Category: Let’s Get Down to Business (Page 1 of 9)

It’s BlogCon Week + How I Stay Organized

Woo hoo! It’s finally arrived!

NEPA BlogCon is this week and I’m super excited for what promises to be the best year yet. We have an incredible speaker line up, an improv group performing, sweet SWAG, and opportunities to help Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge even more. This day has been a year in the making, so, if you want to be part of it, get your ticket right now (we stop selling October 3). I hope to see you there!

As you know, the fall is a busy time for me. I’ve got BlogCon, The Vintage Board, an upcoming theater production (you really, really need to be there), some writing projects, plus all of those other wonderful things that go along with the season, like carving pumpkins and taking walks through the changing leaves.

One of the most commonly asked questions I get from friends, family, and even complete strangers is:  How to you keep your life organized with so much on your plate?

Well, the best way I can describe it is really organized chaos. I’m only so-so at personal organization. Just look at my car and you’ll see what I mean (it’s a holy friggin’ disaster). My closet is appalling most of the time. I’m awful at keeping up with household chores. This entire section of my life should be a different post. 

I keep a busy schedule, and there are some things that I do use to keep me on top of everything on my to do list, which actually segues perfectly into my first tool for organization:

Lists. I make lots of them. I make them on scraps of paper and in notebooks, which I carry three of in my purse. Lists serve as my reminders, as well as a sort of guideline. I write down projects I need to complete and mix in specific tasks that I can cross off easily, so I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

Google Calendar. For planning NEPA BlogCon and coordinating other meetings, Google Calendar is awesome. I get pop reminders in my Gmail, plus, I have it synced with my phone so that I get an alarm/reminder when something is approaching.

Gmail. I’m notorious for opening up a draft email and writing down random thoughts, to dos, and giving myself links of resources to read later. It’s sort of my catch all place and mobile swipe file. If you don’t know what a swipe file is, I highly recommend.

Pinterest. This is where I hoard things I want to try, resources I find valuable, and how-tos that I plan on using for my wedding. It’s been a huge, huge help with wedding planning because there are just so many resources there to look through.

Google Drive. I use this on the daily for updating spreadsheets (which I’m using for wedding planning), and for my activities with NEPA BlogCon and The Vintage Theater Board. This is where I do a lot of collaboration and as you can see above, Google tools are certainly a trend for me!

Task Widget. On my smartphone, I have a task widget on one of my screens that gives a to do list that syncs with my calendar. It’s wonderful. It’s my “hey! don’t for get this!” list.

Outlook Calendar. This is actually something I use in my 9 to 5, but it’s still a great tool. Because of the nature of my job, I often have a lot of meetings and phone calls throughout the day, so getting things done can be a bit tricky. I block off sections of time in a day or in a week to complete my other to-dos so that it doesn’t get scheduled over. I’ve found this really helps to keep me on track and on task, no matter how crazy work gets (and it’s always crazy in a good way!)

But beyond these tools, I also do something that I highly recommend for everyone to manage their busy schedules: know when to say “no”.

I’m not always the greatest at saying no, but in recent months, I’ve been more assertive about protecting my time so that I’m not overextending myself. Granted, it’s a balancing act and something that I always work on, but I’m much more conscious of how I spend my time after reading something that said:

how you spend your time should align with what you value. 

This really spoke to me, and since then, I’ve made more time for my fiance, my family, and my friends, instead of letting work or outside projects overwhelm me and take up all of my time. I’ve also trimmed away things that weren’t as important to me and started focusing my energies on things that I love, are good for me, are healthy, and make me feel happy. Because life is entirely too short not to be.

When I feel passionate about something, I usually over-commit because I feel so strongly about helping and having that thing succeed, whatever it may be. But, I’m trying to be better because ultimately, when I’m balanced, my projects are balanced too and they get the right amount of my attention.

What tools do you use for organization? I love to hear about them!

 

 

What 5 Improv Rules Taught Me About Blogging

Over the summer, I took an improv class at The Vintage as a way to help me think on my feet. Call it a step closer towards modeling myself after Liz Lemon. I’ve always admired comedians and improv seemed like a lot of fun (and it was!) so, I gave it a try. It was incredibly rewarding and in the spring, I’m looking to take the next level of the class, taught by the awesome Conor O’Brien of Unorganized Business.

P.S. If you want to see us in action, see the clip below – I’m in the blue and green flowered dress playing “Pet Peeves”. Before the fire alarm went off.

But besides being a great experience that had me laughing and smiling for hours on end, I actually took away some great rules that I can apply to other things, like blogging.

Here are the five core improv rules I learned in my first class – and how they apply to making your blog even better.

1.) Don’t Deny

Denial is what makes a scene go south and that was the first rule I learned in improv. When you refuse an offer made by your scene partner (e.g. the scene is in a Starbucks and you say, “No! We’re on a football field), the scene falls flat and you both look bad – and the scene doesn’t go anywhere. In blogging, don’t deny can work on two levels. First, don’t deny your voice and who you are. Know your brand, what’s important to you, and know that you are always on – and you have to flow with that if you want to be a good blogger. Secondly, don’t deny your readers by not allowing for them to share in a conversation, or by not blogging consistently, or by mistreating them (yes, there are bloggers that do this). Treat your audience with respect and they’ll help you. Finally, always do the “yes, and…?” I read somewhere to ask yourself five times “yes, and…?” to gain more clarity on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or what you’re saying. The same rule can be applied in both improv and blogging. Ask yourself, “yes, and…” to keep things going in a post you’re writing, an idea you’re developing, or a scene you’re performing.

