Don’t Be a Flake

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No one wants to be a flake. We all like to think we are accountable, decent human beings. But there’s still an unfortunate amount of flakiness out there. If you are wondering if you are a flake then you probably are. Don’t despair; this isn’t a condemnation. You can get those ducks in a row or at least in the same pond. Here are three lessons to start.

Show Up

When I say show up, I don’t mean just physically being there but being present. But first we will start with actually being there. I have a full calendar most days. I have meetings and conference calls for my day job but also lots of calls or meetings for freelance work, and I can say from experience that people don’t show up. Even for interviews! A little over a year ago, I scheduled an interview with a hiring manager, which included me taking time off from my current job. The lady never called me. It was supposedly an issue with not having the correct bridge line. So I was okay with rescheduling. The call was rescheduled for a day in which I was on vacation on the west coast, but I still accepted the meeting. I got up way early, as it was a 9 a.m. start time, but I was on Pacific time. And once again, the lady did not show up! At this point, I was done. I had no interest in working for someone who thought so little of my time. It was rescheduled again, and trying to be the better person, I accepted. When I finally had the call, the person never apologized or even mentioned the previous mishaps. She could have offered me a golden throne to rule from, and I would have said no.

The second part of showing up is being present. I’ve been in many meetings where most everyone in the room was on their phone, not remotely paying attention. I do not take my phone out during meetings. It’s rude and sets the tone that you don’t care. And it’s even worse in virtual meetings! People are on their phones, replying to IMs and checking email. That’s why you have to repeat your question twice (it’s not because they were talking on mute, but that’s a typical excuse).

I was working on a project early last year, and I had offered to help a colleague with some of the project management. She arranged a call, and I accepted. During the entire call, she kept pausing saying she had to answer an IM; then she’d say, “Sorry, I’m being so rude.” I didn’t respond. I would have preferred to say, “Yes you are.” I was offering to help her, and she couldn’t give me 15 minutes to understand her needs.

Showing up and being present matters professionally and personally. My husband and I don’t bring our phones to the dinner table, and you’d never catch us at a restaurant glued to our phones. We actually like talking to each other.

Meet Deadlines

Deadline literally means “the latest date or time by which something should be completed.” Most everyone has to deal with deadlines at work and home. Yet no one seems to be able to meet said deadline. My first job after undergrad was in a legal department. Our deadlines were pretty firm, unless the court granted an extension. If you don’t submit your response to a complaint on time, that’s it. No do-overs. You lose. Because of this experience, I have a unique perspective on deadlines. I hold myself accountable and deliver in the time frame promised or given. But there is rampant disregard for deadlines in corporate America. The justification is always that he or she is slammed or too busy. To which I say, “Do your job.” Everybody’s busy; everybody, however, doesn’t know how to prioritize or manage their time. There are plenty of guides, articles and other content available to help people learn to do this so if this an area where you suffer, get some help. Also stop procrastinating. Make lists. Set reminders.

Stop Waffling & Make a Decision

Indecision gives me literal heartburn. If you can’t make decisions and stick with them, we aren’t going to be friends. I make decisions, not with haste, but I also have the ability to think critically about the consequences of decisions. I do not waffle. Every decision I make doesn’t always turn out as expected, but I learn from it and move on. I proudly own my decisions. But, I am significantly frustrated with the way in which I’ve seen people, who were in positions where being decisive was essential, unable to do this.

Great leaders make decisions with confidence. They carefully think through how the decision will impact the process, product or strategy. When I see leaders unwilling to make decisions, it’s usually because of fear. Fear is the biggest hurdle to execution. Fear keeps people staring into the headlights. I once had a boss that was paralyzed by fear, fear of one little word on a landing page or eBook. His fear strangled my ability to execute and ultimately led to me leaving.

I will admit there is one caveat to my strong decisiveness – sushi menus. They are so long and overwhelming! I defer to the hubby whenever we have sushi. It keeps me sane.

If some of these examples seemed a little too familiar, it’s okay. Most have no intention of being a flake. Often you need to become self-aware to be accountable. But accountability isn’t selective. You can’t just be responsible when things are good; you also have to be responsible when things aren’t so good. Take a deep breath, and decide to shed the flakiness today!

 

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Social Media Marketing: Be Strategic, Not Random

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Why do so many brands treat social media like an afterthought? The randomness and complete lack of a strategy is quite frankly, shocking. In other words, it’s better to do nothing than to do it poorly

This is what I imagine might be happening in business across the world. It’s like one day in a panic Bob from sales called Linda in marketing and said start posting stuff on social media. Linda has a FaceBook account and a profile on LinkedIn so she’s basically an expert, right? Then Linda starts haphazardly throwing up posts and links. Ninety days later, social media marketing hasn’t brought them any quality leads, and no one engages with their content. Why didn’t it work? There’s one clear answer: they didn’t have a strategy or goals. Don’t be like Bob and Linda, do this instead:

Set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound) goals. If you don’t have an objective then it’s all for naught.

