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.

 

Career Advice From 10 Marketing Professionals

If you’ve been following my writing this spring, then you know I have been featuring Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational.

Each of these individuals possesses a skill set that I believe my readers will find extremely valuable. Additionally, they have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them here into perpetuity.

To make things easier for you, I have linked to all 10 posts below. Please check out all the sessions and drop me a line or leave comments to share your thoughts. If you have advice or something you want to add, I want to hear it!

I hope that you are able to learn something from one of these great people.

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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Q&A LINKS

Part 1: Chris Yandle  

Part 2: Karen Freberg  

Part 3: Kevin Adema

Part 4: Kristin Seed  

Part 5: Troy Johnson  

Part 6: Lora Wey

Part 7: Mark Hodgkin  

Part 8: Brett Myers  

Part 9: J.W. Cannon

Part 10: Kevin DeShazo 

4 Ways to Stay Relevant In Today’s Marketing World

This article originally published for Front Office Sports

As we approach graduation season, a popular topic that’s appearing on my social feeds is advice for those about to graduate. While this post is being published around the same time, I try not to wait until just this time of year to help those who may need it. I strive to set meetings, write blogs and join discussions all year long, focusing on self improvement and career development.

As many of you know, today’s marketing and communications landscape is changing rapidly. So rapidly in fact, that seasoned professionals sometimes find it hard to stay sharp and keep their skills up-to-date with the latest trends.

As a way to help both young professionals and those with a little more “fungus on their shower shoes,” I would like to offer some tips on how to stay relevant in today’s ever changing marketing landscape.

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1. Get Certified — There are many FREE certifications available to marketers today designed to help keep your skills sharp. The one that I recommend to most is the Inbound Certification from HubSpot. HubSpot is the world’s largest and best Inbound Marketing software platform and the authority on educational inbound marketing resources. Many of these resources include training videos which are categorized into a series of Marketing Certification courses. Of the five total courses offered, the Inbound certification is far and away the most completed course and the most comprehensive. The Google AdWords Certification is another increasingly popular online certification. This particular certification allows individuals to demonstrate that Google will recognize them as an expert in online advertising. Additionally, Hootsuite offers a series of social media marketing courses that are also defined to drive real business results. I can’t stress this enough, retaining certifications by any of these outlets will ensure you’re keeping up with the latest marketing trends.

2. Learn To Code — There was a time when knowing how to code or program was only for IT professionals or those that “are good with computers.” As you well know, if you’re going to hold nearly any professional job these days, you better know more than just the basics of using a computer, tablet or smart phone. I may be dating myself, but I definitely remember the times when this wasn’t the case. Any entrepreneur, marketer or freelancer will tell you today that coding can help you succeed and separate you from your competitors. As with the certification tips above, there are many FREE resources available online that can teach you the basics of coding and programming. If you’d like a handy list of places that offer coding for free, I’ve got you covered.

3. Learn Video Basics — I should probably take my own advice here. I mean I just wrote a post about how video marketing is the hottest trend right now, yet I’m not much help with a camera or editing. If you want to add value and separate yourself from the employee in the next cubicle, learn to shoot and edit video. It’s that simple. I reached out to my good friend Chris Yandle to discuss this tip, as he is a recently self-taught videographer and photographer. His new role allows for great flexibility for career development and Chris immediately began to improve his value by learning these two skills. He says he watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and edited video while he watched them. To quote him “We live in an amazing time when information is everywhere and YouTube is a prime example. It is free and offers may hours of online learning.” Some employers and universities may also pay for certain photography and video courses, but start with YouTube videos and you can construct a realistic timeline to learn more about video production.

4. Never Stop Learning — This is a mantra that I try to live by. Don’t ever get set in your ways or think you have all the answers. Learning can apply to many things too, not just your professional career. Start a reading list and try to read as much as your free time allows. Make the list diverse and don’t just read about work or careers. I try to mix in books about marketing, sports, religion, fitness and mindfulness. But that is just me. 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. Also make sure to consistently network and connect with friends and colleagues. Come up with a list of your top 10–15 “core” connections and make sure to touch base with them regularly. Always look to nurture those relationships. Finally, join professional networks associated with your profession and attend meet-ups, mixers, etc. These are excellent ways to nurture and expand your network. Making these new connections allows you to learn new ideas and new ways of thinking. You’re never to old to stop learning new things and meeting new people.

