The Bright Side of Life

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
       Monty Python

Try to watch your favorite television program during an election season without DVR-ing commercials and you may soon find yourself thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Being bombarded by constant negativity is more than just aggravating. I believe it can truly alter your mood for the worse.

There have been numerous studies conducted on the effectiveness of negative campaign ads as they relate to poll results. Do negative ads sway voters? For every voter who tells you he is put off by the ads, a researcher will point to studies that show negative ads work because they contain more hard-hitting information to help voters decide between candidates.

happyA different, but closely related question might be, “What is all of this negativity doing to our outlook on life?”

It’s not only the ads. Even as a former reporter myself, I can barely stand to watch the local or national news anymore. One horrific story after another. It makes me feel as if no one truly cares about anyone else, and there is simply no hope.

But, there is hope. It starts with one person making the conscious decision to be positive. To turn off the TV, log off of Facebook, put down the phone and help someone in need. Call me a bleeding heart, but I think we could all benefit from a big dose of compassion.

For Christians, the season of Lent upon us. This is a time of self-examination and reflection – the perfect time to begin building a habit of focusing on being the change we want to see. Personally, I am not only taking part in my yearly sacrifice of sweets, I am shifting my focus to others by participating in the Lenten Positive Acts Challenge. Giving up a favorite food or beverage only impacts the person doing the sacrifice. Committing to positive acts has a direct impact on the lives of others.

No matter your religious beliefs, I challenge you to become consciously aware of the negativity that surrounds you on a daily basis, and it’s effect on you. Bit by bit, work to add more positivity to your life. Too Pollyanna? Maybe. But, who knows? You just might find that those around you become a bit more positive, too. That definitely makes for a brighter side of life.

Join the Lenten Positive Acts Challenge here: http://lentenpositiveacts.com/the-challenge/

For additional inspiration:

http://www.chopra.com/ccl/10-ways-to-bring-more-compassion-to-the-workplace

http://www.positivityblog.com

http://pelicananglican.blogspot.com

 

Advertisements

5 Tips for Recruiting and Keeping Brand Ambassadors

For the past year or so, I have been in a love/hate relationship with the makers of one of my favorite protein bars. Because I still have mad love for the product itself, I won’t name the brand here.

I was fortunate to become one of the company’s brand ambassadors. Only, I never quite felt fortunate or appreciated. I watched daily as other ambassadors used social media to show off their branded gym bags, filled with free product like water bottles and tank tops while I made do with the occasional product shipment and hugely oversized t-shirt (seriously, it came down past my knees). I felt like Charlie Brown out trick-or-treating (“I got a rock.”)

Yet, I plugged away, sharing product samples, posting online product reviews and promoting within my fitness circles. Not once did the company use my images, my stories or my testimony. I continually was made to feel like a stepchild despite that fact that I was living and breathing their brand every day.

A couple of months ago, I received a cut-and-dry email, informing me that the ambassador program was changing. I was advised to reapply, and perhaps I would be chosen. Perhaps not. I reapplied, and heard…. nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. I called, emailed, tweeted, finally receiving a form message back saying that they still had not finalized the new program and I would be notified if chosen. Meanwhile, those lucky folks I mentioned earlier? They never missed a beat, continuing to post photos of their company perks.

I decided to retain some of my dignity and walk away. But, as a marketer myself, I would be remiss if I did not use this as a learning experience.

So, here are five tips for recruiting and keeping strong ambassadors for your brand:

  1. Have goals and a clear program plan. Make sure your would-be ambassadors know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from you.
  2. Know the type of ambassador you want and need. Establish this up-front so you don’t end up with step-child ambassadors like me. If you choose to have different levels, make sure that everyone knows going into it.
  3. Make them feel special and appreciated. Obviously, you feel they have something to offer your brand. Ambassadors carry your message to a wider audience and strengthen your brand. Recognize them and make them feel part of an elite group. 
  4. Ask for their advice… and use it. Ambassadors are your eyes and ears and can provide valuable feedback if you only listen to them.
  5. Reward them. It can’t always be about your brand. What’s in it for your ambassadors?

In my love/hate relationship with Facebook, hate wins (aka Why I’m Breaking Up With FB)

images
About a month ago, I received a call from my mother.

Mom: “(Name) saw on Facebook where you posted something saying that you were a proud mother of a gay son.”
Me: “Mom, first of all, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Second, if that were true, while I would still be a proud mother, I wouldn’t use Facebook to publicly out my kid.”

