International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to consider where we are and how far we still have to go in order to see women recognized as they should be in so many ways. Within the communications industry, there is better representation than many professions and for that I’m truly thankful. I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many smart, talented women throughout my career but, even in this industry, there remains an unequal gender balance in many of the very senior and executive levels.
Today I want to thank a number of people that have had an important impact on my professional life over the last 20 or so years.
Thank you to Patti Engel and Janet Stacey for your support and the opportunity to learn from each of you. The stages of my career were different but being able to work for smart, dedicated health care leaders was tremendous.
I appreciate the great industry friends, colleagues, and client contacts I’ve been fortunate to have over the years. Whether working together directly or just within the industry and crossing paths, it’s been such a pleasure to collaborate with people like Heather, LeAnn, Christina, Melissa, Jenna, and Maggie.
I’m also so excited to see how many of the young professionals I met during the earlier stages of their careers have gone on to do some wonderful things. It’s probably just that I’m old now but these “young” pros success is amazing and well-deserved. As an example, Jessie Clapper was an intern that put up with me way back when and has gone to do tremendous achievements for a number of leading brands. As have Kirsten, Nicole, and Janey.
I would be remiss to not-mention my amazingly talented wife Christina who is so dedicated and doing awesome things in her professional world and for our family.
Still a long road ahead, but I’m thankful that it’s being paved by this group and so many others.
Really interesting and important research from The HOW Institute for Society as shared by the World Economic Forum on the true desire for moral leadership. This is not a call for just CEOs and formal leaders, but those of all levels that influence and lead others. It’s always been relevant but in greater focus now given well, everything the last year or so has thrown at us.
It’s fascinating to see some of the many findings that are far from complex in concept- as an example, “79% of respondents agree that their organizations would make better business decisions if they followed a golden rule: treat others as you would have them treat you.” This is what most of us learned at home before even starting school. Treat your teams with compassion, treat each other as humans and not just workers, and know that everyone is working to balance many roles in their lives. These are real factors in how teams perform and overlooking the human piece in leading an organization will ultimately leave you short of optimal results.
One of my favorite pieces in the report:
These leaders are not simply well-behaved, they stimulate action by anchoring their daily work – and the work of those around them – in a principled vision of what is good for the world. Moral leaders are advocates who see the humanity in everyone and take the time to build unique and deep relationships. They see people not as means, but as ends in themselves. They listen and learn from those they lead and are often more inclusive.
Read the full report from The HOW Institute for Society and consider how you can continually learn and improve your own moral leadership skills and enjoy better performance.
Every year it feels like there will be a push to move away from B2B email marketing with new tools and channels available. Plus, “everyone gets too much email” and “nobody reads email.” This year will be no different. The growth (justifiably so) of audio and video has captured much of the buzz as we collectively seek new ways to connect while more physically apart than any time in recent memory.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE- B2B email is performing better than pre-pandemic levels. According to Hubspot’s State of Email Marketing in 2020, 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months. Email can generate an ROI of up to 42:1 per research by Litmus with some industries even outperforming that average.
Why does email work so well? Targeted, strategic content that is on-target to your prospects.
- We’ve been conditioned to look for professional communications via email. There’s no surprise in this but the key is identifying the content that is relevant for your audience. Would you have guessed that 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email? (Hubspot) Understanding your audience is central in creating the content strategy that will drive your B2B program.
- The most successful companies use metrics to measure content performance and have a documented content strategy. (Content Marketing Institute) It’s difficult to improve performance if you aren’t measuring against specific goals. One of the areas I work with clients to improve is utilizing metrics to track progress and performance but also learn specifically what type of content and topics are working and what could be missing the mark.
- What do you want them to do? This is the central question when shaping email content. With limited real estate both visually and in terms of best practices for copy length, be specific in what the call to action is within your message. Don’t make the mistake of trying to list every benefit or feature that you think a prospect needs to jump to a buying decision. Consider the journey that will be required to move a prospect from awareness to consideration and ultimately to a decision- work step-by-step. Email is a great way to nurture a relationship, provide useful content and you’ll get there.
In 2020, one positive that came from such an unusual year with more time at home was a re-birth of time spent reading by so many of us. While I didn’t get through as many books as I personally hoped, (it was still an odd year with plenty of other things to deal with) finding ways to learn through traditional business education or inspiration to think was a critical way for so many to keep some balance in an upside-down world.