It sometimes can feel daunting when a new app, new feature or new platform is seemingly announced weekly. It doesn’t mean that you have to learn a new skill or change your whole marketing campaign. But, it does remind us that innovation never stops and therefore we must keep learning and trying new things.

Following the tips above can help you remain agile and relevant. They will help you expand your skill set and learn new things to help you advance your career. But, this is just a simple list to get your mind going. I’m sure some of you could add to this list and think of even more ways to add value to your employer. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions below. Drop us a line or tweet at us with your ideas.

Professional Development Q&A With Kevin DeShazo

This post is the 10th in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9

Name: Kevin DeShazo (@KevinDeShazo)
Profession: Founder of Fieldhouse Media and Culture Wins Championships
Degree: BS in Management Information Systems, MBA in International Business

You should know by now that I’m a big fan of Twitter.  You’ll find out below in this interview that so is Kevin. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he and I first connected on our favorite social media platform. We’ve been having conversations on our favorite social media platform for around 2-3 years now. He may even have ended up in my timeline because of interaction with Mark Hodgkin or Chris Yandle.

But, I digress. Kevin and I share many common traits and have had lots of conversations outside of Twitter quite frequently. His thought leadership when it comes to smart social media use for student athletes is second to none. Make sure to check out what he has going on over at Fieldhoue Media. His latest effort, Culture Wins Championships, is all about providing leaders in athletics with a proven program to create a championship winning culture. He is an expert in both areas and is constantly delivering his messages to the top athletic programs in the country.

All of that said, I think you will find Kevin’s discussion below not only informative, but useful as well. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Kevin DeShazo.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
Ha. It doesn’t, at all. My degree was in Management Information Systems. I knew early on I didn’t want anything to do with that field, but I sort of stumbled into where I am now. My first job out of college was as an embalmer’s assistant at a funeral home (a story for another day) then I got into the healthcare recruiting. In 13 years (that makes me feel old), my actual degree has had nothing to do with my professional career.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
Truth be told, I’m not much of a planner. I go wherever “feels right” and love to keep my options open. So I didn’t have a specific plan once I graduated. This is probably why I ended up working at a funeral home. It seemed fun, so why not? I never could have envisioned doing what I do now.

For one, social media wasn’t really a thing. Facebook existed and MySpace was coming, but the iPhone didn’t exist and the world as we know it was vastly different. And traveling the country to speak to athletes, coaches and leaders was honestly never something I considered. I always wanted to do something “big” but I didn’t know what that was.

Along the way I went from the funeral home to the corporate world and then to starting my own businesses. There were incredible successes and failures along the way (I went 2 years without making any money). But those opportunities and situations gave me perspective on the bigger story of life, and drove me to want to help people believe they have a story worth telling.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, be humble yet believe you’re capable. Be willing to do the work. Know your why.

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4) What do like the most about your profession?
I love being on campus and interacting with people, getting to help them realize what they’re capable of. On the social media side it’s helping players, coaches and administrators realize they have a story worth telling and guiding them in how to tell it. With leadership development, it’s helping them believe they are capable of being leaders worth following and guiding them through that process. It’s incredible to see a leader and a team truly change their culture. And the emails/calls/texts I get about the impact that our work is having on individuals, teams and even families/marriages. It’s incredibly humbling and energizing. It’s a tiring job that requires a lot of travel, but I head home every trip grateful for what I get to call work.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
People have gotten to a place now where they think that because student-athletes spend a ton of time on social media, that means they understand it and know how to use it well. So helping administrators realize that’s not reality, and that social media education is still crucial for these groups. I thinking also battling complacency. Fieldhouse Media has established itself as the leader in social media education for college athletics, but that doesn’t mean I can get comfortable. With Culture Wins Championships, the challenge is that the leadership space is really noisy and crowded, so trying to serve leaders in order to show them how what we have to offer is different.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
I started Fieldhouse in 2011, when the social media world was mostly Facebook and Twitter and most people were afraid of it. Today, social media is the way people communicate and new platforms continue to arrive on the scene. Early on, administrators wanted student-athletes to be scared of social media and wanted education centered on that. Today, they realize how important and valuable it is for student-athletes to use social media purposefully. I prefer to focus on the positives so that has made my job a lot easier.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
I think people leave the field because they are exhausted. Athletics is an “always on” industry and it can cause serious stress on individuals and families. People either embrace that and find the balance where they can, or they get frustrated and tired and pursue careers outside of athletics.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Absolutely not. I genuinely love what I do.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter, without a doubt. I love the community, the people I’ve been able to meet and the opportunities it’s provided me.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last book I read was Shoe Dog (the Phil Knight bio – highly recommend). Also a huge fan of the StoryBrand podcast and (shameless plug) The Liberator podcast – provided by the guys who run the GiANT Worldwide, the leadership company behind Culture Wins Championships.

