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A Day In The Life Of An Intern

adg-coffee

“We have a job for you of the utmost importance,” Derek said as he walked into the room. I can’t deny I was a little nervous at the sound of such a serious task, but the anxiety really kicked in once I saw Rachel and Erica follow him through the door. This must be a really big deal, right? Seconds later my anxiety was relieved when I discovered that this “job of the utmost importance” was a Starbucks run. In fact, I was filled with joy. I am a shamelessly self-proclaimed Starbucks addict. As such, it is no understatement to say that this would be the one job I felt most prepared for since arriving at Allison Development Group.

It may, however, come as surprise that this is the only coffee run I have made since my first day as intern (crazy, I know). This is far from the only surprise I have encountered since beginning my internship at ADG. In all honesty, my experience here so far has completely defied most of my expectations regarding typical internships. Here’s how:

I am actually asked to take part in the creative process and interact with clients.

After talking to my friends about their internship experiences, I was totally expecting my primary duties to consist of coffee runs and cleaning. Instead, on my first day at Allison Development Group, I was asked to join a conference call with a client and provide my feedback. I got to work one-on- one with Erica, asking questions and sharing my suggestions. Then, she answered all of my questions and allowed me to share some of my suggestions with the client. On my second day, she invited me attend a team meeting with another one of the firm’s clients. Most certainly not what I was expecting from my first few days at the office.

“There are no AP style police in the real world.”

To a journalism student from UNC, a statement like this may be considered sacrilege. What do you mean there is no one docking points for each oxford comma and every missed hyphen? In a more general sense, this statement is extremely representative of my transition from practicing skills in an educational setting to practicing them in the real world. It seems to me that the point of being forced to learn all of the seemingly irrelevant rules that consume journalistic writing is, ultimately, to break them. How much fun is that? As it turns out, some of the best work is a result of someone freeing themselves from the rigidity of rules, rules, and more rules. All I am saying is, don’t be so busy tripping over the oxford comma that you forget to be innovative.

The entire team actually WANTS my input.

This must be a mistake, right? What intern gets to share ideas with an entire group of professionals that are actually open to considering them? Sharing your suggestions can be such an intimidating thing (primarily due to a total lack of merit), but sharing them with the right group of people can make all the difference. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my ideas are probably pretty bad. But, one thing I’ve learned at ADG is that some of the best ideas can stem from the worst ones. It’s been really refreshing to work with a group of professionals that are open to hearing my ideas and helping me learn. You don’t need 10,000 degrees to follow your passion and do an incredible job. When I think about my future, I tend to limit my possibilities based on my course of study. I am a Political Science and Journalism double major. So, essentially, that means I can either work in politics, public relations, or public relations for politicians. That’s it. After getting to know Erica a little bit more, I found that she is actually a Political Science major who learned the trade of public relations through personal experience. So, to summarize, one of the most competent people I have ever seen in the world of public relations and crisis management majored in something completely different in college. She’s a natural, and she uses her abilities to propel her even further into a world that she already has great success in, no marketing, public relations, or journalism degree required. Talk about empowering.

Doing your best work and having fun can go hand in hand.

One of my favorite things about ADG is that they are fun, free, and laid-back. They managed to create a relaxed and creative environment while maintaining the atmosphere and efficiency associated with complete professionalism. Since getting here, many of my days have included eyeing Rachel’s adorable outfits, watching Kevin do a crossword and eat Co-op food on his lunch break, laughing at Diane’s jokes, listening to a story about Derek’s little kid, playing with Brittany’s dog, or getting coffee with Erica. I’ve learned an incredible amount since the beginning of my internship, but I have also had a ton of fun.

So, to everyone who always told me that I can’t have my cake and eat it too: I am an intern doing what I love, learning more than I could’ve imagined, and hanging out with the coolest team in town. I have my cake, and I’m eatin’ it.

Side note: This blog post is filled with oxford commas because I like them. Take that, AP style police.


Making my iPad Work for Me! 4 Must Have Tools

I know I’m fairly late to the game on this one, but I’m sure there are others out there who struggle with making their iPad the workhorse that their laptop really is. And yes, I’m a PC, more than I’m a Mac. Don’t get excited.

Not one to have a toy that really should be a business tool, I’ve been on a quest to make it right. I’m happy to say that I’ve found success. As I mentioned above, I KNOW I’m not alone here and I also know that I’m surrounded by really smart people who already make their iPad work for them, rather than the other way around. I’m counting on those smart folks to share their favorite tools, apps and tricks in the comments.

