How Do You Push Through A Tough Day?

Mallika Chopra, Women's Health May 2015

When I look back on all of the posts I have written to date, this one is always in my top three.  Because I keep coming back to it, I am thinking about doing a rewrite – adding new research, expanding the tips, etc.  Any suggestions?  How do you push through tough professional situations?  Any books or research that you would recommend?  Please leave a comment below or share on Facebook or Twitter @RachelLColello.

We have all been there. You are minutes away from walking into what you are sure will be the worst meeting of your life. Something has failed, results aren’t what they should be, and you have to deliver bad news that is going to make your manager/client/coworker very very upset. Your stomach hurts, you can’t concentrate on anything, and you just wish you could make the problem go away.

The bad news is that as you become more successful in your career, more situations will arise that make you uncomfortable. Or more accurately, scared and sick to your stomach. My husband and I jokingly call these “baller problems” – they suck, but if you never ever had to deliver bad news or face criticism, it would mean that you also have no responsibility and your career is going no where.

The good news is that you can get better at surviving tough days. The key is setting what Mallika Chopra calls a “microintent” (if her name rings a bell, she is Deepak Chopra’s daughter and just published a book called Living with Intent). A microintent is exactly what it sounds like, a small intention that you set to get you through a challenging situation. I love this term – when I read it I jumped up to grab my highlighter because it perfectly describes the only technique that works for me when I am really nervous about a really terrible day.

Here is my personal approach:

  1. Find a quiet two minutes to take a breath. Your adrenaline is kicking into overdrive right now, and you need to find a little space so that you can stop spiraling out of control. For some people this means going for a quick walk, or throwing on their ear buds and listening to a good song for two minutes. Do not stress yourself out by trying to find five or ten minutes, two is enough. The two-minute break on Calm.com is my personal go-to. No one in the office even needs to know what you are doing – you can hide the window and pretend to be reading something serious on a different screen (though I do prefer to close my door and close my eyes when possible).
  2. Acknowledge the reality of the situation. This is happening, but it won’t last forever. You cannot skip the meeting, pretend to be sick, or avoid it. Ballers don’t back down. So keeping that reality in mind, think through your day…
  3. Visualize how things will go. Your bad meeting is at X time. It will be over by Y time. You have A, B, and C other responsibilities to cover. This is where your microintent comes in. How do you want to handle your meeting? What is your goal or intention? How will you handle what follows the meeting? The key is to only focus on your microintent. Do not rehash the events leading up to the meeting or situation. Do not spend time thinking about what happened or what you could have done differently, unless you need to provide those thoughts as part of a report. Focus specifically on how you want to handle yourself in this meeting on this day.

Step three can be difficult. Here are two tips for making it easier:

  1. Don’t give yourself a ton of time. If you give yourself 20 minutes when you really only need five, you’ll spend 15 minutes rehashing, stressing, and overreacting. Focus on only your microintent and how you want to conduct yourself through this situation. Once you have that set, move on to something else productive to keep yourself occupied until the meeting.
  2. Think of yourself as the star of your own movie. This is amazingly cheesy but it works, because it gets you out of your own head for a minute. If your day was a movie, and you were the hero walking into this situation, how would you want to react? When the hero walks out of the room after the meeting, what are the other characters thinking? What impression did he/she leave? What kind of main character do you want to be? That’s your microintent.

Bad days will happen. Tough meetings, stressful situations, and confrontations will come and go. But having a little plan in place will help you to get better at handling them.

Three Reasons to Apply to an Award Competition this Year

industry awards
Image credit: TheTrophySource.com/

When I first started out in the agency world as the low man on the totem pole, it was often my job to organize our team’s applications to various marketing, public relations, and creative award competitions. While I do not think you should be designing your marketing programs to win awards (please design for results!), programs like the PRSA Silver Anvil Awards or the American Marketing Association (AMA) Awards are still more than just busy work for 23 year olds.

Here are three reasons why industry competitions are worth your time:

They show us what good looks like
Most award applications have three key components – objectives, execution, and results. If nothing else, just thinking through the application process is an excellent exercise in how to approach most projects in the business world. But reading through past winners is also a fantastic way to quickly learn what great looks like in any given industry. Just started a new job? Find the most relevant industry competition that you can and read the winning submissions from the past three years. Now you know where to begin. Been in your job for a while? Do the same thing, and use those ideas as a springboard to supercharge your next brainstorming session.