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
Twitter…end of discussion. Just kidding…

A. Print Newspaper — What’s that?
B. Online Newspaper — The Oklahoman, The Tulsa World, The New York Times
C. Television — Typically tuned to ESPN or The Food Network. (I try not to watch cable news).
D. Twitter — A variety of news outlets and individual journalists (from sports to politics to culture to religion or a variety of other topics)
E. Facebook — I try to avoid Facebook

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
If I’m not at work or with family/friends, I’m running, cycling or roasting coffee.

Tips For Maximizing 360 Video

Visual content is a vital part of any successful marketing strategy today. However, we’re already moving past the days of having only an image accompany every post on social media. Many brands are using animated GIFs or animated infographics, while others are using short videos to promote their content.

Video is no longer “nice” to include in your marketing plan. It’s a crucial marketing tactic and is a powerful way to communicate your brand story, explain why you are different and build relationships with your fans, customers and evangelists.

The most recent statistics prove that video not only works, but works well. In fact, 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others. Brands can no longer ignore the power of video.

360 video and virtual realty is the latest type of visual content that you can add to your marketing toolbox. The library of 360 video content is growing by the day as more and more platforms like YouTube and Facebook support 360 viewing capability.

This latest innovation can allow brands to produce extremely unique content for their audiences. But, I must caution you, don’t just do 360 video to say you’re doing 360 video. Below I offer some things to consider to make sure your content is unique and compelling for your target audience.

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1) It’s all about your personas – Every piece of content you produce should appeal to and be created for your buyer personas. Not familiar with the term “buyer persona?” Maybe you call it your target audience, or your core audience. Maybe you just refer to them more commonly as “readers” or “fans.” Whatever you call them, they are the representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data you gather about them. Any good marketer needs to know their personas inside and out and always create content they want. If you dip your toes into the 360 video realm, you have to make sure this is something they want or will watch. You don’t want to produce a 360 video, just say you did. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Always bring value – Don’t ever produce content “just because” or “because everyone else is doing it.” You never know, they may be producing something their personas don’t want or they may also just be trying to keep up with the trends. If you feel you have the data at hand to produce 360 content, then your strategy team must plan to bring value. What types of video will your personas like? What makes it unique? What will set it apart from from your other content or campaigns? What I’ve seen work when it comes to franchises or athletics departments is exclusive content. Taking fans to places they can’t normally go. I’m talking about locker room or facility tours, pregame and postgame access, celebrations, team travel, etc. You can immerse your fans in occurrences like this with 360 video to bring them even closer to the team. For brands, 360 video works for new product unveilings and storytelling pieces. The brands able to leverage 360 at the moment are outdoor adventure brands, automobile makers and movie studios.

3) Think of the end product first – Once your marketing team has used available data to help decide you’re ready for 360 video and has developed a list of content ideas that may work, it is time to work backwards. What do I mean by that? I mean that the story you tell will shape the 360 experience for your personas. You’ll need to think of the ultimate end-user experience and how they will navigate this 360 video. Do you need to control the immersive experience and what the viewer is looking at? Will that further complicate the video? Do you need a guide in the form of a voiceover? Are you changing locations or will there be transitions? How will the viewer know how to navigate? Will you have to add post production to replicate a menu or navigation controls in case the viewer isn’t looking in the right direction? These are all questions that will need to be addressed and planned out prior to scheduling the video production. Trust me, this may seem like a lot of planning, but it will be reflected in the final product. After all, your goal is to produce a quality piece of content that your personas want to consume.

