"I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing." — Marsha Doble
I am a huge believer in the mental, physical and emotional benefits associated with exercise, and there are many studies supporting the idea that pre-work workouts result in better performance on the job.
This time of year requires more motivation than usual. The discipline required to get out of bed before 5 a.m. is unrivaled given the dark, cold weather. This morning at the bus stop – aside from thinking about how glittens are a genius invention I cannot live without – I reminded myself why exercise is important and how it directly correlates to success in PR and business:
- Release your productivity: The hormones produced by exercise result in happiness, decreased anxiety, increased energy and clearer focus.
- Be competitive: Joining a sports team or having a gym buddy to out-run gives you a taste of what it feels like to work hard and succeed. This naturally carries over and promotes a healthy, aggressive perspective on life and work.
- Leave work at work: PR is stressful – no doubt. We are juggling numerous client requests, daily tasks and ongoing goals that must be met on time. You might leave work at 6 or 7 p.m., but is your brain ready to shut down at 10? Exercise helps you fall asleep and improve overall sleep patterns, which -- hello -- only helps you get up and start all over again.
- Work harder, better, faster, stronge: At Metis, we are constantly in search of (and promoting) technology that makes us work more efficiently. When I arrive at work in the morning, I’ve already been up for two or three hours, and I’m ready to recite my to-do list for the day and get cranking.
- Condition your body and mind: In PR, we are always in training and learning. We encourage each other and our clients to set goals that are both challenging and attainable. Training for something that requires long-term planning requires discipline, motivation, time management and commitment.
As my favorite Thursday morning Pilates teacher proclaims every week, “go forth with calm determination.” I think she’s on to something.
The adage, “everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten,” is true. During that early school experience, teachers and parents continue to reinforce the messages, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and, “Don’t give up! You can do it.” There’s a reason why these sayings are so often repeated. Persistence is the key to success, both in our personal and professional lives.
In my 10-plus years in PR, hard work and persistence have been so important in making things happen for clients. Whether it is constant contact with reporters, clients’ customers or industry analysts, you have to be persistent to achieve specific PR objectives.
It is this underlying theme that needs to be drummed into the incoming professionals fresh out of college. Persistence in PR not only provides results for your clients, but helps you build relationships with reporters.
But persistence can also backfire if you finally catch a reporter on the phone just when he is having a bad day. In that case, the response might be grumpy and uninterested by keep trying because it could just be an act too. If you are passionate about your clients and believe they can help, then it's your duty to keep trying.
As I learned in kindergarten, when making friends for the first time, there is a fine line between persistence and annoyance, but I can’t stop trying just because someone said, “Go away” in the midst of a bad day. With determination and creativity, you can break through these barriers and unlock the value for everyone.
It’s archaic, I know, but I still use a Franklin Covey day planner. Yup, real pen and paper. I use additional, more high-tech tools, such as Box.net and Backpack, to stay on top of things and collaborate with my teams. But for my own ongoing to-do lists, I still use pen and paper and it works for me. Every day I am greeted with a quote at the top of each page that make me think for a minute each morning about something other than the tasks ahead.
Take today’s for example:
“The secret of success is to do common things uncommonly well.” – John D. Rockefeller
Reading it as I start my day makes me stop and think about things for a minute. Long before Jim Collins’ hedgehog concept in Good to Great and Tony Hsieh’s philosophy around customer WOW, John D. Rockefeller had a similar philosophy. Simple but powerful. At Metis, we live by a similar philosophy, and we’re crystal clear on what common things we do uncommonly well.
All our past, current and prospective customers have heard us say, “We don’t have any magic bag of PR tricks that other agencies don’t have, but our approach is different than most PR firms’.” How is it different? We do what Mr. Rockefeller suggests; we do common things uncommonly well. We don’t make promises we can’t keep. We do not “bait and switch.” We become a part of your team. We get answers. We are proactive. We don’t miss deadlines. We understand your business, competitive landscape and industry influencers. We meet the goals we set.
It’s as simple as that. No frills. Common concepts done uncommonly well.
We think it works. If you need evidence, just consider that our business is more than 90 percent referral-based since our founding in 2005. Think about it.
What common things do you do uncommonly well?
In my last post, I discussed how Metis works with many C-level executives who are focused on the technology and business, but who are sometimes new to the promotion side of the house. Others might think this is a challenge, but this is our passion at Metis. We believe in these startups and emerging companies, we invest in taking the time to educate them and we become their true arms and legs, so that they can rely on us as the partner they need to succeed as a business. We make our internal marketing executives look like superheroes. Yes, we do.
As we head into 2011, we plan on talking to a lot more companies that need a partner like Metis to help with their promotional needs. During these conversations, I’ll draw from my top five list of high-level advice for internal marketing professionals working with PR firms:
- Clearly outline all internal challenges from the start of your relationship with your PR firm. It’s important to be honest and let them know what they will encounter and how this contributes to your overall success as a team.
