Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What communities are you involved in?

Caribou, REI, Cabelas, Starbucks, Woofda!, Archivers, Apple Bee's, Life Time Fitness, Twitter, Facebook, Cub Foods, Fleet Farm, Barnes and Noble, GAP, The Limited, Michaels, Buckhill.

The list goes on and on. What is this list? Well, venture on!

We are each involved in a part of a community that we so choose to be involved with. I think it's vital to pick one, just one if you're unsure of how you feel about which one you want to interact with and pick a minimum of two people you want to get to know better. You can interact with those people weekly whether it's through an e-mail or sending them a private message from your online community group, if that's possible.

Here's why I'm bringing this up.

If I'm not engaging, interacting or talking to people daily or doing something to try better myself every day, this feeling of "I'm getting behind" comes over me and it drives me nuts. That's why I have a white board, two actually, in my room, so I can see everyday what is it I can do to be a better individual. How can I drive and inspire...me? No one else has control over that. If they did, I can guarantee I would not appreciate how they'd tell me how to interact or go about living my life.

Everyday, I try and think of something new I can do or I'll think about the way a company is interacting with their customers/audience and how they can do it better. Or maybe a company isn't quite sure how to interact and need help getting there. That's where the white board comes in among another thing I've creating with a business partner of mine. That business project is still under wraps, but I believe I'll be able to make an announcement within the next month regarding what it's all about. I'll also be using RachelRyanPR as a platform and yes, I realize how inactive I've been with that account in comparison to ryanr09. What does my RachelRyanPR twitter handle have to do with anything? Stick with me long enough and you'll see!

One community I so choose to involve myself with: Life Time Fitness. Besides the fact that I work there, I'm in love with my running shoes and my Mizuno's have changed the way I think about exercising. Maybe I've brainwashed myself into thinking these are the best running shoes in the world. Hey!! It works for me because it gives me motivation to get my butt out of bed, or even after a long day of work, if I want to put these shoes on, I get this huge urge to run. They make me feel amazing and unstoppable. I have no explanation for why except that it's a cute tennis shoe, that's extremely light weight, supports my feet and within 30 seconds of trying the shoe on back in January 2010, I was sold.

I've been keeping HORRIBLE track of my 'training' progress on my blog to the point where I just signed up with FriendFit tonight. I also filled out my paper work tonight and I'm running in LTF's Turkey Day 5K. I'm excited about their sponsors:
Clif Bar & Company (I've had some of their stuff & it's pretty good!!)
J.R. Watkins Natural Products
Muscle Milk (this actually looks super delicious)
TRIA Orthopaedic Center
Nature's Prime Organic Foods, Inc.
Caribou Coffee (they'll be at the Target Center the morning of race -yesssss!!!)

The cool thing about this Turkey Day 5K? You can also donate money towards great causes like the Life Time Fitness Foundation that's partnered with Heart and Hammers for the last five years where they find ederly and/or disabled homes whose homeowners need help with basic repairs. Also, Second Harvest Heartland will be collecting nonperishables the day of the race I believe.

In a nutshell, being involved in a community of your choice and being active in it weekly or monthly is not a lot to ask. If we don't support each other we all suffer. But what's most important is letting the reason you'll want to support a community find you. Yes, you read that right. Sounds backwards doesn't it?? Allow me to explain myself.

When I put my running shoes on, I feel really, really good. Yes, LTF pays my bills, but something else it's done for me? It's given me a reason to WANT to get out there and run. And after checking out FriendFit, I'm pretty excited to go outdoors and run. That's the reason I've been so pumped about this Turkey Day 5K. It seems so simple to some people...3.1 miles. Whoop tee ding do?!
Well, for me, excuse my cheesiness of using part of LTF's mission statement, but it's a healthy way of life for me. Also, I've found something through a corporation I just happen to work for, that's going to allow me to do good in a community that has found me...unintentionally. I graduated from college in May 2009 and needed a job and this is the path I've intersected with. Also, not to mention I've met amazing individuals (remember the part where I said you should pick two people to interact with??) who keep me laughing along the way; a couple people I can name off the top of my head, both who happen to work for LTF (not the reason I'm choosing them) and they also happen to be on Twitter (that's why I'm choosing them): Bob Stanke and Lindsay May. Oh, they also both happen to be runners.

