Archive - August, 2011

She’s a communications manager! Now what?

Today a friend contacted me with great news.  She was recently hired as a communications manager for an event center.  She has reinventing herself. So at the outset of this she asked what advice I could offer as she ventures out into this new space.

Not wanting to overwhelm, I decided to keep the first steps really simple.  So I shared these three principles: Listen first, engage, and most of all promote others.  Yes,  it is much more complex than that.  What I see too often is communications made too complex.   So here is how I broke those three down for her.

Listen:  Gather all the interested parties that exist in your business world (customers, collaborator/partners, vendors, champions, friends and colleagues. Never discount anyone as the contact database and scope is developed.  It is hard to gauge who will be a valuable contact. Sometimes the most unlikely ones will be the best.  Hangout where the community gathers, both on and off line.  Really learn about the community before you jump in.  Use tools like Rapportive to gather all the outposts they use.

Engage: Once you have a feel for the community, begin to engage and add value. Be sincere and open.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Some things will work and other won’t.  Only trying will tell.  Don’t assume that a tool like twitter is the one to use.  Fill the toolbox with what the community already uses.  Most of all give them a place to gather; preferably your home base (like a blog) where the attention gained can easily be guided to the things you want to offer.

Promote Others: Luckily this principle is a staple in the event business.  Other than just being a good practice because it is the right thing to do, you will become known for someone of value, someone to be connected to.

Please add more since this is an ongoing conversation.  I am so excited to see where she goes with it.

Where are you headed?

Where are you going next?

I want to know whether it is a conference you are attending, a keynote you are giving or simply the coffee shop you plan to visit today.  Checkin tools like Foursquare, Gowalla* and Google Places  (and yes Facebook) are great for telling others where we currently are (here is another post on why I use checkin tools). But how much better is it if our connections can know in advance where we are going.  I have used Tripit for a while to announce major trips I am embarking on.  This past week I started thinking of creative ways to make this more of a habit.  A few people have been doing this well on their sites with published calendars like Mary Demuth’s  speaking schedule and Peter Shankman’s public Google calendar.  I saw Gary Vanerchuck this week posted his calendar publicly through PlancastForecast* launched their Foursquare App which allows you to now announce where you are headed and post the estimated time you will arrive there.  I have been using it for a week now and really like it.

Beyond meeting up with connections it is a great way to get the word out that you speak, promote your own events as well as alert others to places and events that might add value to their own future.

So how are you telling others where you will be?

*Sad but true, Gowalla & Forecast have officially shut down.

Chained Together

This week my wife Kristine was telling me how much she enjoyed the animated film Rio.  It was a cute love story, but I was curious why she liked it so much since she is not greatly fond of children’s movies.  Her response surprised me. “Because they were chained together.“  The two macaws, a female from the jungle and a pet from mini-soda, find themselves linked through all of the adventures with a chain placed on them by their captors. The chain forces them to coordinate walking, climbing and even flying.  They are opposites in every way and only grow in friendship (and eventual love) through trial and effort in aiding each other in survival.

We have been married for almost fifteen years.  We are very different. The chains that bind us are many, and the commitment we have for each other has created in us a similar bond.

Many relationships occur in a similar fashion as the two birds in “Rio”.  We are thrown together as co-workers, clients, or collaborators.  Events can link us.  Our very survival can depend on how we operate.  The outcome is usually surprising.  Is it the forced mutual sacrifice? Is it the fact that we have to slow down and think of someone else?  I find that some of the best connections and the best friends have not been people I have chosen, but the ones I have found myself chained to for a period of time.  And even if we choose relationships, as we do in a marriage, obligations, commitments, and even adversity can strengthen our friendship as we work to overcome them together.

On a similar topic, another post that might interest you is Accountability Partner or Trench Mate: Whatever you call them, you need them.

Dismissing Others

I hate seeing others dismissed. I find I do it more than I like myself. Often it results from a gap in understanding someone from a different generation group, profession or point of view. No matter the root, it is a quick way to disconnect ourselves from others. And just like any offense, it is easier to avoid wrongs than mend them later. I see a lot off dismissing, being in an industry that is just beginning to be recognized as both an art form and valid storytelling format. Video games are still seen by many as a waste of time even as they quickly gain ground over movies as the most popular form of entertainment.

Roger Ebert caught my attention in his review of Conan the Barbarian on Friday. In describing what he saw as the movie’s pointless nature, he quipped:

“The movie is a series of violent conflicts. People who despair of convincing me to play video games tell me, “Maybe if you could just watch someone else playing one!” I feel as if I now have.“

In one sentence he dismisses a majority of his readers as violence thirsty gamers. Out of curiosity I dug into his review of the original Conan staring Schwarzenegger. In that review he treats the “alienated preadolescent” audience targeted by the makers with respect. He notes the care the filmmakers took with Robert E. Howard’s original tale. Compared with the new review it seems to be that of an honest movie reviewer. Today he come across jaded and bitter. I agree with much of his current review but I fear he may lose many by isolating a whole demographic.

As I watched the crowd that same Friday at the OMSI Game On 2.0 video game history exhibit, I noticed that people of all ages were enjoying themselves. Grandparents were fully present with grandkids, forty something moms were happily playing old and new games with their sons and daughters. Several twenty something couples were there on dates.

Often there will be a temptation to dismiss someone I disagree with or don’t understand. Regardless, even if I honestly do fall on the opposite sides of an issue, I need to remember that the person is still worth my time and respect.

Is your box really that small?

Each of us has a sphere of influence and ability. We often limit possibilities, thinking we have this box we need to operate within. I recently read Seth Godin’s Poke the Box. I agree with his idea that we don’t want to think outside the box (as we have been told so often) when trying to create or design something. He says we need to poke the box, work the borders, and test the limits.