As we say in the South, bless her heart. It was the straw that broke the Photoshopped, duck-lipped, selfie-loving camel’s back.

A recent study found that people who regularly use FB tend to be the most unhappy. As I read my news feed today, I understand why. It is 80% filled with thinly disguised racism, hatred, fear and ignorance. Arguments bounce around as each side of decisive debates try to win the other side over with not-so-cleverly-designed memes. The miserable feed off the miserable.

I’ve tried filtering, hiding, de-friending. But, still I find myself getting all worked up each time I log on and am met with a barrage of posts that go against my most basic beliefs in justice, equality and civility. I’m not sure why half of my ‘friends’ have actually befriended me when it’s clear we have nothing in common. Again, misery begets misery. Facebook actually knows this and conducted its own little experiment with your emotions: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full.pdf

The average person who has been on FB for 10 years has wasted 40 days of his life. For those more hard-core FB addicts, it can be as much as 150 days! Imagine what a difference we could make by devoting all that time to something that really matters.

Because I couldn’t have said it better myself, here are six additional reasons I am dropping my personal Facebook account: www.entrepreneur.com/article/234598

Now, because I am in the marketing business, some may ask how my loathing of this social media platform will impact the way I promote my clients. In short, it won’t. The same things that aggravate me about my personal FB page bug that heck out of me and cost my clients money when trying to promote a business. For quite a while now, I have steered clients away from using FB as a means to market their business, and haven’t been worse for it. Communication with customers is critically important and FB seems to block it at every turn.  I would rather focus my attention and my client’s dollars on using social media networks that help, not hinder, our efforts to build their brand.

Here is a great follow-up article from Eat24 following their break-up with the social networking giant, calling it “the best marketing move we made all year.” http://blog.eat24hours.com/eat24-life-after-facebook

Do I expect my declaration of independence (I just caught the irony of that since it’s almost July 4th) to really matter to anyone? No, of course not. The truth is, the folks who really care about me and want to see my kids (instead of just liking a picture of them) will drop me a letter, stop by for a visit, or (gasp) pick up the phone to see how I’m doing. The rest care about me as much as I care about the link you shared from your ultra-conservative hate group espousing your right to fly your Confederate flag or deny service to my gay friends, or the photo of that strange growth in your mouth that had to be lanced – all equally repulsive.

Girl Gone Mild

If you are one of the handful of followers who keep up with my posts, or you’re just a random unlucky Web surfer who stumbled upon my rants, you know that I am a runner who has been struggling with the ups and downs of recovering from knee surgery. If there is one piece of advice I hear most frequently, it’s “Take it easy.” As the legendary Tina Turner croons, “(I) never do anything nice and easy.”

I have always been of the opinion that anything worth doing is worth doing 110%. All in or all out. Yes, I can be a fairly intense individual. So, it comes as no surprise that being unable to run (or workout, or even walk very well) has been a mental challenge as well as a physical one. I find myself so discouraged by the fact that I can’t run a mile that I overlook the small gains that I am making.

The_Tortoise_and_the_Hare_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19993

As I’ve worked to redefine my definition of success as it relates to physical fitness, I was reminded of one of the Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz. If you are not familiar with the Four Agreements, I highly recommend you run out (pun intended) and go find a copy. The basic principles Ruiz outlines are simple enough to comprehend:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

4. Always Do Your Best

However, as evidenced by my audible frustration during physical torture/therapy, remembering to model them in my daily life can be a challenge.

The fourth principle is of particular relevance to my situation. As Ruiz reminds me in his book, my best will change from day to day. Some days, my best will be a 5K or half-marathon. Other days (or months), it will be cycling around the block, or doing squats without crying. The point is, whatever I am able to do, I should “avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.” My best will change, but it’s always MY best, belonging to me alone. Others have their own definition of best, meaning I shouldn’t try to compare myself to the super fit elite triathlon pros who speed past me on the road. That’s not my best. Yet. It could be one day. But, for today, I will focus on the work that is at hand, knowing that doing my very best today will not only move me closer to my long-term goals, cutting myself some slack will most certainly improve my current state of well-being.

As I always work to tie in my learnings to the world of Communications, I should point out that these principles are absolutely applicable in the workplace. Just look at rule number one. PR professionals should always practice the Golden Rule, communicating with the highest of ethical standards.

