A couple weeks ago, I had coffee (actual in-person coffee!) with the wonderful Laura King. We had never met before, but I’ve been a fan from afar for quite some time.
We talked about jobs. We talked about her Marketers Community. And, of course, we talked about networking.
We talked about the absolute importance of networking–especially in these tough times. And, we lamented how some just don’t understand how it works. How many are approaching it completely the wrong way. I’ve been seeing way too much of this recently.
I’ve written about this topic before (many times, in fact). But, Laura brought up a phrase that I thought packaged the approach I believe in nicely: Just network like a human.
Here’s what I think that looks like in action:
First step–become friends, Second step–figure out how to work together/help each other
The challenge here is that many start with the latter and never really move to the former. I propose the exact opposite. Start with the intent to just become friends. Get to know the person (see next bullet). Ask them a bunch of questions (see third bullet). Just like you would if you were on a first date, really. This networking “courtship” will last a while. I made a new connection right before the pandemic. He was a senior-level guy who had just been laid off. We talked about kids. School. Work. And, most importantly, we stayed in touch. We’ve talked a few times during the pandemic via phone. Again, work, school, kids, sports. Just getting to know each other. It’s been six months–and we’re still getting to know each other. That’s how networking works. Start small. Start personal. Get to know the other person before you start making big asks and requests.
Find at least one point of common connection–and lead with it
It’s not that tough to learn more about someone before meeting them these days. In 2020, 99.5% of people are either on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. And you can learn a lot about someone from studying their profiles on one or more of those platforms. For example, I recently met with a young woman for the first time for coffee. In studying her LinkedIn profile, I learned that she had spent time at Olson (hey, I know people at Olson). On Facebook, I learned that she has three adorable little kids (hey, I have kids! And, I wonder how she’s managing that with the pandemic?). Three instant, personal conversation starters before we talk about anything else! That took all of about 2 minutes to research. This is not hard, folks. Always, always, start with a point of common connection–and there’s no question if you look hard enough, you will always find one.
Always have a list of questions–treat your first few interactions like you’re a reporter
Most networking advice says “be prepared.” And, I definitely won’t argue with that. But, I’d like to be more specific. Always show up with at least 5 questions to ask your networking companion. Write them down. In an actual notebook. Bring that notebook along. Open it up when you get there. And read the questions from it during the meeting. More than just “being prepared” and helping you stay organized, this exercise will demonstrate to your new professional friend that you did your homework and you’re interested in what they do. For example, I recently have a virtual coffee with the CMO of a local brand. I did my research and came prepared to the meeting with 4-5 questions I knew I wanted to ask him. This worked so well, at one point he said “Boy, I feel bad you did all this research on me and I did none!” That clearly wasn’t my intent, but it was a home run in terms of research. Always have your questions ready–no matter who you’re having coffee with.
Your first contact with someone can’t be an ask (instead, focus on what you can do to help them)
The first time you reach out to them, don’t make a single ask. It’s the cardinal sin of networking. I know not everyone will agree with that, but that’s been my approach over the years. Instead, like I said above, focus on getting to know the person. And, if you want huge bonus points, look for a creative way to help THEM! I’ve had numerous phone meetings with folks during the pandemic and in a number of them the person starts the conversation by introducing themselves, talking about their resume and asking me for advice! That’s the exact wrong thing to do. If you’re in job seeker mode, I know it feels weird, but you need to start small. Like I said up top, get to know the person. Ask THEM questions. Then, after a few months (I’d say a minimum of 2-3), you might be in a position to make an ask. This is also why I say you should ALWAYS be networking–not just when you need a job. If you do that, you’ll always find yourself having to make asks on the first coffee date, and that’s never going to turn out well.
Master the art of “the ping”
After meeting up for the first time (even if it’s virtual), you now want to stay in front of this person from time to time. That could be monthly. It could be quarterly. The timing is up to you. But, this phase is all about “the ping.” It’s a text message here. A tweet there. A direct message. Just a short note to say “hey, I was just thinking about you.” When you met up, maybe you discovered you’re both big fans of the State Fair. Maybe it’s a quick ping saying “hey, did you see that new drive-thru food pickup at the Fair! That would be awesome!” Doesn’t have to be much. But, these little pings keep you top-of-mind with your colleagues. This might not seem like the most “human” way to network, but in 2020, the ping should be a huge part of your networking approach.
