Vision and Execution


caribbean-best-beaches-pink-sand-beach

I was on vacation last week, blissfully sitting on a beach. It was calm and peaceful. Hours from anything, I was able to recharge.

But getting to that nirvana took a ton of planning. In addition to just booking the trip, we had to pack, get in the car and drive, get on the ferry, get off the ferry, stop for lunch, roll into town, meet the owners of the rental house, move in, unpack, tow all our stuff to the beach, set up our chairs and slather on sunblock. A lot of work to get to that finish line.

A good PR campaign is like that: it takes a ton of smart planning, mixed with some research and due diligence, to be able to execute a strategy that achieves the results you want.

In this world of instant gratification, where we push a button and something comes out the other end of our friends’ phones that can be loosely termed “impact,” we can’t lose sight of the benefits of proper planning and preparation for the things that truly move a needle.

I’m reminded of that time I helped move a Space Shuttle. It took weeks to invent, plan and arrange all manner of media coverage opportunities – and then assemble a good team and a clear set of instructions to execute for maximum impact.

Nothing good comes from something easy. Plan, execute and repeat. Then sit back and watch the coverage roll in like waves on a beach.

 

 

 

 

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The Difference Between Hearing & Listening


listening

When you ask a question, are you searching for a person’s knowledge or waiting to hear the answer you want?

There’s a saying about business that goes something like this: “If you look around and find you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Meaning, you’d be wise to surround yourself with people from whom you can learn, as well as teach.

Collaboration is one of the many keys to success. And while we can go into a project or situation with an idea of what we want to accomplish, we should never let that shut down the creativity and ideas we get from the people with whom we interact.

Some of the best ideas can come from the most unanticipated of sources.

I try to be focused on the goal, not the path. Because I’m really not interested in how I get to the end, as long as I make it there.

What are you listening for?

We Need to be EVERYWHERE!!


We Need to be Everywhere

I really don’t like this phrase.

In my experience, it’s usually uttered by people who – despite sometimes being very smart – have a confused impression of how to effectively get their message out to the world.

Savvy PR strategists know that, rather than be “everywhere,” organizations seeking attention need to be where their market is, connecting with the people who will actually act on the information they deliver.

It’s great to grow your following. But reaching new audiences doesn’t reap the same reward as preaching to your choir: those people who come out to support you time and again and want to see you succeed, or have an interest in what you are doing and want to take part. Because when you don’t deliver to that audience, or show up somewhere those people expect you to be, the fallout is far worse, and those fans and supporters can (and likely will) drift away from you.

To steal a phrase, you need to fish where the fish are – where your fish are – not just cast your net wide and hope something shiny and new swims into it.

For me, a couple of core rules always apply:

1. Do your research: Know your audience and prep your message. Make sure there’s a clear actionable and a reward for doing so. Make it easy.

2. Don’t move so fast: Yes, we need to keep pace with the way the world turns, but don’t artificially accelerate your timeline because you’re imagining some deadline. The water’s going to boil when it’s hot, and that’s when you know it’s ready. And since speed exacerbates mistakes, slow down and get it right when you do go public.

3. Make short term sacrifices for long term gains: Do what you have to do now, to make your thing a success later. Everyone soft launches something sometimes, even offering deals for early adopters in order to gain acceptance and a following. Build your audience slowly and with care. The people who recognize your value will be more loyal in the long run and help spread your message. They will also defend you if that day ever comes. And it will.

4. Shut out the noise: Eliminate all distractions. Ban the bugaboos; those things that keep you awake at night because they “might happen.” It’s either gonna happen or it’s not, so visualize your goal, stop worrying and get to it.

Are you everywhere?

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!

Ask, and Ye May Receive. But Stay Silent And…


Handing Out Literature 2

I don’t understand the evangelists who stand at my train station every morning.

