Using your Backstory to Shape your Online Persona

“Everyone is a storyteller”  –Michael Margolis

I recently had the privilege of listening to a webinar broadcast from SXSW 2011 (where I so wish I could be right now) by the author and master storyteller, Michael Margolis. Despite tuning in a little late, the first comment I caught really made me sit up and pay attention; and that was that as social media entrepreneurs we are all essentially storytellers, that our success or failure depends on our ability to relate our story to our audience.

As a trained journalist, Communications & Outreach Specialist, PR pro and freelance writer by trade this totally made sense to me. after all, isn’t it my job to relate to those who I am working with by finding the common ground, by sharing my story in the hopes that there will indeed be a shared empathetic connection?

I think his primary point was to use your “back-story” to shape your online persona, the parts of yourself that you put out there for others to either accept, judge or completely ignore. The idea that we can reinterpret a past event through new perspectives and may even learn something new just made total sense to me. After all, don’t we all live according to a certain revisionist history to a point anyway? Seems to me that as we look back on what made us who we are, we may even learn something new to add to the story.

So what’s your back-story? I’m thinking that I can totally be a superhero if I want to be. I did after all graduate early, make it through college with honors while a single parent (at least in the beginning) and then became known for my social media knowledge through rigorous self tutelage (thanks @blogbloketips, @socialmediatoday, @socialguide and @HollyHoffman for that!)

So maybe from now on I am going to work on developing my back-story. Interested? Well you don’t have to take my word for it. You can download the free e-book “Story Manifesto” or buy your very own copy from the Get Storied website.


So What’s your back-story and how do you use it to engage with your clients? I’d love to hear all about it!


Staying Innovative is Crucial for Conservation

With so many non-profits and NGO’s, not to mention all the state and federal agencies vying for a piece of the continually shrinking resource pie, it is no secret that to remain in the conservation game, being innovative has become a critical component for survival.

The old stand-by tricks of the trade are no longer returning the numbers they used to which is part of why so many have turned to using social media. But just “using” social media or creating a social media plan is not enough.

In order to stay ahead of the game, you have to almost stay ahead of social media, a nearly impossible task. That means having at least one or more dedicated staff members that just work on social media campaigns, not just a summer intern. They stay current on what’s out there, using valid search methods and make sure your organization is represented on all the major social networks where it is relevant to be present.

But as the great Cat in the Hat said, “that is not all, oh no, that is not all.”

Twitter and Facebook, while important are considered the norm by today’s social media standards. To stay ahead and keep today’s 5-second attention spans on your web sites (and hopefully clicking on your donation buttons) you have got to have an innovative approach. You need something that will not only capture attention but then nudge them to act upon an impulse. Not an easy task I know (In fact I am currently working on a thesis about this very topic so please feel free to comment, I need all the help I can get!!)

First take a look at this list. I found it while perusing a great blog called NowSourcing and although a bit dated, it has some tremendous resources.

Next take a look around you and ask a few key marketing and demographic questions. Who are you trying to reach? What kind of sites do they generally frequent? What is your key demographic. Most organizations have access to this type of information and can sit down and come up with a list pretty easily.

Once you have your list, it is time to get creative. Brainstorm all the ways (in 140 characters or less if you can) that you can appeal your organization’s latest achievement to all the different demographics you listed. Try humor, trivia, promotion, a plea, whatever and see what you come up with. The point is start getting the creative juices flowing.The upside of this is that if you come away with anything really good, it is already pre-packaged for Twitter!

Once you are feeling a little looser, take your demographic and start researching some new networks where you might be able to connect with them. Depending on the type of organization you are a part of this could be Care2, GovLoop, GreenWalla, etc. Again be creative. Enter some key words into a few search engines and see what pops up, whether they be blogs, web sites, online magazines etc. Make a note of these search results and where you can begin to interact. Don’t hide your identity, the point is to get your organization’s name out there, to show you have an interest where your customers/constituents are spending time.

Okay, so you have a pretty good idea where your audience is spending their time and you’ve created a decent, maybe even humorous list of possible tweets/pitches for your organization. Now for the next step – to find out who is already talking about you and plug in.

Similar to the keyword search you used before, you will be using some social media tools to locate just how far your actual reach is on the web using klout, backtweet, twitter reach etc. A great discussion of these tools can be found here. What these will do for you is to help you determine just how influential you are being with your current campaigns, and where you may need to beef up your efforts.

So hopefully this short refresher has helped you but please note that this is a continuing work in progress. What additional ways do you stay on your toes in the name of conservation?

I Make Mistakes Everyday…And I’m Okay With That.

Okay, so I’ve been absent from the blogging scene for a while. Not that I haven’t been around; I’ve made a point to keep up with my social networks, commenting, tweeting, having some fabulous conversations with some of my fellow bloggers and perusing some new social media applications, making notes for my ongoing research. But as for actually writing a post of my own, I’ve come up against a wall.  Today after some Tweeting with the BlogBloke about whether or not to be controversial (I generally open my mouth when I shouldn’t, he was toning down a post), and catching up on emails I read a great post from Copyblogger about inspiration that ended up giving me just the push I needed. The post referred me to a site called The Quotations Page among other ways (music, reading great authors, leafing through magazines) to break through writers block when you feel like you just can’t write one more line. So I hopped on over the site and one of the first quotes to pop out at me was this one.

“Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.” – Mark Twain
I tend to be one of those that rushes forward, excited, into new situations feeling and learning my way along as I go. On one hand I tend to learn a lot this way and have a great deal of practical hands-on experience in many different areas of life. On the other hand, I have made many mistakes and incurred several injuries along the way.
However, having said that, I am proud to say that I live with no regrets for the way I live my life. I make mistakes,  I learn from them and then I move forward. Always move forward.The important part as the quote so eloquently points out is admission though. Most people don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. They will go to great lengths to hide every little flubb up. I include myself when I say that as I too have been guilty of posturing on more than one occasion. But there is wisdom in that quote.
If you go ahead and admit the mistake it tends to confuse others. I think it is true that most people expect you to try to get out of it, so by admitting you have done wrong, you leave them scratching their heads and then you look incredibly wise and on top of things. (I’ve even heard it can be a great way to get ahead in business, as long as you are not a constantly messing up.)
So what am I taking from this little lesson? I am going to try to admit to a few more mistakes. Who knows, maybe this will be just the crack in the wall I need to get the creative juices  flowing.
Thank goodness for Mark Twain. How would we ever Blog without him?
Photo courtesy of Creative.com


Being Green in Theory v. Practice

the ridiculous-nous of a dollarI must say that I am so tired of getting pile after pile of JUNK mail from groups (that for the sake of this post shall remain nameless…well that and I happen to be a card-carrying member of a few of them) that claim to want to save the planet in some form or fashion, whether it’s dirty coal one day or drowned polar bears the next…they fill your mailbox with pleas for your hard-earned dollar but seem to ignore one of the most basic and vital resources known to mankind as a species…clean air…produced in part by the very trees (some of them OLD GROWTH) cut down so that they could mail out their solicitations, most of which will never even be read, much less recycled and will likely wind up in some landfill taking up even more space and causing even more problems for these groups to complain about creating a new impetus for them to send out a whole new round of solicitations about these “new” problems to an uninterested public!

Whew! What an opening rant…

Ok, now let’s get serious folks. Yes I may be a hard-core environmental fanatic, but I make mistakes, have my failings, am outright lazy once in a while.(I sadly admit that even I have thrown away recyclable items without a twinge of remorse when tired, in a hurry with screaming toddlers strapped to both hips….) But, for the most part, I am working to be a responsible citizen, not just of my community, or even my country, but of my planet. I try to instill in my children the basic moral principles that less is more, and that homemade is from the heart. We avoid the big box retailers when possible, rarely eat junk, recycle regularly, endure the dirty looks we STILL get as we haul our cloth bags, walk more than drive and bundle up rather than crank up the thermostat.

Despite all these efforts, they can’t seem to avoid the barrage of mail we receive on a near daily basis asking for our support (which means money) and the really slick and cool ones promise that if we respond in 30 days we get a lovely reproduction 1930’s explorers backpack! How cool is that??

Just make sure you read the fine print…(you know the one that tells you that in exchange for that awesome backpack, only 5 cents of your $30 donation will actually help save the imperiled penguins, drowning polar bears or whichever cause it happens to be this month.)

Now please don’t assume I am bashing the wonderful work done by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund. As a contributing member I do receive an annual report each year with an informative breakdown of how their money is spent each fiscal year. I study those charts and graphs ( and I am NO math major) and think to myself that a better use of such a  large chunk of  the money dedicated to marketing (to gain new members, raise more dues, and other advertisements) could be better spent on actually reaching out to college advocacy groups (the ones that are not afraid yet to write their congressmen and women and march on Washington in protest), providing grants to grassroots groups making real changes in communities,  etc.

