Business

Public Schools Need Social Media Marketing??

If you’re like me, when you grew up, your parents didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to sending you off to school. Their options were likely something like this:

  • Public School
  • Private School

Alllllrighty then. So school that isn’t really free, but as close to it as we’re going to get … OR school that’s going to take a hefty chunk out of their bank account. The choice, for most, was a no-brainer.

Today – we’re faced with choices though. In my opinion – choice is good. It causes good brands to strive to be better. Same goes for schools. In the age of school option – the choices can be dizzying. Where do I send my child?

  • Private Religious School
  • Private Secular School
  • Public School
  • Charter School
  • Home School
  • Free Online Public Schools

I’m sure those are just the beginning of a long list of options available to parents today. It’s clear, then, that just sitting there – expecting parents to come banging on your door – is not going to yield the results you would hope for.

In the state of Indiana, schools receive approximately $6000/traditional student and approximately $10000/special needs student. Let’s say 1 school in 1 district loses 1 student to each of these with 5 students being traditional and 1 being special needs. That’s $40k lost. Just. Like. That. We all know that schools aren’t just losing 1 student to each of these alternative schools though. The numbers are far more staggering than that. But even at just 1 – $40k equals one teacher cut. That means larger classroom sizes, less individualized attention and then MORE students moving to alternative schools. Then you lose the next 6 students and now you’re $80k in the hole. It’s the proverbial rabbit hole  – there’s no end to it… unless you figure out how to put a stop to it yourself.

What can you do to get your enrollment numbers where they need to be AND KEEP THEM THERE? It’s simple – but not easy… as most things in life are. First, you are now a business. Yes – you’re in the business of educating children, but it’s still a business. What is the #1 goal of most successful businesses? That’s right. Customer Service. Who are your customers? Your knee jerk reaction is probably to say “parents” – no?? Well, I’d challenge that answer and say your actual clients are your students. Momma Bear likely comes to you with her claws out when baby bear comes to her with a story about how he/she has been mistreated before you see her; however, Momma Bear is going to be the one spreading the good (or bad) word about you. All. Over. Facebook. All. Over. Twitter. Oh yes – it’s the age of Social Media.

Oh… Wait… You’re not ON Social Media? Oh yes you are. You might not know it yet – but you have between 700-5000 parents talking about you on (at bare minimum) a monthly basis. You can use that to your advantage – or it can destroy you. This should absolutely not scare  you off. Why wouldn’t you give it your best effort? You could be using software such as [Pivot] to measure improvement in your student/teacher performance – then report on it. You can hi-light students of the month – let parents know you really do care about more than just test scores. You can address problems before they escalate and get out of hand. Parents appreciate a heads up on what’s going on with their kids – God knows teenagers aren’t the most forthcoming creatures ever.

It all boils down to this:  Social Media is about relationship building. If parents trust you with their child, with their well-being and with their future – they’re sold. If you’re ambivalent, seem wishy-washy or not fully committed… well, the Charter School down the road seemed to care. Social Media is your chance to show the reason you became an educator to begin with. It’s not about the money, the test scores or the board members. It’s about young minds and your ability to mold them to be the leaders of tomorrow. If you truly believe your school has the ability to do all of those things – it’s time to jump on the Social Media bandwagon. Be active. Engage your audience. Respond to concerns – or be proactive and report them first yourself. Then and only then are you going to have the opportunity to not only gain, but keep the students you have.

 

Sooo – Jesus Goes Social??

That’s right. In case you’ve been asleep for the last few years, let me fill you in. Nearly EVERYONE is going social. You can keep up with Billy Graham’s happenings on Facebook.  Heck, even the Pope has a Twitter account!  Ps – whoever landed that gig (because I guarantee he doesn’t do it himself) – nicely done!  So let me ask you this: If the Dalai Lama has an Instagram account, why isn’t your house of worship following suit?

Times, they are a-changin’. If you’re  a part of a house of worship… a church, a temple, a synagogue, a mosque… they should absolutely be present on social media. Why? Well, primarily because this is how people engage now. It’s how churches are getting volunteers for their large events. It’s one of the ways they evangelize. One of the reasons people attend religious services is because they want a sense of community. That’s also a large reason the number of social media users is expected to surpass 2.55 billion in the next 4 years (stat taken from mediabistro.com). As humans, we crave connection.

