Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

20 Surprising Ways to Recharge Your Career

Power lines at beach editedSlowing down for the lazy, hazy days of summer?

While others are complaining that business is tapering off and everyone is on vacation, use this time to recharge your battery and kick-start your success.

Here are 20 things you can do to prepare for a triumphant rest of the year. These small tasks can make your life less stressful and easier to manage day-to-day. You may even develop a new habit.

1. Clean up your database.

2. Sort through your Favorites and Bookmarks. Categorize them and delete the ones that are no longer relevant.

3. Go paperless when possible. Shred or toss old papers you don’t need.

4. Read the magazines you’ve been saving for the past three months.

5. Get rid of the magazines you’ve been saving for the past three months.

6. Contact someone you admire and invite them to coffee or lunch.

7. Volunteer with a local nonprofit that can benefit from your business expertise.

8. Update your social media profiles and headshot.

9. Register for a webinar or course you’ve been meaning to sign up for but haven’t had the time.

10. Read the biography of leaders such as Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, or Florence Nightingale.

11. Schedule time to think.

12. Identify a few online chats that can help you grow professionally or personally. Mark your calendar and start participating.

13. Pay attention to self-talk soundtrack that plays in your head. Replace the negative with positive, more compassionate language.

14. Back up your blog, website and computer—every day!

15. Write a thank-you note to a former boss or mentor, expressing gratitude for what they have taught you.

16. Unsubscribe from all the e-mails, newsletters, and other junk you receive but never read.

17. Research awards or contests in your industry that you may be eligible for and note the deadlines in your calendar.

18. Write down five things you are afraid of doing. Do one of them. Repeat.

19. Subscribe to the blogs of five leaders in your field—or your competition.

20. Make a list of 10 reasons you went into your profession and why you are still passionate about it.

Come September, you’ll be glad you worked on this checklist. Surf’s up!

Twitter Erupts as NBA Finals Take An Oddball Bounce

FlagsThe AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX took a big image hit during Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night. Things heated up quickly between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

The power line that feeds the air conditioning unit broke, sending the arena temperature to a sweltering 90 degrees. As the play-by-play announcers whined about sweating, there was also talk of how the players were holding up, both physically and mentally.

The Spurs rallied in the last few minutes to win the game.

But it was Miami’s LeBron James who stole their thunder. 

When James awkwardly limped to the bench and was helped into the locker room suffering from ‘leg cramps’, people were all over Twitter and social media to share some chuckles.  Take a peek at #NBAFinals2014 and #GoSpursGo.

Here are a few highlights:

 

I can’t wait for Game 2!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Easy-Breezy Struggles of a Former 22-Year-Old

WTC PATH Banner NYC 2013(Editor’s Note: Dan Roth of LinkedIn recently asked me to contribute to his #IfIWere22 series. Influencers share their own career journey with new college graduates. The following is my reflection of what I learned at 22).

I’m 51 years-old, and damn it if 22 doesn’t feel like yesterday.

And some days, 22 feels like a lifetime ago.

In 1985, I had just graduated from Quinnipiac College (now Quinnipiac University), in Hamden, CT. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication, I was hell-bent on launching my radio news career. I had great contacts and mentors, and a bit of professional on-air experience. The harsh reality was that broadcasting was an extremely difficult field to break into, and to stay in.

Having lived away at school for four years, you can understand my reluctance to return to my parent’s house in Edison, New Jersey. But reality beckoned me back to my old bedroom, a rent-controlled unit (free) which included food, laundry facilities, and general run of the house. My responsibility was to make monthly payments on my 1981 Chevy Camaro and two student loans. One of the few rules was to come home at night.

Central New Jersey was a great place to grow up because it’s sandwiched between New York and Philadelphia. The challenge for an aspiring broadcaster is that it’s one of the most competitive media markets in the country.

At 22, I had landed part-time weekend gigs at two different radio stations.Out of a necessity for money and a job, I went to work at an international shipping company based at the World Trade Center in New York. To this day, I don’t remember applying for the job and I certainly had no interest in being there. In my spare time, I prayed for a full-time news position that paid poverty wages and required working nights and weekends.

When my friends were planning vacations to the Caribbean, I joked that I was going to the islands, too. Coney, Staten, and Long.

Every day for three months, I would put on my work clothes, drive to the train station in nearby Metuchen, and take a train and a subway into ‘the City.’ I wore my clunky Sony Walkman headphones; Scandal’s “The Warrior” was the big summer song.

