

B. Sales Team Representative

Hewitt emphasizes the importance of having someone from your sales force on the team.

“A person involved in external sales can provide important information about the company issuing the RFP. A person in inside sales lends experience in the proposal process and the proper organization, formatting, and template (if any). Either one can review the finished package with an experienced eye.”


C. Contract Manager

Not to be confused with proposal manager, this person is the individual designated to manage the project once the contract has been won.

Depending on the demands of his or her current project, the contract manager may or may not be expected to participate on the proposal team.

“In instances when the contract manager is too heavily involved in another project to participate on the team, the proposal manager relays team members’ questions to the contract manager and provides information from the contract manager to the team,” Hashagen says.

D. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Select an SME from each discipline who will be involved in project delivery if the contract is won.

“The SME may simply provide the necessary information for a particular section or sections of the proposal,” Hashagen explains. “Or the SME may actually write the initial drafts of the sections pertaining to his or her discipline.”

SMEs participate in proposal team meetings so that important questions aren’t overlooked. Interdisciplinary communication improves the consistency and accuracy of the initial drafts.

The combination of the SMEs’ expertise and experience is the reason your company should be chosen above your competitors.

E. Estimator or Proposal Finance Manager

This person is responsible for providing the projected costs that the RFP requires.

If the estimator or proposal financial manager does not participate on the team itself, the person in this role is still responsible for providing the numbers to the proposal writers and for proofing the final proposal to ensure the accuracy of the financial data.

F. Writer

Your proposal package must be cohesive and written in a single voice. Although there are multiple contributors, someone must write the proposal so that it is properly organized, precisely stated, and consistent.

In addition, the writer ensures that the proposal has an executive summary, a table of contents, and a conclusion, as well as a list of tables and figures and a list of related documents when required.

If your business employs a writer or communications specialist, that person may serve as the writer. If not, a writing agency can be contracted for this role. How the writer proceeds will be determined at your first meeting.

On some proposal teams, the proposal manager funnels all the information to the writer in the form of SME-drafted content and financial data.

G. Graphics Artist (optional)

If your template requires custom artwork for each proposal or you are preparing your first response to an RFP, you may need a graphic artist. This team member ensures that logos, illustrations, workflow diagrams, and organizational charts are attractive, consistent, and accurate.

In an article for Entrepreneur called The 10 Things You Need to Know When Responding to RFPs, George Debb, managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, suggests, “Intersperse the company’s logo and images throughout the presentation so you look like you put customized work into your response, tailored just for your recipient.”

H. Editor

A capable editor carefully proofreads the final package with a fresh set of eyes. Significant errors in the proposal may cause the potential client to question whether your approach to the project itself will be less than fastidious. The editor must carefully double check the entire proposal to ensure that every deliverable requirement and every stipulation in the RFP has been addressed.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Addressing the Need for Outside Resources

It is likely that you addressed the need for additional resources in your early discussions with key personnel within your company, and also during the Go/No-Go meeting. (See our first blog post in this series, ““To Bid or Not To Bid.”)

If subcontractors are required, a team must be assembled to source and select the contractors. This team is often independent of the team writing the proposal and may be members of your sales force, as they likely have existing relationships with the subcontractors.

This selection team must begin its work as soon as the decision has been made to proceed with the proposal.

When selecting a subcontractor, your selection team should consider how much of the proposal you’ll need the subcontractor to handle.

Winsett stresses the importance of working closely with the subcontractor(s). “The (proposal) team and the subcontractor must agree to the terms in the RFP. Terms stipulated in the RFP that the subcontractor sees as roadblocks must be addressed immediately.”

Depending on the complexity of the contract, the subcontractor selection team or some of its members “may be required to work with the subcontractors throughout the proposal process,” Winsett adds.


Providing for Content from Sources Outside Your Company

If the only information from outside sources is the cost of materials or hourly rates for extra resources your employees will be managing, the proposal team’s estimator can furnish that data.

In cases where the subcontractor contributes expertise or unique solution, the subcontractor may need to provide  proposal content. In that case, the proposal manager will transmit their contribution to the appropriate SME for review and to the writer for editing.

Next in this Series: Ensuring a Successful Kickoff  

Now you’re equipped to map out the key roles your proposal team should include and identify the optimum people to fill them. You also have the information you’ll need to help your team members understand exactly what they’ll be expected to do. Now all you have to do is hold a kickoff meeting with your team to get the proposal process in gear. What should you cover? How can you avoid missteps — and the risk of confusion, communication failures and missed deadlines?

Read the third blog in our series to learn how to prepare for your kickoff and what you’ll need to cover to give your proposal the best possible chance of succeeding.

