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Your Startup Is Bigger Than You

After interviewing high level business pioneers and making headway on their book, here’s a big take-away: Most people have heard the phrase, “Know your *WHY* ” But what does it really mean and how do you apply it for sustainable success?

strategy

A little history lesson in product/service development and sales: Most young entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that their innovative product is king. Wrong. Others think it’s about the content–make sure your marketing and branding strategies are on-point, and you can fill the box with just about anything. Wrong. Oh, you might find a limited amount of profit and success that way, but you’ll also find it fizzling out, and you’ll need to scramble to find the next big thing to saty in the game, virtually starting over from scratch. That’s not sustainability. That’s grit (which is a great quality, but it’s not sustainability).

Instead, “Know your *WHY*” dictates that you understand what you want your product or service to do, and you get committed to that outcome. For instance, your *WHY* may be that you want to help people come together and connect at a table together, share stories and build relationships, because people are feeling alone and disconnected. That’s your *WHY* To answer that, you might productize bottles of wine for people to share together, but what your selling is a social tool meant to provide a shared experience more than a mere product or service.

Also, to really be sustainable, your *WHY* can’t just be about something that’s meaningful to you in a vacuum. It needs to be responsive to or reflective of a cultural need. In this case, data show that people want to put money in experiences and they crave connection. So, your *WHY* of wanting to help people come together and connect at a table, share stories and build relationships answers the cultural need for interpersonal connection and shared experiences.

Now, here’s the thing, because your focus is on your *WHY* and not the singular product (e.g. wine), when you expand or scale and decide to add new products/services to your offerings, they needn’t be more wine. They merely have to be reflective of your *WHY* So, a social club, exotic tours and retreats, books designed for book clubs and other groups, film festivals and other events, etc. all can be positioned to answer your *WHY* keeping you relevant even if drinking wine goes out of style (Although, I dare not think of such a travesty!).

#startup #whystatement #scale #strategicplanning #thinkbig #business #entrepreneur #legacycompany

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

THE HAZARDS OF THINKING TOO SMALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

(aka: the selfish monologue in business = short term)

Philosophically, our only true ability in life is to generalize from oneself. The only true perception we will ever have is our own, even when we empathize or “see through another lens” it’s still our interpretation of it. So, self is always in play no matter how hard we may try to remove ourselves. That’s not a bad thing, but it can get complicated when you’re establishing a company.

Portrait of smiling businesswomanYou need to know your *WHY* but whether you consider that to be personal or universal will greatly affect the scale and ultimate sustainability of your business.

At first a company is but a seed, a beautiful idea. Then, we nurture it into existence. We feed it, water it, love it, even struggle with it, then it blooms! Still, we think of it as our own, but is that the best view for the long-term health of pure creation?

Maybe you grew an orchid — a boutique hybrid that is gorgeous and exclusive and very personal. That’s wonderful! But it’s not very SUSTAINABLE. It has a targeted quick lifespan that will be enjoyed by a very limited number of people who will get to experience it. Which is great if that’s the goal.

Perhaps, on the other hand, you’re growing a magestic cherry tree. Ahhh, that’s very different. Many entities have contributed to this successful incarnation and will soon come to rely on its existence. Sure, you planted the seed, maybe even started it in a small pot to keep it safe in its formative time, but soon it will be a critical part of a living ecosystem on the planet. Earthworms, bugs, microorganisms, squirrels, birds, owls, bats, raccoons, snakes, etc. will one day rely on its shelter, stature, fruit and other forms of its biology. Decay, sunlight, rain and dew will all contribute to it’s growth, though you may still contribute, keep it printed and healthy, it’s grown much larger than you. Frankly, it can even live without you, and that’s good. That was the point!

Using the analogy of growing these “plants” from seeds into maturity are similar in business. If you intend to stay small, as a rare flowing plant, enjoyed by an elite few, you’re allowed to be selfish with its mission — you’ll do no harm to it, and long-term sustainability that benefits many isn’t it’s goal. You’ll likely achieve success, then you’ll move on to your *next*

But, if you intend to build an empire or at least a mid-sized corporation that will be able to thrive, maybe as your legacy, long after you’re gone, you need a mission that isn’t about you but is all about the culture and ecosystem your establishing and sustaining. This is your *WHY* and it’s far bigger than *you*

You also need to ensure that this large sustainable *WHY* is something embraced by everyone and everything in your culture, from your workforce and investors to your customers and fans. The moment you think your *WHY* in this larger game is anything about you, you know you’re playing too small and threatening sustainability. Because if you think this majestic cherry tree is here to give you joy and shade, you’re not addressing the more important needs of the many contributing to it and relying on it. You’ll strangle it’s growth and prevent it from fulfilling its fullest potential for the greater good.

