Two Important Lessons about the Importance of Mentors and Helping Others

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In a departure from topics that are ‘all things marketing…’ Support

I’ve been thinking about the various jobs I’ve held throughout my working life and how I’ve landed where I have. I’ve enjoyed a very successful career, and it’s because I’ve had help along the way. Yes, I’ve done much on my own, but I’ve had support, advice, recommendations and had access to open positions because of others who wanted to help me.

I am acquainted with a woman who was in a very senior role at AOL. I did not know her all that well while I was there. But I would reach out to her from time to time after leaving AOL for her advice and input on various topics. She ALWAYS responded to my emails with thoughtful, helpful advice and guidance. Not too long ago we met for dinner – at her suggestion. We got to talking about AOL and how we all now know people in many companies all over the country. It’s like we have an ‘in,’ no matter where we want to go. And she told me that whenever someone from AOL reaches out to her, she always responds. Even if she doesn’t know the person, she always tries to help.

Lesson 1 is a simple lesson that’s worth learning: it’s important to help others. Helping others is not only great for them, but it makes you feel pretty good too. It’s a win-win! Helping is easy and costs you nothing.

There are some people who I always list as references when I’m interviewing. Why? Because they want to help. They know me well from working with me in the past, and they are supportive. It’s important to know who you can count on in work (and personal!) life. And it’s equally important to be someone yourself who can be counted on.

Lesson 2 is: it’s equally important to know when to move away from those who aren’t helpful. We’ve all worked with people who do not care about helping others. Unless there’s a benefit to themselves, they aren’t interested. These aren’t necessarily bad people, but they are certain to be selfish and perhaps even a little manipulative, even if they don’t realize it. Spotting those folks, accepting who they are…and keeping your distance, is important.

As Mr. Rogers used to say: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

What’s all the Buzz about the Buzz Word: Innovation

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By Sue Brady

Brain Lately, every other article I read is about this ‘new’ concept of innovation. And of course it’s an important topic. Companies that don’t innovate grow stale and ultimately go out of business. Innovation is not a new concept. Light BulbGreat innovators are a part of the history of the world: Eli Whitney, Henry Ford, Hedy Lamarr, Charles Goodyear, Madam Curie, Steve Jobs. There’s no reason that the next big idea can’t come from you or from someone at your company.

How can companies get better at it? It takes the right environment. I’ve written about improv in the work place before (here). In improv, the actors are making up funny skits on the fly. The key to good, funny, successful improv is teamwork. It’s where the expression ‘yes and’ comes from. It means you always support your fellow actors. You build on their thoughts and ideas with a ‘yes and’ attitude. For instance, if a fellow actor points to the ground and says my feet are getting wet, his teammates don’t say ‘that’s impossible’ or ‘no they’re not.’ They say something like ‘yeah, it’s sinking faster than I thought it would.’

How does this relate to corporate life? Fairly easily. If you want to promote creativity, you need an environment where that kind of thinking is encouraged. And you do that by educating employees on what it means to act as a team, support the ideas of others, and expand on the ideas of others (yes, and…). No judgements allowed.

It sounds easy but in order to make it work, employees need to feel safe and free from ridicule. You need everyone to speak up. The next big idea might start as a seed from something someone says or suggests.

Here’s an example from AOL. Remember those annoying pop-ups? Why did AOL keep those? Bottom line is, they were profitable. Sometimes, as a user, you saw something you were really interested in buying. Not all of the time, but sometimes. And AOL figured out not just that an online store was a good idea, but that it could be better if it was ‘pushed’ out to users, rather than waiting for them to come to find it themselves. What an innovation! Did some people hate it? Yes, and that created an environment where innovators came up with ad free services, pop-up blockers, better targeting to ensure you did see ads you were interested in, and remarketing based on where you’d been searching online. See how that works?

Try it at work. Set up a brainstorming meeting to innovate the next thing to offer your customers. Keep the room free of judgment. Try some exercises where you teach the room how to be a ‘yes and’ participant. This link will open as a word doc and this article has some improv exercises as well. Embrace free thinking and don’t judge. You can evaluate the ideas later.

Learning how to use improv in a work setting will have long-term benefits that will show up as creative business innovations. Give it a try!

Make Me Care: The Power of the Story

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By Sue Brady

Stories

If I asked you to click on one of the three ‘first sentences’ below, which one would you choose?

“It was just a faint glimmer really, so faint that I wasn’t sure I’d actually seen anything unusual. Very slowly I started to push the door open.”

“The weather was perfect, we had a full picnic basket, and the children were happy. What could possibly go wrong?”

“After effectively running my first webinar, I decided to give SlideShare a try.”

I’m guessing your choice would not be the third option. Why? Because everyone loves to read a good story. If it’s interesting/engaging/compelling, people will read it.

But sometimes, you might say, it’s hard to tell a story when I’m just trying to sell a widget. And that’s where you’d be wrong. Let’s say I had to sell Internet service (something I did for several years!). I could take this approach:

“Internet Service XYZ lets you connect to the Internet and enjoy faster upload and download speeds. Our unique service uses nano-technology to allow you to stay connected while enjoying the fastest speeds available. You can look at pictures, connect with your friends and shop online from the privacy of your home! We’ll even provide you with 5 email addresses and 10 gigabytes of storage.”