Create a content marketing plan. Here’s what I start with:

  • One focused topic monthly that is an eBook or Whitepaper
    • Recommend this is an “awareness” stage asset, meaning it should be education and information focused and place consideration on the user as being at the beginning of the buyer’s journey
  • Blogs on each of the points within your main asset
  • Repurpose the content into other formats: infographics, video
  • Create a landing page that offers your asset
  • Determine which platforms you want to post on – focus on three max. You can determine which ones are right for you based on your industry and where your ideal buyers and competitors are.
  • Find similar content by thought leaders in your industry. Quote the article in one of your blogs. Share third party content related to your topic.
  • In addition to the featured topic, place some additional blogs on your calendar that compliment the topic.

Next is execution:

  • Develop the content.
  • Build your landing page.
  • Determine keywords/hashtags you should highlight in your posts.
  • Then schedule your posts using a platform like Hootsuite

You aren’t finished. No need to go on autopilot. If users start engaging with you, show up! Thank people when they share your content. Answer questions. Encourage conversation. Ask questions when you post your content to prompt engagement.

Then it’s time to measure. What was your engagement? What posts were most popular? What posts led to conversions. And you have to look at all the data in context. If you earned 80 new followers in a week, why? If something is working, leverage it. If something failed, tweak it.

Your social media success is dependent more on relevant content than probably any other element. Posting a link to one of your web pages isn’t a strategy. I’m a bit embarrassed for brands that do this. You must add value to someone’s feed; otherwise, you’ll be quickly discarded.

Also, you’ve must cover and manage the details of posting. Does your image post correctly? Is your meta description displaying? Are your graphics professional and eye-catching? Are the pages you are linking to mobile-friendly? Users don’t click on links that don’t display correctly. It also makes your brand look incompetent. That’s the last emotion you want to conjure.

So just to recap, don’t be like Bob and Linda, throwing random content up and hoping something will stick. Start with a strategy, produce engaging content, post it on the platforms where your buyers are and measure!

Is your marketing confident?

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If you want your audience to take your brand seriously, you must market confidently. But confidence doesn’t mean being boastful or using every superlative available. It means that you lead with value, and let your audience know how your solution can revolutionize the way they do something. If your message veers off course, whether that is because you’ve gone from confident to condescending or show uncertainty, then your conversions will suffer.

Here’s an example from my own career. A designer and I created a landing page with the goal of getting users to request a demo of our software. It was a really well designed page that provided an outline of how the software worked, emphasizing ease and convenience. It also relayed the key values the user would experience, including reducing time spent on data entry, cost savings and improving the quality of their current process. It also included a link to an educational white paper, which was a free link (no form completion required).

The call to action included some specific confident language. The close was xyz will change the way you do xyz. Chat with us today to learn how we can improve your process. The close was focused on what the software could do for its users and that the brand was confident in its delivery of an effective product.

The landing page was used in a variety of channels, including an Adwords campaign, social media and email marketing. It was a very successful landing page, pulling in an 8 to 9 percent conversion on Adwords and over 40 percent on email.

Then the president of the company took issue with the confident wording, saying it was too much of a guarantee. He had a hard time understanding that marketing isn’t a legal contract. The language never guaranteed anything or exclaimed that it would change their life! Unfortunately, I had to change the language. The new language didn’t radiate confidence. It was just very bland and ordinary.

Ninety days later, I reviewed the metrics. And not to my surprise, conversions declined, mainly in the Adwords campaign, which of course was real dollars and less returns. I reported the data to my boss. He still would not allow me to change the language back. The landing page continued to have good conversion rates, but it never hit the same numbers as it had. This was the only change made so I had to attribute the decline to the change.

Fear often keeps people from making the best decisions for growth. Marketing, executed with focus and confidence, is the heart of any great growth strategy. If you don’t end with a confident close, users will sense this and lose confidence in your brand.

I’m in Love with Knowledge

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I began my love affair with knowledge as a young child. When your mother and grandmother are both teachers, it’s easy to fall for knowledge. When you adore knowledge as I did and still do, it can be both a blessing and a curse. But I’m still very much in love.

My mom taught me to read before kindergarten. Her first years of teaching were to kinders so I had an early advantage. She also exposed me to all kinds of knowledge and history I’d never find in class. Even though we lived in a small town in North Carolina, my mom’s love of Europe and open mindedness toward what was not the norm, started a desire in me to learn, travel and grow.

