Why I Didn’t Have a Post Scheduled for Today

Great summer weekend

Part of me wishes that I could give you some “life changing” reason why I didn’t have a post scheduled for this morning.  But to be honest, I just had a really awesome few days with my family and I chose to work on my fantasy football draft rankings last night rather than write something.

Why was my weekend so awesome? It started on Friday, and it included:

3 lazy mornings

2 brunches

2 movies (like we actually watched two movies from beginning to end… without stopping)

2 dinners out

2 street festivals (the Bucktown Arts Fest in Chicago and the Palatine Street Fest)

1 BBQ with friends

… and 3 naps (!!!)

I hope you are starting your week feeling as recharged as I am.  And if not, plan something to celebrate the end of summer!  Thank you for understanding and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for another great profile post.


Let’s Not Overcomplicate Mental Toughness

mental toughness

My husband and I were watching Hard Knocks the other night when the Texans’ coach prepped his players for dealing with the media [I tried to find the clip online, but I could only find about 748 clips of J.J. Watt being a beast]. The coach gave the new players some safe phrases to use when members of the media ask them difficult questions, like: “I’m just here to help the team.”

As players become more experienced with the media, particularly quarterbacks, they often bring up the concept of “mental toughness.” I would argue that mental toughness isn’t just for athletes or the military – all of us could benefit from a little more toughness in our day-to-day lives.

I was surprised to discover that Wikipedia actually has a very detailed post about mental toughness. Skim through the page and you’ll come away with words like “resiliency,” “hardiness,” and “stress management.” Sounds a lot like grit, no? In fact, as I wrote earlier this year, the Webster Dictionary actually defines grit as “mental toughness.”

Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening. – Greta Garbo

Going back to the NFL, quarterbacks often talk about mental toughness when they describe shaking off a mistake, like an interception or a missed opportunity, to start a new series fresh. In their world, weakness is wallowing in a mistake and toughness is learning what happened, shaking off the negativity, and then heading back out onto the field with confidence. Mentally tough athletes put in the hard work, keep their eyes on their goal, and they move past their mistakes much more quickly than the average person.

Every quarterback can throw a ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but that mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness.– Tom Brady (insert Deflate-Gate joke of your choice here)

Other writers/researchers try to complicate mental toughness, or grit, by making it a multifaceted concept. If you Google “mental toughness,” you’ll find headlines like “Six Elements of Mental Toughness,” which is a nice post, but I would argue it overcomplicates the issue. Mental toughness doesn’t need six elements, it just needs one – keep going.

Tough times never last, but tough people do.– Robert H. Schuller

Learn About Professional Life from this Medical Practice Management Blog

Practical Practice Management

I do not remember how I first stumbled upon the Practical Practice Management (PPM) blog. Probably just skimming through my WordPress reader. I have been following Tina DelBuono’s posts for several months now and I’m hooked. She seems to read my mind and write about a lot of the topics I want to write about. Here are some more details:

Practical Practice Management is a consulting practice that provides tools and resources to physicians, supervisors and office managers to help “create a more successful medical practice.” The PPM Blog has nothing to do with marketing or leadership, per say… except that most her posts are completely relevant to anyone who has ever worked in an office of any kind.

Here are just a few of my favorite posts:

Great Day for You, But Not for your Co-Worker This is one of the first posts I read that really got me hooked. I love that Tina’s approach feels logical and actionable. You’ll see I commented at the end of the post – I have always found point #5 (Don’t catch the other person’s mood) to be particularly challenging.

Don’t Depend on Others to Motivate You. Obviously this topic is near and dear to my heart, as you can tell from the name of this blog. My only criticism of this post is that she suggests bringing donuts or bagels into the office as a sign of appreciation. I tend to agree with Elizabeth Craft from the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast – we need to do away with the evil donut-bringer. But I agree with the thought and I’m sure there are healthier, non-food options to consider.

How Have You Educated Yourself Today? Again another topic dear to my heart, a quick read, and the advice is practical.

Interrupting Your Coworkers at Work A great reminder that not everything is an emergency.

I hope you find the PPM Blog to be as helpful as I have. Do you have suggestions for other great blogs I should check out? Please share a link in the comments below!

