Snow day! If you’re anywhere in the Washington, DC area, you’re probably snowed in today. Maybe you’re still in your pajamas, drinking hot chocolate, and catching up on emails and blog posts.
You have my permission to be lazy all day if you want to. I am sure you deserve some down time. But if you find yourself catching cabin fever, here are some fun and constructive ways to employ your time. Some of them are even quasi-related to marketing and PR
1. Just stay home. It’s not really safe to go out, so if you don’t have to… When you drive on roads before they’re plowed, they get packed down and icy. That’s not good. Here are some ideas to work off all that nervous energy from Fairfax County
2. Learn how to get started with podcasting. Watch Ray’s Social Media Week DC session .
3. Order the nail polish inspired by the Pantone color of the year, Emerald from Sephora, $10. Inspire a conversation on design! How groovy would this be on toes? And just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, too!
4. Check out Marie Dauenheimer’s blog post on Cezanne’s studio and be transported for a moment to the warm and sunny south of France.
5. Register for a year’s worth of monthly networking lunches in the Washington, DC area. Because I really would like to meet you in person, and repeatedly so. While you have your datebook out, make two notes for March: 1. My birthday is on March 16 and 2. Cherry Blossoms are supposed to peak between March 26-30 in DC this year.
6. Catch up on the latest episodes of SCANDAL, the dramatic series about a DC area kind-0f-PR-agency. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s not even remotely related to PR! But it IS fun to watch…
7. Discover your blogging style and persona in my Social Media Week DC session on YouTube.
8. Sing out loud to something really fun and intense, like Florence + the Machine (why do I never get invited to any wild parties like this?)
and give it everything like you’ve got, like Anna Netrebko at 2:29
Come to think of it, give EVERYTHING everything you’ve got like Anna Netrebko does at 2:29
9. Make a snow logo and tweet the photo, or put it on your company Facebook Page. Bonus if you color it in, too (try food color and water in a spray bottle).
10. Warm up for 10 minutes (dance, maybe, Pandora is playing your song!) and then get out your weights and do four reps each: 12 biceps curls, 12 arm raises, 12 sit-ups, 12 outer leg lifts, 12 inner leg lifts, 12 donkey kickbacks, 12 triceps kickbacks, 12 calf raises, 12 squats/plies. Stretch.
Then call me and bug me to see if I have done them yet.
11. Write a LinkedIn recommendation for David Hyson. He is FAR too modest to ever ask for one himself, but if he has worked for you, you know he is terrific, and deserving of praise.
12. Do a Google + Hangout with friends and brain storm video and blog ideas.
13. Register for WWPR’s Brown Bag lunch on evaluation and measurement on Wednesday, March 20 (free for members $15 for non-members).
14. Follow PRofessional Solutions, LLC on Pinterest and get some ideas for your PR career wardrobe.
15. Plan your spring break. Where will you go? What will you do?
16. Leave a comment on this blog with a super idea of how to constructively use your down time.
Today, at Social Media Week DC, the Case Foundation presented a session, “It’s Time to Be Fearless in Social Media.” The moderator, Michael Smith, did a fantastic job of presenting examples of fearless organizations, innovators, and creative talents.
He posed a question to the attendees. He asked something along the lines of “Who here is fearless in their communications?”
My hand shot up. It was a lonely hand, maybe the only one in the room. I looked around, abashed. Could it be that other people did not think of themselves as fearless communicators? Am I overly cocky to think of myself that way?
Maybe a lot more hands would have gone up if the question were phrased like this: “Who here feels the fear but does it anyway?”
I’m not saying I am braver than these people. I am scared of plenty of things. But the truth is, people who know me well and describe me on LinkedIn say I am a fearless communicator, also passionate and creative. It doesn’t mean I am the best communicator there is. That is just how I was described, and I own it. It wasn’t an idea I formed about myself. But it was a realization I came to accept about myself after reading those testimonials. And I know why people perceive me that way. I have been challenged by life, again and again, and have had to become resilient, just to survive. I’ve had failures, and I’ve come back from them. With that resilience, over time, I have become more comfortable with risk than some, and I have a perspective that would not occur to everyone. Because not everyone has had my tough luck! But more about that later…
The Case Foundation is launching a three-year “Be Fearless” campaign to motivate nonprofit organizations working for social causes to take more risks and tackle bigger challenges, for bigger payoffs.
