Stream of Consciousness

teardropI am a seeker ― with far more questions than answers, and in recent days, my queries have been dramatically outnumbering my explanations.  Fortunately, in the past decade, my lifelong spiritual quest has led me to the sagacious sphere of one Dr. Joe Clifford.  And that’s why I pen this post today.  Alas, I am struggling with his recent announcement that he and his family will be leaving our frazzled city in less than a month. Intellectually, I know this sadness will pass, and Dallas/#DallasStrong will persevere somehow, but I still feel an overwhelming sense of  loss.

References to Joe’s canny wisdom and his super-human pastoral care shimmer across the pages of my blog like freshly cut gems.  Since 2009, the content I have crafted here has included both professional and personal musings ― more like a meandering stream of consciousness than a stake in the ground, but these ideas started spilling forth way before Twitter was cool and Snap even considered Chatting.  And, this stream has definitely ebbed and flowed . . .

Now, thinking about the soul-rattling events of recent weeks and days, my own profound healing journey over the past seven years, and Joe’s impending departure, I can’t help but recall one of the first posts I was ever inspired to write. It was about a “Joe sermon.”  And several years later, I actually had the good fortune to do some “official” blog writing for First Presbyterian Church ― helping amplify the impact of Joe’s insights and the Word of God.  A career highlight and honor. 

An excerpt from that April 2009 post:

Joe has an extraordinary capacity to inform and enrich my path in ways that are difficult to articulate. Today was an excellent example. He talked about the celebration of Easter wearing off as we entered a week punctuated by the bleakness of tax day, difficult professional challenges ― real life, etc. Then, he said a friend forwarded him the Susan Boyle link on Wed ― the astonishing performance of the unassuming 47-year-old on Britain’s Got Talent, who has captured the world’s imagination. He says he does not have time for all the forwarded email he receives, but he opened this one for some reason.

He said he wept ― and he asked the congregation how many of us had seen it and wept. Most of those present raised their hands. He went on to describe theologian Frederick Buechner‘s take on the origin of these tears. I now cannot get enough Buechner. He ponders:

How do you listen to your life? How do you get into the habit of doing it? How do you keep ears cocked and your eye peeled for the presence of God or the presence of anything else? One thing I have said, which I think is true, is to pay attention to any of those moments in your life when unexpected tears come in your eyes. You never know when that may happen, what may trigger them. Very often I think if you pay attention to those moments, you realize that something deep beneath the surface of who you are, something deep beneath the surface of the world, is trying to speak to you about who you are . . .

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and summoning you to where you should go to next.

Joe said we have a profound, spiritual reaction to joy ― to God. And it’s not enough to experience the moment ― we must use it as a way to discover our own life’s calling, what God has called us to do and be.

The world is hurting ― facing daunting challenges. I believe we are called to pay attention, be vigilant in our consciousness, and bare our hearts. Thank you for helping us do all of those things along the way, Joe.  Godspeed to you and your family . . .  with a smile and a tear.

This may not be Susan Boyle, but it’s a moment ― for now.

Make Content Marketing Matter: Put Your Story to Work

bigbangWhat is content marketing? 

It’s a transaction ― fueled by the powerful intention to grow and expand your business.  It’s serving up delicious, enticing, seductive information to your prospects (and suspects) in exchange for their glorious attention and response. You give away something of value to build a relationship that will ultimately lead to something meaningful ― engagement, trust, loyalty, revenue and product/service evangelism.

The concept is not new, but the media models have morphed and changed over the years. Heck, maybe it’s the oldest profession. But today, managing the whole process is a bit trickier. We are our own networks. It’s a potent concept when you stop and think about it.

We can produce our own universes, but there are challenges. We’re concerned with integration, relevance, distribution management and analytics.  The secret sauce is in your story ― communicating your value effectively and persuasively. And it all starts with your website.

It’s all about the Blog

This is your publisher. I know it takes care and feeding, but it’s worth the effort. The blog is still the easiest way to connect with your audience and establish thought leadership in your space.  Actually, it’s less about “thought leadership” these days ― and more about delivering content worth consuming ― content that teaches something new, entertains, and provides a compelling reason to act.  The media may vary, but the blog gives you the framework. Experiment with video, infographics, whitepapers and e-books. Test, test and test some more.  Orchestrate the primary elements:

  • Video
  • Landing Pages/Email
  • Social Media

And You Gotta Have a Plan . . .

  1.  Define your Decision Makers and Brand Personas

Who makes the buying decisions? Who gets involved and when? Where do they live online? You don’t have to get too targeted in creating specific content for each stakeholder, but clearly identify “product champions” ― and then guide them step by step through the consensus-creation process.