If you’d like some confirmation on how you can use video in various ways to reach your target personas, check out this post. Additionally, if you need some data to present to your team or superiors in your next marketing meeting, check out these stats from HubSpot.

Each of the points above could quite possibly be a blog post on its own. There are so many things to consider when it comes to producing quality video content, let alone the latest in 360 video content. In my opinion, the tips above are the most important to keep in mind in your next marketing meeting. Video content marketing has to be a part of your marketing strategy in 2017 and following the above will ensure your fans love the final product.

Professional Development Q&A With J.W. Cannon

This post is the ninth in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8

Name: J.W Cannon (@cannonjw)
Profession: Senior Project Lead, Sponsorships and Events at UPS
Degree: Kinesiology

I was introduced to J.W. through my good friend Chris Yandle. In fact, I think a trend is developing on these blogs as not only have I profiled Chris, but many of the other folks who have been gracious enough to be featured on here I have met via Chris. But, I digress.

J.W. was kind enough to speak with me a few times as I look for new career opportunities. He had excellent insight for me about his career path and things I should/could consider as I pursue my next opportunity. He was transparent and very helpful and I can’t thank him enough.

You’ll learn more about him below, but I highly suggest giving him a follow on Twitter. He’s funny, has some great #dadlife tweets and also is one of the creators of #sbchat, a weekly twitter chat discussing all things sports business. Just search #sbchat on Twitter. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from J.W. Cannon.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My degree program and current profession are both tied to sports, but that’s where the comparison ends. Kinesiology (the science of human movement, for those that don’t know) programs largely serve to train informal and formal recreation/fitness professionals and physical education teachers/researchers. Quite a bit different from the business world.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
When I stopped playing sports in college, I needed something to fill that void, so I started working at the recreation center at James Madison. At the time, it was a brand new facility, and the organization was getting students more involved in NIRSA – the governing body for recreational sports. I got really involved, and thought that I would be taking a graduate assistant position somewhere, and going on to work at a university somewhere. Just before I graduated I decided to take an internship (required for graduation) with a global sports agency – at the time Advantage International, but is now known as Octagon. After that three months, I decided that the sports business world was more my calling. So I scrapped my original plans and started seeking jobs in that space instead.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Learn to independently solve problems and do things for yourself. Resourcefulness is a trait that’s innate and almost impossible to teach, but so useful. That trait is something I lean on a little bit every day.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
Seeing the work that I do make so many people happy. In the beginning, all of the bright lights and big personalities of the sports business are easy to get swept up in. Over time, going to another game is just part of the job. But I never get tired of seeing the passion fans have for the work that we do. It keeps me going on a day-in, day-out basis.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
Convincing people that we are more than just banner hangers and ticket brokers. Yes, we deal with signage. Yes, we deal with tickets. Yes, we go to cool events. But sponsorship is a strategic marketing discipline just like every other part of the marketing mix.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Accountability has become a much bigger issue, especially given the price tags involved with sponsorship and media. Gone are the days of impressions based metrics or doing sponsorships because “the CEO likes X”. Those are replaced by more complex engagement metrics and ties to the bottom line of the company.

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7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Most people leave the industry for greener pastures because they feel that their skills are not valued properly. It’s not the highest paying industry, you tend to work odds hours and upward movement is often dependent upon how willing you are to move somewhere else. Some people feel that they should be getting more for that effort. The challenge is that there’s a line of hungry people out the door that are willing to do that job that look just like you (or better than you) on paper. So the industry is a little resistant to change in that regard because they don’t have to. I can’t say I agree or disagree with anyone’s decision to leave the industry, though. That’s a personal decision.

