The glories of a video post

Nausea. Sweaty tension. That’s what the notion of creating 60 seconds worth of video for an on-line post does to me. Talking to 1,500 people? No problem. A room full of hardened executives? I got that. Me, in a car/train/dining room with a little video recorder? Heart-palpitating anxiety-ridden nearly comatose individual.

This isn’t a forum to work out my personal insecurities, tho it might do me some good. Let’s just skip right to the solution, because I tend to be a solutions-oriented gal. Within a week, I had three people in different corners of my life say the same thing.

  1. I need to “connect with people,” and the on-line, static means (FB, Instagram pics, this website) doesn’t do it and never will
  2. I need to show people my personality, voice and idiosyncrasies (e.g. realize that I’m human, see point #1)
  3. I need to share more wisdom and insight than I’ve been doing, not just a travelogue that ties back to my books

None offered up suggestions as to how I was going to overcome my irrational fears that followers would drop off like flies, further compounding my insecurities. I’m no Kardashian with legions of stylists around me. I’m essentially a working mom who is fortunate enough to continue providing business acumen to companies and writing while the kids are in school.

Still, I’ve spent my adult life telling others to hire the best counsel and then listen. So while these three weren’t hired (expensive friends aren’t in my budget) I had no choice but to follow their advice.

Here’s what happened. I asked for thoughts on topic, format and approach. I made an objective (on Monday I will start). I washed my hair (or did I? I don’t recall now), but what I did do was show my husband the first video. He vomited on it.

“You’re boring. Not smiling. Where’s the “real you?” he wanted to know. Hiding. That’s where. You see, I feel safe behind the non-smiling business face. It’s serious, which is what a business person is–unless with peers behind closed doors.

“Lose the business person. Be yourself. The one you are behind closed doors.”

Round two. I start laughing in the middle, because I can’t believe I’m doing it at all.

“Much better. Post it before you overthink about it.”

Now, what’s crazy is this: the video received over 150 views in less than 15 minutes. Do you know how long it takes any of my posts to receive that many likes? A few days. (No Selena Gomez am I).

Fast forward @2 weeks. My average video receives this many views in about this time. They are limited to 1 minute, and I think to myself that it’s easier to spend a minute watching than it is to read for 10 seconds.

Another thing. I’m always in my car. Why? It’s my quiet time. No conference calls scheduled, no dedicated writing time. No children, dogs, chickens…you get the idea. I may kill a moose while I drive in the snow, but hey, it will be recorded for posterity.

Lastly, the ties to my book sales in immediate and impactful. This follows on my last blog posting. After 5 video posts, I can legitimately say my book sales have gone up 40% over all, and compared to a static post, the numbers are 7x greater.

Does topic matter?

Not that I can tell. I’d like to say I have a marketing Jedi behind me, coaching me on what to say, but it’s not true (and I have this small thing about honesty. It’s important). I do keep a running list on my iPhone about key mantras, subjects and attitudes I have regarding success and life. Some of those things are in my business books–past and future–the short antedotes I can squish into 60 seconds, which isn’t easy.

I will say this: “active” videos aren’t as interesting to people. My skiing clip for example. Rog was convinced this would be cool–not so much. Viewers–at least those that follow me–seem to prefer words.

Connecting is cool.

With the objective of ‘connecting,’ out there, I wasn’t convinced it was going to happen. After this short amount of time, I can attest it’s occurring. The number of comments, along with the depth and level of emotion is incomparable to a static pic. It’s fulfilling, enjoyable and rewarding on a very personal level. To others who read the comments made–I suspect it’s also enlightening. The adage is proving true…when you share details, others will reciprocate. That’s a two-way connection that can’t be faked.

So am I still nervous? Yes. Do I take more than one video for each posting? Yes. On average 6. I talk a lot and always go over. Do I use a filter? Sometimes. Since I consider my posts more guerilla style than poised and professional, it works for me. I like the down and dirty, real life postings. Plus, I don’t have the time in my life to pretend like it’s my source of income–it’s free, to me and the viewer, which is probably the best part.