The 5 Things It Takes To Be Fearless
The Foundation identified five principles associated with fearless and inspirational innovators and game-changers, like President Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Gandhi, and other public figures…
- They make big bets and make history. Fearless people set big goals. They have big dreams.
- They experiment early and often. Fearless people are not afraid to be first.
- They make failure matter. They learn from their failures, and wear them as badges of honor.
- They reach beyond their bubble. Fearless people develop partnerships with new and diverse groups and people to accomplish their goals. They don’t stay with the comfortable same set.
- They let urgency conquer fear. Fearless people are decisive, are not hesitant, and don’t overthink every move. They have a sense of urgency about their causes and want to be a part of the solution, now.
Why Aren’t More People Fearless?
I thought about the possible reasons why most of the attendees did not consider themselves fearless, and even why the panelists, who were demonstrably able communicators, seemed unable to summon professional experiences that involved compelling risks, big dreams, spectacular fails, out-of-the box partnerships, and the kind of urgency associated with must-act-now causes. They had interesting stories, and communications best practices to share, they just weren’t “fearless” stories, at least by the Case Foundation criteria.
As I mentioned, fearlessness — it’s not really the absence of fear, although that is technically what it means! It wouldn’t be mature not to feel some fear. Fear is a good thing, in some situations. Fearlessness in this context, I think, is synonymous with courage. Courage involves being aware of the risks and feeling the fear, but not being ruled by it to the point where you do not take a needed action. It means taking all that into account. Having no fear is just denying risks, which is reckless and foolhardy. Fearlessness, or courage, is responsible.
Can You Make Yourself Fearless?
I pondered that fearlessness, in the way I think they are trying to promote it as a desirable attribute in communicators and organizations, is a quality that can be cultivated, just like creativity. I talked about how to enhance your creativity during my blogging session on Tuesday, and how that improved creativity will carry over into your professional work. And during this “Fearless” session today, several ideas occurred to me that might help a communicator flex and build their “fearlessness” muscles. Each everyday act of fearlessness emboldens you. I believe it can carry over into your work. Here are a few examples…
Cultivate generosity to yourself and to others. When you make sure your needs are met, you will have energy to give to others. You are creating a foundation of stability in yourself that allows you to reach out and give your best, when called to do so. Generosity is a strong and even brave act, when it is properly motivated and executed. Sometimes you can be fearless on behalf of someone else, more than yourself. For example, I find it easier (but still difficult) to advocate for my child in school, than to advocate for myself, sometimes. But becoming his strong and persistent advocate has, over time, made me a stronger advocate for myself than I was before he was born. Not all fearless people are generous people, but all generous people are fearless people.
When an opportunity to do good comes across your path, do good. You don’t let a lost child cry in Target without staying with them until his or her mom shows up. You don’t let a homeless person look for the dinner in a trash can if you have some way of feeding him or her. You don’t look the other way when you see a lost dog. You talk to a very old person in the grocery store line. This won’t happen to you with every poor soul you see that needs help. But you know it when it happens — that little prickle you get that says, it’s your time now: you can do something about this. Usually, it’s small, short-term, and almost always anonymous, right? Hold the elevator. Pick up a piece of litter. Smile at someone. Pitch in and help the committee. Help put away chairs after the meeting. Give blood. Leave a crazy big tip for someone who is working really hard. If you walk away from a situation you come across and you think, I wonder if I should have stopped and… STOP. And turn around, run back, and do whatever you were just called to do. That is your soul talking to you. Your soul is what enables you to be fearless, so don’t ignore it too frequently. Being a good person isn’t someone who thinks good thoughts. It’s someone who does good deeds.
