The Fallacy of the American Dream

American Dream

“Sometimes the best way to grow is to subtract.”

In my journey into minimalism and living a more intentional life, I’ve had to remind myself of the above quote many times. I spent the first 30+ years of my life chasing the “American Dream.” It’s what we’re told to do right? Go to college, get a job, make decent money, get married, buy a house, make more money, buy more stuff, just keep climbing and chasing. Oh the fallacy of the “American Dream.”

The idea that “anybody can make it in the US if they work hard enough” has been a bedrock of American life since the country’s birth. However, data is showing that inequality and economic mobility are highly correlated, and inequality has been on the rise in the US for the last half century.

The US is not some special land of economic opportunity. It’s time Americans realize it. But how? How can we get people to realize that you can live a fulfilled and happy life without chasing the fallacy of the “American Dream?” Well let’s start with all of our stuff. That’s right, stuff. Things. Items. Clutter.

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Journey to Minimalism

I found out about the practice intentional living and began to change my habits after watching the documentary “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. The term “minimalism” gets bad rap because people tend to think of it like art. Minimalism in art often colloquially refers to anything that is spare or stripped to its essentials.

So the minimalist home is often thought of as stark white walls, little furniture, no electronics, etc. The minimalist lifestyle is often thought of similarly. Wearing the same clothes, not driving a car, just one of each at the grocery store, only the basics, boring, stale, and it goes on and on.

That’s not the case! I personally feel intentional living is different for everyone. It is essentially bringing balance to the things that matter. This applies to books, clothes, furniture, people, jobs and general clutter. What is important? What matters the most?

Intentional Living

Your definition or feeling of intentional living probably won’t happen overnight. Mine didn’t. Heck, it’s actually an on-going journey. It takes time to organize, prioritize and discover what is appropriate. You’ll usually find that once you feel like you have de-cluttered, re-organized and prioritized, more stuff has entered your life and you may start some of those processes again.

Don’t fret however, because you will develop a sense of calm and pride in only keeping the stuff that matters or adds value to your life. These periodic purgings won’t be so daunting when you know the end result is feeling in control and becoming a better version of yourself. Like the quote says, “sometimes the best way to grow is to subtract.”

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Where To Begin?

There are a lot of tactics out there to help get you on your way to living a more intentional life. Tactics to help you stop pursing the fallacy of the American dream and focus on what truly matters. I’d also be lying if I tried to provide you with any tips and claim them as my own. The below links are things that worked for my wife Megan and I when we began this journey in 2017.

20/20 Rule

30-Day Minimalism Game

Packing Party

Start Here

So What About You?

So what about you? Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by pursuing the fallacy of the “American Dream?” Do you look around and see a bunch of stuff and realize that it isn’t making you any happier and sure as hell doesn’t define who you are as a person?

Get started today. Start freeing yourself from the fallacy of the “American Dream.” It is dumb. It’s comparing yourself to other people which only brings about insecurities. As the saying goes, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

If you truly want to be the best version of yourself and live an intentional live, than you must realize that the pursuit of greatness isn’t about being better than someone else. It’s truly about being a better version of you.

How will you live intentionally and become a better version of you?

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Using Twitter to Advance Your Career

Twitter wasn’t always my favorite social media platform. In fact, if you ask my former colleagues that remain with Conference USA, they may remember how hesitant I was to sign up for the platform and begin to leverage it with the league. I’ll remind you that this was around 2008-09 when people were sending just under 300,000 tweets per day. It was mostly a conversation platform and because I wasn’t familiar with the interface, I didn’t “get it.” However, it didn’t take long for me to come around on its usefulness. I soon saw its business value and I’ve been fairly addicted to Twitter ever since.

As most people know, worldwide Twitter usage spikes during prominent events, specifically sporting events, with the World Cup and Super Bowl setting usage records each time an event is held. It can be a communal platform that offers near real-time conversations. Despite these items, Twitter still isn’t as popular universally as some would think, especially among 18-29 year olds. This demographic makes up about 36% of all Twitter users. Compare that to Instagram, where 32% of all internet users are using the platform and a whopping 59% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18-29.

