Follow by Email

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

5 Tips for Small Business Owners To Pick a Content Marketing Expert

Content marketing continues to grow and for good reason. It enables businesses to leverage their expertise in a real and demonstrable manner, at a relatively low cost. So, why aren't more small businesses taking advantage and incorporating content marketing? The answer is simple.  They just don't have the expertise or the time.  There are many excellent marketing practitioners who live and breathe content marketing. At the same time, there are many people who profess to understand content marketing and do not. Here are 5 tips for getting started when seeking your content marketer:
Image Courtesy of

1.  Think Strategically

One of the first things that a content marketer should ask about is your strategy.  Good content marketing consultants will interview you about this and ask thought-provoking questions.

2.  Develop Personas

In order to curate content, it is essential that your content marketing professional be able to develop personas, should you not already have them.

3. Act with Integration in Mind

Content should not be created only with social in mind.  An integrated approach must be taken.  Be sure that your marketing consultant has the expertise to leverage and implement an integrated marketing approach.  Don't be dazzled by someone who knows how to set up a Facebook Page or Group.

4.  Execute Based on Best Practices

 Be sure to ask questions to determine if your consultant knows how to make use of the right channels at the right time.  For example, recommending to post updates to Facebook at the wrong times with the wrong content will result in poor results.  This also applies to quality over quantity.   Always look for consultants that focus on quality first.

5.  Focus On Long-term Results

As tempted as we are to want things to happen immediately, marketing is something that takes time.  Your consultant should be prepared to guide you through the process and make adjustments as needed.  Remember we are dealing with consumer behaviour and influencing behaviour takes time. 

These are just 5 starting points to get you thinking.

Looking for more tips for small business?  Check out:  25 Cool Online Resources to Grow Your Business.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

12 Reasons to Do a Communications Audit Immediately

Communications is at the core of success and therefore, a periodic communications audit is critical to ensure that you are meeting the changing needs to your stakeholders.  Here are X reasons to do a communications audit immediately:
Image Courtesy of

1.  You are no longer getting the same level of employee feedback as you once did.

2.  Your external stakeholders are no longer engaged.

3.  Repeat Customers have diminished.
4.  Your Top of the Funnel Sales Leads have decreased.

5.  Regulators or legislative bodies claim that they don't know what you are doing.

6.  The media report that you are not available for comment or did not respond by time of deadline.

7.  Your read rate of online newsletters has decreased.

8.  Employee retention is an issue.

9.  Employee sick time is increasing.

10.  Labor relations is an issue.

11.  Investors are not happy.

12.  You don't know what medium is the right one to communicate with employees, customers, stakeholders, regulators, media, etc.

The good news is that a communications audit can be done to determine strengths and weaknesses between management and employees and management and external parties. The focus can be exclusively on the internal or external relationship, or both.  An audit will not only determine strengths and weaknesses, but it will also determine the channels of choice for specific audiences, frequency of communication and how different types of communications should be addressed for specific audiences.  

For more information on Communication Audits, check out:  8 Key Steps for a Successful Communications Audit