I recently completed Fear Is A Choice which is the story of James Conner and all he learned in facing cancer as a young athlete. Initially, I wanted to read this book mainly as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan but as I read I found much more. Conner recounts his experience as a college player with dreams of the NFL, through diagnosis and treatment, to ultimately learning to embrace the new role he carries as a face for thousands of others facing cancer.
Through his personal journey, Conner gained wisdom beyond his years and I found myself thinking about how many of his messages are true values that can apply to our professional lives in addition to being great advice for daily life.
A few highlights included:
- The more you are able to recognize the people who are walking beside you, in whatever capacity they can, the more grateful you will become for the allies you have, and the stronger you will feel.
This was included appropriately enough within a chapter titled “Recognize Your Team” which we overlook far too often during tough parts of our professional journeys. When you consider this in the context of a career, it’s a pretty powerful concept. In a year when so many faced significant career change, think about those that have made an impact on your professional journey and how much it means when someone really believes in you, and walks with you during the challenging days. Take the opportunity to look around from time-to-time and do all you can to walk beside others whenever you can too.
- You are in your position, living out your story for a reason. You were uniquely created to do something with the exact circumstances you’re facing. Your story exists for you… Don’t wish yourself into someone else’s life. Don’t wish yourself out of your own story.
Over the course of your career, there will be success and failure. Everyone will be faced with both and often times the grass always looks greener on the other side, but the obstacles hold the potential to be the moments that transform us.
For young professionals, please know that while you may not be where you want today, don’t run from or rush your story- it’s meant for you. For my fellow gray-haired friends, your story continues to grow and may even change dramatically from where you’ve been and that can be THRILLING.
- Your courage to engage life with passion and chase your dreams despite setbacks sends a message to others. By coming out the other side of a challenging time stronger than ever, you are carrying a little bit of their fear and discouragement; you are making their load a little lighter because they know you’ve already walked this road.
It’s been a year— we’re all working through things together and every time you do something brave you inspire the next person behind you. At a time when inspiration is needed, the work you choose and how you react to challenges can be more meaningful to others than you may ever know.
I’ve always been centered on goals. Even as a kid I set goals like a maniac. Everything was centered around competition and achievement, mainly with myself. It went well beyond basics like grades in classes and included daily goals in terms of my athletics. Make the shot 80 percent of the time, the ball hits specifically here 10 times in a row, one more set of steps or weights to break your record. This kind of goal-setting and competitive view is hard-wired into me.
Like many people this time of year, we look back at the year and what we’ve achieved and what lies ahead. I also expect that for many goal-setters, this year creates a whole new experience in this assessment process. Over the years, many of my professional goals have centered around titles and milestones.
For 2021, I certainly have some concrete goals as a new business owner that are specific and centered in traditional metrics but more involve others than ever before. More are focused on the impact that I, and each of us, can have on each other. It’s been a hard year for everyone. It’s been a hard year for Minnesota. It’s been a hard year for many I know personally.
As I look at how I can be better, professionally and personally, some non-traditional goals include:
- Connect with partners, former colleagues, and others I can help weekly: This can be a simple call. A Zoom coffee chat. Mainly though, I can’t wait for in-person conversations and spending time hearing more from others again on how they are working to adapt to our current world. It’s easy to do but it’s also easy to ignore. We collectively become so busy and it’s easy to lose track of people that we value as colleagues, mentors, and friends.
- Identify and work on behalf of organizations that transform my community: One of the core goals I have in working independently is to have the chance to help others. This year has pushed so many people from “getting by” to struggling or true crisis. I hope that one of the long-lasting positives we can take from our loss-filled, strained year is a caring for others. This important part of us has always existed but came to the surface again as we work through a pandemic, the tipping point of social justice issues, and economic struggles.
- Spend time in thought on what’s next for the industry and how communications must evolve: When my father passed away, I received a publication from the Society of Real Estate Appraisers (he was an appraiser and Realtor) which included comments from him on adapting at a time of great change in that industry. It included “…use your time learning new skills, finishing educational hours, researching or relaxing at the beach.” This came to mind this year as there was more unstructured time in most of our lives than we’ve ever had before. We must collectively continue to think and plan for what may come but also allow moments to breathe and just think.
What did you learn in 2020 that you’ll bring forward into your goals? How can we strive to do better in 2021 as we all seek to create a better year and a better world?
I wish you all a Happy New Year and a transformational 2021!