Happy New Year!


Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Creativity is King, but Planning is the Queen


LEGO

LEGOs are awesome.

My son has just made the jump from the Duplo sets to what he calls “little LEGOs” and I have been sucked in as well.

With a pile of multicolored bricks of every shape and size strewn across his playroom, we begin shaping creations only limited by our imaginations.

But as the constructs become more complicated, daddy realizes the most amazing builds need to be guided: with a plan.

Same goes in the business world. You can’t possibly accomplish something without thinking it through and devising a plan first.

So here’s what building LEGOs has taught me:

1. Understand what you want to accomplish. What are you trying to create and why? What should the finished product look like and how much room do you want/need to leave for spontaneous creativity? In my world, balancing planning and unforseen opportunities for creativity is a good mix.

2. Have the raw materials and the time you need to do the job. Do you have what you need to make your vision come to life? Can you create what you need to in the time allotted? Do you need to make changes based on either of these criteria, and will the changes negatively affect the final product?

3. Sketch out the final product and the steps needed to get there. Before you put the roof on the house (or the satellite dish on the moon base) you need walls, doors and windows in place first. Those walls need to be strong enough to support what’s being piled on top of it, and they need to stand up straight.

4. Execute with joy. Get to doin’ and make your thing. Keep moving ahead; don’t get stuck on a detail or you will never get to the end. Quality check every step. Have fun as you go, otherwise you will rush to the end and make mistakes along the way.

5. Share and make them happy. There’s nothing more satisfying than giving your creation to your little construction buddy for him to play with. Similarly, deliver the fruits of your labor to your client. Savor the smile.

How do you balance creativity and planning?

(P.S. Why is Planning not the King? Because everyone knows the Queen is the one who is really in charge.)

Action Begets Action


ACT

I recently conducted a media training session with a client.

After taking her through the one hour tutorial, we branched out into other topics, and landed on her question to me about how often her group should send out news releases. They’re a grassroots organization dealing with a current political issue and looking for lots of attention to drive their agenda. We’ve already helped them be successful, and they are looking to build on it.

We had a spirited conversation, and it led me to codify a few key ideas:

1. Make your communications actionable. Everything you send should say “here’s our thing, and here’s what you can do with it.” Whether a news release, a pitch letter or an e-blast to your subscribers, always have an actionable embedded in the communication. Otherwise it’s destined for the trash.

2. Don’t do quotas. While you want to make your communications frequent enough to keep you and your group in the front of people’s minds, don’t set up an artificial threshold that compels you to send useless information. It will dilute your message and your credibility.

3. Drive the cattle back to the ranch. Whenver you communicate, include links to information and other sites that are helpful and that expand on your message. Sending people to your Facebook page will get them to your community where they can interact and share. Linking to your YouTube channel will get them clicking on your video content where they will learn more about you. Send people to places they will get fast, useful and (here’s the trick) entertaining information that they will want to consume.

4. Act, yourself! Don’t be shy about following up with people if you’ve asked them for a response and they havent given you one. And when people respond on your blog or Facebook, acknowledge them somehow, even if it’s with a “Yes! Thanks for commenting!” or favoriting their tweet. Engage with them and retain their interest and spur future activity.

5. Build your tribe. This is the whole point of communication. Collect email addresses, Facebook likes and twitter followers. Get people to carry your water (ie, your message), and contribute to what you are doing. Expanding your footprint will also make you more credible with media when you go to interact with them.

What are your thoughts for how and how often to communicate?

Xbox One Isn’t the Only One


XboxOne

The unveiling of the Xbox One has got my inner geek pretty stoked.

Tear it apart any which way you want, but this new console it represents a terrific leap forward in the way we experience and share media in our homes: music, movies, games and TV. The new functions look very cool, especially the improvements in Kinect. I will be getting my hands one as soon as possible.