Running isn't my only community I choose to be involved with. I've become more user-friendly with the library that is one block away from my home and if I want a more "lively" environment to go find some reading material at, I'll just head over to Barnes and Noble. If I'm feeling fashionable and having some extra cash I'd love to spend on something that I know will fit me very well, I'll head over the mall and hit up The Limited. Besides, I really like the one manager who works there; she's extremely friendly and helped me pick out the perfect dress I needed for a wedding. Next time, I'm asking her her name.

So, what communities are you involved in? Please include a link to share. I'd love to know more about them. :)

Case study tips

Had a moment this morning of "I just need more of a explanation of what that is so I can understand it better" and decided to do my own research.

What exactly makes a case study, a case study?

You could be a financial consultant, a blogger, a nurse, doctor, student, scientist, or even a Girl Scout. It doesn't matter what age you are, as long as you can spell and comprehend what it is you want to talk to your selected audience about. You should also be able to answer whatever "basic" questions might come your way. You know what to do if you can't, right??

Here's what I've come up with from my own findings.
Note: At the bottom of this post, you'll find the sources that allowed me come up with my own answers.

Company name
If you're doing this for a client, or work or even just for fun (stranger things have happened), representing (or giving credit where credit is due) is always a good thing! Not to mention it's just respectful.

Who are you "talking" to?
Who is your audience and what do you want them to learn from your findings and what do you want to leave your audience thinking about?

Building your message
What tools are you using to gather your information? Who is part of the process? What time elements are involved? Who is responsible for what tasks? The list goes on and on.

Delivery method
Get to the point and have fun with it in the process. You could be on a cruise ship, you could climb a mountain, you could be at the zoo, you could be in a classroom, you could be in your own home. Make sure you have brochures, a web site, a video link or something tangible people can resort to. Maybe your case study is a two-piece research project! There's always a creative, fun way to spread the word. In fact, CEO and founder Beth LaBreche of LaBreche tweeted about this one and it's the original inspiration behind me writing this blog.

Statistics and recordings
What numbers were you after and did you find what you needed in order to make a supported and educated finding? If not, go back and do more research!

Is there someone you can quote? Is there audio or a visual? Get picky and make it selective process.

Who benefits from your findings?
Just because you have your selected audience doesn't necessarily mean they're all going to dive in and be able to take something away from your findings. But this is an important question to ask.

Follow up, follow up, follow up
It is so important to ask for feedback because there's always room for improvement no matter how good you are or how many times you've done something. Oh, and it's always a good thing to add more names to your rolodex!!

These are just a few things to consider. I'll maybe add more in time.

Have a few things you'd like to add to list? Please comment below! Want to steal an idea of mine? All I ask is that you give me credit!

Here's a couple of other sources I found that helped me out! Ironically (or not), they all have the same title.

Evolving Practice: What makes a good case study?
Computer Weekly.com: Ata: What makes a good case study?
Tattle Tech: What makes a good case study?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The dark side

I'm setting the scene for you:

You walk into a room and the first five people you encounter are people you know really well and have great relationships with for the most part. They have a job they really enjoy, they have a good time and don't take life too seriously, yet are more or less on the conservative side. They have a great spouse, a great taste in fashion, they're healthy, friendly and for the most part, pretty content with life. You overall enjoy their company and like talking to them.

But one big thing about them drives you absolutely nuts. They only the see the negative side first when you talk about something they're not too keen on and jump to conclusions quicker than you can blink from time to time.

How often to do you care to speak to them?
What is it about them that keeps you coming back for more conversations?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do you have a "Lanny" employee?

I'm attracted to people who love their job, who feed off of others inspiration and who've bascially found the bus and are in the right seat.

In roughly November 2009, I saw a commercial for a trailer of a new Disney movie called "Prep and Landing". It's a Christmas movie about prepping the house for Santa and ensuring he has a safe landing.

Lanny is a new guy at Prep and Landing who is, without a doubt, on the right bus and sitting in exactly the right seat.

Wayne has been working at Prep and Landing for more than 200 years and Lanny, at first, looks to Wayne as the guy he's been waiting to work with for a long, long time. Unfortunately, Wayne's attitude is all about the title of his job, not the impact he's making and even though Lanny is a pretty naive guy, he's not blind and learns how to quickly take charge.
To understand and see the whole picture I'm painting, you'd have to watch this 30-minute Disney movie special because there's a huge chunk of the story that is missing in these YouTube clips I'm sharing with you.
To get a pretty good glimpse of what it is I'm talking about (as in, the whole picture I’m trying to paint), check out this behind the scenes clip of the makers at Disney who are the creators of Prep and Landing; their ideas, what they wanted to create & the new 'spin' they wanted in a new Christmas movie special.

The point I wanted to get across is that in this 7-minute clip, you can easily see the difference between work ethics and who gives a damn about their job and how it impacts/affects those around them...for even years to come.

What first attracted me to this movie? Well, it's "so tinsel!!!" And there's plenty more where that came from!!

At the end of the day, when I’m not breaking down messages and thinking about how I see something portrayed, I really do enjoy Prep and Landing. It’s a fantastic movie that I laugh so hard along with –it’s actually kind of ridiculous…then again in my defense I’m just easily entertained – but it reminds me that when someone loves their job you can just see it in their work. Attitude is only part of the job description, no matter what yours is.

Show people what you can do and if you truly love it, you’ll intrigue them in ways you never thought possible.

Do you have a “Lanny” at your company or working within your business? If your answer is no, that is one spooky bus and I don’t want to know what you’ve been sweeping under the rug. To understand what I mean by that, click on the first link in this blog, which is the book review I did on Jim Collins’ “Good To Great”.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Free publicity exists, it's just rarely heard

People say that there's no such thing as free publicity. I think that's completely inaccurate.

Where can you find it? Well, that's just it. It's out there but the reason it's hard to find is because the person who is supposedly driving the car in fact isn't driving the car at all. The other person is...that is the person being interviewed.

And that's the reason the person supposedly driving the car is not getting any ROI from what they're doing among the other things I've listed:
They don't have a purpose.
They don't have a focused audience.
They haven't done any research, instead they just ask questions.
They don't prep their interviewee for their questions.
They don't contact them ahead of time to ask if they have anything big they want mentioned.
They don't follow-up.

That's why they call it free publicity because it never really goes anywhere for either party.

Well, it's obvious whose in control here and that's not how interviews work. Whose holding the microphone again??

Free publicity exists, but because of poor preperation, the interviewers voice is rarely ever heard and the ROI simply gets washed away and it's completely possible that both parties voices will never see the light of day.

Wow. What a sad ending.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Good To Great" by Jim Collins

Everyone wants to have a meaningful job to have a purposeful meaning in the work force. When you find out what it is you want to do –which is half the battle in my opinion – how do you settle for doing anything less than doing just that and not making it great? You shouldn’t. Unfortunately, many people do.

When you decide to join a team, you’re deciding to work for someone who has a dream of making their company nothing short than the best it can be so if you’re a manager and someone is bringing down the team, be ruthless so they can get on with their life and you can continue bringing the right people on the team.

Jim Collins has opened my eyes and now I’m starting to ask questions of my own, but I will leave those out. Here’s what I took away from this book:

- The “bus” concept; get the right people on the bus and be rigorous. Don’t settle until you find the best candidate for the position. Once you’ve found the right people, make sure the seat you put them in is where they’ll be most effective. Oh and move them around as needed!

- The idea of creating a climate where the truth is heard and not swept under a rug. In other words:
1) You don’t always have to have an agenda ready for a business meeting. I said that’s an important factor after reading Peter Shankman’s “Can You Do That?!” book, but sometimes, having an agenda will get you no where in a meeting so get creative! In other words, I don’t take back what I mentioned in the book review I did for his book, but I don’t want to leave out the fact that I’m “on the fence” regarding agendas. Don’t be afraid to break out the white board people!! :)
2) If your employees are having a heated and healthy argument to the point where their veins are buldging out of their neck, let ‘em go at it. When you put passionate people together, beautiful things collide in the most unexpected ways!
3) When you have the right people on the bus, listen to them. Period. You did hire them for a reason!
4) Just because you’re the CEO or president or vice president doesn’t mean you’re all powerful and mighty. Maybe the way you’re running one thing in the company verses another is just not working. Allow your employees to “red flag” you because either they don’t understand what you’re saying or they understand what you’re saying, but you could possibly be putting a good idea on hold for a great idea your employee has!

- The Hedgehog Concept: I’m stealing these right outta the book.
1) What can you be the best in the world at (and equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at)?
2) What drives your economic engine?
3) What are you deeply passionate about?

- “To Do” lists are just as important as “Stop Doing” lists.

- Technology can accelerate a transformation, but technology cannot cause a transformation.

- And I’ve saved the “best” for last:
Level 5 Leaders:
“They are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results. They will sell the mills or fire their brother, if that’s what it takes to make the company great.” You can find that quote on page 30 of the book.

And for the road, a couple of quotes that stood out to me within the 210 pages.

Page 50:
“The right people will do the right things and deliver the best results they’re capable of, regardless of the incentive system.”

Page 62:
“No matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life.”

I've learned quite a bit from Collins and I plan on reading "Built To Last" in time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Can We Do That?! by Peter Shankman

The first phrase that comes to mind for me while reading “Can We Do That?!” by Peter Shankman for the second time (and half-way through it) is: believe in yourself or we’re all doomed. I can only help but wonder what businesses wouldn’t be around today if someone pulled their own plug.

Moving on.

A couple of things (or many things) I’ve learned from Shankman the second time around.

- Just because you know someone in your industry because of how well-known they are and you are inspired by their energy does not mean everyone around you will know who they are.
--> In other words, spoon-feeding the information to someone from the ground up will make them feel less lost, more likely to listen to you and in the end, when you’ve done your research, you look like the genius. Therefore, be brilliant and become a “genius”. It’s a simple logic a lot of people forget to think about.

- Doing something really cool and you want to drop a reporter you’ve never contacted before an e-mail? Explain who YOU are first because YOU are the person their going to be contacting if they have any questions…not your client.
--> Also, if it’s the first time you’re contacting them, make sure you’ve done some research and know who they are and why you’re pitching them. It would drive me bonkers (no really, it would), if someone contacted me and they pitched me effectively, but I had no idea how they know who I am. I personally think it’s very important that that extra little connection is there because as they say, a little bit goes a long way.

- When it comes to numbers: no matter what a number represents, do NOT let it control you; age, stock, cash-flow, etc.
-->If you’re super inspired, psyched, pumped, amped up about what you’re doing and you’re good at it, let the numbers fall as they will, but don’t forget that there is always (or so I would hope) a goal you want to attain and conquer.

“One of the things I like most about being in PR is that there’s always something to outdo.” – Peter Shankman

That quote…is why I chose (without evening knowing it at the time) to go into PR. It’s exactly what I need. Because I cannot seem to quit thinking and challenging myself –small or big. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sometimes the challenge is a personal goal I set for myself that no one else needs to know about.

Shankman refers to another big idea to consider: someone called a “Stopper” and being prepared to “ROAR” (Responsibility, Opportunities, Awareness, Results) at them with the right answers to ANY (and I mean ANY) questions they might have. If you haven’t caught on yet, this means you have done your research and put everything on the table that could possible go wrong in the case that someone could sue you and/or the company you work for. There are no gray areas with Stoppers. They will say no faster than you can blink if you don’t have all the answers they want.

For me, “ROAR” is much like what I learned in the classroom: “SWOT” an acronym for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats.

The term “under-promise and over-deliver” comes to mind as it goes well with either acronym. If you don’t see this phrase everyday, I’d advise you post it somewhere. Why? It’s a simple way of reminding you that YOU are essential to the project. Educate yourself, communicate with your team members, set meeting times for business purposes to keep everyone on track, have an agenda and bring to life whatever is it you believe in.

There’s a line that pops out and SCREAMS at me in Shankman’s book when it comes to PR, Marketing and telling people about your business and what it means to them or why they should even consider spending their precious time realizing what it is you do: “The problem is, with constant noise comes very little signal” and with that said, the first virtual tool that comes to mind is Twitter and followed very closely behind that? Facebook.
Shankman is referring to people attempting to stand out from the crowd and advertise their business in some matter. There are much better ways to do reach for your future customers so get dirty and creative and make it fun!! People forget that just because you're an adult doesn't mean the "fun-o-meter" has dissapeared. You will thank yourself for doing so.

A couple more tips I couldn’t agree with anymore than I already do?
- Always take the meeting.
- If you run into a problem, find a way to turn it into an advantage for you and your client.
- Don’t spend time blaming; work the problem out and find a solution.

Shankman is a smart guy. Wait, that’s an understatement. He doesn’t waste anybody’s time; he’s good at what he does and I’ve resorted to his book twice now because I know that Shankman not only means business, but he’s been around the globe a few times and people trust him. Oh and the guy and doesn’t take life too seriously…I mean, he’s only skydived a couple hundred (or a few hundred) times. I stopped keeping track.

Thanks Peter Shankman for keeping my wheels turning.

I’m sure I’ll pick up your book again and read it for the third time, in time. That would set a record for me.