How to Put Together a Winning Investor Presentation

One of the trickiest obstacles businesses face is crafting an effective presentation that will appeal to investors.

Both new and established companies at some point face having to raise capital to operate and grow their business.

The most popular way to introduce and solicit investment in a project is via the investor pitch presentation, which typically takes the form of deck of slides created with a program like PowerPoint or Prezi. The pitch deck has a lot of uses, for example:

  • A new company looking for institutional investors.
  • A private equity fund soliciting companies to manage through merger and acquisition, partnerships, or capital market listing.
  • An established company looking to take on additional debt obligation with a bank.
  • A financial advisor looking to present an alternative investment to an accredited investor.

At its core, though, the investor presentation’s primary goal is to raise money for your company.

It could be initial funding for a new business or it could be follow-on investment for an existing business. Or, perhaps it could be to explore taking on additional debt.

So, how do you create a presentation that’s compelling enough to entice investors and get results? You’ll need a well-constructed pitch that transcends the skeletal framework and ignites interest.

Before you dig into individual pieces, you need to consider architecture. Which slides will you use and how will you order them? How densely populated with information will each slide be?

By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of what you may or may not want to include in your presentation, and we’ll address some tips on how to get started crafting your own winning presentation.

Your investor presentation will only be limited by your imagination, the idea you’re pitching, and how well you know your audience. That said, most presentations share a few “standard” slides that form the foundation of nearly every successful investor presentation.


“Wait, Can’t I Just Download a Template?”

You can find a wealth of (often) free resources, templates or examples that you can adapt for your specific business goal. But keep in mind–as your business is likely to have unique characteristics,

the most important pieces of an investor presentation can’t be found in a canned formTweet this

And it’s unlikely that you’ll find a single template deck that addresses all the audiences to whom you may be pitching.

Who are you? What do you do?

The first thing you’ll want to present is a brief introduction to your company. At its longest, think “elevator pitch”: you’ll want something that immediately and concisely tells your audience who you are and what you do.

Be specific and focus on the things that make your company, idea, or product unique. Try to avoid describing your company in relation to other established companies, products, or services (for example, “Think of us as the Apple of underwater basket weaving” or “We’re the LinkedIn for anti-social people”).

Sequoia Capital, one of the most successful Silicon Valley investment firms recommends that you “define the company/business in a single declarative sentence,” just as Mapme did in their deck.


What Problem Do You Solve?

What need does your product or service fulfill? What problem do you solve? Why is your company qualified to provide the solution?

This slide is your chance to lay the groundwork for what you do, what you offer, a bit about your company’s philosophy, and, most importantly, to begin building out the narrative for your audience.

What makes you more qualified than anyone else to deliver on results? How is your product or service unique? Has your marketing team devised a clear, cohesive description of your unique selling proposition? Why should investors commit their capital to your project?

Airbnb perfectly articulates the problems it addresses in an example of one of the most successful startup pitches in history:


Market Size

Like all the components of your presentation, you should approach defining your market size thoughtfully before committing this to description.

Think about not only the markets currently covered but also take into consideration the way your market has shifted historically, the potential “unseens” you either anticipate or that have customarily affected your market, be they cyclical or otherwise.

Illustrate that you’ve put some thought into both vertical and horizontal pieces of the market size question.

You want your audience to have both a concrete foundation from which to realistically draw conclusions and stars in their eyes as far as potential. Dwolla’s payment solution pitch is unrivalled in the way it piques the investor’s imagination:

The Solution

Here’s where you get to show how your product or service addresses the problem you’ve outlined earlier – and, more importantly, where you get to explain why your product or service warrants a capital investment.

The below example from YouTube, concisely articulates its key benefits to end users and, ultimately, to investors.


The Competition

You claim that you’ve managed to revolutionize the underwater basket weaving process — but there are other players in your market saying the same thing.

What are they doing?

What threats do they pose to your market share?

How have they fared in the past and what are their plans for the future?

Potential investors will look for candor in your presentation of the competition, and it’s very possible that they will know the competitive landscape of your industry as well as you do.

This is your chance to let your audience know that you understand your market inside and out. One of the best ways to build your own credibility is actually by talking about what other people are doing.

This is perhaps the trickiest and, usually, the most glossed-over piece of an investor presentation. But as illustrated by Castle’s pitch below, your analysis of the competition doesn’t have to be complicated or over-massaged.

A single, simple slide can go a long way.


Your Team

You’ll want to introduce the most important members of your team, such as key executives. But don’t get carried away with their bios. Limit this component of your presentation to a few key items that are directly relevant to your pitch. This makes it easier for your investor to identify the common thread and connects the relevance of your team to the project being pitched.