To me it just makes more sense to spend that large  ( and I do mean large….well it is certainly many times more than I and probably most of my entire  staff make in a single year, but then I am a state employee so I guess I am probably not the best example to go by)

So for those of you out there…what are your thoughts on this???  Even using 100% recycled paper, should these organizations cut back their marketing and PR funding and maybe divert that money elsewhere where it might do more good? Please leave your comments below and let me know the following:

  1. Should these organizations reallocate their funding  to include more grassroots/ college advocacy movement workshop/events?
  2. Do These groups spend too much on marketing/PR/postage/etc?
  3. Is adequate research being done to ensure quality ROI for money and time spent?

I look forward to your time and answers. and if you feel more comfortable sending a more in-depth but private response, please feel free to email me a personal response.

I look forward to putting together these answers and then crafting a very nice letter to the presidents and CEO’s of some of these organizations, many of which I have faithfully supported in excess for more than 20 years. I want to know just how MY money has really helped (if at all beyond padding his or her salary while I struggle to feed my family) and whether or not they are truly following their own green  advice in both practice as well as theory…..

Until we meet again…..

“World of Mouth” – a clear example…. It always comes back around.

In my last post I mentioned Erik Qualman’s book “Socialnomics” – in chapter five he goes into detail about how more and more we care about what our networks have to say about products and services than what we hear from commercials, print ads and so forth.

However, we can’t completely discount great customer service when it happens – know why? Because a good review has the same opportunity to go viral as one simply spoken about at the water cooler.

Earlier this week, my division at work put in orders for out business planner refills for the 2010 year. I had decided the one I was using was really not suitable and really wanted to go with the super “Master Planner” 2-page per day organizer designed by Franklin Covey. So I get my order and it is only the pages, no binder….I was a little miffed, checked the catalog and sure enough, the product number only indicated the refill. So I thought, ok, no big deal, I will just look through the Staples catalog (my org is contracted with them) and find the planner. Let the frustration begin.

First I checked the catalog – no planner big enough…then I checked the website…no binder. At this point I was very, very frustrated and felt entirely PISSED off that a company would carry refill pages for a binder they did not carry. On a lark I went on the Franklin Covey web site and guess what….they DON’T carry one either!!!!! Can you believe it? Franklin Covey, a huge name in personal organizers sells an AWESOME refill but not a binder that it will fit in.

I called Staples and talked to a wonderful young woman who seemed as perplexed as I was. Guess what she did. First she did her own search, then she took down my info and promised to call back. I admit I was skeptical but let it go…until 15 minutes later she called back. She had scoured the web and found a binder that would fit my refill – on Daytimer.com…now that is awesome customer service.

Not only did she seem genuinely concerned, but in order to help me sat a satisfied customer she checked her competitors web sites to  help me find what I needed.

Maybe Staples and Franklin Covey as organizations messed up…but that woman provided excellent customer service, which speaks volumes about the organization she works for.

Thanks a million and thanks to Staples for hiring such great customer service reps.

So as an addendum, you can bet that although I was disappointed with the product availability, I was very happy with the service and would definitely recommend Staples to others.

Next time you are answering a question from a potential client or customer, when you know you have to give them “bad” news – consider the method of delivery and how else you might help them. It can mean the difference between someone having a bad experience and passing that on, or someone maybe not getting what they want, but passing on good word of mouth about how well they were treated-which ultimately is more important than a product or service anyway over the long run.

What We Can Learn From An Intern

Phintern the Super Wildlife Secret Agent!

About a month ago I did a post on what interns should know in order to get the maximum benefit from their time. Now I want to switch gears a little bit and write about some things we, meaning those who are already working a “real” job everyday, can learn from our interns.

