Cloud the Issue. Cloud Nine. Cloud Computing?

In business, and especially in marketing communications, it’s essential to be clear. Your audience wants to know… and quickly!… why they should pay attention to your message. Your words and meaning cannot be cloudy. Well-written copy uses the most succinct, yet compelling, words to connect with your audience, so they buy and stay loyal.

What happens to that clarity when a word has more than one meaning?

The same word, in a different context, can change its meaning, and sometimes it’s not clear. Other times it is.

Bear down, and this pen will make a thicker line,” is obviously worlds away from, Bear sighted in the area, follow campground safety rules!”

Cloud the Issue

It would be so much nicer if running a business, or even writing great marketing messages, were as straightforward as steering clear of bears, or using the right pen!

Independent business owners wear multiple hats as they jump from task to task, and too often, from fire to fire.

Rushing to the latest fire in your “Smokey the Bear” hat may keep you in shape aerobically, but it’s the wrong use of this hat! Of course fires need putting out, but Smokey is all about preventing fires.

What can you do in your business to elevate your focus to see the whole forest, so fires don’t start as easily? 

I’m not suggesting you place your head in the clouds, but I am suggesting that you take a momentary breather once you’ve got today’s brushfire mostly contained, and do two quick things:

1. Stop for just 5 to 10 minutes, and think about what might have ignited this fire. Was it a misunderstanding with a vendor, or a client, or a staff member? Was it a product or pricing issue? Was it not having the right administrative steps clearly defined and in use?

2. Whatever pops into your head, log a quick few notes about what just happened into a “Fire Log” you’ll keep as part of your new “Clear Skies Project.”

Cloud Nine

After this fire is out, with whatever stop-gaps were needed, and as soon as your daily rhythm gets back to normal, it’s time to revisit your Fire Log. You will no longer be pumping adrenaline, so your thinking will be cleared up enough to have some creative ideas for long-term solutions. Post them to the log, too, with the heading “Clear Skies Ahead.”

Don’t wait too long. If you let your mind float around on a tempting Cloud Nine sense of relief, and forget to solve the underlying issue for the long-term, that hot spot may burst into flames again. You won’t be pleased with that.

My practical suggestion? Make this “Clear Skies Project” a permanent feature of your business planning files. Add to the log whenever you have a pesky brushfire.

Review the details, logged events, solutions, and progress notes at least quarterly, to identify the bigger patterns of both problems and progress.  Once you build this habit, you’ll manage your business even better. Go Smokey!

Cloud Computing

Speaking of little brushfires that can rage into a devastating forest fire… let’s talk computers for a moment. Not the hardware. This isn’t a Mac vs. PC rant, as much fun as that might be 😉

I’m talking precious business data. Increasingly, we have much, if not all, of our business virtualized in our hard drives, and captive in our computer’s operating system. Your data may be your biggest asset.

Are you backing up every day? Every hour? Every minute? Whatever gaps of time exist in your back-up protocol, another layer of risk, and even danger, undermines your business safety.

Loss of computerized data is not a business fire you want to try to recuperate from after it’s over. Your external drives and back-up procedures need to be in place yesterday. Bolstered by battery-back-up surge protection for your main desktop drive(s).

I’m in the throes of choosing a remote back-up service to add to my hourly back-up system. I want up-to-the-minute back-up status on servers in a far away forest, outside my physical office, for that added layer of protection. Look into this, if you want to sleep even better at night. I’m considering Minnesota, which is definitely in a different forest than L.A.

Working online… in the cloud…

The once exotic protocol of Cloud Computing has become commonplace, as Google entices millions of users into its suite of online apps.

Many other companies offer specialized remote services to let you track timing, do billing, keep your calendar scheduled, store databases, and conduct some very essential business functions online. You are freed from buying oodles of software, worrying about updates and compatibility issues, or worrying about how much hard drive space you have left.

Facebook is a great example of both consumer and business Cloud Computing. Their super-friendly user interface keeps your cute little noggins blissfully ignorant of how it works under the hood. Your posts, conversation threads, database of contacts, links to photos, video clips, multiple choice tests and surveys, all reside on their servers, in their cloud. Flickr lets you store and edit photos in their cloud. Just remember to make copies of any content you can’t afford to lose, in case you leave a particular service!

It’s all incredibly fun, if somewhat ephemeral. But for all the 140-character conversations happening on Twitter, what happens to millions of bon mots when they slide off your screen under the insistent rush of new Tweets?\

If a Tweet falls in the data cloud, and no-one’s there, does it make a sound? 

Ah, the eternal questions and cosmic jokes never end, they just take new forms.

So with one last friendly Smokey warning to “Back-up your data,” I’m off again, head in the clouds of my own Clear Skies Projects, in search of a mid-project snack.

Hmmm… “Pie in the sky” sounds delish. Maybe… Apple a la mode?

— Diane A. Curran

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