Resolutions are for Suckers

So here we find ourselves staring down another new year. The excitement of that clean slate is a tempting time to set some new goals for ourselves. But I’m not making any resolutions.

I’m not vowing to lose 20 pounds. Even though I will.

I’m not promising myself to read one book a month (up from ZERO). But I’ll do that too.

And I’m not going to swear that I will spend more time with my family or learn a new skill or grow my PR business.

I’m just going to do it, because that’s what grown-ups do. We wake up, plant our feet on the floor and get to getting stuff done.

We don’t need an excuse like New Year’s Eve (#NYE for the kids) to set some lofty goal by which we will measure our success, or more likely our failure, in 12 months’ time.

My success will not be measured on December 31, 2019. It will be measured every day: every time I step on a scale, sign a new client or spend a moment with my children. It will not be one singular finish line but a series of nearly infinite ones, all leading me in the direction I point myself.

Some days I’ll be off course, I know. Other days I’ll move so fast that I will forget things and have to go back to retrace my steps.

And I will chart that course guided by the person I want to be.

I’ve been on this voyage nearly a half-century and I feel like it’s just getting good. I’m excited for where I go next.

See you there. One day, one moment, one step at a time.

Thank You


It’s the little things that point out a person’s true character.

As the father to two little people, I am constantly trying to teach – in the simplest of ways – life’s basic rules: Be nice. No hitting. Hold my hand, we’re in a parking lot. Say please and thank you.

It amazes me how some adults forget that last one. Some people always say it. Those are the people you’d do anything for.

The ones who forget it make me want to forget them.

It’s a Jungle Out There (Trying to Get an iPhone5)

Waiting In Line For an iPhone

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Unless you were living under a rock (or you’re just a hater) you know that Apple announced the iPhone5 yesterday. The response was mixed, with some even harping that Apple has stopped innovating.

Of course, that didn’t stop pre-orders from going off the charts. One article even noted that iPhone4S sales raked in more money than Google made in all of 2011.

Personally, I don’t think I will be upgrading, and in fact I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a deal replacing my iPhone4S with the cracked screen.

Will you be buying iPhone5? And do you think Apple is tapped out when it comes to innovation? Let me know in the comments below.

Speaking of things that may have lost their lustre, are you still using Google+? The youngest of the big social networks (I’m not counting Pinterest, for reasons I may write about next week) just doesn’t seem to have caught sustained fire the way facebook and twitter did.

So for Friday ShareDay, let’s check in with our buddy Michael Stelzner for a great podcast “Why Marketers Should Not Overlook Google+”

I’ve Got Your Back (But We’re Not Talking Obama)

I've Got Your Back Obama

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Over the weekend, my six year old PC finally breathed its last, surrendering to the dreaded blue screen of death one final time.

Without the funds to acquire my coveted MacBook Air, I went to plan B: another PC that I’ve been saving for just this moment. It’s a newer (only four years old, versus six) PC that hasn’t been powered up in about four months. So on startup, I needed to update software, virus protection, and then bring iTunes (including all the apps I use on my phone) current.

Somewhere in that process, I lost about 40 apps that were on my iPhone but for some reason not synced to my profile. Now begins the long and painful process of finding and reloading those apps – one by one – and rearranging them on my phone’s more than 9 screens. Yikes.

My dilemma brought to mind something we should always be aware of in the PR world: backup and contingency plans.

We always aim high, and plan to succeed. But this world also hands us a fair share of “what if things go wrong” and so we need to have a couple aces up our sleeves at all times.

A few thoughts:

1. Have a backup plan and a backup man (or woman): You can’t be the boss all the time. Sooner or later, you’ll need to delegate, and that means having a wingman who is as well-versed in the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish as you are. Appoint a backup man at the start of your planning process to make the inevitable bumps smoother.

2. Plan for the worst, hope for the best: We all want our campaigns to run smoothly. But the world is full of chaos, and we need to be ready for it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Plan for that and you’ll never be surprised.