As a place of worship – you should absolutely be using this to your advantage. This is your chance to connect your congregation more than one time a week. Churches all over North America are known for building Small Groups to get everyone to begin growing relationships. This is just one more way to do exactly that. It provides members the chance to be “fed” throughout the week instead of waiting until their Holy Day. It provides many a sense of accountability and others – who may be new to your congregation – it allows them to get to know others without feeling intimidated.

So where should you be engaging your flock? Well, I suppose that depends on the demographic of your church. According to Pew Research, 74% of online adults use social networking sites. Of that 74% – 71% are on Facebook.  Moral of that story? If you’re not on Social Media already – Facebook is probably a safe bet as a place to start. As you get comfortable with that – you can venture off to Twitterland, play amongst the Pinners of the universe and/or Instagram yourself silly.

Once you learn the ropes and have comfortably settled in to this whole idea of reaching your following through social media – then comes the fun part. This is where you really get to shine. Record guest speakers – upload those videos to your website then share them on social from your site. Start recording Sunday sermons so your shut-ins can watch them digitally. Do a daily segment on your YouTube Channel – but keep it short. We live in an A.D.D world. Our attention span is short. You should also absolutely be blogging, even if it’s only monthly. If you have a large congregation, ask your members to become an active part of blogging. Maybe that’s one of your ministries?? Food for thought.

Just do yourself and your congregation a favor and make one step every day to become more involved socially. There may be someone out there that needs to hear exactly what you have to say.

The Urgency of Engagment

Although not everyone understands that engagement is an absolute necessity in any social media marketing efforts, I’d say the vast majority of people are either on the bandwagon or they’re at least starting to climb on it. Why, you ask? Excellent question. The answer is simple, really. If you don’t engage – then there’s no social aspect to your social media. At that point, it’s just media… In which case, it would probably be more effective for you to paint your face on one of those bus benches and pray for clients.

People no longer buy from you simply because you tell them to. They buy from you because they’ve built a relationship with you. What’s most important in ANY relationship is trust. That’s what you’re focused on building with your existing and your potential client base.

Now comes urgency. Let’s say you pose a question on Facebook to promote engagement. People start answering that question – or – they start asking questions back. You let the post sit…. and sit… and sit… ya know. Until you finally get the time to answer those questions or comment on those responses. NO! As [Robert Caruso], CEO of [Bundlepost] has said on many occasions in our phone calls, social media is REAL TIME. You need to be engaging your following consistently and actively. Your lag time should be no longer than an hour. Much quicker if at all possible.

The screen shot posted here is used with permission from one of my high school classmates. She very recently returned from a trip to Mexico and had an awful time trying to make it back home to her two kids. This was her tweet – which she then screen captured and posted on Facebook. While it didn’t make her experience any better, per se, US Airways did respond to her rather promptly – asking her if they had deplaned yet. If nothing else, that response let her know that they cared that she was on a return trip from hell and that they were addressing it. Reassurance does wonders for your customers.

So you can’t respond and/or engage while you’re in the back cooking, working on payroll, handling employee discipline problems, dealing with the state tax issues that have been haunting you for the last 2 months? Understandable – but as with anything else, understanding where you are weak and where someone else is strong is absolutely imperative in making a successful business. If you don’t have the time, hire someone. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing – AND has the time.

If you think you don’t have the budget to stay on top of your social media – look at where you’re spending your marketing dollars now. If you’ve done any research at all on marketing today, you’ll know that this is where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck. So you either find ways to trim in other marketing efforts to make room for Social Media Marketing or you absolutely MUST find a way to make time in your day to respond and engage.

Public Speaking and SMM – Easier than Pie.

Photo Credit: @posherov (Twitter)
Speaker: @SimpleADHDExpert (Twitter)

In addition to my strictly marketing clients – I represent speakers. I have for years. I do their marketing, booking – the whole sha-bang. Call me an agent, manager, bitch… whatever you want ;-)  It’s actually how I became so invested in marketing and saw it turn into what it is now – digital marketing.  Having been a part of this industry for 13 years now – I’ve seen some drastic changes.  So, to all of my artists, speakers, authors, etc… This one’s for you.