2.) Don’t Ask Open Ended Questions

Don’t get me wrong – this is an essential things for interviews, but looking at this idea in the light of improv, keeping questions tight, or rather, keeping blog topics tight, allows for the audience to stay with you. When you start a post with nothing particular in mind, rambling usually tends to spill out. It’s tough for the reader to enjoy rambling, so it helps to know what you’re going to write about going in. I keep a running list of topics in note pads, or if I have a few moments, I start a draft and jot down a quick outline or a few words or sentences that I’ve already thought up. That way, when I sit down, I know where I’m going. How I’m getting there is half the fun.

3.) Don’t Always Go for the Joke

I’m a ham. I really, really am. As a sometimes actor, I tend to gravitate towards comedic roles where I can make people laugh. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. With improv, I had to flex my muscles to not go for the joke, which was a welcome exercise. When you force yourself to be funny, it so often comes off as not so. I want to be authentic when I’m in a scene for improv and I feel the same way about my blog. If I’m funny, it’s because it’s real. I try really hard to not insert humor on purpose. Anything I write is pretty much exactly what the voice in my head is saying. Sticking to the character, sticking to the scene, and staying present in the moment makes for humor naturally – and that’s what I’d like to go for here, too.

4.) Be a Good Partner

The people I worked with as part of my improv class were fantastic. They were so open, so eager, and so willing to try anything, which made for a great class. When you’re in a scene, you want to support your partner as much as possible so that they look better and as a result, you look great too. The scene works when you both feel comfortable, confident, and totally at ease with each other. For my blog, it’s about not making it too much about me. Yes, I’m a “life” blogger, but I always want to encourage others to share and comment on what I’m saying. I like conversations and I hope that this blog is a place for that. As a blogger, you want to tell a story, but you also want to spark a dialogue and hopefully contribute something meaningful.

5.) Tell a Story

This is what we do as people. We tell stories. In improv, we do it through words, movement, voice, character, and presence. In blogging, we do this by crafting words around topics that we feel compelled to write about. We write or we do scenes because we have something to say and we want to do it in a way that’s interesting – and gives something back to other people. I blog because I want my voice heard, but I also blog because I want people to enjoy what I’m writing. It’s a gift, a challenge, and a joy to be interesting.

If I get a comment, a visitor that stays for awhile, or a smile, or a laugh, or even just a moment of reflection on something I’ve written, I’ve done my job – and it’s just as rewarding as seeing an audience light up or totally engaged.

How I’m Spending Time: Blog of the Year Awards and BlogCon

It’s a busy time of year for me.

Each fall, my mind spins with flashes of WordPress, Google Docs, and email blasts galore.

It’s BlogCon season, baby.

Along with three other fantastic women (Karla Porter, Leslie Stewart, and Michelle Davies), I put together NEPA’s only blogging and social media conference. It’s pretty much a rolling year for us with ongoing planning and promotion. We love what we do – not just because it’s a chance to help our community learn, but we also help a local charity.

This year, the proceeds go to Blue Chip Farms Animal Refuge. This no-kill shelter holds a very special place in my heart. It’s where I got my little fuzzball, Annie.

My love for animals transcends cats.

My love for animals transcends cats.

We’ll be donating our proceeds from ticket sales to help Blue Chip, plus, my Mister is graciously offering free blogger head shots in exchange for a donation of pet care items. Here’s the scoop on that if you’re interested!

In addition to helping out Blue Chip, this year will have lots of things that bloggers, students, and professional communicators alike can look forward to, including:

  • A networking session built right into the day. You asked for it and we answered. We’ve given you a solid block of time to mix and mingle. Plus, our friends from Unorganized Business (Scranton’s most awesome improv group) will be performing and helping to break the ice. 
  • A track just for businesses! We’ve added sessions tailored for businesses in particular and we’re welcoming any business of any size, in any industry, to attend.
  • A full schedule of awesome sessions and panels. Here’s where you can see the itinerary.
  • SWAG BAGS. GLORIOUS SWAG BAGS.

So, what’s happening? What are the details? Frankly, there’s too much to list, but here are the highlights of what I’m working on RIGHT. NOW. :

  • Blog of the Year Awards: We’re doing something new this year. We’ve decided to honor the best and brightest of NEPA’s blogging community with Blog of the Year Awards. Each week, you can vote (and nominate) your favorite blog to win the award. Winners will receive some cool gear plus a free ticket to NEPA BlogCon. Here’s where you can vote
  • Super Secret Squirrel Deal: We’re doing a special one-day promo – and it’s today. If you get your ticket to NEPA BlogCon between now and midnight, you save 20% off admission. Just enter in 20TUESDAY at the checkout. But don’t wait – this deal ends when the clock strikes twelve (Eastern Standard Time, of course)!
  • Videos! We’ve started making some videos this year where we’ll be answering your questions. If you want to see me answer one (it can be anything, really), leave a comment here and I may choose it for the next video. Stay tuned for video posts – they’re coming, I swear!
  • Tickets are on sale until September 27. We’re capping registration a little earlier this year because we’re anticipating another sold out crowd and need a little extra time to prepare for this kickass event. Grab your ticket now so you can reserve your spot. Tickets are cheaper than last year, too!

I hope to see you at this year’s conference!

 

What LinkedIn is Not

Photo By: Abigail Frances

In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced some frustration. When I’ve logged into LinkedIn to endorse friends for their talents, update a few things, and generally keep informed of things happening in my industry, I’ve also had to encounter those who weren’t using the network the way they should. This happens on all social networks, but, I feel strongly enough about this to post something.

LinkedIn, in my opinion, is not the place to:

  • Start introductions with phrases like, “Hey, nice profile pic.”
  • Spam the hell out of your services.
  • Post long winded rants about your personal life.

Hey, I get it. Like Facebook, LinkedIn is to some degree about creeping, but don’t be a for real creeper , please? This isn’t a dating site. I’d really like it if wouldn’t use it as such.

Please, don't be a creeper on LinkedIn.

I repeat: Please, don’t be a creeper on LinkedIn.

I also understand that you want to promote yourself. That’s fine too – but use the 12:1 ratio or similar.

linkedin-is-livejournal-essentially

As for personal stuff, leave it somewhere else.  Be mindful that what you post, whether on LinkedIn or any other network, can and will be seen.  Better yet, if you’re upset about something, pick up the phone and talk to a friend. Go for a walk to blow off some steam. You’re always on and how you conduct yourself is a reflection of who you are to the world.

If I know you, have met you in person or on social media, or have a connection in common, fine, I’ll add you to my network. If I don’t, don’t take it personally. I just don’t know who you are in any capacity yet – and I’m not about to respond favorably to any sort of baiting of flirtation.

For the sweet, sweet love of personal branding, please (oh, pretty please) at least try to use LinkedIn in the way that it was designed.

 

It’s BlogCon Kick Off Party Time!

NEPA BlogCon Kick Off Party

Summertime is a pretty great season in NEPA. There are festivals pretty much every weekend, county fairs, and of course, nice weather!

But one of the things I love about summer is the start of what I like to think of as BlogCon season.

Last year, three amazing women and I planned NEPA’s first blogging and social media conference, NEPA BlogCon. We brought together more than 120 bloggers, tech types, students, and professionals to connect with and learn from each other in an all-day event that included a keynote by Gala Darling and presentations from Kris Jones, Shenee Howard, and many more talented pros.

We started the journey in the spring of 2012, hatching a plan to bring NEPA out of the technological dark ages (we hope it’s working!). After nights of Google Hangouts and plenty of email, we built a brand, started promoting, and organized a Launch Party for our website at The River Grille. After that, it was a summer of bloggy goodness.  It was a blast – and now, we’re returning to the River Grille to do it all again.

Tonight at 6:00 p.m., the Fearsome Foursome (a.k.a. Karla Porter, Michelle Hryvnak-Davies, Leslie Stewart, and I) will be hosting the NEPA BlogCon 2013 Kick Off Party to kickstart BlogCon season with aplomb. We’ll be hosting giveaways, mixing and mingling with all of you fabulous folks, and offering up free appetizers, thanks to our awesome party sponsor and location, The River Grille.

I’d love for you to come out and say “hello!” to us tonight and see what we’re all about. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of the work we’ve accomplished so far. There’s plenty to do in preparation for the 2013 NEPA Blog Con (psst…it’s October 5 at LCCC Conference Center), but we can’t wait to hear your ideas tonight to make this event even better. So, stop in, enjoy the FREE appetizers, and meet us.

I’ll be so happy you did!

27 Things About Me that Are Not on My Resume

 

Mandy Boyle:

  1. Is an okay bowler.
  2. Used to work in a haunted house in early teens as a volunteer. (Most of the time, I worked in the beginning of the show, helping people to their seats. One year, I was cast as Freddy and got to have a choreographed “fight” with Jason. Pretty awesome. Ironically, I never actually went through said haunted house – and I still don’t like them very much in general.)
  3. Just learned how to braid and use a curling wand.
  4. Enjoys guided meditation.
  5. Wears a size 9.5 shoe.
  6. Got to sing in Carnegie Hall as part of a high school choral festival. (It was a surreal experience, and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.)
  7. Took three years of French in high school. (I’m trying to relearn what I’ve forgotten in hopes that one day, I’ll get to put it to good use on a trip to France – or at least a French-speaking region of Canada.)
  8. Wrote a poem in 8th grade that was published in a collection from young poets. (I have one copy of the book, and it’s only because they sent it to me for free.)
  9. Acted in 4 musicals, despite my atrocious dancing skills.
  10. Would like to write a book someday.
  11. Is pretty good at crossword puzzles and cryptoquotes.
  12. Work studied in the university library for a semester in the Library System Loan Department.
  13. Enjoys cinnamon scented candles.
  14. Gives solid high fives and big hugs.
  15. Has a great recipe for meatloaf.
  16. Is able to lift slightly more than you’d think.
  17. Has a sunny disposition, although the delivery can be deadpan at times.
  18. Functions well on 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
  19. Is comfortable going to the movies or going out to eat alone.
  20. Ran track in high school. Usually hurdles and the 100 meter dash.
  21. Looks kind of like Anne Hathaway (according to some).
  22. Knows far too much useless trivia.
  23. Appreciates the Oxford comma.
  24. Loves  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and has since the age of 13.
  25. Worked in a grungy movie theater – and loved it.
  26. Looks both ways before crossing the street.
  27. Is a good listener.
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Building The Brand: LinkedIn

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

So, when I sat down to write this post on building a personal brand using LinkedIn, I had a few false starts. Over the course of the past few months, LinkedIn has played a pretty big part of my activities online, so I needed to find my focus before writing about how I actually utilize this network. First, it started with someone sending me information about a job that I should apply for. Then, a friend asked me about how to beef up her profile and another asked for help on using the LinkedIn advertising network. Finally, last week, I got a promotion at work. Needless to say, my profile needed to be spruced up.

As for what to do with your LinkedIn profile, well, therein lies the challenge. If you’re already active on Facebook and Twitter, you might not want to jump right in to being active on another network. But if you’re job searching and want an opportunity to get some attention, you should absolutely be a presence on LinkedIn. For me, LinkedIn is where I get my industry questions answered. It’s also a place for me to establish a bit of credibility because really, at the end of the day, that’s what your online reputation is all about.

So, let’s dive into the three main parts of LinkedIn that I think are critical to personal branding: your profile, LinkedIn Answers, and LinkedIn Groups.

The first thing that you should know about LinkedIn is that it allows for you to announce your skills to the world, as well as the network you’ve built on there. Skills such as public speaking, writing, and marketing are just a few of the things you can emphasize when you put together your LinkedIn profile and luckily, this is a network that is very flexible. With tons of apps to be added to your profile, searchable skill sets, a resume-like setup, and the option for people to recommend you with testimonials, LinkedIn is a job searcher and networker’s best friend.  This is where professionals find each other. 

So, if you:

  • Are looking for a job,
  • Want to expand a skill set,
  • Need to build up your network,
  • Just graduated and need to start building a personal brand,
  • Want to improve your online visibility and reputation,
  • Want to establish yourself as an industry expert,
LinkedIn is the place to be.

LinkedIn Answers

One of my absolute favorite features of LinkedIn is the answers community. It’s sort of like Yahoo! Answers, only without the teenage drama. Most of the questions are industry or professional base, so in a way, you get to use this feature to pick the brains of people in the business without having to pay for a consulting fee. In the past, I’ve asked questions about copywriting, public relations pitching, and what books I should be reading outside of school, but really, you could ask about anything. If you have a question about what you should be doing or how to handle a professional or work-related issue, then this is a wonderful and free resource to consult. Plus, it’s a great way to expand your network.

When you participate in the LinkedIn Answers, you have the option to not just ask questions – you can answer them too. Answering questions and connecting with other professionals in this community is a great way to expand your personal network and show off your expertise. If someone sees that you’re a frequent presence in the Answers, they may come to know you as an expert in a particular subject or a resource in another. If they see you asking lots of questions, they may think that you’re someone who is always learning and inquisitive – two skills that can be a great match for a variety of positions. I mean, there’s no way to really tell how you’ll be perceived, but one thing is for sure: activity on LinkedIn will keep you at the forefront of your network’s minds and if you’re looking for a job, being on someone’s mind is a good thing.

Also, people want to connect with other knowledgeable people in their industry. When you show that you’re knowledgeable, people notice and may seek you out to connect with you to pick your brain, offer you a job, or just say, “hello.” All good things.

My Profile

Now, when it comes to your LinkedIn profile, this is where the personal branding business comes in. If you look at my LinkedIn page, you’ll see that I’ve filled it out almost in its entirety. Taking advantage of the space it offers is a good thing for me, since it gives you a much more well-rounded and complete picture of someone. There’s only so much a resume can tell you. LinkedIn lets you be creative and more importantly, expand upon those resume items that you usually note in your online profiles: position name, company, dates worked.

As for best practices, here are my biggest takeaways:

  • Underneath your name, in the headline, that’s reputation gold. Most LinkedIn users will notice your headline, name, and photo in quick succession and those are the things they remember (in my ultimate geekyness, I actually read a study about this a few weeks ago). So, for that headline, make it count. Most people go with their current job title, but you can also get creative with it.
  • In your profile, I think it’s also good to list some of your responsibilities and experiences to go along with your job, just like you would a resume. Maybe put 3-5 or so points below each position held, detailing what you did as well as any significant successes (e.g. Aided in coordinating Project X; grew budget by 50%, etc.).  This gives dimension to the jobs you’ve listed and can be a great way to emphasize what you can do.
  • Don’t forget about the Skills section. Add in specific skills, like Microsoft Word, as well as more “abstract” skills, like marketing, communication, project management, organization, public speaking, etc. These are things that people look at and say, “Hey, this is someone that could really fit well with the organization.”
  • Choose a professional picture. For the love of God, this is not Facebook. A simple head shot where you can clearly make out that it’s you will do. Aside from the headline and your name, this is one of the most heavily viewed areas of your LinkedIn profile.
  • Beef up your additional information too. Don’t be afraid to share a wide array of interests. If you love cake decorating, say so! Really into yoga? Note it! Again, this is something that people can connect with you over. Plus, it gives a much more “human” side to your professional achievements.
  • Link to your Facebook, Twitter, website, etc. If content is part of what you do,  having touch points for people to find it is important.

You can also play around with different LinkedIn add-ons, like WordPress, SlideShare, Amazon Book List, etc. to add dimension as well as portfolio material. Anything that you can share to show another user who you are and how you’d fit in their network makes a difference.

Using the SlideShare LinkedIn app, I’ve added a copy of my portfolio. Granted, my portfolio is always a work in progress, but this was a great way for me to show a little bit more about the work I’ve done without cluttering up the page. My portfolio is just your basic PowerPoint presentation. I’ll get into my portfolio in more detail in another post, but the goal is to convey examples of some of my best work in a variety of media. That media option is HUGE when  you’re job searching because it eliminates that extra step for people finding your work. You put everything you want right in front of them. Convenience is a powerful thing.

Finally, get some recommendations.  People may give these to you without asking, but don’t be afraid to ask for them if you need them. You’ll want to reach out to your connections and try to get recommendations for your work personally, academically, and professionally. There’s a reason that word of mouth is so powerful. Recommendations make you more than a resume – they make you a person. They establish trust. They give a feel for what you’re like.

LinkedIn Groups

I love the groups feature. Just like Facebook Groups or Facebook Business Pages, LinkedIn groups is a place where you can connect with others, expand your network, and again, show off your industry expertise. If LinkedIn Answers is like the library, then LinkedIn Groups is like that coffee shop you really like. Conversation is the name of the game in Groups, so if you want to have some more in-depth discussion on a particular industry issue or get some thoughts or feedback on some of your recent work, a Group may be the place to do it.

Most groups are divided into categories based on geographic location, industry, interest, professional society, etc. There is no shortage of opportunity for you to connect over something you have in common with others. Groups (as well as Answers and your profile) can sometimes lead to job offers or introductions to new people. They can also result in real-life connections, speaking invitations, collaborative projects…the list really goes on and on.

I’m sometimes bad about participating in groups. I would say about 80 to 90 percent of the time, I’m a lurker. I’m observing the conversations taking place. I should really chime in more, but sometimes, it’s just nice to listen.

As for developing your LinkedIn presence, I could write about how I manage my page, how I expand my network, etc. But I’ll save those topics for other posts in the future. These are really the three core features that I feel are most important if you’re just getting started with LinkedIn or want to start making something of your page.

Thoughts? Feedback? Discussion is welcomed!

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My Favorite Ads of 2011

When I was an undergrad, one of my favorite things to do was critique ads in my classes. Usually a solid sampling of good, bad, and ugly, the ads we critiqued were great examples of what to do and what not to do in advertising. When I taught an introductory advertising class last spring, critiquing ads was a big part of what we did in class. I wanted students to have the same experience I did because the way I look at it, you learn a lot when you actually engage with something and think about it beyond the point of memorization. So many students just memorize things to get by the exam. I’d like to think that it’s more effective to actually THINK about something when it comes to learning, but hey, that’s my opinion.

So, when I was sitting down at Brent’s parents’ house in Vermont thinking about what to write, I got struck with a good idea. Well, actually, Brent’s Dad was sort of where this one came from. He was talking about how there are so many terrible commercials but every now and then, one or two come along and are really, really good. The one from 2011 that came to mind for both of us was the Volkswagen Darth Vader ad that aired during last year’s Super Bowl. If I had to pick the best ad of 2011, that would be the one. And I’m not alone on that one.

After deciding on my favorite ad of the year, I started thinking about some of the others I’ve enjoyed over the past 12 months. BAM! There was my post idea. Here are my favorite ads of 2011 as well as a few thoughts on each.

Created by Deutsch Los Angeles and entitled, “The Force” this ad was by far the best of the bunch for the year. What I loved most about the ad was the sense of fun. Appealing to a wide demographic with two of everyone’s favorite things, Star Wars and kids, this spot told a story that simple and charming. You remember what the ad was for (the VW was clearly featured) and that warm, happy feeling you got while watching it stuck with you. When it all comes down to it, the best ads are those that tell stories. This was a story I enjoyed being told.

Plus, the stats on it are pretty sweet. Adweek reports that the spot had 44 million views on YouTube, a reported 6.8 billion impressions worldwide, and more than $100 million in earned media. Wowzers.

Wieden + Kennedy’s “Born of Fire” ad for Chrysler was one of those ads that didn’t strike me as good at first. The first time I saw it during the Super Bowl, I thought it was a little overdramatic. But after seeing it a second time, I saw it for what it was: one of the best ads of the year.

This ad won the 2011 Emmy Award for best commercial and as Adweek noted, this was the “year’s toughest, proudest, most defiant advertisement.” Imported from Detroit was the tagline, blending together the two core concepts the ad wanted to convey: luxury and American heritage. It’s dramatic, yes, but not in a way that’s overdone. It comes in with a swagger and you can’t help but be impressed.

When Google came out with it’s “Parisian Love” ad for the 2010 Super Bowl, I saw one of my favorite ads of all time. I’m a sucker for sentimentality, but this was an ad that wasn’t overly sweet and sappy. It was creative and understated, telling a story of a romance through screen shots of Google searches. This was part of the Search Stories campaign (one of my favorite campaigns of all time) and was really, really badass – especially for someone who works in search.

In 2011, Google hit another one out of the park with “Dear Sophie”, a collaborative piece between Google Creative Lab and Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York. This ad showed a young father using Google tools to fill a digital scrapbook with keepsakes of his young daugher, which he wants to share with her someday. It’s a very human ad and it’s easy to get choked up.

Okay, okay. This is technically an ad from 2010, but I love the Old Spice guy and his integrated marketing campaign. Speaking of integrated marketing, how ’bout those Muppets?! The Muppets had one of the finest marketing campaigns I’ve seen all year, and I’m not the only one who thinks so:

When I heard that they were making another Muppet movie, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. For one thing, I was really disappointed with some of the Muppet movies they put out in the 1990’s. My mind was changed when I started seeing this campaign. Viral YouTube videos, media appearances, Google+ Hangouts, a powerhouse Facebook page, sweet merchandise and The Green Album? THIS was The Muppets for my generation and lately, I’ve seen a lot of crappy campaigns targeted right at my age group. This was a campaign that worked because it was grown up, not overly complicated, and best of all, fun! It reminded me of why we fell in love with The Muppets in the first place.

You know that episode of Mad Men where Don talks about nostalgia while pitching Kodak? Well, he’s right. When we look at things like Star Wars, The Muppets, digital scrapbooks, and our scrappy histories in commercials, we’re connecting with parts of our past – of our selves – that we miss. And that, in my opinion, makes a good ad.

Which ad from 2011 was your favorite?

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Building My Brand: Twitter

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I have two Twitter accounts. @mandyboyle is my personal/professional account. @Cactus_Mandy is my Solid Cactus Twitter account.

On @mandyboyle, I’ll post personal updates, conversational tweets, photos, blog post links, and references to material that I find interesting. Subject covered can rage from recipes and comics to public relations and marketing. It’s a lot like my blog: a patchwork of topics. This account has allowed for me to connect and build upon my relationships with other NEPA bloggers, friends, colleagues, and industry professionals.

On @Cactus_Mandy, it’s mostly SEO and internet marketing tweets. My @Cactus_Mandy account is used for work, so this is an account that has connected me with e-commerce merchants, colleagues in the industry, and current SC clients. I also don’t update this as much, so from a branding perspective, this isn’t always the best reflection of me.

For the sake of this post, we’ll take a closer look at @mandyboyle since it’s the one that I use the most. I usually update this a few times a day, sometimes missing a day and not posting very much on the weekends. I like to unplug somewhat on the weekend, so if I use Twitter, it’s usually from my phone or late in the evening when I have some down time.

Being Human

There’s no magic number of tweets to send per day. Some people have built a successful personal brand on tweeting 100 times per day. Others get the same impact from tweeting 19 times per day. In my case, I only post when I feel like I have something to share – even if it’s just what I ate for lunch today. Tara Hunt wrote an AWESOME post about minding the gap between business and personal and I have to agree with her. Seemingly boring posts can actually reveal a lot about ourselves, so keep that in mind the next time you’re following or making an update. What you eat, what movie you saw, or where you just were can give you an opportunity to connect with someone over a common interest just as much as a blog post you wrote. When I tell you about where I was, what I ate, or what I wore, I’m letting you know that I’m human. I’m not just a blog post tweeting machine who only cares about marketing and SEO. I also like Star Wars. And cooking.

Twitter in a Crisis

Subject matter in tweets is important, so I always make sure to proof a post before update. Like I said in my previous post, all it takes is a few seconds to ruin a reputation. There are countless case studies and examples of what not to tweet about. Remember Kenneth Cole and the Cairo tweet? Yeah, not good. But then again, there’s also the case of the American Red Cross and #gettngslizzerd. I guess the biggest take away from comparing these two cases is to consider what you post and if you make a mistake, deal with it in a way that doesn’t ruin your rep. Sometimes, that means an apology. Other times, it means laughing something off and just moving on. You’ll have to use your judgement in those cases.

On Content

Content is also a big part of personal branding on Twitter, so I try to post a variety of things. Most of my updates are links to things I find interesting, but I also offer up some thoughts here and there too. I’m from Northeastern Pennsylvania so often times, you’ll notice that I’m tweeting about a local event I’m attending or looking forward to. Here are some of my thoughts on tweeting topics:

  • If you build your personal brand around a business, be transparent. Show off your good work and let people know what you do, but don’t turn your stream into an endless plug.
  • If you’re local, tweet about local events. It gives you a way to connect with people nearby, which can be just as cool as connecting with people who live in another part of the world.
  • Don’t be annoying – and don’t try to constantly sell people crap. Just doesn’t work.
  • Be mindful of your reputation. Just like Facebook, Twitter can be indexed by search engines and found by employers. And yes, Twitter can get you fired.
  • Use hashtags. It’s a great way to start or participate in larger scale conversations. Plus, it’s fun to be part of the crowd from time to time.

The most important thing to remember about content is to be true to who you are. If you find something interesting, share it. If you don’t, don’t. It’s really that simple. By only sharing what you find valuable, you’re using social media the right way. There are far too many people out there who just RT a post for the sake of joining the crowd without ever bothering to read it.

Conversations Make It

Speaking of crowds, Twitter isn’t about the number of followers you have. It’s more so about the conversations you can have with people. Chris Brogan recently wrote about how he went back to zero after trying to keep up with thousands of people. It’s difficult. No, it’s impossible. There is no way for you to be able to catch every tweet and respond to every message when you’re working with a crowd that large. Instead, my advice is to follow people you feel you can connect with or get value from. Right now, I’m pretty comfortable with the amount of people I follow. I have lists that make it easy for me to sort through the din and I can jump into streams of conversation whenever I feel like it. That’s the really fun part.

Conversations are what makes Twitter for me. I’ve been able to get feedback, ask questions, have a few laughs, and even meet people. Like any other social network, people make it truly worthwhile. It’s not about how many times you update, what you post about, or how cool your background looks. It’s about the people that you get to share and interact with.

10 Twitter Confessions

    1. I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. Originally, my username was @mlb217, which wasn’t a great branding move for me. After people getting confused about who I was and thinking I was a baseball fan, I switched over to my name instead. Since that switch, it’s been easier for people to find me and trust that I’m a real person. Most spammers tend to use random numbers and letters in their usernames so at first glance, my original approach looked like spam. I’m glad I switched.
    2. My user picture is an actual picture of me. I’ve found that in my travels across Twitter, I can spot a spam account based on the stock photo – or lack of any photo for that matter. Putting a real picture up can build some trust. Plus, people want to know what you look like.
    3. I’ve made about 5,098 tweets since starting my account. It’s a lot, but there are times when I wish I would have made more. But I have to remember that social media is very instantaneous and that there will always be more opportunities to share.
    4. I have about 1,900 followers. Most of these people have never met me in real life. A fair chunk is probably spam, but hey, that’s unavoidable. I follow most of these people back because they’ve connected with me for a reason. They either know me personally, have something in common with me, or can offer me value. As for etiquette on following, it’s all up for negotiation. Some people say follow everyone, other say follow only people you know. I follow companies as well as individuals. I say it’s pretty much the same thing as your Facebook: follow what you find interesting. 
    5. My bio is pretty short and sweet: “SEO Manager for @solidcactus. Freelance Writer. Marywood Grad. Cupcake enthusiast. Resident Nice Girl. In Love with Communicating. From NEPA.” I have a really hard time writing about myself. I think bios are probably the most difficult things to write, so if you have any tips or feedback for me, I’d love to hear it! As for what to do with your Twitter bio, fill it out with something. It’s essentially your elevator pitch for any possible connection.
    6. I have a personalized background. You can get fancy with something branded or  you can keep it simple. The key thing to remember is that your background says something about your personality.
    7. I participate in Twitter chats from time to time, namely, the #PRStudChat. It’s a public relations chat that connects students, professors, and industry professionals. If you’re new to Twitter and are looking to build some new connections, Twitter chats can be a great way to do that. Plus, it’s an awesome way to show that you know your stuff, which connects directly back to your personal brand.
    8. I don’t pay a lot of attention to Klout. I’ve seen Klout, Kred, and other social currency platforms debated back and forth. In my mind, I think it’s unfair and a little subjective to assign someone a number that represents how influential they are. I think if you know your community, you should be able to tell that right off the bat. Plus, numbers like these can always be incorrect or changed. Why should a number indicate whether or not someone is worthy to connect with? That, to me, isn’t what Twitter should be about.
    9. I use URL shorteners when I post links. It makes my posts RT-friendly and easier to digest. I’d recommend bit.ly or t.co, but Hootsuite’s built-in shorteners (ow.ly and ht.ly) are great too, especially if you want analytics to go along with your shortened links.
    10. If someone says they’re a guru, expert, maven, or otherwise, I probably won’t follow him or her. In my experience, 99% of those people aren’t actually experts – they just like to think they are. Plus, nobody likes it when you’re social media douchebag.

