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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?

Globalization: How Living in Madrid Helped Me Understand the Role of PR

I spent last summer studying Spanish in Madrid. I had never traveled outside the U.S. before, and while I packed for my trip, I thought about my expectations for the summer.
I wanted to converse in Spanish over tapas and sangria at a sidewalk café in Plaza Mayor.

I wanted to bargain for a beautiful piece of local art with a street vendor in the narrow streets of Toledo.

I wanted to take Spanish-speaking tours through castles filled with history, knights’ armor, and intricate architecture.

I wanted to bask in the sun on the coast of the Mediterranean in Andalucía while people-watching for countless, lazy hours.

Sitting here now, browsing through my pictures from the trip, I realize that I did all of these things. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to live in another country because I gained a little world perspective from each of these experiences.

I also see how living in Madrid benefited my future as a PR professional. As a communicator, I realized what it means to separate yourself from your own culture and to embrace someone else’s. I learned to appreciate cultural differences without losing sight of my own beliefs and traditions. I finally understood globalization, and what it means for the future of corporate America.

As our world becomes flatter, it’s important to develop cultural competency. There are a lot of examples of PR campaigns and media coverage that show a prominent Western bias—and we have to be careful of this, especially those in PR. It is the responsibility of PR practitioners to provide counsel to our clients, and to know how audiences will receive certain messages. We have to think about where campaigns are being launched and understand exactly how a different culture might decipher a speech, ad, or article.

  • Will it have the same effect as it would in the U.S.?
  • How does the message translate from English to another language?
  • Will it offend anyone?
  • Will the audience understand the concept or humor?

These are important questions that should be common sense, but sometimes in our hurry to develop the next big campaign, we forget to evaluate all the possible outcomes, especially from the perspective of another culture.

There’s no escaping globalization. Cultures are cross-pollinating, melding into one another while simultaneously trying to remain as distinct as possible. Being an effective communicator does not stop at the edge of the United States, but the skills we develop should allow our clients’ messages to transcend borders and cultures. But that doesn’t mean we should impose our own culture on anyone else—it’s finding that balance that is key.

**I know how lucky I was to live abroad, and that not everyone can do it. Believe me, I never thought I would be able to do it either. Before I received this opportunity, I took several courses about international relations, foreign languages, and world history. I can’t stress enough how valuable these classes were in preparing me for work in a global economy. I’m taking two more this semester if any of my peers from USF want to join me. Let me know, and I’ll give you the course information.