Instagram, Facebook & the conundrum of social media

The wide world of all things electronic is distracting, wonderful, irritating, fun, stressful and pays dividends. I guess that means it’s like most things in my life, family and hobbies included. My experience over the last ten years with the various incantations of apps has been largely disappointing, because I want results. In other words, if I want to talk to you (and you me) the phone is the best way to go. Deals don’t happen by text. Negotiations are done real-time, email employed when confirming what’s been agreed upon is necessary.

My data points are similar to other individuals who are continually trying to figure it out when to use what, and why:

Facebook:

Personally, I have an account, but probably wouldn’t unless it weren’t required for my business account. Again, I like talking more than sharing. Opinions, with the associated volatility of emotions seriously stressed me out. I can’t write fiction when I’m in that state of mind, and I certainly don’t have time to be surfing when I’m doing business.

Business…I do have an author account, but it’s largely ignored. That said, I found it was FB was very beneficial in doing one thing: driving traffic to my blog. What I did:

  1. wrote the blog
  2. linked the header and wrote a short note in the FB posting, along with an image
  3. the viewership/hit rates and time spent on my website skyrockets when I do that…and so I started employing this strategy around book launches, events, competitions, give-away’s and other business-related activities.

The only downside is when I fell off writing my blog (because I was actually writing or working on the business side) then the traffic to my FB page dropped dramatically.

Net: FB (for authors/businesses) can be very helpful if employed the right way.

Instagram

Let me count the ways I used to love this app before it was purchased by FB. The primary reason I loved it (I’ll list the reason’s I still like it in a moment).

  1. I could control the timing of my content. what I posted was done at that moment
  2. the culture of IG is nicer, more interested in the images than opinions
  3. the focus is global, vs FB which tends by its nature to be more demographically US

Unfortunately, FB has ruined a few features…now they are offering up random postings at random times (which is beyond annoying). As a biz person and author, the last thing I want to do is annoy my followers with too many posts. Well, thanks FB. Now they annoy my followers for me…their algorithms just offer up whatever, whenever. It’s horrid.

That said, until something better comes along, I’ll keep using it. Here’s why.

  1. my book sales have a direct connection to certain posts. Seriously. It’s been about 2 yrs, and I post, on average, once a day, but at times, I’ve gone for 2 weeks without a post. In that time, I have been able to determine what images/text a) increase traffic to my site, b) increase ebook reading, c) invigorate print book purchases and more
  2. my holistic approach to how I market “my business,” which is multi-faceted, is completed by my website, Instagram and facebook
  3. Instagram seems to reach a completely different audience than FB. I could go into detail on this (and may do at another time) but suffice it to say that whereas I can track direct postings and sales from IG, I have no clue on FB. Even when I advertised on FB, I saw very little (as in, negligible) sales connections.
  4. Video on Instagram essentially increased my followers (and hence, book sales, event attendance) 30%. Seriously. I just recently started doing videos (I was scared. yes. I get scared), and it’s been dramatic.
  5. The ability to connect with people on an individual basis is really great. It’s nearly impossible to do with other apps of a similar nature, and I truly love seeing and hearing from ppl of all walks of life, all cultures and countries–and we are bound by common interests from inception.

Twitter…sigh. I abhor what I see on Twitter, and for that reason, only joined it about 2 weeks ago. I posted a bunch in a few days, realized it just wasn’t for me, and stopped. I’m not a politico, comedian, or other major personality that has the acumen or desire to engage in that world. Further, the demographic of the people on twitter doesn’t seem to connect with the folks I’m trying to reach.

If I had to make one observation about Twitter is that the people who responded to my (few) tweets were mostly international, which wasn’t surprising. My captions were of places I visited and used in my recent novels.

So this is a snapshot of what I’ve experienced. I’ll continue to explore and track other apps as the come about, but for now, I’m still a big fan of Instagram.

 

 

The billionaire’s secret weapon

Once, when I was giving a writers presentation to a group of high school students, I was asked by a teacher what process I follow for writing my books. “Is there one thing, or set of things you do prior to starting to write?”

“Yes, there is,” I responded. “I pray.” That was it, pure and simple. I didn’t even elaborate on what I pray for (which, btw, is clarity, the ability to write what’s in my head etc. and have it be congruent with my ideals and thoughts etc). You should have seen the look on this woman’s face. You would have thought I was advocating a new drug inhalation process for the illegal, not legal type. The irony of it all, was this was a parochial school, the place I where I actually felt safe giving this answer.

Over the years, the irony of the prayer-before-the-big-event thing has intrigued me. I’ve grown up with images of Madonna and her backup-dancers holding hands in a group prayer before a concert. Big football players kneel or bow their heads prior to kick-off, asking for health, strong hands and probably a win. Why then, I ask, is the big deal with saying a prayer (albeit silently) before a big meeting or when starting a sculpture or writing a book?

quote

slightly obvious. I actually prefer Roger’s quote, which he used for years with consultants (who wouldn’t shut up). “You can’t learn anything while you are talking.” I would have used that but I didn’t have the time to create a pretty picture with quotes.

I have long prayed when considering what clients to take on and which ones to pass.  I’ve said prayers before presentations in front of groups large and small, interviews with the press, before I’ve gone on television shows, prior to pitching the venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In fact, pretty much any event of significance I’ve invoked my right to call above to the Almighty (or as Roger says: “whatever is out there in the Universe that’s listening”).

Ironically, I’ve been much more lax about praying on the personal front, but that too, is another story. It seems that when it comes to career, my red-phone bat line has been in constant use. It turns out, I’m not alone in this. Over the last two years, I’ve been interviewing 3 dozen hundred millionaires and billionaires that haven’t spoken to the press about their rise from poverty (nearly all) to a financially secure point in life. One of the common threads is faith (in self or God). Another thread is prayer. Even the few who claim atheism state they still say a prayer (to the universal energy that exists).

This call-to-arms as I’ve come to think of it, is a plea for all the thoughts, energy and desire built within to come to the forefront when it’s needed in exactly the right way, be it for that winning touchdown or the closing of the million dollar home sale.

Prayer circles aren’t as weird as they sound

Going back to the football scenario, where a bunch of men are on the field, eyes closed and heads bent—it’s a normal scene is it not? They are in a circle…a literal prayer circle. If this came up in casual conversation, can you even imagine the derision the topic would instill, not to mention the analogies to other sects, cults and who-knows-what off-shoots of beheading chickens and dancing around a bonfire.

Yet for athletes and Madonna, it’s done and accepted, business as usual. (I would, just once, love to have seen Ballmer hold out his hand at the executive round table, bow his head and say whatever prayer that man would have said –although I imagine it would have involved a strong desire for the stock price to go above 100 for a picosecond. Just once).

Going back to me and the writing process, or business for that matter, yes, I pray, but it is not done lightly or by rote. I won’t pray if I don’t feel worthy of an answer. Ergo, if I have a lesson to teach and I’ve not adequately prepared, I feel it’s morally wrong to ask some higher power to bail me out. Conversely, if I’ve done my part, studied, prepared my outline, readied the lesson and I still feel uncomfortable, then I know this means I’m missing something. A piece of the puzzle isn’t quite right in the grooves. It is then that I pray fervently to understand what direction I must go, what I must change and how I must communicate the message—assuming that my message is right in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times this very thing has happened, and when I’m on stage, I’ve had words, phrases or examples come to mind that I’d previously not thought of or considered, and it made all the difference in the world.

One billionaire, a seventy-ish man now retired and living in Colorado, used to be the president of one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the country. In his “retirement,” he still owns three different entities in different industries. When I asked him how he makes many of his decisions, he was unapologetic when he said he prays.

“Yes, I listen to my advisors and I read the numbers, but most of the time, hiring people and making big business decisions doesn’t rely on numbers or resumes,” he said. “Those can be manipulated and represented in ways that won’t tell you what will truly happen six months, a year or five years out.” For that, he relies on a higher power.

And this blog? Do I pray before writing a blog? No, not usually, and honestly, my level of seriousness regarding my blog writing (and Instagram and Facebook accounts) ebb and flow with my mood. Sometimes I simply like a picture that’s interesting, fun or humorous. I’ve noticed that when it comes to thoughts of making a person’s day brighter, uplifting myself (or others) in some way, then yes, I actually do say a prayer to understand what I should write or post. The reward is often immediate and strong, producing positive feedback or responses.

Even those who don’t believe in a universal God or super being, the notion of universal “Karma” is alive and well. In other words, what comes around goes around, so it’s better to be on the safe side than send out evil vibes. If this holds true, then one could argue that prayers can only help, and never hurt, so “What’s there to lose?” (As my husband often asks). “It’s not hurting anyone and can only help.”

Keep that in mind the next time you could use a little clarity, support, wisdom or overall confidence. It’s free, there’s nothing to lose, and it can only help. Those are three mantras I can live by.

Titles versus results – IOW- How to improve hits & sales

I’m always wanting to give my posts exaggerated, catchy titles, but author 101 dictates otherwise. The reason? Google and searching questions. “Spooktastic Treats” don’t get as many hits as “Wasy and impressive Halloween treats.”

This is not War and Peace, I know. But if you are writing a blog for the purpose of getting advertising revenue, or a book to receive a royalty check, it all starts with hits, then clicks, then views, then a purchase. But even general markets pushing a product–be it a software application, game or new brand of earphone, want to get to their target consumer.

For marketing junkie such as myself (that means 20 yrs of learning how to get people to buy), I struggle with my own desire to use a fun, catchy title, versus the reality that when in a rush, a person looking for the answer to a specific question will most likely type in that question, not the cool, marketing version of the exact same question.

Tip for bloggers:
1. Have a catchy title, but then the real-world sub-title that people will search
2. Make sure you embed high-impact (e.g. often searched) categories, products or phrases that will give you a higher hit count
3. embed the google AdSense or other advertising revenue generating form into your system. I personally stopped using that when I moved to WordPress because a) I found I was spending too much time on linking rather than writing and b) I don’t use a blog as revenue-generating mechanism. it’s my own personal therapy tool (for my personal side) and information dissemination center (for general business and writing topics).

Tips for authors/or business owners who are pushing a product:
1. same as above BUT try and categorize by topics and put the primary topic somewhere in the title, and multiple times in the body
2. link to and from other topics on the add value, not just sell the product. so irritating when its all about you and not the information at hand

time your promotions to fit your target demographic

time your promotions to fit your target demographic

For both, the final tip is Review and Assess. See what’s working and what’s not. Most apps have statistical data that shows what pages are being viewed and the time spent on each. Jupiter Communications puts out great info (that’s free) on the best pages, and times for posting. Specifically:

  • Posts get looked at the most on Wednesday at 12 pm PST (3 pm EST) and Friday at the same times–for the business crowd. why? Because east-coasters (in the US) are lolly-gagging around, killing time after 3, and west-coasters tend to stay put at their desks for lunch. Thus, if you are launching something that appeals to this category (workers at desks) post during this timeframe. I have technology clients- software companies, but also card-making companies that launch promotions during this time to great results.
  • Posts for the general consumer (either not working or off hours) are Sunday nights after 7 pm. why? The football games are over, the movies and soccer games done. People are finished with dinner, relaxing and not always by the television. The laptops are on the actual laps, in front of the tv!

