How Online Travel Companies Use Press Releases for Effective Marketing Tactics

Press release distribution has always been one of many effective marketing tactics for online travel companies around the world. However, in the recent years, this method have proved to be more potent than any other marketing tool used for promoting services across the global travel industry.Online marketing gurus in travel industry have been inventing and reinventing News release distribution as an effective vehicle to not only drive messages to the potential customers but also allure them to sign up for lucrative tour packages.Contrary to the conventional practices, many online travel companies use press releases in a clever and creative way to promote their business and services towards many potential customers round the year. Here are a few ways to use press releases to gain optimum mileage from online PR distribution.Promoting Tour PackagesNews stories are a great tool for travel companies to promote their tour packages. The announcement of some attractive tour packages can make a great headline and entice popular attention toward tour services during peak vacation seasons. Informative press releases on tour and travel packages generate decent revenues for online travel companies.Connecting to Prospective TouristsApart from informing new customers, online travel agencies can also try to fortify their customer base by distributing attractive news releases. There are many frequent flyers who demonstrate keen interest in products and packages offered by various travel companies. Travel agencies can create specifically tailored press releases to inform and connect with those potential customers for service promotion. Writing such content and spreading them across the web brings attractive tour packages to the attention of interested customers.Helping Information CirculationThere are a good number of online and offline PR agencies that circulate interesting and fresh information to their readers. Online travel agencies can take advantage of this by crafting their press releases for better circulation. Skilled and experienced writers can be deployed to help maximize the chances of your news story circulation for optimum exposure of your service packages.Educating Aspiring VisitorsOnline travel companies, today, are adopting innovating and effective marketing techniques to create loyalty amongst their customers. They use press releases to share travel-critical information with their prospective buyers. For instance, many online tour agencies have published stories to help their customers with protecting their finances during the travel.Ambitious travelers tend to look for useful financial information to ensure a happy and hassle-free experience. Therefore, press releases with an informative dimension can help generate interests for your tour services among your potential customers in the travel industry.Creating Social AwarenessSmart online travel companies are beginning to use press releases as a tool of creating social awareness, bringing classified customers closer to the possibility of using their services. Such textual content that include interesting data and survey statistics about the tour experiences can create potential impact on buyers’ behavior when they look for travel reviews online. Therefore, contrary to conventional marketing tactics, PRs are going way beyond the dissemination of practical information.Thus, online travel companies can do well to write good press releases which can be effective marketing tactics to bring in business.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

Why Stoicism Is the Best Mental Operating System for Individuals in High Finance

IntroductionThe fabric and culture of today’s modern age and even more so in western society has provided a perfect environment for the re-emergence of an ancient Greek Philosophy, the philosophy of stoicism. Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It was heavily influenced by certain teachings of Socrates. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, born nearly two millennia ago is perhaps the best-known Stoic leader in history and also holds claims to one of the most famous and unintentional works of stoic literature, ‘the meditations’, his personal journal. In this article I will discuss different stoic exercises and explain how these can be applied to the minds and actions of successful actors within financial markets and institutions.Your new mental operating systemTrain Your Perception to Avoid Good and BadOnce you understand that there is no such thing as obstacles, only opportunities then you have truly mastered your perception.
During the 2007 financial crisis people truly thought a financial apocalypse was inbound however if you have ever seen the hit movie ‘The Big Short’ then you get a perfect example of people who saw disaster coming but instead turned this into an opportunity; by betting against the housing market.
As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius puts it – “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”. Ensure you see obstacles as opportunities and understand good and bad are only part of perception; something that is ultimately under your control.Everything is EphemeralRemember your possessions and achievements are only lasting for a markedly brief time in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of things, you are small, everything is. See yourself as part of the bigger system and do what is right here and now.
For professionals working within high finance it is easy to become consumed by the ego and focus on only enriching ones-self, thereby creating a moral hazard. However, if you see yourself as just a cog in an aggregate financial system which is in turn a part of a macroeconomy; then you see the role you play is ultimately, small. In order to benefit the system as a whole you must work with it not against it.Take a Birdseye ViewThis takes a powerful imagination but by doing this exercise you are able to train your mind’s eye to see your life in third person, you can then reflect on your actions and behaviour and also that of others. You can reflect on how others may have felt and what they did after interacting with you.
You also see yourself from a higher perspective which relates to the point I made about how small we are.
And finally, you can compare yourself to someone in a far worse situation, the reason for this is that there is always someone in a worse situation than you. Compare yourself to these people in times of discomfort and struggle and you may find some comfort in the fact that in a relative sense, things aren’t so bad for you.
If you work or reside within a skyscraper or high-rise building, take a real view from above. Combined with this exercise it should help to greatly expand your awareness. Conversely, if not you could always use Google earth live but hopefully in the future we will have services like virgin galactic at an affordable price, so people can get the truly pure experience that astronauts get.
For individuals working at Bloomberg or stock exchanges this exercise could be used for example, if a tsunami hits the coast of a certain region. Use the view from above to assess who and what is affected and follow the trail right back to the stock market and make decisions accordingly.”Is This Within My Control”Learn to differentiate between what’s directly under your control, what you have influence over and what is not under your control. Differentiate what you can change and what you can’t.
Do not waste time trying (and failing) to move immovable objects. Use your precious time productively on things that you do have control over.
Return to this question frequently or when a dilemma emerges, make a note of things that are in your control and things that are not. This way not only will you feel better, but you position yourself with a distinct advantage over people who fail to realise when a battle is unwinnable.
For example, if your employees are snowed in and cannot make it into work, do not be mad as you have no control over the weather.
You also have no control over huge market trends. A very good example of a huge failure to realise what was and what wasn’t under one’s control was the bank of England, who failed to realise they couldn’t beat the market on black Wednesday (Sept.16, 1992); when the pound was pegged to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Speculators broke the bank and they were forced to pull from the ERM.Contemplation of The Ideal Man (Or Woman)Humans were not born to be lazy. Ancient man was out hunting lions, fighting battles, saving women from barbarian tribes, the list goes on. But many modern men have been sucked into mediocrity by abundance, reduced to claiming benefits, binging video games and eating too much pizza.
No one can lead a fulfilling life living like this. Man must achieve his full potential. A man with a fulfilling life does the modern equivalent of ancient man. Focus on continuously improving and learning. Fight for success and dominate. Go out and get what you want.
Contemplating the archetypal ideal man is a catalyst for change towards becoming an ideal human being. This may be a never-ending quest however you should still think of the qualities that make up the ideal person and apply these to your life.
Good archetypal figures within finance to contemplate are figureheads like Warren Buffet and JP Morgan. You can also find good examples of archetypes by analysing movies like the Wolf of Wall Street or TV series such as Billions.Self-RetreatIn today’s ever connected world; wealthy and successful people have complete abundance of options of where their next holiday retreat will be. However, what most people fail to realise is that there is also infinite abundance within the mind’s eye, and self-reflection is a brilliant tool to understanding, and exploring your inner world, which is ultimately you on the deepest level. Peace of mind and freedom comes from within, regularly travel inside your mind for 5 to 10 minutes a day.The Stripping Method.Scenarios and situations have many different layers. Picture them like an onion where each layer represents a characteristic of the situation but not the core issue itself. Practice stripping away the unimportant layers to find the core issue.
This can be applied to economic analysis for example, the price of a share may rise or fall due to a company reporting higher or lower profit than predicted. This may be because they reduced their advertising spending or because they lowered the quality of their production materials, or outsourced labour. But ultimately the reason for a change in the price of a share regardless of any other speculation is supply and demand factors within the market for shares.Practice MisfortuneIt is easy to get comfortable in today’s world, but comfort can keep you in bondage if you are afraid that something or someone might take it away. Practice what you fear and make yourself familiar with the worst-case scenario. This will help you become grateful and prevent a relentless pursuit of material things, including money.JournalJournaling is possibly the most important part of stoicism and morning and evening meditation is an essential part of it. Benjamin Franklin set a great example of this and is daily schedule is available online, this would include setting goals in the morning and then reflection in the evening. In the evening write down what you did good, what you did bad, and what you could do to improve.
Managers can take a lot from this but in a financial context, day traders can also take a lot from this. For example, for someone who trades the news, they can note down all the reports that day that will move the markets, and at the end of that day note down what they did good and bad, and what they need to do differently next time.
Philosophy is something that should be written down day by day and how you exercise yourself and mind. Writing down everything you’ve done in a day allows for self-examination and is a form of mindfulness and reflection.Negative VisualizationThis stoic exercise prepares you for the setbacks in life. By visualising what could go wrong and what could be taken from us, we are better prepared for when negative events happen.
Todays finance industry is in the business of risk. So this exercise can be applied greatly in evaluating or making risk models, by understanding what can go wrong and helping to prevent a failure of imagination. Doing this exercise can also help you to realise what may need insuring, hedging or backing up (in the case of data).Amor Fati: Love Everything That HappensAmor Fati, Latin for Love fate is possibly the best mindset you can have in life. Throughout the centuries great leaders have followed this motto, which I believe to be a factor in their life’s successes. It is the best mindset for any situation you face.
Treat each moment, no matter how challenging, as something to be embraced and not avoided. To not only be OK with it, but love it and be better for it. Then you will have truly achieved greatness for yourself.
Financial setbacks will happen, but you must be better for it, and learn from it.Cultivating PhilanthropyPhilanthropy is defined as the desire to promote the welfare of others.
People in high finance may often be under the illusion that in order to become a philanthropist, you need money. But in fact, this is not true. Anyone can become a philanthropist. It just requires the right attitude towards other people.
The best exercise to practice is an exercise whereby you bring everyone a sphere closer to yourself. For example, your family becomes a part of yourself, your friends to family, and strangers to friends.
To apply this to individuals in finance, if you consider the financial system as a whole as a part of yourself, then you are working in the best interests of the system and therefore all the stakeholders effected by it. Using this ethical understanding you are culminating a sense of philanthropy.Training Your Physical Self-ControlThis is basically level 2 of negative visualisation. By practicing purposefully enduring physical hardship and going without things you crave/enjoy; you are preparing yourself for when you must actually endure a struggle. Whether it be losing something or enduring physical hardship. This also trains us to desire things not under our control.
For example, for people working in finance, try to treat everything as a loan. Instead of saying ‘I have lost it’ say ‘I have given it back’. Learn not to grasp too tightly to ephemeral things.
Start small by practicing going for a run in the rain and slowly build it up. Also try reading a poker psychology book. If you smoke, you could take it an extra step and try quitting.ConclusionIndividuals whether they be hedge fund managers, investment bankers or traders on the London stock exchange will all benefit from the use of stoic exercises, regardless of if they do decide, or decide not to educate themselves on the general philosophy of stoicism in the future.
The reason for this is because stoicism has emerged as an ideal way of life and mind for the real, modern world. Ultimately what Stoicism is, is a series of reminders, tips and aids for living a prosperously.
Be a better, happier person. Be stronger in the face of adversity. Turns obstacles into opportunities. Keep your ego manageable and in perspective. And finally take whatever help you can get but understand it must also come from within.Stoic on financiers.References:Wikipedia, last edited on 22 July 2018. Stoicism [Online] < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
The daily stoic, 2018. What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 9 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started [Online] < https://dailystoic.com/what-is-stoicism-a-definition-3-stoic-exercises-to-get-you-started/ > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
By Emanuele Faja, 22 February 2016. 10 Insanely Useful Stoic Exercises [Online] < http://observer.com/2016/02/ten-insanely-useful-stoic-exercises/ > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
Marcus Aurelius. Unknown, likely before 850BC, The Meditations. London: Penguin Classics
Epictetus, 1537, The Discourses of Epictetus. London: Penguin Classics