- Discuss your overall business and marketing objectives. How can your PR and marketing team help you meet these goals? Craft a monthly or quarterly plan that details this and meet monthly to make sure these goals are being met.
- If you have news that is big and you truly believe it’s significant industry news, give your firm at least two weeks to prepare. Time, planning and preparation lead to great results.
- Work with a PR or marketing firm because you want to work with them and see great results. If you don’t have time to review content, give feedback and help your team succeed, then hold off until you have the resources.
- Listen to your firm’s advice and ask for it. We’re here for a reason. If you don’t trust your PR or marketing firm, then you’re probably not working with the right one.
What other advice would you suggest when working with PR and marketing firms?
When a story breaks, the best newspapers in the country work to find the most effective ways to tell it. After the shootings in Arizona, those news outlets scrambled to determine the facts, of course, but they also sought out other angles, many of them focused on the personal elements of the crime.
If you read any news about the tragedy in Arizona, you might have read about the work of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the shooter’s political leanings, how his parents are coping, the plans of a Kansas church to picket at victims’ funerals, the intention of biker gangs to stop the protestors, the elderly couple who died trying to protect each other, and many other stories that grab readers not only because the subject matter is so horrifying, but because the angles are so personal.
After I read as many of these articles as I could stomach, I moved to Twitter. There were plenty of folks posting links to stories I had already seen, but I wasn’t looking for information at that point; I was looking for sentiment. I found plenty of it. Strangers shared their feelings of doubt, sadness, anger, and in some cases, hate for all the haters out there.
The facts in the Arizona story are important. But the personal angles are often what resonate most strongly - they always do. There are lots of ways to tell an important story, and lots of platforms from which to tell it. When we use all of these venues, we gain the ability to educate and communicate, as well as the chance to connect with others around the world. When the news is important, personal and accessible, our collective appetite for it is all but insatiable.
Here at Metis we have been working on putting down our core values on paper. We live and die by our sayings here at Metis and after reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, we decided to make them official. One core value that every little Metis-ite proudly owns is the ability to “achieve the flow.” This is our version of being in the zone. It’s easy to get distracted in PR -- the ever-growing e-mail inbox, status calls, client Skype conversations and company staff meetings. So, how do we get it all done?
Everyone does it differently. Some mentally prepare with a quick game of zombie killing in Call of Duty. Others bring their laptops to the Metis recliner next to our favorite office puppy, but most of us here really enjoy cranking tunes to help set the stage for the work dance. There are numerous studies that show listening to music can boost productivity. Here's one great article from GigaOM that pondered these findings, too.
We are always leveraging and applauding technical solutions and applications that make us work better, so in this light, I feel it is only right to thank the makers of my favorite music “flow” application: Pandora. What a genius solution.
A group of musicians and technologists at the Music Genome Project created Pandora, a comprehensive analysis of music by genre. These musical geniuses listened to tens of thousands of different artists and assembled hundreds of musical attributes or "genes." The listener chooses a musical identity and Pandora presents similar-sounding music.
I could go on and on about Pandora’s neat factor, including all of its advancements over the years. You can create a profile, link it to your social network accounts, listen on your smart phone, and more. Now, there is even the option to pay for a pro account to avoid the (horrid) advertisements that have come to support the project. If only the pro account allowed me to control my coworkers’ questionable Pandora station choices.
What’s your favorite Pandora “station?” What other tools help you achieve your flow at work?
In recent blog posts, we mentioned a series of workshops that we did in December of last year. It was a productive and collaborative couple of days in which we talked about the past, present and future of Metis. Throughout the different exercises, discussion groups and planning sessions, we asked the team for one thing -- that they be brutal. We asked that they get real with where we’re at and where we need to go, collectively and individually.
In 2011 we are infusing this “Get Real” attitude into our selling approach. I have been in enough business pitches, at Metis and elsewhere, to know that it’s not just the PR firm that is doing the selling and positioning. Whether intentional or not, sometimes it’s the company being pitched that overpromises and under delivers. “Yes, we have tons of content. We just need help finalizing it,” often means that there are a lot of great ideas floating around, but that’s all that’s happening; ideas are floating around. Content still needs to be created from start to finish.
No matter which way it happens, overpromising and under delivering is detrimental to the relationship because it puts it in a false starting point. To carry through with the above example, the PR firm now needs to spend the first month creating content, which pushes other timelines back, which can affect deliverables and goals, which can raise frustration for both sides, which can… You get the point. If only said company had been honest about the state of its content, the PR firm could’ve put together timelines and goals that were more accurate and expectations would have been met, if not exceeded.
