“Brands don’t have target markets, but target moments,” said Lisa Wang, of Twitter’s Sales Operations in Singapore. It seems to fly in the face of traditional marketing and PR, but it makes total sense. Communication, at lightning-fast social speed, has changed drastically in a handful of years. Make that the past few months.
Lisa spoke as a keynote speaker the final day of the CCI Conference on Corporate Communication last month. As I listened to her talk, “The Power of #Moments: Redefining Marketing in the Age of Real-Time,” I couldn’t take notes fast enough.
Sense of Universal Connectivity
We live in a big world, but all ultimately want the same three things in life. What are they? Find out in this captivating video Lisa shared – see if you can watch without getting the chills. It gets me every time:
See what I mean? On our universal wish list, we all want to 1) feel connected 2) feel relevant, and 3) be an active participant. Social media grants us the ability to do all three, and isn’t it amazing how the whole globe feels within reach as we scroll through to see what others are up to? Each social network has it’s own twist on how to engage users, but Twitter’s ability to hold live, public conversations makes it a unique place for clever companies. Those who think quick and make the most of those “target moments” when they know users are watching will be rewarded.
“Digital Campfires,” #Gather Round
Within the Twitter organization, they refer to hashtags as “digital campfires” because they gather folks with similar interests around a certain topic. As you know, there are hashtags for almost anything. (Surprised to see the non-word redline under “hashtag” as I type this. Guess it’s not in the dictionary yet?) Lisa shared a number of clever company examples, like Arby’s calling for Pharrell Williams to give back their hat during the Grammy’s, and Kit Kat posting a tic-tac-toe game for Oreo to compete for the heart of #chocolate fan. With a little creativity, companies can hone in on the right times (target moments) to tell their story.
I’ll be sharing more on social media in the coming posts. In the meantime, give Lisa Wang a follow on Twitter at @ldubs.
Image is a screen shot from the video “The Most Astonishing Fact.”
Every year on July 24, Utah celebrates a state-wide holiday: Pioneer Day. The celebration of parades, fireworks, and rodeos honors the state’s settlers, Mormon pioneers, who first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. After leaving the comforts of their sturdy homes and trekking for months through unknown lands, those pioneers must have felt such relief to finally see the “right place” to settle their homes.
Now what does this have to do with writing? Recently I read a journal entry of one of my own pioneer ancestor, Danish-born American folk artist, C.C.A. Christensen. He wrote the following in 1856 when coming through Iowa City:
At the campground we encountered our first trials, in that we had to give up books. . . . We were only allowed to take fifteen pounds in weight for each person who was to travel with the handcarts, and that included our tinware for eating, bedding, and any clothing we did not wish to carry ourselves. . . .”
“Our train consisted of between thirty and forty handcarts. Each of these had an average of five person. . . . It was usually necessary for small children to ride in the handcart which the father, mother, and older brothers and sisters of the family pulled. . . .”
These people didn’t have tablets, iPhones, and TV to entertain them. They had no days off, no air conditioning, or comfortable cars. Theirs was a reality of daily challenges, one of back-breaking work, with their faith alone to motivate them. Books were their connection to anything beyond the trails and trials before them. Giving up books must have felt like leaving behind good friends.
I’m glad to live with modern comforts. And grateful to Christensen, who painted the pioneers on the plains, leaving behind first-hand illustrations. He said, “History will preserve much, but art alone can make the narration of the suffering of the Saints comprehensible for the following generation.”
Image: A detail from the “Mormon Panorama” series, as described here.
Now this PR gal knows how it feels to be the subject, rather than the writer, of a press release. With a background in public relations, I’m all too familiar with press releases. I find it incredibly rewarding to find stories worth sharing and putting others in the spotlight. (Thus, Saturday Spotlights.) Well…
I’ve had a taste of prime time myself this week!
When WSU University Communication’s intern, Marcus, interviewed me about my international award and gratitude research, I recalled I had his exact job (except at BYU) six years ago. As a Features Writer Intern, it was my job to track down newsworthy research findings in two colleges. Fast forward to now, and I’m answering instead of asking. Quite surreal.
Since Weber State University’s release Tuesday, it’s been a flurry of sharing my research on gratitude. Wednesday brought a newspaper article with a shout out on the front page, Thursday a prime time TV interview, and countless congratulations in between. What a rush. I never could have guessed my little abstract, submitted last fall without expectation of acceptance, would garner such attention. I’ve thought a lot about the quote that serves as Jabari Parker’s Twitter bio:
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” (John Wooden)
I don’t expect to have every future endeavor fall into place as this one did. Hard work rarely results in such visible results. But I will continue to share stories worth telling, and pursuing my passions. As the Weber State press release quoted me, “I am coming away feeling empowered to continue to surprise myself. I want to be a contributor, whether that is in a professional or an academic sphere.” I don’t know where exactly my interests in research, communication, and gratitude will take me. But this writer sure hopes there’s a book (or three!) along the way.
