Branding Yourself in Today’s Digital World

We all know to check our resume and cover letters for typos. But are you doing everything you can to brand yourself?

“Branding yourself really means presenting yourself and selling yourself,” said Gwen Larson, assistant director of marketing at Emporia State University in Kansas.

At the basic level, you want to ensure that your cover letter, resume, business cards and thank you stationery all have the same look. Larson also recommends including a cover sheet with your clips. If you are sending a CD, print a label.

In today’s world, though, that’s not enough. You need to think about your brand online. “You want to create a presence on social media,” she said.

If it’s appropriate to the work you do, you might build a website and/or launch a blog. You can hire someone to build your site or you can do it yourself through wordpress.com, wix.com or sites.google.com, Larson shared during the 2013 NFPW Conference in Salt Lake City. You also will want to purchase your domain name. You can do this through sites such as GoDaddy.com, domain.com or domainregistry.com.

“Be sure to buy all the variants of your name, too,” Larson said.

If you want help improving your ranking in Google searches, she recommends brandyourself.com, which allows you to “actively improving [your] own Google results without having to pay a company thousands of dollars to do it for [you],” according to the site.

And just as you ensure all of your written materials are consistent, you want to do the same on social media. Your LinkedIn photo, Twitter photo and website photo should be the same so that people become familiar with the brand of you. It goes without saying that you want professional photos. And nothing is worse than no photo on LinkedIn.

The Need for Downtime

One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is curl up with a good book. Sometimes I even finish reading it, but other times, I set it down and take a nap on the couch. I awake refreshed and energized. On the weekends when I don’t do that, the following work week seems exceptionally long.

Turns out I’m doing the right thing because our brains need more downtime, and that’s according to a recent Scientific American article. “Mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity,” the article states.

Beach chair with book, sunglasses

Turns out doing nothing is good for our brains. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

A friend and I recently were semi-joking that we were concerned we were getting early onset Alzheimer’s because we kept forgetting things and couldn’t call up the right words in conversation. We both committed to getting some extra rest, and it made all the difference.

I’m still working on a better meditative process, but for now, the art of brewing tea is helpful. I don’t put the water in a mug and put it in the microwave. Instead, I fill a tea bag with loose leaf tea. I rinse my mug – carefully selected to reflect my mood – with hot water. I put the kettle on to boil, and when it whistles, I pour it over the bag and let it steep the appropriate amount of time. Only then do I sit quietly and sip my tea. The ritual slows me down.

Scheduling time off from work also is important. The same Scientific Article cited a Harris Interactive survey that Americans had an average of nine unused vacation days and this despite the fact that Americans typically have fewer vacation days. Around the New Year, I mark my calendar with all my vacation days. I try to take a few each quarter, sprinkling them in a way to give me a bit of time off each month.

Sometimes at the end of the day, I can’t seem to shut my mind down so I deliberately do something mindless – I play Bejeweled on Facebook. It serves no purpose but trying to align the gems allows mind to stop thinking about work issues or anything else that is bothering me. It’s often in those moments of playing my third or fourth (oh okay, tenth) game that I am able to suddenly solve a problem.

Taking mental breaks during the work days also is critical. One of my colleagues set a personal goal of going out once a week for lunch. For her this was a stretch goal, but really it should be every day. I used to not be good about going out to lunch. I would pack my lunch and eat at my desk but that’s not a mental break. Now a colleague and I run out and grab lunch. We’re gone 30 to 45 minutes and that time away is enough to recharge for the afternoon.

I try to move every hour even if all I’m doing is taking a lap around my floor. We have a fitness goal at work and many of us are wearing pedometers to reach 10,000 steps a day. At the elevators, are signs encouraging us to take the stairs. Exercise is a great mental break.

And don’t forget journaling and arts and crafts. Several studies demonstrate the power of journaling. The other year I made it a goal to photograph a happy thought each day. Being mindful of life’s blessings recharged me every day.

Are you creating enough downtime in your life?

