UBC Day 02: Something you regret not having done last year.

So it’s officially day two of the blog challenge and here’s the second topic… writing about something that I regret not having done last year.

This one is a bit of a thinker as I declared that last year was going to be “my year”… and I felt it kinda was. I decided it was time to leave the Rogers’ mother ship and head back out into the world, and did. Last year I found balance and guess I can say that I regret not making the hard decisions earlier. Funny thing about regret though, it really gets you nowhere… and by living in the past mulling over missed opportunities and regrets we don’t allow ourselves to be open to future experiences. Last year, “my year”, I opened myself to new experiences and tried new things. One of those things was to join a local roller derby league and learn to referee. At the time I was too chicken to join as a player and once immersed I quickly realized that this was in fact what I wanted to do – I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines. But instead I continued to Ref as I wanted to honor my original commitment and am only this year training to be a player.

Regardless of what the commitment is, personal or professional, my word is my word. And in PR, your word is what can make or break your credibility. (See how I tied that back to PR?) In any position, but especially in the PR industry, credibility is the backbone of success. If you don’t have your credibility, you don’t have anything but regret. And regret we’ve already determined, is counterproductive. Life is about looking at every opportunity presented, determining if it’s right for you, right now. If it’s not, then move on.  Regret for missed opportunities comes down to fear. The opportunity was the right one and the timing was probably right too, but fear got in the way…

This is what happened with me and roller derby. I wanted to play, but was fearful. As I look back on my last year of reffing, keeping my commitment may have put me a bit behind in my derby ‘career’, but it did provide me with an advantage – I know how to play by the rules.

Ultimate Blog Challenge

One of the things that I struggle with blogging, is that I always feel what I post has to be insightful. But sometimes a girl just has to write – and make time to write everyday. So I’ve decided to challenge myself have signed up to do the Ultimate Blog Challenge for July.  The purpose… just to get me writing daily. And I’m already a day behind so you’re gonna get two posts from me today. I’m combining this challenge with a 30-day topic list to help get my creative juices flowing. My goal is to hopefully tie all these random topics back to PR. We’ll see how it goes…

Day 01: Something you’re looking forward to this year.

Well that’s easy! I’m looking forward to IBC2012, in September in Amsterdam. I’m excited to be heading to Amsterdam, a first for me, to meet the other half of our sales team. I’m looking forward to learning first-hand about our European market so that when I draft our communications plan, I’ll be better informed. I’m excited about the press conference that my team is organizing – it’s gonna rock! I’m just sayin’…

One of the things that I’m struck by every day is how much I look forward to going to work. HA! I can heard everyone scoff… Yeah everyone looooves going to work…. Well I do. I’m not saying that there aren’t days where I’d rather stay in bed, I’m saying that I like my job and kinda feel like I won the lottery. It’s an incredible journey and I see where my contributions make a difference.

So I guess with this ramble, I’m saying that I’m looking forward to the journey AND the destination.

When opportunity knocks will you answer?

If you’ve read my blog, you are aware that around this time last spring, I left a company where I had work for eight years. I wrote about the discovery of how small my comfort zone had become by staying in a role I could do, and most days did, with my eyes closed. When destiny introduced me to its close cousin, opportunity, I was excited yet nervous thanks to that shrunken comfort zone. (The devil you know… and all that.)  Regardless, I pushed through my fears and decided I’d take all opportunities that destiny brought my way. So as you know, I accepted the new job and started volunteering my time with some professional organizations. Well it’s been almost a year and destiny is not finished with me yet.

In February, opportunity came knocking again and this time my comfort zone was ready to charge forward. While I had only been in my job for nine months,  leaving was the right thing for me to do. With the benefit of hindsight I now realize that this job served a very specific purpose – to get me back on my feet. I met some amazing people and developed relationships that I will carry with me forever. But a friend of mine described it best: it was the fling you have after getting out of a long term relationship. The fling that helps you get back in the game.

Accepting my new job has not only allowed me the opportunity for continued career growth, but I found something that I didn’t realize I was even missing – a sense of belonging. Discovering this led me to another thing – happiness. It’s funny how things often come full circle in order for you to find your happy.

Everyone has at least one job that they look back on fondly. For me, this was while I was working at a local community television station. It was not without its headaches, believe me it was stressful and we busted out butts, but it’s the job where I formed lasting friendships. When we talk about that time, we describe it as magic. It was the perfect combination of the right people working together at the right time. It was like going through military basic training. We worked hard and played harder. They had my back and I had theirs and we are forever bonded.

I never realized how much I missed that feeling until I started my new job. This is where the full circle thing comes in. I am now working for a company that develops and makes equipment for television stations. My colleagues are a mix of former television broadcasting professionals and creative types. I’ve been there for only a month and I can already feel that magic. I’m home.

Take the Leap!