Be your own biggest fan. Most of us, self included, are too hard on ourselves. Overly self-critical. So, it’s not a bad thing to be conscientious and to want to do better. But, do you keep track of the times people say you’re great? When I was at the Red Cross, I kept a binder that contained every thank you letter, thank you email, and compliment I received. I called it my Kudos binder. I kept another binder with examples of my best work. Right on my desk. NO ONE thought this was egotistical. It was helpful during performance evaluations and my exit interview. HR loved it. If you don’t know your own value, how can you expect other people to know it and appreciate it? So, chronicle your wins, and review them as much as you want. It’s proof positive that you can do whatever you set your mind to, which helps make you fearless.
Cheer on others. You can do this, if you can be your biggest fan, you know how to help others do their best. You can let it be about them, because you are strong in yourself.
When you think you can’t do it, remember the times when you overcame obstacles. I have this thing I say to myself: is this harder than waiting tables at the 3rd Street Diner or Joe’s Inn? Those were tough jobs. Almost nothing I have done is more physically demanding or exhausting than waiting tables when I was working my way through college — except, parenting of course. Nothing tops parenting for sheer exhaustion. If you can handle serving at the 3rd Street Diner, though, there’s not a whole lot life can dish out that you can’t tackle. What’s your 3rd Street Diner?
Be strong in your character, even when it doesn’t matter. For example, I teach my son not to cross against the light. And I don’t cross against the light, even if I’m not with him. Even if I’m the only one on the curb. I think about how my actions impact others, even in small ways. I know jay walking makes it hard on drivers. So, I can deal with standing on the sidewalk a few more seconds until the walk light comes on, even when all the other pedestrian Washingtonians are venturing into traffic Even when my boyfriend crosses without me. I stick to my guns. Think it doesn’t matter? It does, really. The small stuff matters. Erode away too many small things and then it get easier to cheat on the big stuff. Obeying your principles and rules, not just when someone is looking, is a character-builder. And when you have a strong character, it’s easier to be fearless.
Honor your word, especially to those younger, weaker, or more vulnerable than you. When I make my son a promise, I stick to it. Sometimes, it becomes inconvenient. Sometimes, maybe it doesn’t seem that important. Well, it is. That is my problem, not his. Have I been tempted to make excuses and get out of it? Yes, but I don’t. If I want to raise a child with good character, he has to see that when I say something, I mean it, and when I promise something, I will do it, to the best of my ability. Children understand actions better than words. We all do. When you know you are a person who stands by your word, you learn to trust yourself enough to be fearless when it counts.
Be fiercely beautiful. Beyonce created this persona for herself called Sasha Fierce, a strong woman to be reckoned with. I think about that sometimes. I am not the most confident person in the world. Sometimes, I feel VERY shy. At those times, I sometimes self-talk to myself. As I walk into a room, I say “Work it, own it!” That is from the movie, Pretty Woman. Remember that? Kit is encouraging Vivian as she approaches her next john. It’s kind of a silly thing to make me feel braver, but it works.
So, allow yourself to be as beautiful, and by that, I don’t mean, a model. I mean inside, and creative, and as fierce as you dare. Wear a red dress instead of a little black dress. Smile, big. Give yourself flowers. Sparkle when you walk into a room. Light it up like a Christmas tree. Appreciate how magic you are, just because of all the completely ordinary but divine things you can do. When you realize, just by being human, that you are pretty darn special, then you can be fearless and open to all kinds of possibilities. But girl, you got to own it.
Let the waiter decide. You know, it takes courage to give up control, and be in the moment, and just accept what life gives you and see the good in it. So, the next time you go to a restaurant, just order the special, whatever it is, no substitutions. Or let the waiter or your date or your child decide what you eat, or where you go on vacation for a week. Let the interns handle the project. Give the hair stylist carte blanche. And no arguments, amendments, or complaints! Just give up control and enjoy what you are given, as much as you can, in the moment that presents itself, even if you are given knowledge about something you now know you don’t like. You’ll come to appreciate even this small act of resilience.
