5 Reasons To Start Blogging Today

You have all these great ideas floating around in your head don’t you? Oftentimes so many of those ideas wake you up during the night, so you jot them down in your phone or on a notepad. Raise your hand if this has happened to you.

How many of you spend your time commenting on stories or having discussions on Twitter? But don’t you wish you had a more long-form outlet to formulate your thoughts?

Well, start a blog! “What a great idea,” you say, right? Followed by “how the heck do I get started?” Or you may say, “nobody will read what I have to say.”

There’s so much information out there on the web and so many opinions being posted each day. How will I stand out? Who will listen to me? How do I even get started? I don’t really even have the time to blog. Blah, blah, blah.

Don’t let all these questions or doubts hold hold you back. I have a good friend who is battling this right now (you know who I’m talking about Brett!) In trying to figure out a way to kick his ass in gear, I decided to write this blog in the hopes it spurs him into action. If along the way I turn on the green light for someone else, well that will be a bonus.

I’ve been blogging for slightly over two years and I didn’t know much about doing it when I began. But I needed an outlet, so I simply set up a WordPress site and off I went. I promise that blogging can be simple and relatively easy. It can also be very rewarding. Below are my five reasons to start blogging today.

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Setup is Easy

Choosing where you want to build a blog is the first step you have to take and shouldn’t be a deterrent. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’ve heard of WordPress. This is where I host my blog and I suggest that you do as well.

WordPress is one of the biggest platforms in the world with more than 82 million active users. The platform is simple to use with countless plug-ins and add-ons. It offers tons of themes and layouts, plus there’s a massive support forum if you ever get stuck. Your blog will look sleek and functional, it will allow people to interact with you easily and your content can be shared, commented on, and so on.

Medium is also a very popular content platform, as you should know by now if you follow Front Office Sports. Medium allows anyone to publish pretty much anything and it works hard to guarantee that visitors only see good stuff. Medium is built to reward content for its quality and even if you decide to build a blog on WordPress, it’s worth also posting your blogs on Medium to help with exposure.

Connections/Networking

If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you should by now know the importance of networking. Working to connect with people and learning from their experiences and friendships is vital to your career development. It also is an important factor when blogging.

Blogging about your thoughts and ideas allows you to share these thoughts with others in your network. It helps to strengthen existing bonds and expose you to new opportunities. You should always look to nurture and expand your network and there’s no better way than to do it through blog writing.

As you begin to blog more often and have more discussions with your network, you won’t ever have to worry about running out of topics. There should always be topics and ideas percolating in your head that make for perfect blog content.

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Research/Learning

Another positive aspect of blogging is very often you need to do extra research on a topic or topics before you begin to write about them. I’ve stressed this before, but continuing to learn throughout your life is a must. You can never let yourself feel like you know it all. Trust me, you don’t.

Reading, researching and learning should be constants as you get older. Exposing yourself to new ideas, stats and ways of thinking will only make you smarter. It can also help you meet new people and expand your network.

Consider joining a book club or exchange. This kills two birds with one stone and allows you to read and meet new people. It will most likely expose you to new ways of thinking and options which at first may be different from yours currently, but will change your perspective and open your eyes to new idea. Then you can apply what you’ve learning into a new series of blog topics.

Share Your Expertise

Blogging is an excellent outlet for sharing your expertise on various topics and getting those swirling thoughts out of your head. Do you often feel like you want to contribute to a topic but don’t have the platform? Do you feel like your comments are getting swallowed up on other platforms?

Starting a blog gives you that place to tell your story and give your side. Don’t worry about if anyone will read it, or if you show up in search or even if someone else has written about the topic 100 times. If it is an outlet for you to write and write about things you feel passionate about, do it. You won’t regret sharing your expertise through your blog.

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Writing Is Good

Writing reduces stress. Getting those thoughts out of your head is a good thing. Writing these things down helps to shrink them to a point where they are life-sized and manageable. Writing also is empowering in that way. When we can manage our thoughts, ideas and other items into well-written blog, it can make navigating life much easier.

There is research out there that believes blogging might trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, similar to stimulants generated by activities like running, listening to music or playing video games. Having a platform to express yourself, as well as the ability to connect with other individuals experiencing similar circumstances, is not only therapeutic but allows for an added sense of community and empathy.

Whether it is reducing stress, changing your state of happiness or making you more self-aware, writing ultimately changes your mind. Which in turn can change your life! If nothing else, writing a blog will remind you that no one else is the author of your story. So get off your ass and set up that blog today. Tell the story you were born to tell.

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The Job Hunt Is Like Dating

This post was originally posted on Front Office Sports.

As I inch closer to to landing my next full-time job, it’s becoming more apparent every day that I’m playing the field. Yup, just like when you’re looking for the right person to date or settle down with.

Now I don’t claim to be a “player” who was playing the field that much in my personal life, but the parallels are just too striking. In both dating and job-hunting, two strangers come together, seeking to find a spark and commonalities. That rapport will then make both parties want to meet again and eventually be together for a long-term commitment.

