How to Be Visible When You’re Working Virtually

Technology has made it possible to connect literally anyone in the world to another. It also means that those ties can be as fragile as the Internet connection that holds them together; easily broken and sometimes neglected. While in the case of trolls, a cut connection might not be a bad thing. However, for the Virtual worker in a remote office, that lack of face time can mean out of sight, out of mind. And that’s not good for a career. Working virtually has a number of advantages for both the company and the employee, the first and most important creating more engaged workers. But it’s not without its challenges for both sides. Here are some tips on how remote workers can ensure their lack of an office presence doesn’t make them invisible.

1. Jump In, Ease Out: Remote workers skip the commute and parking hassles. That means they can often be ready and focused to work earlier then office-bound colleagues and finish up details later without stressing to beat rush hour.
Action: Log in early with relevant questions or responses to start the day. Or share something interesting that you’ve found that might inspire someone else. Use the ending part of the day to plan your next day’s activities.

2. Maximize Focused Time: Most remote job roles require blocks of times that are uninterrupted by needless meetings, office chatter, and other interruptions. Diligent remote workers can tackle set time to delve into deep problems and ask for input when they need it.
Action: Use your calendar to block time appropriately, with visibility for the rest of the team, but ensure that you’re not excluded from necessary meetings.

3. Use the Technology: Many offices struggle to know what anyone is doing on a daily basis when colleagues are in the office. When associates are out of the office, it’s even worse. Don’t leave it in doubt or to chance.
Action: Communicate through channels the team uses, and acknowledge even the less important conversations that inevitably happen. Even though avoiding the extraneous chatter is one of the benefits of working remote, don’t ignore it completely. Participating keeps you present and in the loop office loop.

4. Set the Agenda: Just because you’re not on site doesn’t mean that you don’t have goals and things to accomplish. But you have to tell them. Being remote doesn’t mean that you can’t meet—the best companies do it and you can to. There’s a variety of technology to make meeting anywhere possible.
Action: Create the meeting, invite the team, and run the agenda. Being remote is not an excuse to not be proactive. Be diligent with recording what transpires so that you can refer to it later.

5. Nurture Personal Connections: All work is personal, and in many ways being remote enables even stronger connections. Communication can occur at a variety of paces that fit any number of parties and their time frames.
Action: Again, use technology to stay in touch with current and past colleagues. Sharing useful or interesting items will help you stay engaged and the lucky recipients as well.

6. Be Present: When you’re in meetings virtually, contribute. That’s why you were invited. It’s not enough to log in, put the microphone on mute and carry on as if you’re not there.
Action: Plan for the meeting, have questions, and actively listen. Take notes. Follow up afterward to make sure action items are clear. In other words, treat it like a meeting on site, because the remote you is “on your site.” It’s also a great idea to check-in and ask how you can help when you have openings in your calendar.

7. Face time: When you do have face-to-face meeting or are on site maximize your time to make an impression and build your value.
Action: Make a list of what you’re working on, what’s going well and where you could use assistance or feedback. Schedule quick meetings—even just coffee—in accordance with your needs. Need approval? Schedule the higher-ups first. Need validation? Check-in with your peers.

A Virtual World of Opportunity

Working remote allows employers to hire the best talent wherever they are and workers to contribute in ways they never imagined. It has proven to lead to great business results and improved work life balance. It takes diligence and dedication to make it worthwhile for both parties, with a lot of it falling on the remote worker to make sure that they and their contributions are seen.

 

The Importance of Peer Feedback (Even from the Boss)

 

Even Grammy Award winners need feedback. Everybody needs and craves feedback, whether you think it or they admit it, regardless of their accomplishments and success. This point was reminded to me when I recently went to see Grammy Award-winning John Legend (Stephens), from my hometown of Springfield, play a homecoming show in support of his brother Vaughn’s “be about it” foundation. It was a great show.

For an hour, it was just John and his piano. Halfway through the show, John told a story. A while ago, Jimmie Fallon had a Bruce Springsteen tribute week. The show called and wanted John to do a tribute. He thought it was a little out of the expected. Most people, including John, didn’t link “the Boss” and “John Legend” together. (I think John might underestimate himself – my Pandora app pairs him with Ray LaMontage and Griffin House (another Springfielder – he literally goes with anything. But I digress).

They came up with a dark and jazzy take on Bruce’s 80’s pop hit “Dancing in the Dark.” It gave the song a completely different feel. And it  was completely awesome.

John hoped that Bruce would like it.

The Roots, the audience all seemed to like it. But nothing from the “Boss.” Not a note. Not an email from one manager to another. Not a tweet. Nothing. John was concerned. He really wanted him to like it, or at least to know that he didn’t hate it.