If you don’t want to watchthe video, here are my four must have tools:

1. Belkin Bluetooth Keyboard, with case.

2. Evernote.

3. Google Drive.

4. Office2 HD

(As you can see, I’ve not yet mastered blogging on my iPad. I will return and provide links when I’m not in a hurry!).

 

Your turn! What are your favorite tools to make your iPad business ready?


Going Beyond No to Have you thought about…?

I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve read in the past 24 hours outlining the importance of not hiring “yes men” or in my case, women. The posts continually point to the intrinsic value of having that outside marketing or PR pro who has the hutzpah to say no when the client is really looking for a yes. All good stuff, but come on. Let’s push a little further than that, shall we?

Beyond the No


Perspective: The Critical Business Skill We Need Most

Abstract Perspective Background
Have you ever been told that “you’ve lost all perspective?” Usually right after you’ve been slapped and told to “snap out of it!”?

Often, we need perspective the MOST when we have it the least. Whether it’s in the midst of a client crisis, a PR nightmare, or a personal situation, perspective is a rare commodity to have and often most difficult to obtain when you’re IN IT.

The Curious Case of Perspective Anemia

What I’ve witnessed and experienced lately is a self-imposed lack of perspective. You heard that right. We’re creating situations where we purposefully wall ourselves off to perspective. I see it in the online world of blogging and social media expertise. I see it in situations where so called “leaders in the community” convince those around them that their bad business practices are not abnormal, but rather quite the opposite and to be held up in esteem.

When the blogging and social media experts deem a practice the norm, like “you must blog x times a week, while commenting on a percentage of posts daily, sharing y amount of this type of post,” all while reading the latest social media eBook, it makes me crazy! You know why? Because they’ve walled themselves off to perspective and to the world around them. The folks who follow along are the ones laying the bricks. Together, they’re creating a weaker version of what we could be.

Lest you think this is a rant towards social media experts, it’s not. The same thing occurs in the off line, or “real” world. It’s natural, really. When faced with a difficult situation with an immense amount of public scrutiny or attention, the view of what’s real and what’s not can become skewed. I like to think it’s some sort of fight or flight reaction, but sadly, I’ve seen too often that it’s a creative way to redirect the light.  What follows is the recruitment of others to help shine the light elsewhere and off the real problem.  Perspective is lost and recreated in order to cover up or downplay the core issues.

A False Sense of Perspective

When you lose perspective, do you know it? I think it’s hard for many of us to know, but it usually comes in the form of confusion over next steps, doubt in our approaches and confrontation that previously didn’t exist.  How do you handle it?

For many of us, we seek out “support” from those that we know will offer sympathy and not a shot of real perspective a la a Moonstruck slap in the face.  Why? Because it feels better that way. It builds up our wall of warped perspective even more and makes us feel all cozy.  Unfortunately, it only hurts us in the long run.

Time and Switzerland

I’ve been in a few situations lately where only time could provide the much needed perspective to get me into a solid frame of mind. I’ve also witnessed a few situations lately where a good ol’ shot of honesty and outside objectivity is the cure for what ails us.

What I’ve decided to do from now on is to a) give it time and/or b) go to Switzerland.

With time, you’re able to truly gain valuable perspective because you grow and learn from it along the way. The trick is to recognize that you’re going to give yourself time and in the interim, just put your head down and move forward without further casualty.

Obviously, while nice in theory, I don’t advise physically going to Switzerland. What I do recommend is this: seek counsel from a truly neutral party not intimately tied to a situation and not likely to choose sides.

You know the kind…the one who won’t immediately sit down and join you in a ‘b!tch’ session about the other party or parties. Often, we seek out those who will reinforce our view of the world. What I want are those folks who make me question it.  What I want and need is someone who is objective and can dole out the tough love you need to ‘snap out of it’ and move on.

I find that giving a situation time works well in the real world, and that Switzerland should be visited more often in the online world. Seriously. Seek out a mentor not as engrossed in your online world and ask them what makes their business a success. I’ll bet you find some a ha moments in there.

The results of both approaches? Smarter, stronger leaders for smarter, stronger businesses.

Abstract image via Flickr.


My Love Affair with My Inbox & How to Fall in Love with Yours Again

email

Good grief! Is that hokey, or what? Unfortunately, friends, it’s true.

Up until the Thanksgiving break, I had issues with my inbox. Email was not my friend. In fact, it was a beast. Email and it’s nasty cousin, the newsletter a la “can I get your email address?” at check out, had taken over my inbox.

I think when I reached 3,000 +, I became immune to the tipping point theory. You know what I mean. There’s a point in which you’ve reached the peak…the too much point, and something has to give. I not only reached that point, I tumbled over it and down into a black hole of missed deadlines, misplaced messages, calendar malfunctions and duplication of efforts. I, and as a result, my team, were becoming a mess – like a hungry toddler on the verge of melt down in a crowded gift shop with aisles stuffed with breakables at Christmas. It wasn’t pretty.


The Small Business Owner’s Marketing Dilemma

The clock

Short on Time. Big on Ideas. Yep, that’s me. Full of ’em…ideas, that is.  Time? Precious little. This is the boat that many of us inhabit lately, especially small business owners tasked with their own marketing or branding of their business.  My solution?  Don’t do what I do; do as I say! 🙂

Not really. My solution, at the gentle urging of one Jayme Soulati, is to write shorter posts and “get back in the game.” That’s doable, right? If you can learn to say what you mean in fewer words, then you betcha! For this loquacious lass, it’s a big phat challenge!  But, it’s one I’m willing to take on.  Hang on with me, will ya?  Here’s the first of a series of “Short on Time. Big on Ideas.”

The Small Business Owner’s Marketing Dilemma

“I’m running a business, doing my daily thing, making sure we meet deadlines, produce product and keep clients happy. You mean I need to market, too?” 


Five Questions to Ask (and Answer) for Small Business Week

Open stare

Here in the states, it’s National Small Business Week. That means, we, those of us who own a small business or support them without dollars, are celebrating the spirit of the small business, the entrepreneur, the mom and pop, and the not so small (they count, too…500 or less employees to be exact) throughout the week.

Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and the primary source of jobs for Americans.

Indeed. I  fully concur with this statement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Need more oomph for that backbone? Read on:

Small Businesses:

  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
  • Employ half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
  • Hire 43 percent of high tech workers ( scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).
  • Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
  • Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.
  • Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

Source: sba.gov

Give the Gift That Keeps On Giving

So, what can we do to strengthen this backbone? Should we do something special for our small business this week? Take her to lunch? Send flowers?

Of course, I’m kidding (except for the food part…a little chocolate never hurt anyone). Here’s what I REALLY hope you will do this week (and every week) for your small business.  First off, take a few moments or heck, a half day each week would be nice, to answer these questions:

  1. What makes your business unique, special and successful? This is a very crowded marketplace: 27.5 million and growing.  In order to compete (I know, some folks don’t like that word, but at some level we do compete with other businesses even if we are the most unique, most special of all) and succeed, we must know what makes us, well, us.
  2. Where are you spending your time in order to develop and grow your business?  Are you taking classes, meeting with a mentor, re-crafting your business plan, seeking professional business advice? That’s just on the business management and development side.
  3. What are you doing with your marketing efforts to cultivate, establish and maintain your unique position in the market?  Are you spending all of your time reading blogs, books, and white papers in order to get a handle on how best to market your business? Only to discover you’ve not a clue how to use any of those tools and in effect, just wasted a few hours noodling around instead of working. Hint here: working on your business, providing excellent service to your clients and doing what you say you’ll do when you say you do it? That’s golden at establishing your unique position in the market.
  4. Do you fully understand what you’re marketing? Ah, the age old question. Are you marketing the wrong service or product offering? Are you blogging about corn when you should be blogging about wheat? Dig in and figure out what your customer is interested in, align your services to that, then go about the business of providing and marketing that.
  5. Is your team all that it can be? Whether you assemble a ninja force of subcontractors or hire team members under your umbrella, choosing the right ones can make or break your business. For me, I ask and answer these two questions before hiring or contracting with anyone:  a) Do they have the right attitude? and b) Do they have the right skills to free me up to do the big things that will continue to earn money for the business?  It also helps if they love the craziness of the marketing and PR world and the way I operate in it!

What would your list look like? What would you do for your small business this week if you had half a day to devote to it? Whatever you do, do it mightily and with a full focus on success!

For those of you with small businesses, I salute you. I come from a long line of them and I’m slugging it out in one now. No, make that thriving with one. I would choose no other way to do it!

Image via Flickr


The Elephant in the Room: Tackling Persistently Bad Public Speaking Skills

Ladies and gents, please. Listen up. This is important.

Ahem.

I want you to be taken seriously when you speak to people. Whether you’re presenting at a committee meeting, one on one with your boss, or as a key note speaker at a major conference, I need you to read and really take these points to heart.

Trust me. You’ll thank me for it.

Here’s the deal. I am about to present to a group of regional planning groups and non-profits from across the nation on clearly conveying their message.  As I prepare, I reflect on really great presentations that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing.

I of course also think of those that I’ve been forced to not only sit through, but endure. There’s a HUGE difference.  You know what I’m talking about.  Rather than suffer however, I make notes, lots of notes, on what NOT to do as a speaker. The result? This blog post.

