Invest in Yourself

Are you getting a tax refund this year? If so, how do you plan to spend it?

A vacation? A shopping spree?

Why not invest in yourself?

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Be bold! Color outside the lines and invest in yourself. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Identify what your goals are and then spend part of your refund (I’m hoping you received one!) on you. Maybe you have been wanting to join a professional group. Or perhaps there is a class you want to take or a conference you want to attend.

I’ve been fortunate in my career that my employer has supported me with one conference a year. However, I’m at work on a book (with two more in the wings) and my employer is not going to pay for me to join a mystery writers’ group or attend a conference focused on authors.

That’s on me.

And because it’s important to me, I save the funds so that I can participate in the group and attend the conference.

I also pay to be part of a group of communicators who hear monthly from Michael Smart about best PR practices. Sure, I’ve been at this business a long time, but I don’t always have time to identify the next great place to pitch (hint: it’s not The New York Times). Sometimes the calls reinforce for me that I am doing the right things and that I should stay the course.

I like what Michael shared in an email about the success of two individuals who continued to learn:

“The desire for continuous learning and improvement likely contributed the MOST to those people’s success,” he shared.

If you want to keep learning and growing and succeeding, investing in yourself may be the best investment you make.

 

 

Feeding the Content Beast

As a young reporter, I was tasked with producing a story each day the newspaper published. That meant finding six stories every week, week after week.

At first, I struggled. Then I developed sources. I learned to take a national story and localize it. I asked people what they wanted to read about. Before long, I always had plenty of stories. I could sometimes write an extra one and have it banked for the day when I couldn’t find a story. To this day, I appreciate a good evergreen story.

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To tame the content beast, find ways to repackage content and look for content in different places. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Today one story can serve so many platforms with a bit of tweaking.

I gather information from an expert on campus, and I can pitch the information to a reporter, write a blog, send a tweet or post to Facebook. Depending on the story, I might also gather photos or shoot video.

Here are some ways to find content:

Create videos. When you interview a subject matter expert shoot a few minutes of video. When you share the footage, you may find others who are interested in writing about the subject. You also are helping the expert gain exposure and further develop their interviewing skills.

Repeat. I used to publish a tweet for each blog I wrote. But then I heard from several experts who pointed out that I was missing the audiences who weren’t on Twitter at the time I posted. I now schedule 5 to 7 tweets for every blog post I write. The result has been better engagement. The same holds true for tweeting media releases.

Speeches: If someone in your organization is speaking to a group, obtain a copy of her remarks in advance. You can identify some quotes to share in advance of the talk, and then do the same during and after. Include the handle of the organization she is visiting so others will share, too.

Website: Your website can be a gold mine of content. Much of the evergreen information on your site is still new to many and it’s worth sharing. You also can highlight new content.

The key to always having good content is to post on multiple platforms. The easiest way to do that is to create a content or editorial calendar. To learn more about such calendars, visit this post.

Video Plays Role in Content Strategy

I’ve been watching videos and commercials more closely of late.

That’s because I recently heard Tod Plotkin, principal of Green Buzz Agency, speak about videos.

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Source: Hubspot

He pointed out that most videos and commercials include text over the images. Why? Because so often we do our viewing in a public setting such as on a subway, in a waiting room or at a restaurant and we have the volume muted. Words superimposed over images ensures that even with the volume muted we will understand the message.

Videos should have a complete message even without sound, Plotkin said.

This is important to know because more video content is uploaded in 30 days than all three major U.S. TV networks combined have created in 30 years, according to Insivia.

Videos should play a role in your content strategy. Most likely you have videos on your website. Are you also using them on your social media platforms? Have you included a video link an email you send? Have you used video at a conference or sales presentation?

Plotkin encouraged individuals to not focus on having a video go viral with a random audience. “The goal of your video should be to engage your audience on an emotional level,” he said.

He also debunked the notion that a video needs to be of a certain length. The key, he said, is that whatever the length of the video, it must keep people engaged. If it doesn’t, then shorten the video.

The encouraging news is that advancements in video technology are bringing costs down and making corporate videos more competitive with content on TV and in film.

If you haven’t incorporated video into your content strategy, now may be the perfect time.

Keeping Your 2017 Resolutions

Two months into the year and less than 60 percent of individuals who made resolutions have kept them, according to Statistic Brain.

It’s still better to make resolutions than not, Statistic Brain notes. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

You likely won’t succeed at your resolutions if you don’t have action steps and ways to be accountable. Think of your resolutions as SMART goals.

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R – realistic

T – time-bound

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What moves will you take to ensure your success in 2017? (Photo by Cynthia Price)

The point is that if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, and you don’t have a way to measure it, you are more likely to fail.

An example is the resolution to lose weight. Simply saying your resolution is to lose weight likely will not lead to weight loss. However, if you apply the SMART principles to it, you will more likely succeed. Your resolution becomes “Lose 20 pounds in four months by doing X, Y and Z.”

I have a goal of writing a book. Once, I applied the SMART principles to it, I’ve had much greater success. Now my goal is to complete the first draft of my book by May. It’s specific and I can measure it (is the draft completed?). It’s attainable and realistic because I gave myself five months to complete the research and writing.

To further ensure my success, I broke my goal down into tasks. I have identified writing days and have scaled back other activities. I also have an accountability partner with whom I discuss my progress every two weeks.