Friday, September 6, 2013

25 Cool Online Resources to Grow Your Business

Small and medium business owners are always on the lookout for great resources to help them grow, but they don’t  always have time to research, read, and sort the wheat from the chaff. So I've done the preliminary work for you. 
Here are 25 helpful small business resources covering everything from naming your new business to creating content for your marketing strategy, to increasing sales. 
Image courtesy of
In no particular order, here a list of SMB resources you're going to want to bookmark:
1. Entrepreneur Solutions Playbook – 25 Small-Business Challenges [PDF]: A great discussion on the Top 25 Small Business Challenges
2. The Simple Guide to Branding Your Small Business [Infographic]: Looking for great advice on branding?  Check out this visual.
3. 5 Startup Naming Rules from SXSW: This article discusses how to position your business, including Do's and Don't's.
4. Facebook – Small Business Page: Great up-to-date ideas and information for small businesses plus you can contribute your ideas.
5. Six Best Practices for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy: Whether you're just getting started with content marketing or you're at it for awhile, this article to shares best practices.
6. Small Business Mobility Meets Big Business Needs: Learn more about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).
7. Reuters Small Business Resource Center: Looking for a well-rounded source for starting a business, employment law and more, check out this resource center.
8. CNN Small Business Community: Join the CNN Small Business Community for interesting posts from CNN Money.
9. Smart Bizz – Small Business and Startups Internet Technology Resources: Another good source for a broad range of subjects from e-commerce, productivity and more in this resource center.
10. NFIB – National Federation of Independent Business, the Voice of Small Business: From healthcare to sales and customer service to finance and accounting, get topical posts to help you advance your business.
11. – a Free Wiki: Get local-based information based on your State.  Check out this community portal to learn the latest happenings in small business.
12. Wall Street Journal – Market Watch: Looking for an aggregate of great news-related posts for your small business? This is another great one-stop shop.
13. CitiBank Small Business Resources: Learn more about risk and financial security.
14. AT&T Strategies and Insights:  Access posts on how to attract customers, increase sales, build relationships and more on this handy site.
15. IT Business Edge – Small Business Computing: Get how-to guides, small business tips and more on this site.
16. Bank of America Small Business Community: Learn about small businesses of the month, ask the community questions and more.
17. Network Solutions - Small Business Center: Get a roundup of small business news all in one spot.
18. Cisco Small Business Resource Center: This center has articles, customer stories news and more all in one spot.
19. Small Business Guides: Get the latest guides on financing, training and events.
20. Go Small Biz: Looking for a go-to on tax/accounting, sales, HR, risk and tech in one spot?  This could be your go-to.
21. All Business - Your Small Business Advantage: Get access to the top stories, All Business experts and more.
22. Information Week SMB Technology for Small and Midsized Business: Get access to weekly email updates, SMB stories right from SMBs and more.
23. Microsoft Business for Small and Midsized Business: Learn new ways to use Microsoft tools get tips and marketing research.
24. DuctTape Marketing Blog: Blog posts, free ebooks and information on courses abound this site.
25. AMEX Open Forum: Recently redesigned, exchange advice, get ideas and learn small business success.
Note:  a version of this post appeared on the Salesforce blog that I wrote for them in August of this year.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

3 Performance Killers Leaders Should Watch for and Stop

Performance killers are a reality, but it is up to an organization's leadership to be on the watch for such behaviour.  In fact, it is essential for managers to be trained to spot and address this destructive behaviour in order to build high-performance teams.  And herein lies the difference between teams and departments.  In teams you don't have this behaviour.  In departments that are experiencing challenging times and/or people competing to avoid downsizing, this behaviour is rampant.

As someone who has managed teams for close to 20 years, a former colleague reached out to me recently get some advice on some behaviours he was seeing in his own department.  With that in mind, I offered him the following description of what I was trained to lookout for as a manager.

Here are three performance killers that managers need to address and end:

1.  Cliques or Power Coalitions

     Coalitions frequently in group settings.  In this case, a few people align themselves with the leader and withhold praise or positive feedback outside the clique.  In fact, giving praise to other members of team is intentionally withheld and may even go as far as to persuade the leader that the other parties are not performing. 
Image courtesy of -

2.  Enforced Silos

Silos can occur in conjunction with cliques or independently of another action.  In these situations, people involved are focused on self-promotion and their careers rather than the overall good of the department and ultimately the team.  Individuals involved in these actions will ensure that information is withheld from others. Marginalization of other departmental members usually occurs.  

3.  Alienators

   In this case, Alienators work quietly at first dropping hints to the leader that other people are not doing their jobs and/or not performing as well as should be expected.  Alienators are very skilled at creating the perception that he or she is concerned about the “team’s” reputation and ultimately the leader’s reputation.  Through continued conversations, the discussions escalate to the point where the leader believes that the Alienator has his or her best interests at heart.

    Managers should be on the lookout for these behaviours, particularly during troubled times. And when he or she sees this occurring, the manager must take the bull by the horns. Staff members can't address this.  The situation for those individuals will only worsen.  Managers need to look closely at the members of their department and ask questions like:  who is always finding fault with members other than their small clique?  Who uses pass aggressive techniques to slide in negative comments?  

