Tuesday, March 25, 2008

GUEST POST: How to Respond to a Bossy Person

In my efforts to give you all a well-rounded insight into the professional/PR world, I have asked several friends and colleagues to write guest posts for Tactics.

This week’s featured guest blogger is Karen LaVoie. Karen is a successful acting instructor and life coach with more than 18 and 10 years experience in each role, respectively. In addition, she is a published author with her book Life Absolutes: THEE Instruction Manual for L.I.F.E. I have known Karen for many years and she is always a joy to be around, with a positive, motivating and uplifting personality. In the below post, Karen shares tips on how to deal with bossy people, a topic she addressed on AM Northwest just a few days ago. Chances are, if you settle for a career in the corporate world, you will encounter at least one of these people throughout your years as a professional (and only one if you are lucky). Karen’s tips below will help you better prepare to deal difficult people should you encounter them.

How to Respond to a Bossy, Controlling, Button Pushing Person
Karen LaVoie

Are you in a working or personal relationship with a person who is bossy, controlling or a button pusher?

First understand that when you fight a thing it fights you back! So to argue with that person will not resolve the situation. The best option is to defuse it. How do you defuse this type of person? Answer: By not letting them get to you.

That is right. When you let them get to you, you are giving them your power, also known as your energy. Let’s revisit the Laws of Life. What you put out you get back and more of it. So when you fight with the bossy, controlling or button pushing person they fight back even more! By now you have probably already figured this out.

So, you might be thinking, by not fighting with them, then I am giving in. I am being wiped. No, that is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is this:

The key factor to remember with bossy, controlling or button pushing people is they are not happy with themselves. The Laws of Life say give that person compassion. Give them kindness every chance you get! YOU catch more flies with Honey! And be happy you are a happy person and like your life. You like who you are. It is obviously that person does not, when they are taking out their aggression on you by bossing you around. Perhaps they just want some attention…LOVE.

Make sure you are a good listener. We all know what it feels like when a person does not listen to us. It is frustrating. Repeat back what they have told you so they feel reassured you will complete the tasked asked to do or responsibility requested.

Understand your boss does deserve respect. Are you letting your EGO get in the way? Like it or not, they are your boss.

Do you respect yourself? When a person does not have good self-esteem they become a target for bossy, controlling, button pushing people!! Is this you? Perhaps you are surrounded by bossy people as a lesson to take charge of your low self-esteem issues. Please get help. I am more than happy to coach people.

Attempt to understand the person. First ask yourself, is it valid what the bossy person is telling you to do? If it is, then do it and tell your EGO to be quiet. Your EGO loves to have conflict; it is the only way it feels alive. Perhaps the person is under a deadline that is being passed on to you, so empathize…giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Now, you say it is not valid what the bossy person is saying. Then there are options. Explain to them your position on what you are being told in a calm, assertive manner and clear mind….that means free of all anger and frustration. One must keep a level head; otherwise, the bossy person wins. Should this option not work…

Ask the difficult person plenty of questions so you are clear on why they are so frustrated and taking it out on you. Explain to them you want to be a part of the solution and are willing to work with them once you understand the full picture.

You can stay in the relationship you are in and tell yourself that person does not deserve your energy; therefore, I will stay calm and do what I am asked for the sake of my job, the relationship and/or my self-worth.

Perhaps it is your perception that the person is bossy or controlling. Hear them as a friend and you might hear them differently. This is especially true in the parent – child relationship and spouses.

You can choose to move on. Pure and simple. Make sure you are not part of the problem and running from your own issues and right into another job or relationship with the same type of “problem.”

Last but not least…avoid bossy, controlling, button pushing people whenever possible. Sometimes the EGO wants to tango with that person for the QUICK FIX…check in with yourself.

FYI, check out this site for more great tips from Karen on how to work less and play more.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Finding a mentor

One of the most valuable things you can do after graduation is find a mentor to help offer career advice. However, Tim O'Brien claims in an article that many young professionals step into the relationship unclear on what they want to get out of it.

In a nutshell, Tim claims that many mentees are so focused on the short term (for example, 'help me find a job now') that they lose sight of the long-term benefits a mentor can bring to them.

A mentor can be an invaluable resource, helping to guide you along your career path and sharing useful tips along the way. Tim shares the below tips to help young professionals establish fair expectations of what a mentor/mentee relationship should look like:

  • Mentoring is different from a job search. Job hunting is necessary to land that first or second job, but it's short term by nature. Mentoring is all about long-term professional development.
  • View a mentor as someone who can do great things to help you if you invest yourself, just as a good mentor does, in the relationship.
  • Earn your mentor's trust and respect by proving yourself through your work ethic and attitude.
  • Don't make initial introductions via e-mail. Call. Then meet.
  • Make a solid relationship with your mentor the only objective, but do not confuse mentoring with therapy or socializing. Keep it professional.
  • Pepper your mentor with every question that comes to mind. Be sensitive when making requests, but don't fear to ask at the right time. At the same time, don't put deadlines on when you expect the mentor to do something for you. That's always his or her prerogative.

I would also add that, to get the most out of the relationship, you must be open, honest and willing to take constructive feedback. You should also be proactive about the feedback you want to receive. For example, if there is something specific you want to discuss send your mentor an e-mail ahead of time and say “I would like to discuss…” so that they are accurately prepared for the conversation. Along the same lines, it is always helpful to send an agenda beforehand.

If you don't know the person you are asking to be your mentor, I would recommend sending them a quick e-mail introducing yourself and how you are connected to them. Then explain that you are looking for a mentor to help you along your career path and offer to buy them a cup of coffee to get acquainted.

Last little tip (and this is just my personal preference) – If you and your mentor meet for coffee or lunch, it would be a kind gesture to pick up the tab. Remember, your mentor is taking time out of their schedule to meet with you; it is always kind to return the favor.

Where to look for a mentor

So now you know what a mentor, how do you go about finding one? Below I have listed a few places you can start looking:

  1. PRSA - If you are a PRSSA or PRSA member, most chapters offer a mentorship program you can sign up for. It is fairly simple; you just sign up on the local PRSA Web site and fill out a few short questions, and voila! PRSA does the pairing for you! If your local PRSA chapter doesn’t offer a formal mentorship program, look and see if they at least have a directory of names, or perhaps try sending the chapter president a quick e-mail asking if he/she knows of anyone who would make a good mentor.
  2. Your College Alumni Association/Alumni Directory - Many colleges and Universities have a directory of people and some even have formal mentorship programs as well. Again, this takes being proactive on your part, but most people are more than willing to help out a fellow alum.
  3. Your Company – If you are already employed, many companies have a mentorship program that you can sign up for to get paired with another mentor from within your company. However, if your company doesn't have a program like this in place, simply ask your manager or a coworker if they know of someone who would be a good mentor.

If all else fails, ask around. Chances are if you ask your old professors, parents, neighbors or family friends, they will know someone who would be willing to mentor you. A year ago my dad was talking to patient of his about his daughter who was studying PR - turns out she owned a boutique PR agency in Portland and was looking for interns! I sent her my resume and 3 days later I had a month long internship to keep me busy during Winter break.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Simplicity is complex

Who knew Twitter is an art, science and social network all in one? Alex Iskold offers advice to readers on how you can "kill a Friday night" on Twitter in his post 5 Ways To Have Fun with Twitter When You're Bored.

Another interesting post on the ups and downs of microblogging. I found a particular interest in the story of how a professor, Parry, noticed that Twitter brought his classroom closer together.

On a different note but along the same lines, Forrester's Josh Bernoff (social media guru and coauthor of the upcoming book "Groundswell") posted an interesting blog entry detailing how blogging can have a different objective based on different audiences you are trying to reach, using his 5 blogs as a case study throughout. Although I don't have time to write a complete analysis, I thought this quote was interesting (but please read the full post for context):

"To begin with, know that I define myself as a writer, a communicator, and an analyst -- not a blogger. Calling someone a blogger in a few years will be like calling them an emailer now -- it will be just another form of communication. So even with these five blogs, it's not because I'm some sort of tech-addicted whiz-kid -- far from it. It's because writing is what I do, and I use them to accomplish different goals."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's all about Digital

Are PR agency professionals ready to provide clients strategic council when it comes to incorporating digital tactics into PR plans? Michael Bush doesn’t think so, in an article he posted in AdvertisingAge this morning.

Peppercom’s Stephen Cody says that PR agencies “are not in a firsthand position to counsel clients” on digital topics – and that only about 10% of PR agencies are doing this according to a recent survey of PR News readers. I feel privileged to work for an agency that’s in that 10% bracket.

Remember a while back when we talked about how more people are spending more time online these days? Well, it’s not only consumers I was talking about – it’s everyone. Baby Boomers, Gen Yers, and reporters alike, everyone is going online. In other words, no matter what target audience you are trying to reach, it is essential to always ask yourself, “what digital components can I include to spice up this PR plan? How can I show clients I know how to reach this audience in new and different ways?” Chances are if you are thinking outside the box, you’ll come up with something that works, whether it’s a YouTube ‘how to’ video to reach the curious, a digital press release to reach the reporter or a simple blog post to touch the masses.

Tom Nicholson, IconNicholson CEO, says that “digital channels are less about advertising and more about engagement.” Translation? Digital PR tactics should not be thrown at Web surfers (banner ads? They’ll ignore them. Facebook ads? Those too.) Instead, they should involve them, like Victoria’s Secret did with its Pink Web brand (aka, it’s not just a brand, VS Pink is an online community). Now that’s pretty cool, and totally targeted toward the primary audience.

A Tip for the Young Pros
Those of you who are still in school might be reading this thinking; “I don’t work for an agency yet, what the heck has this got to do with me?!” The answer is everything. Digital is where we are headed, and if you want to have a competitive advantage over other job hunters it is a good idea to know what’s up in the digital world. In other words, if you have a knowledge of the digital and online space, PR firms in that 90% "I don't know a thing about digital" category will absolutely want to hire you - the young talent who can bring a fresh, digital perspective to the agency.

My advice? Take a digital design course, create a blog, research what PR firms are doing to reach their audiences via digital means. And recognize that PR is about more than just the press release. It’s about keeping a keen eye on new and evolving trends in your designated space and always being one step ahead. And digital is the next trend to watch out for.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From 'me' to 'we'

In his blog post this morning on Forrester's Marketing blog, analyst Jeremiah Owyang made an interesting observation about the evolving role of social media in our society and how it is "moving from 'me' to 'we'".

At SXSW, an annual music and media conference in Austin, Jeremiah noticed that, while Twitter emerged as a useful communication tool last year, this year it served as "one of the most prominent and power shifting tools of the festival." He says:
Twitter, a communication tool to track sessions, parties, and events. Perhaps in a pure social manner, Twitter became the glue of the dozens of friends that were spread out over the city at parties, to find out where friends are and people you want to meet, people were actively tweeting where they were. In many cases (myself included) it was a way to let people know where the happenings were, and to constantly keep a pulse on what the masses were up to. More than one person expressed to me that they were overwhelmed by the dozen or so tracks simultaneously, but were able to monitor through twitter, meebo, and from blogs.

Wow, that is pretty neat. Social media, Twitter included, is playing a much more prominent role in the communication methods of the tech-savvy. It is enabling us with the tools we need to have a two-way dialogue with friends, loved-ones and even pure strangers who hold a common interest.

However, the social media concept still has a long way to go in obtaining mass participation, as there are so many people who have yet to catch on to this phenomonon. Why did Twitter emerge as a valuable communication tool at SXSW? Probably because the event brought together a group of the most technologically-advanced people in the nation. In other words, these people were not representative of the entire population; in fact, probably just a tiny percentage point.

To put this in perspective, I might consider my mom's involvement in social media. She works with disabled youth in the school district. She has a facebook profile, but rarely uses it (oh but trust me, she uses it much more than most moms I know. I guess I would consider my mom pretty 'hip' for a baby-boomer). She uses e-mail, and she even tested out IM for a while before giving up completely. But then I ask myself why. Why is the rest of the world so behind the times in this growing social trend? 

