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Target’s Everyday Collection Campaign

It’s been awhile since I talked shop here (shop being PR and all things social media), but I couldn’t resist posting about Target’s Tweet to Runway campaign.

If have watched TV in real time recently, you may have seen those crazy runway-inspired commercials for Target, which I don’t entirely understand. I think it aims to make everyday activities…making dinner, cleaning your baby’s diaper “sexy,” but I really don’t know.

Well the bulls-eye company took it a step further with its Tweet-to-Runway Show. Here’s the deal: Target encouraged fans to visit the “Everyday Show” page via Twitter and post messages concerning some product sold in the “Everyday” line. Target describes Everyday as “the most intensely sensible grocery and essentials collection of the season”, which could apply to pretty much anything. Someone chose the “best” tweets, which were then read aloud by models as they paraded down the runway carrying the products in question.

Some were hilarious. Others reminded me that some people share too much on Twitter.

While I love everything about the models reading real people’s tweets (“dot, dot, dot”), I don’t understand why they are poking fun at their own campaign. This whole campaign centers around glamorizing everyday activities, and having models reading tweets while holding a jar of pickles…seems to I dunno go in the mocking direction.

See some of “runway show” here.

Tina Fey Improv Rules for Your Career

I just finished reading Tina Fey’s book Bossypants. While I picked it up as a good-humor, man she is so cool read I have to give her credit for tricking me into reading a self-help book for your career.

She's my new role model

From figuring out who to hire and how to act (or not) in an interview Fey offered a nice spin on how to make it in (show) business as a woman. One section in particular caught my attention and I am going to focus on it here…

Improv Rules And the Workplace

Rule #1–Agree

Always agree and SAY YES. In improv if you decide you are on a train, your partner doesn’t change it he or she goes with it. Respecting what your partner created helps innovation and ideas thrive.

Rule #2–Not Only Say Yes….Say Yes AND

You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. Contributing to the conversation and ideas helps solidify you as a team member and it helps you learn.

Rule #3–Make Statements

Basically, don’t ask questions all the time. You put pressure on your scene partner to come up with all the answers. Statements are about confidence. You want to be part of solution.

Rule #4–There Are No Mistakes…Only Opportunities

Improv is essentially going with the flow. If you stop to explain what is really happening you lose the momentum. Not every project is going to go as planned. Learning to adapt makes you better in the long run on the job and helps support a better working environment.

Creative Mornings

Last week a Facebook friend posted the below video. It’s the full talk given by Ben Chestnut, CEO and co-founder of MailChimp.com, to a group at the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta. It’s a long video, but it was the slow weeks of December so I was able to watch the whole thing.

2011/12 Creative Mornings with Ben Chestnut from CreativeMornings/Atlanta on Vimeo.

Chestnut believes there is a great difference between “doing what you love” and “loving what you do.” His example: if you love to bake and you open a bakery eventually the business part of it is going to suck all the loving out of baking. (He said it more eloquently.)

“It’s not about doing what you love, but loving what you do. Love what you do, be really good at it, and success will find you.”

Instead of getting hung up on the “dream job,” sometimes you just have to look right in front of you and make the most of it. Create projects that drive you.

Ben sets up a work environment where this can happen. As a manager he has to embrace the chaos to get the best work out of his employees.

The culture of giving people “permission to be creative,” has been one of the keys to MailChimp’s success. In fact, the company often finds “Easter eggs” in its own website design because of this.  In the tech world, an Easter egg is a practical joke or a hidden bit of content that gets included in the finished product, and they are so named because users have to search for them.

Below is an excerpt from the Fast Company article, Chestnut’s 5 Rules for a Creative Culture

1. Avoid rules. Avoid order. Don’t just embrace chaos, but create a little bit of it. Constant change, from the top-down, keeps people nimble and flexible (and shows that you want constant change).

2. Give yourself and your team permission to be creative. Permission to try something new, permission to fail, permission to embarrass yourself, permission to have crazy ideas.

3. Hire weird people. Not just the tattoo’d and pierced-in-strange-places kind, but people from outside your industry who would approach problems in different ways than you and your normal competitors.

4. Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can avoid the conference room and meet people in the halls, the water cooler, or their desks. Make meetings less about delegation and task management and more about cross-pollination of ideas (especially the weird ideas). This is a lot harder than centralized, top-down meetings. But this is your job — deal with it.

5. Structure your company to be flexible. Creativity is often spontaneous, so the whole company needs to be able to pivot quickly and execute on them (see #1).

Finally Answering the Feedback Question

One of the hallmarks of a millenial is that we don’t take feedback very well.  We roll our eyes, stare blankly at the person or just flat out don’t listen. And when someone asks how we would prefer to get feedback there is no response. Literally we can’t articulate what they want.

Over generalization? Yes, but think about it feedback or constructive criticism is judgement no matter the word choice. It is a threat to the way others see our value. Trying to answer that question may be easier if we think less about what is being said and more about how it is said.

Many managers see their success as a reflection of yours. This is great when you do something outstanding, but the same is felt when shortcomings are exposed. Anytime feedback is provided with the goal of getting someone to better meet a manager’s needs rather than being responsive to theirs, the outcomes will be less than desired. Managers are more likely to be reactive, insensitive and even hurtful.

Failing to hold the other person’s value makes it feel like an attack. The immediate response is then to defend, and not to absorb what you are hearing.

It makes more sense to think about offering feedback in an exploratory way–a honest inquiry and opportunity for learning for both people–with a careful eye to not be condescending.

Watch for things we do, and then comment “I noticed you did X, Y and Z to solve that problem and they worked really well”    Or, “I realize you are worrying about  X situation ,and I was thinking that if you tried  A, maybe it would work.”  In other words, confirm who we are when commenting specifically on good things, and don’t put suggestions in terms of something that we should do to correct a problem, but take the suggestion onto yourself (“I was thinking about”  instead of “you should do this”).  So when something is said, and it is in a couple of sentences, not a half hour lecture, you are more likely to absorb and learn!

Yoga Teachings that Apply to Work

I started taking yoga regularly about four years ago. Not only did I actually start sleeping better, but I started applying some of what I learned to my working life.

Every day is different and is its own day—One of the things that the yoga instructors like to say is that no two days on the mat are the same. Very true. One day I can get into a full pigeon, the next (especially after a long run) I can hardly get into it. It’s taught me to be less self-critical, more patient and to pay attention to what’s working.

Improvement comes incrementally, then suddenly—For me the crow is one of the most difficult poses. The first time I propped myself up I couldn’t believe it. Now I can hold myself up for three full breaths.  Sometimes progress is hard to observe even if it’s being made. If you give up too soon, you forgo the opportunity for sudden breakthroughs.

Breathing can focus you—We always start class with deep breaths and finish with deep breaths. It helps you focus and it’s great. When things get very stressful for me, I take a second to breathe in and breathe out.  It helps.

Any other yogis out there apply their yoga practice to work?


The Path to Creativity

Most of our lives consist of habits. We walk/drive to walk along the same route. In meetings, we sit in the same seat and at restaurants, we order the same dish.  Generally, if you do something right and well the first time it is a good idea to do it that way again.

Unfortunately, that reliance on memory can also hinder your creativity. Psychologist Tom Ward calls the use of memory in problem solving the Path of Least Resistance. In his research, he finds that when he asks people to be creative, they are still strongly influenced by what they know.

So how do we spark creativity? Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin recommends the following:

  • Place constraints on the problem. This may sound a little wonky. We often think it is best to have as few constraints as possible to be creative, but the focus may allow you to maneuver through solution quicker.
  • Inject some randomness. Create a solution that incorporates an element that is selected at random. The randos keep you from using solutions you already know about.
  • Add distance. There is a fancy psychology theory that says the further you are from something, the more abstractly you think about it. Markman suggests thinking that you have to create a solution to your problem that will be used in another country.
  • Do it for someone else. Try to imagine solving the issue for someone else.
  • Experience new cultures. Adapting to and learning about new cultures helps new memories and ideas form. This helps people become better at seeing that  any problem can be approached in multiple ways.

The Zombie Apocalypse and the CDC

I have an unhealthy interest in zombies. I think it started with watching the Walking Dead this past fall. I have had real discussions about my zombie attack plan of action. (It changes depending on where I am at the time and whether we are dealing with the kind that like water or don’t.)

