Momentum


momentum

Momentum can be a powerful ally.

It’s that natural rhythm you build up once you’ve stepped out and started along your path to your goal. Some days, that momentum can be so strong that it seems all you have to do is ride the wave.

I’m reminded of this every time I step onto the treadmill at the gym. Those first few steps can seem so hard (especially at 5 a.m.!), but once I get going, I sometimes feel like I can run forever.

Worse than not getting started is stopping before your reach your destination. Whatever my project is – whether working for a client, saving money for my kids’ college funds, or just getting from one place to another on the subway – I find that the worst thing I can do is stop before I am truly done.

Getting started again can be harder than when I started in the first place. It was just going to be a temporary pause, I told myself at the time. Excuses are rampant and easily justified.

Reminds me of “Standing Still,” which I wrote a couple years back.

Once you get started, don’t stop. You’ll never cross the finish line if you do.

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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?

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.

Getting In Focus


GettingInFocus

I have a confession: I am a total scatterbrain.

Completely disorganized. I get sidetracked so easily, I may not finish writing this post in a single sitting.

To combat this inherently anti-productive weakness, I know I need to employ helpful strategies to keep me on track. Maybe some of these will work for you too:

1. Make lists. I do this to the point of obsession. Mostly because when I have an idea, it disappears if I don’t write it down. That’s how I either fall behind in my work or simply forget to do something altogether. (See also: sticky notes, refrigerator magnets, emails to myself and strings around my finger.)

2. Work when you are inspired to work. This isn’t as flippant as it sounds. What I mean is, listen to your brain and its normal patterns. Do you get flashes of brilliance late at night? Do you go into creative lockdown after lunch? By identifying when (and where and how) you work best, you can train yourself to maximize your productivity and efficiency.

3. Use tools that help you be more productive. I write all my posts in Evernote (including this one) so they are with me anywhere I go, on any device. So if I think of something and want to add it to something already in progress, that key document isn’t somewhere inaccessible. Find the tools (hardware, software, apps or even coffee!) that will help you work easier.

Side note: there’s a phrase you don’t hear often, “work easier.” You hear a lot of “work better” or “work smarter.” The real goal is to make work seamless, zen-like, so it just flows out. And that’s the key. Work easier.

4. Automate the mundane. True or not, a favorite story of mine is the one about Albert Einstein having a closet full of nothing but brown sweaters, white shirts and khaki pants, and wearing the same outfit every day so he didn’t waste a second thinking about anything but his work. He just grabbed the next set of clothes in the line and kept moving. It’s why I keep my wallet and keys in one place, or park in the same spot at the train station. If I have to stop to think “where are my keys?” or “where did I park?” I am losing what could be valuable moments or a train of thought about something far more important.

5. Eliminate distractions. Everyone knows this, but it bears repeating because none of us do it all the time. Do you shutoff your email while you are working on a strategy document? Close out social media networks while you are not using them? I sit facing away from the window at client meetings. Get rid of the things that snap your head around the other way, or that make you zone out.

There are probably plenty of other productivity strategies that you have encountered too. What are some of your favorites?

Overexposed


Overexposed

There’s such a thing as doing too much. And we know it when we see it.

We live in a hectic world, always running somewhere: running to catch a flight, running home to have dinner, running to meet a client or a deadline.

So much of our life can be spent running. Chasing something. Sometimes we don’t even know after what.

We need to slow down.

Not “take a vacation” slow down (although right now on this flight home from San Antonio, a vacation sounds awfully good), I mean slow down in our every day lives.

Moving too fast is an invitation for stupid mistakes. It drains the meaningful out of what we do, and inflates the trivial. It makes mediocrity feel like a win.

We’re not supposed to spend our lives putting out fires and fixing mistakes. We’re supposed to avoid the matches in the first place so we never even have to call the fire department.

Some people, some organizations – especially in the public relations world – seem like they are always out there, all the time, hogging the spotlight and yelling above the din. Lesser people would be tempted to match their frequency in a quest for our own feeling of connection and satisfaction. To do as much as they are. We would be wrong.

Fewer, smarter, better campaigns are always preferable to the run-and-gun school of public relations. The news cycle is what it is. And there’s always another one coming.

You’ll get your turn at bat. Make sure you can see the pitch when it comes.

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.

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.

Authenticity


Authentic

The most valuable thing we own is ourselves.

We are each a unique collection of talents, experiences and insights. We are each a commodity, with intrinsic value, able to be leveraged for the benefit of ourselves and our communities. Overlooking our own value – or shortchanging who we are and what we bring to the table – is an offense against self.

There are days when we have to phone it in. When we punch the clock and grind it out. It happens.

But the best days we have are when we find a way to allow the “me” to boil to the surface and filter out into the world for the betterment of others. It doesn’t just happen. It takes conscious effort. Work.

When we fail to extract that value from inside ourselves, and spread it around in a helpful and constructive way, we let ourselves down.

Don’t be that guy.

How will you value yourself today?