During my time as an Auburn University adjunct instructor this past fall, students expressed an interest in learning more about Twitter. In the class of 20 public relations students, many felt they weren’t fully aware of how they could leverage the platform as they prepared to enter the “real world.” Most admitted they could see the value, but weren’t sure how to devote the proper time to it.

Most people use social media tools in many ways for many reasons and thus there is no “secret sauce” for how to get the most out of Twitter. However during my active usage, I have found many ways to take advantage of the platform during my career. Below is a modified version of my presentation to the class at Auburn. I hope you can take away the following key points and make the most of all Twitter has to offer in order to advance your career.

Growing Your Network
It may seem cliché, but in order to further your career you must network, network, NETWORK. Twitter is such a natural way to connect with people because over time you learn more about people’s personal and professional interests. To take that further, you can choose when you want to engage in a conversation and even jump into interesting conversations between other people without it being awkward or inappropriate.

There are many great people in my network who I’ve met via Twitter and still mainly interact with them on the platform. I’d argue that these relationships are as “real” as some I’ve had with people I interact with interpersonally each day. Many of the people I spent time interacting with during my recent job search were Twitter connections. Some offered advice while others offered people to contact and organizations to consider in my job search.

Keeping Tabs on Things That Interest You
The students really liked hearing that they could make Twitter whatever they wanted it to be. By that I meant you can follow those people, brands or whoever it may be that interests you. It can then serve as a de-facto news aggregate or personal RSS feed. For me personally, I follow many national sports writers, beat writers covering my favorite sports teams, #smsports professionals, marketing professionals, thought leaders, entrepreneurs and more.

Whatever field of work you’re in, I’m willing to bet that there is an awesome community of like-minded individuals from it on Twitter. Whether you want to connect with young professionals or journalists and PR professionals, Twitter is the perfect tool for keeping your pulse on what’s going on.

Twitter Chats
My final item is more of a mini listicle. Another great way to expand your network on Twitter and use it to advance your career is to follow Twitter chats. While chats typically take place once a week or month, by participating you are able to find individuals to follow and engage with over time. Here are a few chats to get you started:

  • #U30Pro: Focuses on issues and trends surrounding young professionals. Hosted by @u30pro. (Thursdays at 8pm ET)
  • #Jobhuntchat: Focuses on advice, issues and items for those looking for jobs. Hosted by HR professionals with @JobHuntChat. (Mondays at 9pm ET)
  • #ypsportschat: Focuses on current events impacting young athletics PR professionals. Host by @ypsportschat. (Tuesdays at 9pm ET)
  • #internpro: Focuses on young professionals and connects them to mentors and offers career advice. Hosted by @youtern. (Mondays at 8pm ET)
  • #raganchat: Focuses on issue and trends for PR professionals. Hosted by @ragancomms. (Tuesdays at 3pm ET)
  • #simplychat: Focuses on social media trends to help you connect, create and convert. Hosted by @simplymeasured. (Thursdays at 2pm ET)
  • #hootchat: Focuses on social media trending topics for social media and marketing professionals. Hosted by @hootsuite. (Thursdays at 3pm ET)
  • #omcchat: Focuses on advice, issues and items for those looking for jobs. Hosted by HR professionals with @OmChat. (Fridays 12pm ET)
  • #journchat: Conversation between journalists, bloggers and public relations folks. (Mondays at 8pm EST)
  • #sproutchat: Focuses on digital marketing trends to help you grow your business. Hosted by @sproutsocial. (Wednesdays 3pm ET)

Twitter can be many things for many people. If you consider the above tips, is can be a social media platform that helps you advance your career. Always remember, you are the brand on Twitter. Therefore, the way you package yourself and interact can determine how it helps you in your career. You’ve got to portray and package yourself as someone that knows your values and what you want to achieve.

