Oh my, the things we do—and have done—to fit in.
As a kid, I can remember roaming the neighborhood with boys that were older than me. Yeah, which means I discovered cigarettes as a 10-year-old, saw my first Playboy by age 11 and found my next-door neighbor’s face stuck to what I thought was a glass vase. A bong.
We all want to fit in, be accepted and be with the “in crowd.” So when we’re rejected, criticized, attacked or set apart—physically, relationally or emotionally—there’s great angst and irritation. Fear. Yet fitting in often conflicts with what is right, what is good, our values, beliefs and professional standards. So therein lies the struggle. So at what price do we choose to fit in? How willing are we to stand up for what we believe is true, good, just or unjust? Can we deal with scorn, rejection, disdain? Hate?
The Burden of Conviction
Professionally, PR folks have a code of ethics. In addition, we each have a personal code of conduct. So are we operating our lives, attitudes and actions in concert with the code, or have we become ambivalent or hardened by what we see and hear every day? I’m guilty. You are too. Yet increasingly, I find myself saying no more. Not now. I can’t allow this or that. I won’t tolerate this action or that inaction. I am re-discovering my personal conviction. It is this burden of conviction that we’ve lost somewhere along the way.
5 Challenges for You & Me
- Be alert. Gulliver should have never taken a nap. Don’t sleep through your life. Awaken the heart and spirit. And mind. Live to effect change.
- Be informed. Know your stuff. Read. Read. Read. Study what’s being said, by whom. Ask questions, ask why. Today, information is rarely objective or “simple fact.” Example, if you agree with global warming, know why. If you don’t, know why.
- Be active. Knowledge without action is empty air and wasted time. Act. Do. Figure out “your part” at work, at home, in your neighborhood or nonprofit. It is the silent doers in the back that make the most impact. The famous and rich? Rarely.
- Be outspoken. There is so much clamoring that it’s often difficult to get a word in edge-wise. Share your convictions. Share what you believe is good and right. Agree to disagree, but enter into discourse and debate.
- Be you. Most importantly, you must remain true to who you are, what you believe and what is required of you. You matter. Your opinions are valid, whether I agree or not.
Whether we’re talking about our role in the workplace or as a parent – or as an American citizen tuned into the issues of the nation and world—we must respond to the burden of conviction. It’s about being true to one’s self. Thinking for yourself. And acting.
The time is now.
Among small businesses, (500 employees or less), I find it rare that they much in the way of communicating with customers, prospects, suppliers, influencers, and even employees. Why? There are three primary reasons:
- Marketing is perceived as mysterious, and seems complicated.
- Sales is familiar and seems easy (I hire a sales guy, use Salesforce and dial for dollars).
- I’m too busy to think about it or do it (We’re developing products, ensuring service, hiring people, keeping people happy, fighting fires and meeting payroll, etc.).
When they meet communicators, they’re usually interested in what we have to say. We’re excited and more than willing to rattle off exactly what their business needs: “Social media is critical, public relations is essential and your website, sales materials and trade show stuff must be new, fresh, and compelling. And, of course, there’s the issue of your corporate brand and how all of this fits into an overall marketing communications strategy. So, let’s get started.”
The business owner is now catatonic. Eyes are glazed over. Is he or she breathing? Their business brains have gone straight to “oh my god” and “there’s no way I can do all this—no time, no money, no people.” We just assassinated our prospect.
Here’s how to slow down and showcase the role of marketing communications for small businesses in 7 simple steps:
- Break it down. No company can do everything all the time. Through a simple yet comprehensive planning session with the sales and executive team, we discover the business goals and efforts that are already planned. We align marketing efforts with business efforts. Business goals with marketing goals.
- Start small. If the business owner and the team are historically sales focused vs. marketing savvy, it’s critical to start small and get them comfortable with how marketing works—vs. sales. Starting small may mean implementing something as simple as a customer letter that is written, printed and mailed every quarterly. An easy First Step is a brief yet consistent e-mail “newsletter” to customers and prospects.
- Budget the basics. The same principle applies here. Don’t scope the marketing program so they have to put a lien on their building. Give them some practical perspectives, share a brief strategy/goals statement, and then break out the steps and tactics with hard numbers. Be precise and specific.
- Stay nearby and navigate with care. I find that entrepreneurs thrive amid chaos so keeping efforts focused, synced and timely are often the most difficult parts of the project. Pre-scheduled status meetings per week serve to remind everyone “who’s on first.” Keeping everyone committed, aware and engaged is 95 percent of the success factor.
- Make it easy. Do everything you can to eliminate redundancy, delays and to-dos. If it gets you what you need to accomplish the task, meet your client for a drink after hours or do a phone call after they tuck in their kids for bed. Accommodate them.
- Show progress. Don’t go silent and not correspond with the client for a week. Tune in, communicate and let them know something’s happening. I add calendar reminders called “Quick Touch/Client A” just so I reach out—even if there’s not a lot to say. Quick and easy.
- Step back. In our quest to act and generate results, we may forget the most important action required with clients: to listen. They are the experts in their business. We need to leverage that so we can improve and advance their cause—and ours.
When clients and communicators combine their competencies, long term, the outcome is extraordinary. There is strength in relationships and results.
Please follow me at http://www.twitter.com/practicalpr.
Great back-to-school infographic http://ow.ly/nVFM9 #socialmedia
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