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Out With The Old, In With The New

Happy New Year’s Eve!

new-years-sparklers

 

This time of year is always filled with goal setting, reflecting, and resolution making. I did pretty well with my 2012 goals, only missing a few that probably weren’t very realistic (seriously, a month without sweets?!).

A lot happened last year. When reflecting on the last 12 months this morning, I realized I:

I think that’s the most productive year I’ve had in a really long time!

Now, I’m thinking about what I hope to accomplish in 2013:

  1. Finish a marathon
  2. Run 12 races throughout the year
  3. PR in the 5K and 10K
  4. Break 1:40 in the half marathon
  5. Complete a trail race
  6. Take swimming lessons
  7. Nail one of the “crazy” yoga poses – arm balance, bird of paradise, etc.
  8. Achieve all of my work goals
  9. Travel to 5 new places
  10. Read 25 books

So, here’s to the last day of 2012 and then it’s on to the next!

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How to Win Friends and Influence People [at SXSW]

This past week, I attended the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas for the first time. I had the opportunity to assist a large global company host a number of activations on the ground at SXSW which showed me a lot about how brands can break through the noise at such a large conference to leave a lasting impact on consumers. It also taught me a bit about myself and how I can attempt to stay focused on running and training even when there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

Below, you’ll find a couple of insights I gained from my time in Austin (aside from the fact that Austin truly has amazing breakfast tacos and BBQ).

For Brands:

    1. Don’t Be Intrusive: This piece of advice is twofold. First, when meeting someone for the first time, try to establish a relationship before you begin selling. While assisting one of my clients who serves as the Director of Social Media and Digital Communications for a very large company, I often felt like a bodyguard who had to protect her from people spouting out pitches on why their app/product/agency/etc. should be used. Second, if you are a large brand who hopes to capitalize on the buzz surrounding SXSW, do not interrupt attendees’ conference experience with activations that A) don’t make sense or B) don’t tie back to your company or product.
    2. Solve a Problem: One of the best ways to leave potential customers at an event as large as SXSW with positive impressions of your brand is to find a way to solve their problems that reflects back on your product or company. Companies that do both of these things well – solve problems while allowing consumers to have experiences with their products – will come out as winners. At SXSW, I saw a lot of organizations trying to solve users’ problems (with free food or free charging stations), but I honestly can’t remember who was handing out free breakfast tacos on the corner or who had the jacket that could charge mobile devices because there was never a true connection between the company and the freebie
    3. Provide Value: A lot of companies head down to SXSW to build relationships with influential social media users. There are many ways to do this, and a lot of times they involve lots of free products. That’s fine, but try to think creatively about how you can fulfill a need in a thoughtful way. While in Austin, I overheard my clients chatting about how they’d like to meet other in-house social media managers. With their permission, I organized a dinner that brought together social media directors and community managers from several large organizations. This proved to be a big success – the conversation lasted for three hours as everyone discussed ideas, challenges, and successes they’ve seen in their roles. Both the clients and the other attendees were very happy to leave the dinner with several new connections.

For Staffers:

    1. Try to Maintain Parts of Your Normal Routine…: Traveling always throws off my routine. Add in traveling for a massive conference where I’d be working long hours and I knew the only way to maintain some sanity would be to keep some aspects of my regular habits in place. I decided to focus on two things: running in the mornings and getting in as many fruits and veggies as possible. Everything else went out the window: personal social media activities, reading, cross training, strength training, and yoga. Luckily, I made a running buddy who kept me motivated to wake up early and go running in the rain. Trying to keep up with everything I normally do would have been disastrous, but having two tasks to focus on allowed me to stay on track with my training plan and my health while still giving 100% to my work tasks.
    2. … But Be Flexible: Big conferences are notorious for crazy schedules, which can get even crazier if you are working the event. With my OCD tendencies, I often find myself stressing when my normal routine is disrupted. However, before heading to Austin, I prepared myself for this inevitability. Sure enough, last-minute meetings and events and deadlines popped up, causing me to rearrange my personal schedule. The day for my long run changed three times, I switched my rest day twice, and changed the time I woke up daily. And… I survived.
    3. Follow-up: SXSW, at its core, is a networking event. Even if you’re staffing an event and never step foot inside a panel or party, you will be connecting with lots of people from a variety of industries. If you meet anyone who you enjoyed speaking with, be sure to follow-up once the dust from Austin settles. Don’t rely on the business card exchange – I received many business cards that simply got misplaced as I ran from event to event assisting my clients. Now, I’m hoping many of those who I met will reach out via email or on social channels. I recommend following people on Twitter and sending a quick @reply to remind them of your conversation, adding them to specific Twitter lists (I immediately created two new ones), trying to connect on LinkedIn, or sending a quick email with your contact information. Also, in your introductory email, please don’t pitch the person. This is your chance to start a relationship and the fastest way to ruin it is to reach out with the sole purpose of pitching your product, service, or need for a job.