If you stick to your core objectives and branding, Twitter can be a valuable resource to help you advance your career. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to just have fun on social media or use its full potential to help you advance your career in ways you never thought possible.

8 Lessons I’ve Learned (So Far) As A College Professor

Just call me Tod. I’m serious. I’m a public relations and marketing professional, I’m not a professor. So, I’m not Professor Tod or Professor Meisner. I don’t have or want my doctorate, so I’m not Dr. Meisner. I’m also not Mr. Meisner. That’s reserved for my father, a high school teacher and coach for 35-plus years in Raymond, IL. I can’t live up to that name and won’t try. So yes, please just call me Tod. It’s perfectly OK and I’ve answered to it my whole life.

Now that I have that details of the way, I’d like to share some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned (so far) as a college professor. To rewind, last summer I was approached about teaching a section of “Style and Design in Public Relations Messages” at Auburn University. I had known Terri Knight, Lecturer and Interim Associate Director of Public Relations for Auburn’s School of Communication & Journalism, for a few years and she knew I was interested in being an adjunct if the timing was right.

The timing was right at the end of the spring semester last year when she knew she would need a third section for Style and Design in the fall. She pegged me as the perfect practitioner to fill this opening and we set up lunch appointment to make sure we were on the same page.

I knew it would be a lot of work and a big time commitment. But, something in me knew I had to commit to this. Both of my parents were educators and I think deep down I realize that I may have missed my calling to be a teacher. This was my time to see if I was right and also step out of my comfort zone a little bit.

The most rewarding part for me personally from my time at Verge Pipe Media in Auburn was working with our young interns. I still felt young enough (or young enough at heart) that I was relatable, but could still impart on them the things I had learned in my professional career to date. I wanted to be able to do this with more students, and I wanted to have some control over the curriculum I would be teaching. Luckily, Terri had the same ideas in mind as I did and we agreed I would teach the section for the fall semester.

As the 2017 fall semester winds down and I approach the end of my first stint as a teacher, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, coach, or the CMO of your company. These are leadership lessons that can help you be the best version of yourself. Without further delay, here are the lessons I’ve learned (so far) as a college professor.

I Can Do This
Without a doubt, I know that I can teach at the college level now. Whatever self-doubt I may have had before is gone. While I won’t go so far as to say I nailed every lecture along the way, or had all the answers, I know now I can teach at the highest level. If I’m teaching on a topic that I’m both knowledgeable about and have a passion for, I can excel. Plus, I will only get better! I feel like I learned just as much as the students and that’s a good thing.

Teach As You’d Want To Be Taught
This nugget was told to me early and often as I sought out advice from many people on how to succeed. I had to think back about teachers and leaders that I liked (and disliked) and make a list of “do’s and don’ts.” As I’m learning in Kevin DeShazo’s CORE Leadership classes, you must know yourself to lead yourself. Or in this case, know your team to lead your team. I tried to take that approach each class and present the material and use my knowledge in a way that I’d want it presented to me. Along the way, as I learned about the students, I was able to adjust my approach and present to them how they responded the best.

Higher Ed PR Curriculum Needs Updating
From recent interactions in the classroom and during my work for a higher education focused marketing agency, it has become clear there is a massive shortage in Inbound trained job candidates, especially those entering the workforce directly from college. This means we need to change the approach on how to teach marketing and PR in the classroom. I’m not calling for the end of the traditional college experience, but I am calling for the inclusion of at least one Inbound Marketing class for all marketing and PR majors. We should be training our next wave of practitioners how to grow responsible website traffic, write buyer personas, create remarkable content and offers, etc. Even for PR majors! Times are changing and it will serve PR majors well to learn these skills while in college to add to their skillset.

