It All Looks So Peaceful from 23,000 Feet


ItAllLooksSoPeacefulFrom23000Feet

I’ve come to expect wifi on airplanes.

It’s really ridiculous. I take for granted that we – as a technologically advanced society – should be able to seamlessly layer one magical concept (wifi) on top of another (flight).

Stop to think about it. It’s (as my 4-year-old would tell me) RI-DONK-U-LOUS!!!

I mean, really. Full internet, almost-streaming capability bandwidth, from inside a metal can, strapped to a pair (or two) of jet engines traveling at 700 miles an hour, just miles beneath the edge of space. Really???

My son is right.

And so since I don’t have wifi connectivity as I type this, I have the liberty – the luxury – of being completely disconnected. I can look out the window, quiet my brain, and pause. Think. Imagine. And yes, sleep a little. (Remember, I have kids. I need sleep whenever and wherever I can get it.)

We need these times. They can help us find our center, our equilibrium. We can choose to stretch, or relax, our brains. We can let our imaginations dance off the cloud tops, and indulge our spirits in, well, spirits. (read: Bombay Sapphire. Now you know.)

Connectivity is great. It helps us be productive.

Dis-connectivity is equally great. Unplug.

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.

Planning: Only Half of the Battle


planning

I’m a big fan of planning. I’ve written about it here more than once.

Planning makes everything else possible. The only way we achieve our goals is by laying out a clear strategy to get there. When we fail to plan, we – literally – plan to fail.

But planning without execution is just as fatal. In fact, lack of execution makes all the planning pointless. Why go through the exercise of drawing up a winning plan if you’re not going to act on it?

Plenty can get in the way of a good plan, whether accidental or deliberate. And it sometimes takes feats of Herculean strength to overcome those obstacles.

But there’s no reason to not plan, and even fewer reasons to not execute.

How do you plan?

Playing to the Stadium


Jam Packed

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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

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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.

Reaching Out.. Touching Me.. Touching You…


Relationships

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@SamanthaYanks: “Relationships are key.”

I read this tweet a few weeks back and it illustrated a key concept we’d all be wise to remember: that relationships make everything we do better.

Relationships – that intimate connection we forge with another human being – create more fulfilling experiences, allow us to find creative solutions to challenges, and sweeten the victories when they inevitably come.

In business, projects move faster and easier, and results come faster and bigger when there is a shared sense of pride in the project.

In life, there’s nothing better than having a partner to high five as you both cross the finish line, knowing you each helped the other make it there.

So team up: it’s good for you!

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

WHY? (or, The World According to a Three-Year-Old)


WHY

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As the dad of a very curious 3-year-old (is that redundant?), I am increasingly explaining the mysteries of the world to my boy.

Why does it get dark at night?” is a current one. “How does the space shuttle get to Mars?” is another (he’s combining two separate NOVA documentaries there, my little nerd!). And “How do they shrink the trees down to make them broccoli-sized so mommy can cook them?” is a dinner-time favorite.

The bottomless supply of humor and eye-opening wonder (mine) aside, those priceless exchanges remind me of a core principal we PR folks can often forget when going about our job of developing a media strategy that we promise will achieve our clients’ goals.

We take for granted that WE know the difference between newspapers, TV stations, and blog posts and what each can do for a project. We know the readership, the circulations and the influencer base.

But the clients DON’T. That’s why they hire us.

And that’s why, when recommending any course of action that involves our expertise, we have to explain WHY we are recommending a particular course of action. Failure to do so is one of the primary ways you can break down trust in a working relationship. And it’s all downhill from there.

I am currently guilty of that sin right now, and I’m digging myself out of a bit of a hole for it.

When explaining the WHY to my clients, I think a little like a scientist and a little like a therapist:

1. Just the facts, ‘mam: there’s nothing like some good old fashioned data to show you know what you’re talking about. Circulation, viewership, recent topics or guests on a show are all good ways to allow the client to envision themselves in the place you’re recommending and get comfortable (and even excited) by the idea.

2. Add a little color: Once you have the stats down, interpret what they mean a little. For example, a midday TV show likely pulls in moms or dads (or other caregivers) who are at home with the kids that aren’t in school. It’s those people who likely make the purchasing decisions in the household, especially when it comes to groceries, school supplies and disposable income for things like a trip to the ice cream or toy store. By further identifying your audience through the data, you can extrapolate where you want to be. And where you don’t.

3. Play to their ego, but don’t lie to them: every client likes to think of themselves as important. Others think they are just amazing beyond belief. Grade-A-Plus. Worthy of being in the opening on the network news. Above the fold in the A section. Reality is, they’re competing against everyone else for that real estate, and most won’t make it. That’s not to say they don’t have good stories. So drill down on the pieces you are confident can get them to where they want to be, and caution that nothing is guaranteed. Despite the greatest relationships, you can’t make something into what it’s not.

How do you do your WHY?

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!

Don’t Expect Everything to Work All the Time


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(Disclaimer: written on Sunday evening, between LGA and SAT.)

Here I am on an airplane, trying to connect to the on-board wifi. Granted, I am 30,000 feet above the ground, so I shouldn’t expect the same connectivity that I have in my living room. But if they advertise wifi, and if I paid for wifi, then dammit, I should have wifi.

But I don’t.

Now, the pilot doesn’t have a special switch in the cockpit for this. And there’s only so much gin the flight attendants can bring me to help me forget about it. At the end of the day, it’s bad design and limited tech, but it’s not the end of the world. Reality is, sometimes, things just don’t work the way they’re supposed to.

This is hardly a do-or-die scenario, and it’s not going to affect my bottom line (except for the $5 a shelled out for the on-board wifi).

So if this were a really important disaster, what would I do?

It all brings to mind a recent post I wrote about having a backup plan, but my mind (in this case) is drifting more toward the topic of coping.

How do you cope with unforeseen disasters? What do you do when the floor falls out from under you? And how do you survive?

Here’s a few thoughts:

1. Remain calm. Every great leader, decision maker, or parent has practiced this primary rule. Heck, it’s even a meme. To effectively navigate crisis, you must keep your calm and keep your head clear for what is to come. ‘Cause sh*t is about to go down.

2. Size up your options. Are you in mortal danger? (Most times, no. Okay, that’s good.) Now check out what you need to accomplish, and gauge that against what you can get done. Then prioritize.

3. Find the hacks. I used to think “a hack” was a bad and evil thing until I read Chris Brogan’s book “Trust Agents,” in which he explained that a hack was simply a route around a problem. By that definition, we’re all hackers; we’ve all found ways around a problem at some point in our lives. A hack is virtuous. Makes things better. So hack away.

4. Execute like a mother-f’er. I said it. You need to get that thing done? Someone else gonna do it for you? Then get it done. It’s not that hard. Go.

5. Close the door behind you. Another lesson from one of my son’s favorite movies, “Monsters, Inc.,” you must keep the unexpected from sneaking up behind you on the road you have just traveled. Don’t lose ground to things you have just hacked around. Ever turned your back on that wasp nest you just crushed? You made sure you got all of ’em, right?

How do you cope? Leave me a comment below.