For years, I’ve listened to experts and thought leaders tell me PR and digital marketing is all about strategy.
And yes, sound strategic thinking is important.
But I’m here today to tell you that in my experience execution eats strategy for breakfast.
OK, so I’m playing off the old “culture eats strategy for breakfast” cliche. But, I really believe this to be true.
Not because I minimize the value of good strategic thinking.
But because without fantastic execution, the best strategy in the world is useless.
I’ve seen it play out so many times.
And particularly in the social media marketing world.
For example, let’s say you’re Nike (full disclosure: Nike is NOT a client). And you want to sell more fly-net shoes to the younger set (15-18 year-olds). You determine one key way you’ll reach this audience is by using everyday Nike employees to tell stories about how they’re using their fly-nets via Instagram Stories (this is just an example, keep in mind). You determine you’re not going to spend money on Instagram ads, but instead that you’re going to experiment with this “Story” model for six months and then re-evaluate options.
OK, so the strategy is set (again, this is just an example).
Time to execute, right?
But, unfortunately, your team sucks at executing. The visuals, Boomerangs and live videos they come up with absolutely stink. You see limited engagement and in six months you’re on to the next strategy.
The strategy was sound–but the execution cost you in the end.
Here’s another way to think about it. Consider the senior-level folks in your PR/marketing organization at this moment. Why did they ascend to those roles? Was it because they demonstrated sound strategic thinking? Or, because they were excellent executors and doers?
I’ve found the latter to be true at least 80 percent of the time.
Again, execution eats strategy’s lunch (see what I did there?).
I know many are going to disagree with me on this one. But, that’s the way I’ve seen it over the past 20 years of my professional life.
What do YOU think?
Yesterday, I made my bi-annual journey down to my alma mater to speak to PR and Mass Comm students. In one of the classes I spoke with, an interesting discussion broke out around internships.
Specifically: Should companies pay their PR interns?
Understandably, many of the students tended to say “yes–companies should definitely pay us.” And, from where they sit, I can hardly blame them.
Soon-to-be college grads. College debt. Parents breathing down your neck to get that first job.
I get it. Internships kinda suck. Especially when they don’t pay.
But, I’m here to tell you one thing: I’m not sure it matters.
Should companies pay interns? That’s not my battle. I tend to think market forces should dictate that sort of thing–not regulators.
But, if you step back and look at the bigger picture: Getting paid for an internship really doesn’t matter. Here are three reasons why:
#1: Getting paid for an internship isn’t the end goal. Finding a full-time job that pays you a decent amount of money you can live off is the goal. An internship is just a means to that end. So, if that internship pays you–great. If it doesn’t–don’t sweat it. Just work your butt off, make connections and get that first job.
#2: The pay’s not worth it anyway. Think about what a typical internship pays. Probably somewhere between $10-15 an hour. That’s barely enough for most people to live off in most major markets. So, if that’s the case, why sweat the minimal pay? Why not reframe your outlook and look at the internship a bit different–again, see it as a means to a bigger end.
#3: Internships are all about experience and connections anyway. As an intern, you have zero leverage when it comes to the job search. You’re 21/22. You have zero experience. No leverage. So, utilize the internship for what it is: An opportunity to gain valuable experience (raise your hand to do EVERYTHING), and and opportunity to meet and network with people who can GET YOU A REAL JOB!. Do those two things well during your internship and you will have a job within 3-4 months.
Agree/disagree? I know you have an opinion on this one…
It’s time to give up the ghost.
There are no “dream jobs.”
Yeah, I said it. And you know why? Because I’m living my “dream job.” (outside of running social media for the PGA Tour)
And while I’m exceedingly happy with my current role, it’s far from a “dream job.”
Because the “dream job” is simply unattainable.
Think about it.
What does the term “dream job” imply? For many, I have a feeling it means one or more of the following:
- A job where you get to do everything you want to do
- A job where you have authority to make decisions
- And, a job with very few, if any, drawbacks
Except two of those three bullets are complete fallacies to begin with.
First, no job is devoid of drawbacks. Take my current role. While I do enjoy the perks of schedule flexibility and controlling who I want to work with, there are significant drawbacks to the solo lifestyle.