Another example is walking. I purchased a Fitbit and walk 10,000 steps a day. (I admit, though, I don’t always achieve that goal.) I have my best success when it’s timebound. Last summer, I set a goal of walking 1 million steps between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s basically the same as walking 10,000 steps a day, but there was a finite time to achieve the goal. I created a tracking form so that on days when I did not reach 10,000 steps I would make up the steps the next day. At the end of the period I had walked more than 1 million steps! And I rewarded myself with a new, more advanced Fitbit.

Sometimes, though, your goal is a bit more nebulous. One of mine is to slow down and have time for reading. I write down all the books I read. Yes, it’s fun to go back and look at the list, but what the list really does for me is identify when I am overcommitted. Typically, I average five books a month.  When I look at my list and see that I have only read two books, I know it’s time to schedule down time.

The third month of 2017 has arrived. Now is the perfect time to recommit to your resolutions. Make sure they are reasonable and that you can track your progress against a deadline. If you do, this may be the year that you keep your resolutions.

 

The Power of Measurement

20000 StepsThe other week I lost my Fitbit. And for a few days I didn’t work out because I didn’t know how to measure my progress. (Yes, I realize that was a lousy excuse for not working out.)

Of course, fitness goals were achieved and records broken before the arrival of Fitbits and other tracking devices. I, though, had become dependent on mine. While I waited for my replacement to be shipped, I found other things to track, including the number of miles I walked on the treadmill and the number of flights of stairs I climbed in a day.

The same holds true at work. How do you know if you are succeeding? My team has monthly goals, and toward the end of each month, we review our progress against the goals. Sometimes we need to step up our games. Sometimes we need to recalibrate.

A professional group to which I belong is concerned about membership. When I ask how many members we have and how many have renewed, no one knows immediately. I do because I’m tracking it. I suspect I drive the parent organization crazy because during renewal season I ask for our membership list about every two weeks. I want to track and determine where follow-up needs to happen. If members aren’t rejoining, I want to know why. If we’re getting new members, I want to know what has drawn them to the group.

When I decided to visit all states within the U.S., I listed them and tracked my progress. I knew I wanted to see all the states before I turned 50. Without a plan and means of tracking, I was not going to get to see all 50 states. I worked my plan and, in the end, I visited all of them by 50.

Management guru Peter Drucker is often credited with saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If you want to succeed, figure how to define your success and how you will achieve it.

Here’s to your success.

Gift Yourself Unscheduled Time

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A few years ago, when I was in the middle of a major project and working 12 hour days, a friend said she understood because she had no time, either. She then went on to tell me about her weekly appointments with her personal trainer, ladies night at the local wine shop and a fun afternoon with her grandkids.

I was frustrated because I was not doing any of those things so how dare she complain? And yet, I could tell she was stressed. I asked her some questions, and then we both realized that her frustration was that she was overscheduled and had no time to do what she wanted, when she wanted. She took steps to remedy that.

The lesson stayed with me and the other month, when I realized I was becoming cranky, I realized I need more unscheduled time in my life. I played on a volleyball team one night a week for two hours. I went to the movies with a friend one night a week. I went to the gym once or twice a week. I had book club and board meetings.

Where was the time to read magazines? Or sit by a window and watch the birds at the feeder? Where was the time to simply decide in that moment what I wanted to do?

Despite enjoying all of the activities in my life, it was time to create unscheduled time. I’m taking a season off from volleyball and I’m not going to the movies every week.

Already I feel better. I’ve had more time for walks in the evening. More time to get lost in a book. More time to simply be.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, no matter how fulfilling your life is or how much fun you are having, maybe it’s time to give yourself the gift of unscheduled time.

3 Reasons to Join a Professional Group

At the end of the year, it seemed like all I was doing was paying dues. I belong to several groups and membership expired on Dec. 31. As someone who has served as the membership director, I know how wonderful it is to see all of the renewals come in before the year ends.

I know that I have to pay my dues at the end of the year. I set money aside throughout the year, knowing that with the holidays I may run short of expendable cash. This way I’m ready.

I didn’t hesitate in paying my dues because of the value of the organizations.

My mystery writers group (Sisters in Crime Central Virginia) provides me with hope and confidence. Most of the members are published authors, some of whom have made the best-seller list. All of them have offered tips and encouragement as I work on mine at my own pace. Hearing their stories gives me confidence and hope that one day my book will appear in print and reside on a shelf or an electronic device.

zen-rockMy coaching group (International Coaching Federation Virginia) is helping me to learn and develop skills. I’ve been informally coaching for years, and decided I wanted to formalize the process. I attend monthly meetings and learn from successful coaches. I’ve learned about imagery, mindfulness and credentialing. Last year I created my own coaching page so individuals can secure my services.

My communications groups (VPC, NFPW) have provided me with hope, confidence and new skills. They also have provided me with leadership opportunities. I have served as president of both my state affiliate and the national organization. I’ve led a strategic planning workshop for NFPW with another member.

As an added benefit, I have found that in all of these groups there are several individuals who also offer friendship. That’s a nice bonus.

Many more reasons exist for joining a professional group. I am interested in hearing from you about what groups you belong to and why. If you are willing to share, please post your reply in the comment section.