Thinking bigger, thanking bigger


image via

“I dare you to think bigger, to act bigger, and to be bigger. I dare you to think creatively. I dare you to lead and inspire others. I dare you to build character. I dare you to share. And I promise you a richer and more exciting life if you do!”

William Danforth

PR professionals represent their clients 24/7. After a while, we start thinking about our clients 24/7. It’s a very real relationship – you can’t stop representing your client just because it’s the weekend and you want a break.

That’s our job, right?

(Sounds a lot like being a minister’s wife!)

I think that sometimes our client-centric thinking rubs off onto our clients, too. And that isn’t good. It may be the PR pro’s job to focus on the specific organization they represent 100% of the time, but if organizations only talk about themselves, people will stop listening.

If your organization’s goals include growing their database of supporters, becoming a thought leader in their industry or changing people’s minds about an issue, remember that in order to achieve those goals, you rely on other people. We must remind our clients: It’s not all about you.

We need to encourage them to think bigger and to thank bigger.

I’ve always heard that in order to receive holiday cards, you had to send holiday cards. This year, I definitely saw that to be true. It’s the same thing with your company’s fans, followers, supporters and employees. In order to get support, you have to give support. Relationships – all kinds – are built upon mutual support and mutual respect. Why would we expect our organizations to be respected if they don’t show respect to others?

So, PR pros, while your head is filled with questions like, “how I help my client stand out from the competition?” let’s encourage our clients to ask, “how many supporters can I thank today?” or “what organization is doing great things that deserves a shout-out?”

By nurturing your organization’s network now, you can be confident that they will be there for you when it counts.

Defining PR: Simply Multifaceted

From Flickr photostream by Danielle Pearce

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
-William Shakespeare

One of my Twitter acquaintances and a fellow solo PR pro, Shonali, posted an article today that got me thinking: If I can’t communicate to my own friends and family what it is that I do as a “PR” or “communications” expert, how can I expect to communicate well on behalf of my clients?

As a freelance communications professional, it is hard to fit what I do into just one box – it’s PR, writing, editing, strategic thinking, implementing and learning about social media, etc. etc. Generally, these could all fall into the category of “communications.” Hence, my approach to “Backstage Communications.”

However, I also do believe that all of these jobs fit into a larger understanding of public relations. My own definition of PR is very simple: it’s how you communicate your messages to the audiences you care about. As Shonali points out, it’s so much more than just press releases, media relations and publicity. She puts it this way:

It means figuring out

What your story is,

Why it matters

Who you’re trying to tell it to, and

Where, When and How you’re going to do it.

Seems simple, right? Well, so do some recipes. But that doesn’t mean that I end up burning dinner if I don’t plan ahead.

Figuring out the answers to these questions generally requires copious amounts of research, many, many drafts of message development, blood, sweat, tears and finally more research.

Those of us in the communications and PR professions will continue to have to help people understand what we do. (I’m pretty sure my dad still thinks I’m in advertising, despite numerous attempts to explain the difference).

Maybe we are all so focused on delivering the best strategies and exploring the most innovative tactics for our clients that we don’t have time to explain and revise our own job descriptions. And if that means more people will pay attention to my clients instead of my own behind-the-scenes work, that’s ok with me. After all, I’m just setting the stage for my clients to shine!


Would you hire yourself?

I’ve been on a journey of self-exploration for several months now. And during that journey I’ve discovered a few things, and become frustrated, and I’ve run in circles trying to “figure it out” like some math problem that I can’t solve.

I realized I’ve been focusing on the wrong question – What do I want to be when I grow up?

Instead, it’s so much more about my own development. It’s about self-improvement, step by step. So now, I’m asking the question, would I hire myself? Would I want to work with me? Why or why not?

Because, at the end of the day, it’s not about your company name or your title or even the industry you work in. It’s about your life. I’ve always heard from employers that it’s so much more about working with people who are smart, who are willing to work hard, who are flexible and fun to be around.

Would you hire yourself?


Need a Moment.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

-Chinese Proverb

If you haven’t noticed, I’m taking some time away from the blog this month. I’m working on my to-do list before heading out of town for an end-of-summer vacation.

I got to thinking about taking time off. Why is it sometimes almost more stressful to take time away? You have to do more work before and after a vacation to “make up” for that time lost. But is that time really “lost?”

Taking some time to reflect and rejuvenate yourself (or your business) at least once a year shouldn’t be counted as “lost” time. It should be encouraged! Won’t we all think a little clearer, with a little more bounce in our step, and perhaps even come up with new and different ideas if we take the time and let our minds take a break?

It’s really the same story in business. Every business is in danger of becoming stagnant. When each day is the same as the last, maybe it’s time to step away for a few days, rest and come back to the table refreshed.

So, that’s what I’m going to do this month. I am going to try not to have an agenda other than just work hard and then rest hard. Keep my mind clear, which will inevitably lead to the questions – what am I doing, why am I doing it, and am I happy?

Have you asked yourself those questions lately?

Fear is so 2009

The best antidote for fear is knowledge.