 

The new four letter words

It’s a Monday. That means lots of calls w/vendors, clients, friends, relatives. Some good, some tiresome. Some loud. Others obnoxious. The last part only became so when the person I was talking to kept repeating the same words, overandoverandover, to the point I wondered if the individual actually had more than five words in (his/her) vocabulary (we must keep this anonymous)…

Seriously. Really. Right? and the mother of all phrases, are you kidding me?

At one time, these words were used in the context of happy and light, excitement and genuine need-to-know-interest. I’m finding that more often than not, each one is said sarcastically, rhetorically, many times when nothing should be said at all. The worst offense is right.

Right?

Know those people who say something, and immediately follow-it up with “right?” It’s the amateur’s way of eeking out an agreement from the listener, except the speaker using the word keeps talking right on through/over/under, the potential responder. Even well-spoken, multi-degreed CEO’s fall into the trap of using this one word to gain a confirmation that what has been said is in fact, accurate. Sadly, there is rarely the pause following this word that actually would give the desired affirmation.

Remember the good old days, when it was only the F-word that had the kind of flexibility embodied by these impersonators? It was intentionally used in place of a coma, a space, of course, an exclamation point.

This whole-bad-Engligh, bad/irritating grammar has got to stop. The next time someone says “Really?” and they aren’t being genuine, you could say, ‘Seriously‘ right back. They’ll respond by saying ‘Are you kidding me?’ and you can end this enlightening conversation with a ‘Right‘!

A hint…

Other options with 6 words or less meant to gain an affirmation include:

  1. Are we on the right track?
  2. Are we aligned on this?
  3. Does that make sense?
  4. Sound good?
  5. How does that sound?
  6. Fair enough?

If you actually want to move the conversation forward, go the extra mile and provide a statement.

“Now that we are on the same page, let’s discuss the details…” It elevates the level of discussion, it’s focused and strong. The way a leader should be.

Fall fundraising ideas- it’s not too late for 2015

salt city candle company

Salt city candle company- I love candles, but I’m really particular- but I know women who have literally spent hundreds of dollars on candles in a single event

Last weekend I attended a social function that, as social functions occurring just before Thanksgiving almost always do, end with a call for donations.

This was a worthy cause-a non-profit school with a broad curriculum and outstanding programs but had budgeted for a number of students that didn’t show up. These things happen-more so when the economy is on the verge of hitting the skids. Upon learning that the deficit was in the tens of thousands of dollars (and not wanting to tap into long term savings ear-marked for infrastructure) I went into board member/fundraising mode.

As I sat, happily munching away on Swedish meatballs and lemon squares (not in the order I might note), I tapped into the recesses of my former life, the one wherein I was invariably on some committee to raise money.

The easiest low/no cost means to raise a few thousand dollars is to host events where a product provider brings in a “line” of items and the upside (after cost) is donated to the school. The provider extends his/her potential customer base and uses it as a tax write-off (if your entity is a non-profit). At my children’s previous school, we had three per year and each event brought between $500-$2000 to the school, the highest usually being either jewelry or clothing. It’s most helpful to have things aligned with the season.

  • December: jewelry. It’s not too late to start (it being 11/9). A holiday jewelry showing in early December might be feasible.
  • February: valentines/clothing for spring- Like the Cabi line tends to do very well (it also fits the party/hostess model)
  • April: really anything wellness oriented- diet/weight loss/essential oils

Ground rules: talk around-network-learn which individuals (usually women) are ‘at-home-sales people.’ This can be everything from make-up to tupperware, candles to lingerie. In the vein of being the most inclusive/least offensive, go with what will work in your area.

What to ask for: “will you have an evening just for our organization? You will be introduced to my/the entirely new network of potential customers and be able to write off the evening as a business expense (e.g. donating proceeds to the entity). In other words, the costs of the product will be covered as profits are donated to the entity.