Three steps help guide both dating and job-hunting. The first step is researching prospects and trends to find the perfect match. The second is succeeding in building interest and a connection with the other person or company. The third step is agreeing to be together, putting in the effort to fuel a long-term connection.

Sounds so easy right? Well it’s not! Knowing those basics steps will help you navigate your search, but I’m here to pull back the curtain a little further and let you in on my reasons why job-hunting is like dating.

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Nothing Moves Fast
Be prepared for a long chase. A long courting period if you will. Both finding the right employer and the right companion should take time. Not only should it take time, it will. Both of my most recent job-hunts have taken close to eight months or more. I went into this one prepared for it to take at least that long, and it has. It was close to six months before I began to get real strong leads and begin to get interviews.

There are a lot of job postings and a lot of clutter to cut through in order to get noticed and get an interview. You must remind yourself consistently that nothing moves fast. You may apply for a job and four months later you hear from HR. All companies move at different paces and each pace is slower than the next. Stay the course and pursue those leads and in time (usually a long time) the right opportunity will present itself as a result of your effort and perseverance.

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Nothing Will Be Given To You
You can follow my networking tips all you want, but it’s still up to you in the end. You have to work for what will eventually come your way. Nothing will be given to you. You may hear of the “old boy” network or maybe you’ve experienced someone get something you didn’t think they deserved because of who they knew. Well, I can tell you that a situation like that most likely won’t happen to you.

The vast majority of people have to work for all that is given to them. Never approach the job-hunt like you’re a “shoo-in” or that anything is promised to you. Work hard and put your best self forward. Don’t let that Imposter Syndrome creep in. Have confidence in your abilities, connect with others, own your successes and avoid comparing your situation to anyone else’s.

Pursue All Leads
This is the part where, for me at least, the job-hunt has been the closest to dating. You must get comfortable playing the field and pursuing all the leads that you have. In the last month I’ve had phone interviews, in-person interviews, more in-person interviews and even a job offer for a brief moment (more on this later…). You have to get comfortable in telling each suitor that they’re the one. They don’t need to know that you have a variety of suitors. That is your business. If the timing is right they will be the one. But, the timing has to be right. It’s nice to be wanted and it’s nice to have choices, but sometimes the first choice is the one you take if you have to take care of your family.

That said, don’t be afraid to keep the relationships you built intact, and continue to pursue leads even if you accepted an offer. You have to look out for yourself and what is best for you and your family. Don’t get too romantic about a job or job offer. If another opportunity comes along that can better your life, take it. Trust me, you’ll regret not playing the filed and looking to find the best opportunity out there.

The day will finally come when you’re in the right job, for the right reasons, and your contributions will be balanced by support and the opportunity to grow. Much like my marriage, you will be fully invested and eager to put time and work into the relationship. Now, if only I can find a job as “perfect” as my wife.

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Stay Optimistic
This last point may be the most important. I’ve written this many times before, but the best way to further your personal growth is through positivity and proactivity. If you aren’t doing these two things, you will be unprepared to take action when faced with adversity. You must always stay positive and remain optimistic.

YOU ultimately control your attitude each day and how you will react and handle situations. If you allow the grind of dating, I mean job-hunting, get you down then you may tell yourself it’s impossible to find “the one.” You can’t allow the long process to get you down. Use your support system, use your networking, use prayer, use whatever it takes to remain positive.

I know that I am nearing to a breakthrough in my search. Even though it has taken a long time to feel like I am close to the goal line, I have remained positive throughout the entire process. I’ve remained mindful that I’m attacking this challenge the right way. I’ve even managed to stave off Imposter Syndrome when it creeps in.

If anyone reading this wants to connect or discuss how to attack their next job-hunt, feel free to reach out in the comments, on Twitter or drop me a line. I don’t claim to be an expert, or have all the answers. But through my writing and sharing my experiences, I hope that I can help someone facing a similar situation. If I can help anyone through this process in any way, I’d be more than happy.

Four Ways Social Media Professionals Can be More Effective

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This article was originally published by Front Office Sports. 

Social media marketing strategy and planning have come a long way since the “Wild West” days of the early 2000s. Gone are the days of doing social media just to do social media. You can’t say you have a Facebook page, or Instagram and Twitter account and not build a strategy around them.

You may be surprised to find that PR and #smsports pros still struggle with certain aspects of social media. Whether it is trouble showing ROI, lack of support or resources, or frustrations with the ever-changing platforms that exist.

All of these factors play in to a team, company or brand having to constantly re-evaluate their social media strategies and goals.

In a recent dialogue with #smports and #highered pro Chris Yandle, he brought up some great points about some of the hardest elements that PR pros struggle with when it comes to social media.

His quote was perfect . . . “Too many PR people treat social media like a megaphone rather then a conversation.” That is so spot on. Many brands and companies still treat social like a one way conversation. Using the old “spray and pray” method, they just shout their messaging and don’t try to make their content “social” at all.