They document your success
In the best competitions, anyone can apply and win… even smaller teams, new companies, etc. Theoretically, an independent third party judges all submissions and the best project wins. We all agree that the winning submissions are the best of the best and the winners walk away with an award they can point to as proof of their success.

To be clear, I say “theoretically” because I’m anticipating commenters who point out that certain large agencies with friends on the judging panel (or very large budgets) sometimes seem to win all of the awards. That may or may not be true in some competitions or some industries, but I hold out hope that a really amazing submission will still get the recognition it deserves. Call me optimistic.

They inspire new greatness
Those of us who have applied to PR or marketing awards in the past know that the biggest agencies have the bandwidth to really get serious about their applications – putting more time and effort into pulling them together than some smaller agencies can afford. But in a way, that’s ok. Let’s be competitive! As long as success is always tied to results, coming up with a sexy campaign that blows its objectives out of the water is always a good thing. And if the big firms inspire a few smaller or new firms to jump in and play with the big boys, then bring them on! That exactly how it is supposed to work. Good results should, again theoretically, always shine beyond the binder they are presented in.

So if you are a 23-year-old newbie who is sweating through your first award application, try to enjoy the process. Even if it feels like you are being punished, you are doing an important thing. Read up on past applications and put your best foot forward. You’ll learn from the process and in a few years, someone else can help 😉

And if you are in charge with coming up with a list of competitions to apply to, HubSpot and AwardsList UK have done your work for you:
Check out HubSpot’s list here (marketing focused)
Check out all of the AwardsList links here (wider range of awards)

Will Twitter Become a Public Utility?

Twitter

As I hear tweets mentioned daily on the news, I find myself wondering what the future of Twitter will look like. Will it continue to be a necessity for social media marketing? Or are we approaching a time where it becomes less valuable? As marketers, how should we think about the future of Twitter?

Let’s take a quick look at what others have to say:

Chris Abraham, Biznology.com – To summarize a recent post from Abraham, Twitter isn’t going anywhere for the following reasons:

  • It is essentially becoming a public utility – a valuable commodity used by the State Department, Open Source Intelligence (NSA, NRO, CIA, FBI), and Corporate Intelligence (NASDAQ, DOW, etc.).
  • Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat don’t do what Twitter can do, all these years later. “Bieber could leave Insta but he would never leave Twitter — I mean, 91.7M followers!”
  • Twitter has become a de facto customer service channel in many ways. The public has learned that it can be liked, retweeted, and responded to by their favorite brands, celebrities, and influencers (or someone representing them) on Twitter. That simply isn’t the case on other social media channels.
  • While it isn’t necessarily a news source, Twitter does provide real time, less-censored intelligence in a way that is different from other media outlets.

Davey Alba, Wired.com – So assuming that everything Abraham believes is true, Alba would probably say, “that’s great – so what?” Twitter’s real problem, as seen in their latest earnings announcement, is that they are struggling to monetize their success. Where all other popular social media platforms take advantage of video and other advertising, Twitter’s platform doesn’t lend itself to video. Its fast scrolling, constantly refreshing content makes it easy for users to ignore traditional advertising and it doesn’t encourage the user to pause and watch… despite Twitter’s efforts to jumpstart aggressive live streaming partnerships (e.g. Bloomberg, NFL, etc.).

Marty Swant, AdWeek – Swant is significantly more optimistic on the future of Twitter and video. He lists eight statistics that show how hard the company is working to tie its future to video and the its results so far.  I will be the first to admit I am a late adopter when it comes to consuming media in a new way, so I have not personally participated in any of the live streamed events mentioned in his post, but Swant seems to make a more optimistic case that Twitter can stay relevant in the future.

So far, I’m not completely sold on Twitter and video/live streaming. Combining Alba and Abraham’s thoughts, I have to wonder if Twitter will eventually become a true public utility. We will all accept it as a given, but it will never be a moneymaker. Marketers will use it primarily as a way to provide customer service, more comparable to a call center than as part of a push advertising strategy.

What else should I read on this topic? Any thoughts to add? Please comment below or (haha) find me on Twitter at @RachelLColello.

Doing What You Love with Jennifer Resick Williams [Interview]

Jennifer Resick Williams

Reposting my most popular interview to-date.  Reading about Jennifer’s energy and experience is sure to light a fire under anyone’s butt on a cold day February day – Enjoy!

We’ve all heard the quote: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Based on today’s profile, we should probably change that to: “Figure out how to combine your professional skill set with a personal passion, and you’ll never be bored a day in your life.”

Jennifer Resick Williams - photo credit: Greg Powers

Introducing Jennifer Resick Williams, Principal and Founder of Know Public Relations. Jennifer has spent more than a decade providing public relations and integrated marketing communications services to restaurants, national and global brands, and non-profit organizations. Prior to founding Know Public Relations, Jennifer was Director for JML marketing + communications. She developed strategic marketing action plans, directed all national and local media relations for hospitality clients, and provided counsel for all marketing platforms and digital media. In less than one year, Jennifer directed launch strategies and generated media coverage for the opening of several prominent Washington, D.C. restaurants, including Graffiato and Rogue 24. Prior to that role, Jennifer was Communications Director for Earth Day Network and the Earth Day 40th anniversary campaign, and she spent over six years at Ketchum Public Relations.

What do you do?

Know Public Relations works with restaurants, chefs and culinary artisans in D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. We help hospitality business owners tell their stories through the media, the web, and other mediums to reach their guests. Our clients include a James Beard Award semi-finalist, two Top Chef finalists, winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars All-Stars, a Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington Chef of the Year, and cookbook authors.

Tell us about a recent success.

We began working with Justin Severino, chef/owner of Cure in Pittsburgh in 2014. Justin is a very talented chef and a leader in the restaurant community in a city with a moderate to low-profile dining scene. In just over a year and a half, we’ve helped to increase Chef Justin’s profile on a national level by leveraging accolades, securing participation in James Beard House and Celebrity Chef Tour events, and working with journalists to visit Cure and see the changing culinary landscape of the city.

This year, Chef Justin received his second consecutive James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, won The People’s Choice award for Food & Wine’s The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic, and he was named Chef of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine. In July, The New York Times, Washington Post, Eater National, and Zagat all ran stories about Pittsburgh as a culinary destination, and nearly all outlets used Chef Justin and Cure as the anchors for their stories. We are very proud to be part of the team that helped Chef Justin earn the success he so well deserves.

How do you stay on top of things day-to-day?

My team works virtually, so calendars, Google Drive, and Dropbox are key to staying connected and well organized. Beyond a meeting organizer, I use my calendar to track deadlines and client deliverables, as well as team whereabouts and personal appointments.

How do you keep your eye on the big picture?

By nature, I’m always looking ahead and planning. I don’t have a formal business plan, but I’m constantly evaluating my clients’ needs against our team’s resources. Know PR has grown steadily over the past three and a half years, and it is rewarding to guide the business as it continues to grow.

On your worst day in the office, how do you put things in perspective?

The old adage “it’s PR, not the ER” is a good reminder that while our careers are fast-paced and high-stress, no one is going to lose a limb over a misplaced comma in a press release. On my worst days, I remind myself of the big picture, the great work my team does for our clients and the pride that comes from working with successful, satisfied independent business owners. I care deeply about my work and my relationships with our clients and the media, so it’s easy to sweat the small stuff when something goes wrong. Reminding myself of the big picture helps keep me even keeled.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out…

My approach may not be popular with Millennials who want to be their own boss by age 25, but my best advice is to get a broad range of experience before narrowing your expertise. In public relations, that means doing your time at a big agency, developing a transferable skill set, and hopefully working with a range of clients. Once you have seen and done it all, after seven to 10 years, you can write your own ticket and specialize in the type of public relations work most interesting to you.

If you do decide to become an entrepreneur, keep in mind two things. First, you lose your safety net. Being your own boss means you are solely responsible for answering to your clients and answering for your team. There will be hard days, tough decisions, and uncomfortable conversations. Second, find a mentor or set up a network with colleagues in your field to get outside perspectives and keep learning. The day you stop learning is the day you become obsolete.

How do you stay engaged with your work?

My free time and social life were spent steeped in the food world and restaurant industry before I made it my career. I was lucky enough to marry my public relations skills with my personal interests. Fortunately, that means it’s easy for me to stay engaged at work. Unfortunately, that also means it’s difficult to turn it off. Traveling, dining out, and even leisure reading now all feel a little like R&D, but I’m not complaining.


To learn more about Know Public Relations, please visit: http://www.knowpr.com/.  You can also follow Jennifer on Twitter at @JenResick.