I worked on the 11th floor of Tower 2. At lunchtime, I would venture outside and eat by the fountains, people-watching and enjoying the absolute beauty of the iconic buildings. I often wondered what I was doing there. It was so tempting to just take the escalator downstairs and ride the PATH train back to Jersey. Would anyone miss me?

On the weekends, I recorded my newscasts. I made cassette copies, which were needed to apply for on-air jobs. An air check often carried more clout than a résumé.

The odd thing about my schedule was that I didn’t realize I was working seven days a week.

One Friday, a co-worker in New York asked if I had plans for the weekend. She was dumbfounded when I told her I worked in radio, and she was even more shocked that I worked every day of the week.

It didn’t seem to faze me. It’s what I had to do to succeed in my field. And get out of my weekday job. It took exactly three months.

After 10 years of working in radio news, I went on to serve as Deputy Director of NJ Governor Christie Whitman’s Office of Radio and Television, started a software marketing company with a former colleague, and worked as PR director for a statewide nonprofit. In 2000, I launched my PR, news and social media training company. In between, I got married, had two children and moved to San Antonio, TX.

#IfIWere22, I wish I had known:

  1. To take some business classes, even after graduation.
  2. There is a huge difference between surrendering and giving up.
  3. How to love myself unconditionally, just as G-d has created me. I am enough.
  4. To take pictures at the World Trade Center to remind me how stunning and glorious those Towers once were.
  5. The importance of a quiet mind and a peaceful soul.
  6. How to better manage my finances.
  7. To take my typing class seriously.
  8. There are no accidents or coincidences. The world is unfolding exactly the way it should be.
  9. Hobbies unrelated to work are essential.
  10. Everything I swore I would never do…I did.
  11. There are no ordinary moments.

Am I where I thought I would be? Yes, because I have spent my career doing what I love: Working in news and communication.

Looking back, I had that “entrepreneurial spirit” but I don’t recall ever thinking I would own a business. Until 14 years ago. And I never imagined I would be in sales and would travel around the country speaking and training. Please refer to No. 10 above.

My advice to 22-year-olds:

  1. There are no shortcuts; put your head down and work.
  2. Be persistent, patient, and resilient.
  3. Believe in yourself and honor your values. You are so much better than you think you are.
  4. Develop a positive mindset and be a lifelong learner. Professional and personal development are integral to success.
  5. Work on your communication skills, as the experiences you have in every job and relationship will depend on your verbal and nonverbal communication.
  6. Help people solve their problems and the universe will bring you abundances beyond your wildest imagination.
  7. Avoid being a crap magnet.
  8. Ask good questions. When you ask quality questions, you get quality information.
  9. Schedule time to think.
  10. Keep promises, especially the ones you make to yourself.
  11. Express gratitude every day.

I hope the 22 nuggets above will help you along your journey.

 

10 Memorable Communication Quotes from Dr. Maya Angelou

angelou_mayaWhen word spread that renowned author, poet, and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou had died at age 86, tributes to her life poured onto social media. Many on Twitter shared their favorite quotes.

Traditional media provided background on Dr. Angelou’s early life. Reporter Emma Brown writes in The Washington Post:

“As a child growing up in the Jim Crow South, Maya Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend; as a young woman, she worked briefly as a brothel madam and a prostitute. From those roots in powerlessness and violence, she rose to international recognition as a writer known for her frank chronicles of personal history and a performer instantly identified by her regal presence and rich, honeyed voice.”

Here are 10 quotes from Dr. Angelou, a communicator who leaves a void in American culture, and the world.

1. “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”

2. “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”

3. “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

4. “The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.”

5. “All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”

6. “The best candy shop a child can be left alone in is the library.”

7. “I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”

8. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

9. “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”

10. “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”

Oprah Winfrey, who has been mentored by Dr. Angelou from the time they met in Baltimore in the 1980s, describes the poet laureate as her “sister friend.”

My favorite quote from the list is No. 10. Yours?

 

(Image Via)

5 Ways to Recharge Your PR Strategy

Notes cover(Editor’s Note: The following guest post has been provided by Alicia Lawrence)

Every communication strategy needs a good assessment once in a while.

With the Internet always changing, it’s good to re-evaluate how your tactics have performed and if there are any new ways to achieve your objectives.

Conduct an Audit

My recommendation is that you conduct an audit by taking a look at the previous year. Examine all of your company’s PR efforts and the results and growth you’ve achieved. You’ll also want to look at your competitors to get a good idea of any industry changes and how you now stack up to your competition.

Here are a few questions to answer in your audit:

How well did your tactics achieve your current objectives and contribute to the company’s overall goals?