As a speaker/artist – if you aren’t flying solo (doing your own event), you’re likely a part of something bigger. You’re doing a keynote or a break-out session for a larger conference, right? So are you following that group on Twitter? No?? Facebook?  NOO??? Why not – that’s gold. You have access to an entire organization’s audience. This is the perfect opportunity for you to connect with the organization. Find out what’s important to them and incorporate it into your presentation. Nothing makes a better impression than being on your A game and caring about what’s important to your client.  Re-tweet information from your upcoming clients. Mention their conference in your own tweets – but don’t forget to tag your clients. That (likely) means you’ll get re-tweeted by them – which means you’re getting seen by their entire following.

Here’s the one that many of you probably haven’t considered:  Socially – it’s been unacceptable for years for people to play on their phones while someone is up speaking.  Before you get up and start speaking on your topic, address that very fact. Take 2-3 minutes. Something like, “Ok, I know all of you are probably going to feel some kind of way about this, but… if you have a smart phone or tablet – take it out. Go ahead….. Now, go to whatever twitter app you use and follow me.” Make sure to use a projector of some sort that have your Twitter handle so it’s visible to everyone.  Here’s the other thing – you may have read about hashtag campaigns. If you haven’t – [Click Here] – to read my blog about them. If you’re a speaker who speaks about overcoming fears – maybe your hashtag would be #FearThis.  So if it were me speaking about fear, I would have this on a projector:

Follow me: Twitter – @amberkpowers
Use Hashtag:  #FearThis

Encourage your audience to tweet throughout your presentation using that hashtag. If they find a statement funny, they should quote it with that hashtag. If they like a quote you used, quote it with that hashtag. Teach your audience to market you properly. It just takes minutes.When people start to see that hashtag enough, they’re going to click on it and be linked back to you. Viola, hello future clients.

Your social media campaign doesn’t end there. Etiquette is still insanely important, be it virtual or not. Anyone who uses your hashtag and tags you in a post gets followed back. Grant it – it won’t be real time, but when you get back to the hotel or back home, it should be the first thing you do. Well, then first thing you do after you invade the mini-bar.

Also – in terms of etiquette – be informed about the conference where you’re speaking. If they have a hashtag campaign already, encourage people to use that as well. You can use multiple hashtags in one post – it’s just important to use them in moderation.

You are, indeed, your biggest voice – so use it. It just so happens that your megaphone is now digital, which works to your advantage since your reach is nearly infinite. You have a new tool in your tool belt. One that can bring you substantially more money if you use it properly. Why not?

CLICK HERE IF YOU’RE A SPEAKER SEEKING REPRESENTATION/MANAGEMENT

How to Annoy Fans and Lose Followers

As you can imagine, I spend A LOT of time online. The internet is a vast universe and I enjoy studying companies, large and small, to see what they are doing with their social media. How active are they? How consistent? Are they posting content that is relevant to their audience? Is it not just relevant – but quality? It’s not hard to see when content is merely slapped on a social media outlet just to say it’s been done.

Consumers these days are smarter than ever. They expect quality and anything less than that is going to alienate them. They also don’t want to be bombarded with the same boring message.

In the words of Jay Baer, from his book YOUtility (used with permission)

Top-of-mind awareness requires companies to send messages consistently, but today’s consumers are besieged with every company of every type, size, and description jostling for attention, making pleas to friend, follow, subscribe, read, watch and click. Unimaginative marketers attempt to stand out with message frequency, or by exchanging bribes for attention (resulting in an explosion of Facebook contests and giveaways, among other tactics.)

But sending messages too often can have unintended consequences. Exact Target’s 2012 United Kingdom version of “The Social Breakup” study found that the most often cited reason consumers “unlike” a company on Facebook is that they felt “bombarded by messages.” And, as noted by Jeff Rohrs, Exact Target’s vice president of Marketing Research and Education, all consumers “have to do is just ignore the messages over a period of time, and they slowly get suppressed by Facebook. You simply won’t show up anymore, even if your brand is technically “liked.”

And there it is, my friends in small business. While your intentions, I’m certain, were to build your following and build relationships – one of my life mottos is “All things in moderation.” There are some social media professionals that will tell you there are specific times to post – be it to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform. They’ll also tell you there’s a magic number as to how many times you post in a day. I personally think that’s a bit bogus. It’s not about how MUCH you post anymore. It’s about how CONSISTENT you are.

Sure, analytics can tell us when the majority of our audience is online – however – you need to keep your eyes open. Watch what you post. Pay attention to the content, the reaction of your followers, amount of engagement. Idle posts get you nowhere. Once people start seeing others talking – they’re going to want to be heard as well – and YOU need to listen. No computer can replace human contact, interaction… relationship building. This is all dependent upon you, someone who knows you and your business or someone you trust can learn it.

Moral of the story – Is marketing via social media a science?  Of sorts – but the truth is that there isn’t a cookie cutter approach to it. Each business is different as its audience is different from one to another. Audience = people. As we each are different, our businesses must cater to that uniqueness. This is the joy of relationship building, therefore, the joy of social media.

Why, Social Media, Why?

From the Forward of “YOUtility Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype” by [Jay Baer] of [Convince and Convert] (with permission)

I was officially scared to death. It was November 2008. The stock market was in a terrible nose dive. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama debated what should be done about failing banks and financial institutions. To say the U.S. economy was in a tailspin would be an understatement, and consumer confidence was suddenly, almost overnight, shaken to the core.

Within days of the market collapse I had four customers withdraw their deposits. More would follow in the coming weeks. What had appeared to be a healthy late spring and winter for my business was becoming a nightmare.

I was a “pool guy,” as homeowners often call us. Along with my two business partners I had owned River Pools and Spas in Warsaw, Virginia, since 2001. We started with a beat-up pickup truck, three guys, and a dream. By 2008 we had become a formidable in-ground swimming pool construction company with more than seventy fiberglass pool installations a year in Virginia and Maryland.

Going into 2008 I was oozing with confidence. Our brand was expanding, and we were pushing growth as hard as we possibly could. Finally, after years of physical, mental, and emotional sacrifice we were going to experience the fruits of our labors. But no amount of sacrifice or experience could have prepared us for the economic collapse. The faucet that had been flowing wide open during the previous decade suddenly refused to allow even a drop to fall.

By January 2009, our company was on the brink of complete financial ruin. The phone simply wasn’t ringing. It stood to reason; one thing consumers rarely do in the worst economic times since the 1930s is sit around the dinner table and decide to purchase a swimming pool. Even in the rare circumstances when there were interested customers, banks had made luxury-lending nearly impossible with the tightening of credit and the evaporation of home equity due to the collapse of the real estate market. We had almost no projects for the foreseeable future. Our credit lines were maxed out, our sixteen employees were sitting at home with nothing to do, and our bank accounts were overdrawn for three consecutive weeks.

I was depressed, scared and out of ideas. I found myself turning to the one place we seem to go to find the answers we’re looking for – the Internet. Since I certainly wasn’t installing pools, I had plenty of time to research new marketing and business concepts; as I did, concepts like “blogging,” “inbound marketing,” content marketing,” and “social media” kept coming up again and again.

Like most of us I had an inherent sense that business and marketing were shifting to the web, but, as a not particularly computer-savvy guy, it wasn’t something that had ever seemed applicable to my business. But, I’d never been more ready to try something new. Unless we figured out a way to generate more leads and sales without spending money on advertising, we were going to close our doors, and my business partners and I would lose our homes.

It was time to sink or swim.

What I discovered first, and what will become exceptionally clear in this book, is that consumers of all types expect to find answers on the Internet now, and companies that can best provide that information garner trust and sales and loyalty. Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote. It’s a fundamental change in how I think about business, and you’ll think differently too, after reading Youtility.

So this one’s going out to all you small business owners out there. You’re my people. You’re the ones that have everything to lose by remaining stagnant. You might have thoughts similar to those of Jay’s at the time… feeling technically inept. There is more than a sufficient supply of contractors out there who can teach you. If you fear you’re just not teachable when it comes to technology – maybe you’re right. In that case, find a contractor to take care of your efforts for you. I’ve said multiple times on this blog that you absolutely must know what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you don’t – chances are you’re wasting YOUR time and energy (which equals cash by the way… YOUR cash) that could be focused where you excel.