Go above and beyond on promotions, new jobs and maybe even birthdays
What does EVERYONE do when it’s someone’s birthday in 2020? You leave them a “happy birthday” message on Facebook, right? What about a job promotion? LinkedIn automates the process for goodness sakes (you’ve seen this, right?). My advice: Instead of going through the motions and doing what everyone else is doing, separate yourself and do something DIFFERENT. Like (GULP) a phone call! On certain people’s birthdays, I used to call and sing happy birthday to them. That got some big laughs! Figure out a way to go above and beyond during these special occasions–you will stand out from the crowd and plus, it will just feel damn good.
Those are my pieces of advice for networking like a human. Take those and get out there and network! And, please, report back–I’d love to hear how it goes!
In case you haven’t noticed yet, Apple came out with a new iOS last week–iOS14, the biggest update Apple has unveiled in some time.
I would encourage you to watch one of the many videos about the update–like this one below–for your personal use. Lots of updates that are pretty darn useful.
But, today I wanted to talk about some of the updates I thought would be useful to you, as a communicator or social media marketer–because, there are a number that could impact your day job, in addition to your personal use.
In my initial research, here are just a few of the updates that I think communicators and social media marketers should be paying attention, and how it impacts your job:
Widgets for your home screen
You’ve probably heard the most buzz so far about widgets. These are small boxes you can add to your home screen to make it easier to get to important information. Now, there aren’t all that many widgets to choose from–yet. But, for communicators I like the “News” widget (keep on top of news as it happens); the calendar/deadline widget (see your to-dos and deadlines right on your home screen!) and the reminder widget (for lists, of course!). Find what works best for you–I’m sure Apple will be adding more in future updates.
Another big feature you’ve probably heard about. Not a game-changer, but think about the people at work you text most often–your boss, your teammates, your clients, even. Wouldn’t it make sense to pin some of those folks right to the top of your text app so they’re easy to find at a moment’s notice? (Also: If anyone can help me figure out how to get these damn spam messages from Republican PACs off my phone, I will pay you a lot of money!)
Audio messages via Siri
I know, I know. Audio messages aren’t new. But, this particular functionality is–and it’s a very cool add for any communicator or social media marketer. I’m already thinking about all the texts I’ll be sending when I’m in the car now! Think of all that dead time in the car–now you can be sending audio text messages to teammates, clients and others within your organizations. This one is a big deal for me–I just hope people like receiving the audio messages!
Faster shooting on the Apple camera
iOS14 had a very different changes to the camera functionality. But, the biggest one for communicators and social media marketers is definitely the ability to shoot faster. As in, 90% faster than all previous updates! Just go into Settings-Camera and click “Prioritize Faster Shooting.” The camera, apparently, will “intelligently adapt image quality when rapidly pressing the shutter.” For as many pics as we take for our clients and companies on our phones, this one seems like a potentially big deal.
New ways to filter photos
Another change to your photos–the ability to filter by favorites. Might not seem like a big deal, but I see this as a great way to favorite client/company photos and make them much more accessible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve went digging through the pics on my phone to find that one client photo I took three months ago. That process can take me 10 minutes! By favoriting these client/company photos, you can get to them in seconds–not 10-15 minutes.
Those are just my initial reactions. I’m sure I’ll find more features in this update that are useful for my professional life. What have you found so far that’s helpful for you as a communicator in the iOS14 update?
During the pandemic, I’ve been lucky enough (emphasis on LUCKY) to secure a few new clients. One of those has been Stacia Nelson owner and founder of Pivot Strategies. However, it hasn’t been my typical consulting arrangement.