3. Let your client know there’s a backup in place: There are some folk who like to practice “mushroom PR” – that is, keeping everyone in the dark because you think they will complicate things. While you want to save a client from your minutiae, your most potent weapon is your client having faith in you, and you can only accomplish that by demonstrating to them that you’ve got everything covered.

What’s your backup plan?

When to Sink, Swim or Call the Lifeguards

Shit Happens

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We all have those days that make us want to throw up our hands and scream. Despite our best planning, our most thoughtful deliberation and most diligent execution, there are times when, for lack of scientific explanation, the universe just seems to have other plans for us.

So what to do when forces (read: co-workers, clients or total strangers) make you want to go all Scarface on everything?

For better or worse, here are some thoughts:

1. Evaluate the Battle – Before leaning into a punch, figure out if you can come out the other side (mostly) intact. Let’s face it, there are some battles you can’t afford to lose, and others you won’t win for all the trying in the world. In these cases, a little bit of sucking it up needs to be an option, despite all the “go-getter” you have in your morning coffee.

2. Eliminate Emotion – I know you want to thump that idiot for what he just did. Thump him good, and then some, and make him go crying to his mama. But untamed enthusiasm for dishing out a good ass-whupping can make you lose perspective and miss critical details. Take a breath, count to ten, and size up the situation. Then plan your attack.

3. Take Your Time – Don’t go striding into someone’s office flinging f-bombs. Calmly approach your “offender du jour” and ask if they have time to talk about something that’s important to you. Do your best to have a rational conversation devoid of emotion, while still expressing how huge this issue is to you. A good person will welcome the dialogue and want to walk it through with you to find a solution. Lousy ones scream at you and go to lunch.

4. Propose Solutions – People who have climbed the office ladder to the top (or at least, to one rung above you) don’t want to deal with bullshit; that’s why they have people. They want you to think through it, do the work and bring them an answer they can sign off on. So when outlining the problem, remember to also have a proposed solution. Make it actionable, with a beginning and end, and make it something you can execute, rather than something for them to do (the only thing a supervisor likes less than an existing problem is also being given the work to do to resolve it).

5. Don’t Let it Happen Again – Usually an ultimatum from someone in the driver’s seat, in this case it comes to you from you. Hold yourself accountable for making sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes; learn from your experience. Because as they say, “Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.”

How do you deal with the universe’s little surprises?

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?

Dealing with Negativity


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I’ve had many conversations with clients about how to successfully moderate comments to their social media profiles. Specifically, we talk a lot about how to deal with negative comments and things that gum up a page’s flow.

So here are some thoughts on dealing with different kinds of comments:

1. You’re the boss. Even though social media is all about sharing and building community, it’s still your (or your company’s) personal space. That means you control what’s there. Just because someone posts something to your page doesn’t mean it needs to stay there. That’s an important place to start.

2. Know the face of crazy. Remember the “runaway bride” who left her husband-to-be and invented a story that she was kidnapped, sparking a week-long manhunt? Remember that look she had in her eye? That’s the “face of crazy,” and that’s what you need to keep off your page.

3. Welcome real criticism. It’s embarrassing to be called out in public as having made a mistake or given poor service. Our first reaction may be to hit the delete button, to hide it from the rest of the world. But how amazing would it be to demonstrate – right there in front of everyone else who’s looking at your page – an effective response to the stated problem? You’d probably win some new fans and reinforce your existing relationships too. When it’s level-headed and fair, let the negative comments stand – with your response, of course.

4. Don’t touch the poop. This is a phrase I taught my son during early diaper-changing sessions when he started to use his hands to explore.. down there. It worked, too; it’s now our little joke about how to deal with life’s little struggles. So make it your mantra too; feel free to delete comments that are clearly spammy or out of context with what you’re doing on your page. When in doubt, see #1, above.

5. Rely on your community. It seems everyone who takes to social media to complain about what irks them does it with the nuclear intensity of a teenager throwing a hissy fit. If you are dealing with a controversial issue, you might consider asking others to chime in on the topic, to see if the complaint is limited or chronic. You might even get some people to stand up for you.