Five Tips for Getting Started with SlideShare

SlideShare for Content Marketing

Are you using SlideShare yet? You probably should jump on that.

SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing PowerPoint presentations, infographics, PDFs, recorded webinars, and other professional content.  Quick facts from the SlideShare site:

  • SlideShare was founded in October 2006 and acquired by LinkedIn in May 2012
  • In Q4 of 2013, the site averaged 60 million unique visitors a month and 215 million page views
  • SlideShare is among the top 120 most-visited websites in the world

Despite these impressive numbers, many (if not most!) businesses are still ignoring the community, which means they are leaving a great content marketing opportunity on the table. If you already create well-designed, thoughtful content, this is one more way to support your other tactics with minimal additional effort.  I have collected a few tips to get you started:

Your headline and your cover image matter – The Content Marketing Institute points out that the SlideShare home page is a sea of headlines and thumbnails. Choose wisely to be enticing! Also – remember that the site was designed primarily to share PPT slides, so it is best to think in landscape, not portrait.

Be funny, useful, and/or inspiringAlicia Lawrence recommends using humor, statistics, or quotes to increase your views on SlideShare. According to her research, almost 90% of the presentations she viewed used at least one of these tactics. This was particularly true for the posts with over one million views.

Include a clickable link in your call-to-action – Don’t miss an opportunity to send someone to your website or to collect an email address. Make sure you build a clear call-to-action into your presentation with a clickable link.

Remember to use LinkedIn and SlideShare together!Inbound.org reminds us that LinkedIn owns SlideShare, and the two communities build off of each other well. Increase your visibility on both sites by uploading content to SlideShare and then promoting it as part of your LinkedIn outreach.

Use content that you already have – I bet you spent a lot of time creating a fantastic slide deck for your sales webinar last week. What did you do with the PPT when you were done? Review it, cut out any extra jargon or sales content, and add a call-to-action. It would probably make a great presentation for SlideShare. Did your executives speak at any trade shows this year? How are you reusing their slides? Share them!

Do you have a SlideShare tip or success story? I would love to hear it!

Oh, and of course, I couldn’t end the post without an infographic:

A Quick Look at the Past, Present, and Future of Coupons

Image credit: OOingle.com

I think I am going to quit using printed coupons. I have wanted to for a while. They clutter up my home. I only remember to use them about half the time, and mainly at stores that send them so often that it would be stupid not to use them (cough – Bed, Bath & Beyond). They take up time and energy, and I have many other uses for that time and energy.

While I was thinking about this the other day, it hit me that it is kind of ridiculous that printed coupons even still exist. So I did a little research…

The world’s first coupon is credited to Coca-Cola in 1887, when the company gave consumers handwritten coupons for a free glass of Coca-Cola.

As one might imagine, print coupons aren’t as effective as digital. According to L2 Insight’s Digital Coupon report, digital coupons have an average redemption rate of 14%, where print coupons are redeemed a mere 1% of the time. [Find L2’s report here]

Digital coupons first started out as “print at home” coupons, where you would find a coupon online or via email, print it, and then physically take it to the store to make a purchase. Those are, predictably, dying a slow death along with the weekly newspaper circular. According to a 2013 Ad Age article, the number of coupon prints has been declining 10% annually the past two years.

By contrast, McKinsey found the load-to-card mobile and digital coupon format having more than quintupled each of the past two years as marketers shift their focus to digital coupons good only through retailer loyalty programs.

In that same article, McKinsey projects load-to-card and mobile coupons will continue to grow distribution by around 50% annually from 2015 to 2019.

Despite these trends and new technologies, a March 2015 article in Social Media Today reports that 90% of all coupons are still traditional printed coupons.

From what I am reading, it looks like the bleeding edge of the coupon world is all about loyalty programs with robust mobile applications. Are there other trends that I am missing? Do other people hate printed coupons as much as I do? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Curious to learn more? Check out the history of the coupon:

Image credit: DailyInfographic.com

Three Quick Guidelines for Image Reuse

Rules for image reuse

I used to be fuzzy on the rules for using photos and images online. But fuzziness can be annoying. Isn’t it quicker and easier to have a few simple guidelines to follow?