  1. Articulate Your Key Objectives: Start with the basics, build and quantify.

Objectives might include:

  • Generating interest in your products ― and qualified leads.
  • Establishing yourself as an expert and preferred solution provider in a given vertical market.
  • Generating sales. (online or direct)
  1. Set Specific Goals: What are your key metrics and priorities ― long and short-term?
  • Organic traffic
  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Leads
  • Qualified leads
  • Donations
  • Sales
  1. Create Your Content Strategy

Build a formal six-month, integrated content calendar creating relevant messaging that cultivates each one of your priority vertical segment.

  • Case Studies and Success Stories ― Highlight solutions and wins using video, blog articles and press releases that can extend your stories even further to third-party websites.
  • Guides and Tutorials — Guides do not have to be 100-page e-books. Give tips or easy how-tos.
  • Webinars ― Attract decision makers who are interested in learning from other industry leaders. Then, create a case studies or white papers from the webinar ― extending the life of your content and providing more opportunities for engagement.
  •  E-books and Whitepapers ― This is where we can get meaty ― really dig into topics and establish your firm as the expert or solution. This can drive lead capture from download requests and provide insight into particular areas of interest.
  • Infographics creatively visualize facts and figures and are highly shareable online.  http://piktochart.com/ https://infogr.am/ are sites that help facilitate creation.
  1. Promote 
  • Grow Your Opt-In Email List ― Add a sign-up widget to your website. http://optinagent.com/ Put a sign up form at the bottom of each blog post.
  • Enhance Social Media Engagement ― Optimize social media where appropriate – integrating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram, particularly for events — to drive engagement and enhance brand affinity with specific content deliverables.

Finally, connect the dots on all marketing initiatives (print, web, and multimedia) across owned, earned, paid and shared media streams ― to optimize conversions and KPIs. And build necessary resources to execute. Build relationships, not links. Make it matter. Make it count ― with rich, relevant, timely, thoughtful content. Early and often.

Are you ready to tell your story?

Communicating Consciously. Living Contently.

IMG_20151012_102228As we wrap up another year and set our sights on the possibilities and opportunities of 2016, I’m taking stock. Once again, I find myself looking back on this online chronicle.  I love reviewing all those posts sorting out the early days of optimizing social media for nonprofits and small businesses, as well as the personal reflections and epiphanies that seemed to sustain me through the enormous challenges of past the six or seven years.

 

Today, this quote from Caroline Myss is resonating for me:

“Just let go.  Let go of how you thought your life should be, and embrace the life that is trying to work its way into your consciousness.”

This awareness is informing all of my choices, my writing, my work, my relationships ― and a new, intentional acceptance of me.  What is my core content? Who am I, really? And what am I all about in the world? These may seem like lofty questions for a mid-century mom, but the wheels are turning! And this I know ― the answers to such questions must come from my own heart, truth and spirit― and not some external source or futile effort to remedy the tornadic trauma of an emotionally toxic relationship. They need to be authentic, peaceful, and healing for me and my boys―even as they pursue their own lives.

As Sherry Turkle says in her book, Alone Together, “We are all too busy communicating to really connect.” And this week’s startling statistics on teen media usage make this observation even more salient. “On any given day, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment,” says the report from Common Sense Media.  Seems to me that media is becoming more than a mode of communication. It is now a way of being.

That means we must actively, deliberately train our brains to be mindful in each and every moment ― in every relationship interaction.

For me, these are the questions: Am I conscious? Am I present? What am I feeling right now? Am I making a decision that is healthy and self-nurturing?

Life coach Martha Beck says, “Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life – even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones.”

We just need to pay attention.

So, are you communicating consciously?

 

 

 

Bedazzle Your Audience with the 5 Cs

“If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”  – Constantin Stanislavski

diamondSeveral years ago, I wrote about the 4 Cs of communication. Today, I am reposting the blog but adding a fifth important C― Consciousness. Remembering the 5 Cs can help us build a multi-dimensional clutter-cutting content communication plan.

Consciousness – Much has been written about the importance of staying present. This applies to your personal world and the message you are building.  In many cases, this involves hard work to find the clarity and sense of authenticity about who you are and what you really want to create ― without getting derailed by distraction and fear.  We are a culture of distractions.  From texting while driving to divorce, the evidence is irrefutable. Humans  have difficulty staying in the moment. Add to that the powerful concepts of quantum theory, and the challenge magnifies. Dr. Joe Dispenza states in his provocative book, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself,” “In the present, all potentials exist simultaneously in the field. When we stay present, when we are ‘in the moment,’ we can move beyond space and time, and we can make any one of those potentials a reality.” When we are mired in the past, however, none of those new potentials exist.”  Now, that is some high-octane content!