That’s not to say I don’t like them. They seem like sincere, polite people, attempting to spread their faith in their particular religion. But in the seven years I have seen them standing there with their reading materials, whether they are wearing brightly-colored sun bonnets or skull caps and down coats, they have never once offered me a pamphlet or even tried to engage me in conversation.

Now granted, perhaps I am not their target demo. In fact, my physical presentation makes me quite sure of that. And if they did ask me a question or hand me a pamphlet, I would politely decline and wish them a good day.

But here’s the thing: they’ve never even tried. And by not engaging with me, they don’t even know whether I would be receptive to what they are offering.

The same holds true for business: if you don’t ask, you are certain to not get. And no business can survive on that strategy.

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.

Back At It


Priorities

I’ve taken a couple weeks off from posting.. things have been quite busy.

I have had so much going on at work that I had not one moment to think about creative writing, much less put something down on paper (or computer!), even though it was on my mind.

And although not posting anything new here is a bit of a failure on my part, it also points out an important lesson about priorities and workload.

I could have easily not completed a work project in order to take time to write something. I could have put this blog – a hobby of mine – ahead of something that affects my clients and my company. I could have sat and mused about writing something fun or insightful, worked the copy until I got it just right, found an interesting image and loaded in links for entertainment, posted it, sat back and felt like I had accomplished something.

But that would have meant putting off things that needed greater attention, that were frankly more important.

It illustrates to me the larger lesson of prioritizing and delaying pleasure in order to achieve a goal.

So much of life is about knowing when and how to prioritize, and when to set aside things that don’t matter.

Pardon me, now.. it’s dinner time with my family and I am turning this thing off. (see.. priorities!)

Pick Three Things (And Stick With ‘Em)


Pick Three Things

“Pick three ideas and convey them frequently.”

It’s advice we give to clients in the PR world, especially when we train them to speak with media or engage with public audiences of any kind.

Our strange cultural fascination with the number “3” aside, there is wisdom in the root of this concept. Studies show the human brain can’t retain more than three bits of information at a time, at least not in a meaningful way. And even though you can train your brain to do more, the truth is, most people don’t.

Just as the parable advises on how to eat an elephant, we should not endeavor to jump to the final step from the first. Nor should we try to accomplish everything simultaneously. At best, we will fail. At worst, we will implode.

Three things. Pick ’em and stick with ’em. Only once they are done (one way or another) should you decide to move on.

Surprises


Cameron Russell Headshot

Last week, I wrote a post about an underwear model.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I wrote a post about a TEDTalk – a really interesting one, too – given by professional model Cameron Russell, who talked about perception and the inequities of what people look like versus who they are. (Here’s my original post, with a link to Cameron’s talk.)

As a bit of a social experiment, I used a thumbnail of Cameron that I thought would catch people’s attention (yes, mostly men) to promote the post. You see where this is going.

So I was surprised to see that, in the first 24 hours the post was live, there was no discernible spike in traffic to my blog. In fact, the day’s clicks rated lower than the week before, when I posted “Friends” with a classic promotional (and equally titillating) still from the show.

What that tells me is that you, my fellow reader, are not beguiled by cheap thrills. In fact, the data leads me to believe that, in a world we are told is ruled by Kardashian scandals and stories of faux sex tapes, you are coming to this space to read and learn. And that makes me happy.

So thanks to you all for checking in on a regular basis. I really appreciate all the facebook likes, retweets and shares on LinkedIn. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

PS: Thanks Cameron for not only giving a really cool talk, but for RT’ing the tweet to my original post. Shows you really believe in what you said on stage.

PPS: I wrote this post over the weekend, before the Boston Marathon Bombing. I didn’t personally know anyone involved who was injured or killed and am grateful for that. I also chose to post this, as scheduled – even as we seem to be in another cycle of terroristic attacks (just like we were in September 2001) – because that’s what we do as Americans. We don’t twist in the wind because some coward takes a cheap shot at us. We rally, we help the injured, we get up, and then we do the ass-kicking that needs to get done. America is with you Boston.