– Robin Sharma

At last week’s FreelanceCLT event, one theme stood out for me – freelancers, not surprisingly, are afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of running out of money. And I know it’s not just freelancers and solo entrepreneurs, but those fears seem louder when you don’t have a salary and a 401(k) to fall back on.

I have seen a similar fear overshadow the confidence of small business owners. It takes confidence to start a small business, to quit a corporate paycheck, to go out on your own and put your stamp on the world.

So, why not name that fear and then do something about it? Are you afraid to start a company Facebook fan page, because you don’t understand the inner workings of Facebook and don’t have time to read a dictionary-sized guidebook about it? Are you afraid that you won’t be able to track your time, your invoices or deal with the IRS?

My philosophy? Jump in, get your feet wet, and then change and grow as needed. The world will not stop to let you catch up.

I am not a blogging expert, but I started one. I am not an expert at naming a company, or putting together invoices, or going after new business – but I didn’t wait to become an expert first. I’m learning as I’m doing – isn’t that what the “real world” is all about?

None of us had a Twitter handbook when it first came out. But I didn’t want to wait for one – I wanted to find out for myself. I think many of us who are freelancers or small biz entrepreneurs have that itch within us. So why do we let fear take away that drive for knowledge?

So today I say to you – just do it. (thanks Nike). Just start that Facebook page, create a Twitter account, put together an invoice system – put pen to paper and just go. You will be amazed, once again, at what you can do. And when you need help, just ask.


Freelancers: Is it time to give yourself a raise?

Are you a freelancer (any industry) in or near Charlotte, NC?

Tomorrow night, I’m serving on a panel of freelance specialists as part of the Freelance CLT meetup group. We will be discussing how much freelancers should charge for their work and other related issues. Some of us write, others communicate, others edit or shoot film, and others do it all as serial entrepreneurs.

Sometimes it’s hard to be “on your own.” This group of people will understand your gripes about invoicing, clients, work/life balance and other freelance-related issues. Do you know how much your time is worth? Is it time to give yourself a raise?  Join myself, Melissa Lamkin, Adam Hobbs, Brian Pace and Philip Dodds to explore these questions and more.

If you can’t be there in person, follow updates on Twitter.

Share your own tips, advice below and I’ll be sure to mention them tomorrow night.


Tuesday, June 29

6:00 p.m.

Lightbulb Coworking

1430 South Mint Street
Suite 103
Charlotte, NC


Prepping and priming and painting, oh my!

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.

Alexander Graham Bell

I really hate it when a blogger stops creating new content for awhile, then comes back and apologizes, offering excuses about why he or she has been offline. As a reader, that can be annoying. But, as a blogger, I understand – sometimes you need a breather. I haven’t even been blogging long enough to need a breather, but here’s my excuse for you – I was moving! Hubby and I bought our first home, and moved in this past weekend.

In the midst of boxes, packing paper, paint cans and bleach, I started thinking about communications. Which can be a scary thing, especially when it’s late and I’m feeling a bit delirious.

The truth is, I’m getting sick of painting. I mean, you would think that being able to paint your own home would be fun! And it is…for the first room. But the catch is that I wanted to do it right. And to paint a room the right way requires a LOT of preparation. The painting itself is actually minimal compared to the amount of prep work. To do it right, one must:

  • Fill in cracks and holes with putty (let it dry)
  • Sand down any rough spots
  • Wipe down the entire room with soap and water (let it dry)
  • Tape every nook and cranny
  • Cover the flooring with drop cloths
  • Tape down drop cloths
  • Prime the walls (let it dry)
  • Paint the first coat (let it dry)
  • Paint the second coat
  • Pull off the tape
  • Let it dry
  • Tape again – this time for the trim
  • Paint the first coat (let it dry)
  • Paint the second coat
  • Remove the tape
  • Touch-up any mistakes

It’s a ton of work. But, at the end of the day, I can tell which rooms have been prepped, and which ones haven’t. And, those walls aren’t going to be painted again for a long time. So, any mistakes will be there, day after day, for me to look at and wish I had prepped them correctly.

Obviously, the tie-in here is pretty easy to spot. “Preparation is key” is a tired phrase, but I think in communications it’s especially important to consider. Like paint on your walls, what you say, write or communicate will have a lasting effect. You want that feeling to be a positive one, don’t you? When considering how you will communicate, remember to properly prepare.

A few examples:

Prepare for interviews – Communicating with the media can be a wonderful opportunity to spread word about your business or organization. Reporters frequently have short deadlines, so be proactive about media training or preparing ahead of time. Don’t get tongue-tied just because you are going to be on TV – make a lasting impression.

Prepare for disasters – businesses frequently end up spending a ton of money to clean up messes. I don’t have to name the most obvious example right now. Before a crisis hits, make sure you have communications plan and a team ready for anything. While no one can predict the future, the benefit of preparation certainly outweighs the cost.

Prepare for tomorrow Twitter will not always be as popular as it is today. Each year will bring new technologies and new avenues for communication. Don’t get overwhelmed. If you prepare your messages ahead of time, you can spend more time keeping up with the latest trends and less time figuring out what to say!

And, after all that preparation, remember: sometimes, you just need to take a break.