She would often find me reading, not just the standard Nancy Drew mysteries or Babysitter’s Club, but also the encyclopedia and dictionary. This was before Google could tell you everything so if you wondering what an encyclopedia is, it’s like Google before Google.

I still have my mom’s college dictionary. It’s one of my most treasured books. As a child I would read through it and mark words I liked, or when I used a new word in my writing or in conversation, I’d put a mark by it. I fell head over heels in love with words, and I writer I became.

I wrote my first short story when I was five. I remember reading it to my mom. She gave me her attention, and I could see a light in her eyes. I don’t recall what the story was about, but I do know that I wrote a lot of mystery stories in my youth, being influenced both by the ghost stories my Pop would tell me and by Stephen King books that I read (maybe not the best genre for a kid, but my mom was pretty progressive) and Alfred Hitchcock.

In school, I did very well. That was the expectation set by my mom at an early age. We would talk about where I was going to college often and what I would study. My mom nurtured the writer in me and never said no to going to get more books. I will say she probably didn’t think I’d actually be a professional writer as an adult; she saw me as a future lawyer.

I had a public school education in a rural town in the foothills of North Carolina. And it was a great education. I remember being a bit bored in third grade but by fourth grade I was moved to AG (academically gifted) classes and was challenged to read more and grow. By middle school, I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickens, Faulkner and also still Stephen King!

The craving for learning was further propelled by some amazing teachers. My sixth grade teacher was very creative and crafty, which opened up lots of new ideas for me. I am not artistic; I can barely draw straw people. But I started to see how you could put together certain things; it was kind of a beginner’s course in graphic design.

In eighth grade, I had an incredible history teacher. The focus was on the state’s history that year. It was the start of realizing how important history is and to not look at it as just the past but as real stories of amazing and horrible things that happened.

Then high school, which was four years of heartbreak and achievement and challenges. My teenage years weren’t like most, as my mom got sick when I was 15. That changed a lot about me, but not my eagerness to learn and write. By this time, I had been writing for years, and it was and remains my best outlet. My junior year English teacher was one of the biggest influences in my writing life. She was a very gifted writer, and she really challenged me to shape my own voice. And the books we read! Everything from The Scarlett Letter to Sphere. I was able to take a creative writing course with her my senior year. I owe her a lot of gratitude because she’s one of the first people who believed that I could be a writer.

So I’ll be honest, college was not easy. It was a huge transition, and my mind wasn’t always on studying. But even after my mom died my freshman year, I never thought of giving up. I never thought that I’d be better off just to take time off. That’s not what my mom would have wanted. She would have wanted me to fill my head with thoughts and opinions not noise.

College exposed me to more new authors, and I was able to take classes beyond the general 101 classes in my studies of literature and history. I would never trade those moments and those interactions. They keep me grounded today and have provided a firm foundation of truth and reality. I don’t need to necessarily google things about Nazi Germany because I took a class on it in college. I don’t need a long explanation on 20th century British literature; I spent a semester immersed in it.

Once I was a college graduate, the learning didn’t stop. My first boss was an attorney and a very intelligent man. I absorbed as much as I could when I was around him. I’m better for it. After several years in the workforce, I decided I needed more knowledge. So I went to class at night for my MBA and worked during the day. Graduate school was different than undergrad. I was more focused, less prone to be at the bar on a Tuesday night. I studied more and was beyond challenged in the classes that were mostly math related. Math is not my forte. But I persisted and earned that MBA.

So I guess I knew everything at this point? Not even close. So much has changed since my grad school days. There weren’t any inbound marketing classes back then or social media or anything specific to digital marketing. I think a lot of the overall marketing concepts I learned still hold true and have influenced where the industry is now.

I just keep learning. I find new classes online on new and emerging trends and have taken certification classes on multiple topics. I read a lot – probably 25 or more posts about marketing a week, along with probably one book and maybe hundreds of other articles and posts.

I’ll love knowledge forever. We are bonded and unbreakable. When you love knowledge, there’s no fear of the unknown. However, I will say that the curse of knowledge is that I’m not naive to anything. There’s also frustration that comes with knowledge because not everyone desires it. Many would rather hide from it, especially if it doesn’t fit their perception.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts on loving knowledge:

  • Read a book; turn off reality TV.
  • Expand your vocabulary; stop writing in shorthand or acronyms.
  • Read Wikipedia – it’s an unbiased, factually based place to find quick facts.
  • Watch a documentary on a topic you know nothing about.
  • Have a conversation with a stranger, and listen to their story.