The only way to stop this destructive behaviour is to set the stage that team members support one another and make each member in the department look good both within the department and outside the department.  That is a true sign of team participation.  While this is not easy for many mangers, good managers make it a practice to not accept anything less, even from people with whom they have befriended in the reporting structure.

These are only three destructive behaviours that can occur.  What would you add to this list?

Monday, August 19, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Danny Brown & Sam Fiorella's Influence Marketing

I love that I get the chance to meet really smart, interesting and inspiring people and in the process read great books and do book reviews. Danny Brown is one of those people. Sam, hopefully we get to connect soon too! As I get ready to do my PhD on Digital Influence, I was pumped to read Danny's and Sam's book: Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. After all it is a bout Influence!

Both Danny and Sam are well known for their marketing prowess and have really developed the conversation around influence. When done well, we don't even realize that tactics of influence are being executed on us. As expected, this is a well written book chalk full of information.

From the Book's synopsis:

"Today, you face a brutally tough, maddeningly elusive new competitor: the “wisdom of crowds.” Social media gives consumers 24x7 access to the attitudes and recommendations of their most engaged peers. These are the views that shape buying decisions. These are the views you must shape and use.Influence Marketing won’t just help you identify and enlist key influencers: it will help you manage the influence paths that lead consumers to buy. By sharing empirical evidence of hard-won lessons from pioneering influence marketers, Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella provide a blueprint that moves influence marketing beyond simple brand awareness and into sales acquisition and customer life time value measurement. They integrate new tools and techniques into a complete methodology for generating more and better leads—and converting them faster, at higher margins.

• Put the customer—not the influencer—at the center, and plan influence marketing accordingly
• Recognize where each prospect stands in the purchase life cycle right now
• Clarify how your consumers move from brand preference to purchase
• Identify key micro-influencers who impact decisions at every stage
• Gain indispensable insights into the context of online relationships
• Recognize situational factors that derail social media brand recommendations
• Understand social influence scoring models and overcome their limitations
• Re-engineer and predict influence paths to generate measurable action
• Master the “4 Ms” of influence marketing: make, manage, monitor, measure
• Transform influence marketing from a “nice-to-have” exercise into a powerful strategy

Additional online resources can be found at"

Now, My Review:

This is one of the most comprehensive books on Influence Marketing that I have come across. From defining what Influencers are to understanding the emotion and logic that drives Influence to role of social media to exploring the shift of power from the brand to consumer and more, Danny and Sam have this exciting topic covered. They even go one step further and offer case studies to reinforce and support their topics.

What stood out for me most? Well, it was really the discussions around Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). This section of the book, like the entire book, was well thought out and got me thinking a lot about how to better measure Influence and the need to incorporate different measures than what have been discussed. This will be an area that I explore much deeper thanks to the authors.

Finally, another part of the book that I particularly liked and will draw upon to support initiatives is the definition of Influencers. As Influencer Marketing becomes more and more the topic du jour, helping people understand who is an Influencer and who is an Advocate, for example will really make a difference in developing ones strategy and tactics to use in an integrated marketing plan, that includes Influence Marketing.

So, you are looking to get an A-Z understanding of Influencer Marketing, I would get this book.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

7 Considerations To Choose the Right Corporate Spokesperson

The choice of corporate spokesperson should never be taken lightly.  Never.  Having the wrong person representing you can damage your brand in the best case scenario.  In the worse-case scenario, it could destroy your brand.

The person or persons chosen need to be creditable, knowledgeable, well-spoken, but above all empathetic and likable.  There have been a few tragic situations over the last few years when brands seem to have forgotten this fundamental rule.


In my 20+ years in Public Relations and Crisis Communications I have both been a corporate spokesperson and coached others in this role.  It is not an easy task.  You are often dealing with death.  There are just no words that can make anyone feel better at a time like this.  That is why it is so critical that you have someone who can give information and facts and most importantly have real and genuine empathy.  You can't fake empathy.  You can't fake the terrible feeling that you have knowing that a human-being has died.  At this point the spokesperson must do his or her best to share information that will help make some sense of the tragedy without inflaming victims and loves-ones who are experiencing complete and utter loss, disbelief and anger.

