Sending a note of thanks

Is there anyone who doesn’t appreciate a “Thank you for a job well done?” or “Thank you for your time.”

Hearing those words can make the completion of a tough project all the more rewarding. The words can mean the difference between getting a job or getting passed over.

But spoken words are fleeting. Why not take a few moments and write a thank you to a colleague who did an exceptional job? Have you considered writing and sending a thank you note to a conference organizer or a speaker to thank them for their time and efforts?

Thank you notes are a simple way to express your appreciation.

During this season of Thanksgiving why not take a few moments and make a list of individuals whom you should thank. And then write them a short note. If that’s too much, send an email or even a tweet.

It’s the thanks that counts.

Who will you thank? I hope you will share in the comments section.

Talking EOP

Jon Newman was known as the media relations guy. Today he is a partner in The Hodges Partnership, a public relations agency in Richmond, Va.

He told a group of communicators that with today’s media landscape he would be challenged to have the success that he did when he was working in media relations. With fewer traditional media outlets and reporters, and with a fragmented audience, media relations has become more difficult, leading to fewer opportunities and placements.

The game changer, though, is content. “We can produce it in our own way,” Newman said. “There is potential for much greater reach.”

(Jon Newman slide)

(Jon Newman slide)

Today when Newman talks about media placements it’s about EOP. Earned media is the media relations piece, while the owned and paid pieces are the content marketing. Companies create content they “own” and place it on a platform they “own” (like a website, blog email newsletter) and amplify it using advertising, Newman said.

Organizations control the message, location, type of platform, frequency and even the measurement. “We can educate, talk about our point of view and share our messages,” Newman said.

“All of the social channels give us opportunities,” he added. “Social platforms are now content platforms.”

This means that you can target specific audiences with content because the demographics are robust enough. “It’s no longer post and pray,” he said.

On LinkedIn, for example, when you advertise you can target by industry and skill set. If you promote a Facebook page for a blog, Newman said it would cost about $5/day, and a person could see more than 100 views per post.

With all the platforms and content in existence, the key to setting yourself apart, Newman said, is quality content. “It all starts with messaging and strategy.”

Some things never change.

Take a break, increase your creativity

Adult coloring books are a great way to take a break and increase your productivity (photo by Cynthia Price).

Adult coloring books are a great way to take a break and increase your productivity (photo by Cynthia Price).

In this highly connected, highly wired world, we sometimes need to give ourselves a break.

Aliza Sherman, a speaker, author and web pioneer who has championed women in tech since the 1990s, says it is important to “revisit the places in your brain that help you become more creative.”

By giving yourself a break, you are more likely to be more creative.

Her suggestions to increase creativity include:

  • Put pen to paper. Write a letter to someone. Share your thoughts in a journal.
  • Coloring books are popular with adults. Feel free to color outside the lines.
  • Paint.
  • Take a walk.
  • Work with your hands. Garden or play with Play-Doh.
  • Revisit the places in your brain that help you become more creative. I spent a year taking a photo a day. It helped me to not only see more creatively, but to be more creative.

It’s important, Sherman said, to give ourselves permission to disconnect.

How do you disconnect? Post your suggestion in the comment box. You may just help another reader.

Exploring the importance of story

Ben Horowitz, bestselling author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things, said, “Your story is your strategy.”

Figuring out the story and how to tell it is the challenge for today’s communicators.

With brand growth, more than 100 communication channels and more than 250,000 new products each year, brand loyalty, brand trust and brand quality have decreased.

Jordan Clark and Michelle Taylor of Spawn Ideas emphasized how important stories are to brands. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Jordan Clark and Michelle Taylor of Spawn Ideas emphasized how important stories are to brands. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

“Story should not be an afterthought,” said Michelle Taylor of Spawn Ideas of Anchorage, AK, who spoke at the recent NFPW conference. “It should be at the center of everything.”

A well-defined brand story is one way for a company to differentiate.

Jordan Clark, also of Spawn Ideas, referred to co.collective’s term, “StoryDoing,” in which companies consciously convey their story through direct action.

Stories are important, he said, for several reasons:

  1. Stories provide understanding. “They give us context and an understanding of our place in the world,” Clark said.
  2. Stories provide meaning.
  3. Stories are how we remember. “They start to define us,” Clark noted.
  4. Stories distinguish you. Clark said, “Our personal stories become part of our identity and how people view us.”
  5. Stories create trust.

Trust is key because 90 percent of people trust their friend’s recommendations and 70 percent trust anonymous reviews on the internet. Only 50 percent of people trust ads, he said.

“It comes down to the experience that people have with your brand or product,” Clark said.

According to co.collective, StoryDoing companies include Target, Starbucks, Walt Disney, American Express, Apple, Jet Blue and IBM. Because They outperform their storytelling peers in a number of ways, including growing revenues faster, spending less on paid media and having a more positive social media presence.