Yesterday, as everyone is aware, was leap day. To me leap, day is a gift. It’s a day to do something new. After all, it does happen only once every four years so why not make the most of it!

So to make the most of my extra day, I attended Take the Leap!, a communications forum held in Ottawa that I helped organize with a small, but amazing, group of fellow communicators. It was an awesome day filled with learning, networking and presentations from creative and inspiring professionals. I want to share with you my top ten takeaways from the day:

1. Our day started off with our Keynote speaker, Franklin Holtforster sharing his favorite quote by Will Rogers: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” This is true of anything, but especially for professional communicators. We can not afford to rest on our laurels. Things change too quickly.

2. Twitter, and any social media for that matter, is part of any good campaign, but it is not the campaign alone. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the ‘cool factor’ of social media, that we discount the importance of using all avenues to get our message out.

3. Regardless of the medium you choose to communicate your message – content matters! Always has, always will. If you do not have any value to add, refrain.

4. When using social media to communicate, check your facts before sharing! Just because we can share something with the world instantaneously, doesn’t absolve us from taking a moment to ensure our message is accurate or else we’ll spend more time backtracking and cleaning up a mess.

5. People may forget, but the Internet never does.

6. To know what your brand is, you also need to know what it is not. Take the time to develop your brand and define your audience. This will save you time and money in the end!

7. Once you have defined your brand, you need to be consistent in how your message is delivered – regardless of the medium.

8. Developing a 30 second elevator pitch is essential. AND harder than you think!

9. When pitching to reporters… see what they are tweeting about first.

10. Despite social media playing a bigger part in our interactions, face-to-face relationships still matter. Face-to-face meetings will never be replaced by chats, tweets or Facebook messages. Social media is an great way to connect and maintain touch points, but in the end it shouldn’t replace human contact.

So friends, these are my top ten takeaways from Take the Leap! I hope you find them helpful.

For Love or Money?

A friend of mine was telling me how she was offered a job in her area of expertise what would be her “dream job” but decided to turn it down because it paid significantly less than her current position. Which got me thinking… What’s the price on happiness? Do you have one? Do I have one?

Opportunity and fate are funny things. Sometimes they come in packages that are not presented in the prettiest wrapper so we decide they are of little or no value. We call it our “gut feeling”. In the case of my friend, who shall remain nameless, she though it would be taking a step back. It was obvious that she’d be taking a financial step backwards, but was it really a step back in her career path? What about job satisfaction? How important is to love what you do? I guess this goes back to an earlier post of mine: Do you work to live or live to work? Gut feelings are tough because sometimes it’s hard to distinguish it from fear.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand where she is coming from. I’m sure we all do. We need money to live and once we’ve become accustom to a lifestyle that we like, it’s hard to let that go. I’m sure that about 80% of the people in this world are not “living their dream” because more often than not, the dream pays crapola.  I’d love to be the person who plays with the dogs all day at PetSmart’s doggie daycare… but not for minimum wage. 

Why does it have to be one or the other? What can’t we eat our cake AND have the cash to pay for it too?

Do you have a plan?

We just finished our business planning here at work which outlines our corporate goals and priorities for 2012. This got me thinking about personal goal planning. I’m not referring to the New Years’ resolution style of promises we make to ourselves that are broken within a month – but rather real planning and goal setting. Where do I want to be in three years? Where do I want to be in a year? What do I want to achieve? And more importantly, what am I going to do to get there?

There are two camps on this one: the planners and the go-with-the-flow crowd. Which are you? Myself, I’m a planner. Whether it’s personal or professional, I’m a firm believer in “The Plan.” From setting a goal to learn the violin (still working on it!); planning my next vacation (helllloooo Peru!); planning my career path or even what I’ll be doing next month – I like to plan. Those who know me can attest that I’m not the type the person to sit around waiting for a scrap of opportunity to be thrown my way before I take action. In fact, the-go-with-the-flow crowd makes it easier for us planners to attain our goals faster because there’s less competition!

But don’t mistake my having a plan to mean that I’m not flexible. The best plans are always fluid, changing and evolving along the way. Much like with corporate planning, it’s good to do a check in with yourself to ensure you are still on the track you want to be on.  I often ask myself: What have I done today/this week/this month to get me closer to my goals? Are these still my goals?

The Dali Lama famously said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He was speaking on a global scale, but this can be applied in your own life as well. Be the change in YOUR world. Make opportunity happen… Good things don’t always come to those who wait.