Anne-Marie Maman, executive director for the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council at Princeton University, stresses the importance of presenting the right team face to potential investors.

“One of the most important things is for investors to know the team and to show that the members of the team are people that can lever their experience,” “And it’s extremely important to show how those team members have delivered in the past.”-Anne-Marie Maman

Investors, then, will want to see how well the key team members know their market, know their challenges, and display a good track record of success.

Wealthsimple, a Canadian investment management service, took a page out of LinkedIn’s pitch to provide just the right amount of relevance and firepower to lend legitimacy to its team slide, and found the right balance between individuality and cohesiveness.


This is a critical component of your pitch deck: Before they part with their money, potential investors will want to will want to know how you plan to use the proceeds from investment capital and debt, as well as your projected returns on investment, and your terms for repayment or investment exit.

Again, the audience, the context, and your unique pitch will all play a part in determining what financial information will be relevant to your presentation, but it will likely include some or all of the following:

  • Balance sheets
  • Earnings
  • Expenditures
  • Production
  • Growth markers
  • Sales figures
  • Stock performance

In presenting numbers, be aware of your audience. While net EBITDA or projected EPS may figure prominently in your pitch, always remember that the best way to talk about and present financials is to show, don’t tell.

Charts and spreadsheets might seem the easiest, most efficient ways to present financials, but strive toward simplicity for the sake of not obscuring the simple questions and trends that you want highlighted.

SEO company MOZ did a great job of keeping their finances simple, concise, and clear.



You’ve presented a problem and solution by now, introduced the key members of the team, and laid out essential financial data.

Now it’s time to get investors excited about what you’ve accomplished to date and to walk them through your plan for what’s to come.

You might want to talk about new products launched or in the pipeline, year-to-date progress compared to stated goals, what next year’s plan looks like, and where you see the opportunities for driving growth. And while not all trajectories are as stellar as the example below from pay-per-click optimization company SteadyBudget, the slide below offers an example of a clear, concise infographic:


Everything Else: Appendices

If you’ve agonized about incorporating just the right amount of data and explanation into your presentation, appendices should take some of the pressure off constructing a streamlined deck.

Appendices serve as a catch-all for much of the meat you may have left out of your presentation for the sake of simplicity, such as:

  • Detailed financial statements or forecasts
  • A more complete breakdown of your competitive analysis, specific technologies or services
  • Key marketing data

Appendices serve two main purposes.

They allow you to focus on the fundamentals for clarity in your presentation and they provide you credibility in demonstrating to potential investors that you’ve done your homework and that it’s available for those who may want to dig deeper.

Putting it All Together

As you’ve probably already determined from looking at the standard guts of an investor presentation, there’s an art to presenting your information, whether it’s the key messaging in your company’s marketing platform or specific financial data critical to communicating what investors should expect, paramount is finding the secret sauce that speaks to your particular audience.

The most effective part of a successful investor presentation is the story.

Some businesses, most often startups, have been known to focus heavily on telling a story.

Many pitches owe their success to the crafting of a compelling narrative that speaks both to the mind and to the gut.

At its simplest, narrative form consists of delineating a lack and the liquidation of that lack.

As we’ve witnessed through time, folktales and legends illustrate how everyone can connect with a story that speaks to them.

Keeping in mind this basic paradigm can serve as your formal guide to crafting your message.

At the same time, though, it’s important not to lose sight of your goal.

Maman offers this insight: “Business plans for many startups seem to have gone by the wayside.” She says that, while a good story and an effective introduction to the key members of the team are critical, it’s still important to show that the business has put the work into really understanding its key metrics and plans.

Maman also recommends that “if you’re going to present a business plan, make it visual—use a short video, for example, but make sure it’s something that won’t put your audience to sleep.”

In summary, the best investor presentations feature a convergence of each of the important elements discussed in the right doses for the audience to whom you’re presenting.

Build a strong narrative, present it in as concise a fashion as possible, and know your business.



Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale, 1928 (translated to English 1958). The American Folklore Society and Indiana University.


How to craft a winning press release

What is a press release and how is it used?

The first press release was facilitated by public relations industry “founder, Ivy Lee, in response to a 1906 New Jersey train wreck. Lee wanted to ensure that details about the crash were communicated from the Pennsylvania Railroad to media (in this case, The New York Times).

The idea was generated based on Lee’s philosophy that public relations personnel have an obligation to foster ethical public reporting—that is, to share company information in an unbiased and transparent way.

A press release provided an immediate and formal communication tool for directing accurate information to media personnel to ensure clear reporting from a reputable news source.