These are some initial thoughts.. what are your ways of dealing with negative social media posts?

There’s No Such Thing As Multitasking


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A PBS documentary called “Digital Nation” is, albeit a couple years old, a brilliant look at how technology – including social media – has impacted our daily lives.

The movie – with the running time of a feature film – specifically delves into how technology is affecting young people who have grown up never knowing a time without cell phones, texting, gaming and social media.

One thread in the narrative was the debate over whether this younger generation (the documentary went to South Korea’s gaming parlors as well as around colleges in the United States) can effectively multitask and how important or unnecessary that will be to their futures and their careers.

The science behind the show is eye-opening. There’s one amazing moment when they show a brain scan of a teenager reading a book side-by-side with a scan of that same teenager searching for something on Google.

It’s all worth the watch, especially of you are a parent of someone under the age of 16.

But it also brings up something I have always believed in passionately: there is no such thing as multitasking.

I can’t read a book and think about planning my vacation this summer any more than I can write and send a tweet and an email simultaneously. One must come before or after the other; they can’t exist in the same space in time. To argue otherwise seems – to borrow a phrase from Star Trek’s Dr. Spock – “not logical.”

This is the same logic we use when we caution so strongly against texting and driving – you can’t pay attention to the road and your phone at the same time and do each task with 100% of your faculties.

The reason I feel so strongly about debunking the myth of multitasking is because I believe it makes us less effective as individuals. It muddles our work product and clutters the creative centers of our brains. We volunteer to accept too much information at once, and our brains – no matter how Magna Cum Laude we graduated – can’t process it all. And in world that is moving faster due to technology, we somehow have to find a way to push back against it to maintain the quality of what we do and how we live our lives.

Attempting to multitask – by keeping multiple windows open on your computer, for example – only bifurcates your attention span, splitting it into smaller, less effective parts. In the end, my experience is that multitasking makes my projects take longer, increases my chances that I will make, or not catch, a mistake, and decrease the overall quality of my work.

By multitasking, we basically sign up to be less than we could be, and pretend we’re actually doing more.

Do you multitask?

How’s Your Tweetability?

Great Writing, Twitter

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In this crazy mixed-up world of social media, we’re constantly looking for new ways to reach our core audience, find new customers and create new evangelists.

At the center of this quest is my one, favorite constant: great writing.

As PR people, we get paid to be the best writer on the team. Clients look to the writer to crystallize the story and tell it effectively. We have to engage the audience, create a hero with whom to identify, create action and convey the importance of what the audience is reading.

Bust that down to 140 characters, and you’ve got quite a job on your hands.

So what do you do? Whether on twitter or any other social media platform, I adhere to some basic guidelines:

1. Tweet the headline. You don’t have to get the whole story in; that’s what the link is for. You do need to put enough information in to intrigue the reader. What’s the one thing you want your audience to know? Write that, and save the rest for later.

2. Use keywords. Whether preceded by a hashtag (#), ampersand (@) or just on its own, any word can be searched in twitter. So use words that people are looking for, and make your messages not only more interesting, but better search fodder. You’ll be identified and categorized by the words you use most (like the word cloud at right) so choose wisely.

3. Be entertaining. Why do you remember song lyrics written from before you were born but can’t remember what you had for lunch? That’s because there’s an entertainment factor to the recall, and it’s fun. (A million repetitions of a song doesn’t hurt, either) Same rules when you use social media: make your messages fun and they will attract more eyeballs and more clicks.

4. Always link. With rare exception, my tweets always connect the reader to additional information. Telling your whole story on a webpage is easier and more complete. And by directing people to interesting content, you expand and grow your credibility and become someone people come to for your stated expertise.

5. Involve others. Whether retweeting or proactively calling out other users’ handles in your tweets, get people who you admire and play with online in on your act. It instantly engages their network, and expands your circle of influence. Works in the opposite direction too, so everyone wins.

There are plenty other ways to effectively use twitter. What are some of your ways? Would love to hear.