8) Are you considering leaving your current filed or company?
No, I’m not considering leaving. But in this industry you always have to keep your eyes and ears open, otherwise you’ll miss opportunities.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Twitter (@cannonjw)

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
Last Book: Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez…fascinating look at the crazy Silicon Valley tech world
Last TED Talk: Tim Urban, Lessons from a Master Procrastinator

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
A. Print Newspaper – Never
B. Online Newspaper – All the time, largely through a series news feeds and aggregators (RSS, Flipboard, Nuzzel, etc)
C. Television – still quite often
D. Twitter – specialized and real time news
E. Facebook – personal only
F. Other – go through over 2K pieces of content per day using aggregators

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
My 6-year old son and my family is my hobby. Whatever time I do have, I like to spend with them.

Professional Development Q&A With Mark Hodgkin

This post is the seventh in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6

Name: Mark Hodgkin (@Mark_Hodgkin)
Profession: Director of Product Development
Degree: BA in History, University of Texas at Austin; MBA, Bryant University

Mark and I connected via twitter (which isn’t that uncommon in this day and age). I would say it was in 2015 or so and again it was via my guy Chris Yandle. We traded some comments on Twitter for a while, and then in 2016 Mark reached out to me to discuss careers and other items.

At the time Mark was in career transition (or at least contemplating it) and he was picking my brain about my decision to leave college athletics and enter the private sector. He was genuinely interested in hearing about my story and also what I was up to in my career at that point. I never forgot the feelings I felt when he reached out and wanted to talk to me. I was humbled to think that I could help someone out and also excited to make a new connection.

Since that time, we stayed in touch and often discussed sports, brown drink and other common interests we shared. Mark was one of the first people I reached out to recently as I began looking for other career opportunities. He has been gracious in recent months to stay in touch to discuss careers, networking opportunities and of course bourbon. With that said, by the end of this blog I’m confident you will realize why Mark is such a great resource for me. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Mark Hodgkin.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
It’s hard to point to any direct relationship between my degrees and my current role. Late in my undergrad career I realized I wanted to work in sports. That led me to a graduate assistant position at Bryant University doing marketing while getting my MBA. I had never considered an MBA until then, but believe it has been useful in my career. Even my BA in History, which doesn’t seem terribly practical, definitely helped my writing and reasoning skills. That was very helpful with my MBA and in a general sense after my career.

My shift to digital came after taking an internship at Boston College, which came just as schools were starting to hire digital-focused people. That was a bit of good luck and timing as it led to a seven year stint at the Big East/American Conference and my current role at NeuLion.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
I credit one of my mentors, Dennis Coleman, for suggesting that working in sports could be a viable career path around the time of my junior year in college. Until then, I was drifting along assuming I’d do something like teach, work at a bank or perhaps even go to law school. So I got a late start, but as Dennis told me, he “could open the door, but you have to prove you belong.” Ever since then I’ve been full into sports, but have been able to find my niche in it with digital media.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
It’s almost cliche at this point, but Network, Network and then NETWORK some more. Opportunities to advance will almost always correspond with relationships you’ve built. Relationships I’ve worked to cultivate have led to every job I’ve ever gotten. If you want to work in sports, it’s especially important as it is a very small, close-knit community.

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4) What do like the most about your profession?
The thing I like most about college sports are the passion of its followers and the community of people. I always try to take a moment to think about how many people pay to attend events that we call work. That’s not to say that it is easy or without serious challenges. But at the end of the day, most people have to work and I think what we do is special.

I also think people in college sports have been amazing to connect and learn from. I can’t speak for every other industry but am amazed at how many people take the time to talk shop and trade ideas in this space.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
Currently, it’s adjusting from a chair on a school or conference side to life at a tech company. While I interacted with digital partners in my last two jobs, the challenges on the inside are totally different. You’re trying to build a cutting edge platform that suits the needs of hundreds of partners, while living within the confines of a business. I’ve always worked with a broad array of people, but going more to the technical side has its challenges.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Thankfully for me, college sports has really gotten more focused on social and digital media. There are full-time positions everywhere and many now at a more senior level. What you’re seeing today from schools on the digital front is staggering. Take a look at the graphics today as opposed to just 3-4 years ago. It’s amazing and now something that almost all administrators and coaches see value in.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Speaking from a college sports perspective, a lot of people leave because of the hours and often low pay. It can be hard to have that elusive “work/life balance” and I see people get burned out. The economics of the system obviously push the big bucks to head coaches in revenue sports and the long line of qualified applicants keep wages low for many others.