  • Are there any new competitors in your vertical? What tactics/strategies are they using?
  • Search Google and Bing for any negative reviews along with what’s being said about your company.
  • Are you reaching key publics with your messages?
  • Are your messages clear, concise and moving your audience to action?
  • What patterns do you see looking over this past year’s data?

 

If possible, conduct a focus group or one-on-one interview with customers to see how they received your messages. Lastly, analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to help guide the revitalization of your public relations strategy.

Organize Your Assets 

Take an inventory of all the communication, content, and media contacts you have on file. Eliminate duplicates and update all the information so your media list and reusable information are current.

Make a master list for both contacts and promotional materials in Excel or Google Docs so you can quickly reference and reuse all your materials. While assembling your list, jot down different blog posts or promotional pieces that can be repurposed. By organizing your assets, you’ll make room for fresh ideas.

Restore Your Key Messages

Throughout the year, key messages sometimes become outdated or pushed aside as you try new creative ideas. An audit halfway through the year is a great time to get refocused and restore those key messages to become relevant once again.

Look over your previous key messages you included in your campaigns and evaluate whether they need to change to better achieve the company’s goals. Send out a survey to employees or your email list asking questions that will tell you whether your key messages were perceived correctly or whether they had the influence you were hoping.

 Wash Up Your Online Reputation

During your audit, you should have taken a good look at your online reputation. During this evaluation, create an action plan to clean up your reputation online and encourage your fans to write reviews on your site, Google+, and other review forums.

For example, Renewal By Andersen does a great job keeping up with their reviews and have an excellent way of displaying them on their website.

Alicia Picture 1Alicia Picture 2

 

 




 

Dust Off Your Blog and Social Profiles

Let’s not forget that a company’s blog and social profiles are important promotional tools. Create an editorial calendar for the next quarter, or if you can the whole year, to help you stay on track in posting.

Make sure your content management system (such as WordPress), plugins, and theme are updated and all the links work. Revisit and correct the information in your social profiles. Take a look at your social analytics to get a better grasp on what kind of posts your readers enjoy and how to improve your digital strategy this year.

Your blog and social channels play a significant role in restoring your relationship with key audiences. The point of energizing your PR strategy is to reconnect with those customers, reach out to new ones, and keep them happy, informed and buying your products.

 Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.

4 Communication Lessons We Can All Learn from ‘Shark Tank’

shark tank edited

The popular TV reality competition show, “Shark Tank”, is packed with tips on how business professionals can improve their communication skills. There are also plenty of lessons to learn about pitching stories and self-confidence.

As you probably know, the premise of the program is that aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs give a 10 minute presentation to five self-made millionaires and billionaires. Among the Sharks: Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran and the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban.

Each guest requests funding for their idea and offers a percentage of the business. One or more of the Sharks can suggest a modified plan for funding and the piece of the pie when—and if—the business takes off.  

Make no mistake, the program is called “Shark Tank” for a reason. The investment tycoons considering the deals are top notch professionals who have succeeded and struggled in numerous ventures.

I imagine it’s quite intimidating to stand before this esteemed group to pitch your idea.

Consider these four communication lessons we can all appreciate from “Shark Tank.” It seems all of the budding entrepreneurs have similar traits:

  1. They absolutely believe in themselves and their products. From the elderly couple who designed a pair of underwear to capture the smell emitted from flatulence to the young political wonks in Washington, DC who, in their spare time, created a recipe for Barbecue Sauce and Rub, every person who has appeared on “Shark Tank” has had a true sense of themselves. Their willingness to be vulnerable to the barrage of questions and raw feedback on national TV is admirable.
  2. They embrace negotiation. Often times, the projections and numbers are off, and the Sharks are fast to point out the ‘real numbers.’ Fledgling entrepreneurs often have to think on their feet to throw out new and more accurate figures without compromising their business plans and credibility.  
  3. They control their emotions. A certain blend of heart, enthusiasm, and humility is a significant part of a successful pitch. Yes, most guests leave the show disappointed that none of the Sharks invested in their idea. But it’s valuable for people watching the show to see guests draw the emotional line and keep their composure, something that requires a great deal of inner strength.
  4. They know how to appeal to the senses.  The inventors and creators that are on “Shark Tank” know how to engage the Sharks with visuals, tastes, smells, and sounds. The gym trainer who created special bras for women athletes brought along several women who were wearing different styles of the undergarment. When pitching food or drinks, guests arrive with impressive packages containing samples for each of the Sharks.

