I’ve spent the past few blogs blogging about other blogs. Today, I’m just ruminating on the basics. Obviously, if you’re reading this blog you know I run a communications business. I wanted to share an important thought when it comes to growing your business in this ever-changing economy: Strike While the Iron is Hot—because if you don’t, things can get cold pretty darn quick. I’m sure this sounds silly, and even a “no brainer,” but I’ve found it’s not such a great idea to take even the simplest concepts for granted. So, today if you get a new business call, call them back. If your employee has a new idea on how to reposition a service you offer, change it. If a client wants to rethink their strategy, take that meeting. Super simple just means super effective sometimes. Go for it!
Back to my blog about blogs. I LOVE www.1stDibs.com. Look, even at a discount I can’t really afford the $5,000 sconces, but I can dream. And what a place to invoke dreams… I recently read an article about designer to king Hutton Wilkinson on 1stDibs. Not sure if all the info there was real or hype but who cares. Sounds like he led a charmed life and now takes all that he has learned (and absorbed via his illustrious lineage) and translates it into fanciful interiors (and exteriors, check out the edifice he created on the lake at Drawbridge). Lots to read here (excellent editorial) and lots to discover. It’s worth the trip, and it’s only a click away!
Saturday is the 4th of July and it’s mostly memorable to me because it’s my mother’s birthday. I love my country, but I love my mother more. So, happy birthday, Mom! As we near this national holiday I just wanted to share some of my favorite freedom-ISMS:
- Freedom is to love people, no matter how annoying they might be at times
- Freedom is to shrug off anxiety when you consider the uncertainty of everyday life (NOTHING has EVER been certain, by the way)
- Freedom is to acknowledge that though kittens may be super cute they are not as inherently cute as little people (though babies do cry, whine and talk back on occasion)
- Freedom is to love yourself, no matter how annoying you are (to yourself)
- Freedom is to laugh at yourself because when you stop and look in the mirror it’s really just you looking back (and sometime YOU are just silly)
- Freedom is to love your country even when it does all kinds of things that totally bum you out (there’s a long list here, but not worth mentioning at this time)
Mostly, I am thankful that I am free to love the One that has made all this freedom possible. But let’s not mix church and state, ok?
We will be back in the office on Monday, so stay tuned.
This has been an interesting year so far. At the end of 2008 we had a lot on the books, but closing the deal was difficult as brands were starting to get scared. The market was shifting. The concept of zero credit started sinking in and fear became the overarching mood. As we sat on the edge of 2009 we had the feeling that it was time to batten down the hatches. I knew we needed to get smart fast and push forward some of the new strategic platforms we were starting to explore. WOM was beginning to gain strength and finding a neat connection between communications and sales was clearly going to become even more critical in a tight economy. So, we started moving in on our target. We launched a few WOM programs with clients (great ROI) and developed an innovative Web-based lifestyle hub. And guess what? It’s working! Lots to do, exciting times ahead, but when it’s all said and done adversity will either bring you down or will push you to make it happen. I have the best team in the world (I do!) and we’re doing it right (inside joke, check out www.icanhascheezburger). LOL.
There are two different disciplines that require that you hold something very lightly: golf and a sword. Imagine, the experts say, that you are holding a baby bird. If you hold “your weapon” too tightly you will crush it, if you hold it too loosely it will fly away. Simple, I know. But sometimes the simplest concepts are the truest. In this “interesting” time, when things are shifting fast, it’s critical that if you are in the agency business you consider how you “hold” your clients. Hold them too closely and they are bound to feel your desperation. If you hold them too lightly they’ll wonder if you care. Finding the balance ain’t easy as they say, but it’s possible and worth working toward. And if you need some practice, take up golf.
I’m actually not with the band, but love the sentiment. Imagine popping around the country with some hot guys in a bus (hmmm, could skip the bus part). What is the allure of the traveling rock band? Maybe it’s just not caring about tomorrow, letting your hair down, you know? I haven’t done that in a long time and I was never really great at just letting go—but growing up in Miami meant there was actually plenty of opportunity to hang out with all kinds of interesting characters. Anyway, what has this got to do with communications? It’s my theme for the week—don’t try too hard. What was always a little freaky for me back then was the idea of just losing control. But sometimes you have to let go to gain control. Simple, yes (it’s a theme I told you), but it works. So give it a whirl. And if your client gives you a hard time just tell them you’re giving up pr and taking up with the band. It will make them laugh, if nothing else.