What about two, three and four? How can you see these being important guideposts for communicators? What else would you add to the list?

Who Does She Think She Is?

Recently, my community experienced yet another tragic example of schoolyard bullying leading to suicide. A young girl at my son’s middle school took her own life, following alleged repeated bullying by her classmates. As you can imagine, this tragic incident has brought bullying back to the spotlight. Hopefully, it means parents will have meaningful discussions with their children about the impact of bullying. But, it has me wondering how many parents have the ability to have those discussions? How many of them are bullies themselves? I believe bullying is a learned behavior that I have experienced myself as an adult.

According to a 2010 office survey, thirty five percent of American workers say they experience bullying in the workplace. In fact, workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment and racial discrimination, found the same study. Women more frequently engage in behaviors such as sabotage and abuse of authority, as compared to the more observable form of verbal abuse engaged in by the guys. (Source: Workplace Bullying Institute).

“Women bullies will often befriend you and then air all your secrets later, in boardrooms or at office gatherings. I’ve had patients that just can’t trust again after being humiliated like that at work,” says psychologist Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Institute.

All that sneakiness makes it harder to report, too. How do you tell your boss you’re being talked about and picked on without coming off as a whiner? Even worse when the bully is your boss. Been there, done that, got the dagger marks.

At the risk of sounding cliche, why can’t we all just go to work, do our jobs, and get along? What are the root causes of workplace bullying, and why does it happen more often to women?

“From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught to compete,” says author Sophia Nelson. “I need to be prettier, taller, smarter, my hair needs to be straighter, curlier, whatever it is. I need to get the better looking guy. I need to always be better than because we’re taught to come from a place of lack as women.”

Perhaps we are threatened by one another and view other women in the workplace as competition. Despite all of the progress we’ve made, women still hold less than 20% of all board seats in corporate America, fewer than one-fifth of Fortune 500 companies have 25% or more women directors, and ten percent of companies have no women on their boards (Forbes).

images

Mean Girls

The fact is, ladies, by constantly cutting each other down, we set our entire gender back. As Washington Post writer Selena Rezvani writes:

While workplace studies show women are routinely underestimated compared to men, we don’t give much credence to the fact that women hampering other women is also to blame…. Many of us have witnessed the man who comments on a woman’s hotness just as she leaves the room. But what about the woman who criticizes another’s appearance (Did you see what she was wearing in there?) or frowns on a woman’s unapologetic use of power (Just who does she think she is?)?

Maybe once we reach a certain level in our careers, we develop what Rezvani calls “sexism amnesia,” where we forget what it’s like to be the young inexperienced and underestimated girl. Or are we simply overcompensating? I’ve had female bosses that I felt were trying entirely too hard to be “one of the boys.”

So, let’s hear your office war stories. We all have them. Do men and women bully differently? How do we break the cycle and teach our children…and our co-workers…that bullying is not OK?

(Nelson’ five tips on how women can work with as opposed to against each other: http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1010&sid=33971183)

You Had Me At Hello

11002623_10205277729854564_4220560190690734759_n

Ice on the fleur de lis.

I spent this morning clearing out my inbox which, after two days of being stuck inside due to a rare Southern winter storm, became cluttered with all sorts of junk. As my eyes quickly scanned through the subject lines, I became aware of which ones drew my attention, and which ones I didn’t hesitate to send to the trash. The latter are typically unsolicited messages from unknown sources. They usually don’t address me directly, but instead lead with whatever they’re selling. “New!” “Today Only!” In a matter of mere seconds, I will decide if the message is worth opening and exploring.

Psychologists call this phenomenon “thin slicing.” It’s the ability we all have to find patterns in events based only on thin slices, or narrow windows, of experience. In other words, making quick decisions based on very little information. In our super-busy, get-it-done-immediately lives, marketers have a very narrow window of opportunity to make a first impression that will lead to a lasting relationship. 

The emails that cause me to pause and do a double-take are the ones that address me directly by my name in the header. “Hey Tricia, Wine’s On Sale!” It’s a start, but even then, it’s no guarantee I will actually open the email to read more.

Which brings me to the third type of email in my inbox this morning – the one that grabbed my attention and made a permanently negative impression. It’s a simple, but powerful thing. Get my name right! How can I trust you to deliver on anything you’re promising if you can’t even accurately spell my name? Also, make sure the product yphotoou are selling is relevant to my life. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I’m the right target market for “Hit the Road with Diesel Driving Academy” or “Erection Problems Making Your Wife Unhappy?”