So, when trying to make sense of how PR pros can get better, Chris listed four elements they need to concentrate on more to be effective. Allow me to elaborate on Yandle’s thoughts and present the four ways social media pros can be more effective on social media.

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Strategy

I’ll say it again, you can’t just do social media to do social media. It’s not a place to just dump press releases and news stories. It’s not a place where you consistently cross link to content from other platforms and not make it unique. Social media has to tie in to your overall goals. It has to help answer the “why” or the “what” behind your goals.

It has to help serve a purpose. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your growth goals? What are your revenue goals? Do you want more fan engagement? What content are fans telling you they want? You have to build a strategy to help achieve these goals with social media. I know for a fact that companies and athletic departments are filled with many talented leaders and thinkers. Get them together and build a comprehensive strategy that ties social media to your business goals.

Planning

Once you have a sound social strategy that aligns with your goals, you must develop a plan to execute said strategy. Too many people fall into the trap of figuring out the “why” and “what” behind their social efforts, but then fail to plan accordingly and fall into the same pattern of content. Planning also means you need to consistently evaluate your reporting data and analytics.

You know what they say . . . “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” You must be diligent in your reporting and evaluate the success of your plans with data. Don’t be afraid to test and learn, but always evaluate what is working with data-based decisions.

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Content Curation

I’m sure you’ve heard this term thrown about plenty, but how many PR and #smsports pros actually know what it is or how it is beneficial? Content curation is the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.

A good PR strategy must include organizing and sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. This is content curation. What are your fans saying about your team or brand? Can it be leveraged to help tell your story? What are the popular subjects being discussed in your subject matter area? How can you position yourself in that space? A good content curation process will definitely help set your social media apart from your competitors.

Being Social

You would think being social on social media is a given. You’d be wrong. I can’t echo Yandle’s thoughts enough, that “too many people treat social media like a megaphone and not a conference call.” There are so many opportunities on social media to interact and delight your fans or targeted personas by listening and responding to them. Be authentic. Tell stories. Ask questions. Listen and respond.

Be sure to track the conversation around specific phrases or words that are important to your company. Then leverage them to discover opportunities on how to better serve your targets and create better content for them. You’ll be impressed at how your platforms will grow in both audience size and engagement when you are truly social and conversational with your content.

We all should have a goal of getting better everyday. Try to something new. Inch closer to those campaign goals. Evaluate your data and see what’s working. Network and meet someone new. Constantly strive for improvement.

All of these things should be considered when you’re working through your social media strategy. By thinking strategically about social, you’ll be able to impress your bosses who may still not “get it.” You will not only be able to show them the plans in place to succeed, but the results they want to see that affect their bottom line. You can’t ask for much more than that can you?

 

Four Ways To Avoid FOMO

This blog was originally published by Front Office Sports

Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO. I know you’ve heard of it. It’s a real thing and both people and brands have trouble with it on social media. I’d be willing to bet that both of those groups fight it on a daily basis.

Social media is such a huge part of our daily lives. The latest studies show that social media captures 30% of our online time. This percentage has increased each year (not surprisingly) since sources began tracking this activity.

This ever-increasing checking of social media is leading to many cases of FOMO. Our attention is diverted from our real work and real problems by the escape of social media. I’d be willing to bet many of the posts you see on social media come from brands and marketers trying to capture your attention.

Those marketers see these statistics and know their target audiences are spending more time on social media each year. So, what better way to reach them than with social messages.

In the process of marketing on social media, brands also fall into the same FOMO traps and begin to post content that is off-message and off-brand, just so they can appear to be “hip” and “on-trend”. There’s always some made up hashtag day or celebration day on social, and god forbid a brand not try to partake.

But let’s be real, not everything on social is important (gasp!) and not everything on social needs to distract us from what really matters. So, in an effort to help level off your time spent on social media, let me present my four ways to avoid FOMO so you can become a better version of yourself.

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It’s all a highlight reel
I’ve spent the recent party of my career working within social and digital media and I sometimes get to the point of struggling to see what is the point of it all. I am a confessed Twitter addict (I’m working on this) and also really enjoy other platforms. But sometimes I struggle to see what’s the point of it all.

A thought that has helped me process the popularity contest that is social media is that it’s just that, mostly a popularity contest. People brag about their best bits and that’s it. And there is the belief that share and like counts quantify how exciting your life is. A recent study says almost a quarter of what you see on social media is either faked or exaggerated.

This leads to people comparing themselves to their peers and being in constant competition to get their life as good as everyone else’s. Stop this thinking. In fact, enjoy social media through the lens of knowing it’s all a highlight reel. Stop comparing. Stop judging. Everyone’s highlight reel looks awesome. Know that everyone is facing problems that aren’t “Facebook worthy” and their life is never perfect as it is depicted. Keeping this perspective can make social more enjoyable.