Stacia hired me—in part—to help her find her voice on social media, especially LinkedIn. Her posts have helped her share more and build confidence–and in the process it has also increased awareness about her company. Now, this coaching role is one I’ve played in the past, but rarely (if ever) with a local agency owner. After all, in some cases I compete with agencies like Pivot.
I took the gig–and I’m so glad I did. Stacia is an ideal client and an absolute blast to work with. I look forward to our conversations every week. But, I’ve also found myself really enjoying the coaching piece of it, too. The feeling is similar to what I felt at the University of St. Thomas this year when I started as an adjunct professor.
I like the people part of it (chatting on the phone, or in-person every week). I like the listening part of it (I recently wrote about this). And, I like the consultative back-and-forth nature of it. Often, I leave those calls with Stacia with many ideas–hopefully not as many as I provide to her, but it’s energizing!
Like I said, this isn’t the first time I’ve served as a coach. I’ve played that role with many clients and many executives over the years. Clients like Sleep Number and Trane have hired me to do coaching and training sessions on how to best use social media marketing to meet needs and goals in the past.
So, I’m officially formalizing this service–I will now offer Talking Points Social Media Coaching as a package outlined below.
Talking Points Social Media Coaching
Who it’s for:
- Marketers/Communicators looking to up their social media games
- Senior-level agency-side folks looking to use social to drive business/reputation for the firm.
- Senior executives looking to use social media (LinkedIn, specifically) to advance their personal brand and their business goals.
- 1-2 monthly hour-long meetings to review social media activity
- LinkedIn and other social media account evaluation and analysis
- Feedback on weekly/monthly posts
- Content ideation and suggestions
Cost: Contact me for pricing info (note: There is a minimum monthly contract length)
Excited to start doing more coaching. If you’re interested at all, send me a note at email@example.com. Happy to talk more!
I know, I know. Everyone hates lists. A number of people have told me as much straight to my face in the past! But, I’ve always been a fan. Our industry has proliferated them to the point of being a popularity contest. But, I’ve always tried to use and develop lists that are interesting, built on editorial curiosity and based on a mix of background and analysis (and sometimes, data).
Truth be told, I haven’t published any kind of list in quite some time. In fact, the only list I’ve posted in the last year has been my annual coffee list. So, even I have backed off lists of late.
But, I started thinking about this one a while back. It’s an interesting one in that it’s not wholly tied to social media, as many lists are. To talk about the most influential people in PR, comms and social in the Twin Cities, you need to go well outside Insta and Twitter. I thought about people who were:
- Decision-makers–those who controlled large budgets and made major hiring decisions that would affect a big swath of people.
- Career-changers–you know how everyone has one of those teachers from grade school that changed their life? Chances are, you probably have a boss in your professional career that changed the course of your adult life. I wanted to include those people, too.
- Trend-setters–and again, not just social media trend setters. All kinds, types and shapes.
- Future-makers–those who have made “stuff” that has, or will, change the way we work.
One last thing: this list is almost wholly built just from me. I polled a few people on LinkedIn, but for the most part, the input largely comes from me. So yeah, I know there are holes. I don’t know everyone. But, like I always say, this is my list. You are more than free to build your own–in fact, I’d love to see it!
So, here’s my take at the 22 most influential people in our industry in 2020:
Anna Lovely, vice president-global communications, Cargill
When you lead comms for one of the largest privately-held companies IN THE WORLD, yeah, I’d say you’re a pretty big influencer (especially when it comes to hiring and budgets). But the best part: Anna’s one of the absolute loveliest people you’ll ever meet. I had the good fortune of working with her in a previous role at Cargill. Trust me.
Katie Boylan – chief communications officer, Target
Pretty tough to have a decision-maker influencer list in Minnesota and not have the comms leader at Target on the list. Sure, she manages what’s likely a fairly large PR/comms budget that impacts many in our field. But, she also influences the tone and messaging of one of the largest retailers in the country. That alone gets her on this list.
Matt Kucharski, president, Padilla
Matt makes this list as the president of one of the largest PR/comms agencies alone. But, he’s also one of the most connected people I know (especially among the agency owner group). And, also one of the most accessible (at least in my experience).