If PR, marketing, and other communication professionals focused on these four skills and attributes—belief in themselves and products, negotiation, control of emotions, and sensory experiences—I’m guessing we would have a more satisfied and successful workforce.

 

(Image via)

Gallup: Only 11% of Business Leaders Believe Grads Are Prepared for Work

Admissions office SNHUThey lack basic communication skills and business competencies. So how are millennials earning college degrees and preparing for the workforce?  

A recent Gallup poll reveals 11 percent of employers feel grads are ready for work. Educators, meanwhile, are giving themselves high marks for preparing students for the labor force.  

At a recent IBM Conference, T-Summit 2014: Cultivating Tomorrow’s Talent Today, educators and business leaders addressed the disparities.

Paul LeBlanc, President, Southern New Hampshire University, was one of the conference speakers. I interviewed him about the changes in business and education.

Q: How do employer expectations differ from the past two decades?

A: Twenty and 30 years ago there were different patterns of employment. Someone graduated from college and got a job that they stayed at for some time. For the first three years, that new employee would be moved around in different roles, mentored, and trained. They would become fully immersed by building internal networks, learning the discourse, understanding company culture, and becoming familiar with processes. This would keep them at the top of their game.

Today, companies want students who can do this immediately. Business is pushing down into universities a set of expectations that in some way weren’t there before.

Q:  Tell me about the higher education model that was the centerpiece of the conference.

A: We always thought of higher education in terms of a ‘T-model.’ The horizontal bar of the ‘T’ is the broad-based Bachelor’s Degree. The long vertical is a student’s major that reflects a deep knowledge of one subject, such as accounting, and it may include some sociology and fine arts.

We’re now hearing from employers that the horizontal bar in the ‘T’ is more complex. Businesses are looking for graduates who can think in terms of systems and work in cross-functional teams.

In a college setting, for example, a student who majors in marketing will do small group projects with other marketing majors. With the new cross-functional model, the interdisciplinary approach is needed so marketing students will integrate with accounting and engineering majors. That’s what the reality of work looks like today, but universities don’t usually replicate that.  Instead, students work in silos.

Q: What kinds of changes should colleges be making to better prepare students for work?

A: Historically students didn’t worry about the job market so much. They don’t have that luxury any more. We want students to have a plan and to be purposeful as they think about their four-year journey.

We are now revisiting career services. They simply can’t help students polish résumés and do mock interviews right before graduation. That was fine 30 years ago, and it’s still an important piece, but it’s a tiny piece. The reconceptualization of career centers encompasses several things, such as having these discussions at freshman orientation. At Southern New Hampshire University, alumni now make themselves available for mentoring and internships to give students a better sense of what the real workplace looks like. We’re moving away from asking alumni for financial help and looking to them for more business-related contributions.”

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, says the notion of shared responsibility—not finger pointing—is important.

4 Ways Colleges Can Better Prepare Grads for Business Communication

The yellow brick road. Kind of.Educators, business leaders, and government representatives recently converged on San Jose, California for a conference on cultivating talent and the emerging workforce.

Much of the time was spent on social media, communication, and learning outcomes. Everyone seems to agree there is a gap between what colleges are teaching and what employers need from recent graduates.   

One of the universities leading the charge for academic innovation is Southern New Hampshire University. I interviewed Paul LeBlanc, the president at SNHU, who also presented at the conference.

Beginning the conversation: Historically, students didn’t worry too much about the job market. Today, they don’t have that luxury. We want students to really have a plan and to be purposeful as these conversations should begin at freshman orientation.

Social media presents a multi-faceted and amazing opportunity for networking. We have been linking student portals and going with more web-based portfolios for our students. More and more of our disciplines are adopting E-portfolios that students bring with them to interviews. Included are conventional résumés and electronic materials. Employers, to varying degrees, will look at them, but even the sense they could look at the materials if they wanted to, is powerful. 

Improving online and interpersonal communication: Students must have the ability to walk into a room or an interview, use eye contact and offer a firm handshake. Millennials also have to understand that conversation is a two-way back and forth, and two word responses don’t suffice.This new generation lives so much of life in the virtual space, they are less adept at the kinds of interpersonal skills that employers and mature adults look for. Some of this is developmental, immaturity, or lack of self-confidence. In reality, much of that communication continues to outpace our societal ability to make sense of it.

Social media channels are incredibly powerful, and one area we’re addressing is how students convey empathy and understanding online. There’s still that clumsy etiquette.  Schools can hire outside trainers but we are supposed to be doing this. It’s our responsibility.

