On the Occasion of a Milestone Birthday

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Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

It’s not the number of candles, it’s the story they tell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve reached a milestone birthday and, as so many of us do, I’ve done a lot of thinking. I haven’t necessarily come up with any great epiphanies, but I’ve been reminded how much I love to tell stories. I’ve realized how much I miss the rush I get from doing creative things for me and how sad it is that I don’t make much time to do creative things for myself.

I’ve thought a lot about telling stories. I see and hear people talk about the best ways to tell stories using social media, video and marketing. And, most of the time they’re telling us why they’re experts. I guess part of the reason I wanted to write this blog was to some how give the impression that I was one of those “experts.” But it’s occurred to me over the last few weeks that the people who are telling the best stories in the mediums I care most about don’t really have time to talk about what experts, gurus or ninjas they are – they’re too busy out there being amazing.

I’ve decided I want to spend a little more time out there trying to be more amazing and less time trying to convince people I’m some sort of expert. What does it mean for the blog? I’m not sure – probably that I’ll focus more on the art of story telling and less on the mediums, but we’ll see. I believe in the power of words, and that any message from marketing to training can be made stronger by rooting it a good story.

Should you feel so inclined to give me a present, let it be this – tell a story today. When someone asks you how your day went don’t just give them a laundry list, tell them a story. A funny memory cross your mind? Write it down (I’d love it if you shared in comments below)! Tell a child a story from your childhood, something funny, something sad, it doesn’t matter. For my Big Birthday, tell a story.

Telling stories is universal. It brings us closer and makes us feel connected. So as a move forward into another decade I’m doing it with an eye on with making a great story. Here’s to a new chapter!

When I Grow Up….

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I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to be when I grow-up. Again. I realize that I’m a full-blown adult (though at times I still don’t know how that happened). And I know that I have a family, a job, and a whole life that I need to live on a daily basis. But still, I wonder. Someone poised the question to me a while back during the Mega Millions fever that gripped the nation. If you could do anything, be anything, what do you want to be when you grow up? The honest answer is, I don’t know. Yes, there are things I would change. No, I wouldn’t walk away from the life I have now. I have a family and friends and nothing will ever change their importance in my eyes. It’s the other stuff…you know…the job you have, the kind of work you do. What if you were 10 years old again and the sky was limit. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Child with dream bubble

What did you dream of being when you were a child?

I think I would do much of the same things I’m doing now, just differently. I’ve always wanted my own production company, but if I had the option to do anything with it I would gear it towards non-profits and small business needing storytelling help and advice. I’d work with them on getting their on-line presence planned out and put in place. And, perhaps, most importantly to them, I would do it at an extremely reasonable cost. After all, if I didn’t have to work every day and was doing what I love to do, I wouldn’t be as worried about all the grown-up concerns that come with needing a job.If I could do anything, I would use my talents and experience to help good people with great potential reach their goals.

What about you? If you could do or be anything, what would you do when you grow up?

5 Reasons to Catch Pinterest Fever!

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Red Pinterest logo

Just in case you’re one of the last few people who hasn’t heard of Pinterest yet, you just may want to check it out. It’s been described as everything from “On-line crack for women” to on-line inspirations boards. I’ve spent a bit of time there, and some time reading about what people are saying. While I’m reluctant to jump on the bandwagon of the latest-greatest-everyone-is-doing-it trend, I have to agree that this could really change things for both social media and marketing. Oh yea, and it’s fun too.

