Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Today's Question: Are You Up for the Challenge of Swimming with Sharks?

I mean this question more figuratively than literally, but as a certified SCUBA diver, I have encountered some sharks during dives. Swimming with sharks can be both thrilling and challenging--and quite similar to the business world that many of us survive in each day.

Swimming with sharks requires three basic steps:

1. Anticipate their next move-The key to many business relationships also requires a bit of anticipation. We try and outline the next steps to get projects approved and to keep them moving.

2. Always keep them in your line of sight-Overall business goals cannot be overlooked. It's important to keep your eye on the big picture and to not get sidetracked by distractions. If you take your eye off the goal for even a second, it could bite you, right in the...you know where.

3. Don't become the bait-Remaining a team player is an important part of survival. The ability to adapt to different situations and roles is necessary in our changing business climate--besides it's been documented that sharks have been known to eat their own.

So, let's dive in, the water's just fine.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today's Question: What Words Do You Hate?

I found a really cool Web site developed by one of the original team members of Blogger. Each day a new prompt is provided to get people to start communicating online--sometimes the prompt is a question or something for you to reflect and comment on. When you have a chance, check out plinky.com and start sharing with others.

"What Words Do You Hate?" came from a recent prompt. Right now, I hate the words: expert and guru. These words are completely overused and have lost their effectiveness. Besides, If you truly are an expert or a guru-do you need to overtly state it?

Maybe we could replace these words with enthusiast, devotee or believer?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today's Question: Do You Manage with Intensity?

Today's question is inspired by a recent management tip provided by Harvard Business School. The tip read: "management intensity" is a crucial response to the accelerating speed at which things are changing. Big-picture strategic thinking is important, but right now leaders need to be involved, visible, and communicating all the time.

Well, I think I've been getting management intensity wrong (or have I?)--while I believe I have an innate ability to think about the big picture and can be a real asset in strategic planning, I also realize that at the same time, I'm a manager that gets in trenches and becomes involved with the tactical execution of projects and programs--and I was doing this before the recent recession.

Maybe if the leaders of AIG, Fannie Mae and Merrill Lynch were managing with intensity before the collapse of their companies, our financial and banking infrastructure wouldn't require government intervention.

My only conclusion is that management intensity is just as important in a good economy as it is during a bad one!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Today's Question: Can Key Messages Kill The Messenger?

It's been a few days since the "Brawl Street" special on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with John Stewart. Prior to last Thursday's episode a very public feud was brewing between John Stewart and Jim Cramer of CNBC's Mad Money for several days--and it was making its way to mainstream media like The Today Show and The Martha Stewart Show.

If you saw the episode (and even if you didn't)--John Stewart was declared the victor in the battle of wits. What I saw was Jim Cramer--a guy with a larger than life personality--reduced to a shell of a TV host--it made me wonder if he was pinned as the scapegoat for CNBC? Absent from the interview were Cramer's constant ravings, explosive body language and in-your-face jabs. His key messages were reduced to "I made mistakes" and "I was lied to"--these were the repetitive key messages that were uttered as he asked for forgiveness and vowed to become a better advisor. How could the media relations experts at CNBC allow Cramer to make such a fool of himself--unless it was intentional.

I think that key messages can kill the messenger--especially when that is their intention.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Today's Question: Do You Have a Connection Obsession?

Hi, my name is Krista Holloway and I am a connection addict. I spend most of my time online, reading, sharing and communicating with others. While being connected with social media is important for my profession, I think this obsession might be a problem. I actually posted a tweet that stated "my day job is interfering with my social media time."

What is happening? Before the proliferation of social media, I hadn't heard from people from college, high school--or even elementary school--now, I'm seeking these people out--looking at their photos and asking about their kids. Even though I have the NHL Center Ice cable package, I read Red Wings' game feeds over Twitter instead of watching the game on TV! Last night, I updated my Twitter status through my new Blackberry Storm at my book club. And I'm the first person to make fun of the pregnant woman who was tweeting while in labor...I don't think I'm that far off.