I can’t end without saying thanks. I feel a swell of gratitude for this experience. Thank you to Weber State University, the MPC program, CCI, and MarketStar. Thank you to the Standard Examiner and KSL 5 for sharing that gratitude DOES matter in the workplace. Thank you to my Ryan, who literally goes around the world and back to support my dreams.
And thank you, reader friend, for joining the journey. Your support means a whole lot to me.
CHECK IT OUT
WSU Student Recieves International Award for Thesis on Gratitude in the Workplace (Weber State press release)
WSU Study: Gratitude Rates High in the Workplace (Standard Examiner article)
WSU graduate receives international award for master’s thesis (WSU Signpost article)
Sometimes when you shoot for the moon, be ready surprise yourself.
Turns out writing can take you places – literally – and here’s my recap. It’s been a month since I returned from attending the CCI Conference on Corporate Communication 2014 at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where I presented findings of my master’s thesis. Thank goodness for pictures and press releases, or I might think it was merely a dream.
Putting the “International” into CCI
My first time to such a conference, where 25 nations were represented by scholars and professionals, I loved saying “the United States” when asked where I was from. I met friends from Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, England, Australia, Canada, China, Malaysia, Netherlands, and many U.S. states. We all spoke English. Imagine the variety of accents! I didn’t realize it would be such an academic crowd; the majority of those who attended hold a Ph.D. and teach at universities. A fascinating group, they truly understand communication – our meals together were noisy with buzzing conversations of common interest.
My Turn to Present
During that four-day conference, I soaked up as much as a jet-lagged body could from others who are also passionate about communication. By the time it was my turn to present on the third day, a pit of nervousness welled up. I’d seen so many impressive presentations from these intellectuals, many of whom had decades of experience on me. Yet, when I stood up and looked out at the crowd, including my good husband who took a trip around the world to be my support crew, I felt at ease. I was among friends. I did my best to represent my university and company, sharing key findings of my research on managerial gratitude.
That night at the Awards Dinner, I had one of the biggest surprises of my life when MY paper was named “Best Theoretical Paper” of the conference. I’m still stunned, and have replayed those couple of minutes many times in my mind. The standing ovation. The applause of new friends. The heavy glass award. I held back the surprised tears, barely. Thank you to the CCI Conference Judging Committee for selecting my paper. It made all my hundreds of hours in the university library definitely worth it. And shout out to Christina Genest, CCI Associate Director and Michael B. Goodman, Ph.D., CCI Director, who made everyone in attendance feel like family.
Want to know more about Corporate Communication International? I know I’m a huge fan. Check out the CCI site, here.
I recently stumbled across a fabulous TED Talk. Elizabeth Gilbert, known for her internationally acclaimed memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” shared insights into what it was like to have skyrocketing success as a writer.
Surprisingly, such writing fame made her feel the same misplacement of self as she did in her years as unpublished waitress. The heights of success and lows of rejection felt the same to her subconscious: an unsettling distance from her center. After that explanation, she really caught my attention by saying she needed to get back “home” as quickly as possible.
Gilbert describes home as “what we love more than we love ourselves.” For her, it’s writing. When I grant myself the time and space to flow with words, I really feel at home too.
What is “home” for you?
Ok, world record books, listen up. My baby recently graduated from a master’s program! She attended classes (in utero), patiently let me write my thesis during maternity leave, and sported her own mini cap and gown. Yep, she’s quite the accomplished 12-week-old. Ha!
All jokes aside, it was a thrill to graduate last week from the Master of Professional Communication program at Weber State University. Being in the Class of 2014 came with special allure during the university’s 125th anniversary year. You can see sheer joy in this picture. I felt such relief to have pulled off my degree as an exhausted new mom, and literally could not have done it without an ultra-supportive husband. He’s the best.
There are many reasons folks go after advanced degrees. I wanted to polish my skills, and increase my professional confidence (double check). Besides the new line on my LinkedIn profile, less in my bank account, and a fancy piece of paper for my wall, what did I get out of grad school? Allow me to share a few key takeaways.
