Happy New Year, Happy New Blog Posts


2013

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Hey, you. It’s been a while.

Yes, seems I’ve been a bad blogger and haven’t churned out any new content in weeks. I could unload about how busy life has been: work, family, holidays and all that.

But I won’t. Because New Year’s Resolution #1 is NO EXCUSES. I will either perform or fail in 2013, and that includes this blog, purely recreational as it is.

I will also revisit my “Back to Work Manifesto,” which I wrote after returning to work after my daughter was born in August 2012.

So enough with the idle chatter and empty surfing. Let’s get to work!

Happy MONDAY

First Chance, Last Chance


Same Old Thinking Same Old Results

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This pic at the left says it all. Can you feel it?

So in that spirit, here’s a fast post today to kickoff a new week, a new month, a new business quarter, and the last three months of the year. It’s your first chance to get the rest of the year going right – and your last chance to make something amazing happen before we say goodbye to 2012.

Before you know it, we’ll all be standing around singing this song.

For those of you who are interested in “making it through,” best of luck.

For those of you who are going to make this a time to remember, come on along with me. We got doin’ to do.

Leave a comment below and let everyone know what YOU will accomplish!

Does What You Do Love You?


Do What You Love Love What You Do

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I am often contacted by job seekers, wondering if I have heard of new opportunities that might be “a fit” for them. While I am always happy to help, more often than not I am not the clear path to employment I think they think I will be. I hate disappointing people, but reality is reality.

Job-seeking is hard. You scour the internet and job boards, email all your friends and tell them to ask around but not broadcast it (for fear your current employer will find out and fire you), and even post on social media profiles (again, discreetly). You send countless resumes and try not to go blind writing cover letters and interesting tidbits about yourself. If you’re lucky, you score interviews and traipse all over creation (and sometimes all over the country) looking for that perfect job, often to find – sometimes after a few months on the clock – that it, too, is “just not right.”

Maybe it’s not the job. Maybe it’s you.

That saying “Do What You Love, Love What You Do” is deceiving. It implies that, if you search long enough, you’ll find just the right Monday-through-Friday-four-weeks-vacation-per-year-fully-funded-401k-matching nirvana. Your creativity will be unleashed, your bosses will praise you and heap bonuses at your door, and you will never “work” another day in your life.

I don’t think that exists. Anywhere. I believe we have to create that space for ourselves.

Perhaps you’re looking for your perfect job in the wrong place. Maybe you are in the right place, and just going about your job the wrong way.

All kinds of things will affect your job satisfaction. Some are beyond your control, but more factors than you might think are right at your fingertips. Steve Jobs said it best in his famous 2005 Stanford commencement address. But read between the lines. He stopped doing things that didn’t interest him, so he could do the things that did. He re-prioritized the mundane so he could engage in the fun. He didn’t stop doing the work he needed to. He just made sure he didn’t get caught up in it.

“Seek, and ye shall find,” said the wise man. I’m betting he was an optimist. You go be one too.

Take A Bow, You’ve Earned It!


Emmy Award

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I’m not much of an awards show-watcher, but I caught a little of The Emmy Awards on Sunday night, and some coverage on Monday morning.

I find the hubbub over the ladies gowns utterly comical (although between Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen, Modern Family could fire all it’s writers and I would still watch).

Whether for celebrities or local do-gooders, awards and the ceremonies at which they are bestowed are funny things, because they can sometimes bring out the worst in people: deep down, everyone wants to be a winner, and the competition over something so fleeting can be destructive.

But awards, when given, received and appreciated by grown adults can be a great opportunity to take stock of all we’ve done and worked at so hard. It’s a chance to pause, celebrate achievement and a job well done.

But you don’t need to get (or give) a golden statue to convey a sense of accomplishment. What we can do is look co-workers, peers and friends in the eye and tell them they’ve done a good job. Sincerity, I find, is the greatest form of flattery.

How do you give awards to the people in your life?

Lifetime Relationships Create Longterm Success


BadCustomerService

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I recently had a pair of nearly identical customer service experiences that made me scratch my head. (Disclaimer: this is not going to be a rant about a specific company. In fact, we’ll omit the names to protect the guilty.)

In both cases, the businesses in question chose to charge me nominal amounts of money (about $20) for something I felt I shouldn’t have to pay.

Now as the business owner, they had the right to charge me. But the experience – including the attitude that was dished out with each of the decisions – was so dramatic that both businesses turned me into instant ex-customers. Walking away from each experience, I swore to never patronize either business again (a gym and an auto parts chain). And even though I am just one customer, I represent thousands in potential profit over the rest of my lifetime. Or at least more than $20.

In the real world, we call that a bad deal.

It also reminds me of a concept we practice in PR: that the pitch you’re making to a reporter is never about this story, it’s about the next story. A good experience now paves the road for more interactions, more business and a sustained relationship later. Those relationships can last for years – and reap nearly limitless potential and profit.