Love of knowledge is a beautiful thing. They say, “Knowledge is power.” But really knowledge is empowering.

I’ll never not want you

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Today is the day we celebrate love. To be honest, we don’t really recognize Valentine’s. Maybe because it’s turned into something that means little about love. This is not a condemnation or assault on roses or heart shaped boxes of candy. For us, we show up for each other every day, respect each other every day and of course love each other no matter what the day brings. However, to prove I’m not a Valentine’s Scrooge, I share with you today a poem for my love.

I’ll never not want you

I’ll never not want you
near me.
I’ll never not want
to hear
your heartbeat
under my ear.

No matter where you are,
I feel your
smile, wrap around my thoughts;
your voice
slow and soothing
tunnels through my veins.

Somehow, some way
in a world of a million stars
and unkindness at many wrong turns,
you found me, and I found you.
We looked out at those stars,
those millions of glimmers.
And instead of feeling small,
we felt full.
You took my hand,
like it was more than just a hand,
but the most delicate of flesh
that connects to a heart that drums
with a special murmur just for you.

I’ll never want you
near me.
I’ll never grow
tired of you,
and the way you make me feel
every day
like I’m your favorite star
in a sky
of glimmers.

 

5 Benefits of Resting Bitch Face


I’ve been writing a lot of heavy pieces lately. And there’s so much I’ve been holding back. I want to be brutally honest, but there are still many things I’m not ready to share (or as I tell people, you’ll have to buy the book for the really juicy stuff!) 

Today, I thought I’d share something a little lighter that perhaps prompts a giggle or two. Because in all honesty, my mood right now is depressed, irritable and hanging on by a thread. (Sorry, husband, you are such a good sport and always happy!)

So on to the resting bitch face (RBF). I can’t remember when I first heard the term, but I knew I qualified. RBF is an unconscious neutral or stoic expression. Some call it sullen, but I like the term stoic. And listen up, it’s a real scientifically validated thing. Science hasn’t quite determined if RBF directly correlates to a hidden layer of contempt. But science does concur that most people see RBF as negative. Because the world, okay men, expect us to always be smiling as the gentle, fairer sex. I call b.s. on all that! My RBF isn’t really an indication of my mood; it’s just how my face “rests.” I’m not always sad or angry or hungry. It’s just my face!

But I have found some real benefits to a lifetime of RBF:

1. No crow’s feet. If you are a chronic smiler, you’re more likely to have those pesky lines sprouting from the corners of your eyes. Not me. This permanent non-smile keeps me looking young. 

2. It’s easier to conceal your emotions. Okay so this doesn’t always work. My expressions can give me away. If I’m disgusted or think I’m being fed a lie, my RBF gets trumped by just bitch face. However when I was botoxing for my migraines, it was easier to keep the world guessing. 

3. It takes a lot for me to smile so if you get one from me, it’s genuine. I strive to be genuine in my words and actions daily. I don’t blow smoke or have a fake voice. Saving my smiles, I don’t think is a bad thing. 

4. It can deter conversation. I always think I’m not approachable, that it’s clear that I wear armor every day. Yet strangers ask me for help all the time. The other week I helped a lady get her train ticket and find a seat. Maybe I don’t look as tough as I think. Maybe I look competent and confident instead. 

5. It keeps others from being able to read me. I always think that a mentalist wouldn’t be able to infer much about me, that I wouldn’t react to questions or statements. That I’m a mystery. But I’m not a mystery. Although it takes considerable time for me to warm up to people. I’m cautious. I like protecting myself. The world is full of people who want to devour you. And on the other side, there are many who radiate kindness. I believe in kindness, even in the face of so much hate. But I’ll stick with observing first, acting later. 

Well maybe this post wasn’t that light after all. It’s my RBF coming through I suppose. I’d like to leave you with one message: whatever face you put on every day, let it be your true one, otherwise your life becomes a role you play and not one you own. 

Winter Book Review

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Books are my lifeline and always have been. I can disappear into the story and leave my worries behind. If you love books and are looking for an escape, here are some reviews of recently read books.

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware

There was a lot of hype around this book, calling it the next Gone Girl or Girl on a Train. It’s interesting that Ware uses woman in title, letting us know that her heroine, Lo, is no girl. I won’t give much away, but in a nutshell it’s about a travel writer who has the worst trip on a luxury boat ever. I really enjoy British authors, if just because when I hear dialogue, it’s in a British accent. The writing was strong, and the story evolved at a good pace. I wouldn’t give it high marks on character development. Other than knowing that Lo had a “breakdown” years before, we don’t really get to know her. Overall, I would recommend this book, but don’t expect it to be as good as its predecessors.

Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher

After Fisher’s untimely passing, I wanted to read some more about her life from her perspective. I am not an expert on Fisher’s personal life, but I was aware of her past battles with drugs and mental illness. I always thought she was a strong woman who spoke her mind and was pretty damn funny, too. The only negative thing I can say about this book is it was too short. I guess I’ll need to read her other memoirs to get the complete story!

The Circle – Dave Eggers

This book will find its way to the movie screen this year with stars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. All I can say is I hope the movie is better. The Circle introduces us to Mae who happens to land a job at the Circle, which is something of a Google/FaceBook hybrid, intent on bringing transparency to the world. I liked the book at first, but then it just spun out to somewhere else, and it left me with not the greatest feeling. The writing is fine. The character of Mae is pretty well fleshed out, but I did not read her as an authentic narrator. The rest of the characters are thin wisps. And the ending didn’t really resolve anything or get to the heart of The Circle’s true intentions.

Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins

I really enjoyed Kathy Griffin’s first memoir. This one has exactly what you would expect from Griffin. The book is short glimpses into her meeting celebrities, some stories are really nice, others just funny while a few are WTF. If you like Kathy Griffin then this is a great easy read that will transport you to being a Hollywood insider. I finished it in one afternoon over the holidays.

The Widow – Fiona Barton

This is another novel trying to be a thriller with a female lead. I did finish it, but I hated it. A woman becomes a widow unexpectedly and must face the aftermath of the crime her husband may have committed. The narrator is naïve and weak. Not that you have to like a character, you just need to find her interesting, and I did not. The writing was well done. It felt like a cohesive story. There was no one to root for and by the end I didn’t care if he did it or not. I would pass on this one.

China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan

This is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, which was one of my top picks in my Summer Book Review. It continues the story of Rachel and Nick who finally marry in the beginning. The story continues with Rachel’s quest to meet her father and brother. Lots of characters return and new ones are introduced. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the players, but that’s about the only bad thing I can say. The writing is beautiful and paints a picture of many decadent locales. An absolute must read.

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick

I can’t exactly remember why I decided to give this book a try. I’m not a huge fan of Anna Kendrick, but I have liked her performances. The writing was very honest and really gives the reader insight into what her childhood and youth were like and how she made it in Hollywood. I found myself relating to parts of her personality, especially that she’s an introvert who must push outside her comfort zone to make it as an actress.

Hungry Heart – Jennifer Weiner

This is Weiner’s first non-fiction book. I’m a big fan of her fiction and have read all her books. But I didn’t know much about her personal life. Weiner gave me a full view into her life and how her childhood shaped her. She writes about the pain of her parent’s divorce and her father’s disappearance from her life with such skill and self-awareness. She also shares her journey to accepting her body, which I can also relate. Many of the chapters were specific to her role as a mom. I can appreciate her words but didn’t feel as connected since that’s not an experience we share. I am grateful to Weiner for letting me into her life and doing so with such vulnerability. She continues to be a woman I admire.

Good as Gone – Amy Gentry

A kidnapped girl returns to her family home years later. Is it really her or an imposter? That’s the set-up for this thriller, although the more I read, the less I cared about if she was the real daughter and sister they lost. I enjoyed how Gentry kept moving back through the main character’s different lives and names. The book goes back and forth between present and past, which is an approach that is effective at layering a character. Honestly, I can’t exactly remember the big reveal at the end (only so much room in my brain for stories!), but I did enjoy reading it.

A Little Thing Called Life – Linda Thompson

This is the memoir from the woman who was Elvis’ girlfriend, the former Bruce Jenner’s second wife and mom of Brody Jenner. She was also married to David Foster and was a prolific song writer. I really enjoyed this book. She tells a story very well, and it’s easy to see her evolution from naïve college student to formidable woman and mother. I admire Thompson for her strength and class. She is honest about her time with Elvis and Bruce Jenner but in a very respectful manner. These are people she loved and that is very obvious in the way she writes about them. Plus she includes lyrics to many songs she has written.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer

Some people don’t like Amy Schumer very much. They think she’s brass, disconnected and crude. I on the other hand have adored her for years. I remember when she competed on Last Comic Standing. To me, she’s a great example of a strong women who doesn’t take any shit. And I like those kind of ladies. She is also hilarious, even when talking about tragic or sensitive matters like her parent’s divorce or her dad’s illness. She is able to be smart and interesting, which don’t always pair together. Be ready to laugh and possibly cry.

Top Picks for winter:

China Rich Girlfriend

A Little Thing Called Life

Hungry Heart

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo