Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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Schedules or Spontaneity – what makes you the best you can be?

photoPlans and lists and schedules, oh my! For some people, that’s their worst nightmare. For me, well, I need structure. I need those plans, and lists to check off and schedules to follow. Even if I try to be spontaneous, it backfires on me and gets me agitated and anxious and worried. Whether it be my work or my personal life, when my routine and my schedule are thrown off, I’m in for a bad day, and probably a sleepless night.

My husband, on the other hand, hates making plans, never uses a list unless he’s grocery shopping (yes, he does that and I’m SOOO grateful!), and never feels the need to check anything off. If something gets done, it gets done, if not, well, it will get done another time. I can feel myself gasping for air at the thought of that. Opposites attract, so they say!

It took me a long time to realize that this was just who I am. It’s not a character flaw, or a personality deficiency, it’s just the way I function at my best. When I was doing media relations as my job, it’s no wonder I was a walking breakdown ready to happen. The fact that any one phone call from a reporter doing a story can throw a wrench into the works of your day is too much for my need for organization and structure to bear.

That’s why doing social media is such a good fit for me. I can plan my day around a set schedule, and do it quite easily. For a while, I was filling in as a media relations officer for one of the hospitals while we recruited a replacement for the role. So I was juggling my normal, set schedule, with a bit of the more haphazard, constantly fluctuating world that is PR and media relations. Looking back on this period, it’s no wonder I was a bit loony!

Now I’m feeling more like myself, back into a set schedule and being more productive, and much happier. Social media lends itself to this type of personality. You can stick to a schedule, like responding to tweets and Facebook comments, set time aside to build content, and even identify a block of time when you can read blogs and articles to keep up with what’s going on in the constantly changing industry. Yes, it can be a 24/7 world, but it can also be one set by a calendar and a to-do list too. Ahhhhh, I feel better already. And wow am I productive when my days are carefully planned!

What about you – are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy/gal, or do you need that written-in-ink kind of day to be your most productive self and feel your best?


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Sometimes the water doesn’t slide off a duck’s back

Photo by Neil Howard/Neil Howard (neilalderney123)/Creative Commons

Photo by Neil Howard/Neil Howard
(neilalderney123)/Creative Commons

There are some days when you can just let things slide, like water off a duck’s back as the saying goes. There are other days, well, not so much.

It’s on those days when my mind wanders and I start the “what if” game. What if this, then that. Like, “what if I didn’t need the money…then would I still be doing what I do?”

I’ve often said that I love my job and I do. I love being able to connect with people on a one-to-one basis. I love the trust that I’m given to represent a large organization that’s critical to the community. I love being able to feel like I’m doing something good by sharing helpful information that could improve the health of the community (like our mission says). I also love learning something new every day.

But I am enough of a realist to know that sometimes loving what you do just isn’t enough. Sometimes the aggravation and the things that are out of your control that impact your day-to-day work just become too much to overlook.  That, combined with the recent resignations of two colleagues with whom I really enjoyed working has gotten me thinking. A lot.

So what do you do when you get to that point? Very good question and one I need to ponder. I’m not naive (at least I try not to be!). I am well aware that the grass isn’t always greener, so jumping ship to go to a perceived greener grassland isn’t always the best option. So that means you have to evaluate your options closely and figure out what can make things better.

Clearly the answers to this conundrum will not be clear overnight. But it’s something to think about and to work on. Life is too short, right? We are the only ones who will make ourselves happy.

So now I pose the question to my readers: have you ever felt like this? What did you do?


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Does your company have a strategy or are you a fish out of water?

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

I think it’s often easier to find the things that are wrong in your company rather than appreciating the good things. Recently two things opened my eyes to just how lucky I am to work for the company I do.

The reason for this post, though, is not to shower accolades on my employer, but rather to point out some important things that could impact the marketing and social media efforts of companies.

Last weekend I was at a wedding, and one of my former colleagues was there. I was thrilled to see her because I adore Caitlin. She is a smart young woman, a beautiful and talented writer and a genuinely nice person.

She is now working for a biomedical company. She made a point of telling me how behind the times the company is. There is no overall marketing strategy, there is no coordinated communications efforts or advertising efforts, and social media is a completely mystery to them. In fact, the vice president asked her, “So, that Skype. Is that Facebooking?” Wow. It seems almost impossible in this day and age, right? Surely that company is an anomaly, yes?