This very blog was launched as part of an Advanced Writing class assignment in summer of 2012. It’d been a long-time desire of mine to start a blog, and getting school credit (and editing on my initial posts, a la Dr. Josephson) was enough to jump-start a launch. I made a marketing plan, threw myself a “blog party,” and here you are, reading the outcome. By having a digital platform, I’ve had many, many people approach me who I never would have met otherwise. It’s been wonderful to make these new connections and learn so much from professionals featured on Spotlight Saturdays.
New video skills
I’d never once edited a video before the MPC. After a summer of practice in our New Media class, I felt comfortable enough to try my own video. Little did I know it would go viral. My pregnancy announcement on YouTube has had 38, 600 views to date.
Published master’s thesis, presenting at an international conference
It’d been one of my goals of grad school to be published. That meant I needed to write an original paper worth publishing. I learned through the process that sometimes when you shoot for the moon, you hit it head-on. I submitted an abstract of my thesis topic awhile back and was delighted to be not only accepted, but asked to present at an international corporate communication conference. My thesis is titled, “Perceptions of Thanks in the Workplace: Uses, Effectiveness, and Dark Sides of Managerial Gratitude,” and it was the most challenging academic project I’ve ever done. After nearly 150 hours recruiting, researching, data-analyzing, writing, and editing (all during pregnancy and maternity leave), I’m really pleased with the result. I’ll be sharing key findings on this blog in the coming month, so stay tuned.
Conflict resolution capabilities
The class that stretched me most was Clair Canfield’s “Conflict Resolution” class and his “trust the process” mantra. Before that eight-week block class, I saw conflict as something to be avoided. He opened my eyes. I came away liberated from old fears, willing to see conflict (two parties expressing seemingly opposing needs) as an opportunity. Don’t make me mediate Russia and Ukraine, but I do have tools now to creatively work through my own personal conflicts.
Associations with intelligent professionals and mentors
Our 22-student cohort has spent many, many hours together in the past two years. I spoke at our master’s hooding ceremony, and as I shared then, I literally have learned from every one of my student peers. We’ve laughed together, worked through group projects, and shared much of ourselves.They are a fun, talented bunch, and I will miss them. I’ve also really appreciated the supportive MPC Director and my empowering Thesis Committee. Kathy, Sheree, and Susan, your belief in me and my ideas has helped me believe in myself.
My mini graduate
Saved the best for last. My favorite line of my 46-page thesis is in the Acknowledgements section: “And finally, thanks to little Lydia, who made the author a mother during the course of this research.” Being her mother is the best thing I’ve ever done, and having her during my master’s program made it all the more memorable.
In sum, I grew in grad school. Grew my skills. Grew my network. Grew a baby. You can say I’ve gained two new titles in the past three months, both of which I cherish. Call me Mama, MPC.
Like people, words come in all shapes and varieties. Some are much easier to swallow, and much more fun to write.
I’ve been chin-deep in writing my master’s thesis lately. While I can pull it off, this type of academic writing is true work for me. It’s detailed. It’s exact. It’s stretching me in ways that make me feel I’m really making my graduate degree more than a piece of paper. (If you’re interested, I introduced the topic here.) I guess I’m a glutton for a good challenge, because I chose to include quantitative research. While I’m really proud of myself for putting together a publishable academic article (my thesis abstract has been accepted at an international corporate communication conference!), this is not the kind of writing I’d want to do every day.
No, in my heart of hearts, I have a thing for writing (and reading) essays. Personal narratives, to be specific. Pouring my heart into words does make me feel vulnerable, but it’s such an exhilaration to know snapshots of my life have been recorded in word.
Happy to share the first paragraph of my recently published essay, “The Pregnant Lady in My Mirror,” on Mamalode:
One day I met a pregnant lady in my mirror. She appeared there suddenly, after two positive lines indicated a big change was coming. Her eyes sparkled with joy; she’d dreamed of this for a long time.
Read the rest of this essay here.
Ever ate humble pie? I had a serving recently and want to share about the tart taste, lest I forget.
I received an email from a gal I lived with in college. (Believe it or not, I had 47 roommates during my undergraduate years, so that’s not a giveaway of her identity. Out of respect, I want to keep her name and the specific issue at hand anonymous. Let’s call her Ally.) I hadn’t heard from her in ages, and was quite surprised to see her name in my inbox. In eight eloquent paragraphs, Ally let me know I’d hurt her feelings. She wrapped up with, “I hope you treat (someone else) with more dignity and grace than you did me.”
Let me back up. This Ally is a mover and shaker, a real spitfire kind of woman. She thinks for herself, and has been a public spokeswoman about an important issue. She and I have strong, opposing feelings when it comes to this particular topic. Nearly a year ago a popular blogger wrote about it and I’d added an angry, judgmental comment, referring indirectly to Ally.