Think about it: if those businesses had stopped for a moment to listen to my complaint, and judged that my dissatisfaction was legitimate, they could have waived those fairly insignificant charges and I might still be patronizing their stores. But because of the experience I had – for $20! – I’ll never set foot in either business again. And if a friend were to ask me whether they should use one of those businesses, I’ll probably tell them a (much harsher) version of this story. And it will likely cost them that customer, too.

Whether a gym, auto parts store or in PR, all business is about people. It’s about making people feel valued and well-served. Sometimes we have disagreements, and sometimes people don’t get their way. Policies are in place to help employees navigate the customer experience. But sometimes those policies need to be scrapped in the name of (wait for it) MORE BUSINESS.

As those who are on the front lines of the customer service experience, we need to step back from the individual transaction to appreciate the larger picture, and understand how this experience will affect the next one. If done poorly, this experience will make it the last one.

Your Reality is Not My Problem*


PeekingOverYourShoulder

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On my daily train commute home yesterday, I happened to glance over the shoulder of a woman surfing Facebook on her laptop.

There was the familiar newsfeed format, but I was initially confused by what I saw, because I didn’t recognize anyone in the posts and pictures. (“Who the heck is THAT?” was my initial reaction, “And what are they doing on my facebook page?”)

And then I realized, of course I shouldn’t recognize those people, because that’s not my timeline.

It led me to ponder how – just like our real, offline lives – while the basic structure of what I was looking at was familiar (to the point of me thinking it was my own), the details were completely different.

As we move through our days, we should probably stop and note that essential dissimilarity. It’s worth remembering that while we inhabit the same physical space, and while we often have similar wants, needs and goals in life, our details are each as unique as we are.

In short: there is no “one size fits all.” And it’s up to us to tailor things to suit individual needs, so that we can better serve the people in our lives: family, friends, co-workers and clients.

*Because actually, your reality IS my problem, as long as we are crossing paths.

Moving Your Goalposts


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Here in Washington DC (where I am, for the moment), the phrase “moving the goalposts” is often used to demonize the other side of the political aisle when the other doesn’t get its way. It’s childish and silly. And mostly just wastes our taxpayer dollars. (see: George Carlin)

But there’s value in the concept, when stood on its head:

What if we moved our own goalposts?

What if we placed more value on what we have, versus what we don’t?

What if we set aside work on the weekends as a rule, rather than as a luxury?

What if we put our hearts, souls and sweat into the things that sustain and remain with us, rather than into things that are fleeting?

Everyone else moves their goalposts. Why shouldn’t you?

Preparation


Preparation

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A baseball player doesn’t just step to the plate and hoist the bat to his shoulder, hoping to knock a 95 mile-a-hour fastball into the upper deck.

That moment (and hopefully the contact between bat and ball) is the result of endless hours of preparation. Yankee great Roger Maris first crystallized this thought, distilled in the caption in the photo. Disclaimer: I conceived of and wrote this post before finding the pic.

Similarly, when we take on new projects, we can’t just throw something together in an afternoon and start working the phones. Success – in our wonderful world of PR – is the result of research, asking questions, and a lot of listening and critical thinking.

It’s also the product of collaboration, on behalf of the PR person and the client. It takes time, dedication and a willingness to experiment to find a winning formula.

They say anything worth doing is worth doing well. Preparation is usually the defining factor between success and something less.

Make It Count


Make It Count

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We are each busy in our own way. Granted, some of us accomplish more than others. Some of us accomplish A LOT MORE than others.

But we all fill our days doing a lot of stuff. And so when we communicate – especially for business reasons – we should strive to make every message actionable.

Ask a question. Provide a link. Engage a conversation. Give something of value.

That last one is critical. We are a society of consumers: of goods, services and information. The more we give things of value, the more people will gather around us. That builds networks and grows influence.

You have value. You have talents to offer. So deliver information that provokes a response. Drive action.

Otherwise, it’s just wasted energy. And none of us can afford to do that.

It’s Time the Kids Teach Us A Lesson


Kids Having Fun

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Kids don’t do ANYTHING they don’t really want to.

Granted, we parents teach them to brush their teeth, eat their vegetables and share with their friends.

But every kid’s daily agenda, from the minute they wake up to the minute their sleepy eyes close at night, is the pursuit of FUN. Laughing. Playing. Getting Dirty. Crashing out from exhaustion. Then doing it again tomorrow.

Put simply: if it ain’t fun, kids ain’t doin’ it.

So why do we grown-ups – presumably in control of our own destinies and capable of making any decision we want – get caught in a chain of doing things we don’t like?

Everything we do is self-imposed. The only obligations we have, we have created for ourselves: family, job, bills, meetings, commuting.. and on and on. At some point, we volunteered for each these things. They weren’t thrust upon us. We stepped forward, raised our hands and said, “Yes, please.”

So it’s unfair to the people we’ve made those commitments to when we get bogged down in the “I don’t wanna.” When we get to that place, we’re unhappy, we’re less productive, and we’re cheating the people we work for, whether it’s an employer, a client, or our own family.

Things that we sign up to do should be fun – and it’s up to us to keep them that way. Whatever we do, we need to find ways to “Find the Fun.” Mix it up. Get a little silly. And enjoy the ride.

Kids have fun all day long. What’s your excuse?