Content – Share only the highest quality content. Whether email, website, blog, whitepaper or app, make it sizzle. Consider experimenting with video on your website.  Use your Smartphone. You do not need to be Steven Spielberg. Try mobile apps, webinars, or even a luscious, visual feast on Pinterest. Feature video testimonials from customers, employees, partners, or even vendors. Fundamentally, social media is about telling stories—those tantalizing tidbits of truth that trigger action.  But the real challenge is this: “The medium is (still) the message,” as Marshall McLuhan said more than a half century ago.   How we interact with content can be just as (if not more) meaningful than the content itself.  That is why we need to me crystal clear about who we are, what we stand for, and what we are communicating to our audiences.

Community – Social media gives you the power to spread information quickly. But the irony here is that you have to let go. “Let it be,” as a wise dude once said. You don’t have to vet and control ever single word or comment.  Granted, issuing calls to action online on social media platforms can spark viral campaigns rapidly, economically, and effectively– but it’s often serendipity.  And, how cool is that? As NYU new media professor Clay Shirky observes, “Now, many can talk to many, as opposed to one talking to one — or one talking to many.” The chain reaction that results can be potent and powerful. We need to pay attention.

Culture – Just as everyone in a healthy organization is a salesperson, everyone in your enterprise should exercise a social media voice.  Weave the behavior into the communications fabric and expectation of your operation. It’s all part of outrageously good customer service, anyway. Make engaging on Facebook about your products the norm – rather than the exception. Make promotions and projecting personality a priority – in your store, via text, online and everywhere.  Make it part of your customer banter and all your in-person relationships. Work from the inside out. Hey, put the social in social media, and watch the referrals flow. Coach your staff to manage your business’ presence in an authentic and personal way online. Employees are built-in ambassadors. Give them guidelines. Train them–and deploy them first!

Character – Finally, social media is your opportunity to put a face on your organization and to humanize your brand.  Optimize your own, unique corporate back story. Transparency is a powerful differentiator, my friend—in addition to being highly seductive in our post-modern, reality-TV-obsessed world.   Think about ways to make the private public. This is the new “intimacy of commerce” that will effectively distract, attract and embrace your audience. As Constantin Stanislavski, the great acting coach once said, “If you know your character’s thoughts, the proper vocal and bodily expressions will naturally follow.”

Ready for your close-up?

 

The power of marketing from the inside out!

dotsOne of the intriguing things about being a consultant is that I often have the opportunity to connect the dots in tantalizingly new ways. Taking a step back, I look inside myself for a moment, and often, I learn something I did not expect to see. That’s always pretty darn exhilarating.

Seems I have been working with a couple of clients in very different product and customer spaces–but I now see a common thread that has emerged around workforce empowerment and driving employee behavior. Well, tomes have been written on human behavior, you might say. But I’ve got an angle.

Ghost Stories

Back to my headline. Lately, I have been completely fascinated with this concept of developing marketing strategies for companies from the inside out. That is, making your employees your best recruiters and your most potent marketers. Fortify them with everything they need to communicate your message. I am currently ghostwriting a blog for successful small business consultant/coach, and he talks at length about the importance of empowering entrepreneurs and their employees. He says they are much more than task purveyors, and thinking about what drives them (on the inside) is essential.  There was super article on LinkedIn last month about this very topic–seeing your employees as talent/brand ambassadors.  Key elements include:

  • Training your entire workforce
  • Engaging them in the process
  • Recognizing/Validating
  • Measuring
  • Rewarding/Validating
  • Repeat . . . and did I say recognizing and rewarding?

 Field Notes

The other client is a major retail consumer brand deploying a complex, matrixed, supply-chain, customer-management system. How are these the same, you ask? Well, this initiative requires a gigantic shift in workforce behavior and technology process adoption. The front line is the “cash register” of the company, and that impacts every single employee. Seamless execution requires a well-oiled communication machine that empowers and engages the entire operation in action and accountability–from the inside out.  So . .  . from a communication perspective, I’m thinking the bullet points required are very similar to what I’ve listed above.

Think of every employee is a virtual “internal-preneur,” invested in the company’s positive outcome, no matter what the challenge. Our job is to create this program with the artful orchestration of social media, email, blogging, video, karaoke, and many other appealing participation opportunities.

Something to consider. . .

It’s All INREACH: Marketing Revisited

Inreach_sand“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.”

