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.

 

 

Engage, Engage, Engage…Invite

This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

If you’re around me long enough you will surely hear me say, “you have to look out for №1.” What I mean by that is if you’re not looking out for your best interests, it’s not guaranteed anyone else will either. You have to be mindful and make sure you’re bettering yourself mentally, emotionally and professionally. By doing these things daily, it will allow you to improve in many areas and help you become the best version of yourself.

Another component of working to better yourself is being selfless and offering help to others when possible. Balance your efforts between looking out for yourself and finding ways to help others. If you don’t pay it forward from time to time, there will be no favors to come back your way.

So, what do I mean by all this? I mean that it is possible and actually quite easy to both look out for yourself and others at the same time. You can do that by using a method I like to call “engage, engage, engage . . . invite.” Engage with your core contacts, lost contacts and acquaintances frequently and consistently. It’s only after you’ve maintained ongoing contact that you should invite them to help you in some way.

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All too often we reach out to folks only when we need something and just “ask, ask, ask.” While it’s OK to ask for things, it’s pretty selfish to do it right out of the gate if you haven’t established a rapport or built solid relationships. It just comes off bad if you immediately go for the ask and make it apparent the connection is all about you.

You need to make sure these connections are beneficial to both sides. That’s why it’s important to engage consistently when you reach out. Reach out to others and ask how they are doing. Ask how their latest campaign turned out or what initiatives they have been coming up. It’s also OK to ask personal questions when you reach out to these contacts. Ask about their family, ask about their hobbies, establish what traits you have in common that aren’t just work related.

Integrate this line of questioning and conversation as the dominant theme in your emails and phone conversations. You will find that many of your connections will grow deep in nature when you take this approach.

Only after you have engaged consistently should you go in for the ask. Get it now? Engage, Engage, Engage . . . Invite.

After you’ve made it clear it’s not all about you, then it’s OK to do the following. Invite them to help you if you need it, whether it’s for an endorsement or otherwise. Invite them to that panel you are hosting. Invite them to meet another connection you’ve made in which you feel they may also like to meet. Invite them to discuss career development with you. Invite them out for drinks. The possibilities can be nearly endless if you follow this method.

You’ll notice a difference right away how things change in your life both personally and professionally when you take this approach. It’s a refreshing and rewarding way to approach relationship building. I can tell you first hand it has changed my life dramatically. I’d love to see it do the same for you!

 

 

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.

 

 

5 Ways To Work Efficiently From Home

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This article was originally published by Front Office Sports. 

Working from home is much more common today than it once was. It’s a luxury that companies realize can make their team’s work more productive. But, how can you make sure you remain on task and don’t allow you to become your own worst enemy? Routines!

I’ve written previously that “Routines Are Good” and I still believe that. Even if your daily routine includes just one thing that you enjoy . . . Do that one thing! Then do it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. If you do that one thing that makes you feel good, you will be on your way to routine that keeps you at peace.

You may think one thing can’t possibly be enough to consider it “a routine,” but you’d be wrong. You will be amazed once you’ve accomplished your one thing, you will feel like you’ve accomplished something big. Your day will feel complete; you will feel fulfilled!

Then, you begin to stack those “one thing” accomplishments on top of one another, and before you know it, your outlook on your circumstances is better. You’ll soon have achieved a month’s worth of “one thing” accomplishments, and your attitude will have improved.

I have taken this approach as a remote worker in my career. Below, I’ve compiled a few work-at-home tips and tricks from my time spent as a remote worker which hopefully can help you develop a routine that will keep you productive!

1) Have a Plan – In my last post for FOS, I wrote about planning and making your Mondays productive. I learned many of those mindfulness and productivity tips from my time working at home. It’s important to plan your day much as you would if you were at an office. While you will begin to find that you get tasks accomplished faster at home than at work, this structure and planning will keep you focused and productive.

2) Start Early – I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a morning person. But, it’s important to remember when you work from home, you’re not losing time in the car commuting. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American spends 25 minutes commuting both to and from work each day. That’s nearly an hour of your day behind the wheel or on the train. It’s hard to be productive during commuting. With that time now freed up, plan accordingly to get your work day started and finished when others are commuting. Answer emails, get those easy tasks done on your to-do list, etc. I always felt my days were off to a good start when I knew my pending communications could be handled while my coworkers were still on their way to the office.

3) Have a Door – I can’t stress this one enough. Having a door for your home office or work space is a must! It will become increasingly difficult to follow your plan and stay on task if you face interruptions from your family or roommates. When working at home, you’ll begin finding that conference calls will be a large part of your weekly routine. There’s nothing more annoying than being that person on a conference call who has the noisy dog in the background or other interruptions that can derail the call. When planning your home office workspace, be sure it has a door for privacy.

4) Get Away From Your Desk – Out of the five tips I’m providing here, this may be the most important. You may begin to feel trapped and isolated if you’re working your plan each day and not stepping our of your home office or leaving the house. Getting away from your desk can involve a variety of things such as a workout on your lunch break, working from Starbucks or Panera on occasion and especially eating your lunch away from your desk. Sixty-two percent of professionals typically dine “al desko” which leads to messy desks, sticky keyboards, etc. As you know, I’m a big proponent of meal planning so you’ll stick to your healthy eating goals. A helpful way to make sure your plans come to fruition while working at home is eating these meals away from your desk. Eat at your kitchen island or family dinner table. Even if you eat on a TV tray in your living room, do it somewhere other than your home office.

5) Pick a Definitive Ending Time – While working from home I found it really easy to let work life and tasks bleed into my personal life and family time. I had to use discipline to develop habits to ensure that I was fully present when my family or friends needed me. Boundaries are important, and this applies to both halves of the equation. When you are setting up your weekly routine, also schedule in a definitive “quitting time” for each day and then communicate those times to the important people in your life. If you set clear expectations for yourself and your family, your work will be more productive, making you more fully present for personal commitments.

My routines and plans are a major stabilizing force for me at this stage in my life. When you can plan your work week and commitments ahead of time, it takes much of the pressure off of your circumstances.

What tips do you have for being productive while working from home? Share with us in the comments, tweet us or drop us a line. We want to hear your feedback!

3 Ways to Make Monday the Best Day of Your Week

This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

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They don’t have to be as hard as you think. 

We all know the phrase from Office Space — “Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.” Monday can be hard. Monday can be a drain. But, Monday doesn’t have to be. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

Monday should be used to set the tone for your whole week. It should serve as the launching point to make sure that each week is as productive as you can make it.
I know what you’re thinking. How am I supposed to make Monday count? It’s all I can do to get to the office on time! Well you’re in luck. That’s what I’m here for.

If you want to separate yourself from the other workers in the cubicle farm and get the most out your Monday, follow these three easy tips and begin to see how they can transform your weekly productivity.

Wellness/Meal Prep
For me, the key to work productivity also includes keeping up with my workouts and eating right. If I’m not working out or get into poor eating habits, it begins to affect my mood, mindfulness and overall productivity.

One way to make sure that I keep these aspects of my life in order is to plan my workouts and meals ahead of time. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. As you look at your week ahead, try to plan for 3–4 workouts at convenient times.

This may have to be before you go into the office, at lunch, or at the end of the day. Regardless of the time, make sure to plan accordingly to keep your fitness goals on track.

For meal prep, it’s easy to schedule your weekly trips to the grocery store on the weekends. This allows you to prep for meals in advance.

How busy is your week? Do you have a meeting where food will be provided? Will you be away from your desk and need to pack snacks/protein bars? Have you scheduled lunch meetings?

Don’t leave your meals to chance! You will often find yourself choosing unhealthy food or skipping meals altogether.

A simple workout and meal plan conducted on the weekend can set you up for a successful week at the gym and at the lunch table.

Handwritten To-Do List
I wrote last week that the best way to remember things is to write them down by hand. I want to reiterate that point again and say that another way get your mind right for Monday is to write down your weekly to-do list.

Pull up all of your calendars and important appointments and write them down to set up your week. Along with that, prioritize the tasks you want to complete, meetings you have planned or want to plan and also incorporate your workouts and meal plan.

Now we all know what they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men,” — but starting your week off with this solid written agenda will allow you to begin on track and will also make adjustments easier as they inevitably pop up during the week.

You can be more agile and more productive when the majority of your week is planned ahead of time. There is nothing better than entering the week with a nicely laid out plan with tasks ready to cross off!

Relationships
The final step to help make your Monday more meaningful is to plan ahead for relationship building.

We all have busy weeks with a lot of moving parts, but relationship building and networking should always be a focus. Here are some ways to make this more manageable.

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. 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.

Finally, make a list of “acquaintances” that have been influential in your career or that you have developed even a small relationship with. By identifying your core contacts, lost connections and acquaintances, you will have a “living” list that constantly evolves.

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.

These three tips are just a start. There are many things you can do on the weekend to refresh and recharge and set yourself up for a productive week. But, I have found these three items are the top priorities for me as I look to plan my week. After a while, they become habitual and they’re just part of a regular weekend.