For the last three months we had an intern. Although he had a few specific tasks he was expected to complete (what we hired him for) he ended up going above and beyond what was expected of him. When it came time for him to leave us, there was a little sadness as nobody wanted to see him go. He graciously filled out a very informative exit interview however and using that along with input from the rest of the public affairs staff, I put this list together. Here is what we can learn from a great intern.
1. There is always room for improvement – no matter how educated or experienced you are, there is always something we can learn about our jobs from an outsider’s view. Maybe it is something that once mentioned is common sense but being so close to it everyday you just miss it. Interns are great for providing valuable feedback, as long as you give them the chance.
2. Treat everyday as if it were your first day – Our intern made a point to mind his manners at all times, everyday. Even after three months and after growing comfortable around all of us, he maintained a professionalism that should be envied. As I mentioned in my last post there are things that should never be discussed but sometimes we get lax after 5 years, 10 years or more with the company. Our intern made us all aware again of what people should do and say in the workplace.
3. Never be shy about asking questions – While I have written before that asking questions is the best way to learn anything new, this goes for everyone already working and not just interns. Our intern asked me some tough questions during his time and really made me think about some of the things I do and how I handle certain media situations. I needed that good hard look at my technique but would probably have taken longer without my intern’s honest scrutiny. Now I question both myself and my supervisor more, if only to make sure I am on track.
4. Embrace change – I consider myself a pretty savvy person when it comes to social media, but even so I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to pick up some new tips and tricks that I can now apply to my work not only as a blogger but as a public affairs professional. Even if you have been around the block a million times, things change all the time so take advantage of a young intern and really pick their brain. You may be surprised at what you learn.
5. Every colleague is also a person – We all have our own unique personalities and both strengths and weaknesses. Nobody is perfect but by working together in a collaborative way will ensure that we get the most done in the most efficient manner. Our intern was really great at pointing out his own strengths and weaknesses and using that info to determine the best way he could help us achieve our goals. Definitely something to take an example from.
6. We are responsible for training and educating the next generation of workers – This is a biggie.
What good will our hard work do if nobody in the next generation cares?”
Hopefully after reading this you will have a better attitude about working with an intern since we all know people who ruthlessly abuse their interns with menial and repetitive tasks that really teach them nothing about the real world of work. I want those who come after me, and who ultimately may work for me to have real training and a good sense of what to expect. In short I want good employees, not half-assed college grads expecting a handout because they did nothing during their internship other than make copies, fax some things and fetch coffee.
“We never get out more than we put into it.”
A special thanks to the “Phintern” for all his hard work! Good Luck!

What We Can Learn From An Intern

Phintern the Super Wildlife Secret Agent!

About a month ago I did a post on what interns should know in order to get the maximum benefit from their time. Now I want to switch gears a little bit and write about some things we, meaning those who are already working a “real” job everyday, can learn from our interns.

For the last three months we had an intern. Although he had a few specific tasks he was expected to complete (what we hired him for) he ended up going above and beyond what was expected of him. When it came time for him to leave us, there was a little sadness as nobody wanted to see him go. He graciously filled out a very informative exit interview however and using that along with input from the rest of the public affairs staff, I put this list together. Here is what we can learn from a great intern.
1. There is always room for improvement – no matter how educated or experienced you are, there is always something we can learn about our jobs from an outsider’s view. Maybe it is something that once mentioned is common sense but being so close to it everyday you just miss it. Interns are great for providing valuable feedback, as long as you give them the chance.
2. Treat everyday as if it were your first day – Our intern made a point to mind his manners at all times, everyday. Even after three months and after growing comfortable around all of us, he maintained a professionalism that should be envied. As I mentioned in my last post there are things that should never be discussed but sometimes we get lax after 5 years, 10 years or more with the company. Our intern made us all aware again of what people should do and say in the workplace.
3. Never be shy about asking questions – While I have written before that asking questions is the best way to learn anything new, this goes for everyone already working and not just interns. Our intern asked me some tough questions during his time and really made me think about some of the things I do and how I handle certain media situations. I needed that good hard look at my technique but would probably have taken longer without my intern’s honest scrutiny. Now I question both myself and my supervisor more, if only to make sure I am on track.
4. Embrace change – I consider myself a pretty savvy person when it comes to social media, but even so I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to pick up some new tips and tricks that I can now apply to my work not only as a blogger but as a public affairs professional. Even if you have been around the block a million times, things change all the time so take advantage of a young intern and really pick their brain. You may be surprised at what you learn.
5. Every colleague is also a person – We all have our own unique personalities and both strengths and weaknesses. Nobody is perfect but by working together in a collaborative way will ensure that we get the most done in the most efficient manner. Our intern was really great at pointing out his own strengths and weaknesses and using that info to determine the best way he could help us achieve our goals. Definitely something to take an example from.
6. We are responsible for training and educating the next generation of workers – This is a biggie.
What good will our hard work do if nobody in the next generation cares?”
Hopefully after reading this you will have a better attitude about working with an intern since we all know people who ruthlessly abuse their interns with menial and repetitive tasks that really teach them nothing about the real world of work. I want those who come after me, and who ultimately may work for me to have real training and a good sense of what to expect. In short I want good employees, not half-assed college grads expecting a handout because they did nothing during their internship other than make copies, fax some things and fetch coffee.
“We never get out more than we put into it.”
A special thanks to the “Phintern” for all his hard work! Good Luck!