Let’s keep it simple:

  1. You create it, you own it. No matter how simple the graphic is, if you create something or photograph something and use it publically online, it is still yours. Technically, unless you have licensed it for open use, no one else can use it without permission. The same goes for every other image on the internet.
  1. Unless you are paying for them, images need to be both “royalty-free” and “free for commercial use.” In theory, if you don’t make money from your blog, you could risk skipping the “free for commercial use” part… but I personally wouldn’t recommend it. For example, I take on freelance projects and my clients often review my blog when they are thinking about hiring me. So it is supporting my business even if I am not currently earning from it directly. Rather than think too hard about it, I try to use only “royalty-free” and “free for commercial use” images.

NOTE: There are 8 million different apps that allow you to lay text over an image these days. Technically that is “modifying” the image, so the usage rights must allow you to do that. Better safe than sorry, even just for a cute tweet!

Some creators will allow their images to be used with attribution (often images from other blogs, etc). In that case, blogger and designer Tiffany Staples recommends the following format:

Directly under the photo, you will place the following:
1. Title of Photo
2. Link to Original Photo Location Online (The photo title can be used as your anchor text with this link accompanying it.)
3. Author of Photo Link (Link to the Author or “About Me” Page)
4. License (This can be a little hard to find, but if you are using a site that states Creative Commons, you can state “CC” and then place the # of the stipulation next to it.)

  1. If you mistakenly use someone else’s image and they ask you to take it down, do it IMMEDIATELY. If you comply immediately with their request then you will save everyone a lot of headaches, time, and potential court costs. Personally, I have never seen things go beyond level of conflict, unless someone truly and obviously violated a copyright (like this local grocery store chain did in Chicago). However, I have read just a few horror stories online – enough to scare me into proactively being really careful.

The good news is that there are plenty of places to find safe images, licensed properly for you to use in blog posts, tweets, and for other online purposes.

  • Google Images – Once you have started your search, go to Search Tools > Usage Rights to select the rights you need. You will want to double check the source of the image you choose.
  • Pixabay.com – Love this site. Quick, easy, and I think their selection is pretty decent.
  • http://search.creativecommons.org/
  • Wikimedia Commons – just make sure you read the usage rights for each image you find and abide by those rules

And remember – you can always take your own photos or create your own images!

Looking to learn more? Sources for this post include:

I am not a lawyer and this post in no way constitutes legal advice. Just some friendly suggestions for simplifying the whole “safe for reuse” image thing 🙂

Taking the Leap with Graham Media Partners [Interview]

Profile of Graham Media Partners

Sometimes staying engaged is as simple as meeting new people or learning how someone else approaches their work. With that in mind, from time to time we will profile inspiring professionals to learn more about their approach to work each day. Enjoy!

Introducing Lisa and Steve Graham from Graham Media Partners

Lisa Graham founded Graham Media Partners in 2014 to fulfill her lifelong dream of having her own company. With 10 years of experience, Lisa is well versed in a wide range of disciplines, including marketing, communications, social media, and public relations. She has a strong track record of success, from developing messaging for startups, to executing large conferences for public companies, to launching new products and services that stand apart from the competition.

Steve Graham learned the value of entrepreneurship at a young age by working in his father’s local restaurants. Upon graduating from Cornell University in 2007, Steve spent five years running high-end restaurants and nightlife venues in New York City and Philadelphia. In addition, Steve has over three years of experience working with technology companies where he was responsible for business development, streamlining sales processes, integrating sales and marketing programs, and other operational duties.

What do you do?

Graham Media Partners provides marketing, communications, social media, and web design and development services to small and midsize businesses. While our clients are varied, most of them are in the professional services industry. We are a nimble marketing firm, led by motivated co-founders who are hungry to add value to our clients’ marketing efforts. We help companies stay relevant by embracing new marketing channels such as blogs, social media, e-newsletters, and more. 

What are you most proud of so far?

Steve: Not just starting our own business, but seeing it grow. My father has owned many successful small businesses and he always instilled in me that if you really want to be happy you have to do it your own way and be your own boss. He would say, “If you want a beach house, you have to own your own business.” I remember on my 30th birthday earlier this year, while pitching our business idea to friends and family, exclaiming that this was the time to jump in and do it. I believe passion is equally important as skill.