At first, I thought this might be a woman-centric post. Women who present, or something like that.  When I thought about it for a bit, I realized that there are just as many men who make bad presentations as there are women. So, here we go. All of you who have been tasked with presenting information to others, this is for you.

Step One: Make it Count

I make a commitment to bring my best self and my best presence to each and every talk I do – even if it’s a committee meeting or a one-on-one informal pitch. You just never know when you’ll get those opportunities.  That someone, make that everyone that you’re speaking to is giving you time and hopefully, their attention.  Make it count.

  • Practice your speech or presentation, for goodness sake. Just putting it together isn’t enough. You must actually do a dry run – out loud, not in your head!
  • You don’t have to dress like you’re meeting the Queen, but I’m still a believer that jeans don’t cut it. Look like you care and your listeners will as well – no matter how cool you, or they, are.
  • Arrive in the zone and in the moment – don’t be thinking about everything else on your plate. Be present.

Step Two: Own It

My goal is to make sure my audience listens, finds me compelling, confident, and knowledgeable about my topic. Unfortunately, even though that may be the goal for others as well, I find that some speakers will in fact do everything they can to discredit themselves.

From tone, to posture, to choice of words, you can either leave the audience wondering how the heck you’ve made it this far in life, or, have them glued to your every word and figuring out how to budget for your services in the future.

  • Avoid low tones. Be up beat – get jazzed up about what you’re talking about. If you aren’t excited, who is?
  • If you are going to sit to do your presentation (with the exception of a panel discussion), you may as well remain in the audience. Stand Up.
  • Please stop saying these self-deprecating words and phrases:  sort of, kind of, I guess, you know? Speak with confidence. You don’t need to ask permission if they know what you’re trying to say, nor should you discount what you’re saying by adding in a ‘sort of’ or ‘kind of think’ phrase.
  • Avoid ending your sentences by carrying them up into the air – as if you’re asking if what you’re saying is ok. If you’ve done the work on the front end and only talking about what you know to be true or have experienced, there’s no need to check in with the audience to make sure it’s appropriate.

Step Three: Tell us a Story Three Different Ways

As the presenter of your topic, you know where you want to take us on this journey. It is entirely up to you to get us there. Use storytelling, text and key images to do it.

  • Guide the audience towards your points. Begin with your key points and end with them.  You’ll keep everyone, including yourself, on task.
  • Tell us a story; don’t read your slides.
  • If you are using power point (and believe me, we ALL do), don’t cram it full of text. Highlight the BIG ideas and leave the rest up to your story telling ability.
  • If you must put text – more than a few bullets – please note the most important items you want the audience to know and avoid saying, “I’m not going to read all of this for you” and then do it anyway.
  • Use images! There are a world of free images out there. My favorite site is Flickr, and thanks to Shelly Kramer, I now use Compfight to find the best images from the Creative Commons image library on Flickr. (read that post today!)

Most important of all, with anything really, ENJOY it. I know for many folks, that’s nearly impossible when it comes to public speaking. I happen to think it’s because they are not using some of these tips. I also understand it might not be their thing.

That’s ok. I believe anyone can be coached into making a good presentation – and that practice really does make perfect.

Let me know what you do to break bad public speaking habits, or any tips you’d like to add to this list.

Image via Flickr.


Why Talking About Yourself is Bad Networking

Please welcome Stuart Mills to Spot On. He’s the third Guest Blogger we’ve had here and I’m thrilled to have him! Please give him a warm welcome and remember, please tip your servers. Thanks. 😉

“It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges. Your book is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you.” – Mike Davidson

If there is ever something that could elevate you to the next level or send you crashing down into the pit of failure, it’s networking.

People place a lot of value on networking, on who to talk to and what kind of deals can be struck. Networking is where the magic happens in business, it’s where you could walk into a crowded room with nothing but a brilliant idea, and leave with enough contacts to make that idea a reality. 


Email Marketing: The Comeback Kid of 2012

Is Email Dead?

Remember email marketing? Just two years ago, email, and with it, email marketing, was thrown by the side of the road as we all raced along on the great highway of social media connections. Why use email? Just tweet or share an update with your fans, right?

Only if you wanted to reach part of your audience. Email marketing done well can reach a very targeted audience and encourage specific actions. Sure, your tweets or Facebook posts can as well, but it’s pretty iffy that everyone who follows you or ‘likes’ you will see it. With email marketing you can get very specific, and increase your odds of survival.

There’s a really bright light on the horizon, friends. It is a new day in email marketing, one that smart marketers and business owners need to take note of and plan accordingly.  


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