These are just a few takeaways I had after leaving Austin, but there are many others. What do you recommend for both brands, staffers, and attendees heading to large conferences and events such as SXSW? How can they make the most of their experience and leave the largest impact?

Looking Forward to 2012: Goal Setting

After having an amazing time in 2011, I am ready to challenge myself even more next year. There are a lot of things I’m hoping to accomplish before December 31, 2012 in lots of different areas of my life. Here’s a long list of goals I will be working toward achieving:

Running

In 2011, running became a very important part of my life. When I resumed running in January, I could barely maintain a 10:30 mile for 30 minutes on the treadmill. Now, I go for 13 mile runs because I feel like it. I am excited to see what I can achieve with running in 2012. 

  1. Finish my first half marathon.
  2. Run a half marathon in 1:45.
  3. Break 23 minutes in the 5K.
  4. Run 12 races in 2012.
  5. Set PRs in the 8K and 10K distances.

Health/Fitness

While running is my hobby and preferred method of exercise, I know that I need to build strength in other areas in order to maintain a balanced lifestyle. I hope to incorporate more variety into my health routine to ensure I am the healthiest I can be.  

  1. Try 3 new types of exercise. (I’d like to try The Bar Method, Cross Fit, TRX Training, and Physique 57).
  2. Strength train at least 2 time per week.
  3. Practice yoga at least 3 times per month.
  4. Eliminate sweets/desserts completely for one month.
  5. Make 10 new recipes.

Mental/Emotional

Living a balanced lifestyle means improving my mental and emotional health. In trying to develop physically health habits, this area of my life didn’t receive as much attention in 2011. I hope to change that next year.   

  1. Read 25 new books.
  2. Improve a professional skill (such as CSS/HTML or SEO/SEM).
  3. Attend 6 networking events.
  4. Read and watch the news daily.
  5. Read 3 industry-related books.

I’m glad I took the time to outline my goals before the new year starts – I have a tendency to make resolutions/goals in mid-January. I’m eager to get started as soon as I’m back in D.C. !

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2012?

 

Reflecting on my 2011 Goals

2011 is winding down and I’m gearing up for a fantastic 2012. Before I begin listing my 2012 goals, I need to evaluate how I did with the ones I set for last year:

  • Run 5 races including the Army 10 Miler on October 9, 2011Accomplished! I ran quite a few races in 2011 – St. Patrick’s Day 8K, Cooper River Bridge Run 10K, Crystal City Twilighter 5K, Run! Geek! Run! 8K, Army 10 Miler, Subaru Thanksgiving Day 6K, and the Hot Chocolate 15K.
  • Try 5 types of new exercise – Accomplished! I tried Kazaxé, Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, p90x, and Tabata Intervals.
  • Improve my knowledge of basic nutrition and apply much of what I learn to my daily eating habits – Accomplished! After reading countless articles and journals on nutrition, I now eat a mostly vegetarian diet consisting of whole foods. In the beginning of 2011, I ate few vegetables and relied on a stocked freezer. Now, my meals are made from fresh ingredients and I rarely pull anything but frozen veggies or fruit from the freezer. I still have a lot of room for improvement, especially maintaining consistency when I’m traveling or on vacation.
  • Read 35 new books, five of which are nonfiction – Failed! I only read 22 books this year. I did not expect this goal to be the one I didn’t achieve, but moving into D.C. and eliminating my daily commute played a big role in why I didn’t read 35 books this year. I also devoted a lot of time to my new hobby – running!
  • Take a class to learn a new skill or improve an old one – Failed! Outside of fitness and nutrition, I did not take any classes. Finding the time and budget made this challenging.
  • Attend a professional conference or workshop – Accomplished! I attended Blog World Expo New York.
  • Get involved with a volunteer organization – Accomplished! I began regularly volunteering with Girls on the Run.
  • Determine whether I want to get a graduate degree – Accomplished! After a lot of research, I determined that I am not ready to pursue a graduate degree right now. In the future, I might look into getting an MBA so I can improve my knowledge of finance and marketing.
  • Travel to 3 new places  – Accomplished! This year, I made my way to three new cities in the United States: New Orleans, Charleston, and Harpers Ferry.

Looking back, I am impressed with how far I’ve come with my health and fitness. These goals have always been challenging for me to stick with, but I had NO trouble achieving the ones I made for 2011. I’m looking forward to challenging myself even more physically next year. Improving my health and fitness had positive effects on all other aspects of my life, from my career to my friendships and relationships. In 2012, I’d like to work on balance – maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle while not ignoring my other hobbies and passions (especially reading).

How did you do with your 2011 goals and/or resolutions?

A Reflection: How Blogging Affected My Life

It recently hit me how dramatically my life has changed in the past year that I’ve been blogging. In twelve months, I have graduated from college, moved from Florida to the Nation’s Capital, left my family, interned at a prestigious public affairs firm, landed my dream job, and interacted with brilliant people from around the world.

Almost all of these milestones are a direct result of this blog. That may sound exaggerated, but it’s not. Launching my blog has significantly influenced my life in many ways, especially in my professional career, but more importantly – blogging has made me more appreciative of everything I have achieved so far and more willing to help others reach their own milestones.

When it comes to professional development, I might be the poster child for how beneficial blogging can be to one’s career. Looking back at the recognition I have received in the past year because of my blog is very humbling. Since creating this blog, I have been offered numerous freelance writing opportunities and professors have asked me to speak to their students about blogging. As someone making the transition from college student to full-time professional, these experiences allowed me to develop skills necessary for a successful career in communications.

Last spring, I was awarded second place in the PRSSA/Edelman Outstanding Public Relations Student competition, and the nominating team mentioned that my blog showed how passionate I was about my education and the PR field. When my last semester of college was ending, I sought advice from bloggers who had re-located after college and, with their advice and encouragement, decided that leaving Florida to pursue my career in PR was the best decision for me to make. Then, I used my blog to develop a professional network on LinkedIn and Twitter, both of which earned me informational interviews at several prestigious PR agencies in Washington, D.C. Because of my blog, I landed a summer internship at one of the best public affairs firms in the country. There, my supervisors tapped me for insight into the digital space and pulled me into important client meetings I never dreamed I would attend as an intern. I met former congressional members and presidential press secretaries – and got paid for it!

After my internship ended, I needed to find a full-time job. I wanted to work at a forward-thinking company that understood social media. Connections I made and conversations I had through my blog and Twitter led me to my current position – my dream job – at a company that embodies those exact qualities.

Though these opportunities enhanced my resume and portfolio, they are not the reason why I love being a part of the blogosphere as much as I do.

Perhaps the most substantial impact blogging has had on my life has been helping me push aside my shyness so that I could talk to people with more ease and confidence. After receiving insightful comments on my posts from prominent professors and professionals, I felt my bashfulness gradually subside. With this newfound courage, I reached out to people I respected and admired; something I’ve never been comfortable doing in the past.