Problem Solving Skills
This is something that took me by surprise as I neared the end of the semester. I sensed a change in students’ moods as they were juggling multiple deadlines and class projects. So I was glad that I had built in some work days for them to concentrate on their website project for the class. I then began to learn that their problem solving skills seemed to be missing on these days. I kid, I kid. I know they possess these skills. But when given the chance to work in class and ask me extra questions, it was apparent they wanted me to “tell them how to do it.” I had a lot of “this used to look like this and now it doesn’t” or “I’m trying to fix this and then I messed up this.” It was a lesson for me in showing them how to work through difficulties. How to write things down as they do them, so when they need repeated, you have a process handy. It was frustrating that their default was to take the easy way out and say “you do it,” but it was a teaching opportunity for me to help reinforce problem solving skills for them.

The Obvious May Not Be Obvious
At times, I found myself getting frustrated when students weren’t performing as I’d anticipated. Then I realized I probably hadn’t communicated the class expectations clearly. I’ve learned I need to spell things out pretty clearly and leave out any ambiguity. In a class where you create a lot of content, I wanted to give the students some creative freedom. But, that’s a double-edged sword because too much freedom for the students sent them into a paralysis where they wanted more direction from me. Lesson learned: Students are bright and capable but require clear expectations.

Set Accountability
Students sometimes claim they are overworked (although the problem is often poor time management on their part). When class is cancelled, they rejoice. In that spirit, students may also look for places to exploit loopholes — like inconsistencies in a syllabus that could allow them to miss class or turn in a paper late without penalty. Those situations are tricky to handle. Two things helped me: setting a firm deadline for everything and outlining the consequences for missing it. Without such specificity, students may decide there are no penalties.

Ask Your Students
When in doubt, just ask your students. About halfway through the semester I decided to take a temperature check and see what they liked and what else they’d like to learn. To my delight, they offered up great lecture topics and also made other excellent suggestions. What a revelation! Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Why not harness their collective brainpower? Naturally, not every last detail of a course can be driven by students. But there are multiple areas in which students can become equal partners in the educational process

Showing Up Is Half The Battle
I’ve written about this one in long form. But, I must reiterate it again. Showing up is half the battle. In life, for work and in higher education. I placed hard and firm deadlines on the students and told them that a lot would be expected of them. They would have to produce a lot and showing up would help. Sound familiar? Probably kind of like every job you’ve ever had. For college professors reading this, if you are able, structure your class as close to a real job as possible. Impart they must show up, get their shit done, get it done well and soon they’ll be rewarded in time.

As I wrap this up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank those who helped me during this opening semester. If it wasn’t for Karen Freberg, Chris Yandle, Derrick Docket, my sisters Kelly Klopp and Kristin Seed, the aforementioned DeShazo and Knight and my amazing wife Megan, I’m not sure I could have survived. With their help and encouragement, I was able navigate the semester and bring a fresh perspective to the class that the students seemed to enjoy.

I hope to be asked to contribute to a section of this class again and apply the lessons I’ve learned (so far) as a college professor. I’m a firm believer that one must continue to learn throughout one’s life and career. I say that because life never stops teaching, so you must always keep up. I look forward to teaching the next group of students and the opportunity to learn just as much from them as they do from me.

My FOS Reflections

This article was originally posted for Front Office Sports.

I’m hoping some of you missed my weekly posts because I know I have missed writing them. When I set out to produce content for Front Office Sports while on the job hunt, I wasn’t sure how the partnership would go or if I would have enough content to bring value to all of you. But, I really wanted an outlet to share my thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, Adam was gracious enough to include me as a contributor for FOS as a way to expand my audience, continue writing and to help others.

Little did I know along the way, not only I would realize the value in what I was offering, but I would also meet, network and collaborate with some really great industry professionals. Initially, in my mind, I anticipated I would find a job rather quickly and FOS would be a blip on my radar while I was unemployed. I can tell you now I am glad things didn’t work out that way.