Fast forward to now, and I don’t feel the same way. Not at all. But when I clicked on the link she sent me, there were my old thoughts about her, posted for anyone on the Internet to see. Ally was completely justified in being upset about the cutting words I’d left behind. I responded to her email, apologizing with words like these:
Rather than giving you the chance to hear what I thought directly, I wrote a hasty comment on the ___ blog. A comment I quickly forgot, until you sent it to me nearly a year later. The Internet has a long memory.
Indeed it does. As one with a communication background, you’d think I’d know better. But I’m human. And this is the lesson I learned:
The words we leave in our digital wake can make waves long after we’ve forgotten them. Post wisely.
I reached out to the blogger, asking for my comment to be removed. As for Ally and I, she forgave me and we’re moving forward as friends.
Turns out tart humble pie can turn sweet, mid-bite.
Every now and then you come across young talent and think, “This kid’s really GOT IT.” Say hello to this month’s Saturday Spotlight, a writer of the musical variety. Sammy Brue is a 12-year-old songwriting, Sundance-performing folk singer. He’s been catching the eye of the media (Esquire magazine interviewed him recently) and is the star of a documentary in the making. Sammy’s lyrics hold maturity beyond his seventh-grade years and his tunes carry a unique, down-to-earth realness that sticks, long after hearing him. Big record label, here he comes. (Don’t miss his video below. Dare you to watch without getting the tune in your head!)
Q. Sammy, you’re 12 now. When did you start writing songs?
I got my first guitar when I was 10 and about two weeks later I wrote my first song. My dad taught me like three chords, and all my life I’ve grown up listening to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash – that’s where I got my folk scene, and I guess I taught myself.
Q. How many songs would you say you’ve written, and do the words or tune come first?
I’ve been writing a lot lately. I think I’ve written like 15-18 songs. I do a lot of short songs, and that’s when I put my songwriting to the test. I usually write the first two verses and then I get stuck until two weeks later. Sometimes I do the tunes first, and sometimes with the words first.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
Q. This was your second year performing at Sundance in Park City. How’d it go?
I saw a whole bunch of movie stars and stuff like that. I usually busk on the street. In the main place I play at, HP Lounge, where I’m most popular, and Indie Lounge. Sylvester Stallone’s brother Frank loved me so much he told his manager about me, and his manager is pretty legit.
Q. What’s the best part – writing a song or performing it?
Performing it because I love watching the faces of the people, the look like, “Oh my gosh.” I love being center of attention.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself on the road a lot and in school probably. Living a good life, playing music.
Without further ado, here’s a Sammy Brue original, titled, “I Don’t Wanna Die.”
Connect with Sammy Brue
Know that thrilling feeling when you meet someone by happenstance and the two of you instantly connect? That’s how I feel about a book I started this week.
As part of my pre-baby nesting rush, I asked a dear friend to take me on a library run a couple weeks ago (thanks, Priscilla!) Knowing I’d have hours of feeding time ahead, I ambitiously brought home an armful of books, hoping for potential “friends” to keep me company. Granted, I’m going at it slower than I’d like (already had to renew library reservations), but I’m so glad Wendy Lesser’s Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books (2014) caught my eye in the “Popular” section.
The book’s theme (writing about reading) complements this blog’s intentions of “writing about writing.” She’s endeared herself to me, this author, knowing just how to phrase poignant feelings I have about reading, words, and literature. A few share-worthy gems from her introduction:
Reading has, at any rate, the virtue of being one-to-one. It’s just you and the book, enclosed within a private space; it some ways that means it’s just you, alone with an inert object you are temporarily bringing to life. (p. 6)
Isn’t that lovely? It’s true, reading is such an intimate act. Yet, there’s also a sense of conversational partnership between the reader and the writer. I also love this:
Reading literature is a way of reaching back to something bigger and older and different. It can give you the feeling that you belong to the past as well as to the present, and it can help you realize that your present will someday be someone else’s past. This may be disheartening, but it can also be strangely consoling at times. (p. 6)
I completely agree. Reading (and writing) allows one to transport through time and space, experiencing another’s thoughts. Lesser’s words on revisiting books mirror my recent assertion that “books are friends to be revisited again and again,” with the beautiful analogy:
Even the second or third or tenth time you read it, a book can surprise you, and to discover a new writer you love is like discovering a whole new country. (p. 4)
A whole planet of reading awaits. For now, I’m content keeping track of my when-I-can-get-them moments with books on my new Goodreads account, admiring the tiny sleeping beauty in my arms.
Please share: What are your suggestions on authors and books you love?