I have two clients that are older gentlemen. One in his mid-sixties – the other in his mid-seventies. The gentleman in his mid-sixties is like a bag full of ADD mixed with good intentions. He is insanely good at what he does – working with animals. He is insanely bad at anything technically related. Instead of trying to figure it all out, he hired me. He gets to spend his time doing what he loves, I get to take care of what he doesn’t excel at. Likewise with the 75 year old. While he can’t afford to have someone take over his entire social media presence (which I can appreciate), he can pay me to meet with him once a month to fine tune his SM strategy, and while he has to take care of all logistics himself, we take out all the guess work of what needs to be done, when and how, with setting monthly goals and creating a plan for him to follow. This works great!

My rule of thumb is this: If I have to sell  you on the fact that as a business, you NEED a Social Media presence (and a strong one at that) – I likely won’t take you on as a client. Why? ‘Cuz ain’t nobody got time for that! ;) My time needs to be focused on coming up with content for my current clients, not spent on trying to reassure you (after two days) that SM is a valid and vital form of marketing. One of my friends says this in regards to finding clients: “If you get a potential client that wants to see immediate results….. RUN. They need to understand that Social Media Marketing is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Oh how right she is. This beast is all about building relationships. I don’t know about you, but if there is a man who is interested in me – if he tries to go from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, he’s going to scare me off. Why? Because as a (somewhat) rational human being – I understand that solid relationships take time to build if they’re going to be sustainable. Friendships are the same way. If I just met you and all of a sudden you want to spend every waking moment together – it’s quite likely that this is going to be a turn-n-burn friendship – which I quite honestly have no time for. Social media is the same way. Take the time you need to build rapport with your audience. Make it your job to care about what they care about. Be genuine.

What I DO have time for is what Jay talks about a bit later in his book – spending time on MY content. Coming up with content that makes me an expert in my field so that I’ll be the resource everyone wants to come to. My number one client is me. It has to be. Why? Because if I’m not consistently staying up on what’s happening in social media – my clients suffer. If you take time to blink in this field, you’re behind your game. If you’re looking for a Social Media professional – I’ll leave you with this – make sure you ask them this question: “What client do you spend the most time on?” You might be surprised at the answer you get.

Until next time – where I’ll be reviewing more of YOUtility – You can get your own copy of the NY Times Bestseller ——>HERE<——-

You May Need to Tweak Your Twitter

My friend and I were discussing new followers we had on Twitter this morning. She and I both use Twitter for business, as do many others. One statistic I found said that as many as [85% of B2B marketers use Twitter.] Suffice to say, business people are certainly using this micro-blog for more than entertainment. In fact, I would venture to guess that 90% of my tweets are business related. Do I sprinkle bits and pieces of who I am – my character – my personality – in there? Absolutely. As I should… And so should you.

Here’s my point. You want others to at least THINK you know what you’re talking about. You want to provide valuable content, keep them intrigued and from time to time a little entertainment isn’t such a bad thing. When people click on your profile on Twitter, what do they see? This morning when I was discussing profiles with my friend, she stumbled on one profile that literally made her laugh out loud – followed by, “and WHY would I follow this guy back?” I can’t remember exactly what his profile synopsis said, but it was about 4-words long and may as well have said, “I like chocolate milk.”

Your social image is a huge part of your overall image. Your twitter profile should contain… well… a micro-blog of you. If you use your Twitter account primarily for your CPA business, that’s what the majority of your Twitter profile should be as well.  While “I like chocolate milk” may be funny as a Twitter profile for [Zach Galifianakis], he has established himself as a comedian. It fits who he is.

Here is my Twitter profile – just to give you an example.

President, Powers Digital Marketing / Social Media Professional / Entrepreneur / Supporter of Small, Local Business / Coffee Queen / Lover of all things bacon

Indianapolis · amberkpowers.com

It sums up what I do and who I enjoy working with with just a peppering of who I am outside of work – or things I enjoy.  If you use your Twitter account for business, make sure when people look at your profile, they leave knowing they could have an intelligent conversation with you about the industry you work in. More importantly, since it’s a social site – make sure you give them reason to follow you.

But I Don’t Wanna.

Too bad.  You have to. Choose, that is. You have to choose. I spent most of my adult life thinking that I could not only be everything to everyone, but that I could also do everything that my little heart desired. Here’s reality:  You can’t. That’s absolutely not pessimism. It’s reality. The good news is that you can still be a lot of things to a lot of people and you can still do plenty!

