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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Looking on the Inside

In Marketing/PR Theory on May 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I think The Architects could be extraordinary. I do. However, I do not think they are extraordinary now. There are changes needed.

The first step I would take to making these changes would be to figure out exactly what changes need to be made. You can’t fix the problem until you are clear on what the problem is. Sometimes it is not obvious. I do believe this is what is called the “research” step in strategic public relations.

Employees are key in a successful business, so that is where I would start. You can’t just “clean the outside of the cup.” Start on the inside. (This is theoretical, assuming the Principals are on board and have given free reign to do whatever it takes to make things head in the right direction toward extraordinary. Fantasyland, I know, just bear with me.) I believe the textbooks would call that internal public relations. Employees are a “public” to which a company has a responsibility to communicate on a regular basis. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is surprising the number of employers I’ve worked for who let assumptions run wild. It’s as if employees have to be mind readers. That is the perfect way to make employees spend each day on edge and unproductive.

Employers want engaged, loyal, productive employees. They should want employees who are all of these things of their own free will. How does an employer keep employees engaged, loyal and productive without cracking the whip and forcing them to be productive? Respect them. Treat them humanly and give them respect. What is respect to an employee? I don’t know. You must ask to find out because each person’s definition will likely be different.

When you start asking employees to speak up about what would make them feel respected in the workplace, you might find out some things about how the company is viewed by its “guts,” those who make it work from the inside. Finding out what people really think of you can be painful. Being honest is painful to some extent. One has to be honest with oneself to be extraordinary, to achieve greatness. There is not a single person, or company, on this planet who has reached perfection. Not one. Zip. Nada. You know what that means, right? It means you have issues. I have issues. We all have room for improvement. Get over it. Live each day trying to be perfect, the very best, but get over the fact that you are not. Get over the fact that no one else is either. Do not judge those around you by an ideal that even you cannot reach. Just don’t settle for where you are today. Keep striving for that perfection.

I think The Architects need to ” ‘fess up” to not being perfect and start taking steps toward improvement. Admitting to faults does not destroy a company’s appearance to the public. Ignoring the faults, however, just might. Thinking you have reached the top leaves you nowhere else to go. Greatness involves continually striving to be better. There is no shame in admitting the need for improvement.

So go ahead! Take that first honest look and start improving.

What if I could do something GREAT where I am?

In Marketing/PR Theory on May 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

That day, in a clearing in the woods, the one precious companion of his childhood told him what they would do when they grew up. The words were harsh and glowing, like the sunlight. He listened in admiration and in wonder. When he was asked what he would want to do, he answered at once, “Whatever is right,” and added, “You ought to do something great…I mean, the two of us together.” “What?” she asked. He said, “I don’t know. That’s what we ought to find out. Not just what you said. Not just business and earning a living. Things like winning battles, or saving people out of fires, or climbing mountains.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

There is an element in a person’s character that sometimes sets her apart from the crowd. That certain something, the “it” factor, the WOW, the intrinsic value that is within a few. These are the people we are drawn to. It may be something we can’t quite put our finger on. It’s as if their personalities have a gravitational pull all their own. [One day I will write a post about the children I met, loved and lost who had this quality, but that walk through Cancerland is for another day.]

Usually, if one of these such people runs a company, you feel that same vibe in the whole organization. Take, for example, Frank Batten, founder of Landmark Communications and The Weather Channel. The link is a bit old, but I did pull this accurate information from the company description. I think it points out a key element in these “great” people.

Core values focus on “doing the right thing” through high ethical standards, uncompromising principles, integrity, fairness and respect for people.

I had the privilege of working a short time for a company owned by Landmark Communications, now known as Landmark Media Enterprises. That company was The Roanoke Times, the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia. I met so many extraordinary people while working there that it changed my life in a very positive way. You can see why when you read their Core Characteristics on the web site. Again, doing the RIGHT THING seems to be a common theme here.

Interviewing for The Roanoke Times was not exactly a breeze. It wasn’t the most difficult interview I’ve ever had either. I think The Clarion Ledger holds that record with the interviewing process for ad sales staff. Both of these resulted in a job offer. I had my mojo working back then.

Orientation with The Roanoke Times was a week long process during which we learned about each and every position at the paper from the delivery route to the editor. This was to instill in each employee a respect for the role of others, and understanding of each building block that made up the whole. Training continued on a monthly basis for everyone. There were sack lunch training sessions. Mandatory training in diversity helped to improve co-worker relationships and team building. The career path program encouraged employees to plan for their future, even if growth led to a future career outside of Landmark and The Roanoke Times.

I could go on and on. Really. You know I could. These guys were just pure awesome in a cup. When my son was diagnosed with cancer, The Roanoke Times paid me a full month of salary JUST IN CASE I was able to come back and work for them. I didn’t even have to give it back when I found out Jeramie’s treatment would last 3 1/2 years, keeping me from ever going back to Virginia and my dream job.

Respect. Integrity. Principles. Fairness.

I believe these concepts are the “it” that makes some people, some companies, extraordinary.

What if The Architects could be extraordinary?

I think they could. I think the first step to becoming extraordinary is to take an honest look. Take an honest look within FIRST to resolve issues that seem to be external, such as falling sales and an inability to gain new clients. What is going on inside an organization, at the roots, causing the ripple effect throughout the company?

My first  step to bringing greatness to The Architects would involve a little internal public relations. I’ll elaborate on that more when I am not about to fall asleep.

…goodnight…

Ice for the Eskimos

In Career Moves on May 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

Today is my birthday. I am now 37. On my 37th birthday, I have decided to start a blog. I am going to call it “This could SO get me fired!” Why? Because I want to be absolutely honest and being honest can sometimes get a person fired.

I like being honest. I’ve been told it’s refreshing. Honesty is not always refreshing, however, to your current employer when that honesty involves revealing the feeling of being in a dead-end job. That is how I feel. I feel desperate to escape before my brain rots off its stem. There is no “up” in this position. There is no moving in any direction whatsoever. There is just right here.

Staying “right here” might be rewarding to some. It is safe. I don’t want safe. I want the opportunity to “one-up” myself each year. I want to push for a goal and go beyond it. I want to challenge myself with something new and just a little more difficult than the last thing. “I want to be somebody!” (I do believe that is a country song.) I will never be encouraged to be special in this firm. I will not be encouraged to take initiative and challenge the status quo.

Actually, I believe I already am “somebody.” I am darn special! I know that. I live in my head and hear my awesome thoughts and ideas daily. I want the opportunity for others to listen in and experience the “awesomeness” that is Alana. I want to be recognized for my special talents.

I can’t sit around and wait for someone to give me an opportunity. Most times, you make your own opportunity through hard work, elbow grease. If opportunity comes knocking, it’s because you carried it to your own door on your own back, up-hill, on a 107-degree August day in Mississippi. So…here I go picking up my opportunity and running with it.

I want to write. It really doesn’t matter what type of writing. I just want to do something I’ve had an inclination to do my whole life. I wrote my first story when I was only about 4 or 5. Don’t believe me? Just ask my Daddy. I’m sure he still has a copy of it stuck in the family Bible on the bookshelf in the hall. That is where it used to be, anyway. I couldn’t actually “write” back then. I dictated it, and Mama wrote it down. I took care of the illustration, of course. The heroine of the story was a little girl named Merigold, like the flower. She had a garden. That is all I remember. Give me a break! Not like it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list!

In my pre-teen years, I wrote long, LONG letters to relatives and friends. Letters…you know those things that involved paper, pens and a stamp? I also wrote in my journals back then. I still journal. When I turn 57, I will probably think last week’s journal entry is just as silly as those I wrote at 16. Silly yet filled with insight into what makes up Alana…sugar and spice and everything nice and maybe a puppy dog tail or two for good measure.

English Comp was a pure delight. Up to that point, most of my “real” writing had been research papers, figuring out how to regurgitate another’s words to avoid plagiarism. Research papers were the bane of my existence. They gave me nightmares and cold sweats. How I did dread the yearly term paper. Just the site of index cards made me want to run screaming in terror. Granted, I never made less than a B grade on one my whole life. Slaying the dragon does not necessarily make it any less scary.

So these two things I know: 1) My career is not going to progress in my current location and 2) I would like to do more writing. The next reasonable step would be to find a new job. Find a job that involves using my brain (creativity), offers ways to advance in my career and involves more writing. Bingo! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! I just finished my Bachelor’s Degree. I am extremely bright and resourceful. I am a hard-working perfectionist. I even own my own copy of the 2009 AP Stylebook. This should be a snap!

No.

It is not a snap. I began looking for a new job with the above potential back in May of 2010, when I earned my degree. How am I doing? Ohhhh…resumes sent – about 10, interviews – 3, job offers – 0. Let me put that in another perspective. Before I earned my degree, if I interviewed for a job, I was almost always offered the job. Don’t ask me why. I already told you I am awesome.

Someone once told me I could sell ice to an Eskimo if I tried. Up until this past year, I’ve always felt I did a pretty good job at selling myself, my abilities as an employee to a prospective employer. Today, I am not so sure. Is it the job market? Is it the fact that I’m looking for jobs that pay more than $35,000 a year now? What is different?

I am still a perfectionist. I am still a gem of an employee. I can still work without supervision all the live-long day. I get excited about my accomplishments and will do back flips for a “good job!” from a supervisor. I excel rather than crack under pressure. I am organized, and I love to cross-train in different departments. Not only that, today, a mistake has me committing to doing better next time rather than bringing me to tears! (Big accomplishment, by the way.)

None of these Eskimos have wanted my ice! …and it’s damn good ice!

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