Less is more
This old phrase holds true for social media as well. If you want to be your best self and avoid FOMO, set goals or parameters to check and post on social media less. It may be a struggle at first. Heck, you may have to delete the icons from your phone (raise your hand if you’ve done this!). But, I’ve found this to be very therapeutic.

Two years ago when I went through some major life struggles, I gravitated away from social media instead of towards it when times got tough. I’m generally a private person and sharing my struggles on Facebook and Twitter just seemed wrong. So, I began to check and post less often. It helped me realize that I shouldn’t compare my life to everyone else’s highlight reel. It also allowed me to focus more on what mattered to me personally (formed by my own opinions and not others) and I shifted my focus to others around me.

Set a goal this month to check and post on social media less and focus on yourself and those that are important to you more. Trust me, this will simplify things in your life.

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Best self
Now that you have everyone else’s posts in the proper context and you’ve simplified your posting and checking, is there anything else you can do to become your best self and avoid FOMO?

Yes! Now is the time to evaluate what makes you happy and not what is appearing to make other people happy. Focus on what matters in your everyday life. What are you learning new today? Who are you reaching out to today? What are you challenging yourself with today? Did you hug your kids? Did you tell your spouse you love them? Did you pray? Did you workout? Did you stick to your new health eating plan? These are all ways to help keep you on track to being the best you and ways to make you happy.

These are also all things that are better than posting that latest selfie or one-liner on social media. Prioritizing the things that matter the most to you, and leaving social media as a small portion of your life will keep FOMO at bay.

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Is it worth it?
The last point is an attempt to drive home every thing I have said to this point. Is FOMO worth it? My wife has a phrase she likes to use on me when I’m contemplating a decision. She will say to me “And then what…”. Which means, what happens next? What are the consequences or outcomes of your decision? So you post that selfie on Instagram with the trending hashtag. Well, and then what? What does it do for you? Why does it matter?

So you saw people gathering at the bar and then joined in and stayed till “last call”. Well, and then what? You probably went to work hungover. Or you worse, you got to work late. Or you missed church on Sunday morning or that early morning commitment you had on Saturday.

Having FOMO and letting the highlight reels of social media suck you in can lead to unintended consequences or outcomes. Work hard to think about if your activity and posts on social media are really worth it. Just always ask “And then what…”, you’ll be surprised at how this phrase can change your decision making.

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I’ve struggled with FOMO my entire life. Even before social media existed, I was the person who struggled to leave a party, didn’t want to miss out on what others were doing and needed that human interaction. I also always compared what others were doing as a way to evaluate my life.

It has been a process during my adult life to change these habits and begin to focus on what is really important to me.

FOMO is hard. I get it. But, the tips above are a great way to make changes in your life. They aren’t drastic changes, but are ones that will help you take social media a little less seriously and help you prioritize the things that will help you become the best version of yourself.

 

 

 

Your Career May Be A Jungle Gym…And That’s OK

A popular book on the #SBBX and one my wife read this summer is Sheryl Sandberg’s thought-provoking book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead. It’s a great read for working women and for the men who are married to them.

One of the more popular quotes from the book, one which we have discussed at length, is the following: “A jungle gym scramble is the best description of my career. I could never have connected the dots from where I started to where I am today.” She attributes the metaphor to Fortune magazine editor Pattie Sellers.

She’s totally right. We grow up hearing about the “career leader” and how your career should be a “climb to the top” or at least a climb to a level that makes you happy and secure. I had this mindset for most of my early professional career. It was all I knew really. But, if I had to do things over again, I’m positive I would approach my career differently.

The era of employment for life with one company is over. Workers now switch from job to job much more frequently in search of grafter fulfillment and compensation. Today, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times (with an average of 12 job changes) during his or her career. Most workers spend five years or less in every job, so they devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to the next.

That is why approaching job searches must be done differently these days and consistent networking is a must. You also have to be agile as you track and adjust to job market trends.

So how do you go about having this agile mindset? How do you plan for professional development and not just career planning? Let me provide a few examples I now employ during my career shifts that I wish I had been more cognizant of from the jump.

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Stay Relevant I’ve written this previously, but staying relevant by learning to code, getting various certifications and learning the basics of video production and photography are great ways to stay up to date on industry trends. Many companies today look for talent that is experienced in wide areas of expertise. Always learning new things and staying relevant in the skills that industry HR people are looking for will help you as you look to advance your career.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media Presence — I have many thoughts on “personal branding” which I hope to write about for FOS soon, but I did want to touch on the topic here. Whether you realize it or not, everything you post on social media can help form people’s opinions of you. Therefore, it is your choice to either actively control and shape your personal brand, or let others do it for you. You need to be your best advocate because how you present yourself online could determine future leadership or career opportunities.