It’s probably not the elusive “all in one” box that Microsoft claims it is, but I frankly don’t think we will ever get there, because we really don’t want to. As consumers, (especially us geeks, who thrive on variety and shiny new things that replace and outdo the old ones) we don’t like limiting ourselves to just one platform or one way of doing things. We like to integrate our systems together and make them do unique things that serve our purposes.

The Xbox One is also a good example of how we – as communications professionals and PR people – need to constantly keep up with evolving technology that affects our business.

I was a semi-early adopter of social media, and saw its potential for one-to-one, human connectivity right away. And while I’m better at it than most, I’m far from an uber-user or an expert by my definition of the word.

Part of the reason we fall behind is because things evolve so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. And yet, that’s also part of our business: recognizing the changes afoot and evolving our tactics with them. We need to take time out – hard as it can be – to experiment with these technologies and make them work for us.

Take time to turn off all your inputs and just experiment, at least once a week. Part of keeping up is making sure you do it with the frequency to make it effective.

No Surprises


surprise

Surprises are bad.

No, I’m not talking about surprise birthday parties, or a 50% off sale at your favorite store.

I mean business surprises. The things that sneak up on you and throw you off your game, sucking time and energy out of your day that should be spent on accomplishing the things you and your team have planned and committed to. And they are – for the most part – completely avoidable.

Surprises happen because of a lack of communication. In the case of a surprise party, that is intentional.

But in the work environment, people who are supposed to be collaborating can often surprise each other, and sometimes with disastrous results.

Not communicating leaves other people standing around waiting, or getting caught flat-footed when you need to call on them for assistance and support.

Team members can stumble to get up to speed, casting aside other projects because yours is “on fire” and needs immediate attention. Obviously, that’s not the path to success. And it can even make happy clients, well, not happy.

Like I said, it’s completely avoidable.

Institute a “no surprises” policy on your team.

You’re Not As Good As You Think You Are


Great Writing 2

I love to write.

I have loved it since I was a kid. I remember creative writing exercises in fifth grade, letting me stretch my imagination and my vocabulary at the same time. I remember straining (happily) to tell a story through mere words on a page. To keep the details together and make it make sense. To define a beginning, a middle and an end. To have a hero and a villain. To have a happy ending.

As PR people, we get paid to be great writers. More pointedly, we get hired to be story-tellers. We translate the gobbeldy-gook brought to us in various forms, and weave it (don’t say “spin!”) into a narrative that is factually accurate and creatively mesmerizing. Our job is to make people care.

And it all starts with great writing.

We can’t write enough. We can’t practice that story-telling craft enough. We can’t ever stop getting better at doing that thing that makes our audience sit up and say, “Wow. Tell me more.”

What’s your favorite part about writing?

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone


Comfort Zone

On a recent field trip with a client, I decided to try something new.

What it was doesn’t matter. I got an idea, something I had never done before, but was fairly certain I could pull off. I did my homework on the technical aspects of what I needed to accomplish. I recruited a collaborator to help me test the idea. And then I went for it.

I could have very easily fallen on my face.

And although the experiment wasn’t a fire-breathing, twitter-trending-topic success, what I set out to test did, in fact, work. And the feedback I got in the process (from myself and from others) will let me do that thing even better the next time.

I was out of my comfort zone. And it felt good.

It’s easy for us to not do something new; to repeat the same winning formula over and over, tweaked for the details, in order to keep racking up wins. After all, if you weren’t so good at that thing you can do (in your sleep, by now, I am sure), people wouldn’t be hiring you, right? So why mess with something that is working?

Because that’s not what we do.

As PR people, we need to always be looking for the new. The different. The unusual. The unique.

The stagnant dies. The boundary-pushers not only survive, but thrive. We create new paradigms and new ways of seeing the world. We advance the narrative and turn the insane into the achievable.

Don’t settle for the same-old ho-hum. Get out of your comfort zone. I’m certainly glad I did.

Eliminate the Noise


Noise

Anything that distracts us from our goals can be defined as noise.

It’s all around us, mostly in the form of messages designed to get us to take action, and usually to spend money. It’s siren song lures us into big box stores with promises of zero-percent financing; into restaurants for two-for-one, bottomless drinks and dinners; and into all manner of other entertainment, experiential and consumption opportunities.