I’m learning how to play golf and since I’m pretty darn ambitious I want to be good all at once. Well, good luck. Golf isn’t like that, generally. I do know a man who started in his 40s (or maybe 50s) and won the championship at his club several years later. He’s a member of Atlantic and it’s a damned hard course, so that’s a major accomplishment, but he’s an amazing guy.
Anyway, something I’ve been told is it isn’t about the score, but each shot, one shot at a time. Ok, that sounds good in theory but when you’re out there and sweating the crappy last hole and fretting about the next one, it’s hard to stay in the moment. But that’s exactly how one should play, at least in the beginning. And that’s also a great way to approach business. Yes, you need to plan. Yes, you need to know what the competition is up to and what the trends are. But what you don’t need to do is sit around lamenting the business you lost or the account you think you need. One meeting at a time, one conversation at a time—this is a simple, but healthy way of moving forward. And once you actually do it, you’ll be surprised just how productive it can make you on a daily basis.
So, I’m supposed to do a lot of networking in this business. I know quite a few people and am pretty good at carrying a conversation but networking can be a pain. There’s something unnatural about it. So, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do and I think I’ve decided there are various levels of networking.
There’s the cocktail networking event where it’s nice to see people, schmooze a bit and move on. This networking platform doesn’t usually yield a lot of fruit, but it makes a point that you’re out there. This is my least favorite form of networking.
Then, there is the networking lunch where you can have a meaningful conversation and hopefully get something done. It might be expensive (it’s best not to drink) but it’s a great way to connect. I am a much bigger fan of the networking lunch than it’s counterpart, the networking dinner. You’re generally clearer in the middle of the day than at the end of a long one.
And then there is the networking conference. This can also be a productive place to meet people and usually in an environment that promotes likeminded connections. But in the same way that the cocktail event can be superficial, this style of networking can also skim the surface. Maybe the best way to network is slowly and surely with no rush, no short-term goals, just a desire to see if there is a good connection and an opportunity to work together. This kind of networking is scary because it doesn’t usually get you where you want to go quickly, but it does work and it’s my new favorite.
Just like the old adage “you can’t choose your family” you can’t choose your clients. Well, of course you can. But when approached by an A-Class company it’s hard not to take the job. Most often you can tell what it’s going to be like to work with them before you start, but not always. Sometimes it’s a rude awakening when you realize that your cultures are entirely different.
I really value my employees. Lots of pr-based agencies have been accused of having attitudes—many are considered outright snobs. We aren’t. Life’s too short to treat people poorly (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen sometimes, but it shouldn’t be a guiding principal).
So, when you have a client that has a culture that doesn’t mesh with yours what do you do? Well you have a variety of options. You can fire them. Not such a great option today. Or, you can appeal to their sense of fairness and reciprocity. I’ll treat you with respect; perhaps you can find it within yourself to treat me the same way. You can buckle down and take it, but I don’t recommend this approach because it just makes for a miserable team. I find having an honest conversation with said client can definitely help. Hey, we’re all professionals here, this isn’t personal it’s business. Try it and if it doesn’t work you always have option 1.
My agency recently did a presentation for a potential client and it was a new experience for me. Generally, we are in the business of selling. If we aren’t selling ideas to clients we are selling stories to journalists or bloggers. That’s just the deal and if you don’t like it, then you’re definitely in the wrong business. Now understanding how best to sell is an art unto itself. I recently had someone tell me I needed to study up on this, and “they knew what they were talking about because they had been trained by Martha Stewart.” She has been selling her concepts quite successfully for years so they probably do know a thing or two about selling. Guess I’d better brush up.
But that’s what was so interesting about this meeting we recently had. Three of my top VPs were leading the presentation and I have to say, there wasn’t a lot of selling going on. I’d never experienced this before because I tend to be verbose and a bit loud (I’m Italian, though you wouldn’t know it, everyone thinks I’m Swedish). Yet here they were, quietly making a point, a good one, and everyone was really connecting with the presentation. I’m sure this sounds like a “duh” moment. Yes, Val, you don’t have to be loud to make a point. But it was an eye opener. So, I’m going to try it. Speak softly but carry a big stick. Where there’s a “calm” will there’s a way. Ok, enough. But you get the point. Keep it real and keep it relaxed…