May 7, 2013
I was taking a break from client work earlier to catch up on items in my newsfeed. A post from Jeff Esposito caught my eye. It’s called “Are you bumping into your coworkers enough?” If you have coworkers you should read it. But I don’t, so why did I?
The same principles apply to those of us who’ve chosen to work independently. To summarize, Jeff says:
- People matter
- Relationships are key
- We need to break silos
As a solo PR person, I often spend my days in front of the computer working, by myself. But I’m really not alone. Facebook and Twitter have made sure that when I need a distraction (or when I don’t need one), they are there to help keep my finger on the pulse on what’s going on around me.
And the Solo PR community is really like having an agency at my fingertips. (Thank you Kellye Crane) If you haven’t, check out the weekly Twitter chat (#solopr) Wednesdays at 1 PM ET. We’ll solve the problems of people world and have a good laugh at the same time. It’s like a virtual coffee break and I try not to miss it.
But I need some “real life” breaks too. I get those by assembling some groups important to me from both my work and personal lives:
First Tuesdays – is a group of past presidents of the local PRSA Chapter. We gather (you guessed it) the first Tuesday of each month for lunch at a casual lunch spot. I send an e-reminder the week before and we promise to talk about those who don’t attend. It’s a great way to hear what’s happening in our community from different perspectives.
Master’s Lunch (okay, this one’s kind of fallen by the wayside) – This is the silo busting group. It’s a PR pro, web designer, strategic consultant and SEO expert who have lunch together once a month. We talk about what’s going on in our business worlds and how we can help each other.
iPad User Group – Yes, we have a group of close friends, all in similar professions, who gather every other Thursday to share new tools we’ve learned on our iPads. Again, I send an e-reminder. This has been a wonderful way for us to talk through tools we’ve found that make our work lives easier. We also talk about tools that don’t work and show each other fixes on our iPads. And, don’t worry…we won’t laugh too hard when we learn you don’t know how to back-up or sync your iTools.
Girlfriends Lunch – About four or five years ago, my best local friends and I decided to give each other the gift of time for Christmas. So, we have lunch the second Wednesday of each month. If it’s your turn to pay it’s also your turn to choose the restaurant. Since we’re also food lovers, we almost always check out new restaurants in town. This lunch is more personal where we talk about our kids – and our husbands – and more personal issues in our lives.
As an independent consultant, I know it’s my responsibility to set up these check-ins that give me a semblance to being in an office. I have to schedule time for them, and organize them because they are important to me. Of course, I also make time for my husband and our two sons, but that’s a completely different post.
What do you do to make sure you’re staying involved and aware of the world beyond your computer?
March 19, 2013
Lately, I have been in situations where customer service representatives are amazed at the number of contacts in my address book. These conversations caused me to think about how and why I’ve done this.
I’m in the business of public RELATIONS so I’ve never thought it was all that odd.
On the other hand, I’ve also worked hard to maintain these relationships…some for more than 30 years. Here are four tips for maintaining and building relationships.
It’s just Natural
The first 15 years of my career were spent in food public relations. That means the people I met were all related in that they worked in one aspect or another of food – communications, product development, farming, etc. (there was also that sidebar to wool/fashion folks). Many of these people knew each other already, or I could pair them to create mutually beneficial programs. Over the years we made friends. I kept track of the relationships on my Rolodex, and in my address book.
Staying in Touch
My friend Bruce Pozzi, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an expert at maintaining relationships. He taught me to send interesting articles and tips to people I wanted to stay in touch with. I even have a little piece of paper with my logo on it. I can write a very short note, attach it to an article with a sticky dot and send it off to my client, prospect or friend. Today, I might also use email, but snail mail can have more impact.
I keep track of birthdays, anniversaries and such for many of the friends I’ve met over the years. This is easier today because of Facebook, but I have them in my online calendar. They’re set to “beep” enough ahead of the special day I can send a snail mail note or gift. It’s the little things that count so I try to be a bit unique in my remembrances.
I worked for a politician in the mid ‘80s who had a set of cards he used to remember people. This was before computers, so creating and maintaining the cards was time consuming. They were fairly detailed as each listed personal contact information, spouses and family, how they first met and each time they met thereafter (well, maybe not each but most). I’m not quite as detailed in my records but most of my contacts do say where/how I met the person and how they are connected.
As soon as you can after meeting someone, put their card into your computer along with a note about where you met them. Also, send an email – or even better a handwritten card – saying how great it was to meet them. It’ll make you stand out from the crowd.
Power of the Handwritten Note
Several of these tips involve handwritten notes. I can’t underestimate the power of a handwritten note today. Sending them after a small gather, a meeting or any occasion will help you stand out from the crowd. Keep a stash of birthday cards and thank you notes handy so you can send a variety of messages. I even made some cards from pictures of my flower garden. They come in handy, as do my personalized cards. If you’re looking for high quality but relatively inexpensive personalized cards, contact Beth at Bliss Folio.
Most of all, just start to keep better track and take a few minutes to remember folks. It will pay off in the end in so many different ways.
How do you keep track of relationships?
How do you build your networks?
Image: Cambelj45ca via Flickr, CC 2.0
March 4, 2013
Last week, a colleague and I gave a presentation at Whitman College to help students transition to alumni and especially to take advantage of Whitman’s alumni network. As part of the presentation we talked about reputation and what it means for the job search.