Finding Time to Write a Book in the Digital Era

The surprising thing about being a writer says novelist Ellen Crosby is “how hard you have to fight to find the time to write.”

Ellen Crosby

Ellen Crosby spoke about her latest book, Multiple Exposure, at the Library of Virginia.

Crosby shared her thoughts on the topic during a talk at the Library of Virginia.

Her editor told her she had to be on Facebook. The publishers “Really believe that’s the future,” she said.

Publishers are less likely to send the authors to a bookstore. “They want the magic of the internet,” Crosby said.

That means she needs to be on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. She also writes a blog and maintains a website, although she said, “I have eight visitors on a good day.”

“It’s a very big part of my day,” Crosby said. “I try to do it cheerfully, although I’d rather be writing.”

On her social sites Crosby shares about upcoming book appearances and signings. She also shares tidbits related to her books. She’s currently doing a photo blog, which ties directly to her latest book, Multiple Exposure.

(Courtesy of Ellen Crosby.com)

(Courtesy of Ellen Crosby.com)

Engaging on social does require time and effort. A few tips gleaned from numerous talks include:

  1. Align your social media profile picture with your brand. Use a photo of you that appears on your book jacket or use the cover of your book.
  2. Include a short description of your books and links to purchase books.
  3. Respond to replies and comments. You want to engage with your community.
  4. Plan your posts and tweets so you have fodder and aren’t spending all of your time writing for your social sites instead of writing your book. It’s acceptable to share information related to your subject matter. For example, Crosby can share about photojournalism or wine country.
  5. Cross pollinate. Not everyone will visit your website or follow you on Facebook. It’s okay to use content more than once.
  6. Post photos because they help your posts stand out and they create an emotional connection with your fans.
  7. Ask your fans to retweet and repost or to write mini reviews.

Importance of History Leads to Book on NFPW Leadership

As Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas became more involved with the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women she became intrigued by the women who created both organizations.

When NFPW celebrated its 75th anniversary, Marianne researched further about the history. It wasn’t until her husband was diagnosed with a brain cancer, ironically, that the history of NFPW came to life.

“Early into his recovery period, I needed to find something to clear my mind,” Marianne said. “During those hours when he was resting or asleep, I would find myself going through the boxes of material I had stored.”

Without even realizing it, Marianne was beginning to pull together the capsules of information for her book, Leadership 1937-2013.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas wrote a book on NFPW's leadership.

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas wrote a book on NFPW’s leadership.

“The leadership of NFPW has been amazing! Each woman brought something unique and exceptional to the federation. Each had her own style. Each had her own struggles to deal with,” Marianne said. “Collectively they grew a dynamic energy and resolve to the history of women in this country.”

“For me, it’s important for the membership of NFPW to know who came before them,” Marianne added. “More importantly, these first forty remain an important chapter in the history of women journalists and writers.”

History has always been important to Marianne. “History remains important to me because it helps me to understand the how, why and what ifs of my own personal life. It also gives me a greater appreciation for what took place before me.”

The book was published by Dreamers Tapestry, which is owned by fellow IWPA/NFPW members Susan and Art Brauer. “One of the best results of being a member of IWPA and NFPW is the networking,” Marianne said. Once she had her “aha” moment about reaching out to the Brauers the plan to publish came together.

During the fall conference in Utah, Marianne surprised attendees by presenting a copy of her book to each of the NFPW presidents at the Saturday night banquet. She also presented everyone else in attendance with a copy. Her husband Jonas was beside her beaming with pride at what Marianne had accomplished.

Editor’s Note: Copies of the book are available for purchase through the Illinois Woman’s Press Association website . A portion of the proceeds are split between the Education Funds of NFPW and IWPA.

Ensuring Success for Team Members

I recall in my last position I wrote a press release because it was just easier for me to do it.

How wrong I was. Yes, the release was written and distributed quickly, but I didn’t allow someone on my team whose job was PR to handle it. And this person easily could have.

I need to provide opportunities for individuals on my team to perform their jobs and to grow in them.