A few weeks ago I listened as one corporate spokesperson spoke on a very, very tragic situation here in Canada.  I did not envy him or anyone who had attempted to coach him.  This level of tragedy was unknown in our country and facing those left behind was not going to be easy.  Suffice it to say, the conversation did not go well.  The words chosen and even the tone used, were wrong.  I listened in disbelief.  Tonight I listened to a follow-up interview.  My only words to describe what I heard was:  why isn't someone saving him from himself?  Again the words chosen will only inflame the victims' families.  

Brands can mitigate this by having the right person in place.  I offer the following advice to brands to avoid having the wrong spokesperson:

1.  Know the abilities of your employees, including your executives.  Choose based on knowledge and the ability to be empathetic and likeable, not based on position.  While it is true that PR people will "typically" recommend that the most senior person speak out to "take responsibility" in very serious circumstances, avoid this if your most senior person does not come across as caring, patient, and likeable.  

2.  Have a regular cadence of training for your spokespersons.  Don't wait for a tragedy.  Have mock interviews with cameras, people playing probing and tough reporters. Be sure to watch and critique the interviews with the spokespersons.  

3.  Get 3rd party impressions of the spokespersons.  Play on-camera interviews with the audio turned off.  Ask what people felt about the spokesperson.  Did they feel that he or she was telling the truth or hiding something?  Did the person look angry, sincere, or arrogant?  You need to know this before an issue emerges.  

4.  If necessary, retrain after the the feedback.  If there is no improvement, replace the spokesperson.

5.  If the unthinkable happens and the spokesperson is called into duty, respond quickly.  The longer you wait, the more inflamed people will be.   Review and assess the person's experience.  Be honest and really critique the situation.  This is the time that you need everyone doing the right thing for the victims and their families.  

6.  Change spokespersons if necessary. Do it and do it swiftly.  

7.  This one is most important:  Be human.  You are dealing with a tragedy.  Remember that.  You are not the victim. 

Tragedies are never easy.  The role of the spokesperson is do the best job to provide the facts and not inflame people.   

Friday, July 26, 2013

How LinkedIn Inspired Me

This week, LinkedIn asked its Influencers to write about "what Influences" them.  This was a great idea.  Not only did we get to learn more about the individual influencers as people, but we got to learn more about how the actual person thinks and processes information.  It is one thing to write about what you do professionally and provide thought-leadership, but quite another to talk about what inspires you as a person.  Reading their posts were really quite revealing.

So, LinkedIn's great idea along with reading the various Influencer posts,  inspired me to write about my inspirations.  Well, here we go:

As I sat to write this, I realized that the people who have inspired me most in my life had something in common.  They all had a number of personality traits that were the same. I hadn't compartmentalized people like this before, but the truth is here in black and white.

So who are the people who have inspired me in my lifetime?  Here are just a few.

1.  My parents
2.  My maternal grandmother and great grandmother
3.  My first boss:  Elwood Maxwell
4.  Lori MacMullen
5.  Deb Arnold
6.  Nelson Mandela, whom I wish I knew.

My father after the Ribbon Cutting - New Seniors Complex in Home Town

What do these people all have in common?  Strength, perseverance, intelligence, but above all else, they have compassion and exhibit forgiveness and kindness on a daily basis.  I think that these traits separate much more than the wheat from the chaff.  No, these traits characterize people who are selfless and help others.  They want to genuinely help others be in a better place.  These are not people who are selfish or self-absorbed.   

Sadly, some of these people I list are no longer with us.  So I pay tribute to my father, my grandmother, great grandmother and Deb Arnold here!  They are all greatly missed. 

There are many other great people in this world.  Who would YOU add to this list?  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 Marketing Lessons Learned From A Closet Monarchist

O.k.!  I admit it.  I am a Monarchist.  I am not really even sure when that happened.  But I must come clean and admit it. Maybe it was growing up and drawing out Union Jacks, despite the obvious fact that I am of Scottish ancestry, but I won't go there,  Maybe it is because I grew up looking at the Queen on most of our money..or..or..who knows.  I just am.  So, now that it is out, I will even share some of my photos with you in this post.

I also have to admit that my title for this blog was going to be: "Confessions of a Monarchist", but because I actually working in social media and content marketing, I know that headlines with a number in them, do better...they really do!