Tell the truth, even if it makes you uncomfortable, sometimes. As a communicator, it’s our mandate to say when the emperor is wearing no clothes. It’s not our mandate to make our clients feel good about themselves. We can do that after we accomplish our objectives. I do try to be tactful, most of the time, but if I have to be blunt because a client is not moving forward, and I know it is in his or her best interests, I will be. I told a client once that her website looked like a yard sale, and she needed to focus her resources on improving it. It is better if they hear it from me than lose another contract or sale because of something that can be fixed, like a messy website. I am not honest with them because it is in MY best interests; I have LOST clients this way. But I know they don’t pay me to tell them what they want to hear, or already know, and the ones who stick with me are the ones I work my heart out for.
Embrace your uniqueness. Stop trying to be everybody’s friend, stop trying to please everyone, stop trying to be one-size-fits-all. You can’t. Laser focus on your goals and what you can make happen.
Connect with different kinds of people. Don’t just work with, network with, learn from, or be friends with people who are your same age, color, ethnicity, religion, professional level, educational background, or economic background. That’s a very human tendency — to flock with birds of your own feather. If all the people you know are just like you, you may be playing it too safe. Too safe and fearless do not go together.
Have the courage of your convictions. Own your informed opinions. But you can only do this in good faith if you are also prepared to give credit where credit is due, and humbly accept and admit being wrong time to time, because no one is right all the time. It’s a relief, sometimes, to be wrong. And being able to say sorry and be forgiven with grace is a real gift.
Effort, effort, effort. Fearlessness is not just about attitude. It’s about seeing it through, to completion, and if that means digging ditches, you dig ditches. Don’t phone it in. If you’re presenting to people, wear your interview clothes. Show them how much you respect them and their time by putting your best foot forward. Make killer Powerpoint slides and handouts. Ask for help when you need it. When you do whatever it takes, and you succeed or make progress, you know you are a person who accomplishes things you set out to do, and does self-concept ever make you fearless!
Stop trying to be perfect. Forgive yourself for being imperfect. The one main thing that stops people I coach from blogging or taking on other communications projects, other than lack of time, is perfectionism. You can aim for excellence as long as you keep working toward your goals, but perfectionism tends to get in the way of results. Procrastination and perfectionism are linked. And if you don’t take actions, you can’t be fearless.
Learn to laugh at yourself. You know how you do that? You try and do things that make you feel foolish, and you don’t give up when you feel your cheeks turning red and hot. It’s hard and you feel silly when you first learn how to speak French, learn how to belly dance, or get up and sing Karaoke in a crowded bar (a whole song…by yourself…without drinking alcohol!). You’re always trying to improve right? But the dichotomy is you also have to cultivate some self-acceptance to get there.
I remember when Rollerblades first came out and I really wanted to learn how to roller blade. I took a class and I was, by a wide margin, the worst and most uncoordinated student in the class. But you can see the success in your failures. For example, I got really good at falling over, in my protective gear (I wore more protective gear than anyone else). Falling well is important. It keeps you from having a serious injury. By the end of the class, I was given the dubious award of “most-improved” which was a nice way of saying, you’re still the worst but you have come a LONG way. And you know, with practice, I got really good at rollerblading! I could do it for miles and miles. But I could do it because I could laugh at myself when I fell down, and I could really appreciate my “most improved” award. It made me fearless on the W&OD Trail, later! Of course, that physical confidence I obtained carried over into other areas of my life.
When you can take things on with that kind of spirit, when you learn that failure is just a step, and sometimes a fun step, to becoming a better person, and that you don’t necessarily have to be the best or greatest at every single thing you take on, in order to enjoy it and benefit from it, then failure loses some of its power to make you afraid.
What do you do to cultivate your personal fearlessness? Has it carried over into your professional work?
I attended my first Social Media Week DC event this morning and it was very well done. Synaptic Digital presented a panel of four experts at the National Press Club who spoke on various aspects of media relations, one of whom was their engaging Media Relations VP, Laura Pair.
With ten years of media relations experience (in addition to other career experience), Laura shared ten lessons learned about media relations.
Her first point was that media relations professionals serve as a bridge connecting the needs of two “masters:” their clients and journalists. “We need to help [clients] craft their message and we need to craft the message to suit the media,” Laura stated.
