Explorations – by Lesley Daw

A journal about changing careers in the era of social media

Communications lessons from The Wealthy Barber

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I recently went to hear David Chilton speak about his new book The Wealthy Barber Returns. Listening to him inspired me to pull out my old copy of The Wealthy Barber and reread parts of it. As you would expect there are a lot of financial lessons but there are also some amazing communications lessons to found in its pages.

Before The Wealthy Barber financial planning books were dry, complicated and written in language that most of us just didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to. I had some of those books but never managed to read them and eventually took them to a used book store – if they weren’t going to teach me how to manage my money, at least I could get some money for them. The Wealthy Barber on the other hand I kept.

Chilton’s first book was so popular because he took a totally different approach. Both his books are written like real people talk. He explains financial jargon in everyday language and answers the questions that most of us don’t want to ask our financial advisors for fear of sounding dumb. The original book reads like a novel while the second one is more like a series of columns. Either way, they are both much more engaging than any other financial planning book I’ve ever read.

The Wealthy Barber is a great reminder of the most important things I learned in journalism school:

1. Use simple words. To quote William Stuck Jr. and E.B. White’s Elements of Style “Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy.”

2. Tell a story.

3. Use individual examples rather than statistics.

Interestingly I heard the same advice at a recent social media seminar. Good to know the same principles of good writing apply regardless of the medium.

Written by Lesley Daw

March 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Writing

Use social media to cultivate prospects rather than close sales

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There is an article in today’s Marketing Magazine online about the trend towards content marketing in social media and how one agency is predicting that will be the next big thing.  “You’ve got to give something to somebody in exchange for their attention,” say Social Media Group CEO Maggie Fox says in the article.

That makes a lot of sense. Users of social media have endless options for who to follow so success requires that you give them a reason to follow you or your company. By sharing ideas you create some value for your followers, allowing you to develop a relationship with them. Admittedly, the purpose of that relationship is so that you can sell to them, however, while you build the relationships in social media, you don’t necessarily close the sale the there.

If you are a hardware retailer you might offer tips on home renovation to encourage people to follow you on Twitter or Facebook in hopes that when they take on a project and need a new tool they will come into your store or go to your Web site to purchase that tool.

If you are a public relations agency you might share interesting articles about public relations campaigns or trends, again in effort to encourage corporate executives to follow you. Hopefully when they are considering hiring a PR agency, they will consider you and invite you to pitch for the business.

In my case, I’m a communications and government relations specialist looking for a new position. Rather than Tweet that I’m looking for a job, I’ve been trying to Tweet links to articles about social media or public relations or comments on the use social media. Hopefully that will result in PR professionals following me on Twitter and maybe if they are looking to hire someone, they’ll consider me.

It doesn’t matter what you are selling, social media is great for getting the attention of prospects and for brand and relationship building but it is rarely the place for the hard sales pitch.

Written by Lesley Daw

January 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm

A missed opportunity at the Boat Show

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I was at the Toronto International Boat Show today and I was surprised not to see “Follow us on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook” at every booth. Actually, I think I only saw something like that once. I didn’t even see many signs with Quick Response codes.

I would think that the Boat Show would be the ideal place for exhibitors to use social media to build a lasting connection with show visitors. People who attend the boat show spend a fair bit of money on their hobby – hence the definition of a boat as a hole in the water into which to pour money. Many attend the boat show to do research into buying a boat or maintaining their boat – so they may not spend the money then and there but building a relationship with that customer could pay off in the future.

On the way home I started to wonder why I hadn’t seen more Twitter and Facebook logos so I started searching some of the exhibitors to see if they had Twitter accounts. Some didn’t, some had very new Twitter accounts with only a few tweets and a few followers, but many had established accounts with large numbers of followers. When I got home I searched some of their Web sites and found most had Facebook and/or Twitter links on their sites. So in most cases the answer wasn’t that they didn’t have social media accounts, they just weren’t promoting them at the show. Given that most people who attend the Boat Show carry a smart phone and are dedicated boaters who would be interested in following their favourite retailers or boat builders, I have to think that these exhibitors missed the social media boat.