“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
In today’s world of 24 hour access to the Internet and searches that can find anything, there’s really no place for double speak/standards. You are what you do, say and act. And…there’s nowhere to hide. Realizing that employers and others you want to impress review personal blogs and social networks means it’s time to focus on where you want to go in life.
So, how do you figure out who you are and who you want to be in 10 years? I almost always start solving problems by answering some questions.
- Who are you?
- What makes you unique?
- What do you believe in?
- Who do you want to be?
- What do you most like doing?
- What do people say you’re good at doing?
- Do you like doing those things?
- What about you can help you achieve those?
- What do you need to learn/do to get there?
- What can’t you live without doing?
These and other questions you add might help you get a framework started. What else would you ask?
Once you’ve answered these questions and built a framework, take a look back and see if there are things you might need to change in your life or things you might wish had ended differently. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and change.
Google yourself to make sure there aren’t things out there you wish were hidden. Knowing you can only go forward, consider what you can do to make sure those don’t happen again.
Going forward always test your decisions against the answers you gave to the questions above. Always be true to who you want to be. Consistency and persistence are important. If you’re making choices not in keeping with your decisions, you’ll stray from the path you took so much effort to set.
Patience is a virtue.
This is often the hardest step of all. We want to get to the finish line hours – or years – before we really need to get there. We don’t always realize how much we can learn along the way and how the journey might be different as we make choices from what we learn along the way.
And remember today’s world means there is an increasingly blurred line between your professional and your personal one. Have fun with social networking but post thoughtfully. Think about how your post would look in headlines.
How did you figure out your path in life? What advice do you have for new graduates?
February 13, 2013
This morning’s Solo PR chat started with a robust discussion about blogging; whether or not to make your blog your home page. This quickly changed to a much broader discussion about blogging in general. The typical answer to questions like this is…it depends.
As with all aspects of public relations or strategic communication, a good plan is the best way to begin. Some questions to consider:
- Why do you want to blog?
- What do you hope to accomplish?
- Who is your audience?
- What do you want to talk about?
- What are you known for?
- What do you want to be known for?
- Is anyone else already blogging in this space?
- If so, how will your blog be different?
Once you decide to blog, and what to blog about, consider the time commitment. Begin with the assumption you can write, edit and post in 90 minutes to 2 hours. If that’s the case, block out time on your calendar to write your posts.
Based on the general topics you’ve defined through the planning process, outline some posts for at least the first three months. This should give you a base from which to build some consistency.
Several participants on this morning’s chat shared my issue with confidence. Do people really want to read what I write? For some reason, the public nature of blogging raises confidence issues for many of us who regularly write for others. One way to overcome that is to have a trusted colleague who’s in the target audience take a quick look at your posts before they go live. It often helps strengthen a post.
Once you’ve decided to blog and determined your topics, look at your website and see where the blog should live. That’s actually what started the discussion on the chat…whether your blog should be your home page or not. Again, look at what you’re trying to do and why. Should you even attach your blog to your business site? For some, the blog is their business site.
Chances are, as long as you’ve thought it through, whatever you decide will work. It’s just like many aspects of strategic communications:
One size doesn’t fit all.
December 12, 2011
Always behave like a duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.
~ Jacob Braude
Public relations professionals are often known for their calm demeanor in stressful situations. However, most I know subscribe to this quotation as we often feel as though we’re moving as fast as we can to keep 95 balls in the air at once. It’s a good sign when our clients or bosses don’t realize we’re paddling so fast. During the holiday season, the paddling becomes positively ferocious!
Another factor facing all of us is the seemingly ever-increasing speed of change. As communications professionals, we are expected to be savvy about the latest social media tools and understand their uses for our clients and bosses. Staying on top of things can be stressful in and of itself.
Not that I always stay stress-free by any stretch of the imagination but I thought I would offer some of my techniques to keep up to date on trends and the latest widget to help us do our jobs, and also ask you for yours:
Instapaper is a wonderful application on my computer that give me the flexibility to read great articles later in the day or week. I mark them to “read later” and then read them on my iPad while relaxing in the evening so it doesn’t take time away from the workday.
Articles with interesting techniques or thoughtful messages get bookmarked immediately so I can always find them later. Using a tool like Diigo means others can access my bookmarks as well. This helps greatly with what we call the “tire kickers” who really just want to pick my brain, rather than hire me to help them. It’s easy to say – check out the articles I’ve bookmarked about “such and such.” I feel I’m still helping them but it’s not time consuming for me.
Dedicate a certain amount of time each week to learning
It’s very easy for me to get sidetracked and lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. So I try to set aside an hour (or two) a day just to learn from the social networks where I’m engaged. This could mean reading tweets, participating in a Twitter chat, or talking with other professionals about what they are learning.
Engage in professional organization networking
Throughout my career I’ve made it a point to be engaged with my professional organization – in my case PRSA. The dividends that involvement pays are absolutely enormous. Find the professional group that’s most active in your area and get engaged. Or, create your own network of people you share with. Set aside a regular time to get together and talk about business issues.
I don’t expect to be paid by clients for all the research I do to learn new tools but consider it a business investment. However, the fact that I work hard to stay on top of trends is a reason they seek my advice. That makes it an important part of my workweek.
As far as keeping the stress to myself, sometimes that’s harder than it I want it to be. But, I find focusing on slowing down and deep, slow breathing often do the trick. If I am heading to a client’s office, I purposely slow my pace before I get there, and walk slowly to the building/office.
How do you stay on top of trends and the “latest” widget? How do you keep from displaying your stress to clients or your boss?