For one, it’s a very lonely existence. You really have to make an effort to get out and see people–and even then, you don’t have a “team.” No one to bounce ideas off. No one to call bullsh*t on your stupid ideas.
Also: it’s not the most glamorous life. You don’t win awards, because often it doesn’t make sense to submit an entry. You don’t enjoy the “status” of being a VP at Target because you’re a independent consultant and you work from your dining room table most of the time.
No, this job DEFINITELY has drawbacks. All jobs do. The key is this: If the pros outweigh the cons, it’s probably a darn good job. And for me, right now, this is a darn good job.
Second, you’re never going to have a job where you get to do everything you want to do. It’s just not realistic. Again, I’ll use myself as an example. In my current role, I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the biggest brands in the Twin Cities (Sleep Number, Trane, Andersen Windows & Doors, Cargill, General Mills), and I’ve done some great work with them that I’m really, really proud of. But, I’m just a solo consultant–I don’t typically touch the large, primary campaigns these kinds of companies are working on because they have big agencies to do that kind of work. So yeah, I’d love to do that work, but I know my role and I’m comfortable with it. But, it certainly doesn’t include “everything I’d want to do.” So, be realistic about what that might entail. You might get to do 2-3 things that you’ve always wanted to do–but you also have to do 1-2 other things that really suck. So what? Who cares? It’s all about setting expectations.
And, that’s really the key to this whole dream job thing: expectations.
Again–there is no dream job. Adjust expectations accordingly.
There are no jobs where you’ll get to do everything you want to do. Adjust expectations accordingly.
There is no job where you’ll have the perfect balance you’ve been seeking. Adjust expectations accordingly.
And, there is no job where you’ll get to make all the decisions. Adjust expectations accordingly.
Once you own up to the fact that there are no dream jobs, you’ll find a little weight has lifted off your chest. A little less pressure. Because there’s not that drive to FIND that dream job–because IT DOESN’T EXIST.
Stop worrying about finding your dream job. Instead, go find a job where your days fly by. Where you feel fulfilled. Where you work (mostly) with people you enjoy.
And don’t forget to adjust those expectations.
Last week, I wrote a post about the importance of networking outside the four walls of your company.
Like others, I maintain this is an essential and critical strategy to bolstering your career trajectory–and to help your current company in many different ways.
In the post, I wondered aloud why so many people ignore this advice. And instead, choose to stay put and rarely network, save the times when they need a network (i.e., losing a job).
A few people made the point: Maybe some folks don’t know *how* to network.
A point I hadn’t really thought of.
But, it’s probably spot on.
Because most people do want to be the best employee they can be. And, they want to improve their career options.
So, it makes sense.
In light of that, I thought I’d take the time today to offer up my advice on this topic–HOW to network.
I don’t profess to be an expert networker–far from it, in fact. But, I do, essentially, get PAID to network. It makes a lot of business sense for me to know a TON of people. And, for those people to think good things about me, when they think of me.
So, if I had to start networking from the ground up, here’s what I’d do:
Organize regular coffee meetings
I’d take a five-step approach.
Step one: Take stock of your existing network
Everyone has a network. Friends. Family. People at church. People you play softball with. Others you camp with. Sit down and write down EVERYONE you know. Start a list. You’ll probably be surprised how many people are on it.
Step two: Start with your inner circle
Tick down this master list and put “stars” next to the people you would deem in your “inner circle.” Those people you trust the most. Those people you would confide in. Those people you would ask for advice. These are the people you’re going to ask to coffee first.
Step three: Think about your approach
My networking approach: Very casual. I want people to feel at ease with me. So, I ask a lot of questions at coffees. I don’t talk about myself, unless asked. And, I try to appear happy, laid back (yet motivated) and outgoing. I know that sounds kinda stiff and lame, but it pays to think about your approach to these meetings. Do you want to appear more formal, or take a more laid back approach? Are you going to take notes? Will you dress up? What about your appearance? All things to consider with your overall approach. Remember, these meet-ups will start to define people’s impressions and perceptions about you–make sure they start to think what you want them to think.