Here’s a little story about me.  I didn’t know (and quite frankly, still don’t) what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I had passion for so many things in life and it was hard to nail down ONE.  When it comes down to it, though, is life really supposed to be about what you want to BE (your occupation) when you grow up or is it supposed to be about what you DO (how you experience life)?  I’m going to have to cast my vote for “do.”  And that’s how I landed where I am today.  Yes, I still work for other people, but they don’t dictate my schedule.

You see, when it comes down to it, I can do pretty much whatever I want to do.  I’m a quick study and I take great pride in doing my work and doing it well.  I could be a janitor, a drummer for a band, a surgeon – any number of things.  I have absolutely no doubt about it.  Here’s what I know though:  Any one of those occupations, while fulfilling in their own ways, would nail me down – geographically speaking.  After much contemplating about what am I passionate about in life – it boiled down to one general subject: Culture.

I. LOVE. PEOPLE.  I love learning about the cultures of other people.  I love learning about their history, their faith(s), their traditions, customs, fashion, food…. and then there’s their language. *SWOON*  I’m a language FREAK. I love it, I pick it up quickly and I just feel this sense of community.  So it was then that I understood that it wasn’t what I did for a living that was important. It was that I needed to do something with my life that not only paid the bills, but allowed me to connect with people of all races, cultures, languages, etc…  No desk job will EVER allow for that.

My laptop and I can travel anywhere we want though.  We can engage audiences globally. We can post on behalf of clients no matter if we’re in London, Dakar – or even Alaska.  Do you need to like what you do for a living and be good at it? Yes, absolutely.  If you’re stuck behind a desk and want out, find a way. Your life is entirely too short to waste wishing you were somewhere else or doing something else. Get creative.

Warning:  This will NOT be easy.  I was having a conversation with a friend on Saturday after doing the Shamrock Beer Run.  I mean – what fun is running if there’s not beer 1/4 mile away?? Anyway, we were talking after the run.  She’s involved in martial arts. That is something that has always intrigued me.  Is it a passion? Nah. I’d like to do it for the fitness aspect and for self defense purposes, but it’s not a passion.  She told me that it wasn’t too expensive – blah blah blah (not to discredit what she was saying – just don’t want to bore you with the details.)  Truth is that I pay $20/month for my gym membership.  I train with a personal trainer 3 days a week.  I don’t NEED to fork out more money to anyone else for fitness reasons.  Not when I have goals of traveling globally.  That money is best put toward my goal. It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to say NO a lot more frequently than you’re used to most likely.  There WILL be reward though.  I personally find one of the best rewards is having that ah-ha moment when you realize you’ve grown professionally and just as a human.

Find out what it’s going to take to start that bakery and make it the best damn bakery there is.  Find out what it’s going to take to get yourself to be a certified personal trainer so you can start impacting the lives of those around you.  Whatever it is that you want – staying in that chair, making the same decisions day in and day out is only going to keep you… in. that. chair.  So move.

Allodoxaphobia and other (not so) Wonderful Things.

I’m kind of excited to write this.  I don’t pretend to fully understand this phobia because I am on (close to) the polar opposite side of the spectrum.  You may have realized that I’m not really your conventional professional blogger.  On Fridays, I veer off on this weird tangent about fears.  Then, Monday-Thursday, I just … talk.  Not techie jargon.  Not hard to understand information.  I try my best to put things in a way that is easily understood.

There’s a method to my madness.  I think, for reasons sociologists would only be able to explain, as a society we are scared stiff by one another.  More than that, though – my personal observation that it’s more about us being afraid of ourselves.  Why would anyone want to listen to us?  What makes our opinion valid?  Ummmm…. YOU make your opinion valid.

So what is this [Allodoxaphobia]?  Well, I’ve hyperlinked it, so you can click there to get more info – but the part I’m going to focus on is the fear of confrontation.  Ok, so, sad as it is – I guess that here’s the part where I divulge that I’m not a medical expert.  If you need mental health help, seek a professional… blah, blah… legal jargon… blah. (I’m not making fun of anyone here.  Just think sue happy people are ridiculous.)