Take Advantage of Lateral or Downward Moves — This one may seem counterproductive, but career opportunities come in all shapes, sizes and directions. This is really what can turn your career path into a career jungle gym. During my time searching for new employment I’ve spoken with many people who arrived to their current position by moving laterally within a company or even down, to then progress in a different department. These moves also allow you to see the bigger picture of your business or brand from another point of view. Always stay open to the opportunities that present themselves. You never know what move, no matter the direction, may be the next key to your career success. Trust me here, I can pinpoint a specific lateral opportunity with a previous employer that I wish I had pursued. I don’t dwell on it, but I do look back at how foolish I was for not even entertaining the thought of trying a different route during my early tenure in athletics.

Apply For The Position Anyway — I can’t tell you how many times professionals hold back from applying for a position because they don’t think they have the skills needed to succeed. It’s OK if you don’t, as long as you have the drive, motivation, and resourcefulness needed to get the job done. Be calculated in your risk taking. Honestly assess where your skill gaps are and get advice from a mentor to help you determine if the position is a right fit for your development plan.

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These are just a few things to consider as you move around on your career jungle gym. It’s perfectly OK to not always climb upward as you move to each new career opportunity. You have to move in the directions and in the positions that will bring you the most joy and give you the most career fulfillment.

Just because the move may not be in the direction that your father, mother, sister or brother made in their career path, doesn’t mean you’re not advancing your career.

By considering the steps above, continuing to network and build relationships, and knowing it’s OK to make career moves every few years, you’ll ultimately find that progressing through your career like a kid on a jungle gym is perfectly normal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Become the Books That We Read

This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body and prayer is to the soul. We become the books that we read.” — Matthew Kelly

As I continue the jungle gym climb through my career (more thoughts on this next week), I’ve become more and more of a reader. By stating this, I know I am admitting that, outside of the sports page or Sports Illustrated in high school and college, then Twitter and sometimes Facebook in my early adult life, I never read much at all.

As I’ve gone through life’s inevitable ups and downs, reading has became a source of pleasure and relaxation for me. It’s a time to be mindful, learn about my profession, learn new things and gain wisdom from others. I didn’t always view it this way and fully admit I wasted many years not committed to reading and learning.

The older I get and the more I realize you can never stop learning and reading, the more I take Matthew Kelly’s quote to heart. I’ve seen the changes that exercise and a proper diet have brought to my life and I’ve also begun to realize the power of prayer. Reading is another part of my life that has become a must for me if I’m to become the best version of myself.

I now find myself adding to my reading list on a regular basis, discussing with friends and family the latest books they have read. In my opinion, you should always have a running list of books that you want to read, or that have been recommended to you for one reason or another. This allows you to consistently learn and figure out which books become a part of you.

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Towards the end of each professional development Q&A session that I recently published on my personal blog, I asked for the last book each subject read or was reading.

Publishing this blog reading list exposed me to a new endeavor my friend Mark Hodgkin recently began. His “Sports Business Book Exchange” is a great way to connect with others in the #sportsbiz industry and also keep your reading list fresh.

I’m on my second month in the exchange and it’s already been a very rewarding experience. If you’d like to join or have questions, hit Mark up on Twitter or visit the sign up link here: #SBBX

Below is the aggregate list from my blog series in hopes that you will get some inspiration for your own reading and soon learn that you too will become the books you read. Trust me, this is a good thing!

Chris Yandle — Do Over by Jon Acuff

Karen Freberg — Known by Mark Schaefer

Kevin Adema — The Shift by Scott M. Davis

Kristin Seed — Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

Troy Johnson — Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations by Franz Wisner
Headed For Home by Mary Helen Brown

Lora Wey — You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith

Mark Hodgkin — So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work by Cal Newport

Brett Myers — The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

J.W. Cannon — Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez

Kevin DeShazo — Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator or Nike by Phil Knight

I plan to add each and every one of these books to my “on deck list” and I hope that you check them out as well. Below, I’ve given a few more recommendations from my book shelf that you may like.

What I’m Reading — The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler, It Looked Like Forever by Mark Harris and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

What’s On Deck — Brands Win Championships by Jeremy Darlow, The Best Yes by Lisa Terkeurst, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly, The Last Boy: Micky Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy, Pistol by Mark Kriegal

What I Recommend — Resisting Happiness by Mathew Kelly, Toughness by Jay Bilas, One Last Strike by Tony LaRussa, 3 Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger, The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons, The Southpaw — Bang The Drum Slowly — A Ticket For Seamstitch all by Mark Harris, Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman, UnMarketing by Scott Stratten, What To Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin, Jab Jab Jab Right Hook and #AskGaryVee both by Gary Vaynerchuck.

I’d love to hear feedback on the above recommendations and I’d also like to hear some of your favorites. Please email, tweet, or leave comments below with some of your favorite recommendations.

Four Important Groups to Follow on Social Media

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I don’t claim to be a Marketing and Social Media expert. In fact, I shudder when people use that word or any form of that word (ninja, guru, etc.) to describe themselves.

It’s not that I’m downplaying my skills or anyone else’s, but I think we all can be continual learners and never stop growing in our chosen field. There are some people more knowledgeable than others on certain topics, but nobody is an expert in my mind when it comes to social. It moves too fast for someone to have all the answers.