― David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

I hear nonprofits use the word “outreach” frequently.  We are doing an “outreach.” This can refer to everything from mission-driven programming — to marketing to fundraising.  They may even have an “outreach” department.” And many have even made it a verb. “We are outreaching across the globe.” But this brings to mind a sort of broad, cast-the-net-style effort, as opposed to a more targeted, precise, systematic approach — focused on engagement, conversions and revenue generation.  It’s like using the term email “blast,” versus “campaign” or “appeal.”

Recently, when I was working with one of my “heart” projects, I had one of those light-bulb moments. I really think there might be a more useful way to think about marketing for nonprofits — specifically digital tactics. And, actually, I suspect this can be applied across the board to other enterprises.

Ending the Silence is an important and powerful new program designed to help begin the conversation with adolescents about mental health and diminish the stigma that is so often a barrier to treatment.   The National Alliance of Mental Illness of Dallas (NAMI Dallas) is launching this region’s program in high schools, community centers and churches with high-impact, resource-rich presentations on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and others.

The dedicated volunteer team is passionate about creating a solid foundation for growth — and is recognizing the value of building a sophisticated digital lead-generation engine.  To underscore this importance, I proposed a mental flip.  “Let’s think about outreach as INREACH.”

In reality, when we use targeted marketing tools effectively, we are actually attracting suspects, prospects, and clients/donors based on their terms and interests.  We are simply opening the door— allowing the momentum of their needs to flow— satisfying their unquenched desires for life-changing experiences — inside. It’s just a different way of looking at the process.

Feeding the Beast

Consider SEO and SEM – the alchemy of Google — great examples of “inreach.” They are both cottage industries and sciences in their own right that intertwine.  Basically, Google is hungry beast; it’s favorite food is content — (and, of course, paid advertising.) But we as content producers want to create content Google craves — and that’s content that allows us to be FOUND when people search. SEO best practices (and white-hat tricks) help us do that.  Keywords give us the clues we need to tell us how our prospects are looking for us.  As digital marketers and humans, really, we would probably be better served if were more focused on “inreaching,” in general, as opposed to outreaching.   If we think more about how we can frame our missions in ways that satisfy the needs of our donors/partners/clients—instead of how that donor (or partner) will satisfy us, we will be much further down the success highway.

After all, when you think about it, we are all merely facilitators of desire . . .

What are you reaching for on the outside that has been inside — all along?

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”    — Dorothy

Angels

angels2It’s Christmas, again.  So, what have we done?  Seems the years are barreling by more rapidly than ever. Hyperspeed.  With the death of my father this year, the passing of my mother two years ago,  my youngest turning 18, and other major personal epiphanies this year, the reality of time has been a central theme.

That’s why I  bought myself a special gift this year — Mary Oliver’s new book of poems — “Blue Horses.” It’s exquisite.  I find the purity and simplicity of Oliver’s intimate observations of nature and everyday wonder so profoundly moving. Perfect for a day like today — which celebrates our core, spiritual connection to the Divine or Source  — no matter what our definition of faith.

It’s all about authentic connection — whether to self or others, right? So, a gift for you . . .

ANGELS

You might see an angel anytime

and anywhere. Of course you have

to open your eyes to a kind of

second level, but it’s not really

hard. The whole business of

what’s reality and what isn’t has

never been solved and probably

never will be. So I don’t care to

be too definite about anything.

I have a lot of edges called Perhaps

and almost nothing you can call

Certainty. For myself, but not

for other people. That’s a place

you just can’t get into, not

entirely anyway, other people’s

heads.

I’ll just leave you with this.

I don’t care how many angels can

dance on the head of a pin. It’s

enough to know that for some people

they exist, and they dance.

-Mary Oliver

Happy Christmas and 2015!

Taking the Last Mile to Heart

highway“The Last Mile” is a phrase used in the telecommunications and technology industries to describe the final piece of the communication journey that connects the network to the end-user or customer. In more jargon-y tech circles, it’s often referred to as the “last-mile problem,” because the end link to consumer is too often disproportionately expensive or difficult to achieve. Even compared to the costs associated with rolling out broadband wire and hardware across the globe, last-mile connections have been plagued with technological issues, infrastructure barriers, and high costs.

It’s so beguiling that there are many publicly traded companies focused exclusively on the “challenge” of facilitating this precarious one-on-one connection.  Pursuit of this delicate alignment extends to transportation logistics, as well. From traditional heavy goods shipments to  e-commerce-driven home deliveries, the last mile plays a critical role in the supply chain. It’s the ultimate destination – the final frontier.  Get it wrong, and you risk customer alienation.  Get it right, and you create a meaningful, high-value, and potentially lasting relationship.