I see this happen all too often with committees, too. You volunteer to help but the committee organizer ends up doing all the work. It’s not always because committee members can’t do the work, it’s often because the chairman thinks it will be easier to do the work himself. Invariably, the chairman gets frustrated because he’s doing all the work, and the members get frustrated because they aren’t contributing.

The challenge in both situations is that the person isn’t able to develop. Instead, it’s best to provide the guidelines and let the person do the job for which they signed on. It may not be exactly the way you would have done it, but it’s still done. And if it was done poorly, step back and see if your parameters were clear enough.

As one of my former bosses used to say, “At the end of the day I just want to get to 5. I don’t care if you do that by 2+3 or 4+1, just get us to 5.”

Giving people the flexibility to complete an assignment their way is sound advice no matter how you add it.

Business on the Go — Setting Up Your Mobile Office

I finally switched to a smartphone a few years ago when my travel really picked up. I needed to have access to emails wherever I was and I didn’t always want to carry my laptop.

I was thinking about that the other day, and how it’s not uncommon for me to Skype with colleagues from my smartphone, which means I’m not tethered to my desk.

What else do you need to ensure your business can be mobile?

Consider the devices you will need.

A smartphone means you will have access to many apps. I already mentioned Skype. I also have apps for the airlines I fly most frequently. This is helpful if my flight is cancelled and I need to rebook. I also can find out what gate I need to get to instead of craning over heads at the monitors.

Laptops are ideal for businesses on the go, but they’re almost obsolete now as tablets have taken center stage. Although tablets aren’t always easy to use for lots of typing, if you purchase the add-on keyboard, it greatly enhances your productivity. I was all set to replace my laptop that is way too many years old. Now, though, I think I’ll hold onto it and buy a tablet instead. I still like a laptop as the screen is slightly larger making it ideal for home use. If you aren’t sure which table or laptop to buy check out this recent article.

Another device you will want is a wireless printer so you can print from any of your devices.

If you travel frequently, you may want to purchase a mobile hotspot, a device you can purchase from any cellular company that is less than the size of a pack of playing cards. It allows you to connect to the internet when a free WIFI connection is not available. There is usually no contract and you purchase what you need. If you are only using email or browsing the Web, then you won’t use much data. Downloading and streaming means high data usage and more costs. If you don’t purchase enough, you will have the option to purchase more or the session will close if you don’t.

Other things to consider for your mobile office include the operating system you plan to use (Windows or Mac), the type of calendar you will use and how to merge personal and professional calendars to keep everything straight. You should also look at GPS for getting to and from meetings. While this list is by no means complete it should get you started.

Power of White Space

Like most people, when I travel I return to work with an inbox that is overflowing. I used to fret about it until I hit on the ingenious idea of creating some white space on my calendar the first day I’m back in the office.

I block the entire morning so that I can catch up with teammates and review my email. I quickly delete anything that is only for informational purposes. I note which items will require a thoughtful response or research and mark time on my calendar for each of those. The remaining items I can usually respond to within a few hours and that what’s I do.

After lunch, I focus on the most pressing items but now I’m no longer feeling anxious because there are 400 unread emails in my inbox.

I also try to create white space following a meeting. Back-to-back meetings result in my inability to address any issues that may have arisen from the meeting. I try to keep 30 minutes between meetings (although I’m probably only successful about 25 percent of the time). This unscheduled time enables me to follow-up immediately on action items and reach out to those with whom I need to follow-up.

Mike Myatt wrote in Forbes that “Leaders need white space to respond to unexpected opportunities and issues.”

Creating the white space at work is critical to my professional success. I’ve learned to do the same with my personal calendar.

I play volleyball, belong to a book club and volunteer but if they all fall in the same week, I can become quite irritable because, again, there is no white space. I need that white space to keep up with correspondence, bills and frankly, just have some quiet time.

Not filling every minute of your calendar creates the space needed to deliver on promises and commitments.

Do you have enough white space in your life?