Lisa: For sure, starting our own business. I was more apprehensive about it at first than Steve. He was ready to jump right in. Before I left my cushy corporate job, I needed things lined up. I’m more of a planner in that way, he’s more spontaneous. So far, it’s been the best move we could have made. It is very fulfilling to own your own business and work for yourself, and we’ve been really excited about how quickly things are taking off.

What has been your biggest hurdle so far?

Lisa: Same answer! The emotional part of starting my own business. Taking the leap. Making the decision was the hurdle – after the decision was made, most of the apprehension turned to excitement.

Steve: Getting Lisa to leave the safety of her full-time job.

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

Lisa: Every morning I make a list. I group tasks by client, then star the items that are most important. “Most important” to me may mean a deadline is coming up – or it could be the task that adds the most value. Even though it feels great to cross things off the list, there are only so many hours in the day, so I focus on what will make the greatest impact.

Steve: I keep Post-It notes with my daily to-do’s, but I also look to Lisa for direction. We are a good team that way.

How do you keep your eye on the big picture?

Lisa: By making a conscious effort to take a step back and think about the big picture. I also think it’s important to examine what’s going on *today* as well, rather than just flowing through the motions. A lot of this reflection happens when we’re driving, or when I’m out for a walk. It’s easier to have these conversations when we’re not staring at our computers.

Steve: I think it is good practice to have meetings outside of the office space so you don’t get bored and stuck in the now. We talk a lot about the future during our weekly Sunday brunch “meeting.” I find it hard to have new ideas staring at my computer screen, and with so much going on in a restaurant, the different setting helps inspire creativity. Lisa will always ask, “so who is our next client?” and then we will both sit quietly thinking about it. It is good to ask yourself “what’s next?” And rather than taking every piece of business that presents itself, we think about whether or not the opportunity makes sense in the long run.

Besides that, it is also important to divide and conquer. There needs to be someone who worries about today and someone else to think about next week. Lisa spends most of her time taking care of our clients, where my role is to figure out how to grow the company and all the details that go along with that, such as hiring, office space, employee benefits, and partnerships.

On your worst day in the office, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Lisa: Laugh. Steve can usually make me laugh.

Steve: If things don’t go our way, I take a step back. The bid we lost may not have been the right fit for us to begin with – in which case, it is a blessing in disguise.

When our first real proposal was declined, Lisa was upset and tried to figure out why, but in reality it wasn’t a good fit. We were hungry for that first win, so we refocused and each sales pitch has gotten progressively better ever since. Had we won those early proposals, I don’t think we would be where we are today.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in your career path, what would it be?

Steve: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Do it while you can and don’t wait until you are 50 with three kids. The younger you are, the easier it is to bounce back – so if you have an idea, don’t wait! Follow your instincts, but also be prepared and do your homework before you take the leap!

Lisa: Mentors are important – your mentor could be someone in a different department, a client – it doesn’t have to be someone you report directly to in the traditional sense. A current client of ours is constantly sharing books with us and speaking about his personal business standards. We have learned a lot from him.

Another tip is to embrace things that could be seen as obstacles. Earlier in my career, when I was a younger woman at a finance company dominated by men, I presented at every single All Hands company meeting while employed there. Standing out can be a good thing – find out how to use it to your advantage!

How do you stay engaged with your work?

Lisa: Surrounding ourselves with a great, fun team is vital. Working with people who you not only email about serious topics, but also movie and wine recommendations – that makes everything better.

Steve: Staying engaged was a huge problem when I worked for other people. I kept getting discouraged because I couldn’t do it my way and then ultimately I would get bored. I find it is easy to stay engaged when I can see our ideas and our efforts stacking up in our bank account.

Additionally, we like to be very hands on and engage our clients in-person as often as possible. Growing up in the restaurant business, I think human interaction is fascinating and it is much easier to read our clients when I can see their facial expressions.

To learn more about Graham Media Partners, please visit: http://www.grahammediapartners.com/, follow them @GrahamMediaP, or check out their Facebook page.

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