Before I get too far into this, I want to let everyone know I will provide some takeaways in this post and I’ll try not to get too sappy. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t reflect back on my experience writing for FOS. Although my impact may have been minimal, I’m glad I’ve been a small part in helping FOS grow into the leading multi-platform publication and industry resource covering the ever-changing landscape of #sportsbiz.

For those that aren’t aware, I recently accepted a role with Aflac at its worldwide headquarters in Columbus, Ga. My fancy title is Digital Marketing and Media Coordinator, and I’ll be a key member on its Digital Marketing team working on lead generation campaigns for its broker and agent segments. As a result, my content production for FOS has slowed considerably. I will no longer have a weekly article, but I hope to contribute from time to time.

Before I go, I wanted to share a few “dos and don’ts” I learned on my job search. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m no expert on this subject, but I want to share my experiences in hopes it can help just one person endure a job search or stretch of unemployment.

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Don’t Settle
I’ve used a variation of this phrase in my writings, but don’t ever settle for less than you think you are worth. Choose your words and actions wisely. I hinted at getting a job offer pulled in a previous piece and I want to elaborate on that experience. It was a Friday when I was offered the job and I requested to take the weekend to confirm. When I reached out to the hiring manager, I asked a few more clarifying questions and also countered on title and salary. Looking back, I don’t regret taking that action, but I should have handled it differently. The way the company interpreted my counter is obviously why the offer was pulled and it really stung my confidence. I caution you to ask all the appropriate questions during the interview and offering process. Be mindful of your tone and actions. But, don’t ever settle. If you feel you are worth more than they are offering, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Stay Positive
I must be honest here. I don’t possess some magic elixir or potion that will help you to remain positive during tough times. But, I can tell you that positivity is a choice. YOU ultimately control your attitude each day and how you will react and handle situations. You can’t allow your hardship(s) to get you down. Use your support system, use your writing, use prayer. Heck, use whatever it takes to remain positive. It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to in your mind, has power over you, if you allow it.

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Find An Outlet
By outlet I mean something to occupy your time that you enjoy. For me it was both writing and working out. When you’re married to a personal trainer, it’s kind of hard to not be dragged to the gym when you have extra time in your day. To my surprise, and to her delight, I really liked and began needing that outlet. She designed programs for me that were just enough work to see results, but not so hard that I’d lose interest. The time also helped me clear my head of any negative thoughts and better align the positive thoughts I had around blogging, connecting and looking for my next opportunity. For you this may be drawing, journaling, swimming, horseback riding, or whatever. If this outlet helps you stay positive, do it.

Network, Network, Network
I honestly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am currently without the help and support of my network. This includes your core connections and acquaintances as well as your lost connections. Leverage all of those people who have impacted your career.Don’t ask much from them either! Call them to catch up, call them to spill your guts, call them to seek their opinions. Don’t immediately ask them for a job or for help. Use them to gain a new perspective on your approach and to seek guidance. During these conversations, opportunities will arise and you’ll eventually get your chance to ask for help. Keeping in touch with this support system and showing thanks and gratitude to these individuals will get you through any tough time that you may face.

I want to leave you with a quote from Matthew Kelly. Kelly is the founder of Dynamic Catholic and his book Resisting Happiness truly changed my life. No matter your denomination, I urge you to read this book and learn about how you can overcome resistance to become the best version of yourself. I used a lot of his principles to help guide me during my job search, and I believe they can help anyone when faced with adversity.

“Life is messy, but nobody can take your hope from you. And if there is one thing that resistance hates, it is hope. So hold onto your hope no matter how messy life gets, and share it with everyone that crosses your path.”

I always remained hopeful and I incorporated FOS as a platform to share it with more people than I ever could have imagined. I can’t thank Adam and Co. enough for this opportunity and I look forward to being able to contribute in the future.

Until then, be hopeful my friends and try to share that hope with everyone that crosses your path.

3 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

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This post was originally published for Front Office Sports.

As I’ve progressed through the ups and downs of my latest job search, I’ve often had certain feelings of doubt or said to myself, “What if people realize that I don’t know as much as they think I do?”