It all boils down to Marketing/PR 101. Start with research. Know your audience and what make them tick.  Otherwise, you’re wasting your marketing dollars and your prospect’s time, both of which are in short supply.

Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue. I’ve heard and used this phrase all my life without giving it much thought. Recently, however, it’s been in the forefront of my mind as I recover from injury. (If you recall from a previous post, I was training for a marathon. I did complete that race – yay! – but injured myself running trails the week after. Bummer.)

The thought of being forbidden from running for the next two months makes me want to scream. The idea of weeks of slow and repetitive physical therapy is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I want to be healed now. I’m done with this. Move on. Next!

Life doesn’t work that way. Mind over matter only goes so far. (Especially once you turn 40!) I can’t mentally force my knee to heal itself more quickly. As hard as it is for me, I am forced to rest, recuperate and let others help me.

2a7676a

What does this all have to do with communications and marketing? Having patience forces a communicator to realize a few things:

– I am not always right. I am human and I make mistakes. I need the patience to give myself some slack, learn from my error and move on.

– Even when I know I’m right, the client may disagree. I may need to redo a design or an article that I thought was perfect. Breathe in, breathe out. Patience opens us up to seeing other’s viewpoints.

-Patience forces the mind and body to slow down. In these quiet times comes reflection and greater clarity, leading to enhanced creativity.

Isn’t that worth waiting for?

You Spin Me Right Round, Baby

Earlier this week, the world’s largest independent public relations agency, Edelman, issued an apology for calling the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams a “carpe diem moment”, saying the agency “did not intend to capitalise on the passing of a great actor who contributed so much.” For a group that prides itself on helping companies out of sticky PR situations, Edelman sure stepped in this time.

I prefer to assume positive intent, so I will guess that the company’s heart was in the right place, and the blog was an attempt to help draw much-needed attention to the often misunderstood subject of mental illness. However, even after the ensuing virtual firestorm, Edelman did not take down the blog, and instead issued their half-baked apology: “We apologize to anyone we offended”. As Rhett once told Scarlett, “you’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole, but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”

This is one giant step backward for public relations professionals everywhere who hold themselves to high standards of professional ethics, work hard to build and strengthen client/audience relationships, and struggle to avoid being lumped in with truth-stretching spin doctors. I must admit, if the largest PR firm on the planet can make this type of egregious misstep, my faith in the future of the PR profession is a bit shaken.

Edelman blog: http://www.edelman.com/tag/robin-williams/

 

Finding Time for Creativity

A quick Google search turns up 82,500,00 results for the search, “finding time for creativity.” That’s a lot of opinions, which means there must be a lot of folks searching for zen! I tend to be most creative when I am removed from my daily stresses (in other words, rarely). Random creative thoughts hit me in the shower, just as I’m drifting off to sleep, or when I’m driving. In such a fast-paced, multi-tasked society, I’m curious. How do you find time to be creative?

 

What We Have Here Is….

Cool Hand Luke

There I was, at the end of a long day, reading feedback from a recent survey I’d conducted. There it was, staring back at me from the computer screen. A very negative comment from someone I had recently met and really hit it off with…or so I thought. This person obviously did not feel likewise since he suggested that my employment was a mistake. I couldn’t believe it. There it was in black and white:

“Not sure hiring a marketing director was a step in the right direction.”

I was hurt, confused, and angry. As I left the office that day, my mind was a whirlwind of mixed emotion and doubt. I began second-guessing everything. Maybe our meeting hadn’t gone as well as I’d thought. What if I wasn’t the right person for the job after all?  What if, what if, what if?

Later, after forcing myself to hit the gym instead of the corner bar, I decided to go back through those survey comments again. And, there it was. his comment, staring back at me:

“Not sure. Hiring a marketing director was a step in the right direction.”

What?! It reminded me of those grammar memes I keep seeing on Facebook.

downloadThey like me! They really like me! How could I have so easily misread what turned out to be a very positive comment? Had I allowed my own insecurities and doubts to filter the message before it hit my brain?

As humans, we all carry with us various filters through which we receive messages. Emotional intelligence, culture, gender, body language, to name a few. Add to that the impact of technology and chronic multi-tasking, and you have a society of really busy folks who aren’t paying attention. As communicators trying to cut through the clutter, we must always be mindful of these barriers in order that our message is received effectively.