A week went by. A month. Then a year. Then there was another tribute to Bruce. He was being recognized as the 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year. John received a letter signed by the Boss. He had heard the version and really liked it. In fact, he wanted John to perform it at the ceremony.

Even Grammy Award-winning artists need feedback. More than just the acknowledgement, that he liked it meant a lot to the artist. It didn’t take a lot of time. But it would have meant a lot to the artist to have had it much earlier. But the important thing was that eventually came.

When people do things for your or produce things that you enjoy, recognize their efforts. It will be good for them and for you. You might be the spark that helps them create more of what you enjoyed in the first place.

Here is John’s rendition of the Boss’ Dancing in the Dark.

This entry was posted in Creative Marketing, High Bar Marketing and tagged Bruce Springsteen, feedback, John Legend on March 20, 2014 by Devin Meister.

Growing a New Audience

grown an audience - like bamboo

About three years ago, my next door neighbor planted a pot (pot, singular) of bamboo in the corner where our yards adjoin. The plan was for the bamboo to serve as a border. It quickly did that. Little did we expect that the bamboo had an ulterior motive: to take over the United States, starting in the Midwest. More specifically, our back yard. It’s now moving west and will arrive in Chicago in the near future.

Growing a new unintended audience - like bamboo

One morning last spring one of my kids looked out the window and asked “who’s that strange lady in our backyard?” Turns out, it was not just a lady, but several ladies from the local Chinese restaurant. They were cutting bags full of young bamboo shoots. My mother tutors at the local literacy center and the ladies were her students. This gets us 15-25% off an all ready ridiculously cheap order and a friendly “How your mommy?” when I visit (which makes me wonder about my mom’s teaching skills).

a new audience arrives to pick bamboo

Through their conversation, it came up that I had bamboo growing in my backyard. Apparently outside of our backyard, it’s hard to find fresh bamboo in our area, for now. From what I can see the situation is quickly changing. But every day for a couple of weeks afterwards, there were varying numbers of local people of chinese descent cutting bamboo. Bags and bags of bamboo left, without making any appreciable visual difference.

So, while the bamboo was intended as barrier, it found a completely different alternative use with a completely different audience through my “network.” The same thing can happen for you and your content if you follow the same steps.

Young Bamboo Shoots

  1. Plant new unique and original content in places where it can thrive.
  2. Let it grow. Watch over it, but don’t get in it’s way.
  3. Tell your network about it. While you might think you know your audience, don’t limit your thinking or assume that somebody might not be interested.
  4. Share it. When people are interested, be gracious and share. And thank them. Even when they block you in your own driveway.

Making your product and content, you might have an intended purpose. Your audience, intended or not, might discover it and take it in a whole new direction. You can learn and grow with it.

This entry was posted in Content Marketing, High Bar Marketing on November 4, 2013 by Devin Meister.

Don’t Call Me Francis

Names stick. A classic scene from the movie Stripes is the introduction. One character introduces himself and says, “My name is Francis Soyer … but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.” After the rest of his rant, the drill sergeant quips, “Lighten up Francis.”

Anyone that has ever had a name or nickname that they didn’t like can relate. But whether you like it or not, name association can be powerful. That’s what Chrysler is experiencing with their truck line, and it doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon.

Read more about the challenges Chrysler and other top brands have faced in rebranding their companies and products here:

MY NAME IS RAM … FRIENDS CALL ME DODGE

Ants, Twitter, and the Intelligence of the Masses

intelligence of masses - ants

If a collection of unbelievably individually stupid and irrational creatures can create something wonderful and self-sustaining – why do so many big businesses really, really, suck at doing either? By that I mean doing something wonderful or self-sustaining. That’s what I thought when listening toradiolab’s rebroadcast of emergence. Seriously. Certainly a collection of educated people should outperform a field full of fireflies, a bee-hive or colony of ants? But that’s not always the case.

The one glimmer of hope I took for humanity and the internet from this podcast was an example from Francis Galton’s observation at a county fair. In it, a collection of ordinary people generally presumed to be unfamiliar with the actual weight of oxen guessed at it’s weight. No single person was correct. However, the average of the all of the guesses was remarkably close.

It’s essentially how google works and part of what makes twitter so great. I believe and hope this is how democratic societies and the internet can work going forward. The collective of non-expert masses, or the wisdom of crowds, when applying themselves to do their best, can be collectively smarter than a small group of experts. The key is applying themselves to do their best.