Twitter Takeaways:

  • Be human.
  • Be transparent.
  • Tweet when you have something to say – not just for the sake of tweeting.
  • Don’t be spammy.
  • Proof your posts before you hit update.
  • Made a mistake? Apologize and laugh it off if you can. The point is to keep moving forward and do right by your followers.
  • Follow what you find interesting.
  • Participate in the conversation.
  • People make it all worthwhile.

 

Additional Reading

Personal branding on Twitter is a big deal and there are other bloggers and writers who have covered the subject much better than I ever could. Here are some great posts with additional info:

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Building My Brand: Facebook

I have your basic Facebook personal profile, like most people. On here, you’ll find my interests, favorite quotes, connections, links to my website, a short bio…basically the essentials for a social media page.

Facebook wasn’t my first social network. Before I went to college, I had a Myspace page and a LiveJournal account. At the time, it’s where all my friends were and I wanted to be part of that. I, like every other teenager, slathered on the angst and went to town with emoticons, surveys, and quiz results. It was a messy time, but looking back on it now, it was my first foray into personal branding.

I picked usernames that hid my identity but still “said” something about my personality. They were usually similar to my AIM screennames and could best be described as words mashed together. I wasn’t much of a numbers person, so I left off the customary digits at the end of my name. The way I looked at it, everyone else was using numbers and I wanted to be different. I kept it simple but lofty. Oh yes, I was quite the lofty teen. All those poetry books…

When it came to content, I was a sparse publisher. I had friends who would post to their online journals or Myspace pages daily. I was more of a weekly or whenever I would remember sort of person. As time went on, pages were abandoned and I became bored. The things I had created were basically out there in the ether and based on my comments and page hits, no one was reading.

I moved into Facebook at the start of my freshman year at Marywood. Some of my classmates talked about Facebook, saying it was a better alternative to Myspace because it was only for college students. Fewer creepers and less spam. Sounded good to me.

I signed up for an account and started adding friends. I filled out a pretty thorough bio and added a user picture. As time went on, I’d join groups, create events, and share things with my friends and professors. By this time, I had learned that Facebook was an awesome way to network and communicate with other students, teachers, community leaders, industry professionals, and yes, businesses.

I majored in Advertising & Public Relations in college, so I was no stranger to discussing social media in the classroom. Most of the time, we looked at Facebook through a lens of it being a communications tool. How did it perform in a crisis? Which brands used it well? Which ones didn’t? Who held the copyright for the photos posted? How did creativity and digital publishing come into play?

As I started using Facebook regularly, I became much more conscious of the things I posted. Maybe it was because I spent time talking about it in my classes and how my Facebook page would impact me getting a job or internship. I spent time looking at my profile, finding areas that could be tightened up to sound more interesting, or at least make me sound more interesting. I began to transition from strictly personal to more professional updates. Around this time of transition, I also started working in internet marketing. That’s when my eyes got opened.

Working with client pages gave me awesome experience in social media. I got to update statuses, post photos, and best of all, watch how those updates affected web traffic, leads generated, or conversions (TRANSLATION: YOUR ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES). It was pretty awesome for a geeky chick like me.

This experience in social media for business equipped me with a lot of tools to use when it came time to start developing my own personal brand more. As I was given more opportunity to showcase my skills and experiement with new communications tactics, I saw a need to become more noticeable. I meshed together what I learned in the classroom about public relations with what I was doing at work in the social media sphere. As for what popped out? Well, that’s what we’re discussing. Trust me. I can go on about this for days.

But to keep things simple, let’s just dive into the biggest part of my Facebook brand: my profile page.

My Facebook Profile

If you look at my Facebook profile, you’ll notice I’ve done a few things to enhance my visibility and at the same time, paint myself in the best light. We all want to look our best. It’s just the way we are. Anyways, when you look at my profile, you’ll notice some of the following things (and lessons for personal branding):

  • My Photos:Yes, I have embarrassing photos of me on Facebook. I’ve been photographed in scenes that are less than flattering, but not so much that I have to worry about my professional reputation or career. Most everyone understands that people get caught in unflattering positions from time to time. We’re human. We look like complete idiots on occasion – but that’s okay. However, there’s a fine line.A few posts back, I wrote about social media following you well after you’ve posted. When it comes to the photos, there’s definitely an argument there for keeping things clean. Teachers in particular are faced with harsh scrutiny over the kinds of pictures posted on their pages. We’ve seen photos lead to lost jobs.My perspective on photos is to keep things professional, but still show some personality.If you are covered in vomit and look like a hot mess, don’t post it. If you’re doing something illegal or if you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, don’t post it. If you’re scantly clad doing a keg stand, don’t post it. If you’re marveling at your physique in an Anthony Weiner-esque moment, you probably shouldn’t post it. Unless you want a scandal on your hands, of course.
  • My Info: I give links to my website and list my interests, as well as my relationship status, schooling, employment, and a few other tidbits. It’s basic information that serves as my elevator pitch. Anyone who looks at my info tab can get a pretty good overview of who I am and what I may know about.So, when it comes to your info tab, say something. Anything. It drives me crazy when people leave all bio information blank. We, as human beings, thirst for more information. The more you provide, the more we’re likely to consume. So, when it comes to your personal brand, be aware that your bio is one of the first forms of information consumption, next to your photos. Take the time to put something together that’s worthwhile or in the very least, put a link to your website so people can learn more about you.
  • My Links: I give links to my other social media profiles, my work, and my website because it’s good cross promotion. I get a fair bit of traffic from Facebook, so something is telling me that it works. If you have an online presence on other sites or have good work to share, post a link – but do so in moderation. I’ve followed marketers and marketing agencies that just throw craptons of links at me. I hate it. I know all of their other connections hate it too. So don’t be that guy. Post links to your stuff and give yourself a shameless plug every once in a while – but don’t make it a habit.
  • My Status Updates:I tend to update a few times per week. When I was in college, I updated daily. No, several times per day. Now that I’m in the 9-5 world, I have less time to update my Facebook. Instead, I update other people’s Facebook pages for a living…hehehe…Back to status updates: keeping your Facebook page updated is a great way to demonstrate your humanity. The things you post can relate back to your expertise, your knowledge, your interests, or even what you’re doing that day. All posts are a gateway to connection and making an impression. If you want to brand yourself a certain way, think about posts that go along with the image you’re trying to promote.Also, be helpful. I’ve built my personal brand around being a helpful person, so you’ll usually find me answering questions, posting resources, or giving feedback when asked. I’ve seen the rewards of being helpful come in a variety of forms. Give it a try. In the meantime, focus on posting updates that reflect YOU. If you’re a writer, post a link to your latest blog post. If you’re an artist, post a photo of your latest work. If you’re a marketer, share a tip. There are plenty of ways for you to demonstrate who YOU are.
  • My Contact Information: This is where personal privacy and preference come in. You’ll have to use your judgement, but for me, I only give some social media networks and an email address to contact me. I don’t want to give other information because, well, it’s just too personal. From a branding perspective, I think giving an email address or an alternate social media profile should suffice. There should be one alternate way to contact you listed besides Facebook.
  • My Likes and Interests:My likes are pretty diverse. You’ll find that I like musical theater and blogging. But I also like Blair Candy. The brands I’ve chosen to like on Facebook are ones that I’m connected with in one way or another. Sometimes it’s a client that I’ve worked with at SC. Other times, it’s a brand I’ve purchased and was pleased with.  Like it or not, people make assumptions and judgements based on the brands you like.People who like Apple products are a great example. Apple has found a way to make their products appear cooler than all others on the planet, and because of that fact, they have troops of brand loyalists spreading iGospel. Anyways, your likes say a lot about you, so consider them when you’re building up your Facebook presence. Seeing that someone “likes” a page can be a great segue into discussion and interaction.
  • My Friends: My great-grandmother use to tell me, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.” A phrase like that sticks with you, so when it comes to my Facebook page, I’m conscious of who I connect with. If you have a friend who keeps posting things on your wall that make upset, you don’t have to be connected with that person. If you have a Facebook friend who thinks it’s funny to tag you in an obscene photo, well, have your 15 seconds of laughter and then deal with it appropriately. The friends you surround you on Facebook are just as important to your online reputation as you are. Trust me – people notice those posting around them.
This is what works for me in terms of my profile. What’s been working for you?

Why I Keep My Page PG-13

The thing about my Facebook page is that I’m connected with a variety of people. Family members. Friends. Classmates. Clients. Co-workers. Industry professionals. Friends of friends. These are people who all hold a stake in my online and offline reputation, which I think most people fail to realize. Everything you put out there on Facebook is there. It will be seen and in some cases, it will be indexed on Google. I tend to keep things light on my Facebook page and always make sure to reread what I post. Some statuses are better left unposted.

Some people may think I’m weak of opinion because I censor my comments. I do use slang and occasional profanity, but for the most part, my Facebook is PG-13. That works for me. Some people build a brand around saying whatever is on their minds, like Redhead Writing. Other people choose to stay pretty vanilla. Personal branding is all about what works for you.

When I do express my opinion, I provide an argument to back it up. When I post about things that are controversial, I make sure that I’m passionate about it first. I’d rather see my Facebook connections disagree with me over something I’m passionate about then start up a personal branding mess with a subject I’m indifferent about.

A solid reputation takes years to build and only seconds to destroy. I wouldn’t want to throw something like that away because I couldn’t control hitting the update button.

Personal Branding Takeaways

I know I just dumped a lot on Facebook and personal branding in this post (and rambled), but the key takeaways you should remember are:

  • Be careful with what you post. Every photo, status update, comment, and interaction with your connections is a direct reflection of who you are. Make sure you’re sending the right message about yourself.
  • Take time to fill out your Facebook page. Give us a picture of who you are by providing us, your connections, with information. You don’t have to give your life story, but at least write down a sentence or two about who you are.
  • Actively network. Facebook is a social network –  so get social! Most Facebook users are lurkers, using the network to check in on old classmates and ex-boyfriends. Instead, maybe make a comment or two. Wish someone a “Happy Birthday!” Like the page of your favorite TV show. You get the most out of Facebook when you actually participate.
This may have been quite the rambling post, but I’d love to get your take. What’s your experience when it comes to building your online reputation and brand with Facebook?
P.S. – You can see (and connect with) my Facebook page in action here: http://www.facebook.com/mandy.boyle
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