Telling Your Organization’s Story – Find the Passion

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I’ve been telling a lot of stories lately, but let’s take a few minutes and talk about telling your organization’s story. You see, people don’t just have stories, businesses and other organizations like non-profits do too. And, being able to tell the story of your small business, or non-profit organization, can go a long way in helping it be successful.

Old fashioned typewriter

Who is telling your organization’s story?

Part of your business’ or organization’s story is tied to the person(s) who dreamed up the idea to start it in the first place, and that’s where its story starts. Just like the story of what makes you who you are has ups and downs, struggles and successes, so does your business or non-profit. But it has something that makes a huge difference when telling its story that other stories don’t. You.

Your passion, and if you’re willing to take the time and energy to start a business or be involved in a non-profit then you do feel passionately about it, is what really sets the story apart. It’s the passion you feel and bring to your organization’s story that makes the difference. No one can tell that story than you and the people in the trenches with you can.

Don’t worry if you’re not a “marketing” person. Or if you don’t know anything about social media. These things can be learned, and I hope in the coming weeks I’ll be able to help a little bit. What you can’t learn is the drive and the passion you feel for your business or non-profit. That fire begins and ends with you. That is the most important part of telling your organization’s story.

You are the storyteller! Are you ready to start telling your story?

Did I Ever Tell You About the Time….I Was A Giant Pickle

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Working in small market television is a strange and wonderful experience filled with weird and amazing things that most people may be surprised to hear about. The flutter of phone calls reporting first robin sighting each spring…the UFO sightings around the full moon (I kid you not)…I will gladly be sharing some of these stories as we go along. But first, as promised……Did I ever tell you about the time I was a giant pickle?

Sitting in the convertible was a challenge. It pushed the air holes to the top of my head making it hard to breathe.

Sitting in the convertible was a challenge. It pushed the air holes to the top of my head making it hard to breathe.

I was working at WWCP-FOX 8 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania when I found about the chance to become a pickle mascot. It wasn’t my grand plan or something, the opportunity presented itself and I seized the gherkin. I started full-time in Production Department during my last semester in college and worked my way up from Technical Director to Promotions Producer. It was a fancy way of saying I worked the 4AM to 1 PM (but usually it was when I could finally get out of there for the day) doing morning news cut-ins and any promos (the commercials for TV shows) or promotional videos that needed edited or produced. I took promo feeds and checked faxes for changes to schedules, helped come up with ideas for local campaigns, etc.

It was on one of the national feeds for a Fox Sports Kids’ show we aired called In The Zone (followed by a fax a few days later) that I saw about a marketing campaign they were going to try to create a new mascot call the In the Zone In A Pickle Pickle. They were only going to let 20 or 25 affiliates have the first test mascots so we had to act fast if we were going to get in on the ground floor of this thing. Our Promotions Director wasn’t too sure about it, especially when she realized that the only employee at the station that met the 5′ to 5’4″ requirement was me. Having only one person who fit in the costume could limit the number appearances and would prevent me from getting a break when we were out places. Thankfully I was volunteering with some very willing (i.e. gullible) high school students who just turned 18 and volunteered to be Jr. Pickle People! We faxed off the form and were selected as a test market.

Our Pickle debut was at Mascot Night for the (now defunct) local pro baseball team, the Johnstown Johnnies (whose own mascot was a giant baseball head…thing…think sort of the Headless Horseman only in a baseball uniform and with a giant baseball with a head instead of a pumpkin)***. It was in the 80’s and about 70% humidity. Perfect night to be wearing a felt and foam suit with Lycra pants. I was joined by the star of the evening, the Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot, who turned to be out a really cool guy, as well as the walking teddy from a local hospital and a couple of other regional mascots.

Free Rides for pickles

Free Rides for pickles

Since our station was one of the sponsors I got to ride around the track in a white convertible driven by Chris, my official “Pickle Wrangler” and body-guard for the night. I thought I might get to cool off, but when I sat down it pushed the air vents over my head and I almost passed out. On the plus side both the Pittsburgh Parrot and I got to throw out the first pitch. Between the giant three finger felt gloves and the fact that I couldn’t move my arms all that well and when I moved my arms past my shoulders I couldn’t see out the eye holes anymore (and lost sight of the catcher) let’s just say the ball did not reach the plate and leave it at that.

We had big introductions of all the mascots between the 1st and 2nd innings so we had to wait under the home dugout for our big moment. The Parrot was on stilts, like you do for special occasions, leaning over the top of the vending machine. I was dressed as a giant pickle and was leaning against the wall. The Giant Baseball Head Guy kept pour drinks down through the gaping hole in his mouth. The life-size Teddy Bear was leaning against the other wall. We were talking about 401(k) versus IRA investments…with the large talking bird giving some really great advice when the “Pickle Wranger” burst out laughing and doubled over. “This is the strangest conversation I have been a part of in my entire life.” The four of us looked around and shrugged. The Parrot saying that this was one of the more normal things he’s done.

Pickle Mascot on the Ground

The Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot tried to give me a hug but I ended up falling over. You can see him trying to escape the kids rushing to help the “Green M&M” back up.

I actually had a great time with the Parrot. We got along great and interacted with each other in the stands. He came over to give me a hug at one point and neither one of us realized how top heavy my costume was. Until I lost my balance. I heard him say. “Just relax, I’ll put you down.” I knew I was well padded so I just went with it and the next thing I knew I was looking at the sky. A bunch of kids had surrounded us by that time and started yelling at the poor guy for tackling the green M&M. Then the kids tried to help me up, yeah that didn’t go well. Pickle Wrangler Chris to the rescue.

The big problem with the costume was that it didn’t necessarily look like a pickle. It was big. It was green. It was bumpy. Most the bumps were covered by the baseball jersey. And the stem at the top didn’t look all that stem like. Most people really did think I was a giant green M&M, peanut to be specific. I was also called a jelly bean. And a pepper. No one guessed pickle.

The pickle wasn’t as scary as some of the other mascots (I’m looking at you Big Baseball Head Guy!) and since most people thought he was candy he was pretty well accepted. Well by everyone but my niece who decided The Pickle was the Spawn of Satan. But The Pickle could not be denied and she warmed up to him.

Child crying at sight of pickle mascot

Only my niece seemed convinced that The Pickle was evil.

Pickle Mascot and child waving at camera

The Pickle wins hearts and minds of small children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I lost close to 10 pounds by the time the night was over. When I finally took a break out of the costume and slipped into the stands somewhere in the 6th or 7th inning the Parrot spotted me and attacked my husband and I with a super soaker. When we were in the dressing room talking I mentioned that I had recently gotten married and he said he wife came with him, so after he soaked us he went and sprayed a woman who looked like she was going to kill him and then pointed at himself. I gave him a thumbs up and told my husband it must be the Parrots wife. Again…strange conversations you don’t expect to have at the ball park.

Man and Mascot Pickle

I doubt my husband saw this coming we got married a few months earlier.

The Jr Pickles took over most pickle duties and I was the wrangler after that. We did a blood drive or two. But the whole In the Zone In A Pickle test period was really only about six weeks, so we didn’t get to do all that much. By the next summer I wasn’t at the station any more and I never heard another word about The Pickle.

***I’ve searched for a picture of the Johnnies mascot but couldn’t find one. If anyone out there has a picture, or a link to one, I would LOVE to include it. Please share it in the comments section below!! Thanks!

I’d also love to hear from anyone who was ever a Pickle or involved in the project! Leave a message below!

Seeing that this week is San Diego Comic-Con, and I took my girls to their first con a few weeks ago, I’ve got cons on the brain. Did I ever tell you about my con experiences? Tune in next time!