My mom probably doesn't use Facebook because none of her friends use facebook. She doesn't use IM because she doesn't know anyone else who does. She doesn't blog because she doesn't have anyone who will read it. She doesn't tweet because she simply doesn't see the point.

Social communities via social media is where we are headed, however if our society does evolve to embrace this trend we must evolve together.  Yes, there is a select group of people focused on bringing social media to life, but for the rest of us, social media is still largely focused on the me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This is why you should never run in flip-flops

OK, so I know this story doesn’t quite merit an entire blog post, but I just had to share.

A fellow colleague and I made a goal to go running on our lunch breaks a few times per week, so we thought we’d start today.

I was super excited to get out of the office for a bit, which rarely happens, so we agreed to change real quick then meet outside for our first run together. I hurried down to my car to grab my running cloths... only to find that I forgot my running shoes! Silly me… But I was determined to go on this run, so I noticed a pair of flip-flops in my trunk and decided, “hey, these’ll do.” (You can only imagine my colleague’s reaction when I showed up at our meeting location wearing my running cloths and a pair of flip-flops.) Of course she laughed at me for a second, but I assured her I would be fine as long as we jog slowly, so we embarked on the first leg of our run.

I was doing great in the flip-flops, and after about the first 3 minutes of our run my colleague asked, “how are your flip-flops working out? Are you sure you’re okay to run in them?” I responded with, “Of course, they’re actually really comfortable. These are working great!” Apparently I forgot to bring my slab of wood with me because 3 steps later the shoe on my right foot snapped in half. Whoops.

I hobbled for a second before we decided we should probably end our run (did we really have a choice? I guess I could have gone bare-foot.) Fortunately, we had run in a big loop so we were right behind the office when my shoe mishap occurred. The only thing separating us from the office was a small grass field. I proceeded to hop across the field when, on my very first hop, my left foot sank into about 6 inches of mud. I finished running across the mud (it was either that or backtrack across the rocky road we came on – big ouch!) and straggled back into the office - muddy, shoeless, and definitely not relaxed. Looks like we are off to a great running start!

Moral of the story? Don’t run on your lunch breaks, but if you do, wear running shoes.

If you like social networking...

Then you'd love this fun little tool! It's an online Q and A forum where members can ask questions and post answers to others, vote on their favorite answers, and accrue points for amount of activity. There is a list of "superstars," or people who have accrued the most points (Lisa-007, the top Live Q and A superstar, has accrued 10456 points just this month!) In a nutshell, this service is like a mini online community. Lips even posted the question, "Has something been happening here? I haven't been able to sign in for 20 hours!!!! I missed you!"

So if you have a burning question you would like to get others' opinions on, go try out this service and join the conversation. Tell me what you think!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tip for Young Bloggers: Find Your Niche

Do you want to create your own public blog, but just have no idea know where to start? This is something I struggled with when I first started my own blog – I didn’t have a solid direction of where I wanted to go with my ideas. I knew I wanted to have a blog, and one that related to PR since that is my main area of expertise (heck, I spend 40+ hours per week doing it, might as well blog about it), but other than that I really didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to write. After my first few posts, I began to lose interest fast. Blogging started to feel more like a chore as opposed to something I liked to do. Why? Because I didn’t have any direction in my writing or where I wanted to go with my blog or who I wanted to see it.

After taking a break from blogging I began to reevaluate my goals and asses what I wanted to get out of it. Then it dawned on me – I needed to find something about PR I was interested in, something I could provide a fresh but interesting perspective on, and *stick to it*.

So what about me? I like PR, and I like giving advice. Ok, so… how do I combine the two? In other words, what’s my niche? There are plenty of blogs that provide advice to young professionals from an expert perspective. I am by no means an expert, so what do I have that sets me apart? Answer? I AM a young professional, and who better to share PR experiences with PR students and young professionals than someone who can relate?

There we go. I FOUND it. So what's my advice for you soon-to-be bloggers?

Find Your Niche
It seems simple, right? I mean, that was my original intent. I was just so focused on writing posts from an expert perspective (which I obviously am not) that I lost sight of my unique characteristics – the fact that I am a new professional on my first PR journey. See, there are dozens of blogs that provide expert advice to young PR people, but not many that provide advice as they are currently learning it. (You would have thought this would be a no brainer – duh, have a target audience! And yes, this does apply even to blogs.)

Stick To It
Once you find something you are interested in, make sure you constantly revisit the topic in your posts. An analyst blog I read for work daily and have really come to enjoy, The Kelsey Group blog, is a great example. Kelsey Group analysts write on topics that relate to local (national products that are localized, such as the yellow pages online, national advertisers that go local, and local search). Their blog posts explore a wide range of topics but always come back and revisit one, central question - "what about local?" This is important, one, because readers can always know what to expect, and two, because it helps give the blog posts a direction to follow. How can I apply this tip to my blog? Well, since we decided that I will have a PR blog focused toward young professionals, each post I write will always ask the question "how does this topic apply to the new professional?"

Develop Your Own, Unique Voice
This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice. Blogs are meant to be conversational (which is probably why they are the most trusted source of information out there), therefore you should speak as if you are having a conversation with someone. Aka, if you aren't an expert on the topic you are writing, don't pretend to be. If you don't always speak using a report-writing tone, then don't. Remember how you learned to write in Writing 101? Remember how your teachers told you to have a thesis and always take out the likes, ums and totallys? Well you can throw all that out the window. Your blog should be unique and reflect your own personal style.

So, now that you have found something you are interested in and want to blog about, make sure that you always tie your posts back to your topic and target audience, stick to it, and develop your own voice. Happy blogging!

The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs

Great post in The Guardian today on the world's 50 most popular blogs and descriptions of what each covers. Below, I have listed out the top 10 but if you would like to read the full article (which you should, because as PR professionals it is our job to know the media landscape, which now includes the blogosphere, inside and out) you can find it here.

Top 10
1. The Huffington Post
2. Boing Boing
3. Techcrunch
4. Kottke
5. Dooce
6. Perezhilton
7. Talkingpointsmemo
8. Icanhascheezburger
9. Beppe Grillo
10. Gawker

One last word: I was surprised at how many of these blogs were international. Perhaps my awe stems from the fact that I am simply naive, but it raised a good flag for me that I should begin to research and evaluate the media landscape in other countries to see what others are reading. I also found it interesting that Perezhilton ranked #6 in the world. Don't get me wrong, definitely a great blog, but I think it says something about where the interest of our culture lies :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Generation That's Simply Misunderstood

After reading Kelli’s blog post in her blog PRos in Training (one of my favs!) and the somewhat defensive responses from 3 of her students, I felt compelled to also join the conversation.

In his article Getting To Know Gen Why, Marshall Goldsmith marks us as the “What’s in it for me” generation. My initial reaction to Mr. Goldsmith’s article was, naturally, one of disappointment. After all, I am a proud Gen Y’er and I believe we are hard-working, compassionate and eager to learn as ever. It always disappoints me when people are quick to classify the younger generation as lazy, immoral, and disrespectful, because obviously there are exceptions to every stereotype.

However, through his rant about the kids who “don't want to pay their dues, play by the rules, or give their best to any project unless they are sure it will get them a promotion, a raise, or some kind of recognition;” I admit that some of his points are spot on.

We Gen Y’ers have been raised in a society where “anything is possible.” Therefore, it is hard when we graduate from college and immediately find ourselves in, as Alexandra Levit best describes it in her book They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, a ‘quarterlife crisis.’ (aka, the realization that, “hmm, maybe not quite everything is possible… yet”) We graduate from college with a kick-a** degree and a few professional internships under our belt, only to find ourselves thinking, “now what?”

Eileen’s blog response to Mr. Goldsmith’s article points out that our generation is more hard-working, active and dedicated than ever, but perhaps that’s one of the qualities Mr. Goldsmith’s slightly negative opinion stems from. We are hard working, we are busy, we are determined – and that’s why we believe that we deserve better. In other words, we don’t quite fit into the corporate hierarchy. “I mean, come on, I graduated top of my class with 3 majors and 2 minors, not to mention the 4 internships I held and 7 student groups I was a part of… Why should I have to start from the bottom?!” We have dreams, goals and life plans, and it is quite the reality check to graduate and move onto that amazing job… at the bottom of the totem pole.

But is that necessarily a bad thing for corporate America? This is where my opinion differs from Mr. Goldsmith’s. Yes, it’s probably true that the typical college graduate is more likely to do their time for 6 months then move on to the next best job. Although I personally chose to follow the typical Baby Boomer approach to my first job (which I am quite content with; I was one of the lucky ones to land a great job), I believe that it is important for recent college graduates to dip around a bit and see what else is out there. (Plus, as an employer, you'll find that these entry level employees will have a well-rounded perspective to bring to your company). I had several internships throughout college before I settled into my current company, and I’m very glad I did because I believe I learned important, vital skills at each and every one of them. When Mr. Goldsmith says that managers will need to change their approach when dealing with Gen Y direct reports, he is correct. My manager, for example, does a great job of this. She constantly asks what my goals are and makes sure that I am working on projects I feel I will benefit and learn from, while offering constructive feedback along the way. As a result, I am continually growing and learning, and although I do get stuck with the occasional media list every now and then, I am more apt to do a good job because I know that her ultimate goal is to make sure that I am always growing. If managers enter into an “I’m your boss, you do what I say, and oh, by the way, get over yourself” relationship with their direct reports, then yes, they will be “toast.”

So perhaps we Gen Y-ers are just misunderstood. I once asked during a 401K training how long we had to be with the company to be 100% vested, and I cannot tell you how many awkward stares, gasps and open jaws the question received from the room full of baby boomers. Hey, I was just askin’!

Let’s face it – times are changing. Are we lazy? No, we’re just bored and we come into jobs expecting to use the high-level skills we learned in our PR campaigns and planning classes… only to find we’re doing the media lists. Do we want recognition? Yes, but not because we want more money or ‘the next big promotion.’ We want to know that our work on the team is truly valued because we genuinely care about the well-being of our companies and clients. Will we bolt for the next job when we’re not happy? Probably. But not because we’re not happy, but because it’s one step closer to the job of our dreams.

So, what is my advice to my generation? Reach for your dreams (trust me, I’m a big advocate!) but don’t get ahead of yourself. You might have a fresh perspective to bring to a company with your pretty college degree and knowledge of new media, but you’re not going to start out as the company’s VP. If you pay your dues and prove yourself as an entry-level employee, trust me, you will be noticed and become one step closer to reaching your dream.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Online BOOM

Interesting data from eMarketer that found not only that more people are spending time online, but also that people are spending more time online.

From the article: "According to the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, on average US Internet users spent 15.3 hours a week online last year, and that is up from 8.9 hours in 2006."

Wow, that's a lot of time! Proof that PR professionals should consider using online tactics to connect with target audiences.

The USC study also breaks down time spent online into specific demographic categories. For example, "children ages 8 to 14 are online nearly two hours a day, and 45% of young adults ages 18 to 24 spend three or more hours a day online... By contrast, African Americans represent nearly 13% of the general population, but make up just 11.2% of the online population, and Hispanics (who can be of any race) are about 15% of the general population compared to just 10.4% of the online one."

When deciding whether or not to incorporate social media and online PR tactics into your PR plan, it is important to first take a step back and consider your target audience. It might be tempting to add these fancy online tactics to show clients we "get" Web 2.0 and are ahead of the curve, or because "PR is trending that way," but it is equally important to know when not to use these tactics. For example, with USC's study in mind, it might not be the best idea to use online tactics as means to engage with the African American audience, whereas if you are targeting the young adult audience it would be a fantastic addition.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When the past comes back to haunt you

A reminder to us that our past times can have serious consequences. Just something to think about as we're planning to enter the corporate world.