Or, I could use this one: “Sally Jones won the science fair contest four years in a row. She showed how photosynthesis worked, studied the impact to plants of clay in the soil, evaluated projectile speed as related to the arc of a trebuchet and studied the effect of salt on wood. When Sally grew up, she created a line of children’s science games. As a 100% online business, her Internet connection was her lifeline and eventually helped her earn her first million dollars. We are so proud that xyz company played a part in Sally’s success. How did we help? …”

See what I did there? Rather than telling you about what my product does, I showed you what it does by relating a story that showed how it’s used.

As a marketer, it’s your job to tell your story. As with all content marketing, the trick is to make it interesting, relevant to your audience, and engaging. Tweet that! You want them to read what you’ve written, and perhaps come back for more as they proceed through their buying cycle.

Gini Dietrich, founder of her own communications firm and author of the SpinSucks blog, is really good at storytelling and provides some great tips on how to write a great story here. She talks about the five essential parts of a good story: Passion, the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the Revelation, the Transformation. She explains how you can tie those pieces together to create your own brand’s story. It’s a great guide for you as you try to start writing stories your audience will want to read.

You can find many other lists on the Internet of the components that make a good story. The good news is, they’re all similar:

  • Know what you want to convey
  • Use your own experiences (or that of your customers)
  • Have a problem
  • Have a hero
  • Resolve the problem

Famous filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Toy Story) did a Ted Talk on storytelling a couple of years ago. One of his key takeaways was the importance of “making me care.” If your audience doesn’t care, they won’t listen to your story. Set aside 20 minutes and give this a watch. And then I challenge you to tell a story for your next marketing campaign.

It was a dark and stormy night…

More stories!

Happy 1-Year Blog Anniversary to Me!

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By Sue Brady

birthday-border-edges

It’s been exactly one year since I posted my first article to this blog. It’s taken me down many paths and I’ve met some really cool people as a result. For my anniversary post, I thought I’d call out some of my ‘most read’ posts for your enjoyment…just in case you missed them. Next week’s post will return to the Social Advertising 101 series (Parts 1 – Facebook and 2 – Twitter can be found here).

Maybe it should come as no surprise that not all of the popular posts were marketing related. Enjoy the reads!

Creating Content: 6 Goldmines for Finding Relevant Topics

How to Setup Twitter, LInkedIn, and Facebook for your Business

Why Everyone Should Take Acting Classes

The Multi-touch, Multi-device Attribution Dilemma

How I Added Two Hours Back to my Day

Is Native Advertising the New Online Banner?

How to Handle an Internet Troll

You Are Losing Sales if you Don’t Buy Your Own Branded Terms

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Everyone Should Take Acting Classes

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By Sue Brady

ImprovI’m not talking about actors and actresses who act for a living. I’m talking about everyone else. Acting can help you be better in your job, no matter what that job is. Acting helps you feel comfortable in front of other people, helps you negotiate, and helps you to sell your big idea.  This applies to everyone: marketers, teachers, sales people, business people, athletes, police officers, lawyers. Any job that has to deal with other people can benefit from acting classes.

Here’s why I’ve reached this dramatic (ha!) conclusion. First, a story about my daughter, Julie. Julie did no acting in high school, but when she started college, stumbled into a couple of improv troupes. She was successful and funny. Improv is incredibly difficult. You have to be smart and have the ability to think on your feet. You have to learn how to work in a team, support your team and add to your team’s efforts (“yes and” is a mantra). Learning improv can make you more confident, a better public speaker, help you adapt, think on the spot and feel in control of every situation. Name one job where those skills wouldn’t be helpful!

Now Julie has an internship with the Kane County Cougars, a minor league team for the Cubs. Her ultimate goal is to become the Commissioner of Baseball. Last week after work, the Interns were matched against the Full-time Staff for a softball game. Julie was the manager for the Interns. It was all in the spirit of fun of course. After a controversial call against the Interns, Julie stormed the fielPlay ball!d, yelled a blue streak, threw her baseball cap down and was thrown out of the game by the ump. It was exactly what she wanted to have happen. Her team cheered and gave her a standing ovation. It charged them up. It was great acting…and they even let her come back! How many times have you watched a baseball game and seen the ball player ‘sell’ his tag, or the runner ‘sell’ beating the tag. In basketball and football too, the players often have to act to ‘sell’ the ref on the foul.

Think about the last time you were put in an awkward situation, or had to sell an idea. Acting skills would have been so useful! Earlier this summer, I was asked by the University of Illinois Engineering Department to present a teaching award to a professor. I had done this a few years ago, in a small room, with maybe 50 people. I was happy to be able to do it again. When I arrived, I realized that they had changed the format from a private ceremony to inclusion in the convocation. Rather than 50 professors, I was marched on stage with the department, and as a part of graduation, delivered my speech to 8,000+ people. I had to dig deep to remember those acting classes from high school so that I could wing a speech that was originally written for a handful of professors. Acting skills helped.

I have some presentations coming up in the next few months, and you better believe that I am dusting off those acting skills to engage my audience while speaking clearly and projecting my smilevoice.

 

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Convocation