Miss Communication: Selling is a Two Way Street

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I was catching up with a friend recently and heard a story about a painful proposal meeting with a client. Her team was on top of their game — they were prepared, practiced and professional. Too bad the same couldn’t be said about the client — they were late because someone on their team sent out the wrong room number, people took calls during the presentation and two of the people came to the meeting knew nothing about changes the technical supervisor requested and spent the first part of the meeting getting them up to speed. My friend was proud of how her team handled the situation, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted the client to accept the proposal. If this is how they handled a meeting they asked for, how are they going to handle requests for information and deadlines?

Business woman on the phone

Is this the right time to be on the phone? Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether you’re in a proposal meeting, a job interview or sales call it’s important to remember that communication is a two-way street. Obviously the one doing the selling, proposing or being interviewed is the person in the hot seat, but it doesn’t mean that everyone else is off the hook.

Put yourself in my friend’s place. Getting more business is a high priority, but so is being able to successfully deliver on what they promise on time and within budget. In the interactions she had with the potential client, she could already see where there was a high likelihood for problems and a low likelihood for success. After some discussion with senior staff, they were considering withdrawing their proposal.

Think about job interviews where you’re grilled about your background and qualifications, but aren’t offered much information about the mission, team or work environment of the potential employer. You may spend an hour or two selling yourself but may not be sold that this is the organization where you belong.

Even when you’re selling a website redesign, you can go into the meeting with a great design and an awesome pitch but if the client is rude and seems difficult to work with you may just walk away.

Just like how you are communicating when you aren’t speaking, you’re selling yourself even when you’re the client. All the verbal and non-verbal communication cues you give off do as much to sell you and your business or product as any presentation or product. And if you aren’t careful about what you’re communicating (or not communicating) you could be the one loosing out on important business opportunities.

It’s good to remember that just because you’re in a “Power Position” it doesn’t mean that you’re the only one with any power. Sales, job interviews and proposals are two-way streets. You need to give people a reason to want to work with you. Communicating clearly and professionally will go a long way in making sure that happens.

Marketing, Strategy and Storytelling

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English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It’s so easy to get bogged down in what we have to do every day that we can lose sight of the story we’re telling. I’m not talking about your social media strategy or your marketing strategy. Hopefully you’ve put that marketing plan in action and things are buzzing along. I’m talking about the thread that ties it all together.  I’m talking about the story you’re telling about your organization through your marketing.

 

Everything from your logo, to your letter head, to the voice you use when you tweet are part of the story you tell about your organization. When was the last time you sat back and looked at the story your telling? Does the story coming from your Twitter feed match the story being told by your website? Does it match the story being told by your brochures?

 

Everything doesn’t have to match perfectly, but they should seem like they’re being told by the same people. The stories should have the feeling of organization. Your stories should propel the messages from your marketing plan. They should help the audience feel like they know the organization no matter where they see it.

 

Take a moment for an objective look at the stories you’re telling. Make the most of the stories and you’ll be making the most of each of your outreach opportunities.

 

 

 

Blue Collar Labor Day

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gautier steel mill

gautier steel mill (Photo credit: macwagen)

I come from a long line of steel mill workers, assemblers, miners and other manners of true blue collars. Generation after generation working their way through the ranks at the unions. A few became “White Hats” (supervisors) along the way. These were men and women who worked hard their whole lives. Most of them didn’t finish high school — they dropped out help support their families. They were and are tough. I cannot be prouder to continue their legacy.

Labor Day has become about the end of summer. About parties, and pools and picnics. It used to be a little more about the men and women whose blood and sweat literary built the United States. The people who died in dangerous jobs to create a better world. To remember and honor those who fought for safer work environments and to establish the laws we take for granted today.

This Labor Day I want to thank the people out there doing the tough jobs I couldn’t do. Thank you to the people fighting for workplace safety and equality and making sure the laws are followed. Thank you to anyone whoever put in a hard days work on the production line, or down in the pit, and thought that what you did didn’t matter. . .

You see, it did matter. Because if it weren’t for my mom and dad, and my aunts and uncles, and my grandmothers grandfathers, and my great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers who worked those same lines I wouldn’t have been able to go to college. I wouldn’t have been able to learn video production or to tell stories the way I do.