(Source: CSION)

From that day forward, public relations professionals began to use the press release as a go-between communication tool between organizations and the press. They were sent to media contacts with specific, previously unpublished or unpublicized details.

A press release would have, for instance, advised media teams of the scope of an emerging story (such as the train wreck), plus where and when reporters could arrive on scene to cover an important story. Having an easily recognizable format also ensured that editors would note a press release as a relatively urgent call to action and (hopefully) prioritize its distribution accordingly.

Back in the day, press releases would have consisted of a few formal elements which are still used today:

• A letterhead/logo
• An informative, brief headline
• Date information (e.g.: “for immediate release”)
• A soundbite (e.g.: a relevant quote from the CEO)
• Relevant information (e.g.: statistics)
• A company “boilerplate” (“about” section)
• A press kit/visuals
• Editor’s notes



Today, press release content is not limited to “newsy” events. We can use press releases to announce almost anything: mergers, product launches, openings, scientific advancements, new funding initiatives, etc.

Anything an organization deems newsworthy can theoretically be shared via this format. The trick is presenting it in such a way that the media personnel on the receiving end also deem the announcement as a story worthy of coverage, rather than an advertisement.

It’s up to the press release writer to maintain a journalistic tone, opposed to simply presenting advertising in a press release format, says Lisa Avery, previous publications manager for the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission (now Economic Development Regina Inc.).

“Essentially you are going to be in competition for ad space, but you aren’t paying for ad space. You have to make it stand out enough against both paying advertisers and other (non-PR) news, so you’ve really got to craft it into a story.” ~ Lisa Avery

Your story can certainly touch on your brand and products, but it must also offer something of value to the audience beyond just “here’s a product to buy.”

For instance, the Capital Records example above tells a story about factors that potentially contributed to its high profits—presumably for the purposes of attracting business investors—rather than just saying “buy our records!”

The relevance of the press release in the digital world

As media evolves from primarily print to mostly digital, the nature of the entire publishing industry is changing along with it. According to, in 2016, only about 20 percent of Americans got their news from print newspapers, with most others getting theirs from either TV or web-based media.

As far as written content goes, people no longer rely on professional journalists for primary news reports. All they need to do is check the latest app or open their Twitter feed, and the latest “news” is delivered instantaneously.

Businesses more frequently produce their own PR material for internal or affiliate publications, and small, indie publications publish blog articles from “armchair journalists” without necessarily maintaining professional journalism standards of ethics. In addition, some 60 percent of journalists are finding their stories online.

While there are many advantages to having a more open stream of information coming at us, there is far less regulation with regards to accuracy and ethics in reporting—basically, anyone can write and publish almost anything they want. Various forms of “fake news” are floating around everywhere. Or, at the very least, facts are not consistently reported thoroughly or accurately today.

Another concern is that the original intent of the press release seems to have gone astray—it’s often used as an inbound marketing device these days, rather than a reporting tool. Given this trend, and the shifts in the way businesses, consumers, and journalists are consuming and publishing media, some have been proclaiming the “death” of the press release.

It is fair to say that to the extent that the press release was originally meant to be a frequent, formal, and immediate communication tool, it’s not being used in the same way as it was, or as often.

But given the world’s affinity for (potentially) “fake news” these days, the press release may be more important than ever.

 Preparing and crafting a newsworthy press release

Press releases can still be effective tools for unbiased and interesting reporting when carefully composed and targeted appropriately.

But before sitting down to write a press release (or almost anything, for that matter), you need to have a clear understanding of their purpose, as well as how it will be received on the other end. If you don’t write something that will be of genuine interest to journalists and audiences, you’re just wasting your time.

So, before you start, ask yourself:

  • What is your intent in getting the message out? Is it self-serving, or genuinely educational/interesting?
  • Who will genuinely care about this issue—beyond the scope of this industry or business context—enough to respond to your call to action?
  • Is it newsworthy? How important is this story in the grand scheme of things? (Consider such factors as timing, relevance, implications, conflict, human interest, call to action, crosslinking potential, etc.)

You’ll want to ensure that you gather your information carefully as you prepare.  This may include clearing details with your company’s CEO, collaborating with relevant staff, and double-checking details about other participants who may be involved in the resulting news story.

Elma Glasgow, copywriter and PR consultant for major charitable organizations, recommends that people working with sensitive information take extra care with the preparation step.