Expanding roles of colleges: Colleges are moving into the world of non-disciplinary skills; the things that employers value a lot. Employers had taken responsibility for these things 20 years ago, but today, organizations want the colleges to do this. We are looking at how students develop leadership skills, how they develop the ability to work with people who are different than they are, how they can work in cross-functional teams, and how they think in terms of systems. These lessons don’t live in courses, they are bigger than that and we have to figure out how to make it happen.

Making the changes:  First, SNHU is taking an integrated approach to our career services, alumni outreach, and classroom instructors. We’ve hired new people in career services and are moving the department far beyond résumé services and mock interviews. Second, instead of simply asking alumni to donate money, we are partnering with them to provide internships and mentoring for students who need insight into the real business world. Finally, SNHU is pulling faculty into this holistic approach. We’re getting them more involved with internships and job pipelines, with teaching outcomes that are measureable.

It’s nice to see academia stepping up to face the changes that are needed in business and communication. Let’s hope others follow suit.

Simple 3-Word Phrases You Need for Success

barrelsThe way we communicate with ourselves reflects how we interact with others.

What are you secretly, quietly, and unknowingly telling yourself that is standing in the way of your business success?

If negative self-talk is a daily ritual, consider the following 11 phrases. These simple messages that I’ve been using for years can empower you while replacing the poison you’ve come to believe.

  1. Stay with it. Feel like giving up? Frustrated? Refuse to quit. Persistence often trumps brains.
  2. Get in there. Sometimes you can’t or shouldn’t wait for an invitation. You want something? Go get it.
  3. It’s all good. “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should…Strive to be happy.”-Desiderata
  4. Yes I can. Avoid looking at why something can’t be done. Turn it around with positive energy and focus on why it can be done.
  5. I’ll do it. Don’t try. Commit to a positive outcome and get to work. Make it happen.
  6. One more time. Don’t give up. There’s always hope.
  7. Bring it on. You are so much better than you think you are.
  8. Step back now. Hasty decisions and impulsive responses create problems that no one needs. As tempting as it may be to react or get fired up, take a step back and pause. A few quick seconds makes a big difference in our communication and relationships.
  9. In the moment. Be fully present and engaged. “Where ever my feet are, my head is.” Relentless internal chatter pulls us into the past or propels us into the future. There’s no turning back to change the past and creating drama about something that likely won’t happen in the future deprives us what is right in front of us. Be in the moment.
  10. Too much stuff. We complicate things and situations. We over analyze. We go down rabbit holes. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
  11. Not a word. Know when to speak up and know when to shut up. Not every statement requires a response. There is power in silence.

Which of these can you get started with right now?

I invite you to share your own easy breezy nuggets that keep you on the path to success, learning, and enlightenment.

Empowered Employees Can Improve Communication and Customer Service

Train on the tracks in Metuchen 2013No one likes to be ignored.

Especially customers who give their hard-earned money to businesses in exchange for a product or service.

It seems that most organizations aren’t making the connection between communication and customer service.

When business communication is forthright and delivered in a timely way, organizations are building loyalty and trust, which impacts revenue and reputation. 

Consider this scenario: You go into the local bagel store for coffee, only to learn they are out of decaf. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and had your heart set on decaf. You innocently suggest to the young man working at the counter that he could buy a can of decaf at the supermarket located in the same strip mall.

The employee response: I’m not allowed to do that because the supermarket’s decaf doesn’t taste the same as the product provided by the regular vendor.

Is it better to tell customers you have no decaf?

Derailing Employee Communication

Michael Shaw, a conductor on the busy Metro-North rail line that serves southern Connecticut and New York City, is one person who recently decided to take control of his communication and customer service.  

Last Friday, Shaw told riders at four stops on his route to wait 30 minutes for an express train. But Shaw, a conductor with Metro-North for 30 years, didn’t know that the backup train had been canceled.

When he learned of the mix up, Shaw composed a handwritten apology to passengers. According to NBC affiliate News 4 New York, Shaw made 500 copies of the note and left them on the seats of the train Monday morning.   

The letter was addressed to “our friends and passengers,” and went on to say, “I am as sick of apologizing to you as you are of hearing it.” (Editor’s note: Shaw is the president of the conductor’s union). 

In light of ongoing safety problems plaguing Metro-North for the past year, passengers praised Shaw for his candor.   

Not everyone is thrilled with Shaw’s note.

In an e-mail to the media, Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North, said the rail service shares Shaw’s concerns, but does “not condone his methods of communicating them.”

Was Shaw’s letter to customers a catastrophe or a coup?