In her second point, she mentioned that it was the media relations professional’s job to help the client define their goals:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the crux of your messsage?
- What do you want people to do?
The third lesson she cited was the importance of consuming the media you are pitching. With online access these days, there is no excuse, says Laura, to not thoroughly examine tv and radio broadcasts, and newspapers before you pitch them, where ever they may be located. “You can go online and watch the clips from a station in Alabama.” There are several good media relations reasons for this approach
- Helps you think like the journalist
- Lets you see how much time was devoted to the topic in the broadcasts
- Understand the weight given to the topic by the journalist
- Observe how the stories about that topic are handled and “teased.”
“What’s the headline and the subheads?” said Laura. “Once you know how they are teasing the audience, you know how to pitch them; you can mimic it.”
“Less is more” was the pithy lesson #4. A good media pitch should be no more than two-three sentences long. Craft the email subject line like an attention-grabbing headline.
When pitching on the phone, keep the voice mail message very short. “If they are interested, they’ll contact you for more.”
It’s important to learn everything you can online before you pitch — the lesson #5. “Look up everything for the topic you are pitching, especially if you are a freelancer,” said Laura, as freelancers may not be as knowledgeable about the topic as agency staff or corporate communications departments.
Also, research the journalist online before you pitch him or her. Look at previously written articles and Twitter profiles. You will be able to learn how they approach certain stories and how they have covered angles in the past.
Lessson #6 was about making full use of multimedia. TV media needs video, radio needs audio, and print media needs images. Really, all media need video, even if they do not incorporate it in their stories. Laura urged the audience to ask their clients for all the multimedia assets they can find before pitching the media.
One idea is to have the client produce a 1-2 minute video — not b-roll — that promotes the idea of the story to be told. Laura said this was an especially good asset to provide to bloggers but that all journalists would find it useful as background information. She also mentioned that b-roll was a good asset to provide to TV stations, as well.
Appropriately, lesson #7 was about social media. Make sure everything you distribute (e.g., news releases, websites, online news rooms) can be shared socially, through hyperlinks, shareable multimedia assets, and share buttons.
Journalists are not the only conduit for your pitch and lesson #8 was about taking your client’s story directly to the audience. For example, said Laura, if you are doing a broadcast interview, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince your spokesperson to also do a Facebook chat, Google + Hangout, or Twitter chat. “Don’t just do one-off interviews; put your spokesperson on social media.”
Not all stories will be picked up by the national media, but local placements can make a big impact, too. Lesson #9 was about remembering to find the local angles of your story. “Journalists in local markets have an obligation to provide information about their community,” said Laura.
One tactic is to obtain local data (e.g., from a government source) and provide that to a reporter, such as “how many people are unemployed in Cleveland.” Laura emphasized how journalists rely on media relations professionals to provide this type of useful information.
In her final point, for lesson #10, Laura said that remember you are pitching to a human being. Above all, be nice! Respect the reporter’s time and keep your pitches short and to the point. Learn their deadlines and get to know them. Always keep in mind that the media is your “other client.”
Laura’s presentation was very useful to me and the audience was clearly appreciative of her tips and anecdotes. Watching the presentation was a great way to start Social Media Week DC.
I hope to see many of you at our presentation on blogging and podcasting today. But for those of you who cannot make it in person, you can watch it on Livestream at noon today.
Here is the blogging presentation. If you download this presentation from SlideShare, you can see the notes.
And here is the handout for today’s session on blogging
Do you know why people like brands on Facebook? Learn why in this short video that also highlights Fletcher Prince Facebook services.
I am tremendously excited about Social Media Week DC, which takes place February 17-22. Here are the sessions I will be attending. Don’t they sound great? All are free! To register, visit the website.
- Media Relations Breakfast for PR and Social Media Professionals, sponsored by Synaptic Digital
- Get Smart! Make Better Social Media Decisions through Analytics, sponsored by the American Public University System
- Marketing Beyond The Like, sponsored by Facebook Washington, DC
- Crisis Management and Social Media — How Do They Connect?, sponsored by Social Media Club DC
- @StateDept: Leveraging Digital for Public Diplomacy, sponsored by the New America Foundation
- It’s Time to Be Fearless in Social Media, sponsored by the Case Foundation
- Digital Diplomacy Open House, sponsored by the Digital Diplomacy Coalition, Chief, and Levick
- Defining and Measuring Social Media Success in Museums and Arts Organizations, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution
While you’re there, don’t forget to register for our session!
- Register for our Social Media Week DC workshop on podcasting and blogging (fletcher-prince.com)
What’s the one thing you enjoy talking about more than anything else? Some call it a passion, a hobby, a career, a cause, or special interest. Have you thought about sharing that interest online? You can, of course, with a podcast or a blog.
Shared passion creates community, untethered by geographic boundaries. In this free, Social Media Week DC session, full-time podcast producer Ray Ortega and blogger yours truly will show you how to translate your enthusiasm into a blog or podcast.
The event takes place at noon on Tuesday, February 19 at Thomas Jefferson Public Library (main meeting room), 7415 Arlington Boulevard, Falls Church. For those of you who don’t live in the area, I will make the session available live on Livestream — and if the time isn’t convenient for you, I’ll videotape the session and upload it to YouTube.
Here is a little about Ray and me, and our podcasting and blogging backgrounds.
Ray launched his first podcast in early 2007 (Produce Picker Podcast), a video podcast about how to identify, select and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2008, Ray and his podcast were featured on celebrity chef Emeril’s television program for the Planet Green channel.
In 2008, he began work with the American Society for Microbiology to help with their audio and video podcasting efforts and has spent the past five years producing both audio and video podcasts full-time.
Ray speaks frequently about podcasting and was a featured speaker at Blog World and New Media Expo 2012. He has also been interviewed for the following programs and articles
- David Jackson’s – School of Podcasting
- Max Flight’s – Podcasting Passion
- Steven Lee’s – Waves of Tech
- Q&A on the Spreaker blog
- Examiner.com’s – D.C. blogger profile
Mary Fletcher Jones has produced dozens of blogs, YouTube Channels, Facebook Pages, podcasts, and branded Twitter profiles for clients and for her own interests. She has 27 LinkedIn recommendations for her social media and marketing work.
Mary has spoken about blogging for Social Media Week DC (view blogging presentation), the DC Government Video Expo, Digital East, TIVA-DC, the UNCF, Capitol Communicator, the DC Podcaster Alliance, the Regatta Hospice Alliance, and George Mason University.
Some of her personal blogs include
- The Fletcher Prince Blog: a blog about marketing, public relations, and social media tips, as well as company news (669 posts).
- Conversations in Public Relations: a blog featuring more than 100 video interviews with Washington, DC area marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals (159 posts).
- Cool Yule: A Christmas Blog: celebrating all things Christmas (125 posts).
- Autumn in Virginia: a blog about Halloween and fall traditions and celebrating ideas (76 posts).
- You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: a life-blog of personal anecdotes and musings (71 posts).
- Human Rights in Bahrain: a blog supporting democratic reforms in the Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain (56 posts).
When she is not blogging or producing YouTube videos, Mary manages Fletcher Prince, named one of the Washington, DC metropolitan area’s top 25 public relations firms by The Washington Business Journal in 2012.
A mother of a teen with autism, she also produces Living Well With Autism, a free online parent support site featuring a website of tips, printable visual schedules and social stories, a Facebook Page, a YouTube video Channel, and podcast.
Before launching Fletcher Prince in 2007, Mary worked in marketing and public relations positions for the American Red Cross, Greater Reston Arts Center and Wolf Trap. She is a member of Washington Women in Public Relations, the Social Media Club, and the DC Podcaster Alliance.
Did you? Are you thinking about it? Are you, huh?
Okay. I’m going to share my blogging presentation with you, then. The one I usually reserve for college students.
Now, go forth and blog! And if you need more help, then hire me to help you. ‘Cause that’s what I do!