What happens if we realize our box is actually too small? What if we have lived with a skewed picture and the box is actually much bigger than we ever guessed or allowed ourselves to see.

What you are capable of is so much more than you have ever known. Nate Bagley shared this short film yesterday of Danny Macaskill doing his mind bending bicycle stunts. As he went about them in an old industrial park, I notice a pattern. First he inspects, then calculates, and last attempts the stunt. He is pushing and poking at his box. The difference is he really knows the limits to push. Do we?

Tackling it together

Why don’t we ask each other for help anymore? It wasn’t too long ago that barns were raised as a community, sheep were sheared as a group effort. When I was young we used to participate in the spring branding, immunizations and ear tagging for a friend’s cattle ranch. It was a time to get together, share experiences but most of all a way to get a huge job done in a short amount of time.

We seem to have lost both the ability to do things like this in our busy schedules. We still have large projects to tackle. It doesn’t even have to be big. It could be a simple favor. We rarely ask each other for help and we don’t offer either. Maybe it is a result of our individualistic tendencies in the US. In other countries people still rely on community. I think they have something figured out that we don’t. We can’t do it alone. I will go even further and say we are not meant to do life alone.

We are preparing to move to another town. In order to do that we need to sell our home and complete many projects to do so. My wife and I realized that we just can’t get it all done with out help. Over the past week we have had a handful of friends volunteer. We ended up getting jobs done that I expected to take weeks to finish. One of the best parts I have enjoying in receiving help is the uninterrupted time to visit and connect. I can’t think of the last time I spent an entire weekend with my friend Steve who helped power-wash and paint.

So let us put away our pride. Stop thinking and ask others to help you accomplish a task. Notice projects others are overwhelmed by and lend a hand. Better yet grab some friends and accomplish it together. After all, we not meant to do life alone.

Choose Wisely Mr. Cameron

Yesterday Britain’s Prime Minister announced that he has asked security forces to consider a way to limit the public’s use of social media sites as a way to curb or prevent rioting, looting and other thuggery. As soon as I heard this news I was at first shocked that a member country of the free world would even consider such a move. Yes, communication tools have been used to spawn horrible acts in the past, probably the worst in current history was the use of the media, both print and radio, to spread the Hutu’s message of ethnic cleansing across Rwanda in 1994.
Today with connectedness having become far reaching with tools like Twitter, Facebook and now Google Plus, we do have a greater responsibility in measuring the impact of our words and messages. But to go as far as limiting communication, in my opinion, turns what is a small event compared to genocide into a mark on the freedoms of the British people that will not be easily forgotten. Worse yet I think it shows a lack of understanding what social media really offers. For decades the media has been carefully controlled and even scripted by politicians and governments to execute policy-driven messages. The White house and Downing Street has for decades been very careful to share and suggest what images they wish the media to use and what sound bytes or speeches they wish to be publicized. The journalists that adhere to this policy are the ones given special access or first knowledge of breaking news. The ones that violate it quickly learn to adjust. (read more on how policy is shaped and controlled through the media. This article was written in 2005 and does not include the greater changes since the growth of social media). With new media though, there is no control over what is said. Large media companies no longer have the podium they used to have over blogs, celebrities and others that have risen in popularity. Events are reported as they happen through open channels of communication.

Before Mr. Cameron decides to give social media a heavy hand to curb thuggery, I hope he considers the true power he holds. Just as King George VI used the radio to calm his realm and prepare them for the battle that was before the nation, Prime Minister Cameron can choose to use the powerful reach given him just as it is given to every citizen he is considering silencing. I hope he chooses wisely.


The first thing I read this morning was “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 10:8 NIV). Then I went to Facebook and read a quote posted by my friend David Schroeder, “Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.”-Mark Twain. So, I decided to take pause and reserve all the things I had to say…. and say them another day.

LinkedIn got it right

It takes a lot to catch my attention through email. LinkedIn did it this week, and they did it well. They did a brilliant job in perking my interest in both my closest connections and their recent stories. As a professional networking site, most of us see it as an interactive resume. Users barely log in more than once a week or even once a month. On Wednesday I got a message that displayed a shot of several of my closest connections that have either changed jobs, started something new, or were promoted. During a time when bad news seems to be everywhere, LinkedIn got my attention by showing me something remarkably hopeful. Not stopping there, they made sure somehow that most of these people are more than just business connections. Each face in the picture comes with a great story.

I have posted recently on friends seeking jobs. I have created a twitter list honoring those who have left mediocre jobs to venture out into something new. I love stories about linchpins changing the world. Linkedin tapped right into that for me, and they even got me to click through “to find out more”.

The hard things that count

Recently three types of events have been more frequent than I like within my community: funerals, layoffs, and health issues. These are all issues our friends experience, and our response is critical. When I was younger, I avoided conversations with someone struggling or grieving. I felt helpless. However, as I mature, these events become more common in my circle of friends. So something has changed for me in the last decade. I feel more comfortable with …..the uncomfortable. I know the person in the difficult situation benefits when I navigate situations like these with discernment and sensitivity. Some are seeking a listening ear. Others are hoping for advice to move forward. Sometimes they just want someone around. Really it can be as simple as knowing someone actually cares. A packed room at a funeral shows the family and friends left behind that their loved one mattered to the tribe. Layoffs become an opportunity rather than bad news. Injuries and aging are easier to handle when we know we are not alone. These can only happen if we are intentional. When we resist avoidance and engage with someone who is hurting, we lighten his or her grief.

For more on a similar topic, listening well, see my Three Part Series on Listening.

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