A Royal Affair

I once again had the pleasure of taking pictures at The Royal’s Leaders For Mental Health breakfast on Tuesday morning. If you haven’t had the opportunity to become a part of The Royal Ottawa Hospital’s events, you are missing out. This breakfast, and their annual Inspiration Awards, celebrate individuals who have overcome challenges in their lives due to their mental health. After photographing these events for the past four years, they continue to be the bar that I hold all others to. I always leave ignited with the passion to make a difference…

It’s 7:30am. There are 600 people in the room. Six hundred people completely silent; listening as 15-year-old Sam Fisher talks about why he tried to kill himself. His father, Ian tells these 600 strangers about his own brother who successfully did just that at the age of 20 in the mid-70s, and his emotions, thoughts and actions the day he raced to save his son. Suicide is rarely talked about. In fact, Ian says, his parents referred to his brother’s suicide as “the accident” right up to their own deaths. People didn’t talk about suicide, depression or metal health back then. Most people still don’t today. By realizing that he had “done something stupid”, as he describe it, Sam decided to live and called his parents for help. They’ve been given a second chance. Some families are not so lucky. So now the Fishers’ talk about it.

I’m reminded inappropriately of a joke about mental health: Statistics show that 1 out of 5 people are crazy. Look at your four closest friends, if it’s not them, it’s probably you. Joking aside, chances are we all know someone who suffers from some form of mental illness. You may not even know it. If you see someone struggling – help. If you’re struggling, ask for help.

Silence kills. So speak out about mental health – loudly.

You know who I am…. Are you with me?

Random Thought No.1

The other day I was sitting in a meeting, and glanced out the window to see my company’s President pruning one of our trees and chatting it up with the UPS guy. And I’m not talking about pulling off a dead leaf here and there while chatting, but rather garden gloves on, pruning shears in hand. This struck me as funny and I thought: doesn’t this guy have more important things to do?

As I gave it more thought it dawned on me – this guy leads by example. He will trim the tree because it needs it, and he’ll shovel the snow from our walkway because it has to be done. Is it his job – no. Technically it isn’t really anyone’s “job” at the company. It just needs to get done and if everyone had that mentality, imagine what would be accomplished!

I’d best describe our corporate president as a leader and entrepreneur. To better explain, let me explain… To me, leaders are people who inspire others through their actions and energy. Hence the well-used phrase “leads by example.” And entrepreneurs, well, they are people who just get sh*t done. They see a need or an opportunity and they go for it. Whether it’s recognizing a market for a new product or noticing a way to offer something better, entrepreneurs have the idea spark, AND the follow through to make the idea a reality. As I said, they’re awesome at getting sh*t done!  

We hear those buzz words a lot: ‘leadership’ and ‘entrepreneur.’ There are enough books on those subjects to fill an entire bookstore! Recruitment ads call for candidates with leadership skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. What does that mean to you?

Personally, I’ve never been much of a follower; but does that make me a leader? I can’t really say. I do however consider myself full of ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. I said full of ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, not full of crap as those near and dear to me may quip!  I’m always looking for the next spark – you know, that great idea leaves you riding the high for weeks because you are so amped up!  I love brainstorming new ideas and solutions. I love the wow factor. But then I’m a communicator and a promo gal at heart! And sadly I’m not as unique as I’d like others to believe. Communicators are always looking for new and creative ways to get their message out there and have it stand out. We crave the spark because if we don’t innovate, we become obsolete.

Food for thought.

Is self-promotion bragging?

Every communicator self promotes. It’s how we get our personal message / brand out there.  But self-promotion isn’t an instinctive behavior. It’s an art form that is cultivated through trial and error. Self-promotion is an important skill to master, because no one likes a braggart.

As children forming into adults, we are taught to be bold, strong and ambitious. We are told to chase our dreams and celebrate our successes. But at the same time we are expected to also be humble, show humility and most importantly not to brag. In this digital age of self-promotion and personal branding; of websites and tweets,  how much is too much? When does self-promotion cross over the line into bragging?

While this is far from a new topic, to me HOW the message is delivered can determine whether it will be received as self-promotion or bragging.  Because in the end, it’s the same message, “I did bla, bla, bla.”  Verbally it can be as simple as how/what words are emphasized. When discussing a recent accomplishment, if the emphasis is always in the “I“, then you’re stepping into bragging territory. “I did this. Or I did that.” Me, me, me.  Bla, bla, bla, I’m so great.

How self-promoting can remain as such can be as easily as mentioning an accomplishment and explaining why it’s a big thing for you. Make it more personal and in my opinion, you’ll look less arrogant. “I’m really proud of the recent project I did because…”  Hey! While we’re at it, here’s a great idea: take an interest in the people you are talking to! Ask them about what they are doing and LISTEN when they reply. Having a great conversation with someone will leave a lasting good impression. If you’re talking AT me and not to me, I’ll remember you alright…

Online self-promotion is tricky because it always begins as a one-sided conversation. You’re putting yourself out there, trying to stand out among the masses. You’re broadcasting your message, initiating interactions and discussions, so by all means toot your own horn now and again to share your successes. But make sure you join the conversation. Take the time to develop relationships, provide insight and opinions. Let your personality shine. If you take the time to be part of the conversation, I will quickly learn on my own how great you are – AND I’ll TELL OTHERS.