So, what I have learned from being a Monarchist?  Apparently a few things:

1.  Pomp and Circumstance is a great marketing tactic! 

The Royals know how to do this better than anyone I know.  They make an announcement like an engagement, but don't announce the date.  They hold a media event to show the ring.  All the experts weigh in to demonstrate their knowledge of procedure and protocol.  The speculation begins on the "where will they get married and who will design the dress".  Excitement and anticipation is created.  The date gets announced, more experts weigh in and photos are shared.  Speculation on who will be invited starts.  The wedding is held and everyone waits with bated breath to see the dress and of course and  "the fascinators".  Then there is anticipation about when will there be a royal heir.  This isn't a campaign of days or even weeks!  No, this has been nearly a three-year campaign!  Brilliant.  Talk about keeping the conversation going! 

I took this photo on June 18, 1983, - Royal Visit - Campbellton, NB

2.  Tradition Trumps A Flash-in-the-Pan Initiative 

Sure there are traditions that just don't make sense and really are stupid. However, there are some traditions that come and go, and when the Royals have something to celebrate, the fun and good ones come back.  In terms of fun, I can't help but think about the above mentioned fascinators that we saw at Kate and Will's wedding.  Sure, some were downright silly looking, but they were great fodder to chuckle and ask:  "why?".  Others were quite nice and many women adopted them, at least for a little while. A new revenue stream for some!  Then there are the wedding dresses.  I was till youngish when Diana and Charles married, but years later friends had replicas of Diana's dress made for their high school graduation dress.  Seriously!  I kid you not.  I am sure I have a pic somewhere of a friend, but I don't think she wants to be "in" my blog post.

3.  Use the Right Mix of Media

The new guard is definitely in town.  Prince William is on Facebook and updating his masses about the birth and then posting pics after the fact.  Even Queen Elizabeth has a page on Facebook.  And, then of course there is Twitter.  The British Monarchy has their own Twitter handle:  @britishmonarchy, and why shouldn't they.  Nearly 576,000 people want to hear from the Monarchy on their Twitter feed.

Digital media aside and reinforcing the tactic of tradition in your marketing and communications plans, the Monarchy didn't just go new school.  They mixed tradition right in the middle.  Imagine, taking an announcement and placing it on an easel outside Buckingham Palace. Really?  Despite rain, police officers had to form a makeshift guard of honour at the gates to control the crowds who came to see the easel!  The easel! 
Yes, I have Union Jack cushions (& MacLean Tartan in the back)

4.  Demonstrating Strength, Honour and Commitment Through Tradition

Love or hate the Monarchy, they get noticed.  They know how to get noticed and quite frankly, they know how to throw a bloody good party - think Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the latest Royal Wedding. (again great revenue streams for many)

Speaking of parties:  My invite to the Palace Holyroodhouse - My Second Dinner with Prince Andrew

There is something comforting in tradition; and despite a few hiccups, Queen Elizabeth has been an outstanding source of pride, strength and honour.  From the time she was a young girl and driving an ambulance during WWII to her unwavering commitment to duty and pretty much always being "on", the Queen is a an impressive lady.   

5.  A Baby Means Hope, Renewal and Promise

Every time a baby is born we feel this way.  Every little bundle is an amazing accomplishment - one to be protected and cherished.  A Royal Baby however, means that we have more pomp and circumstance to look forward to!  More of everything in fact.  More tradition, more merchandizing, more British tourism, more trips abroad.  Like it or not, the Royal family also generates revenue and creates jobs both at home in Jolly Ol England and abroad. I am sure that can still learn more from the marketing genious that just might be "by accident."

Looking for more social media, marketing and communications banter?  Be sure to follow my blog:

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Cost of Ignoring Employee Engagement

There are countless studies on employee engagement and the value that engaged employees bring to your organization.  Despite this however, not enough employers are actually taking the steps to engage their employees and there is a direct correlation between the cost of ignoring employee engagement and embracing it.  The cost is high.  Blessingwhite said it best in their findings: 'engaged employees stay for what they can give.  Disengaged employees stay for what they can get. 