What you need:

  • a venue. Find a gracious hostess or host yourself.
  • marketing. Distribute through as many means as possible (evite, email, facebook etc).
  • food. Offer modest food- apps or desserts, beverages.

Post event, follow up with a word of thanks to the attendees for supporting the cause, and my personal favorite is always knowing how much was raised.

Fraud, identity theft & what happens in between

One my clients, a large organization specializing in anti-fraud an identity theft, took what was left of my rose colored glasses and smashed them against the wall moments after I walked in the conference room.
identity theft
“Let’s see what we can find on you,” said the CEO, inserting my full name. Completely unprepared was I for the plethora of data available. Address, phone numbers, employment. Some free, some at a cost. A dating site had information on my school history, all my past addresses and suggested names, numbers and addresses of former neighbors, just in case a prospective beau wanted to conduct a search.”There’s more,” he said, his fingers gliding across the keypad. “Watch this.” Within seconds, he pulled every single social community site I’d ever joined, active user or not. Facebook was a given, but many others, invitation and party sites, activity-oriented sites (e.g. book clubs) and more. It took him less than five minutes to construct the outline of my life. No wonder people are freaked about stalking and identity theft.stolen info used“The good news,” he told me, is that simple techniques help avoid, or at least “delay” the prospect of identity theft. Readers already know how a credit card app was stolen from our mailbox, and we had no clue until the FBI showed up at Rog’s office, telling him a nice Honda had been purchased in our name, courtesy of a credit card ring they’d been tracking.

I was happy we could afford a Honda, but I would have been thrilled if we could have afforded a Ferrari. So much for the AMEX black card.

I’m then informed that 6 out of 10 people will be victims of fraud (e.g. theft) of credit cards, social security numbers or some other data that turns into taking money out of an account or spending money without your knowledge or approval. When funds zip out of your checking account, you are hosed. When it’s on a credit card, you’re covered (usually). In the case of our above credit card issue, the thieves had the audacity to come back twice- the first time they came, they stole credit card applications that were sent in the mail (the ironic problem of having good credit). They applied, using information stolen from our other mail, and the credit card company issued the card. The thieves then came back and snagged the physical card. Once in their possession, they went wild.

Now we were somewhat saved by the admission of Citibank. When the card was activated, they should have asked some security questions, like mothers maiden name etc. This was information the thieves didn’t have. However, Citi still activated the card. They actually admitted this (and I’m sure they have gotten better about protocols. No really, I’m sure. Really.) Anyhoo, the theiver (like my word invention) must have been an amazing sales person because Citi did it anyway.

Internal checklist

  • Get your free credit report once a year. I used to do this just for me. Now I do it for Roger, and my daughter’s, since they have social security numbers. “The fastest growing segment for ID theft is kids under 16,” the CEO old me. The parents don’t bother to check the credit records until it’s time to get the child a credit card, about college. By then, the damage is hard, and costly to undo. If you do #2 below, it can be included as a part of the package!
  • Sign up for Lifelock I can say this now that my project with them has concluded. It monitors any tap into a credit reporting agency. Once an agency has been pinged, I get a call, email and/or text that someone has requested my information. Since I am well, me, I know if I have applied for anything or not. Sub note- I have signed up my husband and two kids for this, because I learned that kids are the number one targets for identity theft! Kids receive social security numbers, but rarely need them before getting a drivers license or going to college (unless you give them a credit card).
  • Put a lock on your mailbox. We purchased an industrial size/strength box and this worked, right up until the time the lovely postman decided not to close the lid all the way. Bam. What good is a lock when its wide open? We ultimately opted for a PO Box.

Ultimately, the CEO of LifeLock told me over and over that “it’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when,’ so just be prepared.” With those wonderful words of comfort, I urge you to be proactive on this one. It’s worth the 10 bucks to save thousands. Oh! I forgot to mention Lifelock covers outstanding fees/what’s been stolen if you are covered on their plan at time of theft. And no, I don’t get kickbacks, referrals fees or even a Christmas card in the mail. I’m just a serious believer in their product, and you know me, when I love something, I write about it.

