Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Content marketers: Are you reading as much as you are writing?

If you're not reading as much as you're writing, you're falling behind.

The temptation is to go into monk-mode (per Greg McKoewn), but you can't do that indefinitely unless you're in academia. Social media has had too great an impact on every industry for writers to close themselves off.

However, you have to balance. The top social influencers in HR and Recruiting, including personal favorites +William Tincup and +Tim Sackett tweet, on average, 10 times a day. They also manage to write, lead companies and live life.

How do you achieve balance? Or, some semblance of it?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Holy Strategic Plan...a temptation for marketers

How many times have you sat down to write out a strategic plan for a company? Or an annual plan that carefully details your strategy for the year and every marketing dollar you're going to spend? Depending on the size of your marketing department, this focused and intensive project likely took you away from other things. However, you told yourself, like every other good Stephen Covey reader, that the task was important, but not urgent, and you were making the right choice.  

But, were you?

Sometimes, we get stuck in a planning bog and cannot escape because our plan needs to be perfect. As a writer by trade, I have fallen prey to this many times--rewritten a white paper so many times it becomes irrelevant, waited for the perfect blog topic so long that the audience gave up, edited so thoroughly that the original voice was completely lost. (Right now, I am fiddling with the font so that the look is perfect, but I am going to get back on point so that there is a point here for you soon.)

You have to execute--it's time to do! In the new digital economy, you can't form a committee to debate every option then wait for the outcome. You must train your team then expect them to perform aligned with the overall vision of the strategy. (Now, I am not saying let the intern loose with your Twitter account. Maintain accountability and management structures, but also realize that the CEO does not need to micromanage every tweet.)

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Strategic Planning is Dead, but I would advocate for a long-term vision with short-term strategy and a structure that empowers leaders with accountability and responsibility.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

I'm striving for honest time

Are you on Optimistic time or Honest time?

Godin posted on this, and it struck a chord. In marketing, you are aiming to meet the client's deadlines. Sometimes, you have great clients who can see everything that is involved in something as mundane as sending an email, and they are willing to give it an extra day or quality control. In that scenario, both of you can be on honest time and plan accordingly. (This does not take into account the art director's tantrum or the intern with "food poisoning", but you can work around those thing if you have time.)

What really causes the crisis in most agencies is that only one or two people are on honest time. The rest are on optimistic time, and clients have been taught that the optimistic deadline is correct. So, that is the expectation. Now, what happens when deadlines are hit on optimistic time? As Godin says, someone suffers. It may be the client who has the smallest account, or the one who recently said they were happy with the agency. Maybe the manager with the quiet demeanor is ignored.

Godin makes the point that honest time is the best way to go, but it's not easy. If you could get everyone on your team to change to honest time, and to concede that quality checks take more than 10 minutes, it would definitely be the business changer Godin predicts, but how do you do it?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Writing 101: Getting better

What's something that needs improvement? American writing. 
Is there hope? Yes!

If you read yesterday's post, it may have seemed a bit harsh to condemn American writing. But, there is hope! And no, you do not need to pay for a professional writing class.

Step 1: Read....Read amazing writing.
If you don't read, and the last thing you've read since college is People, it's time for an upgrade. Every week, you should read something that challenges you--challenges your ideas, your vocabulary, your writing rhythms. If you need a quick read, choose a top blogger. If you have more time, choose Steinbeck, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabella Allende, Poe, Shakespeare. One student found their passion in The New Yorker food reviews. I recently read "The Life of St. Francis of Assisi" which challenged me because of the complexity of the ideas and the language.

Step 2: Write....Write and have someone else read it.
I have taught hundreds of grammar classes, and one was as enlightening as a single critiqued essay. When we can see the mistakes we personally make, it has so much more resonance than an impersonal lecture. (If you are interested in reading a grammar book, I recommend "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves".)

Listen to your critic's remarks and learn from them. And, it might be best to have two or three critics--people who love you enough to challenge you.

Step 3: Repeat cycle as often as possible
The only way you improve at anything is to practice. Read, write, read, write, read, write...the more you do, the better you will be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Improvement needed: writing as a craft

Day 3: Tell us about something that you think should be improved.

So, anyone who makes their living as a writer, or who just enjoys a good read, would agree--the state of American writing is abysmal. People assume because they learned about writing in school and have written something before that they're a great writer. 

Now, before you think I am an elitist snob, there are things I am terrible at. No one will ever pay me to run (or really even watch me on purpose) because I am very, very bad. But, I realize this and when people ask if I am a runner, I usually make it clear that I am a person who runs, but definitely not a runner. Ditto for pretty much any other sport--ever. 

I am not comparing myself to
Steinbeck but rather
recommending him. Shame on you
for only looking at the picture!
But, I'm a decent writer. It's not because I was born with a miraculous talent or because my parents read Shakespeare to me in the womb. I believe that I can write well because I work at it, and because I hold my writing to a higher standard than texting or facebook feeds. (I could linger here for hours talking about the American education system and the incredible disservice we are doing our children, but there is only so much time.)

Just because you have written something doesn't make you a writer, and just because you have run a marathon doesn't make you a runner. It takes practice, standards, and reading great examples of literature. Might I recommend Steinbeck for starters? 

Thank you for reading my rant. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Essentials

By Susan Muegge
What matters most?

My favorite business book of 2014 was Essentialism by Greg McKeown. With four kids, an active volunteer and faith life, a professional career I am passionate about and a physically demanding lifestyle, you realize that there are only so many hours in a day. In the past year, I've realized that each of those minutes is a gift and should be spent with as much purpose and passion as possible.

I've recently turned down two job offers, one from an amazing company I would love to work for, because I realize that I am spending all my time doing what I love. If I took on something new, I'd have to give up something. (This is a dramatic switch from my 20s when I did everything I wanted and drank more espresso. An espresso maker of my own was both the best and the worst gift ever. My husband disposed of it out of love for me.)

I still fail--there is more TV than I'd like, and sometimes I get sucked into facebook, but I try to come back to the center and ask what matters today. I sincerely hope that when I look back in five years I'll see a life that matters and that was built with the right choices everyday.

BTW, I spent two hours yesterday making a three-layer birthday cake for my daughter, and I would not swap that time for anything because of the look on her face.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Getting back to the business of B2B marketing

By Susan Muegge

Why are you doing the YourTurnChallenge

When I had a full-time job, I was a Seth Godin addict--I loved the brevity of his posts and the impact of his ideas in the marketplace. In recent years, I have spent more time Spartan racing and leading missions personally and focusing on employment screening professionally.

It's time to reclaim my personal brand and re-enter the conversation on B2B marketing and content marketing--my first professional love. Somehow, I got recruited into B2B marketing for HR almost 10 years ago with Starr Tincup, now the Starr Conspiracy, and I have remained there professionally since--with the exception of five years of teaching college classes.

Let's get this party started.