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?

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!

Pitching on Friday ShareDay


Mariano Rivera

As PR people, we’re all just a bunch of pitchers.

Not like the great Mariano Rivera, or (watch me date myself here) Goose Gossage or Ron Guidry. (Anyone remember Luis Tiant for the win?)

We are storytellers, not only for our clients, but for ourselves. To be successful, we need to relay information in a condensed and entertaining way, so as to provoke the “tell me more!” reaction in the reporters, editors and producers we are pitching, giving them the tools to do the same for their readers, listeners and viewers.

We also all know that there are some basic rules about PR pitching: Never lie, or even stretch the truth; lead with the most interesting facts; have a story with a beginning, middle and end. And make every pitch actionable.

There’s also the rule about not pitching on a Friday, for various reasons. I’ve been guilty of practicing this myself, but this article – presented for this installment of Friday ShareDay – from PR News Online relays some valid reasons to jettison the “don’t pitch on Friday” rule.

Happy Weekend!

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.)

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.

Damn, I Wish I Had Said That


PR Disaster

So much of what we do as PR people isn’t about message – it’s about good advice.

And good counsel shouldn’t be relegated to press releases and placements. We need to help people think through challenges and problems and help them find their way to their goals.

When clients make bad decisions – and worse, when they make those bad decisions because we didn’t help them make a better one – is when the ground falls out from under them. And from you. And pulling things back together can be very, very messy.

So for Friday ShareDay, here’s a great article – that frankly, I wish I had written myself – about “When PR overshadows the problem” by Phil Rosenthal.

Happy Weekend!

Be The Ball


Be The Ball

Every red-blooded American man’s favorite comedic movie (or darn near close) must be Caddyshack.

Among all the classic scenes is the one where Ty Webb instructs a young Danny Noonan to concentrate and just “be the ball” in an effort to help him become a better golfer.

The results were more comedic than impressive, but the lesson is a good one, no matter how far Danny’s chip shot landed from the pin. (“Right in the lumber yard.”)

And it came to mind as I crashed a project this week: a speech for a client that needed a top-to-bottom rewrite in just hours.

I was able to pull it off, to the client’s great delight, because I allowed myself to “be the ball.” I knew this person, cold: his logic, his voice and his factual information, to the point where I felt as though I was writing for myself. I put myself in the room, at the podium, speaking to the group of people he will address. I turned off all external inputs – save for spellcheck – and just wrote what needed to be said.

He was so happy he even allowed me to take a second pass at it this morning, and the results are.. well.. we’ll see tonight when he’s at the mic reading the words I wrote for him. But I think it’s gonna be just fine.

What are your best ways to write?

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?