This problem – the lacking of ability to speak things the way they are – has many of us literally living in fear every day of our lives.  I should divulge here that I used to care MUCH more about what people thought of me than I do now.  Here’s what I thrive on now:  Open, Honest, Communicative, Genuine relationships.  If we can’t have open dialogue – then we absolutely can’t be friends.  Seems closed minded, maybe, but I just don’t have time to waste trying to tiptoe around you.  I have been given (?) days on this earth.  That question mark is HUGE!  My last day could be tomorrow.  Who knows?  You think I want to spend it with all this negativity building up in me because you pissed me off and I’m too afraid to say so?  Ummmmm…. No.

So how do I approach it?  It’s not all that complicated, really.  I’ll give you an example.  I won’t change her name to Bob but I will change it because I want to respect her privacy.  I used to work with a woman.  Her name is Tenisha.  Tenisha was (and maybe still is, by some) easily misunderstood.  She just came out of a horrid marriage, had raised all of her children and had been out of the traditional workforce for a number of years. Divorce left her job hunting and she landed in my department as a department head.

Now, when I say she’d been out of work for a number of years – we’re talking over a decade.  I can’t begin to wrap my mind around how much has changed professionally in over 10 years.  Her mindset about how things were supposed to run was kind of old news.  And to be honest, having a business degree, it wasn’t easy on my ego watching a noob with no degree take a leadership role.  I’m self-aware enough to know that sometimes I have to get out of my own way to be productive.  I did get out of the way.  I wasn’t entirely convinced, but I was open at least, to her direction.  Tenisha and I had a few moments when I had to call her out on issues.

So what do you do? Now – here’s the “guide”, if you will, to confrontation.  Do not approach someone in a combative fashion.  So:

  • Cool down.

Don’t you dare move until you can do so in an open, calm, approachable way.  If that’s tomorrow – then it’s tomorrow.  (disclaimer – don’t wait too long because then you’ll just talk yourself out of it.)

Next:  The ever dreaded “We need to talk”…

  • Find an entry statement.

Mine was, “Hey Tenisha, so you have a couple of minutes to chat?”  Chat indicates friendly, right?  I don’t say it with laser beams of hatred piercing her heart or through a locked jaw because I took time to???  That’s right.  Calm down.

The rest is kind of a cake walk.  Once you make your entry statement, you’re fully committed.  If you’re a highly emotional person, make notes about what you want to talk about so you don’t leave anything out.  Please don’t make it a grocery list of everything he/she has ever done wrong in life.  You won’t get your desired result that way.

So the last and most impactful confrontational talk Tenisha and I had went like this:

Tenisha:  Hey Amber, Did you know this (fill in random assignment) was here on the printer?

Me:  Oh, yes.  I did.  I’m sorry, I’m happy to take care of it.

Tenisha: Hey, I know your mind is probably occupied with a lot of other things since you only have 2 weeks left to work here, but maybe next time one of these is printed you could put tape around your finger so you remember to do it?

Me:  O_o  *Biting tongue*  *Biting Tongue Harder* *Tongue MAY be bleeding.*

Tenisha exits to complete task that I  miserably failed to do.  Commence cool down period.  I gave myself about 20 minutes, fuming for at least 10 of those minutes.

Then it dawned on me.  Maybe she just doesn’t know how to communicate with me.  I’m kind of an in your face, please for the love of Pete, would you just SAY WHAT YOU MEAN kind of person.  After mission cool down, I went to find her.  Conversation went something like this:

Me:  Hey Tenisha, do you have a minute?

Tenisha:  Sure!  What’s up?

Me:  Let me preempt this with the fact that I’m a very direct communicator.  I don’t like backbiting or any of that so I’m bringing this right to you. Remember what you said to me a few minutes ago about the task not being complete?

Tenisha: Yes

Me:  Here’s what my brain interpreted through that conversation.  I’m telling you this because we need to have understanding and not discord: My brain interpreted that this is an ongoing problem if it’s so bad that I have to tape my finger in order to remember.  That’s #1.  #2 – If that’s the case, then I NEED TO KNOW IT!  Don’t pussyfoot around an issue and treat me like a child by telling me to tape my finger.  Tell me what the issue is so I can fix it. I am a very proud person.  I take an immense amount of pride in my work.  If I’m doing it incorrectly, I want to know so that I fix the issue.  That leads me to #3 – like I said, I take great pride in my work.  While I’m employed here, I will work my tail off as I always do.  The fact that I have 2 weeks left to work has nothing to do with it, so please don’t insinuate that because I have a limited time here – I feel it ok to slack.  That’s not the case.

Tenisha’s eyes filled up with tears.  I questioned her.  Her response was that no one had taken the time to question her statements like that so as to understand where she was coming from.  It touched her.  It did what?  Yes – people LONG to be understood.  She told me exactly what the problem was.  Directly to my face.  I fixed it.  I kept it fixed.  The conversation ended with a hug, her crying on my shoulder and telling me that she loves me.

That’s what communication does.  Yes, it makes you vulnerable – but it opens you up to being understood and understanding others.

The Marriage of PR and Marketing

I skimmed through an article today about the importance of making sure your social media team is also well versed in public relations.  My first thought was, “Well, crap. Someone else got to it before I did.”  It’s alright though.  It just lit the fire under my butt to write it myself.  Every person’s experience is different, right?  Right.

Names and company names will be changed (or eliminated) here to protect the…. less than innocent.

I offer my social media services in different ways.  I can be the person who hovers over your different social media platforms and pats you on the back when you do something great.  I will also tell you when you’re wrong.  But in this role – I’m pretty much hands off.  Merely a consultant.

Then there are the clients that I do everything for.  All of their marketing.  I look for trade shows that would be good for them.  I’m the voice at the end of their client’s line.  I do all of their social media, including engagement, etc…

Well – I do all of it until they decide they want to muck things up a bit. And here’s where the fun begins.  Social media is…. well… it’s social.  And so, it involves many things – one of which is emotion.  There’s something to be said for being transparent (some of the time.)  However, when being attacked by what seems to have been coined as “haters” – you HAVE to let that slide (to a certain extent.)  There’s a lot of ambiguity in the last two sentences so let me clarify by using an example.

One of my clients was recently targeted by a group of people.  They claimed his business practices were less than ethical.  Let me start by saying I wouldn’t work for such a client.  While he may not always be the brightest crayon in the box (hey, I keep it real) – he’s not morally or ethically inept.

So let’s call my client “Bob” – because that seems to be what I like to call my clients  (ADD moment:  All clients, male or female, from this point forward – will be called Bob. I like Office Space.  What can I say?)  Bob used to do business with another entity – a not-for-profit.  This group and he parted ways in one of the least amicable ways possible.  I knew things would blow up – and they did.  An anti-Bob Facebook page was started.  The anti-Bobs started harassing the Bob fans on his Facebook page.  Bob was called a thief, a liar, all sorts of nonsense.  It was a PR disaster.  It got so bad that it warranted being addressed, in a non-emotional, only the facts, ma’am sort of way, on his Facebook page.  And so, I did.  I gathered the facts and I wrote the letter.  I knew Bob was far too emotional to do so himself.  The letter was working exactly as it was supposed to.  It had a reach of over 15,000 people by the time it was all said and done. His following, at the time, was only around 4,500. About 95% of the comments that came as a result to that letter were positive, uplifting messages about how Bob helped them or someone they knew. Woo-hoo! Success!!

And then Bob’s family and marriage started coming under (written) attack from the anti-Bobs.  Keep in mind, this whole time, Bob was replying back to their hateful posts, then I’d call him and tell him to take them down.  Down they came.  Next day – same thing.  It was like babysitting a toddler for a week and a half of my life.  “Bob, ignore them.  They’re trying to get a response out of you and you keep feeding them exactly what they want.”  “Ok, Amber.  You’re right.”  Next day – any guesses?  Yes.  Same game.  I was one worn out shit storm stopper by the end of that week.

After a long conversation with Bob about what PR is and how his fans were viewing him because of his emotional outbursts toward the anti-Bobs – he chilled.  He got it.  Finally!

If I had been someone else, say just a Facebook poster… this story would have a much different ending. He’s called and thanked me more times than I can count – telling me that if it weren’t for me, he’d be out of business. Thirteen plus years in Marketing AND PR prepared me for what I handled.  If you’ve hired someone that can post on Facebook and Twitter and make it look nice, but doesn’t have any sort of background in marketing or PR, please… PLEASE…. for the love of….. well, Bob….. think about switching it up.  It’s not all about the posts.  It’s about being knowledgeable, implementation, engagement, staying one step ahead of the game – and if worst comes to worst – putting out fires.

Signed,

Fire Marshal Amber…. “Let me show ya something.”