As far as why people leave, I can’t agree or disagree. We each have our own journey and I understand the desire to spend more time having “a life”. Though I do think it can be done, many struggle with the so-called balance.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Absolutely not. A former colleague of mine always referred to what we do as the “toy section” of careers. It’s hard work and plenty challenging, but at the end of the day very rewarding.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
From a usage perspective, it’s Twitter followed closely by Instagram. I love the connections with strangers who have often become real life friends. I love how we can talk about common interests as well as follow along with news and sports stories in real time. I do think there are some scary addictive symptoms of too much social media use so I try to keep that in check. A few months ago I got off social media completely for a full month and really enjoyed it. Now I try to be more mindful of the time I spend and how easily it can distract me from more important tasks.

From an observer of the space I have an amazing amount of respect for what Facebook (and its subsidiary Instagram) has built and run. When you stop to think how Mark Zuckerburg took a fairly run-of-the-mill idea and built it into a globally transformative company (as a 20-something with no business background) really is staggering. I tend to think what Facebook is today is just the start and can’t imagine what it will look like in five years.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I read a ton. Typically a few books at a time. The best one I read recently was “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by a very interesting writer named Cal Newport. His book “Deep Work” was also very interesting to me even though he’s a strong critic of social media. I don’t agree 100% with everything he says but think his perspective is important – especially these days.

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
I don’t subscribe to a print paper or watch much TV. Most of my information comes from Internet sources be it social media or curated feeds via something like Pocket or Feedly. I also have a subscription to the Washington Post on my Kindle and find that useful.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
For a time during my college career I seriously considered dropping out and pursuing a culinary degree so cooking is still a great hobby for me. I also read a ton and love playing golf when I have the time.

Professional Development Q&A with Kevin Adema

This post is the third in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Part 1   Part 2

Name: Kevin Adema (@KevinAdema)
Profession: Digital marketing consultant and educator
Degree: B.A. Business & Psychology, post-secondary CAAP designation from
ICA

I was introduced to Kevin at Second Wind’s Agency Account Manager College in Chicago last spring. I was lucky enough to attend last spring’s two-day certification, where Kevin was a featured presenter. As the only agency representative in attendance that worked for a digital-only agency, I was dubious Kevin would tell me something I didn’t think I already knew.

Thankfully, Kevin’s presentation offered a wealth of new ideas and perspective on the state of digital and how agencies are falling behind. Even though I was working for a digital first agency, there was still plenty I learned and I’ve remained in contact with Kevin ever since.

Please check out his website and look into his classes on digital strategy. You won’t regret it. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Kevin Adema.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated
with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
Education’s aim is always to empower and to train the student “how” to
think, “how” to learn and then, “how” to apply. My formal education paved
the path for me to have knowledge in both the business and personal realm
so in that regard, it is fully aligned with what I do currently. Are the
specifics from one course or another directly linked to my daily practice?
Not really as in my field of marketing, every day presents new issues.
Moreover, as marketing marries businesses with consumers, a marketer must
be a continual student, obsessed with learning and continually willing to
adapt.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what
you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations
along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
I didn’t have an exact ideal job in mind. I love business and I love
working with people. I was blessed to start my career in an agency as
marketing fuses my two professional passions together.

Deviations: no, not really. I’d say there were delays: Agency life can be
grinding as we get wound up in the daily ebb and flow of turning work
over. These patterns of “busy” can keep a person stuck and not growing.

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3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Be obsessively humble. Marketing is NOT about you and moreover, it’s
definitely NOT about the brand. Marketing is about understanding human
behavior and real human needs and then, filling those needs. I’d humbly give free access to our Fundamentals course to any marketing professional.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
The exact moment when someone says: “now I get it” and they get fired up,
excited and passionate about doing digital the right way.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
I’m battling 100-year old legacy thinking. It’s deeply entrenched into our
academics and established business protocols. Although millions of dollars
have been spent proving the “old way” isn’t working, change is never easy
even if it’s desperately needed.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
When I first started in an agency, we still had CMYK film and Quark was
the epitome of a designers toolbox. Those are long gone and digital
has completely changed how marketing works forever. We can’t use
traditional media approaches where we talk AT an audience. Digital has
given the consumer a voice and real power. It’s a dialogue, not a
monologue.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they
leave?