According to Gallup research, companies with low employee engagement have higher safety incidents, more sick days, higher turnover, more quality control issues, etc. all costing the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion each year. Health-related costs alone to the employer in a suffering company are $11,709 versus $4,395 for a company that is thriving and has engaged employees.  The research has also shown that companies shedding jobs are more likely to be the ones with disengaged employees, a signal that publicly traded companies don't necessarily want to give.

The research also shows that publicly traded companies with high engagement, enjoy higher earnings per share.  So, what are some tips to engage employees?  Here are 7 tips to implement immediately:

1.  Live up to promises - Managers can greatly contribute to the engagement cycle by living up to promises and commitments made to their direct reports. 

2.  Fully utilize your talent - All too often Managers pigeon hole their employees or quite frankly don't understand the employee's full experience and education. Taking the time to understand an employees full skill set and actually using it will go a long way to engaging that employee.

3.  Career Development - Be sure to include career planning and development for your employees.  Again taking the time to know and understand the employee's interests will help guide you and the employee toward a solid future.

4.  Regular Meetings - Have regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports.  Arrive on time and pay full attention to the employee.  Arriving late, leaving early, taking phone calls during the meeting, reading email or perpetually cancelling the meeting, without rescheduling sends a strong message that you don't care about that employee.

5.  Inclusion - Seek our input and ideas from your direct reports.  Show that their input matters and that they can contribute to the bigger picture. 

6.  Publicly recognize your Employees - Don't wait for a special occasion or the end of a project to recognize the contribution of your direct reports.  Use internal communications tools, social media and mass email to thank employees on a regular basis.  Ensure that the recognition is genuine and heartfelt.  Insincere thanks is worse than no thanks.

7. Give them Authority - Demonstrate that you believe in them by giving your senior team the opportunity to fill in for you when you are out.  Leaving no one in charge signals that you either can't trust your direct reports or that you are insecure about leaving someone else in charge.  If you have several people as direct reports that are at the same level, take turns leaving them in charge. 

These are just some things that you can do to engage your employees. There are many others.  What would you suggest a company do to ensure employee engagement?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

6 Tips Social Media Marketers Can Learn from Astronaut Chris Hadfield

What does a former Air Force Fighter Pilot and Canadian Astronaut know about marketing?  Well, as it turns out, a lot!  Chris Hadfield has done an outstanding job at generating interest in the current space program while also showing that astronauts are not just very smart people, but fun, clever and very much connected to community.  Take a look at this list and you will learn very quickly that @cmdr_hadfield is a model of inspiration.

1.    Know Your Community – Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for any one wishing to market themselves or a brand is to actually understand your community.  This of course is slightly complicated when your community is literally the entire planet.  Despite this significant challenge, Commander Hadfield has successfully connected with people around the globe.  He has found the common denominators that connect humans.  In this case, curiosity and the desire to learn.

2.    Use the Channels Your Community Prefers – Commander Hadfield understands the power of the moment and reach.  Twitter has been one of his most powerful communication tools and it shows.  With nearly 800,000 followers, he can share photos, thoughts and memories as he experiences them. 

3.    Show Your Personality – If there is one thing that really stands out about Command Hadfield, it is his personality.  His smile and genuine warmth leave you with one response.  You like him.  You want to listen to him and learn from him.  Of course not everyone has the same personality as this famous astronaut, but being genuine is the real take away.  You can’t fake being genuine – not over the long term.  If you care about people, people will care about you.  Remember, people on both sides of the transaction fuel brands.

Answering Questions from International Space Station on May 6, 2013

4.    Maximize Your Environment – Whether or not you are on the International Space Station in zero gravity, knowing how to leverage your environment is key.  Share photos that are interesting and unique to your audience.  Find something that the average person just doesn’t have access to.  Do pod casts, interviews and more using the tools of trade.  Show how they fit into your world and how you use them. Don’t just keep them in the background.

5.    Realize That You Can’t Do It Alone – Despite being extremely genuine and popular, Commander Hadfield has realized that he can’t connect with his community alone.  He partnered with Bare Naked Ladies front man Ed Robertson to write a song about the International Space Station.  He has reached out to schools, media personalities, science centers and more to do live appearances while in space.  While he is the center of attention, he realizes that it really isn’t all about him.  He is sharing more about others and his environment, than he is about himself.