A small business can afford a selfish monologue for its *WHY* because its goal isn’t long-term sustainability for the masses. A larger company, intended for long-term sustainability, needs a more universal, cultural, ecosystem-oriented *WHY* to thrive and grow at the scale that is most suited to it.

#branding #scale #sustainability #corporation #mission #yourwhystatement #brandstory #startup

The Professional Introduction – 7 Tips (to not be creepy)

Here’s the scene: you want to meet someone—a very important someone who can do important things for your career—but you’re not sure how to get to them… to meet them, to contact them… Then, you come across an individual who can help. She knows that someone, and she can introduce you to that someone, and she is willing to make the introduction for you. SWEET!spock

Let’s be clear, though, she is not recommending you—you both just met for goodness sake. She is not going to coach you, mentor you or be your best friend. She is merely offering to help you make the first contact with someone who can benefit you.

Okay, so she gives you this important someone’s contact information, and while doing so, she tells you a little bit about the important someone: why she is making the introduction, why that someone is as important as she seems, ways that you can benefit that someone and thereby develop a mutually beneficial relationship…

Here are some tips for YOU as you go about the professional introduction process:

  1. Pay attention to details: before you meet the important someone, pay attention to the details you are being offered about that person
    • How do they like to be contacted: phone, email, short get-to-the-point messages or long flowery flattering prose, etc.
    • Why is the person making the introduction bothering: why do they think the very important someone is so important (this is key to earn brownie points with both people—mention this specifically), how will the important someone possibly benefit from the introduction, what can YOU expect from the introduction, etc.
  2. Always have the end and the important someone’s best interests in mind. In other words, know what YOU want and anticipate the needs of the important someone, and when introducing yourself, mention how you intend to meet their needs and go for the ask—what you are offering to do and why (by the way—don’t bother mentioning much about what you need or why—frankly, no one cares much beyond mere curiosity)
  3. Highlight your skills and what specifically you are offering: if it’s obvious that you’re just in it for what you can gain, expect to receive a polite brush-off
  4. Do not expect the person who made the introduction to care one way or another if you got what you needed out of the introduction—they have two concerns: a) did they make a mistake in introducing you to this important someone and b) will any of their needs be met because they made the introduction. YOU don’t matter.
  5. If the introduction goes well, you contacted the important someone properly: you were polite, kept your message short and simple, highlighting the benefits of your offer along with why you are the right person to provide whatever it is… were specific in what you wanted and how this will benefit the important someone, GREAT WORK! Even if you don’t get exactly what you want, you were successful in your introduction, and the important someone will very likely remember that
  6. If you screw up the introduction: get verbose, overly familiar, lack clarity in what you want and how it will benefit the important someone, and at worse come across as insulting and uninformed about the important someone… I have some good news for you: you can only improve form here! It’s not likely you’ll do worse the next time.
  7. The worst kind of introduction is not bothering. Go ahead and make the mistakes if you must, and if things don’t seem to go your way, seek out advice. You may have blown your chances with both the very important someone and the person who bothered to introduce you, but that doesn’t mean you’ve blown your chances with the world. Professionals are very often willing to give advice, coach and mentor—you can even hire a professional coach to help you fine-tune your skills. It does matter.

Report Writing — 7 Tips

How to write an outstanding report — 7 tips — (Business not academic)

1) Know your audience(s)– if your report will only be seen by industry pros, do use appropriate industry-specific jargon. This will ensure clarity amongminorityreport your peers and a level of comfort and credibility will be bestowed to you because you are speaking the same language. However, if this is going out to other audiences who may be unfamiliar with your industry jargon (e.g. B2C marketing, stockholders/investors, etc.), kill the jargon and just tell the story.

2) Visuals are important– use charts, graphs and other descriptive images, but do make certain that these images directly correlate to the text, and make sure that the text you are referencing is nearby in the layout. Do not use images in place of text.