“Be very mindful of the content you are including in the release, and which spokespeople you are using. For instance, if you’re working for a social welfare charity you will need to confirm that any beneficiaries mentioned or quoted have given their permission. Some people are more than happy to talk about the amazing help they’ve received, whereas others prefer not to get involved. It’s essential to treat individuals or communities with dignity and respect to ensure their own welfare, and to retain the integrity of the charity’s work.” ~ Elma Glasgow

Here are some more expert tips on designing your press release:

  • Leave out hyperbole, clickbait, long-winded explanations, and claims that cannot be backed up.
  • Include contact information, including names, for people in your organization.
  • Craft a headline that is clear, specific, informative, and unbiased. Depending on the context/industry, you may have a little more leeway to play this up and make it sexy—but stay relevant. If you’re not sure, keep it simple for editors, and they can spice it up if they decide to accept it and re-work it.
  • Follow these Associated Press style guidelines.
  • Send the press release in the body of an email rather than as an attachment. Anything that ends up being an extra step for a busy editor can end up working against you.
  • Include your own relevant visuals (videos, charts, graphs, and high-quality photos). You will want to include high res, JPG images as attachments and clarify that you own the rights. Depending on the context, you may want to offer the publication exclusive rights to the images. If you don’t have images, journalists will find their own if they choose to publish, so don’t include things like Creative Commons images.
  • Your boilerplate, which should include a mission statement and contact information.

How to get busy editors to notice your press release

Editors on the hunt for stories are on major information overload 99 percent of the time—so part of creating an effective press release submission is really about capturing their attention…and fast. Offer them something of interest to their readers, and be up front and respectful as you build relationships with them.

Jamie Khoo, former journalist for a major women’s fashion magazine, recommends that you get to know the ins and outs of the publication itself—what types of articles it features, the voice, what types of images work best in the given context, and so on. She also stresses the importance of personalizing each press release.

You should also:

  • Keep an updated database/media list for industry-relevant publications.
  • Understand the tone and voice of each publication before submitting your press release, and keep abreast of articles so as not to send duplicate ideas.
  • Find the hook! The more specialized your industry/content is, the more important it is to connect with editors of publications in your specific area.
  • Frame your story in such a way that it stands out. Editors need you to show them something new.
  • Get to know your editors!

“Make a personal connection without being annoying. Face time dramatically decreases the chances of them ignoring your name in the inbox. Reporters are busy. If they don’t want calls, respect that. But invite them to have coffee or lunch, reach out to them at networking events, follow them on social media, and show you appreciate and follow their work.” ~ Amy Robertson, Strategic Communications Specialist

The editor should be clear on why they are reading within the first few seconds of scanning the piece. They should understand clearly what the message is for the end user.

The press release is often used as an implicit branding tool, but remember that in this genre, form fits purpose. By its very nature, it’s not the same as a pitch or an ad. This is information to send to the press for them to re-work and distribute as they see fit, so it’s crucial to send them relevant information, not fluff.

Press releases as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools

Given the digital format of most media today, it may seem like a logical step to format press releases to be published online as traffic-generating tools. While this is entirely possible and can be a good method for some, sending press releases “on the wire” (e.g.: through sites like PR Newswire) does not have the same sort of story and connectivity power behind it that a well-written and targeted press release can.

Even though journalists and editors are finding some of their stories online, many media professionals are still interested in receiving compelling, well-crafted, relevant press releases for story material.

Here’s an example of a press release distributed via PR Newswire that was subsequently posted word for word by this digital publication:

Does the ease with which we can publish digitally mean that we should just put advertorial content online and call it a press release in the hopes that it gets picked up by the press, or should our targeting be more deliberate and specific?

Several years ago, when companies started to print a lot of their content on their own sites, they figured out that press releases could be solid SEO tools and began to use them frequently in inbound marketing.

“This shift led to a glut of releases that were no longer “real news,” but promotional content stuffed with keywords and hyperlinks to affiliated sites and networks designed to ‘game the system’ and put the content on page one of the search engines.” ~  Sara Callahan, owner of Carter West Public Relations.

This trend essentially tempered the strength of the genre as a credible reporting tool: without the neutrality offered by professional reporting, these “press releases” were akin to self-promotion. But Google noticed this, and responded by adjusting their algorithm to punish organizations setting up clickbait-type press releases by reclassifying these types of sites as link schemes.

Today, going heavy on the SEO is clearly not going to benefit your business, and publishing at sites like PR Newswire may or may not be of definitive benefit. Either way, it appears the more companies try to “dress up” their digital ads as press releases and either self-publish or distribute via somewhat anonymous channels, the more their press releases are perceived as blatant, biased PR tools rather than informative stories.

Beyond that, there is a growing trend towards high-quality, engaging content, so whether you’re publishing digitally or not, there is a definitive benefit in preparing, crafting, and targeting press releases as a part of an effective and respectable marketing strategy that benefits organizations, publications and the public in a genuine way.