Written by Lesley Daw

January 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Marketing, Social media

Tweets to make you stop and think… and thank

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I’m not sure how it is I hadn’t come across @WeAreTheDead until this week but I hadn’t. This is a Twitter account which lists the name of one Canadian soldier killed in the line of duty every hour at 11 minutes past the hour.

It is fascinating to read the names and dates. Some were soldiers in the First World War, some in the Second World War, some in Korea, some in peace-keeping missions and some were killed recently in Afganistan. Then there are some that really make you wonder what happened like “Pte. Walter Edward Mason (The Black Watch – Royal Highland Regiment of Canada). Oct. 10, 1969, at CFB Gagetown, NB. Age: 44.”

In a world where technology brings us constant and instant communication, this is one communication that should make us all stop and say thank you.

The bio for @WeAreTheDead says it is brought to us by the Ottawa Citizen. I want to thank the Ottawa Citizen. In a Twitterverse that has so many self-indulgent and self-serving posts, this is a truly social use of social media.

Written by Lesley Daw

January 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who owns a Twitter account – and its followers?

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An article in yesterday’s New York Times got me thinking about who owns Twitter accounts when an individual posts on behalf of their employer. The article is about a case where a company is suing a former employee for $340,000 for the 17,000 Twitter followers that he took with him when he left the company.

One thing I expect the courts will look at is whether the author had the Twitter account prior to working for that employer or whether they started the account and used it for their own purposes prior to posting on behalf of their employer. The first part of this test will be a better indication of who really owns the Twitter account as time goes on because at this point many people will have started their Twitter account while they were working for their current employer only because Twitter became popular in that time. However, the second part of that, what the account was originally used for, could be a good test.

In thinking about the ownership of Twitter accounts I spent some time checking out people’s Twitter bios.  Many individuals name their employer in their Twitter bio and in many cases that is the only thing they mention in their Twitter bio.  If as an individual you want to demonstrate that your Twitter account is about more than your employer, I would suggest including other aspects of your life in your bio and tweet about things other than work once in a while. For example, if you say “VP of XYZ Company, mother of three and avid sailor” and you sometimes tweet about your children or sailing, then your entire Twitter identity is not tied to your employer.  Alternatively, some people say something along the lines of “My opinions are my own” which to me indicates that their Twitter account is also their own.

It becomes more complicated when the company name is in the Twitter handle as in the case in the news. That seems to indicate to me that the account’s primary purpose is to represent the company. But what if the individual comes to the company with an existing Twitter account and just changes the handle to include the company name? This could get especially messy if a company has hired someone specifically for their social media skills and influence.

If a company wants to be sure that it maintains control of a Twitter account then they could link their twitter account to a corporate e-mail account that is not tied to any one individual and not have an individual’s name in the handle. The e-mail account could besocialmedia@XYZcompany.com and the Twitter handle could be simply the name of the company or the company name plus a position within the company.

In this scenario I would suggest that more than one person be given the authority to post to this Twitter account. This accomplishes a number of things: it ensures the account is not seen by the individuals as a personal account; it would mean that the workload involved in following and posting to Twitter could be shared among a group of people; and it allows that the company could continue to Tweet uniterupted even if the primary person was on vacation, got sick or left the company.

I recognize that Twitter and other social media platforms are about connecting personally with other people so having corporate accounts can detract from that aspect of social media but I do think that with some effort a corporate account can be given some personality. As long as it is used for more than just patting the company on the back and promoting its activities, it is possible to create an emotional connection between the brand and its followers.

I have noticed that many public relations agencies have a corporate Twitter account which is separate from the personal accounts of their management and staff. Quite often the individuals will retweet things from the corporate account or vice versa but this means that if a principle in the company moves on, the company’s Twitter account and the relationships it has built through Twitter are not effected. Since the PR industry is all about communications and it is a business in which people move around a fair bit, I’m sure most agencies have considered this issue so following their lead is probably not a bad idea.