Marketing is not 9-5. Burn out, stress, fatigue are all factors.
Marketing is also very people centric. Any time you put more than 1 person
in a room, there exists a good chance for drama and politics.
I’ve learned many hard lessons dealing with people. I’ve made many
mistakes but hopefully, I’ve also empowered and taught enough people to
make a difference.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
Never.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Any coffee shop where two people can put their mobile devices away and sit
face-to-face and talk. 🙂

If I had to choose, probably Linkedin as it attempts to stay professional
but as with most platforms, it’s loaded with content and not discussions.

10) What was the last book you read?  The last TED talk or othere-learning content you consumed?
I have a very large business library and use it frequently. The most
recent book I’ve spent the most dedicated time in was: “The Shift” by
Scott M. Davis. His philosophy of how marketers must change to become
leaders of tomorrow has inspired much of my work.

11) Where do you receive your news and information
A. Print Newspaper
B. Online Newspaper
C. Television
D. Twitter
E. Facebook
F. Other

Yes to all, but remember, reading or watching is not necessarily learning.
For example, if I read something in a certain publication that has an
inherent certain slant, have I learned the truth? NO. I’ve learned a
perspective on the truth. Read always to gain information from numerous
sources and then learn how to combine it for value. When numerous credible
sources all point to the same outcome, you have knowledge.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a
hobby?
I am married to a wonderful woman and we have three beautiful kids.
Spending time with them is my hobby and of course, I wish I could do it
more than I do.

Professional Development Q&A with Karen Freberg

This post is the second in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Name: Karen Freberg (@kfreberg)
Profession: Assistant Professor in Strategic Communications
Degree: Ph.D from the University of Tennessee (Communications), M.A from University of Southern California (Strategic Public Relations), and B.S from University of Florida (Public Relations).

If I remember correctly, I started following Karen on Twitter within the last year. In fact, I believe I discovered her via my first Q&A subject Chris Yandle. Social media is a funny thing, you can really feel like you get to know someone based on their Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat content. You can also get introduced some very cool people whom you might not have otherwise got to know.

Through Twitter I learned early that Karen is not only a passionate instructor of all things social media, she’s a practitioner as well. There are so many speakers, instructors and others out there who discuss social and its best practices and it becomes obvious they’re not practicing what they preach. Karen however is active on social, especially on Twitter and Snapchat and she was an obvious choice to feature on my blog. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Karen Freberg.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
I’d have to say my current role is very closely aligned. I always knew I wanted to go into teaching, but I didn’t know in what until I discovered PR during my first year at the University of Florida. I was a pre-med major (didn’t last long) before switching to psychology. However, thanks to my athletic academic advisor at the time, she saw what I was doing in promoting myself as a student-athlete online (websites, newsletters, etc) and suggested PR. Took my first class and the rest is history!

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
Pretty close! I have always been a fan of technology, so teaching courses in strategic communications and social media really make sense to me. It’s been a fun journey and one that makes me very happy. It’s a combination of research, teaching, mentorship, and practicing what I am preaching in class with consulting and speaking engagements.

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3)What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Learning does not end after school. You are going to have to work hard, continue educating yourself, and networking within and outside of your chosen field. This is a field that is constantly changing, so you need to work hard to keep up.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
The fact that it is constantly changing and evolving. I get bored REALLY easily and if I was doing the same thing every day – that wouldn’t work. I love learning and exploring new ways of solving problems, identifying opportunities, and helping others.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
I’d say time management. We all have time, but we decide to spend it on certain things. It’s our most precious currency and we have to make the most of it. Some people do, but a lot of people don’t.

6) Has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
YEP! I remember when I was working and doing my internships, MySpace was the place to be. However, I try to actively take on projects and consult so I am able to stay in touch with the profession still as an educator. Plus, my research is very much on the applied side, so that also helps.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
I have had a few friends leave academia to go into practice, and I think it all comes down to what their overall goals are personally. Each case was different – but life is a journey and I have always supported my friends in their decisions. Thanks to social media, we all are able to stay in touch!