So why do businesses fail? Sometimes while there may be collection of people, the actual decisions and action are only taken by a select few. Hence, it’s not really a crowd. It’s a few people with many underneath them. Another scenario is that often there are people at all levels doing less than their best, or working contrary to best interests of the organization. In either case, their colony – and their work – ultimately perishes. They get outworked by ants. Outsmarted by bees.

C’mon people, set a high bar for yourself, and your work.

Multi-tooled Marketers

 

The desire, make that necessity, to connect through stories hasn’t changed.

What has changed are the methods we can use and places we can tell those stories. And measure the results. And re-purpose those stories to different audiences and through different media. There are a lot of things to do, to do it well. That’s why you need marketers with a broad skill set that are razor-sharp and able tackle any content job. I call them Swiss Army Marketers.

The Swiss Army Knife was designed for one purpose, but a variety of jobs. It gives Swiss Army soldiers all the tools they’d need for any setting they are likely to encounter in the Swiss Alps. Similarly, Swiss Army Marketers have all the tools that a business will need to produce, promote, and measure relevant content for their audience.

Some of the skills they possess are:

  • Content Strategy
  • Creative Writing
  • Journalism
  • Analytics
  • SEO/PPC
  • Creative Direction/Editing
  • Marketing Automation

For more information, check out this quick overview, Swiss Army Marketers.

This entry was posted in Business Marketing, Creative Marketing, High Bar Marketing, Marketing Automation on March 13, 2013

10 Step Content Strategy

 

If you understand the concept of “content,” then the idea of a content strategy seems simple. Until you start to dig in. Then you understand quickly that it is simple and complicated at the same time. To start your content strategy out right follow this outline:*

  1. Define your marketing objectives and what you want to accomplish. Consider both inbound and outbound.
  2. Identify your buyer personas.
  3. Map out your buyers journey.
  4. Create a content inventory.
  5. Audit the content to determine what is most valuable to the buyers.
  6. Identify any content gaps in the buyers journey.
  7. Determine what content needs to be created to fill that gap. Create it.
  8. Pat yourself on the back. You’re inthe top ½ of marketers now.
  9. Check the results against your marketing objectives.
  10. Likely realize you still have a long ways to go. Get back to work.

*This 10 Step Content Strategy is to a real content strategy as a napkin drawing is a map to the top of the Matterhorn. It points you in the right direction, but the real work is up to you. Or somebody. But there’s work to do.

T and Pi shaped People – Aliens Among Us

Modern marketing requires a new set of skills – and they look alien to many experienced traditional marketers. It’s a combination of technical skills with creative ability and a curiosity to dig into analytics. From the pre-madmen Claude Hopkins era to hey days of Chiat/Day, marketing had strong black and white divisions between identities within the team.

  • Account and C-level executives = suits
  • Finance = bean-counters
  • Creative = crazies, weirdos, and worse
  • Media = well, I’m not sure anyone called them anything
  • Admins = not socially acceptable to repeat what they were called back then.

I suspect that the “suits” created and perpetuated these labels. Just a  hunch. But the lines were rarely if ever crossed. It used to be when you found one of the special weirdos that had some visual sense and understood that marketing should communicate with words as well (usually) you were lucky. You made them a creative director. Somebody that understood using words and images together was a crazy dual-kind of talent.

That has changed with modern marketing. Two tools aren’t going to get it done. According to this article by Econsultancy, ”the term ‘T-shaped’ was first used by McKinsey & Company to describe the type of person they were looking to hire.” In their case they were looking for people with deep vertical skill and expertise, the “|” part of the “T” along with a broad horizontal “─” understanding of all other disciplines required. That’s nice, but it’s not really that different. It’s still basically and expert with some limited understanding in other areas. Limited understanding has limited utility in business.

Later,  Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein coined the term “pi-shaped (Π)“. This introduced the idea of marketers that were adapt at using both the right and left sides of their brains. Previously the balance of analytical and creative skills in marketing were set by the structure of the different team members. Now, with dramatically leaner teams, modern marketing demands team members that possess both. This is a much bigger leap.

On one hand it’s simple numbers: headcounts are reduced. On the other hand, communication has changed. It’s much more personal, mobile, and trackable. It has always required stories. The addition of tracking and automation, of really knowing how people engage with and find stories and being able to deliver it is completely new. Just the idea of moving beyond specialties is new to marketing. You can call it alien, but it’s arrived. Everyone must be a Multi-tooled Marketer at some level.

For more about T-shapes,right vs. left brain, and a people oriented approach, check out this article.

 

 

This entry was posted in High Bar Marketing, Modern Marketing on March 23, 2013 by Devin Meister.