Step four: Preparation and follow-up
Next up–ask these inner circle folks to coffee. But, don’t just get together with them and “have coffee.” Treat it like a business meeting. Start by preparing. Find out what they’ve been up to lately–new job? Family news? Passion projects? Start a list of 3-5 business-related questions you can ask these folks. You don’t want to be too formal with your prep, but you want to be prepared. After the coffee, practice your follow-up. Send them a note, thanking them for their time. Throw in a couple links to stories or items you talked about in your meeting.
Step five: Ask for 2-3 introductions from your inner circle
Here’s where the “networking” piece really comes in. Ask your inner circle folks to introduce you to 2-3 additional folks from their networks who they think you might benefit in meeting. Might be someone in your industry. Might be someone completely outside your industry–but someone who might be interesting to meet for different reasons. Whatever the case, this is where things really take off. Let’s say you have just 5 people in your inner circle. If those five people refer you to 3 people each, that’s 15 new coffee meet-ups for you! And, keep in mind, these are “warm intros”–so you’ll have at least one point of commonality with the people you’ll be meeting up with (your common friend).
Only use larger “networking” events as conduits to more coffee meet-ups
I’ve written about this before, but the infamous “networking event” is the most over-rated event ever. Think about the scene: 100 people on a rooftop in Uptown Minneapolis. Within an hour, most have had at least one drink. Many are talking to people they already know. Many conversations last 5 minutes or less. Does that sound like the kind of environment where you can really make an impression on someone? My approach to these events: Use them as a way to organize more one-on-one coffee meet-ups. Try to meet new people at these events at all costs. Don’t be afraid to stick out your hand and introduce yourself. After all, isn’t that why you’re there? It’s certainly why other people are there. Meet people. Get contact info. And follow up with those people you think were moderately interesting, and ask them to coffee.
Think about your “soft” networking events
Networking doesn’t have to just happen in a coffee shop or at industry events. It can happen at church. Or, camping. Or, on the boat. For me, my “soft” networking events happen in a few different venues: 1) On the golf course, 2) Camping, and 3) At sporting events. Golfing is a huge one for me. Think about the scene. I get 3-4 UNINTERRUPTED HOURS with an individual doing something I love doing (and hopefully, something they love doing, too). That’s actual networking gold. A close second would probably be sporting events. I attended numerous Minnesota Timberwolves games this year with many different people. Those were all opportunities for me to get to know these folks a bit better–in a scene that’s NOT the workplace. So, think about your soft networking opportunities. Could be volunteering at your kids school. Could be church-related activities. Could be working out. All represent an opportunity to meet new people in a different kind of setting.
Get creative and leverage scale
One thing I love to do is create my own networking opportunities–at scale. I’ve done it many times in the last seven years. A few years back, I tried organizing semi-regular happy hours where I’d invite 5-6 “inner circle” friends and ask them to bring a friend I didn’t know. Worked beautifully. I met new people. My friends met new people. And, we had a lot of fun along the way. More recently, I started a corporate communicator mastermind group here in Minneapolis. We get together every other month for a business meeting followed by dinner. What a great way to meet up with 10-12 of the smartest communicators in Minneapolis–while delivering tremendous value for them. I have another big idea in the works for this fall–but you’ll have to wait for more details on that one 🙂 Think about how you can get creative, once you’ve sharpened your networking powers. How can you create group environments to leverage scale and meet more than one person, while still keeping things fairly intimate.
That’s my advice. Hope it helps a bit. Any other tips you’d share?
Today, I’m headed to Winona for my bi-annual pilgrimage where I speak to a slew of PR classes on campus (part of my Alumni Board work). This time around, I’m also chatting with the Winona St. PRSSA chapter. They asked me to come prepared to talk a bit about job search strategies for senior and juniors.
It’s a topic I don’t really give a ton of thought to these days–for obvious reasons. Then again, I do speak to a ton of students and dole out advice, when asked, to twenty-somethings fairly often.
But, for this crew (my alma mater), I wanted to offer up my best thinking. I didn’t want to just give out the garden-variety tips to these kids. After all, it’s kinda my job to look out for these WSU grads. Also: I get a huge kick out of it.
So, I spent the last few weeks thinking about more creative and truly effective job searching tips for today’s college senior. Here’s what I came up with:
1: Don’t just look for a job–look for THE job!
I think one of the biggest mistakes I made coming out of school was that I just looked for “a job.” I just wanted to break in. I really didn’t care how I did it. And, at the time, jobs were tough to come by, so I really just wanted to get that first job in communications. But, I wish I would have looked for “the job.” I wish I would have put more thought and effort into identifying that first job I really wanted. I think, by doing that, you can put all your time and effort into trying to win THE JOB, instead of just trying to get any old job. See the difference?
2: Polish the areas of your LinkedIn profile your friends aren’t
Most students will start polishing up–or start forming–a LinkedIn profile by their junior or senior years. That’s table stakes in today’s social and job searching environment. Why not take the next step and really focus on polishing those areas of your LinkedIn profile that your “competition” may not be doing. I’m talking about areas like: 1) Recommendations–just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t have recommendations! Potential folks to ask: Professors, fellow students you’ve worked with on projects, and intern supervisors; 2) Personal info/interests–Might seem inocuous, but it might be a conversation starter for that first interaction with a recruiter; 3) Experience–If you have enough relevant experience through internships and student work, consider ditching your part-time jobs (waitressing, etc.). Focus on the work you’ve done that IS relevant.
3: Use the “new grad” label to your networking advantage
Here’s the thing about being a new grad–everyone wants to help you. Why? Because we were all in your shoes once. But, here’s the other thing about being a new grad–it wears off pretty quickly. So, take advantage of the label while you can. As a new grad, I think you’ll find very few people will turn you down for coffee. They just won’t. It’s a little bit of guilt. And, its a little bit of “we’ve all been there, so I need to help this person out.” So, use the label while you can. Ask people to coffee you probably wouldn’t think about asking. You might be surprised who says “yes.”
4: Identify 10 people you want to know–and use social media to help you meet them
The big secret most “guidance counselors” don’t tell you about that first job: You’re most likely to find it through your network–not on a job board. So, time to start building that network. Begin by identifying 10 people in the market you want to work in, who have jobs you might want to have someday. Find those people, and figure out how to connect with them via social networks. Do they have Twitter accounts? If yes, look for ways to engage them there (common interests are a good start!). Look them up on LinkedIn–think about asking for a connection (in a meaningful way–again, look for connections points). Do they have a blog? Comment on it–but look to add value. Are they involved with PRSA? Go to a PRSA event and stick out your hand and introduce yourself. So many ways to use social to meet people now–you actually have no excuses here.
5: Strive for at least two in-person coffees or meet-ups per week
Continue to build that network by scheduling two coffee meet-ups per week. Get that momentum going by leaning on other alumni who have recently graduate–they’re probably most likely to say “yes” to a random coffee ask. Then, once you start meeting with these alumni, ask them for 2-3 people they can introduce you to. Voila! You have an instant list of 8-10 people you can meet for coffee. Keep asking for the 2-3 introductions, and you’ll be surprised how many people you can meet in a summer.
6: Identify at least one volunteer opportunity where you can meet people in PR
The no-brainer, obviously, is PRSA. Find your local PRSA chapter upon graduating, join (it’s cheaper, as a recent grad, as I recall), and VOLUNTEER! Good committee to join out of the gate: Programming (meet a ton of people), student relations (coordinate student events), or membership (great way to meet PRSA members!). You might also look at: IABC, AMA, Social Media Breakfast, or, in Minneapolis, MIMA. They key here is not just to join one of these organizations–it’s to raise your hand and volunteer. Might be uncomfortable at first, since you won’t know a damn person. But, it’ll get a lot easier as you go. Trust me–I’ve done this on more than one occasion and it’s paid off every time.
7: Want to stand out from the crowd? Don’t be afraid to market yourself creatively.
Make no mistake about it–finding that first job in PR is an all-out battle. Against your friends. Against your fellow grads. And against everyone else who is applying for PR jobs across the country. How many resumes do you think agencies in Minneapolis receive from new grads each year? Hundreds, for sure. So, creativity is at a premium. How are YOU going to stand out amongst 250 resumes? Start by doing something no one else is doing. Like Dawn Siff, who alledgedly created the first-ever six-second resume on Vine.
Or, what about Katie Briggs, who used an infographic as her resume to land a job in advertising.
Now, do all these creative approaches lead to dream jobs right out of school? Of course not. But, they definitely get noticed. And they undoubtedly lead to some kind of job, and most likely a stepping stone to bigger things down the road.