3) Words are part of your layout and design– love the text as much as the pretty pictures. Remember that visual balance is important, so don’t leave a lonely word hanging on one line or just a few sentences lingering on the final page. Make certain your text looks as good as it reads. Edit… which brings us to the next point…

4) Editing– I recommend putting everything including the kitchen sink into your first draft. That way, everything you might possibly need is there. You won’t have to look for it later when you decide that a particular piece of data or quote or whatever would be the greatest thing right now. Edit for content first, eloquence second, grammar and punctuation third and then the ever-present character count if needed. Subtract, tighten, refine, polish and delete your way to the final draft.

5) Organization and flow– Put first things first. It’s helpful, though not always necessary, to create an outline. If you’re having difficulty with organizing your report, ask yourself simple questions: What would I, as a reader, want to know first? Second, once I know that, what is the next question I want answered? Continue following this thought-pattern until all of your content for your report has been addressed.

6) Details count– added details will help your readers follow your content and add aesthetics to your report. These details might include a table of contents, text boxes that highlight quotes or facts/statistics, page numbers and references. If your report will be distributed and/or accessed electronically, consider providing an interactive table of contents and hyperlinks within texts and photos as appropriate.

7) Software– if you’re lucky, you can create the report in a professional Adobe InDesign or cloud program. However, many professionals are lucky if they even have an updated version of MS Word. It’s best if your end product is a PDF regardless of what software you used to create it. Not only will this elevate most problems with diverse software accessibility from your readers’ perspectives, but this also will help maintain the integrity of your content—not allowing it to be manipulated easily.

*BONUS– Have fun! Reports need not be stuffy. The most engaging, well-written and useful reports are generated by people who enjoy writing them. Use accurate data and statistics, collect accurate facts and quotes—this is most important. Next, enjoy the process of telling the story about the data, statistics, facts and quotes. The choice is yours—miserable people create miserable reports.

7 Tips for networking

7 tips for networking and building collaborative partners

1) Listen–spend less time pitching and more time asking meaningful questions and collecting answers
2) Remain open–even those whom may seem at first to be the most unlikely partners are the exact right person for your circle of influence. Try not to pre-judge.
3) Feel free to disagree–don’t shy away from people who may disagree with you…. While you don’t want to cultivate adversarial relationships, and manners and professionalism count for a lot, having opposing views in your circle can be brilliant to help challenge you and refine your practices
4) Come prepared with interesting questions–ask about mentors and role models, or who had the greatest influence on them as a child; ask about challenges overcome; ask about adventures they dream about or places they like to travel; ask if they have any great interest in arts, sciences or social causes…
5) Collect contact info–remember that your business card has one primary use, which is to serve as a conduit to collect the business cards of others. Take a moment to write a quick note on the backs of cards from people you find interesting to help you remember them and why you found them so interesting
6) Rod, reel and HOOK–if you’d like to cultivate a particular connection, have a reason to follow-up with them prepared so that they look forward to connecting with you in the future… information on an upcoming event, a project that may be of interest to them, an opportunity you are working to put together… anything
7) Smile–don’t forget that the most attractive thing about a person is confidence and personality. Of course showing up looking your best, well-groomed, polished and dressed appropriately helps considerably, too. However, even in an Armani suit, if you come across as being grumpy, shy or nervous… that behavior is loud and very, very difficult for others to overlook.
aliens

Best use of social media for business

A quick word on how to best use social media–folks, this is a powerful communication tool. It is NOT… I repeat… NOT a replacement for in-person relationships. Rather, social media is an enhancement to in-person relationships. It helps you stay in touch with people you’ve met in person or who have similar interests as you do. It helps you communicate with those individuals and the public at large (depending on your privacy settings) — to communicate who you are and what you are all about.

It helps you brand YOU, and you control the content. Let people know what matters to you, what you know, what your opinions are and even, if you want to share this — where you spend your time and show a bit of your sense of humor. It can, in some cases, lead to in-person introductions as well and real-time networking opportunities, events and causes. Too often I hear people that have a misconception that social media dehumanizes and disconnects real personal relationships. When used properly, I assure you, it can enhance relationships significantly–both personal and professional.

Networking

The Truth About Networking — How It’s Done

Just a quick word on networking, and I truly don’t mean to slam networking groups, but the most effective networking is done when you surround yourself with people who are passionate about similar causes, who are actively doing something in the community that matters to you, who are rocking a business or better still an industry that matters to you –these are your people. Find them. Also, the warm introduction of friends and colleagues who think you and this other massively awesome guy or woman might have a lot in common. Go hunt down your passion, get involved and interdependently cultivate a network that is meaningful to you and circle of influence… That’s networking!

networking-event

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