This whole issue should remind everyone, both company presidents and their employees, about how important it is to have a social media policy which spells out what is expected of employees and addresses situations just like this one.

Written by Lesley Daw

December 27, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Time to speak up in my own voice

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First of all I want to be clear, there is nothing I have ever wanted to do that I felt I couldn’t do based on my gender. I am a firm believer that if a woman wants to do something, she can and she’ll be given a fair shake, even if that is run for Prime Minister.

I do recognize however that there are still few women in top political positions. That, along with my desire to do some networking and my interest in politics in general, led me to attend the Women of Influence/Equal Voice luncheon. The panel was the Hon. Barbara McDougall, the Hon. Sheila Copps, Peggy Nash and professor of Public Affairs Jennifer Lawless, and was moderated by Isabel Bassett. With that group I knew the discussion would be interesting.

One of the themes that emerged from the discussion was that there aren’t any structural impediments that prevent women from running for office anymore but that the challenges come more from women’s perceptions of themselves. It was pointed out that few women envision themselves as political leaders or believe that they would be the best possible person to represent their community. Everyone seemed to agree that having been taught to be ladylike, many women don’t promote themselves out of a fear of being perceived as aggressive. I don’t remember who said it but one of the panellists said that many women believe if they do a good job that will be recognized without their calling attention to it. Unfortunately that isn’t often true either in politics or in life.

As I was listening to this I began to recognize some of the same challenges in myself and my current career transition. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m a political junkie I have no desire to run for office – I’m way to fond of my privacy. But the same things apply in looking for work. It took a lot of rewrites before people stopped telling me I needed to brag more in my résumé. In person don’t have trouble approaching people and asking for a meeting and advice but I’m still not comfortable pitching myself as the best solution to a company’s problem.

The same things apply to social media postings. My first reaction was “who’s going to care what I’m doing or thinking about?” I’m working on getting over that.

I’m seeing some new year’s resolutions here. First of all, I’m going to do a better job of promoting myself and be more assertive about how my experience and skills would help an organization. As part of that I will Tweet at least three times a week and write at least one blog post a week. And now that I’ve put that out there for all the world to see, I’m going to have to do it.

Written by Lesley Daw

December 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Looking for light bulb moments and new opportunities

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It’s official, I’m taking the road less travelled to seek the opportunity that will help me get into a new career in government relations or communications. I’m still enjoying the networking meetings but I’m learning that looking for a new job is a full time job in itself. Between checking job sites, sending out résumés, arranging networking meetings, going to meetings, following up with the people who are suggested to me and upgrading my skills, there’s no chance of my becoming a daytime TV addict.

Between meetings and sending résumés, I’ve started an online certificate in social media offered by Algonquin College. My first light bulb moment of the course came when I figured out that the “social” in social media is rooted more in the philosophy of communal ownership and control than in its ability to help people interact. It’s socialist media – everyone contributes, everyone benefits and no one individual or small group controls it – at least theoretically.

I’ll share more light bulb moments as they come along but for now back to the task at hand, looking for a government relations or communications opportunity. I’m hoping someone needs a writer who understands government and politics and is learning to use social media effectively. Anyone?

Written by Lesley Daw

November 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Embarking on an adventure.

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Knowing that my current position will soon be ending, I have been exploring new professional opportunities and the experience is proving to be much more fun than I expected.  Almost everyone I have contacted to ask for advice has been very generous with their time and suggestions – both people I knew and people I didn’t know.

Experts say the best way to find a job is to do informational interviews and that people will be willing to meet with you but I had my doubts that people would make the time.  Turns out they will, all you have to do is ask.

To everyone I have met with, thank you so much for your time and advice.  You’ve helped make what started out as a daunting task into an exciting adventure.  I’m still not sure where I’m headed but I’m enjoying the trip and I’ll send you a postcard when I get there.

Written by Lesley Daw

September 4, 2011 at 12:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized