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.

 

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 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 Lora Wey

This post is the sixth 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

Name: Lora Wey (@LoraWey)
Profession: Executive Director of Annual Giving at Illinois State University

I was first introduced to Lora Wey when doing research and prospecting for Verge Pipe Media, working to connect with those working in higher education annual giving. As an alum of Illinois State, I was thrilled to make a new connection with my alma mater and learn about their recent successes on Giving Tuesday. In fact, I profiled Lora previously to get her first-person perspective on how to run a successful giving day effort. You can read that article here.

Since our first interactions, Lora has been a great resource and sounding board for me on a variety of topics. She is one of the best in her industry and I am thankful that she is representing my alma mater and helping it become the preeminent public university in Illinois. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Lora Wey.

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 was in international business and Spanish. I’ve worked in higher education  since I graduated college. Although not directly related to my degree, my liberal arts education and affinity for working with people prepared me well to learn the art and science of fundraising.

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 worked as an admissions counselor at my alma mater as my first job out of college. I knew I loved the school and was passionate about the college experience. I have never had a desire to leave higher education since. I have worked in this profession for 29 years.

3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
My advice is that your first job will not be your last. Be open to the experience and gain as much knowledge and experience as you can. It will be your springboard to the next chapter in your professional career.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
I like that our work changes lives every day. Not just the lives of students, but donors lives as well.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession today?
We can no longer depend on just a few channels of communication to resonate with donors. With the increased amount of not for profits and changing technology, we are forced to stay ahead of the curve in terms or messaging and creativity so that we remain a relevant giving priority to our alumni and potential donors.

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6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
The biggest change is fewer donors giving more dollars. In order to sustain the pipeline, we need to grow our donor base. Telephone and direct mail are just a few of the many channels of communication in which we must be present. In addition, we no longer employ a one message fits all donors campaign. We must segment strategically in order to capture the attention of our audience.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
Perhaps they think more money can be made elsewhere. Many schools are experiencing financial hardship causing frozen wages. It becomes demoralizing to staff not to be rewarded year after year for your efforts.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
If I choose to leave it would not be for financial reasons, but for a different professional opportunity within higher education.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
Facebook…I’m 50 years old and my friend base doesn’t utilize Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. 🙂

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I am currently reading You Win In The Locker Room First by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Our leadership team is reading and reflecting on how their advice is relevant in the work we do as managers.

11) Where do you receive your news and information
Of the choices you gave us (Print Newspaper, Online Newspaper, TV, Twitter, Facebook or other) I definitely get my news from online newspapers and my Facebook feed.

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
I volunteer with several not for profits in my community as an advisor to fundraising or mentoring. It energizes me.

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.

 

RFID Applications in the Sporting World

RFID is a proven technology that’s been around since at least the 1970s. However, it’s been too expensive and too limited to be practical for many commercial applications until recent years. Now that the costs associated with making tags have decreased, RFID tags can solve many of the problems associated with manufacturing and the supply chain.

The tags can be embedded or encased in packaging for weather-proofing and greater durability. Tags also have microchips that can store a unique serial number for every product manufactured around the world.

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With these new capabilities, areas outside of manufacturing are also seeing a rise in RFID tagging and technology. One of these areas is sports and sporting events.

Data analytics and advanced statistics are changing the way people watch and participate in sporting events. While RFID technology is allowing for new applications each year, we at VPM wanted to concentrate on the top three RFID applications in sports.

Ticketing 

Dating back to the 2005, sporting venues have been using inlays embedded in tickets that are scanned using stationary readers at entry gates to grant spectators entrance. In 2006, the FIFA World Cup became the world’s largest user of RFID in sports ticketing and continues to use the technology today. One of the main reasons that FIFA, and several other organizations choose to employ RFID technology in ticketing, was to enhance security and prevent counterfeiting. This use of RFID continues today with many event organizers investing in automated RFID-enabled systems to replace antiquated manual and error prone processes.

Player Tracking

Companies such as PLUS Location Systems and Zebra Technologies are leading the way in player tracking technology in sports. These companies use RFID technology to capture the high-rate motion of athletes, referees, and game balls to deliver real-time data streams, reports, visual graphics, and more to enhance the game experience and provide a detailed record of performance for statistical analysis. RFID tracking technology can also be used in player training scenarios to analyze real-time performance which helps maximize their capabilities and minimize injuries and fatigue.

Concessions 

While RFID implementation across stadiums has been slow, it’s beginning to happen. Teams and stadiums that already using RFID are using it to trigger exclusive, stadium-only promotions and trivia to fans devices. Other applications include alerting fans on restrooms with the shortest wait times or concession stands with the shortest lines. Many teams are progressing to use RFID technology to track fan behaviors, movement, and spending inside stadiums.

RFID technolgy is going to greatly change the way many areas function for years to come. If you’d like to learn more about this technology, I suggest you reach out to the Auburn University RFID Lab. Justin Patton and the group there are doing revolutionary things and can help you decide if RFID is right for your brand.

For more Inbound Marketing knowledge and tips, subscribe to my blog
 

Three Steps For Effective Facebook Live Videos

Facebook Live made its debut in 2016 and continues to revolutionize how marketers use the platform to reach their target audiences. As Facebook’s algorithm continues to give more preference to video that is live over video that is not, marketers need to be smart when using the platform.

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Brands and agencies hoping to catch people’s attention and with Facebook Live videos often make mistakes causing buyer personas to not watch them. So, Verge Pipe Media wanted to provide some tips to make sure your videos get viewed. Click below for our three steps for effective Facebook Live videos.

Lack of Focus

Despite what you may think, Live videos need to have the same proper planning as scripted videos. You don’t want to “go live” and have no clear topic or direction for your content. A video like that will get boring pretty quickly. We’re not saying to script your live video, but you should settle on a specific topic to keep your audience engaged. 

Performances, speeches, and tutorials are good examples of structured content that perform well on Facebook Live. From the live map, which shows Live users around the world, there are usually a few of the previous examples listed.

Having a clear topic and streaming content regularly will help create consistency and prompt viewers to come back for repeat Live broadcasts.

Poor Connectivity

Most viewers have become accustomed to a high standard of video quality. Degrading video quality and video loss are the worst-case scenarios for live-streaming. Viewers will get frustrated if the stream goes out at an important moment or ends up not working at all.

Marketers need to do advanced planning to ensure that the Live stream will have a strong and secure connection to either a wired or wireless network. Those who properly plan in advance to minimize the risks with the stream will ensure a high-quality video. This will increase the chances for gaining viewership and followers.

No Interactions

The early returns show the most successful Facebook Live videos are ones encouraging interaction with the viewers. These personal elements of interaction give the viewer an obvious benefit in watching the live stream. There’s a reason that live-streaming websites like Twitch have live chats. Events need to be a two-way street, so make sure interaction is encouraged.

This interactivity makes users and viewers feel a sense of community and shared interest. Social media at its core is about meaningful communication. Users who understand the importance of engaging with viewers are much more likely to gain followers and customers.

Facebook Live is still in its early stages and still growing in popularity. As we’ve written about before here and here, there are many ways marketers can leverage the platform. It’s an exciting time for video marketing as streaming live content has never been easier.

The basic keys to success are:

  • planning quality content,
  • securing a strong connection and
  • interacting meaningfully with viewers

In the long run, Facebook Live will be judged on its users’ abilities to create original and meaningful content on a regular basis.

To learn more video marketing tips and how they can be used in your Inbound Marketing strategy, click here

 

A Giving Tuesday Success Story

Entering its fifth year, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

As #GivingTuesday approaches for 2016, I wanted to highlight a shining example of a well-executed giving day. My alma mater, Illinois State University, has broken annual fundraising records for two consecutive years thanks to its efforts on #GivingTuesday.

Recently I spoke with Lora Wey, Executive Director of Annual Giving at ISU, to pick her brain about what tactics ISU has used to break these records. Click below to read the full  transcript of our question and answer session.

Tod: How did you and your team decide to capitalize on #GivingTuesday?

LW: On Giving Tuesday, annual giving drives the bus for this project. We had to get other units on campus like marketing and communications, web services, donor information services, etc. to buy in to the day. Those units are needed to create your core committee. Next were meetings with the President and Provost, the Deans at each college, and the various department chairs. Gaining buy in top-down is simply a function of how Illinois State is set up. In addition, each college and department manage their own social media so having them on board enhanced a coordinated effort.

Tod: How far in advance did you begin these talks? 

LW: In our first year, we began planning in August (for an event in December). Even at a large institution, we were able to get everyone on the same page and pull off a successful event with only three months planning.

Tod: How did you decide what areas to fund?

LW: At Illinois State, there are over 1,000 funds! Listing that many choices on a dropdown menu loses your audience. We decided to start with the largest priority fund per college and department. After the first year, we increased the number of funds to just over 50. People really enjoyed having more options because that is our culture at Illinois State. We’ve found that sticking to around 50 choices is the sweet spot.

Tod: How do you keep momentum going?

LW: We started with the major gift officers. Donors making gifts or pledges payable within the current fiscal were asked if we could use their gift as a challenge on Giving Tuesday. On Giving Tuesday, we opted to use six to eight challenges; these drive the momentum. Throughout the course of the day, larger gifts and challenges will happen organically as donors see the momentum and the excitement of the day. But, having those challenges ready and adding new ones excites and motivates the external audience.