So here are 5 reasons why I think you should be on Pinterest:

  1. It’s visual! I am a visual person. I like to have pictures or videos showing me things, and I’m not alone. People in general are becoming more visual which makes Pinterest the perfect social media tool because it’s all about the pictures. There’s are place for descriptions, but there’s rarely much information attached. The images take center stage and are like candy for the visual person.
  2. Instant gratification! There are always more things to see. Hit the button for more pins and you get MORE PINS!
  3. It opens your mind! Even if you never really thought about your sense of style before, you will now. You’ll quickly find yourself gravitating to some things and not others. You’ll see a lamp that you just have to buy right beside a dress you wouldn’t be caught dead in. And it is all awesome. I’ve found myself looking at things I thought I liked differently because I’m seeing them beside something I never thought of before. It can be a challenge and exciting at the same time. Word of advice: Don’t judge other people’s tastes, just enjoy the ride.
  4. Crowd sourcing your marketing! There are some organizations doing great things on Pinterest, and a lot of them are colleges and universities. The easiest way is to set up an account for your organization and create some boards. Add & pin just a few of your own images to start with, then search for what other people are pinning about you and add them to your boards. Other people are searching for and pinning the pictures, so it’s like they’re doing the hard work for you.
  5. Make it make sense to you! There’s so much information out there and it’s constantly coming at us while we’re left trying to make sense of it all. Most social media gives you one view, maybe two, and that’s how you see everything. At Pinterest, you can make different boards and pin whatever you want to them. They don’t have to make sense to anyone but you. Tell your visuals story the way you want and in a way that works for you.

There are some concerns with the privacy and copyright permissions at Pinterest, and they have made some changes to policies recently. Do a little Google digging to get different opinions on the subject.

Have you tried out Pinterest? What are your thoughts?

Is Social Media Changing How We Tell Stories?

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I read this post and it got me thinking. Obviously social media is changing the way we tell stories. We can now share what’s happening to us, as it’s happening, with video and/picture proof. There’s no planning ahead. There’s no deep thought on the best way to share a story, or looking forward to telling it the next time you see someone. With a couple of clicks of your smartphone, tablet or the old school laptop and everyone who knows you knows exactly what happened.

There’s no saving a story for the next family get together – they read all about it on Facebook. There’s no go to anecdote for parties – they saw it on Twitter and retweeted. They re-pinned the picture we took of the dog and pinned on Pinterest. They saw the crazy cat video you posted on YouTube.

Where are the stories we save and savor telling our friends or family? Where are the great icebreaker stories that we prepare for awkward social encounters (fulling willing to admit, this may just be me)? What do we have to talk about at dinner tonight when our every move is posted, pinned, tweeted and shared as it happens?

I’m curious. Has social media, and the instant gratification that it brings, changed the way you tell stories? Do you still relate the stories of your day when your out with friends or sitting around the dinner table with your family? Has social media helped you start conversations because people see what you posted and prompt you for the full story?

Answer the poll and share your thoughts below.

Step Away from the Keyboard

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I’ve talked about it a little bit before, but I wanted to bring it up again. Sometimes you have to step away from the computer, the smart phones and those handy-dandy tablets get engrossed in real life. I know, I know…I’m taking a real leap here, but let me tell you why.

As awesome as social media is, and fulfilling it is as to have followers and friends and people in circles hanging on your every word, there are real live people that we can see and touch and love waiting for us in the real world. People you have legal and moral obligations to see, often living in the same building and desperate for your attention.

Some of them are people that like to remind you that they married you for better or worse, not Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes they are very small people that want to snuggle against you and tell you stories about what happened as school even though you have no idea what they’re talking about after about 30 seconds. Some of them are not in fact people, but small furry creatures that always look happy to see you when you look up from your screen. All of them very real and much more important than your Klout score.

So over the Thanksgiving Holiday here in the US I unplugged and spent time with my people. Alright I didn’t completely unplug – I had to check email and do a little Christmas ordering – but I did stay off of social media. Why? Because the people I needed to socialize with most the last few days live just down the hall, not around the world.

Electronic communication is a wonderful thing. It’s changed the way we live our lives. We just need to remember to go out and live those lives. Go fight the crowds at the mall at least once this holiday season. Take a walk with someone special. Help little hands hang ornaments or light a candle. Step away from your keyboard and reconnect with the flesh-and-blood people around you. You’ll be glad you did.