Need a Job? 5 proven sources to jump start your career

A friend’s boyfriend has been out of full-time work for two years, bouncing from temporary job to contracting, luckily in the field of physics, chemistry and gaming (you might ask, what in the world does he do? Well, he plays with things that blow up, like an educated, well-intentioned chemical Ali, but on harmless enough).

In any case, I get this updated LinkedIn notification that he now has a permanent job. It’s hourly, not salaried, but pays well, offers amazing benefits and is close by.

Here’s my own belief. Getting a job is like hitchhiking. Unless you put yourself out there, no one will even give you a first (or second) glance.

“What was the trick?” I asked my friend, who’d been commiserating with me about the dramas of an unemployed family member.

“He called an old boss,” she said, adding a ‘duh!’ for good measure.

It’s not the first strategy I’d think about using were I in that situation, but it made sense. Why not? Hiring failure rates run about 80% when a firm uses ads. Their employees (the hiring managers) would probably love to hear from former employees, assuming the field is one that allows for transition (e.g. retail to marketing, not attorney to doctor).

I thought about bosses, but I also considered former clients. (heaven forbid I need to go out and get a real job sometime in the future). With nothing better to do, (for I am still bed-bound), I searched my contact database for names of former clients. Specifically, individuals who had left the ‘client’ company and were now working elsewhere. Turns out I have nice relationships with folks inside Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, and a slew of other companies that may be interesting to me at some point. That was good news to me. I can at least reach out and say hello (which I did by the way, just to make sure my name still rings a bell).

At least twice a week, I will get a resume or inquiry from someone looking for a helping hand. Here are a few of my suggestions. Try reaching out to:

  • School community-parents, teachers. Soccer moms or yore are now the PTA, art docents, you name it wonderpeople (for both men and women volunteer). Schools and orgs have after-school programs that need paid helpers. These folks also have partners/spouses who work and may know of an opening.
  • Church employment. Quite a few churches have strong employment arms, and the LDS church is one of them. The job openings list can be found by city/state and is a fantastic resources. If you don’t belong to the church, I bet you know someone who is. As your member friend to look on the ‘job postings’ site.
  • Neighbors. These people may not be your best friends, or friends at all. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t help if given the chance. If you are a loved-one is unemployed, what’s to lose? Go tell them what’s up, the skill set and if they know of any opportunities. Said humbly yet fervently and a bit of passionate zing, it might be a kickstart of grand proportions.
  • Service providers. Don’t laugh. I’m talking the garage repairman, the painter, the plumber, the car technician, the clerk you see a thousand times at the grocery story—all of these people know at least 50-100 people. That has to include someone in some industry that you care about. (I’m making the grand assumption that you are a) nice to all these people so b) they would want to help you).

From Pie sales to Big Sales

A good friend of mine Kristin, is now a successful sales professional but for about five years prior ot working outside the home she made and sold pies. Beyond making a few hundred bucks every week, she created a fabulous reputation for kindness and having can-do attitude for a dozens of business owners and professionals who wanted to give a pie to a new client, take to a party, or what have you. When Kristen’s daughter entered full-time school, the first thing Kristen did was tap into her network of “pie buyers,” as she called them. Within a week she had four interviews and two weeks later, had her first job in sales. Granted, it took her five years to move from inside sales (phone calls) to outside sales, but now she makes nearly $75,000 a year and has a great life. All because she tapped into her network.Today, she estimates half her business is referral, and the other half folks that she just starts talking to in line at Starbucks, or wherever else she finds herself surrounded by people. To her “every person waiting in line is a potential customer or new contact.” That new contact is a stranger in the beginning, but falls in to a category above.