Kathryn Tunheim, CEO, Tunheim Partners
Kathryn has been the CEO of Tunheim Partners for 30 years–the longest run of any current agency head. For that alone, she would be on this list. But, consider some other titles she either currently holds or has held: board member–Hennepin Country Medical Center, board member–McKnight Foundation, senior advisor of jobs creation–Office of Governor Dayton, board chair–Bush Foundation. I mean, I could keep going! Plus, if you put 100 PR people in town in a room, I’d venture to guess Kathryn Tunheim impacted at least half of them. She’s had that big of an impact on PR and comms in this town over the last 30+ years.
Crystal Schweim, partner, IFC Next
Now, I don’t know Crystal all that well. We’ve met a few times over the years. She seems fantastic. But, I’m basing this on all the wonderful comments I’ve heard and seen from colleagues who have worked for Crystal over the years on the agency side. I’m sure you’ll see a few in the comments of this post! To me, that’s the best sign of a true career-changer in our business. If the people who’ve worked for you over the years consistently sing your praises, you’re doing something right.
Rose McKinney, founder, Pineapple RM
I would count Rose McKinney as one of the handful of people who had a profound impact on my career. Back when I was just getting involved with PRSA, Rose was a mentor, and someone I looked up to at the time (still do!). And, I’m quite certain, in her role as agency owner and MN PRSA president, she’s had that exact same impact on quite a few people over the years.
Rebecca Lunna, vice president, Carmichael Lynch Relate
What I just wrote about Crystal above–exact same thing goes for Rebecca. I remember years ago learning that two good friends had worked with Rebecca closely in their formative years. Both said she was not only a great colleague, but that she turned into a life-long, good friend. I can’t think of a better compliment!
Susan Beatty, VP-external communications, US Bank
If there’s a list of most connected people in PR in the Twin Cities, Susan Beatty is very close to the top of that list. She’s also among the most generous, kind-hearted people in our industry. She consistently goes out of her way to help people find jobs–something, especially in this environment, that should be celebrated. Too bad she’s a Packer fan–otherwise, she’d have my full endorsement 🙂
Betsy Anderson, assistant professor, University of Minnesota
If you made a list of all the UST and UMN students Betsy Anderson has taught and impacted over the last 15+ years, it would be a veritable “who’s who” of MN-based communicators. What’s more, Betsy’s one of those professors that everyone loves. You know the one–that professor who changed EVERYONE’S life. She’s doing it every year over at the U of M these days.
Much like Betsy above, Janet has been impacting the lives of folks in PR for more than 15-20 years in her role within the APR program in PRSA. I’m not sure how many people she’s helped get their APR over the last 20 years, but I’d venture to guess it’s almost EVERYONE that’s gotten one in that timeframe. She’s an institution in the local PR scene, and without question, someone who has changed many, many lives.
Greg Swan, director of digital, social, PR and innovation, Fallon
THE go-to person in the Twin Cities for all things innovation and future-thinking. And, to be honest, he’s been that person for years. Every time I’ve heard Greg present on trends over the years, I’ve come away excited and energized–that doesn’t happen with too many people. His newsletter is also a must-subscribe.
Kristina Halvorson, founder, Brain Traffic
Kristina was doing content strategy before it was even a thing (at least, in the modern-day content marketing sense). So, in many ways, those of us who any sort of content marketing should be thanking Kristina for paving the way! Her shop, Brain Traffic, was well ahead of its time (founded in 2000, well before the content hysteria took off). She’s also, bar none, the best professional speaker I’ve ever seen. She’s my personal favorite. She doesn’t speak locally much anymore, but when she does, I’m sure to snag a ticket. And, her popular Confab event was a trend-setter, too–one of the first true content-focused events of its time.
Nadine Babu, CEO, Babu Social Networks
I’ve never met Nadine Babu. But, I don’t feel like I have to in order to put her in the trend-setter bucket. Here’s a woman who completely remade herself–from sales rep earlier in her career to social media agency owner for the last eight years, Nadine is a great example of someone who saw a path (social media marketing was still relatively new in 2011) and made it. She’s easily among the most plugged in when it comes to all things Gopher athletics-related. And, she’s one very connected agency owner.
Stacia Nelson, founder, Pivot Strategies
What Stacia’s doing with Pivot is changing the way PR/comms agencies will operate for years to come. I know people have tried the virtual model before, but I haven’t seen it succeed like this. Stacia’s not just trend-setting when it comes to agency models either. She’s one of the few agency leaders you’ll find active on LinkedIn (disclosure: Stacia and Pivot are clients of ACH). And, you won’t find a more kind-hearted person anywhere.
Liz Giel, Bethany Iverson, Alex West Steinman and Errin Farrel, Founders, the Coven
When the Coven opened two years ago as a community space for women, non-binary and trans people, it was groundbreaking. In 2020, while most of us work virtually, that’s changed a bit. But, I would argue the concept behind the Coven is stronger and more meaningful than ever. And, these four women are sure to pave the way for more inclusion and diversity across the creative industry in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Laura King, founder, Marketers Community
There aren’t a lot of recruiters you recognize in the PR/comm space anymore. Sure there are agencies, but no specific names pop to mind. Except Laura King. Given, she’s not technically a PR/comms recruiter (more of a marketing focus, I believe), but she’s positioned herself as a much different animal than your garden-variety recruiter. From her new Marketer’s Community Zoom meetings to her Marketing Leadership Sactuary, Laura is a born networker with a special talent for bringing people together.
Blois Olson, principal, Fluence Media
Blois has been a future-maker from the beginning of his career. From starting New School Communications 25+ years ago to playing a lead role at Tunheim to now managing his Morning Take news empire, Blois has always pushed the envelope.
Bianca Jones, Best Buy
Ever since I’ve been in the PR/comms industry (25+ years now), we’ve had one big issue: A complete lack of ethnic diversity. PR is the industry of white people–especially here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. That’s why I think Bianca Jones is so important to the future of diversity if PR here in Minnesota. She’s talented. She’s on a leadership fast track (now on the MN PRSA board of directors, positions of increasing responsibility at Best Buy). And, she’s a great person. I couldn’t think of a better person to spearhead a ramp-up of diversity in our industry.
Emily Pritchard, president, The Social Lights
Yeah, that’s right. I’m promoting my competition. But, it’s easy to do when you’re talking about Emily Pritchard. She’s taken an agency of 2 at the ripe age of 22 and built it into an agency of 20+ in under 10 years. And, she’s quickly establishing herself as one of the key millennial leaders in our city in the social media space.
“The Snack Guy.” That’s what a number of folks know Dan DeBaun as at his employer, Life Time. But, as you’ll quickly see in this short interview, Dan is a whole lot more. He’s a former journalist-turned-PR pro. He’s a runner. And, he may be the first (and only) journalist to interview cats on TV! (see below for the full story)
Let’s hear more from this PR Rock Star.
Let’s go back to the beginning–how did you get your start in the media world?
I was a radio news reporter for three years in St. Cloud out of college. I reported on just about anything during my time in radio…Breaking news, traffic reports, school board meetings…I even interviewed cats at the humane society one time (look it up; Editor’s Note: Ha! I did–and it is epic!). I then spent two years at the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reporting on retail and restaurants before I started my career at Life Time in May 2018. I really appreciated my time in radio and print journalism. I quickly learned the importance of being flexible and working at a fast pace under constant deadlines. Of course, being exposed to so many local business leaders during my time at the Business Journal was a blessing. I learned a ton from my day to day conversations with these people about how they became successful.
Little known fact: You led social media management for the Business Journal during your time there. How did that prepare you for your first job in PR with Life Time?
It gave me valuable experience with daily posting and scheduling on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Twitter was an especially big priority and it gave me a chance to connect with a lot of fellow journalists, who I continue to follow and interact with as a PR pro. It’s a fantastic tool to keep up on their work and what issues they’re focused on.
Why Life Time? What drew you to that company, in particular?