Miss Communication – Did You Really Just Tweet That?!?

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A family with the faces blacked out

Protecting your on-line image is a family affair.

It comes back around every few months. Someone is surprised that they got in trouble at work for tweeting something negative about the company. Or they posted on Facebook about how they called in sick to work to get drunk with their friends, forgetting that they “friended” their boss and are shocked that they lost their jobs. There are the students who get freaked out when the school or professor comments on a post.

But why? When you post something on the world-wide web there is a very good chance that someone in the world will see it. There really is no such thing as private on the internet. There are glitches and hacks all the time. Nothing you post anywhere is really private.

And it lives forever. Once you hit send the picture, joke or rant is out of your hands and out there for others to use and consume the way they see fit. Sure you can recall an email, but it doesn’t get it unseen. And if you don’t recall it fast enough it could be tucked away in a folder somewhere waiting for a chance to surprise you.

The ability to share thoughts and feelings as we have them is addicting. Having followers and friends who will listen and comment on life’s ups and downs provides a certain feeling of power. But what people forget is those thoughts and feelings don’t just go out to the people who follow you, they can go to anyone who’s looking for them. Those pictures from the weekend if Vegas with college friends are not going to stay in Vegas.

More and more people are getting haunted while looking for a job. Rachel Gogos discusses how social media can hurt your job hunt and keep you from landing the job of your dreams. What seems like a harmless tweet today could be found by a recruiter or hiring manager and keep you from being considered for a job. Put yourself in their place. Would you hire a woman for a teaching position when googling her name brings up pictures of keg stands and wardrobe malfunctions? Or a man for a diversity program who has a drunken rant against ethnic groups on YouTube?

And while there are companies that can excise your on-line demons, you can save some time and money by being smart. Don’t put pictures, videos, tweets or status updates or blog posts that can and will come back to bite you. I know, easier said than done. It’s harder today than it was when you only had to worry about your reputation for as long as someone had the photographs. You could only be embarrassed by them in front of the people someone was able to show them too. Today it takes seconds for your reputation to change.

The moral of the story is this, think before you send. Take a moment to pause before a picture gets taken or cameras start to roll or you send that post. Is this really what you want to be known for? Is this what you want people world-wide to know or think about you? Once that button gets clicked it’s too late to take it back.

Telling Your Story

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Memory (1896). Olin Warner (completed by Herbe...

Image via Wikipedia

Think back to when you were a child, and some of the most important lessons you learned. Chances are there was a story involved in teaching you that lesson. Now think about some of your favorite memories and how you would share that memory with me. You’d probably tell me a story about something that happened. The things that we learn the most from and remember the best usually involve a story, so why don’t we do that when we’re trying to reach people?

So much of the marketing I see and the videos I watch are trying to sell me something. Or influence me. Message after message directed towards me and talking at me. Sure the idea might be new or creative, but they aren’t sharing a story with me.

I believe strongly in power of storytelling. Whether it’s in a video or a pieces of instruction, or a marketing campaign, there is a story there. Everything we record, teach or sell is part of a story, and if we want to reach the deepest parts of a person’s being we need to connect with. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

It’s our jobs as the creators of content to decide what the story is and the best way to tell it. Should it be an article?  A press release? A video? An in-class exercise? A Tweet? There are lots of ways to tell a story, but the most important part is to actually tell the story.  If you don’t you run the risk of alienating your audience. They could feeling that they’re missing the inside joke, or even worse, that they can’t connect with what you’re saying and lose interest.

Before you do anything else, figure out what the story is you’re trying to tell is and make sure that everyone on your team is in agreement. When everyone is agreement everyone involved can make sure that whatever they are saying is part of the greater message. Every presentation slide, every tweet and every post to your organization’s blog will be part of the story you’re telling.

Keeping your story in the forefront might just be the thing that sets you messaging apart and creates a memory for your target audience.