I hope to do many more profiles like this one in the future. Any recommendations? Please DM or tweet me @RachelLColello or comment below!

You Can Still Be Productive In Small Chunks of Time

 

time blocking
Source: Pexels.com

I love it when people ask me about how my life has changed since having kids. No really, I actually do. It is something I have thought about a lot. And I like being able to assure new parents-to-be that a catastrophe is not looming around the corner – you’ll still be you, but your reality is going to change in some distinct ways.

One of those ways is working in smaller chunks of time rather than big chunks of time. I am a person who LOVES to cross things off of her to-do list. I have been known to add things to my list just so that I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off. I have consistently used a planner since my late teens. And I can still get things done now, even when our toddler is getting over a cold and our baby is just getting one. I just have to be flexible enough to work in smaller chunks of time.

The trendier term for thinking about chunks of time is “time blocking.” To learn more about time blocking, read this Entrepreneur article, this LifeHack article, or read about the Pomodoro Method. In general, it means that you take the unstructured time in your day and block off time to focus on specific tasks (e.g. “I will work on my novel from 5-7AM each morning and then check email from 7-8AM”).

Before kids, I specifically preferred two-hour blocks of time to really dig into projects. I’d work for an hour, take a five or 10-minute break, work for another hour, and then switch tasks entirely. For example, this was perfect for heading to a coffee shop for a few hours in the middle of the day to make demonstrable progress on a large writing project. In both undergrad and grad school, I found that it was the perfect amount of time to focus on one subject at the library, before my eyes crossed and I wanted to run screaming from the building.

It is a rare day that I get two hours of uninterrupted time now. Does this mean I can no longer attempt large projects? Absolutely not! It just means I have to work with different sized chunks of time.

Instead of two hours, now I focus more on one hour, 30-minute, or 15-minute chunks of time. This requires a little discipline in two ways:

First, you need to break your projects down into smaller tasks. Yes, if you had two hours you might be able to crank out a full chapter for your novel. Instead you have 45 minutes. What is a concrete thing that you can complete in 45 minutes and walk away feeling accomplished? Sometimes this requires a little creativity. It often makes more sense for me to outline a project first, where I might have jumped right in in the past. I can accomplish the outline quickly, all my key ideas are then on paper, and when I come back to write I’ll be able complete it a lot faster. I have always been an outliner, but now it is even more of a necessity.

Second, you need to adjust your expectation of progress. Smaller chunks of time often = slower progress. That is OK! As I mentioned recently in a post, #progressnotperfection. You can’t expect to get two hours of work done in 30 minutes. You can get 30 minutes of work done in 30 minutes, and then hit it again another time. You have still moved the needle.

I don’t plan on writing very many #ProfessionalMom posts, but I do think it changes how we think about managing both professional and personal time. Thanks for reading and good luck with your time blocking this week!

Where Do You Save Good Ideas?

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Do you have a system for saving good ideas either when you think of them or when you see/read/hear them?

Kimberly Wilson (I’ve written about her in the past) carries a small idea notebook in her bag to capture thoughts while she’s on the go and she also has a robust planner/organizer system to keep all of her thoughts and plans in one place.

Suzanne Forman, a blogger and fiction writer, also touts the power of a hardcopy idea journal, saying it is invaluable for collecting thoughts about her stories or future content in the heat of the moment, no matter where she is or what she is doing.

Copyblogger published a useful and detailed post on saving good ideas for content – strongly recommending that readers choose one method of collecting good ideas (digital or manual) and stick with it.

I love the idea of collecting good ideas. I struggle with the practice of keeping them all in one place.

I keep ideas everywhere. I have a multiple public and private Pinterest boards. I save good articles on Facebook, my Apple News app, and Feedly. I keep a journal in my bedroom because I try not to use technology there. I keep multiple notes in my phone, some of which stay on my phone and some of which sync to my laptop.  I used to be an avid post-it user, but I’ve mostly weaned off of those to save paper.

But I have to be honest… this has yet to be a problem for me. I can almost always go back and find an idea if I need it. And if I just want to brainstorm ideas for a new blog post, then I pick a location and skim through it before moving on to the next one. Yes, I could absolutely be more organized. But maybe this is a situation where organization for the sake of organization isn’t truly critical.

Do you have a system for saving good ideas that you love? Convince me!