In 2011, we will continue to Get Real with our prospects, and we ask the same of them. If you’re reading this blog and wondering if we’re the firm for you, please think about whether or not you’re ready to get real with us. Show us your warts. Let us in from the start. That way, we’re starting from a real place. We know what strengths we need to maximize and what weaknesses we need to minimize.
Are you ready to Get Real with us?
As a journalist turned public relations professional, my first experience in an office setting was a culture shock.
In the newsroom, there is noise -- lots of noise. Police scanners from the assignment desks, breaking news live shots from the balcony, producers screaming, reporters running and about 1,000 televisions blaring the news in real time. The chaos provides an energy that makes you want to jump in, work hard and keep up with the team.
Fast forward two years and I've traded in my news cap for a pencil skirt and high heels. On the first day of my first office job there were a couple of thoughts running through my head as the human resource lady ushered me around the office. “Why is it so quiet?" "Do we always have to sit in those cubes?" "Where are the windows?" "Why is it SO quiet?"
Everyone has her own work style, and it was throughout the first few years of my public relations career that I learned mine. I need noise. So, I picked up a couple of tips that have helped me survive the desk job.
- Move: Your body needs circulation in order for your brain to function.
- Noise: This can be a TV, music or even the radio on in the background. When I hear a news story that could be a trend that a client can capitalize on, my heart starts racing, and it’s like I'm back in the newsroom jumping in on breaking news.
- Switch locations: If I'm working at the office, I like to move around between the conference table, my desk or a comfy chair. Or if I am working at home, one of my favorite places to write is the coffee shop. This way I don't get bored, and it keeps new tasks fresh.
- Eat: Healthy eating equals productive working.
- Talk: It’s typical office culture to share information via e-mail, which is fine, but remember you work with people, not computers. Make sure you make some time for human interaction.
What’s the one element most essential to your productivity at work?
We work with lots of tech startups and emerging companies, which means we work with lots of creative and experienced C-level executives that are focused on the technology and business but sometimes new to PR and marketing. Not only can we feel the passion and entrepreneurial spirit they have for their businesses, but we also feed off their enthusiasm for marketing and PR and the results we deliver.
At Metis, we find it rewarding to launch a company from scratch and work with it until acquisition or IPO – a task that not all agencies would take on because of the education process required.
These are some of the questions and comments we frequently hear and love answering, since it gives us a chance to build PR 101 into the startup process:
- Why can’t we put out a press release every day of the month?
- Why do we need customers to speak with the media? What we say is validating enough.
- Thought leadership? Bah. Every media, blogger and analyst should want to speak with us about our product because it is great.
- Wait, you want a byline article for that publication? Is that something I have to pay for? Will I need to work with the advertising contact myself?
Sometimes, executives want everyone to hear their product and company messages, but don’t understand how to make that to happen. These organizations need a PR and marketing firm that rounds out their team and mirrors its passion. Both sides in this effort are essential, since it takes a little bit from the client and the agency to get the results everyone wants: awareness, leads and sales. Whatever the specific goal, this relationship is an education, a science, a strategy and, most importantly, a team effort that is worth building well.
Courtesy of MagnuMicah
Picture it: Tuesday, December 21, 2010. It was the pre-holiday dash. People were crazed with Christmas gifts, New Year’s plans, vacation itineraries, year-end reports and so on. Here at Metis, we were working hard to get it all done before we closed for the last week of December, which we do every year to reward the team for giving 110 percent all year long.
There was a buzz around the office as the week got underway. Holiday fun and a well-deserved break were a mere four days away. Everyone was upbeat and focused. “To do” lists for the week were locked and loaded. Everyone knew what needed to get done in order to shut down on Thursday afternoon. Everyone around us, from customers to partners to editors, was shifting into that universal late December slow down. It should have been easy to fly through the final action items of 2010 and be done, right? Not so much. It happened fast in a series of e-mails, and just like that, on Tuesday afternoon, we each had four more things on our to-do lists. What happened you ask? Well, Melissa, whose known alias is “The Hammer,” threw down a pre-holiday challenge.
Fresh from a series of workshops we did at Metis that included content creation, Melissa challenged the team to bang out a blog a day each until we shut down on Thursday afternoon. You see, Melissa knows us (knows me) and she knew we (I) wouldn’t walk away from a little friendly competition. Next thing I knew, I had accepted the challenge. Everyone else had, too.
And sure enough, Metis delivered. Amidst the client deadlines, holiday happenings and endless hours watching different Elf Yourself videos online, the team rallied and blogs started flying. Just when we thought we couldn’t squeeze anything more out of an immensely productive year, we did. As a team and as individuals, we rose to the challenge and got it done.
Team challenges and a little friendly competition can jumpstart productivity. What motivates your team? What can you challenge them to do this week?