But if those opportunities don’t align with our goals, the are distractions. They sap our attention, energy and resources. By that definition, they must be eliminated.

This is not an anti-marketing message; rather, this is a pro-YOU message.

It’s your job to figure out what is noise, for you, your organization and your goals. You need to filter the noise from the essential. One man’s noise can be another man’s nirvana.

It can be daunting, and perhaps not fun. Asking – actually telling – other people that their best and sincerest efforts are not welcome.

But it’s either them or you. You can’t apologize for doing what you do.

Playing to the Stadium


Jam Packed

[tweetmeme source=”jodyfisher”only_single=false https://jodyfisher.wordpress.com%5D

In my line of work, many people come to me wanting big publicity. The national kind that comes with millions of eyeballs, massive circulation and thousands of people spreading their message to their friends and family. Publicity that shapes policy, changes lives and has an enduring impact on the world as we know it.

They want the stadium. And our world of pop stars, red carpets and reality shows convince many people that there’s a Honey Boo Boo Child opportunity out there for all of us. They would be wrong.

Despite the most aggressive “overnight successes,” truly earth-shaking campaigns take months and years to build. Lots of them fail. Others do well, but never get to that “Radio GaGa” moment.

So where do you start? A couple thoughts:

1. Why Am I Here? You have to understand what you’re setting out to do and how you’re going to change the world. It needs to be different – preferably unique – and achieve a specific goal. Otherwise you’ll end up spinning your wheels (and maybe burning a lot of cash).

2. Write It Down. Nothing forces us to clarity like putting our thoughts down on paper. It’s why diet gurus and self help coaches tell us to post our goals and progress on the refrigerator: because we have to look at that scrap of paper every day and admit when we’ve fallen down. Writing something down not only provides clarity, it’s also the ultimate bullshit test.

3. Take baby steps. You will NOT change the world in a day. Or a week. Maybe not even in a year. Break your plan into daily, attainable goals that blaze as clear and straight a path to your end product as possible. And be realistic about how long it’s going to take you to get to the end. Don’t stress yourself out along the road, lest you doom yourself to failure.

4. Make friends, eliminate waste. Teaming up can be great, as friends help carry the load and bring you new circles of people to work with and sell to. But not every new addition to your army will be a good one. Don’t get sidetracked by people with their own agendas, or who want to grab your wheel and steer for a while. Cut them loose, politely, without burning bridges.

5. Grab the brass ring when it comes. Never miss an opportunity to do something you know is the right thing. Make short term sacrifices for long term gains. Know the difference.

Only lottery winners and beauty queens wake up the next day with their lives completely changed. The rest of us have to work at it.

Where’d I Put That Idea?


Great Idea

[tweetmeme source=”jodyfisher”only_single=false https://jodyfisher.wordpress.com%5D

Ever had one of those moments where you have a great idea, but didn’t write it down? And once you had a free moment to act on it, you forgot key details, or even forgot the whole idea in the first place?

Perhaps it’s a great idea with no one to apply it to. It’s just a “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” kind of moment that you hope and pray you will remember the next time you need it.

Or maybe you have a great idea that’s a perfect fit for a client, and you can see the end product and payoff, but your client is reluctant to take the plunge on it.

We’ve all been stuck at one point or another, trying to fit round pegs in square holes, or trying to find a path an an elusive goal.

I don’t have a magic answer as to how to get to that end point. Every path is different. You have to find yours for yourself.

The important lesson is this: don’t give up. No matter what obstacles are thrown before you, no matter how many times you may fall down or get derailed, no matter how long it takes: something worth doing is worth completing. Otherwise you’ve wasted your time and energy and that of the people you work with.

Maybe that’s the real secret: before starting a project, ask yourself if it’s worth finishing. If it is, there’s no reason not to thrown yourself into it completely. If it isn’t worth finishing, don’t start it in the first place.