Do I have strong options on digital and social? Sure! But, I don’t claim to be an expert. I do love to have ongoing discussions on topics that are important to marketers. I’m always trying to read the latest articles from thought leaders, peers and industry executives to stay relevant. As I stated, things change so rapidly with social, it’s important to have these conversations to stay relevant.

That’s why it has always been important for me to follow four certain groups on social media. It’s critical to follow this diverse group of people and brands because you need to make sure you are keeping up with all the current conversations taking place in the industry.

So, what are these groups you ask? Here are my four group to follow on social media.

Professional Connections
This is a group that I have mentioned before in my my writing. You have your subsets of connections (core, lost and acquaintances) that you should be reaching out to consistently. These “living” lists should evolve, but you should make sure that you are connected with these folks on social media so you always have a touch point.

You may find that communicating or keeping in touch on social media is the easiest way to foster certain relationships. During these last few months, I have made a better effort to follow and connect with all levels of my “living” connections list. Keeping consistent conversations on social will allow you to learn about new opportunities (seminars, job openings, etc.) and keep you plugged into the latest news.

You never know where a conversation may lead or how a conversation will help you make your next career connection or advancement. Similarly, by extending your knowledge and expertise, you may help someone else to do the same.

Employers/Potential Employers
This segment is important from a personal branding and messaging standpoint. Following your current employer(s), and your potential employer(s) helps you share and amplify their messages. I’ve also found it incredibly useful to follow the Human Resources accounts for companies that I’d like to work for.

This comes in handy when writing cover letters, answering questions in their online portal and when speaking during an interview. If you can speak the language of your current and potential employers, you’ll have a greater advantage over those that don’t.

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Clients/Competitors
What drives your business to be successful? Other than the hard work of your team, it’s your clients and competitors. Following these groups will keep you focused on their needs and core messages. If you’ve ever worked for a marketing, PR or advertising agency you know that retaining your current book of business is critical.

A good way to make sure their messages are being received (even if you are in charge of their messaging) is to follow them yourself and view their social content against others in the native setting. Another critical part of any business is monitoring your competitors for the same messaging.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of industry messaging will help you to serve your clients better and make sure they’re either keeping pace or leading the race when it comes to their company goals for marketing, advertising and PR.

People You Disagree With
This last segment is a hard one for me and I promise I won’t name any names. But, if you truly want to broaden your social media network and your personal network, you need to follow some dissenting opinions from your own. Now I don’t mean to follow these people if they’re only going to make you mad or you’ll argue with them online. That won’t look good for you or for them.

What has been healthy for me is finding someone who you agree on most things with, but not on all things. Personally, this has brought about provocative and positive discussions that opened my eyes to how other people view certain topics. Even if you never come to an agreement on a certain topic, knowing you can have a serious conversation and remain friends is important.

You will get too insulated and susceptible to group-think if you don’t enter into discussions like this. Trust me here, I’m sure you already know a person or two who fits this description. I urge you to follow them and have discourse on topics that matter to you in order to open your mind to a new way of looking at things.

Following these four segments on social allows me to keep in touch with the current “hot topics” in the industry and foster some great relationships. I can’t tell you how many Twitter, phone, email and LinkedIn conversations I’ve had with people who I consider close friends and colleagues, yet I’ve only met a small portion of them IRL (“In Real Life” for you non-millennial types).

By following a diverse group of contacts from the segments I defined above, I’m confident that you will continue to get value from your social media interactions.

 

Snapchat Is A Toy

I’m taking a slight break from my mindfulness and career development posts to talk about a subject which I hope generates some debate for those in the #sportsbiz, marketing and advertising worlds. I want to talk Snapchat. Specifically, I want to talk Snapchat as a marketing and advertising tool.

Why? Because I’m a long time marketer and communicator whose career has taken place both pre-social media and post-social media. I also think a lot of marketers are still trying to figure out what numbers matter and what platforms make sense for their brands.

But one thing I’ve remained pretty adamant about is that . . . Snapchat is a toy. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

One of my twitter acquaintances (Thanks Sean!) used that phrase recently and it stuck with me. I’ve always had a hard time articulating why I didn’t think Snap needed to be obsessed over. And this phrase summed it up at a basic level.

The phrase came up again between us recently after my Twitter feed had automated a post from the Hootsuite blog debating Snapchat vs. Instagram. Sean challenged again me with this thought . . . “Who has the analytics?”

I totally agreed with his point. What are you measuring? What goals can be considered measurable? Are those measurables what really matter? How do you get access to that data? Of all the platforms, Snapchat analytics seem the hardest to track down and to measure.

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Millennials and GenXers alike both use Snapchat at a high rate, there is no denying that. The latest figures from May of 2017 show Snapchat has 42 million monthly active users. That’s a pretty big number and one that has marketers and advertisers salivating.

But I still contend that Snapchat is an app used for one-to-one interactions between close friends or a small group of friends. I’m also willing to bet that most of those users don’t want to see ads in an environment set up so intimately.