Tod: How many triggers do you suggest throughout the day?

LW: We have always had between five and seven trigger events throughout the day. However, they aren’t always about dollars or specific donor connections. A big part of the efforts is social media participation, so we incorporated re-tweet challenges. That engaged a segment by spreading the word and helping raise awareness.

Tod: Which trigger event was the most successful?

LW: The re-tweet challenge was our most successful and we reached our target very quickly. I would suggest incorporating an engagement challenge in any crowdfunding plan. Re-tweet challenges really engage an observer to get involved in the day.

Tod: What advice do you have as far as timing for content?

LW: Consider memes, short impact videos etc., after lunch and in the afternoon lull. We did the re-tweet challenge at 12:30 p.m. and had other things cued up until 2 p.m. to help fight that afternoon lull. We also sent an email during that period to help counter the quiet period.

Tod: Is it counterintuitive to start with a low giving threshold?

LW: A lot of people in fundraising may think so, but Illinois State is growing a culture of philanthropy, so we had to illustrate that every gift matters. There was concern that the average gift would be $10. We actually found after removing the really large gifts, that the actual average gift for us was $49. So our donors were rising to the challenge and not backing down, even though our first ask was $10.

Tod: What are your goals for year three? 

LW: We’ve had success each year, but it hasn’t been around total dollar amounts or average gift. We still want to emphasize donor participation in order to grow the pipeline. This year we may increase our first donor goal challenge to 600 or 650.

Tod: What would you say are key components to a successful day?

LW: Recruit your social media ambassadors! Our social media ambassadors consisted of on-campus ambassadors such as faculty and staff that took an interest, and then alumni “social media ambassadors” that follow us on Facebook and Twitter and engage regularly. We had alumni that are regularly follow our flagship accounts and we reached out to them with information on what we were doing and asked them to share information. We probably had 15-200 social media ambassadors sharing the information via their social media throughout the day. It takes little time and doesn’t cost anything.

Tod: Did you leverage any LIVE components?

LW: LIVE video on social media has really come about in the last year, so we haven’t done anything like that yet. We had all the content and memes prepared beforehand though and rolled those out during the day. This year we plan to have more video components and feature the football and basketball coaches, because we know we should leverage more video content.

Tod: Did you utilize traditional media? 

LW: We utilized local and regional media outlets, both print and television. We weren’t the only local not for profits participating in Giving Tuesday but we were the most visible. I would suggest utilizing all forms of media to get your messaging out.

Tod: How was your “War Room” set up?

LW: The room consisted of our core committee. The IT person who designed our giving site, marketing who designed memes and posted on the university Facebook page, and gift processing. There were also other members helping to “like” and “share” as specific units and we also had a dedicated person for questions and support. In total, 8-10 of us coordinating messaging and answering questions. The School of Communications’ SMACC Lab which tracks trends, social sentiment, etc. gave us access into who and what was trending, what ambassadors had the most influence, etc. This also helped us to diffuse anything that was said negatively.

Tod: What are your major “Dos and Don’ts” for hosting a successful Giving Day?

LW: 1) Get the buy-in early with your core team of people. 

2) You need someone who understands the web. We “home built” our platform, for lack of a better term, instead of contracting with an outside vendor, so you need someone from IT on board. Even if you use an outside vendor, the IT person needs to be familiar with the platform and how to troubleshoot and prepare for any problems.

3) You need the appropriate marketing and communications people on board to help you promote the messaging and to generate the right chatter on the day of the event. The hope is that the online giving site blows up with activity, so it’s key to make sure your online site can accommodate the rush of visitors. 

4) Make sure your email provider/server can accommodate sending mass email sends. Email is a big component, not just social media. You have to make sure your system can send 20,000-50,000 emails in one drop. We asked after year one “how did you hear about this” and the answer was emails.

5) Six emails were lined up to go during the day. The content was written ahead of time and included broad messaging so that we could add additional text right before we sent it. We sent an email once we hit the initial goal and encouraged people to learn more and to keep giving. A lull between 12:30-3:30 was sent to keep momentum going. 

6) Involve campus “faces” like the President, coach, or the mascot creatively.  

7) Plan to steward Giving Tuesday donors throughout the year to keep them engaged with your university.

With the right buy-in, a well thought out strategic plan and clever content, Illinois State University has been able to crush their annual giving goals. What’s in store for them in 2016? Well, you should keep on the lookout for announcements from them.

In the meantime, I can tell you that you can’t just “wing it” on #GivingTuesday or whatever time of the year you decide to execute your Giving Day. You must have proper planning to ensure solid execution. 

For more tips and tricks on how to use Inbound Marketing for fundraising, click here