That’s the connection. My wheels are turning—thinking about that ever-so-bumpy road that often characterizes “the last mile” in our most intimate relationships.  A metaphor is born. You know the adage that those closest to us have the power to hurt us the most deeply. Well, here we go.  I think the struggle of the last mile speaks to this.  Yet, the sad part is that some us never let anyone down that barren stretch of highway into the inner sanctum of our hearts.  Even if someone finds entrance ramp, there are often too many twists and turns, culverts and crevasses—too many dead-ends . . . or just too many barricades.  Plus, there are all those the emergency vehicles that come out of nowhere—crimson lights blazing and sirens shrieking! Or, the bridges may be washed out due to years of emotional storms and deferred maintenance. There are a myriad of reasons.  And this can be true in a variety of contexts—family, friends, romantic partners—even work. Your “last miles” can be very painful, even scary, but they are worth the trip.

Being more mindful and aware has definitely helped me enrich some of my “last mile” journeys recently — and I find that I am becoming more appreciative of noticing these attributes in my fellow travelers, as well.  I feel the “last mile” in any relationship is best navigated as a two-way street. After all, it’s where the rubber truly meets the road, right?

You fish or you cut bait, as they say.  Face it.  “Last-mile connections have been plagued with technological issues”— especially when some of us have more baggage on the bus than others.  So, to stay on track, unpack with care and compassion when necessary—and refuel when needed. Traveling light – and maximizing flow . . . here I go.

Creating Compelling Content 101

Yes, it’s a common lament.  I hear this wistful question almost daily. What should I blog about?  What do I have to say? Well, the answer to that question is “plenty.”  The biggest challenge is editing — prioritizing and redefining what makes sense within the context of your brand and your audience engagement strategy.  I recently stumbled across this infographic on the Copyblogger by Danny Iny.  It’s called “22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue.”  Love the whimsy of the infographic format as a idea generator. Take a gander. Bet you will be creating in no time!

22-content-suggestions-for-blogs

Believe Them.

angelou2When people show you who they are, believe them.”
~Maya Angelou

This is one of my favorite quotes from the remarkable Maya Angelou.  She expressed so many ideas and notions of the heart with such raw eloquence and clarity. As one who has struggled with clouded filters in my life, this resonates deeply.

Live in authenticity—not to satisfy the expectations of others, nor the perceived expectations of anyone else.  It also means resisting the impulse to change, cajole, alter—or otherwise attempt to “fix” another.  Peacefully release and allow . . .  others to walk their own divine paths.  Easier said than done, right? Instead, you may simply choose a different reality.  Fighting or feeling dismayed gives the recipient of that energy power.  Taking a different path alleviates so much stress and pain.

It is such an essential lesson for productivity, sanity and happiness. And at the core of this awareness is mindfulness.  Marsha Linehan, a noted American psychologist and author, created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) around this philosophy. It’s a powerful form of psychotherapy that actually combines behavioral science and brain theory with Buddhism  tenets—acceptance, meditation and mindfulness.

In the spirit of our dear Dr. Angelou, who touched so many, we can all seek this state of inner peace and mindfulness—to communicate in truth—internally and externally. To believe in the veracity of what is.  But we cannot if we are not clear— about who we are and how we feel.   This, indeed, is the journey.  In lieu of a mindfulness retreat or a series of therapy sessions with Dr. Linehan, here are a few ways to get a dose of this mindfulness practice:

  • Focus on one thing at a time

Try giving up multitasking occasionally. It exacerbates stress and states of confusion. Handle one thing and one thing only—mindfully in the moment.  Step away from the phone.

  • Do what works

You do not always have to be right— make a statement, issue and edict, or win the war. Don’t cut off your nose despite your face. Think twice before you send that blazing email copying the president.

  • Set achievable goals

Set aside the BHAGS for a while (the big, hairy, audacious goals – as a former boss used to call them).  Focus on the attainable ones. Give yourself some wins!

  • Nurture friends, connections, and support

Build a network. Connections are so important. They give you strength and a soft place to land when you run out of steam and your resources dwindle.  YOU don’t have to be everything to everyone.

  • Exercise

Keep moving. Reduce your physical vulnerability. You know about this one already.

  • Be grateful

Find something to be grateful for every day. It multiplies (even at work).

There are more, but this is a great place to start. Until we understand exactly who we are and how we process stimuli, many of our reactions will be wildcards. This takes work, because so much of our communication is conducted on autopilot—hardwired and subconscious. There are no easy answers, but if we are mindful of our issues, we can begin asking better questions . . . What do you think?