While I have made great strides to be more mindful and self-aware, it’s only natural that doubt can creep in when you’re going on month six without a job offer. I’ve made progress with interviews and, just last week, had four in four days (and somehow managed to survive)! But, the more you sell yourself and your skill set, the more it can feel like you may be selling something that isn’t entirely true.

I approached my wife about these feeling and she mentioned the phrase “Imposter Syndrome,” something she has read about in the past and has also experienced. I had never heard that term before but it makes perfect sense.

Coined in the 1980s, Imposter Syndrome is having the nagging fear of being “found out” as not being as smart or talented or deserving or experiences or (fill-in-the-blank) as people think.

It’s actually a quite common phenomenon and research has found that up to 70% of people have suffered from Imposter Syndrome at some point. Myself included.

It’s a solid bet that outside of super low achievers, narcissists, or someone certifiable, being susceptible to the self-doubt that feeds this syndrome is common. What matters the most, however, is knowing how to deal with and process these thoughts and fears. We can’t let them overwhelm us and prevent us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals and aspirations.

If you’ve related to anything I’ve described so far, good for you! Imposter Syndrome is very common in high achievers. It shows that you’re not ready to settle for mediocrity. You aim high and are committed to giving your very best and being your best self while striving to attain whatever goals you have set for yourself.

That said, overcoming Imposter Syndrome requires self-awareness. A firm grasp that what you’ve achieved and what you want to achieve are impressive and attainable. You’ve given your best all along the way and that is what matters. You don’t have to be “the best” at anything or have “the best” numbers or achievements to be worthy of the accolades you’ve earned in your career.

Don’t let your fear of being “found out” take hold of you in your career. Consider these three thoughts the next time you let self-doubt creep in.

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Own Your Success

Don’t let the fear of being “found out” have you start attributing your successes to external factors (luck, others involved, etc.). Never minimize an accomplishment that you truly had a hand in! Own what you have done and been a part of in your career. Even if it was a collaborative effort, you were still a part of that team. I challenge you to make a list of all that you have accomplished in the last five years. Write it all down and take pride in it. I hope you will see that you deserve the successes you’ve had.

Stop Comparing

Just as I wrote in my FOMO piece, there is nothing that lets doubt creep in faster than comparing yourself to someone else. Author Iyanla Vanzant believes that “comparison is an act of violence against the self.”Comparisons are always biased and rarely helpful. All of those “highlight reels” posted on social media do nothing but reinforce Imposter Syndrome. It leads us to think that everyone else has it easier or is having a better time in their life. The reality is actually many people are struggling just like you with a unique set of challenges. When you realize that, it may also help you to realize you may be more equipped to handle your challenges than them. Stop comparing and start realizing you deserve all that has come your way.

Stay Focused on Your Goals

Imposter Syndrome can sabotage your future success on so many levels. Don’t let it into your consciousness so much that you begin to settle for less or truly believe you are inadequate. Use the tips I’ve been sharing in my blogs to help you be more self-aware and productive. Don’t play it safe or not totally sell yourself in that next job interview. Trust me, they are speaking with you for a reason and you know your accomplishments are legit. Be confident with your delivery and be humble enough to admit that you don’t know it all. Know that you’re speaking with them because you know you can provide value and you want to accomplish your goals as a part of their team.

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When I had that run of four interviews last week I’ll be honest, I went in to each one a bit nervous of being “found out.” However, I had the confidence and awareness to realize that if I was myself and could lay my pride and vulnerability on the line, good things would happen if they were supposed to.

It takes courage to put yourself out there and go after big goals. But, don’t let these fears of being “found out” dictate your future choices or prevent you from chasing new opportunities. You’ll truly discover how much you are capable of and how much you can truly accomplish when you know you’re putting forward your best self and are completely confident in your abilities.

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?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapchat Is A Toy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

3 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Network

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This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.