As I’ve been typing, I’ve received an email imploring me to help a relatively new acquaintance get more contract work. Better go answer that one right now.

Giving Second Chances

“You’ve known this guy five years longer than I have, what am I supposed to do with him?” The question was heavy with irony. The famous movie producer asking me what to do about the very person who introduced us…a person I’ll call Joe.

“Tell me the rest,” I said, buying time. He described a person with erratic behavior- missing some meetings, inconsistent emails, forgetfulness.
“Symptoms of a bigger problem,” I concluded, diagnosing thesituation. “Have you asked him what’s going on?” The producer says “of course not- I wanted to call you first. You’ve known him a lot longer and maybe this is normal.” Uh, no. 
“People who are great for years and are consistent don’t just up and go crazy,” I told him. “Something is going on and I bet ten to one its his personal life. Kids. Marriage- I bet marriage.” Nothing screws up a working environment like a bad marriage.
“What do I do?” He asked- this from a man who had been through several, shall we say, contentious divorces.
“You take a business approach. Confront it head on, ask him what’s up, what you can do, and if its personal and getting ugly, you understand and will work with him, up to a point, and that point is if its hurting the business. He take a leave off the project, no bad feelings, but his responsibility is to not let it get that bad.”
Fast forward a week. The conversation between producer and Joe happened, and my gut was right on- marriage problems, and mid-divorce. It took an ugly turn and went on for 6 months. Joe took 2 breaks over the course if the  work, different lengths each time, but overall his efforts didn’t completely suffer. The producer owed this to the fact that it was all out in the open right up front, he was able to organize alternate resources if required.  As important, expectations were adjusted to a realistic level.
If you are a manager (or peer) observing a dramatic change in another’s attitude or habits, consider the direct approach, or bringing in someone how can (eg HR). If you are the person going through the drama, do yourself a favor and tell your manager before that person fires you for poor work. You have a lot more to gain and may find a sympathetic ear from an unlikely place. The majority of people have experienced breakup, and would rather keep a good worker and suffer through some short-term issues.

Increasing revenue through free PR- pitching your local papers

Under my guise of a legitimate business person, I still get random emails from complete strangers asking for advise and assistance. Since I’m more of a writer now than an executive for hire, I typically do things for free because…well, I can. So when I received an email from a middle-aged woman based in Atlanta, who was hired to be the marketing manager for an independent healthcare company, I figured, why not? The press release was awful, so I rewrote it for her, along the way, educating her on the what’s, why’s and wherefor’s of writing a good release.

About a month later, I was wondering what ever became of her effort, and sent her an email. Turns out she sent me a query on my suggestions for distribution, but I was traveling, and the email went to my junk folder. She was attempting local press only, and got one hit. In response to her question about– what can I do now? and if she had any hope for more attention, I gave her the following response. After I press send, I realized this was relevant information for anyone with a business and a desire for more press.

Remember two things:
1- the media is always hungry for stories. Sending a 2 sentence pitch to an editor happens every day.
2- pitching is very simple and relies on 3 basic elements- a case study (or proof point), a visual, and access

Here was my response to Winnie M.

“The interesting thing about local media as that they typically love to give local organizations play. However, it almost always needs to have a visual or a hook. That typically comes in the form of case studies. Simply stated, the case study is no more than a person who has had an experience that can be used by the media as an example of someone who has been personally affected in a positive way. This gives the media outlets what they need—evidence of use, pictures of the event/subject (which means credibility and visuals) as well as a reason to write about it. For instance, you have a new partnership announcement, which provides a service to many people. Were you already providing this service (without a formal partnership) and then, because of the success you enjoyed, you elected to make it formal? This would be the 10 second verbal voice mail left to the editor(s), then you offer up several individuals who benefited, and they can take their pic.

That is essentially how I made my first pitches to the Wall Street Journal and many others- but it needs a national stage at that level. You are local, so it’s even more relevant when you provide locally-based individuals.

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