I was drawn to the culture and energy here. I interviewed our CEO Bahram Akradi a couple times as a reporter and really admired his vision for Life Time. It was really neat to hear about the company’s new ventures into coworking at living spaces at the time. I’m also very interested and passionate about health and fitness. I’m an avid runner and have had a growing interest in mental health and nutrition. Life Time has given me a chance to combine those interests into my career. It’s also nice to have co-workers who enjoy running. For the longest time I was the only person in the office who enjoyed it. People thought something was wrong with me.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current role at Life Time?
I spend a good chunk of my time on media relations and pitching. I coordinate a lot of TV segments and print/online interviews across the country. Part of this is media training our general managers, personal trainers and other experts to get them ready to go on camera. We really have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to energetic and smart people at Life Time for media. It makes the job really fun.
Your clubs were largely closed earlier this year when COVID initially hit. Can you talk a little about what work life was like during that time? How do you do PR for a company when most of your clubs were closed!?!
We had to adapt very quickly when COVID-19 came into our world. Starting in late-February, our task force got going, communicating with clubs and with members. Then, we made the decision to close all of our clubs in mid-March. As a company, we quickly pivoted and within a week created and began offering on-demand virtual classes on the Life Time website and You Tube channel for members and nonmembers (they’re still available here and we continue to post new classes all the time). My role was focused on media pitching on these virtual classes, vs. our typical in-club offerings. There was a huge demand in the media for ways people could stay in shape while staying home, and we saw a great response from that outreach. We recently did some family workout segments on KARE 11, for example.
Starting in May when our first club reopened in Oklahoma City, we’ve spent a considerable time working to secure placements in each market. The response has been phenomenal as we’ve orchestrated a ton of media visits to our clubs to showcase our enhanced cleaning and safety protocols we now have in place to keep people safe when we’ve reopened.
While it’s been a long several months, we’re close to fully or partially reopening nearly all of our 150+ locations across the country.
What’s been one big win you’re especially proud of during your time at Life Time?
I’ll always be really proud of getting one of our member weight loss stories featured by the TODAY Show. We have a member at Life Time Savage, Scott Morton, who lost 40+ pounds so he could donate his kidney to his brother. He managed to lose the weight, in part, due to his daily walks on the treadmill at the club. It was an incredibly rewarding story to see come to life. It took months of pitching, interviews and follow up…but it happened! Scott is also an employee at Life Time Savage now. I think that speaks to the culture that’s present here.
You also happen to work for one of the best PR leaders in our city–Natalie Bushaw. What’s one thing you’ve learned from Natalie during your first couple years working at Life Time?
I love working with Natalie and she’s really taught me the value of building and balancing relationships, both with the media and our internal partners. Natalie has a warm and energetic personality that I really admire. I’ve learned a ton just by watching how she communicates with others and remains calm and composed under any situation.
You’ve been posting a series dubbed “Rapid Snack Reaction” for a while now on Facebook + Insta. How did that come about? And, do you think this work helps you in your work in the influencer marketing space at Life Time?
Ha! I was sitting in the parking lot of a Trader Joe’s with a box of maple cookies and couldn’t wait to eat some of them. Then the idea popped in my head to record myself eating them and reviewing them rapidly…because I was hungry and impatient. I grew up watching energetic pitch men on TV like Billy Mays and Ron Popeil and always found them fun to watch…So, I decided to combine that sort of energy into trying new foods. I certainly wouldn’t call myself an influencer by any means, but it’s given me experience with creating content. It also (to my surprise) connected me with a lot of people at Life Time. I’m known as “ that snack guy” in the office to several people.
Related: You’re a big foodie. Favorite Twin Cities restaurant that you are absolutely hoping does not go under during COVID-19?
Red Cow can’t go under or I may need to take a week off work to recover.
Finally–what’s one silver lining you’ve experienced during the pandemic so far?
I really appreciate that the pandemic has given me a chance to grow my skills and gain a lot of experience performing under pressure, especially when it comes to crisis and member communications. Outside of work, I really appreciate having extra time in the morning for running and exercise. I try to get as much fresh air as possible each day!