Apparently not. Yesterday, I read a post shared by Mark Ragan called “Lessons from a social media disaster.” The post describes a company that appears to be in total chaos: no strategy, no leadership, no IT support, no content creators. Another wow.

So I guess that company that was NOT an exception to the rule. I guess I am lucky in that I work for a company with a clear mission, vision and goals. On top of that we have strategies and clear tactics for all of our marketing and advertising efforts. What we do always supports the overall mission, whether it be marketing, social media, advertising, or caring for our community. We also have policies and procedures so everyone can understand what is expected of them.

Having worked in this environment for all of my career, I think I would be completely lost in a company that didn’t function this way. It’s hard to imagine trying to do anything today when you don’t have a coordinated effort among all the parties responsible for your company’s success. In fact, it sounds like a perfect prescription for failure, right?

Or maybe I’m just partial to doing things that make sense. Personally, I think it’s that strategy that holds the key to success in everything you do. Without a plan, you’re kind of like a fish out of water, especially when it comes to social media.

Do you have a plan when it comes to your marketing and social media efforts? Are there things that you would change about your organization’s environment or culture that you think would help its success? What would it be?


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Just sitting in the waiting room, working

Thanks to technology, many of us can work anytime, from virtually anywhere! Especially when social media is your job. (Photo by mikecough/Flickr)

Thanks to technology, many of us can work anytime, from virtually anywhere! Especially when social media is your job. (Photo by mikecough/Flickr)

My dad has had a rough time lately. After experiencing a rogue gallstone that caused a little havoc and a big scare, my 86-year-old dad was recovering nicely from his surgery. Until last week. He fell outside his surgeon’s office. He ripped up his hand pretty badly and that led to him not being able to drive again for a bit.

So I’ve been my parents chauffeur for their “social calendar” as my mom says. That basically consists of a wide range of doctors appointments, blood work, lab tests and runs to the market.

Thanks to the miracle of today’s technology (which I will never understand!) and a boss who is amazingly supportive and trusting, I’ve been able to keep up with my workload and not miss a beat. When you do social media for a living, a phone, tablet or laptop is all that is required, and it can literally be done from anywhere. Given the ridiculous amount of time spent in doctors’ waiting rooms, it’s like I’m sitting at a desk anyway!

And that brings me to my point. Many of us can do our jobs any time, from anywhere. And for people who are given the opportunity to telecommute, I am willing to bet that their employer is getting back a lot more than they expected. After spending many years in offices and those dreaded “cube farms” I am so ridiculously grateful for the opportunity to telecommute. I know I work hard, but I also appreciate the fact that my director trusts me. In my mind, it all comes down to trust.

I would never do anything to damage that trust because I recognize how much I value this aspect of my professional life. That’s why when I see big companies like Yahoo rethinking their telecommuting policy, I think what a shame it is to do that to people. With the craziness that is our lives, and the demands of jobs and the balancing act that so many of us juggle between work and home, frankly, when there’s trust, then employees who CAN work from home SHOULD be given that opportunity.

Of course I’m not an employer. And honestly, my company does NOT have an official telecommuting policy. Of course in healthcare, that’s rather difficult… or is it? We see more and more about online medical care. So I don’t think we should discount that either!

But if I WAS an employer, I would hope that I would and could trust my employees enough that I would give them the freedom to do their jobs in the best way, best place and time for them. After all, if you’ve got happy employees, won’t you have a better bottom line?

Oh, and to all those doctors who make you wait an hour and a half in the waiting room, our time is valuable too.


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Why I don’t work on Sundays

candleThis is a rant. I don’t do these often. For a long time, though, I’ve had some thoughts I couldn’t quite put into words. It’s more of a feeling that just couldn’t be quite defined. Until now.

But this week I came across a post that just got me thinking. And it made me mad too, and I realized that what I had been thinking about was this: people are expected to do way too much these days, and something’s gotta give.

Here’s the post: “Why productive people work on Sundays.” The title alone annoyed me. It implies that people who don’t work on Sundays are not productive. Wrong. Everyone has their own way of working and everyone has their own workload to manage. It doesn’t mean that you have to work on Sundays to be a productive, worthwhile member of society or a valued employee of a company. I consider myself to be a very productive person and pride myself on how much of a workload I manage on a regular basis. I do what it takes to get the job done, and I know I’m not alone in that. And I’m willing to bet that all those other productive people are not working every Sunday.

The other thing that bothered me about the post is the fact that this writer is suggesting that we take time out of what is conventionally known to all as the “day of rest.” For me and Mr. J, Sunday is our day to enjoy the morning and relax and then go out for a leisurely lunch and cocktail. It’s the one day we indulge ourselves in some R&R time. That’s our time together. I would imagine that for those with children, that day is ever more precious, and needed more too!

Now granted, there are some professions and jobs that just simply have to work on Sundays… nurses, doctors, waiters and waitresses, the retail industry, and the list goes on. But those people have other days off.

The other thing that post made me realize is that there are some factors at play that make up the reality of today. Thanks to the horrible economy, most companies have fewer people expected to do more with less money. So there’s a bigger workload for most people, who are already stretching themselves too thin. And how many hours of our lives are we expected to dedicate to a job rather than our lives? When did it become the norm to live to work rather than work to live?

Now, let’s add to these expectations the fact that if you’re not part of the social media world you’re probably not going to be a top candidate for any jobs in the field of marketing or public relations (or any number of fields for that matter), right? In this industry, if you’re not part of social media, you may as well call it quits and retire. So let’s add on the hours that you can spend (lose?) just keeping up with Facebook status updates, tweets, retweets, hashtags and lists in Twitter, Instagram pics, Pinterest pins, and so on. And don’t forget the time post to your own blog, and catch up on the reading of all your fave blogs and commenting on those posts. Hmmm.

Do you see where I’m going here… suddenly a 40-hour a week job becomes 60 just to get your work done and keep up with everything in the social sphere. I know there are many people who are just totally driven and are not happy unless they’re working all the time. But for the most part, those people are often self-employed. There are others of us who work for companies who are trying to do manage workloads that should be handled by more than one person, and who are also trying to keep up with being a part of the social world. They also try to maintain some sort of family life.

As my dad used to say, “You’re burning the candle at both ends.” I can’t think of a time in history when this is more true.  And this is the reality of today. I don’t think everyone can keep up this pace for too long. Eventually, it’s going to meet in the middle and there will be no wick left, and the candle is not a candle anymore. It’s given all it had to give. There’s nothing left to burn.

So how long do you think you can keep going at the pace you’re going? When is your candle going to meet in the middle? Do you feel it necessary to work on Sundays? Do you think it’s necessary to be productive? So many questions. I’d love to hear from you.


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5 reasons to appreciate interns

MP900398817Every semester we have interns from local colleges who apply to work with us for the semester for NO pay. They do it for the experience and to build some portfolio pieces for when they start applying for jobs.

I’m always amazed that these young adults give up their free time to do this. I can’t help but think that there’s a lifetime of work ahead of them and they should be enjoying their summer off at the beach, or studying or working at a job that pays!

When I was in college, I didn’t do an internship. I worked. A lot. I did jobs that had nothing to do with my college major – restaurants, a video store (back when those existed), a doctor’s office, a welfare office… about as far as you could get for an English Lit major!  But I think the world has changed a lot since those days. Today without some kind of experience, new college grads would be hard pressed to land a job against their competition. They need that leg up!

I’m really lucky to work with a great team of women who really enjoy the opportunity to be a mentor. We see it as a great way to share our experience and to help someone who’s just starting out. Personally, I also see it as an opportunity to meet the next generation, the up-and-comers as I like to think of them, and boy have we had some amazing interns. I wish we could have hired many of them on the spot.

I think our team enjoys the experience of having an intern here because we get a chance to meet someone who has excitement and a fresh take on things… someone who hasn’t yet become jaded and looks at everything with new eyes. It’s refreshing and I love seeing what we do through their eyes.

So while we hope we are inspiring them as they start out in their career, I think they also inspire us. Here’s how:

1. They challenge us. There’s nothing that makes you stop and think about why you do something more than someone asking, “why do you do that.” Suddenly, “because we always have” just doesn’t fit the bill anymore and you begin to question how effective your methods are. Maybe it’s time to rethink things!

2. They bring a new level of creativity to projects. They’re young, and fresh, and creative and not tired and have so much energy! If you’re giving them a good internship, then it will be a mix of projects – some of which they’ve learned about or done already and others that you’ll introduce them to. There’s nothing like seeing someone tackle something new with some gusto to remind you that you might want to bring some more creativity into your own projects!

3. They have experiences that we don’t. In social media, that’s critical. These students have basically grown up with a phone in their hands. Multi-tasking is second nature to them. Pay attention. You can learn a lot from them.

4. They introduce you to new things. They bring new ways of doing things to the table. Nothing makes me stop and think more than when one of our interns says, “We were working on a similar project in class and my professor suggested…” It’s like getting a free education! Well, sort of.

5. They remind you of what it is you love about your job. If you enjoy your job, and you start to explain it to an intern, hopefully your passion will shine through. Let’s face it…it’s really easy to forget that passion on a daily basis. But having someone new around to hear what you do and why you do it will hopefully reignite that little spark and remind you of just how much you love what you do. It will renew your energy!

Our summer interns finished last week. I already miss them and all they brought to the table. Of course it goes without saying that I will also miss all the work they do to help out in social media on a daily basis! So this is a thank you to all our interns over the years. Please know that you’ll be missed, and I hope each of you has learned a little something to take with you as you embark on your careers.

Now if you’re reading this, what is your favorite part of working with an intern?

I published this last night, and then today, saw this article on the possible demise of unpaid internships. What a shame. http://www.boston.com/business/personal-finance/2013/06/25/companies-that-ran-into-legal-woes-over-unpaid-interns/YQbPrmmqn7Ackyf8Mf98hJ/story.html 


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Darn you RSS feed!

RSSI love reading. Whether it’s books, web sites, blogs, magazines, I love to read. And working in PR and social media, reading is necessary to keep up with news of the day, what is trending or the hot topics du jour.

Over the last few years, I’ve built quite a list of blogs I like to read. It’s so easy when you come across something you like and you just hit that little RSS button and add it to your reader. My list is a mix of social and tech sites and personal blogs from really great, really smart people who wax eloquently and often about a variety of topics, including social media.

I love the mix of topics, from Bonnie Sashin talking about her beloved grandson Jack or what it’s like to row on the Charles River in the morning on Bonnie’s On It, to Jayme Soulati’s brilliant thoughts on marketing in today’s world on Soulati-tude (even the name is fab!), to the straight talking, no holds barred honesty of Gini Dietrich on the amazing Spin Sucks blog, absolutely one of my long-standing faves. Then of course there’s the brilliant Shelly Kramer who has given me more tips and tricks that use on a daily basis, along with wonderful commentary on so many topics on her V3 Kansas City Integrated Marketing blog.  I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t include Margie Clayman and her wide mix of topics (which is what I absolutely adore about this blog, not to mention her lovely writing style) on Margie’s Moments of Tiyoweh. And then there’s the amazing Geoff Livingston who recently started writing longer, more thoughtful, beautifully written posts that are thoroughly enjoyable and an escape from the norm, which I just love.

Of course these are just a handful of my favorite bloggers, and I could go on and on (and on!) with many more from my reader, which is Feedly since Google announced it wouldn’t offer Reader anymore. Sigh. Don’t get me started on that. But I digress. My point is, I could spend my entire day and most nights trying to keep up with my reader, reading the thoughts that come from these brilliant minds that are then crafted so beautifully into a wonderful little package we know as a blog.

The problem is how do you keep up? My days are filled from morning to night just managing my job responsibilities, and rarely getting to that list of “I should do that when I get a chance” tasks (I bet you’re nodding your head right now in complete understanding!). I hadn’t been on my reader in a while and today I had 724 new posts to peruse. Yes, 724. So I can either scroll through and delete most and maybe have some time to read the ones that really jump out at me, or I can mark them all as read and start over tomorrow.

But being my father’s daughter and never wanting to throw anything away, I find it impossible to do the latter, so I will start the slow process of going through my list and saving many for later reading, some of which I’ll get to and some I won’t, and I’ll be obsessed with the fact that I missed a vital piece of hot info, or an opinion by one of my fave bloggers that was just not to be missed. You know the feeling, right?

So for now, I’m going to end this post and head over to my reader. But I’m wondering what your favorite blogs are, and how you manage to keep up with your reading. I’m sure I’m not alone in this dilemma!