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
NOPE. Never has crossed my mind. Love what I do!

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
This is a hard one!! I’d have to say Twitter for networking and being able to connect my students with professionals. It’s been my go to platform for my classes for years. I’d have to say I am also a fan of Snapchat and Instagram (especially Instagram Stories) is slowly growing on me.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I read Mark Schaefer’s latest book “Known” and it was pretty good. I am an avid reader of online content and the last piece I read was an article about why people were leaving Snapchat to go over to Instagram. Fascinating!

11) Where do you receive your news and information?
I’d have to say a variety of places. I spend about 15 minutes at the beginning of the day to catch up with what is happening in the field, society and world. I have a list of industry, local, national, and international resources I check on a regular basis. This is my morning routine always with a cup of coffee in hand.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
Love working out and cooking. I am currently training for my second mini marathon (did my first one last year to celebrate my 10 year anniversary of my retirement from track and field!) I also love photography and traveling. I have a few trips planned out for this spring as well as summer (including going to the Cannes Lions Festival) for work, which I am excited about. Exploring new places, cultures, and environments helps spark my creativity and appreciation of the wonderful world we live in.

Did Higher Education Embrace Inbound Marketing in 2016?

Higher education institutions continue to lead many industries in the size of their social media audiences. This potential reach makes social media an easy and natural way to spread various messages to prospective students, current students, parents, and alumni.

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Social media is also a key component to a solid Inbound Marketing strategy. So, you may think that higher education institutions are a leading the way when it comes to Inbound Marketing. But did higher education embrace inbound marketing in 2016? You may be surprised to learn they still have some work to do.

According to a recent Inbound Marketing study of 11 top industries, higher education institutions ranked 7th when it comes to using Inbound Marketing as their primary approach to marketing. It barely out-paces industries such as financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Need more proof they could improve? In terms of marketing priorities for the next 12 months, below are where higher education ranks among the same 11 induries in various strategic categories:

10thGrowing website traffic
10th – Providing Return On Investment (ROI)
10th – Increased revenue from existing customers (alumni)
9th  – Reducing costs of contacts (in-person visits, etc.)

So What Does This Mean?
It means that even though higher education institutions are beginning to see the value in Inbound Marketing by even participating in a survey such as this, they still have work to do. Their top priority was converting leads into customers. In fact, they ranked that priority higher than any other industry surveyed.

But, these days it’s increasingly more difficult to convert leads into customers without growing website traffic and adopting simple Inbound principles. You really can’t afford to go part of the way when it comes to Inbound. You must take a hard look at what adopting Inbound will mean and craft a strategy to do so.

How To Make The Switch?
If higher education institutions think making the switch will be too hard, they can always look to seek help from an Inbound Agency. Or, they can follow these simple tips below to get started.

  • Start with Personas – Craft buyer personas that fit your ideal conversions/customers. Those “c words” usually scare higher education professionals, but they shouldn’t. For higher education, it could be prospective students you are recruiting or key industry leaders you want to speak at graduation. Regardless, figure out who you’re trying to reach and then construct your content around what they would want to read and on the proper platforms.
  • Align Platforms with Goals – Select the social media platforms that offer the most potential to meet your goals. They all don’t play the same role. Twitter is for conversation. Maybe start a regularly scheduled Twitter chat so prospects have a chance to talk with a live person from your school. LinkedIn is alumni-focused. Post relevant information about school rankings and the importance of a degree from your school.
  • Track Metrics That Matter – Not all metrics matter, so track the ones that help you define your ROI. If you’re looking to increase traffic, tracking URLs can tell you what piece of content brought a visitor to your site and the social media site where they found your link. In general, the most actionable social media metrics will be those that indicate engagement such as click throughs, shares, comments, and the percentage of community engaging with your content.

It’s apparent that higher education institutions are still hesitant to embrace Inbound Marketing. It is hard for us to figure out why when it’s been shown that following Inbound Marketing principles leads to 54% more leads and a huge savings over traditional marketing.

Inbound marketers can only continue to have conversations with the key stakeholders at schools and help dispel any myths that still exist about Inbound Marketing.

For more information about inbound marketing, subscribe to my blog here.

This blog was originally published for Verge Pipe Media.