6.    Be Consistent – Commander Hadfield is consistent in all that he does and this has reinforced all of his messaging.  As a result, people are interested in the man AND the International Space Station.  People now have a vested interested in this mission.

Note:  this is a slight variation on a blog post that I wrote for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud blog last week.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10,000 Hours and the Pursuit of Subject Matter Mastery

(My blog has moved. Please click here for my latest posts.)

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers the theme of becoming a subject matter expert, or master, was discussed at length. According to Gladwell, the time it takes to become a master: 10,000 hours. The number of hours was not really the point. The real focus was that it takes practice and lots of it – 10,000 hours to be exact. While some might find that daunting, it really isn’t when you break it down into realistic and measurable chunks. For example, many of us can achieve this status in just five years. In the bigger picture, that is really not a big deal. To get you started on your journey, here are 5 ways to help you get there.

1.   Focus:  To become a master, or a subject matter expert, you need to focus. Like my mother always told me: focus on what you want. You can be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.  While she didn’t coin that phrase, she got it.  So, select an area that you enjoy and that you want to focus on and become an expert or master.

2.   Find a Mentor:  Seek out someone you respect and like in your field of choice and look to that person as a mentor. If you follow the formal route of asking, be sure to do your homework about what such a relationship is like, what you can provide each other and what the expectations are for each of you.  Be up front about all of this and ensure that you are both on the same page about expectations and results. Know when its time to move to a new mentor. Mentors can also mentor by watching and learning what they do. Or, just asking advice on occasion. 

3.  Surround yourself with excellence:  Work in the best environment you can. If you can’t work where you want, volunteer! There are often tremendous opportunities to work with some of the best in the business in fundraisers, festivals, not-for-profits, etc. Never limit yourself. 

4.  Read and Research:  Don’t just execute, be sure to read and research about best practices and work in your area of interest in different industries, different regions and emerging trends.

5.  Don’t Stop:  Remember that reaching 10,000 hours is not the goal. It is about practicing your craft. Reaching 10,000 is a milestone and one to celebrate, but as practitioners, experts or masters, we have an obligation to continue our learnings and to practice, practice and practice. 

Finally, be willing to share your knowledge and mastery with others. For those seeking mentors, let’s be ready and willing.  If you were lucky enough to be mentored, it is an experience that you never forget. It is invaluable. Giving that experience to another is priceless. 

What are your thoughts on mastering a subject? Do have experiences that you can add? 

Monday, May 6, 2013

There is NO Such Thing as Over Communicating

The world of marketing and PR in particular is very interesting to say the least.  Having worked in these fields for longer than I want to admit, because it will give away my age, I can tell you I have pretty much seen and heard it all.  

Naturally people tend to think of PR people as Spin Doctors and they would be..well..mostly right.  However, I would argue that is not always the case.  In my role as the head of PR in a few organizations, I always wanted to tell the truth, be timely and be truly transparent.  This does not always go over well. However, it is my belief that the truth will come out and being the one to tell the story first sets the tone and builds trust

Perhaps my favourite story though has got to be one CEO that told me we were "over communicating."  Unfortunately I am not making that up.  I have to say that I was rendered speechless.  Over communicating?  Seriously?  People cite communication problems all the time and never once in my entire career have I heard someone say it was because a person or organization was "over communicating."  In fact, case studies, best practices and real life accounts of well..everything speak about the need to communicate constantly and that there is no such thing as over communicating.  Sadly that organization still suffers from that belief. 

In fact, articles like Creating the Best Workplace on Earth  as presented by Harvard Business Review advocate the need for constant communication stating: "We maintain, though, that executives should err on the side of transparency far more than their instincts suggest.  Particularly today, when trust levels among both employees and customers are so low and background noise is so high, organizations must work very hard to communicate what's going on if they are to be heard and believed."  

While PR practitioners can advise, we don't create magic.  So, the best bet is to remain true to your professional values and follow the Communicators' Checklist as noted above.  What would you add to this list?

(Note:  those receiving this blog by email, remember to visit the blog for the full experience :)