Is this going too far? Is it time to seek professional help? Well, I'm not a quitter, so I will continue to Twitter!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today's Question: What is Really Meant by Active Listening?

I learned about "active" listening in one of my college communications courses. Active listening means that the listener is completely focused on the person delivering the message; at the end of an active listening exercise there should be a mutual understanding of the subject matter.

The word "active" implies an action--so why isn't listening action enough, why do we feel compelled to do something other than just listen--such as take notes or have a pre-existing list of questions that we are going to ask regardless of the information presented?

Oftentimes we feel obligated to take notes during an important meeting or presentation. In order to prepare for the meeting, we have developed questions to ask to appear engaged. We'll concentrate harder on these activities than actually taking a moment to listen when we need to. In these situations, our active listening gets confused with taking good notes or asking good questions.

I encourage you the next time you have an important meeting with someone to stop taking notes, start listening and keep asking (relevant) questions!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Today's Question: What Can We Learn from The Girls Scouts?

Girl Scouts and more importantly, Girl Scout Cookies, are American icons. I say this as I enjoy a Tagalong and cup of tea. For more than 80 years, the Girl Scouts have been baking and selling cookies across the country--and their business model continues to evolve.

The Girl Scout Cookie business model has the key ingredients that make a company successful:

1. Research and Development-each year the Girl Scouts introduce a new cookie or two
2. Consumer Insight-based on sales, cookies become staples in the annual line-up, or they get phased out
3. Logistics-troops go door-to-door selling the boxes; parents help with the delivery of the cookies a few weeks later
4. Price Point-$3 a box still seems like a bargain
5. Community Outreach-the sales of the cookies help fund the local projects of the troops
6. Marketing-any marketing expert will tell you that cute kids can help sell products

Due to their consistency and quality, Girl Scout Cookies are a fundraiser that can withstand recession and tighter budgets--who can't find a few bucks for a box of Samoas at the grocery store?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Today's Question: Are We Really Communicating How We Feel Through Social Media?

Social media has given us a new forum for communicating our feelings and thoughts. When I first started out on facebook, I would carefully craft my message and consider who might be looking at my updates. Well, the other day, I realized that social media didn't effectively communicate how I felt and caused quite a stir among my family and friends.

Last week, I was having "one of those days." Instead of blowing up at anyone or even internalizing it--I posted on facebook: "Krista is thinking that if the world ended right now, I'd be OK with it." I wasn't depressed, just really frustrated. I thought I was being clever--anyone that knows me understands my sarcasm, right? I got caught up in the moment and posted without thinking--big mistake.

A few co-workers laughed about my post and agreed with me...one of my friends emailed me to make sure I was OK...when I got home, my husband was upset. He got called by his family to make sure that everything was alright with us, with my health, with our dog, etc., etc.

Now, if I had "said" that statement to my husband, a family member or friend, there wouldn't have been a problem--but a status update without inflection, nonverbal cues and a laugh caused panic and concern.

I think I'll take a little more time with my updates in the future!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Today's Question: Have You Heard of PitchEngine?

PitchEngine is quickly becoming a public relations pro's best friend. Many of us have been waiting on the sidelines trying to figure out when and where to introduce social media into our annual client campaigns...especially when they are more familiar with conservative outreach.

Well, now is the time to embrace the SMR (social media release) and pitchengine is a tool to help us do just that. Our traditional media outlets are dwindling. The Baltimore Examiner, Rocky Mountain News, O at Home, domino and other print publications have recently stopped publishing and additional layoffs are being made across both broadcast and print platforms.

Social media releases offer us a new frontier to explore. Not only can PR pros push the news, but we are giving both journalists and consumers the opportunity to react, support and act on the information we are providing to them!

If you're a PR pro, get to know PitchEngine and if you're a consumer (we all are) continue to share, comment, endorse and even criticize.

Our opinions matter now more than ever--and companies, representatives and brands are (or need to) start listening!