Thank you to everyone who helped build the United States of America figuratively and literally.

Being Yourself and Your Brand

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I think that most of us trying to create a brand can become so focused on the image we’re trying to project that it become easy to lose focus on the person behind it. It’s pretty easy to find social media ninjas and marketing experts who are making a big effort to prove just how different they are, unfortunately most of them are going about it in similar fashions. Not that I’m knocking anyone, it’s just what happens.

Someone has a great new idea and then people adapt the idea, then people adapt that idea, and then someone adapts that idea…and suddenly the idea isn’t so great or new any more. It happened with slap bracelets in school back in the day. It happens with clever marketing ideas and internet memes today.

The sad part is that when people try to be part of what they think people want to see they tend to forget to be themselves. It’s like when you find yourself working at a big company with a distinct corporate culture, eventually most people start to dress, behave and generally conform to the corporate culture. It’s what’s expected if you want to get ahead. The same thing is happening online – people want to be one of the cool kids and style themselves after the gurus and ninjas that they think will help them make money, win contracts, get followers (or all the above) and the leave out the part that makes them unique.

Sometimes the best thing we have going for us is that we’re one of a kind, especially in a world where there are a thousand people who are online promoting themselves for doing the same thing. It’s what’s unique about us that sets us apart. That’s something to embrace, not hide!

It’s what I’m going to try to do a bit better. I realize, my loyal little band of readers, have expanded past the days when there were ones of you reading on a regular basis. I know you’re reading. You’re still not commenting but I do know you’re reading. But I do solemnly swear that I will try to remember to be uniquely me in the things I do.

5 Tips for DIY Videos for Your Business

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While looking up some websites for business in our new neighborhood, I stumbled upon some more DIY videos that left a lot to be desired. A. LOT. So I thought I would share a few things I noticed that could make be huge improvements. (In the interest of a good neighbor I’m not going to actually post the bad videos. They tried, they really did, and it’s not nice to make fun of people like that.)Video Camera

  1. Keep It Short and Sweet (or the 1st KISS): Attention spans get shorter and shorter. You love your product/store/event, but even you aren’t going to sit through almost six minutes of what is basically a silent film. Pick a purpose or specific topic for and shoot for the video about 30 seconds long. You can create several videos released over time to help you build your audience and create interest in your business.
  2. Keep It Simple, Stupid (2nd KISS): Keep the topics of the video simple. Think food, people, products, location, fun, history…comparing the philosophical debate between Vulcan and Romulus in a 30 second video for a used book store may be a difficult concept for some people to understand. Video of lots of happy people reading big piles of books, better yet buying big piles of books, is easy to understand. Easy to understand usually goes over better with the audience.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Slow: People have a tendency to quickly pan across shelves and speed through tilts up and down displays. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want it to look boring. Sometimes people don’t know better or think about it. When you move the camera quickly multiple things happen. First, you could make someone sick. Seriously, it can make people motion sick. Second, it looks unprofessional because the quick movement usually also includes bobbing and bouncing camera work as well. Slow even camera work allows the viewer to actually see what you’re trying to show them, get interested in it, and makes them more likely to want to see it in person.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Zoom In or Shoot Close-Ups: Wide shots are great for showing viewers what a place looks like, but if you want them to really like something, if you want them to fall in love with a product, then zoom in on it. Show a close-up of a yummy treat your store sells or the detailed bead-work of a one-of-a-kind necklace will draw your audience in and show them the quality of what you sell.
  5. Make the Audience Fall In Love: Pay attention to the little things like the lighting and the sound. Make sure when you shoot the video that the sun isn’t so bright, or it’s so dark, that you can’t see anything. Make sure that there aren’t any strange/annoying sounds in the background. Make sure that there aren’t any songs or signs in the background that could get you in copyright trouble.
  6. BONUS TIP – Have Fun and Be Creative! Have fun with it and get creative, your audience will have fun too. Even if your business is a Victorian Tea Room, there’s no need for your video to be stuffy or boring.

I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. What tips do you have?