The hospitality and encouragement I received from my mentors blew me away. Blogging made it easier to connect and build friendships with intelligent people like Karen Russell, Robert French, Les Potter, Constantin Basturea, Paull Young, Melanie Seasons, and countless more. Their kindness showed me the importance of community and that building relationships is the foundation for everything, especially in PR and social media.

Considering all of the professional goals I have achieved in the past year, you might be asking why something like gaining courage has had the biggest impact on my life. Well, it’s the circular nature that resonates so well in the blogosphere. My blog gave me more confidence in my abilities as a writer and communicator, so I felt more confident reaching out to bloggers I admired, and when they were so open to helping me, I knew that I had to give back in some way, too. The blogosphere frequently reminds me how important the pay-it-forward mentality is: help and be helped, what goes around comes around, sharing is essential.

The communities I have gotten involved with through blogging made me realize how much I love helping people, especially college students and recent grads. Each week, I receive comments or e-mails from students saying my blog has helped them in some way, whether it’s encouraging them to start their own blogs or inspiring them to apply for awards that seem out of reach. These kind words are never taken for granted – in fact, they are often what keeps me going when I find myself frustrated with blogging (or even life in general).

Blogging has helped me achieve many of the goals I set for myself, and all of the wonderful things that have happened to me would not mean as much if I did not try to inspire other people as others motivated me during my rough times, life changes, and professional pursuits.

So how has blogging affected my life? It helped me come out of my shell so that I could somehow interact with industry geniuses, move to a big city by myself, land my dream job, and share these experiences with others who are going through the same things I did. For me, this blog is about developing confidence in my own voice so that I can help others in the same way others helped me. If being vocal online helps other people along the way, I’m more than happy to pretend that I am a gregarious extrovert who doesn’t even know what the word “shy” means.

H/T to the phenomenal team over at Brazen Careerist for holding this outstanding contest and motivating me to write the post that should have been written a long time ago. Those guys really know how to challenge me!

I Aimed High, and So Should You

Let me give you some advice: apply for that job you think you aren’t qualified for, or submit your entry to win an award you think will probably go to someone else. You never know when the people selecting the winners will think that YOU are the perfect candidate.

Last fall, I was browsing the PRSSA Web site for scholarships and internships that I could apply for when I stumbled across the Daniel J. Edelman Award for the Outstanding Public Relations Student. I read over the qualifications, and thought it seemed out of my league. After researching past winners, I saw that almost all of them were presidents or vice presidents of their own chapters with impressive resumes that made mine look weak in comparison. Defeated, I clicked off that page to look for other awards that I might have a chance to win.

A couple of days later, I returned to the site. I thought– why not? What did I have to lose by submitting an entry? I respected the Edelman agency, and wanted to learn more about its culture, clients, and past work.

Once I sent out my entry, I thought that was it. I honestly wasn’t expecting to hear anything, and took the experience as an opportunity to learn how to piece together a portfolio.

I am very honored to say that I was wrong. In January, I received a phone call from Heather Crowley at Edelman informing me that I was a finalist in the competition. Only the friends who were with me that night can truly understand the shock, amazement, and joy that I felt upon receiving that call. It was an exhilarating moment that made me appreciate all the work I had put into my PR education.

From then, it only got better. I had a phone interview with Heather that went beyond discussing my qualifications for the award because Heather was so open to questions I had about Edelman and the public relations industry in general. Our forty-five minute conversation was one of the most informative and interesting talks I’ve shared with a professional, and that was reason enough to be happy that I applied for the award that I never thought I had a chance at winning.

A week later, Heather called and told me some great news: I was the runner-up in the competition, which meant I had won $500 and the chance to interview at any of Edelman’s offices for an internship position.

Just recently, Edelman posted a press release about the competition. It’s surreal and very humbling that an agency I have admired for some time saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.

I can’t believe I almost passed up this opportunity when I thought about not applying back in December. I shared this story not to brag, but to encourage other students to aim high. I know a lot of my peers talk about not being qualified for certain positions they want, or not having the experience or achievements to apply for an award, but everyone feels that way. Half the battle is placing yourself in a position to succeed, and you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t try!