5 things to do when asking for advice

I am frequently asked for advice about career moves, including opportunities and timing. For the most part, I am happy to provide it. Not only does it feel good to share knowledge, but often the conversations remind me of things I should be doing or considering. Sometimes, though, the individuals asking for advice fail to impress. Here’s how you can up your game –

Glass sculpture

When seeking advice, come prepared to the meeting. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Come prepared. Because you asked me for the meeting, I assume you know my background and what you want to ask me. Don’t begin the conversation by asking me to recite my career history or what I think about a particular job. I probably don’t have enough background on you to answer that question. Instead, arrive with a list of prepared – and specific – questions that will help you find the answers you seek.

Be on time. Again, you asked for the meeting. I expect that not only will you be on time, but that you might be a few minutes early and would have secured a table at which our conversation can take place. Most of these meetings I do willingly and freely so I do not want my time wasted as it is a precious resource.

Take notes. I once had a person meet with me and ask me for advice on a sticky situation. I willingly gave it to her. She wasn’t taking notes, but I figured she would leave and write up the highlights of the conversation. Wrong! Two days later she sent me an email asking if I could summarize my advice. (I did not.)

Ask how you can help. I am always impressed when at the end of our conversation, the person asks me how he might help me. I seldom have a specific request, but I almost always ask them to pay it forward. In other words, when someone approaches them for help, I ask that they make the time and help the person if they can. Another thing you can do is subscribe to my blog and tell others about it. You could also follow me on Twitter (@PriceCynthia).

Send a thank you. Yes, you will thank me when we finish our conversation (at least I hope so!) but sending a written thank you is even more appreciated. You could even do a shout out on Facebook or Twitter.

Most of us are more than willing to give of our time and share our experience, but we do expect there to be some commitment on your part.

Aliza Sherman thrives in the digital age, but also knows to value self

Aliza Sherman is a speaker, author and web pioneer who has championed women in tech since the 1990s. Newsweek named her one of the “Top People Who Matter Most on the Internet” in 1995. In 2009, Fast Company called her one of the “Most Powerful Women in Technology.”

And while she thrives in the digital age, she recognizes that it also poses some problems.

During the recent NFPW conference she discussed “The Future of Communications in Our Ultra Connected Social Media World.”

Aliza Sherman questions whether 140 characters is enough to be heard. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Aliza Sherman questions whether 140 characters is enough to be heard. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

“The internet has transformed every way we communicate,” she said. “There are so many layers of complexity.”

Not only do we struggle with consuming all of the information (about 6,000 tweets are tweeted every second), we also have to respond to it (does anyone have an empty inbox?) and determine if the research is accurate.

“As communicators we have to learn to cut through the noise,” Sherman said.

Because we don’t, we are losing our ability to focus. And the noise, she said, stifles our creativity. Some of us obsess over the like button. Some limit their communications to 140 characters (myself included @PriceCynthia).

“Social media has changed our information consumption habits because it has changed our brains,” Sherman said.

The result is that we fight FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and NoMoPhobia (not having a mobile).

Sherman said, “Smarter and more mindful use of technology can transform bad habits into better ones.”

She recommended a few apps to help with attention, focus, productivity and creativity, including:

  • Rescue Time tracks time spent on applications and websites, giving you an accurate picture of your day.
  • Coffitivity plays the ambient sounds of a morning coffee shop or the ambient tones of a university café. You can also upgrade to get ambient sounds from Paris or a Brazilian coffeeshop.
  • Humin manages your contacts and helps you sift through the data.
  • Calm allows you to discover the power of meditation and take a mental break.

Sometimes, though, the best app is no app.

“Give yourself permission to disconnect,” Sherman said. “It all comes down to value. Value yourself. Value your loved ones. Value your life. The future of communications is value.”

Seek out additional resources from conferencess

As a lifelong learner, I appreciate what I learn at conferences. But sometimes the workshops only scratch the surface of a topic. That’s when I like to find books recommended or written by the speakers, who also often recommend great apps.

At the recent NFPW conference I heard about storytelling, branding and social media engagement. In researching the content and speakers, I came upon several books I hope to read (or maybe skim) when I return. Here’s my list:

The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horotwitz. Amazon notes, “A lot of people talk about how great it is to start a business, but only Ben Horowitz is brutally honest about how hard it is to run one.”

Powered by Humanity by Geoff Welch. This downloadable book is a collection of observations about leadership, service, and being human.

Social Media Engagement for Dummies by Aliza Sherman. Amazon notes, “From building trust to sparking conversation to using video and other tools, this creative book is a must read if you want to discover all that goes into the most important aspect of today’s social marketing.”

True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Business by Ty Montague. Amazon notes, “Your authentic brand must be evident in every action the organization undertakes. Today’s most successful businesses are storydoers.”

What books or resources have you discovered through conferences?