Because marketers ruin everything, we know there are ads on Snapchat. Surely you’re like me and can obviously tell when you’re viewing a series of stories and a then “story” appears that is ad. The one I see a lot is for “lower my bills” or “15-year vs. 30-year mortgage.” First, that shows I’m old if I’m getting ads served to me about bills and house payments! Second, though creatively filmed, the “stories” are pretty easily detected as ads and I click past them.

This is why I feel if you’re looking for social platforms on which to run advertising or marketing campaigns, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are still the best place to spend your budget dollars. In my opinion, ads on these sites fit better natively and are much less intrusive.

We need more ads that create better experiences, that are relevant, don’t interrupt and add value. Instagram provides a native experience, integrating links and calls to action via the direct message feature, bio section or through posts on a brand’s page. I continually get questions on how to make Snaps actionable or tie them to concrete business goals via some sort of CTA.

You can also target much better and get better data to measure an ads effectiveness. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow you to see real measurables which your team has derermined, or will determine, important. I’m dubious you can get the same from Snapchat currently.

People can say that Instagram and Facebook are copying all of Snapchat’s best features to stay relevant. So what if they are? Those sites have way more active daily and monthly use and people are already familiar with how to navigate those platforms.

That’s another reason why I believe those sites are a better place to spend your ad dollars. I’ve had more than one close friend, family member, fellow marketing professional and agency partner tell me that with Instagram stories being rolled out along with other advertising features, Instagram is becoming a top platform for them to reach their target personas.

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Snapchat is a toy. Is that a bad thing? No. Does that mean that you can’t enjoy it? No, that’s what toys are meant for. But, what I’m trying to say is that Snapchat isn’t the platform for everyone to obsess over if you can spend your ad dollars smarter in other areas.

I have more thoughts on this topic, but I’ll save those for future blogs. However, I wanted to provide you a glimpse of some of my thoughts on one of today’s most pressing marketing and #sportsbiz topics.

Please let me know what else you’d like me to share or discuss. And I know you will have some thoughts for me on this specific topic, so please feel free to comment below, give me a shout on Twitter, or shoot me an email.

 

 

3 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Network

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This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

Networking and relationship building should be a continual process in your life. This means you should consistently strive to foster your existing connections, build new ones when you can and work to “play the connector” where it is applicable.

I’ve shared some of the following thoughts in the past, but it’s important to reiterate these tips and emphasize their importance. I realize we all have busy weeks with a lot of moving parts. However relationship building and networking should always be a focus.

By elaborating on these processes, I hope to make them less intimidating for you. Here are my three easy ways to strengthen your network.

Consistency In Outreach
First, develop your “core” list of mentors, influencers, or whatever you want to call your most coveted contacts. These are the people who you keep in contact with the most and reach out to when in need of help or guidance.

This can be about 10–15 people. Keep these individuals close and reach out to them often. Ask how they have been and be mindful of what’s going on in their lives too.

Next, identify “lost” connections, or those that you’ve developed a relationship with but over time have lost contact with. Work to keep these people more top of mind and converse about what each of you have going on. This number may fluctuate, but try to identify five of these to begin with.

Finally, make a list of “acquaintances” that have been influential in your career or that you have developed even a small relationship with. This can be an evolving list of 10–15 people as you expand your network. By identifying your core contacts, lost connections and acquaintances, you will have a “living” list that constantly gets updated.

Select a core contact, lost connection and acquaintance to reach out to each week (at least) to make sure you’re always maintaining and growing relationships, while reinforcing the friendships you have.

Play The Connector
If you’re like me, you’ve either received an interview, received a recommendation or maybe landed a job because of a previous connection you’ve established. Something that’s just as fulfilling is repaying those favors and “playing the connector” for other individuals.

Don’t just network for selfish reason, network in order to help your connections out when they need it as well. It is an amazing feeling when you can make an introduction or recommendation and it ends up helping out a close connection or acquaintance.

Networking is a two-way endeavor and playing the connector is immensely fulfilling. If you think playing the connector is daunting, here are a few ways you can get started.

  • Join professional networks associated with your profession and attend meet-ups, mixers, etc.
  • Start a diverse reading list. Come up with the five or six things you like and pick out a book in each topic.
  • Also, read blogs on these topics, follow folks on twitter discussing them or look at local seminars focusing on them.

These are excellent ways to nurture and expand your network and learn about ways to help yourself and others. You’re never too old to stop learning new things and meeting new people.

Give Thanks
This is also not a new topic for FOS, but it can’t be stated enough. It really can’t. Being thankful should be a mindset that is adopted all year long. It is nearly impossible to advance your career without the help and guidance of others.

Everyone who you interact with in your career (both good and bad) has an impact on you whether you realize it or not and for that you should be thankful. Always be thankful for the moments that helped you improve and for those teaching moments when things didn’t go your way.

When it comes to networking specifically, thanks can come in many forms, but for me it usually means a hand-written thank you note. Make this a part of your weekly outreach. Strive to reach out to those tiers of connections mentioned in point number one above with hand-written notes.

I know email is easy and convenient, but the extra time and effort it takes to write a note won’t go unnoticed. It may even prompt someone else to take up this extra-special step of gratitude!

By following the simple tips above, I have gained many valuable friendships and relationships, which have been critical to me both professionally and personally.
Every interaction you have while networking is a way to showcase yourself and your skills. Take advantage of all of these occasions and encounters to learn new things and expand your horizons.

You’ll be amazed at what will come your way and happen in your career when you are consistent in your outreach and work to improve the lives of others just as much as you seek to improve your own.

 

 

Shifting Your Perception of The Hustle Mentality

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

We live in a world that increasingly glorifies the #hustle culture. You know the one I’m talking about, always on the #grind, setting meetings, working out, traveling, all work, no sleep. Just follow my guy Gary Vaynerchuk on any of his platforms and you’ll see the epitome of this glorified mentality. It has its merits but, trust me, it’s not for everyone.

That said, I’m not here to tell you not to work hard. But I am here to provide suggestions to help you become your most productive self. I know everyone is wired differently so I’m speaking here from past experiences. The #hustle and #riseandgrind mentality can be draining on you not only mentally, but physically and emotionally.

I’ve already written in this space about work/life balance. I wanted to continue along those lines and discuss a few more habits I have adapted in recent years that have helped me be more productive. You’ll notice that these habits don’t involve using the latest app, or another way to keep me plugged in. These are some “old school” methods that, to me at least, are still ways to #hustle and keep you on the way to being the best version of yourself.

1) Hand Written “To Do” Lists — I’ve long felt the most comfortable when my “to do” list is written out and I can physically cross items off or re-order them as priorities shift. It’s been proven that the best way to remember things is to write them down by hand. That was all I needed to hear a while back to make the change to a more traditional method. I still use apps like Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Evernote for certain things (the pinging on my phone is still needed), but I rely on them much less that I used to. I also like to hang on to my lists and planners. With an app, things eventually get deleted. To me, that just seemed like a tidy way of organizing. But with a paper trail, it’s a great way to look back at your past week, month or year. There is something refreshing about reflecting on how much you’ve accomplished. I also have heard many stories about families discovering old journals and notes from family members. What a cool way to remember and reminisce about a loved one when you can read their accounts in their own words and handwriting!

2) Face-to-Face Connections — I’ve been reading recently about how email controls our day. This in turn means we are letting other people’s agendas dictate our productivity. How many times do you just about get in your “zone” or say to yourself that you’re going to focus on a certain task for the next hour and then PING, you get distracted by that “urgent” red flag email? I’m guessing more often than you want to admit. We have to change the way we respond to emails and other distractions. I’ve learned that I need to set aside certain times of my day to check them and from there prioritize my responses. Not everything needs a response! Now to get to the title of this point, face to face connections. What I try to do for pressing matters is make time to set face-to-face meetings. Not long, boring meetings. But, short and productive personal sessions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish meeting face to face! This is even a tactic I like to use when networking and connecting. Don’t just rely and emails and texts. Work as hard as you can to meet someone for coffee, a quick lunch or a happy hour drink. You’ll be amazed at how productive they can be.

3) Reflection and Wellness — I must give credit to me better half for this section. My wife Megan has totally transformed the way I reflect, stay mindful and make sure I’m taking care of myself physically. These are also ways to help keep you grounded if you feel that the #hustle is getting the best of you. A few things that I have adopted are journaling, getting enough sleep and understanding the concept of peaks and valleys. Journaling has helped me chronicle the best parts of my day and reflect on the things that matter to me the most. This can be anything from time with my family, getting that interview I wanted, or even the Cardinals sweeping the Marlins. You will also be astonished at how much reflecting on the good will keep you focused on your goals. Getting enough sleep is usually not a problem for me, but when life and work get stressful or complicated, it can really affect your sleep patterns. You must remain cognizant of your sleep patterns. It’s OK to shut off the #hustle at 10pm or earlier each night and go to sleep. It’s also OK to sleep past dawn. Figure out when you can get the 7–8 recommended hours for most adults to help balance your hormones and help your body recover.

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I mostly kid when I say that these are “old school” ways of staying productive. I’m not that old, and these methods can work for nearly anyone. What I am saying is that as much as I strive to work hard, reach for my goals and build relationships, I can’t get caught up in the #hustle culture. That just doesn’t work for me. It’s not how I am wired.

If you find yourself scared of the real world or scared of the grind of working for an athletic department, a corporation or an agency…don’t. Be yourself. Stay true to the principles and methods that keep you focused and grounded.

If you’re someone who has been working for a while and you’re not Generation X and also not a Millennial, I will tell you same thing. Be yourself. Don’t compromise your values, don’t lose your mindfulness and don’t let the #hustle culture get to you.