But what does this have to do with the CDC? Well, a few weeks ago the CDC decided to take advantage of everyone’s love or irrational fear of zombies. They actually dedicated an entire page to preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Yes, that’s right. Real life zombies.

The posting has been so popular—more than 30,000 hit in three days—that it crashed the CDC’s servers. Dave Daigle, the Associate Director for Communications at the preparedness and response division explained that the strategy behind the page was to spark interest emergency preparedness.

What better way to connect with people and make emergency preparedness cool than by relating it to something like zombies?

I think this was a perfect example of an organization that could be seen as stale capitalizing off a meme that spans generations. They did it in a smart way, using Twitter and its blog to reach a new audience.

Of course, the hallmark of a good stunt is if there is measurable changes.

Ten days later (get it, like 28 days later?) the zombies were followed by hurricanes. Hopefully, the strategy paid off and people paid attention to the CDC’s recommendations.


The Pains of Having a Job?

Health.com reports on a new study showing that some jobs are so demoralizing that they are actually worse for mental health than NOT working at all.

Maybe it is the nature of being in the PR industry, but with so many friends bouncing from one job to the next these days this data doesn’t really surprise me. You may be out of work and the first opportunity that crosses your path seems like a godsend. You may even be in a place that you just need to get out of. In the end, you make a rash decision that leads you to be unhappy.

A lot of this plays into what I wrote about a few weeks back. Bad bosses will make anybody unhappy and stress can actually stem from bad managers.

Don’t get me wrong, your work has to be challenging (in a good way), but if anything this study shows that we really have to be careful about weighing our options before jumping in feet first.

The full Health.com article can be read here.

Learning to Delegate

Many new managers and supervisors find it a strange new experience. Instead of just being responsible for your work, now you are responsible for the work done by others.

There is a strong tendency to have little faith in other’s abilities and sometimes even less in your own ability to manage others and get things done. For some, the easiest thing to do is retreat back to the familiar and do everything ourselves. While this may work or appear to work in the short run, in the long term it is a sure path to disaster.

Being able to successfully delegate work and ensure that it is done with a minimum of fuss is crucial for any management role. Managers and supervisors are not measured based on their individual contributions but on the contributions of their team. So, even if you put in the longest hours, if your team is going nowhere you are in trouble!

So how do you learn to delegate successfully?

  • Take enough time in the initial conversation to ensure yourself and your team member that he or she can do the task
  • Agree on deadlines and details from the outset
  • Have regular meetings for progress reports, questions and support (TRY NOT TO HOVER)
  • Share information (this goes for both of you)

There are probably only another handful of management skills more critical to your personal and professional success than learning to delegate. There is much more to delegating than meets the eye. It does not mean to simply hand out assignments. It is a science and an exercise in understanding one’s self.

Leave your tips in the comments.

Relationships Keep ‘Em

The PR industry has two significant challenges—a high level of staff turnover and a strong demand for a multi-skilled staff.

Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs far exceeded those released by companies.  According to a December 2010 Right Management survey, 84% of respondents intend to actively seek a new position in 2011, and another 11% are networking or updating their resumes; with only a handful remaining at their current job.

So why do employees quit? Opportunities, salary, challenges and growth are all common reasons. Perhaps one of the main reasons though, is poor management. Because having a good manager can actually help minimize all those other reasons.

Studies have shown that talented employees will quit a job due to the relationship with their manager. Selecting the best people for key management roles, rewarding good management and constantly training managers, an organization can create a good work environment and ensure a low employee turnover.

There are things managers cannot change. They can’t grant career moves or more pay easily. But employees thinking about leaving can often be retained by other means. If they feel genuinely valued and appreciated by their manager they will feel a stronger sense of loyalty. By giving them more interesting work and learning opportunities, many employees who might leave will stay around, at least a while longer.

Maybe not this close, but you get the point

Deep communication is the real secret of employee retention. Career satisfaction is critically important to employees and they need someone who will listen supportively to their hopes and concerns. This needs to be the manager, not someone in HR, because the manager-employee relationship is critical to long term employee retention.